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    Mawgrim
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction that combine worlds created by the original content owner with names, places, characters, events, and incidents that are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organizations, companies, events or locales are entirely coincidental. Authors are responsible for properly crediting Original Content creator for their creative works.
Recognized characters/events/plots from Dragonriders of Pern belong to Ann McCaffrey

To the Weyr - 14. Leaving Pinnacle Hold

Jemina was buried in the family plot below the Hold. Once the grave was filled in, everyone took turns in piling small stones and rocks on top of it, forming a mound over the bare soil. Jevikel had often wondered about the reason for the custom in the past. Now, with Thread falling, he understood why. Even the dead had to be protected.

He still couldn’t quite believe Jemina had gone and in such an unexpected way. Ever since Kemi’s disappearance she had been steadily dwindling and he wouldn’t have been surprised if one morning she had simply not awakened, carried away by fellis and grief. If she had wanted to die easily, she could just have slipped a few extra drops into her klah. Had she really intended to drown, or might she have simply lost her footing and been too weak to pull herself back to safety? He’d never know.

Strangely, he felt closer to her now than when she’d been alive. Like most of the Hold children, he’d been cared for by the more motherly of the women when he was still too young to be able to do much for himself. Then, as he grew older, it had been Granny Val who told him stories and taught him his letters. Jemina had never really had the time or patience for children. After hearing Merida’s account, he wondered if that had been part of his mother’s character, or just a way to distance herself from a marriage she’d not sought, but gone into dutifully.

Everyone seemed to take his solemnity for grief. It was, up to a point, yet he also felt slightly guilty. If only he’d paid more attention on their return to the Hold, he might have noticed her slipping away and guided her safely back to the path. Or, if he’d taken the route to the courting pool first, maybe he and Merida would have been in time to save her.

‘Don’t blame yourself.’ Kadin always seemed to sense what was on his mind. ‘It wasn’t your fault.’ They’d been set to work on hoeing the vegetable patch now that they were both fit enough for light duties. It was pleasant work in the spring sunshine; far better than the backbreaking toil of shifting rubble out of the Hold. ‘I wish I could have told mother Kemi was alive. Another few sevendays and she’d have known for sure she didn’t die in the shake.’

Kadin brushed a hand over his arm for reassurance. Although they weren’t alone, the two women also assigned to the task were at the other end of the row of tubers, too far away to notice. ‘And if she and your father hadn’t been so determined to marry Kemi off to the highest bidder, she might not have run away in the first place. Although, it was probably just a matter of time. Like us.’

Out in the open, it was safe to talk. ‘So, when are we going to leave?’

‘Is your knee up to the journey?’

‘I reckon so. And even if I have to walk a bit slower than usual, it’s another six days before Fall. We’ll make it in plenty of time.’

‘Remember there’s a working party up in the hills right now.’

‘But the caves they’re fitting with gates are in the western area. We’re heading east.’

‘True.’

There really was nothing holding them here anymore. Jevikel understood Kadin’s reluctance, but at the same time, he remembered Merida’s advice; that they should leave as soon as they could. ‘The longer we stay, the more likely we’ll slip up. Your mother said as much.’

‘My mother?’

‘She’s figured it out, you know. But she wants you to be happy. She’s on our side.’

‘Really.’ He paused. ‘I shouldn’t be so surprised. In Bitra, we had friends who were obviously together, even if it wasn’t acknowledged openly. She never minded. Nor did father. But I’m her son…’

‘Meaning she loves you and wants the best for you. Come on, Kadin. It’s early summer, the weather’s fine and days are long. By the time Thread falls again we’ll be safe at the Weyr.’

Kadin decapitated a few more weeds. ‘So, what’s the plan?’

‘I’ve been thinking about that. I’m going to suggest to father we could take supplies up to the caves. Folk will need to shelter there again soon and it needs to be made a lot more comfortable. We do a few trips, carrying our packs as well, then slip away. No one will miss us until it’s meal time and we’ll be well on the way by then.’

‘Think they’ll come after us?’

‘Father will probably send someone looking, in case there’s been an accident, but I doubt he’d come to the conclusion we’ve run away. What reason do we have, after all?’

‘All right. You talk to your father. He’ll be glad to find us something else useful to do.’

That evening, after the meal - slightly more flavoursome now that herbs were growing and the first fresh produce available - he did just that.

Vikkel agreed it would be a good idea. ‘We’ll be using those caves on a regular basis for a while. Everyone will be wanting slate and stone now and the bigger Holds will get first choice.’

Jevikel had suspected that would be the case. ‘We’ll start tomorrow, if you don’t need us for anything else. Then it’ll be ready for next Fall.’

‘Good lad. Now you can manage without that stick, I’ll show you how to use a flamethrower. Maybe you’ll be able to help on ground crew next time.’

Jevikel tried to look enthusiastic at the idea. If he’d been intending to stay at Pinnacle, then it would have made him happy. To fight back against Thread was exactly what he wanted. Still, everyone at the Weyr must be taught the same skills, so he’d learn it there anyway and probably from more experienced teachers.

The necessity of leaving sooner rather than later was reinforced that evening. He was sitting with Kadin in a sunny corner of the yard, playing dice, when Gatri came over.

‘I need to talk to you.’ She folded her arms, addressing her comments to Jevikel alone.

‘Well, sit down and we’ll talk.’

‘Alone. In private.’

‘We’ll finish this game later,’ Jevikel said to Kadin. He wasn’t sure what Gatri had in mind, except he had a feeling it wasn’t good.

‘Sure,’ Kadin said.

It was a pleasant evening and quite a few folks were outside, catching the last of the sun. Gatri led him to a seat over by the spring. It was already in the shade of the cliff, so no one else was sitting there.

‘So, what is it?’

‘We never spend time together anymore. Last summer, we were walking out most evenings. Now you just play dice with Kadin all the time.’

‘My knee’s still bad. I have to rest it so that I can work the next day.’

‘You don’t even look at me. Or talk.’

He had other things on his mind. Not just Kadin and their escape, but what had happened to Jemina. Couldn’t she understand the need to grieve? Maybe he should spell it out? ‘It’s less than a sevenday since I lost my mother. I need some time to come to terms with that.’

Gatri’s shoe scraped at the stone flags beneath her foot. ‘I understand. But even before she died, you weren’t the same. Even when we were at Valley Narrows, there was a distance between us.’

He couldn’t deny that. ‘I’m sorry.’

Gatri’s expression changed. She leaned closer. ‘I reckon there’s something going on with you and Kadin…’ she hissed.

‘Don’t be stupid,’ Jevikel countered. He didn’t want her thoughts to follow that road.

‘Is it so stupid? Why are you always with him? Why did you two go off alone last Fall?’

‘Just how it turned out,’ he said. ‘We didn’t want to be cooped up with all the kids.’

Gatri shook her head. ‘Sisala thinks I’m right. So does Annali. I mean, at first I just thought you’d lost interest in me, but you don’t look at any of the girls. Or even flirt with them. Neither does Kadin.’

‘So?’ Jevikel had no answer for that, at least none that wouldn’t sound like an excuse.

‘Sisala reckons it’s all Kadin’s fault. Before he arrived, everything was fine. He’s corrupted you.’

If it hadn’t been so serious, Jevikel might have laughed. He couldn’t begin to explain how he felt about Kadin; that far from being corrupted, he had found his true self through their love. ‘Look, ever since Thread returned, things have changed,’ he said instead. That couldn’t be denied.

‘Life doesn’t stop because of Thread.’

‘It did for Berrand. Will do for others over the next fifty Turns.’ Gatri didn’t seem to care for anyone but herself. Had she always been like that, or was he only just noticing it?

‘Don’t change the subject. Thread’s nothing to do with this.’ She sounded determined. Worryingly so.

Jevikel didn’t have time to play games. ‘So just because you think I’m not paying enough attention to you, you’re accusing me and Kadin of...’ He wasn’t going to say ‘unnatural things’ which was probably how she thought about it.

‘Who needs proof when rumours work just as well.’ Now she sounded really nasty.

‘That sounds like a threat.’

‘It’s not!’ she protested, her voice taking on a cajoling tone. ‘I just want things to go back to how they were with us.’ She moved closer, trying to slip her arm through his.

He sidled away. ‘I thought I’d explained well enough we’d never be allowed to marry…’

‘Maybe we can, now Thread’s turned the world upside down.’

‘It’s even less likely. Pinnacle Hold is hanging on, just about. Father’s going to need an alliance with the valley farmers even more.’

‘It’s always excuses with you.’

She didn’t want to listen, that much was clear. All Jevikel could hope to do was put her off from saying anything until after they’d got away. ‘I’ve always tried to be honest with you,’ he said, preparing to lie through his teeth. ‘I really care about you, even if I don’t always show it.’ Just saying those words made him feel slightly queasy. ‘And from now on I’ll try to give you more time. It’s too late now and I wasn’t lying when I said I need to rest this knee, but how about tomorrow evening?’

Her face lit up. ‘We could go up to the pool…’

Had she forgotten already what had happened there? ‘I have bad memories of that place.’

She frowned. ‘Well, there’s other places too, only they’re not so nice.’

‘I’ll leave it to you to think of one.’ He stretched and only half-feigned a yawn. ‘I’m going to turn in early. I’m tired.’

‘Are you on the vegetable plot again tomorrow?’

‘No. Carting stuff up to the caves to make ‘em more comfortable before next Fall.’

‘Better you than me on that.’ Gatri leaned forward and gave him a peck on the cheek. He had to force himself not to pull away. As soon as he left her, Sisala and Annali took his place on the bench and the three of them huddled together like wherries eyeing up an injured herdbeast.

When he returned, Kadin had started another game with Lengiorl. ‘What was all that about?’

Jevikel rolled his eyes. ‘Gatri thinks I don’t spend enough time with her these days.’

Lengiorl looked up. ‘Women are always going on like that. Sisala’s the same. But I’d rather play dice or cards to relax of an evening than listen to chatter.’

‘Exactly.’ Jevikel was longing to tell Kadin what had been said and how it had added extra urgency to their escape. Instead, he had to sit quietly. It left him time to think through the possibilities. Gatri’s threat had made him realise how precarious their position was at Pinnacle. Even if they’d not already made the decision to leave, it would have forced him to think twice about staying any longer. These familiar surroundings now felt treacherous. Had Gatri decided to give him an ultimatum by herself, or had she already discussed it with the other girls? The way they all gossiped meant nothing stayed private for long.

He looked slowly around the room. This would be his last night at Pinnacle Hold and although he longed to be free of it, it had been home for his entire life. The prospect of going to the Weyr was exciting, but also frightening. It was a step into the unknown, even though Kadin would be with him.

He only had a chance to speak to Kadin briefly in the sleeping chamber. A couple of others, exhausted from the heavy labour of moving rubble, had already gone to bed. They seemed to be asleep, but Gatri had put him on edge, suspicious of everyone.

‘She’s a bitch,’ Kadin said, when Jevikel told him of the conversation. ‘I mean, how can she even think threatening someone is going to make them want to spend time with her?’

‘I don’t reckon she’s thought through the consequences at all. I mean, if she did spread it around, most likely scenario is we’d get thrown out of the Hold.’

‘Maybe she thinks that would make you run off with her, like my mum and dad did.’

‘They were in love. I don’t even like her very much anymore.’

‘I can see why.’ Kadin glanced around. ‘I’ll have to try and speak to my mother. Let her know not to worry when we disappear.’

‘She already knows we have to get away. She’ll figure it out herself.’

‘I still want to say goodbye properly.’

Jevikel wished he’d had the same kind of relationship with his own mother. ‘Be careful. Now, we’d best try and get a good night’s sleep. Busy day tomorrow.’

Despite all his best efforts, he didn’t sleep soundly. His mind kept going over the plans and the risks. Gatri would be looking out for him. She might notice he and Kadin were missing before anyone else did. Maybe Kadin could ask Merida to give her a job that would keep her inside, out of the way? And how many trips should they make to the caves? Too many and it would sap their strength, which they needed for the journey. Yet if they didn’t return after the first one that might be remarked upon. He almost wished for another earth shake.

Before going to breakfast, he packed a few spare items of clothing in his pack. There wasn’t much to be had in the way of food, but there'd hopefully be some supplies in the shelter. He ate a good meal of porridge and dried fruit, grabbing a couple of hard boiled eggs for later. Most folk did the same, so it wouldn’t appear out of the ordinary.

Kadin got his chance to talk to Merida before she began organising the women into work groups. Now the herdbeasts were producing milk regularly, the cheese making process had begun in earnest. He was glad to see Gatri follow several others into the cheese room, well out of their way.

They selected a load of cushions and blankets to take on their first journey to the caves. Once out of the Hold, some of Jevikel’s apprehension lifted. Both their packs were concealed in the two person carry basket slung between them.

It was overcast, but warm. Half way up the hillside, Jevikel had to stop and swig some water. Carrying the extra weight over uneven and uphill terrain was making his knee ache already, but he didn’t want Kadin to worry.

‘I’ve told my mother,’ Kadin said. ‘She’s going to give us some “extra tasks” next time we return. Stuff which would keep us out here longer. I think we should head off then. She’s said she’ll make excuses if anyone asks where we are during the midday break.’

‘Good.’

At the caves, they dropped off their packs and sat resting for a while. ‘Best not to hurry back down.’ Jevikel looked around, taking in the familiar view of Pinnacle Rock. Strange to think he’d never see it again.

‘Feeling nervous?’ Kadin asked.

‘Aren’t you?’

‘Yes. But it’s good to know we’re finally leaving. Just think, we’ll see Kemi again in a few days time. Bet she’s got some stories.’

Jevikel drank some more water. ‘This feels wrong,’ he said.

‘What?’

‘Sneaking away like thieves. I’d rather tell my father exactly what I think of him before I leave.’

‘You’d get beaten so badly you wouldn’t be able to walk. And he’d throw us out anyway. This way’s better.’ Kadin lay back and stared at the sky. ‘One day we’ll fly back on our own dragons and show them all what we’ve made of our lives. And if mum hasn’t got away by then with the girls, we can take them with us.’

He was right. Kemi had done the same, after all. ‘It still feels, I don’t know… cowardly.’

‘It’s not. There’s no shame in picking your battles. And you’ve proved you’re brave, anyway. You ran to the barn before any of the others to get the stock out. You helped Rosh and Col when no one else dared. So no more of that rubbish.’

They piled the cushions and blankets towards the back of the largest cave, so that even if it rained, they wouldn’t get damp. Then it was back to the Hold again. The last time he’d walk down this hill.

As arranged, Merida ‘caught’ them inside and gave them empty water skins together with boxes full of dried and preserved food. ‘Make sure those skins are filled and the food stored where tunnel snakes can’t get at it. And I want lists of exactly what you’ve already taken, too.’ She shoved a slate at Kadin.

Jevikel could see how much she wanted to hug her son, but to do so would look suspicious. He smiled at her. ‘We’ll take good care,’ he said, knowing she’d understand the message. Maybe he could get a dragon to come back and let her know they were safe? She deserved that, at the very least.

Then, having filled the carry basket, they set off for the second and last time. Jevikel checked he still had Kemi’s map, rolled up tightly in his pocket. He’d looked at it enough times the route was imprinted in his mind, but knowing it had guided her safely, he hoped it would bring he and Kadin the same good fortune.

They filled the skins at the nearby spring and had no qualms about redistributing some of the food into their own packs before setting off into the hills. With no herdbeasts to slow them down, it would be a much faster journey to the shelter. Jevikel reckoned they’d have reached it before everyone was back at the Hold for the evening meal. By the time it was noticed they were missing it would be too close to nightfall to send out a search party any further than the caves.

Still, as they walked, he felt a prickling in his shoulder blades, as if someone might be watching and marking their route. It was stupid, but he couldn’t help feeling everything had gone too easily; too smoothly.

They didn’t talk much; the pace was too fast for that. Jevikel wished he had a herder’s staff to lean on. The discomfort of his knee grew steadily worse throughout the afternoon, making him concentrate mostly on putting one foot in front of the other. They covered the distance far more quickly than Kemi had done, being more familiar with the route and reached the shelter with the sun still fairly high over the mountains. Kadin went inside while Jevikel sat on a rock, glad to take the weight off his feet.

‘Nothing much in there,’ he said, emerging from the interior. ‘Good job my mother gave us plenty of food. Shall we make a fire and brew up?’

Jevikel really wanted to, yet he still worried in case someone had noticed they were missing. He envisioned Vikkel and several of the men striding after them. ‘I don’t think we should stay here tonight.’

‘What? Why?’

‘It’d be obvious this would be where we’d stop.’

‘If they know we’re heading for the Weyr.’

Jevikel didn’t state the obvious. Merida might be forced to give away their plans. ‘I think we should push on into the mountains. They won’t follow us there.’

‘Will your knee take any more walking today?’ Kadin looked doubtful. ‘I noticed you’ve been limping these last few hours.’

‘It’ll hold up. And I don’t think I’d be able to sleep here. What if Gatri’s already said something and they’ve come after us?’

Kadin sat down next to him. ‘It’s unlikely.’

‘Unlikely, but still possible. We’ll have a short break, then push on. I just have this feeling we need to be on our way as quickly as possible.’

‘I know what you mean. We’re still on Pinnacle land here.’

Jevikel unrolled the map. Kemi had made a few additions after her own journey, marking places where she’d found water, caves and a dotted line showing the exact route she’d taken to meet up with the tithe road. ‘I reckon we can make it to this cave she’s marked. Two or three hours journey and we should get there before nightfall. Make camp, have something to eat, then set off again at first light tomorrow.’

Copyright © 2022 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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New chapters will be posted each Thursday.

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction that combine worlds created by the original content owner with names, places, characters, events, and incidents that are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, organizations, companies, events or locales are entirely coincidental. Authors are responsible for properly crediting Original Content creator for their creative works.
Recognized characters/events/plots from Dragonriders of Pern belong to Ann McCaffrey
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Chapter Comments

1 hour ago, drpaladin said:

Gatri helped to hurry them on their way by removing any possibility they could wait any longer. Their disinterest in girls has been noticed and discussed by wagging tongues. It's only a matter of time before it becomes common knowledge. Gatri has exposed herself as stupid, selfish, and unfeeling. Pity anyone ending up stuck with her.

Jevikel has good instincts. It's best to clear the Hold lands before stopping.

I have serious doubts their journey to freedom will be as easy or quick as they imagine.

It's a long, dangerous journey, even without the possibility of pursuit.

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19 minutes ago, frosenblum said:

At least we know they make it - barely - to the Weyr. I don't think I could take the suspense otherwise. I'm looking forward to the details of the trip. I'm sure the troubles they encounter will increase the depth of their relationship.

Thank you for such the great story that this is turning out to be, @Mawgrim. One of  your best.

 

Thank you! I’m really enjoying writing this story and am looking forward to describing the Weyr as seen by folk who are totally new to it.

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Timothy M.

Posted (edited)

Actually, it might be helpful if Gatri voices her suspicions now that the boy have escaped, because Vikkel cannot tell his people to get the boys back, if his son is gay. None of them would believe him and very few would help him, because he threw those other boys out after beating them.

Edited by Timothy M.
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3 hours ago, Timothy M. said:

Actually, it might be helpful if Gatri voices her suspicions now that the boy have escaped, because Vikkel cannot tell his people to get the boys back, if his son is gay. None of them would believe him and very few would help him, because he threw those other boys out after beating them.

That's very true. Vikkel will probably disown Jevikel now, but I doubt he'd care about that. He's off to a better life.

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I'm glad the guys have left. Whilst difficult to start something new, this really is the only option for rhem to live a somewhat normal life. 

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30 minutes ago, Doha said:

I'm glad the guys have left. Whilst difficult to start something new, this really is the only option for rhem to live a somewhat normal life. 

So true. Not everywhere is as intolerant as Pinnacle Hold, but without good communication, how would anyone get to know where is safe and where isn't. The Weyr is well known for taking people in, whatever their circumstances or sexual orientation.

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In one sense, my insomnia won't allow me to sleep until I've read all of the current 20 chapters!

In other news... I hate insomnia!!!

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