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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 - 16. Arrival at Benden

Numbed and with his knee and ankle strapped up, Jevikel began to relax. When T’rai returned carrying mugs of klah for each of them, he felt even better.

Kadin took a sip of the klah. ‘I’ve not had as good as this for a long while,’ he sighed.

‘It’s not bad for Benden.’ T’rai leaned against the wall, setting his own mug down in a carved stone niche. ‘We used to get better at High Reaches.’

Jevikel hadn’t even heard of High Reaches before. He’d thought Benden was the only Weyr. He’d always heard it spoken of in the singular; the Weyr.

Kadin spoke up. ‘Wasn’t that one of the other Weyrs? Abandoned for centuries, so the harpers say.’

‘Aye. It was. But now we’re back and I’m seconded here. Fighting Thread again, too.’ T’rai stretched out his booted legs. ‘Thanks to you, I’ve got out of it today. Hinarth’s grumpy though. She’d flame Thread every day, given the chance. Not so bad now it’s passed over the Weyr. Dragons don’t like being on the ground when they could be fighting.’

His easy chat made Jevikel want to ask questions. ‘You said you were on sweep. What’s that?’

‘Before every Fall, each Wing is assigned certain duties. It was our Wing’s turn today to report on the weather and check to make sure everyone was safe and under cover before it began. Wingleader ordered me to check round the Weyr.’

‘Good job he did.’ Jevikel still felt a heightened sense of being alive when by all rights neither he nor Kadin should be. ‘Otherwise we’d not be here.’

‘Just doing my job. It’s usually a bit more routine than that. Now, I’ve answered a question so it’s your turn. Fair?’

He might have known the questions would come sooner or later. ‘Fair,’ he echoed.

‘It’s all right. You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to. I just want try to find out a bit more about you both before Manora gets here. She’s the Headwoman and she’ll need to know.’

Sort of like Jemina then, or Merida more recently. Jevikel wondered if she had the position through being married to the Weyrleader.

‘So, how old are you both?’

There was no harm in answering that. ‘I’m fifteen Turns,’ he replied.

‘Fourteen,’ said Kadin. ‘I’ll turn fifteen in eleventh month.’

‘Thought you were younger than that being as you’re so scrawny. Didn’t they feed you at home?’

‘Not much,’ Jevikel admitted. ‘But it wasn’t just us. It was the same for everyone.’ T’rai looked like the other dragonriders who’d come to the Hold, well-nourished and with solid muscle evident beneath his short-sleeved shirt.

‘Food’s not bad here now they’re getting proper tithes’ he said. ‘I should have thought to bring some snacks with the klah. When I was your age, I was always hungry.’

‘So how old are you?’ Kadin asked.

T’rai smiled. ‘Twenty-nine, plus four hundred odd-Turns.’

Jevikel was puzzled. ‘What?’

‘Haven’t you heard the story, then? Thought everyone had by now.’

‘We didn’t hear much about the rest of Pern.’ Kadin glanced at Jevikel. ‘It’s all right to say that, isn’t it?’

Jevikel nodded. Pinnacle wasn’t the only isolated Hold, where news filtered down slowly via traders.

‘I’ll fill you in, then. Four hundred Turns ago, at the end of the last Pass, the other five Weyrs disappeared, saving only Benden.’

‘I know that story,’ Kadin sounded excited. ‘It’s in the “Question Song.” Sorry,’ he said quickly to T’rai. ‘I shouldn’t interrupt.’

‘It’s not a problem. I’ve heard folk talk about that song. Not heard it myself, but I suppose now it’s been answered, there’s no need. It was Lessa, the Weyrwoman here at Benden who figured out what must have happened. All the Weyrs disappeared back then to come forward; to save Pern when Thread returned after the Long Interval.’

‘Eh?’ Jevikel couldn’t quite grasp that. ‘You’re from the past?’

T’rai nodded. ‘Lessa rode Ramoth back between times, talked to all of the Weyrleaders and persuaded them we had to come with her.’

Between?’ Kadin asked.

‘We all knew dragons could fly between places. It was Lessa who figured out they could go between times, too.’

‘Is that why dragons disappear?’ Jevikel recalled seeing them do that right before Kadin had spotted Thread in the sky.

‘Correct. It’s how Hinarth got us out of the way of Thread and to the Weyr so fast.’

‘That black place?’ Kadin asked. ‘Was that between?’

T’rai smiled. ‘You’re quick, both of you. Especially considering you’re not Weyrbred.’

If it wasn’t a dragonrider telling them, Jevikel would find the story hard to believe. But he’d experienced travelling between himself and that was strange enough. T’rai had no reason to lie about time travel.

‘Anyway, my turn to ask another question now.’ T’rai sipped his klah. ‘Why’d you get thrown out? You don’t seem like bad types.’

Jevikel thought carefully before replying to that one. Even though he’d been told attitudes were different at the Weyr, he still didn’t know that for sure. ‘Our Holder is a violent man. Last Turn he threw out some other lads from our Hold. Beat them up badly, too. We were scared the same would happen to us.’

T’rai said nothing for a few moments, sipping from his mug and regarding them both through the steam. ‘We had folk arrive at High Reaches now and then. Girls who fell pregnant or didn’t want to be forced to marry against their will. Girls who liked other girls. Lads who liked other lads.’

Kadin jumped slightly at the last.

T’rai looked at him with something akin to pity. ‘I’m Weyrbred myself. When I was growing up, no one cared whether I fancied girls or boys. Probably why I Impressed green, though.’

‘It doesn’t matter here, then?’ Kadin asked cautiously.

‘Nope. At the Weyr, no one minds who you sleep with so long as you do a good day’s work. That includes us riders as well as the rest of the weyrfolk. Hinarth and I can fight Thread just as well whichever way I fly.’

‘I hope you aren’t scaring these two.’ A tall, stately woman came towards them. Even though she was wearing old clothes, Jevikel didn’t need to be told she held a position of some importance. She smiled kindly at them both, as if to reassure them she meant no harm.

‘Just having a chat, as you requested.’

He wasn’t as flippant with her as with the healer, Jevikel noticed, reinforcing his first impression.

‘I’m Manora, the Headwoman at Benden.’ She addressed them both. ‘That means I’m responsible for making sure the Weyr is supplied with everything it needs for dragons and their riders. I also manage all of the support workers, assigning tasks and so forth. If you wish to stay, then I will be in charge of you, too.’

‘We’d like to stay,’ Kadin said, far more quietly than usual. ‘If you’ll let us, that is.’

‘This is Kadin.’ T’rai waved his mug towards him. ‘And his friend, Jevikel. Jevikel’s fifteen Turns and Kadin’s fourteen.’

She nodded. ‘I’m told you were hurt,’ she said to Jevikel.

‘My ankle. And my knee, but that’s an old injury.’

‘And I take it you were travelling to the Weyr when T’rai found you?’

‘Yes.’ Jevikel felt he should apologise for the bother again. T’rai had been very casual about it, but the idea he might have endangered a dragon and rider sat uneasily. ‘We didn’t know Thread was about to fall.’

She seemed to accept this. ‘You ran away from your Hold?’

T’rai spoke up for them. ‘Thrown out by a vicious Holder. He’d beaten up other folk before and they were scared. Nowhere else to go.’

‘How many days were you travelling?’

Jevikel hesitated. It might give away their origins.

‘Don’t worry. We aren’t in the habit of sending people back to a place where they would be in danger. If, on the other hand, you decide the Weyr isn’t what you thought it would be, you can leave freely at any time.’

Rosh had told him as much. He relaxed just a little more. Everyone so far seemed friendly. ‘Three days,’ he admitted. ‘It was rough going.’

‘I’ll bet you’re hungry, then.’

‘I could eat a whole wherry on my own right now,’ Kadin said.

T’rai chuckled. ‘Hinarth does that.’

‘Well, now your injuries have been tended, I’ll show you where to get food, then we’ll find somewhere for you to sleep and keep your things. Do either of you have any special skills?’

‘We’re both used to handling beasts, planting and harvesting crops,’Jevikel offered.

‘I know my letters,’ Kadin put in. ‘And I can play pipes and gitar.’

‘Excellent.’ She turned to Jevikel. 'Once your leg is better, I’m sure we can find something suitable for you. But you’ll both be on light duties until you recover from the journey anyway.’

More people had come inside the infirmary now; men wearing the same heavy hide T’rai had done, although in some cases it was partially cut away to reveal bloody scores. Jevikel caught a whiff of the unmistakeable smell of burned Thread. Healers hurried to help.

‘We should probably leave,’ Manora said. ‘It’s going to get busy now Fall’s finished.’

Before she could say anything more, Jevikel noticed an uninjured rider striding towards them, his face and clothes blackened by char. He radiated anger as he glanced firstly at Jevikel and Kadin, then turned to T’rai.

‘You’re all right?’ he asked. ‘And Hinarth?’

T’rai nodded, straightening slightly from his slouch. ‘It was a bit close for comfort, I have to say. Thought I was going to have to change my pants.’

‘Are these the two you found?’

‘They…’

Before T’rai could finish what he’d been about to say, the other rider rounded on them. ‘You sharding idiots! What did you think you were doing?’

Jevikel couldn’t stop himself flinching away from the raised voice. It reminded him all too much of Vikkel working himself up into a rage and he anticipated a blow would come next. Kadin huddled close to him, clearly as frightened as he was.

‘If my rider hadn’t seen you when he did, you’d have been eaten by Thread.’

‘It’s not that simple.’ T’rai moved closer, as if to defend them against the newcomer. ‘They aren’t from this Weyr.’

Manora stepped forward, placing herself in front of the lads as she spoke to the angry rider. ‘They aren’t from any Weyr. So, please calm down before you flame them.’

‘Manora’s right,’ T’rai said. ‘They’ve not had an easy time of it.’

The man stepped back slightly and spoke to Manora in a quieter tone. ‘I’m sorry. I was concerned about T’rai here and his dragon.’

‘Naturally,’ she answered. ‘That is your duty as Wingleader. My duty, however, is to look after the other inhabitants of this Weyr.’

‘I thought you said they weren’t from here.’

Manora stood her ground. ‘They were trying to reach the Weyr. And obviously, they were unaware Thread was about to fall over this area.’

Jevikel could only watch cautiously. In this place, he wasn’t sure who was more important; the Headwoman or T’rai’s Wingleader. He’d put his marks on Manora, the way she was defending them. Maybe they’d be safe, after all.

T’rai spoke up again, filling in what had happened. ‘By the time they saw Thread coming, all they could think to do was run as fast as they could toward the Weyr. Trouble was, they were running toward leading edge…’

‘You did a good job.’ The Wingleader patted his rider on the shoulder, then turned toward Jevikel and Kadin again.

‘Are you gonna send us back?’ Kadin had deliberately roughened his usual speech. He sounded more like Lengiorl. ‘If you do, Thread might as well have got us.’

‘That’s not my decision to make. It’ll be up to the Weyrleader and Weyrwoman. Where are you from, anyway?’

Jevikel certainly wasn’t going to volunteer the information to this rider, whom he didn’t think cared very much for his wellbeing. ‘It doesn’t matter where. They don’t want us. My da threw me out.’ He copied Kadin’s speech patterns. It made them sound like common Hold workers, whom no one would be concerned about anyway.

‘And mine would’ve too,’ Kadin added, fairly convincingly.

‘Your families are going to wonder where you’ve got to. Surely someone will be worried? Your mothers maybe?’

Jevikel said nothing. His mother was dead and Merida knew where they’d gone anyway.

T’rai shook his head. ‘We’ve already been through all this. They won’t say.’

‘Give them a chance,’ Manora said. ‘I’ll make sure they get a decent meal. They may be more willing to tell their story once they’re fed and rested.’

‘Of course.’ The Wingleader turned to T’rai once again. His voice had returned to a normal level. ‘Wing meeting in the dining hall once everyone’s had a chance to clean up, all right?’

‘Sure.’

He left them. Manora relaxed slightly. So did T’rai. Jevikel felt sorry for him, having a Wingleader like that. Although he admired the way T’rai had stood up for them, he hoped he wouldn’t get into trouble for it.

‘Well, suppose I’d better get off to the baths. They’ll all be wanting to hear my story.’ T’rai winked. ‘Might get lucky later.’

Jevikel wasn’t entirely certain what he meant, although Manora obviously did. ‘You green riders have a one track mind,’ she said. Her face relaxed into a slight smile. ‘Thank you for supporting me then.’

‘It wasn’t a problem. D’gar’s not usually like that,’ he said. ‘But straight after Fall, folk don’t always think before they speak.’

‘I know.’

‘You lads take care,’ he said. ‘I’ll see you around.’ Picking up the mugs, he strolled off.

Manora turned back to them. ‘Just wait there and I’ll see if I can find you a crutch. It’ll make getting around a lot easier.’

While she left them, Jevikel took in his surroundings. The infirmary was larger than the main room at Pinnacle Hold, but far lighter due to the arched openings high in the walls. He tried not to stare at the wounded riders, or the healers who were attending them. He’d never thought about dragonriders being injured doing their duty before.

’This isn’t anything like I’d thought it would be,’ Kadin whispered close to his ear.

‘No,’ he agreed. The best course of action must be to observe and to try and copy what others did. There was so much to learn. Even in the last couple of hours he’d discovered so much; dragons travelling through time, that strange place called between and something of the Weyr hierarchy. ‘Manora seems all right.’

‘So did T’rai,’ Kadin agreed. ‘Didn’t much like his Wingleader, though.’

Manora returned with a small crutch. ‘Most of the ones we have ready made are adult sized, but this should do. Have a try.’

It fitted comfortably under his arm and certainly made moving much easier. He followed Manora and Kadin outside the infirmary. Over to one side, dragons were having treatment for their own wounds. A healer armed with a long brush slathered numbweed down the heavily scored flank of a turquoise-blue dragon. Another cleaned a nasty looking neck wound on a bronze. So dragons were harmed by Thread, too. It was even more of a surprise than seeing injured riders.

As they moved away from the crowds, Jevikel had a first opportunity to take in the whole of the Weyr. When they’d arrived he’d been in too much of a state to notice much. It was vast! He’d imagined a cave, but the Weyr was a huge open space encircled by rocky walls. There were regular openings on different levels within those walls He watched a dragon fly up to disappear inside one of them and almost tripped.

Manora waited for him to recover. ‘I can see it’s your first time at the Weyr. Impressive, isn’t it? We can house five hundred dragons and their riders around the Bowl. You’ll be staying in the Lower Caverns, though. That’s where all of the support staff and the children live.’

‘It’s amazing.’ Several dragons flew overhead, dripping water from their wings.

‘They’ll have been bathing in the lake,’ Manora explained. ‘After a Fall, the dragons like to get clean, same as their riders.’

She carried on walking a well-trodden path. It was level and with fewer stones, making it easier for Jevikel to move along. He felt as if he was getting the hang of using the crutch and his leg was still blissfully numbed.

Kadin looked all around as they crossed the Bowl, as Manora had called it. Although he’d lived in Bitra Hold, he seemed as stunned by the dimensions of the Weyr as Jevikel. There were so many people walking around, busy with tasks he had no idea about. On their way, Manora greeted many of them. She must have a really good memory to recall all of the faces and names. How would you ever get to know everyone, in a place this size? Maybe you didn’t?

Trying not to stare or let his mouth drop open like an idiot, Jevikel took in the sights. More dragons than he’d ever seen in one place, flying to and fro, effortlessly avoiding each other. A group of riders emerged from a ground level opening, talking and laughing loudly. Two women carried a huge basket of laundry between them. A group of young boys kicked a leather ball around while other children sat on the ground playing a game he hadn’t seen before involving small, round stones.

Eventually, they reached an archway, which led into a wide corridor. The natural light was supplemented by large baskets of glows hung at regular intervals. The corridor forked several times. Jevikel tried to remember all the junctions, but soon gave up. Eventually, the corridor opened up into a large space with a high ceiling, filled with rectangular wooden tables and benches. Each one would seat half the people at Pinnacle Hold, he estimated.

‘This is our dining hall,’ Manora said. ‘Three meals a day are served, in shifts. We have a rota system to ensure everyone gets fed. I’ll put you with the others of your age. In between meals, klah’s always available over by the hearth and the kitchen staff leave snacks and fruit out all day in case anyone’s still hungry. Help yourself. I’ll return shortly.’

Kadin picked up an unblemished fruit from the tray and showed it to Jevikel. ‘Haven’t seen anything as good as this for a few Turns,’ he said, before taking a bite. The juice ran down his chin. He laughed delightedly, wiping it away. ‘Tastes as good as it looks, too.’

Jevikel couldn’t choose between all the different fruits, some of which he’d never seen before. He picked up something that appeared familiar instead. The meat roll was surrounded by golden pastry and smelled far more spicy than the ones he’d eaten at Valley Narrows. He took a bite and was overwhelmed at the flavour. Although it must have come out of the oven a while ago, the casing was still crisp and flaky, melting on his tongue. The meat wasn’t at all stringy or tough, as he’d become accustomed to. ‘You’ve got to try one of these next,’ he said to Kadin.

‘Are you sure we’re allowed to have more than one each?’

‘Manora told us to help ourselves. It might be a while yet until the evening meal.’

Kadin finished the fruit, then went for one of the pastries. ‘Spiced meat rolls. They used to sell these in the market at Bitra.’

Jevikel picked another from a different pile. This one contained cooked fruit, sweetened just enough to preserve the tangy bite. It was delicious. He wanted more, but knew not to overload his stomach when he’d not eaten properly for a few days. He poured a klah, stirred in plenty of sweetener - no rationing here, it seemed - and sank down on the padded bench, comfortable, warm and content for the first time in a while. ‘I think I like being at the Weyr,’ he said.

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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10 hours ago, frosenblum said:

In previous Mawgrim stories, D'gar experienced the deaths of many people close to him and it affected him deeply. He really shook him up to learn (while he was still in the air fighting Thread) that two children and one of the riders from his wing nearly got killed. In GAGA, he actually holds himself responsible for this possible tragedy because he was the Wingleader responsible for the area surrounding the Weyr and he had assigned only one rider rather than two to keep an eye out for people being outside the Weyr. D'gar is usually the calm peacemaker but he was in a rocky emotional state when he got to Jevikal and Kadin and exploded on them. 

Absolutely right. Jevikel and Kadin don’t know how out of character this was for him. First impressions are often lasting ones.

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