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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. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
Dragonriders of Pern series was created by Ann McCaffrey in 1967 and spans 24+ books published by Ballantine Books, Atheneum Books, Bantam Books, and Del Rey Books.  Any recognizable content in this story is from Ann McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey, Gigi McCaffrey or their representatives or inheritors.  Original content provided by author of this FanFiction story without monetary compensation.

To the Weyr - 24. Day at the Barracks

Another Fall had come and gone. D’gar now wore shoulder knots in the Benden colours rather than Fort, his position as Weyrlingmaster confirmed.

‘When are we gonna start training, that’s what I want to know.’ Nursheldor said, one evening after the meal. It was the first time he’d said anything much that day. Jevikel had heard he’d been turned down by a girl he liked. Apparently she’d told him to ask again when he had a dragon. It sounded like a good way to turn someone down.

‘Juggling between a Wingleader’s duties and Weyrlingmaster can’t be easy.’ Jurrendon said.

‘Then why didn’t they get someone who could do it full time?’ Nursheldor grumbled.

‘Once their usual Wingleader’s fit again, he will be doing it full time,’ Kadin put in. ‘I mean, there’s no rush, is there? Ramoth’s not even laid her eggs yet.’

Nursheldor obviously didn’t want to let it drop. ‘Last time, candidates had a good two months instruction before the Hatching.’

‘That was last time,’ Lukodan said. ‘It’s not as if we can learn much before we even have dragons. We’ve all been drilled in the relevant Teaching Ballads enough times, we know them back to front and upside down.’

Jevikel caught Amertill and Germessont glancing at each other and though he should speak for them all. ‘We aren’t all Weyrbred. At our Hold, we didn’t get much education, except what…’ He checked himself before he said the name. ‘…the Holder thought necessary to make us good workers. ‘Anything about dragons wasn’t taught at all.’

‘There you are.’ Nursheldor crossed his arms. ‘Can’t take it for granted everyone knows what they need to. Bet some of these Hold and Craftbred lot can’t even read or write.’

Jevikel thought that was going a bit far. ‘ I know my letters. That was deemed a necessary skill, even where I’m from.’

‘You’ve never said, have you?’ Lukodan sounded interested, rather than confrontational.

‘Well, at first I was scared we might get sent back.’ He shrugged. ‘Does it really matter now?’

‘It doesn’t,’ Kadin said, backing him up. ‘We’re here and in a few months, we’ll be Benden riders.’

‘You hope,’ Nursheldor muttered.

‘Oh yes?’ Kadin stood his ground. ‘Who’s to say you’re going to Impress just because you’re Weyrbred?’

‘I’ll get a dragon before you.’

‘Want to bet on that?’

‘I wouldn’t bet on anything with you. Anyone would think you’re a Bitran, the way you always win at cards.’

‘Maybe I am. Or maybe I’m just better at the game than you are.’

‘Quieten down, lads.’ Lukodan stood up. ‘We don’t want any trouble. Dragonriders don’t fight.’

‘Our new Weyrlingmaster does.’ Nursheldor shook his head. ‘Not exactly a good example.’

‘He stopped someone from getting killed.’ Jurrendon broke in. ‘Everyone knows that.’

The rumours had subsided as the truth came out about what was being called ‘the volcano stand off.’ Only a few of the most hidebound Benden riders thought D’gar anything less than heroic and they mostly kept their views to themselves as he had both F’lar and Lessa’s support.

‘That’s right,’ Jevikel said. He’d got more details of the story from H’rek himself rather than second hand from Bavi. ‘He did what he had to under the circumstances.’

It was the next morning, before they went to work, that Germessont pulled him aside on the way out of the dining hall. ‘What is it?’

‘I’ve been thinking about what they were saying last night.’

Kadin had noticed his absence and doubled back. ‘Everything all right?’

‘Yes. Germessont was about to tell me something.’

Germessont looked at the ground, the smooth wall to his left. Anywhere, in fact, but at Jevikel. ‘I can only read a bit. Can’t write at all, ‘cept my name. Do you think they’ll ban me from the Sands if they find out?’

‘Don’t reckon dragons care much either way,’ Kadin said. ‘But if you want, I can help you.’

‘Really?’ His face lit up. ‘I don’t want those others to know. It never mattered at home, working in the fields, but here…’

‘I’ll help too,’ Jevikel offered. He liked Germessont. He hadn’t any spite in him.

‘That’s great. Can we start before the formal lessons? I don’t want to be asked to read out some ballad and stumble over it.’

‘Sure,’ Kadin said. ‘I’ll grab a spare slate from the laundry later. We can make some time each day. Little and often’s more effective than trying to cram it all in at once.’

Later that day came another unexpected event. H’rek strolled in to the laundry as he often did, even when he wasn’t picking up clothing. Usually, it was to have a chat with Bavi, but this time he came straight over to Jevikel and Kadin.

‘D’gar’s asked me to round up the candidates,’ he said. ‘He wants to see you all in the barracks after work. Don’t look like that.’ He must have noticed the alarm on Jevikel’s face. ‘It’s just to get to know you. And you’ll get a day off laundry tomorrow as he needs you all for other duties.’

‘Typical,’ Bavi said, with a huff. ‘Just as they’re getting to know what they’re doing, someone takes them off me.’

‘Only for a few days,’ H’rek assured her. ‘And you’ll lose them permanently when they both have dragons.’

Kadin beamed at that. Jevikel smiled too, although he still wouldn’t let himself hope too much. If you expected the worst, then you’d end up with a pleasant surprise at best. Hope led to disappointment most of the time.

‘How’s D’gar?’ Bavi asked.

‘Determined to lead the Wing next Fall, no matter how much numbweed he needs before and after. You want to see the colour of his bruises now.’

Bavi winced. ‘I can imagine.’

‘Anyway, I’d better get on. He’s trying to sort out the Weyrlingmaster’s office and I’m worried he’ll overdo it.’ He turned to leave. ‘See you later, lads.’

As soon as their shift ended, they walked across the Bowl to the barracks. The building was a long way from the Lower Caverns, although close to the lake and feeding grounds. The herdbeasts rested peacefully as no dragons were feeding. Jevikel wondered if Kemi was at work right now.

The main doors were flung open, presumably to let fresh air circulate. They weren’t the first to arrive; some of the other departments had slightly different shift patterns. Egevan, Kernam and Taltien were assigned to the kitchens and always finished before Jevikel and Kadin. They stood by the door, looking at Rioth, who stood nearby. She really was a vivid green, with a long neck and tail that made her appear graceful and sleek. Now that he’d had the opportunity to study them close up, Jevikel was aware that even within the same colour grouping, dragons’ conformation varied. Just like humans really, or even the horned herdbeasts he’d grown up with.

‘Hey!’ Egevan greeted them. ‘Isn’t she just gorgeous?’ He gestured toward Rioth.

She seemed to understand and preened, opening her wings slightly if to display them to best advantage. Was she close to mating, Jevikel wondered? He didn’t think she could get much brighter in colour, so wouldn’t that make it difficult to tell?

A shadow passed overhead. Jevikel felt drops of water land on his face and bare arms and looked up to see a dark brown dragon descending. Herebeth landed carefully next to Rioth. He had evidently been in the lake. Trails of water streaked his hide and dripped off the edges of his wings. Rioth didn’t seem to mind at all and shuffled closer to neck twine with him.

‘So, what’s all this about?’ Kernam asked. ‘This meeting?’

‘Not exactly sure,’ Kadin replied. ‘H’rek said it was just so we could get to know D’gar. And we’ve got the day off from work tomorrow.’

‘Yes. Tidula wasn’t too happy to hear that.’ Egevan looked off over Jevikel’s shoulder. ‘Here come some of the others.’

‘At least Nursheldor can’t complain about us not starting the training,’ Kadin said.

Kernam wrinkled his nose. ‘He’ll find something else to moan about instead.’

Lukodan, Germessont and Amertill joined them. The two dragons regarded them solemnly, settling down together on the dusty ground, which stuck immediately to Herebeth’s damp hide. He deliberately stirred up more dust with his tail, coating that too. Some of it transferred to Rioth.

‘He’ll need another bath,’ Egevan commented.

‘Maybe that’s the point.’ It looked as if Herebeth was deliberately getting Rioth dirty so she’d join him in the water for a swim. Did dragons think like that?

‘Where’s Ullanton and Nursheldor?’ Kernam asked.

‘Palran said they had to finish the job they’d started. Shouldn’t be too long.’ Lukodan sat on a rock and ran a hand through his hair. ‘Could have done with a trip to the baths before coming here. We’ve been cleaning ventilation shafts all day.’

‘Lovely. Glad I didn’t choose maintenance as my specialty,’ Egevan said.

‘I’d rather do that than have to peel a mountain of tubers every day,’ Lukodan replied.

‘We don’t just peel tubers. I’ve been helping on cakes.’ Egevan patted his stomach. ‘Had to dispose of some of the substandard ones.’

‘Yeah, they’re good. Redfruit jam inside. Yum.’ Kernam licked his lips in exaggerated fashion. ‘Cream topping. Looking forward to dinner tonight.’

D’gar and H’rek emerged from the ground level complex where the Weyrlingmaster’s office and living quarters were situated. ‘Is this all of you?’ D’gar asked. ‘I thought there were more.’

‘There are,’ H’rek confirmed. ‘Three extra, isn’t it?’

‘Ullanton and Nursheldor had to finish up their job,’ Lukodan said. ‘Don’t know about Jurrendon. He’s on outdoor work.’

‘I saw him earlier, helping on the fire heights,’ H’rek informed D’gar. ‘It’s a long way down on foot. Shall I take Rioth up to see if he’s still there?’

‘Please,’ D’gar replied. ‘We might as well wait out here in the fresh air. It’ll give me a chance to try and learn your names. I’ll warn you in advance that I remember dragons’ names fairly easily but not always their riders.’

H’rek picked up a lightweight strap and slung it around Rioth’s neck, then did one of those easy looking vaults to get on board. Herebeth moved back to give her room to take off. Dust whirled around in the disturbed air and Jevikel turned away to stop it getting in his eyes. Beside him, Kadin sneezed.

‘Getting a bit dusty,’ D’gar commented. ‘Fort’s worse in the summer.’ He cast a quick glance around at them all. ‘So, you probably already know I’m D’gar and I’m going to be your Weyrlingmaster. That dusty brown lump over there is Herebeth, my dragon. Now if we go round from left to right, tell me your names and I’ll try to make them sink in.’

They had reached Egevan when the sound of running feet made everyone turn to see Nursheldor and Ullanton kicking up dust as they hurried over.

‘Sorry… we’re late,’ Nursheldor gasped, breathing heavily.

‘Not a problem,’ D’gar said. ‘Your friend, er, Lukodan told us you’d had to keep working. Did you run all the way across the Bowl?’

Ullanton nodded. His face was bright red and he looked as if he probably couldn’t talk yet.

‘Well, that tells me one thing about you both.’ D’gar smiled. ‘You could do with some fitness training. And probably not just you two.’ He scanned them all.

Egevan sighed audibly.

‘Don’t worry. I’ll be training alongside, same as I do with the Wing. I never ask anyone to do anything I can’t do myself.’

Jevikel glanced at Kadin. At the Hold they’d done plenty of heavy work and they’d walked all the way to the Weyr, but if he had to run across the Bowl - if his ankle was strong enough to let him do it - then he reckoned he’d be out of breath, too. Just how fit did you need to be to ride a dragon?

D’gar carried on with the names, not making any comment when he reached Jevikel, nor Kadin either. That was a relief, of sorts.

‘And here comes our final candidate,’ he said, as Rioth descended in a slow spiral, setting down almost exactly where she’d left. Jurrendon scrambled down in clumsy fashion while H’rek made it look easy again. He was naturally graceful, it seemed.

‘Sorry,’ Jurrendon said.

‘No need to apologise. You were working. That’s a good enough excuse. You’re… Jurrendon, is that right?’

‘Yes.’ He brushed dust off his shirt as he joined the others.

H’rek leaned against Rioth as D’gar carried on with his introduction. ‘I was a candidate just eight Turns ago, so I can still remember how it felt stepping onto the Sands for the first time. However, I didn’t Impress on my first try. Not everyone does. How about you, H’rek?’

‘I was Searched for Ramoth’s first clutch, but didn’t succeed that time. Stood a second time in the south and that’s where Rioth picked me.’ He clearly exchanged a few words with his dragon. Her eyes whirled a deep blue colour, which Jevikel knew signified contentment.

‘So, first lesson. Go in there with an open mind, but if you don’t end up paired with a dragon, it just wasn’t the right time. There are always more candidates than the number of eggs, so some of you may well be disappointed.’

Kadin raised a hand. ‘Why is that?’ he asked, slightly hesitantly.

‘Good question,’ D’gar replied. ‘I expect one of our Weyrbred lads can answer it.’ He looked around at them, one by one.

Jurrendon held up his hand. ‘Because dragons need to have plenty of choice.’

‘Correct. There have been recorded instances where a hatchling couldn’t find the person they wanted on the Sands and made their way into the audience to bond with someone there. And others, sadly, where they couldn’t find anyone suitable and they died.’ He fell silent for a few moments, allowing that to sink in. ‘Fortunately, the latter situation is rare, but no one wants to lose a dragon, so we make sure to give them a good number of candidates to choose from. That’s why, over the next few sevendays, Search riders will be going out to find more lads of the right age. The Weyrleader and I have decided fifteen Turns will be the minimum age from now on.’

Jevikel heard some muttering at that. It didn’t affect him. He’d turned fifteen back in fourth month.

Nursheldor raised a hand. ‘It used to be a lot younger here at Benden.’ He put stress on the ‘Benden’ part.

D’gar nodded pleasantly. ‘And both Ramoth and Prideth’s clutch had the age raised to seventeen, for the reason that the Weyrleader needed mature dragons and riders ready to fight Thread. Otherwise, given previous Benden custom, many of you lads would have been on the Sands already. Intervals are different from a Pass.’

That made sense. Jevikel glanced at Kadin again. He seemed slightly agitated.

‘Anyway, that’s enough of that. What we need to do, over the next couple of days, is get these barracks fit for habitation again. So tomorrow, I’d like you all here after breakfast to do just that. Any questions?’

No one had any, so he dismissed them. As they headed across the Bowl, Kadin held back from the others and Jevikel slowed his pace accordingly. ‘What is it?’

‘I’m not fifteen yet,’ he hissed. ‘Not until tenth month.’

Jevikel had known Kadin was younger than him, but not by how much. They hadn’t exactly celebrated birthdays at Pinnacle and certainly not the previous Turn, so he could be forgiven for that. ‘Oh.’

‘I didn’t know there was an age limit. Lukodan said you could stand as young as twelve and apparently F’nor was only ten when he Impressed Canth.’

‘Maybe no one will notice?’

‘They’re bound to check. Remember, Bavi asked us our birthdays when she fostered us.’

It had been for the records, she’d said. That meant it was written down somewhere and could be easily checked. ‘Wait and see, eh. If they won’t let you Stand, then I won’t either.’

‘No! You can’t do that.’

‘We’ll have another chance soon enough. Ramoth’ll be mating once, maybe even twice a Turn from now on. I’m not setting foot on those Hatching Sands without you, all right?’

‘Come on, you two,’ Lukodan called. ‘Last one in the baths gets a dunking.’

It felt strange not to be going to the laundry the next morning. As they made their way to the barracks, a couple of dragons flew low in the same direction, with loads slung in sacks to either side of them. Jevikel recognised Rioth right away, plus another, darker green dragon he thought was J’rud’s Zurinth. ‘Looks like we’ve got some help.’

‘Let’s hope so. Those barracks are huge for just us few to clear up.’ Kadin seemed in a brighter mood this morning. He should be. After the meal, they’d spent a few hours in Egevan’s secret room before returning together. It still felt slightly strange that no one made any disparaging comments whenever they’d been off for some private time together.

By the time they got there, the dragons were being unloaded. Mops, buckets and a selection of brushes were lined up, ready for use.

‘Cleaning.’ Nursheldor frowned. ‘Couldn’t they have got the support staff to do it?’

‘They don’t clean weyrs unless you pay them, so why should they do this?’ Lukodan said. ‘It’s going to be our home, so it’s our job. Anyway, looks like we’ve got some help.’

A couple more dragons landed on the flat piece of ground outside the barracks. By the look of them, they were mostly from D’gar’s Wing. The riders dismounted and chatted as they walked over. Jevikel recognised T’rai and waved, then felt silly for doing so. Would a dragon rider even acknowledge him in front of all his wingmates?

T’rai did, though. He came over, smiling. ‘Good to see you again, lads. How are you settling in?’

‘Fine,’ Jevikel said.

‘And you’ll be standing for Ramoth’s clutch? Good luck.’ He turned to beckon over some of the others. ‘These are the lads we rescued.’

Jevikel cringed inwardly. It wasn’t something he liked to be reminded of. Judging from Kadin’s expression, neither did he.

The riders however, seemed to regard it as a feat to be celebrated. ‘Trying to outrun Thread. That’s not something I’d want to do.’ The speaker was a bald, burly man of middle years, his arms covered with inked designs.

‘You wouldn’t be quick enough, T’burrad,’ one of the others joked. ‘Too much weight.’

‘I’m all muscle,’ T’burrad protested, flexing his biceps as proof.

’T’rai will sing you the ballad later,’ added another. ‘It’s rally good.’

T’rai groaned. ‘I was drunk when I made that up. Half of it doesn’t even rhyme.’

‘There’s a ballad about us being rescued?’ Kadin asked.

‘Of course. Everything notable gets made into some sort of ballad.’

A few more of the riders gathered round and introductions were made. Jevikel wasn’t sure he’d remember all the names, even if he recognised faces in future. But they were a friendly bunch. He hoped the other candidates saw that, too. It might change some of their minds about Five Weyrs riders. There were a few from Benden as well, most likely H’rek’s clutchmates by their age.

D’gar put them into groups; some to sweep and mop, others to help move the pile of musty old mattresses at the far end of the room. Jevikel and Kadin were sent to the latter group. The mattresses weren’t heavy, just unwieldy to carry on your own. They were dumped in a pile a good way from the building.

‘Must be a while since these barracks were full,’ T’rai commented. ‘At High Reaches during the last Pass, there were times weyrlings had to be housed in the ground level weyrs when they ran out of room.’

‘Same at Igen,’ another rider said.

It made Jevikel realise how seriously under strength Benden Weyr was, by comparison to the others. ‘Is it true you have more than one queen dragon at the other Weyrs?’ he asked.

‘Sure. At Fort there’s three of them.’

‘Four at Igen.’

‘Three at High Reaches.’

It seemed Bavi hadn’t exaggerated.

‘You’ll have more soon enough. Those two young queens will lay a few golden eggs between them now the Pass has started.’ This came from the only bronze rider in the group, V’vil from High Reaches. ‘In an Interval, queens rise less often and the clutches are smaller. Otherwise we’d be overrun with dragons. I’m not sure exactly what happened here, but I’d say maybe they were down to just two queens and one died young. Something like that, anyway.’

They carried on working. Jevikel wondered what would be done with all the stuff they were dumping - some broken tables and chairs had been added to the pile - when Herebeth swooped down, with D’gar on board carrying a sack. He slid off with almost the same ease as H’rek demonstrated, although he winced noticeably when he touched ground.

‘Anyone who wants a close up demonstration of a flaming dragon, gather round,’ he called.

Most of the candidates stopped what they were doing and did just that. The riders took the opportunity to have a break, as someone had brought over a kettle of klah.

D’gar fed his dragon a few chunks of firestone. The crunching sounded far louder this close up. Herebeth had a thoughtful expression on his face as he chewed and swallowed the rock. H’rek handed D’gar a mug of klah, which he sipped at the same time.

‘I takes a little while for a dragon to be ready to flame,’ he commented. ‘That’s why you always see us feeding them firestone a good while before Fall. Herebeth’s not going to need anywhere near that much for this, though. Ready?’ Evidently the dragon replied to him. ‘Stand well back, everyone.’

He moved aside himself, after which Herebeth pointed his head at the pile, opened his mouth and breathed out. Flame roared as the gases ignited in the presence of air. It set light to the rubbish fast. Even from where they stood, Jevikel felt the heat as the fire took hold. For a moment, it reminded him of standing at the barn door, when the blue dragon flamed Thread on that awful day. He pushed that memory to the back of his mind.

‘Whoa!’ Kadin said. ‘That’s so impressive.’

More mattresses were brought out to feed the fire. Jevikel and Kadin joined in willingly. The incentive of watching all the rubbish burn made folk work more quickly.

Kadin sniffed at his sleeve. ‘We’re definitely going to have to change these clothes later. They stink of smoke.’

When the last item had been cleared, H’rek announced food was on the way over, plus more klah.

They sat on the ground with the other candidates. Everyone was a bit grubby and very hungry.

During lunch, the riders lounged around, taking their time. It felt odd not to have to eat quickly to be out before the next sitting had their turn.

‘I could get used to this,’ Lukodan said. ‘Wonder what they’ll have us doing next?’

‘More cleaning, I expect.’ Nursheldor sounded disgruntled. ‘Then a run round the lake, most likely. Unfit, eh? I’d like to see how fit all these riders are.’

Egevan glanced over at them, not for the first time. ‘I’d say quite a few of them look pretty fit. Eh, Kernam?’ They both burst out laughing.

After the leisurely break, D’gar stood. ‘Everyone’s worked very hard this morning, so this afternoon, you’re in for a treat. All of the riders here have offered to let you ride with them, so that you can experience the way different colour dragons perform. I deliberately gave you plenty of time to let your food go down as you really don’t want to be seeing it come up again in mid air.

A couple of the wingriders chuckled at that.

‘Let’s say I have personal experience there. So, while the riders get ready you’ll have a chance to decide which dragons you want to try first.’

Even Nursheldor didn’t moan as they queued. There were a good number of greens and blues, a few browns, but only one bronze; V’vil’s Bitath. Jevikel decided not be be pushy and lined up in the ‘blue’ queue. He also opted to ride the Fort dragon first, rather than the Benden ones. He’d heard one of the riders answering Lukodan when asked about the difference in performance of modern dragons.

‘Not a great deal, as we’ve found now we’ve a mixed Wing. You’ll notice it most with greens. The smaller they are the faster they can turn.’

‘Hey,’ the rider greeted. ‘I’m T’garrin and this is Belloth. It’s not your first time on a dragon, is it?’

‘Er, no. Hinarth rescued us and we recently went to Greystones on my sister’s weyrmate’s brown.’

‘You’ll need to strap in tightly. We’ll be demonstrating Threadfall moves so it won’t be an easy ride. If you feel sick, tap my back twice and we’ll have a break.’

‘All right.’ Jevikel felt slightly nervous and glanced across to where Kadin was being given a leg up onto Rioth. Kadin flashed a smile, then paid attention to H’rek as he instructed which straps went where.

Once he was secured, T’garrin climbed up. Jevikel looked down at the ground. He was nowhere near as high up as he’d been on board Bruganith. Belloth felt narrower, though, with less support for his legs.

‘Ready?’ T’garrin asked.

‘Yes.’

T’garrin gave the hand signal he’d seen plenty of times, to warn others in the vicinity his dragon was about to take off, then with a single spring, Belloth took to the air. They climbed steadily until high above the Weyr, keeping a good distance from the other dragons who were already aloft. Seeing the expanse of the Benden mountains below made Jevikel realise how vast they were. Some still bore snow in the shadowed places which didn’t get much summer heat. Although he’d been too warm at ground level, up here the wind was cool, blowing his hair back.

‘We’ll go through some turns first,’ T’garrin shouted. ‘Hold tight.’

Suddenly, the mountains weren’t where they had been. Above Belloth’s right wing was nothing but sky; the ground at an unfamiliar angle below them. Jevikel felt the straps press against his thighs and around his waist as they kept him in place between the neck ridges.

Belloth dived for a few dizzying moments before turning the other way. Ground was replaced abruptly by sky. It made his head spin. How did dragonriders know where they were, let alone how close they were to another dragon, or even Thread?

Before he had a chance to think of an answer, T’garrin shouted, ‘Spins and dives.’

The wind noise in his ears was incredible as Belloth suddenly furled his wings and plummeted toward the rocky terrain below. Jevikel shut his eyes briefly, before realising that made it worse. He opened them as the dragon turned the dive into a spinning recovery. T’garrin, clearly enjoying this opportunity to show off what his dragon could do, gave him a thumbs up sign before they corkscrewed in the opposite direction. Finally, it ended. Once more, the sky was where it should be, above them and the ground far below.

‘Back to the Weyr now.’

Before he had a chance to prepare, they entered the utter silence and darkness of between. The cold cut like a knife and he worried he’d run out of air before they emerged. As the familiar view of the Bowl replaced blackness, he took a deep, shuddering breath. He felt as if he’d been turned inside out a few times, then wrung out like a garment going through the laundry.

Even when they landed, he took his time unfastening the straps, no trusting his legs to support him right away. ‘Thank you,’ he managed to say.

T’garrin beamed. ‘Care to make a bet on which one of your fellows throws up first?’

‘I’m hoping none of them will.’ He slid down cautiously, stroking Belloth’s neck as if he was a runner beast. ‘Thank you, Belloth,’ he said, remembering to be polite.

Kadin was nowhere to be seen and the only dragon currently available was a light brown. His rider leaned against his foreleg. ‘Want to try out a brown next? Toth’s one of the fastest at Fort Weyr. I’m M’rell, by the way.’

He looked a similar age to D’gar. One of his clutchmates, maybe? ‘Sure,’ Jevikel said, although in truth he could have done with a rest before going up again.

‘Don’t worry. It won’t be as extreme as riding with T’garrin. Brown dragons are steadier.’

That was a relief to hear. Jevikel took a swig of water before getting on board. As expected, Toth was larger than the blue, with more space between the neck ridges. M’rell was equally as conscientious in making sure he was well strapped in before swinging into his accustomed position.

‘You ready to take off?’

‘Sure.’

Toth was slower to get going after he sprang into the air, but once he was under way, Jevikel felt the difference in power between the two dragons. On the way up, they passed Rioth descending. He waved at Kadin and got a wave back, which reassured him he must be enjoying the flight.

Toth gained height rapidly, searching out the air currents over the Weyr. His flight seemed smoother and more effortless than Belloth’s had been. Jevikel began to enjoy himself, able to look around at the mountains and the Weyr far below.

‘We’re going to pull a few moves now,’ M’rell shouted. ‘Yell if you don’t like it.’

Toth folded his wings and dived. Jevikel imagined him chasing down Thread like this. It was fast and exhilarating. Then he changed direction, using his greater wingspan to rapidly ascend again. He demonstrated some turns and direction changes, which felt totally different to those of the blue dragon. Less extreme was the best way to describe it, although he wasn’t sure if that was because M’rell was deliberately being easy on him.

Following that he showed off another dive and ascent which was so fast it made Jevikel’s ears pop, before levelling out and returning to the Weyr. Thankfully, there was no need for a between jump this time. Toth descended in wide circles, barely using his wings at all except when he needed to correct his course.

They landed next to the four other dragons currently on the ground. Kadin ran over after he dismounted from T’rai’s Hinarth. ‘You should ride Rioth,’ he said happily. ‘She can turn on a mark.’

Jevikel wasn’t sure wanted any more of that; at least, not today. ‘You should try Toth, if M’rell’s all right with it. He’s really powerful.’

‘Toth’s not tired at all,’ M’rell said. ‘He can fly a full Fall with no problem. This is just a bit of fun for us.’

‘Thanks for that,’ Jevikel said hastily, realising he'd forgotten.

‘It’s a pleasure. Er, you two work in the laundry, don’t you?’

‘Yes.’ Jevikel wondered if he was going to ask for a favour such as getting his clothes back more quickly, but it turned out to be something else entirely.

‘There’s a woman who works there. She’s got long hair, sort of a sandy colour. She’s quite tall and slim. Could you put in a word with her from me?’

Kadin mused for a moment. ‘Sounds like Sivai. Yeah, we can do that. I don’t think she’s involved with anyone right now.’

‘Appreciated.’ M’rell clapped him on the back. ‘Want to see what Toth can do?’

‘All right.’

Jevikel watched Bitath come in to land. His hide gleamed greenish bronze, but with occasional flashes of other colours where the sun caught at different angles. Jurrendol unfastened the straps and slid down. ‘That was brilliant. Thank you,’ he said to V’vil.

‘Pleasure. Anyone else?’

All the other candidates were absent, so without any feelings of guilt, he walked over. ‘Yes, please.’

Kadin waved as Toth took off. Jevikel waved back.

‘Are you one of the lads T’rai rescued?’

‘Er, yes.’

‘Well, this won’t be anything as dramatic. Climb up when Bitath lowers himself. Just jump and grab the main strap, then get your foot on his leg and he’ll boost you.’

It was a long way up. Jevikel managed without feeling too clumsy. He was getting over his worry of inadvertently hurting a dragon by accidentally kicking while scrambling on board.

V’vil seated himself in the neck ridge in front. ‘Well done. Bitath’s a big dragon, even when you compare him to the modern ones. So, who have you ridden so far today?’

‘Belloth and Toth. They were very different from each other.’

V’vil clipped the main straps to his belt. ‘I think T’garrin’s trying to get someone to throw up. Don’t know why; it’ll probably end up all over him.’

‘It was a bit rough,’ Jevikel admitted. ‘When you’re twisting and turning like that, how do you keep track of where you are in the sky?’

‘You get used to it. Plus you rely on the bond with your dragon. He always knows where he is.’

Jevikel hadn’t really thought of that. Every time he’d been on a dragon so far, it was as a passenger. On a dragon of your own, of course you’d have a greater sense of how they were going to move.

‘I expect you already know some of this, but bronze - and brown - dragons have different roles in a Wing to blues and greens. Bigger dragons can flame more Thread in one blast with less effort. The smaller ones can turn in a lot less space, enabling them to get to the pieces we’d miss. That’s why we need to have a good balance of all colours.’

Jevikel remembered that V’vil was leading the Wing until D’gar recovered. ‘How does it feel being a Wingleader?

‘You get to liase with the Weyrleader beforehand regarding tactics for the coming Fall. Wing formations are usually decided in advance, based on terrain and weather reports, but if conditions change unexpectedly, you have to make fast decisions. An ordinary wing rider, doesn't have much say in what happens. If you’ve a decent Wingleader, that’s not a problem, but…’ he paused. ‘R’feem and D’gar are fine, but let’s just say I had a Wingleader who wasn’t so good when I was at High Reaches.’

‘The way some of them talk about it, it sounds as if all bronze riders become Wingleaders.’

‘There’s more of a chance you will, but during a Pass a brown rider has as much likelihood of ending up leading a Wing.’

‘So why not blues or greens?’

‘Their dragons fly Fall in shifts. They tire themselves out a lot quicker, with all the moves they do. You couldn’t have a Wingleader, or a Wingsecond, for that matter, leaving half way through.’

That made sense.

‘Anyway, shall we fly? I can answer some more questions for you when we get back.’

‘All right.’ Jevikel braced himself for the take off. V’vil signed just a moment before Bitath sprang. The speed of ascent wasn't massively different from Toth, although his wings had to do far more work to propel his bulk into the air. Once they had left the rim of the Bowl far behind, Jevikel became aware of how different flying on a dragon of this size was. Bitath demonstrated many of the same moves Toth had done, reinforcing what V’vil had said about bronzes and browns being similar. His turns were precise, but the changes of direction took longer. His dives and recovery demonstrated the muscle power of a large dragon and while he could check his speed mid-air as he would to avoid Thread, it was nowhere near as fast as Belloth had been able to do. Still, he could probably just flame the Thread from the sky.

When they got down, he asked V’vil about that.

‘Good question, lad. If we’re not too close, that’s exactly what we’d do. If we are, he’ll skip between to avoid it. Bronzes - even browns - have to dodge between more often than the smaller colours. Both of us have to watch out a lot more, due to his size.’

That seemed like a lot to manage. ‘It must be a lot to think about, especially if you’re Wingleader or Wingsecond as well.’

‘That’s why no one gets put in those positions right away. A few Turns of fighting Thread and a lot of it becomes second nature. Still, when you Impress a bronze, it’s a steep learning curve. Folk rely on you to take the lead.’

‘Then why does everyone seem to want a bronze.’

V’vil sighed. ‘Childhood fancies of being Weyrleader one day, mostly. Thing is though, some boys who Impress bronze don’t know how to cope with responsibility. My ex-Wingleader, for one. He just thought it was about bullying folk, because he had the authority to do it. And everyone was too frightened of him to do anything. Except D’gar.

‘Oh. Was he the one D’gar fought?’

V’vil nodded. ‘Sad to lose a dragon, but F’drun got what was coming to him. D’gar did all of us a favour.’ He loosened and unclipped the straps. ‘I can tell you’re the type to think through things a bit more than some folk. If you do end up with a brown, or a bronze, I’m sure you’ll do well.’

Slightly longer chapter this week. I'm sure you won't mind!

©1967-2022 Ann McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey, Gigi McCaffrey; All Rights Reserved; 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. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
Dragonriders of Pern series was created by Ann McCaffrey in 1967 and spans 24+ books published by Ballantine Books, Atheneum Books, Bantam Books, and Del Rey Books.  Any recognizable content in this story is from Ann McCaffrey, Todd McCaffrey, Gigi McCaffrey or their representatives or inheritors.  Original content provided by author of this FanFiction story without monetary compensation.

Story Discussion Topic

It is with great sadness I must announce the death of Mawgrim, Promising Author on GA. He had been in declining health for some time and passed away on Christmas Day. Mawgrim worked for decades as a cinema projectionist before his retirement and was able to use this breadth of knowledge to his stories set in cinemas. He also gave us stories with his take on the World of Pern with its dragon riders. He will be greatly missed and our condolences go out to his friends, family, and his husband.
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Chapter Comments

On 7/14/2022 at 10:22 AM, ColumbusGuy said:

can't see him wanting to mate with a woman if a queen rose.  :)

 

If it happens it happens. Jevikel will not be able to control this. Remembering that it is about the dragons and not the rider, the urge to mate will overtake him.

Of course, like we have seen, after a few successful mating flights, the rider will be able to exert some control.

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D'gar is already showing some of his sterling leader and teacher qualities. I wonder if this idea of letting the candidates try different dragons beforehand is something he has come up with or it's a Five Weyr tradition. I like that we get to see both D'gar and the boys developing as we read the story.

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Another chapter that enthralled me. 

D'gar is showing great leadership. I do not recall this being done with him when he was a weyrling. Exposing the youngsters to the possibilities and where their aptitudes might be is a good sign if things to come from him as Weyrlingmaster. 

Jevikel will make a good wingleader in the future. He has already shown his bravery and loyalty. Kadin too, for that matter. I'm delighted that he will only stand if Kadin does. Another sign of loyalty. 

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19 hours ago, Timothy M. said:

D'gar is already showing some of his sterling leader and teacher qualities. I wonder if this idea of letting the candidates try different dragons beforehand is something he has come up with or it's a Five Weyr tradition. I like that we get to see both D'gar and the boys developing as we read the story.

It's a new idea. D'gar has noticed the bronze bias at Benden and is trying to show the boys all dragons have different fighting abilities, all useful in their own way. Also, Benden's leaders are encouraging him to try new things.

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15 hours ago, Doha said:

Another chapter that enthralled me. 

D'gar is showing great leadership. I do not recall this being done with him when he was a weyrling. Exposing the youngsters to the possibilities and where their aptitudes might be is a good sign if things to come from him as Weyrlingmaster. 

Jevikel will make a good wingleader in the future. He has already shown his bravery and loyalty. Kadin too, for that matter. I'm delighted that he will only stand if Kadin does. Another sign of loyalty. 

He's looking back at the training he received and working out new ways, with a strong reliance on practical skills. He doesn't want the next wheeling to be unprepared for Threadfall.

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