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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 - 26. New Candidates

Ramoth laid a grand total of thirty-one eggs over two days. No golden egg, though, which caused some disappointment among many of the Benden folk.

‘Most queens only produce three or four golden eggs during their laying lifespan,’ D’gar told them. ‘Don’t worry about it. It’s perfectly normal.’

He was holding classes and fitness training four mornings a week now that the official Wingleader had returned from Fort. Just in time, really. As well as teaching them - although his lessons often felt more like an informal chat - he had to coordinate the Search riders, who were going out to every Hold within Benden’s area. If they went to Pinnacle, Jevikel bet Vikkel would hide the young folk away.

Kadin had Germessont writing out some of the shorter Teaching Ballads now. His reading was improving by the day and mastering the skill seemed to have brought him out of his shell. He was keener to ask questions during the teaching sessions, presumably because he was less worried about being asked to read something.

One hot afternoon, while they were relaxing by the lake, the quiet of the Weyr was disturbed by the shrieks of a green dragon. That wasn’t unusual; the summer sunshine had made quite a few greens rise over the past sevenday, sometimes two or three at once.

Kadin looked up to the heights, shielding his eyes against the glare. ‘I think that’s Rioth.’

Jevikel raised his head. The dragon was a brilliant green, her hide glowing from within. ‘I think you’re right.’

The next moment, Rioth swooped down to the feeding grounds, killed a small horned herdbeast and sucked the blood from its throat. If anything, that made her glow brighter. Male dragons had already begun to gather, although not as many as might be expected. The large number of greens who had risen recently meant less were interested. Jevikel spotted Herebeth among them, plus a Benden bronze, another brown and a couple of blues. He found himself hoping Herebeth would win. D’gar and H’rek were so obviously in love, it seemed impossible to consider anything else.

‘I hope Herebeth catches her.’ Kadin echoed his own feelings.

They watched the drama unfold. Rioth killed a second time, then taunted her suitors for a while before launching herself skywards. Herebeth wasn’t the first to get away; a couple of speedy blues had that honour. Within a short while, the pack of dragons became mere specks in the sky, indistinguishable by colour or size any more.

Jevikel decided to say what was on his mind; what he’d thought during many of the mating flights he’d witnessed since they arrived at the Weyr. ‘If we Impress dragons, that’s going to happen to us one day.’

‘I know that.’

‘We might not end up together during a mating flight, even if one of us gets a green and the other Impresses a male dragon. We might even both Impress the same colour.’

Kadin stared at the rippling water of the lake for a while. ‘It’ll turn out fine,’ he said, although in a tone which suggested he was trying to convince himself. ‘Everyone thinks I’ll get a green. You’ll most likely end up with a blue, or maybe even a brown.’

‘Maybe.’ He sighed. ‘I don’t know how I’d cope, knowing that you were in the flight cave with someone else.’

‘It’s how it is. You can’t do anything about it. Are you jealous?’

‘Not exactly. More… worried. Mating flights can get rough.’ He hadn’t only been told that, he’d seen it first hand a few times.

‘I can look after myself.’

Jevikel had no doubts about that under normal circumstances, but whether Kadin could when he was fully linked with his dragon, caught up in the excitement of a flight was another issue entirely. ‘Perhaps you won’t get a green,’ he said, which brought another worry back again. If one of them Impressed and not the other, wouldn’t that be worse? Riders were set apart from other weyrfolk. He wasn’t sure how easy it would be for a relationship to survive under those conditions. If Kadin Impressed and he didn’t, then he’d be stuck on the ground, wondering what was happening during Threadfall. Wondering if he’d come back this time.

Kadin linked arms. ‘You think too much.’

‘I can’t help it.’

‘Then we’ll have to find a way of stopping you.’ Kadin pulled him to the ground, so they lay facing each other. Jevikel snuggled closer, moving in for a kiss and a cuddle. It was a public place, but no one minded here.

The flight was long, for a green. Eventually, as the sun began to sink towards the rim of the Bowl and the light turned from blazing white to a soft amber, the pair returned. Herebeth flew wing to wing with Rioth. As they passed overhead, a deep feeling of contentment washed over him. He wasn’t sure if he was picking up on the dragons’ emotions or if he was simply relieved at the result. Whichever it was, at this moment all was right with the world.

The feeling lasted until they went back to the sleeping chamber, to find Lukodan talking to two unfamiliar lads, obviously giving the same information about the Weyr as he had to them.

‘Here’s two of the other candidates, Jevikel and Kadin,’ he said. ‘These two were dropped off here earlier. Searched from Greystones. Wybrald and Ilithal.’

Wybrald was was short for his Turns and had a mop of curly blond hair and lively blue eyes. Illithal was dark and sturdy. He looked slightly ill-at-ease. Jevikel recalled what Kemi had said to him and wondered if he might be missing his family, He’d make an effort to talk with him during the meal and afterwards.

‘Hey,’ Kadin said. ‘We only arrived here a couple of months ago. You’ll get used to it pretty quickly.’

‘The food’s really good,’ Jevikel put in, prompted by his own stomach’s rumbling.

‘We rode a brown dragon here.’ Wybrald sounded full of enthusiasm. ‘It was incredible, seeing the beach and Hold from the air.’

Lukodan spoke. ‘I was just telling them how it all works. We’re on second shift for dinner this sevenday, so plenty of time to get cleaned up and changed.’

‘We came back to get some fresh clothes on the way to the baths.’ Jevikel noticed how the new lads looked at him slightly oddly. He hadn’t done any physical work that day, so what he wore wasn’t dirty, but they were what he now considered his ‘working clothes’. ‘Everyone here puts on their best for the evenings,’ he explained. Perhaps they would need a trip to the store, as he and Kadin had done?

‘Baths?’ Illithal asked. ‘Like tubs, you mean?’

‘Not quite,’ Lukodan said. ‘There are lots of pools, all different temperatures and sizes, so you can choose whatever suits you best. We’ll go there next, then I can show you round the rest of the place. We’re not allowed in the Hatching Grounds, though, unless it’s with the Weyrlingmaster. You’ll meet him tomorrow.’

‘That reminds me,’ Kadin put in. ‘Herebeth caught Rioth.’

Lukodan grinned. ‘I saw them taking off, just before Manora called on me to show these around. Oh well, at least he’ll be in a good mood tomorrow.’

Jevikel noticed the puzzled looks. They didn’t have a clue. It wasn’t long since he and Kadin had been the same. ‘Lukodan will tell you what all that means, I’m sure,’ he said, picking his favourite blue shirt and light coloured trousers from the niche.

They walked over to the baths together. The Greystone lads didn’t seem to mind stripping off. Jevikel supposed that in a Seahold, it must be fairly usual.

Lukodan led them into one of the warm pools. ‘Sweetsand’s over there,’ he pointed out, ducking his head under the water and surfacing to shake off the excess.

Wybrald looked around. ‘We don’t have anything like this at the Hold. Water has to be boiled for washing and the like. We’ve got tubs, but nothing like this.’

‘Yeah,’ said Illithal. ‘And you have to wait your turn, too. This place looks as if a couple of hundred people could use it at once.’

‘After Threadfall, they do.’ Lukodan rubbed sweetsand into his wet hair, waiting for it to foam. ‘It gets a bit busy then. We usually come in here before breakfast and then as soon as we finish work.’

Jevikel wondered if he’d give them the same warning he had to himself and Kadin.

Lukodan didn’t disappoint. ‘Best to come here with a group, like we are now so the old lechers don’t grab you.’

The lads looked askance at that. ‘What old lechers?’ asked Wybrald.

‘You mean old men?’ Illithal sounded scandalised.

‘Afraid so,’ Lukodan confirmed. ‘But it doesn’t happen very often,’ He reassured them.

‘It’s never happened at all to us,’ Kadin put in.

‘That’s because it’s obvious you two are together,’ Lukodan said. ‘Are you lads seeing each other.’

‘What, like boyfriends?’ Wybrald sounded doubtful. ‘Are you having a joke?’

‘Certainly not. Manora’s given me the job of introducing you to the Weyr. I wouldn’t tell you anything that’s not true.’

Wybrald looked at Jevikel. ‘So, you and him…?’

‘We’re a couple, yes.’ Jevikel wouldn’t have dared admit that when they’d first arrived, no matter what he’d heard about the Weyr’s tolerance.

‘Got a problem with that?’ Kadin sounded quite belligerent.

‘Er, no.’ Wybrald looked at the floor. ‘You mean that’s all right here? I’d heard stories…’

‘Most of the riders fly both ways,’ Lukodan continued. ‘I mean, with the dragons mating all the time it would be… well, difficult if a person wasn’t at least open to the idea. Some of the bronze riders prefer women in their bed, but their dragons chase greens as well as golds. There aren’t enough gold flights to keep them satisfied.’

‘You’d better not make a move on me,’ Illithal said to Kadin, shuffling slightly further away.

Kadin laughed. ‘No chance. I’ve already got him and no offence, but he’s better looking than you are.’ He hugged Jevikel to prove his point.

Lukodan washed the foam from his hair. ‘If you’re going to be candidates, you’d best get used to how it is here. I mean, I fancy girls rather than lads, but if I’m lucky enough to Impress a dragon…’ He shrugged. ‘If you don’t like the idea, I’m sure they’ll drop you off back home.’

‘No, we don’t want that,’ Illithal said quickly. ‘I mean, it’s an honour to be Searched. My family wouldn’t take it too well if I went home the day after I got here. They want to be watching when the eggs hatch, cheering me on.’

Wybrald nodded. ‘Mine too.’

‘Good,’ said Lukodan. ‘Now, get yourselves clean and dressed and I’ll show you where the laundry is.’

Before they were halfway to the laundry, Manora intercepted Lukodan. With her were another three lads. ‘More new arrivals, this time from Bayhead.’ They looked as if they might be related and huddled close together in these unfamiliar surroundings.

‘They are Shebil, Larrec and Vel.’ She pointed them out in turn.

Lukodan nodded. Jevikel wondered how he could keep so many names in his head so easily.

‘I know you’ll want to show them around, but get some of the other lads to help if it’s too much for you. There’ll be another twenty or so coming in over the next few days. I’ve arranged for more bedding to be delivered to your sleeping room, but if anything is missing, just let me know.’

‘Of course.’ Lukodan said. He seemed quite proud at being given the job of looking after all the new candidates. ‘Right. Come on. We were just on the way to the laundry, then I’ll give you a quick tour before dinner. Have you all got spare clothes…?’

Jevikel and Kadin trailed behind, as Lukodan took charge. They picked up a couple of freshly laundered shirts and made their way back to the sleeping room while Lukodan continued to show the others around.

Kadin sat on the edge of his bed. ‘It’s going to get crowded in here from now on.’

Jevikel agreed. ‘We’ve been used to all this space.’ It would be like being back at Pinnacle again.

‘Never mind. In a couple more sevendays, we’ll be over at the barracks and there’s loads more room there. What did you think about the two we talked to?’

‘Not sure.’ He hoped Illithal in particular soon got used to the ways of the Weyr. ‘It’s funny, but I’d kind of forgotten about outsiders attitudes to folk like us.’

‘Me too.’ Kadin frowned. ‘Let’s hope there’s no trouble, eh?’

There wasn’t that night, although Illithal deliberately picked a bed at the other end of the room and Wybrald went next to him, probably because he was the only familiar face among strangers. The Bayhead and Greystones candidates immediately formed a bond, both being from Seaholds.

The following day it was laundry work in the morning, then tuition in the afternoon. D’gar wrote all the names down on a chalkboard mounted on the wall to help memorise them. Jevikel looked at the list several times, trying to connect a name with a face. Larrec was the best looking of the lads from Bayhead. Egevan had been sneaking glances at him all afternoon.

‘When can we see the eggs?’ Ullanton asked the question everyone wanted to know.

‘In another sevenday or so. Ramoth doesn’t like being disturbed and if I took you all now, I’d have to repeat the visit after everyone else arrives. So it’s best to wait until you’re all here and the new lads have had a chance to settle in.’

That sounded sensible.

‘This afternoon, we’re going over to the kitchens. The workers there will demonstrate how to butcher herdbeasts. You’ll all be doing a fair amount of that until your dragons become old enough to fly and catch their own food.’

Some of the lads made faces. ‘I know how to gut fish,’ Vel muttered. The other Seahold candidates nodded agreement.

‘Unfortunately we don’t have any fish here, apart from ones that have been sent as part of the tithe, so meat it is.’

‘Do dragons even eat fish?’ Jurrendon asked.

‘Some do, when we have a day out on the beach. But even a large fish is a only a mouthful to a full sized dragon, so it’s more of a snack than a meal. Now, has anyone got any experience in butchering meat?’

Jevikel raised his hand. ‘I have. Just the small horned herdbeasts, though, not those large ones.’

‘I’ve helped with the bigger ones,’ Germessont offered. ‘My folks raised them.’

‘Good. Then you two can assist the others to become familiar with the process.’

It was a messy afternoon’s work. Kadin looked as if he might throw up once or twice, but he took his turn. For Jevikel, it was like stepping back in time. At Pinnacle, once the herds returned from the summer pastures, the best were sent to market, or kept for breeding, while the runts would be slaughtered and the meat preserved to tide the Hold over winter.

‘How much do young dragons eat?’ Kadin asked as D’gar came over to see how they were doing.

‘The first few sevendays, they’ll happily eat their own weight in meat over a day. That’s when a lot of the initial growing takes place. Obviously the larger dragons eat more and grow faster. Lots of bathing, oiling and feeding for those of you who Impress brown or bronze.’ He addressed the last comment to all of them. ‘It’s a bit easier for blues and greens.’

By the time the lesson had finished and they’d washed the blood and stink off in the baths, Manora introduced another five candidates, who had been brought in from Benden Hold itself and various surrounding Farmholds. ‘Plus here’s some familiar faces back at Benden again. Buko and Tollell.’

‘They were sent to Southern when the Weyr re-opened,’ Egevan whispered. ‘Don’t know why they aren’t staying for Prideth’s clutch.’

‘I’m sure you’ll find out,’ Kadin told him.

Indeed, he did. By the time they gathered outside after the meal, he’d discovered that Buko was allergic to a common plant in the south. He was happy to show them the half-healed blisters on both legs.

Tollell had simply been unable to cope with the heat. ‘It’s good to be back here.’ He lay back on the dusty ground. ‘Never thought I’d long to be cold.’

‘It’s good to have you back,’ Lukodan said, proceeding to go through all of the introductions and never getting a single name wrong, which Jevikel found impressive.

‘It’s not that difficult,’ Kadin said, later. ‘Tiebald’s the tallest. Nicemmo’s got a crooked nose.  Perrigan’s only a little shorter than Tiebald, but better looking. Kansyr and Jarren look fairly alike because their mums were twin sisters.’

‘You’re used to having a lot of different folk around. I’m not. Anyway, D’gar’s not great at remembering names either.’

‘That’s because he’s only been here a little bit longer than we have. And until he transferred here, he probably didn’t think it was worthwhile learning all the Benden folk’s names.’


‘We’ll be spending plenty of time together before the eggs hatch. You’ll remember their names by then. I mean, you know all the Weyrbred candidates, and at least half the women in the laundry now.’

It reassured Jevikel slightly, until he remembered he’d just be getting used to their names when, if they Impressed, they’d be shortening them in time honoured fashion. Everyone must be thinking about how they would contract their names, even if they didn’t say them out loud for fear of bad luck. Trouble was, there were only two ways he could shorten his own - J’vik and J’kel - and both reminded him too much of Vikkel. He’d have to ask D’gar if there was a way round it. It must have been done before, when someone had an awkward name to contract, or wanted to put the past behind them.

The next day, more candidates arrived, this time from Half Circle Sea Hold, Fork Hold and Valley Hold.

There was only one from Half Circle. ‘Thought I wasn’t going to be allowed to come, but the dragonrider reminded Holder Yanus it was his duty.’ There was a bitterness to Faisagai’s words. ‘Then just before I left, he said the Weyr was doing him a favour being as I can’t do my fair share of work anymore.’ He pointed to his left knee. ‘Bust up this knee in a storm two winters ago and it’s never been right since.’

‘That won’t be a problem if you’re riding a dragon,’ Lukodan said cheerily.

‘Yes, J’rud manages fine with no foot,’ Kadin put in.

‘Thread ate his.’ Egevan always liked to add the gory details.

Faisagai’s story resonated with Jevikel. Half Circle’s Holder sounded like he was of the same mindset as Vikkel. ‘You’re welcome here,’ he said. ‘We’ve all got an equal chance to Impress, whatever our abilities.’

It was Fall the next day; the first time the new arrivals got to see all the preparation at the Weyr. They were fighting to the far western edge of Benden’s area today, handing over to Telgar Weyr towards the end. D’gar suggested anyone who wasn’t working, or could get the time off, joined him at the firestone dump where he would be coordinating deliveries.

‘It’s a traditional role for the Weyrlingmaster, or his assistant,’ he explained on the way over. Delivery duties is where weyrlings get experience of Fall without as much danger.’

‘Someone was killed doing it a couple of Falls ago,’ Nursheldor mumbled.

D’gar evidently heard him. ‘Being close to Thread, whether you’re fighting it or not, is never totally risk free. But it’s a good introduction. I’ll also take a few weyrlings up to the edge of Fall and let them experience what it’s like to ride a flaming dragon without being part of a Wing. But that’s a long way ahead, being as none of you have dragons yet.’

The dump lay just outside the Weyr walls. It was accessible on foot, up some steps and through a short tunnel. Bags of graded firestone had been filled and tagged with the colour of the dragon they were meant for. D’gar showed how much the size varied, holding up a piece of rock intended for a bronze in one hand and comparing it with one for a green in the other. ‘We have a slight issue with Benden dragons being so much larger than those from the other Weyrs. That’s why we have these separate bags over here, graded slightly smaller.’

Several lads were still shovelling. Jevikel recognised L’cal, who looked far less self-assured covered in the grey dust of firestone, with a smear across his face where he’d wiped the sweat away.

D’gar led his class over to a large rock, where he perched, taking a slate out from his shoulder bag. ‘Once the delivery dragons arrive, they’ll settle down there.’ He pointed to a wide, flat area, slightly downhill from where the bags were stacked. ‘I’ll allocate them to deliver to certain Wings and keep a note of who’s doing what. Once the Wingseconds have enough orders from their sections, their dragons will relay the information to Herebeth and he’ll tell me. That gives us time to carry the bags down to the pickup area. When a delivery rider lands, he’ll call out his order, for example, two bronze, one small brown, three blue. You’ll be passing them the sacks, in the exact order they called it.’

Jevikel heard a few groans. Some of the candidates had obviously assumed it would be an afternoon off work. He didn’t mind, to be honest. It was good to think he’d be doing his part - however small - in helping the Weyr to fight Thread.

Reaching into his bag, D’gar brought out several pairs of gloves. ‘You’ll need these. Find yourself a pair that fits well. Then you can start to carry some of the sacks down there ready. Remember to keep them in their colour groups. If a Benden blue gets a bag of smaller pieces, he’ll go through it too fast. If a five Weyrs bronze gets a Benden bag, he might not be able to chew it quick enough to keep his flame going.’

Jevikel picked up one of the larger blue sacks. It was heavy, but nothing he couldn’t manage. His ankle didn’t seem to object, either, when he took a few trial steps. D’gar easily lifted two brown sacks, hefting one onto each shoulder. Nursheldor followed suit, evidently not wanting to be outdone and dropped one. A few chunks of firestone rolled away and he scrambled to pick them up.

D’gar turned round. ‘Don’t overstrain yourself. I’ve been doing this for years. There’s a knack to it.’ He strolled off down the incline, as if he wasn’t carrying much weight at all.

Kadin managed two green bags. By the time they were on their fourth trip, everyone was obviously feeling the strain, even though they’d been lifting rocks and sacks of sand as part of their training. Now Jevikel knew why. He’d found it was actually easier to carry two bags as the weight was more evenly distributed. As the delivery dragons began to assemble, it gave an opportunity for a break.

‘You know how they deliver these?’ Lukodan said, breathing heavily. ‘They throw them to the wing riders. Think you could throw one of those?’ He pointed to the bronze bags.

‘Probably not right now, but I suppose we’ll have plenty of practice.’ No wonder riders were all so muscular.

‘That’s what all this is about,’ Lukodan continued. ‘Plus it’ll weed out the ones who thought being a dragonrider was easy work.’

The delivery riders got off their dragons, leaving their wherhide gear piled on some rocks. They were mostly in their teens, although there were a few older riders who were getting back into work after injuries to themselves or their dragons. H’rek sat on the sacks, swigging from a bottle of water he shared with D’gar. Herebeth had flown close and perched on a nearby rocky outcrop. He was grooming himself and as he stretched out his left wing it revealed a multitude of long-healed scars, interspersed with lighter coloured hide on the underside. How had he managed to get scored in such an unlikely place, Jevikel wondered? Most of the wounded or scarred dragons he’d seen tended to have damage on the top of their bodies and wings, since Thread fell from above.

Having moved a good amount of bags, there was a lull for some time, then D’gar got to his feet and the riders began to pull on their heavy jackets and over trousers, grumbling about the heat. He pulled H’rek close into an embrace and said something too low to be heard by anyone else, then patted him on the back. ‘Fly safely.’

H’rek climbed up onto Rioth, securing his straps.

‘First orders,’ D’gar called. ‘W’lir’s Wing. Herebeth will tell your dragons who you’ll be taking them to.’

Rioth and a blue dragon came forward. D’gar pointed to Lukodan. ‘Two small greens, two blues and a small brown to Rioth.’

H’rek held up his hand in case Lukodan didn’t know his dragon’s name and Lukodan carried the sacks across and passed them up, one by one, while H’rek secured them to hooks on the heavy straps. Once he was happy, he gave the signal and she leapt into the air, as nimbly as if she wasn’t carrying all that extra weight. D’gar pointed to Ullanton and gave the order for the blue dragon. After that it was steady work. Jevikel was called to pass bags to a brown rider, making him grateful he was tall enough that it wasn’t as difficult as it might have been. He lost track of time, concentrating on the orders, especially when the dragons began to come back, bringing wafts of freezing air tinged with the unmistakeable smell of char. With each trip they were dirtier than before. Evidently it was raining over Lemos, as the empty bags were damp. Some of them still had small pieces of firestone rattling around at the bottom. Some had been holed, presumably from a close call with Thread. He was glad to be wearing gloves when he picked up one that was wet not just from the rain, but green dragon ichor as well.

As they waited for replacement sacks, the dragons and their riders steamed gently in the sunshine. When they took off again, they went between at a far lower level that he’d seen before.

‘That’s to save time,’ D’gar said. ‘You’ll notice they come in low, too. It’s not strictly correct, but everyone does it.’ He handed out skins of water and made sure they all drank plenty. Eventually, the pace slowed.

‘Shouldn’t be so busy now. Most of the dragons fighting will have enough firestone to get them through the rest of Fall.’ He ran a hand through his grimy hair. ‘Well done, all of you. It may not seem like it, but what you’ve done today is a big help to the Weyr.’

Jevikel felt wrung out. His arms ached, his shoulders ached. In fact, most of his body did. A trip to the baths today would be a necessity. No wonder all the riders crowded in after each Fall.

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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For those of you that are too young to remember those times, I give you Andre Norton. A very prolific writer of young adult science fiction and fantasy. She couldn't have been published under her real name: Alice Mary Norton.

She used two other pen names, both of which were male.

It's just the way the times were.

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I like how D'gar is introducing them to the work and duties of Weyrlings and explaining at the same time. He'll have to do it again when the rest of the candidates arrive. Five weeks to get them ready isn't much time.  I think Wybral may be OK with samesex parings, and Illithal will soon get used to the idea. Peer pressure from (green) riders and the other candidates will soon fix his attitude. But if not, they can sic Bavi on him. :evil:

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