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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 - 31. The Hatching

Ninth month began with everyone waiting expectantly for the eggs to crack.

‘I know it says “five heated weeks” in that ballad, but that’s just a rough estimate. Babies are supposed to be born after nine months, but some decide to come out early while others hang on a bit longer. It’s nature.’ Bavi stirred her pot of garments, the steam rising all around her.

‘I just want it to be over with,’ Kadin said. ‘The suspense is killing me.’

‘Best not die before your dragon hatches. Although, if you don’t Impress, it’s going to be a lot cosier in here for the winter than over in those draughty barracks.’

Each day, they spent a couple of hours attending lectures or learning practical skills such as testing and mending straps. The exercise also continued daily. Jevikel felt much fitter, but wished he could put on more muscle.

‘It doesn’t happen overnight,’ H’rek assured him. ‘You’re still getting taller. Look around you. Lots of lads your age are skinny. Filling out happens later, once your body has settled down.’

Anticipation grew, as did rumours as to when it would happen. A blue rider in F’lar’s Wing had successfully predicted when Hatchings would commence several times in the past and this time, he was saying it wouldn’t happen before tenth day, or after fourteenth.

T’garrin, together with some of the Benden riders, were busy taking bets on the outcome; how many bronze, brown, blue and green hatchlings there would be. People were also betting on which candidates would Impress and the colour of their dragon. Since most of the riders only knew the Weyrbred lads particularly well, they had more than their fair share of interest.

‘People think I’m going to get a brown,’ Lukodan said, with  touch of dismay one morning. ‘Everyone knows dad is a blue rider as was his father before him.’

‘It’s only a guess,’ Egevan assured him. ‘Look how wrong everyone got it with Ramoth’s last lot.’

‘But what makes them even think that?’ Lukodan wasn’t mollified.

‘Well, you’re very responsible,’ Jevikel said. ‘Manora trusts you sufficiently to show new folk around and to look after us. Isn’t that one of the traits ascribed to brown riders?’

‘Well, yes…’ he agreed.

‘So they’re just matching your personality to what most people expect.’

‘Yeah, and they know Kernam and I spend a lot of time with the green riders anyway, so that’s why we’re expected to Impress green.’ Egevan took a swig of his klah and made a face. ‘Anyone else notice how the quality of the food has taken a dive the last few days?’

Jevikel had, but he’d not said anything, assuming it might be due to late tithes, or short-staffing in the kitchen.

‘It’s because they’re getting the Hatching Feast ready - well, as much of it as they can. They don’t get much notice on the day and loads of important people will be there, so it has to be fancy. All the cakes and cold stuff are made in advance and stored in the cool rooms.

‘So they must think it’s going to happen soon,’ Kadin said.

‘Well, Prideth’s eggs hatched a few days ago. She and Ramoth mated pretty close together.’

Everyone at Benden had been excited to hear the news. All twenty-nine of Prideth’s eggs had hatched successfully, with seven bronzes among them.

‘If we’d stayed down south, we might have our own dragons by now.’ Buko sounded slightly sad.

‘Your legs would be so blistered you couldn’t walk,’ Tollel pointed out. ‘And I’d have burned to a crisp.’

At dinner, Jevikel found himself looking around the table, wondering who would succeed and who wouldn’t. There were a few he hoped didn’t. Hortaimin, if he got his brown, or even a bronze, would soon recover his arrogant attitude, which had mellowed since working in the kitchen. Jevikel wasn’t so mean as to hope he didn’t Impress at all - having heard about Hortaimin’s father invoked a certain degree of sympathy - but maybe it would be better for everyone if it happened next Turn, with another clutch. Most of the Weyrbred boys he assumed would be successful, having grown up among dragons. Germessont, the redhead from Ruatha, was quiet, but had a hidden strength  and sense of purpose. All of the lads from Seaholds had settled in well and taken D’gar’s lessons to heart. He reckoned most of them would Impress first time, too.

‘What are you thinking about?’ Kadin asked.

‘Probably what everyone else is. Who’s going to Impress, out of all the candidates.’

'Based on the betting, you and I are both odds on for greens. I’m happy with that. They’re reckoning Wybrald from Greystones will get a green or blue as well. No one’s sure how many bronzes there’ll be, but I’ve heard Germessont’s name mentioned as being likely to Impress one.’

‘Funny, I was just thinking that. He’s quiet, but determined. I think he’d make a good bronze rider.’

Kadin sighed. ‘I wish it would just be over with. It’s the not knowing that’s the worst.’

Jevikel agreed. ‘Just a few days more. And while we’re waiting, why don’t we kill some time in Egevan’s secret room? All that will have to stop once we’ve got dragons.’

Kadin groaned. ‘That’s the one bad thing about it.’

‘You won’t even think about sex,’ Egevan put in, as he leaned between them. ‘The first couple of months, when the dragons are growing and eating all the time, everyone’s too tired.’

‘We managed not to at Pinnacle.’ Jevikel shut up abruptly as he realised he’d said the name of his home Hold, but Egevan didn’t seem to notice.

‘So, who do you think will Impress a bronze?’ Kadin asked him.

Egevan perched on the edge of the table. ‘Out of the Weyrbred lads, I’d say Jurrendon and maybe Ullanton. Amertill won’t but Germessont might. You might,’ he said to Jevikel.

‘But the betting has me for a green.’

‘That’s because they don’t know you as well as we do. You’re definitely brave - well, both of you are, walking to the Weyr not knowing when Thread was about to Fall. You stick up for people and aren’t afraid to fight. You’re “sensible” by anyone’s definition.’

‘I suppose,’ Jevikel admitted, although he couldn’t see it himself. Standing up against bullies was something any decent person would do, surely?

‘Anyone else?’ Kadin asked.

‘I reckon the lads from Greystones will do well. A couple of the Benden ones, too. Hortaimin…’ Egevan gave a glance down the table. ‘By rights, he shouldn’t get a dragon at all. But some hatchlings surprise everyone. If there’s one there who’s a good enough match, then it could happen.’

Two more days passed, including one Fall over the Weyr. The candidates helped at the firestone dump, even as Thread passed overhead, although they had plenty of cover with two Wings above. It was the closest Jevikel had been to Thread since the day they arrived, although at least he had the means to fight back, having been issued with a flamethrower. As soon as trailing edge passed over, they were back to filling bags, ready for refuelling later on.

‘What if Ramoth’s eggs start cracking in the middle of all this? Jevikel asked D’gar.

‘Very unlikely. I’ve never known a mating flight or a Hatching during Threadfall. The dragons can sense it, even in the egg. Just wait until you see how the weyrlings react when Thread’s falling close to the Weyr. Even at a very young age they want to fight it.’

‘Is it more likely to happen in the morning or afternoon?’ Perrigan asked. ‘Only my parents need time to get here.’

‘As soon as Ramoth is sure the eggs are starting to Hatch, we’ll send riders out to fetch families. No one will miss a single moment. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen in the middle of lunch, eh?’

The following day was a rest day for everyone, although Jevikel noticed far fewer riders left the Weyr than usual. There was a feeling of imminence in the air and as the morning wore on, he became more and more convinced it was going to be today.

It was shortly before lunch when H’rek rushed in to the laundry. ‘It’s starting,’ he said. ‘Go and grab your Hatching robes. Rioth will ferry you over to the barracks. You can get ready there.’

The sleeping room was chaos as almost everyone arrived at the same time to fetch their things. Jevikel suddenly realised that if he ended up with a dragon, he’d no longer be sleeping here any more, but in the barracks. ‘Do we need to take all our stuff?’ he asked Lukodan.

‘No. If we Impress, it’ll all be brought over later. It’ll be a bit emptier and quieter in here tonight.’ He looked around the room. ‘I’ve been in here ever since I was twelve. It’ll be strange…’ He didn’t finish the sentence. ‘Come on. Let’s get going.’

As promised, Rioth flew them over. Other dragons helped, too. Gradually, all the candidates arrived. D’gar ushered them inside.

‘Right. Looks like we’re going to miss lunch today. Go and get yourselves cleaned up and dressed. It’s not a bad idea to have a piss before you get out there. You’ll be hopping around anyway from the heat but you don’t want to be greeting your dragons with a bursting bladder.’

Kadin gave an uncertain laugh and was joined by several others.

They all made their way to the washrooms. Having a fairly clean job, neither Jevikel nor Kadin had to wash too thoroughly, particularly as they’d had a bath before beginning work. Jevikel pulled the robe on over his head. He’d tried it before, several times, but this was the day it had been made for. It was like a wedding; everyone putting on on new clothes, except this was far skimpier than anything he’d usually wear in public. ‘How do I look?’ he asked Kadin.

‘Very handsome.’ Kadin gave him a kiss. ‘How about me?’

‘Pretty good.’ Some of the scars he’d been left with after having to squeeze inside the cave on that first Threadfall showed up. But most of the riders had scars, too. It wasn’t anything to be ashamed of.

Just as they’d finished piling their everyday clothes on a bench, the humming began. Like the dragons’ keen when one of their own was lost, it was impossible to ignore. Yet this was a joyful, anticipatory noise. Jevikel’s legs had felt slightly shaky before, but the humming infused him with courage.

They went back out to the main barracks room. D’gar stood by the entrance. ‘Good luck,’ he said as each group passed. ‘Remember, welcoming thoughts.’

Several blue dragons had already landed and stood ready to take the candidates to the Hatching Ground. Jevikel was glad of that as his bare foot made contact with a stone. Although he’d been trying to spend some time each day working with no boots or socks, his feet weren’t as tough as they had been back at the Hold. Others winced and cursed, too.

He saw Lukodan climb aboard his father’s blue dragon, together with Nursheldor and Ullanton. For a moment he wasn’t sure where to go, then an older rider beckoned them over.

‘This’ll be the sixth Hatching my Valmath’s carried candidates.’ He gave them a hand to climb up. ‘Most of ours Impress. Good fortune to you both.’

Valmath skimmed close to the ground across the Bowl. Other dragons of all colours and sizes made their way to the opening, around half way up the rock face. It was amazing they didn’t crash into each other.

Once inside, the heat rising from the Sands was intense. In the week since they’d last visited, Ramoth had rearranged the eggs yet again, ensuring each had plenty of space around it. She hovered close by, her wings outspread, occasionally hissing as candidates dropped down. Jevikel was glad Valmath didn’t land too close. Ramoth looked as if she was ready to eat somebody. It was a good job D’gar had warned them how protective some queen dragons were, even though they knew their young ones had to find a match. ‘She’ll calm down once the first couple hatch,’ he’d said. ‘Until then, just keep a respectful distance.’

Jevikel felt glad he was wearing the skimpy robe. If he’d been dressed in some of the finery worn by the guests in the stands, he’d have overheated right away. As it was, his feet burned, forcing him not to stand still for too long. He looked for ‘his’ egg - the smallish one with the map-like patterns. Ramoth had moved it a little way from where it had been before. A couple of other lads gathered around it; Buko, Taltien and Faisagai.

‘I reckon this one’s a blue,’ Buko said. ‘So I’m sticking here.’

A few of the eggs had begun to move slightly, causing the dragons’ hum to rise in intensity and may of the spectators to ooh and aah. A well-dressed middle-aged couple waved enthusiastically at Perrigan, although he wasn’t looking at them.

‘Sharding embarrassing,’ Buko commented. ‘Glad my folks are Weyrbred and know how to behave.’

Jevikel shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Lessa had moved closer to Ramoth and had laid a hand on her head, as if to steady her. Some of the eggs had begun to rock more violently, particularly one with blue and orange blotches, close to the wall. A few candidates were already nearby, but others were drawn by the activity. At least eight of them surrounded it as the dragon inside struggled to break the hard shell.

Suddenly a crack appeared. The spectators drew a breath. Some of the lads nearby were encouraging the dragon inside to kick harder, or bite the shell. The humming became higher pitched - Kadin would probably have told him what note it was - and the lads craned closer to get their first glimpse. The crack became longer until eventually the shell split into two halves and a brown dragon spread his wings for the first time, head swivelling around as he sought his person. Kicking the shell away, he set off across the sand, bypassing all those who had clustered around, until eventually he stood in front of Perrigan. Jevikel could tell by the way the lad’s expression changed that Impression had been made. Perrigan’s parents embraced at the same moment their son put his arms around the dragon who would become his life companion from this moment on. ‘His name is Regarth!’ Perrigan shouted, as they had been told to do.

Some of the guests clapped politely, but the Weyrfolk merely sighed. It was considered good luck for the first Hatched to be a bronze, although D’gar had told them that didn’t happen often. Jevikel watched the pair stumbling across the sand towards the lower entrance, where D’gar and H’rek waited. Buko nudged him. ‘Ours is moving faster.’

Sure enough, the egg had begun to rock to and fro. Jevikel’s heart beat faster. Could this be his dragon, or would he or she go for one of the others? The rocking became more violent until suddenly a taloned foot appeared. It was wet with egg fluids, but unmistakably shiny. A bronze. Typical. He turned away as others rushed closer, Hortaimin among them.

Where are you going? The voice inside his head was as clear as if someone had spoken. He looked around for another hatchling. It couldn’t be that a bronze wanted him. It must be some sort of awful mistake.

Turning back, he was in time to see more of the dragon breaking free; a copperish tinge to his hide, the shimmer of wet wings unfolding. Hortaimin rushed in front of the hatchling, startling him. He stepped back and almost fell over the remains of the shell, using his wings to re-balance.

I don’t want any of them. I want you, the voice demanded.

‘But you can’t pick me,’ he said aloud. ‘I’m no one special.’

The dragon pushed past everyone else, knocking one or two of them over. You are my rider. I am your dragon. My name is Chigath.

Jevikel felt a pull in his mind. His feet moved, even though he hadn’t intended on walking. In a moment, he stumbled against the bronze and felt a wash of emotions. Love, bonding, exhilaration. It was as good as his first kiss with Kadin, as great a relief as when T’rai saved them from Thread.

‘His name’s Chigath!’ he called. ‘Chigath.’ With an arm across the dragon’s wet and sandy neck, they took their first steps towards the entrance. Jevikel’s vision blurred; partly through tears and partly because he had an odd feeling that he was seeing through Chigath’s eyes as well as his own. His body felt awkward, his tail dragging behind him and his wings wanting to stretch wide after so long being confined in the egg. An overwhelming desire to eat, stronger than the hunger he’d felt some nights at Pinnacle, overwhelmed him.

I’m so hungry, Chigath said. Where is food?

‘Just outside.’ He hadn’t quite got the hang of talking without speaking. But it didn’t matter. He had Chigath now. Together, they could overcome anything.

‘Congratulations,’ D’gar said. ‘Now go and get him some food. Remember, one piece at a time, no matter what he tells you. And make sure he chews it well.’

They walked down the tunnel. Chigath closed one of his eyelids against the glaring daylight. Is it always this bright? Where are we? I smell food. I want food.

It’s just here. He’d managed it, this time. Two tables were piled high with raw meat. Jevikel’s mouth watered at the sight of it as he steered Chigath towards the nearest pile. Perrigan was already there, picking up gobbets of meat and guiding them towards Regarth’s open mouth.

Jevikel picked up a decent sized chunk and fed Chigath the same way. He remembered what D’gar had said. Chew it a few times. Use those teeth. The meat vanished very fast, then Chigath tried to gobble up several pieces at a time from the table.

‘Stop him,’ said one of the supervising riders. ‘Or he’ll choke.’

Stop that, Jevikel said firmly. I’ll give you the pieces, one at a time.

But I’m so hungry. His mind voice sounded pleading, like a child asking for an extra sweet.

You can eat your fill. You just have to do it slowly. He fed Chigath the next piece, his mouth full of the taste of raw meat, which should have been disgusting, but somehow wasn’t. After four or five chunks, the overwhelming hunger muted slightly. By then, other hatchlings had arrived. Buko and Vel both had blues; one a pale shade like shallow water, the other a bold turquoise, like a precious jewel. Illithal had Impressed a dainty green. He didn’t see Kadin, but right then, all he was concerned with was making sure Chigath had plenty to eat.

Several chunks later, Chigath burped. His stomach had distended noticeably.

Any more? Jevikel asked him.

I could manage a small piece. Chigath opened his mouth obediently and chewed with a thoughtful expression on his face. Aren’t you hungry, too?

Yes, but we have a feast to attend later on.

What is feast?

Jevikel sent him an image of tables laden with all sorts of food and people sitting around it, eating.

I see. Chigath opened his mouth again, but this time to yawn. I am very tired now. Where can I sleep?

We have to go to the barracks. Over there. Once again he visualised their destination. Chigath’s tiredness was spilling over the bond. All of a sudden, he felt as if he could sleep on his feet right there.

There was a track to the barracks. Perrigan walked slowly along it with Regarth, just ahead of him. Jevikel supposed it didn’t matter which couch and bed they chose right now. Doubtless it would be sorted properly tomorrow. Right now, he just needed a place to lie down.

Dragon and rider both stumbled at the same time. Jevikel leaned on Chigath wearily. Each step felt like a hundred, but the barracks were drawing closer.

Too far, Chigath complained. I need sleep, not all this walking.

I know. If it wasn’t totally improper, he might just lie on the ground next to Chigath, curled together. But he was a bronze rider now. People expected him to behave properly; to show an example to the others. The Hatching was obviously not over yet as dragons were still humming and he heard the occasional cheer or applause from inside the Hatching Grounds.

At last they arrived at the barracks, whose doors were propped wide open. It wasn’t that long since he and Kadin had left here, but it seemed like another age entirely. Before Chigath. He guided his dragon to a nearby couch, which was far too large for such a small dragon. He sniffed it, turned around several times, then settled down. Jevikel made for the bed beside it, turning so that he could still see Chigath. Could even reach out and touch one of his wings. The contact gave him comfort as his eyes closed and he drifted off.

‘Wake up, lad. It’s time for the feast.’

Jevikel came back to himself, rubbing his eyes. In the back of his mind, Chigath dreamed about flying. D’gar crouched by the bed.

‘Feeling all right?’ he asked. ‘You need to eat. He’ll be fine without you; probably won’t wake until he’s hungry again.’

‘Oh, er, yes.’ Jevikel still felt slightly disorientated. He slowly got to his feet. His legs didn’t feel quite like his own. Surely he needed four of them to be able to balance? His wings didn’t seem to be working, either.

‘Bavi brought your good clothes over, so just have a quick wash to get the blood off, then get changed. We’re dining outside, as it’s a fine day.’

He realised his hands were sticky from the meat he’d handled. He’d also wiped them on his Hatching robe, which now looked more like a butcher’s apron. ‘Oh, sorry.’

‘Don’t worry. They’ll be laundered. Any thoughts to how you want to to contract your name?’ He held up a slate. ‘Just so I can announce you properly.’

‘J’rai.’ He said. It sounded right. J’rai of bronze Chigath.

‘Good. Right, I’d best get on and wake the others.’

J’rai walked unsteadily to the washroom. Perrigan was already there and had stripped off his grubby Hatching robe.

‘Do you feel sort of strange?’ he asked.

‘Very. I keep thinking I should have wings.’

‘Yeah. Me too.’ He scrubbed his hands. ‘We were lucky to Impress early. At least we got a good rest. Some of the others only came in a short while ago. They’ll be falling asleep at the feast.’

Kadin. He suddenly thought of Kadin. ‘Do you know who else Impressed?’

‘Not really. Best way to find out is walk down the beds and see who’s here.’

J’rai pulled on his clean shirt and trousers. ‘I will.’

The barracks looked smaller now that it was filled with sleeping dragons and their riders. He passed two blues, whose riders were yawning and stretching. ‘Seen Kadin?’ They shook their heads. Next was a chestnut brown dragon. Faisagai was sitting up next to him, looking dazed, yet happy. ‘Meet Sarth,’ he said, smiling as he turned to his dragon.

‘He’s lovely. Have you seen Kadin?’

‘He Impressed just before me. Think he’s down there.’ He pointed further down the row.

So, Kadin had Impressed. That was good news. J’rai came upon three green dragons, recognising Kadin next to the second one. She was a dark green colour; not so dark as Zurinth, more like the deep green of mature trees, just before the leaves turned colour and began to fall.

‘Kadin,’ he said. Kadin was still sleeping, with such a look of joy on his face J’rai was reluctant to wake him.

‘It’s not Kadin any more. We’re K’wen and Wenlirth.’ K’wen sat up, rubbing his eyes. ‘Isn’t she beautiful?’

‘Very. We need to get to the feast, though. D’gar’s waking everyone up.’

‘I’d rather stay here, with her.’

‘You must be hungry by now.’

‘I suppose I am. All right, but let’s not stay too long.’ K’wen stood up. His Hatching robe was as bloody as J’rai’s had been. ‘I can’t go like this,’ he said, only just realising what a state he looked.

‘Bavi brought our clothes over. You go and have a wash. I’ll fetch them for you. Oh, and I’m J’rai now.’

‘I thought you Impressed, but I missed most of it. Did you get a green, too?’

‘Er, no. Bronze. His name’s Chigath.’

‘Bronze! Let’s hope they like each other.’

‘They’re babies right now. It’ll be a long time before all that. Now go and get yourself clean.’

K’wen made his unsteady way to the washroom. It was good to see someone else was having trouble with their legs. J’rai found the clothes, which Bavi had placed in the niche. He watched Wenlirth sleeping for a few moments.

‘Ha! Knew you’d end up with a green.’ Egevan came over, dressed in a multi-coloured shirt that made J’rai’s eyes hurt.

‘She’s not mine. She’s Kadin’s. Well, K’wen now.’

‘E’van,’ Egevan announced. ‘Of green Nalesinth.’

‘J’rai,’ he said proudly. The more he said the name, the more it felt right. ‘Of bronze Chigath.’

‘You got bronze!’ E’van squealed in delight. ‘Good for you. Where is he?’

‘Just near the entrance. I’d better take these to Ka…K’wen. See you at the feast.’

‘Yeah. See you.’

Others were cleaning up too. It was good to see familiar faces: Lukodan, Jurrendon, Germessont and Ullanton. They’d all been successful in Impressing. He expected he’d see many of the others at the feast.

D’gar had got everyone on their feet, if not quite awake. Once they were all ready to go - some still yawning - he addressed them.

‘Right. I’ve got all your new names, so we can introduce you properly. Protocol at a Benden Hatching feast is that as I announce your name and that of your dragon, you go up to the Weyrleader, who will congratulate you and present you with your weyrling knots. You’ll be sitting in colour order at the tables. Places should already be marked out. Once everyone’s eaten, you can go and say hello to your families and mingle a bit more. Try not to fall asleep in your food if you can avoid it. I know how overwhelming Hatching Day can be; some of the non-Weyrfolk might not understand. By the time the dancing starts, you’ll probably need to come back here as your dragons will wake up hungry. Just for today, the meat’s been ready cut to make life easier. Any questions?’

‘What about the candidates who didn’t Impress?’ Jurrendon asked.

‘They’ll be at the feast, too, on a separate table. Be kind to them. Most of them will Impress second or third time, when they’ll join you in the barracks here.’

J’rai looked around at all the faces. He didn’t see Hortaimin, which must mean he hadn’t been successful, or maybe worse. ‘Did anyone get hurt today?’ he asked.

‘Just a few minor scratches and scrapes.’

That was a relief, at least.

‘Now, come on. Form two lines, just like when we’re training outdoors. Be proud. You're dragonriders now.’

J’rai paused briefly to look at Chigath again as they passed. He was deeply asleep, one front leg and tail twitching. His coat gleamed, even through the dried egg fluids and the sand that had stuck to it. He really was a beautiful dragon.

Cheers rose up as they marched towards the tables, D’gar in the lead. Bavi stood and clapped, together with the other laundrywomen. Kemi whistled loudly, the way they used to in the hills. K’wen’s musician friends cheered and someone blew a triumphal fanfare on the pipes. The families of the Holdbred lads beamed with pride.

D’gar brought them to a halt, then called the names out, one by one. J’rai tried to concentrate. He didn’t want to make any mistakes and accidentally mis-name someone.

‘Weyrleader and Weyrwoman. May I proudly introduce our thirty-one new Benden riders.’ D’gar held up his slate, where he’d written them all down. ‘Firstly, J’rai of bronze Chigath.’

J’rai felt his legs wobble again as he made his way forward to the top table, where F’lar shook his hand and Lessa smiled approvingly.

‘Congratulations on being the first bronze of the day to Impress. May it bring you good fortune.’

‘Thank you, Weyrleader.’ J’rai reached for the knots; white for weyrling; red for Benden and a shining strand of bronze. D’gar pointed out the correct table and he sat in one of the seats marked with a bronze sash draped over the chair, listening out for his fellow bronze riders to be named.

‘G’sont of bronze Gialerth.’

That wasn’t too hard to remember. Germessont had just dropped a few of his extra syllables. He flushed almost as red as his hair as he went up to receive his knots, then came to sit next to J’rai.

‘Sh’bil of bronze Larenroth.’

His relatives from Bayhead gave a cheer as he went up. J’rai sensed they’d like to hug him right now. It was warming to see that some parents were the total opposite to his own.

The litany went on. J’don - formerly Jurrendon - and bronze Penanth. Good for him. T’bal and Melth, a local lad from Benden Hold. Finally came T’von and Maynath. The former Turmevon looked surprised, but pleased. So was J’rai. No one would dare bully him again.

The brown riders followed, all four of them. P’gan and Regarth, first pair of the day to Impress. Ullanton - now U’ton and Jairath. Faisagai had shortened his name to F’sai, much easier to remember. J’rai already remembered his dragon’s name from the barracks; brown Sarth. No one from Half-Circle had come to celebrate, but then he hadn’t thought they would. Sad, though. The final brown was Carmalth, ridden by W’brald from Bayhead. The Seaholds, as expected, were doing well.

The nine blues came next. Lukodan - L’dan - looked relieved and happy to have Impressed a blue just like his dad, who stood and clapped as his son received his new knots. Buko, Amertill and Nursheldor - all Weyrbred - joined the ranks of blue riders, now B’ko, A’till and N’shel. It was at this point J’rai began to forget names. K’wen would remember them better, especially those of the green riders. Four of them were Benden born; K’nam, E’van, T’ien and T’lel. The rest were Holdbred.

By the time everyone had sat in their appointed places, the feast was ready to serve. A whole roast herdbeast was wheeled in on a frame, ready for all the guests to carve as much as they wished. There were hot and cold pies, both sweet and savoury and dishes of steamed and roasted vegetables. J’rai realised how hungry he was. He’d not eaten since breakfast and it must be early evening by now from the angle of the sun over the Bowl. He cut himself a good portion of the meat, surprised by a couple of the Holders ushering him to take his turn before them. He smiled and thanked them. Privilege didn’t mean being rude. As he made his way back to the table, he saw Hortaimin sitting with the other failed candidates. He didn’t look at all happy. Mind you, neither did any of them. He wondered if he should go over and try to be kind, as D’gar had suggested. Or would they take it he was rubbing his success in their faces? Best to leave it until later. His stomach didn’t want to wait, anyway.

The sound of eating and chatter, overlaid by the music being played, made for a relaxing meal. J’rai’s thoughts kept going back to Chigath, but his dragon was still fast asleep. He’d had a fairly traumatic day, after all, having to kick and chew his way out of the egg, then being exposed to all the sights, sounds and smells of the Weyr. He’d eaten his first solid meal. No wonder he was tired out.

None of the new weyrlings talked very much, just ate. Occasionally someone would look up with a slightly vacant smile as they touched minds with their dragon. D’gar and H’rek sat together, chatting quietly. D’gar looked happy and relaxed as well he should, having had a smooth and injury free first Hatching.

J’rai realised he’d finished everything on his plate. Would it be greedy to go and get more? There was plenty left.

J’don must have noticed. ‘They haven’t brought out the cakes and pastries yet. Best leave some room for those.’

‘Ah, yes. Think I’ll have a couple more slices of that herdbeast, though. Don’t want it to go to waste.’

‘Don’t worry about that. It’ll be herdbeast soups, stews and pies for the next few days. I  might join you, though.’

As they carefully carved pieces of juicy meat, J’rai heard something out of place. Angry voices. As it went on, others noticed too. D’gar was already on his way over to intervene and both the Weyrleader and Weyrwoman looked ready to step in if necessary.

Hortaimin was being dragged from the table by a heavyset man with a florid complexion, who just had to be his sire. J‘rai caught a few words.

‘…coming home, right now.’

‘But I can stay here. I can Stand again, they said.’

‘You’ll do as I say or regret it.’

D’gar stepped in. He used a pleasant tone and ignored the blustering father. ‘Hortaimin. Do you really want to stay at the Weyr?’

‘Yes. Me and Narrirec both do.’

Having established that, he turned to the father. ‘Anyone who wishes to stay here is welcome. Hortaimin was Searched. All because he didn’t Impress today doesn’t mean he won’t do so in the future.’

‘He’s coming home,’ the man insisted. ‘Away from this Weyr full of perverts.’

J’rai felt the tension in the air. It was an insult, but worse for being made at such an important occasion and inside the Weyr itself.

Lessa stood slowly, her pregnancy now very noticeable. She made her way over, laying a gentle hand on the man’s arm. ‘No one wants a quarrel now,’ she said, very calmly, but pointedly. ‘Your son has said he wishes to stay.’

Her words seemed to calm him down. In fact, the tension drained away like water through a sieve.

‘Oh, er, right. Yes. Of course he can stay.’

Lessa took Hortaimin’s father back to his table, talking steadily all the time, much as you would to a fractious runnerbeast. D’gar led Hortaimin back to his place.

J’rai felt slightly shaken. Hortaimin’s father was just as hidebound as Vikkel and seemed as easy to anger. For a moment, he wished Vikkel had been here, to see his triumph, then immediately came to his senses again. Vikkel symbolised the past he’d escaped from. Now he was J’rai of bronze Chigath and no petty tyrant of a Holder could stop him any more.

‘Nasty piece of work, isn’t he?’ T’von said as he took his seat again. ‘No wonder Hortaimin’s turned out like he is.’

‘At least Hortaimin got away. Like K’wen and I did. He’s got another chance.’

‘I suppose so.’ T’von toyed with the pie crust left on his plate. ‘Why are there people who always want to spoil things?’

‘Human nature…’ J’rai broke off as two of the kitchen staff carried in a huge decorated cake atop a shining platter. The icing was coloured to look like the Hatching Ground, and tiny figures of dragons rose from their broken eggs. On top was a golden replica of Ramoth, her tail curling around the cake. It was spectacular and must have taken days of work. It was set down carefully in front of Lessa, who rose to her feet again. ‘Another successful Hatching at Benden Weyr, but under far less stressful circumstances than our last one. Then, we were alone, facing the menace of Thread. Now we have riders from all the Weyrs to help us…’ She gestured to R’feem and W’lir’s Wings, ‘And today we have thirty-one new pairs who will join us in the fight against Thread. Congratulations to them all and to Weyrlingmaster D’gar. Now, join us all in eating this wonderful cake and celebrating our future at Benden Weyr.’ She raised a glass in a toast. ‘To all our new weyrlings.’

J’rai drank, along with everyone else. They had been allowed some diluted wine for the feast and it went down well. He searched for K’wen, at the other end of the table. Eyes meeting, they drank again; a personal toast this time. They had gone through so much together and now it was the first day of their new lives. Inside his head, Chigath stirred. I’m hungry, he said.

 

The End

Thanks for following this story and for of all your comments and encouragement. Please write a review or recommend it so that new readers can find it more easily.

There will be more Pern stories, albeit it with a bit of a break. I will update 'The World of Pern' with all the new characters names, for reference.

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.
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Another great story in our favorite realm.  Where are the fire lizards?

Keep the good stuff coming!  Hugs

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1 hour ago, AlexLittel said:

Another great story in our favorite realm.  Where are the fire lizards?

Keep the good stuff coming!  Hugs

Fire Lizards are rediscovered in about seven Turns, when F'nor is convalescing after being knifed.

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