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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 - 5. Dilemmas

The first night at the Hold after being up in the hills always felt strange. Getting used to the chatter of folk after the silence; the closeness of walls, no matter that it was still warm enough for the doors and shutters to be open. This time, there was something else; the need to conceal his relationship with Kadin.

Long before they’d begun to drive the herds back toward the Hold, Jevikel had discussed what they must do. ‘Everyone knew you and I didn’t get on before we left. Now, it wouldn’t be the first time folk went off to herd barely speaking and came back as friends. If you’re stuck out in the wilds with only one other person for company, that’s not surprising. But we don’t want them realising anything else is going on.’ He’d told Kadin the story of what had happened to Rosh and Col, just in case he didn’t appreciate the seriousness of the situation.

It was difficult, avoiding all the little things that might give away they were more than just friends; the glances and touches that had become normal while there was no one else around but which might draw suspicion at the Hold. Add to that Gatri’s unwanted attention as soon as dinner had finished that first evening, it was no wonder Jevikel wished himself far away.

It didn’t get much better the next day. He woke, alone, in the boys sleeping room, with Kadin in his own bed at the far end. As they washed and dressed, he was hyper-aware of Kadin’s presence. It was as if they were connected somehow; that no matter how hard they tried, the bonds forged in the hills were not so easily broken.

They’d already separated the mothers from their young, albeit in adjacent fields, so they still could see each other. The young beasts had begun to eat grass up in the high pastures and some of the earliest born were well on the way to thriving on their own. It was necessary to keep on milking the mothers now the young weren’t suckling and so they would continue to produce. The women were glad to get out of the Hold into the fresh air to do this and it was after the morning milking session that Kemi managed to speak to Jevikel.

‘We need to talk,’ she said. ‘Privately.’

‘You’ll be let out again to milk later?’

‘Just before dinner.’

‘Then I’ll be here too. It’ll seem quite normal for us to catch up on Hold gossip as I’ve been away so long.’

It was a fine day, too. All the more reason why it wouldn’t seem strange to linger out of doors.

Sarrando was teaching a couple of the younger lads, including Kadin, how to repair a wall, while Jevikel had been set to work on preparation for the barn extension. The two older barns were constructed with thick stone walls, their pitched roofs made from sheets of slate. The new one - the one where he’d inadvertently spied on Rosh and Col last winter - still had solid walls, but the roofs were thatched with dried reeds; a far cheaper method. The extension would be built in the same fashion.

Now he’d learned most of the Teaching Ballads concerned with a Holder’s duties, he realised this construction wasn’t Thread proof. Although dragons seared most of the Thread as it fell, some inevitably reached the ground, hence the need not to use materials it could feed upon. Those roofs would be gone in a matter of seconds and Thread would then drop into the barn to feed on whatever was inside. Just the thought made Jevikel shudder.

Yet how could he broach the subject? He already knew Vikkel’s views on the Weyr and his insistence Thread was no longer a threat. But with the Red Star clearly visible in the eastern sky each morning, surely he must change his ideas soon, or risk damage to the Hold?

He worked through the day, digging foundations until his hands were blistered. The opportunity came in late afternoon, when his father came to inspect the work so far. He didn’t seem in a bad mood, all told, so Jevikel decided he had to be brave and mention his concerns.

‘I’ve been wondering about something,’ he ventured. ‘Our outer hold and the old barns have slate roofs. Shouldn’t we use the same construction for this one?’

Vikkel raised his eyebrows. He didn’t seem annoyed at the question. ‘Back when the originals were built, that was the custom. But this new barn’s been up since before you were born and the reeds have weathered well.’

Jevikel nodded, trying to look as if he was really interested in building techniques. ‘But slates last much longer, don’t they? Surely it costs more in the long run if we have to replace reeds more often?’

‘That’s a good question and something your grandpa and I took into account when we built last time. Now, do you know where these reeds are grown?’

‘Down in the river valley, I suppose.’

‘That’s right. There’s a plentiful supply and it’s close at hand. They’re cheaper than slate to buy and don’t have to be transported so far. Yes, we’ll have to replace them every thirty Turns or so, but it still works out more economical in the long run.’

Now for the hard part. ‘But there’s another reason we’re supposed to build in stone and slate, isn’t there? To protect ourselves and our animals. It says so in the Teaching Ballads…’

Vikkel cut in. ‘Who’s been filling your head with all that nonsense?’

‘What if it isn’t nonsense?’ Jevikel was aware the others were looking at them. ‘Is it worth taking the risk?’

‘Thread’s been gone too long to come back.’

‘Yes, but the Red Star’s large in the morning sky these days. I’d hate for anything to happen to the Hold, or to any of our people or beasts.’

Vikkel had a disapproving line to his mouth, although he remained calm. ‘It’s good you’re concerned, but you’ve nothing to fear from the skies. None of us have, have we?’

A few of the men nodded agreement.

‘Forget those ballads. They’re out of date. I wouldn’t take a risk if I thought there was any need to worry.’ He laid a heavy hand on Jevikel’s shoulder. ‘Take advice from those who are older and wiser, not from silly Harper’s tales.’

‘Yes, father.’ He’d done all he could. There was no point in pushing the matter. But after Vikkel had moved on and they continued working, Jevikel noticed he was getting some funny looks from the others. No one said anything, though.

They were just cleaning up when several of the women came out carrying milking pails, Kemi amongst them. Jevikel took his time and waited until she was busy at her task before strolling over. He squatted down beside her. ‘So, what’s the news?’

She glanced to either side, but there was a good distance between her beast and the others. Enough so no one would overhear if they kept their voices down. ‘Remember what I was saying about… getting away?’

How could he not? ‘Of course.’

She continued. ‘I’ve thought about ways to do it. I can slip away from the Hold…’

He interrupted. ‘How long before anyone noticed you were missing? Couple of hours, maybe, if you were lucky. You’d not get half way to Valley Narrows on foot in that time.’

‘I know that. But suppose I don’t go south at all.’

‘Where else is there?’

‘The hills.’ She said it in barely a whisper.

‘You can’t live up there.’

‘You just did.’

‘That’s different. Anyway, it’s summer now. No one could survive a winter out there.’

‘Hey, Jevikel.’

A female voice. He swung around to see Gatri approaching.

‘Mind if I join you?’

‘Haven’t you got work to do?’ Kemi said fiercely.

‘It’s finished. And I need to have a chat with Jevikel. He’s been away so long.’

‘I know. That’s why I wanted to catch up with him.’ Kemi gave the other girl a dirty look.

Jevikel felt awkward. He didn’t really want to talk to Gatri. She might take it for the wrong kind of interest. But he also didn’t want her hanging around when he and Kemi were in the middle of such a serious discussion. He forced a smile. ‘Plenty of time after dinner.’

‘You can take me for a walk in the fields if you like.’

Jevikel groaned inwardly. There was no way out. ‘All right, then.’

‘I’m looking forward to it already.’ She gave a little wave as she left them.

‘All the while you were away she kept talking about you. “I wonder what Jevikel’s doing now.”’ She mimicked Gatri’s rather squeaky voice.

It was a good job Gatri didn’t know what he’d been doing. He didn’t really want to talk about her. ‘Where were we?’

‘Making plans.’ Kemi was deadly serious again.

‘And I was saying you can’t live in the hills. Not permanently.’

‘I know, but listen. I overheard Merida talking with some of the others a few sevendays ago. They were on about young girls who fell pregnant.’

‘So? They just get married to the lad who’s to blame in most cases.’ It had happened a couple of times at Pinnacle. Suddenly, he had a horrible thought. ‘You’re not…?’

‘No! Of course not.’ She looked at him askance. ‘Do you really think I’d go that far?’

‘Sorry,’ he said quickly.

‘I hope so. Anyway, to get back to what I was saying. You’re right, in most cases. If the couple have been courting, that’s what usually happens. But suppose the father of the baby doesn’t want to marry the girl?’

He tried to imagine what Vikkel would do. At Pinnacle the lad would be persuaded - possibly with violence - to shoulder his responsibilities. ‘He’d be forced into it, whatever his wishes.’

‘And if he was, say, a passing trader and he’s not around any more? There was a girl Merida knew in Bitra who was disowned by her family when that happened. Thrown out by them. And you know what she did? Hitched a ride with a tithe train and went to the Weyr. They took her in.’

‘No tithe trains around here. And how can you trust dragonriders to have your best interest at heart?’

‘Merida’s met people who’ve been there. The Harper who taught Kadin to play, for one. It’s not a bad place.’

Rosh had said much the same. ‘All right, so maybe they don’t feed people to dragons, but what if you end up as a drudge.’

Kemi gave a short laugh. ‘Can’t be any harder work than here. And at least I won’t have to marry anyone I don’t want to. They don’t marry at all, so I’m told.’

‘Sarrando said all sorts of… stuff goes on there.’ He didn’t want to mention orgies in front of his sister.

‘And he’d be the one to know? He’s never been further than Valley Narrows. If it doesn’t work out there, then I’ll leave. But at least I’ll have found out for myself rather than believing hearsay.’

‘Sounds as if you’ve already made up your mind.’ He knew how stubborn she could be.

‘I’ve spent many a waking hour and sleepless night thinking about it.’ She removed the pail from under the beast’s belly. ‘This one’s done. Best move on before anyone notices I’m shirking.’

He carried her stool to the next beast. ‘So, what’s your plan?’

‘While you were away I was in father’s office a few times. He’s got a map in there, showing the extent of our lands.’

‘I know.’ It was painted on a panel fixed to the wall.

‘It shows all the trails, too. I memorised the parts I needed and made a copy on an old piece of fabric. I can get to the Weyr across the mountains.’

She made it sound so easy. ‘It’d take days.’

‘I reckon two or three, depending on the weather. But it’s summer now and the days are as long as they’re going to get. It’s my best chance.’

‘That’s as may be. But how are you going to get away from here in the first place? Like I said, you’ll be missed after a short while.’

‘Everyone stays out late in these warm evenings. By the time they realise I’m not back, it’ll be too dark to search far.’

That was true. Even the most desperate search wouldn’t stray far from the Hold in the hours of darkness. ‘Father will probably think you’ve hurt yourself - twisted an ankle or something - and can’t walk back.’

‘I’m hoping so. Then, by the time anyone considers I might not want to be found, they’ll assume I went down to the valley rather than up into the hills.’

‘Where will you stay that night?’

‘The caves. They’re not far. I’ll set off as soon as it’s light enough to see. By the time anyone realises I’m not down at Valley Narrows, I’ll be half way to the Weyr.’

Her words preyed on his mind. Did she fully realise the risks? It would be so easy to lose your footing, to injure yourself far from any hope of help. The idea of Kemi dying alone out there horrified him. That she was prepared to put herself into such danger to avoid having to marry proved how desperate she was.

Kadin caught his eye a few times during dinner. So did Gatri, for that matter. She sat with two of her closest friends. Each time he looked their way they were leaning close and talking animatedly. Probably about him.

After he’d finished eating, he made a trip to the necessary. Kadin met him on the way back.

‘You look as if you’ve a lot on your mind.’

‘You could say that. I’ve got to go for a walk with Gatri after dinner.’

Kadin smiled. ‘Bet she doesn’t kiss as well as me,’ he whispered.

‘Don’t even say things like that in here.’ Although he knew they were alone in the passageway, he still looked both ways just to be certain.

‘Good move, though. Divert attention. Maybe I should ask one of her friends to walk out with me?’

‘If you like. It’s not just that, though. It’s my sister. But I can’t say anything about that in here.’

‘Where’s the best place round here for privacy?’

‘Anywhere outside the Hold. Hence all the young folk going for walks together.’ He glanced around again. ‘Better not say any more right now. I’ll be working on the new barn again tomorrow. Maybe we can have a chat during one of the breaks?’

Kadin moved closer to whisper in his ear. ‘Wish we could do more than just talk.’

‘I do, too.’ Just being close to Kadin was affecting him physically. ‘I… I’ve got to go.’ And now he’d have to spend the rest of the evening flirting with Gatri rather than being with Kadin. It was so frustrating.

He was aware of the approving looks they got as they left the Hold together. Even Jemina appeared less sour than usual. It was a warm evening, the sun sinking over the western mountains. Jevikel’s mind went back to just a few days ago. He’d been happy then. Life had been simple.

Gatri linked her arm through his. ‘This is nice, isn’t it. I didn’t realise how much I missed you until you were away. It must be so lonely up in the hills.’

‘I had Kadin.’ Quite a few times, he added silently. Good job she couldn’t read his thoughts.

‘Not quite the same, is it. I mean, you wouldn’t want to do this with him.’ She snuggled closer, unaware of the irony in her remark.

If only it could be Kadin, walking openly arm in arm with him. That would feel right. This didn’t. It wasn’t really fair to Gatri, either, leading her on. ‘Look, the reason I didn’t ask you out before is because there’s no future in this. For us,’ he stressed. ‘I mean, you must realise we’d never be allowed to marry.’

‘I’m not stupid. I know you’ll have to marry someone rich, just like Kemi’s going to. But in the mean time, why shouldn’t we walk out together?’

She wasn’t going to be put off so easily. ‘I just thought I should make that clear.’

Gatri beamed up at him. ‘That’s one reason why I like you. You’re so respectful. Not like some of those other boys at the Hold. Now, shall we go and sit by the pool for a while.’

The courting pool, as it was known, was a pleasant spot, shaded by fruit trees. A couple of rough hewn seats offered a view over Pinnacle Hold’s orchards, although most of the couples who used it wouldn’t really care what the view was.

Jevikel sat awkwardly alongside Gatri. He didn’t know what to say. No point in asking her what she’d been doing today; it would be the usual tasks of milking or working in the cheese room. By contrast, his conversations with Kadin had flowed through a wide range of subjects, none of which had much to do with the Hold. ‘Nice sunset,’ he said at last.

‘Yes.’ Her left knee, hidden beneath the long dress, brushed against his right knee as she turned to face him. ‘It’s my favourite time of day.’

‘Hmm,’ he agreed. He knew what he was supposed to do; compliment her on her hair or the colour of her eyes. He looked into them. They were a nondescript grey, not at all like the deep klah colour of Kadin’s eyes. And where Kadin’s eyes always seemed to reflect what was going on in his head, Gatri’s were as flat as the surface of the pool. He had no idea what she might be thinking.

‘You don’t say much.’

‘Oh, er, sorry. I’m out of practice. Not much call for conversation with the animals.’

She smiled, as if he’d said something witty, then took his hand. ‘I don’t mind.’ She moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue. ‘Do you want to kiss me?’

Nothing was further from his thoughts right then, but he supposed he should play along. ‘You don’t mind?’

‘I wouldn’t have brought you out here if I did. I wouldn’t fancy kissing in front of your mother, or mine.’

‘No,’ he agreed. ‘That would be… well, strange.’ He put a hand to one side of her face. She’d expect him to make the first move. Their lips brushed, then pressed together. It felt as stilted as the conversation had been. Nothing like kissing Kadin for the first time.

After they broke apart, she continued to hold his hand. Her face was a little flushed and she seemed to be breathing faster than before. Obviously, she’d got more from it than he had.

Next, he should kiss her again, maybe even try to put a hand on her breast. Lengiorl hadn’t left much to their imaginations when he’d described his first few encounters with Sisala. Still, Gatri seemed a lot less forward than Sisala. Maybe he could get away with just another kiss. Well, this time, anyway.

It was growing dark by the time they made their way down the path to the Hold. The soft light of glows spilled from the open doors. ‘Will you walk out with me again?’ she asked.

He wished he could say no, but instead he just nodded and muttered assent. Coward, he told himself. Back inside, they went back to their respective ends of the table. Berrand and Kadin were playing dice.

‘Have fun?’ Kadin asked. Mischief twinkled in his eyes.

Jevikel gave him a look.

‘What did she let you do?’ Berrand asked. ‘Did you touch her anywhere?’

‘If I did, I’m not telling you. ‘Cos you’d tell someone else and then they’d do the same and by tomorrow it’d be all around the Hold. I’m respectful,’ he finished, echoing Gatri’s own words.

‘Yeah. He’s really respectful. Never tried anything on with me while we were up in the hills.’ Kadin flashed a smile.

Berrand laughed at that and the game continued.

Jevikel didn’t get a chance to talk to Kadin alone until the following morning, when they were topping up the water troughs. ‘You should be careful what you say to Berrand.’

‘Why? Joking’s a good way to divert attention.’

‘I told you about what happened to those two lads, didn’t I?’

‘They got caught.’ Kadin set down his buckets. ‘We won’t.’

How could he be so confident? ‘I bet they thought the same.’

Kadin poured water into the first trough as the beasts crowded round. ‘We can’t stay here forever. It’s never going to change.’

‘I know.’

‘And once Kemi’s wedding’s over, they’ll be looking to marry you off next.’

That reminded him of what he’d been intending to say. ‘Kemi doesn’t want to get married.’

‘Gone off the idea?’ He tipped his second bucketful.

‘She was never keen on it in the first place. She’s only met the family once. The lad didn’t say much and his father is an old lecher.’

‘That doesn’t sound good. So what’s she going to do?’

Jevikel wondered if he should stop there. There was no need to involve Kadin. But he was already trusting his cousin with a far greater secret, after all. It felt as if it was the two of them against the world. ‘She has some ideas,’ he said, cautiously. ‘How… how did your mother manage to leave?’

Kadin swung the empty buckets as they walked back up towards the spring. ‘Is that what she’s thinking of?’

‘Maybe.’

‘She slipped away at Valley Narrows. Pinnacle was bleak back then, but at least they had regular trips to down to the market. She and my father hitched a ride to Bitra Hold with some traders.’

‘Well, that isn’t an option this time. They won’t let her go anywhere until the wedding and by then it’ll be too late.’

‘But I’m guessing she’s come up with something?’

'She wants to escape to the Weyr. Across the mountains.’

Kadin didn’t laugh, just nodded sagely. ‘Astarl told me every Turn a few folk arrive on foot for one reason or another and they’re all made welcome.’

It confirmed what Kemi had overheard. ‘I’m worried about her making that trek alone. What if something happens…’

‘It could be dangerous,’ he agreed. ‘But if she goes ahead with the marriage, then she might end up even worse off. And once she’s down in the valley, she won’t have anyone she can rely on.’

‘I was thinking that, too. She’s not going to be able to do this alone.’

‘I’ll help, if that’s what you’re asking.’

‘I wasn’t. I’m her brother. We’ve always been close…’

‘And we aren’t?’ Kadin smiled. ‘If you’re going to be taking risks, then I will, too.’

©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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I'm enjoying this story very much. You have such an easy style of writing that I just keep on "turning rhe pages". I hope the 3 of them get away soon. 

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If we have already read 'Gone Away,' then we know why the boys left and about what time.

What we (well, I) don't know is what happens to Kemi. Keeping fingers crossed. 🤞

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