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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 - 7. Goodbyes

The rest of the evening was awkward. Kemi persuaded Kadin to play again, but it was evident his heart wasn’t in it. They were all tired, so retired early. Kadin had already put two mattresses side by side in the shelter. Jevikel pulled one further away for Kemi.

‘You two won’t have much space on that,’ she said.

‘It’s fine. We’ll manage, won’t we?’ Kadin caught Jevikel’s eye.

‘Er, yes.’

It felt odd sharing the small space with a third person. Although he fell asleep quickly, he kept waking, thinking he heard that low grumble from the ground again. Every time he woke, Kadin was snuggled close, the way they always slept. Mind you, it was so dark, he didn’t think Kemi would notice. He heard her gentle breathing from the other side of the shelter. She must be exhausted from the long walk.

Still, it made him think. After such freedom as he and Kadin had become used to, how could they go back to that furtive hiding? He was all the more certain they’d be taking the same route as Kemi intended, as soon as Kadin knew his mother and sisters were safe. There must be a way to get them to the Weyr as well. Or at least, away from Pinnacle Hold if that was what they wanted. His mind raced through all the ways that could be accomplished, not settling sufficiently to let him sleep again for a long while.

Eventually, dawn arrived, this time without any interruptions. Jevikel went out to check the beasts. This morning they were all settled, some still sleeping with their legs tucked neatly beneath them. The Red Star glowed in the east, as always.

He was just returning from a trip behind the shelter to empty his bladder when Kemi pushed back the curtain. ‘I thought I heard you out here.’ She stretched. ‘I feel so much better this morning.’

‘Good. I was just about to get the fire going so we can have klah.’

‘Well, I’m off to… you know.’ She’d found out the previous evening where to go. ‘Don’t let Kadin follow, if he wakes up.’

‘He won’t for a while, don’t worry.’ Jevikel crouched to start the fire. There wasn’t much fuel stored here. They’d have to go and gather some, later.

Kemi returned, sitting on one of the low, flat rocks around the outdoor hearth. ‘I used to love coming up here, when I was younger. You feel so free.’

‘I know.’ Jevikel emptied the dregs from last night’s klah on the ground. The bark would be good for another brew before losing too much flavour.

She stared off toward the mountain peaks. ‘I’m going to set off later this morning.’

‘You could rest a while longer, if you want.’

‘No.’ She twisted a stem of grass around her fingers. ‘The longer I wait, the more nervous I’ll be. Besides, what if father sends someone up here to check you two are all right?’

There was a small possibility of that happening. ‘I doubt they’d bother, although he might want to know if all the beasts survived.’

‘Well, I’d rather leave while the weather stays fine. Besides,’ she looked up at him. ‘You’ll want to have as much time alone with Kadin, while you can.’

Jevikel tried not to show his surprise. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I think you know. The way you two look at each other. And that’s not just something I noticed last night. You should have seen his face every time you went for a walk with Gatri.’

‘Oh.’ There wasn’t much he could say to that. He’d thought they’d been so careful.

‘Don’t worry too much. I know you better than anyone. I can see that when you two are together, you’re happy.’

‘You don’t think I’m unnatural? Disgusting?’ His mother had used both those words to describe Rosh and Col, after they’d been caught.

‘No. I know that’s the way we’ve been taught to think, but you’re my brother. Anyway, what could be more unnatural than forcing me to marry a stranger? Or as disgusting as his father trying to grope me every chance he had.’

She had a point. It still didn’t make him feel any better. ‘I used to wish I could be like everyone else. I just can’t.’

‘It doesn’t matter to me. I’m glad you’ve found someone. But you can’t stay at Pinnacle.’

‘I know. Kadin’s concerned about his mother and the girls, though. That’s the only reason we’re going back.’

She nodded. ‘I can see that. But it’s not safe there for you two, either. I’m sure Merida would agree, if she knew.’

Jevikel carried on with his tasks. The kindling was dry and the fire caught quickly.

‘I’ll fetch some water,’ Kemi said, picking up the klah kettle.

He watched her make her way to the nearby stream. It was all very well for her to say it was because she knew him well, but if she’d noticed, who’s to say others might not? Particularly during the winter, when everyone was so close, forced to stay inside the Hold. They definitely needed to get away before then.

The smell of brewing klah brought Kadin out of the shelter. As always, first thing in the morning, his hair was wild, sticking out in all directions. It made Jevikel smile.

‘Might have known you’d be up first. I just can’t get used to all this waking up at dawn.’

‘We’ve been doing it all our lives.’ Kemi removed the lid and gave the contents of the pot a stir. ‘Sit down and have some klah.’

Kadin moved to sit at the other side of the fire from Jevikel.

‘No need for that,’ Jevikel said. ‘She’s figured us out.’

Kadin’s eyes flicked to Kemi, then back to meet his. ‘Oh,’ he said, a little warily.

‘That’s more or less what I said, too.’

‘It’s all right,’ Kemi assured him. ‘It was just a suspicion of mine, then when I arrived and saw you so comfortable together I knew for sure.’

‘Well, in that case…’ Kadin changed direction, sitting next to Jevikel and kissing him lightly on the cheek.

Jevikel felt slightly embarrassed. It was all very well for his sister to have worked it out, but how would she feel to see them behaving like a betrothed couple? He glanced across to Kemi, but she just gave him a small smile as she poured out the fresh klah.

‘This’ll be my last taste of klah for a while,’ she said. ‘I’m not carrying anything I don’t need.’

‘We can spare you some klah bark,’ Kadin said. ‘Can’t we?’ he asked Jevikel.

‘I don’t see why not. Plus some of the hard cheese and dried meat and I can make a couple of flatbreads while we’ve got a fire going.’ All of that would be fairly light in weight, but nutritious.

‘I’m hoping to make it to Benden by tomorrow evening,’ she said, unrolling the map she’d made and smoothing it out on another of the flat topped rocks.

Jevikel leaned in to see. ‘It’s going to depend on how high you have to climb.’

‘I figure I can keep to the lower slopes most of the way, even if it’s slightly further, distance wise. Then once I get closer to the Weyr I should be able to pick up the tithe road from Bitra Hold.’ She pointed at the dotted line she’d drawn in.

‘I wish there was some way we could know you’d got there safely.’ Jevikel couldn’t help himself worrying. Despite all of her preparations, things could go wrong.

‘If I can, I’ll send word. Although, maybe it won’t be too long before you join me there.’

‘Hopefully not.’ Jevikel reached out for Kadin’s hand. If only the Weyr was as accepting as they all assumed. Lots of the other rumours he’d heard hadn’t proved to be true, after all.

They drank the klah, then Jevikel made breakfast. Porridge and a flatbread with fruit preserve spread on top. Kemi ate well, stocking up for the journey. They washed the pots by the stream, then she packed her few belongings together.

‘Right, then,’ she said in a cheery tone. ‘Might as well get going. Sooner I leave, the sooner I’ll get there.’

Kemi pulled him in for a hug, then Kadin as well. ‘I know you’ll worry, but honestly, I’ll be fine.’

Jevikel didn’t know what to say. Seeing her set out alone, a small figure picking her careful way across the scree, made him feel as if a part of his life was walking away. Things would never be quite the same again.

Kadin must have sensed how he felt and wrapped his arms around Jevikel. ‘She’s well prepared for the journey. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t make it.’

‘I know. It’s wrong, though. Why should anyone have to take a risk like that? I hate my parents. If anything happens to her, it’s their fault.’

She soon vanished from sight. Once again, the mountains were bleak and empty. But through the  day, as they went about their tasks, Jevikel kept imagining her walking through the midst of that impassive emptiness. When they ate their evening meal, he visualised her sitting by her own fire - assuming she’d found enough fuel to make one - looking up at the crescent of Belior and the same stars as he did. After Kadin fetched his pipes and began to play, Jevikel wondered if their high, sweet sound would carry far enough for her to hear. It might make her feel less alone, if that was the case.

Finally, the fire burned down and the beasts settled. Kadin stopped playing, the last notes dying away. ‘Come on,’ he said. ‘Let’s turn in.’

Days passed. No one came to check on them. Jevikel tried to imagine Kemi reaching the Weyr, although he had no idea what a Weyr looked like. Like a much larger Hold, he supposed, with separate living quarters for the people and the dragons. Did dragons make a noise, like the herdbeasts did, or were they silent, but for the flap of wings? He asked Kadin, but he wasn’t sure either, never having seen any up close.

As each day began, heralded by the Red Star burning in the eastern sky, Jevikel became increasingly aware that their time in the hills was running down and that all too soon, they’d have to return to Pinnacle Hold. It had been bad enough the first time; now he was so used to Kadin as a part of his life, the thought of being unable to touch him, or even to be seen close to him in a way that might make people suspicious, was almost unbearable. Of course he understood Kadin’s concern for his mother and sisters, even though he didn’t particularly care if his own parents had survived the shake unscathed. They had to go back. Just not for long. Once the beasts - his responsibility - were returned and Kadin had seen his mother alive and well, then it would be time to make their own escape. It wouldn’t be as difficult as it had been for Kemi. No one would be watching them in the same way and their daily duties took them out and about in any case.

The night before the planned return was bittersweet. Jevikel sat by the fire, Kadin propped against his chest. ‘I wish it could always be like this,’ he said.

Kadin looked up at him. ‘I feel the same. This is our last night together, until we can get away. Let’s make the most of it.’

There wasn’t much sleeping that night. Jevikel savoured each caress, each sensation Kadin wrung from his body, not knowing how long it might be until they were able to enjoy such delights again.

The following morning, after a final breakfast, they began to drive the animals back. It was hard gong at first. The herdbeasts were reluctant to leave their well-known territory and the good grazing. Almost as if they realised what was in store for them; market and slaughter. Jevikel empathised with them. As they walked, he thought of all they were leaving behind, remembering the sweetness of Kadin’s kisses, the feel of their bodies as they moved together. How could anything that felt so good be wrong? As Kemi had said once, it wasn’t as if they were hurting anyone by loving each other.

‘You’re quiet,’ Kadin said, when they stopped for a break at around the half way point.

‘I feel sad.’

Kadin squeezed his hand. ‘I do, too.’

‘And I’ve been thinking about what we’ll say. We don’t know how badly Pinnacle was affected by that shake. We can tell them we felt it, too, but thought it was just local. We’re going to have to pretend we’re surprised about Kemi running away, as well.’

‘Maybe that’ll be old news by now?’

‘Not unless something even worse has happened. Vikkel’s going to be mad at losing the marriage settlement. We’ll need to tread very carefully around him.’

‘Sure.’ Kadin scrutinised him. ‘You’ve got that frown back.’

'What frown?’

‘The one that went away while we were in the hills.’

‘I think I’ve had it most of my life. I never realised what it was to be happy until a few months ago.’

Kadin smiled.

It was early evening by the time the familiar spire of Pinnacle came into view. Although it didn’t look quite the same any more. Part of one side had sheared away, making it appear more like a butcher’s hook.

Jevikel pointed out the damage to Kadin. ‘They must have had it bad here for that to have happened.’

Only as they drove the beasts further down, did he appreciate the extent to which the shake had affected the Hold. Once, there had been stone walls either side of the track. Now, the stones were spread out in tumbled piles. Both barns had partially collapsed. Tiny figures were hard at work rebuilding them. The Outer Hold was also damaged; one wall down and the slate roof lying in a broken pile alongside. A few workers were busy there, too.

The walls separating the fields had mostly gone. Rough hurdles had been lashed into place to keep the beasts contained. The jingling bells alerted folk they were on their way and by the time the small herd had reached the courtyard, Sarrando and Tallis had stopped their own tasks and helped them to pen the beasts in.

‘What happened?’ Jevikel asked, mindful of needing to pretend this was all new. ‘Did you get the earth shake here, too?’

Tallis looked grim. ‘Did we? Look around you, lad. I’ve never known nothing like it in all my Turns.’

‘You felt it as well?’ Sarrando asked.

‘A little. Not as bad as here, although the hut we were staying in fell down.’

‘Lucky you weren’t inside it,’ Tallis said.

‘The beasts were restless,’ Kadin put in. ‘That’s the only reason we’d gone outside when it happened.’

‘Folk was asleep here,’ Sarrando tied another hurdle in place. ‘One or two just rising. Kemi…’

‘Shush.’ Tallis stopped him. ‘That’s not for us to say. Holder’ll want to tell him the news.’

‘Kemi’s what?’ Jevikel was pleased at how easily he’d managed to sound worried. ‘Did she get hurt?’

Both of them looked down. ‘You’d best ask your father,’ Tallis said. ‘Let’s get this finished first, eh.’

Jevikel didn’t have to pretend to be concerned as they worked. What little Sarrando had said had got his imagination going. His father would be furious at Kemi’s disappearance but the destruction of the Hold would take it to another level. On the long walk back up to the Hold, Kadin walked beside him. He wished they could touch, just for reassurance.

The main room, usually so orderly, was a mess. It looked as if people had been sleeping in there. It was also brighter than it ever had been, due to the collapse of the outer wall. Jevikel noticed how people looked up from their work to give him pitying glances. Then he saw his mother.

Jemina’s left arm was in a sling. She had lost weight and looked ten Turns older. Her hair was streaked with grey and its usual neat braids were untidy.

She looked up, then walked towards him, limping slightly. He wasn’t sure what to say. Just a few paces away, she paused. For a moment he thought her iron control would break and she was going to hug him, but she caught herself. Emotions warred across her face.

‘Hello, mother,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry to see you were injured.’

Her free hand went to the sling. ‘This is just a scratch. But your sister…’

‘Kemi?’ Even though he’d seen her alive and well, he had to be able to react convincingly to whatever his mother was going to say.

‘She’s… she’s dead.’

For a moment, he thought she meant in the mountains. Then common sense reasserted itself. There was no way anyone here would know if that had been her end. ‘How?’ he asked.

‘It was the morning the earth shook. I woke to the sound of it, to rocks falling. People were screaming. I helped get the children out. Then, when we were all safe outside, I realised she was missing.’

Jevikel nodded. So far, it matched with Kemi’s own version of the story. Of course, by that point, she’d have been well away, probably retrieving the pack at the caves.

His mother went on, her eyes unfocussed as she recounted her memories of that morning. ‘Sisala said she’d seen Kemi get up and go to the necessary. We couldn’t get back inside for a while. There was too much rubble. Then, when we did…’ her voice cracked slightly. ‘I’ll show you.’

She led the way between tables and mattresses to the familiar corridor. Just beyond the entrance to the first sleeping chamber, a wall of fallen rock and rubble barred the way. It was obvious anyone who had been any further inside the Hold would have been crushed beneath its weight, or worse, trapped behind it, unable to escape. Poignantly, flowers were scattered here and there on the pile.

Kadin gave a very convincing sob and hugged Jevikel tightly. It was about the only situation in which they could get away with it, he thought, pretending to be equally distressed.

He felt Jemina’s arm on his. ‘We can only hope it was quick for her,’ she said.

‘But she’s… how can you be sure?’ If Jevikel hadn’t seen her walking away into the mountains with his own eyes, it would be all too easy to believe her body lay entombed here.

Jemina looked at him with sympathy. ‘Every day I wake, I wish we could be sure she wasn’t in there. But she was seen going that way just before the shake happened.’ She sighed. ‘At least she was happy before she died. She’d been so looking forward to her marriage…’

‘I can’t believe it.’ Jevikel said. ‘Kemi, gone just like that.’

‘It’s terrible,’ his mother agreed. ‘But then, nothing like this has ever happened before. Who would have thought the solid earth could shift enough to do such damage?’

It wasn’t the time to quote a Teaching Ballad, so Jevikel stayed quiet, looking down so his face couldn’t betray his emotions.

‘Still, it’s good you’re both back safe and sound.’ He could almost see Jemina pull herself together. ‘Your father will be glad of the extra hands to help. There’s a lot of reconstruction to be done.’

‘Of course.’ Jevikel glanced at Kadin. ‘We’ll do whatever we can.’

They grabbed a quick mug of klah before going back outside. ‘It couldn’t have worked out better if we’d planned it,’ Kadin said as they made their way toward what was left of the barns.

Jevikel felt something of the same way himself, but he also pitied his mother. She must be grieving deep down for her daughter. Others would be, too. It felt wrong, knowing that Kemi wasn’t buried inside the Hold, even if he couldn’t be sure she’d made it safely to the Weyr. ‘Best not let anyone hear you talk like that. As far as they’re concerned, we’ve just found out she’s dead. We need to act that way.’ Another secret to preserve. Jevikel wondered how long he could keep all of them from overwhelming him.

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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Chapter Comments

14 hours ago, Clancy59 said:

If I remember correctly, the first Falls are over High Reaches and come down as black dust because of the cold weather, so the first couple of actual Falls are missed.  However, it’s enough to prove F’Lar correct and galvanize the Holders via the Harpers.  The problem here is Vikkel is one of those who thinks the Dragonriders and Harpers are alarmists.  You’re right.  He won’t believe until he sees it, and by then, there won’t be enough time/equipment/supplies/money to prep the Hold properly.  Jevikel and Kadin will be much better off away from there for multiple reasons.  Kemi was lucky to get away when she did and with no one following her.

F'nor reports to F'lar that there have been dust storms in Upper Tillek, High Reaches, Crom, Upper Telgar and Bitra, prior to the first viable Fall over Nerat. Quite a few folk weren't prepared to believe until Thread actually fell in their own areas of Pern. The meeting F'lar calls with the Holders and Craftmasters is after Nerat, when they are panicking suitably and Robinton gives them all a good tongue lashing for neglecting the Weyr up until that moment.

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On 4/14/2022 at 5:03 PM, drpaladin said:

The quake worked out very well with them thinking Kemi dead.

Yes. By the time they get the necessary cleared out and don't discover a body, it will be way too late to figure out that Kemi had run. Vikkel will never allow this to be disclosed, else he would have to pay a penalty for the wedding!

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