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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 - 9. Winter

As Jevikel had supposed, the beasts didn’t go to market. Restoring the outbuildings and the Hold took priority over everything else. By the time the first fruits of harvest were being picked, the main barn was ready.

‘You’d have thought the weather would have given us a good crop,’ Jemina said. ‘But look at these.’ The fruit she plucked from the basket was far smaller than usual. ‘Plenty of sun, but not enough rain.’ With only one good arm, she was hard pressed to do much of the work she’d always been used to, and although she helped with the fruit picking, she was clearly annoyed that she couldn’t harvest the same amount as others managed. The injury must still be giving her pain. Jevikel had seen her putting drops of fellis in her morning klah, then sweetener to counteract the bitter taste.

Summer’s heat faded, but still there wasn’t much in the way of rain. High winds stripped the leaves from the trees early and even uprooted a few. The weather became unseasonably warm for a few days, then bitterly cold. When the tubers and root vegetables were dug up, they proved to have suffered from the lack of rain, too. This, together with the loss of much of the stored foodstuffs in the shake, meant that it would be a hard winter. Vikkel had already given orders for portions to be reduced, although anyone doing physical work on the rebuilding was allowed extra rations.

The restoration continued. Jevikel and Kadin were set to carrying bundles of reeds up the ladders to the roofers, who expertly laid them and secured them in place. It made the barns weathertight and warm, but he couldn’t help wonder about the consequences when Thread came. His conviction had strengthened since meeting the dragonriders. They’d talked of strange weather patterns in other parts of Pern and no one could deny Pinnacle Hold was experiencing the same. Each morning the Red Star hung in the sky, visible for a time even after the sun had risen. The sight of it never failed to send a shiver down his spine.

Sevendays passed in a tedious cycle of work, eat and sleep. Gatri began to sit with Jevikel during the evenings, obviously thinking he’d had sufficient time to grieve for his lost sister. ‘You need to start enjoying life again,’ she said to him. ‘I can help you.’

He didn’t want her help, but he couldn’t say that. So he tolerated her presence and tried to be polite, while all the time being painfully aware he’d much rather be with Kadin.

Lengiorl and Sisala were married by Vikkel and there was a small celebration. Their union brought reminders of the other wedding which should have taken place by now. At dinner that night, when cake was brought out after the usual plain fare, Gatri sat next to him and chatted away non-stop, mostly about how much she looked forward to the day she was wed. Jevikel let the words wash over him, noticing his mother sitting off to one side with the old folk. She didn’t smile much, just sipped constantly from a cup of wine. Before the end of the evening, she’d fallen asleep.

The next day, it was back to work again. Jevikel and Kadin stopped for lunch, sheltering inside the barn extension to be out of the cold wind. ‘I wonder when those riders will return.’

Kadin tore off a hunk of bread.’Soon, I hope. I’ve never been so hungry in my life.’

‘You ate enough cake last night.’

‘That was last night. Did you have fun with Gatri?’

Jevikel gave him a dirty look. ‘I wish I could get rid of her.’

‘Just say you aren’t interested.’

‘I’ve tried that. How come you aren’t being pestered by girls?’

‘Not enough of them to go round. Besides, I’m not the Holder’s son, just some incomer from Bitra.’

Jevikel noticed how Kadin had lost that sleek, well-fed look he’d had when he first arrived at Pinnacle. He wished they’d left while it was still possible. Although no snow had yet fallen here, the mountains were already capped by white.

‘I wish we’d gone to the Weyr.’ It was almost as if Kadin had read his thoughts.

‘Well, we didn’t. And it’s too late now. Anyway, what about your mum and sisters?’

‘Mum’s fine. She’s helping Jemina a lot these days. People are beginning to appreciate her.’

‘That’s good, then.’

Kadin dropped his voice. ‘I miss being with you.’

‘Think I don’t?’

‘Maybe we could slip away one evening, now the barn’s finished…’

‘No.’ Jevikel could never forget the scene after Rosh and Col had been discovered. ‘Much as I’d like to, it’s not worth the risk. We have to keep our heads down, work hard and wait.’

‘It’ll be a long winter.’

‘I know.’

In eleventh month, the weather grew colder. There still wasn’t any proper snow, just stinging hail and icy winds from the north-east. Once, Jevikel saw dragons flying over, but they were high and didn’t divert from their course. Perhaps the riders had forgotten about them after all?

It was close and cramped inside the Hold. Rubble had begun to be cleared from the two sleeping chambers which had been made unusable by the shake, but until they were ready a lot of folk bedded down in the main hall each night. The loss of the necessaries meant carrying pots out to the midden each morning. Life, which had always been hard, was even less comfortable than before. Now that it was too cold and dark for people to spend time outside when they’d finished work, the lack of space and privacy made itself felt. People quarrelled over small things. Once or twice, fights almost broke out among the younger women. Jemina would normally have put a stop to arguments before they went so far, but she was increasingly withdrawn and spent a lot of time sleeping.

‘I wonder what’s wrong with her?’ he asked Kadin. ‘I mean, I know her arm’s bothering her, but why’s she sleeping so much?’

Kadin must have asked Merida, for the next day, she took them both aside. ‘Your mother is still in pain,’ she told Jevikel. ‘Physical pain from her arm, but mental pain too. Losing your older sister like that affected her deeply. She blames herself for not doing more.’

‘What could she have done? From what I hear, it all happened so fast no one could have.’

‘You know that and so do I,’ Merida told him. ‘I - and the others - have reassured her countless times. But she doesn’t believe us. Eventually, she’ll come to terms with it, but until then, we can’t really help her.’

‘She’s still taking fellis, isn’t she?’ Jevikel had noticed that, too.

‘It makes her life more tolerable right now. Depriving her would be like taking away a lame person’s crutch.’

‘But… it’s addictive, isn’t it?’

Merida gave him a strange look. ‘One has to weigh up the pros and cons of any medication. Yes, we'll have to slowly wean her off it, but only when she’s ready. Maybe after Turn’s End…’

Turn’s End arrived. A couple of the young beasts, which should have been taken to market, were slaughtered for the feast. Jevikel helped with the butchery and tried to teach Kadin the basics, but he didn’t have the stomach for it. He ate the meat readily enough, though.

Two days of feasting put everyone in better spirits. Then a spate of snowy weather put paid to any outdoor work for a while, apart from ensuring the pregnant herdbeasts had plenty of fodder.

‘They’re better fed than we are,’ Kadin said as they carried hay out to the field. ‘I wonder if we could eat hay?’

‘Don’t try it. Your stomach won’t thank you.’

‘I need food.’

‘We ate well enough at Turn’s End.’ Jevikel dumped his load of hay and the hungry beasts pushed at each other to snatch mouthfuls.

Kadin set his pile a little way off, so they wouldn’t be fighting over it. ‘That was three sevendays ago. Why can’t we just kill a few more beasts?’

‘Because they have to be sold at the spring market. We can’t afford to lose the marks.’ So Vikkel had told him, anyway. Rebuilding had been an unexpected expense and had eaten into their reserves. Vikkel had been telling Jevikel a lot more about the running of the Hold over the past months. Maybe it was because he was growing up, or perhaps it was because his father could no longer confide in Jemina as he had once done. She sat by the hearth much of the day, staring into its flames. Her useless hand meant she couldn’t knit or mend as she’d once done. Before, she’d always been busy at something, but not any more.

Jevikel’s mind often went back to the previous winter; all the fittings for new clothes to be worn to Kemi’s wedding, the chatter in the Hold. Hard to believe that just a Turn ago, he’d been unaware of Kadin’s existence. Now, he was all too aware. They couldn’t get too close, couldn’t touch, couldn’t arouse anyone’s suspicion. There were times he wanted to hug Kadin, not just because he longed for the physical contact, but also for reassurance. Those days in the hills at the end of summer were a long time ago. It felt as if winter would never end.

Second month came in with more snow, the unseasonable winds piling it in drifts. Some of the herdbeasts who had mated early gave birth in the barn extension. Jevikel often glanced up at the wooden beams and the thick reed thatch, wondering what he would do if Thread began to fall. Where could he go? The only real safe space would be as deep inside the Hold as you could get.

Thread didn’t fall, though. Nothing changed, apart from the stews becoming ever more watery as supplies of roots and tubers dwindled.

Towards the end of second month, there was another visit from dragonriders; three of them this time; two greens and a brown. Even before the riders - muffled against the bitter cold - dismounted, Jevikel could tell the brown rider wasn’t the same man who had visited before. His dragon was more of a reddish-brown colour, with a longer tail and neck.

Not many people came out to the courtyard, preferring to stay inside where it was warm. Vikkel beckoned for Jevikel to follow him, which he did, pulling on a coat as they walked.

‘Greetings,’ said the brown rider, a stocky man who looked to be several Turns older than Vikkel. ’T’sum, rider of brown Munth, Wingsecond in the Weyrleader’s Wing. This is Pinnacle Hold?’

‘Aye.’ Vikkel sounded suspicious.

Jevikel’s heart began to race. Maybe they had come on Search? But the rider’s next words dashed his hopes.

‘Thread will begin falling soon,’ he said. ‘At midwinter, the Red Star was bracketed in the Eye Rock at the Weyr. We have been sent out to warn Holders and to make sure you know what you need to do…’

‘I thought your beasts were supposed to protect us. That’s what we send tithes for, isn’t it?’

T’sum nodded. ‘Correct. But dragons can’t catch every single piece of Thread in the air. Some of it may reach the ground. That’s why every Holder must make sure his people and beasts are safely shut away. And you’ll need to provide ground crew, to observe and point out to the riders where Thread has burrowed.’

Burrowed! The thought of Thread attacking from underground as well as from the air wasn’t at all reassuring.

‘You said soon. How soon?’

The riders glanced at each other. ‘We can’t be absolutely certain of that…’

‘Then how can you be certain it will happen at all?’

T’sum sighed in a way that made Jevikel think he’d had to deal with this sort of attitude more than a few times. ‘Because, as I said, the Red Star was framed in the Eye Rock. We have records to prove that’s a sure sign a Pass is beginning. When the Threads actually start to fall depends on many other variables, but rest assured the Weyrleader is doing his best to ensure we are ready. Part of that preparation is to make sure no one outside the Weyr is taken by surprise.’

One of the green riders pointed to the Outer Hold roof. ‘For example, that thatch won’t protect anyone. You’ll need to ensure everyone is under stone or rock.’

‘I don’t need you telling me how I should run my Hold,’ Vikkel snapped.

There was an awkward silence, before T’sum spoke again. His voice was quiet and diplomatic. ‘We’re only trying to help,’ he said. ‘And it’s part of our remit to advise Holders on anything that might prove a danger.’

If Thread falls,’ Vikkel stated. ‘I can barely afford to feed everyone here at present. I certainly can’t afford to re-roof these buildings on the off chance a threat from the sky that hasn’t been seen in hundreds of Turn comes back again. I said it to those other riders, last Turn. Give me proof first.’ He laid a hand on Jevikel’s shoulder. ‘This is my son, who will be Holder after me. I wouldn’t put his life in danger, nor his livelihood.’

‘I understand,’ T’sum said. ‘Once we know Thread is about to fall in this area, we’ll give you as much warning as possible. In the mean time, keep your folk and your beasts close at hand.’

Jevikel longed to ask them about eggs and Search, but he couldn’t with his father standing right next to him and the heavy weight of duty on his shoulder reminding him of who he was meant to be. He watched them mount again - it was far easier for the green riders to reach their perch - then, with a flurry of snow, the dragons ascended, taking away any hope he’d had of an easy escape.

‘They’re just trying to frighten us,’ Vikkel said to him as they made their way back to the Hold. ‘I’ll bet this is to try and extort more tithes from ordinary folk.’

‘But… what if they’re right?’ he had to say.

‘Then it’s their job to protect us. Don’t let it worry you.’

Jevikel still did, though. He trusted the dragonriders knew their business. After all, it wasn’t as if they’d ever said Thread was about to return before and it hadn’t.

‘Did they say anything about Search?’ Kadin was full of questions when he finally got the chance to speak to Jevikel alone while they fetched fodder for the herdbeasts.

‘No, it was all about Thread. Maybe the dragons haven’t laid any eggs yet?’

‘The queen dragon,’ Kadin corrected. ‘She’s the only one who lays eggs.’

‘Well, maybe she hasn’t. And before you ask, I couldn’t say anything with father there.’

He looked downcast at that. Jevikel had a quick look around to check no one was about before hugging him. Having his arms around Kadin, pressing close enough to feel the warmth of his body even through the thick clothing, he felt as if he was home. This was how they were meant to be. ‘It’ll all turn out right,’ he said. ‘Two more months and we can get away, whether the dragonriders return or not.’ He didn’t want to break apart, but it was too much of a risk to stay like that for long.

‘D’you think we’ll be sent to the hills again?’

‘I’ll try to make sure we are. I seem to be in father’s favour at the moment. Let’s not do anything to jeopardise that.’

‘You’re right.’ He sighed. ‘If only this snow would melt. I’ve forgotten the sun could be warm and the grass green.’

A thaw came at last, with a few warm days as respite before the cold arrived from the north east again. The relentless wind only dropped at night time, when there were hard enough frosts to stop spring planting in the lower fields. A few more herdbeasts gave birth. They needed fresh new grass, but this Turn there was precious little of it.

‘Soon as we can, we’ll get them up into the hills,’ Vikkel said, a sevenday into third month.

‘Kadin and I can manage them again.’ Jevikel thought it as well to put the idea into his father’s head.

‘I know you can, but this time I’m going to send Berrand with him, for the experience. You and I will be taking the youngsters to market in Valley Narrows.’

Jevikel tried to look as if he was pleased at the prospect. Once, he would have been. A trip to the market had always been seen as a treat; something to look forward to. Now he just saw it as more time away from Kadin. Still, they’d only be gone for a sevenday or so. Maybe when he was back at Pinnacle, he could join them in the hills. Except Berrand would be there too; an unwanted third person when he just wanted to be alone with Kadin.

‘We can take Gatri along too,’ his father went on. ‘I don’t normally hold with girls on a drive, but she’s capable enough with the beasts and I know she’s fond of you.’

Jevikel took a chance. ‘I’d rather her not get too fond of me. I mean, it’s not as if we’ll be marrying or anything.’

‘She’s a sensible enough girl to realise you’ll have to marry someone of equal status when the time comes. But she might make a good wife for your cousin, Kadin, eh? What do you think?’

Jevikel had never heard anything so awful. ‘I don’t know…’

‘He’s turned out a good worker. Getting him married to a girl at the Hold will make him more likely to stay. And Merida’s proved a great help, with Jemina as she is.’

Jemina still huddled by the hearth most of the time, like an old woman. Jevikel had tried to engage her in conversation a few times, without much success. ‘Is mother going to get better soon?’ he asked, even though he didn’t think Vikkel knew the answer.

‘She’ll be fine once the better weather comes and she can get out of the Hold. You’ll see.’ Vikkel sounded optimistic.

Kadin wasn’t at all happy when Jevikel told him. ‘Can’t you persuade him otherwise?’

‘Not without making him suspicious. Going to Valley Narrows is a privilege. If I try to get out of it, it’ll seem odd. No, I’ll join you in the hills after we get back and if Berrand’s there too, we don’t need to feel guilty about leaving the beasts without someone to tend them. It’s our perfect opportunity to get away to the Weyr.’

‘I suppose so.’ Kadin didn’t sound too pleased about it. Jevikel thought it best not to tell him of his father’s plan to marry him off to Gatri.

The weather gradually improved. Snow had thawed from the lower slopes, although the Benden mountains stood like white teeth; an impenetrable barrier. Late in third month, Jevikel watched as the beasts were released, the young ones eagerly bounding forward and the pregnant animals following somewhat more sedately. Kadin and Berrand, burdened with all the supplies they’d need, waved goodbye, then trudged away up the steep track.

The market at Valley Narrows wasn’t for another couple of sevendays. Jevikel found himself thinking of Kadin much of the time. It had been bad enough when they’d both been at the Hold, able to look but not touch. Now, with so much distance between them, Jevikel felt as if he was missing some vital part of himself.

The early part of fourth month turned unseasonably cold again. It would be even colder in the hills. The wind blew choking clouds of gritty black dust over the Hold, forcing anyone outside to tie scarves over their nose and mouths.

‘Never seen nothing like that before,’ Tallis said, brushing it from his clothing.

Jevikel had a sudden sense of alarm. The weather patterns had stayed strange and now there were these dust storms. Was it an indication Thread would start to fall soon? He both hoped for and dreaded the prospect. Hoped, because it would prove the predictions right, yet dreaded because Kadin was up there in the hills and if it did come and he was too far from a shelter… No, he had to stop thinking like that. Kadin was sensible. He knew what he needed to do. And the dragonriders had promised to give them warning. Everything would be fine. It had to be.

©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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Life is always hard at the Hold, but this winter has been brutal with the lean harvest.

Maybe I'm missing something, but the Hold is self sufficient with food. The only expenses should be clothing and perhaps some metal work and the reeds. Why the preoccupation with money?

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4 hours ago, drpaladin said:

Life is always hard at the Hold, but this winter has been brutal with the lean harvest.

Maybe I'm missing something, but the Hold is self sufficient with food. The only expenses should be clothing and perhaps some metal work and the reeds. Why the preoccupation with money?

Because Vikkel is one of those people who is something of a miser as far as money is concerned. They could certainly buy in extra supplies to make up for the poor harvest but he's too mean.

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