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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

Weyrlings - 1. Trouble in the Barracks

Impressing a dragon is just the first step and there are plenty of pitfalls along the way.

Dragons grew fast. In their first month, they ate, slept and expanded rapidly. It seemed to D’gar that all his waking hours were spent butchering meat, making sure Herebeth didn’t gorge and choke on it, then bathing and oiling his dragon’s hide. Everyone else was in the same boat, of course, although the two brown dragons in the clutch grew steadily larger than their blue and green siblings.

‘Bronzes are even harder work,’ the Weyrlingmaster told D’gar and G’tash cheerfully. ‘You should be glad there wasn’t one in this clutch.’ Kadoth’s failure to produce any bronze hatchlings indicated she might be close to the end of her reproductive life. Still, all of the eggs had hatched and the young dragons seemed healthy enough.

Everyone seemed to find it funny that S’brin - the tallest and heaviest of all the candidates - had Impressed Zemianth, who was dainty even for a green.

‘Think she’s going to be able to carry your weight?’ J’rud joked. His Zurinth was a far more sturdy dragon; a deep green colour, like the seaweed that washed up in the harbour mouth.

‘Yeah, you’ll have to stop eating so much,’ added B’rol, another green rider.

‘I’m not fat,’ S’brin protested.

‘Nope. He’s all muscle.’ D’gar gave a smile. ‘That’s how I like him.’

‘Oh, you two!’ T’mudra grimaced. ‘I know you aren’t allowed to touch now, but some of the things you say to each other when the lights are out is disgusting.’

‘Then don’t listen in.’

‘Can’t really help it when I’m right next to you.’

There must be a good reason for the prohibition on human sexual activity before dragons were mature - it was stated repeatedly in all the Teaching Ballads relating to dragon care - but it wasn’t easy. The really annoying thing was that they weren’t even permitted to cuddle or kiss, presumably in case it led on to other things. Talking dirty at night, thinking about what they’d like to do to each other while taking care of their own needs was as far as they dared to go, especially considering the lack of privacy in the weyrling barracks.

There were a lot of other adjustments to be made to their lives now they’d Impressed. D’gar missed his peaceful times in the archives. Sure, you could still daydream while engaged in all of the physical tasks necessary to look after a young dragon, but there were always people around, chattering and disturbing your train of thought. It made him irritable, especially as the others weren’t particularly thoughtful themselves. D’gar’s nature made him query things too; whenever they were taught something new, he’d consider it for a while, then come up with several questions to ask the Weyrlingmaster, N’teren. He didn’t intend to be annoying, but it became clear after a sevenday or so that it was taken that way.

‘Listen, lad, this training program has been refined over generations. It’s been in use for well over a thousand Turns. I don’t need you to be questioning every little detail, all right?’

This had the effect of making him switch off during a lot of the lessons. He learned the Ballads by heart; he was good at that, but he made up his own mind as to whether or not the information they contained was relevant or useful.

S’brin wasn’t settling in well either. He’d been working with the maintenance crew for several Turns and had been considered by the team leader to be competent at maintaining and diagnosing faults on a wide variety of the Weyr’s plant and equipment. In a single day, he’d gone from being a valued crew member to just another weyrling. Plus, he now had a green dragon.

‘Sharding Weyr stereotypes!’ They were down by the lake again, having been running before the dragons woke. ‘Everyone thinks that because I’ve Impressed a green I’m some brainless idiot.’

‘We both know that’s not the case.’ Admittedly there were some green riders whose only interests in life were gossip and flirting. Every stereotype had some basis in truth, after all. ‘Don’t let it get to you.’

‘I know.’

D’gar had never seen S’brin so downcast. Impulsively, he hugged him. ‘It’s going to be all right. Once we’ve got through this, once we’ve got our own weyr, things will be fine.’

S’brin relaxed into the embrace, then abruptly pulled away. ‘We’d better not be seen doing this. Some of those snitches would love to tell the Weyrlingmaster we’ve been up to things we shouldn’t.’

‘It’s a bit stupid really. I can tell if something’s upsetting Herebeth and I expect it’s the same with you and Zemianth. I’ve a suspicion this whole “can’t touch anyone” business is more to do with keeping the barracks quiet at night and preventing any lover’s squabbles. Arguing and shouting definitely bothers Herebeth.’

‘Zemianth too. She hates loud noises. But we still need to be careful. We don’t want to get a bad reputation.’

The weyrling barracks were fairly full at present. As well as Kadoth’s small clutch, it currently housed Loranth’s earlier Hatching of twenty-seven dragons, now almost five months old and Suderoth’s twenty, who had reached almost eighty percent of their full size. It was nigh on impossible to believe that the tiny hatchlings would be reaching maturity by this time next Turn. Although they wouldn’t be ready to fly for another few months and would need to wait a while longer before they could bear the extra weight of carrying a rider, they were already strengthening their flight muscles. Dragons could walk for short distances, although the disparity in length between their hind and forelegs meant they moved with an ungainly hopping gait. Herebeth - and some of the others - often spread their wings for balance and sometimes even left the ground for short jumps. It was exciting to see the gradual progress that would lead to proper flight.

He told Agarra about all this while they were sitting outside the kitchens during one of her breaks.

‘You know, you sound just like a new mother.’

‘What?’

‘Well, that’s how they go on, especially when it’s their first. Noting down every gurgle and kick, or when the babe begins to crawl.’

‘I hardly think you can compare a baby with a young dragon.’

She chuckled. ‘Don’t sound so sniffy about it. You should hear yourself talk. But I didn’t mean any offence. I’m proud of you both.’

‘Once we’re flying, I’ll take you for a spin around the Bowl.’

‘That would be lovely.’

In addition to their lessons and looking after their dragons, one of the weyrlings’ regular duties was the supply of firestone for Threadfall. They spent a couple of hours each morning grading and bagging the flammable rock. Bronzes and browns could cope with chewing larger chunks than the smaller dragons; the graded bags were then colour coded to make sure no dragon ended up with the wrong sized stone mid-Fall.

‘Here, catch!’ S’brin threw a full bag at D’gar. He caught it easily, pleased at how much stronger he was becoming due to regular training. It was typical of S’brin to use the somewhat tedious bagging up sessions as another way to work out. Exercise was part of the normal weyrling schedule, but S’brin didn’t think they did enough. D’gar passed the bag on to J’rud, who almost dropped it.

‘Hey, you aren’t meant to hurl the bag at someone, just toss it gently,’ he protested.

‘Yeah, like that’s going to happen in the middle of Threadfall.’ S’brin glanced at D’gar, then threw him another one, slightly heavier.

‘We need to be able to catch whatever’s thrown at us. Remember if you drop the bag in the air it could hit someone on a lower level.’ D’gar passed the next bag along, albeit with a tad less force. J’rud staggered a bit, but kept hold of it.

‘Plus, you need to be able to chuck any size bag to the wing riders. Once we can fly between, we’ll be doing that.’

Going between seemed a long way off when their dragons couldn’t even fly yet. Loranth’s clutch were just starting their first, wobbly circuits around the Bowl, not yet with riders. Most mornings, they’d be out practising. Suderoth’s clutch were even further along. The weyrlings had finished making their flying straps and been issued with wherhide riding gear. The Weyrlingmaster and his assistants had taken them on several flights outside the Weyr. The next, crucial step would be when they learned to fly between.

‘Wonder how many of this lot won’t come back.’ V’sil, blue Mirlith’s rider was always one to say what others were thinking. ‘Anyone fancy making any bets?’

‘That’s not funny,’ M’rell chided him. ‘It’ll be our turn next.’

‘And when we do, that lot…’ V’sil gestured toward D’gar’s clutchmates, ‘Will be thinking exactly the same.’

The last two classes had got away without any losses but that was probably down to good fortune. D’gar’s time in the archives meant that he’d read a lot more records than most of his clutchmates and he knew that learning how to guide your dragon through between was probably the most dangerous skill they’d have to master as weyrlings.

N’teren didn’t tell his class they were going to go between for the first time until the day the lesson was planned. It helped prevent sleepless nights and too much worry beforehand. Suderoth’s hatchlings had already assembled for regular flight practice when the word got around. The dragons passed the news to each other and very soon the whole Weyr knew that this was it. The twenty dragons took off neatly together; that was something they’d practiced often enough for it to be second nature. Everyone left behind at the Weyr hoped they’d all make it, while at the same time preparing themselves for the worst. It didn’t feel too different from a Threadfall day, D’gar thought. You’d watch the Wings take off and not know how many would come back unscathed.

The theory of going between had already been explained to them. You visualised the place where you wanted to go and sent the image to your dragon, who then did whatever it was dragons did to initiate the process. While engulfed in the scary blackness and cold of between you had to hang on to that image. All being well, you emerged at the place you’d wanted to be after a count of eight. It all sounded very straightforward, but nevertheless, some just didn’t come back from their first attempt. And because they didn’t come back, there was no way of knowing exactly what they had done wrong.

One of the Weyrlingmaster’s assistants attempted to keep them occupied during the morning, although thankfully, he didn’t try to teach anything new, just went over some of the Teaching Ballads relating to dragon care. It was half way through reciting one of these that everyone felt the sense of loss. A split second afterwards, all the dragons in the Weyr - theirs included - let loose with that eerie keen which reverberated through your bones and indicated one of their number had gone forever.

Knowing that nothing useful would get done, the entire class were sent off to the dining hall for klah. They huddled together around their usual table, feeling oddly united by their grief. Loranth’s clutch soon joined them and they waited there until the news got around as to who had been lost.

‘E’tal and Biandalth,’ someone said. D’gar wasn’t familiar with many of Suderoth’s clutch; they were that much older so they didn’t spend much time with the ‘babies’.

‘Brown pair,’ said M’rell. ‘Quiet lad, very sensible.’

‘Wonder what happened?’

‘Who knows. Bit sobering, though. I’ll be shitting myself when it’s our turn.’

That raised a smile from D’gar. Not many of the weyrlings admitted to being scared. ‘Me too.’ Or throwing up, he thought. When he was nervous, it always affected his stomach.

That night, when the glow baskets were shuttered in the barracks, he thought about being lost forever in the darkness of between. He’d travelled on dragon back several times when they’d been sent out on expeditions to harvest wild fruits and herbs, so he knew what the experience was like from a passenger’s point of view. That utter sense of nothingness chilled you to the core. How would it feel to be trapped there, unable to see, or hear, or even scream? Would you die from lack of air to breathe, or from the intense cold? How big was the place anyway? Were there frozen corpses of dragons and people floating around inside? What if you hit one on your way through…?

‘Are you still awake?’ S’brin hissed across to him.

‘How did you know?’

‘You don’t sound asleep. What’s wrong?’

‘I was thinking about what happened today.’

‘Try not to.’

‘That’s easy for you to say.’ Not for the first time he wished he could climb in next to S’brin and take comfort in his arms.

‘We’ll be fine. Don’t worry.’

S’brin was always so certain. D’gar had thought at one time that he only said these things to cheer him up, but once he’d got to know S’brin better, he found that he actually believed them. He wished he could have the same easy confidence. ‘How long do you think it takes to die between?

‘I don’t know. And anyone who does can’t tell you.’ He sighed gently. ‘Can’t you just switch off your brain?’

‘It doesn’t work that way.’

‘You’d stop thinking about all that if I was over there with you now.’

‘Yes, but it’s not allowed.’

He heard the bed creak as S’brin sat up. ‘Bugger that. Is Herebeth asleep?’

D’gar checked, although he already knew the answer. ‘Yes.’

‘So’s Zemianth. Move over.’

‘We’ll get into trouble.’

‘Only if someone hears.’

The beds were narrow - deliberately so in all probability - but that just meant they had to snuggle together. Having S’brin so close to him was a delightful torment. Yes, it was lovely to hold him again but it reminded him of all the things they used to do and how much he’d like to be doing those things right now.

‘I bet you aren’t thinking about between any more.’ S’brin’s breath was warm on his neck as he whispered into D’gar’s ear.

‘No. But we shouldn’t be doing this.’

‘We aren’t doing anything. Well, not yet. Besides, what harm is it?’

‘All the Teaching Ballads say it’s wrong.’ D’gar was too near to the edge of the bed. He wriggled closer and because there was so little room, hooked his right leg over S’brin’s thigh to keep himself there.

S’brin obviously took that as encouragement. ‘I’ve missed this.’

‘So have I.’

‘Maybe those Ballads are rubbish. You’re always picking holes in them.’

‘Maybe,’ D’gar agreed. ‘But should we take that risk?’

‘So what’s going to happen? Will our dragons explode or something?’

‘Don’t know about them, but I think I might.’

‘Mmm. I can feel that.’ S’brin’s hands had started wandering.

How could something that felt this good hurt their dragons? D’gar knew for a fact that Herebeth only got upset if he was distressed or upset. He definitely wasn’t distressed right now. Emboldened, he started kissing S’brin and letting his own hands trail down his body. S’brin let out a moan, which he attempted to stifle unsuccessfully.

‘If you two don’t pack that in I’m going to tell the Weyrlingmaster.’ T’mudra piped up from the next bed.

‘If you don’t shut up I’ll knock your block off,’ S’brin snapped back.

‘Dragonriders don’t fight.’

‘Sanctimonious little shit!’

He started to get up, but D’gar stopped him. ‘Don’t. It’s not worth it. Sorry, T'mudra. I was feeling upset about what happened today and S'brin was just trying to comfort me.’

‘Yeah, sounds like it. I bet I know which green in this clutch is going to rise first.’

‘You won’t be so sharding stuffy about sex when your Jassainth decides it’s time. I hope a bronze catches her.’ S’brin sounded annoyed.

‘At least I can wait until then.’

‘Only because no one fancies you.’

D’gar could hear other weyrlings stirring, awakened by the raised voices. Next thing, the dragons would rouse too. ‘Sshh,’ he said. ‘People can hear us. If we aren’t careful, we’re all going be in trouble.’

‘And whose fault is that?’ T’mudra just couldn’t let it drop.

D’gar almost wished S’brin would hit him, if only to shut him up. But then S’brin would get told off again. ‘Look, I said I was sorry. Let’s all quieten down before the dragons get disturbed.’ Maybe he could still salvage the situation.

‘What’s happening?’ A sleepy voice asked. It sounded like G’tash. ‘Folk are trying to sleep in here.’

‘Yeah. Don’t wake my dragon up. She’ll think it’s breakfast time already,’ someone else added.

‘Sorry, everyone,’ D’gar said, thinking frantically. ‘I had a nightmare.’

T’mudra snorted. ‘More like a wet dream.’

‘I told you to shut it.’ S’brin had got out of D’gar’s bed and stood menacingly over T’mudra. ‘Or…’

Whatever it was he had been about to say was cut off by a door opening and a wash of light. The Weyrlingmaster had woken.

‘It’s all your fault,’ T’mudra said, very loudly.

‘Now then.’ His boots scraped on the stone as he came closer, holding a glow basket. ‘What’s whose fault?’ The light illuminated S’brin. ‘And why are you out of bed?

‘Needed a piss,’ he muttered.

‘Hmm.’ He sounded suspicious, swinging the light around to see who else was awake and might be involved in whatever had been going on. He turned on T’mudra. ‘Didn’t I hear you say something when I came in?’

T’mudra at least had the grace not to make things worse. ’S'brin, er, tripped over Jassainth’s tail. Woke me up.’ It wasn’t a bad excuse to come up with on the spur of the moment, but was obviously not true as Jassainth was still sleeping deeply.

‘Well, whatever it was, I’ll deal with it in the morning. Before breakfast, in my weyr, you two.’ He pointed at S’brin and T’mudra. ‘Now, everyone stop gawping and get back to sleep. I don’t want any more disturbances tonight.’ He gave a stern look to everyone within the pool of light cast by the glows before leaving.

‘Now look what you’ve done.’ T’mudra’s disgruntled voice piped up again as soon as the door had closed.

‘Just be quiet. He’ll be listening for any more noise in here.’ S’brin sighed heavily and made his way back to his own bed. ‘Sorry,’ he said quietly to D’gar.

In the darkness, D’gar felt the warmth left behind by S’brin’s body leach away from the side of the bed where he’d been. All of a sudden, he had a greater understanding of what it must be like to be stranded between.

Interrupted sleep and residual grief found most of the weyrlings grumpy the following morning. By contrast, the dragons seemed unaffected; they’d keened for the loss of their fellow at the time but had already moved on. Kadoth’s hatchlings were mostly concerned with filling their bellies yet again. It was after the dragons had been fed - but before their human partners had their own breakfast - that S’brin and T’mudra were summoned by the Weyrlingmaster. D’gar had been feeling guilty ever since he woke up.

Why do you worry? Herebeth asked. He was proving a thoughtful dragon, where many of the others were concerned only with eating, sleeping and playing.

My friend is in trouble. I should be in trouble too. What had happened was just as much his fault as S’brin’s and it wasn’t right that he should escape the consequences.

Then go and make it right.

I will. If I can. He left Herebeth curled on his couch and headed after them.

‘Hey, where are you off to?’ J’rud called. ‘It’s breakfast time.’

‘I know. I won’t be long.’

At the mouth of the weyr, he paused. Chareth, N’teren’s brown dragon, regarded him solemnly. He could hear voices from behind the heavy curtain separating the dragon’s couch from the inner weyr. Taking a deep breath, he used the knocker to alert them of his presence.

‘Come in.’ The Weyrlingmaster sounded irritable. Well, his sleep had been interrupted too. Plus, D’gar suddenly realised, he must be affected by the loss of one of his charges the previous day.

He brushed past the curtain. S’brin and T’mudra were standing in front of the desk. S’brin looked slightly surprised to see him.

‘Yes, D’gar. What is it?’

‘I should be here as well,’ he said quickly. ‘I’m just as much to blame as S’brin.’ He didn’t know what had already been said, but they hadn’t been here long, so probably not too much.

‘Oh, really. Maybe you’d like to enlighten us on that?’ He sat back, fixing D’gar with a steely gaze.

‘I was upset about what happened yesterday. I couldn’t sleep. S’brin came over to comfort me.’

The Weyrlingmaster raised his eyebrows.

‘Nothing happened…’ D’gar thought he should make that clear.

T’mudra gave a snort.

‘I see. But possibly something might have done if you’d not been disturbed.’

‘Well, yes. And that would have been as much my fault as his, too.’

‘Right. And where do you come into this?’ he asked T’mudra.

T’mudra looked at the floor. ‘I told them to shut up, that’s all. They woke me up, slobbering all over each other.’

‘That’s enough,’ the Weyrlingmaster said. ‘I don’t need the details. Is that what happened?’ he asked S’brin.

‘More or less.’ He glared at T’mudra.

‘Right. I’m not at all happy about this. All three of you will be on midden duty for the next sevenday.’

T’mudra started to protest. ‘I didn’t do anything wrong…’

‘Enough!’ he barked. ‘Unless you want to carry on for another sevenday after that. Right. You can get out now.’ All three of them turned to leave, when he spoke again. ‘Not you, D’gar.’

S’brin gave him a quick look of sympathy, then followed T’mudra out.

‘I’d expect better from you,’ N’teren said when they were out of earshot. ‘Green riders might get up to that sort of thing all the time, but we shouldn’t. Impressing a brown dragon carries a certain degree of responsibility. I’m pleased that you saw fit to own up to what you’d done, but I don’t want a repeat of it. Do I make myself clear?’

‘Yes, sir.’ They’d just have to be more careful in future, he thought.

‘Good. In the absence of any bronzes in this clutch, you and G’tash should be setting an example to the others. I hope you aren’t going to disappoint me.’

‘No, sir.’

He carried on staring at D’gar for several seconds, then dismissed him. ‘Right. Go and get your breakfast.’

Midden duty was never popular. In addition to gathering all the kitchen scraps and wheeling them to the compost heap in barrows, they also had to move the dragon dung pile from outside the barracks. Each rider had the responsibility of clearing up after their own dragons while they were still young enough not to do their business elsewhere. The resulting mound had to be carried away to the dung shed, a covered area where it was dried out and later sold for fertiliser, to the benefit of the Weyr.

‘At least it’s not summer,’ S’brin said as they raked over the smelly pile. ‘So what did N’teren say to you?’

‘That because I’m a brown rider, I should be more responsible.’

‘So, burying him,’ he gestured toward T’mudra, ‘In the middle of this lot wouldn’t go down too well.’

‘Definitely not.’

‘You wouldn’t dare,’ T’mudra said, although he kept a wary distance.

‘He probably wouldn't,’ S’brin indicated D’gar. ‘But I’m just a crazy green rider, so who knows what I might do.’ He flicked a piece of dung off one of the tines on his rake. It just missed T’mudra’s head.

‘Hey! Watch it.’

‘Sorry,’ S’brin said, sounding very much as if he wasn’t. ‘Accident.’

T’mudra caught D’gar’s eye. ‘If you’re in charge, then tell him off.’

‘Why? I didn’t see what happened. And he said sorry.’

‘Give it up,’ S’brin said. ‘You can’t win.’

T’mudra muttered something but carried on raking. S’brin flashed D’gar a quick smile. It wasn’t so bad, he thought. They’d still look out for each other.

Copyright © 2020 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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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
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A delightful chapter but much like the first story in this series full of an underpinning of melancholy.  We know what happens, at least in general, so hard to be happy about anything for the two of them.

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16 hours ago, centexhairysub said:

A delightful chapter but much like the first story in this series full of an underpinning of melancholy. 

I know. I feel a bit like that myself while I am writing it. However, as I've been getting further along with 'Gone Away, Gone Ahead' I kept wanting to fill in more of D'gar (and S'brin's) backstory from the character notes I'd made, so here it is.

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I like the fact D'gar thinks for himself and questions matters. He'll be less hidebound than other old-timers in the future.

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I think I'll stop reading the comments. I don't want to get ahead of the stories to come.😄 I am looking forward to this series. Mawgrim you are writing this so very well. I love both the characters and their interactions with each other.  

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3 hours ago, raven1 said:

 

I think I'll stop reading the comments. I don't want to get ahead of the stories to come

 

You will find a certain degree of spoilers in the comments, mainly because I wrote 'Gone Away, Gone Ahead' - the Ninth Pass story - first, then wrote this prequel set in the Eighth Pass.

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