Thread: DragonDays
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Old Jul 24 2006, 10:47 AM   #10
Kath
Starsmith


Weyrwoman
 
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Oop North

Fan of: Moreta
Default Re: DragonDays

Building a Weyr

"TEN!''

In the still, cold, morning air, Cara Telgar's high-pitched shout carried remarkably well, Pete mused. The small child was so well wrapped in wherry-hide, she seemed almost as wide as she was tall. Telgar, standing proudly behind her, looked just as lanky and emaciated as he always had, and if he was starting to go grey around the edges, well, he still worked with an energy that men and women more than half his age could envy.

In the corner of his vision, Pete spotted another couple of firelizards hopping off their human friends' shoulders and vanishing between. They'd been gradually disappearing all morning, and he hoped none would still be hanging around by the time Cara finished her countdown. He'd encouraged his own small fair to see to themselves today, and they were now probably pestering his parents back at the Hold. After Garben'd blown its head off, he'd not seem any of them for more than a week, and he didn't reckon they'd be much more happy with today's activities.

Pete raised a hand to cover a yawn. Two hours before dawn they'd started, and on a rest-day too! Okay, so he could have spent a little less time in the bar last night, but at least he didn't have a sore head to show for it. In a way, he was a little glad Tarrie hadn't turned up.

So was she, Porth says.

What had his dragon been gossiping about now? Pete wondered.

Oh, not a lot. You, mostly.

And?

And what?

"SIX!''

Huh? What happened to seven? Ah, there it went. A few brief laughs rippled through the crowd, the spectators glad to hear the countdown resume a more predictable pattern. Well, so long as Cara got "one'' in the right place, that was really all that mattered. Pete craned his neck round to smile at his dragon lounging in the sunshine by the lake's edge. There was a definite humourous edge to Gilgath's mental voice; the bronze could never hide his attempts to wind his rider up. Details, dragon-mine, details. Not that there's time for that now. Wouldn't want you to get caught off-guard and fall off your perch now, would we?

What, ME?

Get ready!

"ONE!''

Pete covered his ears in anticipation, and watched the young girl bend down to twist the control-unit's key. After that, things seemed to happen in slow motion. He swore he could feel the trembling of the ground the merest fraction of a second before the other signs of the explosion: a billowing grey cloud that swiftly engulfed father and daughter in dust, and an echoing thundercrack that repeated many times around the weyr-bowl before gradually dying away. Around him, the other riders and workers were cheering and jumping around, not that he could hear them, or even his own whoops, over the incessant ringing in his ears. Somewhere out there, Gilgath was also bellowing his excitement. That, Pete could sense far too well.

Ever so slowly, his hearing returned and the dust cloud started to thin. It didn't seem to show any signs of settling just yet, and still masked the far end of the bowl completely. The small herd of culls, penned up behind them beside the lake, showed no signs of settling either. It must have been pretty unnerving for the animals, as if being forced into close proximity with dragons wasn't bad enough. As the seconds dragged on, Pete started to wonder if the engineer and his daughter were okay. As if on cue, a darker shape suddenly resolved itself into Telgar's figure, striding swiftly out of the pale grey confusion with a grinning Cara perched on his shoulders, twin pig-tails poking out from behind the smallest pair of ear-defenders Pete had ever seen. As Telgar reached the group, he swung her down with a smile, and the small child awkwardly ran off, presumably to rejoin her siblings and that ugly pet of hers. So now, the only worry was whether the blasting had worked the way they intended. Did the dragons and their riders now have the makings of an easily accessible hatching cavern, or... not?

David Caterel was the first of the riders to reach Telgar, and Pete himself was not far behind.

"So Telgar, how well do you think it went?'' Dave asked.

"Well?'' The tall engineer shook his head, and sighed. "The goddess of the mountains will likely never forgive me, but we worked carefully enough that she's unlikely to punish me in return. There are many checks to be made, of course, but that is why we began our work so early this fine, rest-day morning. It will not take so long that we do not finish before midday, I believe, unless Pern decides to surprise me after all.'' His broad, satisfied smile gained a wry edge. Telgar knew very well the value of his expertise, but wasn't blind to the ever-present limitations of human fallibility.

"Hey, that's not bad,'' Pete said. "I could do with a few hours of rest after all that.'' They'd certainly had little enough chance to pause so far that morning. While most of Fort Hold's population were taking things easy, and maybe now beginning to don their best clothes in preparation for the day's entertainment, the riders, support workers and engineers had been hard at work for hours. First, there'd been the final engineering surveys, with the aid of Cara Telgar's ugly pet. Then there'd been the drilling, wiring and placing the charges, digging out the debris... hours of backbreaking labour, basically. The photophobe had worked as tirelessly as the humans, snuffling over ever inch of the large cavern, until the encroaching twilight
had her creeling for her blindfold and rest. Now, at last, it was time for humans to follow her example. Working on a rest-day wasn't ideal, but the combination of no Thread, and access to all the free power-packs without having to fight for them was too good to pass up.

"Who said anything about rest?'' Dave said, amused.

"Hell no!'' Paul said, joining the group. "We've a few miles of stock fencing to get set up, and Porrig's claiming anything we've not used by the end of the day.''

There were groans all round, but Pete couldn't deny the sense of it. The riders needed the fields made ready before the last of the livestock was brought up north, and that needed doing before the next southern fall. No sense leaving meat that could fill a dragon's belly to the rapacious appetite of Thread! And, providing they started soon enough, no-one would have an excuse to leave for the Hold before the work was done.

"Shall we see if Tarrie's brewed any fresh Klah up first, before she stinks the place out with numbweed?'' Kathy suggested. "We've time for that, and you guys know I'm really not a morning person!''

"Yeah.'' Now that was a sentiment that Pete could totally agree with. As the group walked over to join the humans and dragons outside the other main cavern, which would eventually become the communal living area, Pete wondered once again what exactly Gilgath had told Porth, and what Porth had passed on to her rider. Tarrie was standing by the outdoor stove, pouring the Klah into mugs and chatting to Pol. They hadn't completely escaped the dust cloud, not that it made any difference to Pol's tousled white mane, but at least the Klah would have been safe enough in its kettle. And if Pol was here, that meant... yes, that was Milath behind Manooth. Dark Alianne was standing beside the pale blonde Nyassa, helping the tall rider affix various lengths of wires to different parts of Milath's anatomy. Pete glanced round to see if Dave was still following them over, but the other man had stopped, to carry on talking to Telgar. As he watched, the pair turned and began heading back to the hatching cavern. No, Pete couldn't really blame Dave for that, though it was horrible seeing them avoid each other like this. Deep down, the riders were too close-knit a team for all this awkwardness; surely it couldn't last! Life was too short to smother your feelings with false solicitousness, or to hide away in solitude, especially with Thread falling.

"Here.''

Pete gave a start, and smiled a welcome at Tarrie. He hadn't heard her approach at all, but there she was, bearing a tray with three steaming mugs.

"Hey, Tarrie. Please tell me one of those is mine?''

"Yours, Dave's and Telgar's.'' She gave him a sideways, conspiratorial look. "If you move quickly, Gilgath won't end up being the beast of burden!''

Ah, the fence posts! Gilgath must have kept Porth amused enough, then. "I owe you, Tarrie.''

She winked, brushed a smudge of dust off her face with the back of her sleeve, and hurried back, not giving him a chance to start the conversation he'd wanted last night. Well, lunch time would have to do.

I would rather carry people than fence posts, Gilgath said.

Juggling mug and tray, Pete took a gulp of Klah and checked out the large stack of metal poles and fence wire by the walls of the bowl; Manooth had made a poor choice of resting spot right beside them.

If you head up to the ridge for now, you'll be fine.

Pete lifted his head, and held a hand over his eyes as he watched Gilgath launch himself skywards and wing his way up to the heights, a sight he'd never tire of seeing. The bronze settled on one of the lower flat stretches to the north of the bowl, partially in the shadow of Porth's perch. She, Siglath and Amalath had had a bit of a disagreement over the best roosting ground earlier that morning, or so it had seemed to Pete on the ground. Who knew how the queens' hierarchy really worked? Certainly every male dragon would defer to a queen's requests, or to Carenath as 'Leader' in threadfall. And browns would rarely disagree with their larger bronze siblings. But Porth and Faranth had a much more marginal edge over the other queens in their wings, and the changing dynamics amongst the group had Pete lost entirely. Today though, Porth had vocally claimed the best sunlight on the sheltered lee ridge without a second thought, and had pointedly ignored Siglath's persistent complaints that there was ample room for two. Females. Who could figure them? Certainly not Dave or Telgar, that was for sure!

"...better than a mile deep, we've traced that vein--Ah! Semling, you bear a most welcome gift.''

"Fort's finest, Telgar,'' Pete said, handing the spare mugs over to the other two men and tucking the tray beneath his arm.

"Telgar was telling me of a new find; firestone, good quality, accessible, and scarcely twenty klicks from here,'' Dave said.

Pete politely mumbled a few appreciative comments, and quickly made his excuses. Sean would be glad to hear that news, but Pete wasn't particularly interested in the gritty details. Poetic and lyrical the geologist might be, but listening to him extolling the glories of the rocks while his klah went cold wasn't his idea of a good time.

Polenth says that his rider...

I know, I know! Pete cut Gilgath off mid-thought. Really, the sooner things got back to normal, the better. Alianne really didn't hate Dave or anything, and she and Nyassa weren't even anywhere near the others. But everyone was trying so hard not to be awkward around each other that it seemed to be having completely the opposite effect. It didn't help that only a select few other than the riders knew what had really happened down south, not that the scuttlebutt could be held in check much longer. Of course, half the Hold could probably sense the tensions in the group, even if they didn't quite know the cause. At least Dave wouldn't be stuck talking to Telgar any longer than he wanted to, not with a growing cluster of engineers heading in that direction. Ozzie Munson gave him a big thumbs-up as he jogged past, followed by one of the Ostrovskys, probably Sonja, though it was hard to tell underneath all the equipment she was carrying. Everyone else seemed to be slowly working their way towards the fencing material, and Pete soon found himself dragged in to help loading up the hapless Manooth. By the time he returned to his mug, left momentarily on a rock, it was cold, and had a drowning vtol in it. He grimaced at Pol, and shook the mug out on the ground.

"Next time, drink it while it's hot.''

"You're not going back and forth with Milath?''

"With these joints?'' Pol cracked his knuckles and turned back to adjust his datalogger. "No, all that between-ings best left to you youngsters. Bay and I'll take care of all the science you need, but you won't get us popping in and out any more than we have to. Or wielding sledgehammers, for that matter.''

"Sledgehammers?''

Pete twisted round, as Pol nodded at something over his shoulder. Today was definitely his day for women sneaking up on him. This time, it was Kathy's tanned figure that confronted him, a heavy tool slung over each shoulder.

"Time to go, Pete.''


***


Once they'd reached the weyr's meadows, a short hop down from the eastern slope of the bowl, work progressed quickly. Yet again, Dave threw himself into things with a focussed intensity that had characterised his every action since Chereth's flight. An outsider might have thought he was trying to work his way back into the riders' good books, trying to prove his worth to the team, but the riders knew better. Dave might have been masking his feelings in hard work, but he wasn't the only one acting somewhat elusive. Catherine didn't seem willing to let Nick out of her sight, Sean and Sorka kept vanishing off for various meetings. Tarrie had leapt at the chance to brew numbweed all afternoon, even if that was the traditional chore for the rider of a grounded dragon. The hold-folk certainly preferred not to have dragon-scaled quantities brewed up back at the Fort, and any injury that meant you used up a lot of it automatically put the rider top of the rota to replace it. No, Dave was simply moving forwards in his own way, drawing a line under the past. Though it was really Alianne he needed to act normally around, not anyone else.

At least Alianne was talking to people again, apparently. According to Nyassa and Milath, she'd almost seemed herself first thing this morning. But at least Samuel hadn't been part of the morning's work team for once, being back at the Fort helping prepare for the gather instead. Looking Alianne in the eye was one thing, her husband quite another. As the sun rose higher towards noon and beyond, the riders frequently swapped tasks with each other, taking turns to dig post holes, hammer posts in, unwind the bulky reels of wire meshing, and attach the awkward clips that held the fencing together. Right now, Kathy was busy teasing the last few recalcitrant ties into place, whacking them with a hammer whenever necessary.

"All done with this one,'' Kathy said wearily, and stuffed her hammer and pliers back into a trouser pocket. Like everyone else, she'd quickly peeled off her jacket, which was now tied loosely around her waist. It wasn't particularly warm in these mountains at this time of year, but hard work and a bit of sunshine soon brought a glow to everyone's faces.

Pete grabbed the large hammer and hefted it up onto a shoulder. "Post time again, huh?'' The division of labour was working quite well, although the wide length of fencing crossing the landscape behind him didn't look half as long as it felt. It would probably have been a much quicker job if they'd had machine power for it, but the power packs they did have available were busily in use by the engineers and Nick's team of plumbers back at the bowl. Unskilled manual work like this was something the riders could manage on their own, when they could spare the time, and it was far better to have the well-trained JOATs fixing up the tricky things like a decent hot water supply. Now, that was another reason to hope that Alianne didn't sour her husband's opinions of the riders any time soon. With a quick hammer blow, Pete felt the last post of their batch slip partway towards its alloted depth. Pausing for breath, he spun slowly round in a full cirlce to survey the view, and there coming over the rise were the other three riders: Jerry, Uloa and Pranav.

"Are you guys here already?'' he asked, surprised. Although, thinking about it, he'd noticed Milath appear and disappear a fair few times, so they couldn't have finished too early. And he was certainly hungry enough for some lunch, too!

"Well, the other teams have checked out, and we're out of posts.'' Jerry answered. "Lili must have calculated things to the last metre.''

"You mean millimetre!''

"Yeah, so hurry up with that last one so we can all head back for some lunch!'' Uloa encouraged.

Not that they'd want to head back to the weyr before Tarrie'd finished boiling the first batch of numbweed, Pete mused as Dave unwound the last length of meshing towards him. She'd been kind of subdued after Chereth's flight, and not with the kind of anxiousness she normally got when she was stressed, or worried about something, like when her mother had had a cancer last year. No, she just seemed... watchful, and quiet, with a certainty to her actions that seemed to have more to do with fatalism than any kind of self-assurance. Maybe it was Porth's injury. Maybe it was Porth. Was that why she'd not joined him and the others last night? Had she thought he'd meant...?

"Are you going to swing that thing today or not?'' Dave said.

"Sorry,'' Pete mumbled, losing track of his thoughts. He'd almost been onto something there, maybe. With a few careful blows, he drove the last post deeply into the ground, and stepped back, wiping sweat on his sleeve, so that Kathy and Dave could fix the last running lengths of wire to it. Yes, it was a job well done.

"So, who's giving us a lift back up to the weyr?'' he asked. The new road curved past the bottom of the meadow, its newly levelled surface spanning all the miles back to the Hold, and the last few hundred meters in a switchback path approaching up to the main entrance to the Weyr. It certainly wasn't a road like those of old Terra, but it was better than nothing, and it would do the job. But from here, it was up hill all the way.

Uloa spoke up quickly. "I asked Elliath while you were, um, thinking. Sean wants Pranav and I back at the Hold for more drills this afternoon, so it makes sense for us to drop the rest of you off, and head straight there. Is that okay?''

Pete exchanged a glance with Kathy, who rolled her eyes as Dave reassured the younger riders that yes, it was a sensible plan. Uloa was a thoughtful, caring young woman, but she really didn't seem comfortable making decisions on her own. Ith and Elliath were soon gliding in to land, and Pete followed Dave over to the young brown. The young dragons had flown well during yesterday's fall, and would probably graduate to full wing-duty within the month. It was always strange to ride a dragon other than your own, not to sense each turn and wingbeat before it happened. But once in the air, they had a fine view of their new field, which Paul was even now searching for livestock to fill it with, though the animals would still have to be taken up to the main cavern during fall for a while to come. Yes, they'd done a good job today. Eventually, the temporary fencing would be replaced by dry stone walls, and stone thread shelters would replace the bulkhead-panel lean-to on the north-east side of the meadow. Of course, the culls would always be kept in the bowl, separate from the breeding stock. Those up there now were the expendable ones, ready for whenever a dragon got hungry. But as far as building material went, they should definitely have enough spare rock after today's excavations! But that was probably a job for next spring. For now, it was enough that the ground work had been done.

Pete sniffed cautiously at the weyr bowl air as he dismounted from Ith, and walked far enough away to give the young dragon room to take off again. There was a fair deal of steam rising from Tarrie's stove, but the large grey vat used for boiling the numbweed was nowhere to be seen. The only obvious odour was the slightly musky scent of not-quite dragon, and sure enough, there was Telgar's miscegenated ugly ambling out of the soon-to-be hatching cavern in the tow of three of his children, with a thick hood shielding her yellowish head and a giggling Cara perched between her stubby wings. Well, she sure wasn't a dragon, but at least she'd found a use, and some friends.

Of course that's no dragon! Gilgath snorted in disdain. You certainly cannot compare her with Porth, or Milath.

Oh, I agree! It'd be like comparing numbweed with... chilli?
Pete sighed with happiness as the aroma reached him. They had hours more work ahead of them this afternoon, but at least they had one of his favourite meals to look forward to first. As the riders assembled from their various tasks and settled down to eat, Telgar quickly explained the few little jobs that still needed to be done. Not that building a perfectly working geothermal bore was ever a little task, but that was the worst of it. As they'd already got several obvious bugs worked out installing the heating system for the main weyr caverns, the engineers didn't think it'd be too problematic. And although the heat-exchangers were awkward to install, once in place, they could be easily managed and maintained, with little need for complex replacement parts. The riders and their support workers had the powerpacks and stonecutters assigned for the rest of the week, which was more than enough time to smooth over the rough patches in the new cavern, and lay the ground work for the hypocaust which would one day heat the hatching sands. Of course, they'd be using what was effectively a large electric blanket for the first few months, maybe up to a year, until all the building work was finished. But at least now they could really see how quickly the work would progress.

Deciding which bit to work on first, and how much room Chereth needed to clutch in was a bit more tricky, and no one could agree on the best spot. Eventually, Kathy called Amalath down to help, and the plump gold agreeably posed in various spots as if she owned the place, much to Tarrie's growing irritation. So much for people treading softly around each other. Pete winced as Tarrie visibly stopped herself saying something nasty, and stormed off to brew some more numbweed. But the almost-argument seemed to spur people back into cooperation again, and a compromise decision was finally reached.

"I think that's enough procrastination for one day,'' Catherine said, as she straightened herself up and reeled in her tape measure for the fourth or fifth time. "Nick and I have definitely got all of the measurements we need, even if you guys do end up changing your minds again; we'll get on back to the Hold and start sorting out the components for the electrics.''

"Yeah, right. Don't pretend you won't be dancing all night long,'' Jerry said easily.

"Wining and dining the resources committee is more like it!''

"Look, why don't we all head off?'' Kathy asked. "We're just going to get more tired and annoyed if we keep on like this, and it is supposed to be a rest day, isn't it?''

"So much to do, so little time,'' Pete said with a grin. "Especially if we're going to get the drilling teams in here in a few days time.'' He was surprised to still be feeling pretty energetic. "I'll probably ache all over tomorrow, and be good for nothing at all. So if Kathy'll work her healing charms on me then, I'll do her share of the rubble-hauling today.''

"Who are you trying to impress with those muscles, Petey-boy?'' she mocked, shaking her head. "Okay, okay, anyone who needs a massage tomorrow knows where to find me. Better that than listening to you big, strong men moaning all day long.''

Pete spluttered in denial, but the look in Kathy and Catherine's eyes said he'd be fighting a losing battle if he tried, even with Jerry and Dave's support. Nick simply winked, and stayed diplomatically silent. Lifting his arms in defeat, Pete wandered back out into the daylight, and the other riders soon followed, some to mount their dragons and return to the Hold, and a hardy few to stick around for a few hours of wielding shovels. Amalath and Siglath had barely been gone a moment before Porth peeled herself off her sunny spot on the heights, where she'd spent the entire day resting, to glide down to Tarrie's side.

"Well, look at that,'' Dave muttered. "She was staying up there just to spite them, wasn't she?''

"Damned if I know,'' Jerry said. "But that's females for you.''
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