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Old Jan 7 2017, 06:37 PM   #1

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Default The Cases of Curious Convergence

Pern, its geography, climate, socio-economic and political systems are copyright to the Estate of Anne Inez McCaffrey.

(To help readers with the two strands to the story, Filona's strand is italicised.)

Maree brought the last verse of the song to an end with a gitar flourish. It was nearly time for nooning, and she could hear parents, fosterers and older siblings gathering outside the Little Hall to collect the young members of the class and to take them away to eat.

After dismissing the class, she started to tidy the Learning Hall. Even after nearly three months assisting Harper Indyne at Benden Weyr, she still found it odd and, to some extent, un-nerving to be trusted with an entire class. After all, they were less than ten years younger than her. She moved around collecting colouring sticks from tables (and floor) and picking up discarded scraps of parchment, left over from the figuring and writing practice with which they had started the morning’s lessons, for scraping clean for re-use.

There seemed to be a lot of space left in the box containing the colours. She checked all around the room again. There weren’t any left on the tables, or on the floor, or even under the storage shelves along the wall. Except for one stick chewed to death, there weren’t any in the sack of rubbish: she emptied it out to make sure. Refilling the sack, she thought hard. Around a ten or a dozen colour sticks were missing and she couldn’t remember seeing any of the pupils leaving the room clutching a handful.


Filona brought the last verse of the song to an end with a harp flourish. It was nearly time for nooning, and she could hear parents, fosterers and older siblings gathering outside the Little Hall to collect the young members of the class and to take them away to eat.

After dismissing the class, she started to tidy the Learning Hall. Even after a couple of months assisting Harper C’lef at High Reaches Weyr, she still found it odd and, to some extent, un-nerving to be trusted with an entire class. After all, they were less than ten years younger than her. She moved around collecting colouring sticks from tables (and floor) and picking up discarded scraps of parchment, left over from the figuring and writing practice with which they had started the morning’s lessons, for scraping clean for re-use.

Suddenly she halted her activities: the dragons were keening the passing of one of their number. She ran out to the main crater thinking hard; none of the dragons were known to be near death, nor were any of the riders.
She was spotted by Weyrwoman Lyza, and grabbed into an enveloping hug. “Be brave, Filona.”
“Why? Who?”
“Raith’s gone between with C’lef.”
“What?” She burst into tears. “Why?”
“We don’t know why yet. They were flying a sweep down to the south. Perhaps C’lef had a sudden heart attack.”
“He was fine at breakfast.”
“I know.”
“Who’ll take over? I can’t.”
“No poppet: we have to send for the Master Harper. He’ll have to appoint somebody new to be Harper. Come on, I’m taking you to the infirmary. You’ve had a nasty shock and I think we should keep an eye on you.” M’tak joined them and picked Filona up to carry her.
“What about our practice? We were meant to spend the afternoon on the ballads for Turn’s End.”
“We’ll sort that out for you later. Come on. Thinking on it: I think you’ll be better off in my weyr.”


After eating a hasty nooning in the kitchen cavern, Maree returned to the Little Hall and settled down to some serious practice. Harper Indyne was due to join her in a glass or so. With Turn’s End a matter of a few days away, and a whole series of performances to ready, she knew she really had to buckle down to the disciplines of finger and breathing exercises before her Master joined her and they worked on the set ballads.

Nearly a glass later, the door opened to reveal, not the expected Indyne, but one of her pupils.
“What are you doing here, Adan?”
“Ma sent me to find a orange colour stick.” He said, heading across the Hall to where the box of colours was stored. “I’s teaching her to write an’ she’s teaching me to draw.”
Before Maree could make any reply, the door opened again and Master Indyne entered to commence their joint practice.
“Hallo, young Adan. What are you doing here?”
“He’s BORROWING a colour stick for his mother: aren’t you Adan?” Maree gave him a hard look. Adan scuffed a shoe on the floor. “Run along Adan.”
He ran out of the door clutching the colour, and the two musicians settled down to work.


Filona didn’t feel like eating a nooning, not even a mug of soup, and spent the afternoon asleep on Lyza’s bed fellised out. They wakened her up in the evening and insisted on her eating a light meal after which she went back to sleep.


That evening, with her wrists aching from four hours of intense practice, Maree collected her meal and looked round the cavern looking for Adan. She had spoken briefly to his mother, Candilla, a couple of times when it had been her turn to collect the group of children Maree mentally named as the ‘Cavern Crew’, the offspring of the Drudges. She spotted the pair at a side table and headed across towards them.

“May I join you two?”
Adan nodded.
His mother gestured to the seat opposite her. “You’re from Ru-atha aren’t you?”
“Yes. Do you know it?”
“My mother came from Ru-atha.”
“How did she land up over this side of Pern??
“She was sent here. She was called Merle an’ she came from Ru-atha Hold where her Da was a guard, an’ her got married to a holder in north west of the Holding. She was very pretty an’ the Weyr-Leader spotted her an’ had her. He used to boast that he could have any woman he wanted. Well he got her pregnant with me, an’ that finished things. Her husband threw her out an’ told her to go to the Weyr, to her lover. The Weyr-Leader didn’t want her round the weyr: he was partnered with the senior gold rider after all, an’ he’d had Merle once; that was all he wanted her for, as yet another woman he’d managed to have.” Merle stopped to have drink.
“Was that T’rump?” asked Maree.
“Yes; the tunnel snake! He got threaded the first fall of this Pass an’ we’re told he died in agonies! Good! When Ma arrived at the Weyr, it was some turns before this Pass started, the Weyr Woman, Quilla, didn’t want Ma around the weyr and arranged for her to come over here, as far away as she could get her.”
“I’m very sorry for her. What awful way to treat her.” Maree turned to Adan. “Did you know; I’ve got a brother called Adan; he’s five.”
“Is he clever like me?”
“Probably; but he’s only just learning his letters and numbers.”
“Which bit of Ru-atha do you come from?” asked Candilla.
“Rundles: it’s a hold down in the south-east of the Holding.”
“I’ve never been to Ru-atha.”
“Perhaps we should get you two to visit sometime.”


Next morning Lyza woke Filona and, when she burst back into tears, wrapped her into another hug.
“I think you’d be better off at home for a bit. Would you like me to arrange that?”
“Yes; I want my mother and Maree.”
“I’ll find a rider to take you. I’d take you myself, but I’ve got to be here for Master Harper Kandar when he arrives.”

Later that morning, dressed in her leathers, carrying a small bag of bits and bobs on her back, and clutching her harp in its case, Filona met K’vill and his green dragon, Pameth, in the weyr bowl.
K’vill took her instrument case from her and strapped it behind clear of where Filona would be seated. “Would you mind if we flew you home straight? I’ve got to do the sweep flight down that way today and it seems stupid to waste time to take you between and then have to fly it straight as well.”
“No that’s fine by me. I’d like to see some bits of Ru-atha I don’t know, and going between I wouldn’t see anything.”


Next morning, Maree was breakfasting in the Kitchen Cavern. Sniffing hard at the smell of baking bread, she collected a large bowl of cereal, adde sweetening, and found a seat. She was well down the bowl when Head Woman Fensra banged a on a large pot for silence.
“I’d just like to remind people that we’ve got a trader train due in around nooning time. And more importantly, we’ve got thread-fall due the morning of Turn’s End. The weather’s rather warm for this time of year. So, Weyr-Leader’s orders, this time we’re not celebrating with alcohol. We do NOT want to lose any of you due to thick heads.”
Master Indyne, clutching a very large mug of klah, approached Maree. “That will put a crimp in a lot of peoples’ celebrating. But, at least they’re more likely to remember what I read out by way of announcements.”

After a morning’s teaching, Maree was back in the Kitchen Cavern when a pair walked in still in their riding leathers and pulling off their helmets. Garmish, seated the other side of the cavern, leapt to his feet, rushed over and wrapped one of the pair in a great hug, yelling “Sareel!”
Into the following silence she said, “Hi you. I’ve got a couple of days to visit you lot before going home for Turn’s End. By the way; there’s a trader train just entering the other end of the tunnel.”
At her last sentence, a lot of people went back to eating, hurrying through their food in order to get outside in the Bowl to welcome the traders. The rest, Maree and Indyne included, took their time; the traders would be here until tomorrow.

Indyne and Maree finally put they empty plates on the stack for washing. Candilla, up to her elbows in suds, gave them a cheery grin. They wandered out into the Bowl which was a hive of activity. The trader wagons were drawn up in two lines, burden beasts were being unhitched and led away, and Trader Lilcampe was supervising the setting up of an avenue of stalls. Maree spotted Dzakalyn chatting to an older pair of traders. Dzalalyn looked round and beckoned her over.
“These are my parents,” she said as soon as Maree was close. “Mum, Dad, this is Maree.”
Dzalalyn’s father grabbed her hand and shook it hard. “I’m . . . WE’RE very pleased to meet you. Us Au Connells don’t often come out on the trading routes; we run the main storage establishments. But, we had to come and find you; you gave us back our family history.”
Maree blushed: not just her face but right down inside her winter clothing as well. “I’m glad we found it for you. It wasn’t just me you know, my twin Filona, and Sareel from the Fort Family were involved too.”
“Yes, but it was you twins who found the book and realised what it was, AND made us a copy. We’ve a thank you gift for the two of you . . .” He went to a nearby wagon, and returned with a bundle in his arms. “These are for you and your sister.” He offered the bundle to Maree.

Maree fumbled with the bundle, till Dzakalyn grabbed it and helped her, holding out one of a pair of heavy-weight harper-blue cloaks of close-woven wool, each lined with wherry-down, and with a gold dragon in flight embroidered on the back. Maree swung it round her shoulders and snuggled into it. “It’s beautiful; and so warm. You really shouldn’t have; but I’m glad you did. I’ll have to wait to give Filona hers, I’m going to be busy here playing for Turn’s End, and she’ll be doing the same. I don’t think we’ll be meeting up till around the Spring Evener.”

Master Indyne, standing behind her, coughed. “Hrumph! We could arrange for you to fly across to High Reaches a bit sooner than that. There are routine messenger flights between the Weyrs fairly frequently. I’m sure we could send you as a passenger. Perhaps we could get you there for Turn’s End?”
“But . . . we’ve been practicing all the music to play here.”
“Yes. But, useful though you are, and undoubtedly you add an extra to the various ballads and dances, I’ve done it with just the few musical riders in the past, and can do it thus again.”


K’vill, with Filona firmly strapped on to Pameth behind him, was flying gently eastwards down a wooded river valley leading to the Ice Lake above Ru-atha Hold. He was checking the odd spot of damage done by thread last time they had Fall over these hills, and watching for message pennants. The holdings up here tended to either work the timber stands, or to be pastoral with hardy animals grazing for as much of the year as possible, moving up and down the heights as weather permitted. Not much was moving on the hills this close to Turn’s End so the sight of a lone hunter gesturing to them with his bow from the edge where the forests changed to pasture was a welcome break from boredom.

K’vill had Pameth swoop much lower and come to a hover just above the ground.

Pameth and K’vill screamed and, to Filona’s horror, an arrow pinned K’vill’s left arm to his chest. Pameth went between with Filona struggling to keep K’vill upright and trying desperately to picture the Weyr Bowl.
“The Weyr! The Weyr! Take us to the Weyr! I don’t want to disappear! The Weyr!”


Their arrival back at High Reaches Weyr, just as Master Harper Kandar was dismounting from the Fort dragon that had transported him, caused a fluster. As the welcoming delegation diverted to lift K’vill down, and to help a very relieved Filona to get down and unstrap her harp, Lyza was sending a weyrling to fetch the healer. Pameth was crooning at her rider and getting in the way. Kandar, attended by Weyr Leader M’tak, grabbed Filona and moved her away from the bustle.

“What on earth happed?”
“We were just flying along, and there was this hunter waving to us, and then he shot K’vill.”
“Where was this?”
“We were in a river valley to the west of the Ice Lake. I could show you on a map.”
“Come on then: to the Records Room.”
The three headed up the steps to Lyza’s weyr; leaving everybody else to carry K’vill to the infirmary, extract the arrow and treat his wounds.

After a while Lyza joined them there and found them imbibing the mulled wine and klah put ready for Kandar’s arrival.
“Well,” she said in reply to a look from M’tak, “he’ll live. He won’t be flying for many a seven-day but he’ll live. If the arrow had not gone through his arm first, he’d be dead.”
“Filona’s given me the approximate location. I’ll take my wing down there and find the mad idiot.”
“NO YOU SHARDING WELL WON’T! I’m not risking any more riders. By the First Shell, I bet it was him who shot C’lef, or Wraith. Whoever he is, he’s got a thing about riders and we cannot afford to lose any more.”
“Kandar coughed. “There’s that Mastersmith who’s good at solving mysteries, and finding people. Why don’t we get him in? He could quietly infiltrate and probably find the man.”
“Uncle Byrt?”
“Oh, you know him of course.”
“Uncle?” asked Lyza.
“Well; not a real one, we just call him that.”
M’tak drained his mug and put it down. “Then, instead of taking my wing on a manhunt down south, I’ll fly across to Telgar instead and meet with Vill.”
“And I,” added Lyza, “am going to take you home, Filona, on Oveth, by a totally different route.”


Byrt, with just one runner, was set down on the margin of the Ice Lake high in the mountains to the west of Ru-atha Hold. He was dressed for the weather and strapped his pack to his runner and climbed aboard. He had had a good study of Lord Rahon’s maps and had an idea of where he needed to go and who he had to meet. Unless the offender was a holdless vagrant, there only two holdings up this valley to check out.

In the cold mountain air, the warm air he and his runner were exhaling left clouds on the air like a pair of flaming dragons. He guided his runner into the start of a narrow game trail which headed roughly for the holding on the southern side of the valley, holding it to a gentle amble that gave him a chance to approach quietly, and to avoid pitching off if it stepped into a hole hidden by the snow.

There were no signs of a hunter. Not somebody hunting for the pot anyway; all the wild wherries had flown south to warmer climes and the domesticated goats were penned in byres. The few feral ones had probably migrated south to where they could forage more easily.

After a couple of glasses he started to smell whiffs of wood-smoke. Dismounting and tethering the runner to a tree, Byrt carefully approached the hold: a smallish fieldstone dwelling set in a small clearing surrounded by trees. Circling round the site he came across a trace with numerous tracks all of which appeared to be heading away from the dwelling down towards the river. The chimney was only releasing a trickle of smoke and the place appeared deserted. Choosing his line of approach carefully, Byrt peered in the windows and tried the door. A crude padlock held it closed. Everybody was out. From the tracks, they had headed to the other holding.

He was watering his runner at the basic bridge over the river when he heard the sounds of approaching people: just quiet murmurs. Into view came an extended family; parents, a handful of children, and an oldster so wrapped up its sex was not discernible.

After the cautious greetings of strangers meeting unexpectedly, Byrt asked them where they had been. “It’s a bit early to celebrate Turn’s End?”
“We’s been to a burying.”
“Oh: who?”
“Old man Yalb. He’s been having funny turns; the way some oldsters go.”
“Tell me about him?”


That evening M’tak’s Wroth, having picked up Byrt from a sunset rendezvous back at the Ice Lake, back-winged in to land at Rundles. Lyza’s Oveth crooned a greeting from her spot on the cliff top next to where the water from the dams spilt over into the yard. A strange bronze was perched the other side of the running water.

“Wroth says that’s Nimorth from Benden,” M’tak told Byrt. “His rider’s K’lo, one of the sons of the Igen Lord Holder.”
The hold door swung open, light spilled across the yard, and Randeel appeared to welcome the latest visitors. “Stick that runner in the barn and come in and join the gather.”
“Who’s here?”
“Judging by the crowding in the kitchen, everyone on Pern. Lyza brought Filona, K’lo brought Maree, Lord Rahon rode up escorting Sair home for Turn’s End, and Rindeeno is due to arrive any time now.”

In the kitchen they found Lord Rahon seated at the table, a large mug of klah in front of him, Perani on his lap playing finger games. Filona was seated between her sister and her mother to whom she was closely snuggled. They were surrounded by Lyza and Suan, both radiating concern, Sair was over by the fire with her parents, Dhernyron and Koni, telling them all about her time at the Hold. Adan came and grabbed Byrt’s hand and dragged him over to an empty chair.

“So, Byrt,” said Rahon after a bit, “did you find anything out? Can I send my guards to arrest somebody?”
“Well; if I’m right, it’s too late to arrest him. He’s dead. But, I spoke to his family and the neighbours.”
“How did he die?”
“He was an old man whose first wife was raped by a bronze-rider back before the start of this Pass.” Maree sat up. “He threw her out when he found she was pregnant: sent her off to the weyr. There’s no record of her there and none of the family knows what happened to her. Anyway; recently he went off his head, blaming all riders of every age, colour and rank. He took to going off out claiming he was going hunting. He was: for dragon riders. Yesterday evening he was stamping round his hold saying he’s got one. This morning he went off out again early. Then midmorning, he came home, threw his bow and arrows down and charges back out heading down river. After a bit they went looking for him and tracked him down to a pool about halfway to the Ice Lake, where he had drowned himself after slashing his wrists. They hauled him out and didn’t waste any time before burying him. I suppose they suspect what he was doing and wanted nothing to do with it or him. Bury the evidence.”

Maree stretched and said, “I know what happened to her: his first wife.”
“You do?” Jeeno asked.
“She was raped by T’rump and was called Merle. She’s now dead. She was shipped across to Benden where she had a daughter, Candilla, who now works in the kitchens.”
“I’ve got a half-sister over there?” Asked Lyza.
“I suppose so. Candilla has a seven-year old son called Adan, who is in the class I’m teaching.”
While folks were absorbing this; Lord Rahon turned to Byrt. “Do you have a name for this holder?”
“Yes, Yalb.”
“Yalb?” Yelled Randeeno. “He’s my uncle, my father’s brother. It was his grandson, Ganzo, who caused Maree’s burns trying to kill Rindeeno.”
“Did I ever tell you he died?” Asked Byrt.
“Ganzo? No.”
“He was one of the so-called guards at that illegal blackrock mine we attacked up between Crom and Telgar a turn or so ago. He was shot down trying to run away and hide. I think he died with about eight arrows in him.”

“I remember taking his trial for the sabotage to the flamethrower, and Maree’s burning.” Said Rahon. “There was also talk of him trying to kill his older brother, but he never got tried for that, the family wouldn’t actually accuse him. What a family. I realise that you are related, in some remote degree, but what a contrast between an upland holder, and family, just about scraping a living from the forest and moor, and your set up down here; one of my best holdings. It’s hard to believe the relationship. And, how strange that the twins based on opposite sides of Pern have the two halves of the story.”
"Truth is stranger than fiction: fiction has to make sense." Leo Rosten.

"When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up."
C. S. Lewis

"I find television very educational. Whenever somebody switches it on I go in the other room and read a book." (attributed to Groucho Marx)

The Pedants are revolting! (against bad grammar)

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