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Old Feb 5 2010, 08:28 AM   #1
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Default The Case That Solved Itself

A number of you asked for more stories about Byrt and about the twins. So here you are.

I thought I had this one plotted out but it suddenly twisted itself inside out and became a totally different tale.
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Old Feb 5 2010, 08:45 AM   #2
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The Case that Solved Itself


It had been a long humid summer. The grape growers were expecting a massive harvest, but the grain and root growers had needed to adapt and harvest much earlier than usual. Those few diehard traditionalists, who claimed that they ‘always started on their granddaughter’s birthday’ or some other fixed date, found their crops suffering from mouldy ears or root rot.

Late in the summer, a series of storms built out in the oceans. Most fizzled out as their depressions filled, but one swirled north-westwards, building as it travelled and hit land around the mouth of the Esvay River. It then slowed up moving slowly westwards till it finally dispersed in the mountains between Ruatha and Nabol.

-o-0-o-

Randeel, emerging from his cliff hold after eating his nooning, saw the massive wall of thunderheads building over the mountains down the valley to the east. He looked round at his holding. The part, that is, that he could see from this spot. The milchbeasts were down in one of the water-meadows, but were gathered around the gate, as if it was milking time, but with much head tossing. In one field in the distance he could see the draught beasts dragging his plough through the rich alluvial soil. In a few days it would be time to cart over the rest of the hold’s dung heap to be spread out in the other fields. Nearer to hand, the herder’s daughter was riding up from the stables leading the twins’ runners, Merrylegs and Moonflower.

“Sair!” he called to her, “give those to me and go tell Randeeno, and the lads that I want the plough teams back here and under cover real fast. Then get that runner of yours back in its stall. This afternoon’s ride is off. Got it?”

“Yes.” She thrust two sets of reins at him, spun her runner on its heels and headed lickety-split down the track.

At the clatter of Dimple’s hooves the twins appeared; Maree still sucking a red-fruit.

“Where’s Sair off to?” asked Filona.

“Getting the plough teams back. I’ve never seen a storm building like that one,” he said pointing, “and I want all the stock under cover. You two; get the milchbeasts into their byre.”

Sair’s father, Dhernyron the herder, had come out in time to hear the twins’ orders. Bread and cheese still in one hand, he hurried to open the double doors of the byre for the herd. The twins grabbed their mounts and cantered off to release the herd. They were used to this task and could be trusted to get the animals up to the yard without panicking any of them, especially those with young at heel.

Hearing loud noises Jeeno hurried out, looked up, and started getting the washing in yelling for help. There was a lot of washing to get. Old Aunt came puffing, and the two littlings, five year old Adan and his three year old sister Perani, came also to pick up the pegs and to carry arms-full of washing back inside.

Randeel strode past the farm buildings to where the wherries were milling around in their two pens. He opened the doors to their shelters and stepped back. Normally they would crowd into the rough huts but, today, they stayed out in their pens flapping their clipped wings. He chivvied them on their way.

By the time the herdbeasts were safely in, Sair was back in the yard, and the plough teams were plodding back. The clouds were building high into the sky and a chill wind started to swirl around the holding.

“Girls: runners stabled next.”

“Okay Dad.”

“Then you can help with the plough teams. Jeeno: let’s get all those shutters closed.”

“Yes Dear.”

“I’m very glad we got all the grain in and under cover.”

“Yes Dear: it’s been a good year.”

The first spots of rain were pattering down as the draught animals were being led into the stable block. Dhernyron’s wife, Koni, was busy round their cot where it was set between the stable and byre, closing things up as if for thread. The first real flurries of wind driven rain chased Randeel across the yard and into the hold, cutting off as he slammed the door shut and slid the bars across to hold it.

“Jeeno,” he called, shaking his hair, “what were you planning for supper?”

“Stew,” she called back. She appeared in the inner doorway, still folding a sheet. “Why?”

“Is it on and doing?”

“Yes.”

“Good. If this is a really bad blow we may lose the fire as we’ve done once or twice.”

“I’ll swing it to the hotspot then and hurry it up: supper in three glasses instead of five.”

With all the shutters closed it was hard to tell the time of day, but by late afternoon a change in wind direction brought smoke swirling back down the flue and through the kitchen. The small grate in Randeel’s office was still drawing however, so Jeeno told Aunt to take the kettle through to there. Ideally she’d have given supper another half glass to thicken the gravy, but at least it was hot and filling. She served it round to them all: Randeel, Randeeno, Filona, Maree, Adan and Perani. Then old Tani, known as ‘Aunt’ but no actual relative, Sunny and Tag the farm drudges, and Suan, Tani’s helper. There was silence as they each ate the generous plateful, with a chunk of bread ready to chase the gravy.

Randeel listened to the shutters being battered by the wind and driven rain. It sounded far worse than any storm he had ever known. He looked round at his household. Tani was stacking the used plates into the large bowl for washing. Randeeno was flinching every time the shutters clattered, and Adan had his thumb in his mouth, something he hadn’t done for years.

“I think we can make more noise than this storm,” he told the children. “Get the instruments out. Come on; let’s be really loud.”

Filona went and grabbed the pipes, drum and tambourine off their wall hooks. Adan took his drum and Perani her tambourine. Filona handed Maree the tenor pipe and kept the alto one for herself. Randeeno felt far too self-conscious to grab an instrument, but he lifted his young sister onto his lap where he could help her with her tambourine. Adan scrambled into his mother’s lap. Randeel got an arm round the shoulders of both twins, and led them in the Duty Song and the Naming Song. Then they sang ‘One Weary Wherry’ for the littles and every song they knew. When it came to ‘Who Will Guide the Plough’, a poignant song from when plague had ravaged the population, the twins handed the pipes over to Sunny and Randeeno and sang a close harmony duet.

Randeel looked round at them all. Okay, Harper Hall it wasn’t. There were a few wrong notes, and young Perani’s beat wasn’t always in time. But they tried so hard. It was more than time for the harper to come round again. He’d have a word with Lord Holder Rahon: when the storm was over.

-o-0-o-

In the early hours of the morning a sudden silence woke Randeel from his uneasy doze on the bed. He slid out of bed and opened a shutter. The rain had stopped and the wind had died down to a breeze. In the comparative quiet he could hear the mountain stream rushing in its bed on its way from the tarn high in the hills behind the holding, down to where it joined the river. He closed the shutter back up and slid his feet into the boots that were the only things he had taken off. He tiptoed through to the main door and carefully opened it.

Outside, up to his ankles in mud, he took stock. Off to his right the stream of fresh mountain water they used for drinking was gushing so hard over the fall into the yard that it was missing the basin and was swirling away bank high and muddy. The buildings all looked to be sound still. He looked up. Overhead could see a patch of familiar stars but, lower down; there was a wall of swirling cloud surrounding the valley. As he watched, the clear area was moving slowly up the valley as the storm system moved on. He spotted a glow basket down by the beast holds: Dhernyron checking out his part of the holding. He squelched his way to the byre and joined Dhernyron in his task.

The pair had finished looking over the milchbeasts and they were checking the plough teams and runners when the second half of the storm struck. In seconds the wind went from breeze to full gale. The stable door was flung fully open and rain drove in the opening. They fought the door closed.

“It’s threadfall this morning. Are we going to be able ground-crew it?” asked Dhernyron.

“I’ve no idea. I don’t even know whether the weyrs can fly in this let alone flame thread.”

“Well, thread drowns in water so perhaps we’ll be lucky?”

“Let’s hope so. If we do have to ground-crew, it’ll be adults only. I’m not letting the girls out in this.”

“Okay.”

Dhernyron, clutching his glow basket, headed for his cot getting wind assistance on his way. Randeel had to go across the wind to reach the hold. He was so wet he might as well have swum. This was just as well when, some ten feet from his door, a stronger gust bowled him over and over into six inches of mud. He crawled on hands and knees to the threshold and got back to his feet clutching the door handle and turning his face to the rain. Slowly and carefully he stripped off letting the deluge wash him clean again. Shivering and with teeth chattering he eased into the lobby through the smallest gap he could, and dropped his clothing in a heap on the floor. He would deal with them later. He headed for the bathing room and grabbed a large towel. When dry he headed for bed and climbed in with Jeeno complaining sleepily about how cold he was.

-o-0-o-

Jeeno woke to total darkness. The wind was still buffeting the shutters and hurling flurries of rain or hail, she couldn’t tell which, against the bronze sheeting of the shutters. Her internal clock told her that it was after sunrise. Her husband was lying half across her --- naked? He had gone to sleep last evening almost fully dressed and on top of the covers. She had no recollection of when the situation had changed. She slid carefully out of bed and dressed: storm or no storm, duties called.

With the children dressed, making a game out who cold dress quietest, she led the way down to the kitchen. Suan was already there lighting the cooking hearth. Jeeno watched anxiously to see whether it was going to smoke: it didn’t.

“Quick Suan: get the pot of cereal on and cooking. And a kettle too; before we lose the fire again. Adan: set the table please. You’re a big boy now, and you know how. Maree get Perani settled in her chair please. Filona: come here and let me get at that hair straightened out.”

“There are times, Mother, when I wish I could shave it all off and just wear hats, like Maree.”

“Filona: really!”

Maree giggled.

Tani and Randeel appeared at the same instant but through different doors; both towzelled and sleepy looking. Tani waddled to the table set on getting her breakfast.

Randeel looked ruefully at Jeeno. “I’m afraid there’s a heap of dirty wet clothing just inside the outer door.”

“Not for the first time, dear, nor for the last, I’ll warrant. What’s happening about threadfall?”

“I don’t know. We may have the weyr overhead, if they can fly in this. Ground-crew will be adults only: you and me, Randeeno, Sunny, Tag, and Dhernyron; plus Gan, Tzain, Barlow and Margat, if they can get here. Tani can look after the youngsters.”

"Fine: but I think Suan could look after the littlings. Tani and the twins can make a start on sorting out the back storeroom. I want it totally reorganised before we get into winter. This seems like a good time to start.”

“That sounds good. I’ll go and check on Dhernyron and the guys. They should have the animals about done by now. I’ll see that Sunny and Tag get in to Koni’s for their food.”

Randeel finished his cereal in a few large swallows and his klah in two long swigs: grabbed his winter cloak off its peg and headed for the door.

-o-0-o-

Jeeno checked that Suan had everything she was likely to need to keep Adan and Perani busy for a couple of hours; hopefully quietly. She then went up to the chamber and was quickly changing into her oldest clothes when there was a scream from down below, and a pounding of feet on the stairs.

Maree burst into the room, “Mum, Mum, come quick!”

Jeeno followed her daughter. Tani was sitting at the table panting. Filona had kicked off her shoes and was very busy with a mop in the doorway of the store room.

“Tani, are you alright?” Tani nodded and waved a hand in the direction of Filona.

“Fi, what’s going on?”

“We opened...” “...the door and...” “...there’s all this water...” “...and dead tunnel snakes!” replied the twins in concert.

Jeeno’s shoes joined her daughters’. She marched down the passageway into the store and flipped open the glow baskets. In their light she could see what they meant. The store was roughly triangular in plan and part of the original natural caves. At the back corner there had always been a narrow cleft, into which it was impossible to insert an arm. It had also proved impossible to get a glow and an eye lined up at the same time to see any real distance into it. It had long been suspected as a lair of tunnel snakes. The abnormal storm had sent a flow of water down it into the store whose close fitting door had held it back from the inhabited portion of the caves. It wasn’t a very bad flood, at least as yet, less than a finger knuckle deep; but it was relentless. Floating around in the mess were the bodies of four young tunnel snakes.

She returned to the kitchen. “Suan; take the littles and all their blocks and the paints, dolls ... everything and get them up into Perani’s room. Tani; are you feeling better?” Tani was looking a little calmer. She nodded to Jeeno. “Good,” continued Jeeno, “I want you and Maree to get everything perishable in here up off the floor. That includes the blackrock and firewood: they won’t burn wet. Move this big table a bit nearer the fire and set up the trestle one over there on that side. Get it loaded. Right? Filona; come on we’ll do the same in the store. Bring the big bucket with you and we’ll get those drowned snakes onto the dung heap.”

Half a glass later Maree came looking for her. “We’ve done nearly all that.”

“I’ll come and see. Take over from me here will you. We’re moving everything up to as high a shelf as we can so that there’s room on the lower ones for the heavy stuff like the vegetables. I hope we won’t lose too much. Those rolled hides had better be moved also before they’re ruined.”

She returned to the changed kitchen. The water was trickling across it seeking the low spots and heading for the entrance door. Bags, sacks and pans covered the trestle. Luckily, most of the perishables were already on the shelves of the store cave. Tani was beginning to sort out the jumble of stores and equipment into some kind of order. As she moved around the table there was a clattering sound.

Jeeno looked down. “Oh Tani, what a brilliant idea: our snow pattens. We’d
better all get our ones out and on our feet too.”

Tani grinned, “old but not foolish yet.”

Jeeno gave her a big hug.

-o-0-o-

Randeel found Dhernyron, Sunny and Tag gathered in the doorway of the byre. The disturbed herdbeasts were milling around behind them. The stream had overflowed its banks was inching closer to the beast-holds and Dhernyron’s cot. He asked a question and was told that yes; the beasts had been milked, those that needed it. As he reached the door, a soaking wet Gan came staggering round the end of the stable block, fighting the wind at every step.

“Morning Boss: just seen Barlow and Tzain. They can’t get across; the ford’s running far too deep and fast. Seen anything of Margat yet?”

“No. How’re things your way?”

“The cot’s alright but the spring’s running so fast it’s taken out a chunk of the top terrace; about four paces wide. I’ve lost probably four full vines --- so far. I think it’ll take out the lower terraces too.”

“We’ll look at that later. For now, go and tell Tzain and Barlow to head back to their cots, and help each other keep things as straight as possible. They can try and ground crew the fall, but adults only. I’ll get to them as soon as I can.”

“I’ll go tell them.”

“Right you others: I don’t like the way that flood’s getting nearer. We’ll shift the stock out. Sunny, you and Tag go and open the gate into the high pasture, up there; and standby to turn any strays through the gate. Dhernyron and I’ll get them moving up towards you.”

The pair moved off squelching their way up the line of the freestone wall. The large high pasture was normally only used in the spring when its short grass was still lush. Sunny made a game out of his progress, jumping from tussock to tussock till he slipped and sat down in a puddle. Tag laughed so much he nearly fell over too. They fought the gate open and stationed themselves just beyond it. Dhernyron and Randeel started encouraging the milchbeasts to leave their usual shelter. Those with calves afoot needed quite a bit of chivvying on their way. The pair slowly paddled up towards the others; Randeel as rearguard and Dhernyron as flanker. It all took time, keeping one’s balance and fighting the wind at every step. Gan returned and helped chase a couple of breakaways back and through the gate.

“That’s the first half done. Dhernyron; guard the gate. The rest of you; let’s get the burdeners and runners. Take two each, on lead ropes. And don’t forget to unclip as you let them go.”

They moved to get the precious animals from the stables. Although Randeeno joined them, it took them more than one trip because none of them could handle more than one draught beast each in those conditions. Sair joined them for their second and last trip for the last draught beasts and the seven runners.

“Ma sent me to say that breakfast’s ready, but I’m going to lead Dimples: he’s mine!”

With the last of the animals turned out into the pasture, Randeel swung the gate shut and dismissed his helpers to the meal Dhernyron’s wife, Koni, had prepared. Sair tucked herself under her father’s armpit.

Gan came with Randeel and his eldest offspring. “I ate before I came out. I’ll just check the flamethrowers before we kit up.”

“Fine: I’ll send out some klah for you.”

“That’ll go down a treat: three spoons of sweetening mind you.”

Randeel found a stick and stuck into the ground at the edge of the flood. He wanted to judge its spread, then sploshed his way across to the hold door, opened it and spotted the steady trickle of water. “What the Shards?”

Jeeno clattered across to him on her pattens. “It’s only fairly minor, dear, as yet; but we’ve got everything up off the floor. It’s coming through from that cleft the tunnel snakes lair in.”

“Shells! I’ve never heard of it doing that before.”

“Have some klah dear.”

“That’ll be welcome. Could someone take some out to Gan? He’s in the flamethrower shed: and wants his usual quantity of sweetening.”

“I’ll send Suan.”

“No. I’ll go;” said Randeeno. “I’m already wet.”

Jeeno turned back to the kitchen. As she went there was a deep rumble and the floor shook slightly. She looked down in wonder. “What was that?”

“I don’t know.” He turned and looked back across the yard, clamping the door against his hip. Gan appeared in the shed doorway.

“Earthshake?” he bellowed.

Randeel opened his mouth to yell back but there was another rumble: from above him and to his right. Gan looked up, dived back into the shed and slammed the door. Before Randeel’s shocked gaze, an enormous torrent of muddy water and rocks burst into view just where the normally moderate waterfall plunged a dragon length into the yard before bubbling its way down to the river. The proximity of good fresh water had been one of the attractions when his ancestor had set up the holding. The cataclysm swept through his yard. Luckily the flame thrower shed was not in the direct line but it still got hit by a two foot deep wave knocking the door open and bringing forth a yell from Gan. The backwash drenched Randeel to mid calf before sweeping on into the hold. There were a number of female yells from inside, and a clatter as Jeeno splashed her way to the hold door to stand peering over his shoulder as the wave of destruction swept down the yard.

The milchbeast byre took the brunt of the attack and its walls collapsed under the bombardment of water and rocks. The roof floated off intact to start with, but shedding its stone slates as it swept away with its trusses ripping apart. The stable block being the furthest away from the watercourse got away with its floor being washed out by about a foot of muddy water. The wherry sheds and Dhernyron’s cot took quite a battering. The cot door was burst open by the weight of the flood and around three feet of water swept in to wreck havoc. There were screams and shouts from inside.

“Shells!” yelled Jeeno in his ear. “What do we do?”

“This!” Randeel yelled back, and he set off at a jog the long way round the yard keeping to the higher ground. Jeeno paused to take off her pattens, which would be dangerous this these conditions, and set off after him. While the wind was abating, the rain was still being chucked down in torrents.

They were both soaked to the skin in moments. Gan re-appeared in the doorway of the flamethrower shed and staggered after them clutching his hip.
When they got to Dhernyron’s cot the water level was dropping back again.

They waded into the living room up to their knees.

-o-0-o-

Entering Dhernyron’s cot, Randeel found chaos. The contents had been swept to the far end of the main room. Everyone was drenched of course. The heavy table had trapped Tag against the wall and he was draped across it as if dead or asleep. The others were either on their feet or getting back up. Sair was clutching her left arm and whimpering.

Koni paddled through the last of the retreating water. “Sair; look at me.”
Sair, face twisted, looked up. Koni looked at her hard and then at her arm. “That’s broke,” she commented looking across at Jeeno.

Jeeno went to join her, “Let’s get her up and resting then. Gan: can you right the table? What state’s Tag in?”

“Broken his leg: by the look of it. He’s breathing.”

“Let’s get them both up and out of the wet then. Hold your arm Sair. That’s it: cradle it and we’ll just lift you gently.”

Gan, Randeel and Sunny manoeuvred the unconscious Tag onto the table top next to Sair. Randeeno arrived with the hold’s medical bag.

“Good lad,” said his mother, “Pass me the fellis and the numbweed.”

Dhernyron and Randeeno started picking up the clutter off the floor and piling it on righted stools and chairs. Gan and Randeel grabbed the ladder and set it back up to give access to the sleeping gallery. Sunny was sent to get dry fuel from the hold to get the fire going again, and was told to ask Tani to bring hot soup or klah as soon as possible. Gradually the cot was straightened; as far as was possible at least.

Randeel, Gan and Dhernyron went to check the rest of the holding. The runner and burden beast stables were fine. The floor had had a thorough wash but the hay stored up in the loft was fine. The wherries were still in their sheds, although one had lost half its roof. Most of the debris were scattered around; much of it reusable.

“Gan: grab a few tools and get started on this. I’ll sent Sunny to help you. Dhernyron: we’ll go and check the upper pasture.”

They were about to set out when there was a swirl of wet air, and a brown dragon appeared with a very wet C’lef on board.

“Shells; man! You’ve taken a beating. Everybody alive?”

“As far as we can tell. We can’t get across the river to check Barlow and Tzain, and we haven’t got along to Margat’s either.”

“Right: well, you can’t tell it in this downpour, but we’re fighting thread overhead right now. Luckily, most of it is drowning but we’re getting the rest. We’re only using bronzes and browns, but all the weyrs are involved. We’re only doing one hour stints each. I’ll check your cots out for you: I’ve just about finished upstairs.”

“While you’re about it, can you get a healer for us? We’ve a couple of fractures to get set, and I’d prefer to get them seen to properly if possible.”

“Who?”

“Sair: broken arm and Tag: broken thigh.”

“I’ll get someone as soon as I can.”

Raith pumped his wings hard, spraying water in all directions, and took off.

Dhernyron shivered. “Drat. I was just thinking ‘how nice, the rain’s easing’.”
Tani went past heading for the cot, bearing a cauldron of soup. “That smells good. I think a mug each of that, before we deal with the beasts, would be a good idea.”

“Best decision of the day, so far, Boss.”

In the end, Dhernyron took Sunny, Maree and Filona with him to the upper meadow: all armed with buckets to relieve the milchbeasts. Randeel and Randeeno were helping Gan to finish the repairs to the wherry shed when
Raith reappeared with not only C’lef on board, but Lord Holder Rahon and his healer also. They all climbed off. Randeel pointed the healer towards the cot.

Rahon put a hand on Randeel’s shoulder. “Man, you look beat.” Randeel gestured around at his holding and grimaced. “I know Randeel; I know. We’re going to help you get back up and running. This is one of the best holdings in my Holding.”

“What news of the rest?”

“Overall, you’re by far the worst affected. It seems to have been trapped in this valley to some extent. The rest of us have had a bad storm; but nothing like this.”

“I checked on your cots before I flew down to the Hold.” C’lef put in. “Margat and Barlow are fine: wet but all right. Tzain’s dead. His cot collapsed under a large falling tree. Biri’s unhurt. Barlow and Dera are with her.”

“I’d send Randeeno to take over, if I could get him there?”

“I’ll lift him over.”

“I’ll also send her brother up to her.” Put in Lord Rahon. “I’ve plenty of other foresters.”

“Thanks. She’ll appreciate that.” He took a large breath. “Randeeno!”

“Dad?” he yelled back; and came running.

“Pack yourself a bag. You’re going across to Tzain’s. Tonight you’ll probably have to sleep at Barlow’s. It sounds like Tzain’s’ll need rebuilding.”

“We’ll get some extra help over to you as soon as we can,” put in Rahon.

Randeeno squared his shoulders and gulped.

“You can do it, Son. You’re NEARLY old enough to hold for yourself.”

The young man looked surprised. His “me?” came out in a squeak.

“Nearly, Son.”

Randeel looked up. It had stopped raining and the wind was dying away to something a bit less than a gale.

Gan walked over to him. “That roof’s sorted.”

“Thanks. Good. I think it’s calm enough to let them out now.”

Gan laughed. “I finish keeping them in and now you want them out? What a Boss! Then I’d better get back to my vines.” He handed Randeel the large combi-tool he’s been using. “I hope I’ve got a few left.” He splashed off through the mud.

“I’d better come with Randeeno and see for myself what’s going on across the river: if that’s all right with you C’lef?”

“Sure.”

Jeeno joined them. “Sair’s been done and is fellis’d out. I‘m going to put her in with the twins for a night or two. Tag’s being worked on now. Koni’s got some bad bruising and a possible cracked rib.”

“Tzain’s dead.”

“No! How?”

“Cot collapsed under a tree fall apparently.”

“Poor Biri.”

“I’m sending Randeeno to take charge over that side.”

“Good idea. I’ll just check his packing.”

In a swirl of water drops, M’tak arrived on bronze Wroth, and swung down. “Fall’s about over: we’re doing a sweep right now.” He pointed down the valley where a wing of dragons were gliding at low level over the tree tops, their heads snaking back and forth searching for the telltale signs of infestation. “You’ve lost quite a swathe of timber over there: but not to thread.”

Randeel sighed, and his shoulders drooped a bit lower.

“You will survive, you know,” said Rahon, clapping him on the shoulder again. “I aim to get you back in business by the fall eveners gather.”

-o-0-o-

The two dragons backwinged down at Tzain’s cot. Randeel and Randeeno slid off Raith, and Rahon dismounted from Wroth. Barlow, Dera and Biri appeared from behind the fallen tree; Dera with her young son in a back sling.

“Right:” said Rahon taking charge. “Randeeno; you and Barlow start cutting that tree away. Biri; grab some clothes and go back with Dera and start tidying up there. Get a meal going. There’ll be one or two extra. I’m sending your brother up to you, Biri, and a mason to help with rebuilding the stone work. I’ll also send the harper up to conduct the interment.” He turned to Randeel. “He was due to come to you in the next sevendays anyway. We’d better see what has happened to your water supply; if you’d oblige M’tak and C’lef?”

The dragons circled the cwm high over the hills behind the hold. Below them was a large expanse of mud and bare rock across which the three streams, draining the surrounding bogs, meandered finding new routes to the shattered moraine of glacial debris that had dammed the cwm for thousands of turns. The dragons landed to one side of the breach.

“We could get this filled back in.” Said Lord Rahon.

“Then we’d have no water at all for ages;” put in Randeel, “until the tarn filled back up. How about building three small dams?”

“Do them one at a time?”

“Yes: we could build one for now using some of the stone and mud from what’s left here. We can make do with two streams, at least during the winter. When that one’s filled, clear and flowing then we do the second; probably next spring. The last one could wait till next fall.”

“Sounds sound to me. I’ll send up as many carts as I can to help before we get into winter. I’ve said I’ll send up a mason to get going on Tzain’s old place. I’d better send up some more for this and your byre. I might need to borrow from Fort Hold or High Reaches. What have you lost in livestock?”

“So far as I know I’ve one dead calf and a missing foal, which may turn up at any time. A few bruised milchbeasts and a sprained fetlock on the runner I use most. Worse though: I’ve lost all my seed corn. Oh, and the muck heap. Without fertiliser there’s little point in planting anyway.”

“Lord Rahon gave a bark of laughter. “Right: the carts’ll arrive laden.”

-o-0-o-

Three days later Randeel, on his unfavourite runner beast, took stock of Rundles. Most of the stones of the byre had been retrieved from the sloping fields leading to the river and the walls were being rebuilt, albeit in a new location further from the stream. Two masons, helped by Sunny and hindered by Adan were busy mortaring the field stones into place and were up to waist height. Tag, with his splinted leg propped on a stool, was sitting in the fall sunshine busy with hammer and pliers straightening out the members of a pile of bent nails. Perani was handing him each fresh one and then dropping the good ones onto a new pile. A chanting from an open window located Sair and the twins getting through their morning’s lessons with Leeon, the visiting harper. Their diligence was, in part at least, because he was young and fairly good looking. Jeeno and Suan were lugging bedding out to air in the orchard. Tani was helping Koni sort out the cot. He could leave them all to it: Jeeno would keep them all up to scratch.

Across the river, now fordable again, he headed for Tzain’s cot. It would probably need renaming now that Tzain had been buried with all honours and a harper chanting the dirge. Arriving in the glade he found that the mason was finishing off the top course of the fallen wall. Biri had spread bedding over bushes to dry out and air, and was sweeping out the cot. The rhythmic thunk of a working axe gave the location and occupation of Biri’s brother Kai. Barkat appeared through the trees leading a burden beast. Hitched behind it came a couple of large branches roughly trimmed to form part of a new roof truss. Randeel swung off his runner and, from behind the saddle, untied a new cooking pot which Biri had requested. The old one had been crushed by a gallery beam. Once the roof was on she’d want to be back in her own home. She appeared through the doorway and walked towards him. He held out the pot.

“Randeel! I can’t offer you any klah, or anything except water.”

“Water’ll be fine, Biri. It’s not long since I ate. Here’s your new pot. I might as well take the old one back and chuck it on the scrap heap for melting down.”

“Can you take that bent shutter too?” she asked pointing to a buckled sheet of metal propped against the stonework.

Randeel picked it up and looked at it. “Yes, I expect Gan or I can flatten it back out for you.” He moved back to his runner and, using a variety of straps got it secured in place to his cantle. “Now; is there anything else you’ll need when you get back in?”

“We’re short of a couple of treen plates, but Kai’s making them in the evenings. And we could do with a new chest at some point before winter.”

“We’ve got some suitable seasoned dried timbers up in the roof of the flame-thrower shed, if Kai wants to come down and pick some out.”

“Fine I’ll tell him when we noon.”

Randeel mounted and, waving his hand, headed for Gan’s place.

After visiting Gan, who was patiently rebuilding his terrace walls with Margat’s help, Randeel returned to the hold via the cwm. The masonry core for the first dam was taking shape. Around half a dozen of Rahon’s field drudges were scrounging boulders from the moraine and loading them into a couple of carts to supply the pair of masons erecting a broad based dry-stone wall that would eventually be faced with an earth bank on its outer face. On a non-boggy bluff nearby they had erected a trio of bivouac shelters surrounding a fire. A young drudge was feeding the fire and starting to prepare the nooning.

That afternoon the twins, and Sair, were despatched to their current task: rescuing as many bunches of grapes as possible from the vines swept out of place from Gan’s terraces: a job Sair could help with one handed. Washed clear of the mud, the bunches were dumped into a pressing vat. The resultant wine would only be good for vinegar, but at least it wouldn’t a total loss. The bunches on the remaining vines, however, SHOULD be a really good vintage

Randeel walked down the track to check the arable fields they had just started ploughing the day of the storm. The stubble had saved most of the topsoil from erosion but yesterday the soil was still too waterlogged to be ploughed. The burden beasts would be up to their hocks in mud and the dung carts, which needed to get onto the fields first, would sink up to their axles. He walked down to the low point of the field and dug his heel in. The hollow filled at once. It would probably be a seven-day before they could resume cultivation. He looked up as he heard hooves on the track.

Round the corner came a familiar figure on a runner beast, with a string of beasts following him: Byrt. Randeel waved, walked back to the gateway on to the track and waited. Byrt’s beast ambled along to Randeel.

“Lord Holder Rahon sent me along to help you. I was up at Baleek’s; who sent you a couple of these,” he gestured over his shoulder to the pack train, “the rest are from Rahon.”

Behind Byrt’s usual pair of burden beasts there were another eight of them: each laden with a pair of sacks.

“Seed corn?”

“Aye.”

“Twice welcome then. I’ve a shed load for you to do.”

“Lead on then Holder Randeel.”

“But of course Mastersmith Byrt.” Randeel bowed deeply.

Byrt was hammering Biri’s shutter flat and checking the alignment of the hinge pins when the three girls came back form Gan’s. There were loud squeals of ‘Uncle Byrt’, and he just had time to stop a hammer swing before the trio crashed into him with hugs and non-stop chatter, all three yelling at once.

-o-0-o-

Late next afternoon Maree tacked up Merrylegs and hacked out to the dam. Her mother had asked her to tell the workers camping up there that they were invited down to the hold to eat that evening. She found the foreman mason beginning the formation of the spillway and passed on the message. Reining away, she trotted Merrylegs up onto the upper hills looking for late berries. She found a clump of bushes at the foot of an outcrop and picked as many as she could reach, stowing them in a saddlebag.

Riding on, she headed for the summit. From up here she could see for miles. The next valley north of theirs appeared untouched by the storm but, the other way, she could see the damage along at Gan’s and the swath of woodland destroyed around Tzain’s. Merrylegs pulled at the reins wanting to get his head down to graze. She swung off him, pulling the reins over his head, sat down on a rock and, took her hat off letting the wind play around her head. It felt good on her skin. She wished her hair would grow back properly: clumpy fuzz wasn’t very nice. Their cave (sometime weyr) was visible on the opposite hill. Would they ever play dragonriders again?
Eventually she stood up and stretched. The sun was getting low in the sky. It must be time to head back. She sprang into the saddle and rode back down to the workers’ camp. It appeared deserted: they would have gone down to clean up for dinner. Behind the clump of bivouacs she spotted some mushrooms. Swinging down and putting her arm through the reins, she checked that they were edible ones. She started picking them, tucking each handful carefully into her saddlebag along with the berries. A voice behind her made her jump. She looked round. A youth a little bit older than her brother Randeeno was gazing at her.

“What are you doing?” she asked. “Why aren’t you with the others?”

“Tol’ ter clear up weren’t I.”

“Well go and do it, or you’ll miss dinner.”

“Yer the one as ain’t a proper girl isn’t yer.” It was more a statement than a question. “Yer’ll never get er proper husban’ lookin’ like tha’. Come ‘ere an’ I’ll show yer what yer missin’.”

With one hand he grabbed her by her riding jacket. His other hand squeezed one breast. Initially frozen by surprise, she started to struggle as his free hand moved down to her trousers. He swept a leg behind her and tripped her to the ground. She opened her mouth to scream and he promptly stuck his tongue in her mouth. Her hands grabbed him by his ears and forced his head away. She twisted her neck and bit down hard on his wrist. With a string of oaths he smacked his other hand across her face. She screamed and tried to wriggle out from under him but he punched her again and again.

Merrylegs, thoroughly spooked by all this noise and activity reared up tearing the reins from her arm. His forelegs flailed the air. There was a loud smack and, free from any more restraint, he tore free and galloped off, heading for home. Maree finally got out from under her now silent assailant and curled into a sobbing heap. She got to all fours to crawl away; realised that she had been lying in a pool of blood and fainted.

-o-0-o-

The noise of hooves brought Randeel and Dhernyron out into the yard.

“Shells: that’s Merrylegs! Where’s Maree? MAREE!”

Behind them, everyone piled out of the hold.

The foreman mason spoke up. “She came to the camp alright. Then she set off up to the summit. She hadn’t come back down when we set off to dinner. I DID leave young Wat up there to finish tidying up, lazy young scut. He’s not down either.”

“It’ll be dark soon; we’d better go find her. Filona: look after Merrylegs. Tani: take charge of the littles. Tag: you’re in charge of everything else. Let’s go. Once we’re above the fall, spread out and make a line.”

The masons and drudges, Dhernyron and Koni, Byrt, Jeeno, Sair and Sunny set out past the fall and spread out left and right of Randeel; walking carefully over the rough ground, up towards the camp. The camp appeared deserted but Sunny, anchoring the right hand end of the line sent up a yell.

Jeeno plumped down and cradled her daughter. Poor Maree: what had happened to her this time? Why was it always Maree?

Treading carefully Byrt squatted down by the youth’s body. There was no doubt that he was dead. Maree couldn’t have done that amount of damage, but a runner hoof? He’d have a good look at Merrylegs when they got back. There was also a bite mark on Wat’s wrist: a human sized bite. He could guess at the scenario.

The foreman mason sent the carters off to hitch up a pair of carts. Jeeno and Randeel got into one and Maree was gently lifted in to them. Wat’s body was swung into the other and the carters set off leading the burden beasts. They would have to go back the long way round. The rest of the party set off back the way they had come with Dhernyron carrying a sobbing Sair.

Byrt trotted off way out in the lead jumping from rock to rock: he wanted to look at Merrylegs, hopefully before Filona had washed away any evidence.
He found Filona feeding handfuls of hay to Merrylegs. Otherwise, all she had done to him was to remove his tack. Sure enough there were blood stains around his near fore hoof. He picked up the dumped tack, hung the harness on its hook, swung the saddle over the stall partition and unbuckled the saddlebag. Inside he found a jumble of crushed berries and juice stained mushrooms. He dumped the lot on the muck-pile and washed out the bag.

“Filona: head in and get Maree’s bed ready would you? And tell Tani the others will be in for dinner before long.”

“Is she all right?”

“She’s alive; that’s all I know for now.”

-o-0-o-

Jeeno sat on Maree’s bed; her daughter curled on her lap. Maree’s arms were wrapped round Jeeno so tight it felt like she was trying to climb inside her. In whispers Jeeno sent Randeel for a bowl of warm water, soap, washcloths and towels. He stood up and patted Maree’s head. She shrank away from him.

“If he wasn’t dead already: I’d kill him,” he growled.

“You’d better take charge downstairs, Dear. Can you send Tani up please?”

Tani arrived with the washing things and the two women gently cleaned Maree and changed her into her nightshirt.

“I’d better get them leathers cleaned before the blood sets,” observed Tani. “And you need to get your things into soak. You go and change. I’ll sit with her till you get back.”

Maree woke to a dim light. Filona was sprawled on her own bed gently snoring. Mother was sitting under the glow-basket mending something. Maree sighed. Mother looked up and went across to her, sitting on her bed. Maree threw her arms around Jeeno’s waist and buried her head in her mother’s lap. Gradually the story came out in half sentences and sobs. Jeeno gathered Maree up onto her shoulder and wriggled herself round so that she was propped on Maree’s pillow. There, she rocked her daughter to sleep.

-o-0-o-

Filona awoke to a clatter of hooves in the yard. Her mother was asleep, propped against Maree’s pillows with Maree curled on her lap. That made three nights now. She heard voices downstairs: Tani’s and Dad’s: and the harper’s. She swung out of bed and visited the necessary. A quick wipe round her face with a damp washcloth would suffice. She clambered into her skirt and tunic. Harper Leeon would be wanting her to practice the new songs he’d brought, AND go over those sums she’d got wrong yesterday! Perhaps Maree would join in today.

Downstairs she found her big brother had ridden back from Barkat’s.

“How’s Maree?”

“Still asleep. So’s Mum.”

He grimaced, and ladled sweetener over his bowl of cereal. “Kai and Biri are back in the cot, and Kai’s starting to trim and plank the fallen lumber. Oh; and Barkat’s and Dera’s youngster, Derkat, or what ever they’ve called him, has apparently said his first word. Sounded like ‘Gar’ to me but, according to Barkat he was asking for Klah.”

“Typical male,” put in Tani; “food and drink already. By the way,” she added, frowning at Randeeno, “DON’T go hugging Maree. She’s rather off men: ANY man.”

By nooning, the twins had finished their lessons with Leeon. The figuring had been corrected and the ballads practiced. He had also taken them through ‘Who Will guide the Plough’ a couple of times and corrected their breathing.

“Third verse, second line: there’s no punctuation mark. You can’t breathe until the comma in the middle of the third line. So start with enough air in your lungs.”

They did!

After nooning Jeeno wanted the twins to go through their winter clothes with her, to see what needed altering or replacing with new. They were going to need breast bands very soon and, since they were approaching thirteen turns she took the opportunity to point out a few other developments that would be happening before long.

Randeeno got his father’s permission to go for a ride, and he strode off to the stable to saddle his runner. He found Sair struggling to saddle Dimples one armed.

“Like a hand?”

She looked at him. “Please. I haven’t exercised him since … “

He smoothed the saddle blanket and swung the saddle into place. “Like to ride with me?” he asked, ducking to grab the further half of the girth. With both animals tacked up, he gave Sair a boost into the saddle, strapped a saddlebag to his cantle and mounted his own runner.

“I thought of exploring well down river. I haven’t been beyond the holding down that way for ages.” They trotted off with Randeeno on Sair’s right where he could grab, if needed, without hurting her bad arm. “Dad got me thinking when he said I was nearly old enough to hold so …”

“You’re looking for your own place?”

He flushed and grinned. “Well … yeah. Once you’re off Rundles’ there’s quite a swath unclaimed. I just thought …”

They rode the trail down to Margat’s cot. He was working outside, digging over his vegetable plot and planting out rows of red roots and white roots. The greens were already plumping up and, in his stream, tendrils of cress wriggled in the eddying waters.

Margat stuck his fork in the soil. “Where’re you two off to then?”

“Just exploring a bit. Dad was saying how I could be holding before long, so I sort of thought I’d start looking for somewhere. I want to find my own place; not just go where he puts me.”

“Sounds like a Holder already.” He grinned. “Tell you: if you go down the trail, ‘bout two miles beyond the boundary marker, there’s a small track off to the north. Can’t miss it there’s a lightening struck Fellis tree a few yards before the turn. Though, with this storm it may all have changed: haven’t been down there since.”

“Oh, I know it,” put in Sair, “the twins and I have ridden down there a couple of times when we’ve been ground-crewing.”

-o-0-o-

They found the turning quite easily, though they had had to detour around fallen trees a few times, forcing their way through undergrowth shrubs. About a half mile up the steadily rising track they found that they were riding alongside a small stream. They rested and let their mounts drink. Randeeno pulled a flask from his saddlebag and offered it to Sair. After a while they rode on and soon found that they were approaching an area of bright sunlight: a large clearing within the forest. There were a few acres of space, carpeted with the native grassoid. Across the northern, uphill side there was a bluff with a cave towards its eastern end out of which the stream appeared. Randeeno gave a loud whoop and kicked his runner to a canter, reining to a halt by the cave and, quickly dismounting, disappeared. Sair let Dimples amble gently in their wake, looking around as she did so. As she did so Randeeno reappeared, splashing out of the cave.

“Hey Sair; come and see. It’s really big in there. It could be a hold just as it is.”

“If you want me to see, you’ll have to help me down. Please Randy?”

“Sorry: forgot.” He walked round to Dimple’s near side and reached up. “Oops, that won’t work. Hang on. You’ll have to get off the other way.”
He set off around Dimple’s tail end.

“Stay where you were.” Sair ordered. “I’ll slide off. Just steady me when I land.” She swung her right leg over Dimple’s neck and dropped to the ground, staggering and grabbing at his shoulder as she landed. “H-m-m: I think you need a bit more practice at catching.”

“Whatever! Come and see! Running water and all.” Grabbing her by her good hand he dragged her to the cave.

Sair looked around. It WAS big; and there Was plenty of water.

“Well?” Randeeno asked.

“It’s as big as the kitchen cavern at High Reaches Weyr. But it would be a lousy hold.”

“Why?”

“Well, even if you blocked up the opening how will you heat a cave this big? High Reaches kitchens have all those cooking hearths though. Think of all the fuel you’d need. Where would you get it? You’d do better to build a good cot outside.”

“Then we could use this as the beast hold. They don’t need heat.”

“Uh-huh. You can’t expect them to stand around in water all time.”

“Okay: we cut a channel along one side to take the water and build mangers along the other side.” She shook her head slowly. “Okay wise Granny! What do we do?”

“If you do that you’ll pollute your entire water supply. Build everything from scratch and keep this purely for its water supply.” She marched back out, pointing. “Look: if you put the cot there to the side where it’s level, it’ll catch the sun and those trees across there will act as a good wind break. Build the beast holds further down there where any run off won’t affect your drinking or washing water.”

“Shells: that’s brilliant! How do you know all this?”

“I listen to my Da: that’s how. And, what’s all this ‘we’ stuff?”

Randeeno flushed. “W – e – l – l … er … I LIKE you, and I’ll need a partner when I hold and …” He dug a toe into the dirt.

-o-0-o-

Two seven-days later Randeel and his family set off for Ruatha’s fall eveners gather. With them were Biri, Kai and Sair. Randeel wanted to formalise Kai’s transfer to the cot hold , which both Kai and Biri wanted to remain known as Tzain’s. Leeon and Byrt were travelling with them and so were the party of masons and field drudges, their carts and pack animals. The byre was rebuilt. So was the first of the dams and it was filling steadily. The fields had had the fertiliser spread and been ploughed. The seeding would happen when they got back. Tonight they’d camp by the trail in a site originally set up by the trade caravans.

Just after next nooning, Randeel, followed by Kai, Biri and Leeon tracked down Lord Holder Rahon in his study having a quiet quarter-glass before heading back out into the mayhem outside. Randeel handed over the deed Leeon had drawn up ready. Rahon looked through it and grunted. He reached for his pen, signed the document and offered his pen to each of the three to sign in turn: Randeel and Kai as parties to the deed and Leeon as witness.

Some glasses later, strolling round the gather, Rahon was cornered by Randeeno with Sair in tow again. At their request he led the way back to his
study.

“Well?” he asked.

“You remember Dad saying that I was nearly old enough to hold?”

“Y – e – s?”

“Well: I went exploring, with Sair.” Rahon glanced at her and she blushed. “And we found this glade with a cave and a stream.”

“Where?”

Randeeno explained and pointed out the approximate location on the Lord Holder’s map. Then he explained Sair’s ideas on the siting of the cot and beastholds.

“I’ve had another idea,” she joined in. “If you built a lowish wall across the cave entrance there’d be a lake in the cave, so there’d be a reservoir in case of a drought.”

“We could, couldn’t we?” Randeeno grinned.

“We?” queried Rahon. Both youngsters blushed. He couldn’t resist teasing them a bit. “Is this a formal announcement of a partnering?”

“Er.” mumbled Randeeno, looking at the floor.

Sair glanced at him: no help from there then. “Men,” she muttered. She took a deep breath and looked at Rahon. “Not yet: we haven’t got that far.”

Rahon winked at her and looked at the embarrassed Randeeno with a raised eyebrow. “You’ve a couple of years yet before I’ll sanction you holding.” He said gently. “You may have sixteen turns but, if I remember aright, Sair has only thirteen. I’m not going to sanction her partnering you for at least two turns. Have you talked this over with your parents?”

“Not yet,” murmured Randeeno.

“No,” whispered Sair, “but I think Mum guesses …”

“I was about to suggest to Randeel that you, Randeeno, go up to Baleek’s for a turn’s fostering to round out your education. And, I’ll want to inspect you proposed holding next time I’m down your way. Good enough?”

“Yes, Lord Holder.” They said in chorus.

“Go on the pair of you.”

-o-0-o-

By the time dusk fell, Jeeno had taken the twins round the stalls and bought them three well- knitted breast bands each. She’d also found a couple of matching head scarves in a pretty sky blue, large enough to protect Maree’s neck and to control Filona’s hair. Dressed as they were in matching long skirts and embroidered tunics, once more it was hard to tell them apart. Randeel approached with the two littles, well smeared with the remains of bubbly pies.

“Oh you!” She scolded him, reaching into her bag for a cloth to clean up Adan and Perani. “They’ll never eat their supper if you’ve stuffed them.”

He grinned at her. “Does it matter just for once? I remember you, my girl; the first time I took you to a gather. Bubbly pies, more bubbly pies, and all sorts of other confections.”

“I was what: fifteen turns? And YOU paid for them: mostly.”

They found a table by the dance square with a good view of the harper’s platform, but out of the direct line of fire, so to speak. Jeeno started to stack her parcels under it.

“Give me those,” said her husband, “I’ll take them back to the wagon.”

“Thanks Dear. Could you bring back the snuggle bags for the littles for later?”

She waved at Randeeno and Sair who were standing looking round by a corner of the stage. They made their way to her, dodging round the gathering families.

“What have you two been up to?”

“Nothing Mum.”

“Nothing Jeeno. What could we get up to at a gather?”

“You’d be surprised.” She pointed at Sair. “I can remember some escapades of your mother’s: behind the runner lines I think it was.”

Sair blushed to her hair line. “My mother?”

“M-m-m. Before she met Dhernyron though.” The twins looked at her goggle eyed. “We were all young once Dears, and a few cuddles and kisses at a gather are useful practice.”

The supper lines started serving just then. Jeeno made sure they had left enough things on the table to show that it was taken. Perhaps, she thought as she shepherded her flock along the queue, supper would divert the speculations obviously going on in four young heads.

They were eating helpings of spiced wherry when a group of harpers, flown in on dragon-back from the Harper Hall, tuned up and started performing some songs. As they started the third one Maree sat up straight.

“That’s the new one Leeon’s been teaching us.”

“So it is,” observed Filona and, swallowing her mouthful, she joined in.

Maree took another bite of wherry but, by the end of the second verse, she’d joined in with her sister putting in the counter melody. After another couple of songs the group swapped to a dance tune and the dance square started to fill with couples making up long sets. Sair grabbed Randeeno and headed for a set on the far side of the square. Adan was dancing with Filona and Perani with Maree; although all Adan wanted to do was gallop in all directions and Perani just wanted to dance round and round her sister in a circle until they were both giddy and had to sit down.

Randeel tucked Jeeno under his arm. “Shall we be nasty and go and join in Randy’s set?” he asked.

“No,” she replied, joining the end of a set near their table. “Give them some space.”

When the group started to play the music for a toss dance they resumed their places at their table. The two littles were playing a finger game with some other youngsters near by and the twins came and sat down to catch their breath and have a drink.

Leeon came across to them. “This bunch is taking a break after this dance. C’lef and I are on next. Would you two care to join us on pipe?”

The girls looked stunned. “We’re not good enough are we?” whispered Filona.

“Yes. Next objection?”

“We haven’t got our pipes.” croaked Maree.

“Ta-dah!” He produced a pair of pipes from behind his back. “I brought yours with me just in case.”

“You … you!” Filona spluttered with indignation.

“I don’t think I can.” Maree said. “All those … those eyes looking at me.”

“Well stand behind me and close your eyes.”

“I’ll try: but just for one number.”

“Okay: come on.”

Jeeno hugged them and gave them gentle pushes towards the stage.
Maree found that, with her eyes shut and her back to the dance square, she could pretend she was playing in the hold back home. Even if she opened her eyes all she could see was C’lef to her left perched on a stool with his gitar.

As they finished the dance tune, and everybody was applauding, Filona turned to Maree. “Guess what? Lord Rahon was dancing with Sair.”

“He what?” Maree turned to look round Leeon.

Leeon looked at her through his harp strings. “Okay for another?”

Maree swallowed hard and gulped. “I guess.”

“Right: put your pipe down. You’re safe behind me Maree. You ready Filona? We’ll do ‘Who Will Guide the Plough’.”

The two girls turned to face each other and held hands. Maree closed her eyes and didn’t notice when Leeon moved his stool slightly out of line. He started into the introduction and they joined in with melody and counter melody while Leeon’s harp wove arpeggios of descant above them, C’lef’s gitar strummed the rhythm in support, and C’lef himself pom-pommed a gentle bass line way below them. When the last note had died away Maree leapt off the stage and dived straight into her father’s arms.

He nuzzled her head with his chin feeling her shaking with reaction. “My clever brave girl,” he murmured over and over.

Filona, clutching both pipes, was hugged by Jeeno. Filona could feel her quivering.

“Are you laughing or crying Mum?”

“Both Dear. I’m so proud of my girls.”

-o-0-o-

Lord Rahon approached their table. “I’m glad I’ve caught you all together. Randeeno and Sair came to see me this afternoon.

“They did?” Randeel looked at his eldest offspring.

“Yes. We had a very interesting conversation. I’d like Randeeno to spend a turn fostering up at Baleek’s to get some extra training. They’ve those mines up there also. Won’t hurt him to learn a bit about them as well. And I’m offering Sair a turn here at the Hold. She can pick up quite a bit from both me and our healer. She’s got a good head on her; that one. Of course, they’ll also be spending a fair amount of time with other young folks.”

“I don’t know what to say.” Randeel looked at him anxiously. “We’ll need to talk it over. And Sair will need to discuss it with her parents.”

“Of course. Now, these twins.” He pulled a face at them. “I WAS going to offer them a turn’s fostering here when Sair finishes, but Leeon has comer up with a better idea. We’ve the Lord Holders’ Convocation tomorrow: I’ll start things off then.”

“To do what?” asked Maree, pulling out of her father’s arms.

"A turn’s fostering at Fort Hold. You’d be able to do a few classes at Harper Hall wouldn’t you?”

The evening air was rent by loud squeals as two young ladies swung each other round and round.
__________________
"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)

Last edited by P'ter; Feb 10 2010 at 04:37 AM.
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Old Feb 6 2010, 02:11 AM   #3
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A question for you dose cwm mean cirque? New one on me, and well written good inaction and goodbackground.
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Old Feb 6 2010, 07:54 AM   #4
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cwm (welsh) or corrie (scots) are both a hollow gouged out by glacial action.
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Old Feb 6 2010, 03:40 PM   #5
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And how do you pronounce it??
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Old Feb 7 2010, 04:09 AM   #6
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koom
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Old Feb 8 2010, 03:12 PM   #7
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P'ter, what a good story! I really enjoyed it.

Should this be counted as an e-book?

I suggest one deletion of "trying to" in this sentence. "He found Sair trying to struggling to saddle Dimples one armed."

Where can I find more stories written by you? I have read two so far, so which ones have I missed??



Edited to add: what's with the title - "The case that solved itself" ???
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Old Feb 9 2010, 06:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nina View Post
P'ter, what a good story! I really enjoyed it.

Should this be counted as an e-book?

I suggest one deletion of "trying to" in this sentence. "He found Sair trying to struggling to saddle Dimples one armed."

Where can I find more stories written by you? I have read two so far, so which ones have I missed??



Edited to add: what's with the title - "The case that solved itself" ???
Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by P'ter asked by Ginny:
The Case of the Hijacked Harness;

The Case of the Flaming Flamethrower;

The Case of the Blackmarket Blackrock (filed as 'Byrt 3');

The Case of the Worn Words;
I see a few them at the bottom. for I used a copy/pasted and had asked P'ter for a list. Ginny
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Old Feb 9 2010, 06:30 PM   #9
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THere's also the 'Case of the Absent Apprentice'

THanks for the proof read: I'll correct it in the morning (23.30 & just back from 42 hours down in Wales)
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Old Feb 9 2010, 08:45 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by P'ter View Post
THere's also the 'Case of the Absent Apprentice'

THanks for the proof read: I'll correct it in the morning (23.30 & just back from 42 hours down in Wales)
Its I think were I asked you about the others and I understand, see you later.
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Old Feb 15 2010, 08:32 PM   #11
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Well done, P'ter. I really enjoyed that. Being no stranger to hurricanes, I could really identify with Dhernyron's battling the wind. I also liked the swift kick of justice!
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Old Feb 16 2010, 04:34 AM   #12
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I do TRY to keep things believable.
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Old Apr 13 2010, 04:42 PM   #13
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Default Re: The Case That Solved Itself

Just read your story P'ter. I was back on Pern in no time.
Well done.
What's the betting I start a re-read again soon
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