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Old Jul 9 2014, 07:39 PM   #1
Brenda
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Default Weyr Search

Kylara was making her way past the dining cavern when someone behind her called her name.

“Kylara! Come in here a moment, please.”

She let out a disgusted sigh and turned back to join her brother in his study.

“This had better not take long, Larad,” she said, scowling. “I have plans, you know…”

“Don’t bother,” Lord Larad said shortly. “He’s gone.”

“What are you talking about? Who’s – oh!” She stared at him in disbelief. “You didn’t!”

“I’ve sent Randol to one of the farmholds – no, I’m not tellng you which one! It’s planting time, anyway – they can use the extra help.”

“How dare you!” Kylara burst out. She and Randol had been… meeting… since just past Turnover, and he was one of the best lovers she’d had.

“How dare I? How dare you! I warned you about this, Kylara, I told you it had to stop. It was bad enough before, but now it is unacceptable.”

“Unacceptable!” Kylara shrieked. “How dare you – how dare you try to tell me who I can see!”

Everyone can see, Kylara! You haven’t exactly been discreet with this one. And yes, I can tell you when the honor of this Hold is at stake!”

“Honor,” Kylara spat. “Who is going to – ”

“You are betrothed, Kylara!” Larad shouted over her. “You have a contract with Brand, and with Igen! You simply cannot go on with this type of behavior any more!”

“What are you going to do, lock me in?” she said sarcastically. “That will really – ”

“If necessary,” Larad snapped back. His voice lowered and he spoke with great intensity. “Don’t you realize that if you carry on like this at Igen, they’ll do worse than transfer your lover? You will be Brand’s wife, Kylara, and you can’t expect him to tolerate that sort of thing.”

And yet she would be expected to tolerate her husband having such dalliances – it was practically encouraged, much less expected! Kylara fumed at the double standard. She hadn’t had much say in marrying Brand in the first place, but she had been glad at the prospect of getting out from under her brother’s thumb, and gaining a position of some authority, even if it was only at a minor Hold in Igen.

She glared defiantly at Larad, making up her mind to look for a new lover as soon as she got a chance. She would be discreet, but she wasn’t about to change her ways…

Suddenly there was an urgent knocking on the door, and the steward’s voice. “My Lord! Lord Larad!” As if he might mean a different lord, Kylara thought, but the voice sounded downright panicked.

“Enter,” Larad called, and the door opened. “What is it, Gerend?”

The man’s face was white. “Dragons, Lord Larad! Dragons have been sighted from the fireheights! They’re landing in the courtyard now!”

“Dragons!” Larad rushed to the open window. “A full wing, no less!” He strode quickly out the door. “I wonder what business the Weyr has with Telgar.”

Kylara hurried after him. She wasn’t about to miss any chance of seeing a dragon. It might be, as most people said, that dragons were obsolete and the Weyr had no purpose anymore – but that did not make the creatures any less spectacular to see! She had only ever had a few glimpses, when she was younger, and those from a distance. Now they were coming right to the Hold!

By the time they reached the courtyard, the dragonriders had dismounted from their beasts and were standing in formation. Gerend hastily announced, “Lord Larad of Telgar!” The dragonrider at the head of the formation stepped forward.

“Greetings, Lord Larad. I am Weyrleader R’gul, rider of bronze Hath,” the rider said, bowing.

Weyrleader!

“Greetings, Weyrleader,” Larad replied. “What brings the Weyrleader himself to Telgar Hold, with so many dragonriders?”

“We come on Search,” the man said gravely. “Jora, Benden’s Weyrwoman, has died, but her dragon Nemorth laid one last clutch of eggs. One of those is golden and will hatch a queen dragon. We cannot risk it failing to Impress, and so we are here to claim the ancient right to Search within the Holds for young female candidates who might stand at the Hatching. One of these women will be Benden’s new Weyrwoman.”

Weyrwoman! Kylara could hardly contain her excitement. Oh, people always told tales of what went on in the Weyr, but the lack of details had always made her more curious to see for herself. Was it possible that she might go with these dragonriders? She looked at her brother and laughed inwardly. Of course, he wouldn’t want to let these people wander freely through the Hold, but you could hardly refuse someone who had a dragon standing behind him!

“I see,” Larad said after a moment. “My condolences on the loss of your Weyrwoman…”

“Thank you.”

“You may conduct your Search here. My steward will guide you through the Hold.” Larad glanced up at the sun, which was just starting to drop behind the cliff. “As it is getting late, I invite you to stay for the evening meal, and offer hospitality if you find you must spend the night.”

R’gul was unable to hide his relief. “I thank you, Lord Larad. I am afraid it will take longer than this one evening to Search through all of Telgar and her outlying holds, and I gladly accept your offer of hospitality.”

Larad gestured to Gerend but Kylara spoke up before the steward could say anything. “Won’t you come have some klah before you start your Search?” she said, smiling at the Weyrleader. “It must have been cold, flying all this way – why, it’s rather chilly down here on the ground.”

“Ah, yes,” R’gul said, seeming to notice her for the first time, and she stifled a flare of annoyance – he had obviously been too worried about getting permission to enter the Hold. “Yes, some klah would be most welcome, ah…”

“Kylara,” Larad broke in, glaring at her. “My sister.”

“I see,” R’gul said. “Yes, Lady Kylara, some hot klah would be most welcome.”

“Follow me, then, Weyrleader,” she said sweetly. “You may as well begin your Search in the kitchens, where it is warm.”

* * * * *

That evening Kylara arranged to be seated next to Weyrleader R’gul for the meal. She was on her best behavior, charming and gracious, rather than showing her boredom as usual. This, naturally, infuriated Larad, though he could do nothing about it. He could hardly scold her for acting properly in front of guests!

From the moment the Weyrleader had explained why the dragonmen had come to Telgar, Kylara had been unable to think of anything else. The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to go to the Weyr! Away from the ridiculous protocols and morals of the Hold, away from her exile to Igen… A dragon wasn’t even something to consider, but just being able to live in a place where she would fit in. If the tales were true – and surely some of them were! – no one would care what she did, or with whom. A few days of being the gracious hostess were worth that chance.

* * * * *

When Kylara rose the next day, she found that the dragonriders were gone – continuing their Search by surveying the surrounding farmholds and mining camps. She had a moment of panic before she learned that they were planning to return to the Hold for the evening meal before leaving for the Weyr. She had one last chance to charm R’gul.

Larad did not meet the dragonriders in the courtyard this time, but sent Gerend to lead them to the Dining Cavern. This could have been taken as an insult, but R’gul was obviously anxious to avoid giving any offense, so it was a low risk. While they were waiting for their guests to file in, Larad leaned toward Kylara. “Watch yourself with that man,” he said in a low warning tone.

“Why Larad, I don’t know what you mean,” Kylara said innocently. “Haven’t I been a good hostess?”

“You know what I mean, Kylara,” Larad snapped back. “Quit throwing yourself at him! It’s bad enough he’s raiding the kitchens and the cotholds, but we can’t let him take one of the Blood…”

Kylara laughed. “My dear brother, where do you think half of those kitchen brats came from? And what dragon would have a drudge for its rider?”

As R’gul sat at her side again, she smiled at him. “Good evening, Weyrleader. I hope your Search was successful?” She hoped it had not been.

“Ah, somewhat,” he replied, looking grim. “Somewhat. Although we cannot have too many candidates to stand at this Hatching.” He did not have much to say during the rest of the meal, but she kept up a lighthearted conversation, asking if the dragons were tired from flying about the Hold, and about the other eggs in the clutch at the Weyr. How else might she show her interest, her willingness to go with him to stand as a candidate? She would ask him directly if she had to, but she wanted it to be his idea if possible. It would make getting away easier.

An evening had never seemed so long before. The meal dragged on, with everyone still on edge about having dragons at the Hold. Kylara struggled not to show her own tension; when it looked as though the harper was going to get up and perform, she felt like she was going to scream - but Larad held up a hand to stay him.

“Well, Weyrleader,” he said, turning to the man. “Have you completed your Search, or must you remain here at Telgar?”

R’gul flushed. “Indeed, Lord Larad, my men and I must take leave of this place. Our Search here is finished – well, almost finished.” He stood and turned to Kylara. She found her heart was beating very fast.

“Lady Kilara, I believe you would be a most suitable candidate for Impression. Would you consider coming to Benden Weyr with me to stand at the Hatching?”

Kylara barely heard the outcry that erupted at the head table, and at those lower tables near enough to have heard. She rose to her feet, concentrating hard on not seeming too eager. “Why, Weyrleader R’gul,” she said, “I would be honored to Stand at the Weyr.”

“Absolutely not!” burst out Larad, who had jumped to his feet as well. “Weyrleader, you go too far! Take the candidates you have already chosen, but do not think to take one of Telgar’s Blood.”

Kylara was thinking furiously. She could not afford to make a scene in front of R’gul – her usual method for dealing with Larad – but if she gave in too easily her brother would never believe it. “Larad!” she said in protest.

R’gul was backing up hastily, his hands thrown up in aquiescence. “Of course, Lord Larad. I apologize if I overstepped in this, but I thought… We have so few candidates, even now… I should have asked you first.”

“Indeed you should,” Larad said, only somewhat mollified. “I’m sorry, but it is simply out of the question.”

“But Larad, I – ”

No, Kylara!” he spoke over her. “As I said yesterday, you have commitments here.”

She gave him a hurt, angry look and rushed out of the Hall – and straight to her chamber, where she began rummaging hurriedly through various coats and wraps on their pegs behind the door. Ranelly wasn’t there, thank goodness – there was no time to spare explaining and arguing with her! She threw on a wherhide jacket that was warm, but not so heavy as to look out of the ordinary on a cool night like this... Leaving the rest of the garments where they had fallen, she ran back out of her room and off down the corridor.

Kylara slipped out through a smaller side door into the far end of the courtyard. Through the dusk, she could see the large shapes of the dragons – they hadn’t left yet! As she hurried toward them, she saw Gerend speaking to R’gul. As she had expected, Larad had left it to his steward to escort the dragonriders out, as a way to indicate his displeasure.

“Gerend!” she called out as she reached them. He turned, startled.

“Lady Kylara! What – ”

“Lord Larad needs to see you,” she interrupted him. “Something’s happened in the blackrock bunker.” Only a few sevendays ago there had been an accident, a minor explosion when too much blackdust was stirred up while unloading a shipment of fuel, and took a spark. Hopefully, Gerend would think something similar had happened again…

He did! He wasn’t letting it show, but Kylara knew the man’s expressions. “My apologies, Weyrleader, but I must go see what’s happened,” he said hastily. “Good flight to you.”

“Ah, thank you, Steward,” R’gul said. “We are grateful for Telgar’s hospitality,” he called as Gerend strode hurriedly away – to the opposite end of the Hold from where Larad most likely was.

Kylara caught R’gul’s arm, and he started. “Weyrleader,” she said. “I’ve spoken with my brother, and he has reconsidered. If you still wish for me to stand at the Hatching, he says that I may go.”

R’gul’s expression lightened, and he smiled at her. “My lady! Are you sure?”

“Yes!” she said, trying to hide how eager she truly was. “I’ve always wanted to see the Weyr. I managed to get La- Lord Larad, to see that the Holds still owe this duty to the Weyr. He could not come to see me off, but sent his apologies for his words at dinner.”

“Of course,” R’gul said. “He was quite right to object. I should have spoken with him first…”

Kylara bit her tongue to keep from screaming in frustration. They had to go!

“Shall I come with you, then?” she managed.

R’gul shook himself. “Ah, yes, we must be leaving. You may ride with me, Lady Kilara.” She did not bother to correct him. “It will be my pleasure to escort you to Benden Weyr.”

Suddenly the big bronze dragon bent down and extended its foreleg. She had been so focused on convincing Gerend, and then R’gul, that she had almost forgotten the dragons! Now, staring up at it, she experienced the first thrill of fear – but she was too excited to be leaving for that to stop her.

“I will mount Hath, then help you up behind me,” R’gul told her. He stepped up onto the extended leg, grabbed the straps of a sort of harness the dragon wore, and swung himself up to sit high on its neck. Clinging to the straps with his right hand, he leaned down and held out his left to her.

Kylara swallowed and stepped up as high as she could on the dragon’s leg. It was a strange surface, giving slightly under her foot… She grabbed for the straps and for R’gul’s hand, and heaved herself upward to sit astride behind him. A part of her noticed how warm the beast’s skin was, and then R’gul was reaching back with yet another strap.

“Pass this around yourself, and back to me,” he said loudly. “It will secure you to the flying straps.” She hurriedly did as he had said. She had had dreams of flying on a dragon, but the thought of actually going up so high was daunting. Still, her plan had worked! She was actually leaving! She was –

There was a huge lurch as the dragon launched from the ground, and then a series of smaller lurches as it flapped its wings to gain height. Kylara’s head was thrown back, and by the time it stopped spinning, the Hold was lost in darkness below them, with only a few lights showing in windows and at the guards’ stations. She clung to the strap around her and R’gul, and was glad she couldn’t see how high they actually were. A gust of cold wind took her breath away, and then suddenly there was no wind, only cold – black, silent cold and she couldn’t breathe! She tried to scream but couldn’t feel anything but that deep cold, and then the wind was back and she could hear and breathe again.

She gasped for air. What had that been? They leaned suddenly as the dragon banked, and Kylara clutched at R’gul. He shouted something, but she couldn’t hear it.

There were lights below them again – but they were the wrong lights! Shining in different places, from too high up… They weren’t at Telgar anymore.

Now she remembered one of the times she had seen dragons as a child – seen them appearing in mid-air, out of nowhere. She had long thought that she had imagined that part, merely been so surprised to see them that it seemed they just appeared, and had almost forgotten it until now.

No wonder the dragonriders had been able to leave on a journey at nightfall! She had expected a long, cold flight – but that cold had been terrifying. She felt a flash of anger; R’gul hadn’t even thought to warn her.
While she had been trying to orient herself, the dragon had been circling lower and lower, and now landed with only a slight jarring. Light spilled out of a large cavern opening nearby.

R’gul unfastened the straps from his belt, swung his leg over the dragon’s neck and slid to the ground. Kylara clung to the straps but was afraid to move; it was only when R’gul called up to her that she forced herself to turn and let herself slide down. She stood for a moment, shaking a little, and then felt R’gul take her arm. “Go in there,” he said, gesturing toward the lighted passage. “Manora should be there in just a moment. I told her to get rooms ready for all of you.”

He turned back to his dragon and climbed up again. Kylara reached out in protest, but they were already taking off without her. Who’s Manora? she thought, a little jealously. And then, all of you? Turning, she saw several other figures making their way toward the entrance. She began walking over ahead of them. A shadow appeared in the light, and a warm female voice said, “Welcome to Benden Weyr. Follow me, all of you, and I’ll show you where you can sleep tonight.”

Last edited by Brenda; Jan 3 2018 at 11:57 PM.
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Old Dec 13 2017, 09:27 PM   #2
Brenda
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Default Re: Weyr Search (working title!)

Kylara tossed and turned in the unfamiliar bed. It was warm, there were plenty of furs, but the rushes smelled strange. That wouldn't have been so bad, but it was the noise that kept her from sleeping. She had always had a room to herself, and now she was sharing with three of the four other girls from Telgar.

Four of them! R'gul had made it sound as though there were no other candidates, that she was the one he needed – the only real prospect he had found there, the only true candidate for the Hatching! And then to find that he had been planning all along to bring those four as well – with half a dozen more already at the Weyr!

All herded through a maze of tunnels and left for the night, three and four girls to a room. Even the sister of the Lord of Telgar.

Kylara tossed again, uneasy. The other girls were all terrified, and not just from the flight to the Weyr. Apparently she was the only one who had received a formal request to stand as a candidate; certainly she was the only one who had actually wanted to come. The others had not been asked, only told that they were to go with the Dragonriders. Some of them didn't even understand why they had been brought here.

Once the shock of the flight had worn off, the whole lot of them had fallen into weeping and moaning, late into the night. Some of them had finally fallen asleep, but there were still a lot of irritating noises that made it impossible for her to sleep...

Any hope of it actually getting quiet was shattered as one of the girls woke up screaming. As the others tried to calm her down, Kylara groaned and pulled the furs up over her head. It was going to be a long night.

* * * * *

She finally managed to fall asleep, only to be woken at an unforgiveably early hour. A woman came around banging on doors with a call to breakfast. Kylara groaned and considered staying in bed, but she was hungry – it had been a long time since that dinner at Telgar. Besides, they might not wait breakfast here if she did.

She reluctantly put on the same clothes she had discarded the night before, and resolved to ask about getting some more. At least these were some of her finer garments, worn to impress R'gul. Although apparently his standards were not as high as she had thought, if the other girls he had brought were any indication. Certainly not after crying all night.

The woman waited as the girls finished dressing, then led them through the tunnels to an impressive dining cavern, where they were given a table to themselves. The food was filling but plain; at least the klah was good. Kylara filled her cup again and sipped, and wondered what to do next.

When was the Hatching going to be? R'gul had said it would be soon, but that could mean anything. If she was going to be waiting much longer, she would need some fresh clothes. And a bath!

And when the Hatching did arrive, what would happen? How did it work? She had been focused the day before on just getting away from Telgar, but now she needed to find out everything she could to make sure she could stay here.

She looked around but there were very few people in the hall. Everyone else had already finished eating and left. She could hear the noise of women working and talking in the adjoining kitchen cavern, but what would they know of it? She needed to talk to a dragonrider.

She scanned the cavern again. There! A man dressed in wherhide was standing in the entrance to yet another tunnel, talking to one of the women who had been serving food. He was quite good-looking, too! The woman was certainly hanging on his every word...

Kylara started to get up, to walk over and introduce herself, but the man turned and walked off down the tunnel. She muttered a curse. She couldn't go rushing off down random corridors in a place like this – she would have to ask one of the women after all –

“Manora! Manora!” The woman the dragonrider had been talking to was rushing across the hall, calling excitedly for the Headwoman. The noise from the kitchen stopped as the women began coming out to see what was going on.

“What on Pern is the matter?” asked Manora in alarm as she pushed her way through to the front of the crowd.

“Oh, Manora, F'nor is back, and you'll never guess what's happened!”

Manora looked even more worried. “What? What is it?”

“Lord Fax is dead!” Pindra burst out. Everyone gasped. “How?!” “What's happened?”

“F'lar killed him in a duel!”

At that, the entire crowd erupted in a babble of voices. Even some of the Searched girls seemed to take an interest.

Kylara sat there, feeling stunned. Fax, dead? What would happen to his Holds?

Others were voicing the same thought. “Who will take those Holds, then?” “Whoever can, I suppose...”

And Telgar, which had been on constant guard at all of its borders since Fax first came to power, would now be at risk of invasion from those who would imitate him! Kylara was surprised at the urgency she was feeling – it had been so long that even the threat of Fax in the distance had grown accustomed. Now the danger was fresh again. She wondered if it would be possible to send a message – although Larad would certainly not welcome any more dragonriders.

“Lady Gemma will have claim to Ruatha.”

“Lady Gemma is dead, too!” cried the woman who who had brought the news. The voices rose in a clamor again, this time of dismay.

“What?!” “What happened to Lady Gemma?”

“She died in childbirth. At Ruatha,” the woman explained.

Manora's strong voice broke through the babble of questions. “That's enough of this! Be quiet, everyone, or we'll never find out what's happened!” She turned torward the news-bearer. “Pindra, could you please tell us everything F'nor told you, in order?”

Pindra nodded importantly. “F'lar's wing went on Search to the High Reaches,” she began. “They went from there to Ruatha, and Lord Fax rode there as well along the ground, with some of his men and with Lady Gemma and her ladies. And her with child!” she added indignantly. There were agreeing mutters from the women listening; Pindra had th full attention of everyone in the room.

“Fax kept insulting F'lar, provoking him, but he didn't give in,” she went on. “Then Lady Gemma went into labor just as it looked as though they were about to fight after all. F'lar somehow got Lord Fax to say that he would renounce his Holding of Ruatha in favor of Gemma's child, if it was male!” There were startled exclamations from the group of listeners.

“Then someone came in and said Lady Gemma was dead – but that the child was alive, and that it was male! So F'lar called on Fax to keep his sworn word and renounce Ruatha, and Fax went for him with a knife instead! So they fought, and F'lar won. Fax is dead!”

“And F'lar?” Manora asked, concern in her voice.

“He was wounded, but not badly, F'nor said,” Pindra told her. “He sent F'nor back to High Reaches to fetch L'tol – well, he's called Lytol now, isn't he... to bring him back to Ruatha.”

Kylara wondered at this. Who was Lytol? That first time, Pindra had pronounced it like a dragonrider's name. Was the Weyr presuming to take over Ruatha for itself? She felt a surge of righteous indignation, then fear. But Pindra was still speaking.

“Lytol,” she said carefully, “is to be Lord Warder at Ruatha Hold, and guardian of Gemma's child. The babe is to be the heir to Ruatha. F'lar had some of his wing stay behind to help Lytol protect the Hold.”

That was all right then.

“Well, Gemma did have some Ruathan Blood,” Manora said. “That was Fax's pretense for Holding Ruatha after he killed Lord Kale and the others.”

“It's only right that her son be the heir,” one woman said.

“It's not as though there were other candidates to choose from!” said another.

“Oh! I almost forgot!” Pindra exclaimed. “F'lar brought back a candidate from Ruatha! She claimed she was of the original Ruathan Blood and was the rightful heir, but she agreed to come to the Weyr and leave Ruatha to the babe. She'd been in hiding as a drudge all this time!”

One of the Ruathan blood, still alive? And of an age to be a candidate for the Hatching? Who could that be? Kylara tried to think back to the old days of lessons – being forced to memorize the histories of all the major Holds, and all the immediate family members of each Lord Holder for three generations back. Just another useless duty that the Lord's children had to do, and she hadn't even given it a thought in Turns, but if she could just remember...

Ruatha. It had been Lord Kale who was killed by Fax. Lady Adessa. All those sons... and, yes, a daughter. That was right, there had been a daughter, just a Turn or two older than herself – there had even been talk of her fostering at Telgar one day. What had been her name...?

Lessa. That was it, Lessa. If this candidate from Ruatha was telling the truth about being an heir and was not just some distant cousin – or simply lying, or crazy – then it would have to be Lessa. Another candidate from a noble Bloodline – and another who had volunteered to come. All the anxiety Kylara had been suppressing with the thought of how useless all the other candidates were rose again. How could she be sure of getting the dragon if no one would tell her anything about the Hatching? R'gul's promises had been just so much talk after all, it seemed...

Suddenly her thoughts were interrupted by a loud humming noise. The sound was deep, as if the stone itself was vibrating, and she clapped her hands over her ears to try and drown out the sound. It did no good – the vibrations seemed to shake her very bones.

All the kitchen women burst into a babble of speech, while the girls who had been searched stared around in confusion. The humming subsided, then started up again, louder than before.

“Quiet! Manora's voice broke through the hubbub. “No reason to stop working! We knew the Hatching would probably be today, and we'll need to eat either way. Back to work!” She turned to Kylara and the others. “All of you, back to your rooms, now! The dragonriders will be coming to take you to the Hatching Ground.” She strode off down the corridor toward the sleeping rooms, and Kylara hurried after her. What was going to happen now?

Manora turned into the first room. “In here, everyone.” She went to a chest along the wall and opened it, then began taking out folded bundles of white cloth and handing them around.

“Put these on, all of you, and quickly! There's very little time.”

Kylara took the bundle she was handed. It was a dress, of sorts – more like a long, sleeveless tunic. Simple and plain. She pulled it on and shivered.

“All right now, everyone, out this way!” Manora was hustling them down a long corridor, which Kylara recognized as the one she had entered through last night. She could see daylight ahead.

The girls emerged, blinking in the bright sunlight. The warmth felt good on Kylara's bare arms. Her eyes adjusted to the light, and she flinched, startled to see a number of dragons right in front of her. She glanced around hurriedly, looking for R'gul. The three biggest dragons were the same dark metallic color as R'gul's dragon, but he was not among the dragonriders standing there. The riders stepped forward, and it became clear that there was one for each girl.

“Come with me,” said the one in front of her – handsome enough, but lacking in manners, for he grabbed her hand and began pulling her toward the waiting dragon. She had to run to keep up. The dragons seemed agitated, not calm as in the courtyard at Telgar, and as they reached the brown dragon she realized that the loud humming sound was coming from the dragon! All of the dragons! She had no time to wonder about this as she was boosted roughly onto the dragon's neck and lurched into the air. She clung tightly to the rider in front of her, cursing him for not having provided her with even a strap to hold onto, then gasped as she saw where they were heading - a great hole at the top of the mountain, with a hundred dragons all looking about to fly into one another! She clutched harder at the rider's waist and felt him laugh.

“Don't worry!” he shouted. “They know where they're going!”

Somehow the brown dragon slipped in between all the others and into the hole at the peak, plunging them into darkness again.

As her eyes adjusted, the dragon began circling, and she struggled to see what was going on. They were in a huge open chamber, with dragons perched on ledges all around the walls.

She tried to focus on the floor below. It was sandy, lighter than the walls around it. In the center was a group of young boys dressed in white, standing around a cluster of a dozen or so big round mottled objects. They seemed to be moving, rocking back and forth – those must be the eggs!

Then she gasped as she noticed the enormous queen dragon off to one side of the Hatching Ground. She was not the bright gold Kylara had heard about in old Harper songs, but only a dull ochre. Her eyes were closed. Kylara tried to remember what R'gul had said... The Weyrwoman was dead, and her dragon had laid its last clutch. So did that mean that the dragon was dead? If not it might as well be. As agitated as all the other dragons were, it really must be dead, to not be reacting at all.

Just in front of the dead queen, on a raised section of the floor, was another egg, this one half again as big as the others, with a distinct gleam of gold. And a dark-haired girl in white was already standing there.

As they circled, one of the other dragons flew down and hovered over the queen egg, depositing a girl. Then the brown dragon was swooping down and they were hovering, and the rider was turning toward her, gesturing to her to get down. She tried to protest – why couldn't they land first? - but he gripped her arms and forced her to swing around, supporting her as she slid to the ground. The dragon immediately took off, and another flew down to deposit its burden.

Kylara stepped back to get out of the way of the next girl to be dropped. Sooner than she would have thought possible, the last dragon was descending. As the rider helped his passenger to the ground, Kylara heard him say, “Don't be afraid!” Then the dragon was gone. The girls were all gathered on the raised part of the floor. Most of them clung together, weeping.

“Don't be afraid!” What a foolish thing to say! How could they expect anyone to be unafraid after being swooped around by dragons with no warning and dropped in the middle of a Hatching with still not a single word to tell them what to expect or what to do!

The dark-haired girl who had been there first stood off to one side, and Kylara could not help staring at her. Could she really be a long-lost member of the Ruathan blood? To have hidden as a drudge for all that time – well, she was certainly skinny enough for a drudge, with a great bruise on her face. But she held herself proudly, and did not show any fear... Kylara felt a twinge of the fear she had been trying to ignore. What if she failed?

The great golden egg rocked suddenly, and all the girls gasped. Kylara found herself stepping back with the others in spite of herself. It was just so big!

Then one of the girls, who had been weeping all this time, let out a scream. Kylara followed her gaze out to the main floor, where several of the eggs had split open and the hatchlings were crawling toward the young boys – children, really – that waited for them.

Kylara stared in horror as one hatchling mauled a boy and flung him away. Another knocked a boy down and trampled him, gashing him with its claws as it went. No one had ever even hinted that the Hatching might be dangerous! Vague mentions of not letting the dragon overeat, yes; risk of being sliced open, no!

And yet, even as some boys were bleeding from vicious wounds, others were kneeling and caressing the ugly, awkward little dragons. How were they doing it? Even the boy who had been trampled was now reassuring a different hatchling that he was all right, and it was nudging him and crooning. How did one tame a dragon? The adult dragons were frightening because of their size, but they did their riders' bidding. How could a person gain control of a dangerous creature like that?

Soon all the hatchlings had paired up with boys. Blue dragons and their riders led the awkward pairs away, while green dragons came and carried away those who remained. They left behind dark patches of blood, still seeping into the sand covering the Hatching Ground floor.

The big gold egg had been rocking all this time and now was beginning to crack. Several of the girls had fainted, and the rest screamed as the crack widened and the dragon's head broke through. Fair enough – they hadn't had any choice in coming. She had asked to be here, and now she was reconsidering that choice.

The dragons' humming had subsided, but now started up again, louder than ever. It seemed to be coming loudest from the seven largest, darkest dragons on the first ledge. The volume kept increasing as the shell shattered and the hatchling emerged, glistening gold. Kylara gasped at the sight. It was so bright!

The little dragon – not so little, as it was half again the size that the others had been – staggered forward. It tripped in the sand and stopped short, flapping its wet wings to get free. Without warning, it darted forward and clutched at the nearest girl, shaking her violently. Her head snapped audibly and she collapsed.

The dragon lunged again, its claws catching in another girl's shoulder and tearing the length of her body. Her scream broke Kylara out of her shock – it had all happened so fast! She turned to run. Nothing was worth this risk. She scrambled off the raised platform and ran toward the tunnel the boys had gone into. She was half aware the other girls were fleeing as well. She got well away, then stopped and looked back.

The hatchling, crying pitiously, had lurched down from the platform, trying to follow them. The dark-haired Ruathan girl, who had not run with the others, moved toward it. Kylara gasped as the girl grabbed the dragon's head and swung it around, forcing it to look at her... and something changed.

The dragon stopped struggling. More startling was the change in the girl's face. Where it had been cold and distant, it now held an expression of unbelievable joy.

Kylara stared, stunned, as the hatchling began crooning at the girl, and she spoke softly back to it, assuring it that it would be fed soon. Was that it? All that violence, and now it was as docile as a lamb?

And that girl – the one who came out of a run-down Hold, who had given up her Blood claim – had won it? How?

She stood there, staring at the stranger and the golden dragon, until a dragonrider came to carry her back out of the Hatching Ground. The last thing she saw, as the brown dragon circled to gain height, was R'gul – leading the new Weyrwoman away with her queen.

Last edited by Brenda; Dec 13 2017 at 09:48 PM.
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Old Dec 13 2017, 09:29 PM   #3
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Default Re: Weyr Search (working title!)

I may add a bit more if I can figure it out, about settling in at Benden Weyr, but I also like ending on that last line with R'gul walking away...
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Old Jan 18 2018, 12:23 PM   #4
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Okay, I think I am going to leave it as is. Also, I'm going to keep the title. Can a host please change this thread title to leave out the part in parentheses?
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Old Jan 21 2018, 09:13 AM   #5
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Done, Brenda.
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