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Old Jan 2 2014, 01:43 PM   #1

Kath's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Fan of: Moreta
Default A Path of Her Own

It's only when Path's asleep that she lets all of her resentment out. Path is the one perfect thing in Mirrim's life, and the Weyrlingmaster's never once found fault with Mirrim's care of her. She knows he tries – but it's been a point of pride for her that he hasn't yet. She's raised three firelizards from the shell, oiled and tended poor Wirenth and helped out with more dragons than she can remember while their riders recuperated from their injuries in the South. She knows dragonkind inside out, knows how to feed and oil and bathe, knows the subtle signatures of itchy skin almost before Path can feel it for herself. If anyone was going to soar through weyrlinghood, it was going to be her. Even the chores are easy. Some of the larger lads did look askance at her the first time they were sent out to break and bag firestone, expecting her to struggle, but the sacks of stone proved far easier to handle than the larger bags of laundered cloth that she was used to lugging around the bowels of the lower caverns. Once she mastered the technique, forearms toned by kneading bread and scouring pots made light work of breaking stone with a pick-axe. She's never been afraid of hard work – not like some of the Hold-bred weyrlings she has to put up with who don't know their elbows from their arseholes.

She's pretty sure that's the main reason why the Weyrlingmaster doesn't punish her with yet more chores.

Instead, he rewards her with idleness.

Perhaps it's inevitable, but at times like this, with Path asleep and only her own mind for company, her thoughts return again and again to all of the stupid, trivial injustices she's living with. And if she's not dwelling on them directly, instead she finds herself thinking of all the things she might have said – or shouldn't have – or that she wishes to – and, sometimes, some of those things have been played over so many times inside her skull that they all tumble out of it at just at the wrong time, and a little later she finds herself stuck outside the entrance to the Lower Caverns all over again, forced to watch dragons and riders busy at work or drills in the bowl, or her former peers at work in the Lower Caverns behind her, no longer a part of the latter group and a long, long way from being accepted as one of the former.

One day, while she's standing stiff as a post barely a dragonlength from the main cavern, watching C'trul and B'renlig 'sweep the dust out of the Weyrbowl'– because the Weyrlingmaster can set useless make-work when it pleases him, when he has a pair of mouthy weyrlings he wants to fitten up and tire out – one day, while she's watching the pair of them work, and enjoying a novel respite from her own troubles by thinking that their poor dragons' weyrs will always be filthy with dirt if that's the way they go about it, T'gellan comes to see her.

“Morning, Mirrim,” he says cheerily, a mug of klah cupped between his hands.

Her eyes fly all the way up to Monarth's weyr, expecting – or, more accurately, hoping – to see the bronze on his way out and down. T'gellan's a Wingleader, with as much work on his hands as she used to have. If he's not up fighting Thread with his Wing, he ought to be doing inspections or drills or sweeps, or tending to Monarth or running errands for F'l-... for the Weyrleader. Not bothering her.

Unfortunately, she can't spot even the merest glint of bronze on Monarth's ledge, and T'gellan seems to have stopped beside her. She forcibly bites her tongue on what she was about to say and instead says, very properly and respectfully, because she is capable of remembering the lessons she's supposedly being taught today,"Good morning Wingleader T'gellan.”

Then, she lets the focus of her eyes slide away to the middle distance, not seeing anything at all, while she waits for him to leave.

He doesn't leave.

Instead, he takes a noisy slurp from his drink, following it with a sound of mild distaste. “Klah's terrible this morning. Hasn't been the same since you Impressed. Why, if it wasn't for Manora's steady hand, I'm sure the whole Weyr would probably fall apart by Turnover.”

As trivial as his complaint is, and in spite of the fact that she knows he means it as a compliment to her, it couldn't possibly have come at a worse time. “Well thank you, T'gellan,” she snaps. “Nice to know you agree with the rest of them about my proper place here. Tell me, do you think Path would do better at cleaning pots, or cooking with them? Or should we do as V'ron suggests and keep ourselves pretty for the bronze riders like Hessia and Idreny do? Or just idle around the place like Talina does, driving Manora to distraction?”

T'gellan winces. He must know she's right about Talina, but he's still quick to come to the young weyrwoman's defence. It's hardly surprising, the way Arwith's been looking these past few days.

“Talina might not have your management skills, but she isn't totally idle, Mirrim!” T'gellan protests. “She's certainly no Lessa, either, but there's more than one way to be a Weyrwoman.”

“Then I'm sure she'll be glad to hear it.”

He swallows another mouthful of klah, then pours the rest of it out onto the ground, shaking the cup to rid it of the last few drips. “I didn't come out here to talk about Talina, Mirrim,” he says softly.

No, he came out expressly to speak to her. To encourage her to try harder, probably – not that anyone could try harder than she does, right now –or perhaps to chastise her for simply not being good enough. It doesn't really matter why; either way, she's a disappointment.

She waits for him to speak with an ever increasing sense of impatience. It's silly, really. It's not like she has anything else to fill her time with while she's out here. She's been told to stay where she is until the next change of watch – unless Path wakes up early, which isn't at all likely after a meal as big as the wherry she ate earlier – but the weight of all those necessary, little things that she'd meant to be getting on with this morning are preying on her mind nonetheless. Eager to be done with this, she glances up at his face. T'gellan's wearing the contemplative frown of a man far too used to joking who can only struggle when it comes to saying anything serious, and suddenly she wishes that he was still one of the many, many riders who seem to think it's the height of clever humour to mock her for being what she is. She's got used to that now. She can deal with it. T'gellan being serious? That, she's not so sure of. The feeling of dread is growing in her belly now – dread, or shame; one of those things – and if Path isn't to sense it and wake up in distress, she needs to let it out. “Well?” she demands.

He blinks at her, slowly, then finally pulls his thoughts well enough together to turn them into words. “I used to be a weyrling just like you, you know,” he says.

That's not what she'd been expecting to hear. She rolls her eyes, wondering when he'd got so stupid. “Oh? I always thought that you and Monarth sprang fully grown from between.”

“What? Ah.” He chuckles and shakes his head ruefully, and the combination is so achingly familiar that for the briefest of moments she can fool herself that things are back to the way they once were, to the easy camaraderie that used to exist between them. “You know that's not what I meant, Mirrim.”

No, it couldn't be. Too much has changed for there to be any real levity between them any more. She folds her arms, and waits for him to make his completely mistaken point. It doesn't surprise her at all that his teasing and joking had pre-existed her return to Benden, nor that it had once been enough to get him into trouble with the Weyrlingmaster, but suggesting that his behaviour all those turns back made him anything like a 'weyrling just like her' was a very, very big stretch.

You wouldn't remember it, of course,” he continues softly. “You were in Southern back then. But everyone else-”

Mirrim interrupts him, deciding right then and there that she doesn't want to have this conversation after all. “I hate to break this to you, T'gellan, but the Weyr doesn't actually revolve around you.”

It has very little to do with how oblivious he's being – T'gellan's always been too large a part of her past here at Benden, and she doesn't want any reminders of the past today. Not his, not anyone's, and certainly not her own: the time when her life had at least made some sense to her. The past is gone, over. She's a dragonrider now. Path's rider. And everyone was right, there's nothing that isn't amazing and wonderful about being a dragonrider, not with your dragon loving you and sharing every last shred of your heart and mind. And surely, surely it should be enough for her, surely she's enough for Path, but none of that explains why everything keeps going wrong for her, what part of being a woman or simply being Mirrim makes her not good enough for anyone and everyone else. She's trying so, so hard, but if she isn't good enough for them, how can she possibly be good enough for Path after all? It's Path she pushes herself for. Path who deserves the best from her. And if she hates that no-one else seems to see that, it infuriates her to no end that T'gellan obviously thinks she somehow deserves this punishment! “So you were one of those who had to learn everything the hard way, were you?” she snaps at him. “Well, I'm not!”

“Mirrim,” he says, raising his hands defensively, the cup dangling loosely from one finger.

“If you'd taken the time to ask,” she says, “instead of just assuming, you'd know that Path is growing into perfect proportions for a green, her hide and all the rest of her is in exemplary condition, and we've done everything asked of us twice as well as almost any other weyrling!” And if he bothered to pay her even a sixteenth of the attention he used to give her, he'd know all that already without even needing to ask. Brekke and F'nor did, and neither of them had needed to spend any time with her to know it. Not that she had any spare time to share, these days.

“I didn't need to ask, Mirrim,” he says, unconsciously echoing her own thoughts. He looks hurt. Or perhaps annoyed. Both, most likely. “It's sharding obvious to half the Weyr. I wouldn't have said anything at all...but Manora came to see me, earlier. She's worried about you.”

“No one needs to worry about me!” The time to worry would have been right at the start, when Lessa...when Weyrwoman Lessa had accused her of interfering with the eggs and two separate Lords Holder of Pern had blamed her for their relatives' failure to Impress. Or when the predictable, subtle hazing in the barracks had first turned to something more overt. Manora might not have had time to worry about her any earlier, but unless she thought that Mirrim's problems – or her management of them – had recently grown worse, she needn't have bothered worrying at all. Later, then Manora could start worrying for her again, when Mirrim and Path were flying with the fighting Wings. Assuming they were ever even allowed to fly and fight properly at all. That thought, with all of her own fears tangled up inside it, set her eyes stinging. “There's nothing wrong with me, and there's nothing wrong with Path, and-”

“Mirrim,” he pleads. “The day I Impressed Monarth was the best day of my life.”

"Oh, you're full of shocking revelations today, T'gellan!”

This time, he's the one to bite his tongue. He turns away and heaves in a deep breath. “Are you going to keep interrupting, Mirrim?” he says, still looking away from her.

She's never heard that particular note in his voice before, never knew he was even capable of making it, and she doesn't need Menolly's ears to know what it means. Something serious, something personal, something from far beneath the surface of the happy, easy-going man that the rest of the Weyr knows. He turns back to her then, obviously expecting more of an answer than her continued silence, and his face is shadowed and bleak. She has seen that look before, she realises, a turn or more ago: the last time that Monarth had suffered a serious score. “No, T'gellan.”

“It was the best day of my life,” he repeats, softer and more slowly than before. “Overwhelming. Monarth filled me up and wouldn't let go, and I barely knew who I was any more, other than being everything he needed. And I promised I'd do everything right for him – don't deny you've not done the same – and I did, Mirrim, I truly did.”

And then he tells her a tale that's almost too familiar to believed, of a boy whose priorities couldn't be faulted, even as wrong as they were. A boy who worked himself to the bone, putting his dragon first, always, always, exactly as every rider should, up until the point when it all became too much. The critical moment had come almost a month after their first trips between, during a simple – so he says now, but it's well above the level of the ground drills that she and her peers are still attempting to perfect – rapid-blink flaming drill. But she doesn't dwell on how much she and Path still have to learn, because she's almost weeping with heartfelt compassion and not a little second-hand fear, as T'gellan tells her how he and Monarth almost died.

She swallows, awkwardly, as his words finally run out. “Oh.”

“Yeah,” he agrees. “I don't suppose you're all that surprised that I've never had half the sense of one of your firelizards.” And then he smiles at her, as warmly as the whirling of Path's eyes, and she knows exactly what he expects – needs – her to say in reply.

“T'gellan! How dare you put Tolly and Reppa and Lok down like that!”

“That's my Mirrim,” he murmurs, giving her a gentle clout on the shoulder. “Of course you're not going to make my mistake. You've got far too much good sense in that hard skull of yours for that. But it's not so far from where you are going astray. Look. I have no doubts at all that you'll make a superb fighting rider. One day. Your peers may have their doubts, but they're.... How was it you described them? 'So short of glows they couldn't light the inside of their own empty skulls?'”

“They're not all deadglows.”

“Well that's charitable of you, Mirrim,” he says, smiling still, and this time she can't help but return it. “You might think the Weyrlingmaster thinks the same way...”

She opens her mouth to deny it, but T'gellan raises a hand to cut her off.

“Faranth, please, don't ever tell me what you do think of him!” he says, and winks at her. “You know what I'm like with gossip. Just remember that there are enough of us that know better. People who matter. F'nor. Brekke. F'lar and Lessa, too. Manora, obviously. We all of us know you, know you've got everything it takes to ride a fighting dragon.”

It's a flattering statement, but hardly consistent with the rest of their conversation. “But if Path and I fill you with so much confidence, why then are you all so worried?”

T'gellan sighs. “It's not just that we know you, and what you, personally, should be capable of. F'nor, F'lar and I, we know what it's like. And Manora and Brekke may never have flown in the upper levels, but they know what it means. You ride a fighting green, Mirrim. The best of her clutch – that's not empty words, girl, it's Faranth's own truth – but she's still-”

Just a green? A silly green?”

A green, I was about to say. A fast, manoeuvrable, flaming and fighting green. Who needs to concentrate on her own job, not everyone else's. You can't manage all of your Wingmates during Threadfall.”

“You do.”

“Yes, I do! But I'm a Wingleader. Apparently, it goes with the knots. Monarth and I spend half our time ordering the rest of the Wing around, and the rest flaming the biggest clumps within reach. You know what? It's really all we're good for.” He pauses, emphatically, then hammers the point home. “What do you think would happen if I tried to get Monarth to turn on his tail and pick off one of the threads that the greens and blues in our Wing chase down?”

The image is an amusing one. Monarth is a fine bronze, but compared to even the clumsiest of greens he's about as agile as sack of firestone.

“If he didn't cripple himself in the process,” T'gellan goes on, “he'd get right in the way of whichever dragon was flying off his wing, and we'd have burrowing threads all over. No, it's the greens and blues that Pern really depends on. They do the hardest flying, risking their lives from leading edge to trail. And if you let your attention stray from Path and your own fight for even a second, Mirrim, that Fall will be the last one you ever fight. You need to start worrying a lot less about how your fellow weyrlings follow their orders, and more about your own!”

“But we do follow orders!”

“And if that was everything you needed to do, I wouldn't be out here talking to you. As far as your training goes, you're not doing anything wrong. So you're showing some of the other weyrlings up? So what! So some of 'em are useless? That's their look-out. Mostly though, mostly they don't know what to make of you, or of what it means that you are a better rider than they are. How do you think your clutchmates feel when they see you and Path doing everything so effortlessly, about all the rough patches they were too insensitive to notice?"

She sees his point, but... “They aren't bothered by F'lessan being better than they are! Everyone likes F'lessan.”

“And you don't think he has his own weight of expectations to carry? That fooling around and being approachable and a friend to all isn't a conscious response of his own? That it isn't a good idea in his case, when he might be their Wingleader one day? You and they might need to trust him and Golanth that way, five or ten turns from now. But it's a very, very dangerous thing to see weyrlings relying on a rider of a green or a blue to look out for their mistakes – for them and for you. Let go, Mirrim. Let go of Mirrim who sees and knows everything, Mirrim the headwoman's apprentice, and let Mirrim the dragonrider grow.”

“I have let go! I don't have a choice! Path is...” She trails off awkwardly. She loves Path too much to allow herself any regrets. “I'm trying, T'gellan. Trying to be Mirrim the dragonrider, the first girl to ride a fighting green in Faranth knows how many turns...”

T'gellan reaches out and takes hold of her shoulders. “Oh, Mirrim! Yes, you're different! Yes, you're a girl, but that's not what makes you special. Being Mirrim makes you special, and I don't think that being a fighting rider is going to be the be all and end all of your life with Path. And if you don't know what you are any more, what Path is making of you, then it's only natural to lash out from time to time. But there's still room for Mirrim-the-Mirrim inside the life of Mirrim-the-weyrling. You're not as trapped as you think you are.”

It takes her a few seconds to gather her thoughts together after all that. “That's... that's pretty deep, T'gellan.”

He grins at her again. “Manora's words, not mine. I just borrowed 'em off her. You can tell me whether she got it right, can't you?”

“Manora's always right.”

“Of course she is. Manora knows everything...except how to make klah exactly how I like it.”

She rolls her eyes at his blatant wheedling. “Oh, all right. Come down to the barracks later, and I'll boil up a kettle for everyone.”

That evening, she does exactly that, making more than enough to go around. It turns out to be a very good thing, because it's not just T'gellan who drops by, but Menolly and Master Robinton too, and the Weyrlingmaster sings nothing but her praises to both of them, while Menolly scribbles down words and notes on a scrap of hide. It would all be quite embarrassing if she didn't have Path in her head and her heart, telling her that everything she's hearing is only a pale imitation of how wonderful she really is, while Tolly and Reppa and Lok croon alongside Menolly's fair.

The next morning, every firelizard in the Weyr has picked up the melody.

And before the month is out, all Pern is singing her song.
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Old Jan 2 2014, 01:44 PM   #2

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Default Re: A Path of Her Own

And here's the very, very rough first draft of Menolly's song.

I saw a woman weaving with such artistry and craft.

I saw a healer healing with such tenderness of heart.

I saw the hearthfire burning on a night so cold and dark.

And the dragon that did choose her, first and last.

I saw a weyrling training for the deadliest of crafts.

I saw their dragon cared for with such tenderness of heart.

I saw their flaming breath, and watched them through between depart:

Dragonrider Mirrim and her Path

See them fly, high and together, darting swift and diving low.

See them rise, to fly together, searing threads and saving homes.

See them flame in golden glory, wings of green so lithe and fast.

Doubt not the worth of women fit to earn a dragon's heart.

(As always, feedback would be very much appreciated.)
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Old Feb 8 2014, 08:50 PM   #3
Wicked Wonder
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Default Re: A Path of Her Own

This is absolutely lovely. Mirrim's never been my favorite character (probably reminds me of myself too much) but this look inside her head and how driven she is to be the best is so nice, and T'Gellan being himself- you can see how they end up together.
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Old Feb 9 2014, 01:48 AM   #4

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Old Feb 9 2014, 11:54 PM   #5
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This follows up very well to what we see of Mirrim and T'gellan in Dragonsong - which is definitely where Mirrim is shown in the best light, too.
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Old Feb 10 2014, 12:29 AM   #6

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That was the plan. I don't think Mirrim was very well served by the later books.
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