Chapter 1: Kareth
Mike is pretty sure that there’s been some sort of mix up in this whole scenario. Seriously who thought it was a good idea for him to be brought out onto the breeding grounds for the hatching day? Oh right that brown rider had thought so. Somehow he’d thought it was a perfectly good idea that Mike could ride a dragon. Him, a dragon rider. When Mike made the sentence in his head they sounded so preposterous he could laugh because it was pretty much ridiculous. He was just some kid from a no name hold in the south, yet here he was, at the Southern Weyr like it was his damn business to be here with the other boys and girls who all looked different shades of pale or green as they stood around the clutch of eggs. A bit of a ways off was the other group of girls who were hoping for the queen, standing around the egg like it was made of gold like a queen’s scales.
He tried not to focus on the girls though and instead looked at the eggs in the sand before him. There were a little less than a dozen of them and more than twice as many kids around him ranging in ages from eleven to about seventeen. Mike was up there with the older kids yet this was his first time on the sandy Hatching Grounds. It was why he was nervous, unlike some of the others he didn’t have more chances to get a dragon. The brown rider had said not to worry about that though, that some kids got picked on their first shot and he had a feeling about Mike because of how well his Barth liked him.
There was a recognizable stillness from the ring of potentials when one of the eggs wobbled. Mike swallowed when a long narrow crack appeared on the side of one of the mottled eggs. Nothing happened for several heart beats before there was an audible sound of an egg splitting, not from the mottled one but from a sleek almost uniformly blue one that wobbled on it’s end and split into four pieces at the top. Mike held his breath as a blue shoved his head through the top of the egg. He blinked his eyes around at the boys and mewled before his egg toppled over.
Another egg was hatching though drawing Mike’s eyes away from the blue and with a shower of egg shells a brown burst from his egg like it was fruit and not a hard eggshell. It squawked and flared his wings swinging it’s head too and fro around the circle it’s compound eyes whirling. One of the potentials next to him seemed to lose his footing and was suddenly on his ass, staring at the brown like it was the dragon from the First Egg. Then with deliberate, if clumsy, steps the brown went right over to the boy and butted his head against the boy’s chin. The boy looked like he was about to burst into tears as he hugged the dragon’s head.
By now several other eggs had hatched and the sand before him was crawling with dragons. Most were brown, green or blue but there was a bronze who was making his pass along the candidates and yet still five unhatched eggs. The bronze locked eyes with Mike for a moment before it snorted and looked away, turning to another of the older boys who looked suddenly beside himself. Distantly he heard the group of girls around the golden queen egg gasp and there was a sharp ringing of a crack from that direction.
Mike didn’t look though, his eyes were on the blue dragon that was eyeing him in turn, almost in his face, inspecting him as if he could Impress it. Then he sneezed and turned from Mike, who got whacked by the tail in the process and made him stumble back into the sand from the force of it. Let it be said that while blues were the smallest of the dragons they still had enough force behind them to topple a fully grown man even at birth.
It took Mike a few seconds to get his feet back under him, having to back up a few paces in order to do so because the sand, while not deep, was still hard to find footing on especially since he’d never stood on it in his life before coming to the Weyr. As he finally got his footing his back bumped into someone and he turned quickly to see one of the queen potentials turning to glare at him. Mike swallowed and quickly tried to make himself scarce.
Above them a dragon trumpeted, breaking the near silence of the squeaking and cooing hatchlings and the sounds of breaking eggs. It made everyone jump and Mike cast his eyes up spotting Masrith, the Werywoman’s gold hanging her head down from her perch staring down intently at the hatching grounds. It was like she was looking right at him but he knew that was ridiculous.
Something behind him warbled and Mike turned expecting to see a brown, or at least a blue or (in his greatest dreams) a bronze. Instead he turned and stared at the large golden hatchling staring at him, head cocked to the side. He took a step back as the girls flocked around the small queen trying to get he attention. Mike himself turned back to the larger circle hoping perhaps he could Impress a blue, let the girls fight over the gold. There was a sharp cry of outrage and he glanced back to see the girls jump away from the small queen when she flared her wings out to make herself look bigger than she was.
‘Don’t you want me?’ the question bounced around the inside of Mike’s skull like a harper bell and Mike stopped dead. He looked around to see who was speaking to him because he’d heard what a dragon sounded like in his head, the brown who had found him had spoken at large once to the both of them and he knew what it felt like to have a dragon speak in his head. ‘I’m right here,’ they said again voice smooth like honey though like it was spoken in a deep cave.
Mike spun all the way around, away from the larger circle to the group of girls who were looking at the small queen with confusion. “Kareth?” he asked not knowing how he knew or why or even who he was talking to.
The little queen threw her head back and trumpeted, a sweet sound that reached up to the very top of the Weyr. ‘Yes. I am Kareth,’ and Mike suddenly found he couldn’t stand and his legs gave out from under him. That was the gold speaking to him. Was that even allowed? Could boys even ride queens? Could they even Impress? His mind spun and he felt even sicker than when he’d first walked onto the hot sands of the Hatching grounds.
The queen, Kareth, he name was Kareth, held her head high as she all but marched over to where he sat, stunned, in the sands. “Why?” he managed to say when she butted the tip of her nose against his chin. His hand came up automatically and rubbed along her eye ridges.
‘Because, who else would I pick? Not one of them,’ she snorted in obvious contempt of the girls chosen to be her potential riders.
“You weren’t supposed to pick me,” he whispered and now he could hear commotion going on around him, there were people who were upset, he could hear them, but he couldn’t focus on them. All he knew was Kareth and her golden scales.
‘Well I did.’
“We’ll have it rough,” he ran a hand gently along her jaw.
‘Nothing you aren’t capable of dealing with. You’ve have lots of practice, right Mike?’ and he blinked before he couldn’t help it; he laughed. Of course she would know. Didn’t dragons know everything about their riders? Why would he assume he and Kareth would be any different? Not only that but she’d called him Mike, only his gram called him Mike.
“Yeah,” he breathed, “We’ll make it through,” he agreed and turned his face up when a shadow dropped over him. He swallowed as he looked into the dark eyes of Jessica, the Weyrwoman, who had the most confusing upward tip in her lips.
Once he had become obvious that yes, a queen had Impressed upon a man, the entire Hatching Ground was in an uproar. There were Holders who were upset that their daughters had been outted by a boy as well as the girls themselves who had glared at Mike so hotly that they might as well have been stabbing knives into his gut. The others who’d Impressed were ushered off the Hatching Ground sands by several of the bronze and brown riders, quick to get the new weyrlings away from the chaos that had become the Hatching Grounds.
Mike and Kareth however didn’t move. For one Mike was sure his legs were too weak still to support him, and for another the Weyrwoman was still standing over him purposefully. Well maybe not over him, more in front of him keeping the upset dogs at bay. Mike just hugged Kareth who prrrrwed her sympathy reassuringly. Now that most of the shock had worn off Mike was just sort of terrified. What if they took Kareth away?! The idea made him a bit ill. He could also hear what others were saying now and his sharp mind couldn’t not hear what they were saying when they were so close. Though he couldn’t actually put a face to the speakers since he had his face pressed against Kareth’s hide.
“It isn’t done.”
“This has never happened before.”
“I don’t care if it never happened before it’s against tradition.”
“This is just as bad as Jaxom and his Ruth-
“This is nothing like the Lord Holder, at least Ruth was a male dragon. And this isn’t even a green, it’s over a queen!”
“Is this even allowed?”
“How could this have happened? How did he even get near the queen?”
“Jessica do something. Stop this.”
“You can’t allow this Weyrwoman, I won’t allow if. My daughter was a candidate for the queen and-
The entire Hatching Ground grew silent when something massive landed on the sands. A low, loud hiss filled the entire space and Mike glanced up from Kareth’s hide to see the great golden Masrith looming over the entire assembled group. Her lips were pulled back in a snarl, revealing knife-like teeth and her compound eyes whirled a furious red color. There was a collective gulp as the queen showed her displeasure of the current events.
Finally Jessica spoke up, though she had been fielding all the accusations till now, though they’d been drowned out by the larger amount of unhappy complaints. “If that is all everyone?” she asked at large, hands on her hips. “Masrith agrees with her daughter’s choice,” and that was the sting of it, that Kareth was indeed the hatchling of Masrith. “There is nothing more to discuss, please leave the Hatching Grounds before I’m forced to remove you,” and that was the end of it because now that the Weyrwoman and her queen had spoken there was nothing against it. Mike watched the assembled trickle away, Jessica keeping her position making sure they did indeed leave. Once it was obvious they were leaving in greater numbers she turned to one of her dragon riders. “Lu’is,” she said and the shrewd man perked up, “Take Mikeral out with the other weyrlings.”
“Of course Jessica,” he said in what probably was supposed to be a pleasant tone but really just sounded smarmy. Then he turned and walked over to Mike. “Hello Mikeral,” he said with a grin plastered all across his face though Mike could tell he was one of the people who’d been upset over Kareth’s choice in rider. “If you’ll come with me,” and he didn’t offer a hand up so Mike grabbed hold of Kareth to drag himself out of the hot sands. “Follow me,” he said shortly and walked off leaving Mike barely any time for dust himself off before stumbling after him, Kareth trailing behind him dutifully.
‘It’ll be okay Mike,’ she told him. ‘We’ll be okay,’ and it took everything he had to actually believe her.
Chapter 2: Serensith
Outside Lu’is led Mike over to the other Weyrlings who were bathing their new dragons in the nearby salt water lagoon and feeding them from baskets filled with herd beast meat. As they neared a few of the new dragon riders looked up. Mike did a quick tally in his head, there were two bronzes, three browns, three blues and two greens from the last clutch, and of course Mike’s gold… he repressed his innate desire to fold himself into a ball and pretend to not exist. He was a guy… who’d Impressed a queen.
‘I’d have it no other way,’ Kareth chimed in, startling him as he followed in Lu’is’ shadow to the lagoon. He barely registered the fact that the older slightly balding, man was even talking. He was still in a bit of a daze from the day’s events. But he got the idea, bathe his dragon to rid her of the egg membrane that clung to her hide and then feed her. He could do that, that was easy. ‘It’s okay Mike,’ Kareth cooed to him.
‘I hope so,’ and his eyes scanned the new weyrlings, some of who were staring at him, others seemed to be very intently not looking at him. ‘C’mon, lets clean you up,’ he said and she followed him into the shallows of the lagoon.
Unlike their riders the dragons themselves didn’t take issue with who Kareth had impressed upon and the two greens from the clutch slowly migrated over to them. Mike also swore he saw the bronzes staring but whenever he or Kareth looked they were engrossed in their riders. It seriously freaked him out.
He rubbed sand along Kareth’s hide washing away the dried remains of Kareth’s egg sac and digging his fingernails into it. He knew she could probably do it herself but that would mean Mike had to sit on the shore by himself, and he wasn’t ready for that.
Everyone looked up when a shadow passed overhead and there was a great splash as a dragon dived into the deep part of the lagoon. The hatchling dragons cried out and several flung themselves into the deep end where a full grown green dragon lifted her head from the lagoon, her head streaming water and eyes whirling. She opened her mouth and trumpeted before turning her attention to the hatchlings who had come out to play with her.
‘Serensith,’ Kareth supplied without Mike even asking.
‘Who’s her rider? Where is her rider?’ he knew at least that usually fully grown dragons weren’t allowed near hatchlings so soon after hatching. It was dangerous because they were so small and could easily get trampled. Though he guessed with a green or a blue there wasn’t much to worry about.
‘Rachel,’ Kareth said.
“Hello,” Mike jumped and splashed water everywhere when someone came up behind him. Then there was laughter and he turned around quickly to see a woman standing in the water behind him. She wasn’t wearing a particularly great amount of clothes, though to Mike that was common place since in the south during the summers some people went around with nothing on save for small pieces of clothing to maintain their dignity. She was older than him by a few years and had a charming smile with brown hair she had pulled back into a tail, for a second Mike just stared.
“You’re beautiful,” he finally blurted out when Kareth butted her head against Mike’s back.
The woman seemed amused, “I’m Rachel,” she said. “Jessica sent me to help you out.”
“Oh… thanks,” he didn’t know how grateful he should be, he honestly had no idea what he was doing.
Thankfully Rachel knew exactly what she was doing. “So this is Kareth?” she asked reaching over to rub her eye ridges, Kareth practically purred and closed her eyes.
“Yeah,” Mike said awkwardly then he had to ask, “Why did Jessica send you?”
“She wanted me to make sure the others weren’t giving you a hard time,” and she cast a baleful eye at the new dragon riders. Most of the dragons had left the lagoon by now, except for a few who were playing in the water with Serensith, and were laying out on the sand and grass sunning themselves and letting their riders preen and feed them. “Which I see they aren’t doing so all is well,” she said nodding firmly.
Mike couldn’t help it, he had to ask, “What do you think about it?”
‘Not everyone disapproves Mike,’ Kareth added in a chiding voice.
Mike ignored her, “About me and Kareth,” he said.
Rachel sort of smiled, “I think it’s… interesting,” she admitted. “But no one questions why or what makes a dragon pick their rider, they just do and that’s the end of it,” and she scratched Kareth under the chin. “It’s a bit silly for anyone to get upset over Kareth’s choice, I mean, what are they going to do? Tell her to pick a girl?” and she laughed at that.
“No. She Impressed on you, and even if they tried Jessica and Donna would have words,” and he’d never heard something so terrifying in his life. It was never a good idea to get on the bad sides of the senior and junior weyrwomen. He’d only been here a few weeks and even he knew that.
“Oh,” his feelings must have come across in his tone because Rachel looked back at him.
“Hey, it’ll be fine,” she clapped him across the shoulders and gave one shoulder a firm reassuring squeeze. “You’ll see Mikeral,” she offered him a smile.
‘We’ll be okay,’ Kareth cooed, repeating her earlier words.
“Right,” he swallowed, not knowing who he was actually talking to. Maybe he wasn’t talking to either of them.
‘I’m hungry,’ Kareth suddenly announced. Mike couldn’t help but laugh and he explained to Rachel what he suddenly found so funny. She dragged him out of the lagoon to where herd beast meat had been left in baskets on the shore. Kareth lay out on the sand, her hide practically glowing in the sun as she closed one eye and ate out of Mike’s hand.
“When you’re done here Jessica wanted to see you,” Rachel said and Mike fumbled the meat. Kareth hissed when it landed in the sand but ate it anyway.
“Wh-what for?” he stammered and his hand shook a little as he handed Kareth some more meat which she snapped up with an easy eagerness he wished he shared.
“Nothing bad. She just wants to talk to you. I mean you are a junior weyrwoman… I guess,” she sort of squinted, her brows raised.
“I really hope they don’t call me that,” Mike sighed, “I’m not a woman.”
“You could pass for one,” Rachel teased.
“I just have soft features! I’m not a girl,” he protested and Rachel giggled softly.
“No need to get so defensive,” she said in a placating tone and patted him on the back.
“Sorry it’s just… today and Kareth and…” he petered out, not knowing what he really wanted to say except that he wanted to say everything.
“I know. Don’t worry, really, it’ll get better.”
“But nothing bad has happened-” he started to protest.
“Exactly,” she smirked and stood up from the sand dusting off her legs and ass with a few sharp pats. Her head titled to the side and Serensith swam to the side of the lagoon and pulled herself out of the water, her wings semi extended to help them dry. The two greens and a blue and brown played around her legs, also dripping wet.
“Did Jessica say where to meet her?” he asked while the larger dragon fell onto the grass and rolled around in it, catch one of the hatchling green’s tail and making it squeal in protest and go running off to it’s rider.
“She said she was going to be around the Main Hall, no doubt she’s still dealing with angry Holders,” she snorted in an unimpressed manner.
“Oh… are they still angry?”
“They’ll get over it,” she waved away his concern. “This is weyr business and no one, not even the Lord Holders, have a legitimate reason to concern themselves with weyr dealing.”
“What about the other weyrs?” he asked.
“What about them?”
“They’ll be informed right?”
“Well I guess so. I mean I assume they will. Still there isn’t much they can do. You know as I do that ever since the Old-timers came to the Southern Weyr the northern ones prefer to ignore us. Even if they’re mostly gone now the old resentment is still around,” she frowned.
“Oh, right,” he nodded and realized that he’d run out of meat for Kareth who now had a bloated belly and was stretched out on the sand blissfully.
‘The sun feels good Mike.’
‘I know,’ though truthfully it was a bit overbearing sometimes.
‘You could do with more sun.’
‘I’m sure I’ll get plenty now with you to tend to,’ and he gently pushed her head making the little queen prrrrw in amusement. “I guess I’ll go see Jessica now,” Mike said. Then a bit sheepishly he asked, “Will you come with me Rachel?”
Rachel sighed and rolled her eyes a bit as she realized that Mike was being a bit overly cautious. “Sure,” she said and as he stood up, sand falling off him, she put an arm around his shoulders. “Don’t let the Holders intimidate you when we get to the Main Hall. They’re too old to deal with things that go against tradition.”
“Okay,” he said though didn’t sound so sure himself.
‘You’ll be fine Mike,’ Kareth called after him encouragingly.
‘I wish you could come with me.’
‘That’s a silly thing to say,’ and even as they walked away he could hear Kareth snort. ‘I’m with you always.’ Rachel seemed pleased when she saw Mike smile, finally, for the first time since before he’d stepped onto the Hatching Grounds.
Chapter 3: Specter
Jessica, the senior weyrwoman, was tall. Even compared to men she was tall at standing at the same height as her weyrleader. Her skin was dark, something Mike had only ever heard about until coming to the Southern Weyr, and her entire body commanded attention from everyone and no one could tell her what to do. Not the weyrleader, not the Lord Holders. She was the leader of the Weyr and the surrounding area under her protection, she knew it, the holders knew it, it was just that sometimes the Lord Holders seemed to forget.
One of those “sometimes” happened to be now actually. Jessica was standing in the Main Hall, so called because the buildings running up to the Hatching Grounds seemed to create a wide hallway from which you could access other parts of the Weyr, with her fat bronze fire lizard on her shoulders, his eyes whirling wrathfully. His agitation however didn’t show on Jessica’s face as she in a stern voice fielded the Lord Holders’ questions and demands while making a few of her own. The bronze noticed them first and looked dead at Mike making him swallow and slide close to Rachel, as though he could hide behind her.
“That’s all I’m saying now,” Jessica said, her voice left no more room for argument. “You are all of course welcome to stay, but we are expecting Thread fall tomorrow. If you wish to return home please alert Hr’dman and he’ll arrange for a dragonrider to take you home,” under her assured tone was the threat that the Holders were no longer welcome at the Weyr and they should leave sooner rather than later. Then she turned away from the Holders and walked back down the Main hall towards the Hatching Ground entrance where Mike and Rachel were waiting just out of plain sight.
“You think they’d get it that you have no say in who a dragon picks,” Rachel sighed when Jessica came near.
“But what are Holders if not excessively thick headed?” Jessica asked with a bit of a grin, her bronze fire lizard settled down onto her shoulders now calm that his master was as well. “Hello Mike,” and he started. Earlier she’d called him Mikeral, now she called him Mike. “Masrith said you might prefer that name,” Jessica said calmly, “Or would you prefer Mikeral?”
“M-Mike is fine,” he stammered. Now that he was in front of the weyrwoman he didn’t know what to do with himself other than just stare.
“Thank you for bringing him Rachel.”
“Hey, no problem,” Rachel shrugged a bit. “You didn’t have to worry too much about the new weyrlings, they were all too nervous to go talk to him, or bother him.”
“Good,” Jessica nodded and put her arm around Mike’s narrow shoulders. Nervous? They hadn’t seemed nervous to him. But then he’d been focusing mainly on Kareth and trying not to be notices at all, something hard to do when you were a boy with a dragon that had a golden hide. “Thank you.” Rachel just nodded, did a sort of little half salute and walked away, Mike watched her go feeling nerves creep up his throat. “Everything’s fine Mike,” Jessica said letting him go and directing him to follow her. The Weyrwoman had long strides and he had to walk quickly to keep up with her.
“Really?” Mike couldn’t keep the trepidation from his voice. “I mean… this has never happened before and what about the Lord Holders or the-
“The Lord Holders will just have to deal with it,” Jessica said in a patient voice. “Southern Weyr isn’t the Weyr it was when the Old-timers were here. We’re more progressive and if Kareth picked you to be her rider, well, not much we can do about that now can we?” he asked as they entered the shallow cut cave system of the Weyr.
“I suppose,” Mike agreed thoughtfully. “What about the other Weyrs?”
“If they need to be told, they will be. We’re a long way from the northern Weyrs and everything else. They don’t have pull here,” she said and started up a flight of stairs. Mike was quick to follow. “Even if they did-
“What could they do?” Mike finished for her when she left the end of her sentence open.
“Exactly,” she said with a smooth smile.
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll see,” she chuckled. They stopped at a landing and Mike stole a glance out one of the small windows to see the open expanse of the ocean less than a mile away and the lagoon where the other hatchlings were still laying out in the sun. He couldn’t see Rachel’s Serensith anymore though. “Now Mike, I want you to remember something,” and his head whipped around to focus back on the Weyrwoman. “You may be a man but you still ride a queen, and you still have authority over just about anyone in the Weyr. Don’t let anyone push you around. Understand?” she turned to him briefly, their eyes catching and Mike nodded hastily though wondered if he really could do that. “Good, now then,” they stopped at the door of a weyr. He could hear someone inside, moving about. Jessica knocked.
“Who is it?” someone called from inside and Mike recognized the voice but couldn’t place it.
“Donna open up,” Jessica called. Mike paled slightly.
The door was flung open quickly after by the red haired woman. She was more around Jessica’s age, maybe a few years younger. Like Jessica however she had that air of superiority about her as if no one and nothing would even /think/ of crossing her. Which really was in your best interest after all since as junior weyrwoman it was pretty much assumed that she’d take over after Jessica eventually stepped down. Mike had only been at Southern Weyr a few weeks and he already had a healthy appreciation for how /terrifying/ the junior weyrwoman could be when crossed. It wasn’t that she was exactly scary it was the way she could put a smile on her face and tell you your deepest darkest secrets that you never wanted to come to light. Once in his first week here he’d seen her reduce a wing second to tears. He still didn’t know how she’d done it, but it had just taken less than five minutes before he was a sobbing mess.
If Jessica was scary, Donna was scarier, by far. A different sort of scary, but no less scary.
“What’s up?” Donna said in a very matter of fact tone, one hand holding onto her door frame. Then she spotted Mike and smiled, thankfully it was an actual smile, and not one that promised to rip him limb from limb. “Oh, hello,” she said half way cheerfully.
“Donna,” Jessica had a ‘play nice’ tone going on. Good, Jessica was on his side. That was good. “You knew this day was going to come eventually.”
“I did,” she nodded and Mike wondered what the hell they were talking about.
“Good, then I don’t need to tell you what you need to do.”
“Nope,” she agreed and batted her eyelashes at Jessica.
“Good,” Jessica said again. “Mike, I’m sure you already know Donna.”
“Of course,” he short of squeaked.
“She’s going to be showing you the ropes so to speak. If you have any questions, ask her. Got it?”
“Yes ma’am,” he nodded in a fidgety sort of way.
“And if she can’t answer any of your questions you come to me.”
“Yes ma’am,” he said again.
“Oh Jessica he’s adorable,” Donna cooed and ruffled Mike’s blonde hair affectedly. “He even ma’ams you and everything.”
“Well at least one of my junior queen riders does,” and Jessica sent Donna a significant look. “If you need me you know where to find me,” was her last comment before leaving Mike with Donna. Mike stared after the Weyrwoman in what he hoped wasn’t horror on his face.
“Oh c’mon now Mikeral… do you prefer Mike or Mikeral?” Donna asked drawing his attention back to her.
“Ah, Mike’s fine ma’am.”
Donna laughed, “Oh, I’m going to have fun with you,” she said with a smile. Mike offered a nervous one back.
Chapter 4: Leth
Mike found that after about a week that Donna, really, honest, wasn’t as scary as he’d first assumed. Okay, she was still scary, but not as scary. She still knew everything ever and still knew more about things she probably shouldn’t know, but then maybe she should know since after all wasn’t she junior weyrwoman? If for that alone she didn’t seem as terrifying because before Mike had just been a candidate for the eggs. Now though he was actually someone like her, a gold’s rider.
They were out by the lagoon again, it had become Mike’s favorite place very quickly since Donna had taken him under her guiding wing. There were tactics that southern dragons used that those in the north had no use for, mainly thanks to the warm ocean and the grubs that ate Thread. Dragons in the south learned how to swim while with a rider and used it to their advantage to fighting Thread. They also used the land as a brief shelter instead of going between to hide from Thread. It was almost as safe in the air as on the ground thanks to the grubs who were starving for Thread it seemed.
Mike had classes with the rest of the weyrlings under the weyrling master, Lu’is who he’d met on his first day. But he didn’t have to learn how to fight Thread since he rode a gold. Donna however thought that was a load of herdbeast crap and even while he didn’t have to know it she taught him anyway. When he asked why she would just say, ‘a weyrwoman needs to know everything about everything. That includes fighting Thread. Don’t let Lu’is tell you otherwise.’
Which was why they were at the lagoon. Teaching Kareth to ‘fly’ under the water without Mike for now since she was still too small to carry him. Though it wouldn’t be long before she could, only a fortnight or two.
Mike sat in the shallows of the lagoon. He could see the two golden hides of Kareth and Donna’s Leth as they streaked under the water. He seemed a bit out of it as he watched, his eyes unfocused as he collected himself firmly with Kareth. That was another thing Donna was teaching him, a greater connection that they had with their queens over other dragons and their riders.
It was because of that that he missed the shadow that passed over him. However the sound of the water erupting suddenly jolted him from his state and he gave a cry as a wave crested almost over his head and for a second he floundered. Donna, on the shore, laughed at him.
“What was that?” he cried, unable to help himself and looked around quickly.
You can’t just zone out when you’re in connection with Kareth,” Donna told him almost smugly. “You also need to be aware of everything else around you, such as... Serensith!” she ended in a yell as the green and gold dragon spiraled out of the lagoon, taking wing strait from the water. They danced in the air above the lagoon and Mike watched them a bit in awe as they seemed to slip and slide over one another, the smaller green weaving between the larger Leth’s golden wings.
“Where’s Rachel then?” he found himself asking since Serensith lacked her rider.
“Right here,” and he jumped again when Rachel had materialized right next to him. He looked over and saw her, dripping wet, her hair back in a tail though her bangs hung down on one side. “Donna when are you going to break him of that?” she called back to the junior weyrwoman who was also her weyrmate.
“I dunno, I think it’s sort of cute; that he’s so jumpy,” Donna purred with a grin. Great, they were taking cracks at his expense again. Not much new there since the two loved to tease him. “Sort of like a puppy,” she grinned at Mike who flushed, Rachel walked out of the shallows. “Also, Mike,” she pointed up and Mike tore his eyes away and looked up see Leth and Serensith falling fast towards the lagoon. He quickly got the message and scrambled to his feet and got out of the water. He turned around in time to see him impact and the wave was monstrous. He was about ten feet back and the wave still brushed his ankles.
‘Kareth?’ he asked.
‘Yes?’ her voice was a purr in his mind.
‘You weren’t in the way were you?’
‘Of course not,’ and as if to prove her point a small golden head poked up out of the lagoon. ‘Come swimming with me Mike,’ she added and blinked her jeweled eyes at him, the color a soft, cool blue.
“Erm,” he looked over at Donna who was too busy talking to Rachel to notice him. ‘Okay,’ and not for the first time knew he would be ditching out on his lessons.
Kareth was waiting for him and he slipped onto her back. She was only about as a larger dreybeast, still too small to carry him in flight, but large enough to swim with him, just not at any real speed. Leth and Serensith were lazily swimming along the top of the water, facing away from them, ignoring them as their riders were. With that in mind Kareth slipped through the arms of the lagoon that led out into the sea, Mike still on her back.
‘You get me in so much trouble,’ he told her.
‘You will forgive me,’ was her only statement, and that was true. He would forgive her. He loved her and no matter what she did he could never find it in his heart to be even annoyed with her for very long, if at all. ‘Besides, I know you want to enjoy yourself as much as me. We are not prisoners Mike.’
‘I know,’ and he twisted around as she swam in a large lazy semi circle around the beach of the Southern Weyr so he could lay on his stomach. Her shoulders and wingjoints gave him a good platform on which to lay and he closed his eyes. ‘But we shouldn’t ignore our lessons. They’re important. Especially the ones Donna gives us.’
‘I know. But-
‘But,’ he prompted, slapping her affectionately on her wing joint near his head.
‘Masrith said that sometimes a weyrwoman has to do what she wants and ‘damn the consequences’.’
‘You’re sure?’ Mike raised an eyebrow she couldn’t see.
‘She tells me a lot of things that Jessica nor Donna tell you,’ she said softly. ‘Donna is from another Weyr, I’m her first,’ and Mike blinked. Kareth was Masrith’s first queen egg? He tried to remember hearing about any other queens.
‘But I thought there were others, I swore there were.’
‘Other queens, other clutches,’ Kareth’s tone was dismissive. ‘Old-timers.’
‘Oh... is Masrith a queen from then?’
‘One of the last. They were all growing old and gray when she came into her status as Weyrwoman,’ Kareth told him. ‘Masrith doesn’t rise to mate often. Most of the riders are from elsewhere. Like Donna.’
‘What Weyr is she from?’ he asked and moved so he was lying on his back now as the sun was starting to feel uncomfortable on his bare skin there.
‘Really? I didn’t know she was from Fort. Though really with that hair and that skin I expected her to be Ruathan really,’ he frowned slightly. ‘They’re known for that hair, or used to be. The old books say so at least. I’m surprised her skin isn’t the same color as her hair,’ and out here in the water Mike allowed himself to laugh.
Kareth found it amusing as well. The water bubbled slightly as her chest rumbled with her staccato laughter. ‘You and your books Mike. I’m surprised you haven’t retreated into the library yet and forgotten all about us here outside the walls of the Weyr,’ and Mike blushed. He did have a certain affinity with books. He loved books, he loved to read. Reading was a gateway to the past, and the future and the present. He’d taught himself to read the old scripts based on alphabet devised by the Harpers to help translate the new discoveries found here in the south.
‘If I did I would leave you though, I could never do that,’ he reached above him to rub her head.
‘Yes,’ she purred happily and twisted her head around to nuzzle him, he smiled. ‘Turn and hold on,’ she said.
‘Dolphins,’ she said and Mike quickly scrambled to sit properly and to grip tight to her neck. Mike had mastered the ability of keeping his eyes open under salt water since he’d first come here, even if it did sting, and he could hold his breath a long time from practicing in the springs around his own hold further south. So when Kareth dove he took a deep breath, slammed his eyes shut and waited until a soft, ‘look,’ echoed through his head.
‘Is the dolphineer around?’ he asked knowing that a few lived at the Weyr though the Dolphincrafthall wasn’t exactly close to the Weyr itself. But dolphins had always been seen near the Southern Weyr, even when it was under the care of the Oldtimers.
‘No,’ she said. ‘Listen to them as you would listen to me.’
He did and opened his eyes, lungs starting to feel uncomfortable. The world around him was murky and tinted gray and blue. He grinned when one of the creatures flashed past near his head and he turned his head upwards to catch them swimming in formation above him. While normal people could hear dolphins as well dragonriders and dolphineers tended to have a stronger link for communication. They’re voices were like a series of chimes in his head, like the singing of fire lizards really, a steady rising sound that just continued to increase in pitch to the edge of squeaking. He didn’t pay much attention to their words though, they were dolphin words, cheerful and full of spin.
‘Kareth,’ he said, ‘I need air,’ and she surged upwards and broke the surface a moment later.
Mike gasped for breath since he’d been seriously pushing him limit just then. Panting slightly from Kareth’s back Mike looked out across the ocean. They’d almost lost sight of the shore now and land was just a thin line on the horizon. He wasn’t afraid though. There were some bigger fish in the ocean but nothing that compared to a dragon, not by a long shot. To the north west dark clouds gathered and he could see rain streaking towards the water. They just stayed there for a while, Kareth stopped swimming and just let herself bob in the water, her eyes lidded and content, sending lazy signals of color into Mike’s mind.
The clouds slowly covered the sky, the rain getting closer though he saw no lightning. It wasn’t a very big storm either, just a pocket of rain in the clouds. He wasn’t worried.
He almost fell of Kareth’s back when she suddenly reared her head up and her rectangular head jerked in the direction of the quickly approaching storm. Her eyes whirled at an almost impossible speed, the color an agitated rust color.
“Kareth! You almost knocked me off,” he scolded frowning and wondered what was wrong.
Her next word filled him with dread and he felt all the blood drain out of his face. ‘Thread.’
He looked carefully at the approaching storm and it looked just like rain to him. Then he saw it. It almost like the sea boiled and he shivered terribly, a full body shake that made his bones rattle. There had been no predicted Threadfall today, why was it-
He wanted to hit himself he was so stupid.
Of course there was no predicted Threadfall today! It was out in the middle of the ocean. And where was he? Out in the middle of the ocean on a dragon who couldn’t fly, go between or swim fast enough to outrun it. His entire chest became a tight knotted fist of panic and he was sure he was hyperventilating though he couldn’t be sure because all he could hear was a ringing in his ears.
‘MIKERAL,’ Kareth roared through his mind. That startled him so badly that he did fall off. For a second he forgot how to swim and managed to cling to Kareth’s upper wingjoint before he started to tread water. ‘You did not respond when I called,’ she said worriedly and nuzzled him.
“Kareth. Thread. That’s Thread. We’re out here, defenceless and.... Thread!” the last word almost came out as a sob.
‘Mike, get on my back, I can swim faster than you,’ she wasn’t even going to try to fly. They both knew it was useless to even bother, she was too small and her wing muscles still too weak to support a rider. She was a faster swimmer though and Mike climbed up onto her back, sitting just in front of where her wings met her body. ‘We’ll be fine Mike,’ he wondered how she could be so calm. As she started off he realized however that she really wasn’t. Her eyes whirled at dramatic speed and her legs and wings worked in tandem to give her greater speed.
‘Kareth,’ he whispered, not trusting his real voice to not break and crack.
‘I love you,’ he told her since he thought that this might be the last time he’d get to tell her and he really never could tell her enough that he loved her even if he did at least once a day.
‘Do not say it as though we will not outlive this Mike,’ she scolded him though her worry and love was obvious in her tone.
‘All I do is hope,’ he looked back and saw that the Thread was getting closer and gaining actually. He felt his stomach squirm and he wanted to throw up. He swallowed down the bile though since it wouldn’t help anyone. Instead he focused on not panicking. Easier said than done to be sure but it couldn’t be helped really and all he could do was try.
Then they could hear it. The hissing of Thread hitting the water, bubbling and then dying. Mike couldn’t help his whimper and hugged Kareth around her neck. The gold herself put more power into her strokes but land was still a long way away. At least though now it was no longer a line on the horizon, like like a long finger sitting on the sea. They were still really far out and Mike wondered how long they’d been out here to get so far out to sea.
‘I followed the currents out,’ Kareth supplied his unspoken question and he loved her for even now knowing how to deal with the situation and both their panic. For all that he was older than her she acted much more like his senior, he assumed it was a dragon thing. ‘They led us out quickly and now make it slow going back to land,’ her voice trembled slightly.
Mike was somber and silent for a few moments before an idea struck him. ‘Are there dolphins around? I bet they could show us a current inland,’ he said quickly.
‘I... yes-’ and then she was silent. ‘I am going to dive,’ and that was all the warning he got as suddenly air was replaced with water making him suck in his breath. Under the water Kareth could use her entire body and wings to swim and she moved west from their current position and hit a cold pocket of water. Mike shivered as it reminded him of between not as cold perhaps, but cold enough.
‘Air,’ he begged after a medium length of time and Kareth shot to the surface. Mike gasped and coughed as some salt water got into his mouth and turned back. The Thread was still behind them, but now much closer, perhaps only three or four dragon lengths away. He let out a desperate sob and pressed a hand to his face.
‘I will not let you die,’ Kareth said savagely, starling him. ‘Down,’ and he gulped down air, his eyes squeezed closed. They hit the cold current again Kareth’s wings pumping against the water, body rippling like a tunnelsnake through the darkness Mike couldn’t see.
‘Up,’ and they broke the surface a moment later. Mike kept going to the edge of his ability to hold his breath and so had to take several moments to find air in his lungs. In that time Kareth moved slower on the top of the water. Panting he looked back and it felt like all the blood suddenly left his body. “Kareth!” he screamed and she looked back at the hissing water and Thread. It was less than one dragon length away.
‘Down,’ she ordered and he scrambled to hold on as she reared back to dive. As she did the Thread came upon them and they slipped under the water just in time to avoid the stinging burn of it. Mike didn’t know if you could cry underwater but if it was possible he was doing it. This time he didn’t even ask for air before Kareth was saying, ‘Up,’ and they broke the surface. Mike stared at what he saw. An entire of wing of dragons was in the air above them, jets of fire being thrown from their mouths as they fought Thread. Now Mike did cry, from pure and total relief as they rid the air above him of Thread.
A dragon crashed into the water next to him startling him, his eyes whirling red and Kareth swam over to him. He was a massive bronze who’s rider was in full flight gear. Mike had never been so happy in his life to see another dragonrider.
“What sort of stunt do you think you’re trying to pull coming out here?” the man demanded, voice hard. Mike’s mouth just opened and closed a few times but he couldn’t find himself able to actually say anything. “Hand,” he ordered and held out his gloved hand. Mike grabbed it and the bronze rider hauled him onto the dragon, sitting Mike in front of him.
‘Kareth,’ he said with a hint of worry.
‘I will swim home,’ she assured him. He nodded and the bronze threw his wings out and took to the sky. They’d only just become airborne when suddenly Mike was freezing as they went between. He leaned back against the bronze rider who was warm in his flight gear where Mike was just wearing a pair of shorts. The rider had a secure arm around his waist so he didn’t fall off and he was grateful for it for the coldness of between was so shocking that he honestly would have fallen off.
Then the sun was there as they burst back into reality. Mike dragged in a ragged breath and they landed in a storm of sand from the bronze throwing it up from his landing. Shortly after the air was once again filled with dragons as the wing who’d come to his rescue came home and flew towards the Weyr’s cliff face where they landed in their weyrs like gems being slotted into place on a mask.
Still shivering Mike let himself be helped down from the bronze by his rider. The man was tall and fit and Mike couldn’t really focus on him. He was still coming down from the adrenaline rush of his panic as well as the coldness of between.
“Mike!” he recognized the voice and barely registered it as Donna ran up to him and wrapped him in a blanket. “Mike!” she called again and gently slapped his cheeks.
“I’m sorry,” were the first words out of his mouth. The bronze rider seemed amused, he chuckled. Donna however snapped at him and that quickly shut him up.
“It’s okay Mike, it’s okay,” she said gently and hugged him. It was strange, she never hugged him. Though in hindsight he guessed that a near death experience would do that to someone and he let himself be hugged.
“‘m cold,” he said through chattering teeth, he was sure that a bit of ice had formed on his skin from going between after being in the water. He was freezing.
“I’m sure. C’mon, come with me. We’ll get you warmed up,” she sent a look at the bronze rider, which could have been anything from a warning to gratitude. Mike wasn’t sure, he felt like crap and wanted to just sleep. And he was still cold, despite the burning sun overhead. She gently ushered him along to the Main Hall and the cliff, to which he followed dutifully. “Mike, where’s Kareth?” she asked as she helped him up the stairs to his weyr.
“Sh-she said she would swim home.”
“Can you feel her?”
Mike thought about that a moment and stretched his mind out. ‘Kareth,’ he called.
‘I am here.’
‘Where are you?’
‘I will be home soon,’ was all she said. Mike relayed that information to Donna who seemed relieved.
“Here you go,” and she led him to his bed. She had no problem undressing him from his wet and icy clothes and he was too lost to fight her as she put him in proper clothes and put him to bed. “Now lets hope you don’t get sick,” she sort of frowned, sort of didn’t. She mainly just looked worried.
“It’s cold between,” he managed to say.
“Yes. Which is why when you go between you wear warm clothes.
“Y-yeah,” he agreed shivering. “Donna?” he asked.
“Hmm?” she said smoothing some of his short wet hair back from his face.
“Am I in trouble?”
She laughed at that, as if he had just said the funnest thing ever, “No,” she assured him. “Now you just rest, sleep, Rachel or I will come by later to see you,” she promised. He nodded and closed his eyes though he didn’t know if he could sleep. His body was still shaking too hard to really sleep.
That was his last thought before he fell asleep.
Chapter 5: Rissth
The next time Mike woke he felt significantly better. For one he wasn’t cold anymore. In fact he was hot. Amazingly hot and threw all of his blankets off. That helped a great deal and he stood up from his bed feeling like he’d been hit in the face by a dragon.
‘Mike!’ he jolted at Kareth’s enthused tone and looked up to see Kareth sitting at the front of his weyr, staring at him, eyes blue with pleasure.
“Kareth, you’re safe,” he sighed happily and went over to her, hugging her head and making her prrrrrrw happily from deep within her chest. “I was worried.”
‘I know. I am here though. There is no more need to worry,’ she assured him.
“How did the others know we were there?”
‘The dolphins,’ she answered and Mike stared in delight. ‘You should thank them later.’
“I will,” he promised. “Did Donna or Rachel come by?”
‘Yes, you were sleeping,’ she told him gently and he sat down between her fore claws resting his back against her neck and throat. She was warm from lying in the sun and he was grateful for it because even if he felt warmer now deep in his core he could still feel the chill of between. ‘There is klah for you though,’ she added and he looked. There indeed was a small pot of khal and it still steamed slightly, so it hadn’t been there too long.
“I’m good I think,” he breathed and leaned against her, basking in the smell of her sun warmed hide. She put her head down, coiling it around so she could see him through one eye. “How long was I out for?”
‘A few hours,’ was her reply.
Then after a moment of hesitation he asked, “Who was it that saved us?”
‘Trath and his rider, H’rvy, and his wing.’
Mike blinked, “Wait, his wing?”
‘Yes. H’rvy is wingleader, new wingleader at that.’
“Great, I got personally saved by a wingleader,” while he didn’t feel ill he felt a bit uneasy. Usually rescue missions were given to blues or greens, they were smaller, faster, and could get in and out of places quickly. That bronze, Trath, however, wasn’t small at all. He’d been big, on the bigger side of the bronze scale actually.
‘You’re upset?’ she was confused by that.
“N-not upset just... I dunno. It seems out of place.”
‘You ride me, who else would save a queen rider but a bronze?’ and he blushed deeply, his tan skin turning the color of copper.
“I-I guess,” he agreed. “What was his name again?”
He sputtered his lips, “You know who I mean,” he said feigning irritation. She prwwwwed in amusement.
‘H’rvy,’ she said softly into his mind. ‘I spoke with Trath while you were sleeping, doing as Donna told us to, to learn everything about everything.’
‘He and H’rvy are from Fort, like Donna, they came over at the same time. He’s been a wing second for a several years now and only a few fortnights ago was made wing leader. Lu’is doesn’t like him. He says H’rvy is too...’
“Is too?” he prompted gently.
‘Reckless, perhaps. He went out to get you without alerting the Weyrleader or the Weyrwoman. He was the first one the dolphineer found and he assembled his wing without permission to fight Thread. Jessica wasn’t happy, neither was the Weyrleader.’
“Did he get in trouble?”
‘Apparently a bit. But no one was hurt, and he rescued you. There wasn’t much they could find at fault with him, since everyone came home safe. Though you had a mild case of hypothermia thanks to going between.’
“I see. Trath told you this?”
‘I spoke with Rissth, he told me.’
“Of course. Because Lu’is would know,” Mike rolled his eyes.
‘Lu’is is Weyrling Master, there isn’t much he doesn’t know, or can’t find out. Rissth therefore is a very good source, especially when it comes to H’rvy.’
“Really?” he asked as someone came up to his weyr.
“Mike, are you awake?” Donna called knocking.
“Yes,” he called back and Donna opened the door. “Hi,” he said cheerfully from between Kareth’s claws.
Donna walked right over to him and smacked him upside the head, “Don’t you ever scare me- us like that again. Do you understand?” she demanded crossly.
“I- Sorry,” he lowered his eyes, no longer cheerful.
Donna sighed, “Oh puppy, there isn’t anything to be sorry for. Just don’t do it again. Got it?” Mike nodded eagerly though didn’t know how he felt about being called ‘puppy’ by Donna. “Good,” and she ruffled his dry hair which was sticking out at all ends from the salt.
“I’m not in trouble right?”
“No. It was an accident. You didn’t mean to go so far out to sea did you?”
“No, I didn’t even realize we were so far out,” he only sort of lied. “Or that there was going to be Threadfall. Is that wing that helped me okay?” he knew Kareth said they were fine but dragon fine wasn’t the same as human fine.
“Yes,” she nodded. “We’re lucky no one was hurt because of that stunt.”
“Sorry,” Mike said again. Donna just rolled her eyes at him but didn’t acknowledge his apology. “What about H’rvy?” he asked.
“You know about H’rvy?” she narrowed her eyes at him and he wondered how well they knew each other beyond being from the same Weyr before coming to Southern.
“Kareth told me. She said he was the one who brought me back.”
“He did. And was stupid enough to take you between,” she ended in a bit of a growl. Mike hoped H’rvy would be okay, few people got away with making Donna upset.
“I’m fine though,” he insisted.
“Yes, you are. But by the First Egg if he’d gotten you sick or hurt by Thread I would have skinned him,” she threatened and Mike didn’t doubt her for a moment.
“Well if he hadn’t come I no doubt would have died,” he provided helpfully. She just ‘hmpf’ed. “He isn’t getting his status revoked though cause of what he did right?”
“Ha! You kidding? Like the Weyr can afford to take a wingleader like H’rvy out of his position. No, he’s keeping his position. He’s just grounded until further notice,” and Mike winced in appreciation. “Now then, are you hungry? Rachel said you were still asleep when she came to check on you earlier.”
Mike opened his mouth to say that no, he wasn’t hungry. However when he did his stomach informed him that his brain was wrong. He was indeed hungry, quite a bit actually. “Yes,” he said.
“All right, c’mon,” and she helped him up. “Lets put something hot in you,” and she led him out of his weyr down to the kitchens for something hot and hearty to eat.
Once he’d convinced Donna he honestly wasn’t above to die he asked Kareth where he could find H’rvy. She told him he was out where the herdbeast were, Trath was apparently feeding. So Mike trotted down to that part of the Weyr and saw several people hanging around including a few of his fellow weyrlings who after some initial coolness seemed more at ease around him and Kareth. As advised, weyrlings watched over their dragons while they hunted, learning from the larger dragons, so they didn’t kill more herdbeast than they could really eat. As it was two of the smaller dragon colors could share a herdbeast between them.
He looked around for H’rvy before realizing he didn’t even know what the man looked like. He’d been so relieved when he’d first seen him that he hadn’t actually seen him and the rest was him being too cold to focus. He started when Kareth suddenly projected an image into his mind. It was the image of a man half dressed in flight gear. He had a firm jaw and cunning eyes, his mouth curling up at one side around a mole, almost like he was constantly smirking. His hair was dark and slicked back perfectly and it took Mike less than a second to realize what he was seeing. That was H’rvy. He blinked blankly at the image projected into his mind before making himself focus again.
Now knowing who he was looking for finding H’rvy was surprisingly easy. He stood back by the fence, dressed half in flight gear his hands in the pockets of his pale leather pants that Mike found sort of surprising. Usually people didn’t wear pants in the south, too hot, it was a very northern fashion choice. Not surprising really seeing as how H’rvy was from the north. His skin however was just as bronze as Mike’s who’d been born in the south, showing that he was out in the sun a great deal. He wondered why H’rvy was still wearing his flight gear even though it had been hours since he’d fought Thread.
“Excuse me,” he called moving quickly over to the man. H’rvy turned and his brows went up when he saw it was Mike. Mike went right up to him. He wasn’t as tall as Mike remembered, still an inch or two on him but not a significant height difference though Mike still felt slightly bitter that he was basically done growing now at seventeen turns. “Hi,” he said only slightly intimidated. Donna had been coaching him in not being a push over. He was a gold rider and he only held no authority over the senior gold riders and the Weyrleader. Everyone else was his underling. For a kid like him though that was a bit of a stretch to take on so quickly as he was used to being the guy who followed orders, not the one giving them. Donna was doing her best to break him of the habit.
“Well if it isn’t our little gold riding stunt boy,” H’rvy said in a light, teasing voice, his lips curling into a smirk.
Mike couldn’t fight his slight blush, but at least when he spoke next his voice didn’t crack. “I wanted to come and thank you.”
“Oh really?” H’rvy’s brows went up, almost up to his hairline.
“Yes, for saving me. For saving me and Kareth,” he added quickly since really if Mike had died Kareth would have gone between as all dragons did when their riders died, unable to live without the bond they shared.
“Well,” he rocked back onto his heels, “You’re welcome.” Behind him his Trath landed with a loud, hollow thud. H’rvy got that sort of distracted, relaxed look on his face all riders did when they focused their entire attention on their dragons. Mike stared at Trath. He was big. Not the biggest bronze in the Weyr, no not at all, that honor belonged to the Weyrleader, but he was definitely big with brilliant orange eyes and his maw stained red from his recent feed. “Trath says you should be more careful in the future,” H’rvy said suddenly, startling Mike from his staring at Trath. “We won’t always be there to rescue you.”
Mike did his best impression of a glare. He didn’t have to take that. Even he knew that. “Well next time I doubt I’ll need you,” he said cooly his irritation flaring out from within his breast. “The only reason we didn’t escape is because Kareth can’t go between,” and of course the unspoken message that Kareth wasn’t yet big enough to fly with him.
“Of course. I was just repeating what he said,” and Mike was smart enough to know that was such bullshit. “Take the hint from today though. Stay closer to the Weyr until you can fly,” he advised, now not even being mean, just some helpful advice.
“I will,” Mike said bluntly, still being irritated. “Thanks again,” and he walked off, not one for backward glances.
It took Mike two days to convince both Jessica and Donna that he was fine, really. He wasn’t sick, he wasn’t even cold. He was still shaken from getting chased by Thread, but that was rather normal they said. After all it was Thread and not to be trifled with. So with that in mind Mike went about the rest of his life.
Since then Donna kept a much better eye on him and when they were having lessons didn’t let him wander off. Rachel apparently had also been banished from their time together since while she didn’t distract Mike she definitely distracted Donna. They were having a really boring lesson that day too. Donna was teaching Mike all the names of the important members of the Weyrs. Weyrs; plural. She’d written them all down, he’d read them, he knew them, but Donna kept testing him. It wasn’t that it was hard to understand, it was just boring as he rattled off the names of the current Weyrwomen, from Benden all the way down to their small Southern Weyr. He knew them. His memory was a funny thing. Once he read something he understood it, and once he understood it he never forgot. So honestly as soon as Donna had showed him the list of names he would remember them pretty much forever.
Try convincing Donna that.
“Donna,” he stopped her as she was about to make him tell her all the people on the list from Ista. “I know it. Please, can we do something else, this is boring.”
Donna frowned, “Fine smarty pants,” she said and seemed to look over his shoulder. For a second he thought she was talking to Leth but realized her eyes were too focused for that. “What are you doing here?” she asked.
“I hope I’m not interrupting,” and Mike twisted around in his seat. H’rvy stood in the open doorway. He was in half his flight gear again. Which was weird because Thread wasn’t supposed to fall today or even tomorrow.
“No,” Mike said quickly before Donna could get word in edge wise. Anything to save him from boredom.
“Good. Donna, Jessica said she needed to see you,” he said.
“Do you know why?” and she raised one slender red brow.
H’rvy just shrugged, “It isn’t my place to question the Weyrwoman.”
That made Donna laugh. “Of H’rvy you’re so full of it,” she teased, half annoyed, half amused. “You’d have questioned Lessa if you’d been able to,” and Mike looked between them. Benden’s Weyrwoman was well known for her temper and for her hard headedness who didn’t tolerate talk back from her riders. Shards even Mike knew that.
“Well she isn’t my Weyrwoman now is she?” he asked cooly.
Donna rolled her eyes. “Fine. Watch the puppy, I don’t want him wandering off,” and she sent him a significant look. Mike, being an adult, stuck his tongue out at her and she ruffled his hair affectionately as she walked past.
“Puppy?” H’rvy asked after her, head turning to keep her in sight.
“Yes. My puppy,” and she pointed at Mike who flushed when the two older riders from Fort turned to look at him. “Keep an eye on him. Don’t let him run away. He will if you give him a chance,” and she squinted at Mike.
H’rvy chuckled, “Very well Donna,” he said. “Now off you go,” and he flapped his hand at her in a shooing motion. She sent one more look at Mike before leaving. Once she was gone Mike groaned. “What’s the matter puppy?” he asked in a teasingly playful voice.
“Oh no,” Mike rounded on him suddenly. “You are not calling me that. Bad enough Donna and Rachel call me that. You are not allowed,” he said using his best ‘Donna-voice’, as he’d taken to calling it when he had to actually boss someone around, something he wasn’t inherently good at.
“Sorry, sorry,” and he held up both hands to show he meant no offense. Mike watched him walk over to the table he and Donna had been sitting at and fell gracefully into the chair Donna had just been occupying not a moment ago. “So Mikeral,” it was strange to hear someone call him Mikeral.
“Mike,” he interrupted.
“Mike,” H’rvy repeated, almost in a condescending tone. Did this guy just breath jerk or something? Mike wasn’t totally sure. He was a bit sure, but not totally. “What were you and Donna up to?” Mike thought about not telling him for a second before realizing he had no reason not to. So he told H’rvy who smirked. “Seriously? Donna is actually going over that with you?”
“Well... yeah,” he said uncomfortably.
“You didn’t already know?”
Mike narrowed his eyes a bit. “It’s not like I’m a weyrbrat,” he said. “And unlike you I’m from the south, the northern Weyrs are more of a story to me than anything else.”
“Oh,” he seemed thoughtful. “Where are you from?”
“Five Corpse Hold,” he recited thinking about his old home. It was called that for the five large groves of trees native to the southern continent on a mostly plain-like area to the south east of Southern, closer to Paradise River longitudinally than Southern Weyr.
“Ah,” H’rvy said like he knew where that was. He doubted H’rvy did. It was a small hold with not many people, not surprising since it was out in the open without mountains or caves to hide in. Instead it was a grassland with the groves and some hills. They lived inside the hills. Easier to dig into than stone and just as safe since the plains teamed with grubs. “Some name,” he teased.
“Almost as creative as Southern Weyr.”
“Ah, well you can blame F’nor for that. Not like I had any hand in naming this place.”
“Not like I had any hand in naming my hold,” Mike said right back.
H’rvy was quiet for a moment before he gave a soft snort, “Very true. Very true,” he agreed. “What’s it like there?”
“Hilly, grassy, not many trees,” Mike shrugged. “You care?”
“Not particularly no. I was just being friendly because I have a great appreciation for my life and wouldn’t think of getting on Donna’s bad side,” he explained. Mike didn’t need any other explanation since he had a healthy appreciation for Donna’s bad side as well and knew he never wanted to be on that side of it.
“Why did you and Donna come from Fort?” Mike blurted out, he wouldn’t admit it hadn’t been on his mind after all.
“Nosy puppy,” and Mike growled at him, “It even has teeth; cute,” he smirked.
“I was just curious. If you don’t want to tell me you don’t have to,” he grumbled.
“Maybe when you’re older kid,” and Mike glared at him now.
“I’m not a kid.”
“Really? How old are you? Fourteen, fifteen turns at most?”
“I’m seventeen,” he short of growled. Yeah, H’rvy was a jerk, he didn’t like the rider. He didn’t care if he’d saved Mike from Thread it was obvious just from his attitude that it had nothing to do with Mike, he just wanted to be a hero. He didn’t care and that annoyed Mike.
“Really? I never would have guessed.”
Mike stood up, “I don’t have to take this,” and he turned to leave.
H’rvy was in front of him before he’d taken five steps towards the door, intending to leave. “I don’t know if you recall puppy,” he just seemed amused by Mike’s look of irritation, “but Donna gave strict orders to not let you run away and I don’t know if you noticed. But usually it’s in your best interest to do as she says.”
“I heard her just fine. You see though, if I leave you’ll get in trouble, not me,” and he stepped to the side intending to just walk around him.
“Ah, yeah, see, problem there. I don’t intend on getting in trouble because of you, Mike,” and he grabbed Mike by the wrist.
“Let me go,” Mike tugged at his wrist but H’rvy was strong and had a firm grip.
"You going to make me kid?" and he raised a brow at Mike. Mike glared and glared hard. He didn't like H'rvy at all and it was obvious that the feeling was either mutual or he thought Mike was a joke. Both ideas made him angry. Mike wasn't easy to anger, in fact he was pretty laid back and hard to get riled up.
"Let. Go," he said voice hard and dark and outside they heard a dragon trumpet. He knew it was Kareth because he could also hear her in his head. She wasn't happy with H'rvy either.
To obviously H'rvy's surprise the older rider let Mike go. H'rvy looked surprised with himself actually as though asking himself why he'd just done that. He raised. Both his brows at Mike who snatched his hand back.
Thankfully Donna reappeared then before an altercation could unfold. "Mike," she ordered and H'rvy looked between the two eyes slightly widened though not obviously noticeably so. He only noticed because Mike was still glaring at him. "Come with me," Mike nodded and brushed past H'rvy in a dismissive way.
"What is it?" he asked once they'd left the room and H'rvy behind.
"Nothing. I thought it would be better if I separated you two before someone hit someone," she said coolly and Mike realized she'd been there for a bit and thus had seen them.
"I wouldn't have hit him," Mike insisted.
"Good. Also nice job back there, puppy," and she nudged him in the ribs with her elbow approvingly
"W-what?" he asked nervously staring at Donna with confusion.
"With H'rvy. Getting him to back off. He's a hard one and doesn't back off usually unless me and Jessica says and we use the weyrwoman voice on him," she winked at Mike who flushed a bit in embarrassment but also praise. "Good use if spine," she added, still encouraging.
"I just wanted him to let go," he said sheepishly.
"I saw. With someone like H'rvy you need to use your big boy voice to get him to do what you want. You seem capable. Now me and Jessica wont be so worried you'll get walked all over by the other riders."
"What?" he squeaked.
"You're a boy and you ride a gold. You didn't think they wouldn't be at least a little insubordinate did you?"
Truthfully Mike hadn't even given it much thought. Yes he'd assumed that the other riders might give him a bit of a hard time because of his status as a male gold rider. But Donna made it sound like it would be actually pretty bad, that they'd purposefully go against him. He didn't like the idea of that at all.
He decided to just not say anything and instead followed Donna back down to the lagoon. Rachel and a few other riders were there and he could see dolphins swimming close to shore. No more lessons today it seemed. He was fine with that.
Chapter 6: Nosoleth
Mike was at the lagoon, again. It had become a safe haven for him really since his fellow weyrlings were still a bit intimidated by him. He was having lunch after morning practice and Kareth was sunning herself nearby on the sand her hide as bright as beaten gold. Lunch was fish with some sort of spicy green sauce over the top.
He glanced up when a shadow fell over him, spoon still in his mouth. Standing over him was one of his fellow weyrlings. Of course he knew all of them by name as they knew him. "Jenny," he said in surprise.
"Hi," said the blonde and she sat next to him without invitation. She was a year or two his junior and the only girl in their group, having Impressed on green Nosoleth, she was also really cute. Mike sort of liked her but like the others she kept her distance from him since like most of the Weyr they didn't know what to make of a male gold rider.
"Can I help you?" he asked carefully.
"You just looked lonely over here," she told him. Oh. It must have shown on his face because she added quickly, "Not that I'm saying you're lonely or anything," and from where she was sunning herself Kareth rumbled a laugh. "I just thought you might like some company, that's all," she offered him a smile. He smiled back a bit shyly since he didn't know how to act around kids his own age. Five Corpse Hold was filled with mainly older people, or their children who were all younger than Mike. He and his gram had been odd at their hold since she was so old and Mike in an odd middle point between generations.
"Oh well... thank you," he said with a slight smile. "Just having some lunch though. I assume you already ate-
"Yeah. Why don't you eat with us? We only see you during morning practice," she frowned for about half a second before seeming cheerful again.
Mike shrugged, "It's pretty nice out here."She made a face. "You don't think so?"
"I'm north born, it's too hot here," she complained.
"Oh. Where were you from?" he asked curiously.
"A no name hold on Ista Island," she said. "My parents came here when I was five. Still haven't gotten used to the heat," and she fanned herself to emphasize. Mike laughed. "You like it?"
"I was born here in the south so, yeah, you could say I adapted," he looked down at his naked chest. It was too hot to wear much beyond shorts during the southern continent's long summers, like now. "Don't take this the wrong way. Maybe you're wearing too many clothes," and he quickly shoved some of the fish into his mouth before he put his foot further into it.
"Maybe," she said in a contemplative way.
"You've seen the junior weyrwoman right?"
"Donna? She wears a lot of clothes though," Jenny said.
"Inside. When she takes me out for our private classes she wears about as much as Rachel," it didn't occur to him that Jenny might not know her since Rachel was just a green rider. Well okay maybe not just a green rider as Donna's weyrmate but close enough.
"I've never seen either Weyrwomen in anything but their usual clothes," Jenny admitted. "I couldn't imagine /Donna/ in anything casual. Let alone half naked," she sounded positively scandalized by the idea of it. Mike stared at her for a moment before he laughed. He forgot what it was like to not be around important people all the time now. Between Donna and his regular lessons in caring for Kareth and learning to fly he didn't have the time.
"It exists, promise," he informed her cheerfully.
"Jenny!" they both looked and caught sight of one of the new bronze riders. Tr'vor, who rode Delth. He was tall, bronzed skin with a mess of dark hair and a cunning grin that looked like he had all the answers. He and the other bronze weyrling, K'yle, didn't like each other one bit. They were constantly trying to one up each other at every pass to prove who was the better of the two were. Smart money was to just stay out of their way if they could. "This is where you went to? I thought for sure you'd have gone back to the weyr," he no longer had to yell as he came up to the two of them.
"Yeah, sorry I didn't tell you," she made a face and looked over at Mike.
"Hello Mike," Tr'vor said eyeing Mike a bit warily. He was one of those who still didn't know what to make of Mike and were a bit unnerved by him and the fact that he didn't ride a different color dragon.
"Hi," Mike said and met Tr'vor's eyes for a second before looking down at his lap and his plate of half eaten lunch. He decided that lunch would be impossible now and set it off to the side, though about the high tide line in case he forgot it till later as he knew if he did the local fire lizards would make short work of his leftover fish.
"I hope she wasn't bothering you," Tr'vor said, actually sounding respectful.
"I was not!"
"No, she's fine," Jenny and Mike said at the same time. Jenny twisted to look at his briefly and offered him a grin.
"You aren't the boss of me either Tr'vor. I came to keep Mike company," she said proudly and Mike saw Tr'vor roll his eyes, Jenny missed it as she looked back to Mike for confirmation.
Mike simply shrugged as Tr'vor spoke again, "Well okay. Mind if I-?" and he motioned to next to them. Mike shook his head and the taller boy sat down on Mike's other side as if he was afraid of being too close to Jenny since she seemed half cross at him. "I still say you interrupted his lunch," Tr'vor added.
"It was fine till you showed up," she teased him since yeah that was pretty accurate. "You're the one who interrupted his lunch."
"Whatever. Soooo, Mike," and he looked from Jenny to Mike fixing him with a hard stare. "No one's asked you yet, but don't think me too forward in asking. How'd you convince a gold to Impress on you?"
Mike blinked at him, "I dunno, how'd you convince a bronze to Impress on you?" and simultaneously the statement was a compliment and an insult much the same as Tr'vor's question.
Tr'vor bit his lower lip, "Good point," and he waved a finger at Mike. "Just meant to be huh?"
"You could say," Mike nodded in agreement.
'You aren't telling them how you almost pushed me away,' Kareth suddenly spoke into his mind.
'I think some things are better left unsaid.'
"You get any of those weyrbrat queen potentials making snide comments at you?"
"Tr'vor! That's rude," and Jenny reached across Mike's lap to smack the other boy on the knee.
"Just a question," Tr'vor raised both hand in mock surrender.
"I think they're too scared of Donna to do that," Mike answered. "I mean... you would be too."
"Oh yea, Donna is mildly intimidating," Tr'vor said.
Jenny giggled, "Don't listen to him. The first time he met the junior weyrwoman he was terrified," she informed Mike.
"Hey! You didn't have to tell him that. He could have put a good word in for me that I'm brave in the face of total danger and would make a good wing second."
"Eh, not my department. You want to be wing second you should talk to a wingleader, or Weyrleader. We don't have much to do with the wings beyond making sure there's enough fire stone for everyone and tending to dragons who get hurt during Threadfall," Mike said, of course referring to him, Donna and not so much Jessica. Jessica was busy running the Weyr with the Headwoman.
"Still, I bet you know all the wingleaders," Tr'vor pushed.
"Names, yes. I haven't exactly met them yet," Mike informed him. "Well I've met one," he said correcting himself.
"Really? Who?" Tr'vor asked excitedly and Mike realized the other boy was really close to him, their knees almost touching. He couldn't recall when that had happened.
"H'rvy," Mike said.
"Yeah, apparently he's a new wingleader," Mike explained as if that made it better.
"What's he like? Other than Lu'is we don't usually have much interaction with other riders you know. Well not with dragons at least," Tr'vor said.
"He... was a dick," Mike admitted and Jenny laughed, Tr'vor seemed put off by that statement. "Very 'holier than thou' sort of guy. Though shouldn't be a surprise since he's from Fort-
"He is? I didn't know we had any Fort riders here," Jenny chimed in.
"He and Donna are both from Fort. At least it was just Fort. I'd hate to see what his ego would like if he was from Benden. I think all the hallways would have a H'rvy shaped hole in it from his head having to cram into the doorways," and the three of them laughed. It felt good to be with kids his own age, even if Jenny was north born she'd lived in the south most of her life. Apparently Tr'vor was from Paradise River and when he found out where Mike was from it was hard not to bond since the river that gave Paradise River it's name was only a short distance from Five Corpse and they traded often.
Then another of the weyrlings appeared. He totally ignored Mike, which sort of hurt his feelings, and told Jenny and Tr'vor that Lu'is was calling them back from lunch. It was time for some more lessons. Mike however didn't go with them since he had his own lessons with Donna. Jenny hugged him before standing up, dusting sand from her ass and Tr'vor and he bumped fists before he scrambled after the other weyrling. Mike smiled after them as they left.
'I liked them,' Kareth said.
'I am glad you're making friends Mike.'
For some reason that made Mike start because yeah; he had just made some friends. His grin was obnoxiously bright after that. 'Me too.'
'Time for practice though,' and a shadow fell over him. He looked up and saw Kareth standing over him. She leaned down and grabbed him by the back of his collar and hauled him upwards. Mike laughed and she nuzzled him affectionately.
"Where are we meeting Donna?"
"Herdbeast pasture," she said as Mike climbed onto her back. She was big enough to ride now, big enough to support him in flight and he braced himself as her muscles bunched up in her legs before springing up into the air, wings snapping open like the sound of distant thunder and winged toward the herdbeast pastures.
Mike had to really look up to see Kareth's head now. She was bigger now, about as tall as a one story building from the top of her head to her feet and still growing. She'd been big enough to fly with him for several fortnights now but today was a different lesson with the other weyrlings and the Weyrling Master Lu'is.
He stood in a group with his fellows and their dragons. Mike of course knew them all by name. Their number also included Mike's friends Tr'vor and Jenny who he got along well with. Across from Tr'vor, only based on dragon color was the other bronze weyrling, K'yle, Lu'is' favorite if only because he didn't like Tr'vor. Not to mention K'yle was a total kiss ass.
"Everyone," Lu'is drew all their attention to him and Mike's eyes snapped forward to the Weyrling Master. He was older, balding, and flew a nasty tempered brown who'd lost one eye and had Thread burn on it's tail. That dragon had seen it all and fit Lu'is' petulant nature. He was good at what he did you. Anyone who said otherwise not only earned his ire but Jessica's also. She was very proud of the people in her Weyr. "Good. Today is a very important day," he said. "Today is the day we see which of you will really be fighting Thread with the wings and who will simple be /between/," and there was a collective gulp from the weyrlings. Today they were learning to go /between/. While not completely dangerous if you messed up you were dead, end of story.
"You all have been trained in the theory behind the journey /between/. But today is the practical exam kiddies," he clapped his hands sharply startling the lot of them. "Your dragons know how to go /between/, they already have," and there was nodding since yes they had. The first lesson in going /between/ was to teach dragons to do it riderless to potentially cut down on lives lost if a dragon didn't make it out the other side. Even though everyone knew that if a dragon failed the weyrling would no doubt simply kill themselves. Still it was good practice for the young dragons to get used to the trip to the icy /between/. "Trust your dragon and don't panic. If it helps count the seconds. If you know where you're going so does your dragon. Am I understood?"
"Yes, sir!" they yelled in unison.
"Good. We'll go by color," and then Lu'is turned to Mike. Shards. Lu'is hadn't liked him from the first day. He was a traditionalist and didn't approve of a man riding a gold. "Mikeral," dick. Lu'is was the only one who didn't call him Mike and for some reason that really pissed him off. "You first," he sneered.
Mike just stared back and Kareth offered Mike her elbow and he climbed hand over foot up onto the saddle just in front of her wing blades. 'Ready?' he breathed.
'Yes,' was her conviction.
She barely needed the command before rocketing skyward, throwing up a dust storm. He heard Lu'is yelling at him but couldn't hear the words over the rush of wind in his ears. Mike grinned as the wind made his hair fly back and pull at his skin, making it ripple. Mike wasn't worried at all. He'd done this before. Donna had already taken him /between/ if only to show Lu'is up by not having Mike hesitate like so many weyrlings did their first time going between.
The sun vanished, replaced by the icy nothingness of /between/ before they even reached the top of the Weyr. Mike breathed in slow breaths as he mentally counted the seconds. Unlike his second trip /between/, other than being found to be a candidate, the cold didn't rip through his skin like a knife. Instead the leather and wool of his flight gear kept him relatively warm against its chill.
Then the space /between/ snapped away before his eyes and they flew in a perfect arc above the Weyr. Mike looked down and saw the other weyrlings in mass near the lagoon. 'How long were we gone?'
'Long enough to make Lu'is nervous,' and she trumpeted brightly before winging back to the others and with a few back beats landed safely right by the water.
'How long was that?' Mike asked as he slid down her leg as they stared at him. Lu'is was especially pale which struck Mike as funny.
'Only ten minutes,' Kareth said.
'Good girl,' and he rubbed her along her eye ridges. She /prrwwwww/ed and closed her eyes in pleasure.
"Mike!" Lu'is yelled coming over quickly. Mike grinned since Lu'is had just called him by his nickname and not his full name. "By the First Egg what sort of stunt do you think you're trying to pull?" He damned and Mike ground his teeth. What was it in older riders thinking he was pulling something over on them. First H'rvy when he'd been caught out during Treadfall. Then there had been another rider, briefly, who thought Mike should stop showing off and pulling stunts while learning to fly on dragon back. Now Lu'is. It was really annoying. It wasn't like he was honestly trying to pull one over on anyone. He was just doing what he could do.
"You know on your first trip /between/ you shouldn't even try moving through time. It's dangerous," Lu'is scolded him harshly his face turning a redder color than normal.
"Do I make myself clear Mikeral?" he demanded.
Mike leaned against Kareth's leg. "Yeah sure. I'll remember that the next time I go /between/ for the first time... sir," he didn't care if he was being insubordinate, especially since he couldn't be. Lu'is technically had the same standing as him in the Weyr so he could get away with saying this sort of stuff even if he was just a weyrling. "I've been /between/ before," he explained.
"The junior weyrwoman showed me," he said and saw the realization at what Donna had done dawn on Lu'is' face. His face scrunched up and he looked more like a rat than before. Then without a word turned away from Mike to the other weyrlings, practically snarling at Tr'vor and K'yle that it was their turn to go /between/. Mike watched, feeling satisfied but also a bit uncomfortable since he'd never outrightly gone against authority like that. It made him uncomfortable.
'Soon, we will be the authority,' Kareth reminded him as he watched the two young bronzes throw themselves into the air.
'It doesn't mean I want to be,' he frowned and rubbed Kareth's leg.
'It doesn't mean you won't be able to handle it,' she said gently. 'I picked you for a reason. Why would I do that if I didn’t believe you were who could handle it? Do you doubt me?’
Mike looked at her with a stricken look on his face as Tr’vor and K’yle both seemed to be hesitating in going /between/ but no doubt didn’t want the other to be the first to do so either. ‘I never doubt you,’ he told her frowning.
‘Then trust me when I say you will be fine, Mikeral,’ when she said his name it was an endearment.
‘We’ll be fine,’ Mike said repeating the words Kareth had said so often during their first few weeks when Mike hadn’t been sure of his fate.
‘We will be,’ Kareth agreed and pressed her large head into his chest. Mike just sighed and rubbed her head watching the two bronzes. He snorted when one blinked /between/ and the other roared in annoyance and blinked /between/ as well. Shards those two were so competitive.
Chapter 7: Delth
Mike was anything but pleased as he went down to the lagoon to meet Donna. He no longer had usual training with the other weyrlings now that he knew how to properly /between/ both places and times, having gone all the way to Ista where they were in the middle of winter. Luckily that had only been for a few seconds, before the cold of the north and the cold of /between/ could be differentiated and he could fully process that it was /snowing/. He still had his lessons with Donna though and if anything they had picked up now that half of his time wasn’t spent with Lu’is. He was learning about the duties he had and was becoming better aquatinted with the other dragonriders, including the Wingleaders and their Wingseconds who would be important to know once he was allowed to help Donna during Threadfall.
He didn’t expect who else was waiting for him near the lagoon. As though he simply was born into half of his fitted flight gear H’rvy was with Donna, chatting in the shadow of one of the tall trees. He didn’t see Trath or Leth anywhere but that didn’t mean they probably weren’t close by.
“There you are,” Donna said when Mike drew near.
“Sorry, I was at breakfast,” Mike said eyeing H’rvy warily. Their last meeting hadn’t been exactly stellar as far as meetings went and he didn’t like the way the older Wingleader looked at him.
“Breakfast ended a while ago,” Donna tutted and Mike flushed. He’d slept in a bit today and had been late getting to breakfast, meaning he was late now.
He coughed to hide any cracking his voice would make in his embarrassment, “What are we doing today?” he asked refusing to look at Hr’vy as he spoke.
“What’s the most important thing a gold rider needs to know?” Donna asked him.
Mike saw it for the trick question it was. “Everything,” he said.
Donna smiled approvingly at him, “Correct. We need to know /everything/. So today you’re going to start learning the rest of everything that sadly I can’t teach you,” and she rolled her eyes.
“Uh—” he glanced at H’rvy.
“We don’t fight Thread. However, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be unable to. In the time of our ancestors both men and women on all colors fought Thread, and were taught how to fight Thread. However nowadays that isn’t so. But-
“But a Weyrwoman should know everything about everything,” Mike supplied.
Donna smiled again, pleased. “See, I told you he was smart,” she told H’rvy like a proud parent. “I only know the theory behind fighting Thread. H’rvy however,” she gave the Wingleader a significant look, “is one of our best riders. So, from now on, in the mornings, while the other weyrlings are learning to fight Thread; so will you.”
“Okay,” Mike said only a bit wary. He really didn’t want to spend time with H’rvy. He was a self important dick. “So when do I get to spend time with you?”
“After lunch. Like I could hand you over to H’rvy completely. Who else would I get to run my errands?” and she smirked at him. Mike fought down his own private grin and instead just rolled his eyes at her with a huff. Donna just seemed amused by the whole thing. “Now be a good boy and listen to H’rvy, I’ll see you after lunch,” she said and with a pat on the shoulder left the two men under the tree.
Mike didn’t say anything as he tried to think of how this wouldn’t totally suck. He came up with surprisingly few options actually. “So tell me Mike,” H’rvy said after a few quiet seconds, little self satisfied smirk firmly in place. “How much do you know about Thread?” Mike offered the same smirk back at him. H’rvy was about to learn more about Thread than he ever wanted to know.
Once H'rvy knew Mike knew his stuff, thee the theory behind Thread, how to fight it, why they fought it and what it did if it touched something alive he ran Mike ragged. By the end of the week Mike was sore in places he didn't even know he had. His mind /hurt/ and never in his life had Mike felt more alive. They hadn't even gotten off the ground yet either and H'rvy said they wouldn't until he was sure Mike was ready for that. Instead their morning lessons consisted of Trath as well as several other dragons bombarding Kareth with information that a normal dragon in a wing would receive during Threadfall. She in turn had to relay it to Mike as quickly as possible.
After the fifth day Mike figured out the fast way to assimilate information. Donna had taught him how to link his mind with Kareth to create something similar to a flow of consciousness where her thoughts were his thoughts and vice versa.
The only hitch in that plan was that it burned him out quickly. The second time Mike passed out H'rvy asked what was wrong since the first time he'd just assumed Mike was suffering heat sickness, which could happen to anyone in the south regardless of how long they'd lived there. The sun was the enemy in heat sickness, for which the Southern Continent was known for.
H'rvy put a glass of water in front of him after he came to blinking at the dimness he'd been brought into as they'd started at the dolphin pier. It hadn't mattered where they did the exercise since it was all in the mind, but H'rvy liked to change it up. Not let him get too comfortable in any one place. "What?" he slurred staring at H'rvy lethargically.
"If you're feeling the heat, tell me. I don't want you dying," H'rvy said, arms crossed over his chest, forehead creased severally as though Mike losing consciousness was an inconvenience to him.
"I wasn't," Mike groused, and rubbed his head running his hand through his blonde hair which was almost white thanks for the sun overhead. "Heat is not a problem," he squinted as his brain battered around inside his skull, his head was pounding. 'Kareth,' he called.
'I don't like this,' she informed him, not for the first time.
'I know. But its the easiest way to-
'I'm telling Trath,' she informed him tartly.
"Shards," and he looked at H'rvy realizing he'd said that aloud.
"Excuse me?" H'rvy asked cocking an eyebrow at him. "And if it wasn't the heat what was it then?" Mike frowned a moment, trying to decide if he should tell when he saw the look H'rvy got when he was listening to his dragon. Then his brows snapped down into an unamused expression directed at Mike. "I see," he said and Mike looked down. "Care to explain yourself further?"
“I bet Kareth covered it all," Mike muttered. "I didn't do anything wrong," Mike added firmly.
"No, of course not. Just decided to do something that potentially could hurt you, which, by the way, isn't what this exercise is about," H'rvy frowned deeply.
Mike ruffled his hair again, his eyes going from the cup on the table and H'rvy in front of him. "I thought it would be easier like that. And it was. Instant comprehension. As soon as Kareth receives the thought, so do I," and he winced when Kareth sent him a spiked thought, showing her displeasure in his blase attitude at the situation.
"What was the last order sent through the chain?" H'rvy asked.
Mike thought a second. "Wind speed coming in from the east and upward velocity," he said. "I could give you numbers, but they're in dragon terms, I doubt you'd get it."
"And you do?"
"At the time I did," and he spread his hands across the rough table surface. "It's not a constant though, hard to explain."
"That still wasn't very smart."
"Had to try it. I did it yesterday too," then his lips became a thin line, "Doing it your way was too slow. It required words. I found a more efficient way."
'Which I still don't like.'
H'rvy appraised him for a moment, obviously thinking. "I'm going to bring it up with Donna. I've never heard of someone who connects with their dragon like that," he admitted and Mike gave a small grin of triumph. "Not even other gold riders."
"Someone has to be the first at something," and they both caught the double meaning. Mike was the first male gold rider in history. He was that new thing, a new first thing and he was almost under pressure to do things in new and different ways. Donna always told him to push it to not let convention tell him otherwise since his very existence went against convention. Who would have thought, a male gold rider. Before him the thought was ludicrous. Now it was fact. Ludicrous, but fact.
H'rvy frowned, ever so slightly, "Okay. We're done today. Rest your head, grab your mid day meal. Donna will no doubt talk to you about this," he added sternly and Mike lowered his eyes a bit but nodded.
He found Jenny and Tr'vor at lunch, Tr'vor wrist deep in a bowl of tubers that he was eagerly scooping onto his plate. He sat down heavily next to Jenny.
"Mike? What's wrong?" she asked and gently touched his shoulder.
"Nothing. Just something stupid with my instructor," he sighed. They both knew he took supplement classes with H'rvy about Thread. He was sure some of the other weyrlings knew it too, it wasn't like it was a secret after all, and Lu'is didn't approve at all of it, and he was sure that several other dragonriders didn't either, but they all knew to keep their mouths shut since Jessica didn't take kindly to her riders taking shots at him, for which he was grateful for.
"You sure?" she asked carefully and he nodded silently. She gave him a look before purposefully grabbing the bowl of tubers away from Tr'vor.
"Hey!" he cried. Jenny pointedly ignored him and spooned a healthy amount onto Mike's plate. Tr'vor muttered darkly into his food and Mike snickered softly as Jenny proceeded to fill his plate and encouraged him to eat. It was times like these he loved Jenny.
“So me and Tr’vor were going to go down to the dolphin crafthall at week’s end,” she said and gave the bowl back to Tr’vor who was almost sulking. “Do you want to come?”
“Yes,” Mike said before he could stop himself. He’d been cooped up here at the Weyr for months and wanted to get out. He’d also never been to the dolphin crafthall.
“Great. We’re going to leave after breakfast and then come back the next day whenever we want. Sound good?”
“Yeah, sounds great, I can’t wait,” Mike said feeling much better than he had in the last few hours.
Donna wasn't mad when he showed up for afternoon lessons. She was reading over a collection of papers when he came into her weyr and in another room he could hear Rachel bathing... he did his best not to think about that. He sat down quietly in front of her, on the opposite side of the table, and waited for her to acknowledge him.
"H'rvy told me you were doing something unorthodox today," she said finally putting the papers down. Mike didn't even bother denying it. Then, she grinned, "Good."
"Yes, good. I keep telling you to think outside the box and you are. That's good. However," she leaned forward, arms braced on the table, a glint in her eye, "he said you passed out, twice," Mike nodded slowly. "I don't approve of this method," she said seriously, "and if it puts such a strain on you that you black out, it isn't worth it."
"But it's easier," Mike quickly interjected. "Dragonriders are always trying for nearly instant translation between them and their dragons. During Threadfall-
"Mikeral," she cut him off sharply. "No." He frowned at her, brows creasing with dejection. "Now don't look like a kicked puppy, that'll get you nowhere," she added sternly. "I don't want you to get hurt Mike."
"It doesn't hurt," he insisted.
"It rendered you /unconscious/," Donna said with such a sharp and pointed look that Mike fell silent. He remembered now that this wasn't just another dragonrider, or even another gold rider, this was /Donna/, and she would put the fear of beyond /between/ in you like nobody else. Jessica might have been Weyrwoman and ran the Weyr, but Donna... Donna insured that everything ran the way it was supposed to and that no one stepped out of line or beyond their place and shards if you should get on her bad side, because while you'd make it out alive you might as well leave the Weyr because no one wanted to associate themselves with someone who'd angered their junior weyrwoman. He'd seen it happen. A brown rider had done something, the facts were a bit sketchy, that had made him Donna's enemy and within the fortnight he'd been transferred to Fort in the north. "Do we understand each other?" she asked.
"Can I at least practice it? Like, in short time frames? Of it keeps happening I'll stop, I promise, but this way could be the start of something big," and he swallowed as Donna appraised him carefully.
Finally she nodded, "Fine. You have two weeks from now to have made progress, if you don't you're going to stop and never do it again. Got it?"
"Yes," Mike said with a smile, "I totally understand," and he considered it a small victory when Donna smiled back at hi
Chapter 8: Korith
/dusts story off
Apparently he, Tr’vor and Jenny weren’t the only ones going to the dolphin crafthall. K’yle had found out about the little adventure and he was bringing along his stooges, S’eth and G’reg, two of the browns from their weyrling class. Mike didn’t like any of them, but thankfully Jenny was better company while Tr’vor and K’yle had a spitting contest over who was better. Neither of them could just let it go that they were both fair bronze riders for their age group and really were pretty shitt compared to some. Mike would know, since he knew senior bronze riders, and wingleaders, they were on other levels to Tr’vor and K’yle.
They let the two bronzes have their arguments and Jenny dragged him down to the intricate docks that the dolphin crafthall had built. There were no boats here, but it let the dolphineers get closer to the dolphins easier, with some of the docks either partically or fully submerged. Their contact here, Tr’vor’s cousin named Beallin, had given them a bucket of fish and permission to ring the dolphin bell which was situated at the end of the long docks.
They rang the bell and then sat side by side on one of the half submerged docks, legs in the water. “It’s nice here,” Mike said. “No lessons, no Donna, even no dragons,” though that last statement wasn’t entirely true. At the least the six dragons were here, belonging to the wyrmlings who’d descended onto the dolphin crafthall. Still a significantly less amount than back at the Wyr. There were even fewer fire lizards here, with the dolphineers each only having a few, or even none, as their connections with the dolphins were what they wanted more than the company of fire lizards.
Jenny was nodding and then she gave a sharp, surprised, gasp as a dolphin suddenly stuck it’s head out of the water, billed mouth smiling. “Hello,” she said and the dolphin tilted it’s head at them as if to see them better. “Here’s a fish,” and she grabbed a fish from the bucket and offered it to them. They rose up out of the water and she almost backed up. Mike just laughed and as Jenny fumbled the fish he was getting his own as another dolphin appeared by the dock. Jenny’s fish splashed into the water and the dolphin went for it. Mike was a bit more delicate and the dolphin ate it right out of his hand, like Kareth had when she was just a hatchling.
After that initial scare Jenny was able to feed the dolphins like Mike did and they spent the next half an hour or so feeding the dolphins. Beallin had told them that the dolphins responded to some hand signals since not all dolphineers were the best at the psychic link, and had shown them. Jenny had forgotten how to do them, but Mike remembered, because Mike never forgot anything. So he made the dolphins do tricks and then gave them fish which seemed to please them.
‘I like dolphins,’ Kareth suddenly said into Mike’s head and both he and Jenny gave a startled cry when a golden streak passed under them and a head atop a long neck burst from the water streaming water.
“Kareth you scared us!” Mike scolded.
‘It was fun,’ Kareth said and preewed in a pleased way. Mike just rolled his eyes. ‘Can I have fish too?’
‘No, these are for the dolphins. You ate before we left the Weyr anyway!’
‘But Miiike,’ she whined.
Mike groaned and tossed her a fish. She snapped it up. “She’s such a big baby,” he told Jenny.
Jenny giggled, “I know how you feel, Nosoleth is too. She likes to get what she wants. I’d hate to think what a gold gets like when she wants something!”
“Well usually she’s more /well behaved/,” Mike said sending a look towards Kareth’s. Her eyes just whirled in amusement, fading through shades of blues and yellows, touching green only briefly. “No more fish for you you glutton, or you’ll become a fatty.” That made Jenny giggle again and tossed a fish at Kareth who snapped it up in what could only be seen as smug. “Oh, I see how it is,” he gave Jenny a sideways look.
“What? You didn’t say I couldn’t give her fish?”
“I’ll remember that the next time Nosoleth comes and finds me during lunch.”
“No! She doesn’t,” Jenny seemed scandelized.
“Did you know she likes tubers?”
“You are so lying.”
Jenny was quiet then and she got the familiar look on his face, distant but present at the same time, she was talking with Nosoleth. Her mouth opened slightly as her eyes grew far away and Mike found him staring at her face. Mike thought she was pretty, really pretty. But he didn’t have a chance. It was obvious from the way that she and Tr’vor hung out that they were wyrmates, or would be eventually. Mike was always that third wheel who didn’t quite belong and he tried to not really notice that Jenny was beautiful. But right now he could
She blinked and came back to herself, Mike glanced away, reaching into the bucket for more fish and tossing it at the open mouth of a dolphin. “Okay, so you aren’t a lier,” she admitted.
“Told ‘ya,” he grinned at her.
‘Why don’t you tell her how you feel?’
‘Not now Kareth.’
“Okay, no more fish for Kareth, and no more tubers for Nosoleth. Agreed?”
Mike laughed a little, “Deal,” he agreed with a grin. They continued to feed the dolphins and emptied the bucket to the sound of dolphin clicks and their own simple conversation.
Once the bucket was empty they stood up, Mike grabbing the bucket, and headed back to land. “Hey Mike,” Jenny said.
“Hmm?” his mind was elsewhere.
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
He turned to her, “Sure,” he said slowly.
“Okay, well—“ her face suddenly turned into flame as red rose high up on her cheeks. “I was wondering what you’ll do when Kareth… you know,” and she shrugged in a helpless way, grasping at what to say but almost too embarrassed to ask properly.
Mike blinked, “When Kareth what?” he asked un-understandingly.
Jenny rubbed her cheeks, still embarrassed, “When she rises to mate.” Mike came to a stop and actually felt himself pale a little. “You don’t have to answer. I totally understand,” Jenny added quickly. Mike just stared at her. “Mike?” she asked when he didn’t answer.
“Shards,” he said in a hollow tone.
‘Is everything okay Mike?’
“No,” he said aloud in a small voice.
“Mike… Mike,” Jenny grabbed his shoulder. It jolted him and made him focus. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring it up. Are you okay?” her concern echoed Kareth’s which was rushing through him in a wave of colors and feelings.
“I hadn’t even thought of it,” he admitted weakly. “Shards… I didn’t even think…” he was sort of staring wide eyed at Jenny.
“It’s okay, you don’t have to,” Jenny said, trying to calm him down. “I was just… wondering,” she said guiltily.
‘Mike,’ Kareth slipped into his mind.
“There are only male bronzeriders,” he said not realizing he’d said it aloud till it was out of his mouth. He slapped his hand across his mouth and said through his hand, “I don’t like guys.”
“Mike,” Jenny was saying again, “Mike,” she had both her hands on his shoulders. “You know mating flights don’t mean anything,” she gave him a little shake. “It’s just one time, that’s it.”
‘Why are you so upset Mike? Please don’t be upset,” Kareth begged and from the water she whined and swam to the edge of the dock, grabbing onto it with her big forelimbs and hauling herself up.
“It isn’t like you have to become wyrmates with whoever flies Kareth,” Jenny was saying. “You know it’s not a big deal,” she promised.
Mike stared at her and then, before he could even stop himself it was out of his mouth, “How do two men even have sex?” and neither of them had an answer and Mike and Jenny just stared at each other, both red faced. Mike was trying not to think about it. He turned to Kareth, ‘When?’ he asked.
Kareth lowered her head so it was even below his, ‘I don’t know. I’m sorry Mike.’
‘I-it isn’t your fault,’ he could never actually be upset with her. He loved her.
‘I won’t let anyone catch me who would hurt you,’ she promised fiercely since most of the bronze riders were big men, muscular, and Mike… wasn’t. Fuck Mike was only seventeen and all the bronze riders who had a shot at catching Kareth, even not fully grown, were at least ten years older then him, or more! He knew all the bronze riders. Not one of them wasn’t bigger then him.
“Mike, are you okay?” Jenny asked.
“I think… I need to sit down,” Mike said and stumbled a step to his knees and then sat on the edge of the dock. Kareth put her golden head in his lap, eyes whirling with concern.
“Should I go get a healer?” Jenny asked worriedly.
“N-no, I just need to sit,” he swallowed and pressed his face onto Kareth’s damp snout. ‘I don’t want you to rise,’ he told her.
‘It doesn’t mean things. Like Jenny said!’ she said, trying to sooth.
‘It’ll mean something to me!’ he groaned aloud and held onto Kareth tightly. ‘Now I’m afraid. I’m already the weirdo, the male gold rider. Now… this.’
‘There are male green riders,’ she reminded him, ‘Most of them prefer men,’ he knew she was just trying to make it better. ‘It isn’t bad, not like at a Hold. The Weyr doesn’t care Mike and after my flight you’ll never have to talk to him again if you don’t want to. You’re my rider, no one can make you do what you don’t want.’
Mike’s head turned as he heard others coming down the dock. It was Tr’vor and he blanched at the thought. “Everything all right?” Tr’vor asked coming up to them.
“Yeah, fine,” Jenny said, she was rubbing Mike’s back comfortingly, but he’d only just noticed. “Where’s K’lye and the others?”
“Who cares, assholes,” and he folded his arms across his chest. “You sure he’s all right? He looks about to pass out.”
“He’s fine. He just got a little dizzy a second ago,” thank goodness for Jenny. Mike closed his eyes to not be looking at Tr’vor because now all he could think was that one day he and Delth would be able to fly Kareth. It made him sort of nauseous. Tr’vor was his friend. Even for mating he never wanted to be that close to his friend. They were still talking, but Mike wasn’t listening.
After a while Mike stood, Kareth lifting her head with the rise of his chest to help him stand. “You okay now?” Jenny asked him.
“Yeah, just fine,” and he bent down to pick up the bucket.
“You guys went through all that fish already?” Tr’vor groaned.
“You were gone a while,” Jenny teased him, “But we can get more. Right Mike?”
Mike just nodded mutely and followed them back to the crafthall. When they ventured back out on the docks Mike let Jenny and Tr’vor talk as they fed the dolphins, Kareth had her head in his lap, consoling him. She was amazingly good at that actually and in return he rubbed her brow ridges, her eyes whirling blue with pleasure. ‘It’ll be fine Mike,’ she told him softly. ‘You’ll be fine,’ he just stared at her helplessly.