Chapter 1: Realization
Despite the stereotype that somehow still persisted of dragonriders lazing about in the lap of luxury, the reality was still that it was constant, regular work. Or at least, it was in a Pass. Maybe the stereotypes where true during Intervals, K’vin wouldn’t know and was honestly just hoping he and Beirith lived to see the next one. For now though, like every rider, his days were filled flying Fall, drilling for Fall, tending to his dragon’s every need (and whoo boy was that a job that varied- depending on the dragon oiling an itchy spot could take minutes or hours), gathering supplies for the Weyr (either through tithes or from the wild), and doing whatever odd work he was qualified for. And when all that was done there was still the need to check over all his tools and supplies. A loose stitch in one’s riding straps, a small hole in one’s leathers, a flamethrower with a loose pin, could all be a death sentence during Fall. Or worse, could be the difference between Thread charred to ash or decimating some hold’s crop fields.
Which meant long hours for K’vin, the former Smith pouring over every inch of his strapping or, like today, sat there with his flamethrower in pieces on his desk. Something hadn’t seemed right during Fall today and what had started as a quest to find the problem had turned into a full overhaul. He’d be late for his meeting with the Headwoman, but if he got this right he’d be able to increase the machine’s efficiency by at least twenty percent by his estimate and that would be more than worth the hassle-
Oebbeith rises. Beirith’s voice was soft, sweet, and to the point in his head, and K’vin thudded back in his seat at both it and the message conveyed.
Thank Faranth! If I had to deal with their proddy asses one more time-! Out on her ledge, his dragon gave a rumbling laugh, her amusement washing back over him. They’d really grown more used to each other over the turns. When she was a hatchling his sharp, growling tone would have set her cowering, blaming herself for his temper despite any sign of the contrary, but time had forcibly mellowed him and strengthened her confidence so that now she could see it for the many things it was. Such as playful exasperation over a friend.
She has many chasers.
Doesn’t she always? Rolling his shoulders, K’vin got back to work, using his powers to modify the shape and build of the flamethrower. Now if she had like, three, that would be noteworthy. She just huffed and shared her sight with him- forcing him to slow his work to focus on both views.
Ieshioth and Euth curled together against her warm side. Her own pale, shining forelimb under her chin. The Weyr spread out below. And in the distance, highlighted against the sky, Oebbeith and her chasers. She was giving them the run around again- enjoying these mating flights far too much for someone who had them four times a turn- committing reckless acrobatics that were certain to get a bronze sent to the Healers one of these days. Even the larger blues struggled to keep up with her mottled form.
Beirith seemed enraptured, watching intently as the green made a sudden turn over a brown’s head (Girilth, Mine) and made to fly back over the Weyrbowl. K’vin gave her full access to his confusion and suspicion, she never paid mind to greenflights, not any more than was needed to warn him of their… effects on those around them, and even then she mostly kept him shielded from them so he could work.
What are you doing?
Watch, learn, do. Was it traitor behavior for a dragon to use the words from an old lesson she’d dredged up in her rider’s own mind? It felt like it. If nothing else K’vin didn’t like the implications, and quickly pulled back into himself to run the numbers in his head. Dineth’s clutch had hatched how long ago? Long enough the hatchlings were actually staying awake through weyrling lessons, which meant, yep, just about due. He cleared a space on his desk so he could drop his head onto it and groan without damaging anything.
Rankers don’t fly like that, babe. You would die.
I will ask Oebbeith for lessons.
Yep. Yep. It was going to be a long couple of months wasn’t it?
As a rule, riders sat in two different groupings in the Dining Cavern- either you hung out with those of your rank- green with green, bronze with bronze, and so on- or you hung out with your wing. There were exceptions, of course, you never knew who you would become friends with, or who your dragon would insist you become friends with because they and their dragon were friends, but at least seventy percent of the Weyr followed this pattern.
K’vin was not in the seventy percent, especially not right now. Not with how close the bronzers stuck to the Queen’s Table. When the midday meal arrived he grabbed a tray, let a kitchen worker load it down with double servings of everything he wasn’t allergic to (the benefits of being a queenrider, the benefits of being a queenrider whose gold was due to rise within two weeks) and headed to the table claimed by bronze Quenth’s wing. And if he was perfectly honest, even Quenth’s P’rce- a close friend by now- was pushing it with the amount of bronzerider he was willing to deal with today. A fact that apparently showed in his face, because he immediately swapped seats with his sister Helen to be that little bit further away. K’vin ignored this, instead taking his usual spot between M’nuel and his nephew A’ln, across from Dineth’s Gwyn.
Her tray, surprise surprise, was also loaded down, because apparently if you didn’t fill a goldrider- even the youngest juniors- to bursting at every meal their dragons would turn to dust or something. The rest of their group was already in the process of raiding it and moved quickly to begin divvying up his own excess. Really, you’d think they weren’t fed. Though given at least two of them were fellow mutants (and they were all fairly certain A’gi was as well- he shrugged off Threadscore too easily and there was no way a brown Nath’s size was normal, he was at least as big as Quenth was) it wasn’t too surprising. There was a reason the first person to reach for his salt beef (M’hael, always M’hael) nearly lost the hand.
“Okay,” K’vin said, “before anything else, fuck you-” he pointed emphatically at P’rce, who hid, just slightly, behind Helen “-and all your bronzerider buddies over there.”
“They giving you trouble?” Helen asked over her own jealously guarded meal, only for M’nuel to snort.
“Of course they are,” he said, “they do every time one of the queens is set to rise. They’re like locusts.”
“What I don’t get is why,” A’ln added with exasperation. He wasn’t any fonder of the bronzers trying to suck up to his uncle than K’vin was. “You are literally the lowest ranked of the gold riders, what do they have to gain?!”
“Let them be,” C’per said, “this is about the only chance their dragons have to get laid at all with how the greens fly around here.” P’rce clapped a hand to his chest in half-mock offense before his eyes unfocused- a sure sign he was speaking to Quenth, though whether because the bronze was reassuring him that he could fly any green on Pern or because P’rce was assuring the bronze that the bluerider hadn’t meant it and no, do not bring it up to Euth, please, was anyone’s guess.
He wishes Euth to keep C’per in line. Beirith told him, currently laid out in the sun with Dineth and fellow gold Toyamilth, watching the drama unfold with only minimal concern. I have told him to behave.
Thank you. Sure enough, when he came back to the conversation P’rce was shaking his head quietly. The two of them shared a ‘what can you do’ look and shrug across the table.
“-Oebbeith wants to have her fun, I’m not about to stop her,” M’hael was saying, and just about the entire table rolled their eyes at once.
“Yeah,” K’vin said, “that’s all her. It’s not like you’re dramatic and enjoy having people’s hands on you.” M’hael stuck his tongue out at him.
“Oh no,” M’nuel said, “you guys don’t even know! He used to be worse! In the candidate barracks back at Ista? If I never have to see him being that much of an overdramatic asshole again it will be too sharding soon.”
“He can’t have been that bad,” Helen said over M’hael’s groaning, with all the innocence of someone who’d been Searched for and Impressed a clutch behind them and so had never actually had to deal with him during that period. M’nuel shook his head.
“No, I mean it, you could tell he was a Lord’s son, Oebbeith mellowed him out.”
“Which is just a terrifying thought, so I’m not gonna think about it.” It was B’nji M’hael blew a raspberry at this time before turning specifically to K’vin.
“Seriously though, you’re lucky you only have to deal with bronzeriders-”
“Any rank can chase a gold,” Gwyn butted in, never one to let people forget that, especially given A’gi breaking out a grin beside her.
“As you should all know.” P’rce groaned.
“By Quenth’s shell, will you ever shut up about that?! It was one clutch that most of us never even saw!”
“I can confirm,” B’nji said, throwing an arm around his cousin’s shoulder as he leaned around her to address the group as a whole, “Nath did chase and catch on Dineth’s maiden flight. Have to point out though, no gold egg.”
“But,” A’gi interjected, “six bronzes.”
“Because Faranth knows we need more of them.”
“Besides, Dineth hasn’t clutched gold at all, so clearly that’s on her.” At which point Gwyn scowled and smacked A’gi upside the head, leading to a brief shoving match that everyone mostly ignored, though K’vin poked at Beirith to make sure Dineth wasn’t upset.
She and Nath are used to them. Omth is just glad they all no longer share a weryling barrack.
K’vin chuckled, then, seeing that the two weren’t going to stop anytime soon, took action.
“Beirith hasn’t clutched gold either.” A’gi waved the statement off, but accepted the distraction and went back to his meal, as did Gwyn.
“Beirith’s only risen twice, give her time.”
“Dineth’s only risen three times.”
“Yeah, but she’s different.”
“As I was saying!” M’hael bust in before Gwyn’s offended could settle in, stopping the next fight before it began. “Given bronzes- and Nath- are the only real options to win a goldflight, be glad you just have to deal with them. Everyone has a shot with a greenflight and you can tell they know it from the moment she goes proddy.” He snatched some salt beef from Gwyn while she was distracted. “Swear half the chasing riders in the Weyr eye you up like a dog left unattended with a roast. Especially the blue riders- no offense-”
“None taken,” the three blueriders sat among them chorused.
“-since they know they’ve got the best shot at keeping up.”
“Trust me,” Gwyn said, “we know the feeling. There’s over thirty bronze riders and since neither of us are related to them they all seem to get doggy.” K’vin shivered just thinking about it, though that may have just been the reminder that a portion of them were probably eyeing him right then. That or their dragons were bothering Beirith
Two so far. Should I bite the next one?
Only if you want to, babe, no pressure.
Or they were glaring at P’rce for getting to spend time with him so close to her rising when he avoided them so firmly.
Really this was the part he hated most about being a goldrider. He could handle the work, honestly he enjoyed it, but all the attention. Being a queenrider, even a junior, meant everyone’s eye were on you. Being a mutant, of any species, meant constant looks of disapproval and disdain wherever people learned of it. Being the mutant rider of a mutant gold? Was too much at times. Had been too much at first. He’d even fled the Weyr in those first weeks- with Beirith, of course, she’d been his world since the moment she’d broken shell and run to hide behind him, safe from the judging eyes of their fellows. K’vin had been expected to Impress brown, like his mother’s lost Keth, or blue like his father and damn near every one of his rider siblings- if the Sands had gone quiet when the golden egg had dropped a mass of white and too many limbs for one small body it had gone silent as Between when she chose him.
I chose right. No one else there was for me.
I know, and I’m so glad.
But as much as he had loved her, loved her still, that silence had seemed to hang in the air wherever they went. So they’d left. His father and Fireth had had to hunt them down, finding them halfway back to the Smithcrafthall where they’d hoped K’vin would be re-accepted now he was a rider. If that had failed, they’d planned to walk all the way back to the Harperhall and his mother. Looking back it had been a foolish thing, Beirith had still been sleeping through most days, and he wouldn’t have been able to hunt enough for both of them, but at the time it had seemed the only option.
They were glad, now, that the bluepair had managed to talk them into returning. They’d grown into their place, were mostly accepted anymore, and had good friends now that they hadn’t had before. But the attention still grated harsh against K’vin’s skin, and he knew it still made his gold selfconcious.
“Listen,” P’rce said, breaking him out of his little spiral even as Beirith leaned her mind comfortingly on his and he leaned back, “if either of you need me to talk to the other bronzeriders, just say the word.” Oh they never would. He had a wing, was on the Council, but he was still young and most bronzers wouldn’t pay attention to him complaining about their behavior towards queens. If they needed it they would go to one of the other queenriders and she and hers would put them in line as best they could.
“And,” he turned specifically to M’hael, “if anyone makes you uncomfortable, tell me, and either I’ll talk to them or I’ll make their wingleader talk to them, alright?” That was more likely and the rising riders all grinned at him.
“I knew there was a reason we kept you,” K’vin said. P’rce grinned back.
“I thought it was because you liked my sister.”
“She is pretty cute,” M’hael said, as casually as if Thiayeath hadn’t caught Oebbeith twice before, “but I think that’s a family trait.” The siblings blew raspberries at him in unison while the rest of them groaned exaggeratedly and rolled their eyes.
“Oebbeith didn’t fly two days ago and already he’s back on his bullshit.”
“Could be worse, last time Narolth rose I saw G’anra trying to get with that harper journeyman they had stationed here the same night.”
As the gossip started flowing around him, K’vin put his attention back to his food. He could feel Beirith’s coming heat in his spine and his friends and food made for a good distraction from it.
Quenth is attractive, Beirith said, almost a purr in his mind. What do you think of His?
He’s handsome, smart, and decent. He’s on the list of approved chasers.
Good. She stretched and let him feel it in his own limbs. Once you’ve eaten, we’ll go hunting.
There’s plenty of herdbeast here at the Weyr if you’re hungry.
I want to hunt though. He chuckled quietly.
Alright, babe, whatever you want.
And so a social group appears! Will they reappear? Varies. This is mostly about K'vin and Beirith and this little period of time...
“Really?! You think now is a good time for a nap?!”
Yes, in fact, K’vin thought now was a great time for a nap. Thread had fallen over Telgar Hold that morning, a grueling six-hour fight for every rider who wasn’t too young, too old, or too injured to participate. Then it had been helping the healers patch up Beirith’s wounds, which weren’t many due to the Queen Wing flying below the others but still enough to be a hassle, especially the clawmarks from when they’d been forced to catch Miagath as she came out of Between, the old green’s wing in tatters thanks to an errant clump of Thread. Thank Faranth none of the damage to Bei was bad enough it would impede her rising. Then once all that was over K’vin had had to go over his straps for damage, and worse had found some which meant he’d had to hunt down an appropriate piece of leather and make the needed repairs. Then it had been making adjustments on his new flamethrower design- he was getting the efficiency he wanted but the aim was off and he couldn’t just leave it like that. Basically, it had been a long day and yes, he very much felt he deserved a long nap in his bed, where he was cozy and warm and
Beirith bugled mightily out on the ledge and the full force of her desire hit him like a hammer to the face.
“Finally! Go!” Hallu, Headwoman of Telgar Weyr, was beside his bed, stepping aside and urging him along as he tumbled free of his sheets and bolted for the Weyrbowl with the old woman close behind.
“The others have already left,” she said as they ran, and K’vin nodded gratefully through the haze of Beirith. You couldn’t have other golds at the Weyr when one rose, even Dineth- who’d clutched so recently- risked being driven into a territorial rage at how strongly the other gold projected her needs and golds had killed each other midflight warring over ‘their’ bronzes. Hallu stopped him just before they hit the Bowl, taking his face in her hands.
“You know what to do?” Outside the chasers were gathering and he could feel every inch of Beirith’s pride in her own appeal, desire to mate and clutch, and disdain that these piddly little things thought they could ever catch her. Mouth feeling like it was full of cotton and blood, he nodded again. Yes, yes he knew what to do, this was far from a maiden flight and even then Weyrwoman Kelleye had made sure he was well prepared. Hallu nodded back and let him run out into the open air.
At any other time he would’ve been selfconscious, still in his sleepwear, bare from the waist up with everything exposed to the entire Weyr, but in the here and now there was only Beirith, beautiful Beirith glowing white in the sun, shrieking at the chasers in a manner so unlike her usual gentle self, as if they might steal her first kill from her.
Blood only, he pressed into her mind and she snapped back at him, eyes a haze of red and purple, threatening to overwhelm him too soon with her hunger and lust. He pressed back harder. He had to. She knew better, but at the moment he was the reasoning one. Blood. Only. Or you’ll be too heavy and they’ll catch us.
She shrieked again, at him now, but begrudgingly sucked the blood from the first herdbeast. And the second. And the third. Then, glowing as white and brilliant as the hottest molten steel, she turned to the chasers- mostly bronze, a few brown, one or two ambitious blues- mantled both pairs of wings, and bugled again.
Telgar, prove yourself to me!
And they were in the air, wind beneath their wings, whipping against their skin, their chasers following after with projections of affection and desire, as if anything mattered now but their skill and strength, as if the fools still thought they could sway them with words or coy flirting. K’vin stared around the riders that began to crowd him as Beirith flipped through their partner’s minds like the pages in a book. Which were worth their time, which were good enough for them. Quenth, young and skilled, Terath, M’nuel’s brown, deserving of his small chance, Garuyuth and E’bod, yes, no, not Mollasunth, he and his were old and worn and unworthy of their eggs. Beirith flew easy for this first assessment, letting thermals carry her high into the air as their minds settled into place together.
Her head snapped over her shoulder and she shrieked, buffeting the unworthy with silent Command even as K’vin roared alongside her, a shower of sparks driving away the riders as their dragons abandoned the chase. His quick mind provided them a final count, twenty-three chasers out of nearly fifty to start. Good, good, and only the best left flying. With another bugle Beirith flapped her great wings, shooting forward, and the chase was officially on.
Many feared their dragon rising. K’vin had as well at first, seeing only the pressing bodies and the loss of control, but he loved it now. He and Beirith, one and two, flying away from a bevy of suitors and shifting through a crowd of their reaching, caressing hands as one entity, K’vin snapping at those who got too forceful just as Beirith swooped away from those who came too close. This was them at their strongest, closest, most confident, both focused on one singular, all important goal- find the one who deserved to sire their eggs, catch them and guard them until the clutch was hatched. Helen had described it from the other side once, looking on a green or gold’s rider and knowing them for the most beautiful thing, wanting nothing more than to prove yourself, to be close to them, to be the one they deemed worthy of their time and their selves.
He and Beirith agreed, it was only the right way for them all to feel.
Who knew how long a mating flight lasted. Certainly not any participant. Time was lost in the thrill of it, of chasing, being chased, watching dragons and riders fall away from your world. You’d never fully comprehend how long it took, or how you and the crowd had managed to get into the rooms set aside for flights, it all just happened in a blur of wind and lust and challenge until finally your gold mistimed a dodge, wings tired from keeping her great weight aloft so long while flying so hard. Until a chaser’s claws clamped onto her shoulders, careful of recent wounds, and they carried their weight as one. Until his rider grabbed tight and together you carried your weight as four.
Beirith crooned softly to this, the most worthy of their chasers, while K’vin purred into his rider’s mouth.
Victory was theirs.
Gold Beirith of Telgar has two settings: 'Quiet and reserved' and 'Oh so you bitches think you can catch me'.
The only reason it was as quiet as it was outside in the Bowl, and it wasn’t very quiet at all, was because Thread was falling. Otherwise there would’ve been a crowd of people hanging around in the tunnels and outside the Hatching Cavern, probably distressing Beirith more than she already was, rather than a Bowl busy with the work of preparing firestone and medical supplies, tending the injured. Rather than one lone kitchenworker, freed from the work of aiding in the Fall to standby in case he or his queen needed anything at this important time.
Beirith was laying her eggs, and it was looking to be a good clutch.
Twenty-eight. Of course it’s a good clutch, it’s my clutch. They are perfect.
Yes, they are.
K’vin laid out on one of her many forelegs, trying to avoid the hot sands beneath them. Though he supposed he would have to get used to it all over again, because this was going to be home until the eggs hatched. He wasn’t required to stay, but this was where Beirith would be and, well, given already her eyes bore whirling streaks of anxious yellow as they regularly flicked to the commotion in the Bowl, she would need him.
Twenty-nine. Of course I would, you are Mine and I am Yours. We belong together.
I know, babe. How are things coming?
Well. Many healthy eggs, it was a good flight.
Longest yet, C’per says.
Beirith made a rumbling sound of agreement, either in trust of him or because she’d heard the same from the other dragons. She shifted a few eggs aside, out of her way but still in a warm spot.
Do you plan to clutch soon?
K’vin went through about seven stages of panic, beginning with ‘does she know something I don’t yet’ and working its way down from there. It wasn’t until Beirith turned to him, yellow overtaking her eyes, projecting her confusion and she knew nothing and why was he distressed, that he calmed down.
No, not anytime soon. Maybe not ever. Her eyes narrowed, but regained more blue as he relaxed, and he could feel her reasoning the situation out in her head. She knew he was, physically, a riser, they had had this whole long discussion about it back as new weyrlings, about how he was a he but also a riser and that was fine with both of them. She’d decided humans were too complicated after that, eaten what felt like half a herdbeast, and then taken a seven-hour nap. But the idea that he was a green, small and infertile, was just, inconsolable with K’vin as the other half of her being.
Thirty. Why? Shaking his head with a smile he reached for her, and she obligingly lowered her head so he could scratch at her eyeridge.
I take steps to avoid it. More confusion came from her end of their bond and with a chuckle he prodded her mind to the memory of the herbs he took each day.
You said those were to make you you?
They also keep me from clutching. If I stopped taking them, I could have children. I just don’t want to now. She blinked, long and slow with each eyelid, then turned back to her work with a feeling of acceptance and understanding.
Thirty-one. I will have enough children for us both then. And this, this was why he loved her. He patted her leg and settled back in.
It was strange, in a way that was now familiar, to be there when Beirith clutched. They weren’t one anymore, not like they were when she rose, but watching her he could still almost feel what she felt, without even trying, and certainly he shared in her pride with each egg laid. With each egg hatched. With each hatchling successfully raised.
He imagined he was feeling all that parental stuffs- he couldn’t be sure, but he was fairly certain. Shards he’d cried at the graduation of each of her last clutches into full riderpairs. She’d hardly even noticed but for his reaction- queens threw their all into making and guarding a clutch, but after a few months they seemed to forget the relation entirely, the new weyrlings becoming communal children, just like the babes in the creche. But he remembered, knew the names, ages, wings of every pair she made and beamed with pride at their successes. He was fairly certain that was a parental thing. He’d have to ask his father, and siblings, maybe his mother when she came to the hatching.
Because dragonless or no, there was no way she was going to miss her only surviving child’s dragon’s clutches. Not on her life. She’d named him after Keth for Faranth’s sake, she wasn’t dropping him over a dragon.
The counting was for his sake. He didn’t have as good a view of what was going on as she did, with her long-ass neck, and this way he would be able to start announce the final count as soon as she was done. But, he was starting to worry.
Beirith? Babe, are you sure you’re okay?
I’m fine. She sent comfort his way, but he still eyed the eggs on the sands. Almost done.
Well thank Faranth for that, where were you keeping them all? Her last clutch had only been twenty-four, and the first was only eighteen! With a wave of amusement, she sent an image or herself that morning, laid out on her ledge, too heavy with eggs for more than a short flight. K’vin scowled at her. Just what I need, a smart-aleck for a dragon. She sent him her affection in response, a silent ‘I love you too’ that he could only answer in kind.
The tone was one of finality, and K’vin found himself staring with awe and pride at the lot of them as she shifted on the sands and began properly rearranging the eggs to her liking. These ones here, those ones there, and the largest, with the most yellow blotching, right there between her foremost forelegs, safe and sound. K’vin grinned, wide and toothy, and reached out to stroke it’s smooth surface, still tacky as it dried on the hot sands.
Yes. Yes they are. She was feeling the same way, and it created a feedback loop that left them both giddy with the joy of it. Pressing a quick kiss to her leg, K’vin stood up and marched across the sand to the tunnel that led to the kitchens and queens’ weyrs.
“Bricella,” he called down the tunnel and waited as patiently as he could as the teen ran up to where she could see him.
“Could you bring me some water, please?” She nodded, and before she could fully turn he continued, “and while you are, spread the word? Thirty-five eggs, one a gold.” She froze in place for several seconds before giving a cheer, turning to flash a grin his way.
“Yes sir! Congratulations to Beirith!”
She says congratulations.
Bricella froze again, partway down the cavern just before he saw a blush come up the back of her neck. Dragons didn’t normally speak to humans that weren’t Theirs, and idly he wondered if she would tell all her friends or keep the honor to herself.
He knows he wouldn’t have told a soul.
Except for me.
Except for you, yes. With quick steps on the hot sand, K’vin returned to his queen’s side, climbing up onto her neck and laying across it, the perfect place to view the eggs.
We are going to need so many candidates. Beirith snorted.
If you think anyone is allowed near my eggs, you are sorely mistaken.
Okay, make that three settings, she also has 'back off my babies'.
Three weeks out and he was sat on Beirith’s ledge, enjoying the cool breeze after so long down on the sands with her and watching the candidatemaster teach a class.
I don’t like them.
You haven’t even met them.
They aren’t good enough for my eggs and they aren’t allowed near them. K’vin rolled his eyes. It was, to his knowledge, an argument every queenrider had with their gold post-clutching. They didn’t like anyone but their riders and maybe, maybe, the sire of the clutch coming into the cavern, and the idea of people coming onto the sands, near their babies, was just too much.
They need to get near them, else the babies can’t Impress, he tried to reason, only to feel her snort all the way back in the Cavern.
A’old did. Oh for the love of little greens, not his cousin. He’d been with the healers, with a concussion, and his bronze had tracked him down.
My mother’s family are outliers and shouldn’t be considered in these matters. Nope, he could feel her stubborn refusal from here. She wasn’t going to let anyone near the babies and honestly they’d be lucky if she let them leave their nice, safe eggs. It was time for the big bolts. Lizbet is Standing. And Jeson.
That gave her pause. His younger sister, A’ln’s youngest brother. Kin. Trustworthy.
They can Stand, she finally said, the others will have to go home. K’vin rolled his eyes.
I’ll talk to the candidatemaster.
“As only a gold can be.” He flashed a tired grin at Gwyn as she sat down and placed a platter of food and drink between them. No wine, because they couldn’t have him doing anything stupider than normal and stressing Beirith out, but cider and fruit, cheese and bread. A decent spread. “How’re the rest of you doing? I feel like I haven’t seen anyone but Bei and Bricella.” Gwyn took a moment to place the name.
“Yeah, Dad says Fireth has his eye on her, but won’t Search her yet.” She nodded. His father’s dragon was well known for always grabbing candidates who Impressed to the hardening clutch and only candidates that Impressed to the hardening clutch.
“Good luck to her then,” Gwyn said, raising her glass. “Everyone’s doing fine. B’nji nearly got ‘scored in the last Fall, but Ieshioth got the clump at the last minute.” K’vin chuckled.
“He and A’ln are a good pair. You wouldn’t believe it, but A’ln didn’t think he had it in him to Impress when he Stood for his clutch.” Gwyn blinked at him, eyes wide.
“Really, he’s always seemed pretty confident about it to me.”
“That’s because you guys didn’t transfer until the next year, Ieshioth, Euth, and C’per had helped him get his bearings.” K’vin paused for a bite of cheese. “I think he’d have been fine if he hadn’t let himself get talked into Standing for Beirith’s clutch. Fireth said he wouldn’t Impress there, but he didn’t listen and then he got anxious.” Nodding Gwyn reached for some redfruit.
“You know, I’m the only one out of the three of us who Impressed like they were ‘supposed’ to?” K’vin raised an eyebrow. “People weren’t as understanding about things back at Benden, B’nji they kept trying to go for green because ‘that’s what girls ride’-” K’vin’s lip twisted and he only just got control of his anger until he could confirm Dineth had Beirith occupied. “-and they had A’gi with me and the other queen candidates-”
“-yeah. And then they both got browns. The amount of fights we got into in the weyrling barracks after, it was astounding. I’m pretty sure those were the reason they got transferred over with me, that and people deciding Nath flying Dineth meant something besides ‘I was fifteen, craftbred, and despite all appearances A’gi is a good enough friend to suffer for an afternoon for my sake’.” Tutting, K’vin shook his head.
“Some people are just dumbasses,” he said. “Really, though, I’m still stuck on them putting A’gi in front of a gold.” He just, couldn’t picture him on anything but his brown, he tried but it didn’t work. Like a fire he couldn’t taste. Tearing into the bread, Gwyn laughed.
“She didn’t even look at him. Wanted to know later what they thought she’d want with a ‘stinking old boy’.” A snort pitched K’vin forward enough that Gwyn had to stabilize him before he fell off the ledge.
I’m fine, babe, don’t worry. What you girls talking about?
Stupid, danger-magnet humans.
Glad to see I’m a popular topic.
“Ya know,” he said to Gwyn, “that’s the opposite of what Bei said? I asked her why she went for me instead of one of the girls and she went, and I quote ‘Why would I want a girl when you were there and perfect?’.” Gwyn clutched her chest, making a high-pitched sound like that was the sweetest thing she’d ever heard, despite that probably being the thing riders heard most often from their dragons. In response, he just shook his head and went for more food, washing it down with cider.
“So, you come just to visit, or did you need to drop off more paperwork?” There was so much paperwork that went into running a Weyr, and normally he could avoid the worst of it by simply being busy with other important work that required a big, strong man to do it, but he couldn’t do that when Beirith was clutching and so he was, again, forced to set up a desk and chair and spend his time reviewing reports and signing off on inventories and way too much shit like that.
“Mostly to visit, a little to make sure you’re okay.” K’vin raised his brow again to this. “Just, chasers can be assholes sometimes, and being alone with your dragon on the Sands is a bitch, and Beirith can be…”
“Panicky.” He smiled fondly as he said it, both for her and his own indignant dragon.
I am not panicky.
You’re a little panicky.
I have never.
You have always.
“Yeah,” Gwyn answered when he refocused on her, “panicky. We all want to be sure you’re okay- the guys and the queenriders both.”
“I’m fine, Gwyn.” And he meant it. Yeah the paperwork he was stuck with right now sucked but it wasn’t seriously affecting him. “Bei’s the best company, Bricella’s always willing to talk if I need to actually speak, and I don’t even know why you’d be worried about pushy chasers-”
“After the guy M’hael had to deal with last turn-” He snorted in amusement once again.
“You mean the guy he ended up feeding on? That’s one bluerider’s been keeping himself to himself.” Even she hid a little snicker behind her hand at that memory, the man being found in with the laundry, withered and grey.
“Yeah him. You remember, P’rce ended up punching his wingleader for being more upset he was gonna miss Fall than that he’d been mistreating greenriders?”
“Yeah, that was awesome,” K’vin said, and leaned back, shutting his eyes against the breeze. “I never liked that fucker, Beirith and I have agreed on never letting Harlth chase again.”
“We have too, I think all the queens have.”
“Good.” He cracked open an eye. “Still though, I’m surprised you’re worried. Even if a good quarter of the Weyr wasn’t enough kin to me to scare people off, Beirith is panicky. If any chaser got pushy she’d throw a fit.” In fact, he could feel her concern growing as it was.
Dineth says you’re fine?
Dineth is right. Just talking, Bei, I’m okay.
You do not need me? She was torn between him and her eggs and shards he was going to have to get back down there soon.
No, no, you stay there. I’m fine and I’ll be back with a nice juicy wherry for you within the candlemark. She didn’t fully believe him, but he could feel Dineth soothing her and so she backed down.
“I don’t doubt it,” Gwyn said, “it’s just… I worry. You’re the baby.” He sat up with a playful glower, smile tugging at the edge of his lips.
“I’m older than you!”
“Okay, Beirith’s the baby.” She shook her head and looked down at the candidates. “What do you expect, your maiden flight was three days after we got here. We feel responsible for you.” K’vin rolled his eyes in as exaggerated a manner as he could and threw an arm around her shoulders.
“You feel responsible for everything,” he said. “Remember when that weyrbrat tripped and skinned her knee because a glowbasket was dim? And you personally oversaw the refreshing of every basket in the Weyr? Face it, you’re a disaster.” Gwyn scowled at the reminder, though her heart wasn’t in it and she leaned into his side anyway.
“So are the rest of you,” she countered, swatting at him weakly, but he only smiled wider and rested his head on hers.
“Yes we are, you fit right in.”
The Power of Friendship
Finally, finally, Beirith gave permission for the candidates to come and see her eggs, providing they were polite, K’vin stayed there with her, and nobody made themselves look like a snack.
You would never. You apologized to the first wherry you caught, for Faranth’s sake.
They don’t know that though.
But hey, she’d agreed to let them come and look- which was liable to turn into touching, as these things did- which was a milestone all itself.
Sixty-seven. There were sixty-seven candidates, carefully chosen- and oh had the searchriders in his family been busy finding enough viable mutants- and all stood at the mouth of the Hatching Cavern, staring at Beirith and the eggs. Not him, he always fell to the wayside with these things. The only people who acknowledged him out of the group were his sister and nephew, who waved and grinned when he waved back. The candidatemaster was speaking, laying out the rules in a calm, clear voice.
“Thank the queen and her rider, then you can carefully move among the eggs. Only approach the gold egg if the queen lets you. Any roughhousing and you’ll be removed and barred from the hatching.”
And probably die?
If you say so.
K’vin tried to be as unintimidating as possible, to offset Beirith for once, as the candidates approached one by one, each thanking them for the honor and bowing in turn before heading off into the eggs. It was a little surreal, the age range. There were people older than him walking around- mostly women aiming for the gold who were at least polite enough to act like they were interested in the other eggs as well- and children hardly young enough to apprentice in a craft. Shards and shells, he could hardly believe he’d ever been so small, nonetheless that they were letting anyone that small stand.
The warning reached him about three seconds before Lizbet did, colliding with him, her arms wrapped around his middle.
“Hi big brother.” Immediately the rest of the class was staring, and while under normal circumstances K’vin would’ve been fine hugging his sister, not in public and not when he was being presented as a figure of authority.
“Hey, no,” he said, prying her off and taking her by the shoulders, “when we’re on the Sands, I’m not your brother, I’m Junior Weyrman, understood?” Lizbet was visibly displeased, but this was something she was going to have to learn- that just because she was close to somebody didn’t mean there weren’t circumstances where she would have to treat them with the respect due to rank and position. Still, she was his sister, and he loved her, so when she nodded he let her go and mussed up her hair affectionately, throwing out a grin.
“Good luck, brat. I’m thinking blue.” Fighting not to smile, she blew him a raspberry and turned to bow to Beirith.
“Thank you for letting us see your eggs.” And then she was off, Beirith’s eyes whirling with a new hint of blue in her wake.
Be careful, she’s as bad as me.
I like you though.
Your taste is already in question, don’t make it worse.
It felt like it took ages just to get all the candidates through the line, and the milling took literally forever. As soon as he was able, K’vin climbed up to his spot at the base of Beirith’s neck, scratching at an itch he’d have to oil later as he watched the hopefuls below. Some went around trying to see and touch every egg, some seemed to move between them at random, some clustered around certain eggs they thought likely to contain certain ranks (normally bronzes for some reason, he’d have been happy with another blue for the family collection
But you got me.
Yes I did, and you’re a million times better.)
He just never stopped being caught by how young some of them were. Lizbet, she was only fourteen (though who was he to talk, he had been too). And Jeson had only just turned twelve. It was some relief to know the dragons didn’t usually rise or chase before their riders were ready, Gwyn was the youngest he had heard of, but still. Dragonriders weren’t any more exempt from poor decisions than anyone else, they just did them in tandem with their dragons.
Then he realized he sounded like Gwyn and laughed, quietly so as not to disturb anyone but Beirith.
I think they want my daughter, she said, eyeing the older candidates who, yes, were inching their way towards her and her precious gold egg.
They won’t touch if you don’t let them, K’vin soothed, laying across her neck. If you aren’t comfortable, then don’t. He could feel wheels turning in her head as she eyed up the women, then looked out over the other candidates. What precisely she was thinking, he didn’t know, those thoughts not quite hidden, but certainly not on the surface for him to see with a glance. The only clue he got was when she reached out her neck, nearly toppling him, and plucked Jeson up by the back of his tunic.
Without heed for them, she dropped him between her forelegs, beside the gold egg, and then went for Lizbet. Once both were where she wanted them, she settled back down over clutch and egg, whirling red eyes daring anyone to question her.
For a moment, K’vin intended to jump down and keep an eye on the proceedings, but something- maybe Beirith, even he couldn’t tell- stopped him. This was private. Between candidate and egg.
After several minutes, the massive gold lifted her head and released her ‘captives’, who hesitated before darting away. They paused only long enough to bow before heading back to the rest of the class.
“If everyone is done,” Candidatemaster G’rul said as if nothing strange had just happened, “I think we still have time for your next lesson.” Nobody even groaned, that’s how much they’d apparently been thrown off. Still, each bowed respectfully on their way out to where G’rul’s green waited, and K’vin tried to maintain a calm demeanor for them.
You, he said as soon as they were gone, are biased.
I told you they were the ones allowed, she answered, pressing into his head the memory of that first day looking over the candidates. So, he couldn’t even call her a liar, the traitor.
You realize G’rul will come by wanting to talk to us later.
And Kelleye will want to talk to us immediately.
So Toyamilth says. He sighed.
You think they’ll Impress?
Of course, Fireth Searched them.
True. K’vin sighed again and climbed down her side, stroking her and going to settle in by the gold egg.
After that display, they damn well better.
Poor candidates don't deserve this stress, they have enough to worry about.
It felt like the Weyr was shaking the humming was so loud, or maybe that was just the effect of dumping a load of musical dragons into a single cavern with very good acoustics. It was Time, and as was to be expected K’vin was still halfway up the tunnel to his weyr, trying to get his second best outfit on.
You are late!
I’m coming! Do you know how hard it is to put on pants and run down the stairs at the same time?!
Make it work!
Really, she was overeacting, this shit could take hours to get going, it could take days
It could start right now.
K’vin just about broke his neck trying to move faster.
He skidded to a stop at the bottom of the stairs, mildly resenting the other queenriders for certainly being in the stands by now, and got to work quickly setting himself to rights. Fixing his jacket, fixing his hair- he technically outranked the Weyrleader in an emergency, he could not go out there looking like a wreck, no matter how much he felt like one.
Right here, babe!
Confidently, and only a little bit hurriedly, he strode into the Hatching Cavern and took his position at her foremost leg. Good news, the candidates hadn’t yet started filing in, so at least he’d beat them to the most important event of the turn. Bad news, a fair chunk of the stands were already full, which meant he’d still been late.
I told you.
Out on the sand, the eggs were getting active, most wriggling and shaking, one already showing signs of cracking. Shards, this was going to be a fast one, they hadn’t given any sort’ve warning had they?
They are ready.
But they couldn’t be ready half a candlemark from now? Really? I mean-
As if summoned the clutchsire finally arrived, and the sight of his rider nearly falling off his neck in a scrambling bid to hit the sands and take position, bounding forward to take K’vin’s free hand as the dragons crooned at each other, nearly made him laugh through the nerves. K’vin’s other hand was firmly pressed against Beirith, as if she might vanish in the chaos of it all if he didn’t keep a firm grip. He knew she wouldn’t- shards, queens had been known to live without their riders for the sake of their eggs, wasting away on the sand until the last babe was Impressed and she could jump Between to join her beloved lifemate- but, it made him feel better. It made Beirith feel better. And it meant they could feel each other’s pulses quicken when the candidates hurried onto the sand, each dressed in robes nearly as white as the queen in an effort to make things easier on the hatchlings.
Heh, probably would be a bitch to be born and immediately have to hunt through a sea of color.
I would’ve found you.
I know you would.
He didn’t know she would, but she was good enough to let that slide. They had bigger things to worry about. Like did they have enough candidates? What if they didn’t? What if the hatchlings couldn’t find their riders and threw themselves Between? What if somebody got hurt, people had died on the sands before? What if some of the eggs failed to hatch? What if they didn’t get enough mutants for any similar children that may have been thrown, and they had to try to find a partner among those that wouldn’t understand-?
Normally another dragon in K’vin’s mind felt wrong, like it was imposing on Beirith’s position, but an exception could be made for the clutchsire, draping calm over the anxious frenzy the pair were building themselves up to. His rider squeezed K’vin’s hand, and he squeezed back, taking a deep breath and releasing it. Too late for worries, too late to change things, there was only time for now.
The first egg hatched as soon as the last seat in the stands was filled, like she’d been waiting for a complete audience. It shattered like glass, leaving behind a strutting little green, perfectly normal (no, no, don’t think like that, just because ones like Bei and Euth were obvious with their extra parts and such- after all, nobody’d know Oebbeith was a mutant without seeing how M’hael didn’t carry firestone into Fall, looks meant nothing) who looked around at the assembled candidates like a lady searching for a bolt of fabric. At least, until her eyes lit up and she bolted forward, right into the legs and arms of a girl, probably not older than fifteen who immediately burst into tears for the both of them.
“Her name is Iwhuith,” she cried and everything else happened fast enough it may as well have been a blur. More and more eggs broke open, some crumbling, some shattering, some falling away in large chunks. Greens, blues, browns, bronzes, some appearing normal, some the wrong color, some with too many limbs, one blue with too few- using his hindlegs and wings to move about (“His name is Wouth!!”) (They’ll be fine, Bei, his wings seem strong). It felt like no time at all was passing and yet everything was happening in the world that consisted only of this place at this time. K’vin was crying and Beirith was crooning and neither knew when they’d started.
The gold egg was the thirty-first to hatch, falling open without ceremony to reveal a shining little star who stepped out and beelined into the remaining candidates. Some tried to approach her, before remembering their lessons and stepping back at the last moment, but she ignored them all. She knew just as firmly as her dam had exactly where she was going, and that was to a boy, maybe thirteen, who had been staring hopefully as one of her bronze brothers removed a piece of shell from his tail. Who knew what she said as she nudged his hip, or what passed between them when he turned around, but soon he was crying for the joy of it, arms wrapped around her neck.
(We’ll keep an eye on them, Mine)
There wasn’t much left to the hatching after that, two blues, a brown, and a green, the latter two more yellow than anything else. And when the little yellow green ran into the crowd, jumping into the arms of a young man who probably would’ve aged out of candidacy before the next clutch, all there was left was a cry of
“Her name is Uhiuth!”
And it was over.
Like mating flights, nobody ever really knew how long a hatching took. The only reason they knew it wasn’t days was because nobody rode out to yell at them for not flying Fall. Or maybe it had only taken minutes, done almost before it began. One moment there was a clutch full of eggs, the next there was nothing but empty shells and babies being stuffed as full of meat as they could stand. Every egg had hatched. Every hatchling had Impressed. Lizbet and Jeson- now J’son- would both ride blue, as predicted.
It was like every holiday in one.
They are perfect.
Just like you said they’d be.
Just like we said. K’vin chuckled and leaned against her, paying no mind to the Cavern emptying around them as they watched the newly bonded pairs, playing over in their minds that moment she’d sunk into him, fitting every nook and cranny of his soul like they were two puzzle pieces set together. The best thing about hatchings was getting to share in that moment.
My K’vin? She let her hunger wash over him, and he had to snort at the little recreation.
“Are you coming?” There was a tug at his hand, and K’vin turned to smile at their companions. Mates no more, not with the eggs hatched, but maybe again some other time.
“Beirith is starving,” he answered. “We’ll meet back up at the Hatching Feast.” There was a knowing smile, and a nod, and they were alone with time enough for K’vin to climb onto Beirith’s back, for her to fly them to the herdbeast pens for a good meal.
Tomorrow they would check in on the new weyrlings, make sure they were alright. Then, Beirith would get the nice long bath and oiling she deserved.
And the day after, K’vin could get back to work on his flamethrower design, and life could get back to normal for a while.