M7 xo Pern
"Dragonriders of Pern ®"
I seem to have been inspired by a challenge I read to put the boys into another fictional universe, whether it be from a movie or book. I’m pretty certain this one hasn’t been done before <G>.
For those who haven’t read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books, you have missed a truly delightful series. Pern is a planet plagued by a deadly parasite that falls to earth on a fairly regularly cycle. ‘Thread’ as the parasite is called, devour any living matter in their path, plant, animal and human. The only thing that will destroy Thread is fire. The early settlers of Pern genetically enhanced the native ‘fire lizards,’ creating their larger cousins, dragons, to be flown against Threadfalls. The dragons of Pern can breathe fire and by searing Thread from the sky as it falls, they are able to prevent death and destruction caused by the tenacious parasite.
Dragons are telepathic and bond with their human rider at hatching. The link between rider and dragon is soul-deep. The death of the rider always results in the dragon’s death. A rider whose dragon is killed usually dies soon thereafter as well.
Dragons can also travel by teleportation, taking themselves between for the space of three breaths and reemerging at the place they have visualized. Riders must be careful to give their dragons accurate coordinates telepathically. A poorly visualized jump may lead to emerging from between too close to a wall or even underground resulting in the injury or death of the pair.
Dragons come in five colors. The golden queen controls the Weyr (a weyr is the place where a dragon and rider live) and lays the eggs of future dragons. The bronze males, largest of the dragons except for the queen, are the ones who mate with the queen. Brown dragons are the next largest and also male. The blue males are smaller and more agile in the air than the huge bronzes and browns. Finally, the smallest of the dragons are the green females. They can lay eggs, but are sterile due to the special stones they must chew to breathe fire and fight Thread.
Queens also fly against Thread, but their riders use flamethrowers to destroy the nemesis. A queen that chews fire-stone is ‘no better than a green.’
Hundreds of Turns ago, the Southern Continent was ‘seeded’ with a specialized grub that eats fallen Thread and keeps the vegetation from being destroyed. This experiment worked magnificently and thus the dragonriders in the South do not have to fly Threadfalls to protect the land. Though due to their training and their dragon’s insistence, they usually still do their duty.
Dragonrider’s names are contracted when they Impress, for example: Buck becomes B’ck.
This story is placed after the last of Anne McCaffrey’s books, and as such, there will be a few people introduced from her series. It would take much too long to explain all the back history (and it’s already available to you in her books <G>), however I don’t think you really need anything more than what I’ve given to understand this story.
Many thanks to Mrs. McCaffrey
for allowing us to play in her world. I’ve spent many a day emerged in the
I don’t own any of the M7 gang or the people of Pern. I would lay claim to the dragons in this story, but I don’t have room for them at my place.
Hope you enjoy it.
B’ck sent a cursory glance around the living quarters and slapped his riding gloves down onto the table. “Where is he, Rondranth?” he asked aloud.
A picture flashed in his mind as his brown dragon sent the requested information. Rondranth hated to touch Chris’ mind when the ex-brown rider was in a bad mood, he’d do it, but it always left the dragon a bit touchy. B’ck sent his brown a loving apology and smiled at the returned emotion. The dragonrider sighed as he left the dwelling and strode across the inner courtyard of the Four Corners Weyr, oblivious to the beautiful spring weather.
He headed for the tavern, hoping to catch Chris before he consumed too much wine. B’ck’s thoughts focused on his old friend. They’d grown up together and been presented at the same hatching where both young men had Impressed brown dragons. That was over ten Turns ago.
B’ck had happily settled into the life at
Then, about five Turns ago, Chris’ brown dragon had been killed in a tragic accident. The only reason Chris lived was for Sarah and Adam. His family and B’ck did everything they could to give Chris a reason to continue living after losing the soul-deep bond with his dragon.
Chris had just started to open up and enjoy life when tragedy struck again. Almost three Turns ago Sarah and Adam had both fallen to a plague. The plague had devastated many communities throughout Pern, and the Weyrs, though not hit as badly, had also suffered tremendous losses. When a rider died, so did their dragon and that loss was felt by the entire Weyr. A cure had been found quickly due to the new knowledge gained at the Landing, but not soon enough to spare Chris’ family.
B’ck stopped just inside the door to the tavern wondering yet again if he should allow the place to remain on Weyr property. He grinned ruefully, accepting the fact that he’d only allowed Inez to set up shop in the first place because he’d hoped to earn her gratitude. The gypsy woman had been grateful, but not in the way B’ck had hoped.
Inez looked up and met B’ck’s eye. She nodded her head toward one corner and B’ck saw Chris slumped down in a chair at his usual table. It was too early in the morning to have to deal with the man if he was already drunk. B’ck sent a questioning glance at Inez as he approached the bar.
She shook her head. “He’s been nursing that cup since he got here,” she said softly.
B’ck sighed, but smiled his thanks as he went to join his friend. Hatchings were always hard on Chris and even more so at this time of the Turn. It was coming up on the anniversary of Sarah and Adam’s deaths. B’ck took a seat in the chair across from Chris and waited as he contemplated the upcoming hatching.
Four Corners Weyr was one of the newest weyrs to be
organized on the Southern Continent. An egg-heavy junior queen from
B’ck had been recruited out of
At the moment, most of the caves were inaccessible, except by dragon. Part of their work would be carving stairs and connecting tunnels to create easier access. In the mean time, dwellings had been built below the bluff and the dragons were happy enough to spend most nights curled up in the sun-warmed sand.
B’ck snuck a peek at his friend.
“I’m not drunk, B’ck,” Chris snapped. He pushed the cup away from him and offered B’ck a small grin in apology. “I’ve just been…” he sighed. “I can’t shake the feeling that something big is about to happen.”
“Something bad?” B’ck asked, knowing better than to question Chris’ ‘feelings.’
The ex-rider shrugged. “I don’t know. But I think things are about to change around here.”
“Well, why don’t we get out of here for a while?” B’ck suggested. “We can check out that settlement that’s sprung up to the east of us. Who knows, there might be a pretty lady or two,” he added with a suggestive leer.
Chris smiled then, a real smile that actually touched his hazel green eyes. At least some things never changed.
J’siah slapped Profeth on the shoulder. The blue dragon turned his head and rested it on his rider’s shoulders. He continued to lean until J’siah’s knees buckled. The Harper chuckled and gave the long blue nose a scrub. “All right, you beast, don’t squash me!” he chided, fulfilling his part of their twenty-Turn long game. Profeth moved his head and looked J’siah in the eye. The dragon’s multi-faceted lens swirled deep blue showing the love he felt for his soul-mate.
“You’re sure there’s a candidate for the eggs here?” J’siah asked again.
A strong mind, Profeth insisted through their link.
“I don’t suppose you could narrow the search a bit for me?” J’siah sighed as he looked out over the expanse of temporary buildings and tents that covered the grassy plain. This group of settlers had made their way down the river, landed, and just started to build. There were hundreds of people moving about industriously, putting up shelters, skinning herdbeasts, and preparing food.
J’siah grinned suddenly and gave Profeth another good scrub on the nose before he moved off. “I see a Harper over there. Maybe she can help.”
Profeth snorted his approval and padded leisurely toward the sandy beach along the river to find a quiet spot to nap while he waited for J’siah.
Healer and dragonrider N’than adjusted the pack on his
shoulder and sent a quick look skyward for Caduth. He spotted the blue dragon
circling above waiting for a chance to land. N’than’s trip to the Healer Hold
had served several purposes. He’d needed to replenish a few medical supplies
that they weren’t able to manufacture at
Although not officially on Search, N’than and Caduth were both worried about having a wide enough selection for the hatchlings to choose from, and they had taken it upon themselves to increase and improve on the current crop of candidates. He wasn’t all that impressed with some of the youngsters already in residence at the weyr.
The area finally cleared and Caduth landed lightly, furling his wings and offering N’than a bob of his head in greeting. The Healers don’t have anyone who wants to be a dragonrider? Caduth asked.
N’than shrugged as he settled the pack on the blue’s withers and tied it down so it wouldn’t come loose during flight or the trip between. “I don’t understand it either, Caduth. But I think most of their younger healers have headed south to set up halls at the new settlements.”
“Excuse me!” an eager voice said from behind N’than.
The dragonrider jumped, startled by the intrusion. He turned as he sent a mental reprimand at his dragon for not warning him. Caduth’s equivalent of laughter sounded in N’than’s head.
N’than turned to see a young man of maybe fifteen or sixteen Turns. He had his hat in his hand, and as he spoke his brown eyes remained locked on the blue dragon.
“Excuse me, sir,” he repeated. “My name’s John of Dunne Hold. I’m a real hard worker and learn fast and I really would like to be a dragonrider. I was told you and your beautiful dragon were from the new weyr in the South and that you were looking for people to stand at the next Impression. I’d be a really good rider, I’d take care of my dragon and…”
N’than put his hand over the young man’s mouth, ignoring his dragon’s snort of amusement. “Master John…” he said only to be interrupted.
“Oh, call me JD. Everyone does. There were way too many Johns at the hold and so everyone just started calling me JD. John of Dunne, JD… makes sense, I guess…”
N’than took a deep breath. “JD.”
“Yes, sir?” JD said eagerly.
“You do realize that the dragons do the choosing?”
“Oh, yes, sir. I know a lot about dragons. I’ve studied everything I could about them. The Healer Hall has loads of information. I know all about taking care of Thread burn and cuts on wings and…”
“Son,” N’than interrupted with a wry grin, “if you’d like to join the Hatching, I need a reference. Can I speak to your parents?”
JD suddenly stilled. His animated features falling into a sad frown. “My ma died several Falls ago. I don’t know where my father is.”
“I’m sorry, JD,” N’than said, putting a comforting hand on the boy’s shoulder. Caduth swung his head around and lightly nudged the boy in the back. “Is there anyone else?”
JD had turned to look at the blue dragon, totally amazed that the beast had offered him sympathy. JD spun back to face the rider. “Well, sir, I’ve been staying with the healer that took care of my ma. Would she do?”
N’than smiled and nodded. “Let’s go see her, shall we?”
Caduth rumbled his approval as the two men walked away.
Ezra ran, dodging around people and the temporary shelters, hoping to evade his followers. He had to admit, if only to himself, that he might have gone too far this time. He didn’t usually have to cheat at games of chance. His skill was such that he didn’t need to. However, today he really needed the marks and hadn’t taken into account the fact that his opponent might be cheating as well. Add that to being a poor loser and the end result was not pretty.
The young man could still hear curses behind him as the three much larger men tried to catch up. Ezra darted around a collection of boxes that had not yet been unpacked and ran smack into a solid object. He wrapped his arms around it to keep from falling down. It was warm, and smooth like the finest leather and… blue?
The young gambler backed up and found himself looking into the twinkling eyes of the biggest blue dragon he’d ever seen. Of course, Ezra rationalized, he’d never actually seen one this close up before. Shouts from behind him caught his attention and he looked around frantically for an escape. Those ‘men’ would rip him from limb to limb if they caught him.
Ezra let out a yelp of dismay as he was suddenly enveloped by a wall of blue. He gasped as he realized that the dragon had dropped its wing down over him, effectively hiding Ezra from his foes. He heard the men pass by, giving wide berth to the dragon. After a few moments, Ezra grinned and peeked out from under the blue wing.
The dragon bent its neck and peered under its wing at him.
“Thank you, kind sir,” Ezra said as he made a few tentative steps to get out from under the wing. “I do appreciate your assistance…” His last word ended in a squeak as the dragon suddenly pulled his wing in tighter, pinning Ezra to his side. “Hey, let me go!”
The blue moved its head down until his eye was even with Ezra’s head. Stay! Ezra heard very clearly in his mind. His green eyes widened with surprise. The dragon had spoken to him.
Chris hung onto the riding straps of Rondranth’s saddle as he steeled himself for the trip between. It was one thing to go between on your own dragon, but he always found it unnerving on someone else’s beast. Of course, he didn’t make a habit of riding dragons anymore. Rondranth was the only one he’d been on since… Chris sighed then frowned. They should have gone between by now.
He leaned forward into B’ck’s back. “What’s wrong?” he shouted against the wind.
“Rondranth’s got wind of something,” B’ck shrugged.
The brown dragon circled over the forest below and finally landed in a clearing.
“What’s caught your attention, Rondranth?” B’ck asked, not getting off his dragon in case there was danger. Nothing alive and sane would attack a full grown dragon.
He’s coming, Rondranth replied, pointing his nose to their left.
“Who’s coming?” B’ck asked, frustrated with his dragon’s cryptic response.
The other one, the brown said as if that explained all.
Chris was watching the direction Rondranth had indicated. His strange feeling was back. Something was going to come out of the forest, something that would change his life. He just wasn’t sure if it would be for the good or for the bad.
After several minutes of waiting, the ex-dragonrider glared at the brown dragon. “Well?” Chris asked.
Rondranth snorted. He could speak to Chris if he wished, but the pain in the ex-rider’s mind from losing his dragon was too loud. Rondranth told B’ck instead of replying directly. He is waiting just inside the tree line.
“There’s someone just past the edge of the clearing,” B’ck told Chris.
Chris exhaled grumpily and climbed down off the brown. “Hello? Come on out, we mean you no harm.”
A young man with long brown hair stepped out into the clearing. “Can I help you?” he asked courteously, keeping one hand lightly on the knife at his belt. His blue eyes raked over the dragon and his rider then settled on Chris.
“I am Chris of …
The lanky stranger looked surprised. “How would he know that?” he asked.
B’ck shrugged. “Some dragons just know. Rondranth’s always been pretty good at picking people for Impression. Are you interested?”
“I, uh, I don’t know if that would be such a good thing for me,” he stammered shyly. “I sorta have a problem with close places. I don’t think a weyr… I mean… don’t ya’ll live in caves and such in the mountains?”
“You don’t have to stay in a cave weyr,” Chris assured,
intent on getting this young man to join them. Something about him called to
Chris, spoke to a part of him that he thought had died with his dragon and his
B’ck nodded. “Even when the caves are ready, I reckon many of the riders will stay below. The dragons like the comfort of the jungle floor,” he said with a grin.
“Well,” the stranger said, “I guess… if Rondranth thinks I might make a good dragonrider… maybe I’ll give it a try. Long as I don’t have to stay in a cave.”
Chris broke into a grin that was returned by the other man. “Great.”
“Name’s Vin,” the younger man said as he moved closer to the trio.
“Where are you from, Vin?” B’ck asked. “We can take you home so you can pack and tell your family.”
Vin shook his head. “No family. I’ve been traveling with a gypsy caravan these last few Turns. Suppose I should let them know I’m leaving though.” He tilted his head to indicate the carry sack over his shoulder. “Got everything that matters to me right here.”
“All right, then,” Chris said. “Point us in the right direction. Rondranth can fly us to the caravan, you can say your good-byes and we can head home.”
Vin looked into Chris’ eyes for a moment. “Sounds good,” he smiled.
“By the Egg, I tell you,” J’siah said with a laugh, “it was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Profeth had the boy caught between his body and his wing and wouldn’t let him down. The kid was squawking up a storm and wiggling like a worm on a hook,” J’siah grinned broadly.
N’than and B’ck laughed with the Harper. Chris just smiled and shook his head. The four of them had settled in at their table at Inez’s tavern for dinner and taken turns telling about their day.
“Sounds like we’ve got a few live ones,” B’ck said after he regained control of his mirth.
“Well,” N’than replied, “it never hurts to have a wide selection. I don’t mind telling you, a few of those boys we have worry me. Blendell particularly. He’s a bit of a bully. I’m not sure we should allow him to attend the Hatching.”
“You may be right, N’than,” Chris agreed, “but if we take the opportunity away from him, he’ll always think we cheated him out of ‘his’ dragon. If we let him attend the Hatching and he doesn’t Impress, then the fault will only be his own.”
“And if he does Impress?” N’than asked.
“Then,” Chris said slowly, “he will be instructed as to the proper way a dragonrider should conduct himself. Even if he acquires a few bruises learning his lesson,” he finished with a smirk.
B’ck chuckled. “I seem to recall earning a few bruises as a weyrling, and not all of them were from dueling practice.”
“We’ll keep an eye on Blendell, N’than,” J’siah assured. “Fate has a way of working things out.”
Ezra sat on the cot in the weyrling dorm and pretended to sulk. He wanted to think and not be interrupted. This turn of events was unexpected. He was actually quite pleased to be out of the settlement, away from the men he’d conned, but he’d never dreamed he might be chosen for a Hatching.
He’d spent the last few Turns traveling around the Southern continent, eking out a living as best he could. Maude, his mother, had left Ezra high and dry in the Southern Hold when she managed to attach herself to a wealthy merchant. She had felt that her son was old enough at almost sixteen Turns to fend for himself.
Now at nineteen, a unique opportunity had presented itself and Ezra was unsure how to feel about it. To Impress a dragon was every young child’s fondest desire, but as one grew up, reality took the place of dreams. Few were chosen to stand before a clutch of dragon eggs in hopes of Impressing and joining your soul to that of another being who would love you no matter what. Ezra scanned the room taking note of the forty odd men and boys that were sharing the space.
For some reason, that blue dragon, Profeth he’d learned was his name, thought Ezra had the right stuff to be a dragonrider. What would Mother think? He grinned suddenly and decided that he would make a good dragonrider, if only to spite his mother.
“Hi,” a voice close by said, startling Ezra from his contemplation.
He looked up into the brown eyes of a boy several Turns his junior.
“My name’s JD, actually John, but everyone calls me JD,” the boy said, brushing a lank of dark hair away from his eyes as he sat on the bed across from Ezra. “I just got here, have you been here long?”
Ezra shook his head. “I was just brought in today as well. My name is Ezra.”
“Anyone take this cot yet?” another voice asked from the other side of Ezra’s cot.
“Nope,” JD replied cheerily. “I’m JD, this is Ez.”
“Ezra,” Ezra corrected.
“Vin,” Vin said with a nod. He shoved his carry sack under the bed and sat down leaning his back against the wall at the head of the cot. “It’s been one crazy day.”
“I concur,” Ezra said.
“That’s for sure,” JD chimed in.
The next several days went by in a blur. The candidates, male, and female since there was a queen egg on the hatching ground, were tested on everything from history to reading, writing and arithmetic. In these ever-changing days, a dragonrider was expected to be much more knowledgeable than in Passes past. Those that needed it were tutored by B’ck, Chris, J’siah or N’than in the basics.
The two blue riders were also given the duty of teaching the candidates what their responsibilities to their dragons would entail. Care of the continually growing hatchlings was a daunting task for most new riders that, just to start included feeding the ravenous hatchling and bathing and oiling the hide of the growing dragon. But coupled with the indescribable bond to their dragon, the hard work was well worth the effort.
Chris and B’ck took turns with the protocol and fighting end of the training. Dragonriders, unlike commoners among craft, cot and hold, could not risk serious injury or death in a fight. A dragon often became uncontrollable if its rider was badly injured, and some beasts had been known to go between without visualizing specific coordinates, only to be lost to the black void.
It was up to B’ck and Chris to instill this in the minds of the candidates. Dragonriders do not fight. Thus, lessons in diffusing potentially dangerous situations were a must. B’ck found an apt tutor in Ezra. After only a few examples, he handed the class over to the younger man and sat back to watch.
Chris found him lounging in the grass off to one side of the class a few hours later. “I thought you were teaching this,” he admonished softly, taking a seat beside the brown rider.
“He’s doing a much better job than I ever could,” B’ck said with a nod at Ezra. “I hope he Impresses. His talents won’t be appreciated outside the weyr and will probably get him killed,” the rider said with a lazy smile.
Chris nodded thoughtfully. “I agree. Think he’ll stick around if he doesn’t Impress?”
B’ck shook his head sadly.
The dice rolled to a stop. Ezra grinned while the other players moaned. “Dragon’s Eyes,” he declared. “Looks like your luck has run out, Blendell.”
The other Impression candidate glared at Ezra and pushed his marks into the center of the playing area. He stood up, glanced at the dragonriders in the circle and dusted off his knees before moving away from the group.
The next player picked up the dice and betting began anew. Ezra watched Blendell out of the corner of his eye. He’d been careful to invite only those candidates and riders that he felt would play fair, whether they won or lost. That was only smart and saved him bumps and bruises from poor losers. How Blendell had heard about the game, Ezra did not know.
Others had been excluded from his invite as well. While there were no specific rules about gambling in the weyr, Ezra had decided not to include several of the older riders, mostly because he didn’t feel comfortable around them, like Chris and N’than. And others because he knew they would pass the news of the game along to friends, like B’ck and J’siah.
He sighed. Dragon bones wasn’t his favorite game of chance, there was no skill involved and the odds for the house, unless the dice were fixed, were 50/50. Still, it was the only thing any of this current group wanted to play. And as long as he got the percentage for running the game, he’d come out a little ahead.
Blendell and a few of his buddies left and the atmosphere of the game eased tremendously. By the end, Ezra had a nice little profit and had convinced a few of the others to think about joining him in a game of dominoes the next day. He’d also set up a few side bets as to who would Impress, who wouldn’t, and what color the dragon involved would be.
One way or the other, Ezra intended to make his time at the weyr worth his while.
J’siah turned away from the large writing slate to face the group of potential weyrlings. He sighed as he saw three of the young men sneaking away from the group. Those three were smart, resourceful and would undoubtedly make good riders, but they were too used to being on their own, having to answer to no one. If they did Impress, that would change all too swiftly.
The blue rider continued his lecture. He supposed the material they were covering today was a bit redundant, but that didn’t excuse their absence. He’d have to talk to Vin, Ezra and JD after class.
J’siah’s eyes were drawn to yet another disturbance in the back of the class. A late comer to the group of hopefuls, Cas, slipped into an empty spot on the back bench. Something about that lad was not quite right. Profeth snorted his amusement, but did not deign to explain. J’siah went on with his lecture.
“Where’re ya going?” JD asked as he caught up to Ezra and Vin.
The two older men shared a quick glance.
“The Tavern,” they replied together.
“Shouldn’t we stay until Rider J’siah is done?” JD asked.
“Were I to continue to listen to his repetitive oration,” Ezra advised, “I would soon be deep in slumber.”
“Huh?” JD asked.
“We were bored,” Vin replied as he opened the door to the Tavern and lead them inside.
The three ordered klah and settled in at one of the tables. JD started talking about the lecture J’siah had been giving, telling the other two why it was important to know how to mix the oils that needed to be applied to a growing dragon’s skin.
Vin and Ezra listened with an air of detachment as each wondered whether they would ever actually use the information.
Some time later, Harper J’siah came into the tavern and quietly took a seat at their table. Inez brought another cup of klah and he nursed it without a word. JD fidgeted nervously in his chair, casting anxious glances from J’siah to Vin and Ezra and back again.
Ezra tugged the sleeves of his shirt under the deep green jacket he wore. He looked more like a Lord holder’s son than a dragonrider candidate. He watched J’siah with guarded green eyes and said nothing.
Vin leaned back in his chair, his fingers tapping the side of the cup he held was the only indication that he might be uneasy.
Finally, J’siah spoke. “You boys think you know enough to skip out on your lessons?”
JD flinched. “Sorry, Rider J’siah.”
J’siah turned blue gray eyes on the youngest of the trio.
“It’s just… well, N’than had gone over the same stuff yesterday,” JD stammered. “And we were…”
“Bored to tears,” Ezra offered dryly.
“I see,” J’siah said. “Well, then. Perhaps the three of you would be willing to show me how well you picked up on yesterday’s lesson?”
Three sets of eyebrows rose in confusion.
“I do believe Profeth would enjoy a good oiling,” J’siah said with a grin.
Ezra sighed as he leaned against the blue dragon and wiped the dripping water from his face. If he’d known that bathing and oiling the beast would be punishment for skipping out on the boring lecture, he would have stayed put and taken a nap instead. Ezra pushed himself away from the dragon and applied the stiff bristled brush to the warm hide. Was he truly contemplating tying himself to such a laborious and tedious position for the rest of his life?
Intellectually, he knew what being a dragon rider would entail. But he hadn’t considered the physical labor involved in caring for a creature ten times his size. He sighed. Could the rewards of Impressing a dragon possibly make up for the menial labor and the loss of his independence?
His hand brushed over a rough patch of skin and of its own accord began to scratch the spot.
There! That’s it! A familiar voice sounded in Ezra’s mind, startling the young man into dropping his brush. Don’t stop, the voice pleaded. It itches.
Ezra quickly retrieved his brush and set to work on the patchy hide. You spoke to me, he thought, wonderingly.
Profeth hummed as Ezra’s scrubbing relieved the itch.
I thought only a rider could hear his dragon. Ezra glanced over at JD who was cleaning Profeth’s tail and seemed unaware of the conversation.
Perhaps most people just aren’t listening, came the amused reply.
Ezra raised one eyebrow. “Are you gentlemen about done? I believe we should ask Master Profeth to rinse off so we can get to oiling his scaly hide,” he teased.
JD gasped. “Ezra! That’s no way to talk to a dragon.”
Vin’s eyes narrowed as he backed away to give Profeth room to turn and wade further into the water. At the last moment, the dragon’s tail flicked toward Ezra, lightly catching the man right behind the knees. The sudden pressure cost Ezra his balance and he landed on his rear with a splash that thoroughly soaked him.
JD and Vin broke out laughing as Ezra surged to his feet, spluttering invectives at the blue dragon. Profeth rolled lazily in the surf, his faceted, blue eyes twinkling his amusement.
“What’re you doing?” Cas asked as the slight young boy took a seat on the log beside JD.
“Cleaning Rondranth’s riding harness,” JD muttered.
Cas grinned. “Got in trouble for sneakin’ out this morning, didn’t you?”
“It’s none of your business!” JD huffed, moving slightly so his back was turned to the other boy. He made a show of paying more attention to the leather he was oiling.
“Want some help?” Cas offered.
JD stopped and turned back to Cas. “Why would you want to
help me with my punishment?”
Cas shrugged one shoulder. “Just offerin’ to help.” He looked away. “Thought maybe you’d tell me what you know about healing dragons. I heard you learned from the healers at the Hall.”
JD regarded the younger boy for a moment then shrugged. “Sure. I don’t mind sharing, but you’d best check with N’than before you try anything on your own. I’m no healer and I may have misunderstood some things.”
“Oh, I would never try nothing on my own, JD,” Cas assured. “I just want to know.”
JD nodded and smiled. “Anything in particular?”
B’ck strode into the tavern and dropped into the chair opposite Chris. Inez brought him a cup of wine which he immediately downed. He pushed the empty cup back toward her in request for a refill.
“Problem?” Chris asked, noting the frustration and anger in B’ck’s posture.
“That’s the third time today I’ve broken up a fight between the candidates. J’siah says he’s stopped a few himself and N’than just rolled his eyes when I spoke to him about it. They’re antsier than a wherry surrounded by hungry dragons, Chris,” B’ck said, running a hand through his thick, dark hair. “Thing is, I think most of the fights have involved one of two of the candidates. And I’ll give you two guesses as to who they are.”
Chris looked B’ck in the eye. “Ezra and Blendell?”
“You got it.” B’ck nodded to Inez as she set a fresh cup of wine in front of him. “Thank you, darling. That Ezra’s a sly one. Always out to make a mark. He’s got more bets running than a wagerer at a gather. And P’rtan and a few of the other riders told me he’s been holding various ‘games of chance’ during his free time.”
Chris snorted and tried to hide his grin.
“It’s not funny, Chris,” B’ck insisted. “No one’s caught him cheating, but a few have accused him of it and that’s what’s led to some of those fights.” He chuckled. “Have to give it to him though, the kid can hold his own.”
“So, what about Blendell has you so worried, B’ck?” Chris asked knowingly. B’ck had gone on and on about Ezra, thus avoiding his true concern.
B’ck sighed. “That boy is a bully. But worse, he’s something of a leader, so he’s managed to drag a few of the others into his circle. What marks Ezra hasn’t conned out of the younger candidates, Blendell and his cronies seem to have taken by intimidation.” Chris sat forward with a frown. B’ck waved his hand. “Oh, I can’t prove it. No one will come forward and admit to it, but talk has been overheard.” He took a sip of wine and sighed again. “I doubt that a dragon would choose Blendell, though you never can tell what draws a dragon to Impress, but if that boy does Impress… we’ve got trouble on our hands, Chris.”
Chris nodded thoughtfully. “Only another day or so ‘til the eggs hatch.”
“Best keep them both busy enough that they can’t get into trouble,” Chris suggested with an evil grin.
B’ck’s mouth stretched into a similar grin as he chuckled.
Unfortunately, Chris’ plan wasn’t put into action quite soon enough. Blendell and three others currently had Cas surrounded.
“Come on, little boy,” Blendell sneered, pushing Cas hard enough to make the smaller boy stumble. “Hand over your marks and we won’t hurt you… much.”
Cas stood up straight as he caught his balance. “I don’t have any and even if I did, I wouldn’t give them to you!”
Blendell motioned with his hand and the other three moved in on Cas. “Fine by me,” Blendell said with a smile. “Grab him boys.”
Two of them caught Cas’ arms as the third began to search for hidden marks.
“Let me go!” Cas screamed. His scream was echoed by a shrill screech from above. A small golden form dove down, raking talons across the cheeks and arms of the boys holding Cas. Cas took the opportunity to shrug off his captors and add his fists to the enraged fire-lizard’s attack.
“Hey!” JD yelled as he came across the scene. “What’s going on here?” He raced in and grabbed Blendell’s drawn back fist before it could connect with Cas. “Leave him alone!”
The shrieking fire-lizard and yells from all the people involved quickly caught the attention of nearby dragons and thus their riders.
J’siah, B’ck and N’than as well as several other riders charged into the clearing and soon had everyone separated.
The little fire-lizard queen flitted anxiously around Cas’ head, alternately chirping encouragement to Cas and casting obviously vile comments toward his attackers.
“What’s going on here?” B’ck demanded. The boys covered in scratches were each guarded by a rider as JD tried to get closer to Cas, but kept having to duck back to avoid the fluttering fire-lizard.
“Blendell and his thugs were beating up on Cas here!” JD said. “Tell her to calm down, Cas,” he demanded, indicating the gold lizard.
“Glitter,” Cas said. “It’s all right, girl. Come here.” The fire-lizard made a noise that almost sounded like a relieved sigh as she landed on Cas’ arm and cuddled into the young man’s chest.
JD frowned at the suddenly obvious curves. Curves that had been hidden beneath the blousy tunic, but were now distinctly noticeable as the fire-lizard snuggled between them.
“You’re a girl?” JD exclaimed.
“So,” Cas challenged, standing up straight and defiant.
“Girls can’t ride fighting dragons,” JD advised. “You should be with the others for the queen egg.”
“Why can’t a woman,” Cas stressed, “ride a fighting dragon? Mirrim of Benden Weyr rides a green.”
“Yeah,” JD hemmed, “Well, she’s a special case. And she Impressed three fire-lizards before Impressing Path,” JD added, everyone knew Mirrim’s story.
“So? I’ve got a queen,” Cas bragged, calming the little golden fire-lizard that had come swooping in to defend her mistress, “and I can make watchwhers obey me.”
“A watchwher is not a dragon,” JD argued.
“Children,” J’siah interrupted. “I see no reason why Cas…” He stopped and lifted an inquiring brow at the girl.
“Casey,” she said, suddenly subdued.
“I see no reason why Casey cannot stand before the clutch. Dragons will choose whom they choose.” J’siah turned his full attention to Casey. “But you do realize, Casey, that you won’t have a choice if the queen chooses you, right?”
“Yes, sir,” Casey answered. “Don’t worry. If I am chosen, I’ll be a good rider. It doesn’t matter to me what color the dragon is. I just think I’ll be more useful to the weyr on a fighting dragon.”
“As long as you understand,” J’siah repeated.
“Now that that’s settled,” B’ck said acidly, “do you mind telling us exactly what happened here?”
In the end, Blendell and the three who had attacked Casey were banished from the weyr. All the marks they’d taken from the others were confiscated and the young men were escorted out of the area.
Chris, B’ck, N’than and J’siah sat at a table in the tavern quietly discussing the matter later that evening.
“I shouldn’t have let things go so long,” B’ck murmured.
“We could have handled the situation better,” J’siah admitted. “But only if we’d all had the right information. We need to communicate better if we’re to catch problems before they get out of hand.”
“Agreed,” N’than said. “What about Casey? She shouldn’t have tried to deceive us.”
J’siah shook his head. “No harm done there. And as I told her, it’s the dragon’s choice.”
“You think we should let girls stand before more than just the queen egg?” B’ck asked, more out of curiosity than disagreement.
“Don’t see the harm,” J’siah shrugged. “A dragon’s gonna pick its most suitable mate from the bunch. There’s plenty of women out there that would have made very good riders. Couldn’t be any worse than Blendell, now could they?”
Chris snorted his agreement and took a drink of his wine.
“Awfully quiet there, pard,” B’ck said.
“Not my place to say,” Chris grunted. “I’m not a rider.”
“Shards, Chris!” B’ck cursed. “You’ve been more involved with this group of candidates than any of us. You think I haven’t seen you talkin’ to them, one on one, givin’ advice and clarifying things about their lessons?”
Chris looked up, astonished that he’d been found out, but saw J’siah and N’than nodding to show that they too had seen him. He sighed. “Well…”
J’siah chuckled. “We’re just glad to see you… taking an interest again, Chris. I can only imagine how hard it is for you,” he added somberly. “Still, you’re wisdom is needed.”
Chris looked each of his friends in the eye then nodded. “Glad to help.”
Ezra made his way to the secluded spot he’d discovered in the jungle out behind the Tavern. He sat with his back to a tree and grinned as he counted the marks he’d won off the others. It had been a fair wager. Could he help it if he’d over heard J’siah and N’than talking?
He chuckled as he recalled the look on everyone’s face when the weyrling masters had informed the group that they would indeed be taking short trips between to learn various points around Pern. The other hopefuls had gawked in disbelief before turning to look at Ezra. Their expressions ranged from disgust and anger to resigned amusement. Eventually they’d learn that he only bet on sure things.
Ezra tucked his winnings into a crevice in the tree he’d been leaning against. He did not want to tempt fate by keeping the marks at the barracks. They’d all been informed by B’ck that the eggs should hatch within the next day or so. Once Impression was made, one way or the other, Ezra would be free. If he did manage to Impress a dragon, a hope that he kept buried deep in his heart, then no man would challenge him. If he didn’t, then he would be gone before the celebration started.
He sauntered back toward the weyrling barracks feeling quite pleased with himself. With those marks he could afford to purchase some new clothes at the next Gather. Ezra was so deep in thought that he never saw the three young men who approached from behind. The first inkling he had was a vicious blow to his back that sent him tumbling to the ground.
He rolled and tried to get to his feet, but a kick to his back was quickly followed by another to his stomach, and the two combined knocked the wind out of him. The next few moments faded to a blur of pain, then a gust of wind tossed sand and loose vegetation up around him. A loud roar echoed through his pounding head and the next thing Ezra knew he was laying flat on his back looking up at a very blue sky. No, it was much closer than the sky.
Profeth swung his head and knocked Blendell down. The two others had stumbled back as the blue dragon swooped in for a landing and now they turned to run. Unfortunately for them Caduth and Rondranth chose that moment to pop in from between and the down draft of their wings knocked the boys off their feet.
“Profeth?” J’siah called anxiously, having received an urgent summons from his dragon. The other two riders and Chris followed at a run as the riders began to get reports from their dragons. Chris also heard Rondranth tell B’ck what was happening and he yelled orders to several other riders as they passed.
Their dragons had things well under control by the time they arrived. Profeth still stood over Ezra, who had decided he was in the safest place possible. Besides, he doubted he could move anyway.
Finally the blue moved away and allowed his rider to check on his charge.
“Ezra?” J’siah asked softly.
Ezra opened his mouth to reply, but only managed a small moan.
“Help me get him to the infirmary,” N’than said, taking a spot by Ezra’s left shoulder. He waited for Chris, B’ck and J’siah to take a corner and they carried Ezra to the healer hall.
The other riders moved in and took control of the attackers. Profeth followed his rider on foot to the wooden structure that served as the weyr’s infirmary. He tried to poke his head in the door only to receive a gentle rebuke from J’siah.
You have to wait outside, old friend.
He will be all right? Profeth asked, angling his head so that he could peer into the building.
Vin and JD sat on either side of Ezra’s bed. Casey had taken a seat on the foot of the bed while they all waited for him to wake up. The foursome had become somewhat of a team well before Casey’s true identity was revealed.
“I shoulda known Blendell wouldn’t just disappear,” Vin muttered to himself. “Man had a grudge.” He looked up at JD. “You heard him threaten Ez that last time.”
JD nodded forlornly. He’d heard, but thought the matter taken care of when the riders had kicked Blendell and his cronies out of the weyr. He looked at Ezra and cringed.
As fast as Profeth had gotten to them, the three bullies had still managed to inflict quite a bit of damage on the gambler. He sported a black eye and split lip as well as multiple bruises on his chest and back. Healer N’than was worried about internal damage and had sadly proclaimed that Ezra would be confined to bed for the next four or five days.
“It’s not fair,” JD mumbled. “It wasn’t Ezra’s fault. He shouldn’t be punished for what happened to him.”
“They ain’t punishin’ Ezra, JD,” Casey consoled.
“You don’t call missing the Hatching and losing his chance to Impress a dragon punishment, Casey?” JD demanded angrily.
Casey frowned and shrunk down a bit. She couldn’t disagree with JD’s assessment. “Maybe there’s some way…”
Vin shook his head. “You heard the same lessons we did, Casey. Hatchings are dangerous enough for healthy folk. People get hurt, even maimed and killed by clumsy fledglings trying to find their mate. No way are they gonna let Ezra out on the hatching ground, even if he is able to ‘stand’ by the time they hatch.”
The three sighed in unison, unaware that Ezra had woken at some point and heard their every word.
Ezra managed to fake sleeping until his new friends finally left for the night. He slowly tried to open his eyes only to find that the left one was swollen shut. He lifted a hand and gingerly probed the bruises on his face. With a disconsolate sigh he rolled onto his side, wincing at the pain in his back. Tomorrow he would leave this place. There was no reason for him to stay. Without a chance at Impressing, he would be nothing but a parasite at the weyr, living off others through his gaming.
He closed his eyes against the sting of tears that threatened to fall. Why? Why couldn’t things have gone his way, just this once?
Ezra yawned and rolled onto his back, moaning as his bruised kidneys made themselves heard. N’than had woken him earlier to check his injuries and then allowed the young man to go back to sleep. Now, a subtle but growing hum had awakened him. Sounds of joy, both human and dragon, filtered into the building, and Ezra realized that the eggs must be close to hatching.
He struggled to sit up. This would be the perfect time to leave. No one would be paying attention to anything but the hatching dragons. He found his clothing and grimaced at their filthy state, but shrugged into them as quickly as he could. He’d have to sneak into the barracks, get his things and then collect his stash of marks behind the tavern.
Maybe he’d take a peek at the Hatching… No. That would be foolish. In more ways than one.
Ezra finished dressing and slowly made his way to the barracks. As he’d thought, everyone was at the Hatching. He gathered his things and walked out without seeing a soul. Little did he know that others were taking advantage of the Hatching as well.
“Hurry up, Kesslin, before someone sees you,” Blendell whispered harshly.
“Shut up,” Kesslin replied, looking up from the lock he was trying to open. “If you hadn’t insisted on coming back, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“Just hurry,” Paltis urged.
“Yeah,” Gorvel agreed as they watched their fourth working the lock from outside their cell.
“Stupid,” Kesslin mumbled under his breath. If there was one thing he’d learned from his father it was that revenge never gave the satisfaction you thought it would. He hissed jubilantly as the lock opened. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”
The four young men slipped out of the storage building, glancing around furtively for anyone who might witness their escape.
Blendell stiffened and stopped as he saw a flash of color in the jungle behind the tavern. “It’s Ezra,” he said, pointing the movement out to his friends.
Kesslin shook his head. “No. I’ll be no part of it. If you get caught again, I won’t help you.” He took off in the opposite direction, hoping to make it to the settlement before he could be associated with any more trouble.
Gorvel and Paltis watched Kesslin leave, their expressions thoughtful.
Blendell grabbed each of them by the arm. “He’s got our marks. How are we supposed to start over without them?”
That swayed the other two and they all headed for the gambler.
Ezra slipped the pouch of marks into his jacket pocket and moved as quickly as he could toward the stable. He would leave marks enough to cover the cost of one of the runners. There was no way he could make his way on foot to the nearest settlement, even if that was where he wanted to go.
The sounds of dragons squawking and people cheering caught his attention and without conscious thought Ezra found himself heading for the Hatching ground. He snuck up as close to the edge of the clearing as he could without being seen and leaned against a tree. At the least, he could see his friends Impress. Another egg chose that moment to break open and the hatchling inside clawed its way out, screeching its protest to the cold world beyond the egg.
Ezra grinned at the sight of the little bronze as it swayed on four legs trying to figure out what the strange two legged creatures gathered around him wanted. His grin changed to a grimace as two strong arms snaked roughly around him and dragged him back into the jungle.
His bruised body couldn’t take much more abuse and told him so in no uncertain terms as blackness threatened the edge of his vision. Ezra took as deep a breath as he could and elbowed his captor in the gut. Blendell exhaled sharply and loosened his grip on the struggling gambler.
Gorvel stepped up and wrenched at Ezra’s left arm, trying to help Blendell. He was surprised to find his own arm in a steely grip. Gorvel let go of Ezra and turned to find the ex-dragon rider glaring down at him. Out of instinct, Gorvel swung at Chris, but only landed a glancing blow.
Paltis had also stepped up to help, but instead of trying to hold Ezra still, he’d punched him in the stomach. As he prepared for another swing, the jungle around them suddenly came alive with dragons. All around him it seemed were bronze dragons. Wings flapped, tails slashed and heads with flashing golden eyes and sharply fanged mouths zipped in and out, landing multiple scores on Paltis’ flesh and that of Blendell and Gorvel.
Ezra jerked free of Blendell’s hold, breathing shallowly as he tried to catch his breath. A small bronze form inserted itself between him and his attacker and before Ezra could recognize what was happening, Blendell had grabbed a sturdy branch from the ground and was swinging it at the hatchling.
“NO!” Ezra cried as the branch made contact with the young dragon’s head. It screeched in pain and lost its balance, tripping over the tree roots and underbrush. Ezra launched himself at Blendell, furious that the other man had dared to hurt the hatchling.
He knocked Blendell to the ground and landed blow after blow, so quickly that Blendell never had a chance to retaliate. Strong hands gripped Ezra’s arms and pulled him off the bloodied miscreant, but Ezra struggled to get free and finish him off. No words could break through his rage, but a soft keening finally did.
Ezra turned his head and looked into the eyes of his future. The beautiful bronze head was bloodied on one side, the eye swollen shut, but the other eye swirled gold and green with worry. No words were needed as the two souls met and bonded in an instant. Ezra’s knees gave out as the love he felt from this brave little dragon flooded his heart.
The little bronze crooned and minced through the underbrush toward his mate. Ezra shrugged his shoulders and felt the hands release him, but all he was aware of was Gambith’s soothing hum.
Are you all right, little one? Ezra asked, gently fingering the dragon’s cheek below the swollen eye.
You are hurt, Gambith insisted, nosing Ezra in the chest.
“I’ll be fine,” Ezra assured aloud, stroking the dragon’s soft neck as he finally looked around to see what was happening.
Chris knelt off to one side, bemusedly stroking another small bronze dragon while B’ck looked on with a wide, teary smile.
Tekeelth will take care of him, Gambith said. You need help and I’m hungry, the hatchling told his mate grumpily, reminding Ezra of the newly hatched dragon’s need for nourishment.
He looked up as a shadow fell across them and saw J’siah and N’than.
“Come, Ezra,” J’siah said with a smile. “I’m not quite sure how we’ll contract that name, but right now let us help you. Your dragon is starving and you both need some medical attention.”
The older riders helped Ezra to his feet and practically carried him to the hunting ground, Gambith followed, his thoughts only on food now.
Ezra glanced back over his shoulder at C’ris and Tekeelth. “I didn’t think you could Impress a dragon again,” he said softly.
N’than and J’siah shrugged.
“Never could figure out how a dragon makes its Choice,” N’than said. “Probably never will.”
They eased Ezra down onto a bench along the edge of the hunting ground and turned to watch the group of new werylings try to manage their egg-starved hatchlings.
“Remember, don’t let them gorge,” J’siah boomed over the noise the dragons were making as they feasted on previously killed animals. The newly hatched dragons needed fresh meat, but were too uncoordinated to make a kill. Their symbiotic relationship with man was as necessary to them as it was to their soul mates.
Ezra kept most of his attention on Gambith, allowing the bronze to eat, but not too much or too fast. The dragon grumbled in his mind that he was starving to death, but Ezra didn’t give in. He saw that Vin, or rather V’n, had impressed a brown and JD, another name that was difficult to contract, had impressed a green. Further down the way, C’sey was soothing a blue. Ezra grinned, happy for the girl who had wanted to ride a fighting dragon.
He sagged against N’than as his energy gave out, his eyes closing of their own accord. Suddenly he had a lap full of bronze dragon head, as Gambith nuzzled him worriedly.
I’m all right, my friend, Ezra promised. Just tired. But you need to let N’than tend to your eye. He looked at N’than. “You can help him, right? Please?”
N’than turned the bronze’s head toward him and looked at the wound then smiled. “He’ll be fine, but I need to clean that up and get some medication on it. And you… you need to be back in bed.”
Ezra thought he nodded, but the world seemed to spin around him and his last conscious thought was to reassure Gambith that he would be fine.
J’siah, N’than, and B’ck sat with O’rin, the temporary Weyrleader of Four Corners Weyr, in his quarters. O’rin’s weyrmate, Evie, refreshed their wine and then took a seat by her mate. Until the new queen was old enough to mate, O’rin would act as weyrleader, then he would retire here with Evie, his wisdom still available to the weyr, while allowing a younger rider and dragon to take over the leadership.
“What do you make of C’ris’ reImpression, O’rin?” B’ck asked.
The weryleader shrugged. “It’s never happened before, at least not in recorded history. Though Benden tried after Brekke lost her queen.”
Evie laid her hand on O’rin’s arm. “I don’t think Brekke wanted to Impress again.”
“No, but I can’t imagine any rider wanting to after surviving the loss of a dragon,” O’rin said.
“It’s been a long time for C’ris,” B’ck said softly. “And he had the loss of Sarah and Adam after that,” he shook his head. “If anyone deserved to Impress again, it was C’ris,” B’ck said firmly. “And besides, he’s an asset to the weyr that we really can’t afford to lose.”
The others nodded.
“And now,” J’siah added, “he’s in a position to truly lead the weyr.”
B’ck nodded. “Thank the First Egg. I’ve put off way too many things while trying to run this place.”
O’rin snorted. Yes, B’ck had been acting as his second in command, but he’d hardly been running things.
“I’ll be glad to let C’ris take over,” B’ck continued blithely. “It’ll give me more time to concentrate on other pursuits,” he said with a grin and a waggle of his eyebrows.
“And what pursuits might those be?” C’ris asked with a smile as he entered O’rin’s weyr.
“Hey, pard,” B’ck greeted happily. “Tekeelth okay?”
“Sound asleep,” C’ris said with a shake of his head. “I’d forgotten how much of a handful a young dragon can be,” he finished, his tone bittersweet.
The other riders’ faces softened as they each remembered their Impression, a moment etched in their memories forever.
Evie poured C’ris a cup of wine as he sat down.
“So, how is… Ezra?” C’ris finished as he realized he wasn’t sure what to call the young man.
“Exhausted,” N’than said. “Sleeping soundly when I left him, with Gambith curled up on the floor beside him.” He smiled fondly. “Man’s gonna spoil that dragon of his.
The others chuckled.
“What about Blendell and the others?” C’ris asked, his voice suddenly hard.
“On their way to Fort Weyr until their trial,” O’rin said. “We’ll be informed when the trial date is set.”
“Ezra should be there,” J’siah said.
“He’s got a lot of healing to do before he can fly between,” N’than added.
O’rin nodded. “I told Weyrleader N’ton that. The trial will be held here, but I didn’t want those men close enough to do any more damage.” He stared into his cup. “Not that they’ll escape again, but we do not have the facilities to hold prisoners, and frankly, I don’t want the responsibility.”
Ez’ra sat on the shore with V’n, J’hn and C’sey watching their dragons playing in the surf. Tekeelth and the other hatchlings were there too, but C’ris sat off by himself, while the rest of the weyrlings seemed to give the five of them wide berth.
Ez’ra had woken up that morning to V’n and J’hn pouring a pouchful of marks over him. They’d taken the initiative to collect on his wagers as to who would Impress and what color their dragons would be. Of course, no one had foreseen C’ris’ Impression, but that had not been the only surprise. The fact that C’sey had Impressed at all, let alone a blue had caused quite a stir and some teasing of the green riders. But C’ris had quickly put an end to that, reminding the weyrlings that greens were often the fastest most maneuverable of the dragons.
J’hn, formerly JD, though he insisted that his friends could still call him JD, latched onto C’ris’ lecture. Not that he would trade Derbynth for anything, but he would admit, if only to himself that it felt a bit strange for a girl to Impress the slightly larger, male blue dragon, while he Impressed a smaller, green female.
Then again, it could make things interesting when Derbynth rose to mate. Especially, if C’sey’s Rowdyth flew her.
V’n’s brown Mesquith chose that moment to dunk bronze Tekeelth under the water. Both dragons surged up and trotted onto the beach, bumping each other with their heads in friendly sport.
They stopped and shook, spraying water in all directions.
“Hey, C’ris,” V’n called. “Teach that mangy dragon of yours some manners would you?” he teased as Ez’ra cursed and the others laughed at the drenching.
“My mangy dragon?” C’ris countered as he stood and moved closer to the foursome. “What about your mangy dragon?”
“My dragon ain’t mangy, old man,” V’n insisted with a grin.
C’ris’ eyes narrowed. “Old man, eh? We’ll see who’s old,” he growled. Then, without warning he charged V’n, caught him up over his shoulder, ran down to the water and tossed V’n into the surf.
V’n came up sputtering and glared up at a laughing C’ris, then sent the glare toward his three hysterical friends. “Could use some help here,” he grumbled, wiping his long hair out of his face.
“Sorry, V’n,” Ez’ra said, holding his sore side against his laughter. “I’m not supposed to do anything strenuous.”
This just made C’sey and J’hn laugh even harder.
V’n shook his head and looked at C’ris.
The older man smiled wryly and offered him a hand up. “Don’t even think about pulling me in,” C’ris warned.
The brown rider grinned, but accepted the hand up and stood silently for a moment, his hand locked around C’ris’ arm, just as C’ris’ hand gripped V’n’s arm.
Their eyes met and both men smiled, then released their hold.
“We were thinkin’ about going to the tavern after the dragons feed later,” V’n said. “You’re welcome to join us.”
C’ris sent a quick thought to his dragon and knew it wouldn’t be long before hunger overcame the need for play. He nodded. “I’d like that.”
He and V’n joined the other three sitting on the sand.
Ez’ra looked over at C’ris and caught his eye. “I have never thanked you for helping Gambith and me.”
C’ris shook his head. “No need. Would have done it for anyone.”
Ez’ra looked away, seeing that the man did not believe he needed thanks. For Ez’ra though, it was important to show C’ris his gratitude. The bronze rider may indeed have done the same for anyone, but the fact was that he had jumped into the fray for Ez’ra… No one had ever done that before, and somehow, Ez’ra intended to repay the man.
The end… for now
I want thank Anne McCaffrey again for this wonderful world of Pern. I hope I did justice to her work. It was a bit difficult getting Ezra’s love of games of chance in because paper was only just reinvented during the Pern novels, thus, no playing cards. So I decided that maybe dominos would be a better choice. Ezra did play dominos in Chinatown and the tiles can be made of would or stone or bone, it seemed to make more sense than poker. Though I also know that there are many more domino games out there than I’ve ever heard of and some are probably quite similar to poker.
As for Chris’ reImpression of a dragon, that has not happened in any of AM’s books, though there was the attempt I mentioned with Brekke. I also improvised a bit with Casey, so I hope AM will forgive my slight improvisations. I tried to stick to the canon as much as possible, and only veered off in directions that I felt were reasonably acceptable.
As long as there are no official objections, I do think there may be a sequel to this story. If anyone has any ideas, just let me know. Feedback is always appreciated. JudyL
"Dragonriders of Pern ®" is the property of Anne McCaffrey.
The Magnificent Seven is the property of CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp.
No copyright infringement is intended, this work is strictly written for pleasure, no profit has been made.