|Who Wills, Can
Author: Thistlerose PM
A follow-up to "Who Tries, Does." In an alternate universe where the queens' battle was narrowly averted, Kylara continues to make trouble.Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 3,846 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 2 - Published: 02-02-09 - Status: Complete - id: 4836763
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Afternoon at Nabol Hold
Kylara spent the morning and much of the afternoon in Lord Holder Meron's bed, deeply asleep and completely unaware that anything out of the ordinary was happening at High Reaches Weyr. She had a queer dream. Pridith forsook her. Pridith, whose life was more completely bound to hers than that of any babe she'd borne, left her alone in the cold and the dark. Ordinarily, such a dream would have roused Kylara, but her belly was full of wine and sweetmeats, her body achingly exhausted by Meron's vigorous lovemaking. So she remained asleep, dreaming that she screamed, wept, pleaded with Pridith to come back to her, to pluck her from this frigid nothingness where she'd been left.
But her dragon never heard, never returned.
It was Meron who woke Kylara, at last. His fingers knotted in her hair, he jerked her head up from the pillow and flung her onto her back. "Get up, woman, get up," he snarled.
Kylara hissed with annoyance, even as she blinked in confusion.
"Get up," he said again, yanking back the sleeping furs and exposing her naked body to the cold air.
"What?" She raised herself to her elbows and tossed back her hair. She spread her legs, arched her back so he could see just what she was – a proud, beautiful woman who was not ordered about by any man.
He stood over her for a few moments, breathing heavily. In the glow-light, Kylara saw desire flicker in his dark eyes, saw him touch the tip of his tongue to his bottom lip. But he shook his head. "There's no time for this. Get up. My fire lizard is in a frenzy, as is the watch-wher. That fool is on his way here. What have you done, woman? What have you brought upon me and my Hold?"
Without moving, Kylara called to her dragon.
Orth is coming, came the answer, and groggy as she was, Kylara did not miss the anxious note in her dragon's tone. She remembered her dream and felt something cold drop into her belly, though she kept her gaze locked with Meron's.
Orth says that the Weyrleader is very angry with us.
"T'bor is cranky," Kylara reported. "I can handle him."
"Indeed, you had better," said Meron. "For I want no part of this."
"You should have thought of that earlier, my dear Lord Holder," Kylara said. "Where are my clothes?"
Meron clenched his jaw belligerently, but bent to retrieve something from the floor. Rising, he tossed it at her – hard – but she caught it deftly in one hand. It was the shirt she'd been wearing yesterday, under her wher-hide flying gear. It was torn, she saw, from neckline to hem. How--? Oh, yes. Kylara's lips curved in a smile as she remembered the force with which Meron had thrown her against the wall, causing her to spill her wine. She'd laughed as he'd ripped the shirt from her body. He'd been mad with desire for her then. He looked furious now, but she could alter that. She could allay T'bor's anger as well. There wasn't a man on Pern she couldn't handle, save F'lar and F'nor, and if those two preferred Lessa and Brekke to the sensual Kylara, then they were not truly men, were they?
"Find me another," Kylara said, throwing the rent garment back at Meron.
I am sorry, Pridith said, her distress so keen that Kylara actually winced. It is my fault.
A dragon's scream shook the very stones of Nabol Hold.
Kylara slid from the bed and, shoving Meron aside, strode to one of the finely inlaid chests that stood against one of the walls of the sleeping chamber. From it she drew one of Meron's own tunics. It was too big, but it would suffice. She pulled it over her head, and then began to look for her trousers and boots.
She was dressed and untangling her hair with one of Meron's own jeweled combs when they heard voices in the corridor outside the sleeping chamber.
"I am sorry, Sir," one of Meron's guards could be heard to say, "but my Lord gave explicit instructions—"
There was a dull thud as someone – the guard, most likely – was knocked against the chamber door.
"Here is another explicit instruction," bellowed T'bor. "Open that door!"
Kylara set the comb down and seated herself on the edge of Meron's bed. She crossed her legs and lifted her chin, determined to maintain a serene façade, though the cold thing in her belly had grown in size and developed tendrils.
Meron looked at her, then at the door. There was another thud, harder then the last, and a grunt of pain. The click of a key being inserted in a lock. Meron's fingers twitched above the hilt of his knife.
The door was flung open, and the guard's lifeless body spilled into the chamber. T'bor stood over him, his face livid, his dark eyes feverishly bright.
"Weyrleader," Meron said, "if you've killed my man—"
"Dragonmen don't kill," T'bor cut in huskily. His frenzied gaze moved past Meron to Kylara. "Dragonmen don't kill. Or by the First Egg—" He swallowed hard. He was shaking, Kylara realized. "Why?" he demanded of her. "Why were you chosen? Of all the girls on this planet, why you? I accept your lack of respect for me or any other rider in your Weyr, but are you so twisted, so depraved that you can't even respect your dragon?"
Somewhere outside the Hold, Pridith bugled indignantly, and Kylara flushed. T'bor's words stung, even as they confused her. She lifted her chin higher.
"Have you any idea," T'bor went on, his voice dropping, freezing, "any idea what nearly happened at the Weyr this morning? Are you sitting there in ignorance, or can it be you truly don't care?"
Kylara recalled Pridith's frantic apology, but did no more than raise her eyebrows.
"You really are that self-absorbed," T'bor said with loathing. "Your dragon rose to mate! Yes," he continued, advancing, as Kylara opened her mouth in surprise. Meron made no move to stop him. "She rose this morning. Set off by – whatever you were doing." He pointed accusingly at the rumpled sleeping furs. "She rose, just as Wirenth was rising."
Wirenth, Kylara thought. So, this was about goody-goody Brekke. Of course. Still, the chill did not leave her. Pridith had risen, and she'd had no idea. No, that wasn't true. Kylara could admit as much, if only to herself. At some point during the morning's lovemaking, she had felt a change, a heightened ardor she'd stupidly ascribed to Meron's prowess. But it had been Pridith. Kylara's cheeks burned brighter. Her dragon had risen without her.
"The queens nearly fought," T'bor said. He stood but three paces from her now. "One or both could have died!"
Shame suffused Kylara, but she'd have preferred death to showing T'bor even an ounce of contrition. Contemptuously, she said, "And you wish Pridith had. Instead – Orth flew her again, didn't he? Yes, Pridith called you the Weyrleader. So, I am stuck with you. Orth should have gone for Wirenth. I wish he had. Out of curiosity," she went on in a deliberately brittle tone, "who did fly Wirenth? A well-seasoned bronze, I hope, with an older rider. V'ter, perhaps. Now, there's a man with curious tastes. My one regret is that Brekke did not go to her first mating flight a virgin. That would have—"
T'bor struck her hard across the jaw, knocking her off the bed. She fell to the floor at his feet. Pridith bellowed.
Be silent, Kylara commanded. He can't hurt me! She tasted blood; she'd cut her lower lip on her teeth.
"Enough of that," Meron said. "This is weyr business. Take her and go."
"Keep her," said T'bor. "I don't want her. From today, she is unwelcome at High Reaches Weyr. If she does not like that, she can plead her case before a council of Weyrleaders. But until that time – keep her."
"You can't do that," said Kylara, lifting her head and jerking her hair back from her face. "I am Weyrwoman!"
"An argument," T'bor retorted, "that might have carried some weight before Lessa made her jump back in time. But now there are more than two queens on Pern. And I tell you, Kylara, I would prefer any queen rider – even Mardra, even that numb-wit Merika – to you. Vanira is senior weyrwoman after you; she will take your place."
"Not little Brekke?" said Kylara icily.
With a cry, T'bor seized her hair and yanked her savagely to her feet. Something gleamed in his hand. A knife. He brought it close, touching the tip to the pulse at her throat. "Say that name once more, and I swear…"
"'Dragonmen don't kill,'" Kylara mocked.
He would do it, she realized, if provoked much further. He was hotheaded, passionate. He would kill her. And Meron would just stand there and let him do it; the man was utterly useless. Why, he had not even summoned more guards! Was he enjoying her subjugation at T'bor's hands so much that he had little desire to see it interrupted?
Pridith? Where are you?
I am trying to come, but Orth will not let me. You are in danger. I am sorry.
Useless, everyone! Even Pridith.
I am sorry, Pridith said again. In her mind, Kylara could see the golden dragon, hovering high above Nabol's stone turrets. Everywhere she turned, Orth seemed to be there already, his great wings spread wide to block her passage. This was not a mating flight; Pridith would not fight. Nor would she transfer between, for there was nowhere to go. If Kylara could get past T'bor and meet her on the rampart above the Hold's gate…. But as long as Meron stood there, watching glibly instead of attacking as a lover should, as a man should, Kylara could not escape.
"What if there are eggs?" she said evenly.
"Eggs, you fool. Pridith and Orth mated this morning. Kill me, and you destroy whatever eggs Pridith may carry."
T'bor snorted. "You don't care about eggs. You don't even care about Pridith. All you care about is your own hide."
"I care about Pridith. And you care about eggs. Threads will be falling for a long time; Pern needs every dragon that hatches."
"So," drawled T'bor, "you are aware of your duties as a dragonrider."
Kylara breathed deeply, then allowed her eyelids to droop, her body to sag, as if in submission. Moments passed, and she began to worry that her ruse was not working. But then the knifepoint was removed from her throat, and she felt a sigh pass through T'bor's slender frame.
"I'm not going to kill you. Dragonmen don't kill." His tone was thick with bitter resolve. "But I do banish you from High Reaches Weyr. Complain to whoever will listen. Take refuge where you will. I don't care. We are done."
He shoved her toward Meron, who stepped neatly out of the way, so that Kylara fell once more to the floor.
If his actions had matched his words, if he had merely let her go, rather than hurting her body and her pride, things might have gone differently. But Kylara was pushed over the edge, and she rose as savagely as a queen in heat. T'bor was sheathing his knife. Kylara strode to Meron's side and plucked his from its sheath.
Kylara had an older sister, Thella, who had taught her to throw knives. That had been years ago, before Kylara had been discovered on Search and brought to Benden Weyr, and she was out of practice. But T'bor was close, and he had turned his back on her.
"Don't," Meron began, but it was too late. The knife flew from Kylara's hand and buried itself to the hilt in T'bor's back.
After that, things happened sluggishly, as they sometimes do in dreams. Orth screamed to rend the heavens, and both Kylara and Meron gasped at the assault on their ears. T'bor turned. His face was ashen, his eyebrows lifted as if in surprise. Then he dropped to his knees as jarringly as Kylara had.
He looked at her, at Kylara, without accusation, but infinite sorrow. His mouth shaped one word: Orth.
Then he sagged against Meron's bed.
A few seconds, or a few hundred Turns later, Pridith said solemnly, Orth is gone.
Kylara just stood there.
Behind her, Meron swore. "You bitch. You stupid, stupid bitch. Are you mad? You've killed a dragonman! Do you have any idea what you've brought upon me and my Hold? Get out." He grabbed her arm and propelled her roughly toward the door. She nearly tripped over the unconscious guard. "Get out!" he screamed at her, and spittle flew from his lips. "Get out, get out, get out! And take your beast with you! I want you gone. Never come again. Do you have any idea how much trouble you've caused?"
As she stumbled numbly down the corridor, toward the stone steps that led to the Hold's ramparts, his angry words followed her: "Do you really think the Weyrleaders will believe I had no hand in this? A woman steals my knife from my own belt and hurls it at a man! In my bedchamber! It's a harper's tale. Get out, get out!"
Kylara emerged onto the ramparts and was struck by the brilliance of the afternoon sunlight and the chill of the wind. Her loose hair blew about her face, catching on her lips and eyelashes. She groped for something to hold onto and called out to Pridith.
I am here!
And there she was, in the air above the ramparts, glowingly golden. Fanning her great wings, she extended one talon for Kylara. I do not know where our little sister is.
Kylara was confused. Then she remembered her golden fire lizard. "Never mind," she said, reaching for Pridith. "If she doesn't come back to us, we'll find another."
Betunth wants to know what happened.
"Who," Kylara said through her teeth as she climbed to her dragon's neck, "is Betunth?"
The green assigned to Nabol. She wants to know what happened. I want to know what happened. Orth was my mate.
"You'll find another. And don't ask me what happened! Never ask me. Do you understand?"
No, but I will not ask.
From Pridith's neck, Kylara cast one last look at Nabol. Meron's banners snapped in the wind. There were armed men on the towers, and at the gate far below. Meron's guards were generally sharp-eyed and clever, but they were used to her comings and goings and would not consider her departure remarkable, even if she typically used the gate. Had they witnessed Orth's riderless leap between? Did it matter?
Do you have any idea what you've brought upon me and my hold?
Kylara shivered. Every part of her was cold now, but she told herself that it was due to the altitude, nothing more. T'bor had been a fool. He'd struck her, and she'd struck back. Meron might find himself in trouble with the other Weyrleaders, but he'd slither out of it. Without her help. That would pay him back for standing by while she was abused.
Let's go, Pridith.
Where are we going?
A good question. They could hardly return to High Reaches. Her brother Larad might offer them hospitality at Telgar Hold, but only until the story of T'bor's death circulated. The Weyrleaders would want to question her, even if they did seize upon Meron as the chief suspect.
An idea came to her. She formed a picture in her mind, and gave it to Pridith. Once she was sure her queen understood, Kylara ordered her between.
Evening on the Southern Continent, a few weeks later
Thella thought that Kylara looked awful. She was sunburned and hollow-cheeked, her blonde hair pulled back in a sloppy braid, her dress stained. Thella laughed inwardly, even as she feigned concern for her younger sister; dragonrider or no, Kylara really was quite helpless without that old nurse of hers, whatever her name was. No wonder she'd summoned Thella.
Pridith, on the other hand, looked healthy and almost happy as she played in the shallows beyond Kylara's seaside cave. In the dying daylight, her hide was ruddy gold, her eyes the blue-green of sea jewels. When Thella remarked on the dragon's appearance, her sister made a sour face.
"She always preferred the south," Kylara said, a touch resentfully. "This is a game to her. And she enjoys being full of eggs." Her lashes lowered, and this time Thella did not bother stifling her laughter as understanding came to her.
"So, dragon and rider are both due to clutch," she drawled. "How sweet. Whose babe is it?"
"Mine," Kylara said through her teeth.
"Obviously. But who did the planting? The dead Weyrleader? The Lord Holder with whom you were dallying? Whoever found this hiding place for you and keeps your secret? The smitten green rider who brought me here?"
"I don't know!" Kylara flung back, fists clenching at her sides. "It doesn't matter. The babe is mine."
Thella shrugged. She'd had two pregnancies, both of which she'd ended soon after discovery. She had no desire for offspring, and little interest in Kylara's, beyond the father's identity. She hoped it was someone awful – one of the exiled Oldtimers or a poor fisherman. She laughed again at the thought of her prideful, pampered sister on her back in some filthy, reeky boat.
"Stop it," Kylara said imperiously, and Thella stopped laughing, but she kept her smile of contempt.
In the time they'd spent talking outside the cave, the sun had dropped below the horizon, and the stars had come out. Their light turned the crests of the waves to silver and restored some of Kylara's pale beauty. Pridith grew bored with swimming, and emerged onto the cooling sand to shake herself dry – not unlike a lowly canine, Thella thought.
"Well," she said to her sister, "have you anything to eat or drink in this weyr of yours? I've news from the north, which, I assume, is why you sent for me."
Over cold klah, sliced fruit, and smoked fish – from Southern Weyr, Thella assumed, as Kylara had never learned to cook – they talked. Lord Meron, as Kylara had predicted, was the prime suspect in T'bor's murder, though he of course had laid the blame at Kylara's feet and no trial could be held – the other Lord Holders insisted – until the errant weyrwoman was located and apprehended. Meron was, therefore, confined to his Hold, and under constant surveillance by riders from each of the six northern Weyrs.
Kylara laughed at that bit of news, but Thella did not. Men were easily bribed, she knew, and as beautiful as Kylara was, once her belly began to swell she'd find her wiles less effective in ensuring silence.
Kylara was also interested in High Reaches Weyr, so Thella shared what she'd heard, which was not much. As yet, there was no new Weyrleader. The three queen riders – Vanira, Pilgra, and Brekke – led jointly. The rider of whichever bronze flew the next queen to rise would become Weyrleader.
"And it will not be Brekke," Kylara said softly, her fingers moving spasmodically around her cup of klah. Her eyes flashed in the firelight. "Tell me, Thella. Whose bronze flew that little bitch's queen? Oh, I hope it was V'ter."
"I don't know." Thella speared another piece of fish with her knife. "Who cares? What else has happened? Well, the Benden Weyrleader was ill for a time. There was a rumor he might be dying, but no such luck. Everyone, from drudge to Lord Holder is still half-mad for a fire lizard." She glanced over her shoulder at the cave entrance. It was full of Pridith, who had settled down to sleep shortly after the women had gone in. "Oh," she went on, remembering, "there was a hatching at Benden Weyr. I don't know if that interests you at all. That boy from Ruatha – Fax's brat – Impressed some sort of mutant dragon. No one I've talked to is quite sure how that happened, or even what the beast looks like. Some say it's an odd color, some say it resembles a watch-wher. Some say it is a watch-wher, snuck onto the Benden Hatching Grounds as a joke on the high-and-mighty Lessa."
She turned back to see Kylara's eyebrows rise, as if in curiosity. But they fell a moment later, and Thella was glad. She was only interested in Weyr activity insofar as it restricted her own actions. She did not mind indulging her sister's desire for gossip, but she sincerely hoped she'd been summoned for another reason.
Kylara finished her klah and set her cup down. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand in a decidedly undignified manner. Thella's smile returned.
"Thank you, sister," Kylara said. She leaned toward the fire, and something in her eyes caused Thella to think deliciously, Meron didn't lie. This is Weyrleader T'bor's murderer. Oh-ho.
Kylara went on. "I appreciate the fact that you came here. Our brother would not have."
"Larad understands nothing of Blood loyalty," Thella commented with another shrug. Actually, he probably understood – and cared – more than Thella, but she was willing to play along.
"I need your help."
I should say, thought Thella.
"I need your advice. That is not easy for me to say."
Thella did not imagine that it was.
"This cave will not serve me for long. I won't go to T'kul again. He does not know that Pridith is going to clutch."
"If he did, he would insist she do so at Southern Weyr, and that is not what I want." Kylara jabbed a finger at her own breast. "I am finished doing what other people want. From now on, I do what I want. And what I want," she continued softly, the firelight playing across her flushed, proud features, "is my own damn Weyr."