Summary: (AU) Five hundred Turns span the time from the end of the second Pass to the beginning of the third – a long Interval that breeds mistrust and feuds among the dragonriders. This is the story of the beginning, a path that will lead to the greatest war Pern will ever experience.
Author's Note: It's an appallingly short chapter, and should have probably gone with the first part, but I wrote them separately and there's an end to it. Sometime later, maybe when I'm bored, I'll combine them, but for now, I hope you'll forgive me for having turned them into two parts, both highly brief.
As ever, I own nothing but the story and the characters – the world and all of the effusive credit due to it belongs to Anne McCaffrey. Possibly the McCaffreys, but I wasn't much fond of Dragonsblood.
Chapter One, Part Two : Alliances
The Weyrling Master had mounted a podium, a stiff little platform made of wood and placed at the center of the buckets for the occasion, and was making a speech, but Kalyndrel could hear nothing of it. She stood ramrod-straight in the swimming midst of Weyrlings and their dragons, and saw nothing but L'den's bright hair in the forefront of the crowd, giving every appearance of intent fascination with the Weyrling Master's words. If she looked at him, she knew, she would see a perfect composition of expression, intrigued attention evoked in every line of his face. It had been a favorite joke between them, a contest to appear the most interested in the Candidate Master's lessons, and he had always won.
She could not think. Her head was full with Liralyth, her jaws wide and plunging into the buckets in cheerful delving movements, and with L'den, who turned, occasionally, towards the green, speaking low words that she could not hear because she was not close enough.
Breaking away, she moved eyelessly through the crowd, drifting from person to person and seeing nothing but L'den. The Weyrling Master's voice broke, surfaced into clarity as she arrived ("—will be relegated to the Weyrling Barracks, which will have stone cots for the dragons—") and she touched the turn of his wrist.
The green flicked her a faceted look first before L'den turned too, his face smoothed with dreamy contentment, as if he were walking asleep. But that did not suit him; he had always been a restless sleeper, waking to the sharp light of the stars in his eyes, the pale noise of the moon moving across the sky. This would be what he would look like if she took moon and stars and replaced them with peace. With the green dragon by his side.
"Hey," he said under his breath as the Weyrling Master rambled on. His fingers flicked in a tiny motion towards the stilted brownrider who was speaking as he shifted from each foot, voice melding with the creaks in the wood until she could not tell which was which. "Fascinating stuff, isn't it? Ah," and all the mockery melted and ran from his voice as he turned abruptly towards the green, who sat a little more erectly as she turned a narrow query towards his face. "Right, you're right, Xirtaeth – this is Kalyndrel. Kalyndrel, meet the love of my life." Tenderness molted, showed amusement. "No, I will not stop mocking you in public. You'll simply have to live with it." He glanced up at Kalyndrel then, as though he expected her to intrude in a world that had clearly left her in its shadow.
"Mind if I join?" A second voice drifted in a low murmur that caught on their conversation and dragged it to open up to a third. The newcomer was a dark-haired boy with eyes the color of sky, shifting – now the clear gray after rain, allowing tendrils of blue to spiral through. They brushed fleetingly towards the green before he said, "Oh, now that's gorgeous – whose is she?"
He wasn't a very good liar – Kalyndrel read the waiting, hunting patience in his sharp-boned face as he turned automatically towards L'den for his reply. He knew the answer already: it could only be a segue, and an unkind thought flicked a card at her as to why he'd do it.
"Yes," Kalyndrel said narrowly as L'den, smiling with simple clarity, said, "No, not at all, come in. She's mine, as a matter of fact – Xirtaeth."
"Ah," said the Weyrling warmly, and blue flamed through his eyes in a bright flood. "That's wonderful – I'm M'ren. She's wonderful." Xirtaeth preened slightly beneath the compliments, and Kalyndrel felt heat scrape across her nerves in dark waves. "She reminds me a bit of mine – Feylsath. They have the same little tilt to his head."
"Oh," said L'den, carelessly interested, "is yours a green too?"
"No, not at all-" though L'den was the one speaking, somehow he had found her eyes and held them, tiny drifts of storm nesting behind a sharp, dark pupil. "-he's a bronze, actually. But he's got the same kind of ego as Xirtaeth. With good reason, of course."
"Of course." L'den was the one to answer: Kalyndrel's mouth was closed, a thin hard line as she watched the bronze Weyrling.
You do not like him? A drifting question inquired, and she thought, Sharding right.
I do not know what a sharding is, the question reminded her, and the strange voice became the lilting familiarity of Liralyth. Turning brusquely, she found the dragonet's dazzling eyes fixed upon her with a certain wistfulness. I am a little tired, I think. Tyravanth's rider is very boring. Come to me when you are finished with Xirtaeth's rider.
"Tyravanth..?" She said bemusedly, and L'den answered that question, too, matter-of-factly. "The Weyrling Master's dragon. Were you asking something, Kalyndrel? I'm sorry – I must've missed it."
"She was looking towards her dragon," the bronze Weyrling told him casually, and watched as L'den lifted his half-lidded, drowsily pleased eyes and glanced in Liralyth's direction. "I'm sorry, I know something about how demanding metallics can be," he added with a little laugh as Kalyndrel and L'den found each other again, searching for a path out of the matter that would make it simple again, the straightforwardness of being unbound, drifting towards each other.
"You had better go," the Weyrling went on, and she felt a light pressure at her arm as he began to move her away, back towards the queen who stood waiting. "Nice meeting you, greenrider," the boy threw over his shoulder, and then L'den vanished from her eyes as they passed through the throng of humans and dragons.
When they were safely in the midst of the Weyrlings, where the Weyrling Master could no longer hear their words, she wrenched her arm from his grasp. "Thank you," said Kalyndrel with biting sweetness, "but I can get to my dragon without aid. I have legs, after all."
"You've a brain, too," he said, "but you don't seem to be using it."
"How kind of you. Do you always strive to be this way to people you don't even know?"
"Kalyndrel," he said lazily, "we've been through Candidacy together. The only reason you don't know my name – which, incidentally, is T'lis, and I would keep it in mind, if I were you – is because you've been so focused on something else. And now there's no point to that at all." Behind him, a sleepy-eyed bronze, lucent with pride and satiation, ambled up to peer at her over his rider's shoulder. "Surely even you understand that, now."
Flames leapt at the back of her mind, wistful with contemplating how simple it would be to take T'lis' head off with a single burst from a flamethrower. "Your babbling is making no sense to me at all, I'm afraid," and she felt Liralyth began to pick her delicate, lumbering steps through the crowd at this stirring of fire at the back of her mind. "You're not connecting points at all. If you want me to understand, I'm afraid you'll have to be a little more focused." Sweetly, she added, "Is that possible, for you? I should hate to inconvenience you with something you cannot do."
"I don't know," he said, "how L'den stood you for that long. Candidates aren't allowed to kiss, and really, your wit is just not up to par enough to keep a man interested for that long. Neither is staring at your face." When she only narrowed her eyes at him, T'lis added, with an air of aggrieved patience, "Greens don't fly golds. It's not merely a matter of impossibility, or that it's never been done before. It's a matter of physical impossibility. Or did your dear mother never teach you the difference between males and females?"
"I don't see—"
He overtook her, sharply, voice hard and fast, "Don't deny it, everyone could see what was in your face when you looked at him, how you moved when you were around him. But really, he's a greenrider. Probably won't even be a very good one. It's not all bad, of course, I'm sure you can admire men together, but you'll simply have to forget about anything beyond that."
"What I do is of my own affair," she snapped, and wished for a flamethrower. "I don't see why you're intruding on any of it."
"If you can't, you're blinder than I thought. Playing with the greenrider's made you stupid, Kalyndrel. You don't need to be that way."
Behind her flame, Liralyth had become ice, cold and burning to the touch as she lowered her gaze towards the bronze who stood waiting at T'lis' back. It had taken her time to arrive, but now she loomed over the proceedings like a great towering shadow, wall and protection for a girl who did not want anything, now, that could happen. Tell your rider, Feylsath, that he must stop bothering mine. Keep him away from her. I do not like him. After a moment, she informed Kalyndrel, in a voice of brittle fury, He says that he will keep T'lis away. As he should – they should all listen to me when I want them to.
"Making friends already, are you, Kalyndrel!" A voice behind her broke into a huge laugh. "You're a fast worker! It's wonderful to watch you, and you've got good taste too." A doughy hand clamped onto her shoulder and Kalyndrel remembered the owner of the voice and silently wished for two flamethrowers. "Hallo, T'lis."
The bronze Weyrling smiled, made the minute curve of a bow. "My pleasure, Weyrwoman Second," he answered, and all of the threat, the insolence that he had met Kalyndrel with had folded docilely into his voice again, leaving only a mannerly boy to whom Haro smiled, brightly.
"Isn't he a wonderful boy?" She demanded, beaming, of Kalyndrel. "He's coming to lunch tomorrow! Of course, my darling," the goldrider added in what she probably imagined to be a discreet whisper, thick fingers tight on the girl's arm, "you simply must come and have lunch with me tomorrow too, I insist upon it. No, don't speak now, it would ruin the moment! And, of course, your effusive gratitude shall simply have to wait until tomorrow to be mentioned." Then she had turned and moved through the crowd, and Kalyndrel could see her no longer.
The Weyrling Master had either begun to notice the tight dissimilation of his charges' attentions, or he had grown sick of hearing himself speak, for he stepped down from the podium, then. Towards the forefront of the crowd, Kalyndrel heard the beginnings of applause, roaring gradually to life through shame and peer pressure. She closed her eyes, imagined L'den's languid features beaming in wide-eyed innocence as he pounded his hands together, Xirtaeth docile at his side, and felt as though she had consumed the raw meat Liralyth had taken.
"You look sick," T'lis said with measured concern. His brows were drawn together in the appearance of worry, but his mouth had moved into a smile. "Shall I take you to the Healer? I know the Weyr would hate to lose a new weyrwoman so quickly." His fingers came, laid over where Haro had held her still, away from L'den. "Perhaps you do need a little more than rest. Let me take you there, please."
She lifted her head, saw him through a haze of fury and amusement. "Do you really think I'm that stupid?" She pulled from his grip as Liralyth rumbled a narrow-eyed warning. "You and all your talk. I don't need it. Leave me alone, if you please. That's what I need. If I've a sickness, it involves being allergic to you, certainly, and if you'd like to help me, you'll move yourself as far away as you can."
"Now," T'lis said soothingly, "I feel we may have gotten off on the wrong foot. We should try again; I should hate to be in the bad graces of one so close to the Weyrwoman's second, after all."
"No," she assured him, "that was the right foot. Although if you want to try again, we can start off with me stepping on your foot. That I wouldn't mind at all."
"You're being touchy."
"And you're being a fool."
"And you two," a rather weary voice intruded, "are malingering. There are no dragonets left, but you're not Candidates anyway. Keep your dragonets from indulging in more meat, please, I'm sure the drudges wouldn't appreciate having to clean up exploded dragons off of the Hatching Grounds, and it would be a bad omen." The Weyrling Master eyed each of them in apparent amusement before settling upon Kalyndrel, offering her a scarred hand turned palm-up. "V'pab, at your service. The Weyrwoman will, in all likelihood, be taking you for queenrider lessons sometime into your fifth month. I would appreciate it if you began to listen to me before then, since I will be delivering her messages to you and you will, in all likelihood, become some sort of awful figurehead for your Weyrling group, who will make my life a misery if you do not appear to like me."
We can make each other's lives a misery, she interpreted, or we can work together. It's up to you and this moment.
She grasped his hand neatly, made the fragmentary motions of a curtsy with her ragged Candidates' robe. "It's a pleasure." She told him. "I'll be but a moment, but why don't you take T'lis with you? He seems tired."
"And what are you doing?"
"I'm looking for – a friend." She twisted her head then, and did not see Ophidia in the group of Weyrlings filing from the Grounds. "Do you know a girl, rather short, plumpish and dark-haired—"
"You mean," T'lis broke in with pale malice, "that one?" He pointed, and she whirled to see the Candidates Master gathering together the scattered Candidates who had moved across the Sands, speaking a few words to each as he sent them past. He held one girl's wrist a little too long, forcing her face to turn up to him, shaking her, and Kalyndrel saw her open face and recognized her as she began to take her few, curt strides towards the exit.
She moved, too, and her strides were longer, allowing her to catch up all the more easily. She caught at the girl's sleeve as she left the room, and said her name in a sharp hurry that blended all the syllables together like a slur. Ophidia turned, her face lighting briefly before Liralyth made a discontented murmur over her shoulder and the Candidate's eyes refocused to encompass the dragonet hovering at Kalyndrel's back.
"How lovely," Ophidia said, her voice scratching, scorching. Kalyndrel looked down, then, and in the dark saw neither color nor shape; only something raw and alone in what she had thought would be bright forever. "How lovely," the girl went on, gaze flitting past her friend's shoulder and towards the dragon leaning sleepily into Kalyndrel's warm touch. "How happy you must be. What's her name?"
"Liralyth," the Weyrling responded, with unintended ease, warmth, marveling at the way the name slipped from her tongue the way words that she had known all her life might, as if she were speaking not a word but a language to which she was native. Then she remembered that it was not that which she had meant to speak of, but Ophidia had always been better at directing the conversation, and she was being swept into another channel, unthinking.
"Liralyth." The accents were unfamiliar, the syllables scraped, and Ophidia's eyes were impossible to read now. "A queen. Oh how wonderful, how happy you must be. Probably a little too happy to want to deal with a boring little Candidate now, particularly one that's failed once. It's all right," she went on, as Kalyndrel tried to interrupt. "I've kind of guessed. You wanted to Impress, didn't you? How wonderful it must be to be you, always getting what you want all the time."
Pale hair, grey eyes, and a smile that made her want to turn inside – eyes shuttered, hand through over the curve of a bright green shoulder. "Not everything," Kalyndrel said, without thinking, and Ophidia's eyes narrowed.
"Oh," she said, "has the lovely Kalyndrel found something to regret? You must imagine my sorrow, I'm not really up to demonstrating it right now." She brushed past her in sweeping, flitting motions like a flame nearly going out, and did not look back as she reached the Hatching Cavern doors. She did not look back at all.
End Chapter One
Anya: I worry for your sanity, sometimes. Then I remember that it got away from you a long time ago and I need not worry anymore. And… -feels special- :B
DemonicK: Eh, I worry occasionally that they won't be believable. Thanks for the reassurance. :)
YFate: Well yeah. –torments Kalyndrel mercilessly- -amuses self-
neoKOS-MOS: I only noticed a few days before I posted this, and was ranting the entire time about the unfairness of not having been the first person to post a Pern fanfiction in the section. And I call myself her fangirl – tcha. And I plan to make the whole thing very un-Anneish, so… I rather doubt she'd be proud. / But thanks all the same.
Coronfrim Crelumin: You should steal her vestiges of sanity and sell them on E-bay! As they're so rare as to be nonexistent, you'd probably get an excellent price for them. And you owe me posts, still. –demanding!-
Unthank: Eh, well… you probably already know the basics of the history. I just felt like making a saga – I /hope/ it'll be a saga – out of it. –has an unnatural fondness for drama-
Spiritsha Master: Thank you! I'm sure there's lots to critique. You just have to stare at it long enough until you're sick of it. :)