Summary: Before there was Yung, there was the Istan Holocaust. As dragon fights dragon, one bronzer tries to decide between loyalty to his weyr – and loyalty to dragonkind. Based off the Avidgamers' Yung Weyr. (www. avidgamers. com / EPride)

Disclaimer: Anne McCaffrey owns Pern, Despairing owns the idea of the Istan Holocaust and Yung Weyr, Nadia owns bronzerider S'mar. K'den and R'awn, etc, are mine, as is the actual story. Whoop, whoop.


The sun was rising, and there was blood on his hands.

K'den shivered in the cold dawn air, standing with his back against Zeyth, the bronze's hide warm even through his leathers. The Red Star burned on the horizon, as it had for as far back as he could remember, and the faint shouts of fighting echoed from a distance away, within the cavernous winding depths of the weyr.

This is wrong Zeyth murmured into K'den's mind, and K'den shivered, looking down at his hands.

"I know," he whispered painfully. But he hadn't meant to do it.

It was because of the other weyrs. They had scorned Ista, turning their backs on their own, even as they became more and more isolated over the decades. And, well – it was hardly the Istans' fault that their queens produced more eggs than the other queens, and so they had more dragonriders. That was what the weyrleaders had said, and they were just going to take the Igens' weyr. Not…

Not kill them.

And really, he hadn't even meant to kill that 'rider, not like the others. The 'rider had staggered out, brandishing a piece of wood drunkenly, and screaming something about his life for Igen, and K'den had barely managed to avoid having his head smashed in. He'd only meant to wound him slightly when he brought out the dagger; just enough to impress the greenrider who was with him and get the man to back off, but he'd thrust too deep and the 'slight wound' had turned fatal.

The greenrider had been impressed though, and that made it all so much the worse. She had laughed scornfully at the dying man's flailing, even as the dragons outside cried out another keen for the dying, another dragon dead, and there were so many of them. K'den hadn't been the first to kill a man; others had gone ahead with flamethrowers in their hands to 'intimidate those bastards', and had got… carried away. Saw someone they didn't like, and just pressed down, watching as the flames engulfed them.

K'den staggered away from Zeyth and vomited on the rock, his breath coming in choking gasps. Dragonrider had killed dragonrider. Pern was falling apart as he watched it, and he had been one of the aggressors.

He rubbed cold hands over his face, massaged his temples softly. He had just turned twenty two, four turns out of weyrling training and had a five year old son – Kairialen. There were children inside that weyr. Were they being roasted alive by flames? Were their screams joining the chorus that seemed to surround him from around the weyrbowl?

Oh Faranth. Oh Faranth.

A figure staggered out slightly; a medium sized man with long black hair and a square jaw too strong to be handsome. There was a rip in his wherhide jacked, and he moved over to his dragon to fumble in the bag attached and clumsily pull out a bandage that he began to wrap around his arm – K'den could faintly see the blood in the dawn light. He finished his movement, and stepped over to where K'den had straightened, and K'den recognized him as R'awn, a brownrider and a distant friend.

His face was giddy with a wicked kind of joy, and a chuckle kept on trying to force itself out of his mouth that was customarily turned up in a smirk. "Teachin' them, aren't we?" he drawled out, and K'den flinched at the self-satisfied words.

"Yeah," he agreed numbly though. "Yeah, we're teaching them."

R'awn peered at him, and then let out a rough bark of laughter. "Ah, c'mon, you can't be feelin' guilty," he said with a sneer. "They're Igens. Right bastards the lot of them." He shrugged, a vicious, rippling movement. "Anyway, we're givin' them a choice. They can swear allegiance to Ista if they want."

"And how many are taking that option?" K'den asked, proud of the steadiness of his voice.

"Enough," R'awn said carelessly. He paused, and there was some concern on his face as he looked K'den over again. "You should get inside. You don't have to join in the killin', but the weyrleaders'll be suspicious of anyone they see away from the fightin', and it's probably best to stay on their good side at the moment."

"Good side," K'den agreed numbly. "Yeah."

"Comin' then?" R'awn asked, but he didn't wait for an answer as he began striding back into the weyr, his hand sliding under his jacket to caress what was no doubt a dagger there.

K'den, you aren't- Zeyth began, and his voice trailed off as K'den turned away to follow R'awn back inside again.

Go back to sleep, Zeyth K'den told him, and the bronze lashed his tail in protest even as the two 'riders disappeared from sight.

K'den found himself tensing as they walked the corridors – to one side, there was the collapsed corpse of a 'rider, his clothes and skin charred and his blistered mouth opened in an empty, silent scream of agony. R'awn saw where K'den's eyes had strayed, and smiled smugly.

"That was J'kis – remember, that sharding up-himself runner from Igen Hold?"

"As I recall, you were just as bad," K'den said, dragging his eyes away from the corpse and forcing a plastered smile onto his face. "You kicked his head in after he beat you in a race."

"That I did," R'awn said proudly. "No great loss to the world anyway. Ugly bastard."

K'den flinched at that, opening his mouth to say something – but to his fortune, someone else stepped in. S'mar, another Istan bronzer and one that had been thrust in front of him many times as an example to emulate. Loyal to Ista as anyone could be, and as far as K'den was concerned, only fun when he was drunk. The rest of the time, he was organized to a fault, and deeply disapproving of any 'fun' activities.

He had a board out with some hide clipped to it and looked over at the two, lips pursing slightly as he recognised K'den. Some people said the two resembled each other – both with blond hair, more slender than burly and faint tans – and perhaps it was that which made them hate each other all the more.

"K'den," S'mar said, voice neutral, and K'den straightened slightly, defiance flickering in his grey eyes.

"S'mar," he acknowledged, and then some faintly sardonic voice inside prompted him to add, "A great day for Ista, isn't it?"

"Indeed," S'mar agreed, without even a trace of sarcasm in his voice, and beside him, K'den could feel R'awn settling back to watch the confrontation with a smirk on his face. However, it seemed he was to be disappointed, because S'mar simply looked down to check his board.

"You two can return to Ista," he said. "If other weyrleaders try to visit, they are to be turned away."

K'den restrained his shock; other weyrleaders visit? They well knew their territory, and each weyr stuck to their own – at least until… He bit back a grimace, and nodded.

"Who takes lead?" he asked, knowing it would not be him. He wasn't one to take responsibility.

"D'man," S'mar said. "It's likely the weyrleaders will return some time past midday though."

K'den nodded and swivelled, and R'awn made a disgruntled sound behind him as he hurried to catch up with the bronzer. "Back to shardin' Ista," the brownrider was grumbling. "Missin' all the fun. Shardin' S'mar and his shardin' loyalty. Imagine him as weyleader…"

His grumbles trailed off as they entered the weyrbowl again, and the sun was slowly rising in the sky, a brighter yellow now.