And so F'nor and Brekke lived happily ever after, and the world cheered and was joyful about it.
And no-one, no-one at all mentioned those who weren't so fortunate. Those who hadn't the luck to be a goldrider, or have a goldrider lover, and thus be protected and nursed through every danger with all the effort the Weyr could muster.
Such was the case of Jinth and I..
She died in Fall, and it's a memory I will nevr be able to shake free of, no matter how hard I try. I didn't have the luck to be buried deeply in my dragons mind as Brekke was when her dragon went between I did feel the sudden biting pain as a clump of Thread struck her side, but I remained conscious of myself as we fell, conscious of her screaming and pain, trying as best I could to reassure her it would all be all right.
Dragons were not called from all over Pern to help us as we fell. Nor was the Healer Hall rallied to try and drag us back from death. There was no time for that in Fall, and there were too many others to see to. A single brown steadied us, using his larger wingspan to help us to the ground so we did not crash into it. A single Healer inspected the wound – it was a hole now, eaten deep into her body – on Jinth's side, and pronounced it too late to be treatable. And only I could stay by Jinth's side and comfort her, tell her that the pain would end soon, somehow.
They stopped me climbing back on her back before she fled to the painless comfort of between I tried, I wanted to so badly, and yet they stopped me. I was pulled away, taken to a bed, and drugged into sleep. They said that death was a choice I could not make until I was calmer. Even in my sleep I heard the mourning keen of all the Weyr's dragons for Jinth's death, though none had been able to help her enough for her to live.
There are weeks, months, even years after that which are a blur. Without my dragon, I was like a lost babe. Once I had recovered enough, they set me to drudgework. It is the best pursuit for the simple-minded, and I will not argue that I was useless for any other task. The first thing I remember knowing with any clarity again was that a goldrider too had lost her dragon. I do not know how long passed between the death of Jinth, and that of Wirenth. It may have been a matter of months, it may have been a decade. It felt like an eternity.
Things were different for Brekke of course. We were different while our dragons were alive, why should we not be while they were dead? She was not sent to be a drudge once the Healers had decided her mind would not recover. Instead, they planted her back on the Hatching Grounds to try to reImpress her.
Is it strange to say that my first clear thought from the time Jinth had died was that this was unfair? We were told that we and our greens were valuable as fighting dragons, and we believed them. And yet, for every gold Egg that Hatches on the Sands, several dozen greens Hatch. They could have pushed me back onto the Sands at any Hatching since Jinth's death. I would never have wanted to replace her.. but they could have tried!
Brekke was not the only person to recover part of her mind that Hatching. A will, emotion, a purpose – these things pull you back towards consciousness. She had love to hold her there – the love of her firelizards, of F'nor, of a whole worshipful Weyr. I had only anger and resentment left to me. Those who might have loved me in that way had long ago mourned my mind as dead and gone on with their lives. It is the dragonriders way – if you left such sorrows open for ever, you would go mad. Too many die to cling too long to that kind of hope.
So, I clung to my anger, and fed it. It kept me going, fed with numerous such minor injustices. I was far from the only dragonless man in the Weyr – and certainly not the only one left to recover or lose their wits as they would. Some were lucky, and clawed their way back to a half-sanity when they found some kind of purpose. Others would stay like that forever. None were put back onto the Sands the way Brekke had been.
Perhaps, over time my anger would have faded and vanished and been replaced by other purposes in my life. Perhaps, if a glaring example of other unfairness had not been placed right before my eyes.
F'nor attempted to reach the Red Star. Foolishness, and anyone could have predicted his death. He would not have died honourably in Fall as Jinth had, but stupidly, having wasted his dragons life to a badly thought-out plan.
Except he didn't. They fell screaming from the sky, and they did not die. Instead, dragons were summoned from all over Pern to prevent them crashing into the ground, and Healers worked day and night to keep them alive. And they succeeded. And no-one seemed able to answer my question as why why, if a pair who had looked on the Red Star could be kept alive.. why could they not have saved my Jinth? Why was she allowed to die, when they were saved against all the odds?
Perhaps because I don't have a Weyrleader brother, and an ex-goldrider weyrmate to arrange such things.
Faced with that, my resentment festered and grew. Jinth and I had given our lives for the Weyr, and in return they had simply taken those lives, and left me with nothing. F'nor and Brekke and been injured and lost due to stupidity, due to a mating flight that was badly controlled, due to risks they should never have taken – and the whole Weyr had helped them to recover, leaving them with each other and happiness.
It was unfair. It was a happy-ever-after I didn't have. I wanted to break it. If it was broken then.. then, perhaps next time a green, or blue fell screaming for the sky, perhaps they too would be treated with such care and consideration.
I devoted myself to the idea, and allowed it to become my driving force. Perhaps I would poison them, or maybe instead plant firestone around their weyr, then set a flame to it. Perhaps when they would come back one day to find me waiting for them with a knife. Perhaps, perhaps, maybe, if..
Perhaps, instead, Canth would notice the amount of time I spent lurking around their Weyr, and comment on it to F'nor. Perhaps he would become suspicious and have my belongings searched, my odd scraps of hide with notes discovered. Perhaps I would be named as one of those against AIVAS, and sentenced to exile. They didn't delve further than that for reasons. They didn't need to. It was an easy title to stick on what I was doing, an easy motivation to give me. No matter that I didn't care less about the stupid machine, that I conspired with no-one but myself. I had planned to kill them, and so this must be the reason why. There could be no other reason anyone hated them, of course.
It is of no matter. On an island alone, there is no-one to stop me standing out in Thread, no-one to drag me back to safety indoors. There will be no Healer to force me to live, whether I wish to or not.
It is not death. It is coming home.