I've been inspired to put together a bit of a fanfic about the original dragon riders, filling in a gap between Dragonsdawn and the short stories in Chronicles. It's still in the process of being written (and taking much longer than I expected!), so if you want the most recent updates head over to the New KT FF forum - this site will get the subsequent chapters a few days after the NewKT, after I've had the chance to tinker with them a little more.


Episode 1: A mature discussion, or, How do you spell "Proddy"

Tarrie Chernoff ran her fingertips lightly across the edge of the warped metal sheet currently serving the dragonriders as a table, and snorted in disdain. It was a far cry from the smooth contours of the previous one, lightweight aluminium decorated with a coloured plastic veneer, which had once graced the wardroom of the Bahrain. The new one might still be big enough for all two dozen odd riders to gather round, plus the ground crew leaders when tactics for a fall were being discussed, but size wasn't everything. And the practicality of the thing wasn't an issue either. The wide metal expanse was propped up on boxes of hardware, allowing it to be stowed neatly aside when it wasn't in use. Rickety and uneven it might be, but it served, and every space in the caverns seemed to serve three or more purposes these days.

"Sorry I'm late!" Nora Sejby gasped as she entered the room at a trot, completing the complement of riders. Near on two turns of solid threadfighting had steadily removed every last trace of clumsiness that the woman had possessed as a girl, and Nora was now recognised as one of the more competent users of a flamethrower amongst the gold riders. Not quite competent enough to challenge Tarrie for her leadership of the second wing, but close. Of course, there wasn't any real rivalry amongst the wings - thread was enough of an enemy without the need to add another through petty human failings. No, they were a close-knit team, far more so than the regular ground crew squads. The dragons were responsible for that, Tarrie was certain. Team work was crucial for threadfighting, whether on the ground or in the air, sled or dragon, flamethrower or dragonfire. But recently, the bond between the riders had seemed stronger than ever. Only another rider could understand what it was like, sharing that inseparable bond with your dragon. The long hours of physical endurance, the burns from char or acid, the bitter ice of between, the gut-clenching fear every time you met thread in the air... and the ever-present, rock solid togetherness that she had with Porth, a twin soul within her. No, that wasn't something you could share with the land-bound.

"Not to worry, Nora."

Sean's forgiving tone broke through Tarrie's thoughts in an instant, and she brought her attention swiftly back to the rest of the group. That tone usually meant that someone else was due for a haranguing, and she glanced across at Sorka for confirmation. The other rider's face was grim beneath her cheery freckled complexion. Trouble was on the cards, sure enough. Tarrie pulled her folding chair closer to the so-called table, and tried to find a smooth spot on which to rest her arms before it all came out. I wonder who's cocked up this time? But she'd scarcely finished thinking when a sudden sharp pain shot through her senses.


Tarrie nearly unseated herself as she pulled back again, lifting a hand to reveal a thin line of red already beading with blood. Nora gave her a grimace of commiseration, seemingly glad to have the groups attention drawn away from her in such a dramatic manner. Oh, they all knew what that tone meant, all right!


She ignored Jerry's solicitous inquiry on one side of her, and also Dave Caterel's swift offer of a hanky on the other, concentrating instead on soothing Porth's insistent concern.

I'm fine, love. Just a scratch from this dratted new table! I know it hurts, but it's nothing, really.

With Porth satisfied, she looked round at the two riders beside her. Really, closeness between the riders was one thing, but at times the others seemed downright clingy! It was stifling, that's what it was. And as for that puppyish expression on Jerry's face...

"I'm fine, Jerry, it's nothing some numbweed can't fix," and for sure they were more grateful than ever to that native plant! Tarrie almost snatched the hanky from Dave's outstretched hand. "And that'd better be a fresh one!" she snapped, regretting it almost instantly. Well, you might as well hang for the sheep as the lamb.

Pressing the hanky to the ball of her palm, she looked up at Sean."Sean, I don't care what else is on today's agenda, but I'm moving this... table to the top of it."

"Seconded," Otto added without a pause, giving it a rock for good measure.

Surprisingly, Sorka didn't give her usual eye-roll at Otto's remark; the man had an annoying habit of seconding anything raised, even if it conflicted with whatever he'd backed the meeting before. And Sean didn't bat an eyelid either, and he was usually very picky about keeping fast to his plans. Even the disturbed papers which fluttered to the ground elicited no comment. He simply looked Tarrie in the eyes, and nodded.

"Very well," he said coldly. "We'd be getting on to it pretty soon anyway"
He glanced across at his wife, and Sorka passed a handful of flimsies around the table.

"That's a report of the crop situation back in the main Fort Holding, and around Pierre de Courci's stake. I don't expect you to read it all, but the projections on what's available from the fields and hydroponics are chilling. Especially after the debacle of last fall."

Tarrie had wondered at the relevance of Sean's initial comments, but now it all became quite clear.

"We agreed, I wasn't at fault for that," she said firmly, fists clenching. Damn the man for bringing it up now. A rider stayed behind after every fall to be certain the groundcrews tracked down every last burrow successfully, and with so few dragons it was a rare fall indeed when the Pernese escaped unscathed.

"No, but with fifteen acres of arable land lost, along with every single plant, and every gram of nutrient in the soil... to a single burrow!" Sean leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. "We can't afford mistakes like that again, and we can't begrudge the loss of a mere table. The hydroponicists needed it more than us. Wouldn't you agree?"

Abashed, Tarrie relaxed back into her own seat. She'd half stood up without realising it.
"Yes, yes, they need it more than us," she said, and sighed. "Do carry on."

Tarrie let the debate continue around her, as the other riders discussed the options for replanting, and the other tracts of land that were particularly difficult to protect from fall. Her own background in meteorology allowed her to make a few astute judgements of where the weather would be likely to help them out, or where unpredictable thermals would cause problems, and she almost found herself preening at Sean's praise of her suggestions. That wasn't like her at all. In fact, her moods were all over the place today!

Faranth says Sorka asks if you're really okay

Bemused by her dragon's query, Tarrie made eye contact with Sorka. Pregnancy hadn't dulled Sorka's uncanny ability to read moods, not that anyone would be having trouble guessing Tarrie's mind set today. The red-head's hands were cupping her growing belly, and the question was clear.

Tell Faranth to tell Sorka that I'm fine, but I'll check with Basil later to be sure.

The complications brought about by frequently miscarrying an unexpected pregnancy could keep a goldrider out of action longer than actually bearing a child to full term. Better safe than sorry, and they needed every rider in the air right now. It wasn't just that they were over stretched, but everything else seemed to be failing around them. The sleds were virtually all grounded and steadily being recycled into carts, and each month it seemed that fewer of the small dragonets fought alongside them. And as for the groundcrews... oh they were brave enough without the recourse of a dragon and the ability to safely dodge between, but they expected so much of the riders these days. Always expecting more falls to be covered, but never being able to spare the extra bodies to man the falls on the ground. And every burrow blamed on the aerial defences.

The most recent fall had been the last straw. Tarrie's calm explanation of the limitations of dragons - there was only so much thread that three wings could catch, after all, especially in those conditions - hadn't exactly gone down well. Of course more dragons were needed, the ground crew had agreed. Of course the dragonets and groundcrews should play their part. But if the dragonets and groundcrews could provide replacements, what was wrong with the dragons? They were engineered to breed more than enough like them, weren't they? If anyone was failing Pern, it was the dragons, less use than the small cousins they'd been created from. What's wrong with your dragon, goldrider Chernoff? Small wonder she'd stormed off without double checking the groundcrew's work, without catching the burrow they'd missed. Oh, they'd been apologetic enough when they called her back a half hour later, with live thread still roiling across the field, but it'd taken her whole wing most of the rest of the day to bring the outbreak under control.

"So that's decided then."

With all other options exhausted, Sean's voice finally brought the discussion of what grounds they could cover to a close. "On to the next item on the agenda. Sorka?"

"We all know that a lot of people out there doubt us, and the viability of the dragons as a long-term defence against thread. I also know Tarrie's not been the only one to catch the brunt of it recently." The other wingleader glanced across at her with a smile of reassurance. "Well, Sean and I would like to reassure you that their fears aren't yet warranted. We may not be as familiar with the program as Kitti or Wind Blossom, but none of their predictions suggest that the golds should have mated and clutched already, though it surely can't be much longer now. And compared with the other milestones of our dragons development, at least when it comes to mating, this isn't something that Sean can slip out and try on his own."

Laughter echoes around the table, and the mood rapidly improved.

"Hopefully it won't mean a whole new set of flying trousers, either," Nora added with a giggle.

"We'd be fools not to expect some complications, though," Sorka said on a more serious note. "And it doesn't hurt to try and figure out what they might be beforehand. Sean and I talked it over, and I think we have to take our cue from the dragonets..."

"Fire lizards."

Sorka blithely ignored Sean's old joke and went on.

"The dragonets first, and Kitti's program second. Genes are one thing, behaviour quite another."

"But with all of our dragons from, what, six batches of eggs in two hatchings, how do we know they'll all react the same?" If at all. There, Tarrie's own doubts were out in the open now.

"Oh come now Tarrie," Jerry reached over to give her arm a squeeze. "Kitti's tweaks were so minor at the end, there's nothing to tell which dragon come from where." He gestured at the six riders of the younger dragons from the second clutch. "You've said yourself that there's no discernible difference between them." Wind Blossom's own experimental beasts, those ugly photophobes, were diplomatically left unmentioned.

"It's not whether they rise that bothers me," Alianne said quietly, "but how it affects us, their riders. The empathic bond is so much stronger than with the dragonets, and though we don't need to act on their impulses, it's pretty easy to get carried away."

Alianne was one of several female riders partnered to a non-rider, in this case one of the engineers busily carving access tunnels and installing plumbing in their new home. Tarrie could certainly see why she might be a little concerned about getting carried away with Chereth's activities.

"That's certainly one issue," Sean agreed.

"There are more?" asked Catherine, rolling her eyes in mock-despair. She too had a happy marriage with a Fort Weyr Joat to maintain, and it hadn't proved easy to reconcile her husband with Siglath's demands over the first year of their dragons' lives. With so many people crammed into the tight quarters of the available habitable caverns, tensions had soared along with the divorce rates, but already there seemed to be a mild social disapproval attached to such acts. Not like the old world, Tarrie's parents had claimed, even suggesting that the growing stigma was more to do with the fact that the colonists' few legists were now training a number of young adults to take on the extra work. But "Lawyers" wasn't a curse-word on Pern... yet!

Of course, Sean would be most concerned with successful flights, producing large clutches of healthy, viable, thread-fighting dragons. The rider always came second with him. As if echoing Tarrie's thoughts, Sean continued with one of his standard lectures.

"The needs of dragon kind come first right now. We owe it to them to get this right, first time. As I'm sure you're bored of hearing," he went on with a twinkle in his eyes, "we can't afford mistakes."

"And so we need to be prepared," Sorka continued. "We know how the gold dragonets behave before rising, more or less, but we have to be certain we havn't missed anything out. The most sensible place to start is probably pooling our knowledge of our own dragonets' behaviour. We need a good idea of how much variation there is in their behaviour, and between the mentasynth enhanced ones and those in the wild."

"If you're asking for volunteers to watch mating lizards on a sunny beach in the south, well count me in," Pete Semling remarked with a broad smirk, setting Catherine's eyes rolling once more.

"That's certainly something worth following up," answered Sorka as she scribbled on a spare flimsy, "and you're now top of the list for that job."

Once again, Tarrie simply listened as the conversation ebbed and flowed around her. Really, for everything they knew, the most important facts would be absent until things finally happened. Would Porth, the first hatched of the queens, actually rise first as some of the others seemed to think? Was Jerry's fawning behaviour a conscious decision, or just coincidence? Eventually, it all just became too much.

"Face it guys, we don't know anything useful yet!"

This time, Tarrie made it all the way upright, and she slammed her folding chair closed. "You watch the dragonets all you like, but I doubt they'll tell me anything I need to know about my Porth. If you need me, I'll be with her."

Brushing aside Nora's appeal to stay, Tarrie calmly stacked her chair on top of the pile by the wall, and left the room. At least Porth was a soothing influence on her, without the hormonal ups and downs of a human, and the sooner they were together again, the better. But perhaps she should get Basil to check her over sooner rather than later. These mood swings simply weren't like her at all.