Pride, Prejudice and Dragons

Disclaimer – I don't own Pride & Prejudice or Dragonriders of Pern, but I would like a brown dragon!

This is highly experimental so may go completely wrong. Any terms you might not understand are explained at the bottom. I know it's later than usual but this chapter is about twice as long as any of the others but I didn't think it would work to split it in half. I'm going away for a couple of weeks on a fieldtrip so the next chapter won't be until after the 1st May. Enjoy!

Chapter Eight: Aftermath

1778 A.L. – 7th Pass, High Reaches Weyr

It didn't take long for Austeneth to drift off, and Eliza took the opportunity to have a quick wash in the bathing rooms. After wallowing for a few minutes in the heated water she scrubbed herself all over with sweetsand* and then dried herself with a scrap of cloth. She dressed quickly in the red dress she had worn to the Midsummer party and towelled her hair until it dried into its natural waves. She gave Austeneth one last scratch before heading off to the dining cavern.

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As was tradition, there was a large party going on in the cavern. The kitchen women had been preparing all day and the result was a magnificent spread of food laid out along one wall. As Eliza entered the cavern she was greeted by Weyrwoman Rialla and Weyrleader A'gon.

"Congratulations Weyrwoman Eliza*. Austeneth is a fine-looking queen and I'm sure you will both do well" Rialla said graciously.

"Yes congratulations" A'gon added.

"Thank you Weyrwoman, Weyrleader. Austeneth is indeed a wonderful dragon" Eliza replied with a slight curtsy and a joyous grin.

"Oh, I'm sure about that!" A'gon laughed, and Eliza joined in while Rialla wore a knowing smile.

"Anyway, here are your new knots*" Rialla said, pinning the cords onto the shoulder of Eliza's dress. "Before you join the party, I have something rather important to tell you" the weyrwoman continued. She drew Eliza to an empty corner, grabbing them a couple of glasses of wine on the way.

"What did you want to tell me, Weyrwoman?" Eliza asked when they stopped.

"Well, as you may know, there was some doubt as to whether Serenth would be willing to share her bronzes* with yet another queen" Rialla started. "As soon as Austeneth hatched, she (Serenth) decided that she wasn't willing. We are prepared for this though. A'gon had a meeting with Weyrleader S'don of Benden last sevenday and Benden is willing to accept you and Austeneth as a junior weyrwoman. Their senior queen is getting older and their one junior queen has been unable to produce a queen egg so far, and so we are hoping you can revitalise their weyr. What do you think?" the weyrwoman finished.

Eliza stood silent for a few moments, mulling it over. She had heard rumours of the new queen having to move to a new weyr; and it had happened before, but while the dragon was still in the egg. She wouldn't mind living in a different place and meeting new people; but she would definitely miss everyone here, especially Jane.

"Jane has volunteered to come with you" Rialla said suddenly, as if reading her mind. "She has expressed a wish of succeeding Phillipa as headwoman, so she is going to spend the next year or two learning from Gardina, the headwoman at Benden."

Eliza was suddenly a lot happier and readily agreed. The upshot of it was that she would be able to get away from her mother and the dreaded Darcy! The two weyrwomen exchanged a few more sentences before drifting apart; Rialla to talk to the new riders and Eliza to find her friends and make her farewells.

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She found Charlotte near the entrance with Collin, now known as C'lin.

"My dear Eliza, congratulations! It is a shame I did not impress a bronze, but my lovely Cathereth is the most wonderful blue on Pern, don't you agree? And now my dearest Charlotte will not have to share me with the queenriders, only the other greenriders" he blathered on.

"Congratulations Eliza!" Charlotte interrupted. "I knew you'd impress the queen."

"I doubt it" she replied. "Congratulations yourself. What's she called?"

"Lucath."

"I think she's a beautiful little green" Eliza complimented.

"Most certainly. She is the best green in the entire clutch, maybe even the whole weyr!" C'lin was all exuberance. Eliza explained that she was leaving in an undertone to Charlotte while C'lin kept talking. It wasn't long before the two women said a short goodbye; Charlotte promising to see her and Austeneth off the next morning.

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It didn't take long for Eliza to make her way around the room; receiving and giving congratulations and saying goodbye. About halfway round she met B'ley, Caroline and, very unwelcome, D'cey. After a round of mutual congratulations Eliza, for what seemed like the hundredth time, said that she was leaving and explained why. B'ley was immediately downcast and Caroline could barely hide her glee. D'cey remained impassive, but his eyes showed his misery. Eliza couldn't look in his direction and quickly made her farewells, hurrying off to the next group.

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The last people she joined were her family, Jane not far behind. Benna, of course, had already heard all about it and gave them her opinion on the proceedings and how miserable they would be without Jane there (with no mention of Eliza). Their father, as usual, stood to one side listening with an amused smirk on his face. Eventually, once Eliza was ready to tear her hair out in annoyance with her mother, he drew her off to one side.

"Are you alright with all this?" B'net asked. "I know you don't have much choice but they won't force you into doing it."

"I'm fine with it, especially now Jane's coming. I'll get to meet lots of new people and dragons, and it'll be warmer than here*!" Eliza laughed.

"I'm glad, my darling. I wish all the best to you and Austeneth" and with that he kissed her forehead and urged her to get to bed. She would need all the sleep she could get in the next few months; what with feeding, bathing and oiling her dragon, plus her lessons and chores.

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Eliza returned to her bed, and to Austeneth. Giving the golden dragonet a quick scratch, she quickly changed into her night clothes and slipped into bed; being careful not to disturb the sleeping greens and their riders who also inhabited the room. She had just turned the glow* and gone to lay her head on her pillow when she felt something strange against her pillow. Uncovering the glow again, she found a folded piece of skin* (A/n: note what you think, see terms at the bottom) lying on her pillow. The writing was unfamiliar and she had to squint to make it out; when she did, what it said surprised her.

Eliza

Do not worry: I will not be repeating the feelings and the offer which so disgusted and angered you earlier. I do not wish to cause you any more pain; but I also do not wish to lower myself to lies. I write this to explain myself and my actions, which I am, at the moment, unable to do in person.

You accused me of two "crimes": of separating your sister and my friend, and of ruining the livelihood of the man Wickham. The second claim is the more serious, so I will address the lesser first.

I knew that, as soon as we arrived, Bingley was rather taken with your sister. But then he has always been taken in by a pretty face. I started suspect it was believed to be more serious than a slight fancy when I overheard your mother on the evening before my first threadfall at the weyr. After hearing this I watched closely both Bingley's and Jane's behaviour and could easily see his attachment to her went far beyond what I had seen of him before; and I have known him since we were but ten turns old. Your sister, on the other hand, seemed flattered by his attention, but showed no deeper emotion. This convinced me that Jane just wished for his hold, as your mother had implied. Therefore Caroline, who held the same opinion as I, and myself spent some time convincing Bingley of your sister's indifference, and the reasons why he should not be pursuing a relationship at this time. I am sorry if I have caused your sister and yourself pain, but it was unknowingly done and I do not regret it. I just did what I thought was right, to protect my friend from yet more heartbreak.

Your second accusation is much more important, but much less truthful. I do not know what he has told you, so I will start from the beginning. Wickham and I were friends even before Bingley came along. We would spend every day playing and learning. He was a great favourite with my father and when his own died, our family took him in. M y father trained us in the running of a hold, intending to give us one each, once we came of age. But once his grief for his father died away, Wickham became wayward. He would drink, gamble, womanise and steal; but none of this came to my father's attention. Then, a turn ago, I found him attempting to rape my sister, Georgiana. I immediately removed him forcibly from the hold major; but I could not bring the matter to Lord Fitz. My sister would have been disgraced and made Holdless*; she is only fifteen turns old and would not survive. So I rapidly found evidence that Wickham was stealing money from my father to pay his gambling debts, of which there was a lot. Lord Fitz was appalled and refused Wickham his hold; but to avoid shame being brought upon the family, he was apprenticed to the weavercraft rather than being exiled. I would have told you this earlier, but I was not in control of my temper. If you do not believe me, you may ask my brother Fitzwilliam, who was also witness to these events. I will leave this letter somewhere obvious for you to find tomorrow.

Fly high, fly well.

Darcy

Eliza read through the letter twice more, head filled with turbulent emotions. After reading the final line, she shut out the world, analysing everything. She snapped out of it as something nudged her arm and a voice sounded in her head.

What is wrong Liz?

Austeneth's head was hovering just above Eliza's. Her eyes were whirling fast, coloured a mix of red and yellow, and she was crooning softly, showing her alarm. Eliza wrapped her arms around her dragon's neck, snuggling deeply into the suede-like hide that smelled of spice.

"I've been so stupid! How could I mistake him like that? And I always thought I was a good judge of character" she cried, muffled slightly.

You aren't stupid! What are you talking about? Tell me and I can help you!

"I don't think you'll understand."

Try me

"I... I don't know where to start..."

Then show me!

Eliza was puzzled for a moment, before the meaning became clear. She gathered up all her memories, her feelings, her emotion of her interactions with Darcy/D'cey; then sent them along her mental link with her dragon. Austeneth was quiet for a few minutes, looking through the memories and trying to understand the strange new emotions; ones she had never experienced before and some even Eliza didn't fully get herself.

This is very confusing. I think it will take some time to understand. I'm too tired now.

"I agree. Goodnight, my darling" Eliza answered, unsure as to which part. She turned the glow again and quickly drifted off to sleep.

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Liz, wake up! I know you are tired but my stomach is so empty!

Eliza woke up groggily, for it was not long after dawn. It took her a few seconds for her to remember the events of yesterday; the sudden burst of joy when she did woke her up completely.

"Oh Austeneth! It wasn't a dream! You are real!" she cried.

Of course I am real... and hungry.

"Don't worry darling. I'll get you fed very soon. Just let me get dressed" Eliza replied, already pulling off her night clothes, trying to be quiet in respect for the sleeping greens. It didn't take long, and she was soon leading her dragon outside the room. W'son was waiting for her.

"Good morning Eliza. How did you sleep?"

"Like a log. Are we leaving soon?"

"Yes I'm afraid. You have an hour and a half to feed, wash and oil* Austeneth, then feed yourself and pack."

"Who is taking us?"

"Serenth has volunteered; a sort of apology for making you leave."

"Ok."

"Food for Austeneth, and oil, are in the buckets over there."

"Thanks." W'son then left.

After this first morning the new riders would have to cut their own meat from the herdbeast carcasses, but for now chunks of meat had been prepared by the Lower Caverns women. Austeneth wolfed it down and Eliza had to interfere again to make her chew. The bucket was empty very soon and Eliza coaxed the queen dragonet down to the weyr lake for a quick wash. She then rubbed oil all over her dragon's hide.

"Now you can sleep here while I get something to eat and pack, then we will be leaving."

It only took twenty minutes for Eliza to pack as Charlotte (Lucath was still asleep) and Jane came to help her. Jane, ever efficient, had packed last night before the party. They had a very pleasant breakfast together, chatting and joking. Other early risers stopped by for a few words and a farewell.

At the appointed time they made their way out to the bowl. Serenth and Rialla were waiting, along with A'gon and Eliza's mother and father. The others helped to load the bags on Serenth, while Eliza went to fetch Austeneth. It took some pushing and pulling but they managed to get the little queen perching on the big queen's back in fairly short order, secured with several wherhide straps. Eliza and Jane were teary as they said their final goodbyes; and even Benna said she would miss Eliza. After one last hug they mounted Serenth, where Rialla had been waiting and took off, the mighty queen dragon easily bearing the load. They circled upwards, allowing the two women their last look at High Reaches Weyr for a while.

"Goodbye" Eliza whispered, and felt Austeneth do the same in her mind. Rialla shouted that they were going between and Eliza took a deep breath as they plunged into the icy blackness.

*

Sweetsand – a foaming sand used as soap.

Weyrwoman Eliza – all queen riders are known as weyrwoman but only the senior weyrwoman runs the weyr.

Knots – a set of cords that are fastened at the shoulder and show a person's rank.

Willing to share her bronzes – although a queen only mates with one bronze they consider all the bronzes in the weyr their's and they don't like sharing them with too many others.

Warmer than here – Benden Weyr is further south and less mountainous than High Reaches.

Turning the glow – glows need oxygen to make light, so turning it means sealing the gaps and turning it off.

Skin – leather from the belly of a cow, used as a paper alternative from the 2nd/3rd Pass until the 8th.

Holdless – people exiled from their hold/weyr/craft and having to live rough. They don't usually survive long.

Oil – a mixture of beef fat and fragrant herbs. Needed to stop a dragon's hide cracking as it grows, which can be dangerous when they go between.

Please Read & Review. The next chapter will sort of be of one moment in the next year and a half, with half being Eliza's POV and half D'cey's POV. At least that's the plan so far.