Chapter 26

The humming of the dragons and firelizards reminded Varalie of the music she had joined in to perform in this self same cavern only a few sevendays ago – it seemed half a lifetime! She glanced over at the tiers, half panicked, hoping to see Bimall, afraid he would not come, afraid of her feelings if he had.

The Gold dragonet was emerging, questing, looking over the girls. Varalie knew that the marks of most of the dragonriders lay on either Ramina or Iadra; tacitly the other girls made room for them, Varalie wondering why Iadra hunched her shoulders uncomfortably. The little Queen staggered right past them, ignoring all efforts to catch her eye. Iadra's eyes widened and she straightened up gladly.

"Oh the right one is here somewhere then!" she breathed.

"She's trying to get out of the cave!" cried Jerissa; and indeed the little Queen, crying piteously, was heading for the great opening.

The light from the entrance was diminished in a flurry of wings and a silhouette that could be distinguished where the sun fell on the skin as a pale golden queen. It was a small Queen, the size of a Green dragon almost transparent and she deposited a tiny figure on the sands from her front claws before taking off and vanishing Between before she had even left the cavern.

The questing dragonet butted itself into the arms of the much bandaged Kullana, bawling in a mixture of delight and hunger.

Suddenly this little Queen was pale too, a very poor colour!

"I read about Kate!" Kullana exclaimed to the girls "Kate who sent her dragon back in time to rescue herself to get to Impression! I knew I'd do it too!" then she keeled over.

"Wouldn't be High Reaches without drama" muttered Pilgra, gazing on her fosterling in horror.

"With Lord Groghe here too!" groaned T'bor.

"Leave him to L'rilly" said Pilgra firmly "Let her spin him the tale of how we uncovered the story of Kate on those tiles and how a Green Rider rescued herself and he'll think Kullana – K'lana I suppose the child should be – dead plucky. He admires pluck."

"She's not more than nine turns old!" said T'bor

"F'nor was barely turned ten, I'm told. We sequester her" said Pilgra, trying not to ley her own consternation show in her voice "We said she was an unusual little Queen; she's just made a most unconventional choice."

Pilgra had chosen not to create more controversy by running to K'lana, though she was making a stealthy way outside; Takula had leaped over the tiers to run to her sister, and T'rin, assisting R'gar at the exit, grabbed a bowl of meat from the Weyrlingmaster.

"I'll see to my errant apprentice if you like sir" he assured his foster father.

"DO! And spank her for me when she's recovered!" said R'gar.

Takula was scolding and congratulating her sister all in the same sentence. K'lana was grey; and Calla had hurried out and was busy pouring warmed milk into the child as she fed her tiny Queen with the meat T'rin gave her.

"Don't let her gorge, K'lana" said T'rin, evenly "Let us help you. What is her name"

"Jeshimoth. I knew THAT when I touched the egg. It's why I had to play to her to tell her how glad I was she chose me."

"For shells sake don't tell anyone else that!" said T'rin. "It's even more out of the way than usual even for High Reaches"

K'lana grinned.

"She loves music" she said "She can be an apprentice too. I say, I am tired."

"It's normal after Impression even in the normal way" said T'rin dryly "Not to mention timing it. Takula, help Jeshimoth over to the weyrling barracks while I convey this tyke. She's had quite enough to eat with the both of you shovelling it in, see, her tummy has a slight bulge.

Jeshimoth hiccoughed sleepily; and with K'lana's instruction let her Rider's sister guide her while T'rin held the wobbly dragonet up on the other side with K'lana tucked under the other arm.

"I feel like a sack of tubers" complained K'lana.

"Believe me, in your nightie and all over bandages where there isn't nightie you look like a sack of tubers" grinned T'rin.

K'lana put her tongue out as he deposited her on the cot beside the dragonet sized bed.

Both dragonet and little girl were asleep before T'rin and Takula had left the room.

Takula sighed.

"I'm the oldest" she said "By nearly three days. It's something else she's done that I haven't."

"One of you's bad enough" said T'rin in heartfelt tones.

"You know, I think I might have to go away from the Weyr for a while and apprentice somewhere" said Takula "Don't know where yet. I'll have to think."

"K'lana will need you yet awhile"

Takula nodded.

"Yes, but only for a while. I need to go somewhere to find ME."

As this was by far the least cryptic comment had ever heard his apprentice's half sister utter he nodded understanding, glad that Takula had felt she could confide in him!

Back on the hatching grounds the candidates had little time to worry about minor drama. Most spectators, thankfully, just saw a child in white – K'lana's nightgown looked enough like a candidate's tunic from a distance – brought in by dragon, and assumed something had delayed the little girl; and beyond a rush of disappointment from the parents of daughters. Not that any fond mother had been expecting to put her daughter to a Queen egg in any case as it happened; its presence had not been bruited abroad since there had been some doubt that so small a Queen might not hatch.

Of the weyrmembers watching, consternation had switched to hasty betting over whether Ramina or Iadra would fail to Impress whilst awaiting a Gold, or if they would impress a Green. Bimall, who had been asked if he would like to sit near the front much nearer than his mother and sister listened in amazement to the Riders he appeared to have ended up in the middle of.

It was true what they said that dragonriders would bet on anything! He listened with amusement to the roar of triumph from some throats and rueful disappointment from others as a girl now called R'mina Impressed a Green dragonet, and heard someone saying sagely that it looked a big strong Green and so much the better with R'mina's talents for the protective wing. Whatever that all might mean. Several small boys, presumably the girl's brothers, were screaming their unqualified approval!

"B'mall? Where are you?"

The voice was in his head!

Bimall started; then looked down the two tiers into rainbow eyes as Enneth sought him. He almost fell down the last flight of steps to get to the most wonderful Bronze dragon there had ever been on Pern, heaved over the barrier by a couple of burly dragonriders who instantly recognised the look in his eyes. B'mall murmured thanks and was lost in Enneth's gaze!

The hunger that gnawed at him was imperative; and he stumbled off, almost crashing into his brother leading a Brown dragonet.

"Bimall? No, B'mall!" B'ron grinned all over his face. "You dark racer you!"

B'mall just grinned.

He had not had to choose the Weyr; the Weyr had chosen him!

Z'kan and M'gol gave each other the high five. T'lana had been quite right as usual!

Varalie waited still, unaware of B'mall's Impression behind her, abetted by Z'kan and M'gol. She and Jerissa held hands waiting….waiting.

To their left a shell broke; it was a Green.

"Is she…." Asked Jerissa

"We felt these ones" said Varalie "If she's one for one of us she'll find us."

The little Green hurried in ungainly fashion for the side – towards Lavanni.

"Surely not?" gasped Varalie "Going Between could kill her…."

"She could be weyrbound….suggested Jerissa."

"A waste of a fighting dragon….unless there's more to her than we understood….it can't be, she's terrified!"

Lavani cried out in fear and Relga pulled the chair back, standing in front of it.

"If the dragonet wants Lavanni, she'll maul Relga!" cried Jerissa in panic.

"Silly! If she wanted Lavanni, Lavanni would want her – it's Relga! Look!" cried Varalie in excitement. As they watched, Relga knelt; and tears flowed down her face in silent joy.

Lavanni looked stricken.

"Oh no! Oh Relga! Who's going to look after me?" tears of anything but joy streamed from Lavanni's eyes.

Relga turned to her milk daughter, and still on her knees took her hands. Varalie watched her drum,

DDDD You are almost grown up. You have your chair now to give you freedom. SHE needs me more DDDD

Lavanni swallowed.

"Be – be happy, Relga. I – I owe you everything; I'd be horrid if I wished you anything but your own freedom." She touched the big woman's face.

Relga kissed her tenderly; and picked up the dragonet bodily to carry her off to find food.

There were some gasps at THAT unconventional behaviour!

"Well, most people encourage their dragonets to walk to strengthen them Re'ga" said R'gar dryly "Don't let her gorge; you have a firelizard, it's just the same. But let her do things for herself too; she is here to protect YOU as much as you are to protect HER. It is a partnership."

Re'ga took the mild rebuke and nodded, though she was still half in a dream!

Varalie and Jerissa were crying in emotion for both their friends: in mixed feelings of joy and sympathy.

The egg nearest Varalie broke!

"Hildyth!" she gasped "Oh Hildyth, I KNEW you were the one for me!"

"And you are here for me" said Hildyth, her mind voice complacent "And I amHUNGRY!"

Varalie helped the wobbly Green dragonet across the sand, out into the bright sun of the Bowl.

"Congratulations, V'lie" said the Weyrlingmaster, clapping a broad brimmed hat on her head and passing her meat.

"Thank you sir" she said. "Is – did anyone come out to find me?"

"Your friend in the chair's with your other friend, Re'ga" said R'gar.

"Oh" said V'lie she should not feel any pangs of disappointment in the wonder of Impression….but there was the hint of it there, though her joy of being with Hildyth drove it determinedly back! Slowly she helped Hildyth over to join the other Impressed.

And he was there!

"Bimall!" she cried "Of course, I should have known you'd go with your brother!"

B'mall grinned.

"Deckter's going to have to get his finger out" he said "Meet Enneth!"

V'lie stared.

"You Impressed? You IMPRESSED!" she flung her arms around him.

"Heh" said B'ron "But it's got to be 'yes, sir, Bronze Rider' to him now, y'know….as if big brothers weren't bad enough anyway!"

B'mall cuffed his brother cheerfully, and backed off while B'ron hastily explained to his Hreth that it was only in play!

"But – but you're over age!" V'lie was perplexed.

B'mall shrugged.

"I heard the Queen got a kid who's severely underage; maybe the dragons added us together and got two right in the middle…"

"Idiot" said Varalie, adoringly.

"So how do we go about weyring together? That's the right term for marriage here isn't it?"

"Well first we wait for these two to stop being walking tummies" said V'lie dryly "'Cos we'll be too tired to think of anything else except poking meat into them for days; and then I shall expect you to court me. And when they're big enough to need their own weyrs we ask B'lan and D'nor to sort us out a double weyr."

"We have the best of all worlds" said B'mall, awed "The love of these amazing creatures and each other too. It's wonderful!"

"Oh yes!" breathed V'lie, happily.

Carinn and Mallitta sobbed bitterly with disappointment to come away without Impressing.

T'lana put an arm round each.

"Dear ones, you are very young. I've no doubt that there are little Green dragons not yet shelled who will love you in the future. Why not wait a turn or two? Skip a few hatchings? It will give you the chance to grow up more and become more fully formed in your minds so a dragonet knows what she is looking for."

"Ku – K'lana's younger than us" said Mallitta, a little resentfully.

"Yes, and we're all rather shocked by her Impression" said T'lana. "It's happened before to a child as young, with Jaxom and Ruth – and if I'd stood in Lessa's shoes he'd have been J'xom – but it isn't very normal. But then, poor little K'lana's not had a very normal start in life. And her father IS a Weyrleader, even if he isn't the most shining of examples. She and Takula were sired by T'kul; and blood will tell in some respects at least – talent wise, I mean."

"Do you think we really do have a chance?" asked Carinn, wistfully.

"Yes, dear one, I do. I wasn't at all sure a quarter of a turn ago; but you've come on no end. And between you and me, B'lova still loses her kit occasionally, though she's never been quite as bad as you – unless you count the incident with the brooch!" here T'lana giggled and refused to be more explicit. She smiled at Carinn and went on, "Get involved in weyr life and your time will come."

"Thank you, weyrwoman T'lana" said Mallitta "You won't make me go home will you? I've so much freedom here I couldn't bear it!"

"If you wish to stay, such is your Right" T'lana reiterated. "You shall be officially fostered by your brother Bronze Rider B'mall and his Weyrmate V'lie. Now run along and find something to eat; you must be tired after all this excitement and in need of sustenance!"

They duly ran, Mallitta digesting the idea that her eldest brother had arrived without her knowledge and Impressed a Bronze and that he and Varalie – V'lie – had somehow become lovers without her realising! It was most unfair; but at least she loved V'lie and could approve of her as a sister as she would not have done of most of the eligible idiots her brother might have married!

Later T'lan arranged a controlled reunion between Mallitta and Mallene; the woman was quite put out by her older son Impressing!

"I don't quite know what to do" she said "Matrul's not old enough…"

"Leave it to Lord Deckter" said T'lana, realising that Bimall had not confided his plans to go to the weyr to his mother! "Let me handle it if you like….Deckter's a kinsman of mine through his mother. I'll see it sorted out. I should think you'll be quite glad to leave a lively child like Mallitta at the Weyr too, while you adapt to such a big change!"

T'lana was expert at manipulating people; and soon had Mallene convinced that the Weyr was doing her a favour by having her younger daughter, and as proud as could be that not one but two of her sons were Impressed Dragonmen, one of a Bronze dragon too that the people of her Hold would be proud of as well!

Disappointed candidates too were Petlia and Margesha.

Petlia shrugged philosophically.

"I have skills to give to the Weyr anyway" she said "I'm good with children."

"Margesha? What are your plans?" L'rilly asked the older girl.

"I don't think that being a weyrwoman is somehow for me" said Margesha. "The administration I can handle; but the problems to solve are out of my experience and more….unscheduled….than I'm used to. I think I'll go home; and turn my ambition to being a Lady Steward someplace. The experience has been valuable; and I'm grateful to the Weyr for giving me the opportunity to expand my horizons."

"The weyr wishes you all the best" said L'rilly gravely "And will always answer if you need to call upon us; we never forget those who have been of the Weyr even for a short time; and you have always done your best to fit in."

Margesha looked surprised and touched.

"THANK you weyrwoman!" she said.

Petlia had made a decision about how to best fit in after hatching; and suggested to L'wenne that, as she had herself lost a child, and Lasiad needed a mother, she should foster the baby for his aunt once he was weaned.

L'wenne was delighted! The candidates had forged bonds and become quite close; so having Petlia look after Lasiad was almost like keeping it in the family as leaving him with a sewing drudge she did not know who just happened to have milk was not. Petlia received a rough hug and a growl of thanks that was as close still as L'wenne managed to expressing emotion most of the time!

M'wes and G'sina embraced each other fondly when each found the other had Impressed! M'wes was overjoyed that his sister had shaped up enough to be worthy of a dragon; and G'sina was as proud as could be that her brother had one of the three Bronzes!

The other twins were happy too, M'lis with Bronze Calanth, M'bin with Brown Obith.

"Twins forever!" they shouted at M'wes and G'sina.

"Twins forever!" M'wes shouted back, while G'sina just grinned soppily!

Iadra did Impress, becoming I'dra, with another big strong Green. K'len lost a packet over it, but won on R'mina's Impression – including the bet he had made that her dragon would be large enough to be considered for the protective wing one day – so he was no worse off. J'issa and J'lyn were the other female Impressees and busy discussing mountain rescue teamwork with J'issa's climbing skills and J'lyn's medical expertise! V'lie was delighted her best friend had Impressed too! And that Re'ga had!

The positive thing that came out of Re'ga's Impression was Lavanni's determination to meet and get to know her friend's dragon; in fact all her friends' dragons. It was a step towards overcoming her fear; and she agreed to stay in the weyr for a while too!

Teesha was not as disappointed as some of those who did not Impress. She had been busy jotting down a tune on the hem of her Impression tunic when the eggs were hatching.

"Music is something she's been starved of" said T'rin "She needs to be full of that before she can consider being a dragonrider. K'bit was different; he just assumed any dragon out there would love music too, so of course Impressed one that was last time. I'm not sure if Teesha will Impress; like I'm not sure if Jaysen will either. But they don't need to; they have the Harperweyr."

For all the drama it was voted a good hatching; especially by the newly Impressed.

And perhaps the happiest of all were B'mall and V'lie.

The End

And yes I do have plans for K'lana

I shall be posting a couple of novella length Weavercraft stories next, unashamed school stories within the format of apprenticeship, beavering away transcribing Vorinia and Artists [which latter requires some finishing I find as well so it might not go up as quick as I hoped]. I may be slower getting them out now I'm having to slave over a hot keyboard to transfer them from longhand. Reading my own appalling handwriting is an issue lol...I may not have the next one out straight away as I shall be collecting some feral kittens to foster the day this appears so how much mayhem that causes remains to be seen. at least they can't go between like firelizards though sometimes with some cats who do disappearing acts I do wonder...