Work enlarging one of the bathing rooms in the lower caverns at High Reaches Weyr caused the plaster to fall off one whole wall.
The tiles beneath caused no little consternation.
T'lana was one of the Weyrwomen who came to view the strange inscription fired into the fine tiles; and read it aloud for the benefit of everyone.
"Being the tale of Kate, rider of green Reeth, second pass. I choose this medium that my tale not be lost in case any need like help in the future. I came to the Weyr by choice, but a boy I knew, Tomas, did not accept this. When visiting a fair with other candidates he kidnapped me and held me naked that I could not leave. I had already viewed the eggs; and it seemed to me that if a dragon waited for me to Impress her then I should be there for her. And so, I thought, it would be logical that my future self would send my – her – dragon back to rescue me. And indeed, a green dragon without a rider arrived; I climbed on and we went between to the hatching grounds where a small green bawled, riderless. And I fell off the dragon to Impress Reeth; and her poor colour told me that I had done the right thing. Now I have closed the loop, for Reeth has been and returned safely, if poor in colour herself, proving that it worked. And so I have permission of Weyrleader R'hard to so record this."
There was deep silence; then a murmur of wonder.
T'lana cleared her throat, and grinned a little shakily at T'bor.
"Proves two – no, three things, Weyrleader." She said.
"High Reaches has had women riding green dragons before; a habit of doing the, er, unusual; and a tradition of weyrleaders with common sense. T'kul excepted."
T'bor gave a rueful smile.
"And I am glad that this R'hard was also proud of his people and let them experiment. Or at least" he quirked an eyebrow "forgave them."
T'lana gurgled with laughter, remembering T'bor's consternation over her own mad ride to fetch little Sagarra to bring R'gar back to consciousness.
"Why was it plastered over?" wondered Pilgra.
"Some idiot weyrleader or weyrwoman NOT in the tradition felt it too radical and had it hidden." She suggested; and Pilgra nodded!
T'bor was actually quite tickled by this tale. As T'lana pointed out, not only did it confirm the previous existence of female green riders, it also went to prove that strange things happened in other times as well as his own. It was somehow strangely comforting to think of that ancient weyrleader R'hart perhaps groaning over the exploits of Kate as he had groaned over T'lan's. That she seemed not to have taken a contraction in the way his own young female riders had chosen to did not bother him; for after all, why should there not be some new customs? And it did not entirely prove that women never contracted their names. For how could one shorten a name like Kate anyway?
This having happened just before the hatching of Segrith's clutch at the end of the fourteenth turn of the present pass was quite a vindication of accepting so many female candidates.
The large number of girls who Impressed Greens at the hatching – ten, if one counted L'exa's sport Green-Gold, though most named her Queenrider – confirmed the lost tradition nicely, as if the few at each previous clutch had not. More than half of the female candidates had Impressed, a similar proportion to that one might expect from male candidates.
Of course, of those who did NOT Impress, the spectacularly bad behaviour of the girl Lasolly was a talking point, how the girl had tried to kill Z'ira in the moment of the younger girl's Impression to little Gold Tiabeth.
The senior Riders all heaved a sigh of relief that the drama was over a Queen egg, once the indignation and furore had died down; and Lasolly had only come to stand for a Queen egg in any case, she was nothing to do with the female candidates for Green eggs!
Such spoiled tantrums could in no way be connected to the traditionally volatile behaviour of Green Riders therefore; and in fact the female Green Riders were, generally speaking, the least volatile of all the Green Riders – even B'lova now she had settled down!
Of course, Y'lara's seabred temper was well known; but she had possessed that before she Impressed, and as one wag put it,
"She's so bad tempered all the time you can't tell when her Green is proddy."
This was a gross libel on Y'lara, who was not bad tempered as such; just extremely intolerant of any she dubbed fools!
Y'lara, who held the distinction of being the first true female Green Rider at High Reaches Weyr in the current pass, was happily settled with M'kel. The next two, A'ira and Z'linda weyred respectively with R'cal and Z'kan. The next hatching had produced no female riders, but there had been a large number of homosexual boys who had balanced things neatly.
The next batch had seen an increase in numbers of females standing, with the increase in awareness that the Weyr accepted them; and five had Impressed; M'rian and Sh'ranis who shared the attentions of Z'nil and L'zayn, T'lana's twin cousins, in a loose love-mating that did not go so far as being weyrmates in the permanent sort of sense High Reaches liked their couples to be in. However, neither the girls nor the boys were ready for long term commitment and there was a stability to it in the acceptance of its lack of ties. The boys particularly were happy to keep the arrangement open and loose, and any one would be happy to wish any one of the others happy if they found a permanent partner.
M'rian, the young widow, secretly admired Bronze Rider V'gion, who was like her seabred. She did not however want to leave sensitive, birthmarked Sh'ranis alone even if the young Bronze Rider ever noticed her! Moreover, M'rian was, deep down, afraid to commit to a man ever again; the pain of widowhood once was enough.
Of the others from that clutch, T'alla had requested sequestration on grounds of her youth, and had been duly kept from the hopeful riders; when Seelith had risen, T'lana made sure the interested blues belonged to riders who already had lovers – by dint of finding errands out of the weyr for any others when she felt Seelith's growing nubility - and shoo'd them all into one cavern, with T'alla sequestered in Y'lara's weyr out of reach.
It worked out very well; as it usually did when sequestering little boys in the same way.
L'nna on the other hand was happy to wake up with the Rider whose dragon Polleth had chosen; and being weyrbred made nothing of it. R'iana, a bit of a rebel, had gone with Greeth's choice first time and subsequently declared that if the young dragon ever picked Breeneth again she, R'iana, would go between.
"T'chal's quite a good lover though" B'lova remarked.
"oh in BED he's all right" said R'iana "I just can't stand his voice, his manner, his old maidish auntie-like fussiness… I just don't like him as a person."
"Girl's got good taste" said Y'lara "I woke up with him once when M'kel was remiss enough to be off form and wasn't concentrating enough on encouraging Vorth; and I soon had enough of T'chal! Well, it's easy enough to inhibit Greeth my dear; get yourself a lover in the meantime and she'll get used to your choice. So long as he concentrates."
A'ira hid a smile; it was going to take M'kel a long time to be allowed to live THAT down.
Accordingly R'iana established herself with K'len, whose Brown Sharath could outfly Breeneth any day. As brother to her clutchmate L'nna it seemed a good and amicable arrangement; and if they bickered it was mostly friendly. It did not stop K'len joining other mating flights; but that was understood in the arrangement.
With the hatching of Segrith's clutch in the Autumn of the Fourteenth Turn of the Pass, the group of girls of the previous Turn's clutch were anticipating their own young dragons rising for the first time.
Neither T'arla nor J'nara had any real qualm – nervous excitement perhaps but no qualms – because they had established weyrmates and both were Bronze Riders.
Although Bronze dragons were sometimes outflown in Green mating flights because of the superior manoeuvrability of smaller males it was not common if the Bronzes involved were taking matters seriously.
L'gal and M'gol and consequently Solpeth and Luruth would be taking things very seriously!
B'lova felt a bit left out.
Her behaviour when she had first come to the Weyr had been frankly promiscuous; but since discovering that there was more to life than sexual conquest she had been virtually celibate.
Breeneth was a possibility to fly Linith; T'chall and B'lova had been lovers, and it had not been his conversation she had been interested in at the time.
But he WAS inclined to lecture; and a mating flight was, B'lova thought, more serious than being occasional lovers.
B'lova was a logicator; and might ask any unattached logicator to be her lover with a reasonable expectation of agreement. She was also learning to be a lot more perceptive than of old; and sent her firelizard Trel with a message to the tonguetied Blue Rider V'ral to ask if he would come to the Weyr.
V'ral had been considering asking to transfer from his duty at Tillek Hold in any case.
He wanted to be a part of a fighting wing; and he wanted to be near Veralinne, the baby girl he had effectively adopted.
Receipt of this letter decided him; and he returned to request a transfer back to the Weyr as well as to find out what Weyrwoman B'lova wanted. He assumed it would be logicator business but he rather looked forward to seeing the attractive Green Rider again too.
B'lova smiled at V'ral; which in his estimation was a good start, even if it did make him blush. Which it did. Girls made him nervous and even more tonguetied than usual, especially those he found attractive.
"Linith's almost grown, V'ral" said B'lova, deciding not to beat about the bush. "I'm looking for someone nice to be with. I like you and I respect you. Could you fancy Sledeth flying her?"
V'ral changed colour several times.
It occurred to him that she might be having a joke at his expense; it would not be the first time a girl had led him on and then laughed at him; though before it had been because he had been useful as a means of aborting an unwanted foetus from some other lover. B'lova could get a trip Between any time she wanted from her own dragon!
"I – kind of thing, don't play games, know what I mean?" he was clenching and unclenching his fists.
"I wasn't playing games, V'ral" said B'lova. "You're one of the gentlest men in the Weyr, and you love that fosterling of yours as if she was your own; and you're no fool either. I'd like to get to the point that I can manage a conversation with you as well as sex; but I guess it's going to take a while for you to relax enough to manage that. It's all right; I can talk enough for three, never mind for two! Unless that puts you off?"
V'ral shook his head hastily.
"You mean…. I mean, really, kind of thing?" he asked, eyes wide.
"Y'know what, V'ral?" she said, winking at him "Sometimes you just talk too much!"
He was chuckling as she kissed him; for there was nothing wrong with V'ral's intellect or his sense of humour!
V'ral, unsurprisingly, was still a virgin; but B'lova was amply experienced for both and was able to teach him without him realising and feeling in any way put down by her greater knowledge.
He was enthusiastic and eager; and B'lova rather enjoyed the seduction. Once Sledeth had been involved he would find it easier to find the abandon that as yet eluded him; and B'lova wondered absently what silly tunnel snake had led him on and hurt him so badly that his responses should be so surprised in their gratification! She contemplated wringing such a girl's neck if she ever found out who it was, not realising that she was several turns too late for that, since one of the said girl's other lovers had already done so, for that had been the first time T'lana had used logicating to uncover the truth.
V'ral had a nice body.
Most dragonriders did, of course; but V'ral had done quite a lot of sailing at Tillek Hold and had different muscle masses to those B'lova was used to. He also had a uniform tan across his body that extended down his chest, in contrast to most High Reaches Riders whose bodies lurked for a lot of the Turn in furs, muscular enough and often tanned on face and arms from the high thin air concentrating the sunlight; but tanning was a seasonal and not common occupation. It gave B'lova something to comment on favourably.
"Weatherbeaten; not tan. Like sailing. No-one bothers you to talk too much, know what I mean? Waves always different – shapes, colours, always changing."
"For someone with a reputation as rather tonguetied you've just painted a beautiful word picture" said B'lova. "You must take me sailing; I expect I'll be rather unhandy but I'd like to share the experience with you."
"You're kind, B'lova" he said.
"No I'm not, don't be idiotic" said B'lova, flushing red herself. "You're a fun lover. And nice; and I think you're probably rather clever if anyone takes the time to find out."
"T'lana understands what I say, kind of thing; thought she was the only one. I-I can't, like, organise kind of thing between thinking and speaking."
B'lova nodded and kissed his nose.
"And the more that people hurry you, the more flustered you get and the more muddled your words are. So they sigh in impatience because they're too hasty" she said. "I'll try not to hurry you V'ral, but I'm an impetuous piece I'm afraid!"
He smiled at her.
"You're lovely!" he said.
He managed to lead their next period of loving; and B'lova was glad.
He learned very fast.
"I can't foster Veralinne" B'lova said when they got to speak next "I really don't do babies."
"I thought, kind of thing, I didn't do women, know what I mean?"
"However much you tease, I'm still of the same mind! Besides she's happy between Jaklinne and Lillis. Not that Lillis is any more than a child" she looked suddenly thoughtful "V'ral if we sort of fostered Lillis and she was like a big sister to Veralinne would that keep it in the family so to speak?"
"That, kind of thing, went by very fast" he said "Are you, like, kind of thing, suggesting we kind of weyr together sort of all the time?"
B'lova considered that.
"I'd not object to giving it a go" she said honestly "I'm bossy, V'ral, and not always good tempered. I'm vindictive at times and rather impetuous."
"You mean, kind of thing, a typical weyrwoman?" he teased.
B'lova had to laugh.
"I suppose so" she said ruefully.
"Lillis" he said "Poor little girl; talked to her. Nice for her to have family, kind of thing; not interested in Impressing."
Lillis had been forced by circumstances into becoming a ridiculously young loving wench before the Weyr had taken her on whilst searching for a wetnurse for Veralinne, her own baby having been murdered by a client. This was the first time in her life she had known any kind of kindness and stability.
"I know she's not interested in Impressing; but as T'lana's so fond of pointing out, especially when stuck up candidates disrespect the lower cavern people, it takes between three and five support staff to every one fighting pair; not everyone has it in them to Impress. But having family will give her more confidence generally I should think and she'll be keen to give Veralinne the chance to grow up to be brave like her father."
"We don't know who….OH!" V'ral flushed "But….."
"But nothing. SLEDETH knows that her proper father now is the bravest and best" said B'lova.
There was no more conversation for a long while.
There was, naturally, gossip about B'lova's choice of weyrmate; some of it rather adverse.
"Honestly, B'lova, you could have the pick of any Blue or Brown Rider of those who are unattached" said Kelia, L'nna's younger sister "Why V'ral? There's something WRONG with him!"
"Oh definitely" said B'lova, relaying the conversation to Sledeth to pass to V'ral, Sledeth being used to being used by T'lana when she was in a hurry to translate V'ral's thoughts; and the Blue dragon was happy to extend the courtesy to someone who made his partner feel so good.
"You actually acknowledge it then?" Kelia was surprised "That there's something wrong with him?"
"Yes. He talks too much" said B'lova; and walked off, leaving that busy little madam with her mouth open!
It was probably B'lova's rediscovery of sexual enjoyment that prompted Linith to be the first Green of that clutch to rise, dark mutterings on the part of those who did not know her well despite; for they made comments of 'like Rider like dragon' and dragged up B'lova's earlier concupiscence.
Several other female Green Riders were heard to put such people right, including the normally gentle J'nara who went so far as to snap at one older Rider!
"Oh your Green's proddy too is she?" he sneered.
"Oh, that would explain a lot" she said "I'm sorry, Brown Rider, I'm usually tolerant of senile old fools, do forgive my temper!"
J'nara was well patted on the back by her friends for managing so bitchy a put-down!
B'lova was told of J'nara's comment later; and was only sorry to have missed it.
In some respects, anyway.
Sledeth had duly caught Linith, and she and V'ral had had a very good time; and in dragonlust the things he murmured did not include a single 'kind of thing'.
B'lova had every expectation that when he was thoroughly relaxed with her they would manage to have perfectly normal conversations!
As predicted by the Brown Rider J'nara's Rillith rose quite quickly; followed by T'arla's Frith. And as J'nara experienced the joy of dragonlust with her M'gol, so T'arla realised once more how lucky she was in L'gal!
The Weyr had never experienced SINGING mating dragons before.
Of course there was one Rider who had to taunt V'ral.
"Hey, V'ral! How was your pillow talk?" he called.
V'ral fought a flush; but the confidence that B'lova was starting to give him gave him the quick retort he had never managed before.
"Well, kind of thing, m'mother taught me it's rude to talk with your mouth full know what I mean!"
B'lova almost burst with pride!