Disclaimer: I do not own Familiar of Zero, The Dragonriders of Pern, or the Black, Blacker, Blackest poem. I do, however, own Amyra and Baroth.
Also, I use the meters scale for dragon sizes, because that is what was published in Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern and in both versions of The Dragonlovers Guide to Pern. It also fits better to simple calculations I made based off of details given in the books. I know Word of God says that Anne McCaffery was confused as to the differences between feet and meters, but this is also the same authoress recorded as having some very odd ideas about gay sex, so I'm a bit disinclined to trust in the Words of this particular God. In this, Baroth will be a bit bigger than most golds, at forty-three meters instead of the usual forty-two, but still much smaller than Ramoth's forty-five meters.
For those who don't know much, or anything at all, about The Dragonriders of Pern I have put some basic info in a sizable author's note at the bottom.
Words in italics denote mental speech.
The gathered students from the Tristain Academy of Magic watched on in hushed anticipation as the last of their class performed the summoning spell needed to bring forth their familiar. However, unlike the rest of the class, this particular student was notoriously known as the Zero. Every spell she attempted ended the exact same way: as an explosion. Many wondered as to just how big the explosion would be this time; none believed that she could do the spell correctly.
Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière did her best to seem confident as she prepared to cast Summon Servant, despite the fact that she had never managed to successfully complete a spell in her life. She had searched for hours in the library before finding a simple, valid variation of the Summon Servant spell and she was hoping that with it, she would not fail. At Professor Colbert's signal, Louise raised her wand, gave a silent, heartfelt prayer and began her chant.
"I beg of you…"
Black, blacker, blackest…
It was cold, so cold and dark. She saw nothing, felt nothing; not the flight suit against her skin nor the dragon that she knew she rode. Amyra, junior queenrider from Southern Weyr, knew she was dying, her brain starved for oxygen in the null state of between. The only reason she knew she was still alive, though fading fast, was the mind of her golden dragon, Baroth, shining bright with love and worry as it linked to her own.
"My servant who lives somewhere in the universe!"
And cold beyond frozen things…
It was her own fault that they were dying, that she had killed herself and her beloved dragon. It had been a stupid weyrling mistake, brought on by exhaustion, carelessness and panic. She had been forced to time a number of her jumps just after returning to her home Weyr from a feline hunt in the jungle in order to help fill out a number of queen wings for that day's Threadfall. Many of the other Weyrs had queenriders who had been grounded by pregnancy or gravid queens and they had requested help to fill out their queen wings. By the end, Amyra and Baroth were flying with Ista's queen wings, going after any Thread that had escaped the fighting wings higher up, when a stray tangle of Thread nearly hit them. Neither had seen it until the last second, and when Amyra gave Baroth the order to go between, it was just milliseconds before it could score vulnerable flesh. But she hadn't given Baroth a destination to go to and now they were stuck between, dying.
"Oh sacred, beautiful and strong familiar spirit!"
Where is between when there is naught…
It is not your fault, Baroth bespoke her rider. You were tired, and I did not wait for a destination. But do not worry, everything will turn out alright; you will see. Amyra gave an unseen halfway smile at her beloved Baroth's optimism. As you say, my love, Amyra replied. She frowned suddenly as she thought that she had, impossibly, heard an unknown voice speaking to her in an unfamiliar language. She now knew for certain that the darkness encroaching on her mind could be put off no longer. Goodbye, my heart's own, she said to her gold as unconsciousness finally claimed her.
"I desire and here I plead from my heart!"
To Life but fragile dragon wings…
Baroth felt her rider lose consciousness and panic finally overcame the gold. She had jumped between without a destination and had become lost and now she was without a rider's direction. Baroth searched desperately for a way out, a way home. She tried to picture her home Weyr, but unlike her firelizard cousins, she could not form a clear enough picture from memory and she had no conscious human to borrow an image from. She stretched wings she could not feel, determined to fly out of between if she must, to save the dying woman upon her back. Suddenly, there was a spot of color in the blackness as a brilliant oval of green light appeared in front of the queen. Baroth could feel a mind beyond it, searching, beckoning, and she focused all her will into reaching what was surely a way out of between. She never noticed the blackness of between fading to gray as her snout touched the green light and as she felt herself being pulled farther in, she never saw the figure on the small brown dragon that had tried to approach her.
"Answer to my guidance!"
Black, blacker, blackest…
Louise stood still as she finished her spell, waiting for and dreading the result. Her heart sank as a thundering boom shook the air and a towering cloud of smoke rose into the sky in her biggest explosion yet. Even if she had managed to summon a familiar, it surely would have been killed in that blast. Without warning, a wave of worry, fear and panic overtook her. A quick glance around showed that the other students had felt the same thing. A group of students jumped back as a tail swung out of the smoke and unexpectedly crashed into the space that they had occupied.
Help me! Please, help me! The words just abruptly appeared in Louise's mind, the mental 'voice' tinged with panic, as the smoke from the explosion faded enough to reveal the great hulking shape within. A small breeze allowed the sun to briefly gleam golden off of the curve of a wing before both wings flapped and blew away the smoke. The students gasped as the form of Louise's familiar was revealed in its entirety and Louise's breath caught in her throat. She had done it. She had done what she had boasted to Kirche that she would do and had proved everybody wrong.
Crouching before her was a great dragon, over forty-three meters long from the tips of its forked tail to the end of the snout on its wedge-shaped head, and every inch on its scale-less hide shone a warm gold. Its immense head snaked on its long neck as if searching for something. Its large eyes bulged out of its head from beneath large ridges of hide-covered bone. The eyes were faceted like a jewel and whirled with orange and yellow. All of this was taken in within a few seconds as the mental voice urgently cried out again.
Please help me! My rider; she does not breathe! You must help us! With a start, Louise realized that the dragon wore a harness that she had not noticed before. Without thought, she raced to the dragon's side, Prof. Colbert close behind. The dragon crouched lower as they approached and now Louise could see its rider; a short-haired brunette woman dressed in strange clothes with an odd contraption on her back sat slumped in a complex leather saddle, held in place only by the leather straps buckled about her legs and waist. The dragon extended the forelimb closest to them and Prof. Colbert scrambled up it to reach the woman and placed two fingers at her throat.
"She's freezing and she's still not breathing, but she still has a pulse," Prof. Colbert announced after a few seconds. He hurriedly undid all of the buckles and dragged her out of the saddle and down to the ground, where he leaned her against her dragon. The dragon gave a moaning wail, nudging its motionless rider, before turning one great faceted eye in Louise's direction. Louise gulped as she realized that the golden dragon's head was larger than Prof. Colbert and its eye was larger than her head.
Please, help her, the dragon pleaded again. For the first time, Louise noticed that the voice sounded female.
"What do I do?" Louise asked, barely noting the rest of the class around them shifting and muttering.
"You summoned her along with the dragon, which would make her one of your familiars," Prof. Colbert said. "If you complete the ritual and cast Contract Servant, you might be able to shock her into breathing again. You need to do it quickly, though. She won't last for much longer."
Louise was shocked. Complete the ritual with a human? There must be a mistake. Surely this strangely dressed woman wasn't her familiar. But still… The woman's lips were blue from cold and lack of oxygen. Could she really let someone die because of her pride? Gathering up her courage, Louise raised her wand once more and began the spell.
"My name is Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière. Pentagon of the Five Elemental Powers; bless this humble being, and make her my familiar." Louise tapped the woman's forehead with her wand and then, blushing furiously, quickly kissed the older woman upon the lips.
At first, nothing seemed to happen. Then, the woman's back bowed as if she was in great pain and her mouth opened in a silent scream. She grasped her left wrist with her right hand and rose to her knees with a great gasping breath that broke down into a fit of coughs. She curled around her arm, still coughing and gasping for breath. The coughing quickly died down and her gasps reduced to pants. She uncurled and raised her left hand with a hiss of pain as she watched the familiar runes be inscribed onto her skin.
A loud roar brought both Louise and the woman's attention to the golden dragon. Its crystalline eyes whirled red as it stared at its raised left forepaw. The strange woman quickly got to her feet and ran to the side of her dragon, taking the great three-toed paw between her hands. As Louise stood she could see that, against all logic, the same familiar runes as the woman's were being inscribed onto the back of the dragon's paw. As soon as the inscription of the runes was done, the color of the dragon's eyes faded to green and it trilled lowly as it took a closer look at its paw and Louise felt a vague sense of curiosity.
The dragon's rider closely regarded the runes on her dragon and seemed to compare them to the runes on her own hand. She turned to Louise and Prof. Colbert and said something unintelligible and with a start, Louise realized that not only did the woman speak a different language, she could still understand the meaning of the woman's words as if the meaning had just appeared in her head.
The woman wanted to know about the runes on herself and her dragon. Louise was uncertain how to explain something as complex as familiar runes to someone with whom she didn't even share a common language. Still, if she had somehow, perhaps with the help of the familiar runes, understood the dragon rider's language, then maybe the woman would understand her as well, so she tried her best to explain the meaning and function of familiar runes.
The strange woman frowned in confusion before turning to her dragon, placing one hand upon its prodigious neck. Louise had the vague sense of a conversation taking place just beyond her hearing before both the woman and her dragon faced her. Can you hear me? The words sounded as if they had been whispered straight into her mind. Louise gasped and then nodded. I cannot understand your words, but the bond you seemed to have made allows Baroth and I some understanding of what you say.
"Oh my," Prof. Colbert, oblivious to the ongoing mental conversation, remarked. "It seems that we have a bit of a language problem." He waved his staff slightly, muttering a spell under his breath. "Can you understand me now?" he asked the woman. She looked up sharply from her apparent staring contest with Louise as she realized that she could now understand his words.
"I… You… I can understand you now. What did you do?" She lightly touched her throat in amazement at her new understanding.
"It was a simple translation spell," Prof Colbert replied.
"A spell?" The rider's brow furrowed in confusion. "Is that like an artificial intelligence?" She shook her head. "Never mind. Could you tell me where we are?" She cast her gaze around. "This doesn't look like anywhere that I know of on Pern."
"You're in Tristain, on the Helkeginian continent, and I- I summoned you," Louise said, confidence fading slightly in the face of the rider and dragon's sudden scrutiny of her as she began to speak.
"You… summoned… us?" For a moment, the woman got a faraway look in her eyes, as if listening to something that only she could hear, before focusing again. "Baroth says that she had felt a mind calling out to her from beyond between, showing her a way out. If this is true, then your summoning saved our lives." She placed her clenched right hand over her heart and gave a slight bow. "I am Amyra, rider of gold Baroth, junior queenrider of Southern Weyr on the Southern Continent, on the planet Pern in the Rukbat system." Amyra straightened and gave Louise a questioning look.
Louise flushed and stammered out her name. "I'm Louise. Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière, daughter of Duke de La Vallière and Duchess Karin Desiree the Heavy Wind of the Kingdom of Tristain. I-I don't know what the planet is called."
"Well, everything seems to be in order," Prof. Colbert said, "so why doesn't everyone head back to class." With that, he turned and started to rise gently into the air. Amyra and Baroth looked on in wonder as the students surrounding them did the same, moving through the air towards a stone building in the distance. Many of the children jeered at Louise, imploring her to walk rather than attempt flight. Louise, fuming silently at the insults, took a few minutes to notice that one of her familiars (and wasn't that an odd thought) was fiddling with the straps on the dragon's saddle.
"What are you doing?" Louise asked as Amyra clambered up into her saddle and started buckling some of the straps around her body.
"I don't quite understand what's going on, but I do know that this is neither the time nor the place to discuss it," Amyra said as the great golden dragon, Baroth, Amyra had called it, moved closer to Louise, crouched and held out a forelimb. Amyra leaned over and held out a hand to Louise. "I am in desperate need of sleep, and it will be much faster if Baroth flies us back to your Hold. We can talk after I rest."
Louise looked up at the older woman and the helping hand that she offered. After a moment of contemplation she nodded once, decisively, before climbing up Baroth's leg and reaching up to Amyra, who firmly clasped her hand and pulled her into the saddle. Thankfully, she settled Louise in front of her, as the large metal tank was still strapped to her back.
"Have you ever ridden a-dragonback before?" Amyra asked as she tightened a belt across Louise's front and another over the top of Louise's thighs. When Louise answered in the negative Amyra said, "Ah, then you're in for a treat. Get ready," she added, wrapping an arm around Louise's waist as she gave Baroth the command to go airborn.
Louise gave out a short scream as Baroth suddenly jumped into the air. Her breath left her for a moment as gravity regained its hold on them before Baroth's immense wings pulled at the air, lifting them higher. As she felt the wind whip through her hair and saw the landscape that spread out before them, Louise began to laugh in delight. "It's beautiful," she exclaimed in joy. If this is what she could expect with a dragon and a human as familiars, then perhaps her life was finally looking up. Truly, she thought as they approached the Academy, things were going well.
AN: I may or may not continue this, but for now it's a oneshot. If I do continue, the main idea would be that Amyra would be Louise's mentor, adviser and role-model. There also would be quite a bit of culture clash. For those not in the know, The Dragonriders of Pern is set in the distant future, on a colony planet that has been out of contact with Earth for over 2,400 years. The 'dragons' were genetically engineered from a local animal, called firelizards, by the original colonists to defend them from a spacefaring organism they called Thread. By the time of the first published books, the colonists' descendants have forgotten their origins and have developed a complex society based around Hold, Hall and Weyr.
Amyra and Baroth are from the end of the period known as the Ninth Pass, when the history and technology of the ancients has been rediscovered and a plan has been implemented that will make the Ninth Pass of Thread the last Pass ever. By Pernese rankings, Amyra, as a junior goldrider, outranks Louise, the equivalent of younger daughter of a minor Lord Holder, while Old Osmond, as the equivalent of the Masterharper, would be ranked as her equal or just a bit higher and Princess Henrietta would be ranked above her as the equivalent of a major Lord Holder.
These are only rough equivalents, however, as Pernese society has three different separate ranking systems that don't always map onto each other very well, let alone a feudal system like the one seen in Familiar of Zero. Pern doesn't really have nobles, just Lord Holders, and the only ranking level difference between Lord Holders is whether or not they rule a major or minor Hold. If I add more chapters, I'll try to explain the differences in more detail.