Author's note: Come on, I know you've been reading this! Please send me character applications! Without them the story can't continue! And I won't start the hatching until I reach ten candidates.

Chapter 2 – Mikkeal, The First of Many

Philena grumbled as her small green dragon weaved through the clouds heading down towards Keroon. The large rolling fields filled with herd beast, wherries and stocky runner with only a scattering of people among the many flocks.

'I believe we have found our first candidate.' Metholith spoke quietly to her rider, multifaceted eyes of blue and green lifting up to meet her rider's gaze before she dipped her mossy green wings and descended down in slowly ever decreasing circles. Once Metholith had landed, Philena swung off her back and landed heavily on the floor.

"Try not to unsettle too many people Metholith. We have candidates to find so we need co-operation from the Masters here." Philena said firmly before burying her face into the spicy sweet hide of her life partner. A rumbling chuckle answered which told her that her dragon had little intention of following her order. With a heavy sigh, Philena pulled away, giving her dragon a firm but affectionate slap on the shoulder before leading the green towards the Craft hall.

Metholith said nothing as her rider met with the tall stocky Master of the Hall, nor did she respond to the small gathering of boys that encircled in hopes of being searched. Even though dragon riders were unpopular the idea of riding one still seemed to strike a chord within everyone's heart. After all, to fly was the ultimate freedom even if it did mean that you fight the legendary thread at some point.

Master Gindi growled quietly, his dislike of riders still strong even after years of his sister's passing. She had joined the ranks of dragon riders until a between lesson had gone terribly wrong. Since then he had hated them with vengeance and the only reason he had allowed it was that the Master harper had told him to allow it. Standing a 6ft tall, the man held nothing gentle about him in his figure. Large thickly arms only made the wide expanse of his chest seem larger. Stocky legs were also lined with muscle from years of herd beasts roping. His eyes were a dark grey whilst his skin was browned and slightly wrinkled, weathered from years out on the open plains. With a grumble, he stood a few dragon length's gathering, waiting to see which of his students this rider would steal from him.

"anything Metholith?" Philena asked, patting her dragon lightly. The green dragon lowered, and huffed softly at one of the boys.

'No. But I know he is close. I can feel him.' Metholith answered, her eyes moving across until she spotted someone huddled in the corner. 'There! He is by the wall, apparently hiding.' Metholith's voice was highly amused. 'Go and grab him my dear. I will need a closer inspection.'

Philena looked scandalised, her dragon was ordering her around like she was gold! Grumbling, Philena headed over, leaving Metholith to swamped by hopeful boys and girls.

"And here I thought everyone would swamp Metholith for attention." She spoke to the young boy, her voice warm and tinted with humour. Philena could blink in surprise and the boy withdrew from her, eyes full of mistrust and wary from years of abuse hurled at him.

"Hey... come on kid. I don't bite. Metholith would like to meet you." Kneeling down she appeared less intimidating, she slowly extended her hand. Whatever was going on in the boy's mind was a mystery to her but it didn't take a genius to see the internal conflict written across his face that a candle mark before he took her hand in a gentle grasp. Philena then rose up to her full and led him to Metholith who watched with bright eyes that whirled in even faster as they grew closer.

'That is one I sensed.' Metholith rumbled to her rider as she lowered her head down to the young male. There was delight written across his face as his fingers gently rubbed her hide, pausing at her eye ridges after Philena informed that most all dragon including Metholith loved having their eye ridges scratched. After the young man had calmed down Philena knelt beside him.

"What's your name kid?" She asked softly, plastering a cheerful grin.

"Mikkeal..." He mumbled, casting a side glance to his tormentors who were busy glaring at him. With a sniff, Philena rose to her feet, and signalled to the beast master that she had found a candidate.

"Only one?" Master Gindi called across, being both relieved and annoyed. She had picked one of his shyest students to take away. Although Master Gindi was stuck in his ways, the boy did have a way with the younger, shyer animals. He was also a little insulted by the fact she had only wanted one of his boys. All of his students he believed were more than worthy of riding a dragon.

'Stuck up little dragon rider.' He thought grimly, signalling to the rider that she could take him. Philena grinned to Mikkeal.

"Ready to head off?" She asked softly, her grin still warm as she offered him a hand. The conflicting emotions were easily read as they travelled across his expression. Would he be able to continue to his beast studies... how would his family take the news? Was riding a dragon really as free as he was made to believe? After a moment's hesitation, he took her hand and helped onto the broad shoulder of Metholith. Philena was up and behind him after a few moments. She only stopped to buckle him into the harness before Metholith spread her wings at the silent command from her rider.

"Hold on tight." Philena said before Metholith crouched down. Each coil of muscle could be felt beneath their legs as she prepared for flight. Mikkeal swallowed quietly, his fingers coiling tightly around the thick wherhide straps before his head was snapped backward as the green dragon leapt up and pumped her wings to get into the air.

'When everything goes black count to 3. Do not be afraid little man.'

Mikkeal never got to respond as Metholith disappeared between. The ever present darkness, the one that has always lingered on the edge of your vision. The darkness that everyone fears will one day consume them was now all around him. Mikkeal panicked, he could feel nothing, he could not feel his hands that he was certain had been tightly gripping the riding harness nor could he feel his legs against Metholith's warm shoulder. Just as a scream was willing its way up his throat they appeared in bright sunlight. Mikkeal hissed in surprised, his arm rising up to shield his eyes, sucking in deep breaths to calm the fear that pinged at every sense.

"You did well." Philena laughed from behind him. "Most empty their bladders on their first trip between. We'll make a rider out of you yet!" Philena laughed heartily. Metholith bugled her return and slowly drifted ground ward. Once Metholith had landed, Philena dismounted and helped young Mikkeal down. She patted Metholith and sent her to the fire height to soak up the last of the day's sunshine before she let the young man into the depths of the Weyr towards what would serve as his new home.

Mikkeal's POV

I've always been at the back of everything. For as long as I can remember, I've been different from the other boys. Maybe that is why they bullied... why they hated me so... Its no something I can know but now... I think everything is going to change. The day I met Philena everything changed for me. Metholith is amazing, her voice is so... soft. I can't describe it any other way. The people haven't rejected me here, maybe its because they don't know. I did however get quite a shock when I saw two men kissing and no one batted an eyelid! In the hold they were have been scorned and even hated. Love between two men is forbidden. But here.. they almost seem to welcome it.

I've heard whispers among the other riders, the eggs on the sands are hardening far quicker than anyone expected. They believe the hatching will be soon. They say there is a gold egg among them. I'm excited, but if I explain why you will think me silly.

I would to impress gold but I know deep down no male will impress a gold. Hey, a guy can wish right?

I know I'm not a typical male, by personality or appearance. I'm lean but delicate looking, but thankfully I'm stronger than I look. I'm lightly tanned for my years on the plains of Keroon. My hair reaches my hip and was bleached blonde many turns ago. At least I think it was bleached blonde. I'm not sure... all I know is that it has been blonde for as long as I can remember. Mother said my eyes were not normal. They're a soft amber colour, but I like it. I've always been teased for looking girly but no matter what I've tried in the past I can't rid myself of this feminine physic. Now.. I'm not sure I should. Oh, I don't know any more. Metholith spoke to me not long ago. She said I need to accept myself before I can accept a dragonet into my life.

But I have accepted myself... haven't I? I know I'm not into girls like the other boys. Mother said it was a phase and I believe her. It is just a phase. I'll meet a girl and everything will change... I'll do Father proud.

I hope.

Mikkeal sat on his cot, staring with wide eyes at the nearly empty room. Where were the other candidates? Was he the only one? No that wouldn't' be right... surely there were Weyrbrats to stand for the eggs as well... right?

"Mikkeal!" An unfamiliar called out. A few mere moments later a tall wiry framed male came into the barracks. The first thing that stood on him was the thin ragged scar that run the length of his left arm. It start just above the knuckle and vanished under the sleeve of his tunic.

"Yes?" Mikkeal heard himself say, and he shrunk backwards towards the wall. The man looked at him over before pulling him to his feet.

"Lets get you some clothes sorted. Fancy stuff won't last five candle marks here. Relax lad, I'm not to beat you." The man all but snapped in annoyance before heading out of the room. He paused and looked back once he had reached the door frame.

"Well, come on Mikkeal. We don't have all day." He called over, propping a hand on his hips to express his need for speed in this matter. Mikkeal quickly hurried over, keeping his head for fear of a backhand over his crown.

"Relax kid. I'm not gonna bite. I'm Kenden, Candidate master. I'll be helping you prepare for both Weyr life and lead up to impressing." The man uttered, the thick brown mess of hair was wiry and seemed to defy gravity as it stuck out at odd angles and probably never seem a brush or a comb in its life. Oddly enough the man smelt like a dragon but with a mix of firestone. It was a smell he knew well enough. After all the bullies had thrown him in the firestone stores enough times for him to recognise the smell without seeing the crumbling black stones.

Mikkeal just nodded silently, the shock of his change now starting to seep into his mind. His life was going to be very different from now on.

"Shards Mikkeal. Breath. You're going white." Kenden sat, Mikkeal didn't respond and continued to stare ahead with wide eyes. Kenden just swore. Great, his first candidate was going to pass out from shock before they had even started. One of drudges brought a stool and Kenden forced the lad to sit and there he waited. An eternity seem to pass before Mikkeal calmed and he looked at Kenden with eyes bright and full of excitement.

Kenden just smiled softly. So this was a bit of shock to the system for the lad. Had he not been accepted where he was living before? With a gentle shake of the head, Kenden lead Mikkeal into the room where the Head seamstress waited.

"Here's ya latest. Have fun. Try not ta scare I'm too much." Kenden chuckled darkly before he left the room. Mikkeal gazed over the room. The thick slightly acidic smell of freshly dyed clothes still lingered in the air and there it mixed with the almost sweet smell of freshly tanned hide. God he missed that smell.

"Well you are thin. We'll have to feed you up before you can do any of the heavy duty stuff." The plump woman cast a critical eye over him. "Don't look at me like that Mikkeal. You know its true. Oh for sake of Faranath, stop trying to shrink away. I need to measure you. Come now, Mikkeal. This is a new life, you should act like a wherry being hunted. Everyone is accepted and welcomed here." The woman finally finished speaking as she tugged and pulled the young man around, pulling a hide tape over his limb, completely unfazed by indignant squeaks he gave as she touched areas he was not comfortable with.

"Pssh! Quiet your squeaking Lad. You're too young for me and judging by the look of ya, you wouldn't be interested anyway. My weyrmate would skin you alive for you trying anyway. Stop right there!" she finally snapped at him as Mikkeal tried to escape from the woman's' hands.

"I need to measure you up properly to ensure your clothes fit properly. Now stand there and don't move!" She hissed as she pulled him back into the centre of the room and disappeared into the other room and returned with a bolt of dark brown wherhide. There she began to mark area on the hide she had pinned to his clothes. Many grumbles and hums came from her as she worked quickly before she finally released him.

"Sit down lad. I'll need hand and foot measurements next. Looks like you'll need custom fitted shoes and gloves as well."

Mikkeal just blinked at the whirlwind of a woman and sat before she could complain at him.

"I... generally make on my own shoes from the ones I'm given..." He mumbled, casting his head down. A laugh caressed his ears before the woman lifted his head up to meet her gaze.

"Well I know who to call when I get too many bits to make then." she laughed warmly. "I'm Melane, master seamstress. Weyrmate to Brown rider B'nal. Now get those boots off and lets get you measured." She chuckled warmly grabbing another spare swatch of hide to placing it to his feet and she made marks on it. There was just something very likeable about Melane, despite her in your face attitude and language. She seemed so confident in herself that she was barely even aware that people may not be so comfortable with her approach. But no matter what you looked it at Melane was likeable. And as she worked, Mikkeal found himself opening up for the first time in turns. Melane welcomed his talk, she gave him comfort when things seemed too uncomfortable to speak of and laughed when he told her the great misadventures he had gotten up to. It was all over too fast for Mikkeal when Melane said he was free to go.

Without she turned and hugged him in a mother's embrace.

"Don't fret dear. You are always welcome back." she mumbled softly pulling back slowly, her hands resting on his shoulders. "Now, you have to go meet the right of the Weyr. There is far more of us than you know of. Now, go on. Off with you!" She said firmly but the hint of laughter still lingered in her voice. With a little wave and sniffle, Mikkeal and turned and left the room, armed with a neat bundle which contained new clothes. Although he had gotten lost for a good number of candle marks, he eventually found his way back to the candidate and he flopped tiredly on his cot. Everything still circling around his mind. However he wasn't left to his thoughts for long before a familiar green rider made her presence known.

"Come on Mikkeal. What are you hanging around here for? Food is the dining cavern. Surely you must be hungry by now!" Philena was exasperated as she nudge him firmly to rouse him from his cot. Her only response was the rumble of his stomach before he sat up. With a laugh, Philena took his arms and practically dragged him out to the dining cavern. "Don't worry, you're not the only one here. The rest will be along shortly!" Philena all but chirped as she walked him through the winding tunnels of the Weyr and towards the stronger smells of freshly baked breads and pies.