K’brin: Chapter 5, Journal 13 – Where There Is No Path
- I lay in bed sleepless, a woman from a relationship less than a Turn old under my arm. I hadn’t even known that the children sleeping in the next room over existed until a few months ago. And Valenth in the adjacent weyr, physically close but never more distant mentally and emotionally than now. I, too, had come back changed – and maybe not for the better.
- I eventually admitted that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep and crept downstairs. I found B’dir and S’del playing cards to pass the time on the lowest landing of the stairs leading up into my complex, obviously waiting for me. S’del loaned me his flight jacket, and B’dir said it was time for him to show me something he was taught by F’mir of bronze Novareth, the previous Weyrleader of Ista.
- They often joked that F’mir was a brownrider in disguise because he was a deep thinker, and loved to spend time visiting with friends all over Pern. They even teased that he won the mating flight only because Novareth insisted. B’dir thought it was a real shame that I never got a chance to meet him.
- B’dir took me to an abandoned lighthouse on the distant Western Shore, north of the Tillek Peninsula and east of High Reaches. It was hours earlier than at Ista Weyr, so the sun was just sinking down beneath the horizon. B’dir and I passed a bottle of strong alcohol back forth while we talked. He said this remote location was critical to the lesson that F’mir had taught him:
- Sometimes you need to get away from everyone else, even your own dragon, and come to know your own thoughts. It’s impossible to do this back at Ista Weyr because it’s full of both other people and dragons, all with their own thoughts and feelings.
- After staring into the ruddy sunset for a long time, I admitted to B’dir that Valenth was mad at me because I had wanted to hurt a Queen dragon. I thought he’d be furious, or even disgusted, that I could even think such a thing. Instead, he pondered this for a couple of minutes, and then quietly announced that he didn’t think it was likely that I could ever convince one of our dragons to hurt a Queen except in self-defense. When Valenth’s memory starts to get a little fuzzy in a few days, I should present our new strategy for dealing with Queens like it had always been the plan: have our male dragons capture them, just like in a mating flight, and force them to the ground so we can interrogate the Queen rider.
- B’dir stared off thoughtfully for another minute or two, took another small sip of alcohol, and then added, “I don’t think you ran into a Queen by chance. They’re still valuable there. Real valuable. And she can’t chew firestone and still be fertile, so she can’t defend herself very well. No way she was out on a standard patrol. Someone or something tipped them off.” I nodded slowly, pondering what he’d said. “Yeah. If I was them, I would have hidden a sentry with a clear view of the Shrine, and sent word back to the nearest Stronghold the moment they spotted us. It’s what I would have done.”
- B’dir waited patiently, obviously lost in his own thoughts, while I sorted out the rest of what was bothering me: How could I call myself an honorable dragonrider, with the things I was willing to do to insure the success of my mission? How could any respectable dragonrider see Mordecan as a hero? Again, B’dir listened attentively and pondered his words before he spoke. When he did, he clapped me fondly on the shoulder and said that I was starting to think Valenth really is a bronze. He’s not. Bronze riders obsess over nobility and honor. Us brownriders, especially troubleshooters like him and me, concern ourselves with getting the job done. We do the hard, awful things so that the other dragonriders can be honorable and noble. From that perspective, it was easy to see how I could respect Mordecan. He bloodied his own hands, sullied his own honor, so that others wouldn’t have to. Griffith may have died, but there’s obviously still a lot of brown left in him.
- B’dir looked thoughtful, and then added that maybe I was also struggling with the Harper still in me. Harpers talk about honor and nobility, right and wrong, like they’re physical things that exist outside the minds of men. They don’t. At the end of the day, morality and justice are just made up ideas. We try to follow them when we can, but we can’t always – especially not those of us trying to change the world. A man shouldn’t be judged good or bad based on other men’s rules, but instead on whether or not he’s making the world a better place for his family, his friends, and his people. He looked me in the eyes and asked, “Do you think the dragonriders of the Old World approved of what our ancestors did, of what Sean and Sorka did? No, of course not. They were criminals. Traitors. They would have probably been executed if they’d been caught. But they did the right thing anyway, and look what came of it. See what can happen when you break the rules?”
- When I mentioned Master Lancaster’s observation that we’re going to need a lot more blue and green dragons than bronzes and browns, B’dir laughed and joked that he assumed I already had a Gold dragon – and Queen rider – picked out. Completely blindsided, I blushed hard and stammered out that I had never thought about Valenth flying Maranath. Still grinning, he said that it should have – because it’s certainly crossed Senesta’s and T’vin’s. Suddenly, a number of their comments over the last few Turns made perfect sense. Unable to resist the urge to twist the knife a little harder, B’dir continued teasingly, “Of course, that’s assuming that Daena can muster the political might to keep you home at Ista Weyr. Faranth’s Wing belongs to all of the Weyrs, and there’s going to be a lot of competition for a pretty, Talented dragonrider on a monstrous brown. Especially one who’s now proven he makes beautiful Talented children… and who was a Master Harper. Yeah, Daena’s going to have a real fight on her hands.”
- When he caught my stricken look, he again clapped me on the shoulder and reassured me that everything was going to be alright. It’s a good thing to be wanted both by Ista and other Weyrs. It means I have choices. Or maybe I’ll remain Wingleader of Faranth’s Wing, and delve into whatever mysteries we inevitably discover in the Old World and on the Southern Continent. Or maybe I should ask to lead the dragonmen who will inevitably be asked to defend the Syfrin Valley Outpost, and establish the first dragonrider presence on the Southern Continent. I just need to figure out what I want.
- B’dir listened passively when I mentioned that L’nos had warned me that we would probably lose at least one or two dragonriders from Faranth’s Wing as a result of our recent adventure, but turned instantly attentive, almost predatory, when I mentioned that one of the ones who might be leaving was N’lan. The other brown leaving Faranth’s Wing would make room for him. I warned him that G’mar would never let that happen, that he was too critical as a trusted troubleshooter and senior dragonrider to transfer him to Faranth’s Wing. He shrugged easily, and said he was going to make it happen. We won’t be going on these missions forever, so he has to act now before he loses the opportunity. I think he was only halfway teasing when he said, “I’ll threaten to f#ck his woman again, if he doesn’t.”
- B’dir’s words and calm acceptance of what I done in the line of duty made me feel worlds better. We gossiped companionably a bit more about more trivial matters, and then returned to Ista Weyr in time for a few hours of sleep before a late breakfast.
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