K’brin: Chapter 5, Journal 14 – Convergence
- There was Threadfall the next day, so Ista Weyr was eerily quiet by the time I woke up the next morning. I spent the morning organizing and expanding my notes, fleshing out the many sketches I had made, and transcribing the snippets of music I had thought of during our recent expedition to Carindas.
- While waiting for Ista Weyr’s dragonriders to return from flying Thread, I asked Daena and Senesta to monitor my rider’s emotional states. T’ria and I had been through the same trauma as the rest of Faranth’s Wing, and our observations couldn’t be fully trusted in this matter. Not yet.
- I met with my wingriders over lunch and gauged their mood. We joked with one another, but it was brittle. I offered to let my wingriders return to their home Weyrs and was met with mixed results. ‘Zana nodded thoughtfully. ‘Mala said she wanted to talk to R’ker, to see what he was comfortable with her doing if something like Syfrin Valley happened again. V’dos deferred brashly, “What’s the point in going home if we can’t brag about what we did?”
- Before we broke for lunch, I told my riders about their upcoming assignments:
- T’ria – learn what gossip S’lina had been bragging about, and report back if it’s worthy of my notice.
- T’ria – loan the novel that Findmar gave her to our Harpers, for copying and eventually very detailed study.
- T’ria and ‘Zana – research how to make fireproof oil or, preferably, a gel that can be sprayed using something similar to an agenothree canister.
- T’ria – visit Healer Hall to research the awful, wasting illness that some people contract while wandering the maze at the Shrine of Landarfal.
- L’nos and V’dos – work with the harpers to document Thydee’s advice on passing as Carindi dragonriders, and then use these notes to teach the rest of Faranth’s Wing.
- ‘Zana – share the measurements she had taken with Master Althea and see what we could learn from them.
- Gil (after return) – select and acquire gear appropriate for subterranean exploration, like we did at the Shrine of Landarfal.
- Gil (after return) – work with Minecraft Hall to identify deposits of Hynavaeth Granite, and mine enough for us to experiment with making Antiquity Stones.
- After some debate, we agreed that we would visit Galatia as Carindi dragonriders, so they would assume that we were there for trade, vacation, or both. This would explain why we didn’t speak their language, and help them overlook the many social mistakes we were bound to make. They were still going to pay close attention to us, though, because politics were so closely intertwined with the Dragonspires in Galatia.
- I spoke with G’mar the next morning. He said that Syfrin Valley was of great importance to the Weyrs, since how the Lord Holders handle that situation will determine how relations, if any, between Pern and Varlada work. He privately hopes that the Weyrleaders can talk the Lord Holders into creating a decoy cave with a few Zamruda stones in it, or otherwise change their footing on the southern continent. We have gone tens of centuries without coming into conflict with dragonriders of Varlada and he doesn’t see why this can’t continue. A single Dominion can match Pern dragon-for-dragon, plus theirs are trained to fight, and they’re supplied by a world that isn’t losing a lot of its production to Threadfall. We don’t want to fight the Sakarians if we don’t have to.
- G’mar cursed colorfully when I told him that B’dir had asked to join Faranth’s Wing again. He grudgingly agreed with B’dir’s reasoning and conceded that he would let him accompany us to the Old World next Turn, assuming that B’dir was fully trained up to my standards by then, and assuming that T’gerian of bronze Kalenorth (Lordling from Big Bay; 14), B’tron of brown Golanth (Keroon; 14), and N’mir of brown Talzenth (Nerat; 12) all survived Weyrling training. G’mar said that B’tron showed some potential for succeeding B’dir as Ista Weyr’s troubleshooter one day, but then sternly warned me that it was still much too soon to know for certain. He also warned me that B’dir wouldn’t be able to join Faranth’s Wing forever; he would have to return to Daena’s service after his “grand adventure” in the Old World.
- When I was leaving, G’mar hesitated and then cautioned me about trusting B’dir. He warned that our troubleshooter, one of my adopted brothers, would do anything that I asked – but that this wasn’t true for anyone else. G’mar warned that even he had trouble making him obey orders, sometimes – and cautioned me that L’nos will probably have similar difficulties if push comes to shove. B’dir is genuinely skilled and long accustomed to working on his own, which means he’s accustomed to making decisions for himself and then dealing with the consequences.
- After much thought, I sent T’grim to bring Gil back from Syfrin Valley Outpost. Rogenth was heavily laden with supplies when he left, gifts for Moredecan and his men as a genuine show of respect and appreciation for what they had done for Faranth’s Wing – for keeping dragonrider blood off our hands. I chose T’grim because he was disciplined enough to follow orders, and because his intense hatred of the Sakarians made what the soldiers at Syfrin Valley had done seem less awful to him.
- M’din was waiting for me when I got back to my office. I was shocked when he haltingly, uncomfortably, expressed his concern that he might not be well-suited for Faranth’s Wing. Now that Faranth’s Wing has clearly demonstrated the value of its mission to the Weyrs, High Reaches would be glad to send a better, more capable rider to replace him. He wondered aloud if they might send someone talented like T’ria, smart like ‘Zana, or charming like L’nos. Suddenly angry, I shook my head and told him that I don’t like people bad-mouthing my dragonriders. I pointed out that I already had a smart dragonrider, a talented dragonrider. And, just between him and me, both of them require special handling. He doesn’t. He’s quietly dependable, and has carried out every task I’ve set before him well and without complaint. That’s worth a lot to me. I told him that the letter J’lared had sent with him had said that M’din was the most dependable, honorable, and good-hearted dragonman that he’d ever met. These were High Reaches Weyr’s contributions to Faranth’s Wing: dependability and honor.
- Finally, he awkwardly admitted that he was concerned about his ability to serve because he knew his mind wasn’t nearly as fast as it had been before his injury. I nodded, unable to honestly argue this, and admitted, “M’din, you’re right. You don’t have the fastest mind. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work well. You found Gil for me, and he’s been a real asset to Faranth’s Wing. I would have never thought to look in Gar. You suggested that I use my talent to look more intimidating while in the air in the Old World. That’s a great idea and something else I didn’t think of. I’ve come to depend on you and to value your counsel. If you tell me that you don’t want to be on Faranth’s Wing, that you can’t stand doing this anymore, then I understand. But don’t you dare quit because you don’t think you’re good enough. You’ve proven that you are.” M’din looked thoughtful for a moment, and then like he was going to cry. He went to hug me, thought better of it at the last moment, and then snapped a very clean salute instead. “No, Wingleader. I want to serve. I just didn’t want to be a burden. If you say my dependability is worth it, then I believe you.” And with that, he asked to be excused – still looking uncharacteristically introspective as he left.
- A couple days after that, I dismissed my wingriders to return to their home Weyrs carrying a detailed report for their respective Weyrleaders. I watched with trepidation as they left one by one, wondering if some of them would never return. I had done what I could to bolster their morale, to remind them of our recent incredible success and the importance of our mission – but had it been enough?
- I spent my working hours over the next few days finishing my reports, drawings, maps, and songs. When I wasn’t doing that, I enjoyed spending time with Seliana and the twins. Valenth enjoyed spending time with all of us. Strangely, it was Shireya and Kevlen more than anything else that gradually sealed the rift that had formed between us. As we watched them play on the sand, or practice music sitting between his mighty forepaws, our hearts were filled with identical love and affection – making it easy for us to slip back into sync with one another again. It was hard to put into words, but it felt marvelous to be whole again.
- My wing riders gradually trickled back in from their home Weyrs over the next few days. I had planned to Harper them all during dinner the first night they were back, but B’dir had other plans. He brazenly dragged a chair over to Faranth’s Wing’s table, drawing attention from half the dragonriders in the cavern, and asked when he would get his jacket. All eyes turned to me. Without missing a beat, I smoothly announced that B’dir would be joining Faranth’s Wing for training with the intention of accompanying us next Turn. I looked at B’dir and told him that we’d get his Faranth’s Wing patches the next day – and start getting him fitted for other gear after that.
- ‘Mala looked around the table and quipped, “There are entirely too many males on this Wing.” Again, without missing a beat, I casually replied, “By my count, Ista Weyr now has four riders on Faranth’s Wing. That’s almost half the Wing, right there. Benden has two. Maybe the other Weyrs would like to contribute more greens, to help even things out?” ‘Mala nodded and said she’d keep that in mind, but I noticed her watching B’dir and me thoughtfully throughout the rest of the meal. Over the next few days, a number of my riders quietly commented – sometimes publicly and sometimes to me in private – about suggesting that their Weyrs contribute more to Faranth’s Wing, both in terms of dragonriders and resources, now that we had proven ourselves.
- Eventually, it was time for us to leave for Varlada again – this time to Galatia. Seliana was giving me a deep kiss, obviously trying to remind me exactly what I had to look forward to coming home, when B’dir waved cheerfully, “Bye, honey! Don’t be gone long!” And with that, the romantic mood was ruined. There weren’t as many dragons waiting at Great Isle this time, since we hadn’t been followed back there during our first jump. Also, they were more confident that we would survive the jump between – so they didn’t think we needed an honor guard, either.
- The jump between took 95 seconds this time, almost half again what the initial difficult jump had taken. I couldn’t honestly tell you whether my heart was pounding more at the end from lack of air or terror at being lost forever in the dark. I gratefully, greedily sucked in air when we popped into the warm sunlight of Galatia. Everyone made it, although almost all my dragonriders were reporting that their dragons were dangerously cold and extremely fatigued. ‘Mala didn’t like admitting it, but Jenrith was complaining bitterly about sharp pains in her joints, especially in her delicate wing tips.
- The trees of Galatia were thinner and narrower than those of Carindas, with most of them being cone-shaped.
- The farmland of Galatia was better organized than that of Carindas, and the farms were much, much larger – more like a cothold run by an extended family than the single-family farms of the other Dominion.
- We found Cythera exactly where the Book of Crossings had said it would be, nestled in the crook of a winding river, with bridges on either side leading to farmland for as far as the eye could see. The architecture made extensive use of fired brick, columns, and beautiful broad arches. Most roofs were covered with fired clay shingles, and beautiful decorative gardens nestled hidden between clusters of many buildings. Covered walkways ran between many of the buildings, hinting at heavy rains, thick winter snows, or both.
- The people of Cythera dressed a little differently than those we had seen in Woodgate, especially the women. Every women we saw wore some sort of head-covering; very colorful scarves, shawls, and wraps all seemed common. Also in sharp contrast to Woodgate, many adults stared up openly and waved at us – and the children raced one another to stay in our dragons’ shadows.
- By the time we found a good place to land that wouldn’t trample anyone’s crops, a dozen or more people were coming out to meet with us. Mayor Ottokar, an unattractive man in his early 60’s with sharp cheekbones, a prominent nose, and a chin in full retreat – but a full head of hair – greeted us warmly. T’ria reported that he was concerned, but not overly so. Mostly, he just wanted to do a good job and make a good impression. Mayor Ottokar noticed several of our dragons visibly shivering and offered to have his people build bonfires to help warm them. Remembering my role as a foreign dragonman Wingleader, I tersely accepted. I then told him that we had come to seek the counsel of Lorekeeper Shindra.
- We introduced ourselves when asked, explaining that we were from Norceter Stronghold – just as Findmar had suggested, since dragonriders from Norceter were from a remote Stronghold and well-known for being more personable.
- Mayor Ottokar escorted us to Lorekeeper Shindra’s modest home himself. It was made of the local brick, with several arched glass windows and an arched entryway with two narrow half-doors that already stood open. A smaller, circular extension on the house had the only chimney, suggesting it might be the kitchen. It, and the adjacent rooms, were probably noticeably warmer than the rest of the house in cold weather. I couldn’t help but notice that the shutters were a little faded, but had started out Harper blue.
- Mayor Ottokar showed no hesitation in walking through the open doors and calling out to Lorekeeper Shindra from the entryway. While we waited, I noted that the walls were covered with smooth plaster with a band of decorative tile at about waist height. The floor tiles were also elaborately painted. The comfortable-looking furniture had been crafted from a pale hardwood into elegantly curved designs, and the chairs and couches were liberally scattered with colorful pillows. What I assumed was the large, central dining table was also covered with a colorful patterned cloth. There were also a number of small, decorative rugs covering the floor. Galatians certainly loved bright colors. Some of the combinations seemed garish to Pernese eyes.
- I couldn’t help but notice that even this working-class home contained a wealth of metals: eating utensils, pans, wine rack, and even decorative wall art in the form of iridescent blue fish. We had seen far more common use of metals and glass in both Carindas and Galatia.
- Lorekeeper Shindra was an older woman, probably approaching 70, who had been a stunning beauty in her youth. She was very slender with long, brunette hair – some of its luster stolen by the Turns. She was dressed in a long, flowing dress, indigo girdle with matching bracelets and earrings, and a Harper blue shawl. She greeted us warmly, coming closer than we were accustomed to because her eyesight was fading.
- I got rid of Mayor Ottokar by telling him that we had come to speak with the Lorekeeper about the weather. I hesitated for only a moment before I told Lorekeeper Shindra who we really were this time. She stared in fascination, and even I could tell that she suddenly felt she was in a waking dream. Fascinated, she whispered, “My parents used to tell autumn tales about a dragonrider who would come in the dark of nights to share secrets.”
- Lorekeeper Shindra invited us deeper into her home, where she kept a number of colorful songbirds with long, luxurious tail feathers in an ornate metal aviary. When asked, she explained that such pets were expensive here because they had to be shipped all the way from Kirengar. The Kirengari have been breeding such songbirds for their looks, and to live in captivity, for many generations now. They also breed more than a dozen different kinds of feline. Terenmor has much, much larger birds – but they aren’t friendly. Canines are very popular in Carindas, but most of them are working animals – not house pets.
- Families have been growing all types of wines at Cythera for more generations than Lorekeeper Shindra could count. It was built on the high spot between two rivers because every few Turns the rivers flood, washing down more rich soil from the mountains.
- Cythera has a reputation for being a comfortable, easy place to live – which makes it easy for the boys of Cythera to find wives from the other villages. Blights are hard on them because all of their income fails at the same time, but they set aside extra for these hard times – and such blights almost never last more than a Turn. Taxes are very modest during a blight Turn, which also helps.
- Lorekeeper Shindra said that Silfium flowers are extremely difficult to cultivate; instead, they grow wild in special places that are closely guarded. We’d need the help of an alchemist to get them without raising alarm. Fortunately, she had an old friend, Novandal, in the neighboring town of Idalia who was a Master Alchemist. She was confident she could talk him into helping us.
- Since Novandal didn’t speak much Gairia (the language of Carindas; basically Pernese), Shindra insisted on going with us to Idalia to introduce us. I was a little surprised when she said that she could leave immediately, and set about preparing for travel. We were in the air less than an hour later, flying low and slow so Shindra could spot familiar landmarks to guide us.
- We flew for several hours until we reached a small town built on a wide hill, and up the cliff behind it. The cliff, and the town, were bisected by a large waterfall that formed a small – presumably very deep – lake and then disappeared beneath the town. At the top of the cliffs was a large pavilion with fields next to it, probably intended for Gathers, visiting dragonriders, or both.
- We landed our dragons at the base of the hill to avoid causing alarm. Shindra told us more as we walked into town. She said that Idalia wasn’t as specialized as Cythera was, so many different trades were represented here. She also cautioned us again that almost everyone in Idalia was special, or at least sympathetic. She refused to say more than this, though, insisting that it was their secret and theirs alone to share.
- Idalia was filled with the melodic sounds of many sets of musically-tuned windchimes, and with the babbling of many decorative fountains – almost certainly fed by the powerful river flowing beneath the town.
- Mayor Stildon was in his mid-20’s, with short blonde hair, perpetual bed-head, and a genuine smile. He was genuinely charming, the sort of man who never meets a stranger. He greeted us excitedly, and it quickly became apparent that he was hoping to impress us enough with the town and its amenities that we would want to trade with them directly.
- Mayor Stildon showed us a nice stone courtyard in Hightown, partway up the cliff face, with a huge fountain that he said our dragons were free to drink from. The water here was fresh and clean and cool.
- He then escorted us to an inn, which is a place where people trade money for a safe place to sleep, bathe, and eat. It was decorated like a rustic hunting lodge, with much beautiful exposed wood and decorative stone tilework on both the walls and floors. Even the tabletops were decorated with brightly-colored mosaic tilework. The preserved heads of animals stared down at us from the walls; many of them were completely unfamiliar.
- Shindra helped me negotiate for a good price on rooms for the night, and then escorted us through Idalia to the home of her friend Novandal. We passed through the market on the way and I was absolutely fascinated. Metal was commonly used for such everyday items as metal pots and cooking utensils, buttons, plant holders, and even decorative artwork. My suspicions were confirmed; Carindas and Galatea were obviously much richer in metal than any Hold on Pern. Slender, poorly-bound books on very practical subjects such as planting crops, sewing clothes, building houses, and cooking were both common and surprisingly inexpensive.
- I bought a cheap children’s clay ocarina that came with a few sheets of music and a simple primer on reading it, a farmer’s almanac listing all sorts of useful information, and a compass – a sliver of rare metal floating in a bubble of water in an ornate metal housing that always points in the same direction. When I saw T’ria and some of my other dragonriders buying small trinkets for themselves to take home, I also bought a small piece of enameled jewelry for Seliana and gifts for Shireya and Kevlen.
- We found elderly Master Alchemist Novandal sweeping the flagstones of his half-circle patio at his front door. He looked shocked when he spotted us, and then relaxed visibly when he saw that Shindra was with us. She swept in and started talking very quickly to him in Lachendi, obviously trying to be charming and set him at ease. After a few minutes, she gestured for us to come forward for introductions. He escorted us down a small stone path alongside his house to a very pleasant outdoor garden with many unfamiliar plants and life-size stone carvings of animals, obviously intended to look charming.
- T’ria reported that she couldn’t use her Talent here. At all. Neither could I. When I tried, it felt like there was nothing there, like I had been born without Talent at all. I whispered back that this was probably Idalia’s secret – and that we shouldn’t try to push through the powerful mental block unless we absolutely had to. We desperately needed Novandal’s help, and we didn’t dare risk alienating him.
- After some conversation, we agreed that we would leave for the regional capitol of Capella very early the next morning. Half my Wing would visit Capella until around lunchtime to draw attention, while the other half slipped off to the Silfium fields with Novandal to harvest what we needed. We would then return to Idalia, where he would convert the raw flowers into what we required for the Elixir of Two Moons.
- Master Alchemist Novandal gave us the recipe for the Elixir of Two Moons. I made certain that T’ria memorized it, and made careful encoded notes in my notebook as a backup.
- Sword of Zamruda Stone, 15″ x 4″ with no impurities.
- Silfium plant. It’s a giant yellow fennel, with thick roots covered in black bark, a hollow stalk, golden leaves similar to celery, and ball-shaped clusters of bright yellow flowers. It can grow up to six feet in height, and is toxic to herdbeasts. 50 pound bale to extract one pound of material for the Elixir of Two Moons.
- 3 7″ fire pearls.
- 6 long feathers from an adult male Saiyena bird.
- NOTE: The gold dragon who’s given the Elixir of Two Moons will need to put on extra weight immediately after the mating flight. She will need to double her normal bone intake, usually in the form of bone or oyster shell powder. She will also need to add extra livers to her diet from turkeys or herdbeasts. Much fish and bird meat will also need to be added to her diet, with strict instructions to also eat the organ meat and blood. Finally, she will need to drink water in much greater quantities than usual.
- When I expressed an interest in hearing Galatian music on the way back to the inn, Shindra had us detour through a different part of town where musicians were known to gather. We came a cross a group of three people playing:
- Becatos – a tanned man with short black hair except for two braids woven over the top of his head like a ponytail, playing a flute.
- Kideria – a beautiful woman in her early 20’s with red hair and striking amber eyes, unlike any I had ever seen before. She was dressed like she had money, and also played the flute.
- Tiku – a woman in her late teens who was tall and willowy with silver-blonde hair and striking blue-green (turquoise) eyes. She played a hand-held harp that Shindra explained was called a lyre.
- At Shindra’s request, they nervously began to play for me – but relaxed noticeably when the Lorekeeper began to move through a slow and graceful dance that somehow conveyed great emotion. When asked, Shindra explained that I had wanted to hear them play because I was also a musician. Becatos looked suspicious, thrust his flute at me, and insisted that I play. The instrument was unfamiliar, but I managed to self-consciously stumble through some basic exercises that Garoway had taught me long, long ago. Becatos then insisted that I play back some of what they had played, which I did to the best of my ability. I still wasn’t really familiar with the instrument, though, and kept missing some of the fingerings. Still, this seemed to satisfy Becatos – who then asked what my preferred instrument was, and hurried off to return with an exotic-looking guitar and a well-worn book of music a few minutes later. It took me a few minutes, but I was able to translate their musical notation into something that I could understand. The guitar, too, was more familiar than the flute had been – or maybe I just had a lot more experience playing unfamiliar guitars. Regardless, I quickly caught the hang of playing it and spent a couple of incredible hours playing this ancient, foreign, yet strangely familiar music with them.
- Eventually, a pair of town guards with lanterns said that it was getting late and that we needed to clear the street. It was too late for respectable women to be out alone, so Becatos said he would escort Tiku and Kideria home. He was about to leave when he turned around and thrust the well-worn book of sheet music into my hands. He gestured that I take it, and wouldn’t accept anything for it. He insisted that he had already learned all the songs in it and was done with it. I almost cried. I thanked him as formally as I could, and tucked the precious book safely into my flight jacket.
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