- T’ria made a point of letting me know that she was sleeping with L’nos that night, making her the first Pernese dragonrider to have sex in Varlada in over a millennia.
- I worked on my speech for the rest of the night, but made a point of getting to bed at a reasonable time so I would be in good fighting form the next morning.
- T’ria and I returned to the Shrine of Alesu early the next morning. Cailora had us stand in an area with good natural lighting while Ferelis slipped into a meditative trance to imbue our messages into the Antiquity Stones. I sat next to him and slipped into a meditative state myself to observe how he did it while he recorded T’ria’s speech.
- Once T’ria had given her speech, Ferelis rested for a few minutes and then recorded mine:
I am K’brin of brown Valenth, Wingleader of Faranth’s Wing.
We’re from Ista Weyr, on Pern.
We have crossed a vast ocean of stars and time to speak with you.
Your historians call us the Children of the Rebellion, if they remember us at all.
And that’s true, but it doesn’t tell you who we really are.
Many of our ancestors were lost in the cold dark of the Crossings;
those who made it found a harsh world beset by deadly natural disasters.
Those first few years were hard, but our ancestors survived and then thrived because of the embers of belief they carried in their hearts:
Integrity, Community, Self-sacrifice.
We kindled these embers, and used them to tame a hostile world.
Every generation works to build a better life, a brighter future, for all those who come after.
And we teach these lessons to our children through our words, our deeds, and our songs.
Until now, our earliest history was lost to us –
yet still these values beat ceaseless and eternal in our hearts.
This is our legacy.
We are the inheritors of Kameni.
We are your children.
- When Cailora asked if there was anything else that we would like to add, I patted my guitar case and said I would like to share one of my songs – something I myself had written – with them. I again played “A Father’s Lessons,” leaving Cailora and Ferelis visibly moved, verging on tears, by the time I finished. They excused themselves, Ferelis to finish working on the Antiquity Stones he had created and Cailora to reflect on what she had just experienced. During the long walk back to Idalia, T’ria asked me why I had cautioned her against believing too deeply in Alesu, in becoming a Kinator. We walked in silence for a couple of minutes as I thought about the best way to explain. Eventually, I told her that our beliefs are clearly descended from those of the Kinatori, but that we – as a people – don’t believe in what we can’t perceive. We don’t believe in things like gods and spirits, life after death, prophecy, or Alesu. The Kinatori among our ancestors must have given up some of the tenets, or at least beliefs, of their religion in order to become a single people. If we bring back belief in Alesu, it will be the first true religion in Pern in over a thousand years – and will undoubtedly bring disagreement and conflict with it because not all will believe.
- T’ria didn’t question me when I said that it was too late for me to avoid becoming a Kinator, but that it might not be too late for her. Even when I admitted that I was afraid of carrying such a huge – and wonderful – secret for the rest of my life, with the alternative being self-exile, she said nothing. She just changed the subject. I had seldom felt more alone, more isolated, than during the rest of that walk back to Idalia.
- We were preparing our dragons for the return flight to Cythera when T’ria arrived with two young children in tow. She introduced the girl as Erendy, who was five, and the boy as Rennos, who was four. Their mother had asked her to take them back with us to Pern, to a world where they would not be persecuted for their religious beliefs.
- M’din was initially horrified because he thought T’ria was stealing the children, but N’lan quickly figured this out and explained that we would just be fostering them. This was just like fostering cothold children back on Pern, to give them a better life.
- I reflected back on my conversation with Master Lancaster Turns before, and agreed. ‘Mala and T’grim glared openly at T’ria, even though I was Wingleader and was the one who had made the decision. They didn’t say or do anything, though, and silently returned to preparing their dragons for flight.
- Our flight back to Cythera was uneventful, as was our jump back between to Great Isle. Our dragons didn’t report nearly as much lethargy as previous jumps between worlds, and no injuries. I had Rennos ride with N’lan because N’lan is skilled at first-aid. I had Erendy ride with ‘Zana because I already had ‘Zana carrying the carefully-protected Sylfium Flowers – since she was the dragonrider I wanted least flying into combat. She had to make it back home.
- We returned Lorekeeper Shindra to Cythera without incident, and I then gave the order to return home. Our dragons jumped between, and we emerged over Great Isle almost exactly two minutes and forty-five seconds later. Our dragons all reported that they were (surprisingly) fine, but Rennos was wailing from the trip and Erendy had fallen unconscious. We were queried briefly by Wingleader P’dair, who I remembered as being a mild Talent from Fort Hold, before we were allowed to land.
- T’ria treated Erendy and had us place a blanket over her and bring warm embers in a clay pot to help bring her body temperature up. Eventually, T’ria said the young girl had passed from unconsciousness to normal sleep, and was out of immediate danger.
- We spent three long, boring days on Great Isle – letting our dragons and the children recover, and making certain that we had not brought any dangerous foreign illnesses back with us. I spent my days basking in the sun with Valenth and working on my reports and new music, and my evenings socializing and playing music for everyone.
- In a completely uncharacteristic display of motherly instinct, T’ria took care of Erendy and Rennos – and even started teaching them Pernese.
- We were greeted by the deafening excited bugling of many dragons. Most of the Weyr came out to greet us when we landed, to the point where G’mar and B’dir had to firmly, almost forcibly, clear a path for us. G’mar grimaced when he spotted the children we’d brought back, and quietly commented that one of the advantages of being Weyrleader was that he could order me to explain them to Daena.
- T’ria surprised me by volunteering to go to speak with Daena with me. Daena was poring over G’mar’s proposed new Wing assignments when we walked into her chambers. She listened as I explained what has happened, and then announced in no uncertain terms that the children couldn’t stay at Ista Weyr. We have too few children as it is, and we can’t risk them being exposed to foreign illnesses. Thinking quickly, I immediately suggested that we hide them in Katz Field since it’s isolated, a fantastic place for children to grow up, and has both a Master Healer (T’ria’s adopted mother; for tracking their health) and Senior Journeyman Harper (for teaching them Pernese and documenting the Galatean they know). T’ria dropped them off the next morning.
- A few weeks later, the weyrlings had finished learning formation flying and G’van announced that it was time for all of us to learn to fly together in a coordinated Flight. Several of my wing riders had flown in Flights before, but V’dos was especially excited about the training so I asked him to instruct Faranth’s Wing ahead of time. By the time the rest of Ista Weyr began learning to fly in a Flight, we had it down pat and made it look easy.
- A few days later, Shireya crept back up to my quarters after dinner to speak with me. She had heard the dragons gossiping that I had another child on the way, and wanted to know if I was going to send her and Kevlen away. Aghast, I swore to her that I wasn’t and would never, ever send them away. I assured her that I loved her and would always love her, and that she would always have a home here at Ista Weyr. I swore her to secrecy, and then told her a secret: A dragonman’s heart just gets bigger and bigger as he adds love to it. It never, ever gets full. She curled up in my lap and fell asleep.
- A couple of weeks later, we heard rumor that Lord Wylan’s wife, Duvessa from Fort Hold, had given birth to a healthy daughter, Gladeril. This was not the male heir I had been hoping for to take the pressure off of Kevlen, but it was still good news because it proved that Wylan and Duvessa could have healthy children.
- Since much of my staff on Mountain View was doing make-work, G’van asked if I would assign them to making and dying red yarn into fake Thread for rope drills. I readily agreed, and Faranth’s Wing dropped the woolen Thread – sometimes from very high altitude – for them. It was surprisingly nostalgic for me and, if I’m being honest, horrifying to see how badly they were all hit at first.
- A few days later, G’mar approached me after the end of a staff meeting and said that Eldana’s gold Ionath would rise to mate soon. It was going to be her first time, and no bronzes were invited because Telgar Weyr already had three Queens. Telgar Weyr had opened the mating flight to all browns, and Valenth and I were at the very top of the guest list. It was a great honor to be invited, especially by name, so we couldn’t refuse without giving insult.
- I talked to B’dir, L’nos, and T’grim about this, and they all agreed that I should go. B’dir had J’ran give me temporary tribal tattoos since Mikala had expressed an interest in sleeping with me before, and she was from Fort Weyr – where tattoos are common.
- I had written ahead to Weyrharper Dagmar, who was more than happy to visit with me while I was at Telgar. D’fel also spoke with me briefly to again apologize for not having much time to talk, this time due to Ionath’s upcoming mating flight. I played music with Dagmar in Telgar’s living caverns that afternoon, and tried to charm Mikala over dinner. She was already interested, so it wasn’t very hard to convince her to sleep with me. In retrospect, the tribal tattoos I wore told her everything she needed to know.
- Mikala and I slept in the next morning, until duty pulled her away. Ionath rose that afternoon. Valenth was the strongest flyer in the air, and stayed in the mating flight until the very end – when Ionath finally realized she was going to have to choose someone to fly her. She tucked her wings and dove, giving a decisive final advantage to the only other dragon still in the flight: P’lar’s brown Andoth, a clutchmate of Eldana’s.
- I was too distracted to notice until later, but Mikala had left earlier that morning to fly Elaruth well clear of the Weyr and then catch a ride back with another Dragonrider. She took care of me when Valenth narrowly missed winning the mating flight with Ionath. When I was able to think straight again some time around midday the next morning, it dawned on me that I had never heard of a queen rider remaining for another queen rider’s mating flight before. Neither had B’dir. Mikala had sent a loud, clear message by flying back to sleep with me.
- A few weeks later, Master Althea announced that she had completed her calculations and had estimated travel times between Pern and Varlada for the entire Turn. The window opened in the first week of August, but we would spend almost three full minutes between. By September, the jump was down to two minutes or less. It was shortest during the first week of October, coming in at a hair under one minute. Before the first week of August and after the first week of December, the times between go up quickly and dramatically – making the jumps much too long to survive. This is because both planets have elliptical orbits (‘Zana reviewed the math with me later), so they don’t always move toward and away from one another at the same speed.
- T’ria spent some time at Healer Hall, and identified the disease described at the Shrine of Landarfal. It’s called Deep Stone Disease, and is associated with mining very specific types and formations of rock. Minecraft Hall doesn’t mine these types of rock unless they absolutely have to, and they’re very careful about bathing and cleaning afterwards when they do. It’s a very strange disease because it’s transmitted by touch. Gil thinks the disease somehow travels on the rock dust itself, which is why it’s contagious until all dust has been carefully removed.
- G’mar asked me to orchestrate N’rion’s memorial early that Autumn. I coordinated it with Master Sanell and acting Headwoman Oswina. At the end of the ceremony, many of us released delicate white paper lanterns held aloft by candle flame. Our children had drawn dragons and scrawled messages on many of them. In secret, I did too. I wrote a letter to N’rion thanking him for sacrificing himself for the sake of his people, his family. Reflecting on what I had learned in Varlada, I ended with, “And now I hope to see you again some day.”