K’brin: Chapter 5, Journal 19 – Breaking Point
- A’dan of green Soralth, who has been raised a Weyr brat, asked to speak with T’ria and me one day after a meeting. He nervously apologized for causing the midair collision that had nearly killed T’ria and Selenath during the Spring Games. He gave her a pair of beautiful purple wine glasses in a decorative wooden box padded tightly with grass. I’d heard rumor that he had been hazed pretty hard by his clutchmates after the accident, but his body language suggested that it still hadn’t stopped.
- I asked T’ria to spend some time with A’dan in public, where they could be seen together, to help smooth things over with his clutchmates. I also spoke with S’van, one of my own clutchmates, about ending the hazing. He agreed that it had gone too far at this point, and assured me that he’d make certain it stopped.
- S’van then asked me if I had time to discuss a personal matter with him. Naturally, I agreed. He told me that G’van had asked him to be the Weyrlingmaster for Liviath’s upcoming clutch. He was honored that G’van trusted him with such responsibility, but also absolutely terrified because it was the Weyrwoman’s clutch. When he asked my opinion on what he should do, I pondered for a few seconds and then told him I thought it would be a good idea for him to take over as Weyrlingmaster while he still has G’van to assist and even V’lir to provide advice. This would let him assume responsibility, but with a strong safety net to make absolutely certain he couldn’t mess up too badly. He laughed, shaking his head, and said that made great sense – but wasn’t at all what he wanted to hear.
- A couple of weeks later, it was finally time for the weyrlings to fly firestone during Threadfall. All of Ista Weyr went onto high alert, with the ground crews nervously checking the weyrlings’ gear again and again. T’ria volunteered to work in the infirmary, while I joined J’din near the Starstones – since Valenth was more than strong and nimble enough to help wounded dragons land safely on the ground. We watched the skies with growing concern until our dragonriders started coming home. I knew something was wrong when Liviath emerged from her Weyr shortly before G’mar and bronze Delfeth landed. G’mar unclipped himself mechanically from his saddle and slid clumsily down Delfeth’s side, where Daena met him and ushered him inside. I later learned that W’sor of green Vurth had been hit by Thread while he was throwing firestone to G’mar. G’mar had watched him get hit and then disappear between, never to be seen again. He took it hard.
- The next day, G’mar called a meeting of all Wingleaders and announced that we didn’t yet have enough dragons to form three Wings. Instead, we were going to assign our new weyrlings to Timor and Belior Wings and let them ride heavy. He asked us to please keep a close eye on all of them, so we could get a good feel for them and place them wisely when the time comes – which would be soon.
- After the meeting, G’mar asked if I had requested additional riders for Faranth’s Wing from Telgar or High Reaches yet. When I admitted that I hadn’t, he suggested that I do so. When asked, he wouldn’t suggest recruiting more riders from Fort Weyr or Benden Weyr because they were almost guaranteed to send them – probably a bronze or a pushy brown who would expect to have a strong influence on the Wing. Igen Weyr might also be willing to contribute one or two more riders, but I already had my hands full dealing with the one Igen rider I already had. Did I really want more?
- Following G’mar’s advice, I sent letters to D’fel of bronze Sevenath and J’lared of bronze Vaergeth later that day. I received a scrawled letter back from J’lared almost immediately. It said he wasn’t against the idea, but that he had his hands more than full right now with Jelira and Morianith’s clutch of 19 eggs on the hatching sands. He’d address my request when he was less busy. I received a dismayingly brief letter back from D’fel that night stating simply that he would take my request under advisement.
- T’grim apprehensively approached me the next day with a message: Weyrwoman Vanorica would be more predisposed to give me another rider if I were to come visit with them at Telgar Weyr and spend more time with their Junior Weyrwoman, Mikala. Mikala was beautiful and I had learned during my last visit that we got along surprisingly well – both in and out of bed. She was strong-willed and independent, traits I find attractive in a woman, and also has a strong nurturing streak similar to my own. It was a little embarrassing, but I agreed to the Weyrwoman’s terms. I let them schedule a time, so I wouldn’t be unnecessarily underfoot and Mikala would be at her most fertile. When I wasn’t with Mikala, I spent time with Dagmar and – per his request – performing in the Lower Caverns for their staff.
- All too soon, it was time for Ista Weyr to fly Fall again. This time, the weyrlings flew trailing edge. The Weyr was again on high alert; Valenth and I paced the ledges near the Starstones until they returned. There were some minor injuries, but nothing major or life-threatening. I knew something was wrong as soon as T’vin and bronze Kelovith flew into the Bowl. T’vin was haggard, his face drawn and impossibly tired, and Kelovith was obviously off-color. I ran to my adopted brother but he pushed me away. I stood aside while he mustered the small Wing he’d been leading on cleanup sweeps and paced angrily before them. “We push it right up to the line between can and cannot. You can’t force yourself or your dragon to go beyond your limits. It’s your duty, your obligation, to know yours – and to warn your leaders when you reach them. Talent flames a clump, but teamwork clears the sky.” He squared his jaw and looked out over his riders, all of them seeming painfully young to my eyes. “P’sal was afraid to fail his Wing for one Fall. Now he’s going to fail for all of them. Dismissed.”
- T’vin fell apart once we were alone. G’mar had warned him to not get attached to his wingriders, and especially not to weyrlings – but he had anyway, and now he felt like he was going to die of heartbreak. He gave me the same warning, but all I could do was nod solemnly. “G’mar’s right. You’re right. I shouldn’t get attached… but it’s too late for me on that score.” I shrugged helplessly, “I’m just going to have to deal with the hurt.” He nodded and hugged me tightly, swearing that he would be there for me when the time came.
- I stayed with T’vin for a long time, until he felt collected enough to return to Senesta. Then I had to go comfort Valenth, who was mourning the loss of Elaruth.
- A few days later, Shireya and Kevlen asked for firelizards over dinner. Naturally, Kevlen wanted a bronze just like mine. Thinking quickly, I promised that I would give them their pick of firelizard eggs in a few Turns – and once they had proven they could handle the responsibility by helping me take care of Chance. I was totally sincere. I seriously doubted that they would still have an interest in, or the time for, firelizards when they Impressed or joined a Hall in a few Turns, but I would be more than happy to get them a firelizard egg if they still did.
- Soon the day came for the weyrlings to fly Queen’s Wing. Valenth and I were both moody that day, worried for the weyrlings and resentful about not being allowed to fly and help keep them safe. We had chafed for months and months at not being allowed to fly Fall because I am too valuable, because Faranth’s Wing’s mission is too important to risk. Months of frustration finally flared into anger at the thought of weyrlings being injured – or even killed – because G’mar refused to let Valenth and me perform the most fundamental job, the birthright of any dragonrider.
- My anger was so strong, so focused, that Daena felt it and sent B’dir to see what was wrong. I tried to play off what I was feeling and send him away, but he wasn’t having any of it. He was my adopted older brother, and he insisted I tell him what was wrong. He listened intently while I explained why I was so angry, and nodded when I finished. He clasped me on the shoulder and assured me that we – not just me, but we – would badger G’mar into letting me fly combat. If he wouldn’t allow it, then we would go somewhere that would. Weyrleader R’ker of Igen, for example, would never dream impinging a dragonrider’s honor by saying that he wasn’t allowed to fly Threadfall. If he did, his own bronzeriders would rebel. They might even kill him in an honor duel if he pressed the issue. We could press the issue with G’mar – and take it further, if need be – whenever I was ready.
- A few weeks later, Norilla died peacefully in her bed of old age. She had been Headwoman for as long as I could remember, and I had grown up under her stern gaze – and under the watchful eyes of her two firelizard spies, green Agate and blue Bolt. Norilla had been an intrinsic part of Ista Weyr, one of its several hearts, for decades. I had known she was extremely old and had been sleeping more and more the last few months, but her death still rocked me. I had every confidence in Oswina as Headwoman, especially since she had already been acting in that capacity for several Turns, but it still felt like the ending of an era.
- G’van was keeping vigil over Norilla’s body when I went to pay my respects. Even without using my Talent, I could tell the aging Weyrlingmaster needed to talk, so I sat beside him and listened for a good, long while – until his supply of Norilla stories started to run low.
- Norilla had been even more of a mother to his generation that she had been to mine. She’d been Searched but hadn’t Impressed, and decided to stay at Ista Weyr anyway because it was so much better than where she’d come from. She’d been born in a small, isolated cothold so backwards that they didn’t believe in teaching girls to read. She’d learned anyway by “secretly” watching while the travelling Harper taught her brothers to read at the other end of the table. As a result, she’d had a hard time reading text that wasn’t upside down when she first came to Ista Weyr. In spite of her upbringing, or maybe because of it, Norilla refused to be hidebound. She believed in keeping traditions that were still valuable, and “the rest are just bad habits.”
- Despite having many suitors in her prime, Norilla had never married. Was this because she never wanted a man to overshadow her, to have dominion over her, again? Daena said it was because she was married to the Weyr and wanted to be there for everyone. G’van secretly wondered if it was because Daena and Norilla had been best friends, and Norilla didn’t want to take a husband when her best friend would never be allowed to choose her own man.
- Remembering Norilla and Garoway’s friendship, I played a selection of her favorite songs on his guitar in the Lower Caverns that night. I think they both would have liked that.
- Shireya and Kevlen insisted on coming with T’ria and me to hunt for firelizard eggs in late spring. I watched with an odd mix of pride and nostalgia as Kevlin chased young wherries away from the firelizards’ cliffside nests using a sharpened stick as a sword. Shireya didn’t want to climb the steep, crumbling cliffs but Kevlin was excited at the prospect. We gathered a number of eggs that day, and for as long as I live I will never forget how the two of us skidded and slid down a cliff face in the face of an angry Queen firelizard’s wrath, running as she and some of her faire clawed and nipped at us, and eventually fell to the ground puffing and laughing together at the success of our audacious heist.
- Gil was moved by my offer of a firelizard egg, but he didn’t want one because he’s too busy right now to raise one – and because he’s afraid it might jump between and join him somewhere dangerous or toxic. Master Lancaster was delighted when I delivered his. I later learned that he had named his blue firelizard Pounce. Master Dragonhealer Shonara was deeply in love with all of dragonkind, so she nearly wept when I offered her one. She named her green firelizard Sage, after one of her favorite herbs. Master Healer Rianne also refused my offer of an egg, stating reasons very similar to Gil’s. Master Jeralyn had always wanted a firelizard more intelligent and capable than Rondo and would have had the Marks to buy one for himself if he didn’t spend almost all of them rescuing children, so I gave him one. He named his brown firelizard Rowdy. After much thought, I also offered one to Commander Mordecan of Syfrin Valley. He graciously accepted, and allowed all of his officers to be present when the firelizard hatched. It Impresed on Captain Carrick, an army captain from the hidden garrison nearby. A couple of weeks later, I received a letter from Commander Mordecan thanking me and Faranth’s Wing for this show of material support for Syfrin Valley. I gave two of the firelizard eggs to G’mar to trade for political capitol, and sold the remaining six to our Trader for about twelve hundred Marks. I saved a few of these Marks to give to my wingriders, but gave the vast majority to G’mar. Ista Weyr’s finances had already been tight from the last clutch of weyrlings, and we were about to have eggs on the sand again.
- A few days later, I noticed our recently-graduated dragonriders cleaning out many of Ista’s upper-level weyrs. I asked G’mar what was going on, but he laughed and said that I didn’t have to know every single happening at Ista Weyr. I’d understand soon enough.
- Since we were obviously going to have guests, I kept my Wing from gossiping too much by busying them cleaning themselves and their uniforms, their ragons, and their weyrs.
- Later that day, a mix of blue and green dragonriders, four from Fort and ten from Benden, arrived. Some of them had a good bit of baggage, more than enough for a short stay. They gathered and then solemnly walked to the Senior Queen’s ledge, where Daena and Liviath met them. We couldn’t hear what was said from where we watched, and I didn’t dare use my Talent to eavesdrop. When they were done speaking, the foreign dragonriders offered their rank knots to our Weyrwoman. They were offering their fealty. Ista Weyr was being reinforced.
- Word was sent down to the Living Caverns to prepare for a banquet, and our Wingleaders visited the new riders one by one as they ate to invite them to join our Wings. By the end of the meal, their strength had been added to that of Belior and Timor Wings. This brought our number of fighting dragons up to 75, enough for a light Flight – a first for Ista Weyr in many, many Turns.
- The air was thick with gossip, among the humans and especially between the dragons. They had already started establishing their new dominance hierarchy.
- I performed a few sets in the Lower Caverns, since it provided a good opportunity to see and be seen, both by our recently-graduated dragonriders and by our latest additions from Fort and Benden.
- L’nos drank a couple shots of alcohol to steady his nerves and then approached the transfers from Fort Weyr. They gratefully accepted his offer of an explanation of how things work here at Ista Weyr, since he had transferred here less than a Turn ago himself.
- Between sets, I approached N’lan and asked him to do the same thing for the riders from Benden Weyr. He immediately agreed, but said he’d be more comfortable teaching the Wingseconds of Belior and Timor Wings and letting them teach their riders. I agreed.
- Toward the end of the night, G’van came over to speak quietly with me while I strummed out a soft tune on my guitar. He said that G’mar had to time all of this very carefully, so that the transfers arrived after our own weyrlings had graduated but before we again had eggs on the sand. Fort and Benden had also reinforced Telgar and Igen Weyrs, although they hadn’t received as many riders as we had.
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