- The bronze dragonriders suddenly had their hands full sorting out multiple minor – and sometimes not-so-minor – scuffles each day. Our freshly-minted dragonriders thought they had rank because they were from Ista Weyr, while the transfers from Fort and Benden Weyrs thought they had rank because they had more Turns of experience. Valenth watched these proceedings from a prominent ledge with intense interest and unusual focus, but didn’t get involved. When I asked him why he was so interested, what he was doing, the only answer I could get was a frustrating, “Dragon things.”
- I had grown up in a dying Weyr, knowing and being known by every single dragonrider and all support staff. It felt odd and more than little disconcerting to realize that this had changed. In less than another two Turns, Ista would have a full Flight of combat-capable dragons. I knew only about half of them, and some of those not very well. I was sorely tempted to brood on this, to resent the changes coming to my home, but slowly realized that being angry about change wouldn’t help anything. I should’ve been happy that Ista Weyr had come back to life, not angry.
- Instead of hiding in my weyr, I made a point of spending at least a few hours a week performing in the Lower Caverns and getting to know our new dragonriders.
- Eventually, Liviath started clutching. Seliana went into labor and gave birth a few days after that. Chance and River popped from between chirping excitedly when her water broke. The contractions lasted a little over five hours, during which she walked slowly around her quarters, talked with me, and sometimes had me play music for her. The initial contractions were followed by five hours of increasingly difficult and painful labor. It was absolutely awful seeing her in that much pain, but the Healers didn’t want to risk giving her drugs if they didn’t absolutely have to and I had been warned about the dangers of helping her with my Talent. Late in the night, she gave birth to an eight pound, 20″ baby boy with gray eyes and a tiny wisp of brown hair that we named Garrin – taking the first syllable of my father’s name, as is common tradition in the Weyrs.
- I stayed with Seliana and Garrin in her quarters for the next couple of days, until L’nos told me that I needed to start eating with Faranth’s Wing in the Living Caverns again. After that, I couldn’t help but notice that B’dir and L’nos were making a concerted effort to limit my time with Seliana and Garrin. They allowed me a few hours with them each day, which I spent mostly studying Dragonhealing with Seliana at first because little Garrin slept so much. She had never been taught how to learn and retain information like we had been in Harper Hall, so schooling her in these skills made learning Dragonhealing worlds easier for her.
- A couple days later, T’grim reported that D’fel’s bronze Sevenath had won a mating flight with Weyrwoman Vanorica’s gold Mirakith. I was relieved to hear that D’fel, the most vocal proponent for Faranth’s Wing, was still Weyrleader of Telgar.
- Liviath delighted everyone by laying a gold egg on the ninth day of her clutching. This was especially surprising because most of her eggs showed signs of her age, and I overheard the Dragonhealers quietly discussing amongst themselves that it needed to be her last clutch.
- When it was all said and done, Liviath surprised everyone by laying sixteen eggs over twenty-two days. Realizing how stressful this time was for Daena and G’mar, I made a point of being there for them during this time. I drank, gambled, and philosophized with G’mar. When private musical performances and discussions of books we’d read failed to distract Daena, I arranged for Shireya and Kevlen to return to Ista Weyr for a few weeks. The twins, especially Shireya, distracted Daena when nothing else would. I distracted “pawpaw” G’mar by pointing out that he and I should spend extra time with Kevlen, so he didn’t feel left out because of all the special attention his sister was receiving. It was also good to show Shireya and Kevlen that I still loved them and wanted them in my life, even now that Garrin had been born.
- A couple of weeks later, G’mar set a date to formally promote T’vin. Since I’m T’vin’s best friend and closest confidant after Senesta, I arranged his promotion party. He wanted to go drinking in a Hold anonymously one last time, before he was promoted to Wingleader and had to set a good example. I worked with my other adopted brothers, B’dir and L’nos, to arrange an appropriately disreputable adventure at Keroon Hold – where I was still well-known and held in high-esteem. It was the kind of outing that Senesta never, ever needed to know about.
- Ista Weyr held a huge day-long party to celebrate T’vin’s promotion to Wingleader and the Founding of Baynos Wing. G’mar gave a good speech talking about how proud he was to see Ista Weyr coming back to life, and welcoming the dozens of new support personnel we had added over the last Turn – many of whom were children and grandchildren of former weyrfolk. He concluded by advising against ever giving in to fear: “Fear doesn’t prevent death. It prevents life.”
“It is a great honor to preside over the founding of a new wing, an honor that Weyrleaders rarely get to experience. It is an even greater honor to share this special day with the family that made it possible.
Among the people that I want to welcome to this ceremony are the new members of our ground crew. Some of them are children and grandchildren of men and women who have served Ista Weyr with distinction. I also want to welcome all of the support personnel who work tirelessly to keep us flying through Fall, fog and fire.
At the end of the last Pass, four hundred and fifty seven Turns ago, our Weyr began a gradual decline. The Red Star retreated in the sky until it could barely be seen at night. Pern believed that our ancient foe had been defeated. By the time that Threads returned, a Weyr built to fly two hundred and fifty dragons was home to fifty one.
We began this Pass with two bronze dragons and a single queen. It was not enough. D’nol, ‘Rona, S’ned, and S’deri were the first loses. Our Weyrwoman, Daena, rose to the challenge. Beautiful gold Liviath gave us a dozen dragons to bolster our ranks and a new young queen. Senesta’s Maranath has now given us a dozen more. From these hatchings comes new strength and renewed hope.
Seven Turns of Threadfall have taken their toll, but we have learned an important lesson — Fear doesn’t prevent death, it prevents life. Today, we stand together, challenging each other to be the best dragonriders and weyrfolk that Pern has ever seen.
Bronze rider T’vin, Baynos Wing is yours. May Baynos Wing fly with strength and honor.”
- A couple of days later, B’dir dropped by Seliana’s quarters to tell me that G’mar had asked Faranth’s Wing to fly Queen’s Wing during Baynos Wing’s first Threadfall. Absolutely furious, Seliana nearly snarled at him, “No. Absolutely not. It’s too soon.” I had never seen her so angry before, but B’dir seemed completely unruffled. He replied calmly but firmly, “That may be, but he’s going to do it anyway. Orders. Blame G’mar, or me if you have to. But your man’s a dragonrider. A Wingleader. He’s going to do his duty.” He turned and left without another word. Instead of shouting after him, she started crying silently – trying not to wake Garrin. She clung tightly to me when I went to hold her, and whispered desperately, “Oh, K’brin. Please don’t die. Don’t. I couldn’t take it. Especially not now.” I held her close, stroked her hair, and assured her that I was one of the best dragonriders that Ista Weyr had. And Valenth was the most impressive – and increasingly cunning – dragons I’d ever heard of, much less met. I promised her that we would come home, no matter what. It was not lost on me that B’dir had intentionally directed her anger at G’mar and himself, instead of at me.
- A few short weeks later, G’mar gave orders to begin Search. T’ria asked me to come with her, but I initially refused. I was a Talent, not really a Search rider – and I had inadvertently skewed the results of Maranath’s last clutch towards Talents, especially ones with at least a little musical skill. More importantly, having and raising my own children had given me a vastly different perspective on standing the sands. Shireya and Kevlen were only three or four years away from being the optimal age for Impression, and two additional Turns away from being ready to fly Threadfall. They seemed much, much too young. Secretly, I had always dreamed of being a dragonrider – but I didn’t like the thought of any of my children flying into combat. At all. So I wasn’t comfortable choosing other people’s children to do it, either.
- T’ria seemed baffled by my refusal to fly Search with her, but retreated without arguing the point. L’nos showed up about an hour later, closed the door, and asked me what was going on. Whatever I had done to find candidates before had obviously worked because literally every candidate I had Searched last time had Impressed, and one of them – B’tron of brown Golanth – seemed like he’d make a good Wingsecond, maybe even a troubleshooter, one day. Before I could really explain why I was reluctant to fly Search this time, he continued, “Look, I know you might have some reservations. My dad told me that becoming a father really changed how he thought about things. But whatever your reservations are, don’t you want to have a hand in choosing the people who will be flying with Shireya and Kevlen? For their entire lives? You and I both know that they’re going to Impress. Shards, all of Ista Weyr knows it. Don’t you want to choose the absolute best people you can find to fight beside them, to watch their backs when things get ugly?” I still didn’t like the thought of putting my, or other people’s, children in danger but I couldn’t argue his reason. After a few moments of intense soul-searching, I nodded, “You’re right. I’ll do it. Let’s go.”
- T’ria, L’nos, and I were given Nerat Hold’s territory this time, mostly because a lot of the people there were still resentful toward dragonriders and I was both tough and diplomatic enough to handle any issues that might come up. T’ria and L’nos found a couple of candidates in the lesser Holds scattered across Nerat.
- I reached out with my Talent, extending it gently across the land in a way I would have never envisioned before I met the Kameni. I meditated, quieting my mind, and felt gently for people who would make good dragonriders – not specifically Talents. I found two candidates in small, obscure cotholds who didn’t seem to be Talents, but who Selenath and Senranth took an instant liking to. I couldn’t really tell you what I had searched for, other than a general feeling, but T’ria and especially L’nos took Senranth’s hearty endorsement of my candidates as unarguable proof that they had been right in bringing me on Search.
- Late summer gave way to early Autumn alarmingly fast.
- In early Autumn, I received a formal invitation from Benden Weyr for Valenth to fly in gold Ryleneth’s mating flight. Faranth’s Wing would be leaving for Varlada in a few short weeks, so Valenth couldn’t stay at Benden Weyr to protect Ryleneth while she laid and clutched her eggs. When I casually mentioned during a staff meeting that I was planning to decline the invitation, ‘Zana couldn’t hide her expression of shocked dismay. When I asked her about it after the meeting, she haltingly admitted that she had hoped that she and I would still go. Valenth would help insure that Ryleneth had a good mating flight by providing serious competition to whichever brown dragon really wanted to win – and she and I could spend a romantic few days together. She also casually mentioned that this would send a very clear message to her mother, Weyrwoman Shanira. In retrospect, I probably should have asked exactly what that message was – since I had already promised that I would like to have a child with ‘Zana as soon as she could be spared from Faranth’s Wing. At the time, though, I agreed to go with her simply because I loved and respected her. I didn’t want to disappoint her, especially since she asked for very little in return for everything she did for me and Faranth’s Wing.
- All too soon, our dragons started humming to announce the Hatching was imminent. Ista Weyr flooded with an almost overwhelming sense of positive optimism. When Valenth sensed my lingering reservations about attending the Hatching because we would be Impressing dragons to such young children, he stopped and stared at me with slowly whirling blue eyes. He was eager to attend the Hatching and asked why I wasn’t. When I explained, I felt him touch my mind – more deeply than normal – and then he replied slowly, deliberately, “All dragons, all riders of Ista Weyr want to choose good candidates. Ones like you. Ones who want to be Dragonriders. Ones who will love their dragons and be loved in return. We all do this. Together.” He made a longer pause, I felt him gently delve deeply into my mind again before he concluded thoughtfully. “We need you. You’re a very important part of Ista Weyr. Don’t ask us to do this without you. Please, K’brin.”
- I was stunned into silence. I had never heard Valenth assemble such complex thoughts before, and before that moment I had thought dragons literally incapable of assembling a thought-out argument before. He sensed this, too, and replied, “You’re strange. I’m strange. We’re perfect for one another. Doesn’t that make you happy?” I instantly agreed. I had never been more proud of Valenth, more awed by him, than at that moment. I had just been caught off guard by his words. Valenth rumbled with dragon laughter and replied thoughtfully, “You shouldn’t be. I hear when you read the Kameni things. I listen and I learn. And I see things when you’re sleeping. I see things in your dreams.” I walked over to rest my forehead against Valenth’s and asked quietly, “Valenth, when did you grow so wise? Of course I’ll help with the Hatching. We have to choose good partners for our dragons.”
- I immediately contacted G’van and V’lir to volunteer our services for the Hatching. G’van gladly put me to work ferrying people to and from the Hatching Grounds. When the time grew near, Valenth claimed a spot among the bronzes of Ista Weyr while I found a good viewing spot for Seliana and myself in the stands.
- I held Seliana in my arms as we watched the Hatching, all of Ista Weyr awash in feelings of pride, hope, and happy optimism about the future. Reflecting on what Valenth said, I suddenly couldn’t help but see this Hatching – like every Hatching before it – as a reenactment of Sean and Sorka’s story. Of Pern’s first story. And as the fulfillment of their hope, their promise, of a better life not just for themselves but also for their dragons.
- Even without the Ring of Voices or other Phrenium, I could still dimly sense the intense emotions of our dragons. Valenth hadn’t been wrong. The dragons of Ista Weyr felt a desire to be bonded so strong that it became a primal need, and worried for the newly-hatched dragonlings until they found the right candidate and Impressed.
- There were no duds, despite the signs of age on some of Liviath’s final eggs. By the end of the night, Ista Weyr had added to its ranks:
- Gold Verdeth looking to Arliasa
- 2 Bronzes
- 2 Browns
- 5 Blues
- 6 Greens
- Valenth eagerly pointed out that both of the candidates I had chosen had Impressed, one to a bronze and one to a green. He smugly concluded that, together, we were as good as any Search rider.
- Daena and G’mar were extremely proud, since one gold, two bronzes, and two browns coming from one clutch was impressive – especially from such a small one.
- V’lir contacted me and a few other people after the Hatching to invite us to a small private party with G’van, S’van, and a few other Oldtimers and senior dragonriders. He opened with a toast to Ista Weyr and our auspicious Hatching, and then announced that he was officially stepping down as Assistant Weyrlingmaster. S’van would be taking his place, with the intention of eventually being promoted to Weyrlingmaster one day. We toasted them, as well.