Return to Red Star Rising Chapter Four

Red Star Rising

Author: Naeryn
Rating: G
Disclaimer: Pern, Thread, Pernese dragons, Weyrs, and all other Pern-related things/people/ideas are copyright Anne McCaffrey. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit is being made from this.
...Oh yeah, and Joss owns Willow and Tara. Bastard.

Tara let out a soft sigh, falling backwards onto her soft bed in the candidate barracks. It had been a grueling day. After the weyrling lessons, which she was pleased to find she caught on to very quickly, she would have sworn she changed every glow in the entire Weyr. After that there'd been more to do, going through the storage rooms and chucking out any spoiled food. She didn't mind, of course. She had to pull her weight like everyone else, but... it was exhausting.

She stared at the stone ceiling, her eyes tracing a faint pattern in the rock. The inside of the barracks was mostly smooth, not rough-hewn like the caverns at High Reaches, Igen and the others were supposed to be. But still, just over her head, there was a faint sort of undulation in the stone that made her think of waves crashing on a beach. If she focused on it for a moment and then closed her eyes, she could almost hear it, smell the salt in the air. Tara had been to the ocean once, on a trip with her father to inspect the smaller holds under his control.

One of her first friends had been made at Garren Hold. Winnie, her name had been. A whip thin girl, smaller than Tara in body but a few inches taller. She'd had the largest, softest doe eyes Tara had ever seen. Lit up like new glows when she got excited, tore at the heartstrings when she was sad. They'd run around together for the three or four days she'd been there, and had cried at their departure. She sighed, remembering her friend. Winnie had been killed, caught out in Threadfall. The dragons had stopped flaming because all the Thread was over the ocean, where it would drown and could do no harm... or they thought. All they'd found of her had been her small beltknife, of course. The only things Thread didn't consume were metal and stone.

Mine? Are you well? Naliath's tone was one of a faint concern. She wasn't overly worried, however. If something was seriously wrong, she would know. That big bronze, Rayenth, and his would be on their way already.

It's... I don't know. I saw a lot today, Naliath. Everyone's been here for so much longer than I have. They've all made friends already... I feel a little lonely is all. Tara curled around so she was lying on her side, feet tucked up behind her on the bed, so she could look into Naliath's calmly whirling eyes.

But you have me, Mine.

And I wouldn't trade you for anything in the world, love. But... I don't know. It's not quite the same thing as having a human friend. Someone you can talk to, share secrets with. Dragons think differently, it's not the same.

What about Sapphith's, Rieundoth's and Seboreth's? They seem nice.

Tara couldn't resist smiling at the way Naliath insisted on referring to each rider by their dragon. She found it irresistibly adorable in the small golden queen. She reached out and touched Naliath's wingtip lightly, a soothing contact.

Oh, they're nice enough. But they're their own little group... I'd be intruding. There just doesn't seem to be anyone for me around here.

What about Rayenth's?

The weyrlingmaster? Oh, I don't know. I mean, she's so much more experienced than I am, and she's probably really busy. I doubt she'd have time for me.

Naliath gave what could almost be considered a draconic grin, the corners of her wide mouth turning up just a fraction, as far as they would go. The queen decided to remain mute on the issue, at least for the time being.

Another soft sigh bubbled from Tara's lips and she rolled over to stare at the wave in the rock again. It seemed to call her. She'd heard there was a small lake nearby; maybe, Tara thought, she'd go there when she had some free time. Smiling a little at that thought, she closed her eyes and drifted off into a dreamless slumber.

Willow folded her arms under her head, lying back on the two-person-sized bed in her weyr. She was happy, so far, with the new group of weyrlings. They were smart, attentive. She didn't dare believe, of course, that she wouldn't lose any in the first trip between... but that was a long way off.

Threadfall was due in Fort Weyr's beholden in three days. Willow smiled softly. She loved flying Thread, in spite of - or perhaps because of - the danger involved. If Thread hit you, you were pretty much guaranteed a massive scar, and if that was all you got, you were lucky. She'd seen riders pop between to duck Thread, only to come out in a tangle of it. It was a horrifying way to go.

The older group of riders would be on firestone duty, ferrying bags of the brownish black rock to the fighting wings. She thought she'd probably put Nirra and brown Mileth on the lead. She smiled, the girl had been so proud when her younger sister, Rinna, had also Impressed a brown in this round. She was a good leader, and a good mediator. Willow nodded to herself. She'd put Nirra in charge of the weyrlings' wing, and see how she took the responsibility.

The new group of weyrlings would assist the dragonhealer. There tended to be a lot of injuries during Threadfall, some of them bad enough to take a dragon permanently out of the fighting wings, placing him on watchdragon duty at a hold. Kellon could always use some help. She wondered how the new riders would take it. Some of them, being weyrbred, would have seen it already, dealt with the fear and horror that went along with seeing the keening of dragons in pain, riders with whole limbs seared off... though that was rare. Fort's wings were exceptionally well trained, fatalities and maiming injuries didn't happen that often.

Willow smiled softly. Already she had an idea who would freak out and who wouldn't. Some of them, she knew, would have a real problem dealing with the rawness of Threadfall, and all that it meant. But one or two, she suspected, would deal with it well. That group of new greenriders, Ilirrie, Shannen and Lianne. They would take it in stride, the way they seemed to take everything. Tara, too, she knew would have only one impulse, to take care of the injured. It was always a telling time however, and occasionally Willow had been wrong about the way people would react. Somehow, it wasn't something you could really calculate.

She frowned a little, thinking about Tara. Something about her seemed to draw Willow in, and she wasn't sure why, or what it meant. It was a little unnerving. She was just so desperately shy, it was almost difficult to think of her as an adult, let alone a goldrider. But then, even in the short time since she'd dropped Tara off with Lanora, she'd seen changes. Impression did that to you. Brought you out of your shell, leveled your head, made you walk a little taller and speak a little louder. Knowing that you always had someone to back you up, no matter what... it did amazing things to a person.

Rolling her head to the side, Willow took in Rayenth, curled up in his stone couch, fast asleep. The great bronze did love to sleep, and lie in the sun... but he reveled in flying Thread as much as she did, bugling and bellowing as he flamed away. Willow had been known to let out a scream in the heat of the moment, too. No one ever really expected it, though she'd been enjoying herself immensely in it for some years now. She was so calm, cool and collected when not in the fighting wings, it took everyone by surprise that she could be so utterly untamed. She lost any and all trace of selfconsciousness, she knew that she fit when she was flying. She was free, completely. So why shouldn't she let go a little?

Inwardly, Willow suspected Tara would do a little of the same. Not to the extent she did, of course, but some. The blonde reminded Willow of herself, before she'd Impressed Rayenth. Quiet, shy, mousy, afraid of her own shadow. Tara was obviously a different person, with different traits and personality, but Willow knew that she'd lose herself in flying. That was always one of her favorite lessons, the first flying lesson... the look on the weyrlings' faces when they landed was priceless.

She smiled again, thinking about what lay in store for the weyrlings under her. Tomorrow was a new day, a new lesson. She couldn't wait.

Closing her eyes, she slipped into a calm sleep, an image of a smiling blonde flashing through her mind.

Continue to Red Star Rising Chapter Six

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