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Joined: 26-December 07
As with all great tales, this particular one involves not only love and loss, but a struggle of wills, a test of courage and loyalty. This is the tale of two Weyrs. One, to the north, a titan of military might, and one to the south, sly in its ways and words. Telgar and Ista. Always striving against the other, leaving all of Pern to feel the heat of blood spilt on virgin soil. This is tale of the two Weyrs, and the one to flee to the South to shield. This is the tale of Iayla Weyr.
As with every day, as with every hour and every moment, the tension hovered over the Weyr, a palpable weight on the hearts and minds of those within. Hardheaded Lords plagued the Weyrs with complaints. The injured filled the Infirmary with their lowing. The Stores seemed a grain away from starvation. The tithes seemed smaller and smaller. But these were not the troubles that festered in the minds and hearts of the riders of Ista. These were commonplace, simple fixes. No. These were not issues troubling the Weyr.
It was Telgar.
For decades, centuries into the longest Interval Pern had ever seen, after the Weyrs integrated in an attempt to increase their numbers, leaving only Telgar and Ista to harbor the dragons, something was wrong. Though the golden queens Rose and Clutched, they could not bolster the flagging numbers in the Weyrs. If they wanted to survive this Interval, both Weyrs would need to join together to keep their dragons alive, especially as Telgar’s remaining queen, Senior Islarth, abandoned her Clutch hardening on the Sands, leaving no queen egg to replace her. It seemed Telgar must look to Ista for respite from its imminent demise, or face the doom of dragon kind.
But the prides in Telgar would never allow for such a thing. And as such, they plotted and manipulated the Lords and Ladies of the Holds, recruited men and boys alike to the Weyr, and stole the queen egg laying on Istan Sands. That was the cause for the tension in the air of Ista, the sense of foreboding.
A tension still felt, after two hundred turns of joint hatred.
As Iayla walked her usuall route to the Kitchens, avoiding any and all ranking riders as possible, her thoughts were wild, contrasting with the steadiness of her features. Fresh from Wing practice, she intended to get a bite to eat before the cooks closed the noon meal service. But even with her stomach protesting its emptiness, she paid it no mind. Eating was natural, instinctive. What she was planning was not. Going against her Weyr. Was she insane? Was she mad? She hoped not. If only for the sake of those joining her.
She passed the Sands in her route, the life giving cavern of heat and eggs. The Sands were occupied then, by one of Ista’s two remaining queens. They used to have four, but one’s rider was murdered during what was supposed to be a neutral Gather, while the other queen was stolen as a Weyrling by Telgar. Now, two remained.
The eggs were hardening on the Sands, guarded by the clutching queen and no fewer than three bronzes, one of them the mate of the clutching queen. There was a queen egg on the Sands, and there was no way Telgar was getting this one. Especially since Ista stole their last one to get the second queen. It was a good thing Julieth was too young to Fly, or her rider Tara might never be able to follow Iayla and her “rebellion” to the South.
Iayla passed by the Sands entrance, avoiding the gazes of the bronzeriders and the Weyrwoman standing there near the eggs. In her turns of riding green, Iayla had learned one thing: never get in the way of an annoyed bronzerider. And the three of them looked plenty annoyed, the Weyrwoman agitated. Had there been an attempt for the queen egg already? It wouldn’t surprise her. With Ista hanging on by its toenails, Telgar would do anything to strike the killing blow upon the diminishing Weyr. And if Ista was forced to coalesce with Telgar for survival, there was no telling the brutality of the Telgar riders towards Istan ones, the women especially. Shells, Istan riders were cruel to Istan women. It came with the frustration of the war. Iayla was glad her Sylleth was not due to Rise any time soon.
“I’m telling you to forget about it,” came a voice from the Sands.
“How, D’rent? My dragon’s clutch was threatened and you want me to forget about it?” Apparently, the Weyrwoman was a little more than angry. She was furious. And at her Weyrleader no less. Iayla sensed trouble afoot. Never would D’rent tell the Weyrwoman to forget the transgressions of Telgar unless he had something in mind.
“Silence, woman!” Iayla had to hide a flinch. The fury in his voice was enough to quell even the Weyrwoman, and send shivers down Iayla’s spine. She hurried past the Sands entrance. No use being caught for eavesdropping on a conversation that “didn’t concern her.” It would jeopardize her plans. Thankfully, the Kitchens were not far from the Sands, just past the Weyrling Barracks and the large cavern opened to the aromas of stringy wherry and scorched klah. But it was better than nothing.
“How can we survive off this?” came a familiar voice as she entered into the mercifully loud—and full—Kitchens. Iayla turned her head to the rider who spoke, a familiar bluerider who had thrown his fork down in frustration. “I’m a rider, for Faranth’s sake. I deserve better than this!”
“You won’t get better if you don’t shutup, J’ton,” Iayla said as she passed behind him, giving the bluerider a pointed look. In that look he understood. And stayed quiet. Along with the rest of the small group around him. There was an empty seat there, and that’s where Iayla sat after getting what dregs remained of the stew the cooks had made. There, the small group talked of minor things, weather, health, dragons. But always there was an undercurrent, hidden beneath the harmless words. This was Iayla’s band. Granted, several were missing, namely Tara and a bronze Weyrling Iayla forgot the name of, though several riders were out on scout duty or sweeps. Yes. This was Iayla’s band. And they were getting out of this hell-hole whether the Weyrleaders liked it or not.
The night was quiet, the type of silence during war, the deafening absence of sound. It was as if every creature on Pern had gone silent. Nothing broke this stifling darkness save the twin moons overhead, one waxing, the other waning. A fitting portent. The sky was clear this night, the stars shining brightly but offering no light to those below. A scrabble of rocks echoed in the death-still night.
“Shhh!” came an irritated voice. The offending dragon looked at his paw, making an even bigger racket as he moved it off the small pile of rubble he had stepped in. “Lorteth! Be quiet!” This from Tara as she silently moved a pack of supplies from the ground to the back of her gold. Julieth was barely old enough to fly, and she was just barely bigger than the brown present. In fact, they had just taken their first flights the previous day. It would be up to the others to guide them Between.
“Quiet all of you,” Iayla whispered hoarsely. Technically, the brownrider with them outranked her, but she didn’t really care at the moment. They were all acting like sun-crazed wherries. The one bronzerider joining them had yet to show his handsome mug and Iayla was just beginning to worry. All throughout this planning she had worried whether someone would find out, if someone would betray them all and curse them to a life dragonless. But so far, nothing had happened. Iayla was just starting to believe they might be able to pull this coup off. She tightened a strap on Sylleth’s harness, tying a bundle there.
The Bowl was quiet. The Kitchens were quiet. Shells, even the queen on the Sands was quiet. It seemed to be going too perfectly, a fact that Iayla did not mind one bit. She had been in a constant state of tension for the past month or more, all for this night, this chance. If they pulled this off, they would be free of both Ista and Telgar. Finally free.
Yes, ‘Mine, Sylleth said, nuzzling her rider affectionately. We shall be free.
Is all prepared? came the voice of Julieth to everyone’s skull, even the riders’. Iayla looked around to everyone, checking their expressions, their dragons’ postures. All seemed ready. Tara especially, already mounted and waiting for the others. She hated being known as the girl who rode the stolen queen. That would change this night. No longer would she be bound to Istan riders. She would be her own rider.
Raising her arm, Tara checked once more that all were in attendance. Thirty four riders total, thirty four riders from both Weyrs, Telgar and Ista, all searching for solace, watched her closely. Even though she was a Weyrling still, she rode queen. And all dragons followed a queen. Iayla swung herself to her dragon, latching her harness to the fighting straps. Everyone used their fighting straps. They had no idea what they would meet in the South. But it was their hope for safety, for refuge. They were all willing to fight anything for that chance. Tara looked about once more, making sure all were ready.
This was it. They were getting out. This crazy scheme was actually going to work. In dead silence the riders waited for their queen. Tara’s arm was poised, held in the age-old signal of command. To command the flight of thirty four pairs of wings.
You will get coordinates from Sylleth, the gold relayed to the waiting dragons. Taking her hint, Sylleth nodded her green head. Easily the smallest dragon of those gathered, the green gathered herself for their journey, raising her head with enough pride to match a queen’s. From her rider, she sent the image of their destination. Their sanctuary.
This is where we travel, she said. There are caves along the western face, meaning the cliff in the image. She and her rider had traveled there once and instantly knew that it was a haven. So they returned to Ista. And spread the good news. Eventually it reached Telgar as well, hence the few riders from there as well, snuck into the Weyr during twilight, when visibility was poorest. And now they waited in the dead of night, moments away from achieving their freedom, for a gold Weyrling to signal them away.
A glorious smile on her face, Tara swung her arm down. The signal for flight.
Thirty four pairs of wings raised at once.
Thirty four pairs of eyes all looked to the open skies.
And were met by fire.
To the sky! To the sky! echoed Julieth’s voice in every rider and dragon’s mind. The thrity four dissenters struggled past the Wings of dragons blocking their escape, dodged flame and talon. But as they forced their way higher, it became clear that they would not win this battle. Sylleth bugled a warning as the bronze traitor dove at his brown brother, maw open for flame. The brown was engulfed and vanished Between, to the South or darkness, no one knew.
Higher! We must get higher! came the voice of Lorteth, slashing at an attacking brown.
ut of our way! Julieth ordered, hoping beyond hope that they would obey her desperate demand. But the dragons did not as the clarion bugle of the Senior Queen echoed from the Hatching Sands. They were under her orders then. There was nothing Julieth or Tara could do.
Go! Sylleth screamed to the dragons struggling for a safe altitude. She flashed the haven into each of their minds. Go! Leave while you still can! Sylleth screamed as a blue’s talons bit into the hide of her tail, trying to drag her down. She whipped about, slashing at his face. He let go, maw bleeding green ichor from her claw marks.
We leave together! came the voice of another brown, battling against a bronze that blocked his path with flame and talon. When the brown pushed by him—not without a burn and a tear in his wing—the bronze looked for another target, an easier one. The gold Weyrling offered just the thing.
Sylleth saw as he dove for Julieth. With the mental support coming from her rider as Iayla hung on for dear life, bent over her dragon’s neck, the green tucked her bleeding wings and dove at the bronze, bugling her fury. They had a right to be free! They were born to it! As dragons, it was their right! And they would take it!
Go! Once more, Sylleth flashed the image of the South in the dragons’ minds as she dove for the bronze attacker. He was almost upon Julieth then, claws poised for impact into the young queen’s back and shoulders. She would be crippled. With a bugle, Julieth lunged, seeing the imminent threat and trying avoid it. But she spotted it too late.
Go! Again, Sylleth shouted to them, to Julieth as she plummeted towards the bronze. At the last possible second, she flared her wings, talons extended. She hit the bronze full-force in his side, setting his angle off and pinning a wing under her grip. He was stronger than she, however, and easily shook her off, even as he fell.
For the last time, go! If you want to be free, go!
This time, Julieth managed to get enough wingspace to drive herself higher, to a safe distance. Though she knew nothing of going Between, she took the coordinates from Sylleth and spread them to the others regardless of altitude. If they were going, they’d better go now.
We go! she demanded, and with her vanished thirty-three pairs of wings to the warmth and freedom of the Southern Continent.
One pair of wings did not make this journey. One pair of eyes never saw the dragons flying free under the Southern sun. One pair of souls did not make it to freedom.
When the dust from the battle had settled and every dragon on the Bowl floor or woken from their ledges, every eye was on one pair. Standing before the Weyrleader himself, bleeding, panting, shaking, were Iayla and Sylleth. The bronze would not kill the green. No dragon would kill another. But with humans, that was not the case. The wherhide of her flight jacket burned away from a passing blow, her left arm hanging loose from a gash in her shoulder, Iayla was in no shape to be proud. But proud she was. And even in her stooped, pain-filled posture, she exuded a confidence that not even the sight of her enraged Weyrleader could take from her.
We did it, ‘Mine, came the voice of Sylleth, panted even in her mind. The green was scarred, marred by claws to her wings, shoulders, and back, teeth marks upon her tail, and a burn across her neck. The dragon had been through enough for her freedom. We did it.
Indeed we did.
“Silence!” the Weyrleader bellowed. From the look of his dragon, the bronze must have been listening in. D’rent was livid as he stalked forward, to where Iayla stood, holding her left arm against her stomach to decrease the pain. She hurt all over, but the others were safe. They were free.
“You little whore,” he whispered to her, voice deadly, eyes promising cruelties. With that simple statement, the back of his hand met Iayla’s face, easily sending her to the ground. From there, he towered over her, supported by the bronzeriders circling them. Sylleth protested the treatment of her rider with a brassy bugle, but the louder ones of every bronze and the senior queen easily quelled her. She shifted uneasily under the gaze of the Istan dragons, her tail waving dangerously, eyes red and yellow with fury and worry. With an easy gesture, D’rent grabbed Iayla by the scrap remaining of her riding jacket and hoisted her to her feet, tossing her to two riders who held her arms. Not that she had the energy to fight. Or even cared. She knew her fate. Sylleth knew their fate.
“For your treason,” the Weyrleader said, making his voice carry through the entire Bowl. He had collected himself then, though his eyes still held the fury of losing half of his queens. “For your treason, Iayla, rider of green Sylleth…” He was drawing it out on purpose, to let any others who even thought of leaving know the penalty for such an act. He inspired by fear, and did a very good job of it. “You shall be put to death.”
Iayla hung her head in submission. She knew it had been coming, knew from the beginning what would happen to her if she failed. But she hadn’t failed. Thirty three riders now flew the Southern skies, free as a dragon should be.
We did not fail, Iayla and Sylleth told each other together, to the dragons around them. We did not fail.
“Silence!” the Weyrleader bellowed again, glaring first of Iayla, then to her green who was barely contained by the strong gazes of the dragons around her. The entirety of the Weyr, the whisperings spreading amidst the ranks, ceased at the man’s order, quelled by his obvious fury. When all was still, he turned to Iayla again, face controlled.
“At dawn tomorrow, you will meet your death,” he said, so all could hear him. He bent his head low, next to Iayla’s ear. “May your soul be lost Between,” he whispered for her alone.
“May yours never find peace,” she whispered back hoarsely. Had it not been for the two riders holding her upright, Iayla would have fallen again with the force of D’rent’s blow.
“Take her away,” he demanded, turning his back on her. “Keep her here,” he demanded of his bronze as he strode over. Not that Sylleth would ever leave her rider, not when they both knew this was coming. With a bellow and an order Iayla did not hear, Sylleth scurried as fast as she could to the Infirmary where she could be watched all hours of the night.
I love you, Iayla, the green passed on, taking one last look at her rider before the crowd blocked her view. It took the strength of a bronze to push her back on the path, but she still kept looking over her shoulder, vying for that one final look into her rider’s eyes.
I love you too, Sylleth, Iayla managed to whisper to her dragon, reaching out with on arm towards the green. Their gazes met once, holding each other by force of will alone as both were herded to different parts of the Weyr. Their gaze was broken when Iayla passed out in the riders’ arms, blood loss and shock finally catching up. It would be the last time either saw the other, until their souls met in the darkness of Between, free at last from their pain.
Under the Southern sun, thirty three dragons stood in a circle, their riders standing next to them. It was afternoon, the sun warm and glowing over these thirty three dragons, none without wounds, all without pain. As one, they felt it. As one, they raised their voices. As one, they mourned the loss of their own, one who would never know freedom. Grey eyes watched the sky as riders wept. As one, they felt the loss.
And so, led by Tara and her queen Julieth, the thirty three riders founded a Weyr in the haven Iayla and Sylleth found for them. Over the turns, more riders joined their ranks. Bronzes bolstered the clutches, giving rise a couple new queens, who would never know oppression. Browns and blues thrived under the Southern sun, relishing the warmth against their hides, and the herdbeasts in their stomachs. Greens came in hoard, their female riders finding sanctuary from the cruelties of the Northern riders. And even Holders came, Weyrfolk too, both looking for a respite from the heavy-handed Lords and Leaders. They came a few at a time. Even in their desperation for solace, none were willing to jeopardize the new Weyr with a sudden influx. The small Weyrholds dotting the Southern Continent began to join the Weyr, combining for a stronger bond among riders and dragons.
And so it was, that in the Southern Continent, away from the wars of Ista and Telgar, a new Weyr grew. And so it was, founded under the name of one who gave her life, a new Weyr of Southern prospered. And so it was, that Iayla Weyr thrived.