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The Legend of the Dragon's Claw (1/2)

Writers: Estelle
Date Posted: 20th September 2018

Characters: R'fal, Ketri, Sayona
Description: R'fal introduces some new Candidates to the Weyr
Location: Dolphin Cove Weyr
Date: month 6, day 4 of Turn 9


R'fal made a last adjustment to his assignment, and put it away with a
sigh of relief. Knowing that his fellow weyrlings were all out enjoying
their brief interval of free time was a definite incentive to work
quickly. He wondered where the others were. Closing his eyes, he sensed
his brown dragon curled up in the sun with some of his clutchmates, full
and sleepy after a late afternoon meal.

}: Niannath says her rider is with Gavanth's and Farioth's. They are
playing a game at the beach. :{

** That sounds fun. **

}: Go and join them. You do not play enough, :{ Marlath scolded, in a
passable imitation of his rider's mother at her most stern. R'fal
wondered where he'd got that from. }: You spend too much time at this
silly writing. :{

** I need to practice. ** R'fal couldn't help but agree with his
dragon's sentiments, though, and he lost no time in heading out of the
dining cavern and making his way towards the beach, which had become one
of his favourite places in the Weyr. Ahead of him, a green dragon was
landing in the Bowl. He watched as her rider slid down with the easy
agility of much practice and then helped two passengers to follow.

"Weyrling!"

R'fal looked around, but there was no-one else nearby that the
greenrider could possibly be talking to. Since he couldn't ignore orders
from a full rider, it looked as though he'd have to put off games at the
beach until later. "Sir?"

"These two are new Candidates. Could you show them the barracks, and
where to go for food and classes and everything? I'd do it myself but I
promised my mate I'd meet him for dinner and I'm already late. There
were some long goodbyes..."

One of the Candidates, a boy, looked slightly abashed, while the other
stared wide-eyed at her new surroundings. They both looked younger than
R'fal, and were definitely Hold or Hall-bred. The weyrling wondered if
he'd looked so completely stupefied on his arrival at the Weyr. He did
remember what a relief it had been that people were friendly and willing
to show him what to do, though, and suppressed his disappointment at
missing out on games at the beach.

"Of course, greenrider." He raised a hand to the pair in greeting as the
dragonrider departed with hurried thanks. "Hi! I'm R'fal, and my dragon
is Marlath. He's over there." He gestured towards the little group of
sleeping dragons. "He's just gone to sleep, or I'd introduce you."

The boy recovered his voice first. "Um - hello! I'm Ketri."

"And I'm Sayona...sir." The girl nudged her companion, who started
looking guilty all over again and managed a hasty bow.

R'fal laughed. "You don't have to call me that! I'm just a weyrling." It
seemed very strange that anyone would behave respectfully towards him,
of all people. "Let's go by the barracks first and you can drop off
those bags, and then I'll show you where we eat and bathe, and see if we
can find one of the Headwoman's staff to give you a duty schedule.
You're not crafters, either of you?"

"No." They both shook their heads, and Sayona spoke up. "We're from a
hold...farmers."

"So am I. Well, I was, until Marlath found me." R'fal set off towards
the Candidate's barracks. "It's really good, here. People say it's hard
work, and weyrling training is, for sure, but being a Candidate's not so
bad when you've worked on a farm. You get to see dragons every day, and
when there are eggs on the Sands you'll get to visit them, and just wait
until there's a Hatching!"

***

"And here we are. Back at the barracks." Although it hadn't been his
plan for the evening, R'fal found he'd enjoyed showing the two
Candidates around the Weyr. It was a relief for once to be the one who
was familiar with the place, rather than the ignorant newcomer who
didn't know a thing. Also, although he'd tried (not very hard) to
convince them otherwise, Ketri and Sayona looked at him as if he was a
hero of the Wings, instead of just a lowly weyrling.

"Thanks." Ketri grinned. "Not sure I remember where everything is, though."

"If you get lost, just ask someone. People are pretty friendly here. Are
there any other questions you'd like to ask me?"

"What are the classes like?" Sayona asked. "Do you have to study hard?"

"There's a lot to learn if you're not weyrbred, but they allow for that.
Life's different here, in a lot of ways. The best class is when there
are eggs on the sands, and you get to go and see them, and even touch them!"

"Isn't it scary, though?" Ketri asked, his eyes round. "With the queen
there..."

"Well..."

It was then that a delightful idea popped in to R'fal's head. The
Candidates looked so very new and innocent and trusting, and he just
_couldn't_ resist.

"Promise you won't tell any of the others. I'm not really supposed to
say; it's meant to be a surprise." He waited until they'd both nodded
their assent. "At that class, there is a test, to see if you're brave
enough to face the eggs."

"A test?"

"What is it?"

"Well, you have to go in to the Hatching Grounds, and approach the
queen. You bow and make your greeting to her, and then...you have to go
up to her, and she lowers her head and opens her jaws wide, and you have
to put your right hand inside. Or your left, if you're left-handed."

"In her _mouth_?"

"Right between her teeth. It's scary, but it's supposed to be perfectly
safe. No-one has ever had their hand bitten off that I've heard of.
Well, some of the older weyrlings say there was this one boy who touched
her tongue by accident...but I don't believe it myself. I think someone
made that up to scare the holder kids."

"Is that really true?" Ketri had turned rather pale.

"I probably shouldn't have said anything," R'fal sighed. "I didn't mean
to worry you, but a test of courage is very important. They have to know
you'll be able to cope, because after the Hatching, if you Impress, you
fall into the clutches of the Weyrlingmasters."

"Are they strict?"

"Oh, yes! Very. You see, back in the olden days before the Pass began,
they..." He hesitated. "I don't want to put you off the whole idea of
being a dragonrider."

"Nothing could do that," Sayona said firmly. "Go on."

"Okay then. Before the Pass..." R'fal had a sense, then, that he might
be going a bit far with this, but he was having too much fun to stop
now. He lowered his voice and leaned closer. "They - were - pirates."

"_Pirates_?" The boy's eyes went round.

"Pirates," he repeated solemnly. "The Weyrlingmaster was the captain, of
course, and his 'Second was first mate. I think Weyrlingmaster Third
L'pin was the cook, but I'm not sure and I don't dare ask! In those
days, there wasn't Thread to fight, so they had time on their hands, and
they used to roam the seas around the Weyrhold in search of plunder and
mayhem. Their ship was called the Dragon's Claw. Maybe you've heard some
of the stories?"

The two candidates shook their heads in unison.

"How did they come to be Weyrlingmasters, then?" Sayona asked. She
sounded more than a little suspicious, although Ketri was still staring
at him, aghast.

"When the Red Star returned, they had to give up the pirate's life,"
R'fal explained. "The Weyrwoman pardoned them for their crimes in return
for taking the job. Ever since then, the weyrlings of Dolphin Cove have
been the best behaved in the Southern Continent, because they know what
fate awaits them if they get in trouble. One time, this young blue
weyrling forgot to polish his boots after a really hard day of training,
and the next day at barracks inspection..."

Suddenly, he became aware that his listeners weren't paying attention to
his story any more. They weren't looking at him, he realised with a
horrible sinking feeling, but at someone standing behind him.

Last updated on the October 1st 2018


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All references to worlds and characters based on Anne McCaffrey's fiction are © Anne McCaffrey 1967, 2013, all rights reserved, and used by permission of the author. The Dragonriders of Pern© is registered U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, by Anne McCaffrey, used here with permission. Use or reproduction without a license is strictly prohibited.