Just Taking a Break
Terren heaved another sack of herdbeast feed onto his cart with a huff
of annoyance and stood back, glancing up at the sky. The sun didn't seem
any lower towards the horizon than it had been last time he'd checked,
and he envied the dragons, lazing away on the cliff heights. What was
the point in coming to the Weyr if you had to work all day? He might as
well have stayed on the farm.
But apart from the dragons, there didn't seem to be anyone watching.
Terren glanced around, then started to push his cart out towards the
beast pens, away from the barn where the chief herdsman might emerge at
any moment. Once there, he stepped into the shade of the cart, out of
sight, and pulled out a bottle from where it was hidden in between the
feed sacks. With a sigh of pleasure, he took a long swig and leaned
against the piled sacks. With luck, it'd be a while before anyone noticed.
A bronze dragon swooped low, sending the animals into a panic. He
struck down a plump wherry and then sat crouched in the center of the
pen, feeding on his kill. Z'ku headed toward the fence, a bucket of
sweetsand with brushes swinging at his side. Xemroth wanted to eat
before his bath, so Z'ku looked for a shady spot to wait. There was a
feed cart a short distance away, which might cast just enough of a
He was surprised to find a man there, drinking from a bottle. That . .
. did not look like water. "Finished with your duties for the day,
then?" Z'ku asked.
A flash of guilt crossed the man's face as he looked up. A dragonrider,
but a young one, not much older than his son. He frowned. What right did
this lad have to poke his nose in? On the other hand, it would be wise
to avoid trouble. "Just taking a break, Bronzerider." He smiled and
shifted to the side. "Hot out, isn't it? Looking for some shade?"
By his knots, this man was only a worker, not even a beastcrafter. "A
break? Are you drinking on shift, worker?" Z'ku put his hands on his
Terren gave him a dirty look. Worker? "I have a name," he began,
irritably, before realizing he didn't really want to give this rider his
name. He shook the bottle. "I can have a drink if I want. Like I said,
"So that's water you have in that bottle?" Z'ku stared at him. All
he'd wanted was to wait for Xemroth to finish and then give his dragon
a bath. But he couldn't very well ignore someone shirking their duty
"Of course it is." Not that it was any of the rider's business. Terren
wished he could tell the boy to get lost, but he didn't quite dare.
Instead, he smirked. "Lovely, refreshing...water."
Z'ku's hand shot out. "Let me see."
The man scowled and his hand tightened around the bottle. "Are you
calling me a liar?"
"Well, then, I'll just go find your supervisor." What a pain in the
arse. Z'ku at least hoped he'd get the satisfaction of watching this
man get chewed out.
"Wait," Terren called after him hastily. As annoying as he found this
meddlesome little sneak, he didn't want to get into trouble with the
chief herdsman again. That usually ended in more time spent mucking out
the stables. As the bronzerider turned, he gave his best ingratiating
smile. "I'm sure we don't have to bother him with such a trivial matter.
Maybe we got off on the wrong foot...here." He offered the bottle. "If
you want some, help yourself.
Z'ku took the bottle and sniffed at it. _Definitely_ not water. His
expression darkened further into a scowl. "You're disrespecting your
duties, the Weyr, and _yourself_ with your behavior. I'm reporting
you." Still holding the bottle, he turned on his heel and headed
toward the barn.
"Hey!" It was bad enough the rider was going to tattle on him, but
walking off with his drink was too much. Terren jogged after Z'ku.
"Not anymore. You'll be lucky if that's all you lose." Z'ku kept
marching, holding the bottle tight. The _nerve_ of this whershite.
"What does that mean?" The man caught up with him. "Are you trying to
get me sacked? You can't do that. I'm the father of a dragonrider."
Z'ku slowed a bit as he looked over his shoulder to glare at Terren.
"Your child is a dragonrider and you _still_ disrespect the Weyr like
The man rolled his eyes. "Faranth's egg, it was only a nip of spirits!
You're acting like I dropped my trousers and waved my arse at the
Weyrwoman. Don't you ever relax?"
"I relax when it's _appropriate_." Z'ku didn't even know what to say
about the man's shocking words. They'd almost reached the barn and he
looked around to see if the chief herdsman was standing outside.
A young stablehand who'd been sweeping the yard in front of the barn
looked up from his work. Seeing the dragonrider approaching, bottle in
hand and with Terren trailing after him, he ducked inside. A few moments
later, the herdsman emerged, with a resigned expression on his face and
a furrowed brow.
"Bronzerider?" he asked. "Is something the matter?"
"This man was neglecting his duties. And drinking." Z'ku offered the
bottle to the herdsman.
He removed the cap from the bottle and sniffed at it, then wrinkled his
nose at the strong odor of spirits. "Right. Thank you, bronzerider." He
turned to Terren. "You were warned about this before. I'll not have
drinking on duty. Our beasts may only be here for one purpose, but they
deserve our respect and care while they live."
"But it was only a little nip!" Terren glared at Z'ku. "I wasn't
neglecting anything, I was taking a short rest. It's baking hot out and
I'd just pushed the cart all the way out to the pens. I'm a man, not a
bloody draft runner. What does that boy know about real work?"
"That _dragonrider_ knows far more than you do," the herdsman replied,
irritation replacing weariness in his tone. "I told you before this was
your last chance. I had to turn down good men to give a place to your
lazy hide. Well, I don't care who your son is, I've had enough. You're
not working with my herds any more."
"B-but..." The man stared at him. "What am I supposed to do now?"
"Go to the Headwoman, I suppose, and see if she can find something else
for you to do. It's none of my concern." Dismissing Terren, he turned
back to Z'ku. "I'm sorry for your trouble, bronzerider." He shook the
bottle. "You want me to get rid of this?"
"Do what you want with it," Z'ku said. "I'm sorry you had to deal with
such an indolent worker. Your care for the herdbeasts is much
appreciated, and I hope his replacement will perform their duties with
respect." He cast a glare at Terren. At least the issue was swiftly
"That's mine," Terren objected, holding out a hand for the bottle. "You
could at least..." But before he could say any more, the herdsman turned
it upside down and let the liquid spill out into the dust, his lip
curling in disgust. Then he turned his back and stomped back into the barn.
Terren returned Z'ku's gaze with a poisonous stare of his own. "You'll
regret this, bronzerider."
Z'ku's expression grew even darker and a low growl drifted from the
feeding pens. "Threaten me one more time and I'll go to the Headwoman
The man turned a shade paler and he backed up a pace, away from the
sound of the dragon's warning. "You'll be sorry," he repeated, and
turned to walk swiftly away towards the lower caverns.
Z'ku watched him go, wondering if it would be worth the trouble to go
ask the herdsman for the worker's name.
Last updated on the March 9th 2021