eledonecirrhosa (eledonecirrhosa) wrote in pern_fic,
eledonecirrhosa
eledonecirrhosa
pern_fic

Plan B (part 2 of 2)

Title: PLAN B
Author: A. Kear
Rating: PG
Word count: ~6293 (posted in 2 parts of around 3150 words each)
Characters: Lessa, Mardra, T’ton, Marika, T’kul, D’ram, Fanna, G’narish, Nadira, R’mart, Bedella, OCs.
Book: Dragonflight
Location: Fort Weyr, High Reaches Weyr, 8th Pass
Blurb: The Weyrs intend to travel from the 8th to 9th Pass, but there is no guarantee that they’ll get there, so a Plan B is needed.
Disclaimer: Pern and the dragonriders belong to Anne McCaffrey not to me.


Mardra had called the Senior Weyrwomen from High Reaches, Ista, Igen and Telgar to meet at Fort Weyr, to discuss which goldriders would stay behind went the Five Weyrs went ahead. Lessa of future-Benden was there as well, of course, but that was a courtesy more than anything else. This concerned goldriders of the current Weyrs, so it was the Weyrwomen of those Weyrs that would make the decisions. Mardra, being Weyrwoman of Fort Weyr – oldest and thus most senior of all Pern’s Weyrs – would, of course, have the casting vote if anything came to an impasse. Such Traditions were of great importance.

When they had all been through the pleasantries and idle chit chat that always preceded such gatherings, Mardra called the meeting to order. “Goldriders,” she began with a gracious nod to the gathering in front of her, “bronzerider volunteers we have aplenty, but we need to determine which of our Weyrs’ golds shall be staying behind to be the weyrwomen of this Weyr-in-the-West. So I suppose I ought to get the most obvious question out of the way first – are any of you volunteering to stay behind?” She gave them all a bright smile, to indicate that she didn’t view this as a serious question. After all, who would want to be Weyrwoman of what would amount to a building site for Turns to come?

“I do,” said Clionie of Telgar.

Mardra gaped at her uncomprehendingly for a moment. There was gasps of surprise from Marika of High Reaches and Nadira of Igen. Fanna of Ista just stared. Lessa looked confused at the others’ reactions.

Mardra tried to gather her wits and reassert her status as chairwoman. “Really?” she asked. “May I ask why?”

Clionie nodded. “I am nearly sixty Turns old . My Ordovith and I have been fighting Thread for over forty Turns. We are tired. We need a rest from it all.” The Telgar Weyrwoman looked round the assembled goldriders and gave a weary smile at the polite protests from Marika and Nadira.

Mardra held up a hand to forestall further comments, and nodded at Clionie to continue.

The old woman obliged. “In addition, the dragonhealers are in agreement that my Ordovith has only a few clutches left in her – three, perhaps four. So in four or so Turns Ordovith will no longer be senior at Telgar – when she no longer rises to mate a younger queen will challenge her dominance and take her place.” She shrugged. “Such is the way of dragons.”

“That will still happen if you stay behind,” pointed out Marika.

“Yes. Yes it will,” Clionie agreed. “But I would like it to happen in a new Weyr, with plenty of challenges to keep me and Ordovith occupied. I don’t want to become a toothless old auntie harping on about the good old days when I used to lead the Telgar Queens’ Wing in ‘Fall. I’d like to think that even an eggless queen can be an explorer or adventurer.”

“Well,” said Mardra, not quite sure what to say to that. In her opinion, a few sevendays of living in a semi-constructed Weyr with scant comforts would have the whole population harping on about ‘the good old days’ and wishing they’d chosen to travel forward to the Ninth Pass. Still, Clionie was a Senior Weyrwoman of many decades experience, and as thus an excellent choice for leadership of the new weyr. It certainly would calm T’ton’s gruffly voiced worry that this Western Weyr would end up being run by ‘a bunch of bloody twelve year olds’. “Well,” she repeated. “I guess that is settled, then. Clionie will be Weyrwoman of the new Weyr. Any more volunteers?”

She let the laughter die away before she asked the pertinent question: “So who will take your place at Telgar?”

“Bedella, gold Solth’s rider,” came the reply. “She has been Weyrwoman Second for a number of Turns now, and I believe she will rise to the experience of becoming Senior. Her Solth is more than capable of being the dominant gold of the Weyr. And R’mart’s Branth has flown her several times. If he continues to do so, then it will offer continuity of Weyrleadership.”

Personally Mardra thought that Bedella was fine on everyday matters, but a complete flitterbrain in a crisis. Still, it would not do to voice such an opinion – the Weyrs were autonomous, and if Telgar ended up with a dominant gold with a wherryhead for a rider, that was no business of Fort’s.

“In which case, we ought to have Bedella sit in on future planning meetings,” Mardra noted. “Now… which other golds should go?”

Fanna chipped in: “Ista has a gold that has barely cracked shell - Namkth. That whole clutch is staying, so she’ll be one.”

“You aren’t taking those hatchlings forward with you?” asked Nadira. “We at Igen are taking our youngest dragonets with us – they won’t be hard to carry.”

Fanna shook her head. “No. We decided that a hatchling gold was Ista’s best contribution to the new weyr. The rider – Signatha – is willing to stay.”

Mardra snorted at this. Signatha was a junior goldrider with her dragon barely out of the shell – she’d bloody well do what she was told. At Fort she didn’t hold with mollycoddling or indulging younger weyrwomen. “Well, that’s two golds,” she said. “Who else?”

“Our Brinna’s Insurth has just risen,” said Marika. “She’ll be egg heavy by our departure date, and risks clutching on the journey. Also, we have no knowledge of what travelling between times does to a clutch. We know what a prolonged spell between does to a human pregnancy – I have no wish to inflict that on a queen dragon. So I have informed Brinna that it would be better for her dragon and for her clutch that she moves to this Western Isle and its Weyr.”

Nods of agreement all round from the Weyrwomen of the current Weyrs. Lessa however, Mardra observed, looked somewhat aghast. The penny must have dropped that she could have done herself or her Ramoth some lasting harm with her four hundred Turn jaunt between. That’s what came of having a Weyrwoman who was barely a child – they made rash decisions. Still, rash or not, it had been brave. Mardra had to give her that.

“Brinna will make a good Weyrwoman-Second,” said Clionie. “I’d welcome her at my new Weyr.” She looked around the room. “Unless anyone suggests someone more senior?”

Shaking of heads all round. Nadira piped up about Igen’s contribution: “Our Kella’s Yorkath is not quite old enough to go between. Igen volunteers her.”

“Excellent,” said Mardra, noting the name down. “So that is four golds – Ordovith, Namkth, Insurth and Yorkath. I feel that four is plenty for this Western Isle venture to succeed. Any thoughts on the matter?”

There was some chatter to and fro for a while about the merits of sending five golds rather than four, but no-one voiced a forceful opinion one way or the other, so four it remained. Mardra smiled contentedly. Fort Weyr had, of course, been willing to sacrifice their most junior gold to the venture, had no other Weyrs stepped into the breach. But she was inwardly glad that she did not have to. It would be very undignified for a gold hatching in Fort Weyr – the oldest and most prestigious of Pern’s Weyrs – to have to live out her days in some upstart new Weyr on some Thread blasted island in the middle of nowhere.

Much better that all Fort’s golds remained at Fort, regardless of what Turn they lived in!

# # #

“People, people, people. It always comes back to needing more people.” Lessa gave a weary sigh. She and the other senior Weyrwomen had been collating information on supplies that would be needed for the proposed new Weyr, and making lists of its anticipated needs over the next few Turns.

On the dragonrider side, all was well. They had their volunteers who would stay here in the Eighth Interval, including an adequate number of support staff and sufficient weyrlingmasters to train the weyrling pairs that were being left behind. They had gold dragons who would provide the future clutches. What they didn’t have was a hinterland of holds and halls to provide everything the Weyr would need.

“I’m not entranced by the idea, but now that we know the South is not as damaged by Thread as we expected…” Mardra paused and sniffed haughtily, as if the lack of destruction in the Southern Continent was a personal slight against her. She scowled and then continued. “Well, the dragons can go there to hunt wild prey. That way, we only need the Feeding Grounds for mating flights and youngsters not old enough to go between.”

Fanna of Ista reached for her mug of klah and grimaced as she found that it had gone cold. “Meat is not the problem. It’s cloth, leather, pottery, klah, flour… I daresay that our volunteers might forego wine for a few Turns until someone has the spare time to grow vines and produce a vintage. But if they don’t have bread to eat they’ll be knocking on Benden’s door in short order. We need Holders. We need to transplant a Hold or two, not just a Weyr and a smattering of Seacraft and Harperhall volunteers.”

“We’ve discussed this already,” snapped Mardra. “The more who know, the more likely the secret will get out. That might change the future.”

“What about asking the Lord of Ruatha?” suggested Clionie of Telgar. “He already knows of Lessa’s existence, as do a whole wing of his holders. An exhausted gold dragon landing on the doorstep is hard to miss!”

As she had been delirious at the time, Lessa had no idea how many holders at Ruatha had witnessed the arrival of her and Ramoth, nor how many had been involved in helping transport them to the Weyr. She certainly imagined that once word had got around, then everyone in the Hold would have trooped outside at some point to stare at the sight of a virtually comatose gold dragon. They certainly couldn’t keep that secret, though the Lord had agreed to a cover story about a junior goldrider from a distant Weyr.

“Yes, yes,” said Mardra irritably in response to Clionie. “We can certainly obtain a few people from Ruatha. But as Lessa pointed out, it is lots of people we need, not just a handful.” She sighed and ran her hand through her hair.

“What we really need is a whole Hold or two,” mused Fanna. She glanced across at Lessa with a twinkle in her eye. “I don’t suppose you know of any legends of Holds disappearing in the night, or whole Bloodlines vanishing between?”

Lessa felt the blood drain from her face. “Ruatha…” she whispered. The stylus she was holding dropped from her fingers. She heard Ramoth’s agitated bugle echo around the Weyr.

“Are you all right, dear?” Lessa was peripherally aware of Clionie and Fanna leaning over her, of Marika urging she try a sip of wine, of Nadira’s squeaks of distress, of Mardra’s Loranth saying that a healer was on the way. She tried to get a hold of her whirling thoughts… Ruatha… Fax… whole Bloodlines vanishing…

She pushed aside the cup of wine and sent scant reassurance to Ramoth. Then tried to explain to the gaggle of concerned goldriders. “No, I’m all right… it’s just…” She paused, the idea dancing in front of her, alluring and appalling all at the same time. “Ruatha. Ruatha is a Bloodline that vanished. Fax…”

There were exclamations of confusion and alarm from some of those present. “Yes, yes,” Mardra was saying. “You told me that. This – Fax – invaded my family’s Hold and took it over. But surely…?” The Fort Weyrwoman trailed off at Lessa’s bleak look. “He couldn’t! He didn’t?”

Lessa nodded. “He did. All of Ruatha’s Blood were put to the sword.”

“But – no cousins? No nieces or nephews? No fosterlings in another Hold? Surely someone survived?” Mardra was aghast.

“Yes,” said Lessa. “I did.”

“But…”

She nodded, confirming Mardra’s worst fears. “But indeed. I am a dragonrider, so I cannot rule Ruatha. The Ruatha bloodline is no more.”

“That’s outrageous! I won’t stand for it! It mustn’t be allowed to happen!” Mardra was on her feet, pacing about the room in her rage, the other Weyrwomen watching her anxiously.

“Mardra – it has happened. Will happen.” Clionie gestured irritably at the complexities of considering timellines and time travel. “There is nothing we can do to prevent it. I am deeply, deeply sorry, but the world turns and things come to an end. We will all grieve for Ruatha that was.”

“No, no.” Lessa shook her head vehemently. Her thoughts were still filled with memories of those who had died that day – parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters – but there were other Ruathans. Others of the Blood who existed in the here and now, not in that blood soaked future. The idea became voice. “Ruatha will live! On the Western Isle. On the Southern Continent. Ruatha will live!”

# # #

So, at Lessa’s insistence, another person was added to the great conspiracy of the jump forward and the hidden Weyr. Mardra’s father, Lord Chardro of Ruatha, was told about their plans – but with a minor alteration. The Weyrwomen had agreed that telling him about Fax and his descendants being put to the sword was not a good idea. Any Lord worth his salt would change the future by leaving instructions for his descendants or some such thing. Instead, they concocted a story of a plague, such as that of Moreta’s time, which had wiped out the Ruathan Bloodline apart from Lessa herself. A tragedy, but not one that could be planned for or avoided.

Unless, of course, people of the Ruathan Bloodline had been living on a different continent for four hundred Turns. All safe and sound, kept far away from plagues or other disasters.

Lord Chardro diligently recruited two of his sons, one daughter, his youngest brother and a whole wing of cousins and by-blows to assure Ruathan blood continued into the future. He and they then selected suitable holders from all across Ruatha. All would be tragically ‘lost at sea’ in the foolish venture to explore for new lands to settle. If the other Lords thought him foolhardy, then no matter – the ends justified the means.

It was just as well, Lessa noted, that the Masterharper was involved in their planning, and could have his harpers quash too much chat on the matter. Otherwise questions might be asked if anyone realised that the number of people missing was enough to fill the Masterfisher’s exploratory fleet several times over.

Still, they had their holders now – some to form a settlement in the Southern Continent, some to re-seed and revitalise the land on the Western Isle. And, more importantly, Ruatha would survive.

She smiled grimly. Fax’s brat might discover he had competition.

# # #

Mardra stood on her ledge and watched as another bawling and thrashing herdbeast was hoisted off the ground in a carry net by a labouring green. The green gained a dragonlength of height, then blinked between. She wondered idly what a herdbeast’s reaction to that black, cold void might be.

There was no need to try and carry their herdbeasts into the future with them – the Pern of Lessa’s time would supply all their needs on that front. Instead the beasts were being divided into three categories – those that would be carried between to the new Weyr and Holds, those that would be eaten on the eve of the Weyrs jumping forward, and a few that would be turned loose. Lessa had been adamant about that last, saying her Question Song contained a line about abandoned livestock. Silly girl. How could a herdbeast or two alter the future?

All their supplies of herdbeast fodder and cromcoal was going to the new Weyr and neighbouring Hold. The South had lush pasture and abundant timber, so could do without such supplies. Indeed, the Weyr would be relying on the South for building materials and food for a good few Turns – and in the short term it would have to be carried adragonback. Mardra sniffed haughtily to herself at the indignity of it all. Imagine! Dragonriders forced to act as beasts of burden – ridiculous! It only hardened her resolve not to allow any senior Fort riders participate in populating this new Weyr.

Fort riders belonged in Fort.

# # #

They were a splendid sight, the massed dragons of High Reaches Weyr. All those that were making the jump forward were ranged across the Bowl and the Rim, the lesser colours burdened with passengers, and all – including the queens – festooned with bundles of personal possessions. A hubbub of human voices and dragon bugles echoed to and fro across the Bowl.

Those that were not making the journey – R’kent and S’newar among them – watched from the steps leading to the Senior Queen’s ledge, sending last minute farewells and good luck messages to friends and family via their dragons.

Salth’s rider tells everyone who is leaving to cease chatter and pay attention, R’kent’s bronze Centarth informed them.

A hush fell across the Weyr, then a heartbeat or two later the gathered dragons began to take to the skies. With the ease of long practice, the wings assembled into formation above High Reaches. R’kent noted, with an unexpected lump in his throat, that there were empty spaces in the formation where he and the others who were staying behind normally flew.

And then, in an instant, they were gone.

“If they succeed in their journey to the Ninth Pass, we’ll be superfluous, won’t we?” mused S’newar.

“No.” R’kent shook his head vehemently. “We’ll be the Seventh Weyr, able to stand alongside the others. Able to protect Pern as well as they do.”

“There is, of course, another possibility.” From the twinkle in S’newar’s eye, he was not being entirely serious. “It could be us that fails to travel four hundred Turns.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, our queens could die in a betweening accident before they’ve laid a single gold egg. We could all perish of some Southern or Western disease that the Weyrhealer knows nothing about. We could—“

“—Go up in a puff of smoke if that volcano isn’t as dormant as we think?” R’kent had caught the frivolous mood and added his own disaster to the list.

“Be wiped out by a tornado!”

“Hit by a giant meteor!”

“Eaten by ravenous wherries!”

“It’s all doomed to failure!”

“No chance of success at all!”

The pair laughed uproariously. They were still laughing when they climbed onto their dragons for the journey back to their new Weyr. Only time would tell.

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