Aeza brushed the sweat and every speck of trail dust from the mareís coat. Every inch of her gleamed a bright, pure white, and riding her was effortless, as though Aeza was an extension of her body Ė one in mind and spirit.

The mare stamped her hoof, and brought Aeza back to reality. She was ashy gray, and had an intense hatred for men. Somewhen, sheíd been abused by by her trainer, and had stubbornly thrown him, crashing to her knees on the racing field. It thoroughly ruined her for racing, but she was still good breeding stock, despite her temper.

Aeza was one of the few people the angsty mare would let near her, let alone ride her. She ran smoothly enough. The trainers said her gallop was so smooth they could balance a flute of champagne on her back at her peak, but Aeza was bounced about so harshly, the oft dreamed of white companion sounded better and better.

Aeza stood 5í3" tall, and had dark hair, tawny skin, and gray eyes, like much of her clan. She was all energy, slim and wiry. She wore her dark hair in two high tails, and was usually seen dressed in muted colors Ė by her own choice. At 16, her parents and aunts and uncles had long since stopped trying to make her conform to their wishes. However, Aezaís love for riding helped a little.

Aeza had been riding and tending to the beasts since she was strong enough to stay in the saddle. It had been her love all her life, and yet she still hadnít found that perfect, flawless mount. Today, with the gray at her worst in many seasons, Aeza doubted she ever would.

Her well muscled aunt came around the corner from the feed room, and tapped on the door to the stall. Aeza looked up. "Iíve her feed, Aeza. You can go."

Aeza smiled and gave the mareís flank one last pat, then gathered up the brushes. Her cousin Jazrae had been chosen, and bonded, but Aeza had yet to meet Nynaeveth. She wondered if dragonriders had the sort of bond with their dragon as she longed for in a steed. Aeza walked slowly back to the hold proper, lost in her wondering.

This was normal for her, like the sundream about the white beast in the stables. Aeza could do one thing without a thought to it, and dream as she did. She was a true dreamer. She often dreamed the answers to things Ė finding misplaced items, answers to perplexing mysteries, and once sheíd dreamed of where to find a runaway child. Her dreams had been rationalized as her subconscious mind finding the answers, and revealing them in dream-form. But Aeza knew better. Sheíd been out with the herds when that boy ran off, and hadnít heard a word about it until after she had dreamed of finding him in the lee of Verranís Rock.

Her thoughts were shattered as she crashed headlong into someone. After landing on the ground, she looked up at the sandy haired man. He garb identified him as a dragoner. Aeza went pale. "Iím so sorry!" she spluttered.

Jírin shook his head. "Itís quite all right." He helped her up. "You must have been thinking of something rather intently to not have seen as dashing a figure as I." Laughter sparkled in his eyes, and Aeza knew he was joking. "Iím Jírin, and you are?"

"Aeza." She replied, brushing grass from the seat of her pants. "and I was wondering about riding dragons as compared to racers."

"Youíve come to the right man." Jírin said. "Letís chat."

Aeza decided that she liked the man, and brought him inside. Dragoners were always welcome. As it turned out, Jírin had never ridden anything other than his blue Amitath, and couldnít answer her question. He laughed suddenly, and Aeza looked at him, head cocked slightly to the side with unspoken question. "Amitath says if you bond a dragon, you can answer your own question."

Aeza blinked. "Jírin, there arenít any clutches right now."

Jírin laughed. "Thatís where youíre wrong. The Starlite Hatchery has one, and Amitath thinks youíll get on well there."

Aeza pondered. Sheíd never heard of the Hatchery. "Where on Pern is that?" she asked at last.

"Itís not." Jírin said, eyes twinkling. "Go pack, and Amitath and I will take you there."

Aeza looked down from Amitath at the Isle. Black and purple dragons lounged in the sun. It nearly matched the dream from the night before, that sheíd dismissed as fantasy. All it needed was... Aeza turned her head to watch the red dragon swoop past.


Aeza smiled. She felt like she was home.

Aeza swept the soft-bristled brush across the gleaming hide of the purple-white dragoness. Kiraith's eyes were half-lidded as she dozed under her rider's ministrations. Aeza hummed to herself as she worked. There was nothing like spending time with her dragon-bond.

Kiraith was better than the perfect mount Aeza had dreamed of so often - she could talk back, and truly had a mind of her own - and talent as well. Though hardly bigger than a large racer, Kiraith was an extremely strong healer.

"Aeza?" Kiraith queried, "tell me about the dragons from East Rock. Is it true they can't talk?"

Aeza set the brush down. "They talk to their riders with their minds. It's part of their bond."

The purple-white stood up and stretched her beautiful wings. "And they breath fire?"

Aeza nodded. "They chew up rocks of a special kind, and then belch out fire."

Kiraith's face twisted in disgust. "Count me out!" she said. Aeza smiled.

She'd dreamed of the day she and Kiraith would leave the Isle. This was how it started... A knock at the door startled her from the remembering. There stood J'rin, just as she'd dreamed. "Hey Aeza." He said, grinning. "They said you're all set to head back to East Rock, but Kiraith..."

"Is full grown, thankyouverymuch. I'm just small." The dragon interrupted.

Aeza smiled. "I'm packed and we're ready."

"Let's ride." Kiraith said, leading the way. Aeza slipped on her purple riding jacket, and followed her dragon out.

Most of the bags were secured to Amitath, and Aeza took one small bag with her. Kiraith just wasn't big enough to carry any more than that.

They settled in quickly at Ryslen, and didn't have any problems with being tormented for being bi-colored or purple -M'lian was here after all, with his dragon Trillienth.

Dawn came, and Aeza awoke with a start. She threw on some clothes, and ran for the

healing den at Ryslen. M'lian was barely up, but he was there. "M'lian?" she cried in distress.

The healer was at her side in a heartbeat. "What's wrong, Aeza?"

The dark haired girl clung to him, obviously disturbed. "Fall today..." she began, but got choked up.

"Who, Aeza?" he prompted gently.

"J'lenn. And Scith." Kiraith said, entering the infirmary. She'd followed her rider. Aeza always ran to M'lian when there was a death in her dreams. Kiraith didn't mind so much - M'lian could hug her back, and she couldn't. The purple-white dragoness curled up in a corner of the infirmary.

Aeza continued to sob for a while, and when she finally calmed, she joined her dragon. There was nothing they could do but wait.

When the keening began for the loss of J'lenn, Aeza clung to Kiraith's neck and sobbed. The dragoness could have healed the horrible scoring, if J'lenn had brought them back to the Weyr...

Texia arrived in the den in a stupor. She too had foreseen the hidebound rider's demise. She sat down with Aeza, and let the tears she had been holding back loose. T'gre and G'rin arrived in a few moments. Of all the talent at Ryslen, there was nothing anyone could do about J'lenn; even though they'd warned him, he ignored them. M'lian brought a skin of wine, and fellis. They would have to try harder next time.

The story continues...

Starlite Hatchery

East Rock Territory


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