A seemingly long time had passed since that day when the young healer had died of a snakebite. There had been no way to know he was allergic, and no known way to save him.
She'd once trained in healercraft, and always spoke to the dragons when they came. Most merely put up with her idle pratter, and occasionally one of the more outspoken dragons would answer back. After she'd disappeared from the hall, one of the more liberal dragons reassured his rider that she was okay. Of course, he refused to go get her, saying it wasn't time yet.
Emboldened by time (though still bitter) she lives by herself in the wilds, trading sporadically with the traveling caravans and outlying holdings.
Who is this girl, and why is she so important?
Her name now is merely Ki, and this is her story.
In the middle of a small clearing stood a thin, long legged woman. About her head whirled the hide sling, faster... faster... with practiced aim, she let go, sending the small, round, river-worn rock flying skyward. A wild flapping of wings signaled that her stone had hit its mark. The wherry was hers. She went crashing through the underbrush, in order to claim her prize before some wild thing did.
Ki snatched up the fallen wherry, and listened. The baying of the wild canines drew nearer. Quickly, with a deft hand she cleaned the critter, leaving behind what she didn't want, hoping it would keep those feral beasts from coming after her kill as it had before.
Safely "home" to her grove, Ki dressed the wherry and set it to roast over a small fire. Over time, Ki had found wild herbs, and transplanted them nearer her home--she used these to season her cooking, and for their healing benefit. While it cooked, the nearly 20 turn old woman patched a tear in a pair of pants, humming softly to herself as she worked. When the wherry was cooked, Ki dug around in the sand around the fire with a stick, and rolled out four roasted tubers. She always cooked extra tubers--they were edible cold once they were cooked.
As she ate, the sun set. Her leftovers, wrapped in leaves, were stored in a small rock crevice that was blocked by a larger, heavy stone. This done, she stowed away her belongings in their safe niches, then climbed up a tree, and swung into her hammock. Though it was risky to sleep high up in the trees, it was safe from the wild canines and most of the wild felines. There were not many around here but better somewhat-safe than dead. Wrapping up in a very lightweight blanket to keep off insects, Ki slept.
During the night, the feral canines found her stores, and hearing the resultant scuffle, she throws sticks and things from her lofty perch, chasing away the canines, but it was too late. There would be no breakfast come sunrise. There was nothing Ki could do but wait. Curling up in her blanket against the chill predawn air, Ki slept lightly, awaiting the dawn.
When the first rays of the sun began to scatter the mists from amongst the trees, Ki awoke, and began to gather her things. Since the canines had found her food, she couldn't stay. They would be back, and this was a danger Ki could not afford to face.
Slinging her pack and her waterskin over her shoulder, Ki walked towards the horizon.
A frenzied splashing woke Ki just before the sun peeked over the horizon. A school of fish had swum down the stream she was camped by. Climbing out of her hammock with feline grace, and waded unintrusively into the stream. The fish ignored her, and after a few misses, she succeeded in grabbing one, and hoisting it out of the water. It was a bit longer than her forearm, and was slightly fat. It began to slip from her grasp, so she threw it toward the shore. It wriggled, sending cascades of water droplets flying from its fins.
It landed about a meter from the stream, and attempted to wriggle back. She had to hurry. She succeeded in grabbing a second fish, equally as large, and hurtling it to shore. She waded out of the water, a grin on her face. Fish for breakfast.
She'd cleared away the greenery, and had laid down stones around her firepit the afternoon before, ans soon had a nice crackling fire to cook her fish with. Not having access to as many broadleaved plants as she once had, Ki would make due with roasting chunks of the firm fish on sticks above the fire, rather than roasting them whole. The fillets of fish lay on a smooth wooden plank to one side of the fire, with one of Ki's beltknives in plain view beside it. Small heaps of ground spices and piles of wild herbs lay around the edges of the platter. Ki planned to experiment with the seasonings to find which combination would taste best (and what would make the fish taste less fishy). She'd yet to find a citrus tree in these parts -- citrus always cut the fishy taste.
She'd just put a long skewer of fish over the fire, each bite-sized piece seasoned with a different pinch of spice, or wrapped in a bruised herb leaf, when a tall figure appeared from between the trees. Reaching for her knife, she waited for the man to come closer -- if he did anything threatening...
J'kosh stopped several paces from the fire, taking off his riding helmet. A small smile graced Ki's sun-bronzed face as she recognized him, and she waved him over. She warily eyed the carrisack he'd brought as he took off his riding jacket. Silver graced his hair now, and Ki knew the last turns hadn't been easy on him. J'kosh sat down on the grass and opened the sack. "I have bread, and fruit." he said, taking out a plate, a large fresh loaf of bread, and half a dozen fruit -- three of the sweeter citrus, two redfruit, and a small melon, which sounded with a hollow thud when he rapped his knuckles on it. By the time he'd set all this out, Ki had eaten the first three of four bites of fish on the skewer. She wasn't being rude; and J'kosh knew it. Letting the fish get cold (or burnt) wasn't a desirable option. She slid the last cube from the stick, and popped it into her mouth. Laying the stick down on the edge of the platter, she carefully picked it up and wordlessly moved the platter closer to her guest.
With a smile, J'kosh moved everything he'd brought within her reach, and began to to cut the bread. He recognised most of the seasonings -- salt, hot pepper, basil, and a few others. "What's this?" he asked, pointing to one small brownish pile.
Ki swallowed hard. "Nutmeg?" she said hesitantly; not because she didn't know what it was, but because she hadn't had to speak in a long time.
"On fish?" J'kosh asked.
"mm hmm." She picked up one of the orange-skinned citrus, and cut it in half. Deftly she seasoned a skewerfull of fish cubes with the juice and the nutmeg, and held it near the fire. It had been a while since J'kosh had done any open fire cooking, so he watched to see how she did it. When the fish was cooked enough for Ki's taste, she offered it to J'kosh. He slid one bite off, and blew on the flaking fish gently to cool it off before putting it in his mouth and chewing thoughtfully. Ki grinned, and had a piece as well.
"You're as good a cook now as when I knew you back at Kielac." J'kosh said after he swallowed.
The meal passed mostly in silence, with J'kosh asking questions, and Ki answering -- if a nod or a shake of the head didn't answer the question, she replied in one-word statements. Finally J'kosh couldn't take it any more. "How long has it been since you had company?"
Ki shook her head. She'd never had a guest... until today. J'kosh's eyes nearly popped out of his head. "You haven't talked in five and a half turns?!"
Ki shook her head. "Traders... sometimes."
J'kosh set down the fruit he was eating. "If I had known..." he began, and Ki shook her head wildly, sending her dark and raggedly cut hair flying in all directions. What happened, happened. No turning back.
An entire fish lay untouched; gutted, but not yet skinned. Ki eyed it thoughtfully.
J'kosh stared into the fire. "Kilatoria, it's time to come back."
Ki looked up. She'd not been called by that name since her love died so long ago. "Ki." she corrected him. "Just Ki." She stood up and walked toward the stream wehre the rainbow finned fish still swarmed by. Whether it was their yearly migration, or a strange occurance, it was profitable for Ki.
"Ki... what are you doing?"
With a malicious grin, the forest-dweller stooped and caught up a fish, and flung it at the dragonrider. Laughing, J'kosh caught the slippery fish, and for lack of somewhere to put it, stuck it in the empty sack. Another dozen or so followed before Ki tired and returned to the fireside. "Now we can go."
A while later, with the fish cleaned, Ki's things packed, and the fire carefully put out, Zerroith landed in the small clearing. He rumbled happily to Ki. It's good to see you again. the big bronze said, leaning his head down close. Ki hugged him around the muzzle, then helped J'kosh load things up.
With J'kosh in his riding jacket, and Ki wrapped in her warm blanket, Zerroith lept from the clearing. "Ki... Did I tell you I'm Weyrleader now?" J'kosh asked, peering over his shoulder at his young friend.
Ki started laughing. She thought to herself The Weyrleader coming out to find a holdless woman? I don't believe it.
As they appeared over Ryslen, Amitath started having a fit. J'rin met them in the bowl. "Where did you find her?" he demanded, and J'kosh, laughed, but didn't answer. "Amitath has 'spotted' her a dozen times, but when we land, I can't find her!" the excitable ex-tailor exclaimed.
"She didn't want to be found, J'rin." the Weyrleader said calmly.
"She's just the one to go for Talor Cliff's clutch, J'kosh. We know it." the searchrider said.
"We'll see about that, J'rin. First, take this to Ikara, and don't drop it." He handed the sack of fish to J'rin, whose nostrils flared at the scent of it. He carefully made his was across the bowl, looking forward to whatever would be made of this catch.
J'kosh got Ki settled into a small weyr, somewhat out of the heavy traffic areas of Ryslen. It had its own private bathing pool, and once J'kosh left, Ki took full advantage of it, and the lavish supply of sweetsand and towels that had been stocked there.
Delilan was just slipping out of the room when Ki appeared, wrapped in a large towel, her hair damp, but combed out. "Jus' left you some clothes." the weyrhelper said. "Weyrleader J'kosh had me bring 'em." she said, then left.
Ki smiles and dressed in the tunic and a pair of loose drawstring-waisted pants. She explored her weyr, and eventually wandered out into the bowl, barefooted as usual. Dragons on their ledges murmured to each other, commenting on how much she'd grown, or how strong she looked, or what they "remembered" about her from so long ago. Ki was oblivious to all this, but felt welcome nonetheless.
J'kosh came out to meet her. "Ki -- you heard J'rin's comment, right?" Ki nodded. "How about it? Would you go?"
"Yes Weyrleader." she whispered.
With ner new clothes packed in a new carrisack, and new boots, and warm riding jacket on, J'kosh conveyed his young friend over to Talor Cliff, where she was warmly welcomed -- quiet and shy of others or not.
Is Amitath ever wrong? Meet Ki's dragon here!