D'nal paced the length of the waiting room. The midwife and healers had chased him from the birthing room - a complication with the birth. A new stage of nervousness set in as minute after minute went by and no sound issued forth. D'nal sat down on the edge of a chair, and put his face into his hands. It was his "fault" Chris was going through this at all.
Footsteps sounded; quick, sharp - like boots - and from the wrong direction. D'nal didn't look up. Whoever it was sat down beside him, and put a tentative hand on his back. D'nal looked up into the calm blue eyes of a long time friend. Without a second thought, he wrapped his arms around her. "Gem..." he began, his voice tight from unshed tears. "...Chris..."
Gem wrapped her arms around the bronzerider. "They told me all about it."
Within moments, the keening wail of the dragons split the air. The unexpected trauma hit Gem like a load of bricks. She fell to her knees in pain even as the realization hit D'nal. Chris' blue Blanth had gone. Chris was no more. Clinging to Gem, D'nal wept, not caring that he would lose face because of it. His mate was gone, and their child...?
Gem stayed on longer than she intended, helping D'nal ot cope with his grief. Since she was travelling through time, she couldn't be "late" getting back, but the longer she stayed, the harder it would be to get back.
Chris and D'nal's child survived, though Chris herself had not. He was immediately fostered to a woman with an infant child. D'nal wasn't sure what he would call the child, but the surrogate mother refused to let the darling boy be called Donalson.
When Gem departed, the boy still had no name, but D'nal had accepted him as his own, and soon the name would follow.
* * *
The sun was barely up as Jared clambered down the riverbank and splashed into the water. Getting away from the crowded conditions of the hold was a blessing. The water was icy cold, but was slowly moving, so one could cross the ford on foot - as long as he or she hiked their clothing past their knees...
Jared climbed up the far bank and sprinted through the sand to the trace that went into the trees. There was a slight danger of thorns, but the track was wide and hard packed by the hooves of horses and beasts of burden. Twenty paces up the track was a largish rock - too big to be carried away for building, too small to be worth breaking up. Here Jared sat to brush the sand from his feet and put his sturdy boots back on. His father was ill, and the healers doubted he'd survive for another seven days. Though he was 20, his foster family wouldn't allow him to go to his ailing father's side. Jared hated to disobey, but he had to do what his heart told him was right - he had to be with his father.
Jared moved down the track at a steady, yet easy pace At this rate, he'd easily make it to the Weyr in time for the evening meal. Keeping his eyes open yielded much to Jared - once he'd found a half-mark in the middle of the woods... This trip, however, did not add to the weight of his money belt.
A wild flitter darted across the trace, bearing a stem of berries. Risking throwing his time-table off, Jared ducked between the trees and went back the way the flitter had come in pursuit of those berries. His fostermother had always given him those when he was ill... Jared didn't know if they had any healing properties, but they always settled his stomach. Perhaps they'd help his father? Beltknife at ready, Jared cautiously moved through the trees. There, under the spreading branches of the largest Fellis tree Jared had ever seen, were the unstripped berry bushes. It took but a few moments to gather the berries, and some new fellis fruit. It couldn't hurt...
The rest of the trip was uneventful, fortunately, and even with the diversion, he arrived before the meal. The kitchenworkers knew instantly who he was - he looked a lot like D'nal had as a youth, and like the long lost Chris as well. They relieved him of his burdens, and directed him to D'nal's ground level apartment with a promise to bring some of the berries with the rider's dinner.
Bravath sniffed him as he entered, and Jared ran his hands down the grayed muzzle. Just the sight of the dragon was proof enough of the gravity of D'nal's illness. The medics flew into a squawking rage when Jared entered. "Who let you in here?" they demanded.
"Bravath did." Jared calmly, though his green eyes flashed.
"Jared?" D'nal called feebly from the bed. The years had not been kind to the bronzerider, and though he had only reached his late forties, he looked as though he'd lived nearly twice that long.
"I'm here, father." The red-headed youth said, stepping past the shocked healers.
"They said you wouldn't come..." he said, reaching out to the boy.
"It doesn't matter now, father. I'm here, you can rest easy now." Jared said, taking his father's hand in both of his. The bronzerider slipped into sleep after a few moments of silence, and the medics unceremoniously ushered him out.
* * *
Jared sat under a tree in the courtyard, picking at the meal the kitchen girls had brought him. A largish blue dragon appeared high in the sky, and made it's way down. As the blue got closer, he could see the rich royal blue and vibrant crimson markings. His wingtips were marked with curvy lines like ribbons -- or Thread? Jared didn't know.
The blue's rider dismounted, and he leapt skyward and settled on the rim. The rider looked around and then came over to Jared. "Dinner time?" she asked. Jared nodded. "Do you know where D'nal is?" she asked.
Jared swallowed. "He's sleeping now, rider. He's terribly ill."
Gem sat down. I've been gone too long. she thought.
Indeed. Bravath whispered to her.
"I'ven't seen you around here before." Gem said to break the silence.
"I live at the hold." Jared said. "And you live here?"
Gem shook her head and leaned close. "I'm from the future."
Jared laughed. "Yeah right."
Gem smiled. "Actually, my parents were settlers, but I lost my claim to their land when I bonded my blue."
Jared nodded. He found her attractive. Very attractive.
One of the medics arrived. "D'nal's asking for you." He said.
Jared looked at Gem, and she looked at him. "Which?"
"Rider Gem." The medic said.
Jared sighed and sat while Gem left. He fell asleep there under the tree, and one of the kitchen staff removed his tray and tossed a lightweight blanket over his knees.
Just after twilight, Jared awoke with an odd feeling. Two whirling eyes peered at him. "He didn't...?" Jared asked, and struggled to get up.
Not yet. an icy voice told him.
He could see the blue before him, but the voice was decidedly female.
Eeppoth nudged him. It was me. GO now. she said.
"But you're blue... and you're a girl..." Jared spluttered trying to make sense of it.
Gem will explain later. Go, or you'll miss him! she said, shoving ihm towards the apartment.
Jared ran. The medics let him in, and stood away. D'nal was obviously in pain. "Jared..." he gasped, and reached for his son's hand. "I've always loved you..." Gem looked bewildered. "Take care..." D'nal's eyes closed, and his arm went limp.
Jared held on. "Father... no...!"
Bravath left in a flurry of wings. The keening began, and Jared slipped to the floor, tears streaming from his eyes. Gem was there in an instant, teeth clenched against the anguish of hundreds of minds in hers. She wrapped her arms around Jared. He hugged her back and sobbed. It didn't occur to him until much later how close he was to her.
* * *
The next few days were a haze. Jared felt entirely alone, even though he knew his foster family loved his dearly. Gem hadn't been too surprised to find this was D'nal and Chris' son, and soon found that he had all the qualities she had loved about D'nal. He was intelligent, had a quirky sense of humor, and wasn't afraid to do what needed to be done.
After a week, Gem was packing to go "home" to East Rock. Jared appeared outside Eeppoth's accomodations. "Take me with you." He said, shattering the silence. "Please."
Gem shook her head. "You belong here."
"So do you!" he retorted.
"No, I don't." Gem said, tucking her clothing into her back. "There's nothing here for me anymore, and Eeppoth belongs to the future."
"I have nothing either! D'nal's gone, and I never met my mother." Jared said, walking in, rather than yelling from the doorway. "Take me to when female blues are the norm - don't leave me."
Gem scoffed. "Jared, Eeppoth's far from normal even in her time."
"I don't care Gem." Jared said.
Gem swung her pack to her shoulder and carried it to where Eeppoth waited.
"Gem I don't want you to leave. I love you." Jared blurted out.
Gem was so startled she dropped her pack and turned to face him. "You... love me?"
"Oh yes; since the moment I laid eyes on you..." Jared said, stepping towards her.
Eeppoth, is he serious?
Indubitably. the rare dragoness replied.
Gem stepped towards him. "This is no joking matter, Jared."
"I know Gem. I know. I'm not from the future - I have the same sort of morals as you, you know. Gem, will you be my wife?"
Gem was thunderstruck. Gem... he can't read your mind. Eeppoth prodded.
He can read this. she shot back, and stepped into his embrace and kissed him. "'red," she said. "I can't stay..."
"Take me with you." Jared whispered. "You won't regret it."
Gem laughed, and announced their betrothal to the dragons of the Weyr. The chorus of approving bugles was a welcomed sound.
* * *
A quick stop at the hold added Jared's things to Eeppoth's back, as well as a gift from his foster family. They arrived at Ryslen a few days after Gem and Eeppoth had left. The search dragons were in an uproar. They wanted 'Gem's Friend' on the sands as soon as possible.
Jared was amused. "Where do they want me to go? There are a lot of Weyrs now."
Gem smiled lovingly. "I want you to go to Istabitha's Weyr. It's where Eeppoth hatched, and we're partial to it." v"Who's Istabitha?" Jared asked.
Gem could only laugh. "You'll fit in just fine."
* * *
Upon their arrival at Istabitha's, they were met promptly by Naeodin. The Weyrwoman was saddened to hear of the loss of Jared's parents, especially bluerider Chris, whom she'd met personally on more than one occasion.
"We've no clutch at this time, Gem." Naeodin said, "but Vella Crean's sands house Riketh's clutch, and I'm sure your mate will be more than welcome there."
"Thank you Naeodin." Gem said.
"Yes, thank you." Jared echoed. He was enthralled by the Weyr, and dared not dream of what Vella Crean would hold.
As the Weyrwoman gave Gem directions, Jared looked around. This felt like home... he felt like he belonged.
Of course. Eeppoth said to him. Gem is here, and so are you.
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