Come midday, her sister raced in from outdoors, smiling, tan, and a bit sweaty from her exertions. "Hey Maranni!" she said excitedly, "The dragons have come again!"
Maranni looked up at her wild sister, smiling. Merigel was tanned a lovely golden brown, and Maranni was pale, with a sprinkling of freckles. Other than that, the girls looked very alike, dark hair, and dark eyes. As well they should, being that they're two of a set of quintuplets.
"Riders? Again?" Maranni asked, turning a bit in her chair to look out the window. She couldn't see anything.
Dragons seldom came to Two River, because they scared the beasts so. It only seemed like a few days since dragons had taken Kolmer and a few other boys to the Weyrs to Stand for Impression.
"Yeah!" Merigel said, and raced back out. She had the makings of a fine runner, and also a vintner, like their father Jennok. Their other siblings were Gelmer, and Kolmer & Anikkol, who were identical twins.
Maranni smiled, and did her best to be helpful was teh midday meal was set out.
The riders joined them for the meal, and Holder Mejolin welcomed them officially, and they stood up from where they were to be recognised.
A clutch on the sands at Ryslen -- and a queen egg too. A wonderful surprise. Maranni pushed the vegetables around oh her plate.
One of the riders was sitting across from her. and kept smiling at her. The more she thought about dragons, the less she wanted to smile back.
At long last, he leaned across the table, and caught her eye. "Is somethin' wrong, darlin'?" he asked, genuinely concerned.
"Nothing a little sun won't fix." Maranni replied.
When the meal concluded, everyone went back to their duties. Maranni lingered, sipping a tall glass of juice.
The dragonriders grouped together at a far table to discuss their choices for Candidates. They had picked three, before J'lenn, blue Scith's rider, spoke up. "How 'bout Maranni?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. The others laughed. "What have you been drinking, J'lenn? She can't ride. She's no legs." One pointed out, and they went back to a more serious discussion. Crestfallen, J'lenn turned and looked over his shoulder in time to see Anikkol picke up his sister and carry her outside. Dejected, J'lenn just listened as the other Riders finalized choices, then went to talk to Mejolin.
"You coming, J'lenn?" they asked, and he shook his head. "I think I'm going to get some klah and head back. I'm not feeling so well."
When they'd gone, he got up and went looking for Anikkol. He found him near the infirmary, and asked him about Maranni. The 14 turn old boy looked up at the rider, expression somewhat blank. "It happened about half a turn ago -- Maranni, myself, and two other lads were helping round up the cattle..." he paused for a bit, until J'lenn nodded for him to continue.
"Well, something spooked the cattle and Maranni's runner, who threw her. She got caught in the stampede, and I couldn't get to her!" The boy's voice cracked, tears welling to his eyes.
J'lenn put his hand on Anikkol's shoulder. "You did your best, and now you take care of her. You haven't failed your sister yet."
That seemed to perk the boy up a little. "Don' you worry one lil' bit, Anikkol. I got somethin' in mind that ought make Maranni very happy."
That brought a smile to the boy's face. "She's always wanted a firelizard." Anikkol offered, then bounced off to do something else.
J'lenn headed out of the hold, and back to Ryslen Weyr. Once he was there, he sought out Riale. She was surprised to see him as he normally avoided stunts and their riders, and more surprised at what he wanted to talk to her about.
A hop skip, and a jump later, Scith was spiraling slowly down over a smallish Northern Weyrlet. Baeris Kshau's Healing Den to be exact.
J'lenn slid off his blue dragon, and cast a look about, noting the variety of dragons around him. Some visiting, and some yet too young to go elsewhere -- all sizes, colors, and, as J'lenn noticed, odd varieties. He recognised one as Z'rin's orange Moeomth. What was he doing here? Wasn't he stationed permanently at VallenCove?
Shaking it off, J'lenn went looking for that healer, Baeris, hoping most profoundly not to run into one of those wierd little dragons.
After a bit of wandering, J'lenn spotted a tall, dark woman scrubbing a light green weyrling in the lake. She matched Riale's discription to a "t" and, strode over, seeing no harm in being near a weyrling. The hidebound rider didn't realize until too late that it was no weyrling, but in fact the golden-apple-green Dulath.
Well, at least he found Baeris.
Sighing inwardly, J'lenn walked over to hte healer, and spoke clearly, getting her attention. "Master Baeris?"
She turned to look at him, cool, calm and collected, as was her norm. "Can I help you, Rider?"
Strike one. J'lenn thought. By the icy formality, she must have recognised him from that (oddly small) resistance to having Riale move in with her Niawith. "I'd like to talk to you 'bout your . . . . dragons."
The pause was too long, ans he was rewarded with an icy stare.
Strike two.He thought. He and some others thought these so-called stunt dragons were abominati.. he slammed a lid on that thought.
"Listen here, hotshot." Baeris began, eyes flashing angrily. "If you think you can come here and yell at me about this, you've got another think coming!"
J'lenn took a step back. "No Ma'am, Master Baeris! I've come 'bout a girl..."
Baeris rolls her eyes. "I'm not in that business!"
J'lenn's face flushed. "Not like that! Let me start over: I want to talk to you about a candidate."
If emotions were colors, Baeris would have just become several shades happier. "Why didn't you just say so?"
With Dulath scrubbed and gone off to sun, Baeris led J'lenn over to somewhere where they could sit.
Settled, Baeris looked expectantly at the rider. "So, tell me about this girl... What's her name, where's she from?"
J'lenn was obviously still relatively ill at ease, and a bit jumpy. And Baeris wasn't giving him an easy time here. "Her name is Maranni, she's from Two River Hold... it's part of East Rock Territory..." He paused.
"I'm familiar with East Rock. There have been several candidates from there. Go on."
J'lenn shifted in his chair. This was almost worse than being in the hot seat with the old WeyrlingMaster. "She's one of a set of quintuplets, all having 14 turns. She has long dark hair, and dark eyes set in an ivory-toned face. She has a lilting soprano, and has a knack for playing pipes. Her brother says she keeps a set of multiple reed pipes with her at all times. This' the kind of girl the harpers snatch up for training, given the chance. Maranni is slim and rather reserved. I can't tell you how tall she is -- she never stood up."
J'lenn swallowed, then continued "I think she has real potential as a dragonrider -- calm, collected. She def'nitely has plenty of smarts b'tween her ears. Her siblings all seem to be excelling at their crafts."
Baeris regarded the rider carefully. "So what's the catch, J'lenn? A bright girl like that would be a nice choice for your own Sands."
J'lenn shifted again. Why was she taunting him so? She was the one with the bizarre dragons. With a sigh, J'lenn started in on the story Anikkol had told him. "About a half turn ago - or so the story goes - she and one of her brothers were helping herd cattle. Her runnerbeast spooked and threw her when the cattle stampeeded. She was trampled... The healers worked several miracles on that girl, but there was only so much they could do. Poor girl lost her legs from the knees down."
"I see how that can be a problem." Baeris said, nodding. "How can a less-than-able-bodied girl even hope to ride a fighting dragon? She seems like she's not candidate material after all. You're slipping, J'lenn." Now she was baiting him.
"Master Baeris - Maranni is leading only half a life. She's stuck among a farmcraft community with no way to participate. She couldn't dodge a beast with a mind to kick if her life depended on it."
"So you've abandoned your ethics and come to me to see if I could hatch out something to help her?" Baeris said, still calm dispite the nervousness of the rider. He was the stubborn one, why should she be uncomfortable?
"More or less." The rider said in resignation.
"I don't breed dragons like that, J'lenn. I'm not a beastcrafter. Nature takes it's own path -- the dragons know what they're doing. I just give them space to do it. I can't promise anything will hatch for her, but she would be welcome to come here. If nothing else, a change of pace may be what she needs." Baeris said.
J'lenn smiled, and Baeris rose from her seat. "Thank you for coming, J'lenn. You go make arrangemets with her parents, and I'll get a room set up here."
With that, Baeris parted company with J'lenn.
Jennok and Sariae thought the idea was fair, and agreed to let Maranni go -- whether as a candidate or not. It didn't matter. Anything to make Maranni happy again.
The hardest part was getting the girl aboard Scith. The blue even lay on his belly to get closer to the ground.
Outfitted in a long jacked and lined pants knotted at the bottom to take up the excess length ans keep the drafts in check, Maranni faced the big beast. Secretly she was glad Scith wasn't a bronze. J'lenn gave her a boost up, and she grabbed tight onto the riding straps. At least she wasn't sitting bored in the Lower Caverns anymore.
With passenger, her gear, and himself fastened securely to Scith, J'lenn gave teh signal ans they rose into the air and departed Between.
Baeris met them when they arrived, the lovely Dulath at her side. The healer welcomed her as she helped J'lenn get her down from her perch atop Scith.
J'lenn stayed for a while, until Maranni was settled, then bid them farewell.
"You will be coming for the hatching, right J'lenn?"
The rider balked, and turned to face Maranni. "I..." he began, eyes a bit wide in shock.
Baeris finished for him. "He'll have to see if the Weyrleader will let him free that day." The close-minded rider had gone through a lot today, facing what repulsed him most in order to help the girl. With a grateful look to Baeris, he departed.
Background from Boogie Jack's Web Depot.