Beka sighed as she pulled hard on the reins, causing the horse to nicker in displeasure. She patted the horse’s neck in apology and looked Eastward. Several stars twinkled in the night sky, and one large red planet looked down fiercely at her. She glared back at it. How many times had she seen this fierce sight and been afraid to even look at it?
When she’d been a child on this planet, her heart had raced at the sight of it and leapt into her throat each time she saw it and she felt as if her lungs were being squashed so tightly together that she’d never breathe again. She still had the same effects, only they weren’t as severe as now.
She had a personal reason for hating the gigantic red planet and she would never forgive it for what it had done to her sister and mother…never. For as long as she lived, she promised she would be out there fighting the Thread with a flame thrower, if nothing else. Her mother and sister had died almost eleven years ago, she was nineteen now. She felt anger swell inside her, how she hated the red planet for murdering her family!
The horse picked up on her emotions and stirred, trying to back away from a fear it couldn’t comprehend. She cooed to the horse and patted it on its neck. “There, there now, I was only thinking, no need to get worked up.” She wondered if she should have taken Furry, her father’s horse. Furry was calmer about things, and didn’t react to a rider’s fear/hatred emotions unless he saw the thing that made his rider afraid…that is, if it looked frightful to him.
She continued to pat the horse, staring at the red planet. What kind of a blast would it take to send that thing out of orbit and far into space forever? It would have to be done in an interval of course, as the planet moved away from Pern, for surely a blast the size it would take would threaten Pern as well.
She turned the horse and ran it all the way back to the hold.
“Ah, Beka, I was wondering where you’d been off to.” Her father said, and she looked down upon him with sad eyes for he had changed since the death of Morana and Kayana, Beka’s mother and sister.
That was another thing Beka hated the red planet for; her father was no longer the spirited, go-getter, outgoing person he used to be and the memory of the look in his eyes when her father had first heard the words ‘I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you this, but your wife was consumed by the menace as well’, brought tears to her eyes. He was no longer a very sane man, he needed to be watched day and night, for fear of him doing something stupid…though Beka hated so to spy on her father just to be able to keep him safe.
“Oh, I was just out and about, looking for any stray cattle.” She said, averting her eyes in time for them to dry up, not that he’d notice anyway, he’d stopped noticing anything that day Morana had died.
Beka woke to the sounds of screaming and yelling. She sat bolt upright in bed and ran down the steps and into the main room of the hold. She was about to throw open the doors when someone grabbed her hand.
“Thread is falling young Beka! It was unexpected today!” Beka’s expression changed from one of surprise to complete horror. “The dragonriders haven’t arrived yet because they haven’t been warned. I just sent a firelizard to warn them, but I dunno if it’ll get the message there soon enough, though I expressed the urgency for it to get there and back as fast as possible.”
“Morana!” Beka whirled around in time to see her father fling open the doors to the hold. She screamed in terror and ran after her father, but the arms of the man she’d been talking to held her back. She whipped around and kicked him in the shin then tore after her father.
“Daddy, come baaaaaack!” She cried out, rushing out into the Thread storm. She saw him shaking his fist like a madman at the red planet moments before a strand of Thread landed on him and then another and another. “Nooooooooooooooo!” She cried, rushing after him, but she tripped. She was saved again by the same man, and he dragged her, kicking and screaming, back into the hold and shut the doors with the help of others.
He tried to comfort her, but she wasn’t paying attention, her mind was set on getting back outside and saving her father.
“Beka! Beka! Listen to me! There will be nothing left of your father, he will be all gone by now, I’m sure he died without pain!” He tried to shout above her screams. He knew very well that her father wouldn’t have died without pain, he would have gone very painfully, but anything to soothe the poor girl…
A few hours later, and Beka’s screams had dissolved to low moans. She stared up at Frijol, but looked more like she was staring right through him and that made him feel the creeps. He shuddered and then put a cup of wine up to her mouth, but she didn’t seem to notice, so he set it back.
“Dear, Beka,” he said almost sadly, pleadingly, “don’t go the way your father went.” He waved a hand in front of her face, but she still did not follow. “Poor Beka, you poor girl.” He said, stroking her hair. Maljnor came in and stared down at Frijol and Beka.
“How’s she doing?” Maljnor asked softly, but Frijol shook his head.
“Not sure she’s going to make it. First she saw her sister die, and then heard the news of her mother’s death, now she saw her father being eaten alive by the menace…” Frijol shook his head again. “Don’t think she’ll make it past a week.”
“Don’t loose such faith. She has a strong will, I know so personally.” Maljnor said truthfully, for he had been the one to try and stop her from chasing her father, the one who’d rescued her from the Thread, and the one who had carried her up to the only medical staff room available.
“Yes, well, that was before her father was torn to shreds by that evil menace. We shall see.” He said and both men left the room.
Beka smiled as the sun shone brightly threw her open window. She stared out at the soft rolling hills outside the hold, and at the many dragons and dragonriders below. Today was the Hold’s very first Gather. Thousands of people traversed around, eating bubbly pies and drinking all sorts of wines, the last of the Earthen wines and the newest Pernese wines.
Beka hurriedly put on her gather dress and then combed out her thin brown hair. She looked down at the floor seemingly so far away and wondered exactly what she’d been like as a girl. She couldn’t remember anything past eleven years ago. Maljnor said she’d lost all memory of anything that had happened to her that night, and it had all been for the best.
So, being as good of a sport as she could, she’d gone on from where she was, starting a new life since she couldn’t remember her old one. She was told she was thirty years old now, but she’d forgotten her birth date as well, so she had had to rely on Maljnor’s information eleven turns ago.
It hadn’t been long before she realized she didn’t have a father or mother as most people did, and Maljnor had supplied the excuse that her parents had died of old age already, and that she’d been the only child. She believed him, there was no reason not to believe him, and he did seem truthful about it.
It was the red planet that made her shake in terror each time she saw it, or each time she saw the spores fall down to the planet, something about them caused her to reel in fear, and she would suddenly start crying until Maljnor came to soothe her, but she had no idea why the red planet made her act so. Maljnor said she had been scored once as a child and showed her a scar on her arm from where Thread had scored her once.
So, ‘realizing’ the reason for her fear, she refused to be afraid of it any longer and focused, instead, upon fighting the menace that had burned her. She had overcome her fear in time and then felt foolish for having been so afraid of it.
She stopped thinking about everything and joined Maljnor. Together, they went down to the Gather.
Beka ran down the stairs, hearing the screaming and yelling of several people, screams of fear, the yells were commands. She paused at the large hold doors, staring at them and slowly reached up and grabbed hold of the door handle. Something inside whispered for her to not open the doors, but she ignored it.
She slowly pushed the hold door open and then gaped in shock as the red planet slowly came into view from behind gray clouds. She tried to scream and turn the other way, but she could only stand in shock.
Then it flashed its evil dark eyes at her and opened its black mouth and laughed as it sent thousands of Thread down at her. She turned, but she was turning too slowly, she couldn’t turn fast enough to get inside the hold and the Thread reached her before she could even put a foot inside the hold. She screamed in terror and pain as the Thread burned her skin, and she held up her hand to her face and saw bone, then it was gone too.
Beka sat up, drenched in sweat. Was that how she got her scar? No, it must have just been a nightmare from her childhood when she’d received the scoring. She looked down at her arm, where she noticed that the scar was throbbing slightly in pain. Thread! That was it! Thread was falling! She rushed to her window and looked out, but sighed in relief when she saw the dragonriders flaming the deadly menace.
She sighed and went back to sleep.
Much to her dismay, the dreams intensified each night, and soon she saw herself standing to the side, watching someone else open the hold doors and rush out. She tried to stop him…was it a guy…but she always got to him too late.
Beka sat up, screaming in anguish. Her father had perished in the fall of Thread, all because the dragonriders had not been there! Had perished because she hadn’t been able to stop him! It took her a few minutes to realize she finally knew who the man was that she’d tried to stop, and then another few to realize that all Maljnor had told her was lies…all the entire hold had told her was lies.
In her furry, she leapt from her bed and race down to the kitchens. No one was in the kitchens, so she took the liberty of stealing a knife and tip-toeing up to Maljnor’s room. It was all his fault! He had told her that her father had died of old age, that her mother…she didn’t recall her mother yet, but she figured that everything had been a lie! The rage in her was building up with each passing moment. Why hadn’t he told her the truth? She wouldn’t have had to live those nightmares each night and wouldn’t have to come to realization like this so drastically!
Slowly, she opened the door to Maljnor’s room and then closed it behind her. She had to do this! She had to! He had lied to her! Had hurt her! He was as bad as the red planet itself!
She crept up to his bed and raised the knife…and just stood there. She’d never taken someone’s life before…what would it feel like? Would it make everything better? Yes! She told herself. Yes, it would make things better. She raised the knife higher…
“Stop it, Beka!” Maljnor suddenly sat up and she plunged the knife down. It caught him in the shoulder and he cried out in shock. Damn him, she’d missed! She reached for the knife again, but Maljnor grabbed her by the wrists and didn’t let her near the knife in his shoulder.
“You lied! You lied to me!” She shrieked and then she couldn’t take it anymore and broke down into tears and collapsed to the ground, Maljnor still holding her wrists while she shook in emotional pain and confusion.
“What, what did I lie to you about?” Maljnor asked, but he had a feeling he knew what she was talking about and his face drained of its color. “We thought your memory wouldn’t return it’d been so bad for you. For nearly two months we tried to spark some sort of memory, we hoped you hadn’t gone crazy like your father. After the two months, we figured your memory would never return. After eleven years, well…” He looked down at her, she wasn’t listening. “I’m sorry.” He apologized sincerely.
“Maljnor! What…” Maljnor’s friend paused in the doorway, not sure what to make of the scene until Maljnor let go of Beka’s wrists and laid back on the bed.
“Get a medic.” Was the only thing Maljnor said. The pain in his shoulder was too great to say much more, and he could feel the loss of his blood taking a toll on him. Maljnor’s friend was quick to get a medic, for both of them.
For the next month, Beka had undergone intense psychological recuperation. She’d apologized to Maljnor…but not before he had apologized to her. She felt she could never forgive him for lying to her. He could have at least told her the truth!
Yet, as time went on, she learned to truly forgive him and was soon out of rehab. The red planet no longer scared her as it used to, and she saw it no longer as a threat, but as a thing that gave her something to take her mind off of everything else.
She still went to Gathers, wherever they were taking place, and tried to make as many friends as possible. Soon enough, she found herself enjoying life, and left her past behind.
During one of the sociable Gathers, a blue dragonrider and his dragon dropped down beside her, causing her startlement for a brief moment.
“I am assuming you are Beka?” He asked. She nodded, nearly spitting out her wine. Did she know him? She sure felt embarrassed that he knew her name and she not his. “I’m U’mlt, and this is Girth. You didn’t know us before, so don’t worry about fixing us to a name.” He said and smiled as he slid off his dragon to the ground. “Well, nice to meet you.” She said and held out a hand. He shook it and then proceeded on to his business.
“You’re probably curious why I am here.” He said as more of a statement than a question and continued without waiting for a response from her. “I am a Searchrider for Sidra Weyr.”
“Searchrider? How could that possibly be? I didn’t hear of a clutch on the sands!” She said. “Besides, Sidra Weyr was just founded three years ago and they had no queen then!” She said in a tone clearly filled with disgust for such a stupid decision the people of Sidra had made.
“Yes, well, that no longer happens to be true. Besides, I’m not here searching you for Sidra Weyr. I am here to search you for Alskyr.” He said.
Beka had taken another sip of wine while listening to his story and nearly spit her wine out again when she heard the last part. She swallowed and then looked up at the dragonrider, seeing him clearly for the first time.
“Uhm…okay.” She said.
“It is another planet like our beloved Pern. Except for the fact that the dragons range from a bunch of different sizes. From our size to the size of…” The dragonrider shook his head and shrug, having a hard time explaining. “Large.” He finally said. “Anyway, there is a clutch at a place called Caer Brynmor. Caers are much like our Weyrs so I think you should be fairly comfortable there.”
“On a strange planet? Far away from Pern? Some strange place I’ve never been to before. With all kinds of strange people and strange customs and beliefs?”
“Look, they came from Earth just like we did. So they really aren’t all that strange. Except, well…you’ll be farther into their future than we are in ours.”
“Whatever. So, if I choose to go?”
“Then I’ll take you now. Also…” The dragonrider looked a little uncomfortable to say what he said next, “there is no red planet on Alskyr. They have things like rampage plant and ants which are just as deadly as our red star…but-”
“Ants…you’re kidding me, right? They get attacked by ants?”
“These aren’t tiny ants like you’re used to, Beka. These things are…huge…and they smell.” He added, wrinkling up his nose.
“So you’ve been there.” Though she said it as a statement is was more of a question.
“Of course I’ve been there! How else would I know to get to Alskyr?”
Beka shrugged and smiled, “alright. I suppose I’ll go.”
“Good. The dragons there are a bit stranger than what we have here, but you’ll like them.” The dragonrider replied with a smile. “so go pack your things and we’ll be on our way.”