N'laq and bronze Portulath
The Road So Far!
It all began at Madellon Weyr for Nailaq – a young man of 18 Turns, dreaming of becoming a bronze rider.
Nailaq was born the son of Wingleader R'yeno and green rider Evie of Madellon Weyr. While he didn't have to be Searched, he was 'given the nod' as a likely dragonrider by the Weyr's most senior retired Search pair – S'rius and his elderly blue Padseth. Having been left standing at a Hatching once before, Nailaq wrestled with the fear that he wouldn't live up to his rider parents' expectations a second time.
As a candidate, Nailaq was assigned a bunkmate – Soburn, an anxious Weyrbred youth with one failed Hatching already haunting him, who would soon become his closest friend in the Weyr. He also got to know many of his fellow candidates, including the Weyrbred twins Leover and Leoguy; Zielaph, the nephew of a Madellon bronze rider; and Chiliam, a good-natured highborn lad from Kellad.
But he also made an enemy – Rielat, a self-important apprentice Weaver – who took a firm disliking to Nailaq! Backed up by his crony Kestor, Rielat became the thorn in Nailaq's side throughout the sevendays of candidacy.
The dragons' hum woke Soburn and Nailaq on 102.03.17. Following a brief run-in with Rielat, the pair joined the rest of the candidates for a morning lecture. The Weyrlingmaster, L'stev, gave the whole cohort – increased by three late Searchees to a total of thirty-five – strict instructions about pre-Hatching preparations, including eating, drinking, bathing – and in some cases, getting a decent haircut – and then turned the group loose for the morning. Before Nailaq left, Soburn asked him to find out if H'nar, the young Wingleader of the Betweenless Wing, might currently be seeing someone – or not.
The one-armed green rider and the thieving queen
Immediately on leaving the candidate barracks, Nailaq was flagged down by M'shen – a green rider with one arm, a fire-lizard queen – and a problem. His queen, Squiffy, had stolen several pieces of the Weyrwoman's jewellery, and hidden it around the Weyr. M'shen recruited Nailaq to find it. The quest took Nailaq all over Madellon, from kitchens to lake to infirmary – but in the end he succeeded in reuniting the Weyrwoman's jewellery set, to general acclaim.
Respecting his elders
In the Weyr's kitchen gardens, Nailaq encountered R'hren, a former Weyrleader of Madellon, now peacefully retired to potter among his beloved plants. R'hren asked Nailaq to help him track down the ingredients for a warming salve to help his elderly bronze, Staamath, with his arthritic forepaws. Nailaq duly located the components of R'hren's salve, winning the old bronze rider's approval in the process.
Nailaq met G'kalte – a brown rider and Wingsecond, not to mention Weyrwoman Valonna's weyrmate – in the Bowl, and was quickly recruited by him to help with a diplomatic matter. G'kalte had been tasked with delivering two gifts from Valonna to her Southern counterpart Weyrwoman Karika – but he'd been summoned away to collect his own grandmother, Lady Coffleby, for the Hatching.
He asked Nailaq to figure out which of the seven Southern dragons visiting Madellon were the correct pair to hand over Karika's gifts. And while G'kalte's brown, Archidath, offered Nailaq some intelligence on the Southern seven, his advice was somewhat garbled! Nonetheless, Nailaq unravelled Archidath's confusing suggestions and got the right packages to the right dragons – without being growled at!
A rising problem
Nailaq encountered both Soleigh, whose green Bristath was preparing to rise near the lake, and her weyrmate Maris, who was getting very drunk in the dining hall on account of her fears that Soleigh was having an affair with a blue rider, G'tron. Nailaq's intervention successfully got rid of G'tron, whose Imdoth was very sweet indeed on Bristath, from the mating flight – not to mention G'pellas, another blue rider, needed in the Harper ensemble – and reconciled the two green riders. Even if Nailaq did annoy Soleigh, who wasn't impressed with him for prolonging Maris' binge by bringing her more wine!
Madellon's kitchens – the heart of the Weyr, and domain of Headwoman Crauva – provided Nailaq with the opportunity to show off his work ethic before the Hatching. A round of chores duly pleased Crauva, albeit cut short, literally, by the slip of a knife that sent Nailaq to the infirmary with a slice to be stitched up. And the kitchen was also the source of the hotfruit R'hren had sent Nailaq to find for his warming salve.
Eggs and baskets
A visit to the Archives led to a meeting with Tarshe, Madellon's Weyrwoman Second. When Nailaq expressed an interested in looking up some Weyr records, Tarshe offered him the loan of a glowbasket – on the proviso that he return it afterwards. Which – mindful of not offending such an important personage of the Weyr – Nailaq did!
A shining example
Coming upon Santinoth – Madellon's biggest bronze – being bathed in the lake, Nailaq was quick to offer assistance to his rider, T'rello. It couldn't hurt to have some close-up experience with a bronze, could it?
Conscious of Soburn's bashfulness, Nailaq approached the object of his affections – H'nar, Wingleader of the Betweenless Wing – with some circumspection. Still, when questioned, H'nar insisted he had to know who was making enquiries of him. And when he learned the identity of his admirer, he told Nailaq that he wasn't interested in Soburn – or any other men, for that matter. But Nailaq's agile pivot in questioning revealed that a close friend of H'nar's – blue rider M'rany – might be a viable alternative. Thus encouraged, Soburn began to think more positively of life as a dragonrider – even if H'nar would end up being his Wingleader!
Mindful of the Weyrlingmaster's orders to be smart for the Hatching, Nailaq visited Madellon's resident barber – green rider Z'fell – for a trim. Very conscious of his dignity, Nailaq ensured he came away with a cut he actually liked.
A slithery customer
Early in the day, Nailaq found out about a secret way into the Hatching Ground via storeroom that might allow him a sneaky peek at the eggs before the Hatching. Successfully entering the combination to the lock on the storeroom door, and suitably equipped with a glowbasket, he crawled into a confusing maze of passages.
By a stroke of ill luck, Nailaq strayed into tunnel snake territory! A brush with a small male tunnel-snake, guarding his nest, netted Nailaq some marks – and a painful, if not serious, bite. But that was only the beginning of his snaky problems. A huge, aggressive, and potently venomous female tunnel-snake guarded the exit to the Hatching ground. Nailaq was bitten – badly – and immediately felt the effects of the snake's paralysing venom. But ultimately he evaded the snake, dodging past it and slipping out onto the Hatching Sands.
Recognising the severity of his condition, Nailaq decided not to risk approaching the clutch, and went instead directly to the infirmary to be treated with antivenin.
When it came to the Hatching, Nailaq had to wait a little while before the purple-speckled cream egg Hatched to reveal the bright golden-bronze dragonet who would choose him, naming himself Portulath.
A friend in me
And Nailaq wasn't the only lucky one. To his delight, Soburn also Impressed, becoming the rider of a slender olive-green hatchling, Aeranth.
Whatever happened to Rielat?
For Rielat, getting on Nailaq's bad side proved to be an exceptionally poor choice. Nailaq dosed Rielat's clean underfurs with hotfruit before the Hatching, and for once, the admonition to always put on clean underpants turned out to have very negative consequences. It took a little while for the hotfruit to take effect, but by the time the candidates reached the Hatching Sands, Rielat was in considerable distress. Unable to bear the burning sensation in his nether regions, he fled the Hatching Sands – squandering his chance at Impression!
After the Hatching
"Portulath" by Emily Holland
The Weyrlingmaster was the first to congratulate Nailaq on his Impression, but it was old S'rius, delighted to have found yet another weyrling, who stepped in to help with the immediate matter of Portulath's first meal. That was Nailaq's first opportunity to speak to Soburn, too, and they introduced each other, with considerable delight, to their respective dragonets, Portulath and Aeranth. Soburn also told Nailaq that his new name was to be – perhaps unsurprisingly – S'burn.
It wasn't long before Portulath's personality started to become evident. The bright-bronze dragonet, while the smallest of his colour, demonstrated an exceptional degree of self-possession and independent thought – not shy to push himself forward, or make his opinion heard.
With both dragonets full to bursting with fresh meat, the newly minted dragonpairs left the Hatching sands for their new home: the weyrling barracks.
Meeting the Weyrleader
As Nailaq and S'burn wiped the worst of the blood and sand from their tired new dragonets, the Weyrleader, T'gat, came to inspect both boys' dragonets, to ask after their names – and to ask the two new weyrlings how they should now be called. Nailaq was proud to introduce Portulath to the Weyrleader. And after a brief conference with Portulath, Nailaq gave the Weyrleader his own new name: N'laq, rider of bronze Portulath!
Following their audience with the Weyrleader, and the application of oily rags to relieve Portulath's and Aeranth's newborn itchiness, N'laq and S'burn headed into the boys' barracks to claim the billets that would be theirs for the next Turn. Choosing adjacent cots, the two new weyrlings got their dragonets settled on the couches that they would take months to grow into. But there was no time for them to sit and admire their new dragons. The Weyrlingmaster soon came along to give them their new weyrling shoulder-knots, before chivvying them off to the Hatching feast!
The Hatching feast
N'laq and S'burn soon went their separate ways to find family and friends. Many of the riders and Weyrfolk N'laq had helped during the day greeted him with warm congratulations as he hunted through the throng – but, at last, he found his family.
R'yeno and Evie couldn't have been happier to greet their son as a bronze rider for the first time – though R'yeno couldn't resist making a crack about the new competition for his own bronze. And when the Weyrleaders came to drink a toast to N'laq, R'yeno further embarassed his son by insinuating that Gryth would be stiffer competition to Muzzanth in Shimpath's next flight.
The rest of the evening passed in a blur for N'laq, and it came as a relief when the Weyrlingmaster ordered all the new weyrlings back to the barracks for a good night's sleep. But en route to bed, N'laq was flagged down by a Weyrbrat, Emry, bringing the message that Weyrwoman Second Tarshe wanted to see him in the Archives.
Setting the record straight
Tarshe, tasked by the Weyrwoman with converting candidate documentation into weyrling records, went through N'laq's background with him – including much of what he had got up to on the morning of the Hatching – for good and ill. She offered N'laq some advice about paying attention to his new classmates and surroundings, lest he fall foul of the Weyrlingmaster's penchant for snap quizzes, advised him to report to Master Isnan before returning to the barracks to get his injuries checked again, and made some observations on Portulath.
A close encounter
On his way back to the barracks (by way of the infirmary, as ordered by Tarshe), N'laq had two peculiar encounters – first, with Tarshe's queen, Berzunth, who seemed quite agitated by one of the visiting dragons on the Rim; and then with a mysterious hooded figure, smelling strongly of what N'laq would later realise was firestone, who called him by name – and gave him a curious wooden box.
"The Watchful Queen" by Chris S. Baily
Back at the barracks, N'laq decided, on balance, not to tell the Weyrlingmaster about the stranger.
Returning at last to Portulath – billeted between S'burn's Aeranth and a mucky-looking brown dragonet – N'laq was too tired to examine the strange wooden box very closely, and put it in his clothes' chest for later examination. But even as he went to sleep – a dragonrider at last, his bronze beside him – N'laq was struck with a deep sense of foreboding. Who was the mysterious dragonrider in the hooded cloak? And what was the significance of the strange wooden box?
N'laq and Portulath's story will continue in Dragonchoice: Weyrling, coming soon!
CARRY ON WAYWARD SON
I travelled The Road So Far!
OUR ROB, OR ROSS
I received a mysterious box!
A HORSE WITH A NAME
I have a name and it's a good name and I don't need to fix my name. Probably.
THE YIN TO YOUR YANG
Portulath and I complement each other!
SUGAR AND SPICE
I've been a very nice person (so far)!
PLEASE STATE THE NATURE OF THE MEDICAL EMERGENCY
I returned to the infirmary!
EBONY AND IVORY
Portulath and I agreed on something very important!
Portulath and I disagreed on something quite important!