H'tal and brown Astelith
The Road So Far!
It all began at Jessaf Hold, in the protectorate of Madellon Weyr, for Hessatal – a young man of 18 Turns, dreaming of becoming a dragonrider.
Hessatal was born the son of a modest cotholder at Jessaf Hold, working alongside his widowed father to work their allotted land, and help bring up his young twin siblings, Albon and Gettie. And in early 102, when a green rider, N'jol, and his Kistrith came to Jessaf in search of candidates for Madellon Weyr's hardening clutch, Hessatal didn't even present himself as a hopeful. Yet it was Hessatal that Kistrith singled out among all those young people. He almost didn't accept Search – anxious not to abandon his father. But he insisted, revealing that his late wife, Hessatal's mother, had always dreamed of being a dragonrider – and gifting Hessatal with her blue feather pendant as a lucky charm.
As a candidate, Hessatal 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 Hessatal! Backed up by his crony Kestor, Rielat became the thorn in Hessatal's side throughout the sevendays of candidacy.
The dragons' hum woke Soburn and Hessatal 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 Hessatal 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, Hessatal 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 Hessatal to find it. Despite Hessatal's best efforts, though, he didn't manage to complete and return the jewellery set before the Hatching.
Respecting his elders
In the Weyr's kitchen gardens, Hessatal encountered R'hren, a former Weyrleader of Madellon, now peacefully retired to potter among his beloved plants. R'hren asked Hessatal to help him track down the ingredients for a warming salve to help his elderly bronze, Staamath, with his arthritic forepaws. Hessatal duly located the components of R'hren's salve, winning the old bronze rider's approval in the process.
Gifted a small pot of the salve, Hessatal offered it to old S'rius, who was equally appreciative of the gift. And while Kisha, the blind old green rider Hessatal encountered in the infirmary, would have nothing to do with one of R'hren's concoctions, she too grew to approve of Hessatal – especially after he solved all three of her fiendish riddles!
A Masterful order
In the dining hall, Hessatal met his fellow candidate Zielaph, who'd been tasked by his somewhat dim uncle, bronze rider Fr'ton, with delivering a complicated drinks order to a group of Master Crafters. Zielaph had information about their names, beverages, crafts, and fire-lizards – but not in any sensible order!
Luckily for him, Hessatal solved the puzzle of Fr'ton's confusing notes adeptly, delivering the correct drinks to the correct Masters, and earning a handsome tip in the process. Hessatal even shared the largesse with Zielaph, who then introduced him to Fr'ton – who, having Impressed a bronze in spite of his less than boundless promise, gave Hessatal a certain confidence in his own prospects!
A rising problem
Hessatal 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. Hessatal'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.
Madellon's kitchens – the heart of the Weyr, and domain of Headwoman Crauva – provided Hessatal with the opportunity to show off his work ethic before the Hatching. A round of chores duly pleased Crauva. And the kitchen was also the source of the hotfruit R'hren had sent Hessatal to find for his warming salve.
Weyrbrat by name...
A run-in with a Weyrbrat – Terzon, whom Rielat had paid to cause Hessatal trouble – resulted in an unfortunate public incident. All too aware of being shaken down, Hessatal gave the kid a shove – in front of a number of witnesses – doing nothing for his reputation!
A slithery customer
Early in the day, Hessatal 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, Hessatal strayed into tunnel snake territory! A huge, aggressive, and potently venomous female tunnel-snake guarded the exit to the Hatching ground. Hessatal 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.
But the snake's venom had done its work, and Hessatal collapsed trying to reach the eggs, waking up in the infirmary.
But when it came to the Hatching, Hessatal had a less than ordinary experience. While trying to sneak into the Hatching Ground for a surreptitious look at the eggs, he disturbed an immense, highly venomous tunnel-snake. He survived the encounter, but not without a cost – he was bitten. Seeking immediate aid from the Weyr Healer, Isnan, saved his life – but got him invalided out of the Hatching and confined to the infirmary. But an earlier conversation with a veteran blue rider, S'rius, gave Hessatal the notion that he might still be able to Impress – if he could just reach the Sands in time. He staggered from his sickbed, across the Weyr, and onto the Sands – just in time to Impress the very last dragonet, a brown who named himself Astelith.
Whatever happened to Rielat?
Sadly, there was at least one fly in the numbweed. Rielat Impressed an impressively proportioned indigo-blue hatchling, making them Hessatal and Astelith's new classmates. (On the bright side, at least Kestor didn't Impress!)
After the Hatching
"Astelith" by Emily Holland
The Weyrlingmaster was the first to congratulate Hessatal on his Impression, but it was N'jol, delighted that his most humble candidate had Impressed, who stepped in to help with the immediate matter of Astelith's first meal. That was the first moment Hessatal had truly grasped that Soburn wasn't going to be a weyrling alongside him – a truth that hit hard. In Soburn's absence, Chiliam – the highborn lad from Kellad, who'd Impressed a dusty-brown dragonet, Destrath, and who now styled himself Ch'liam – was a welcome friendly face.
It wasn't long before Astelith's personality started to become evident. The little russet-brown dragonet proved unusually quiet, speaking only seldom, and showing a strong preference for his own company – and his rider's.
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 Hessatal and Ch'liam 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. Hessatal was proud to introduce Astelith to the Weyrleader. And after a brief conference with Astelith, Hessatal gave the Weyrleader his own new name: H'tal, rider of brown Astelith!
Following their audience with the Weyrleader, and the application of oily rags to relieve Astelith's and Destrath's newborn itchiness, H'tal and Ch'liam 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
H'tal and Ch'liam soon went their separate ways to find family and friends. Many of the riders and Weyrfolk H'tal had helped during the day greeted him with warm congratulations as he hunted through the throng – but, at last, he found his family.
H'tal's father almost couldn't believe his son's good fortune, completely thrilled to be the father of a dragonrider. And he was even more starstruck when the Weyrleaders came to drink a toast to H'tal and Astelith.
The rest of the evening passed in a blur for H'tal, 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, H'tal 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 H'tal'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 H'tal 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 Astelith.
A close encounter
On his way back to the barracks (by way of the infirmary, as ordered by Tarshe), H'tal 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 H'tal 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, H'tal decided, on balance, not to tell the Weyrlingmaster about the stranger.
Returning at last to Astelith – billeted between Ch'liam's Destrath and a bright bronze dragonet – H'tal 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 brown beside him – H'tal 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?
H'tal and Astelith'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
Astelith 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
Astelith and I agreed on something very important!
Astelith and I agreed on something quite important!