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Donalla and blue Coufalth

The Road So Far!

It all began at the Healer Hall at Blue Shale Hold, in the protectorate of Madellon Weyr, for Donalla – a young girl of 15 Turns, dreaming of becoming a dragonrider.

Donalla was born the daughter of two Master Healers at the Southern Healerhall, Blue Shale Hold. She was treating minor injuries even before she was formally apprenticed to the Craft. But frustration with the drudgery of the long apprenticeship made Donalla an undistinguished crafter, lacking the focus or passion demanded by the Healerhall. And then, in early 102, brown rider P'lian came to the Healer Hall complaining of frostbitten fingers. Donalla was assigned to treat the minor condition. But P'lian's Sparth – despite his colour, a budding Search-sensitive dragon – insisted that Donalla was a likely sort for candidacy. And a sevenday later, Donalla arrived at Madellon Weyr, joining the candidate pool for senior queen Shimpath's first clutch by her new mate Muzzanth.

As a candidate, Donalla was assigned a bunkmate – Jopha, a mischievous young Weyrbred girl prone to getting herself into trouble, who would soon become her closest friend in the Weyr. She also got to know many of her fellow candidates, including the Weyrbred twins Leover and Leoguy; Zielaph, the nephew of a Madellon bronze rider; and Arina, a level-headed young woman from Jessaf who'd stood at the previous Hatching.

But she also made an enemy – Thippia, a foul-mouthed girl from the Seacraft – who took a firm disliking to Donalla! Backed up by her crony Berrin, Thippia became the thorn in Donalla's side throughout the sevendays of candidacy.

Hatching Day

The dragons' hum woke Jopha and Donalla on 102.03.17. Following a brief run-in with Thippia, 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 Donalla left, Jopha – whose Impression robe was sadly overlarge for her petite frame – recruited Donalla's help in getting it adjusted by her nemesis Shookana in the mending room.

The one-armed green rider and the thieving queen

Immediately on leaving the candidate barracks, Donalla 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 Donalla to find it. The quest took Donalla all over Madellon, from kitchens to lake to infirmary – but in the end she succeeded in reuniting the Weyrwoman's jewellery set, to general acclaim.

Respecting her elders

In the Weyr's kitchen gardens, Donalla encountered R'hren, a former Weyrleader of Madellon, now peacefully retired to potter among his beloved plants. R'hren asked Donalla to help him track down the ingredients for a warming salve to help his elderly bronze, Staamath, with his arthritic forepaws. Donalla duly located the components of R'hren's salve, winning the old bronze rider's approval in the process.

Southern comfort

Donalla 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 Donalla 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 Donalla some intelligence on the Southern seven, his advice was somewhat garbled! Nonetheless, Donalla unravelled Archidath's confusing suggestions and got the right packages to the right dragons – without being growled at!

A Masterful order

In the dining hall, Donalla met her 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, Donalla 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.

A rising problem

Donalla 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. Donalla'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 Donalla did annoy Soleigh, who wasn't impressed with her for prolonging Maris' binge by bringing her more wine!

Kitchen diplomacy

Madellon's kitchens – the heart of the Weyr, and domain of Headwoman Crauva – provided Donalla with the opportunity to show off her 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 Donalla 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 Donalla expressed an interested in looking up some Weyr records, Tarshe offered her the loan of a glowbasket – on the proviso that she return it afterwards. Which – mindful of not offending such an important personage of the Weyr – Donalla did!

A blue lady

Coming across T'gala, Pern's only female blue rider, bathing her Heppeth in the lake, Donalla offered her assistance – which T'gala gladly accepted. Getting some first-hand advice about what it took for T'gala to Impress a blue dragon was an opportunity Donalla didn't want to pass up.

Friend request

Knowing of Jopha's chequered history with Shookana, mistress of the Weyr's mending room, Donalla approached the task of having her robe adjusted with considerable caution. Realising that falsehood would be the wrong approach, Donalla went to Shookana with the truth – and a gift of popcorn. And while Donalla doubted if Shookana and Jopha will ever be friends, the restoration of her Hatching robe to a suitable length did a great deal for her self-confidence!

Hair today

Mindful of the Weyrlingmaster's orders to be smart for the Hatching, Donalla visited Madellon's resident barber – green rider Z'fell – for a trim. Very conscious of her dignity, Donalla ensured she came away with a cut she actually liked.

A Weyrleader's mercy

Early in the day, Donalla found out about a secret way into the Hatching Ground via storeroom that might allow her 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, she crawled into a confusing maze of passages. By chance, she found a way onto the Hatching Ground – onto a very high ledge! Calling down for help was the only option, and a welcome – if embarrassing – lift down from Muzzanth himself returned Donalla safely to ground level.

Realising that honesty was the best policy, Donalla apologised to the Weyrleader for intruding – and was surprised to find T'gat remarkably sanguine about it, reminiscing about his own youthful journey through the passages. And a polite request granted Donalla the Weyrleader's permission to approach the clutch. She touched one of the eggs, marvelling at its palpable vitality. And something about the gleaming blue egg made her feel strangely certain that she would Impress later that day.

The Hatching

Disaster almost struck during the Hatching when Donalla – following some dubious advice about attempting to force a dragonet to choose her – put her self in the path of a less than receptive green hatchling. The green, clearly objecting to being crowded, lashed out at Donalla – slicing her arm. Luckily for Donalla, the mauling wasn't a fatal one – though it could have been, as an irate L'stev told her when patching up the injury on the spot. Even more luckily, the incident didn't deter another dragonet – the blue who Hatched from the gleaming blue – from choosing Donalla and naming himself Coufalth!

Whatever happened to Thippia?

Thippia didn't turn up for the pre-Hatching muster, and – Donalla's own suspicions notwithstanding – L'stev guessed that she had probably got herself lost trying to sneak into the Hatching Ground through the dangerous ventilation tunnels. Fortunately – Donalla supposed – Weyrlingmaster A'len located the missing candidate, but too late for Thippia, who having been found unconscious, was promptly invalided out of standing!

After the Hatching

"Coufalth" by Emily Holland

The Weyrlingmaster was the first to congratulate Donalla on her Impression, but it was P'lian, ecstatic that Sparth's very first Search had yielded an Impression, who stepped in to help with the immediate matter of Coufalth's first meal. That was Donalla's first opportunity to speak to Jopha, too, and they introduced each other, with considerable delight, to their respective dragonets, Coufalth and Deimoth.

It wasn't long before Coufalth's personality started to become evident. The big indigo-blue dragonet, the largest of his colour, showed his alert and serious nature from the beginning, demonstrating a high degree of focus for a blue.

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 Donalla and Jopha wiped the worst of the blood and sand from their tired new dragonets, the Weyrleader, T'gat, came to inspect both girls' dragonets – and in particular to remark upon Donalla's unusual Impression of a blue. T'gat further enquired if Donalla would like to elide her name, as T'gala had done, or not. Donalla elected not to elide her name – content to remain Donalla, rider of blue Coufalth!

Following their audience with the Weyrleader, and the application of oily rags to relieve Coufalth's and Deimoth's newborn itchiness, Donalla and Jopha headed into the girls' 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

Donalla and Jopha soon went their separate ways to find family and friends. Many of the riders and Weyrfolk Donalla had helped during the day greeted her with warm congratulations as she hunted through the throng – but, at last, she found her family.

Donalla's father, a loud man in normal times, was positively bellowing with pleasure at Donalla's Impression – albeit with a certain disappointment that his daughter wouldn't be continuing in the Healercraft. And he embarrassed both his daughter, and his long-suffering wife, still further when the Weyrleaders came to drink a toast to Donalla and Coufalth – remarking, very loudly, on the parentage of Valonna's soon-to-arrive first baby!

The rest of the evening passed in a blur for Donalla, 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, Donalla was flagged down by a Weyrbrat, Emry, bringing the message that Weyrwoman Second Tarshe wanted to see her in the Archives.

Setting the record straight

Tarshe, tasked by the Weyrwoman with converting candidate documentation into weyrling records, went through Donalla's background with her – including much of what she had got up to on the morning of the Hatching – for good and ill. She offered Donalla some advice about paying attention to her new classmates and surroundings, lest she fall foul of the Weyrlingmaster's penchant for snap quizzes, advised her to report to Master Isnan before returning to the barracks to get her injuries checked again, and made some observations on Coufalth.

A close encounter

On her way back to the barracks (by way of the infirmary, as ordered by Tarshe), Donalla 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 Donalla would later realise was firestone, who called her by name – and gave her a curious wooden box.

"The Watchful Queen" by Chris S. Baily

Back at the barracks, Donalla decided, on balance, not to tell the Weyrlingmaster about the stranger.

Returning at last to Coufalth – billeted between Jopha's Deimoth and a pretty blue-green dragonet – Donalla was too tired to examine the strange wooden box very closely, and put it in her clothes' chest for later examination. But even as she went to sleep – a dragonrider at last, her blue beside her – Donalla 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?

Find out more about Donalla's Impression here. Donalla and Coufalth's story will continue in Dragonchoice: Weyrling, coming soon!

Donalla's achievements

Achievement Unlocked:
CARRY ON WAYWARD SON

I travelled The Road So Far!

Achievement Unlocked:
OUR ROB, OR ROSS

I received a mysterious box!

Achievement Unlocked:
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.

Achievement Unlocked:
THE YIN TO YOUR YANG

Coufalth and I complement each other!

Achievement Unlocked:
THE PATH LESS TRAVELLED

I pre-Impressed Coufalth by touching his egg before the Hatching!

Achievement Unlocked:
SUGAR AND SPICE

I've been a very nice person (so far)!

Achievement Unlocked:
PLEASE STATE THE NATURE OF THE MEDICAL EMERGENCY

I returned to the infirmary!

Achievement Unlocked:
EBONY AND IVORY

Coufalth and I agreed on something very important!

Achievement Unlocked:
IN TUNE

Coufalth and I agreed on something quite important!