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X'lai and blue Dungarth

The Road So Far!

It all began at Jessaf Hold, in the protectorate of Madellon Weyr, for Xulnlai – a young man of 18 Turns, dreaming of becoming a blue rider.

Xulnlai was born to unusual privilege – a grandson of Winstone, Lord of mighty Jessaf Hold. Xulnlai didn't scramble for the attention of the young Search rider, Garlan, who came to Jessaf in early 102 seeking candidates for Madellon Weyr's latest clutch. But as a scion of the Hold, Xulnlai was among the party welcoming the green rider to Jessaf – and, in due course, became the focus of her dragon Hushith's attention. Lord Winstone wasn't enthusiastic about Xulnlai becoming a candidate – displeased that such a opportunity would ruin his plans for Xulnlai's betrothal to a niece of Lord Orfen's. But he grudgingly accepted that, as Xulnlai had his majority, he had the right to accept Search. And with Winstone's admonition that he Impress a bronze – or a brown at the very least – ringing in his ears, Xulnlai left to begin his candidacy at Madellon Weyr.

As a candidate, Xulnlai 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 Xulnlai! Backed up by his crony Kestor, Rielat became the thorn in Xulnlai's side throughout the sevendays of candidacy.

Hatching Day

The dragons' hum woke Soburn and Xulnlai 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 Xulnlai 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, Xulnlai 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 Xulnlai to find it. The quest took Xulnlai 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, Xulnlai encountered R'hren, a former Weyrleader of Madellon, now peacefully retired to potter among his beloved plants. R'hren asked Xulnlai to help him track down the ingredients for a warming salve to help his elderly bronze, Staamath, with his arthritic forepaws. Xulnlai 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, Xulnlai offered it to old S'rius, who was equally appreciative of the gift. And while Kisha, the blind old green rider Xulnlai encountered in the infirmary, would have nothing to do with one of R'hren's concoctions, she too grew to approve of Xulnlai – especially after he solved all three of her fiendish riddles!

Southern comfort

Xulnlai 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 Xulnlai 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 Xulnlai some intelligence on the Southern seven, his advice was somewhat garbled! Nonetheless, Xulnlai 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, Xulnlai 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!

Sadly, though, Fr'ton's garbled instructions proved too convoluted for even Xulnlai to follow, and the drinks order went rather wrong!

A rising problem

Xulnlai 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. Xulnlai'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.

Kitchen diplomacy

Madellon's kitchens – the heart of the Weyr, and domain of Headwoman Crauva – provided Xulnlai 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 Xulnlai 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 Xulnlai 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 – Xulnlai did!

Weyrbrat by name...

A run-in with a Weyrbrat – Terzon, whom Rielat had paid to cause Xulnlai trouble – resulted in an unfortunate public incident. All too aware of being shaken down, Xulnlai gave the kid a shove – in front of a number of witnesses – doing nothing for his reputation!

A blue lady

Coming across T'gala, Pern's only female blue rider, bathing her Heppeth in the lake, Xulnlai offered his assistance – which T'gala gladly accepted.

Friend request

Conscious of Soburn's bashfulness, Xulnlai 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 Xulnlai that he wasn't interested in Soburn – or any other men, for that matter. But Xulnlai'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!

Hair today

Mindful of the Weyrlingmaster's orders to be smart for the Hatching, Xulnlai visited Madellon's resident barber, Z'fell, for a trim. But he fell foul of the green rider's perverse sense of humour, and came away with a curious cut – short on top, long at the back – that prompted quite a number of odd looks and laughs at his expense!

A breath of foul air

Early in the day, Xulnlai 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. The route he chose turned out to be thick with choking toxic fumes from Madellon's volcanic foundation, and Xulnlai soon found himself struggling for breath.

Undeterred, Xulnlai pushed through the discomfort, and emerged shortly onto the Hatching Sands. But he wasn't quiet enough. Shimpath, dozing only very lightly, awoke, and she and Muzzanth chased Xulnlai from the Sands!

The Hatching

When it came to the Hatching, Xulnlai didn't have to wait too long for his date with destiny. The yellow-green craggy-textured egg Hatched out a light sky-blue dragonet who told Xulnlai his name was Dungarth.

A friend in me

And Xulnlai 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?

It turned out that making an enemy of Xulnlai was a very poor choice on Rielat's part. For the low, low price of just three marks, Xulnlai had Grimes, the shady fellow loitering near the Gather stalls, spread a series of nasty rumours about Rielat. By the time the Weyrlingmaster mustered the candidate cohort immediately before the Hatching, the damage to Rielat's reputation was done – and he was ejected from the candidate pool without ever setting foot on the Sands!

After the Hatching

"Dungarth" by Chris S. Baily

The Weyrlingmaster was the first to congratulate Xulnlai on his Impression, but it was Garlan, delighted that her risky choice of Winstone's grandson had Impressed, who stepped in to help with the immediate matter of Dungarth's first meal. That was Xulnlai's first opportunity to speak to Soburn, too, and they introduced each other, with considerable delight, to their respective dragonets, Dungarth and Aeranth. Soburn also told Xulnlai that his new name was to be – perhaps unsurprisingly – S'burn.

It wasn't long before Dungarth's personality started to become evident. The big sky-blue dragonet demonstrated an enormous desire to please, making him an especially endearing character.

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 Xulnlai 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. Xulnlai was proud to introduce Dungarth to the Weyrleader. And after a brief conference with Dungarth, Xulnlai gave the Weyrleader his own new name: X'lai, rider of blue Dungarth!

Following their audience with the Weyrleader, and the application of oily rags to relieve Dungarth's and Aeranth's newborn itchiness, X'lai 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

X'lai and S'burn soon went their separate ways to find family and friends. Many of the riders and Weyrfolk X'lai had helped during the day greeted him with warm congratulations as he hunted through the throng – but, at last, he found his family.

Lord Winstone, X'lai's grandfather, was highly displeased that his grandson had only managed to Impress a blue – against his strict warning that nothing less than a brown would suffice. The Weyrleaders were quick to step in on X'lai's behalf, but the damage to his relationship with his grandfather was done.

The rest of the evening passed in a blur for X'lai, 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, X'lai 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 X'lai'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 X'lai 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 Dungarth.

A close encounter

On his way back to the barracks (by way of the infirmary, as ordered by Tarshe), X'lai 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 X'lai 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, X'lai decided, on balance, not to tell the Weyrlingmaster about the stranger.

Returning at last to Dungarth – billeted between S'burn's Aeranth and a mucky-looking brown dragonet – X'lai 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 blue beside him – X'lai 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 Xulnlai's Impression here. X'lai and Dungarth's story will continue in Dragonchoice: Weyrling, coming soon!

X'lai'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

Dungarth and I complement each other!

Achievement Unlocked:
THE PATH LESS TRAVELLED

I pre-Impressed Dungarth 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

Dungarth and I agreed on something very important!

Achievement Unlocked:
IN TUNE

Dungarth and I agreed on something quite important!