X'dra and blue Smadouth
The Road So Far!
It all began at the Healer Hall at Blue Shale Hold, in the protectorate of Madellon Weyr, for Xandra – a young girl of 13 Turns, dreaming of becoming a blue rider.
Xandra 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 Xandra 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. Xandra was assigned to treat the minor condition. But P'lian's Sparth – despite his colour, a budding Search-sensitive dragon – insisted that Xandra was a likely sort for candidacy. And a sevenday later, Xandra arrived at Madellon Weyr, joining the candidate pool for senior queen Shimpath's first clutch by her new mate Muzzanth.
As a candidate, Xandra 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 Xandra! Backed up by her crony Berrin, Thippia became the thorn in Xandra's side throughout the sevendays of candidacy.
The dragons' hum woke Jopha and Xandra 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 Xandra left, Jopha – whose Impression robe was sadly overlarge for her petite frame – recruited Xandra'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, Xandra 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 Xandra to find it. The quest took Xandra 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, Xandra encountered R'hren, a former Weyrleader of Madellon, now peacefully retired to potter among his beloved plants. R'hren asked Xandra to help him track down the ingredients for a warming salve to help his elderly bronze, Staamath, with his arthritic forepaws. Xandra 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, Xandra offered it to old S'rius, who was equally appreciative of the gift. And while Kisha, the blind old green rider Xandra encountered in the infirmary, would have nothing to do with one of R'hren's concoctions, she too grew to approve of Xandra – especially after she solved all three of her fiendish riddles!
Xandra 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 Xandra 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 Xandra some intelligence on the Southern seven, his advice was somewhat garbled! Nonetheless, Xandra 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, Xandra 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, Xandra 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. Xandra even shared the largesse with Zielaph, who then introduced her to Fr'ton – who, having Impressed a bronze in spite of his less than boundless promise, gave Xandra a certain confidence in her own prospects!
A rising problem
Xandra 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. Xandra'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 Xandra did annoy Soleigh, who wasn't impressed with her for prolonging Maris' binge by bringing her more wine!
Madellon's kitchens – the heart of the Weyr, and domain of Headwoman Crauva – provided Xandra 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 Xandra 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 Xandra 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 – Xandra did!
A blue lady
Coming across T'gala, Pern's only female blue rider, bathing her Heppeth in the lake, Xandra 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 Xandra didn't want to pass up.
Mindful of the Weyrlingmaster's orders to be smart for the Hatching, Xandra visited Madellon's resident barber – green rider Z'fell – for a trim. Very conscious of her dignity, Xandra ensured she came away with a cut she actually liked.
A slithery customer
Early in the day, Xandra 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 a stroke of ill luck, Xandra strayed into tunnel snake territory! A huge, aggressive, and potently venomous female tunnel-snake guarded the exit to the Hatching ground. Xandra was lucky to avoid being bitten. But ultimately she evaded the snake, dodging past it and slipping out onto the Hatching Sands.
Having survived her encounter with the snake, Xandra crept closer to the clutch – close enough to touch an egg – before beating a hasty retreat from the Hatching Ground!
When it came to the Hatching, Xandra had an excruciatingly long wait before the green-clouded blue egg Hatched to reveal the dark steel-blue dragonet who would choose her, naming himself Smadouth.
A friend bereft
But to Xandra's dismay, Jopha wasn't as fortunate. No dragonet showed an interest in her, and she was left among the candidates remaining unmatched at the end of the Hatching.
Whatever happened to Thippia?
Thippia didn't turn up for the pre-Hatching muster, and – Xandra'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 – Xandra 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
"Smadouth" by Emily Holland
The Weyrlingmaster was the first to congratulate Xandra 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 Smadouth's first meal. That was the first moment Xandra had truly grasped that Jopha wasn't going to be a weyrling alongside her – a truth that hit hard. In Jopha's absence, Arina, who'd Impressed a cloudy-green dragonet, Chanth – was a welcome friendly face.
It wasn't long before Smadouth's personality started to become evident. The dark blue dragonet, among the smallest of his colour, turned out to be of an endearingly shy and modest character, rather requiring of encouragement.
With both dragonets full to bursting with fresh meat, the newly minted dragonpairs left the Hatching sands for their new home: the weyrling barracks.
Another friend Xandra made along the way – a young Weyrbred candidate, Brithie, whom Xandra had encountered in a sudden crisis of confidence directly before the Hatching – hailed Xandra at the barracks – crediting her with her successful Impression of a tiny bottle-green dragonet, Epatanth!
Meeting the Weyrleader
As Xandra and Arina 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 Xandra's unusual Impression of a blue. T'gat further enquired if Xandra would like to elide her name, as T'gala had done, or not. Xandra took up the opportunity to rename herself, and after a brief conference with Smadouth, Xandra gave the Weyrleader her new name – X'dra, rider of blue Smadouth!
Following their audience with the Weyrleader, and the application of oily rags to relieve Smadouth's and Chanth's newborn itchiness, X'dra and Arina 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
X'dra and Arina soon went their separate ways to find family and friends. Many of the riders and Weyrfolk X'dra had helped during the day greeted her with warm congratulations as she hunted through the throng – but, at last, she found her family.
X'dra's father, a loud man in normal times, was positively bellowing with pleasure at X'dra'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 X'dra and Smadouth – remarking, very loudly, on the parentage of Valonna's soon-to-arrive first baby!
The rest of the evening passed in a blur for X'dra, 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'dra 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 X'dra'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 X'dra some advice about paying attention to her new classmates and surroundings, lest she fall foul of the Weyrlingmaster's penchant for snap quizzes, and made some observations on Smadouth.
A close encounter
On her way back to the barracks , X'dra 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'dra 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, X'dra decided, on balance, not to tell the Weyrlingmaster about the stranger.
Returning at last to Smadouth – billeted between Arina's Chanth and a pretty blue-green dragonet – X'dra 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 – X'dra 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 Xandra's Impression here. X'dra and Smadouth's story will continue in Dragonchoice: Weyrling, coming soon!
Find out more about Xandra's Impression here. X'dra and Smadouth'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
Smadouth and I complement each other!
SUGAR AND SPICE
I've been a very nice person (so far)!
EBONY AND IVORY
Smadouth and I agreed on something very important!
Smadouth and I disagreed on something quite important!