Clutch 5Written by Twille
For the past few mornings, day had broken within a pale veil of drizzle, reviving the greenery withered by summer heat and dragonfire. Initially, the rain was very much appreciated by all who were tired of the oppressive heat and humidity, but lately, it seemed that everyone looked depressed.
While the weather couldn't be blamed, it certainly didn't help that the sun hadn't been seen in almost a sevenday. Idle conversation helped pass time in the Weyr when driving rains drowned Thread midsky, and eventually the topic of choice became the overly broody Ecanirith still curled around her scant clutch of eight eggs.
There were people, Weyrfolk and Holders alike, who wished that the current clutch would be disposed of so their lives would return to something close to normal. The eggs were many sevendays overdue in hatching, yet the stubborn dragoness refused to believe that her first clutch was nothing but duds.
She and her brown mate Menirth held on to the simple faith of all first-time parents that their children would become great. They knew with little doubt that duel-toned talking dragons would grace Perns skies. To mourn the loss of their offspring was not an option for green-blue Ecanirith and brown Menirth. This clutch would be revered as a celebration of life.
At least that's what Ecanirith believed and knew in her heart, and any who dared to say otherwise usually regretted it. While it led to a tense atmosphere around the Weyr and the Hatching Grounds, no one was allowed to disagree with the regal dragoness. No one. Not even fate itself.
Even if Menirth was having his doubts, he wouldn't have dared voiced them in front of Ecanirith. As he paced around the edge of the sands, watching his green-blue mate fitfully twitch in her sleep, the heavens parted and excited voices outside announced the end of the rains.
Ecanirith let out her own joyful bugle when rays of sunshine danced along her sparkling emerald-sapphire hide, but the tickle of warm sunlight was not the cause for her excitement. Lifting her head to meet eyes with her beloved mate, she spread her wings to show Menirth the two gently trembling eggs on the sand.
Menirth bugled at the top of his voice, which prompted the closest dragons to begin humming. Ecanirith's rider Daeleon and Menirth's rider K'risn rushed onto the Hatching Grounds, and looks of joy overtook the disbelief as they witnessed all the eggs trembling and rocking at once.
Daeleon, K'risn, get the candidates in here, get all the Weyrfolk from near and far! And get off your lazy hind end, Menirth! Tell the world, tell the world our clutch is hatching!
No one can deny that fate has an unusual sense of humor. By the time the stands were crowded full of riders and spectators from all over Pern and at the exact moment the candidates were rounded in, the eggs had stopped rocking. Ecanirith nudged the smallest egg of the clutch as agitated complaints circulated around the stands. The egg was trembling; they were all trembling. But why were the eggs only trembling and not rocking any longer? Were they all sick? Were they dying?
Ecanirith's gaze darted to every single egg, looking for signs of more energetic shaking. Maybe she would have to break them all open, maybe some of her children were weak. But if they were all weak, they wouldn't survive to Impress...
With a nervous croon, Ecanirith lay beside her clutch, trying to ignore the negative emotions being flung at her from all directions. Menirth nestled beside her, giving her a reassuring nuzzle.
"Don't fret, my love. I'm sure they're just tired. Give our children some time to recover, and before you'll know it, they'll break out of those shells."
How long, Menirth?!
As if their mother's concern motivated them, the eggs began to rock violently in unison. Ecanirith bugled, only to swat her mate with her wing as he shot her a playful, all-knowing look. When she looked upon her brood once again, Ecanirith felt her heart melt.
Many of the shimmering pearlescent eggs were riddled with faint cracks, and one part of Ecanirith wanted to stop her children from leaving her. She couldn't bear the thought of losing more of her family, not after knowing her siblings, her mother, and possibly her father were all dead.
That need for a stable and loving family overtook whatever bit of rational thought Ecanirith possessed. Yet the candidates crowded closer, eager for a look at the dragons they had been waiting many sevendays to Impress.
Ecanirith leapt at the candidates like a tunnelsnake, flaring her wings and growling at the boldest individuals who dared to risk her wrath by coming close enough to touch the eggs. The only thing that stopped some of the candidates from being hurt was Menirth pulling Ecanirith back.
"Ecanirith, calm yourself! You must let our children Impress!"
They're my children, Menirth! The only family I have left! I refuse to let them leave me!
"You love us, don't you, mother?"
Ecanirith looked down, and where her beloved smallest egg had lain, a shimmering white-blue hatchling stood in the midst of scattered pieces of eggshell. As he looked up at his mother with a trusting sapphire gaze, Ecanirith crooned, hardly able to keep the sorrowful emotion from her tone.
Of course, little one. Of course I love you. All of you.
"Then you'll have to let all of us leave you. But you'll always have our love, and you'll be with us in spirit."
Ecanirith never took her eyes off her firstborn son as he glided across the sands toward a tall young man who hadn't spoken a word since he'd arrived. As the little white-blue reached Taglaran's side, he nuzzled his lifemate's hand and gazed into his eyes.
"Tell them my name, Taglaran."
There was a long moment of hesitant silence before a quietly tentative, "Astrarith," was heard by the more perceptive ones in the stands.
"And so it shall be. The physical and astral planes, the body and the spirit. We'll guide each other and ourselves to whoever calls."
As applause resonated from the stands and the newly Impressed rider and dragon left, Ecanirith gasped when she felt Astrarith nuzzle her even after he was gone. A coincidence, or something higher?
There wasn't time to ponder that thought when another egg snapped open, and a twilight blue dragon of more uniform color tumbled onto the sands. Blinking back the intense light as he stumbled to his feet, he glanced at the stands and noticed all the attention from dozens of people and dragons focused toward him.
After cheerfully basking in his spotlight for a time, he sprinted toward his mother who caught him with open wings. However, the little blue only stayed by Ecanirith's side long enough to look at her face and croon happily before he bounced off to find his lifemate.
Two more hatchlings were furiously rocking for escape as their sibling was happily sprinting around the candidates. He took just a split moment to regard each candidate before he charged into one of the males and knocked him over, glancing at Xandohs face to make sure he was all right.
Xandoh, I'm Starlith! I'll take you far above the earth, far above the fire islands, and far, far above the wretched seas and those nasty Deep Blues. We'll brush the heavens together, you and me!
Before Xandoh's response could be noted, the two eggs exploded like a star gone nova, revealing two glistening black-blue dragons. The crowd gasped at the two hatchlings so alike in appearance that they could have been mistaken for twins.
Both headed straight for their mother before even glancing at the candidates. The larger of the pair gave his parents a small bow of respect before turning away to gaze forlornly into the distance, lost in thought.
The other lingered by her mother's side and snuggled close. Ecanirith wrapped her wings around her daughter, and Menirth made an attempt to lay a forelimb across his mate and daughter before it seemed that the little hatchling was being lost under her parents affections.
A few minutes passed without action until the largest egg of the clutch cracked and a lithe brown hatchling shook himself free of his confines. He turned and chirped a question to his older brother, who in turn immediately regarded his higher ranked younger sibling with an indifferent glare.
It wasnt long before the robust black-blue male softly approached his parents and nodded toward his sister, and taking the nod as some sort of sign, the female black-blue hatchling squirmed to be free from her parents.
She took a few tentative steps toward her chosen one before stopping, waiting for Veana to accept or reject her. Even at her young age, the little dragon felt that it would be best if Veana was not forced against her will yet again to accept someone elses decision.
I felt you waiting for me, Veana. I assure you, there will be nothing more to fear. Fate led you to me, and I truly am sorry that it was so painful a journey. I know youre hurting, but would you be willing to start your life anew with me?
To those who heard it, the question hung unanswered until the little dragon crooned happily and ran to her lifemates side. There didnt need to be a vocal response for many in the stands to be moved to tears.
I am Nebulath. You shall be my star.
The moment Veana and Nebulath were out of sight, her brother seemed reassured that his sister would be all right without his attention. He silently advanced toward his chosen with hardly a glance at the other candidates who crowded him. He was already at Dweezels feet before he abruptly sat on the sand and caught his chosens dark eyes in a cold stare. A few of the remaining candidates looked warily at the two, unsure how either would react and not certain they wanted to know. So where shall we start, Dzel? Kill your tormentor, seek out what happened to your family, or find some Weyr thats truly worthy of your friend? Well start by getting you fed, Cherubith. Agreed. Well later go to the Southern Continent, then talk with those dolphins, and finally scour all of Pern for the best Weyr for Hannah. Ill settle for nothing less than perfect. Im here to watch over all of you.
An impatient bugle blasted through the Hatching Cavern, immediately focusing all attention on the little brown who had hatched earlier. He grinned happily, balancing on his two back legs like a rearing horse before he fell over. Ecanirith chuckled and extended a forelimb to help her son.
The brown hatchling nuzzled his mother happily and sprinted toward the candidates, setting his eyes on one of the remaining male candidates. When he slowed his pace to what could only be called cantering, every equine enthusiast in the crowd gazed at the brown with complete adoration, including Ryder. Menirth also found himself watching his son, but only because of the uncanny similarities between father and son. The only exception was the miniature Menirths exaggerated equine behavior.
Well, Im no horse, but that doesnt mean you cant joust anymore, Ryder. Well just set our own rules, and Ill make sure that no stinking girls ever beat you again! No mere drak will be able to stand up to me!
Thats right, Ill be the winged horse and youll have the lance. Well reclaim your title and have every Castle on Icarus chanting your name again.
Pelanceth turned in mid-canter and headed toward the location of the meat without losing any speed or grace, tossing his head proudly. Amused talk began to spread throughout the stands as Ryder ran to catch up with his bond. A tiny, flawless egg shattered nearby, sending crystalline shards flying to reveal a radiant emerald hatchling. She glanced around in wonder and tilted her head to meet eyes with her parents. Ecanirith and Menirth crooned, and the little green mimicked the gentle humming voices until she found the courage to hum her own tune.
A wave of nostalgic emotion flooded through one of the candidates as she heard the familiar tune, and a vision of a vast silver forest under a canopy of starlit darkness overtook her thoughts. Leladry could see herself flying with the green dragon over silver forests and night-darkened seas to a dawnlit horizon.
What startled everyone in the stands was the gentle, lilting melody that resonated throughout the entire cavern. The green dragon was singing!
Starlight falls on silver trees. Waves foam on starlit seas... Do I have it all right, Leladry? Do you see Eien?
The emerald green crooned and nodded at her riders response. My name is Sundueth, for whenever theres a sunrise, there will be two of us to greet the morning in song.
As Leladry led her bond from the sands, the line of peaceful Impressions ended with a lethal hail of dagger-like egg shards and an enraged roar not unlike most of Ecaniriths. It was no surprise that the hatchling bent on raising havoc was green-blue.
What did surprise everyone was when she turned, illuminated by a stream of sunlight, to face gentle, half-feline Nelve before whipping around to regard everyone in the stands. There was an enraged glare in the little dragons eyes, and her tail lashed like that of a wildcat.
Justice! There must be justice for all the wrongdoing and suffering in my bondeds life! Few of you understand what it truly means to be different like Nelve, to truly have suffered because of ignorance and prejudice. So I will teach you pain!
The last hatchling finally won its desperate struggle to be free from bondage and broke open her shell, spilling the muted green hatchling into freedom. As the green-blue was preparing to charge into the stands, the little green stepped in to intervene.
Stop this madness, sister! They have done nothing to offend your rider. Nelve will be safe with you only if you protect her with an equally gentle heart.
The green-blue seemed subdued by the advice, and she gave a deep bow to both her parents before turning to face Nelve with an apologetic expression on her face.
Forgive me, Nelve, I dont know what came over me. I feel all your pain, and I wish to be your guardian in the absence of your friend. I am Sekhmeth, but will you accept me as your protector if I cant be your avenger?
When Nelve nodded, Sekhmeth cuddled beside her lifemate and gave a low croon, almost a purr. She arched her back and stretched before following Nelve out, and a few people could only comment that the dragon was just as cat-like as her lifemate.
Finally there was only the single green and four candidates.
With a sure, decisive step, the hatchling kept her eyes focused on Shallani, and the girl watched breathlessly as the light caught subtle silver overtones in her lifemates pale green hide, almost like moonlight.
Within that aura of moonlight, there was a feeling of wisdom and magic associated with the little hatchling. Surely this dragon was much more than a common green, but it was said that Shallani was more than just a common Pernese woman.
Its been a long time since the last time youve stood for Impression, Shallani. I am far from gold, but do you accept me?
Noticing her lifemate overcome with emotion, the little green stepped closer to support Shallani. With a croon, the dragon gazed up into her lifemates eyes, as if searching deep within her soul.
We may not know all of your past, but together well unravel every moment in your past that youve forgotten. No mystery stands a chance against me. My name is Thoath, and whoever you will become, I will stand beside you no matter what the cost.
There was a moment of silence after the final Impression, and Ecanirith was heard crooning sadly to herself. People in the stands were filing out and Daeleon and Weyrwoman Xalia rushed to reassure Juli, Nysyr, and Shiro that there would be clutches to come where their bondmates might be present. Yet even as the festivities were over, Thoath lingered before making her presence known once again.
Hear me, Pern, for it is my desire that all who have witnessed this hatching will remember it always. She turned to regard her parents, showing the wisdom of a respected sage in her eyes. Just as we will all remember you, mother and father.
Reassuring visions of the future came upon the three candidates who didnt Impress, no doubt the work of Astrarith, master of thought.
Eventually though, the Hatching Grounds grew quieter until only Ecanirith and Menirth were present on them, surrounding by a sea of broken pearlescent eggshells. Ecanirith gently took a large piece in her foreclaws before dropping it silently.
Are you going to be all right, Ecanirith?
Of course I am. My children are all safe, theyre all beautiful, and they all love us. Thats the most important.
Did you happen to notice the names of our children? Celestial objects and ancient Terran legends? If I didnt know any better, Id say our children were trying to immortalize themselves for your sake.
Ecanirith crooned as she snuggled next to her mate. Her children, choosing timeless names with sources that would never die. Sources that would be remembered forever. It was a beautiful thought.
Your son thought he was a little pony. It was adorable.
Oh, really? Your daughter was a fluffy little kitten. She yowled like one too.
Are you mocking me? Ill have you know that fluffy felines happen to eat horses!
With a playful yowl of her own, Ecanirith pounced on Menirth, nibbling on his neck before he managed to pull away grinning. As the brown dragon sprinted away, Ecanirith led the pursuit. The chase was on.
At least until an extremely irate golden Rhinth appeared at the entrance to the Hatching Grounds, staring at the playful pair with a look of aggravated astonishment. How dare they fool around when she was so soon in laying her clutch? The audacity of lower-ranked dragons!
Hey, are you going to clear these sands sometime in my lifetime?!