2021 Istabitha’s Weyr Valentines Clutch Hatching

((Any continuity errors and typos are entirely the fault of Nae, who doesn’t remember being this difficult to write up.))

Hatching caverns may not have been the most usual of meeting locations, but Naeodin felt comfort knowing that the eggs were in close watching distance. She sat in the stands area reserved for the leaders of Istabitha’s Weyr, B’nir by her side. Those in the next row of comfortable seating, Ezhar and T’nor close beside Sean and Sapadt. It was a good thing that the seating was quite high and with a goodly amount of space between rows: Sean’s tall rabbit-like ears, as well as her huge head of white red-tipped hair, might have interrupted the view if the stands had been more close-set.

Having royalty visit was quite interesting. But in the row with Naeodin it was the two strangers who were giving her much to think about.

“So it would be possible then,” Naeodin stated, carefully watching the turquoise eyes of the man of few words. His voice was spooky, low, and given to echo in the back of her mind, rather than against any walls.

“As long as you have a specific location in mind, I don’t think it would be too difficult.” He answered. “It isn’t like I haven’t done it before. Several times.” Those turquoise eyes adopted a squint and amused roll.

Melissa shrugged. “The question would be finding the right location.”

Naeodin’s grip around B’nir’s hands tightened. Her plans for Istabitha’s – they were valid, and possible. Possible thanks not only to this man and his abilities, but to the inspiration that seeing Shard and H’lis once more had given her. Maybe the oddly timed arrival of Sean and her husband triggered her to ask further. There was much at work here: magic, supernatural powers, maybe even just luck.

“What about-“

“Weyrwoman, I think we may need to discuss this another time,” came a voice from nearby.  Ezhar’s eyes were bright as she looked towards the red pink dragon who was starting to emit a low hum. “The eggs.”

Naeodin glanced over and saw indeed the eggs were shaking.  More and larger eggs than she had presumed, from the size of the dam. But it was the appearance of that second pair, Ajandeykth and her mate copper Birth, that could explain some of the eggs. There were still things that confused her about all of this. Not the least of which was Sean and Sapadt’s abrupt arrival. It felt like the eggs had already hardened when this second pair arrived, but here they were matured perfectly in time with one another. The mothers, too, were situated nearer together than most dragon queens typically liked. Ajandeykth was considerably smaller than Tinoth, but neither was large.

Keenan gave a little chuff, which shook the Weyrwoman out of her introspection. Nodding her head, she rose to survey the room more broadly and perhaps give a traditional welcome to those who were yet arriving.

Gesturing towards her guests to remain in their seats of honor, she said, “please, join us today, and let us shelve our discussions for after the festivities.” She smiled. “I have heard there is a ledger with bets placed on the hatchlings, what with the unusual coloring and markings of the parents.”

B’nir coughed. “You mean the ledger you put together.”

Her smile sharpened. “I have expectations for this clutch.”

“I suspect I should stop betting on things,” Keenan muttered, and Melissa gave off a riotous laugh as they entered the hatching sands. He was right though, given the number of times he’d lost. At least it was merely embarrassing. Still profitable: having a duplicate or two of himself at Carramba, thanks to that one game of poker. 

He wasn’t one to bet on hatchings, however. He had an ace in the hole walking beside him, who could peer into their genes and offer insights. Melissa had been oddly silent about that, however, even when they brought over a few people to attend both as candidates and as audience members. After all, she knew secrets of those eggs, and wanted to see how they would play out. It was hardly her strong point, reading human DNA was one thing, but dragons… they were another entirely.

The weather was cool and balmy, the sun high in the sky, and the afternoon classes dragging on, the way classes do. When the dragons began to hum, the candidates were more than ready to abandon their classes and head straight to the hatching sands.

The candidates that had been gathered for this clutch had opened the eyes of the residents of just what was out there; outside of the Weyr, outside of Pern. They had come from far and wide, in singles and pairs, with stories to tell, and baggage to sort through, in more than just the physical sense.

The couples that had arrived, taking residence in the Weyr, had the Candidate Master run double the amount of lessons on “acceptable behavior” once the eggs hatched. Maybe he focused his grumpy eye on the most lovey dovey of couples, bemoaning the fact that “his hatchlings” would impress to such a hormonal group of besotted fools. But the rest of the residents thought it was quite lovely. Romance was not dead. Far from it.

The stands were full- brimming not only with residents, but friends and relatives. B’nir had been inspired by the eclectic mix of candidates that had arrived, and realizing he had new, untapped sources- he had invited friends, families, and even a flock of birds to attend this auspicious hatching. Those birds were joined by Keenan’s ravens. All the birds seemed oddly intent on watching this hatching, not merely one or two candidates…

Candidate Arrivals

Jack and Sage were among the first candidates to enter the hatching sands, the taller of the men tugging at his candidate robes, looking decidedly uncomfortable. A piercing whistle of appreciation came from the stands, followed by a smatter of laughter as another one of their companions let out a cheer for support. Jack smiled, shifting just slightly, so that he stood a little closer to his Sage.

Joshua Calhoun led the rest of the candidates, in easy conversation with the candidate master. While he may have been happier standing within the group, his flitters Crowbar and Wrench had different ideas, pulling and tugging at his hair until he stood at the very edge, as close to the eggs as a candidate was allowed. His dads nervously sat a little closer together than they used to – no one else really knew them here, they did not have to hide their relationship. Besides, up in the higher stands, Mel proudly looked at the fruits of her work: their son Josh combined the best of Gordon and Barney.

The candidate master gently pushed Jathan a little closer to the eggs also. He had taken a liking to the quiet soldier who had arrived from Isla, even so far as taking him under his wing to pass on what he considered fatherly advice. “Jathan has grit. Determination. Laser focus- we need to figure out a way to keep him here long after he impresses” he had told more than one resident.

Not to be outdone by the visitors in their not quite Pern clothing, a group of spectators started cheering themselves, led by a slim rider who jumped onto his seat, yelling out.

“You can do this JIN!”

Residents of Istabitha’s laughed: a rolling sound that traveled through the stands as one of the candidates groaned and tried to drop and hide amongst the others.

Yarrima laughed, elbowing her fellow candidate. “Come on, it’s not too bad.”

“YA-RRI-MA! YA-RRI-MA!”

Yarrima stiffened, eyes flying to her family who took up the chant that only grew louder.

Jin snickered. “Come on, it’s not too bad.” She echoed back to her fellow candidate.

Naeodin watched as Ronald and  Veronique entered the sands, dressed in their white robes, their feline companions close by their side. It had taken time to understand that the felines were more than just cats- and the Weyrwoman had wondered of Tinoth’s decision to allow the pets so close to the eggs.

It was the quiet Ronald who led the way, his hand brushing Veronique’s but not holding it outright. Naeodin suppressed a smile. Had she ever been so young, so shy, and so full of romantic dreams?

Sasiath snorted in response to her rider’s thoughts. 

The mage and warrior couple who strode in had a growing fanbase amongst the young residents at Istabitha’s. To the youths, there was something terribly fantastical about a world full of magic and battles, of heroes- and every so often, a young teenage girl would ask Eilly shyly to recount how she had fallen in love with her husband.

The apprentice healer Hermina was a willing candidate- B’nir was sure of that. He didn’t force candidates to stand at Istabitha’s: but seeing her panicked expression as the eggs began to hatch, he stood up, intent on making his way down to the sands himself.

“Hush now.” Naeodin murmured, a hand reaching out to touch his. “She is fine. Look, Dusana has her.”

And the taller woman did, standing so close with a hand on Hermina’s shoulder, whispering something into her ear that had the young woman straighten her shoulders and nod.

The young couple who had flown in via White River had given the Weyrwoman of Istabitha’s ideas on what might be possible. Different worlds, different versions of Pern. She watched as the young couple stood hand in hand, watching the eggs with steady focus.

Lacey slipped in, and Naeodin’s eyes softened as she watched the young woman stand near the back with the rest of the candidates. Naoth had taken a liking to the young woman, and the healers with dragons of their own had found her telepathy with dragons a fascinating study.  

Of the two adventurers, Krakal had blended in more seamlessly with the rest of the candidates: Shiva’s felinoid form made it harder for him to blend in, but it had taken less than a sevenday for both to be accepted by the residents of Istabitha’s. Humanoid feline with a cat face? Sure, no problem. This was Istabitha’s, after all. Besides: there was that rabbit lady up there who was the rider to the white dragon!

Oddly enough it was Luzuth who was met with more trepidation: something about the bronze “Light Court” (whatever a Light Court was) was too familiar, too… something. Sasiath particularly, had taken a strong fondness for the bronze male: treating him as if he was still a weyrling despite his size.

The young woman who made Naeodin laugh ran into the sands, trailing behind the other candidates. She was accompanied by another of those arriving from a distinctly non-Pernese world, with Josh, another of Melissa’s ‘pet projects’ named Wrenell. Namiya and she had gotten along very well; now Wrenell tugged on Namiya’s hand as the more-local girl gestured high into the stands to a figure in the shadows. Naeodin tracked the movement to an odd, slender woman with feline green eyes dressed in a high collared silk dress.

Who was that odd woman?

The young boy that trailed in with the last of the candidates was small and skinny but decidedly looked better than he had at his arrival. The bakers and hearth crafters had taken it as their personal mission to add some meat to the boy’s bones- and Scrap looked healthier, if not completely at ease.

Impressions

There were some odd eggs out there. Not just in their random quantity, but in their sizes and even their shapes. It wouldn’t be the last questionable thing about them. The first of the eggs to show movement was a very small, very round egg that didn’t crack, but started to roll. Slowly, it shifted, making its way across the sands and landing with a resounding crack into a much larger one.

The top half of the egg was pushed off by the hatchling inside with an angry, indignant screech.  The hatchling that emerged was dark- gray, maybe, with a smoky pattern across its body and wings touched with a shade of green. A darker bank crossed its eyes, and the barest smudge of red on its temple.

The much larger egg the black hatchling had crashed into cracked open slowly, two thirds falling away, as a rather large boned hatchling peeked out over the egg. The hatchling had a distinctly dark blue hide, with paler markings across his stomach and lower legs, a smear on its muzzle and eyes, and pale undersails.  

The blue seemed to need no help in finding their rider- immediately they made a beeline to Scrap, whose big eyes widened as he barreled into his knees.

‘Mine’ Kalebelketh said smugly, looking up with swirling eyes at his rider. ‘I’ll help you discover your past. Memory by memory’.

::Green::

Two more eggs shifted, wiggling and jumping until they snapped open: revealing not two hatchlings, but three. That elicited a gasp from the stands, it was pretty rare wasn’t it? That there were twins within one egg? That said, there were … large eggs? Maybe that meant there would be more? With a vague number of visible eggs at any time before now, and twenty solid real people at minimum standing around, who knew which of these people might be walking away alone, or how many would come as a surprise.

The twin hatchlings had complementary markings- both a subdued shade of rose, the larger of the two with darker, maroon markings and the smaller with shades of brown. It was the bulkier rose male who led the way, stopping every so often to ensure his sister was following behind.

The brown stopped in front of Ronald, letting out a creel as he rose on his hindlegs, placing two paws on the young man’s knees.

Ronald fell to the ground, eyes wide as the hatchling continued to creel.

‘We will find a home for all of us, Ronald’ he stated. ‘A home where we can be happy, a new family’

Huuth!’ Ronald cried out.

The female dragon continued to watch from behind her brother, and Veronique took a step closer. “Are you-“ the young woman asked.

The female let out a chuff of amusement. ‘What sort of happily ever after would that be? No, you are not for me.’ Her tone was bright and amused as she butted her head against her brother’s hide. ‘Your One does not want to show herself yet.’  It was clear even though the conversation had been private, that Veronique was surprised at this. Of course ‘private’ in a dragonry surrounded by telepathic dragons and telepathic people… In the stands, people murmured, and Naeodin suppressed a smile when her own dragon told her of the exchange. So this was why Tinoth had insisted on their presence.

The dragon’s eyes were intent and changing colors rapidly, focusing on the white feline with green eyes that started in surprise, and shifted into the form of a lithe blonde girl. Soon enough the dragon’s whirling eyes matched those of her chosen.

‘You are mine, Nadja. I am yours, and we will make the most beautiful dragonrider pair’ Luvitbeth said smugly.

::A long curling ribbon::

The largest egg rocked in its spot, little splinters of egg falling off. A little here, a little there.

The hatchling waited patiently for her clutch mates to impress: her hide a soft shade of brown with odd mottled markings of purple, red, and blue across her head.

The scribe taking faithful notes frowned. “Why do they have extra colors?”

“Look at the parents.” His other-dimensional colleague Melissa gestured to the two toned dragons watching with pride. “I mean. Look at them.”

“But it’s not precise, just barely there splotches. What am I supposed to call that one?”

“Brown?” Mel shrugged. She was still not familiar enough with the ‘old world Pernese’ color system, to be honest, and their own Rookery had precious few of them to look at in example.

But now that ‘brown’ hatchling walked over on unsteady legs, stumbling once and face planting on the warm sand.

K…Kala…patith!” Hermina cried out in surprise, running over to the hatchling.

No matter her fears and concerns of standing, of impressing, the candidate ran to help a potentially injured hatchling.

“Dusana!” she cried sharply, provoking the other woman to follow her, but she did not have to look far as Hermina reached the hatchling first, gently turning her over. The brown female dragon looked up with inquisitive eyes and let out a surprised creel, as if she had not quite expected this upside down view.

“Oh, you worried me so, Kalapatith” Hermina chided, and turned with stunned eyes towards Dusana. Any hint of fear or worry had been replaced with surprise and satisfaction.

Dusana let out a whoop of joy. “You did it, Hermina!” She exclaimed with such pride, she’d known all along that Hermina would be right for the sands.

::Green ribbon?::

During their impression, the large egg with its spiderline fractures cracked more.

The black hatchling who had been happily content by himself stood, slowly but surely making his way over to an oblong egg that lay on its side. He waited, patiently as the egg hatched, revealing a gray blue hatchling with bright smudges on its face, tail, and top of its wings.

The hatchling’s eyes were rimmed with the same pale blue, with an odd spotted crown barely visible against its head.  

::Green flower?::

The black hatchling continued to wait patiently until his clutchmate was free of its eggshell, and then it let out another cry- more imperious.

‘Well then? Aren’t you going to come and help us?’ he demanded.

Sage started. “Jack?” He turned to his companion who stiffened, alarm flashing across his face.

The blue hatchling turned his head, his eyes swirling with rainbows. ‘Jack Dawes Jack Dawes. I am Tsenkerudth’.

The two candidates stumbled over onto the hatching sands, towards the hatchlings who waited with eyes that swirled rainbows.

‘I am Kharudth, Sage.” The black hatchling told his new rider. ‘We will be the first.’

‘But we won’t be the last’

“I’m surprised with all the clouded markings on the hatchlings” Naeodin commented, arching a brow as her eyes slid towards Keenan.

He shrugged, “it’s hardly my area of expertise,” he took a quick glance to their right, at Melissa, who was frantically writing something in her datapad, looking up at the hatchlings, and continuing to type. “It’s hers, and she seems… occupied.”

That was certainly obvious. But also obvious was that Mel had heard this exchange, and muttered, “there are recessives and something else going on,” she squinted with her amber-yellow eyes, “I mean there are two distinct strains of DNA here already, not just what you’d expect out of pairs like them.” She did a quick glance at the red-pink and her two-tone blue partner, then the white and copper beside them, and then dove back into her typing.

Keenan shrugged, and quietly said, “it… might be us, you know. Us and the royal couple there.” He gave the tiniest toss of his head toward Sean’s big bunny ears which were focused on the sands, and not on the conversation going on behind her. She surely heard it, given those ears. “We arrived using Vortal power,” Keenan then once more looked at the brightly-white Usagi woman, “and they came using ritual magic and draconic Nexus teleportation. Who is to say, just exactly what is going on with this clutch?”

At his words, three eggs crashed into each other, sticky goo flying here and there. Plaintive cries were heard, and candidates scrabbled to help: but it was two smaller winged forms that arrived first, a blue and bronze firelizard tugging and pulling at shards of egg shells.

Naeodin rose from her feet. “Are they alright?” It was always her first instinct, wasn’t it, to be sure of the safety of her charges.

Voices called out in the affirmative. Bruised, nicked, but the three hatchlings seemed fine.

Crowbar and Wrench continued to fuss around a pale hatchling, a soft shade of cream, with the barest hints of orange and darker colors clouding his hide. The hatchling spread its wings, displaying smoky gray undersails- he waited patiently until the two firelizards finished their grooming. He even seemed to relish it.

“Come now,” Joshua laughed as he strode up, his mind echoing his words. “Enough of this. I’ll help get you cleaned up, Oanneth.”

“Brown?” the scribe muttered. He was at wits end already and there had only been what, a third of the hatchings recorded?

“Variant?” Melissa said carefully.

“Brown Variant it is then.”

::Flower. Flowers. FLOWWEEERS::

“Just what is happening down there?” Petapipa, rider of green Naoth frowned as she stood up from her seat in the sands, staring down at the collection of eggs and hatchlings.

‘I believe, rider mine, a hatchling is trying to communicate’ Naoth’s words were amused as peered down from her ledge. ‘A rather astute hatchling at that’

When the eggs crashed into each other, it was the no-nonsense Cleis and Eilly who led the pack of candidates towards the sands. Their movements were economical as they shuffled past the larger pieces of shell, eyes attentive to any scratches or worse wounds on the hatchlings.

The two pale hatchlings were an obvious pair- one rose, one purple, but with similar touches of yellow around their muzzles and a deep maroon on their wings. Both hides had darker, smokier streaks across their hides, but there was a somewhat unfinished quality about the markings.

The larger of the two was entirely more concerned with the well being of their clutchmate, letting out a concerned creel and turning swirling eyes up at Eilly.

Baihuth is fine” she assured the dragon.

Cleis said, “Knocked up a little bit, but nothing that a good meal can’t fix, right Langhwath?”

The soldier and the mage paused, staring at each other, their eyes widened.

“Did we just-“

“Are they-”

The married couple laughed, joyous as they gingerly helped their new bonds to their feet, walking off the hatching sands.

Their looks of surprise were echoed shortly among those nearest Melissa and the local scribe, when Mel said, “they’re from different nests,” and waited for the reaction. Her amber eyes had caught the similarities in the hatchlings, but her power saw the differences. She saw in the edge of her vision, Keenan’s half-smirk. She was getting good at emulating his sense of comedic timing, when she added just before the scribe could say anything, “and yes, they’re already Vortally… psychically? Psionically? Connected to each other, just like they want their riders.”

::Green. Green. Green. GREEEEN::

With the explosion of eggs crashing into each other, the hatching of a small egg went by almost unnoticed. The soft hued hatchling gingerly raised her wings, balancing herself as she crept across the sands to sit by one of the larger eggs.

The eggs on the hatching sands continued to crack and splinter open, two eggs rolling into each other and splintering into a mess of wings and claws and egg shells. One of the hatchlings let out a piercing cry, and spread their wings widely, knocking over another egg onto its side.

The egg shattered on impact as if it was a tiny, fragile thing- but the enraged cry from within was anything but tiny or fragile. A large boned pale brown hatchling lumbered out, and let out another enraged cry that had its two siblings settle and peer at him with curiosity.

The brown hatchling wasted no time, immediately striding off the sands, making a straight beeline to the quiet soldier.

‘They waste their time and play, when they should focus on what is important. I know what is important, don’t I Jathan?’

The soldier looked down at eyes that had started swirling like rainbows, and smiled. “Yes you know, Kiyamapith.”

::FLOWER RIBBON!::

A small pale egg rocked, and continued to rock insistently, swaying to and fro, the sand heavily packed around its egg the only obstacle stopping it from rolling around.

The pair of hatchlings, one a darker brown, the other a pale, creamier hue continued to scream at each other in shrill tones, their pitch more avian than dragon. The two hatchlings were so intent on play-fighting that they did not notice the tall form that strode towards them.

“Enough!”

It was the felinoid adventurer who broke apart the two hatchlings, striding between two and reaching out with his hands to pull them apart- literally. He looked at one of them and scolded it a bit, while guarding the other. “Sokoleth did not bump into you on purpose and ruin your grand entrance!”

Shiva stilled. “Sokoleth.” He tested out again, muttering something about checking his menu, and letting out a grunt of surprise. “Sokoleth?” he repeated again, staring at something that the other spectators could not see.

Whatever it was he saw on his menu, he turned with stunned eyes and yelled back to the remaining candidates.

Krakal! Check your menu!”

The other hatchling fidgeted, shrill cries shifting to grumbles as their eyes tracked with hawkish intent the adventurer who still had not come forward.

Xoriguereth!” Krakal exclaimed, stumbling over arms wide open, “Xoriguereth I’m sorry, yes! Yes of course!” she cried out, responding to private words.

The hatchling stopped her grumbles, and her eyes swirled rainbows as Shiva placed both hatchlings gently on the ground.

As the spectators cheered the new dragon and rider pairs, the large egg that had been patiently waiting for their turn splintered open, the two halves of the egg shell neatly falling away. In the center a small boned dark purple hatchling sat, licking at her paw with a rather quizzical expression.

The dark purple hatchling stretched her wings of a paler shade, her muzzle and the tips of her paws marked with an oddly muted shade of gray. Unfinished, again, as if it was a template meant to be filled out with bolder color.  She stared, disgruntled at her paws.

‘This is not what I am supposed to look like!’ she sounded indignant.  

“You’re beautiful, XongilethJin breathed from the group of candidates, and she started, as if realizing what she had said.

“YEEES I KNEWW ITTTT!” someone screamed from the spectators, and at the hatchling stared with rather quizzical eyes, letting out a confused chirp.

“Yes, Xongileth. He is always like that. But you are rather beautiful, I think we’ll have to get used to this kind of attention back at home.”

Keenan leaned over to Mel, “… do you want to hear what I just heard?”

“You’ll tell me anyway?” She grinned, while still keeping up her notations.

“Beautiful, you’re beautiful,” he chuckled. “You’d be surprised at what these dragons like to name themselves.” Then he sobered just a little bit, brows furrowing over turquoise eyes. “… in fact now that I think on it, how do they know?”

“Probably Vortal,” Mel shrugged as though it was nothing. Names among the Enrichment Center kids came with plenty of baggage, Vortal titles even more so, look at her own name, Baa’chackt gallum-Vahh, ‘mother of surprises’ indeed.

On the sands, there was less activity now that many of the hatchlings had been paired up, but there were still surprises to be had there as well. The small pale egg that had continued to send out waves of colors and pictures snapped into two, hatching open and revealing a pale hatchling with darker wings of a deep velvety green.

“Oh.” Lacey’s eyes widened as she took a few steps tentatively towards the hatchling. “Were you calling for me?”

::GREEN! Lace handkerchief and lace edged flower::

The hatchling creeled as it reached out with large oversized paws, patting the candidate’s knees.

‘Of course I was calling for you!’ her voice was soft, demure as the hatchling’s eyes whirled rainbows.  ‘I knew you would be able to hear me’

“Of course, Pitsith”, Lacey sighed, her own eyes blurry with tears.

Keenan telepathically did not shut up about that one.

The next egg that began hatching looked somewhat normal and commonplace- all the eggs actually had odd muted notes, but showed dragonets within that had hints of varied shades running through their hide. 

But this? This was a seemingly very ordinary egg. But it held two less than ordinary dragons. One that was brilliantly white – as white as Ajandeykth, who looked rather smug, and the other, rich lava red-black mottled in color.

The seemingly very ordinary white dragon took little time before ambling over to the candidates. Hands and cheerful voices waved, but she ignored them all to head straight to one candidate.

Namiya,’ she creeled, her eyes swirling with rainbows. ‘We have great things we need to accomplish! But first we should wait and watch!’

The project smiled, and for a second, it was maybe a trick of light, but her eyes seemed to gleam gold. “Perdeth, I absolutely agree.”

It was not a surprise to anyone that her ‘suddenly best friend’ who’d only barely arrived with Mel and Keenan, had found her own way to the red-lava colored sibling in that ordinary … now shattered shell. Wrenell was as excited and swept away as she could be, as an empath surrounded by extremely strong emotions. 

Hwamith, I know it’s a bit overwhelming. We’ll be okay!” Wrenell exclaimed, quietly, trying to reassure both herself and the hatchling that it would be.

 They too had to pause for a moment, however, because their path off the sands was blocked. The pale hued hatchling’s patience, and her human bond’s curiosity, were rewarded as the larger nearby egg snapped, cracks appearing finely across the surface as a shard broke off, knocked over by the wing tip. One of the dragons who had come from its shell not too many minutes before was still drying his wings until…

‘Thank you for waiting,’ the tan-colored hatchling whispered mentally, looking around her, eyes searching. They landed on the male hatchling who hobbled over to nuzzle the female.

As a pair, though, they seemed like they could easily have come from the same egg. They had similar pale brown bodies with somewhat creamy or tan shaded accents, in almost the same places. But both Istabitha’s scribe and Melissa assured everyone who asked, that they were from separate nests. Mel commented, “but they’re connected, like those others were, Vortal lines between them are solid. Vurr-seh bah’lih. Two spirits bound by blood.”

A chorus of resounding ‘awwww’s, picked up by the spectators and echoed by two candidates who stepped forward with wide, damp eyes.

“Are you” Jotaya whispered.

“Ours?” Raffin completed.

The female hatchling looked up and her eyes swirled rainbows at Jotaya.

‘Of course I am, I wasn’t ready to hatch until you arrived, and Tkatith also.’

Kozharth and I,’ the male hatchling piped up. ‘We are going to start a new life together, here, aren’t we?’

The pair of disparate fire lizards that the candidates – now riders – carried were over the moon as much as their human companions. 

The spectator’s murmurs about the impressions were interrupted by a loud resounding crack. This hatchling did not want to join the world quietly nor subtly. Sharp staccato sounds of the egg shell being pierced from the inside seemed to echo in the hatching caverns, splintering and yet not falling apart.

Yarrima you need to help Terbenamith!” Tristan yelled out from the stands, jumping over the edge with panic ringing in his voice as he raced towards the egg. “He’s trapped!” He didn’t even seem to realize…

Yarrima ran forwards, following her brother as they ran,  pulling apart the splintered egg shell. They’d both run to the last egg on the sands, a largish one.

Two soft forms peeked out of the egg, falling in a tangled heap on top of their riders.

‘Terbenamith is just being a show off, rider-mine.’ The sweet hatchling crooned. ‘Don’t worry, his rider is here to help him now’.

“His rider, Terbith?” Yarrima echoed, and let out a shout of glee as she watched her brother peel off the cracked shards. “Did you hear that Tristan? His rider!”

Tristan’s hands stilled in his movement as he turned, his eyes widening. “Oh, shards.” He muttered, and his movements grew increasingly frantic. “Terbenamith! MY Terbenamith! Hang in there!”

The brightly colored hatchling peered through the egg, and seemed quite content to let his rider do all the work. ‘I thought that would get your attention’ he announced smugly.

 The Weyrwoman of Istabitha’s watched the newly impressed riders walk off the sands with a thoughtful expression: dragons of unusual markings had hatched with some regularity, but there was something slightly odd and unfinished about the hatchings that had Naeodin think they would still surprise them all.

The festivities began, Pernese and non-Pernese mingling in a way that made the Weyrwoman more determined to bring her vision to pass. A home for dragons, extending beyond Pern, part of this new universe full of the unknown and exciting.

She knew she had to chase Keenan down: find out more. Determine just exactly how she was supposed to identify a new home- a new planet. Her thoughts lost in a short glass of something called an ‘Old Fashioned’, she felt a shoulder brush by her own and stopped in her steps.

“I apologize” she looked up to see the slender woman with sharp features and feline green eyes that Namiya had waved to, the one who had continued to stick to the shadows.

Not a woman.

“No, my fault.” the man murmured, reaching out for her hand and raising it to his lips. His eyes were amused. “It is lovely to finally meet you, Weyrwoman Naeodin.”

A turn later, the smudgy and chubby little hatchlings of Istabitha’s most eclectic clutch caused an uproar.

Because they were changing color.

The valentines clutch of Istabitha’s Weyr had a second surprise- the hatchlings began to enter their final adult shades as weyrlings, their hides deepening (or brightening, in some cases), with markings coming into full form at adulthood.

The record keepers of Istabitha’s decided, they were down as “Variants” anyways. It would not make too much of a difference.

Besides, it wouldn’t be Pern’s problem for much longer, they thought to themselves.