Ryslen’s occupants were busier than usual, it seemed, under the direction of Ikara, the headwoman. After a long time running the kitchens, no one seemed to recall when she ceased to be second-in-charge, and became the head herself. The reason for all this active cleaning and decorating was very simple – at least on the surface.
Tiyanni had called for a full council – meaning all the Lords and Masters were obligated to attend. Some, of course, were less pleased than others. In addition, all the leaders of other dragon homes and hatcheries were invited, though not all would attend.
Activity picked up, building to a frenzied level just before it ceased; soon the dragons would start arriving.
Im’mel was the first to return, bearing his brother Sanjoral and his lady wife, the new Lord and Lady of Two River astride his brown Nadornth. Tiny Golden-Apple-Green Dulath arrived with Baeris, who knew that ordinary East Rock business would not have included her, even casually, though she was a good friend of Tiyanni’s. Sargon and Kat appeared on their respective dragons, the impressive bronze-black Bolton and Flurry Peridot Paianith, and Silver-Blue Alendreth with Lord Arilen Br’then followed in short order. Shianna and her blue Kayrizoth arrived with the Master Miners from the Quarry, and J’lin appeared with the Lord and Masters from Kielac astride his Healing Den brown Vemonth. Lord Leid from Vallen’s Cove arrived with Marani on oilslick green Twengith. He obviously had no problem with “nonstandard” dragons. Ga’voh’s bronze-blue Tontilth and Ti’m’s reddish-brown Cendanth arrived with the important men and women from North and South Woodhall. Four female dragons, Green Matsuth, Cream Khakith, Black-Green Verth, and Violet-Purple Heliotropeth popped into being above Ryslen with synchronistic perfection bearing their riders Keirya, Aurina, Brekey, and Rufiara, along with emissaries from Bynor, Bell, Jenir Plains, and Sennet, respectively. The Lady of Border could not be found, and Lord Bekirol, who was not part of the council, was insulted at receiving no invitation, as usual.
The council room was packed, and the Wingleaders of Ryslen stood against the walls. The men and women chatted amongst themselves until everyone was present. Tiyanni casually let them chat, until a raised voice asked, “What is this meeting about, anyway?”
Other voices echoed, and the room grew silent as eyes turned to Tiyanni.
“Lords, Ladies, Masters…” she began, addressing them all and making sufficient eye contact so they were all included. “Friends, I am retiring.”
When the gasps of surprise and chattering died down again, she continued calmly. “I am stepping down from my position as Ryslen’s Weyrwoman. I’ve had this post for over 25 years, and to put it frankly, I’m tired. I’m done.” She sat back in her chair, and said no more.
“But Tiyanni! You can’t retire!” Someone said.
“I thought the Weyrwoman had the job until she … until her queen…”
“What will become of Ryslen without you?”
Tiyanni calmly silenced them all. J’kosh spoke. “Litayth laid her last clutch almost ten years ago. There were four years between that one and the one previous. The Weyrwoman is the rider of the Senior Queen, whose main duty is to produce future generations of dragons. Once she can no longer perform this seemingly minor task, what is the purpose of her retaining the position?”
“But there are other queens…”
“A moot point.” J’kosh continued. “The queen dragon who reaches the end of her egg-bearing days is seldom seen, and the chances that she’ll be the Sr. Queen are slim indeed. In the time it takes to wear out the queen, her rider is similarly worn out. It is only fitting for someone else to take Tiyanni’s place as Weyrwoman when she feels she can no longer do what is required of her.”
“Tiyanni is doing a great job!”
“Hush. If Tiyanni wants to retire you cannot stop her.” The calm voice was that of Baeris Kshau.
“But the Weyrwoman can’t just quit! Weyrwomen and their queens die for the Weyr…”
“Sure she can. Tiyanni is perfectly free to walk out of this room, climb aboard her silvering queen, and disappear forever. It’s happened before.” J’lenn said from where he stood with crossed arms leaning against the wall.
When the murmurs died down again, Tiyanni spoke. “We’ve chosen Jeyann to be Ryslen’s new Weyrwoman.”
“You can’t just pick the new Weyrwoman! The new Weyrwoman has always been chosen by the nest gold’s rising…!”
“Yes, after the sudden death of the previous Weyrwoman, with no named successor.” Sanjoral interjected, silencing the uptight Master. As the youngest Lord, he saw where this was going.
“Oh close your mouth, Sanjoral. You’re only Lord because your brother absconded…”
“I most certainly did not, MasterCrafter.” Im’mel said. “If you can not be civil, you will be removed from the meeting.”
The Master became sullenly quiet. Being addressed in such a manner by a brownrider…
Kat smiled. “And I’m sure the other golds would sit around and make life miserable for all of East Rock until Jeyann’s gold rose…”
Tiyanni grinned at the lead female of Azon, as another with a lack of understanding spoke. “But Jeyann’s your daughter. This is a biased decision.”
“Jeyann and the other goldriders have been assisting Tiyanni for quite some time, and all of them could run things here at Ryslen. The others are in agreement that Jeyann would be best suited to the position. It is not due to her parents that she has been chosen.“ J’kosh said.
“Does Jeyann even want to be Weyrwoman?” Someone asked at last.
At the foot of the table, a younger woman rose. A woman of age with the wingleaders who ringed the room, and the young Lord Sanjoral. “The question to ask is not whether I want to be Weyrwoman, but whether Ryslen wants me to lead.” Jeyann said, her calm manner clearly indicative that Tiyanni and J’kosh were her parents.
“Well, does Ryslen want Jeyann to lead?” Br’then asked, since obviously no one else was planning to.
“Yes!” Chorused the wingleaders, searchriders, and other Ryslen residents said in unpracticed unison. They may have even startled themselves.
“Then it’s settled, isn’t it?” Sargon said with a grin.
“What about you, J’kosh? Are you retiring as well?” someone asked.
The weyrleader, his short hair entirely silver and not just silvering like Tiyanni’s, smiled softly. “The Weyrleader is the rider of the best bronze in the Weyr, gentlemen. The post will continue to be occupied by the man whose dragon catches the queen.”
“So are you and Zerroith joining the chase when Jeyann’s dragon rises?”
J’kosh shrugged. “While I’d be honored to co-direct Ryslen with my daughter, he and I both feel that it’s time for a change.”
Eyes turned to Jeyann then, who was beaming at her dad. “Have you a preference among the bronzeriders, then?”
Jeyann grinned at them all then. This was her moment; a moment that would end all this silliness. She made pointed eye contact with every dragonrider in the room before she opened her mouth to speak, knowing only part of what she’d say now would be remembered:
“…It’s the dragon’s choice.”
* * *
A few weeks later, a day dawned clear, and with the sun’s first rays came the first activity in Ryslen – every bronze and brown worth his wings waited anxiously in the bowl for Mezireth to put in her appearance.
As the golden sun touched her ledge, Mezireth came forth shining like the sun bursting from behind the clouds. With unpracticed perfection, she brought down two bucks with one tackle, and proceeded to drain them dry. Screaming like a banshee, she rose to the sky, and her many suitors attempted to follow. In their eagerness, two browns collided a double dragonlength from the ground, and were forced to give up then and there. L’ran and Sy’n looked embarrassed that their dragons had fouled each other– but not as embarrassed as their sister Tylar was to be related to them at that point. With R’lan’s arms wrapped lovingly around her and her round pregnant belly, she awaited the outcome of the flight. There was no lasting dishonor in it. The shame was reserved for those who could have risen in chase and did not.
Mezireth led them high into the brightening sky, keeping her precious metal self as far from the pack of unworthy males as she could. Several faltered, but pressed on. One huge, hulking brown turned back. Ge’ar’s Elborth, while powerful, hadn’t the speed to keep up to Mezireth, nor the cunning to catch her unawares. In his wake, another brown dropped from the race – R’nev’s Niketh. Somehow he knew this wasn’t his race.
Mezireth suddenly shot toward the ground, wings tucked for maximum acceleration. At this point, the males with quicker reaction times and higher intelligence moved forward in the pack, while those who weren’t quite on the ball dropped back. Cryp’tic’s cocky bronze Halianth fought his way forward, intent on having Mezireth. A few more lengths and…. Halianth wrapped himself around his brown clutchmate Esepputh. By his inept action, he cost them both the chance at Mezireth. While nothing could happen between two male dragons, ‘Randi took advantage of the situation, and kissed Cryp’tic.
No attention was afforded the riders as Mezireth flew on. Several lengths from the ground, Mezireth snapped her powerful wings open and soared back up into the sky, away from the arrow of chasers. In her wake, the slower, and less agile were left behind as they tried to not collide with the ground, with each other, or just weren’t quick enough to reorient to follow her. The brown Akalinth and Haralth swerved to avoid each other, the harper’s brown appologizing profusely to the oldest brown of the generation. Akalinth didn’t mind, and smugly settled Haralth down. He’d outflown a bronze in this important flight. Besides, he’d already caught a queen. Bronze Beilyaoth, the only Tiamat dragon in East Rock, vanished momentarily between in effort to avoid the ground.
As Mezireth led the chase away from Ryslen, brown Garionth dropped out of the race for no apparent reason, and returned to his rider. Ice Black Oighreth, ridden by defenseman Stu of the Hockey-team turned dragonriders roared in fury as N’mar’s brown and darker brown Vemonth almost collided with him. While he wasn’t opposed to the idea of aerial cross-checking, in a flight like this one, they really ought to be paying more attention to their positions. As a result, all three of them lost any hope of catching up with the golden beauty they sought, and had to return.
Eight bronzes, two browns, a bronze-blue and a reddish-brown continued to chase. Less than half remained. The smaller browns were hard pressed to keep up, though they too desparately wanted to twine necks with the glowing queen.Ti’m’s brown Cendanth, who looked more like a Night Red than a brown, suddenly dropped. Literally. With a wrenched wingtip, he was out. Hithliniath, a dragonhealer’s dragon dropped himself out of the race, swooping down to support his fallen comrade. With the aid of a few blues directed by G’rin’s Adjantith, Cendanth was caught, and transported home.
Discodanth suddently vanished between, throwing himself out of the race. While it was surprising that such a virile bronze would give up his chances of catching the gold, the kaleidoscopic synchronicity of the four dragons – two green, one cream, and one purple - that he appeared in the midst of definitely put him in his element.
Mezireth chose that moment to swing back and taunt the males, leading the chase momentarily towards Ryslen, then dropped low leaving the males to attempt to recover. As if on cue, brown Hirlath and Bronze-Blue Tontilth continued towards Ryslen – as the bonds of wingseconds, they instinctively knew when to call it a day.
This left the wingleaders, and a bronze ridden by a woman – six bronzes and a brown. Glowing with smugness, Mezireth used the speed gained from her dive to rocket high up into the sky. Bronze Ojalith from Falas misjudged his turn, and threw himself off course, and fell to the back of the pack of males. With grace, he turned towards home. Im’mel’s Brown Nadornth, from Talor Cliff, strove skyward with his huge wings, but to no avail – this was not his win. With smug satisfaction, he returned to the green who would twine necks with him anytime. Jeniae’s Phyllith.
Mezireth roared a challenge, and kept flying – away from the five bronzes remaining. Now she would put them through their paces, these who had proven themselves worthy of her attentions. Turning on wingtip, she dove towards the bronze furthest from the other four – the Light Flurry Bronze. Ailonth, having learned well the tactics of intentional collision, threw himself sideways, allowing the queen to skim past him without impact. Swinging around, he made to chase, only to find Mezireth was already beyond his grasp. Defeated, he returned to Ryslen, knowing his rider Greg would not be dissapointed in him – in fact, Greg would be delighted to know his bronze was one of the best Ryslen boasted. As a transplanted Terran, this was the best news for them both.
Mezireth flew below the quartet of bronzes, taking note of their physical strengths in her irrational need for a mate. The shadow of Bronze Mnelilth fell upon her as the White River bronze made a sly attempt to close the distance between them. Mezireth spilled air from her gleaming wingsails, and Mnelilth overshot; and was out. But he was not disappointed either. His mate, the White River Green Opoysith awaited him.
And then there were three. Mezireth once again sped upwards, risking it all as she burst through the pack. Bronze Dagianth, ridden by the Danachian DawnFlayme, roared in triumph, and made a grab for her – but gained nothing, as Mezireth sped out of his grasp. All for the better. What would happen if a woman became Weyrleader?
And then there were two. Bronze Arrith of Rose Circle, the oldest bronze of the generation, and bronze Kalavanth, a stunning specimen from Silvermoon, with gigantic Alskyrian-like horns sprouted from his head instead of sedate headknobs. Mezireth did not waste her breath to bugle to them. They had all the encouragement they needed. Striving for the sky, Mezireth knew she would not outrun them, and would accept the first who could reach her.
Though their riders were of an age, youth won over Wisdom, and Kalavanth’s claw settled on Mezireth’s wingshoulder, and she yielded to him. Together they fell in a dizzying spiral.
* * *
Jeyann smiled at her childhood friend Ke’l. It just seemed right that he would appear in her doorway as result of the Weyrleadership flight. They’d co-directed much in their younger days… and Ryslen would benefit from their guidance.
* * *
Ke’l smirked at his friend, his weyrwoman. “So… Weyrwoman Jeyann… what do you suppose will become of Tiyanni?”
Jeyann smiled softly as she brushed her hair. “Mother? She’s been running Ryslen so long, even though the title has passed, people will be calling her Weyrwoman until the day she leaves us for good – though I have no intent to rush that day.”
Ke’l nodded. He too had called Tiyanni “mother” until she’d told him to just call her by name. “She’s like a grandmother to the entire weyr.”
Jeyann laughed. “That’s it. Grand Mother Tiyanni. Do you think she’ll accept it, or that others will take to it?”
Ke’l grinned. “There’s only one way to know for sure – and the way she is, she’ll probably end up having more than one giggle over being called Grand all the time.”