The Weyr was woken early by the crack of the thunder and the smell of rain in the air. The gradually brightening sky was lit abruptly by a shaft of lightning in the distance, and Qianel shot bolt upright in her bed.
"Yainolith?" she called to the young queen fearfully.
I am here. Don't worry, my heart. It can't hurt us.
Qianel took a deep breath. She'd never liked storms. As long as she could stay inside, cuddled under her covers and with Nola to reassure her, she would be just fine. My queen is looking rather stunning tonight, the junior weyrwoman thought to herself. She almost glows.
A strange feeling began to seep through her veins until her very blood was made of fire - lust. Dragonlust! The queen was rising!
Thoughts of the dreadful storm aside, Qianel cried out in surprise at the wealth of new emotions consuming her and it was only the part of her brain that had lived through hour after hour of classes with the Weyrlingmaster that forced her to mount up and lead the randy queen to the fields outside the Weyr where she would take the blood to sustain her through her flight.
When they arrived, the morning's first light was penetrating the thick cloud-cover and the rain had slowed to a steady downpour. The males, drenched but otherwise unaffected by the rain, waited anxiously for the radiant object of their desire to blood her kill.
Yainolith finished her third beast and turned to hiss malevolently at the bronzes and browns awaiting her. She noted each individual hopeful and filed away any who would be unacceptable as captors. There were few left on the list.
And then, without further announcement, Yainolith was aloft.
The first to follow was Coroth. The bronze, a noselength in front of two other bronzes and a dragonlength before the last, trailing brown, bugled sharply.
Yainolith did not respond. She flew fast and hard, high and strong, her wings beating with a rhythm known only to females in the height of their mating cycle, her heart pumping ichor and beast-blood through her body frantically. And a sharp turn to the left saw the first hopeful drop from the chase with a cry of anguish.
Brown Iyirhath from White River Weyr swooped to the sodden ground and Sh'lilen consoled him as the flight continued above them.
Briefly Yainolith soared above the clouds, but the air was too thin and the males could not follow. Her wings slipped and back towards the chasers she fell - and almost into Coroth's waiting grasp before darting so sharply towards the ground that the bronze overshot his aim and was immediately out of the running.
Two more - a bronze and a brown - followed Coroth towards their riders as they realized that their chase would not be successful.
Three remained. Two bronzes - Veralith and Lokioth - and the bronze-brown hybrid Tieth.
The golden queen risked a glance behind her and was rewarded with a close glance of the leading bronze, Veralith. Without warning, she stopped abruptly in the air and watched with glee as the bronze shot past her, too close to stop. And now there were two.
She flew again in a different direction, leading the remaining two on a chase around the skies. Lokioth and Tieth followed obediently, energies waning but obsession increasing.
On the ground, Qianel noted vaguely that only two men remained around her, but in her altered state of mind and comprehension, she did not recognize them.
And then, in the rain and the thunder and lightning, Yainolith made the one mistake that they had been waiting for. She grew over confident.
NO! she bugled in outrage as she felt hind legs grasp her body and wings founder in her own. A roar of anger echoed from above.
As a bundle of bronze and gold hurtled towards the ground, Yainolith had the foresight - or instinct - to snap out her great golden wings to slow their descent, and she and Lokioth disappeared behind the tree line.
Qianel felt the victory in her dragon, and simultaneously felt arms encircled her waist and lips capture her own. N'ral from Tarizal Weyr claimed his victory as bronze Lokioth completed his.