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"You're not eating much today," H'lania observed casually, skewering a piece of fruit on her belt knife.

Her bronze merely grunted, apparently feeling no need to remark on such a comment.  He'd killed two herdbeasts on this sizeable island off the Tillek coast but hadn't gobbled them down as he usually did – instead he lapped lazily as the blood drained from the carcasses.  It turned H'lania's stomach but she never judged Praneth's eating habits – even when they did depart from the norm.

Honestly she thought he'd be more hungry after spending the whole morning ferrying the marooned sailors of The Trader's Prize to safety after the ship had foundered in a storm last night.  The winds and sea had still been rough when they had arrived that morning, answering the summons of Lord Diatus.  Fortunately Praneth was probably the best dragon in the Weyr to handle such weather and H'lania was still amazed looking back at how well he'd handled himself in that unpredictable gale.

All the sailors had been rescued safe and sound and a grateful Diatus had granted H'lania a break to feed her dragon and rest before trying to haul the damaged ship back to port.  

Instead of razing the Lord Holder's flocks, H'lania directed Praneth to this island with its own herd of feral beast – likely the survivors of a shipwreck who had swam to the island and flourished undisturbed on the rich vegetation.  

The weather had cleared by then and the sun was even threatening to put in an appearance.  "Eat up old friend!" H'lania chided.  "We have a lot of work to do this afternoon!"

Just then a piercing screech from above jarred H'lania's attention upward and to her feet.  Hovering a hundred or so yards above the island was Thalleth, radiant and viscous in full mating heat.

Praneth bellowed a challenge to the unexpected arrival which was answered with an authoritative bulge.  The queen then dropped on a terrified herdbeast and commenced to suck deeply on its neck.

H'lania stared in utter confusion.  By the First Egg, was that Sallyn on Thalleth's back?!

The girl slid or fell from her dragon – H'lania really couldn't tell which - and staggered blindly in H'lania's direction.  She either was unaware or unconcerned of the raking talons of her feeding queen.  Either way she managed to move away without injury and approached H'lania.  "Catch me," she whispered.

H'lania wasn't sure if it was Sallyn speaking – for she did collapse in the bronze rider's arms – or Thalleth, coyly challenging Praneth to come and get her.  H'lania couldn't really react to either though – this was all too unprecedented.  How By the Shell did Thalleth get here; and with Sallyn clinging to her back with no straps?!

The glowing queen had finished with her latest victim and rose up on her haunches, letting out a call that shook the whole island and sent the herdbeasts running in a frenzied panic into the ocean.  The air was suddenly full of bronze and brown dragons – they'd followed her!

Hissing with satisfaction, the lithe queen sprang into the air – shooting right through the cloud of males and into the sky above.  A heartbeat later they were after her and H'lania was suddenly Praneth, beating her/his powerful wings to out-fly the other bronzes and catch the queen that was hers/his.  

Thalleth had come to Praneth.  She had chosen him and now he was going to prove his worth and catch that saucy dragon who was taunting and toying with her pursuers.  It didn't matter that he had flown all morning in rough winds – he had fed on fresh blood and was strong and ready.  He knew the air currents of this place well and would fly circles around any dragon who tried to catch his queen!

Thalleth wasn't going to give up without a fight though and she was just as agile and swift as Praneth.  She'd occasionally cut to the left or right – forcing the others to bank sharply to keep up and not collide with each other.  She'd find an oceanic updraft and ride it lazily, just out of reach of her suitors, only to dive right down through the middle of the pack in the next moment – each dragon trying to snag a wing, a limb or to twine a neck as she passed; but she was a clever one and none could touch her.  Oh but she was a prize worth winning!

Praneth had fallen for several of her feigns at first, but when he realized how tricky and agile she was, he allowed the others to desperately chase after her while he reserved his strength and allowed the thermals to carry him upward – for she was leading them ever higher and he'd be ready for when she started to tire and get careless.

It was already happening to some of the other bronzes and many of the browns – several had fallen back or out of the chase entirely.  Their numbers were dropping and Praneth was still going strong.  He could wait, but not too long – the air was thinner at this altitude.  He'd have to catch her before they got too high and unable to maintain this breakneck speed.

Though Thalleth was still darting about and twirling in tight spirals, she hadn't fallen back in while to play with her pursuers at close range; maybe she was tiring!  Good.  

Praneth waited for the next pocket of warm air – difficult to find at these dizzying heights.  He found it a few breaths before the queen and opened his wings to float himself quickly upward while Thalleth rode the updraft slowly, played coyly with the remaining dragons – all bronzes now.  They were still trying desperately to grab her and weren't at all noticing Praneth circling above them.

He positioned himself carefully.  Her antics were far less erratic now and easier to predict.  Quickly he folded his wings and allowed himself to drop like a stone.  She realized what was happening too late as he grabbed a firm hold of her wings.  His neck and tail twined with hers – he'd caught her!

They continued falling for what seemed like a long time before Thalleth finally stopped struggling and Praneth could open his wings and guide them towards another thermal that they could slowly spiral down in.

The evening sky seemed to be all around them, fresh stars dotting the vast firmament as they descended down into the clouds.

* * * *

H'lania opened her eyes and found she was starring into a bright, shiny pair of hazel orbs.

The moment's surprise pass quickly as she realized she was no longer her dragon but herself and this was Sallyn in her arms, pressed tightly against her.  The two looked at each other in wonder and love.

It was several moments before H'lania spoke.  "Hi."

Sallyn giggled, her freckles all but gone under the deep flush that overwhelmed her usually pale face.  "Hi yourself!" she answered back.

They parted, but only so they could lay next to each other on their backs and look up at the stars, both still aware their dragons were up there somewhere in continued bliss.

H'lania pulled her flight jacket over them as the evening chill was overcoming the warmth from their recent exertions and Sallyn tucked her head between H'lania's ear and shoulder.  "You know," Sallyn said quietly, almost sleepily.  "We did the impossible today: we touched the stars."

A slow smile spread across H'lania's face which gradually turned into the hearty laugh.  Her sweet love hadn't been talking nonsense that day on a different beach under the same stars.  She was being a Harper!  H'lania rose up on her elbow and placed a tender kiss on Sallyn's lips.  "We sure did!" she whispered back.
This is a Dragonriders of Pern fanfic that takes place two Turns after the book "Moreta".
Please see the 1st Chapter write-up (link at bottom) for more details.

Woot! It is finished!!!
Sorry folks, but that's all she wrote. I always intended to end it here and I hope it's fairly satisfying :)

Special thanks to all those who've read the whole thing - I sincerely hope you've like it; it was fun to write!

Comments are, of course welcome - I'd love to hear people's take on it, good or bad.

Thanks for reading!

New to the story? Start from the beginning:
Chapter 1: [link]

Or go back to the previous Chapter:
Chapter 18: [link]
Add a Comment:
teebee3 Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2011
I feel that it was a great story and could of read more of it. I hope that you plan to continue to write this saga...I look forward to buying the book or continueing books when they come on the market.....GREAT JOB...loved ever bit of it.... thank you
KiusLady Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I'm so glad you enjoyed the story!!
Alas I don't plan on writing any more of this particular tale; but maybe someday another Pern story will present itself to be shared :)
Collon28 Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
I did enjoy that. I do feel it was ended all-too abruptly, but overall, a great read and very true to the source material from what little I've read so far. I enjoyed it to say the least.

Now find some Pern groups here on DA and submit this story to them!
KiusLady Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Already done and it got very favorable reviews :)
I do hope you like reading the Dragonriders of Pern - though I think you will...
Collon28 Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Yep, so far so good. Swaying those Lords to go back to their Holds was a nifty strategy.
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