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Chapter 4 Dragonquest Chapter 6

Jaxom and his Warder, Lytol had been summoned to Benden Weyr. Jaxom was excited about the prospect of riding a dragon, though his excitement was diminished by his warder's disapproval. Lytol was a hard man to please, and Jaxom did not intend to upset him, but felt the need to explore the back reaches of the Hold.

A greenrider, J'ralt, an old friend of Jaxom's, comes to pick them up. Jaxom makes the faux pas of addressing to him by his pre-Impression name, Jeralte, though J'ralt himself is not bothered by it.

They arrive at the Weyr. Ramoth was on the Hatching Ground with a new clutch, which inculded a golden egg. A girl from Ruatha, named Talina, was among those chosen on Search.

As they descend for their landing, Jaxom spots his friend, Felessan, approaching. After formally greeting F'lar and Lessa, Felessan runs up to him. They run off to play, Lytol warning him to stay out of trouble, and tells Lessa and F'lar about how he'd been exploring "in the bowels of the Hold itself" that morning. When they got out of earshot, Felessan asked Jaxom if he'd found anything, but Jaxom hadn't found anything interesting.

Felessan takes Jaxom into a back passage at the Weyr, to sneak a peak at Ramoth's eggs while she was bathing in the lake. They sneak onto the sands. Jaxom spots a particularly small egg, only about half the size of the others. He touches it, to Felessan's shock. They hear Ramoth returning, and hastily return to the back passage.

Jaxom was scratched slipping through the crack, bleeding a fair amount. Jaxom's glow goes out. With only Felessan's glow left, they make their way down the dark corridor, following their footsteps. They make a wrong turn, and turn around to backtrack, but Felessan's glow dies out. Unable to find their way out, they sit down against the smooth wall. Jaxom ponders the empty corridors, wondering what had happened to the people who used to live in them. He realizes that the wall where they were was smooth, indicating that it must be part of the old section of the Weyr. He follows it, figuring that sooner or later, it would either run into a dead end, or into the main section. Jaxom finds something, a vertical crack, perhaps a doorway. Feeling around, he finds a square plate, which he presses, causing a door to open. They stare in awe at the brightly-lit room before passing out from the stale air rushing out.

As Lytol watched Felessan and Jaxom heading off to the Lower Cavern, he complains to Lessa and F'lar about Jaxom's tendency to go exploring in the back corridors. F'lar laughs, remarking that Lytol must've forgotten his own boyhood. Lytol replies that it was one thing for him, but Jaxom was the heir to the Hold. Lessa remarks that Jaxom is still just a boy, complimenting Lytol on his job of raising him. Lessa realizes from his response to a compliment on Jaxom that Mardra had been criticizing him again.

MasterHarper Robinton and Mastersmith Fandarel arrive. Lessa informs Robinton with a grin that the new shipment of Benden wine was in, but it hadn't yet settled.

The meeting quickly becomes more serious. F'lar informs Robinton, Fandarel, and Lytol of the change in Thread patterns. Robinton had already known, but had been unable to inform F'lar.

Lytol remarks that he didn't know how the Lord Holders would take that change "on top of everything else". F'lar was startled at that remark. Lytol went on to mention the Weyrs' behavior in general, and the disaster in Esvay Valley in Nabol and those plantations of Lord Sangel's. F'lar had heard nothing about those, surprising Robinton.

Robinton tells F'lar of what had been happening. Several weeks back, T'kul had refused to help Meron of Nabol clear some furrows from wooded slopes above Esvay Valley, saying that was the ground crews' job. The entire valley had to be fired to stop the burrows from spreading, leaving the holders who had lived there holdless.

A few weeks after that, T'ron had left Southern Boll without clearing with Lord Sangel's groundchief, resulting in three entire plantations having to be burned down.

On a more general level, there had been reports of girls snatched from holds on pretense of [[Search], but in actuality as drudges. In addition, the incident with the belt knife at Fandarel's was only one of many similar depredations, excessively high tithe-demands by the Oldtimer Weyrs. Robinton told F'lar that Benden Weyr was respected throughout Pern, while the Oldtimer Weyrs weren't.

Robinton tells F'lar that he must take charge. The Holders and Crafters had learned from their mistakes when Thread began to fall, while the Oldtimers remained inflexible and parochial, and worries about how the Lord Holders and Craftsmen would respond to this new crisis, on top of all the other problems.

F'lar told Lytol of the meeting that morning, and the decision to use watchfires. Lytol thought the plan foolish, and Fandarel remarked that fire was not effective. Robinton offered to assign drummers to assist.

Fandarel announces that his craft had a more efficient method to connect the Holds. F'lar asks him how long it would take to equip all the Weyrs and major Holds. Fandarel replies that it would take logner than they had for this particular crisis, as the process was time-consuming. Robinton calls on F'lar to look beyond affiliations, to consider all of Pern, and to unite Pern as he had at teh start of the Pass. Robinton suggests using the upcoming wedding at Telgar as an opportunity to spread the word. Robinton asks Fandarel if he could set up his distance-rider to Telgar by the wedding, which everyone present agrees is a good idea. Fandarel replies that it would be possible.

F'lar asks about the distance-writer, and Fandarel offers to show it to him, mentioning that the code used was courtesy of Robinton, adapted from the drum codes.

Lytol tells them that he was ready to leave. Robinton decides to leave with him, sharing a dragon. However, they were unable to locate Jaxom. Gandidan admitted to seeing them going to the back corridor.

Lessa, who had not known of the peekhole, was outraged to learn of it. F'lar tries to soothe her, telling her that all weyrlings did it.

They set out to look for Jaxom and Felessan, realizing they'd been gone too long. Before long, they find them, spotting the light coming from the doorway that Jaxom had found. Manora sends Felessan and Jaxom, still unconcious, back to the main weyr, carried by two of the men in the search party.

They enter the room, astonished. F'lar had heard rumors of rooms like that, but nothing definite. They try to make sense of the things they see. Fandarel finds a cabinet with a magnetic catch. He is suprised at the catch, and opens and closes it several times before noticing the object inside. It was a microscope. Fandarel examines it, talking to himself as he did so.

F'lar asks Fandarel if it were possible to make far things near, as the object they'd found made small things big. Lessa, instantly seeing what he was thinking, insists that he couldn't go to the Red Star.

Jaxom awoke, finding himself in the Weyr's infirmary, with Manora nearby. Manora tells him about the rooms they'd found beyond the one he'd seen. He walks to the kitchen with Manora, and encounters F'lar, Fandarel, Robinton, Lessa, Lytol, and Felessan.

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