Late Autumn of the First Turn, Fifth Pass
Over two weeks had passed since the tragic aerial rescue attempt and collision that claimed the lives of three dragon pairs, including Weyrwoman Belia and her dragon, Nenmiath. A midair collision of a blue dragon with the much larger queen had sent the startled young dragon between to his death, but not before the collision had startled the Thread-laced green upon Nenmiath's back into blasting the Weyrwoman with a burst of flame potent enough to render her unconscious and nearly dead. Her rider's death imminent, Nenmiath had taken herself and the injured green between.
It had been Miralise's job, along with that of her Veerenth, to assist in that aerial rescue by stabilizing the injured green. They had graduated not long before from the ranks of the Weyrlings to join the queen's wing, and Belia had immediately set them to the task of practicing aerial rescues. After months of constant practice, Belia finally found her youngest junior pair to be 'passable' at this task. This was Miralise's first. It had turned into an overwhelming and unmitigated tragedy. When the blue had collided with Nenmiath, Veerenth had lost her grip on the green. This had allowed the green to slide forward and singe Belia to death.
The unpalatable loss of a fertile queen dragon still clung firmly to the Weyr, its dragons still grey-tinged in melancholic lethargy in those two weeks. The Weyr was in such a state of despair that Benden had temporarily sent a wing to aid Fort. With the death of any other dragon, the depressive aura would have passed within days. Not so with the death of a queen, the senior queen, the Weyr's mother. In her own distress, Miralise was certain that nearly every rider in the Weyr blamed her for Belia's demise. Certainly the Weyrleader J'vrex felt this way, having berated and punished her for it. If she placed so much a toe out of line, the melodramatic Weyrleader lamented repeatedly how a queen dragon would never allow her rider to take the beating she deserved.
Miralise had been grounded from active flight and confined to the records room, tasked with organizing and recording the day to day activity of the Weyr. As the primarily witness of the tragedy, she had been tasked with recording the event to its minutiae. Draft after draft had been deemed unacceptable to J'vrex. The other queenriders had been tasked, along with the Wingleaders, with investigating the tragedy. Miralise had found that both Belia and the Headwoman, Tadrine, were lax in their recordkeeping duties.
Today, still grounded and confined, Miralise set herself once more to the onerous task of organizing the mess Belia and Tadrine had made of the Fortian records. She herself had been tasked with learning domestic management in her parents' holding, and she found the records to be horribly mismanaged. Prior to her Search she had been a potential bride for the young Lord of Southern Boll. With reticence on his part and undue pressure from Fort's Weyrleaders, the Lord of Boll had released her family from their obligations and Miralise's duty had changed: Impress to make Boll proud.
With days spent in the records room, tallying and cataloguing the domestic necessities of the Weyr, Miralise found she longed for the days of her late adolescence and her former lover. Today, those feelings were unusually strong and she could find no real reason for it. Although, J'vrex had been unusually harsh with her that morning, so perhaps that was why she longed for home and old comforts.
"Mira! Mira!" came the frantic voice of her fellow queenrider, Dita. Dita was not much older than Miralise at twenty-five, but she had ridden her queen much longer, a queen now on the sands with a clutch. The woman came to a breathy halt at the entrance of the records room, and Miralise stood abruptly. Her long legs carried her across the distance to her winded friend. She reached out a steadying hand to the other woman, her concern outweighing her usual distaste for physical contact.
"Dita? Whatever is wrong?"
Dita reached a disparaging hand up to Miralise's unruly hair, wetting her thumb to remove the dirt smudges on Mira's face. Dita gave the younger woman a once-over and shook her head at Miralise's attire. Those gestures were quickly followed by a shrug, "Not, really, that appearances matter in the haste of a mating flight."
"Who's rising, Dita? Do I need to wake Veerenth and leave?"
Dita gave her a pitying but kind look, "Dearest Mira, no. Veerenth will rise. I can feel it. I know it. I know what the bronzes are saying, and, dear, the bronzes are starting to assemble at the feeding grounds. Let us get you to your weyr. That's where the bronzeriders will be expecting you when their dragons begin blooding. You remember what Belia and I taught you, of course?"
"Good, I won't patronize you by running through the litany again, but come! Hurry!" Dita tugged on her arm and the pair raced along the path to Miralise's quarters. Dita talked when she could, "You know what this means … this flight is very important. This Weyr needs this flight. And you will be the Weyrwoman of Fort."
Miralise knew that Dita was right on both accounts once she saw Veerenth. The gold, sunning and asleep on her ledge, was glowing. Miralise reached out to the queen's mind and felt the sleep presence, but with it … something more. Was this the root of her longing? She shuddered as she passed into the inner room of her weyr. Veerenth was too young to rise to mate, wasn't she, at two-and-a-half Turns? As Miralise mulled over these concerns internally, Dita settled her into one of the chairs just as the bronzeriders began parading into the inner weyr.
J'vrex slammed his riding gloves onto the table. "Dita, leave."
"I will stay as long as Mira needs me," she coldly told him.
"I'm the Weyrleader, and I order you to leave."
"With any luck, after today's flight you won't be the Weyrleader any longer."
Any response from J'vrex was drowned out amidst Miralise's gasp and the sounds of strong wing beats from the ledge. Veerenth was awake and headed to the feeding grounds. The throng of bronzeriders pressed about Miralise as Dita reluctantly withdrew. Miralise conquered her queen's will to eat flesh as she had been taught, and then as Veerenth was aloft, she was immediately and intimately within her dragon's mind. Veerenth flew high and well but was easily caught by one of the craftier males - the bronze of the borrowed Benden wingleader! Miralise found herself once more, immediately, within her own body - and, unfortunately, in the arms of a man she hardly knew, a man twice her age.
She wanted to fight it, but she knew from her education as a queenrider what was necessary and surrendered to it.