Because Arolos wasn’t Fort when a rider, even a rider like M’ayen, couldn’t take care of his dragon someone took care of it. So, as he got arrested a note had gone from the Weyrleader’s office to the Healers asking whether they could add Ardeth to the dragons taken care of for injured patients -- though R’tal had thought it prudent to add that it should not be by unsupervised children.
And Healers noticed things, even while they were just cleaning and oiling. Notes started to go back quietly to the DragonHealer’s. Ardeth was, understandably, upset. Forgetful. Not eating. Could one of them just take a look?
Because of the man M’ayen used to be; because of the high profile of this patient, Larsin took it upon himself to go and check the former Fortian’s bronze. Because no one was around to tell Ardeth to go see him--and Larsin didn’t want it to be an order, he went to M’ayen’s weyr, where Ardeth should be sunning himself at this time of day.
When he got there, he saw what the reports were telling him. This was another type of depression--Talith was depressed because he couldn’t see, Ardeth was depressed because his rider was locked up. He wondered if it would help Talith to know that just because he couldn’t see didn’t mean he still had no life. Ardeth’s...might be over.
It didn’t matter though. He wanted to talk to the bronze himself.
“So, Ardeth,” he said, putting on the jovial air he wore when he was extremely worried, “how are you doing today? Have you eaten anything? I see they just got a shipment of plump bovines, just for the dragons.”
((I ate earlier. I think?)) It was confusing. Ardeth had been used to leaning on his rider’s memory for the every day minutiae of life. Now M’ayen wasn’t there watching what happened when and things got out of order. He could remember eating at some point, but not exactly when. ((...Yesterday,)) he decided after a long slow moment’s thought. Though that was mostly because he felt as though it hadn’t been today.
This wasn’t good. He drew out his notebook and jotted something down.
“Well, are you hungry?” he asked. Full-sized dragons normally ate once a week, give or take a day or two. And M’ayen had only been imprisoned for a few days. So not time to worry yet.
((I don’t feel like hunting.)) Ardeth rested his head on the ground, watching Larsin through whirling eyes. ((If I wait, do you think they’ll let him hunt with me?)) he said wistfully though he surely had to know that the answer to that was going to be ‘no’.
“No, not yet,” Larsin said. “He and the Weyrleaders have a difference of opinion, and they’re working it out. He may be allowed to watch you hunt from a distance one day, but until then you need to keep your strength up.” He scribbled something else on his pad. “Are there any dragons you may be friends with?”
((Not really.)) Ardeth admitted. ((Usually I sleep.)) Even before M’ayen had been arrested. He was old, the sun was warm and he’d snoozed through most of the drama, waking only when things were already very bad.
Larsin frowned. Ardeth was a bit over sixty Turns old. There were dragonpairs out there where the dragon was even older. So why was Ardeth so apathetic? He wondered if the short(er) lifespan of people from Old Fort were shorter for more reason than their cutthroat ways. The Fort Protectorate had never been known to be all that rich. Maybe the lack of decent food had something to do with that. Or, maybe there was something bad in the water. Or soil. Mercury. Or lead. He jotted that down in his notebook.
“Ardeth, I want you to eat something. So, you can go hunt and I’ll go with you. Or, I can have a dragon bring you something. Either way, you need to eat at least one herdbeast. We’ll get this thing between the Weyrleaders and your rider straightened out so you can be happier, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Maybe, with his forgetfulness, Ardeth would forget what Larsin said. Though he was going to have to write up a report for the Weyrleaders.
((You’ll ask them to let him go?)) For the first time Ardeth sounded slightly more alert, head raising from the ground, headknobs pricking up. Suddenly he sounded awake, rather than a dragon who could barely gather energy to be bothered with the conversation.
“I’ll ask them.” Little hope there was of that, but it gave the dragon hope. “I can’t promise anything, but I will ask them. And even if they agree, it won’t be for a while. And it will only be for a little bit.” He was already making scheduling recommendations in his head.
((He didn’t mean to do anything bad.)) Given that hope, even the barest grain of hope, Ardeth was ready to talk if only to try to convince Larsin. ((They told him he had to find out information about who helped a bad boy, and then they got angry because he tried. It’s not his fault.))
“I know. But I think what happened was, he didn’t use good judgement.” Larsin thought for a moment. There wasn’t an easy way for a human to explain self-control…
“Okay. You’ve seen a lot of Hatchings. And, you see a lot of hungry Hatchlings. And the only thing they want is to be fed. And even when they’ve had enough, because they are young and ignorant, if their lifemates didn’t stop them, they’d continue eating until they got sick.
“Well, for people, there are people out there who find they like something, and find out they like it so much they can’t stop. And I think that’s what happened to Yours--they told him to find out information, and when he tried, he enjoyed his methods too much. And he went too far. Like a Hatchling eating too much. And now, instead of getting sick, he’s being punished because he’s not a Hatchling, he’s an adult and should have known when to stop.”
It made more sense than most of the explanations that had been offered, which had mostly focused on M’ayen being bad (and M’ayen could not be bad, Ardeth loved him too much for that to be true). For a minute or two, he was quiet. ((He only used the methods from home,)) he offered. ((He says it is because they do not understand how getting information works. Or-- or they know, but they don’t like it, they just wanted the information to happen.))
“Right. But he misunderstood them--they didn’t want him to use those methods, but he did. And he took it a little too far, and the one boy ran away. If this had been back home, the boy would have known to expect it. But, it’s like when you first came to live here--you didn’t know there could be so much sun, and so much heat. So it was all new to you.
“They weren’t expecting Yours to bring Home here. And that’s all he knew. So that’s why they’re mad at him. And they’re trying to figure out what to do, to keep him from doing things the old way, and they’re doing it the only way they know how.”
((He was a bad boy,)) Ardeth said thoughtfully, having picked that much from his rider’s mind. ((Lazy. He needed to be told what to do. Mine was teaching him to be better.)) He sighed, a deep dragon-sized sigh. ((If I told him to say sorry, would they let him go then?))
Larsin sighed. “You could, but I think that even if he told them sorry, he needs to mean it. He’s like you--he doesn’t understand what he did wrong, but he’s different from you because you now understand. But, if he says he’s sorry, and he means it, they might be nicer to him in a while.”
Kassia wasn’t so heartless that she’d allow a dragon to just waste away. Was she?
((He’s angry with them. He thinks they wanted this and won’t admit it. And that their ways don’t work.)) Ardeth gave another of those enormous sighs. ((But I will talk to him.))
Larsin nodded. “Also, people have things called moods. I’ve never seen a dragon other than…” Another brilliant analogy!
“You know how Foreth gets with her eggs? Well, the Weyrwoman is pregnant and it’s the same thing, in a way. So she’s always, well, crabby.
“And M’ayen, he’s getting older, like you. And some people, when they get older, get in really bad moods because they don’t like what’s happening to them.
“Now, the two of them are in a Foreth mood right now. So one of them needs to, well, stop being in that mood. And the Weyrwoman is going to keep her mood for another three months.” Larsin looked at Ardeth expectantly. He had a feeling Ardeth would understand this.
Ardeth contemplated this new fact a long time. ((The bad boy made him feel all kinds of different things,)) he volunteered unexpectedly. ((Sometimes when he had a mood that made him stop.))
What? “What do you mean, a mood that made him stop?” What kind of mood would make someone want to stop?
((When he was in class and--)) Ardeth hesitated, but Larsin was helping. ((You aren’t meant to know that he can’t see them,)) he confessed very quietly, a draconic whisper. ((But he can’t, not without the glasses. Only the ones at the front. And it used to give him one of those moods because they would misbehave and he couldn’t see which ones.))
Larsin’s eyes widened. So, M’ayen couldn’t see. That explained a lot. Anyone who was in a position of trust would be upset, and by all accounts, M’ayen was a control freak. And a control freak who couldn’t see was only a freak. He smiled at that.
“So the people he disciplined may not have been the ones doing something? Or he punished the whole class?”
((He puts some of the ones who cause trouble in the front row. Like the bad boy,)) Ardeth explained helpfully. ((Then if he punishes them, the class knows he can see who they are and don’t know he can’t see the other ones. And then they’re sorry and he feels better and his mood goes away.))
So the boy who’d run away had been singled out. But, that was probably how they did it at Fort, too.
“Well, it looks like Yours really went overboard with the way Fort did things.” There had to be some poison in the air, to make people act like that. There had to be!
“I’ll make sure the Weyrleaders know it was a mood thing.” Hmm. He wondered about giving M’ayen some type of medication that would make him...nicer. Maybe the New Fort people had something.
“You need to convince him that he misunderstood the Weyrwoman. And that what he did was not right under the rules here. And he needs to apologize, and it needs to be sincere.”
((He was a bad boy who needed punishing though.)) And if this was leaking from M’ayen as it seemed to be, the chances of sincere repentance seemed low. ((He fell asleep. And helped the other boy when he wasn’t meant to Impress. And.. and.. )) Ardeth searched for other crimes that justified his utter certainty that punishment given was punishment deserved. ((..made him feel wrong.))
“He didn’t help anyone Impress. The people who helped A’shran Impress have all admitted their guilt. A’shran went out of his way to make sure the boy didn’t know,” Larsin said. He had ears. And he had an ‘in’ in the Weyrling barracks.
“What do you mean, made him feel wrong? Because at least on that, he was wrong.”
((...Wrong,)) Ardeth said after a moment. ((Like he wanted to do things he shouldn’t. That was why he had to send him away.))
“Oh.” Larsin still didn’t understand, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to. “Send him away where?”
((Away,)) Ardeth emphasised. ((He wanted to keep him, but he told him he had to go out of the Weyr instead so he couldn’t. Because the boy was bad and kept making him want to do things that would be wrong.)) He sighed, this time as though Larsin was being particularly slow. ((He kept making me chase. I don’t mind chasing but catching is hard work. Greens are too fast now.))
He had to send the boy away, then ask Ardeth to...oh. Oh, Faranth. What was wrong with that man?
“You...probably shouldn’t chase greens who are so much younger,” Larsin said. “You shouldn’t over-exert yourself. It could be bad for you.”
((They won’t let me now anyway.)) Ardeth was uncertain as to why, and probably wouldn’t have cared so much if it weren’t for the fact that the forbidding implied disgrace for him as well as his rider. ((I don’t know why. They said I was helpful.))
Helpful? Whatever. “I think it’s a good thing anyway,” Larsin said. “You’re not so strong anymore, and you could hurt yourself badly. I would probably have asked for you to be forbidden, just so you could live longer. So, it’s a good thing.”
((I’m strong!)) A flash of buried bronze pride at that, slightly insulted by the implications. ((We can still fight a full Fall!)) Even if he did otherwise tend to nap through a great deal of the day.
“Oh, fighting a fall would be easy for you. You are still strong.” Larsin chuckled at Ardeth’s pride. “But I’ve known young dragons who have been hurt, hurt badly, by a greenflight. And look at what happened to Foreth during her mating flight! It’s not often you see a queen dragon break her leg. And she’s still young. Ish. Her leg mended. Yours would not heal so well.” He stepped forward and patted Ardeth on the jowl. “No, after a certain age I tend to ask that male dragons not be allowed to chase. I’d rather they be hale for Threadfall than hurting from a bad flight. It’s not just you.” He then listed off a few other dragons--blue, brown and bronze--who he’d asked to have restricted from greenflights.
((I could catch a gold if I wanted to,)) Ardeth boasted, and actually sat up for that brag, wings opening slightly, far more lively than he’d been thus far in the conversation. Male pride would apparently do what no amount of persuasion might achieve. ((..If mine would let me. He doesn’t like the golds here. But I could.))
“I have no doubt you could. How many golds have you caught back home?”
((..Some.)) Ardeth’s memory was fuzzy on that point. Golds he remembered. Eggs he remembered. Numbers.. Well, that was a subject he was fuzzier on. ((The Weyrwoman’s gold, last.)) he remembered proudly. ((We were good Weyrleaders.)) In his mind at least. Even if M’ayen had had to swallow his pride and ask a friend to help with Fall after so long teaching the Candidates.
He shook his wings now, suddenly enlivened at the memory. ((I could catch Foreth here,)) he boasted. ((And then we would fix everything and mine would not be in trouble any more.))
“I’ll bet you could,” Larsin said. What he wanted to say was something like, ‘let me know how that works out for you,’ or ‘a weed’s chance in Threadfall’ but Ardeth was looking pretty good now. Still grey, still skinny…
“Y’know, if you could catch Foreth, why can’t you catch a herdbeast?” he asked off-handedly.
((I could.)) Ardeth considered that now he was feeling more awake, giving himself a good scratch while he thought about it. Alyx had given him a good oiling but it was still easy for an out of condition dragon to develop dry patches and his side itched suddenly. ((I might.))
“Mmm,” Larsin said skeptically. Would the dragon take the ‘dare’ and go hunt? Or would he see
right through the DragonHealer. “Yeah, usually when I say I might, it means that I won’t, because I can’t. But, I’m sure that’s not true in your case.”
((I can catch a herdbeast!)) That was an indignant yelp as Ardeth spread his wings, testing them. It had been a good few days lying around doing very little; he didn’t particularly want to stumble through take off and embarrass himself. ((Whichever herdbeast you want.))
Larsin kept himself from smiling. “There’s a nice, plump black and white one over in the corner. She’s been eating the best grass, so I think the others need the chance to get some of the good stuff.” He’d already picked one out for Ardeth--not too small, not too big, but meatier than some of the others. The beefiness would also make the herdbeast a tad slower.
((I’ll catch her. You’ll see.)) And he was off, up and away, powerful wings beating for only for a few seconds before he settled into a glide over to the hunting fields. Pride successfully prickled, it seemed.
Larsin nodded, and noted a few more things in his notebook. Appeal to the dragon’s pride. He hoped that this method worked again, if they had any more problems. Meanwhile, though, he needed to write up a report to the Weyrleaders. He didn’t know if what he discovered would help or not, but he would try.
Not for the man. Never for the man. But for the dragon.
Blackadder: I mean, what about the people that do all the work?
Baldrick: The servants.
Blackadder: No, me; *I'm* the people who do all the work.