From Golden Wings to Hatching Debts (JP Ambrelli/Mendl)


The Hatching had been eventful to say the least.  Ambrelli couldn’t remember a Hatching with a mauling as gruesome as this one, the young boy’s death terrible to watch.  And two girls being mauled as well, one by the new queen.  But the biggest surprise had been Mendl’s Impression, Ambrelli having squeezed Z’go’s hand tightly as the pairing became obvious.  Mendl, now a young goldrider!  Poor master Larsin.  He kept losing all of his best dragonhealers to actual dragons!  Mendl was a good, strong, and smart young woman, and Ambrelli was happy for the apprentice.  And even moreso that she had been Chosen by a gold.  She smiled, leaning against Z’go as she watched the others go.  They were keeping their contact minimal, the normal wlg restrictions still being in place.  But physical touch had never been an aversion for Ilexeth, the young green breaking many boundaries down with others -- such as speaking directly to every human -- or simply not caring about others.  Of course, Ilexeth had been handled by humans from the moment of her Hatching, and she saw Ambrelli’s physical contact with Z’go in the same light as her own headbutting of Dytha or Ked’son for attention, or curling up with Ponth or Gamyth.  Her green’s habits for physical contact now extending to sneaking into other dragons’ wallows while Ambrelli went out for a run in the mornings.  Thankfully, most of the other wlg dragons were tolerant of the greyish green coming to curl up in their larger bodies in the mornings.  

Question was, would this new group be as tolerant?  Shards, she didn’t want Ilexeth tangling with that vicious green.  So in truth, she wasn’t as upset about moving her wallow as she would have been otherwise.  Before the Hatching, their class of wlgs had been spread out across the whole of the barracks, with Ambrelli picking one of the furthest spots away from the rest.  But with the new class coming in, the barracks would be split and the classes separated.  Which meant she had to move wallows.  Her time so far in the barracks had been tolerable, and it helped to lessen the sting of moving closer to her classmates and losing her privacy.  

There hadn’t been time to pack before the Hatching, so immediately afterwards, she’d come back to start gathering her things.  Maerck helped, the brown flit well trained and grabbed things at her direction.  The moment the young Hatchlings started appearing though, she sent him away, mindful of the death of a few flits on the Sands.  Ilexeth, dosed on the wallow, watching, when suddenly her head went up.

((I remember you…)) she said directly to someone over Ambrelli’s shoulder.  

{{Of course you remember me,}} Nimoth said, even though she had no idea who this dragon was. But that wouldn’t stop her--everyone knew her, even if they didn’t know it yet.  She turned to Mendl. {{We’ll take this one.}}

Mendl, already a little stressed over having such a strong mind to work with, perked up. “Ambrelli! Ilexith! I...I forgot you’d be here. If this is your wallow? We can take the one next to it…”

Ambrelli turned at Ilexeth’s words, her eyes taking in her friend and younger apprentice -- now goldrider -- and the young queen at her side.  “Mendl!”  Ambrelli gave an incline of her head at the other, resisting the urge to give her a hug.  “I’m so happy for you!”  She looked down at the gold, as Ilexeth slinked off of her wallow, the gray dragon with green rivers on her hide moving over to the queen and the young rider. 

((I do not remember you)) she said to Nimoth, ((but *her*)) she indicated Mendl with a dip of her head.  Ambrelli could feel Ilexeth looking at the memories of her Hatching, some her own now Imprinted in Ambrelli’s memories, and some her riders.  ((You were there, when they helped me Hatch.  And you helped mine care for me when I was sick.  And from mine’s work when I go…))  Ilexeth shifted for a moment, looking like she was about to do her normal headbutt to Mendl, before Ambrelli mentally stopped her.  Instead, she swung her head to Nimoth.  

((I owe your Chosen very much, a Hatching debt.)) The little green was very serious.  Ambrelli looked at her curiously.  She hadn’t been this way with Dytha, but then, Ponth was a grown dragon and not a gold.  ((I am Ilexeth the Unexpected, and I am in your debt.))  She dipped her head in a show of respect.

Ambrelli raised an eyebrow before looking back at Mendl with a small smile, but did not comment on Ilexeth’s philosophy.  “It takes a bit to get used to the fact that they belong to us, not to someone else that we’re helping.”  She waved towards the wallow.  “Take it.  Honestly, we have to move to make room for your class.  They’re keeping us separated in the barracks, and I’m on your side.”

Nimoth sat, wrapping her tail around her and studied Ilexith. Mendl could feel the memories of Ilexeth’s Hatching come out of, well, storage and held her head. It didn’t hurt, but it did take a lot of getting used to. There were things she didn’t want Nimoth to discover, but was afraid she wouldn’t be able to help it.

{{Ah. Mendl helped you to live. Yes. Mine is a Healer of Dragons, but she has a greater destiny to fulfill now.}} She sat silent for a moment. {{I like you. You must give us your space, but you must settle as close to us as those who think they are in charge will allow.}} 

“I hope I can get used to having someone in my head,” Mendl said. “I’m thinking I may be needing a large supply of willow-salic. But, it’s day one so I need time to get used to this. Especially to get used to Impressing Nimoth here. I was going to stop Standing after this Clutch.”

{{And you have,}} Nimoth pointed out.

Ambrelli smiled.  “Well, dragons have plans of their own for us.  We just have to get used to them.  And I’ve got some if you need.  It’ll be nice to have another dragonhealer around.”  Technically, Yiyu had been an apprentice before she’d Impressed as well, but she’d been a new apprentice, compared to Mendl who was a senior.  Ambrelli didn't’ have to teach Mendl the basics, and their past conversations about nuances in healing reflected this.  “She’ll be vastly different than Ilexeth, for many reasons, but if you need anything at all… It’s a big adjustment.”  She motioned to the barracks.  “This place and weyrlinghood included.”

Then Ambrelli knelt down next to Ilexeth, her green rubbing her head on her shoulder.  “Welcome to the world, Queen Nimoth.  I’m Ambrelli, a friend and a teacher to Mendl, before you found her.”  

Ilexeth cocked her head at the queen.  ((I will go where she picks)) the green indicated Ambrelli with a mental flashing image ((but I shall come and visit you if you’d like, regardless.))

Ambrelli smiled, touching Ilexeth under her chin before standing back up.  “She’s got a habit of seeking out other dragons to curl up with.  I think it comes from those days we had to wrap her in hot blankets and she curled up with Ponth or Gamyth for warmth.”  How different her life was now… “A queen, Mendl.”  Then she laughed.  “Poor master Larsin!  He keeps losing all of us…”

“I know! Calyse, who Impressed Andorath, the other gold, was also an Apprentice Dragonhealer. And Kashara, Kassia’s daughter, had just started.” She sighed. “I hope he’s not angry.”

At the mention of her sister Nimoth spread her wings and hissed. {{Do not speak of that hussy,}} she said. But, she was also a queen, and a queen had manners

{{Thank you,}} she said graciously to Ambrelli, though she didn’t much like talking to another person. But polite was polite. And she’d shown interest when Ambrelli said that Ilexeth liked to curl up with other dragons.

{{You are welcome to come visit me,}} she said to the little green. {{I will protect you from those who’d want to hurt you.}} 

At the mention of hurting others, Mendl couldn’t help but think about Dytha, who’d been hurt by that Second Pass brute. She still needed to speak with N’shen, and now with the Hatching over, would have a better chance of talking with him. But her thoughts fed right to Nimoth, who’s eyes began to whirl red.

{{Who dares hurt a friend of yours?}} she said, angry. {{I shall keep them from hurting anyone ever again.}}

“Shards. I really need to keep stray thoughts hidden,” Mendl said, biting her lip. “It’s so hard. Maybe it’ll be easier after we sleep some.”

Ambrelli chuckled at the little gold’s attitude towards her sister.  Oh yes, Ko’ssen was in for a treat.  “Calyse is a smart apprentice as well, and I liked Kashara.  Anyone who won’t let a physical injury stand in their way is strong, and she’ll need to be that.”  Ambrelli had altered the normal apprentice schedule to accommodate Kashara’s wheelchair while she recovered from the tunnel collapse injuries, and she genuinely liked the young woman when she’d taught her.  She didn’t come off as an entitled Weyrwoman’s daughter, and had a genuine interest in learning, which Ambrelli appreciated.  A memory nagged at her suddenly, of AWLM K’synn’s interest in Kashara when they’d tended to his Tiscarth together.  But that was several months ago now, before she’d Impressed Ilexeth.

“Master Larsin literally supplied half the weyrlings in here,” Ambrelli chuckled.  “He should be made an honorary Search dragon.”  

Ilexeth included Ambrelli in her talk, so even once Nimoth responded to only the green, Ambrelli heard.  A small frown crossed her face for the briefest of moments, the thought that the gold might need to protect Ilexeth a possible reality.  None of her fellow wlgs had displayed animosity towards her, but she was still cautious.  She had been a Resistance spy, a double traitor in the minds of some, and she couldn’t ever overlook that may put Ilexeth in danger. 

“And I can help you with that.  We’ve never spoken about it, but I’m sure you know who I was and why I’m good at that.”

((I shall visit often)) Ilexeth promised.  Then her head reared back a bit at the explosion of emotions from Nimoth.  The gray dragon’s eyes whirled in response, and she looked to Ambrelli.

“What is Nimoth talking about, Mendl?” Ambrelli asked slowly, patting Ilexeth’s head, but forcing the green to stand on her own.  “Ilexeth relayed,” she said as explanation.  

“It’s no wonder that DragonHealers would make good Riders,” Mendl said. “We have an affinity for dragons. Larsin was very upset about the explosion crushing the eggs--he actually thinks, and he may not be wrong--that those who are good with dragons, who have an affinity for them, were actually meant to Impress those who perished: dud eggs, eggs hurt in natural accidents, that type of thing. So he sees every unhatched dragon as possibly belonging to him, or another who ages out.” Which was sad. Larsin would have been a good rider.

She was buying time, trying to think of how to tell Ambrelli what had happened. Then, she mentally shrugged and forged ahead.

“Ponth rose, but R’bor was at High Reaches for some kind of training. There’s this bluerider, can’t recall his name but his dragon is Travath.” Leave it to any type of dragon- or beasthealer to know the animal before the person. “Apparently he thinks Dytha didn’t ‘deserve’ Ponth, and when she rose somehow his dragon caught her. And he beat the living daylights out of her. His dragon, caught up in the flightlust, mirrored a lot of his rider’s abuse on Ponth. Luckily Ponth didn’t need stitches, though I could have easily given her some. Dytha’s whole face was bruised, and he came close to breaking some of her bones. I’m afraid if he gets his hands on her, he will, if he doesn’t kill her.”

Mendl shouldn’t have been talking about something this close to her emotionally. Nimoth spread her wings and bugled, ready to go find this man who hurt her lifemate’s friend. Mendl had to stop and calm her down, an exhausting feat.

“It’s OK, we’re trying to fix it,” she said, kneeling in front of Nimoth and holding her--more to keep her from running out of the barracks. 

{{No one in MY Weyr treats MY riders like that!}} Nimoth said, punctuating her words with a roar. Mendl looked around, hoping that there were no weyrlingmasters about to hear this.

“Once you’re older we can do something. But not now. That blue would probably crush you.”

{{He wouldn’t dare.}} The tone of Nimoth’s mindvoice even scared Mendl. She took a shaky breath.

“Maybe we should stop talking about this.”

Ambrelli looked at Ilexeth as Mendl talked about Larsin’s theory.  It made sense, and she’d considered something similar.  Dragonhealer’s natural affinity towards dragons and helping others made for a good rider and probably improved the survival chance for a Hatchling, even a healthy one.  It would make sense for Hatchlings to choose someone that improved their chances for survival.  Ilexeth had done so, and when she wasn’t emotional about it, it had made sense for it to be her at the time.  Larson, Ambrelli, and Mendl had been the only un-Impressed present, and while Ambrelli’s age made it complicated, her past and strength of character had also been a good match for what Ilexeth had needed.  Besides, Mendl had been meant for someone else, obviously.  “I’m happy I proved him right,” she said fondly, “even if it’s complicated.”

Ambrelli looked instantly alarmed, aghast, and then ashamed when Nimoth reacted.  She should have known better.  THe gold had already been alarmed, and Ambrelli should have known that asking Mendl, a new dragonrider, to shield her gold would have been too much.  Golds were pushy as it was, and even if it had been Ambrelli with Turns of training of keeping dragons out, she would have likely struggled.  Ilexeth, was not nearly that pushy.  The gold’s reaction forced her to clamp down on her own emotional reaction and deal with the issue at hand, the goldling.  

“Calm her, Mendl.  Think of it like throwing a net, or rubbing a salve over a wound.  Only the salve is your desire for her to be calm.”  She shook her head, then asked Ilexeth to reach out to Thaath to tell him and AWLM Ked’son that all was fine, in case one of their dragons had been alerted.  “Think of spreading a calming blue blanket over her.”  Ambrelli had been taught this same lesson when she’d been younger, when her father had first explained how to separate emotions from the dragon, and again, when she’d been an apprentice and some dragons picked off the emotions of those around them besides their Rider.  And again, when she’d gone to Fort Weyr.  Especially then.  There were other tricks, how to keep your bonded dragon from broadcasting, how to block off emotions with walls, how to speak about something upsetting but color it with different emotions to keep the dragons from getting upset… Mendl would learn these things with time, and she’d have to with a gold.  Ambrelli would gladly help her, but likely, it would be WW Kassia would would teach her the most.  Gold teaching gold.  

Mendl nodded, face white. “Shhhhhh, beauty-mine, shhhhh,” she said, mentally attempting to cover Nimoth with a calming blanket-like feeling. While the outcome wasn’t exactly what she meant, it still served its purpose. She’d imagined throwing a blue blanket on her dragon, but was too specific. 

Nimoth stopped posturing and looked at Mendl in surprise. {{What was that?}} she asked.

“Um, a calming blanket?”

{{Riiiiight.}} Nimoth shook herself but settled down. {{You smothered me. I guess that works.}} She settled down and yawned.

“I, uh, guess it wasn’t subtle enough,” Mendl said sheepishly. Though, to be fair, she was in what felt like an emergency situation.

Ambrelli nodded and smiled encouragingly.  “It worked, which is what you needed it to do.  Not all that dissimilar from healing, you do what’s needed in the moment.  You’ll get it soon enough,” she said.  “Plus, you’ll learn what works for Nimoth over other dragons.”  

Ambrelli had a dozen questions she wanted to ask Mendl about Dytha, but she’d find someone else… like Dytha at the Hatching Feast.  Speaking of which…  Ambrelli looked at Nimoth getting settled in, and knew they’d all be expected at the Hatching Feast.  And she had a sneaking suspicion that Mendl wouldn’t have something befitting her new status to wear.  The two of them were near enough in size and shape, that Ambrelli’s dresses might work.  And while Ambrelli was no goldrider, she had a few gowns that would do the trick.  Her Turns in Fort had a few unexpected positives, and having been the prize of a ranking bronzerider had come with some wardrobe upgrades.  And she’d acquired a few more along the way as well.  

“Mendl, forgive the assumption, but you’ve gone from an apprentice to a goldrider.  That’s quite a status jump.  I have some lux gowns I’ve acquired over the Turns, and we’re about the same size.  After you get Nimoth settled in, I can have Merck bring them over, and you’re welcome to wear one if you’d like, and I can help you get ready.  It’ll help to affirm in everyone’s minds that you are no longer a dragonhealer’s apprentice, but a goldrider, a weyrling, but a goldrider all the same.”  Ambrelli had once been taught by a goldrider that you dressed how you wanted to be treated; it wasn’t a lesson everyone took to, but it had served her well.  Ambrelli was nearly always impeccably dressed, suitable for the occasion, but always well-dressed.  Before she’d Impressed, it had helped to reinforce the professionalism she wanted everyone to see, especially given the rumors that had swirled around her.

Meanwhile, Ilexeth went over to give Nimoth a small head nudge.  ((Goodnight, good Queen Nimoth.  Welcome to the world.))

“Oh, that would be fantastic!” Mendl said. “I hadn’t even thought about clothes.” She was still in shock over the Impression--a gold, no less--and excited to boot. And tired.

“If you don’t mind, I’m going to take a quick cat-nap here while you send the dresses over. Nimoth’s fatigue is affecting me so....” She leaned back on Ambrelli’s cot, forgetting that the woman will need her blankets, and closed her eyes.

The wonder of it all was that Nimoth wasn’t even out of the egg she had touched. So much for that rumor.