Subject: Derik's Tale
Posted on: 2017-11-01 21:52:28 UTC

"Oh, all right." With a sigh of capitulation, Derik sank down onto the seat again. He glanced at Alex, but since he'd gone off in conversation with Tom, there wasn't much point in saying anything to him. It was fine. Fine. He took off his green domino mask and rubbed his face, particularly the scarred right side. With the mask off, it was easier to distinguish the blind milky-blue eye from the functioning hazel one, slightly bloodshot. "My tale, my tale," he muttered to himself. "Does it start at the beginning, or the end? There are things I remember that never happened, but they did; things that weren't true, but are. Jenni—" he turned toward her "—how should I start it?"

"You could start when we met, I think," she said, drifting closer. Having been there, she had never heard him speak fully of his recruitment, and she was curious to hear his account.

He nodded. "Yes. Yes, that's fine." He looked up, not at anyone in particular, but into the distance of remembrance. "It was the Hatching. Alanna and I were on the hot sands with Yunith and my Skepnadth, watching over the eggs. It was a proud clutch! But they always were—with such parents, how could they be anything but? What a pair! Yunith, living statue of pure gold; Skepnadth, night-black marbled with bronze. Which he shouldn't have been." Derik's brow creased. "There are five colors, not... but..." He shook his head. "But there we were. There was a queen egg, even though all the Weyrs had a full complement, and a particularly large one at that. At the time my only concern was finding a match for her, but Alanna had everything well in hand—she usually did." His mouth twisted with bitterness. "I remember holding her that day... tall, beautiful, proud. Her hand on my shoulder." He reached up to touch the spot. "She was mine. I loved her. Nothing else mattered." He lapsed into silence.

"That was when I saw you," Jenni put in. "I was there in the viewing gallery with Agents Supernumerary and Ilraen. Oh, I was so angry!"

"Yes, and you made a commotion. I remember that. Everyone looked, and I saw three harpers I didn't know, but I thought nothing of it. I thought nothing much of anything. The four new candidates had come up to us, bowing quite prettily to the sires of the clutch, and Alanna kept the girls near us, near the queen egg. These four had been Searched at the last moment by Yunith herself, a thing unprecedented in the history of Pern. Travelers from another world—but it wasn't the first time we'd had such."

Jenni explained, "It was a crossover with Harry Potter. He's talking about Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny; they'd transported themselves over in a magical accident. Sirius Black and an OC called Roma Lupin were already there. Sirius got there after falling through the Veil. I still have no idea how Roma was supposed to have arrived. They'd both Impressed somehow, even though Sirius at least must have been too old." She shook her head, still irritated by the idiocy of that fic.

"The four newcomers shortly did, too," Derik went on. "That's too much to tell, but suffice to say I now know it was utter nonsense, every moment of it. I mean," he chuckled, "honestly, the rattlesnake-hide bronze. We don't have rattlesnakes on Pern! And there I stood, smiling like an idiot, at least until the gold egg hatched out a little green-gold sport from one end. That was a shocker even then. But Alanna felt she might clutch like a gold, so we decided to train her up as a junior queen, and all was well again. The egg hatched a proper gold from the other half—I say proper, though she wasn't really. Shards, looking back on it I feel like such a benighted fool." He leaned back and sank down in the chair, looking away. "I had two eyes then—how could I not have seen it was all wrong? I was a harper, I knew all the teaching ballads, I—"

"Derik, hush," Jenni said gently. "You were never at fault. That was why I had to get you out of there."

He thought a moment, then picked up the narrative again. "Before the Hatching Feast, Skepnadth and I decided to look in on Yunith, make sure she'd eaten and was resting well. A queen doesn't leave her clutch when it's near to hatching, so she fasts until it's over," he explained. "She had returned to her weyr, and Skepnadth went up ahead of me. He told me two strangers was there, bothering her. I came up the stairs in a hurry, and there was this woman." He indicated Jenni. "Something was odd about her, but neither of us could place it. We went down to the Bowl to avoid disturbing the dragons any further, and she opened my eyes. She reminded me of everything I should have known, but couldn't think of for the fog in my head. She told me what was really happening. Mary Sues—a blight on the universe worse than Thread. Eaters of living ideas, was that what you said?"

Jenni nodded. "Leaving behind only the shiny dead bits to decorate themselves."

"I was one of those," Derik said. "An ornament. An affectation. Not even my name and face were my own!" He leveled a resentful look at Jenni. "You didn't care about me for myself—you cared about him."

She flushed guiltily. "To begin with, maybe. But it was a dragonman I had to win over, not a Phantom. Erik would have been easier to convince."

"I'm not him. I'm not, I'm not."

"I know, hon. We all know."

"Well, mostly," Gall said dubiously. She'd never heard the whole story, either, so she'd hung around to listen.

Jenni shot her a repressive look.

"You haven't seen what I've seen," the Viking protested, but she shut up again.

"The point is," Derik cut back in, raising his voice somewhat more than necessary, "my whole life was a lie, and my only choices were to stay an ignorant thrall and die, or to give up everything I thought I knew and live to find some other purpose for myself and my dragon. I chose the latter, because it was my duty to Pern. Because a dragonman must fly when Threads are in the sky. So I said I would help save Pern from Alanna and the rest." His tone was agitated, self-mocking. "So that's what I set out to do. I went to the Hatching Feast, like I was supposed to. I sat beside her, and I watched, and I waited. The plan was—ah, it went so wrong." He hunched forward, covering his face with both hands. "It never should have come to dragons fighting dragons, but Alanna—Yunith—they went wild. I tried to stop it, we both did." His shoulders shuddered. "He was so brave. My fine bronze. And she killed him. Yunith, his mate, attacked him like a wild feline.

"Ilraen—Ilraen had become a gold dragon himself to keep the Weyr under control, that was the plan, but he couldn't control the morph quickly enough. You can't have a dragon without a rider, it's not possible. He tried to save Skepnadth, but by the time he killed Yunith and the rest of the Sues were under control, it was too late. At least... at least I got to say good-bye before he went between."

(( Stopping there, though it's not quite the end of the story of how Derik became Derik, because good lord that's a long post already, it's taken all day because I actually had work to do at work today (go figure), and I don't have much more time before I have to leave for home. And, well, Derik needs a minute, too.

(( I hope it makes sense, but not so much sense that nobody feels like asking questions about the weirder bits. {= ) ))

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