You’re actually going to read all of this? This is DOGA's competitor for Longest Mission Report -- and as you'll notice, it doesn't even go all the way to the end.
I'm pretty sure Dafydd enjoyed working with Alec and Neshomeh, even if it was on a truly awful 'fic. The strange thing is, the story was found after the Pern fandom was opened up to fanfiction... but written and posted before that day. Irony gets us all, doesn't it? ~ Terri Ryan, DOGA Archivist
Brown DragonRider of Pern
The console in Response Centre #1110 sat still and quiet, its panels lustreless under a heavy veil of cobwebs. One would think the thing hadn't been used in years but for the fact that time didn't work that way in Protectors of the Plot Continuum Headquarters. The truth was that the dilapidated state of the console and the response centre in general had much more to do with its occupants than a lack of any. When one shares space with a furry arachnid the size of one's torso, cobwebs become a natural part of daily life.
Agent Soul, more commonly known as Neshomeh, was currently oblivious to the state of her quarters and every other aspect of reality (or whatever HQ was made of). Sprawled out on the hard pallet that served as a bed, she dreamt of chatting with an aged Gerard Butler while exerting huge amounts of willpower to prevent herself from glomping his counterpart on the silver screen. She couldn't help it. She was very close to being a Phantom of the Opera fangirl, and the prospect of seeing that man portrayed by the young, handsome actor was stirring a very un-PPC side of her.
At the foot of the bed, the aforementioned arachnid crouched and clacked his pincers speculatively. Severe the mini-Aragog smelled the fangirl in his human and was deciding whether or not it was tackle-worthy. A growl turned him aside at the last moment. The third occupant of this response centre had his fiery eyes fixed on the console. Arasgorn, a mini-Balrog, stepped out of his fireproofed corner of the room and swiped an arm through the cobwebs coating the computer. The webs quickly caught on fire and disintegrated, clearing the humming console just in time for--
"What! I didn't do it, I swear!" Neshomeh sat bolt upright as the alarm woke her. Severe hissed and shot toward the ceiling, where he clung and stared malevolently through four pairs of beady eyes at the Agent.
"It dreamses fangirlsy thingsss, it does," the mini-Aragog accused in his breathy voice. "We smells it."
Arasgorn growled again, pulling Neshomeh's attention to the console as she woke fully. It was clear the creature had a mind to set fire to more than a few cobwebs, but he knew better. He was a good little mini, all things considered.
"I didn't glomp anybody, Severe, so be quiet," Neshomeh muttered as she got up, groped for her glasses and slid them on, and peered at the console monitor. "...What the plague? They're actually sending me on a mission! I thought I was being ignored." She was happy about this for all of two seconds before she read the mission report. Then she was forced to find the desk chair before she collapsed on the floor.
"I don't believe it. All this time and the Dragonlady finally relents, and the first thing that happens is we get a 'Sue that was written two months beforehand?" Incredulous, the Agent turned her wide brown eyes on Arasgorn, who gave a mini-Balrog's best approximation of a shrug. 'What do you want me to do about it?' he seemed to say.
Neshomeh turned back to the mission report, which included a modified charge list and instructions regarding her partners for the mission.
"Due to the nature of this fic and since you failed to complete your last mission," it read, "we're sending you two senior Agents. The first is Agent Dafydd from the Department of Geographical Aberrations. The second is Agent Alec from the Department of Improbabilities. They should meet you at your response centre momentarily. You will follow their lead in all things and absorb as much wisdom from them as you possibly can. We're not saying that will be much, mind, but that's beside the point. Good luck, Agent Soul. This message will self-destruct in 5... 4... 3... 2... !"
Neshomeh flinched as the monitor gave off a brilliant flare and went blank. She stared at it a moment longer, pondering flowers and their penchant for dramatics, then got up and set about readying herself for the mission. The black duffel bag containing her Assassin's Kit was dusty in the bottom of its cubby, but all the necessary equipment was there and seemed in good working order. The two minis looked on as she manhandled her brown hair out of her face and into a workable ponytail. The scrunchy was black, of course. The entire PPC uniform was black but for the cactus logo on the shoulder. No one really knew why there was a cactus logo and Neshomeh didn't much care. Declaring herself ready to go, she settled back in the chair and waited for the other Agents to arrive.
Agent Dafydd strolled down the corridors of HQ, bow in hand, muttering to himself. "Room eleven-ten, room eleven-ten, room eleven-ten, pink mumakil..." Eventually, he stopped in front of a door, fortunately the right one, and knocked.
Not waiting for a reply, he pushed the door open and walked in. Glancing around -- it was a generic Response Centre, really, give or take a little -- he noticed the Agent who he presumed he had been sent here to meet.
"Agent Soul?" he asked, and then continued before she could reply. "I'm Agent Dafydd. DOGA. You can call me Dafydd. Apparently we're paired up for a Pern mission?"
With a grin that left little doubt to the remains of his sanity, Alec practically danced in his own response centre #3b (the whereabouts of numbers 3a and 3c still a long standing mystery). The Pern fandom had been opened up. It was no longer contraband. He didn't have to worry about sneaking out there for the wines. Leaving a note for his wife (who had stepped out for a moment) Alec found his old Harper's tunic with a faded journeyman's badge and knots. He didn't technically own it. Because he wasn't supposed to be a Harper on Pern, but what the SO didn't know couldn't hurt him.
Whistling to his brown flit Trey (who was a remnant of his Stu days gone by) Alec set off through the door. It turned out to be the wrong door as in it was the closet door. But somehow, perhaps because of the nature of things, he stumbled out of the closet and into Neshomeh's Centre.
Neshomeh got to her feet and started to answer Dafydd when Alec stumbled in. She noticed the Harper garb and the fire lizard, but it was the backdrop to this entrance that grabbed her attention. With a quizzical look on her face, she leaned to the side to get a look at her door before staring at Alec.
"I'm sorry, was the outside of this room a closet for a moment there? It sure looked like it, and that's never happened before."
Dafydd blinked and peered at the door. "Well, it wasn't when I got here... but then again, in this place, who know?" Shrugging it off as just a part of the essential weirdness of HQ, he looked at the newcomer. "Agent Alec, I presume?" Taking another look, he added, thoughtfully, "And either you've been very fast at getting kitted out for the canon, or there's things going on in HQ that Upstairs would get their roots in a knot over." He shook his head slightly. "Anyway, Agent Dafydd, DOGA."
Grinning a bit on the maniacal side Alec stood up. He brushed him self off, flicking a stray moth ball away before saying. "I'm afraid it would have to be choice 'b' in this case. I was in some contraband stories before coming to the PPC." Trey, chirruped curiously at Dafydd. "And I kept my stuff out of... well I can't really get rid of him, now can I?" and he petted the fire-lizard.
Neshomeh nodded, acknowledging Dafydd, and grinned at Alec's response. She was over the weirdness and was not concerned about whatever illicit things Alec had done in the past.
"So that's a fire lizard!" she said, admiring the little brown. "If we ever get a 'Sue with eggs, I'm taking one. It would be great to have one. I think our 'Sue is focused on the dragons, though."
With that statement, she dropped the grin and turned to her console, all business. She was getting this mission right, damn it. "The fic seems to be pre-White Dragon. The first thing she does is create an author mini, one Anna Mc-lowercase-caffrey." She glanced at the others, gauging their responses, then poked at the console controls. "Dafydd and I need disguises... I think I'll go harper, 'cause harpers go everywhere."
She scrolled through the newly updated database, found what she was looking for, and clicked. Suddenly the glasses and uniform were gone, replaced by a black woollen skirt, dark blue bodice, and grey-blue tunic, complete with journeyman's knots at the shoulder. She craned her neck to look at them and flicked the short tassel appreciatively. "Wish I'd earned them," she murmured, and then turned to Dafydd. "And you?"
Dafydd shrugged helplessly. "Unless there's any reason three journeyman harpers wouldn't go around together, we might as well be a matching set. And at least I should be able to play most of their instruments if pressed..." He faded into silence, and made a mental note to go through Harper training on Pern at the first opportunity. Looking at Neshomeh, he added, "Harper it is, then, please."
"From what I read," Alec said absently petting Trey who crooned, "It starts about Dragonflight. Around the same time, if not before Lessa gets searched. So Menolly wouldn't have been a journeywoman yet." he then shrugged, "Of course I don't think it'll be noticed."
A few clicks later and Dafydd was dressed in an outfit similar to Alec's, in grey and brown.
"I can sing passably if we have to perform," Neshomeh said as she dialled up a portal. "I know most of the teaching songs by heart, thanks to the Masterharper CD." She looked up and grinned as the portal sprang open. Arasgorn grunted and shuffled away from it, leaving the way clear for the Agents.
Neshomeh dropped an obviously inexperienced curtsey. "After you gentlemen." She was supposed to follow their lead, after all.
Laughing at the outdated, yet perfectly appropriate, formality – and trying to avoid the memories of his Grandfather's house in Tirion – Dafydd stepped through the portal and landed in the Word World. However, more than that, he was unclear, and said so. "Where on Earth – ah, sorry, where on Pern are we?" he hissed back at the other two Agents, trusting that they had followed him.
"We should try and pick up some Benden white while were out there," Alec said, as Trey curled around his neck. While he felt a bit naked without his sword, he had several daggers and knives about his person, which should be weapons enough. Throwing back his shoulders, he stepped through the portal.
Looking around and shivering slightly, Alec glanced at the words. "High Reaches apparently." He tucked some hair behind a pointed ear and wished he had thought to bring a cloak or jacket to keep warm.
Pleased to have inspired genuine mirth in her erstwhile partner--it would probably be the last any of them would enjoy until the end of the mission--Neshomeh straightened up and followed the men through the portal. Immediately she hunkered down against the chill in the air.
"Stupid High Reaches." She hated being cold.
She soon realized it was the least of her worries as the Narrative Voice of the author echoed through the nondescript world.
In the deepest of night she was born, her cries silent even before they awoke the entire hold. No one but the watchwher knew of her birth. The two women worked quietly and quickly their voices hushed, "Mia take her down to the trader Foran, he knows where to take her."
"That doesn't even begin to make sense," Neshomeh complained, massaging her right ear against the silent cries that awoke the entire Hold even though only the watch-wher was aware of the 'Sue's birth even though there were two women attending her. "Stupid Suvian."
"Sense? In a 'Suefic?" Dafydd shook his head. "Not a chance. Still, it can go on the charge list." He paused, and blinked, only half watching as the nameless character wandered out, leaving Mia with the baby. "Who's writing the charge list, anyway?"
Alec shrugged and pulled a stylus and wax board from somewhere. "I can do it, as long as no one has to read it afterwards." His writing in English wasn't nearly as legible as his writing in his own language, but no one else spoke his own language.
Dafydd considered. "Well, if you're willing to read it out..."
Grinning Alec said, "Sure, not a problem."
"Right. So that's settled." The elf nodded, and then returned to watching Mia tending the baby 'Sue.
Neshomeh nodded, happy enough not having to write while cold. She, too, observed the 'fic.
There wasn't much to watch. The Mia-woman took the baby to the Foran-person, the second woman talked to another second woman, presumably the 'Sue's mother, and—
"Eep! Chapter!" Neshomeh squeaked just before Chapter One hit.
Except that it wasn't Chapter One. It was Chapter I. It took place twelve Turns after the prologue, in someplace called "Telag smiths crafthall" according to the Words. All this amounted to a sense of disorientation and motion sickness that sent the newbie Agent reeling.
"Ow. Owowow." She knelt down and wrapped her arms protectively around herself until the sensation subsided, then dug frantically through her pack until she found the bottle of Bleeprin stowed there.
"Aspirin is one of the few things absorbed directly through the stomach lining," she murmured as she fished out two of the white capsules. "Hopefully the same applies to Bleeprin." She dry-swallowed them and leaned back slowly until she came into contact with a wall. Only then did she really look around.
A small girl stood infront of the fully asembeled craftmasters her eyes moving quickly looking at each face in search of allies among those looking down on her. Terry looked at her remebering that frist time he looked in her large seagreen eyes. 12 turns ago a trader had delivered a strange gift to the smithhall. He had demanded to see the mastersmith at once claiming he brought a gift from the lady of High Reaches herself, a gift he would only hand the master. After he had delivered this gift and left an apprentice was send out to fetch Dearna and her newly born baby Dillan. Ever since then Villa had been part of the smithhall and none questioned her birth, she had grown into this frail looking creature who's seagreen eyes would make any heart stop and look at her. Her eyes had always been her most outspoken feature, even as a baby she had won the heart of entire hall simply by looking at everyone. Always looking younger then she was Villa had gainged a talent to make people believe she was just an innocent girl who was always in the wrong place.
Dafydd, being somewhat more experienced than Neshomeh, managed to remain standing through the shift, but still grimaced at the stabbing pains. "I'm beginning to regret this," he muttered, and then glanced up at the Words. After few moments of reading, he said, "I'm really beginning to regret this. Where's Telag? And Terry is here? And Wansor? And they're both Masters? When is this, anyway?" He read a few lines further, and added, "This is pathetic. She's a blatant 'Sue, obviously occupying their minds. Does she get anywhere near Robinton? She'd better not get anywhere near Robinton, if she does, I'll rip her throat out through her ears." As a harper himself, Dafydd felt a certain empathy for Masterharper Robinton, and, in the manner of such things, would get extremely twitchy if anything happened to him.
Neshomeh's head flew up at the mention of Robinton. She regretted this action as the displacement headache seemed to poke lances at her eyeballs, but that didn't deter her.
"Not if I get there first," she snarled. "She touches Robinton, I torture her. I'll get F'nor's Thread-catcher and administer it myself."
She looked back at Villa-Sue in time to see her eyes "flear up again." The Agent pulled a face. "There's something else for the charge list," she muttered, drawing her knees up to her chin and wrapping her arms around her legs to keep the skirt down. "'Flearing' eyes, inventing 'Telag smiths crafthall,' and failing even to get the Smithcrafthall part right. Not to mention abducting canon characters to put in it."
Shaking off the disorientation, Alec retrieved the slate and stylus that had fallen from his startled hands. Something was nagging at the back of his mind. He couldn't quite place it. "I think this is supposed to be before Dragonflight," he said to Dafydd's question. He had skimmed a head when he had gotten the assignment. He scribbled down the charges and then frowned, "Wasn't Lord Fax from High Reaches?"
"I think so, yeah," replied Dafydd distractedly. "Lord of Seven Holds, all along that mountain range, wasn't it?" Without waiting for a reply, he turned to Neshomeh. "So, do you think we should feed this one to Thread, just for being obnoxious enough to be our first 'Sue?"
She nodded. "Definitely. I imagine there will be plenty of opportunities to get creative. Thread works."
She found herself distracted, though, thinking about the fact Alec had just pointed out. She looked up at the other Agent, brows knitted. "Do you think she fancies herself Fax's daughter? That would explain the furtive scurrying in the night." Her lip curled in disgust.
"That's what I was thinking," Alec said making a small note on the charge list. "Would explain the part about the Lord thinking that she was a still born." He licked his lips, "Which would make her at least half a sister to Jaxom."
Dafydd hissed softly under his breath. "Spawn of Fax, eh? Well, at least that explains the 'Sueness..." He glared at the 'Sue, who was currently smiling evilly at the thought of being a weaponsmith. He nodded. "Yep, I'd say we can be pretty sure - she's acting just like Daddy Dearest." He shook his head and leaned back against the wall, glaring at Villa with half-closed eyes.
Neshomeh opened her mouth to ask if "pretty sure" was good enough for a charge, but her words were derailed by input from her ears.
The mastersmith him self was grunting "It would not be efficiant to not let her enter"
Neshomeh stared at the large, blurry man-form that could only be Mastersmith Fandarel. Her right eye narrowed while her left eyebrow rose. She'd witnessed this behaviour before, in role-plays.
"Are you two betting types?" she asked. "I'm usually not, but I'll wager half a mark's worth in goods that the word 'efficient' follows Fandarel every time he's mentioned. That's one."
Dafydd shook his head. "I never bet on a sure thing. I doubt even a Bitran would take you up on that."
Staring at the Mastersmith thoughtfully, Alec shook his head, "I'm not going to take that bet either. I like gambling, but only when I have a chance to win. Could we mark that down as character abuse?"
"Could and should, if I remember right," Neshomeh replied. "Causing Mastersmith Fandarel to look and act like a cut-out cookie," she dictated. "Especially if it goes like I think it will. You might have a chance at winning, though, depending on how literally you want to take it. I'd be happy winning or losing, really, because—hey, where'd she go?"
Suddenly the 'Sue was gone and, as a result of bad spelling and worse punctuation, the Mastersmith was speaking quickly to several copies of himself.
Alec's intelligent reply to such a question was, "uhh...."
Dafydd's, while slightly more articulate, was no more informative. "... somewhere else?"
Neshomeh raised an eyebrow at her erstwhile partners and opened her mouth for a sarcastic remark, but a piercing scream from somewhere off in the fuzzy greyness that was the Sue-ified world cut her off. She winced.
"I think I'll just look at the Words." Her eyes unfocused as she did so, but her expression didn't change much. "Ugh. Enter one bit character, Jazon... and probably a Dillan. Heh. Right on, Wansor."
She smirked like a cat at the future Starsmith's comment that the three original characters would be trouble, but that was short-lived. Jazon started to moon over Villa-Sue, and—
"Bloody hell! Another chapter already!" Though the effects of the last shift were blunted by Bleeprin, the memory of the experience was still fresh in her mind. She wrapped her arms over her head and drew her knees up for the duration.
"... Are we there yet? And where's 'there,' exactly?"
The afternoon sun burned hot on Villa and Dillan as they sat in Lorram's Smith.
"We're in Lorram's Smith," Alec said, shaking his head from the shift, "What ever that is."
Dafydd winced at the chapter change, and then choked as he saw that Villa and Dillan were sitting in the ripped-open chest of a large man, a smith, who had a tag saying 'Property of Lorram' attached to his ear. Turning his head away so as not to look at the mess, he said, to no one in particular, "This is why it's a good idea not to confuse buildings with people." Ignoring Lorram, who was lecturing about rocks in a bored tone, as if he had already said exactly the same thing dozens of times -- a quick glance at the words would show that he apparently had -- the Agent wandered over and merrily started slamming his head into a nearby wall.
"What?" Neshomeh lifted her head and regretted it. "Oh, ew! That is seriously not okay!" She had to look at the Words to figure out what was supposed to be happening. "Methinks she meant 'smithy.' It's amazing, the difference one little vowel makes. And speaking of words, do either of you know what a 'lemmet' is?"
It appeared to be a weaponsmithing term, but Neshomeh had never seen it before. She looked to her dagger-proficient partners for insight (and made a mental note to prevent Dafydd from knocking himself senseless if he didn't stop to answer the question).
Fortunately, Dafydd did look up, and shrugged. "Maybe it's a childish way of saying 'helmet'? She looks like she's got the brains of a three-year-old, so... okay, maybe not," he concluded at their Looks. Turning back to the 'fic, he muttered, "I have to get M-T to upload the internet onto some sort of device..."
"You can get the internet on cell phones," Neshomeh commented. "Makes-Things can probably do something like that. Or like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy! That would be fun."
She might have kept talking, chattering away to keep from thinking too much about the gruesome setting in which she found herself, but a shout from an unseen character distracted her.
"DRAGONS!!" A voice from the courtyard loudly cried. "DRAGONS ARE COMING".
Even the bad punctuation couldn't offset her excitement. A genuine smile banished the fine stress lines from around her eyes. A chance to see the dragons of Pern was worth all her suffering so far, and probably a good deal more. With a glance at Alec and Dafydd ('You guys are coming to see this, too, right?'), she hurried to her feet and followed on the heels of Lorram as he crossed the "small smith down to the large metal door." Neshomeh was aware of a sudden sense of claustrophobia as the smith's thorax contracted around her, but then she was out into the courtyard and all was... not precisely well, but certainly better.
Unfortunately, it was impossible to get a good look at the dragons through all the blank-faced extras running around in the courtyard, apparently in terror of Pern's great guardians. The Agent had to shake her head. Silly people! But then, this was supposed to be around the time of Dragonflight. It was only to be expected.
A quick survey of the scene as it unfolded revealed a trail of disgruntled smiths left in the wake of Villa and particularly Dillan, who apparently shoved anyone who got in his way. Neshomeh, remembering her job, followed after them as quickly as possible before the sea of people 'flooded' the way. Her partners would just have to shift for themselves if they got cut off.
Neshomeh crouched near a pile of rubble and listened to the conversation between the 'Sue and her bit-friends, making mental notes of charges to report to Alec later: the word 'efficient' followed Fandarel for the second time in as many chapters; Jazon claimed that the dragons were on 'reseach' and twice failed to capitalize the title of Weyrwoman; and the 'Sue forcefully denied having any interest in becoming a dragonrider when it was plain that she was bound to become one. It was all very ridiculous.
Back inside the smith, Dafydd, steadfastly ignoring the mess at his feet, looked at Alec. "Well, you heard her," he said. "Let's be off." He then proceeded to exit via the metal door, only to find a crowd of Pernese between himself and the 'Sue. Grumbling to himself, he picked his way around the edge of the court. He had managed to reach a point a few metres behind where Neshomeh was crouched when a strange feeling caused him to look up. A bronze dragon -- Hath, as a scan ahead in the words revealed -- was looking straight at him. Suddenly, a voice spoke in his mind. My rider cannot see you. I cannot see you. Yet you are there. You are strange.
Cursing softly to himself, Dafydd wondered exactly how the dragon, a creature of the Canon, had been able to sense him. He was lucky, he supposed, that it hadn't been the blue who had done so -- an elf would no doubt make a perfect Dragonrider. Filing that thought under 'Retirement options' -- as if he'd ever be able to retire -- he returned his mind to the more immediate problem.
I am here to help your rider,</i> he thought back. He cannot know I am here. Casting his mind about for something to persuade the dragon to let him be, he hit upon a thought. Wasn't it R'gul, Hath's rider, who hadn't believed in Thread? Trusting his intuition, he thought at the dragon, I come to prepare you for Thread. I cannot be hindered. It was true, to a point -- a world with a 'Sue was much less likely to be able to resist the spores.
Apparently, it was enough to convince Hath. From where he sat, the dragon nodded his long head in Dafydd's direction, eyes whirling. Fortunately, R'gul didn't seem to notice, but Dafydd crept very carefully across the courtyard to Neshomeh, deeply disturbed by his experience.
"Oooh crap," Alec cursed softly at the call about dragons. The old memories of 'Stu-dom had started to creep up onto him. Memories of standing on the hatching grounds and Impressing a dragon. He stood frozen, afraid to move, afraid that he might attract the dragons' attention.
Which was the last thing he needed.
Trey crooned softly on his shoulder as, hidden from the other two Agents, he found a wall and crouched tightly down next to it, trying to hide.
The female Agent looked around when Dafydd got within poking distance and nodded in acknowledgment to him. She turned again toward the 'Sue, but just as quickly she looked back at Dafydd and tilted her head quizzically. He looked like he'd seen a ghost, which was of course a ridiculous cliché—there were no ghosts in the Pernese canon, for one thing; and he was an elf, so even if there were he shouldn't have cared. Still, the guy was plainly weirded out by something.
Meanwhile, a "blue rider" came toward Villa and her friends. His dragon looked down on them from above. As he was under direct sway of the 'Sue at the moment, he was not paying any attention to the Agents even if he was somehow aware of them.
Dafydd shook his head slightly, trying to imply that it was nothing to worry about. His experience was not something he wanted getting told around HQ, so it was best he keep it to himself for now.
"R'gul I found one"
"Are you sure"
The Agent winced. "And dragonriders stopped using punctuation... when?" He was careful to keep his voice quiet, in case the 'Sue or her minions overheard. He didn't think there was any danger of the blue rider hearing, or R'gul, who apparently moved from shouting distance to right in front of Villa in an eyeblink, seeing as both were firmly under the 'Sue's spell.
Neshomeh shrugged—okay, she could wait. She did not plan on forgetting about it, though.
She curled her lip at the dragonriders—then had to clap both hands over her mouth to prevent herself from laughing out loud when the 'Sue suddenly turned into a miniature country estate which somehow contrived to look shocked. The Agent lost her balance and sat down hard. She mastered herself quickly after that.
"Who needs punctuation?" she murmured, grinning. "Capitalization is so much more important. Especially if you have to have a stupid name like Villa."
Slowly Alec pulled himself together. It had been hard for him to be around the dragons especially when they were on Search. The 'Stu-ness of him wanted to go out and announce himself to the dragons, to prove himself worthy for a dragon.
But he was an Agent. He protected canon. And that girl was getting on his nerves. He stumbled up and walked over to the other Agents.
"Sorry I was missing. I had a personal crisis"
Dafydd glanced up at Alec and smiled quickly, relieved not to be alone with Neshomeh any more. Gesturing to the other Agent to get down behind the rubble, he returned his attention to the dragonriders. Shortly after, he focussed fully on the 'Sue, who was acting as stupid and contentious as a Green rider whose dragon was close to rising. Virtually unconsciously, he clenched his right fist, and the Ring of Sairalindë sparkled to life. As Villa said, showing more than the 'slight hint' of arrogance mentioned in the Words, "Why should I show respect to him when none is shown to me?" the black gem of the ring began to pulse with power.
Over the courtyard, Hath's head swung around, and Dafydd froze as the dragon stared straight at him again. He can feel the power! the Agent thought, terrified, trying to unclench his fist, to look away from those distant, swirling eyes, anything.
In the end, it was the 'Sue that saved him. "Besides," she said, her lips forming the familiar smirk of a 'Sue about to make herself better than a Canon character, "a weyrwoman should be responsible and you can ask everyone around here that I, for one spend more time being in trouble then anyone else."
Hath, startled by such obvious nonsense being spouted at his rider, moved his head a fraction to glare at Villa, and roared. Shaking, Dafydd collapsed onto his back, his trembling fingers working to remove the ring and prevent a repeat of the event. Finally, he got it off, and clenched it in his long fingers. Only then did he realise he was lying down, staring up at the sky, when he should be watching the action. However, when he tried to sit up, streaks of light flashed across his vision, and he realised he was about to pass out.
"I'm never coming to this planet again," he muttered, and collapsed as the world turned black around him.
Agent Soul lost a moment staring at Alec. So, great, both of her supposed role models were in crisis. That was lovely. Suddenly she had the horrible feeling they were all going to end up in Fictional Psychology when (possibly before) this was over.
Suddenly her attention was drawn two directions at once. The 'Sue was being intractable, of course, but the black light to her left startled the Agent. She started to ask, "What's that?" but she didn't get passed forming the "wh-." She couldn't miss being looked at by a bronze dragon.
Hath roared. Dafydd fell over backwards and muttered something. Neshomeh couldn't quite make it out through the commotion between R'gul, Lorram, and Fandarel, but she could tell when he passed out. She waved a hand over his face and laid her palm against his forehead to make sure.
"Well. This sucks." She glanced at Alec, hoping in what was probably an irrational manner that he might have some clue what had just happened. She decided this probably wasn't the best place to figure it out, though. "Maybe we should get out of here." They could catch up with the 'Sue when everyone was in better headspace.
"Sounds good to me," Alec said watching the dragons. He knelt down and picked up the fallen elf before yelping and almost dropping him. "He's crackling with magical energy..."
"Shh," Neshomeh hissed, fanning her hands in a damping-down motion. There was no chance of the 'Sue hearing over the voice of the Mastersmith, but the Agent was keyed up and twitchy. She shook her head at the entire situation and dug her remote activator out of her pack. She dialled up a portal to the first place that came to mind and gestured Alec through. She followed after him, but not before she heard Fandarel's voice again:
"Talking like this isn't efficient"
The Agent groaned as she stepped through the portal into the dusty junior queen's quarters at Fort Weyr.
"He said it again," she reported by-the-way, cocking her thumb over her shoulder.
"Here, lay him down on the couch." She pointed at the dim outline of a dragon's stone wallow, then knelt and pulled her pack forward again. "Hang on, it's in here somewhere..."
Neshomeh was sure her friend Jenni had nicked something for faints from the Department of Fictional Psychology. So many characters came in passed out that it was necessary to have such things in abundance. Neshomeh just wasn't sure she had the stuff in her pack. If it was there, it was at the bottom and required digging out.
Carefully Alec put the downed Agent on the couch before rubbing his hands absently on his thighs. Whatever had hit Dafydd was making him itchy. He looked around the weyr as he stood watch. It was haunting in the weyr. It should be filled with life, not the ghosts that seemed to flit through the empty spaces.
"Aha!" After a moment of rummaging, Neshomeh's hand came down on a small leather box, which she pulled out and carried over to Dafydd. Inside the box were a piece of cloth and two small vials. Neshomeh chose the one labelled "Rosemary" (eucalyptus was not canonical) and applied two drops of the essential oil to the cloth. A sharp, pungent aroma quickly filled the weyr.
"This had better work," she muttered, and held the cloth under the elf's nose.
Dafydd sat upright, coughing. "Angamando!" he said. "Mana né tana?" Then he remembered who he was with, made the mental adjustment, and repeated it in English. "What was that?" He looked around. "And where am I? And why-?" He stopped, remembering why he'd blacked out. In his hand he could still feel the weight of the ring, and he quickly moved to drop it into a pocket, making a mental note not to use it without a very good reason. Looking up at the other two Agents - he didn't yet trust his legs to support him, he said, with more than little irritation, "Well?"
"Well, give me a minute," Neshomeh replied crossly, on her bum and a foot backward from where she had just been crouching. She hadn't expected Dafydd to come around quite as suddenly as he did. Immediately she felt bad about her tone, though—it wasn't his fault she embarrassed herself. "You startled me," she said contritely as she adjusted the set of her glasses and folded her legs beneath her. "Anyway, to take things in order: it was just rosemary extract, you're in a junior queen's weyr at Fort, and I think you and Alec both have a lot of explaining to do." She looked back and forth between them, not without concern. "What the heck is up with you two?"
Alec looked rather sheepish under the Agent's glare. He tucked a few errant strands of hair behind an ear (which promptly slid back out)and said, "Well besides from a few 'Stu tendincies kicking to the fore, he's," and he pointed to the elf, "got something on him that's rather magical and tingly..."
Dafydd winced. It was bad enough dragons noticing the ring without his fellow Agents doing the same. "Um..." he said, and then followed it up with an "uh..." while trying to think up an excuse.
Unfortunately, there wasn't one. Alec would surely know the difference between an elf's innate power and the ring. Dafydd sighed. "What happened was that Hath, ah, noticed me." He shuddered at the memory of that contact, so strange, yet so familiar. "I don't know why he did the first time - that was while I was trying to get to you, Neshomeh - but the second time..." He paused, and took a deep breath. "The second time was because of this." He took the Ring of Sairalindë out of his pocket and held it up, where it glinted darkly with its own inner light.
Neshomeh stared at the ring for a moment, much in the manner of a rabbit staring at a pair of oncoming headlights, before squeezing her eyes shut and shaking her head.
"Urple!" she said, inflecting the word as an expletive. When she was able to focus on the ring again, she tried not to. "What the bloody plague is it?"
"It's a magic ring," Dafydd said, as if it were obvious. "I got it from a 'Sue in a LotR-verse 'fic. It's the sort of thing you shouldn't leave lying around..." His voice trailed off.
Neshomeh pulled a face--yes, the magical ring was obvious, but the exact nature of it was not. Experience told her that stupid questions, while garnering stupid answers, sometimes opened the way to further information.
"All right..." she replied slowly, "but Dafydd... well, it's not exactly canon, is it? And it sure did a number on you. How's your head, by the way? I don't know how hard you hit when you fell over back there."
It wasn't as though she could do anything in particular about it, but she figured it was good to know these things about one's partner. The other one – Alec – would have to wait a bit for his turn. She couldn't try to carry on two serious discussions at once and expect any good to come of it.
Dafydd looked distinctly uncomfortable. "Well, I, uh, not exactly. I didn't mean to use it, it just sort of... um... yeah."
Using the distraction Alec slunk to the entrance of the weyr to check the words. He blinked as he double checked what he read, before calling back, "TIME SHIFT!"
Alerted by Alec's shout, Neshomeh also looked at the Words. "Damn it," she growled, and braced for the impact.
However, here in the unoccupied Weyr, the passage of two Turns meant very little. Perhaps more dust suddenly appeared on the floor, but there was only the barest tremor of temporal distortion.
Neshomeh cautiously opened one eye, then the other, and blinked. "Okay..." She squinted at the Words again. "Jeeze, she's really racking up the charges this chapter. We should go. Are you guys all right for it?"
Dafydd nodded. "Ready and able." Slipping the ring into his pocket - he wasn't going to wear it again, not on this mission - he stood up, now fully prepared to finish off the 'fic. "Let's kill this thing and go home."
Neshomeh grinned and shook her head as she got to her feet, as well. Yeah, he was probably fine if he was paraphrasing Han Solo at this juncture. She would have to make it a point to say 'I have a bad feeling about this' before they were done.
She took a moment to put the rosemary vial and the little box away, then got her remote activator out and considered what to do with it.
"The chapter says 'Benden Weyr,' but she starts out at the Crafthall. I guess we'd better go back there and then portal to Benden."
She wasn't sure when she'd taken charge of this mission, but she dialled the coordinates and jumped through the open portal.
Dafydd rolled his eyes. "Not only is she enthusiastic," he commented to Alec, "she's voluntarily looking at a relatively short section of the 'fic. I don't think she's been in the PPC long enough." Shaking his head, the elf wandered over to the portal and hopped through, emerging in what was now, according to the Words, 'Telgar smiths hall'. "Close," he muttered, "but not quite close enough."
Alec grinned and followed, giving a last look at the haunted feeling weyr. The words babbled briefly about the eggs on the hatching grounds before switching to Telgar Hall.
"Traditionally, the new weyrleader F'lar had opened the hatching ceremonies to allow the hold and halls a slight glimpse of the weyr," Alec said, repeating the Words, "That doesn't make any sense. If it's the first time he's doing it, how can it be a tradition?"
That was only one of many errors. In the first three paragraphs, the Suethor managed to spawn four minis (Lesse, Wery, Weryleader, and two counts of Fanderal), miss seven important capitalizations (impressed, turns, search, weyrleader, weyr, weyrleaders, and two counts of mastersmith), and commit breaches of logic too numerous to list.
All that was before Canth turned up. Then Neshomeh's hatred for Villa multiplied threefold.
"I am Villa of Telgar smiths hall." She thought, eyes directed soley on the majestic creature.
"And I am Canth brown dragon of Benden weyr, my rider is F'lor. He will be pleased that their are some girls who are not afraid to talk to a dragon." The dragon replied, its raspy voice sending ripples through her mind.
Neshomeh's eyes narrowed and her hands balled into fists. "We do not cause dragons to speak with quotations marks," she growled. "We do not call dragons 'it,' especially if the dragon happens to be Canth. And who the hell is F'lor?"
Dafydd hissed softly. "No, we do not. Only one dragon could conceivably be 'it', and that's Ruth." He shook his head. "But getting worked up isn't going to help, Neshomeh. Think positive thoughts, such as that we get to kill her eventually, possibly along with Mr. Look At Me Steal Someone Else's Dragon." Despite his words, he was glaring at the false dragonrider.
Alec stared at the false rider too. "It looks like linoleum!" he declared. The rider, indeed, was made out of linoleum. A rather nice flowered pattern that looked like it came from Alec's kitchen floor, it even had the same stains.
The brown rider smiled blandly. They could practically see it puppeting the words that the Sue fed it. In fact she wasn't that good of a ventriloquist. Canth looked rather miserable and off colour. His eyes swirled from an angry red to a despondent yellow.
"We're gonna have to find F'nor before Canth goes between," Alec said, frowning at the brown's looks. Trey chirruped in agreement. "I could have Trey go and look for him, while we stay with the story."
Neshomeh nodded at her partners, taking deep breaths and counting down from twenty.
"That girl is so dead," she said when she got to zero. "I think there's just this Hatching and then a gather, and we can kill her there. As for that--" she glared at the doppelganger--"maybe F'nor will want to do it himself, if Trey finds him by then. I know I'd want to, if it were my dragon."
Villa and F'lor were on Canth's back by that time, and for once the 'Sue got something right: Canth hurled himself into the air; out of sheer shock.
"I'd be in shock, too," Neshomeh grumbled, and dialled up a portal to Benden Weyr.
Dafydd stepped through the portal, appearing at the back of Benden's hatching grounds. For a moment he simply stared at the great golden figure of Ramoth, Lessa standing in front of her. The books, he decided, didn't do her justice... either her.
Then a brown shape entered the cavern - Canth, with the 'Sue and the ersatz rider on his back - and the Agent reluctantly returned his attention to the mission. "Which Hatching is this?" he asked, and glanced at the Words. "Ramoth's first... any chance one of you brought the book along so we can check the details? Might be a few charges here."
Stepping up beside Dafydd, Neshomeh tore her eyes away from the dragons (most disturbingly the "ble" ones, which appeared as a sort of blello drab) to look through her pack.
"Yeah," she said, pulling out a slightly battered paperback copy of Dragonflight and flipping quickly to the relevant section. "There's not actually much here... only a paragraph on the Impression itself. I'm pretty sure no one got this excited, though," she added, glaring in the general direction of a bit character called Someone, who yelled loudly when Pridith made her entrance. In fact, there was so much screaming that Neshomeh was surprised the dragonets weren't spooked. She shook her head slowly. There were so many technical things wrong in the Words that the whole experience was tainted, even if there were no egregious deviations from the Canon.
"The only thing I can find is that Pridith seems to have hatched after the other eggs, not before," she reported as the crowd filed out of the Cavern after the new Weyrlings. "Let's get out of here. I feel like they're looking at us." She nodded at a few "ble" dragons huddled together in the tiers. Their eyes whirled mournfully wilver. Neshomeh shivered.
"Well, that can go on the list, anyway," Dafydd muttered, glancing at Alec. Then he frowned. "Do we just leave the ble dragons here, or what? I mean, I know what to do with Cute Animal Friends and Minis, but what about these? Will they vanish? Do we have to kill them?" He shuddered at that thought - killing any dragons was a horrible idea. "Should we take them back to HQ? Or do they count as Minis?" The elf shook his head. "I guess we'll sort it out somehow."
"I think..." Alec said thoughtfully, "We're going to have to wait and see. It's really iffy and can go either way." He paused, "I do think, however, that if the spelling gets any worse we're going to have a full story meltdown." His attention wavered for a moment as he sought the link between him and Trey. "Still no sign of F'nor."
He glanced at the Words. "Oh gods, she's off making friends with N'ton. I wonder if he becomes the love interest."
"Hmm, to go along with R'gul as Designated Misogynistic Bastard," Neshomeh muttered as she peered around a corner to look out on the Weyr Bowl. "I'd feel more sorry for him, except that he is kind of a bastard."
R'gul, who had been promptly forgotten after being forced through a moment of 'Sue-induced glassy-eyed lust, stood blinking near Villa and N'ton, no doubt wondering why he was there and wasn't there something else he was supposed to be doing...? Presently, he shook his head and strode off in the direction of the Hatching Feast.
Villa, meanwhile, had nearly passed out in N'ton's arms after suddenly finding that she could hear all the dragonets being hungry at their riders, and was now helping to feed Lioth.
"Don't forget to charge her with being HAD, either. Er, that's Hears-All-Dragons," Neshomeh added, remembering that her partners weren't necessarily familiar with role-play slang. "It's bloody alphabet soup."
"To be fair to him," Dafydd commented distractedly, "he was mainly trying to keep the Weyr intact." Then he shook his head. "This girl has no grasp of pacing. One minute she's feeding Lioth, the next, no scene change or anything, she's half-asleep and on her way home to what is apparently the hall of Telgar's - no, scratch that, Telger's - smith, singular. The creativity she puts into misspellings is quite fascinating."
"Guh," was Neshomeh's intellectual response. "Except," she amended, "when it comes to canon characters. It's been 'Fanderal' with the 'e' and the 'a' switched since Chapter Two, like Fandarel's evil, inverted, cookie-cutter twin. ... Come to think of it, Trey might have to find the Mastersmith in addition to F'nor." The Agent pulled a face, bemused and annoyed.
"My guess," Alec said cheerfully, "Is that the good Mastersmith is somewhere completely oblivious, working on one of his devices."
Or when they where dancing at the feast after having fed themself. She practicly crawled into bed not knowing that in Benden both N'ton and Lioth where talking about her. In her dreams her mind kept running back over the events of the day, and as she came across the thought of N'ton, her mind lingered. His face, with the love for his young dragon in his eyes, where prominet within her mind as if he stood but an inch from her. ..
"At least we know who her lust object is," he looked thoughtful. "If she impresses a brown and she's in love with N'ton, how exactly would the mating flight things work? I mean according to the Sue cliché typical consummation of the Sue relationship would happen when his bronze flies her gold/green who is as special as the gold," he paused. "Or am I thinking about this too much?"
Trey choose that moment to appear, chittering smugly. He landed on Alec's head broadcasting the image of F'nor tied and gagged in the forgotten rooms behind the Hatching grounds.
"Kinky," Alec commented.
"She probably doesn't understand that you can't just stick any two dragons together," Dafydd pointed out. "She doesn't understand anything else."
The mental contact from someone else's bonded creature aside, Neshomeh was momentarily stunned.
"That's just wrong, Alec," she said. "I'd suggest washing your brain out with soap, but I don't have any." She shook her head. "Poor F'nor... should we go rescue him now? We could probably go right to the gather afterwards. Villa doesn't do anything in the next chapter except bend time around her little art projects. She does two carvings out of 'marmer,' whatever that is, and one painting, all in one morning. There are some very interesting misspellings, but I'd rather not be subjected to the temporal compression."
"I'm down with that," Alec said, ignoring the part about his gutter mind, offering Trey a treat and cooing about how he was such a good boy, yes he was. He glanced up at the sky. "Shift is coming up soon."
"No arguments here," agreed Dafydd. "Anything to avoid another headache."
"Right." Neshomeh nodded, started toward the Lower Caverns and F'lessan's passage to the old part of Benden, then paused. "Alec, you and Trey had better go first, or I'll just get us lost back there."
It also occurred to her that the Lower Caverns would be packed with weyrfolk and visitors to bump into, but she figured no one would mind a few extra Harpers.
"Right." With Trey on his shoulder, Alec deftly led them through the crowds of people getting ready for the hatching. No one noticed the three extra harpers, the missing basket of glows and a plate of meatrolls, which Alec passed back to the other Agents.
He led them into the bowls of the Weyr to where the secret and long forgotten passages were.
As the trio walked down through the tunnels, Dafydd munched on a meatroll and reached out to brush the wall with one hand. "Very nice workmanship," he commented. "We could have used some of these rock-cutters up at Formenos. How long's this going to take?"
Neshomeh, also enjoying the snack after who-knew-how-long without food, thought that was a good question. "Depends on how out of it F'nor is, I guess," she said, her voice low with respect for old Benden. "And where the 'Sue stashed him. I can't imagine he's too far in, though. She'd be in a hurry to co-op the story."
Alec paused at a junction in the corridors and looked around confused, he knew the tunnels of Benden Weyr very well but, "I have no memory of this place at all..." he murmured. "I think the Sue is messing around with the geography of the Weyr. Give me a second..." He pulled out the Atlas of Pern and flipped through the pages. He then rapped the book against the wall. There was a faint ripple and then a passage opened up "Okay... He should be down there."
Neshomeh nodded slowly, looking around at the walls. "I'll have to remember that trick," she said.
A moment passed, and no one moved. Neshomeh's eyebrows rose slightly. "... I take it I'm going first, then." Great. The last thing she wanted was to see one of the most respected dragonmen on Pern trussed up like a roasted wherry, let alone face him by herself even for a moment. Still... as it needed to be done, she would do it.
"Okay." She headed down the corridor.
Dafydd grinned. He'd been banking on someone else going first. Making a mental note to remember the trick with the atlas himself for possible use in a later mission, he set off after Neshomeh.
The corridor suddenly grew wider as it opened up into a room. Trey started chirruping excitedly and landed on the head of a slumped over man. The man groaned and looked up at the three Agents, blearily.
"Where-? CANTH!" He struggled to get up, but he was bound tightly.... with duct tape. He was starting to panic, which caused Trey to chirrup loudly.
Neshomeh swallowed hard at the sight of him. It was so stomach-turningly, awfully wrong.
She thought of Robinton in All the Weyrs of Pern.
She couldn't decide if this was worse or not.
In any case, she found her courage. More precisely, she remembered how pissed off she was at Villa for doing this to Pern, and that dispelled all her anxiety. She stepped toward the chair and tugged at the duct tape.
"I am so, so sorry about this," she said. "We're going to get you out of here, and we're going to put it right. You have my word!"
F'nor looked at her. He had a wild eyed look in his that seemed half way between panic and fright. "Where is he? I can't hear him!" He struggled to his feet, sending Trey up into the air "Where is he?!" The brown rider staggered and lunged at the closest Agent, fumbling for a knife that wasn't there.
Dafydd jumped backwards, out of reach of the manic dragonrider. "Stars! We can't move him around like this, he won't make it up the corridor!" He glanced quickly over his shoulder at Neshomeh. "You've got the Remote Activator, right? I think we need to take him to Canth now."
The Agent's use of that name seemed to reach F'nor. "Canth?" the Rider asked, calming slightly. "I can't-- He's all right? Where is my dragon?"
Neshomeh, who had ducked quickly out of F'nor's way, fumbled for the portal device and punched the coordinates in as quickly as she could. "Here!" she said as the blue doorway materialized. "You'll find Canth this way."
She wasn't sure, but she thought she felt the world shudder as the RA brought man and dragon that much closer together. It was like Father Christmas turning up in Narnia for the first time after the White Witch took power. That insidious power was weakening.
Alec shivered briefly as Trey crooned, curling up on his shoulder. "We should get out and get the Sue while she's distracted with F'nor's reappearance."
"I don't think we all can," Dafydd pointed out. "Someone should keep an eye on Mr. Insane Dragonrider, in case he gets the bright idea of killing anything. I don't want us to have to drag him into Medical if he gets wounded... or killed, although that's hardly very likely."
Neshomeh shook her head. "Don't look at me. I don't think I could do anything about it if he tried, save getting myself trampled in the effort." Which she would do willingly enough to save the Canon character, she supposed, but not when there were two able-bodied males better suited to the task.
"Last time I tried to do anything," Dafydd pointed out, "I ended up unconscious on the floor." He looked at the third member of their team. "Alec?"
There was a long pause as Alec looked at the other two Agents, "Yes, well fine, I the father of two children, one of them just a newborn, will go after the potentially homicidal dragonrider and try to make sure nothing happens." He held his head up, "Don't worry about me. Honestly. Trey and I can take it."
"That's good, then," said Dafydd, who had enough memory of his father to know that he'd've been happier had Fëanor fallen off a cliff before even thinking the word 'Silmaril'. "So, Neshomeh, where's the 'Sue got to now?"
"This side of the portal? She's sleeping off the wine she supposedly drank here. That side of the portal, she's at the other side of the gather not!flirting with F'lor. We'd better get there before F'nor does." She stepped through into the milling crowd and took off at a fast jog. Fortunately, the Agents had the advantage of knowing exactly where Villa was and, even if they were noticed, no one was going to delay harpers on a mission.
F'nor, meanwhile, was wholly occupied with reaching Canth. However he called out with his mind, the connection evaded him like a greased tunnel snake. He could almost swear he'd seen his brown up on the heights, but some trick made the dragon seem to alternate between brown and bronze, never quite one or the other. The only thing to do was get there and see for certain.
The smell and noise of the gather surrounded Alec as he stepped through the crowds. His stomach grumbled in annoyance letting him know that it better be tended to soon. Trey chirruped, flying ahead of him as they tracked the brown rider. As they threaded their way around, they walked past a pair of young men. Or at least one young man and a ... well it appeared to be some jazz music in the shape of a young man.
Frowning Alec checked the words.
"Stop it Jazz, you're making me nervous." Dillan complained, his nose catching the faint odor of boiling bubbly pies.
"She said she'd be here, but I don't see her."
"Jazz, you're starting to sound like a little boy who just lost his favorite toy."
Alec laughed at this as he moved away from them.
Dafydd ran after his partner, employing all his elven agility to avoid running into anyone - not that that was hard, it being an inborn skill. What was hard, and what drove him to muttering Quenya curses under his breath, was keeping up the pace when Canth, acting somewhat distressed, roared and leapt into the air, dropping down towards the crowd at a speed that made Dafydd quickly check the Words to make sure they wouldn't need to resurrect a dragon.
"I don't get paid enough for this," he muttered, trying to ignore the description of Canth as an 'overgrown lizard'. "Then again," he added to himself, "I don't get paid at all." Shaking his head, he picked up the pace so as to catch up with Neshomeh.
F'nor gained the heights just as Canth resettled himself. It was Canth, the rider could see that clearly now. He cried out in joy, both vocally and mentally, only to be regarded by an eye whirling yellow with confusion and anxiety. The dragon shifted on his forepaws, even hissed when F'nor tried to approach. The man thought his heart might tear itself in two.
Canth, Canth, it's me! F'nor! Don't you know me? His mind filled with memories - their Impression, weyrling lessons, their first flight together. Canth had to remember!
Gradually, the brown stilled and the whirling of his eyes slowed. The images in the man's mind all seemed so clear, so right - not like F'lor's. He had known there was something wrong ever since that one's voice sounded in his mind, but he hadn't been able to figure out what it was. Now... the wrongness was still present in force, but not as strong as Canth's relief at being reunited with his true rider, the one he himself had chosen from among the crowd of boys on the Hatching Sands that day. Dragons did not get giddy, but Canth came close as he lowered his muzzle and F'nor flung his arms about it. Dragon and rider shared in a laugh that was heard - and misinterpreted - by F'lor.
Neshomeh arrived on the scene as Villa, in a violent mood swing, slapped two holder girls who had been alarmed by Canth's display. The Agent was half-temped to cheer the silly bit-character as one girl, dressed in a shade of pink that bordered on urple, tackled Villa to the ground.
On the heights, Canth suddenly roared and pummelled the air with his wings, sending F'nor reeling backwards.
What? Dear heart, what is it?
Wrong! Canth bellowed. I feel it now. It's wrong! And the will of the Author asserted itself over the dragon: "F'lor, Villa is in pain the bigger one is crushing her arm."
Dafydd caught up with Neshomeh as the crowd finally calmed down – in Villa-land, of course, everyone reacted the same to every stimulus. Standing by his partner, Dafydd watched a highly-detailed set of character movements. It was, he mused, almost like a dance, saving that dances were usually more interesting.
Jazon broke free from the clutches of the girl still latched onto his arm and moved over to Villa; he took over F'lor's place holding her head, and let it rest on his legs when both Dillan and Terry moved trough the circle now formed around the scene. The girl that had clung onto to Jazon was now laying down on the ground her face drained from all colour while her eyes where fixed on the large brown now looking down at her. F'lor had moved to the other girl holding her tightly as she too looked at the great brown.
The elf glanced up at the words as a portion of the crowd started to shuffle aside. Nudging Neshomeh to give her at least some warning, he waited for his cue.
A single voice broke trough all the murmers as the mastersmith's large body moved trough the crowd with ease seeing as the parted before him without even realising it.
"Someone go get a healer." he barked.
"Let's get her out of this crowd!" Dafydd called, and smiled reassuringly as the alerted characters looked over at him. Of course they could trust him, his smile seemed to say – he was a Harper, after all.
Neshomeh also smiled as she stepped up to do her part in lifting the unconscious 'Sue, doing her best to be in the way of other would-be helpers without seeming deliberate about it. Fortunately, Villa wasn't heavy. The Agent kept her eyes on Dafydd and followed his lead.
Meanwhile Alec had a totally different problem on his hands. F'nor had just discovered the existence of F'lor. To say that he was not happy was to say that a queen dragon was big or that Threadscores kinda hurt. He had murder in his eyes. Alec knew this, having seen it in many Agents eyes at the worse Sue. F'nor was out for blood.
Which meant he had to get to F'lor first. He couldn't have the dragonrider spilling blood. Having Trey keep an eye on the brown rider he rushed through the crowds, slipping in and out of the fourth wall space to avoid obstacles.
Finally he found F'lor. He looked stunned. Well as stunned as a man made of laminate flooring could be. "Brown rider!" Alec called out.
The man turned and Alec bashed him over the head with his bag. Something cracked and it wasn't only the brownrider's head. Opening his bag up he discovered that his CAD was in ruins. "Damnit." Makes-Things was going to have a fit.
Slinging the bag over his shoulder, Alec picked up the brownrider and started his way to the main hold, hoping to find an out of the way spot to dump F'lor and meet up with the other two Agents. This was turning into a real mess.
Trying not to show any hesitation in his walk or face, Dafydd looked around surreptitiously. The gather was crowded, as one would expect, with no obvious quiet spots where they might dispose of the 'Sue without any fuss. That only left... "The Hold," he muttered to Neshomeh over the noise of the crowd. "Get her inside, find an out-of-the-way room to stick her in, then get back out and find Alec. Sound like a plan?"
She nodded, not trusting her voice to carry as well. Navigating to the Hold with Villa between them would be tricky, but the thought that the mission might be coming to an end was encouraging. She kept her eyes open and was doubly careful not to trip over her own feet.
When they escaped the gather square, Neshomeh was surprised to recognize Alec carrying F'lor up the stairs to the Hold. "When did he do that? Maybe we missed it, grabbing this one." She thought she would have noticed someone being concussed in her vicinity. On the other hand, with the 'Sue unconscious, perhaps the Canon was simply giving the Agents a helping hand in reuniting.
Around the same time, Alec lugged F'lor with him. He had plucked the man's shoulder knots so no one would know that he was dragging around a brown rider. Fortunately no one bothered to stop him. Canon really must want the laminate rider gone. As he laboured up the steps he spotted two familiar figures ahead of him.
"Oi! Watch out for the Sunflowers!" he called out.
Dafydd glanced over his shoulder at Alec's call, and shook his head bemusedly. "I do believe that boy's gone insane," he muttered to himself. Then, sighing, he checked that the Hold doors were near enough, nodded his head sharply in their direction on the hope that Alec would understand, and hustled Neshomeh inside with the still-unconscious 'Sue. Finding a fairly dark corner nearby, the two Agents deposited their burden, and Dafydd ran back out in time to beckon Alec in their direction.
Trey looked particularly pleased with himself. Alec looked put on. F'lor was heavy and awkward. But he followed Dafydd's directions in dropping of the fake rider. "F'nor and Canth are back together, so that's something we don't have to worry about."
"Good," Neshomeh replied, brushing her hands compulsively against her skirt as though wiping residual Sue-ness off her skin. "Maybe they'll even help us round up stray bit characters later. You've got the charge list, right, Alec? Let's get rid of her." She nudged Villa not too kindly with the toe of her shoe.
The 'Sue awoke slowly, but when Dafydd was reasonably sure she'd at least hear the charges, he tapped her on the shoulder. "Good afternoon, miss," he said, smiling brightly. "My companion here has something you ought to hear. Alec?"
Alec pulled out the charge list and read it over quickly. He then cursed. "We can't kill her yet... we still have the seventy odd ble dragons to deal with."
Neshomeh shuddered at the memory of those poor beasts. "I don't think there's anything we can do personally. Whatever happens to them, they'll be better off. And, the Canon will do whatever is... safest? When she's dead. Won't it?"
Villa was apparently awake enough to figure out that she was the "she" meant to be killed, for she gave a squeak of protest and struggled to get up.
Dafydd frowned, idly planting his foot on the 'Sue's chest to keep her down. "You'd think so," he said, "but if it doesn't... I suppose they'd be riderless. And we know what happens to riderless dragons." He glanced between the other two Agents. "And what effect that has on everyone else."
"But once she's gone--and once we take out Telag--things should snap back into place like nothing happened. What if..." Neshomeh studied her partners, ignoring Villa's squirming and protests. "Okay, how about this: we round up all the bit characters and tie them down in Telag. We charge the 'Sue and douse everything with agenothree. You guys portal out and I set the whole kit and caboodle on fire. It's a slow death, and if anything goes bad, only I get hit before Canon snaps back. I'm not as sensitive as you and Telag is far enough from Benden to dampen the effects, so I should be able to get out before the place vanishes. Otherwise, I guess you rescue me." She shrugged. It was simple, really, but it sounded more complicated out loud. That, and she didn't know if it was possible to survive being someplace when it imploded into nothingness. She would just have to get out fast.
"I like fire. Fire is good," Alec said cheerfully. He flicks a fireball between his fingers and giggled a little, enjoying watching the Sue squirm in fear.
Dafydd looked thoughtful for a moment, but the lure of pyromania was far too strong to let that go on. "Fire is good," he agreed. "But you'd better not get yourself killed. They start asking questions when that happens."
Again she shrugged. "They can't afford to sack two senior Agents over the loss of one newbie stupid enough to get killed the first time out. I think the ble dragons will turn blue and integrate. So. Let's catch bit characters."
"Well Dillian and Jazon are out here some where so we can round them right quick and then grab the others at Telag. Do we have the whathow to set the Smith on fire? I could probably create a time delayed fireball that could take out the building," he said and then frowned, "If it's flesh, that's going to be hard to burn properly."
Dafydd clenched one hand into a fist unconsciously. "Flesh burns if it's hot enough," he said. "Even bones will burn if they're hot enough. I assume you can make a very hot fireball." He sighed, looked around. "Right, then. Let's get to it."
Eventually, Villa and her pathetic entourage were all bound and gagged on the floor of Lorram's Smith. Dillon and Jazon fought against their bonds and glared daggers at the Agents. Neshomeh, against all reason, had to bite down on her first knuckle to keep from going into a laughing fit from which she probably wouldn't recover.
"Alec," she said with some effort, "you better hurry up and read the charges before I lose it."
"Right then," Alec said agreeably and dragged out a beleaguered piece of waxboard. There was writing on it. Or at least it could be called writing, if one used a very loose description of writing. "Villa you are charged with being a Mary Sue, Having "silent cries" that nonetheless wake "the entire hold", Inventing "Telag smiths crafthall", Having seagreen eyes of brainwashing, Abducting Terry and Wansor and causing them to be Masters before their time, Having "flearing" eyes... what is that anyway? It sounds like something you do to turkey. Being the probable bastard daughter of Fax and being the probable half-sister of Jaxom, Causing Master Fandarel to look and act like a cut-out cookie, employing bad spelling and worse punctuation, Creating Lorram's Smith and causing his corpse to be used as a classroom which is really just disgusting, you know? Employing gratuitous non-English words to appear intelligent (lemmet, marmer) Causing dragons to come on "reseach", Failing to capitalize titles such as "Weyrwoman", claiming to have no interest in becoming a dragonrider when you're bound to become one, Causing dragonriders to turn colours, bluerider is different that blue rider, causing temporospatial distortions, causing PPC Agents to suffer personal crises while on duty (which we really didn't need, thank you very much) spawning numerous mini-whers, to whit: F'lar, Lesse, Wery, Weryleader, Fanderal, F'lor, Committing numerous and heinous breaches of logic, Causing F'nor to vanish and replacing him with doppelganger F'lor..."
"...Causing Fandarel to vanish and replacing him with doppelganger Fanderal, Causing dragons to speak with quotation marks, Referring to a dragon as "it" (They're colour coded, you can't really get it wrong) Creating "ble" dragons, Causing Pridith to hatch before the others in her clutch rather than after, Creating a Designated Misogynistic Bastard, to whit, R'gul, Creating a Designated Lust Object, to whit, N'ton, Having the ability to hear all dragons when only a select few can do so..."
"Messing with the layout of Benden Weyr, Causing Canon Characters to suffer acute emotional distress, Causing bit characters to be made of ridiculous substances, to whit, linoleum and jazz music, Besmirching the name of the Healer Hall by causing it to employ grossly unsuitable persons... and... yeah... that's it."
Dafydd shook his head in mock despair. "Villa, Villa, Villa. Almost all of your crimes are truly, truly heinous. But don't worry! It's all going to be okay." He leant down and whispered in her ear. "You are sentenced to death. Die knowing that your evil has been purged from the world, and perhaps in your last moments you will find peace." He considered that. "... but it's unlikely. You'll probably just find agonising pain."
Straightening up, he beamed at the other Agents. "Can we go now?"
"Almost," Neshomeh said. "I think something was said about a very hot time-delayed fireball? You're all going to fry," she cheerfully addressed the contingent on the floor. "And we're going to go someplace safe to watch. The mountains should still be there when all's said and done. Or did you two still want to get out entirely?"
"I like loud explosions," Alec said, glancing around, "But I'm worried about the world's stability when the dragons go blue."
"Like he says," Dafydd agreed, nodding at Alec, "it'd be pretty, but I've got a flamethrower and a large roll of magnesium ribbon somewhere in my RC. I can get my own pretty."
"And then what happened?" Constance Sims asked, looking over at Dafydd, who had fallen silent. Her friend looked up.
"Did you get out?"
Dafydd nodded distractedly. "Yeah... we blew it up, everyone who shouldn't be there died... and then we came back." He shrugged. "Sorry, I'm a bit worn out."
"So you should be!" Constance exclaimed. "That long a mission, and then coming in here and telling me about it... why didn't you get some sleep first?"
Dafydd shrugged painfully. "You said you wanted to see me," he said, " so I came. But maybe you're right..." He tried to stand up, but didn't quite make it and sat down again with a thump. "Ow."
Constance shook her head. "Oh Dafydd... when will you learn?"
"Never learn," the elf mumbled. "I think... I need... to..." His eyes fluttered shut, his breathing slowed, and within moments he was fast asleep. Constance chuckled.
"Oh, Dafydd," she repeated. "When will you learn?"