Story: A Good Gather: 1 of 1
Series: Islinne Weyr
Characters: Zeevah, Guriel, Shlomiel, Uriel, Jehiel, Malkiel, and Tahlee
Rating: G: nothing that children cannot read or see.
Summary: A day at a gather for some holdless.
Setting: AU 10th pass: 3395.Turn's End: Islinne Weyr Territory
Spoiler: Not really, no, unless you are unfamiliar with anything basic in the Dragonriders.
Category: Drama, General
Disclaimer: “Dragonriders of Pern (R)” is a registered trademark to Anne McCaffrey 1967(c). All the ensuing titles therein are also trademarks of Anne (and Todd McCaffrey) and The Worlds of Anne McCaffrey, Ltd. I am in no way connected with these people, and I do not claim ownership to these characters, lands, or names. I have borrowed them to share a story... and most likely not a story either would have written, had they had the time or no. I am making no money from this, and it is just for my entertainment and that of free entertainment to a select group of friends. Thank You.
Note: I have not yet read any of the Todd McCaffrey books in the series, so this is AU, concentrating on a time almost 1000 years after Anne McCaffrey’s 9th Pass ends. If this story contradicts any of Mr. McCaffrey’s revelations, please forgive me. None of the characters are based on the canon characters, nor are the canon characters ever mentioned.
Second Note: Islinne Weyr was formerly Southern Weyr. For those who wish to know more about the 10th Pass hinted at in this fan-fiction, please contact me.
Distribution: Please ask first?
Feedback: Yes, please? Especially constructive. email@example.com
Loud voices surrounded Zeevah as she made her way through the crowded roadway. Colors were as varied as the people. Gatherers ebbed and flowed around the stalls, like a tide unsure of when to settle; Zeevah felt they never would.
But that was one of the great things about a gather. People came from all over the continent to buy, sell, trade, or browse. They reunited with old friends and made new ones. Excitement permeated the air, as numerous cultures came together in an odd blending that would last no longer than a day and night.
This was the life she enjoyed. Zeevah smiled and strolled through the busy crowds. She let her eyes roam over the people, checking stalls while she perused the customers.
Soon the show would begin, and Zeevah would be called upon to use her knowledge. She would have to make sure she played up to the softer touches and wowed the disbelievers. Perhaps this gather would boast a lad brave enough to step forward when requested...
A jingling sound alerted Zeevah to Guriel's approach. She turned, smiling, to her troupe leader and started in his direction. Together they headed toward the dancing square.
Guriel was a lean man, bony and weak looking. He had beady green eyes and a too wide smile. The angular build of his face gave him an almost sickly look, but the man was incredibly healthy. Dressed in a bright yellow tunic and orange trousers, he was almost painful to look at. A large gold loop dangled from one ear.
He was the leader of the troupe and head of the nomadic family; providing them with the means to support themselves. Zeevah, an orphan, owed her training and her life to the man; everyone in their small band did. Without him, she would have never earned enough money to buy her knives, and those meant more than almost anything else in the world to Zeevah.
At the Dancing Square, Guriel turned to look at his small family of performers. "It's time," was all he said.
They turned as one and headed towards the open area set aside for them. Seven in all, the little troupe was unmemorable at best. Oh, Guriel was dressed garishly, it was true, and Shlomiel and Uriel were in the brightest of purples, precisely matched though they looked like opposites. There was just something about the troupe that made them unremarkable at a gather. They would be forgotten in a sevenday or two... except perhaps Jehiel.
Jehiel was huge, standing six foot nine. He was as thin as the rest of the troupe, though, not bulky or menacing. What made him remarkable was the legless dwarf strapped to his back. He was a small, disfigured male that measured about three feet in height. That was Malkiel.
Malkiel was dressed in red, clashing with Jehiel's orange. His voice was shrill and extremely loud when necessary, which was the reason he was made Crowd Caller. Malkiel liked to draw attention to himself for the sheer thrill of watching the horror on people's faces.
No one knew how Malkiel had escaped death when he lost his legs. He'd lost them when they were crushed in a stampede of beasts; the resulting amputation of the useless limbs had caused him to appear incomplete. That had been almost eight turns ago, around the time Zeevah and her younger sister, Tahlee, had come to stay with the roving family.
The last member of the troupe was a tiny girl, Tahlee, no more than eight. She had a clear voice and quick mind. The little female dressed in blue would sing for the Gatherers. Guriel had started toying with the idea of apprenticing her to the Vocalist’s Hall, but was undecided as yet. The girl brought too many marks in for her voice to be sent off so quickly.
After all, one could hear any number of Harpers perform the Ballads at Gathers, but how many eight turn olds did one know that was word and pitch perfect. The Ballad of Moreta's Ride was her biggest draw. To hear a deep voiced Harper sing it stirred the blood. To see little Tahlee, standing there reciting the horrible tale, brought tears to one’s eyes and hands to one’s purse.
Zeevah, the knife thrower and fire juggler, was perhaps the least notable of the bunch. She wore a light tan tunic over white trousers. Her sleeves were tied back with white ribbons, and the many braids in her hair were kept neat with tan bows. She looked unremarkable and almost drab among her more colorful counterparts... until she stepped up to perform.
At the roped off area, the performers started to prepare their equipment for the imminent show. Zeevah started flexing her arms and legs, all the while telling Guriel about the people she had seen. He listened patiently as he rechecked everyone's equipment... not that there was much to check; only Zeevah and Guriel, himself, used props.
Jehiel stepped in front of the crowd and turned his back. He lifted his cloak, exposing Malkiel, who called out loudly, "I am not a freak!"
People looked over and noticed the odd position of Malkiel. They came curiously over to check if he were real. Malkiel started speaking to the onlookers. Some left in repulsion, as always, but more stayed. These were the ones Malkiel called to.
"Everyone within hearing distance, tell your neighbors. The Wonders of Pern are about to perform! See Shlomiel and Uriel spin and leap; do they have wings? Can you see them? I think I do..."
At this he contented himself with the occasional comment or taunt. The crowd was only peripherally aware of him any way. Their attention was riveted on the tumblers. Twisting and bending, leaping and spinning, the two men bounced off of each other or the ground to perform almost impossible feats of agility. One moment Shlomiel would be balancing on his hands with Uriel standing on the other man's feet... the next moment they'd be doing synchronistic handless cartwheels and roundups.
Zeevah smiled as she watched the crowd's delight. She'd seen the routine rehearsed every day for the last eight turns, but it always seemed so beautiful when performed at a gather. The people watching were alternately clapping and gasping as the men continued their acrobatics.
A movement at the corner of her vision drew Zeevah's attention from the crowd. She saw Jehiel making his way into the group, holding out a small cap for any marks the crowd would give. Malkiel stayed absolutely silent at these times, not wanting to draw too much focus from the performance. Not many people would be giving marks right now, but they would by the end of the act.
After Uriel and Shlomiel finished with a double flip over one another, the crowd burst into delighted applause. Jehiel was once more in place, and Malkiel spoke. "Would you leave when the show is only just begun? See Guriel the fearless? He swallows flame like a babe swallows milk. Watch and be amazed..."
The crowd turned in astonishment as Guriel picked up a thin wooden stick. It had previously been soaked in a flammable solution, for quick and easy lighting. Guriel lighted the stick. A swoosh of flame reached skyward, and the closest onlookers jumped back in surprise. Guriel blew on the flame, making it leap outwards in a roar. He used specially prepared stick. Once lighted, a lever could be released. This provided the smallest amount of solution to leak into the stick and flare up, for effect.
Zeevah knew that Guriel had protected his throat with a special blend of herbs, though he would never tell her exactly which ones. He hadn't talked the whole time Uriel and Shlomiel performed, due to preparing his throat. Guriel now opened his mouth and slowly slid the burning stick into his gaping jaws and down his well treated throat. Jehiel was once more collecting marks from the stupefied crowd. Zeevah smile as Guriel provided more examples of his flame eating tricks.
Malkiel's shrill voice brought Zeevah up sharp. He was announcing her! She slowly walked into the center of the ropes, lifted her right hand high, and threw a knife directly at Guriel. He never moved, and the knife struck the false flame stick he had just picked up. In a low voice Zeevah said, "The floor is mine, Flame Eater. I'd appreciate it if you left."
The crowd applauded and roared in approval for the fine skill displayed. Guriel bowed, handed her the knife, and left her to the crowd. Zeevah nodded at her leader then turned to the onlookers.
She smiled and started juggling the three heavy-handled knives. They arched higher and higher as she tuned out the crowd in her concentration. After a moment, she caught all three knives, one by one. Turning to the crowd, she bowed briefly.
"May I have a little of your flame, Guriel?"
The crowd murmured in wonder as the lanky man stepped forward with two paddles. He lit them with a flare and handed them to Zeevah. She had put her knives back in their holders, leaving her hands free to take the flaming paddles. Pausing, she flipped first one, then the other into the air. After a moment of excited responses, she started juggling them with one hand. The other hand drew for a knife, which she expertly added to the spinning flames.
Gasps and light applause followed this stunt. Zeevah calmly caught the knife and put it away, still juggling with one hand. She then caught the paddles and handed them over to a waiting Guriel. He put them in the special jar made to quench them.
Before Guriel could clear the floor, Zeevah reached out and grabbed his tunic. "Wait, Flame Eater, I have use for you."
The crowd laughed as she hauled the taller man back to the center of the area. She pulled out a knife as she spoke.
"I will need a target. You may volunteer... or are you too slow? I think you move rather slowly, old man."
At this Guriel straightened his lean shoulders and said, quite clearly, "I accept your challenge... Woman!"
The emphasis he put on his last word let the crowd know he didn't think any woman could best him. She smiled knowingly and pointed to a wooden plank set up behind them. This was the special board they had prepared for some of her knife throwing tricks. Guriel now walked defiantly over to it and placed himself in front of it in an arrogant stance.
The crowd catcalled to Zeevah, but this was the response the pair had wanted, so she ignored them. Slowly turning toward the platform, she raised her knife. "Duck if you can, Flame Eater. I'll catch you yet!"
Letting loose with a whoop, Zeevah threw the knife towards Guriel. The man ducked toward the left; a loud ripping occurred. The crowd gasped in delighted wonder to see the beautifully carved handle sticking out of the wooden platform. From the shining blade dangled a bright piece of yellow cloth.
Slowly, almost taunting, the dark-haired woman turned to face the crowd. "Is there any man, woman, or child brave enough to challenge me?"
A murmur rippled through the bystanders then was interrupted by the figure of a petite holder boy stepping over the ropes. "I am!" Zeevah didn't show her surprise at the unusual volunteer. Most children were too afraid of the knives to want to be around her. She smiled slowly at the young boy, guessing his age to be no more than nine or ten turns.
"What is your name, brave one?"
The boy straightened his shoulders, and in a loud, carrying voice, he said, "Maroku."
Zeevah nodded. "If you promise that you will not flinch I will use you. I need you to stand still, with eyes closed, in front of the wooden platform. Can you do that?"
The boy moved to the platform, glanced at the knife and cloth still there, and gulped. He then stepped in front of the Platform and stood quietly. Uriel retrieved Zeevah's knife.
"Anyone else? A big brave man, perhaps? Or are all the men going to let a boy of ten outshine them in bravery?" She smiled tauntingly at the crowd.
Two men stepped forwards, vying to be her volunteer. Zeevah saw the women they had left on the other side of the rope. Trying to impress the ladies? She'd impress them all right.
Nodding, she gestured dramatically at the platform. "Then take your places gentlemen, for you wouldn't want to be left behind." Turning, she smiled at the crowd. "The blindfolds, please." Shlomiel place the bits of colored cloth in her hand. She thanked him and walked to the three volunteers.
She tied a red cloth over the boy's eyes whispering "Have heart, little one. You'll not be harmed." She then tied a green cloth over the first man’s eyes, and a blue over the third male in line. Zeevah quickly walked over to the crowd, placing herself as close to the ropes as possible. "This will take quiet, please. No talking, even whispering, or I may miss my mark..."
Taking careful aim, she let a knife fly towards the boy's head. With a thunk, it landed in the wood perhaps two feet above Maroku's. The boy had stayed perfectly still, but paled considerably. She aimed again, and this knife thunked about a foot above the third man's head. The crowd gasped and murmured, until she glared at them for silence. "This last one will take the most concentration. Uriel, prepare the gentleman, please."
Uriel stepped right next to the man, and positioned shoulders, hips, and feet just so. Then the young acrobat placed a piece of paper in the man's now out-stretched hand. He walked over to Zeevah and handed her the knife he had removed earlier. Loudly, she thanked him.
Taking aim yet again, she drew her arm back and pretended to throw the knife. She still held it in her hand, but Uriel, positioned next to the platform, thunked a different blade through the piece of paper in the volunteer's hand. The man fainted amid applause and laughter.
Uriel removed everyone's blindfolds and revived the frightened man, as Zeevah took her bow. She walked to the young boy and placed a strong hand on his shoulder, noticing that he shook a bit. Whispering, for his ears alone, she said, "You have the courage of a dragon, young one."
Maroku turned suddenly shining brown eyes up to her and breathed, "Oh, I hope so!" then the lad trotted happily over to a red-haired man wearing teh riding leathers and shoulder knots of an Islinne Weyr Weyrlingmaster. "J'nah, did you see? I didn't faint like that other man!"
Smiling, Zeevah turned back to watch as Guriel cleared away some of the equipment, and Jehiel moved back to his caller's spot, the cap noticeably fuller than before Zeevah's act.
Tahlee quietly stepped forward, waiting patiently for the voices to die down. They soon did, as the small girl was the only one in the roped off area now. She smiled sweetly at the crowd then opened her mouth to sing.
When the girl finished the Ballad of Moreta's Ride, she started toward the sidelines. Guriel once more stepped out, waiting for the crowd's shock to dissipate a little. "Any donations for the girl would be most welcome. With good food and clothes, we can hope to keep that sweet voice pure."
Zeevah watched as most of the gatherers walked away, even as a few stepped up to add to the suddenly very empty cap. She turned to survey the little troupe. It had been a good gather... a very good gather.
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“Dragonriders of Pern (R)” is a registered trademark to Anne McCaffrey 1967(c). All the ensuing titles therein are also trademarks of Anne (and Todd McCaffrey) and The Worlds of Anne McCaffrey, Ltd.
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