Dragonlove 05

It was almost two full Turns before Caffera saw her twin again, but when the brown dragon appeared suddenly over the cliffs above their Hold, she knew instantly who it was.

Hello Caffera, the voice, so like C'Len’s, was almost shy, and Caffera had the sudden sense that her twin’s dragon had been every bit as anxious about meeting her, as she had been about meeting him.

Hello Tadith, she responded, trying to put as much loving welcome into her mental voice as she’d put into her speaking voice, were it C'Len himself greeting her.  Carefully she placed her feet into a pair of pockets on the rock face, and settled her weight comfortably before swiveling her torso to better see the new arrivals.  She and the hovering dragon were of an eye-level, and he was so close she could smell the sweet spiciness of his hide.

C'Len is very worried about you, being so high, said Tadith.  Would you like a ride down to the ground?

Caffera almost made a sarcastic remark about not being the only one up so high, but she thought better of it.

If you’re sure you don’t mind, Tadith.

It would make C'Len happy, he said, simply.

And so Caffera found herself being oh-so-carefully plucked off the cliff by a dragon.

As gentle as Tadith was, being carried in dragon talons was still not what Caffera would have categorized as “comfortable”, and as he set her on her feet in the courtyard she knew she’d bear the marks of her little adventure tomorrow.  But then C’Len was sliding down to the ground and throwing his arms around her.

“Caffera!  Caffera!  I’ve missed you so much!”  C’Len’s voice was muffled in her hair, and Caffera suddenly realized that although she’d gained half a head in height since their last parting, C’Len had added at least that much again- perhaps more.

“What do they feed you up there?” she demanded, tilting her gaze up to meet his, and C’Len laughed.

“Everything!  The Holds tithe only their best to the Weyr, you know.”

And he makes certain he gets his fair share, Tadith added, amusement coloring his voice.

Caffera laughed, and C’Len’s face broke into a relieved grin.

“I’m so glad you can hear him, too.  I worried- well, I shouldn’t have worried.  Of course you can hear him!  I’m so glad the two most important people in my life have finally met!”

Caffera felt her smile falter, but she did her best to recover it, not wanting to spoil the moment.  C’Len was still the most important person in her life, for all that she hadn’t seen him in so long- but she knew she’d been irrevocably replaced in his heart.

Not replaced, said Tadith.  What he and I have- it is a different kind of love, from what you and he have.  He thinks of you all the time- he misses you.  He misses you so much it made me miss you, and I’d never met you.

Well I’m sorry for that, Caffera told him.  I don’t know that I can live up to what he’s been telling you.

“What are you two talking about so seriously?” C’Len asked, a hint of annoyance in his voice.

“You can’t hear us?” Caffera didn’t have to feign surprise.

“Apparently not,” C’Len said.  Tadith stretched his head out to nuzzle his rider’s shoulder, and C’Len’s face softened.  “Oh.  He says you think I’ve made too much of you.  Well I haven’t, I promise you.  You’re extremely loveable.”

Before Caffera could summon a response to this, the younger siblings had broken free of whatever small restraint Jallica had lain on them, and came shrieking into the courtyard.

“C’Len! C’Len! C’Len!”

“Mother said we had to let you greet Caffera first-”

“C’Len!  C’Len!”

“-but you’ve had enough time right?”

“Now will you let us meet your dragon?”


“We’re supposed to respect your dignity-”

“You got so tall!

“Your dragon smells good!”

C’Len laughed at the cacophony, and tossed the littlest ones into the air.

“Tadith smells good because he had a bath before we came, in honor of our first trip home.  I didn’t want Mother to scold us for being slovenly.”

“Mother wouldn’t scold a dragon!” said one of the children, but there was doubt in her voice.

“I expect your mother would scold anyone who deserved it,” said Errol, approaching the boisterous crowd with caution, his arms full of a squirming infant.  “How long can you stay, son?”

“I’ve leave to stay overnight,” C’Len made a face at the baby, who rewarded him with a two-toothed grin.  “And who is this charmer?” he asked.

“This,” said Jallica, embracing her son and then moving to take the baby from her husband, “Is Lorrel, born this past autumn.  She is very pleased to meet her dragonrider brother, I’m sure, but perhaps we should move inside out of the cold?”

Later that night, when the littles had worn themselves out with excitement, and their parents had retreated to their own bedroom, Caffera and C’Len sat together talking beneath the stars, their backs again Tadith for warmth.

“Mother has been adamant that I learn everything there is learn about running a Hold,” Caffera said in disgust.  “And the more I learn, the less I want anything resembling that level of authority.  All those people looking to you?  Ugh.  I’d much rather not be responsible for anything beyond myself.”

“You will be, tho’,” C’Len said.  “Queen riders have enormous amounts of responsibility within the weyr, especially the senior riders who become Weyrwomen.”

Caffera made a dismissive gesture with her hands.  “If I Impress.”

C’Len looked alarmed.  “Of course you’ll Impress!  You have to!”  Tadith gave a low rumble of support, and Caffera smiled.

“I appreciate your faith, both of you, but… I mean it’s a bit of a numbers game, isn’t it?  It’s not like if I was a boy, and there were lots of eggs to choose from.  I only get to stand if there’s a gold egg, and even then it’s me and what- six, ten? Anyway a bunch of other girls.”

C’Len shook his head adamantly.  “If Slioth thinks you’ll Impress, you’ll Impress.  The weyrling master says he’s never yet brought someone back from Search who didn’t, even if they had to stand on the stands twice.  And anyway I heard that girls are starting to Impress greens- not that I don’t think you’ll impress a gold, of course!” he added hastily.

“Hmm,” Caffera said, noncommittally.  Then, “So… what’s it like?”


“Impression?”  her voice was shy, slightly embarrassed, as if she wasn’t sure she should be asking something so intimate.

“It’s…” he trailed off.  “It’s like nothing I can easily explain.  Like you know how when you have a headache, and it feels so good when the pain is finally gone, and you realize that you didn’t even realize how much you were hurting until it stops?  It was like… like I didn’t realize that I wasn’t complete, until suddenly I was.  I didn’t realize there was a… a hole in my heart, until Tadith filled it, perfectly.  It sounds silly-”

“It sounds wonderful,” Caffera said, sincerely, trying to fight down her jealousy.  She wasn’t sure if she was more jealous of C’Len for having found such peace, or of Tadith for providing what she couldn’t.  C’Len reached out and squeezed her fingers.

“I still love you,” he whispered, and she realized he’d been feeling her emotions.

“I know,” she said, sadly.

And I love you, too, said Tadith.  But soon you will have a dragon of you own, and then you will be as whole and happy as C’Len is, and that will make him happier still.

Caffera gave a watery laugh.  “Let us hope so, Tadith. Think how embarrassing it would be for Slioth to be wrong.”


Dragonlove 04

Caffera was barely able to function the week that Errol left to join Callen at Igen Weyr.  Jallica, while sympathetic to her daughter’s anxiety, had little patience for her distraction.

“Life does not stop simply because something exciting is happening,” she said, dryly.  “If that were the case, life would be at a perpetual standstill, as there is always something exciting happening somewhere.”

“Not like this!” Caffera protested.  “I cannot possibly focus when I know that any minute now, Callen might be Impressing!”

“Caffera, if you truly do hope to become a dragonrider, you had best learn to focus on what’s in front of you, not what may or may not be happening far from here.  Thread doesn’t care if you’re missing distant friends or family- Thread requires immediate focus.  And so do these seedlings!” she tapped Caffera’s knuckles lightly with her trowel.  Caffera scowled, but did her best to refocus on the task at hand, even as Jallica continued her lecture on the unending needs of a keeping a Hold running smoothly.

That night, Caffera woke from a dead sleep.  “It’s happening!” she gasped, before she was even fully aware of her surroundings.  For a moment she thought she was surrounded by young boys, all of them wearing white and looking as sickly nervous as she felt- but then her head cleared and she realized she was at home, in the bed she shared with Ellica.  Ellica rolled over and muttered something in her sleep, but beyond that the Hold was quiet.

Caffera eased her way out of bed, grabbed a woven blanket from a chair, and padded her way, barefoot, to the window.  The two moons were low in the sky- dawn must not be far off.  She shivered and clutched the blanket more tightly around her shoulders.  She and Callen often shared dreams, strong emotions, and even thoughts- he had known when she’d fallen from the cliffs and broken her arm, and she had known when he’d gotten lost in the cave system.  Was it possible she would share the moment of Impression with him?

She took a deep breath, trying to quiet her mind and listen.  They’d never been so far apart before… was it even possible?  Caffera stood staring out at the lightening sky, waiting, feeling a sort of dreadful anticipation build in her stomach- but was it hers, or was it Callen’s?  Then, suddenly, a moment of such pure, unadulterated bliss she staggered against the windowpane- and then nothing.  The connection was gone.

No, not gone… dampened.  As if a door had been shut to her, and she had to press her ear against it to hear muffled what had once been clear.

Caffera shook her head at the thought.  Ridiculous!

But... she was certain Callen had, in fact, Impressed.  She grinned, hugging herself tightly in the silver pre-dawn, waiting for true morning- and the official news- to come.

It was not until the following day, however, that a green dragon appeared- the same that had collected Errol nine days prior- and deposited the Holder back into the bosom of his family.  The moment his feet touched the ground, he was mobbed by his children- all but Caffera, who hung back with Jallica.

“Don’t you want to hear the outcome?” her mother asked.  Caffera shook her head.

“I already know he Impressed,” she said.

“You mean you hope,” Jallica corrected.  Caffera set her mouth in a straight line, but said nothing.  Three seconds later, the younger children came stampeding by, shrieking, “A brown!  A brown!  Our brother rides a brown!”

“A brown,” Jallica breathed, almost to herself.  “How wonderful!”

“A bronze would have been better,” Caffera muttered, disappointed that her twin had not lived up to her dreams for him.

Jallica’s hand was swift, and the force of it against her daughter’s cheek stunned the girl into shocked silence.

“You will not belittle his triumph!” Jallica said.  “All dragons deserve your respect, from the legendary Ramoth down to the most obscure green!  They all fight to keep us safe in our Holds, and brown dragons are every bit as susceptible to death by Thread as bronze!  As are their riders!” and she burst into tears.

“I… I…” Caffera held her hand to her stinging face, unable to articulate a single thought, let alone any words.  She had never seen her mother cry, not even when she’d birthed a babe far too early for it to live.  Just then, Errol came striding up, arms held wide for an embrace from  his wife.

“Callen will ride brown Tadith!” he crowed, wrapping his arms about them both.  “Or, I guess I should say C’Len now!  Here now, woman, what are these tears for?  This is a joyful occasion!”

“Of course it is,” Jallica said, wiping her eyes.  “I merely got dust in my eye when the rider took off again.  I’m wonderfully happy for Cal- for C’Len.”

“And you, Caffera?”  Her father turned to her and gave her an extra squeeze.  “I know you miss him, but how does it feel to be able to claim a brown rider for a twin?”

“I couldn’t be prouder,” Caffera whispered, mouth dry, but in truth was she was suddenly terrified.  Why had it never occurred to her that there was more to being a dragonrider than just flying?  That riders- and now her brother was among them- courted death at every Fall?

“He’ll be the best,” she said in a louder voice, determined to will belief into truth.  “The best there ever was. You’ll see!  He and Tadith won’t let a single piece of Thread get past them.  Not ever.”


Dragonlove 03

P’Tull left shortly thereafter, promising that another rider- “A green, probably,” would be by to collect Callen in another week or so, should he decide to accept.  His parents would be sent for at a later date, closer to the actual hatching.

That night, Caffera could tell something significant had happened- something to do with her and Callen- but neither Jallica nor Errol said anything out of the ordinary during supper.  It wasn’t until the plates were being cleared that Jallica summoned the two of them to follow her and Errol to their private sitting room.

“Do you remember your teaching ballads, children?” Jallica said.  They nodded solemnly- the teaching ballads were almost impossible not to remember.  That was the point.  “And you remember why the dragonriders go on Search?”

“To find more dragonriders,” Callen said promptly.

“How do they know who would make a good dragonrider?” Caffera asked.  She, like most children, had grown up playing at dragonrider, fighting imaginary Thread, but she had never really considered the fact that dragonriders had once been children, themselves.

“According to P’Tull,” Errol said, smiling, “They don’t.  It’s the dragons who can tell.”

Callen sucked in a breath at this, and Caffera suddenly realized that perhaps he had considered it.

“I heard him,” Callen whispered.  “I heard Slioth.  Does that mean…”

“I heard him too!” Caffera yelled, jumping to her feet in excitement.  She immediately regained her seat at a stern glance from Jallica.

“It means you have been Searched,” Jallica said, looking directly at her son, “because you might- you might- be acceptable to a hatchling.  But you don’t have to go-”

“Of course we want to go!” Caffera said, unable to contain herself.  She grabbed her twin’s hands in her own..  “Of course we do, Cally!”

“Well, you see Caffera, that’s the thing…” Errol trailed off, not certain how to continue.  Jallica gave his arm a pat.

“You can’t go, Caffera.  You’re too young.”

Caffera felt as though the room had dropped out from beneath her.

“But… but we’re twins!” she cried, indignant.  “We’re the same age!  You can’t let him go and keep me home, it’s not fair!

“It’s not our decision,” Jallica said sharply.  “The weyrs don’t take girls as young as you.  Boys may stand on the sands as young as ten, but girls may not try until they’re at least fifteen.”

“That’s ridiculous!”

“No, it isn’t,” her mother’s voice was more gentle now, but no more yielding.  “You have never been caught up in a dragon’s mating-flight.  My grandmother was, and she made sure her daughters, and her daughters’ daughters, knew what was involved.  It’s bad enough for those who aren’t bonded with a dragon.  They say that those who are, lose all sense of self when their dragons rise to mate.  That is not an experience for a child.”

“But Callen-”

“The males don’t rise the way the females do.  All the weyrs need do is keep the young males from the vicinity of a rising female, and they’ll be fine.  But nothing will prevent a sexually mature queen from rising.”

“But… but…”  Caffera had released Callen’s hands and buried her fingers in her hair, trying to think of a way around it.  She’d seen what happened to the female herd- and runnerbeasts when they were in heat, how little choice they had in the matter.

“There is no but,” Jallica said firmly.  “It is not our decision, and not yours.  What we are here to decide is whether or not Callen chooses to go.  You are here as a courtesy, and because P’Tull feels strongly that, once you are of age, you should go.”

“But that’s three years away!” she wailed, balling her hands into fists.

“Three years isn’t so long, Caffera,” Errol said, his eyes sympathetic.

Caffera’s eyes burned, and she turned her face to the ceiling, determined not to cry.  Her nails were biting into her palms so hard she knew there would be marks come morning.

“I… I won’t go,” Callen said suddenly.  His voice was hoarse, quiet, as though he was speaking around something in his throat.  “I’ll just… I’ll wait until you can go, too, Caffy.  Like father says, three years… it’s not so long...” he trailed off into a whisper, and Caffera whipped her eyes down to meet his.

“What?” she demanded,shocked out of her agony.  “Don’t be ridiculous!  You will so go!  Callen you will so go, and you will Impress a bronze and be better than any of the others!”

“I’d rather be with you than, than a dragon,” he said, bright hazel eyes sincere.

“I could never live with myself if you didn’t go!” she said.  “What if this is the only hatching while we’re of age?”

“Now Caffera,” Errol said, soothingly, “it’s not like before- there are plenty of queens now, and it’s very likely there will be not just one, but many Searches before you grow too old.”

“You don’t know that,” Caffera shot back.  “Something terrible could happen and… and I just won’t let you miss your chance, Callen.  I won’t!  I can wait three years- you just have to promise you’ll come home and see me sometimes, and let me be friends with your dragon!”

“I might not even Impress-” Callen began, but Caffera waived him off.

“Of course you will!  A bronze, too!  The best!” his sister insisted.  She wiped fiercely at the corners of her eyes, then took his hands in hers again.

“He doesn’t have to be a bronze,” Callen smiled, and gave her hands a little squeeze.  “I’d be happy with any dragon, really.”

“That’s because you don’t know what’s best for you,” she gave a watery laugh.  “But I do.”


Dragonlove 02

“Children!  Back to your chores, the lot of you!”  Their mother’s voice cracked out like a whip- and the dragon-addled brood jumped accordingly.  There was something about Jallica’s bearing that brooked no nonsense, from the most rebellious child right on up to the most slothful adult.  It was a useful quality for a Hold’s head-woman to have, however small that Hold might be, and Underhill prospered well beneath her benevolent dictatorship.  Her husband, Errol, was thus free to turn his attention to what he cared most about- the breeding and keeping of ever-finer herdbeasts.

Jallica watched, pleased, as her offspring scattered- except for Caffera, who promptly unhooked the pouches from her belt and held them towards her mother.

“I got everything you asked for,” she said.  Jallica eyed the girl speculatively, but didn’t bother opening any of the bags.  Caffera would not have come down from the cliffs she loved unless her job was finished, dragon or no dragon.

“Good girl,” she nodded.  “Now take them to Journeywoman Vikka, and see that you help her with the preparations.”  Caffera made a face and puffed a strand of ash-blond hair out of her eyes, but did as she was told.  That was the good thing about Jallica’s second-eldest daughter: she might prefer to spend her days climbing and exploring, but if you could catch her before she disappeared for the day, she could always be relied upon to do what was best for the Hold, with minimal complaining.

Younglings attended to, Jallica turned her attention back to Errol and P’Tull.

“Shall we continue this conversation inside, over a few mugs of ale, fine sirs?”  Her eyes flicked ever-so-briefly to the left, where one of the children had returned to sweeping in a decided distracted manner.  “Some conversations are best held without tiny shadows hovering about.”

P’Tull seemed to consider the offer.  “I could certainly use a drink,” he stretched his back out, “And we have been on Search since early this morning-”

Jallica nodded briskly.  “I thought as much.  Come, come, both of you.  Let us give Slioth and his Rider a bit of a rest before they move to the next Hold.”

Once the trio was settled with drinks and a platter of cold meats and cheeses, Jallica cut right to the chase.

“You’ll understand, of course, that we can release neither Jerrol nor Ellica to the Weyrs,” she said, indicating the eldest.  “Jerrol is to take Errol’s place as Holder, and Ellica is already bride-promised to a neighboring Hold.”

P’Toll blinked at this forthrightness, but Errol just laughed.

“Don’t look so surprised, Rider.  My wife’s grandmother was weyrbred.  She knows how these things work.  Or how they’re supposed to, at any rate.  We are of course honored to send any of our other children you think might have merit-”

“Not me,” P’Tull said, “Slioth.  I’m just along for the ale.”  He grinned at his hosts and took another pull.  “And it wasn’t your elder children that caught his attention so much as the twins.”

“Caffera and Callen?”

“Indeed.  He feels both of them show great promise, but… we can always wait, if they cannot bear to be separated.  I’ve heard twins can’t, sometimes.”

“Separated?  Why should they be separated?” Errol asked, confused.  “Double the candidates is double the honor, isn’t it?  We won’t limit you to just one of our own, if your Slioth finds them worthy.”  His face cleared as he corrected himself, “Ah, there’s no queen egg, I take it?”

“Oh, there is very much a queen egg,” P’Tull said gruffly.  “That’s not the problem.  The problem-”

“Is their ages,” Jallica cut in.  “Specifically Caffera’s age, am I correct?”

P’Tull nodded.  “You understand, I see.  Twelve is a fine age for a boy to stand on the sands- they have plenty of time to grow and learn our ways after their dragons have matured.  But the girls…” he trailed off, then shook his head.  “If Slioth was less sure of her, I’d say bring her along… but Slioth is so certain she’ll impress that in fact I’m afraid I have to recommend she not even come to the hatching.  Not this hatching, at any rate.  Perhaps in another two years.”

“I still don’t,” Errol began, confusion clouding his face once more, but Jallica laid a restraining hand on him, and he fell silent.  He trusted his wife to explain in her own time.

“We will leave the choice to them, I think,” she said.  “They would know better than we whether or not they can stand to be separated.  But,” she added with a wry smile, “I doubt that Caffera would let Callen miss this opportunity, no matter how disappointed she may be on her own behalf.”


Dragonlove 01

I mentioned a while back that my mom and I were indulging in a re-read of the Pern series (at least all the ones written solely by Anne McCaffrey), paying specific attention to craft.

There are many things we've discussed as we've made our way through the sixteen books, but one thing has come up time and again: however good she may have been at other things, McCaffrey was, shall we say, substandard at writing romance and- especially at writing sex.  It's just so awkward and unbelieveable and a lot of it is, frankly, pretty rape-y.

Of course, it's important to understand the context in which she was writing, and what era she herself was of.  She wrote the first books in the 70s, when a Romance Novel Hero wasn't considered virile if he didn't force the heroine- because of course the heroine couldn't ask for sex, because Nice Girls Don't Do That.  She was maybe allowed to enjoy it, once it was happening to her, but only after an appropriate amount of, "No, no, my purity!"

You can see, as McCaffrey's career went on, where she did attempt to make things better- both in romance and sex- but honestly I never could quite shake the feeling that those were topics she wrote on more because she was expected to than because she had any real desire (hah!) to do so.


During the last conversation I had with my mom (discussing some exceptionally rape-y BS) I mentioned that I ought to write some Pern fanfiction in which people have reasonable attitudes towards sex- none of that virgin/whore dichotomy.  And then last night, as I was falling-asleep-whist-nursing-my-child-in-the-middle-of-the-night, I began to mentally plot.  And I liked my plotting enough that this even I sat down and started fleshing-out.



Caffera was about four man-heights up the cliff-face above her family’s hold when the dragon appeared, his shining hide like a patch of brilliant summer sky against the softer blue of early spring.  The girl paused, one sun-browned hand wrapped around the herbs she was gathering for her mother, the other resting lightly but securely on a small outcropping, and watched him circle his descent.

For a brief moment she and the dragon were on the same eye-level, less than a dragon’s-length between them, and Caffera was delighted when the rider waved at her.  She grinned back, but didn’t relinquish her hold on either rock or herb until the duo were safely landed.  Then she secured the plant in one of the bags hanging from her belt, and began her own descent, eager to find out what had brought so important a person as a dragonrider to their corner of Pern.

Caffera jumped down the final five feet, a habit that always earned her a scolding when she was caught at it, but she had no fear that anyone would be spying on her now- not when there was a dragon to gawk at.  Her four younger siblings would even now be swarming the courtyard, and she expected that only a heightened awareness of their own dignity would be keeping her two elder siblings from doing the same.  But her twin, Callen- he might be trying to decide whether or not twelve was too old to be awed by dragons.  She would give him the courage to be young and excitable, still.  He was always so serious and eager-to-please, unlike Caffera.  She supposed it was because technically he was older than her, if only by an hour.

As she expected, Caffera found Callen not in the polite line their older siblings had formed just behind their parents, nor in the cluster of younger children getting as close to the dragon as they dared, but caught somewhere between the two, a look of agonized indecision on his face.  Caffera grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the dragon.

“C’mon Callen!  Dragonriders are just men, and we can talk to men anytime.  But that is a real actual dragon right there!”

Callen, looking scandalized that his twin had referred to a dragonrider as “just” anything, let himself be towed right up to the front of the other children.

“Hello blue dragon, sir!  Remember me?  I was on the cliff!” said Caffera.  The blue turned his head towards them, and the beautiful green-blue of his eyes began to swirl faster.

Hello, children, the voice was a musical tenor, floating lightly across the top of her thoughts, and Caffera gave a gasp of excitement.

“Callen!  He talked to us, Callen!”  Her twin looked like he might faint.

“He… I can hear him,” Callen whispered, and Caffera laughed.  The other children took a step back in awe.

“I’m Caffera, and this is my brother Callen!  What’s your name?”

But it wasn’t the dragon who answered.

“That’s Slioth,” said the dragonrider, who had come up behind them.  His voice sounded quite like the dragon’s, only without the inside quality.  Callen turned to face the man, nudging Caffera to do the same.

“Nice to meet you, Slioth,” she said, then reluctantly turned towards the rider.

“I’m P’Tull,” the man said, grinning, “And I can’t say that I blame you for preferring Slioth’s lovely hide to my own.”  It was then Caffera realized that the right side of P’Tull’s face was twisted by a tangle of scars.

“Oh!” she said, before she could help herself.  P’Tull gave her an understanding look and touched the silvery flesh briefly.

“Threadscore.  It doesn’t hurt anymore, not since my brave lad got me out of harm’s way so quickly.”  He turned his gaze to Slioth, his expression softening much the way Caffera’s mother’s did when she gazed at her husband.  Caffera felt vaguely embarrassed to be witnessing it.

Suddenly P’Tull snapped his eyes back to the twins, eyebrows raised.

“How old are you two?”

“We’re twelve,” Callen said, getting a bit of his bearings back.

“Huh,” P’Tull looked a bit disappointed, so Caffera drew herself up as tall as she could and added,

“We’ll be thirteen in nine months!”

“Don’t rush it, my friends,” P’Tull laughed.  “You’ll be staring down your fifth decade soon enough.”