If time stood still in the moment that Caffera and Anith Impressed, it sped back up again the moment that Caffera realized how hungry Anith was. It wasn’t just that Anith told her, piteously, that her stomach hurt- it was that Caffera could feel it, in much the same way she had once been able to feel C’Len’s strongest emotions. Fortunately she was soon provided with a huge bowl of raw meat to stuff down her ravenous dragonet’s maw.
“Not too fast now, Caffera- she may think she can eat it that quickly, but honest she can’t,” said C’Len, who had somehow appeared by her elbow, grinning like a fool. “She’ll choke herself, the silly thing. They all try to in these first few hours.”
“Do you hear that, my beautiful one? You must slow down.”
But I’m hungry, Anith said plaintively, and the sincerity of her voice made tears prick Caffera’s eyes.
“I know, love. But slow and steady, we’ll fill your stomach without doing any harm to you. I promise I won’t ever let any harm come to you.”
Nor I you, said Anith, looking up at Caffera with eyes of deepest indigo. I love you.
“And I love you,” said Caffera, and kissed the dragonet between the tiny nubs on her skull.
Thus began a time in Caffera’s life that was a strange combination of absolutely exhausting and soul-restoringly peaceful. Tending to the needs of a rapidly-growing dragon took up all of her time and energy, but she’d never been so whole-heartedly happy to devote all of herself to another being. Everything about Anith was delightful to Caffera: the suede-like softness of her hide, shimmering from yellow-green to green-blue as Caffera oiled her; the way the sun lit the thin membranes of her wing sails, glowing and fluttering like leaves in a summer breeze; the sinuous arc of her neck and the dextrous curve of her claws; her perfectly spaced neck ridges and her elegantly proportioned head; the warm and ever-present comfort of her voice in Caffera’s head. How anyone thought golds were lovelier was beyond Caffera- her dragon was quick and lithe and delicate, making the larger dragons look downright ponderous in comparison.
Greens, being smaller, reached their adult size more rapidly than any of the other colors, and before eighteen months had passed Caffera and Anith were given leave to begin flying lessons. Caffera had once thought that nothing could be better than being alone on a cliffside, looking out across the great plains of Keroon. But then she learned what it was to see all of Pern spreading out beneath her and her dragon, hanging in the skies like a lost star, and she knew that never again would she be content with mere climbing.
The first time the two of them flew Thread was the last time Caffera used the name her parents had given her. By the end of the day her name had been slurred so many different ways that she eventually put her foot down and claimed “C’Fra” as her own, if only to get some consistency to what people were yelling at her.
I like it, said Anith as they curled up in their wery that night. It is much less silly than insisting people enunciate a long name. This last opinion was given with a little mental sniff that told C’Fra exactly what her dragon thought of queens and their self-importance. C’Fra couldn’t help but grin.
No one would ever accuse us of standing on ceremony, my pet, she said, and reached out to massage the ridges over her dragon’s glowing eyes.
It was true. By and large C’Fra had a favorable reputation throughout the weyr, as a team willing to take on less desirable- but necessary- jobs, just to make sure they didn’t get left undone.
“It has to be someone,” she’d say with a shrug. “May as well be someone who will do it right the first time.” That being said, she wasn’t universally loved, either. She’d gotten into a few wrestling matches with boys who thought that her being a mere green rider gave them some sort of authority over her. C’Fra would never be as tall as her twin, but she was strong from years of wrangling herdbeasts and climbing rocks, and those boys soon learned that just because she was willing to work didn’t mean she was at all submissive. They’d clung to their resentment, but C’Fra hoped that after today they would soon begin to see her as just another rider.
Who cares what they think? Anith said, eyes showing a tendril of yellow annoyance. None of their dragons are so quick and clever as I am.
That’s not fair, Anith, C’Fra teased. None of the other dragons are so quick and clever as you!
Yes, well, Anith’s voice was exceptionally pleased, and her eyes had returned to a nice mellow blue-green. You are very kind to say so, but surely there must be one or two of the more mature dragons that can at least match me.
C’Fra laughed and gave the green neck an affectionate slap. But the idea gave her pause. Who, of the dragons in Igen Weyr, could match Anith, when it came to a mating flight? Who would she want to match Anith? No one sprang immediately to mind, and C’Fra realized she had best make the decision before it was made for her- after all, Anith was certainly old enough to rise.
C’Fra had kissed a few of the other weyrlings over the past two years, but felt no special attachment for any of them. Perhaps she should turn her eyes to some of the older riders? But she didn’t know them well enough to speculate on who might be to her tastes. Some of them were handsome enough, certainly, but she had enough Holder in her still to want someone whom she enjoyed for more than just looks.
You could always ask C’Len who he thinks might suit, said Anith carelessly. He and Tadith have been flying with the others for much longer, after all.
Don’t you have an opinion of your own? C’Fra asked, amused.
They are not interesting to me in that way yet, her dragon gave the equivalent of a shrug, and C’Fra felt relieved that apparently she had at least a little time to assess the playing field.