Fanath held point with his rider Chris. Behind him to his left and right hovered two bronzes and behind them were Turith and Hogarth.
Justin half turned on his dragon’s neck and strained to see his lover who was much further down the wing. All he could see was a flash of green hide reflecting in the sun.
”Turith is Josh alright? I can’t see him from here.”
”Edith says Joshua is very nervous.”
The brown rider squinted against the sunlight. Josh may be nervous but he was worried. The green rider had only fought thread once before and was usually used as a messenger as he and Edith had an uncanny knack of always being on time. The only reason he was fighting today was because K’pell’s blue had been threadscored in the last battle and was still out of action.
A cry went up and Justin whipped his head back to the front. There in the distance was the silvery grey leading edge of the threadfall.
At the moment it was still falling harmlessly into the sea, where it drowned and was consumed by the ample marine life, but soon it would reach land and if one thread reached the lush fertile soil the whole area would become barren.
Chris held up his right arm in silent signal and his dragon, Fanath, bellowed his warning. Amongst the ranks each rider held up his arm to signal his readiness and his dragon roared in agreement. Suddenly they were fighting, winking in and out between the falling thread. Turith flamed and the charred parasite turned to dust but there was more to take its place. The black of between enveloped Justin just as a sudden wind whipped a large clump towards him.
“That was close,” he muttered nervously.
“Your mind is elsewhere,” Turith observed. “You think of Joshua. Edith says that Joshua fights well. They sear much thread.”
Justin felt his chest puff up with pride but couldn’t help but shuddered at the thought of his beautiful green rider fighting thread. What if he was to be threadscore or worse killed?
“Edith is with him,” Turith stated as if that should be enough to keep the green rider safe but Justin knew that riders and dragon’s were injured all the time and the mere thought of seeing Joshua's beautiful face blackened and burned made Justin want to cry.
A flash of blue crossed before him as Lance chased a lump of thread that had been missed downwards. Hogarth belched out a stream of flame and charred the dreadful tangle from the sky. He raised his hand in salute then blinked between only to reappear a few seconds later to chase another wayward clump.
The fight lasted for six hours and only when the last thread had fallen did the exhausted dragonriders return to the Weyr.
Turith deposited Justin on the shelf that led to his and Josh’s Weyr then flew up to his favourite spot to await the return of his emerald mate. The brown rider stripped off his ash covered clothes and dropped them in a pile for the Weyr's head woman to collect and wash. Walking naked he pulled back the drape that separated the bathing area from the main room and stepped into the hot water pool. He had been relaxing for about five minutes when Turith bespoke him.
On cue Josh strutted into the Weyr and tossed his riding jacket over the top of a chair. Barely pausing he tore the rest of his clothes off and plunged into the pool. He resurfaced and wiped the water from his eyes before gliding over to his lover. Josh grabbed the back of Justin's head and crushed his lips against his.
Justin groaned and allowed the thinner man to dominate him for a while before switching tactics and taking the control back for himself.
“You are insatiable,” he breathed as soon as he caught his breath once more. “You truly share the amorous appetite of your dragon.”
“Are you complaining?” Josh asked seductively as he nibbled at Justin's right ear.
“Never,” Justin assured him. “Only a fool would complain of this treatment.” The brown rider moaned throatily as Josh licked at his Adam’s apple and then licked up his throat till he reached his bottom lip. Josh nibbled at the soft flesh before sinking into another passion filled kiss.
Aroused beyond belief Justin grasped his lover around the waist and hoisted him up, encouraging him to wrap his legs around him. Effortlessly Justin slipped inside him and they made love there in the pool.
Josh’s arms were around Justin's neck and his face was buried against his shoulder as he was supported under his ass by the brown rider’s big hands and lifted up and down.
With a muted cry the green rider came hard and smothered his lover’s face with licks and kisses while Justin carried on pumping into him. The brown rider grunted and climaxed and the two clung to each other as if their lives depended on it.
Eventually Justin had to let Josh down and he reached over to the dish of sandsoap that was on the edge of the pool and took an ample handful. Wetting it, he moved behind his lover and started to wash his hair.
Josh sighed with contentment as Justin's strong fingers worked the sandsoap into lather and massaged his head. Trustingly Josh lay back in the water, letting Justin support him when the brown rider tilted him backward so he could rinse the suds from his brunette curls. As soon as Josh’s hair was clean Justin set him back on his feet and reached over for more sandsoap. This time he painstakingly washed Josh’s body, letting his hands move over every inch of flesh till the green rider was clean.
Josh rinsed off then taking Justin's hand he led him to the shallower part of the pool and sat down pulling Justin down between his legs. Justin leaned back in his arms as the green rider repaid the favour that had been paid to him. He scooped up a small amount of sandsoap and began to work the gritty substance into Justin's scalp. The brown rider exhaled, totally relaxed and let his lover wash him.
When he too was washed and rinsed the two riders waded out of the pool and stood drying each other tenderly; taking their time and exploring every inch of each other as they completed their task. Justin cupped Josh’s face in his hands and drew him in for a long lingering kiss, their tongues joining together in a strange erotic dance.
With a deep reluctant sigh the two broke apart and crawled beneath their sleeping furs and curled up together. Neither man spoke; their actions had said all that could be said. They just lay together, entwined until exhausted sleep took them away.
“Hogarth did Edith return unscathed?”
The blue dragon rumbled his reply. ”Joshua sleeps as does the green dragon.”
Lance grunted. “I didn’t ask about Josh, I asked about Edith.”
”But you meant Joshua. He is a competent fighter there is no reason to fret about him.”
The blue rider slammed across his Weyr, kicking a footstool out of his way. “You assume too much my precious. I have no interest in the antics of a sluttish green rider.” Lance bit his lip knowing that what he had just spurted at his dragon was not true. There was nothing sluttish about the lovely green rider. He had been a virgin when Edith had taken to the skies in her mating dance and now as tradition dictated her rider was the lover of her dragonmate’s rider, and he was envious. He had spent nearly a year grooming Josh to be his lover and at the last second Edith had made the fatal mistake that saw her wings getting tangled with those of Turith’s and the mighty brown mated her instead of his own precious Hogarth.
The Weyrleader approaches.”
Lance sighed. He really wasn’t in the mood for his brother’s quirky sense of humour right now but he couldn’t avoid him this time, after all he had managed to do so since Edith’s flight. Instead he poured two large goblets of Benden red and sat down to wait.
Chris brushed back the curtain and eyed the wine suspiciously. “Expecting someone?” he asked.
Lance picked up one of the goblets and held it out to him. “I just didn’t want to hear what you have to say sober.”
Chris chuckled and sipped at the blood red fluid as he dropped down on a low couch. He raised an eyebrow in appreciation. “Benden wine; and how does a mere blue rider get his hands on Pern’s finest?”
Lance tapped the side of his nose. “Wouldn’t you like to know Weyrleader?”
Chris sighed and put the glass onto the floor by his feet. “I’m not just your Weyrleader Lance, I’m your brother first and I know that you are disappointed that Hogarth didn’t fly Edith.”
Lance shook his head. “What’s done is done and it’s not like Edith won’t rise again, this time I will be more prepared.”
”And set brother against brother over a green?” Chris stood up and crossed the room to where Lance stood fuming.
“They are in love Lance.”
The words cut the blue rider like a knife because in his heart of hearts he knew that it was the truth.
“I wanted him so much Chris. I still do.”
“I know.” Chris placed a comforting hand on his brother’s arm. “That is why I spoke to Joey at Telgar. He asked if I could spare a wingman, one that he could trust during threadfall; I suggested you.”
”You are banishing me from South Weyr?”
”Not banishing, relocating. Joey really needs you Lance. I’d send Justin but I couldn’t do that to him and Josh and I can’t send Josh with him. Edith is always on time for everything, I need them. Joey has half a wing of greens at his Weyr, their riders all young lovelies and very willing. He also has a short supply of dragon riders that are attracted to other men. Dragons need a choice Lance.”
“When do you want me to go?”
Chris broke into a smile. “I knew I could count on you. Joey tells me that he has your Weyr ready and wants you today.”
“Today! Why so quick?”
“Apparently Judith is about ready to rise and he wants Hogarth there to fly her.”
Lance grunted and reached out to his dragon.
”I would like to fly Judith. She is a fine dragon. Her rider will take your mind off of Joshua.”
Lance sighed and nodded to his brother. “I’ll pack and go today.”
Chris smiled. “You know it makes sense.”
Lance had to agree. He packed his belongings in silence and left without making a fuss. It was only when Hogarth blinked between that he realised that his dragon had called Josh by name.
“Tell me again why we are going to South Hold,” Josh shouted at his lover. The brown dragon rider was flying as close as he dared to the agile green on which his lover sat.
”Lillith has laid a golden egg and with Lance and Hogarth relocated at Telgar Weyr there is no one to do a search so the dubious task falls to us.”
Josh went quiet and Justin looked over at him curiously, not understanding the inner turmoil he was feeling.
“You are a dragonrider Josh. They cannot hurt you anymore. You are my rider and I will protect you.”
Edith was right on target, Josh was scared. The mere thought of stepping foot in South Hold was chilling him to the bone. The last time he was there he had been little more than a slave, a drudge that worked from dawn to dusk with no rest or thanks. Justin had Turith give Edith the visualisation that would take them to South Hold and the two dragonriders jumped between and re-emerged above the hold’s courtyard.
Justin waved at Josh to descend and the green rider reluctantly instructed his dragon to land. He dismounted with the flourish he had developed since becoming a rider and pulled off his gloves and thrust them into his belt.
“I fly to the dragon heights Joshua. If you need me I will return.” Edith crouched deeply and then sprang into the air, her emerald winds beating lazily as she ascended to the rocky ledge that was a favourite resting place with all the dragons.
Justin came up behind his lover and touched him tenderly on his shoulder. “We have a task to complete my love. The queen egg must have a choice of girls so we have to search all the holds.”
Josh unbuttoned his riding jacket and revealed his well muscled chest. It was taking all his strength and courage to keep from running. The hair on the back of his neck prickled and stood on end and he turned to face the unknown danger he was sensing. The Lord holder and his son, Derrick, came striding out of the main house, faces like thunder.
”What do dragon men want of us now?” the Lord demanded. “We have paid our tithe to the Weyr as expected. We can spare no more.”
”No more is required my Lord. We don’t come in search of more grain we search for candidates for the queen egg that lays in South Weyr’s hatching grounds,” Justin assured him.
”Typical,” Derrick snapped. “Again the Weyr demands the best that the hold has to offer and we are expected to just bow down and accept it.”
Justin raised himself to full height and regarded Brannagan’s oldest son. Josh had told him all about the heir to South Hold. How the sadistic teen had made his life a misery for as many years as he could remember.
”Lord Derrick,” Justin sneered. “I assure you that you are perfectly safe from the clutches of the Weyr as you say we only take the best. As I remember the last candidate from South Hold impressed a green and is now a much valued dragonrider. I concede to you, we do take the best.”
”The drudge became a dragonrider!” Derrick exclaimed. “How can a drudge impress a dragon?”
Justin snorted back s laugh. Non Weyr folk really had no idea what made a dragon tick. A dragon didn’t differentiate between classes or even sexes. A dragon saw only what was presented to him or her; they saw the soul of their life partners and were rarely wrong.
”Do you insinuate that a dragon made a mistake?” Justin demanded. Josh stood back and to the side of Justin, his hand slipping down to the hilt of his dagger in anticipation of trouble. He realised his lover was trying to provoke the holder’s son and was unsure why.
”He hates the man,” Edith announced. “He remembers the pain that he caused you and wants to revenge you. Turith is agitated too.”
Josh stepped forward and put himself between the two men. “The search is more important than this pettiness. My Lord Holder if we may be allowed to mingle with the ladies of your hold? It would be a great honour for you to have your own daughter a queen rider.”
Brannagan squinted at the young rider. “Do I know you?” he asked
Josh’s mouth went dry and Edith bellowed from the dragon heights. “No sir,” he lied. “I am Joshua, rider of Edith.”
The Lord holder didn’t look convinced but let the subject drop. “Welcome Joshua rider of Edith, my hold is your hold.”
Derrick scowled at his father, his hawk like features darkening as he scrutinised the green rider. The leather clad man was very familiar to him too and he was sure he didn’t want the attractive young man and his companion in the hold today. Today was the day when his bride to be was arriving from Ruatha hold and he didn’t intend for her to be enchanted by dragonriders.
”We will be as unobtrusive as we can,” Justin promised as the quartet walked towards the hold’s massive wooden doors. “Can you arrange for sleeping quarters for my friend and me?”
”We are limited for space,” Derrick snapped. “You will have to share a small room at the rear of the hold.”
”A small room will be more than adequate thank you,” Justin said calmly.
“Well you did say that a small room would be adequate Justin,” Joshua said trying not to laugh as Justin looked around their accommodation in despair.
“Small is one thing, practically a broom cupboard this is and dirty. Has the Lady of the hold never heard of clean sheets?”
“They don’t want us here Justin so there is no way they will make us feel comfortable or welcome. Just be thankful that they didn’t put us in the cellar with the drudges.”
Edith bellowed her protest at Joshua's words and was joined by Turith. “They would not dare to put a dragonrider in the cellar.” She protested in Joshua's mind. “I would not allow it. I would burn the hold to the ground to rescue you.”
The green rider sniggered. “Don’t worry dear heart,” he replied.” Brannagan is smarter than that.”
Justin pulled back the blanket and coughed from the resulting dust. He screwed up his face and grimaced at the sight of bedbugs’ skuttering away and even Joshua cringed.
The green rider kicked around on the musky carpet and sighed. “The floor is even worse than the bed,” he sighed. “I would prefer to sleep on the dragon heights with Edith at least there we will be warmly curled up against her hide.”
“This is an insult to South Weyr and the search,” Justin stormed and he marched out of the room accompanied by an angry bellow from Turith.
Joshua looked around the room once more and stomped on a bug that was crawling way too close for his comfort and then raced after his lover.
When he finally found him he had the Lord and the Lady of the hold pinned against an outside wall with Turith pacing up and down behind him bellowing warnings to anyone who dared to interfere.
“You insult the search,” Justin yelled.
“No,” the Lady whined and Justin gave her a withering look that made her snap her mouth shut.
“You insult the Weyr,” Justin continued.
This time it was the Lord holder that tried to protest until Justin took him by his collar and hissed in his face.
“That room is not fit for dogs never lone dragonriders and my Lady if the Weyr's headwoman was to let a room get into that state she would find herself drudging for the rest of her life.” Justin raised himself up straight. “My Lord holder you will provide my friend and I with suitable accommodation immediately or South hold will be left unprotected in the next threadfall.”
”But … but you can’t do that,” Brannagan protested at the threat. “Dragons must fly when threads are in the sky.”
“The dragons fly when their riders tell them to,” Justin whispered in the old Lord’s ear as if he was telling him a big secret. “Now do we get a clean room or no?”
“Yes, yes,” Brannagan stammered. “If you would like to wait in the main hall I will have a room readied immediately for you both.”
Justin smiled sinisterly. “You have my many thanks and the thanks of my friend also my Lord.” He twisted the words ‘my Lord’ with sarcasm and gave a mocking bow. He paused and Joshua recognised the look on his face as the one that settled there when he was bespeaking his dragon and sure enough Turith suddenly leaped up and spread his wings taking flight and soaring to where his mate sat waiting patiently for his return.
Justin gave the green rider a triumphant grin as he strutted up to him and guided him back into the hold. The two riders sat at the large dining table and waited. Before long they had been served wine and hot stew.
“See,” Justin said. “All that was needed was a bit of persuasion.”
“Saying they will be left to face threadfall alone isn’t using persuasion that my dear it’s using threats.”
“Did you want to sleep in that room? “
Joshua cringed at the thought of the bloodsucking bugs that were crawling around in the bedding that had been provided for them. “No but …”
“Then my dearest Josh stop complaining about my methods.” Justin reached across the table and held his lover’s hand. “The only thing I want crawling up your ass tonight is me.”
“Ewww! You don’t think that those things would Ewww!” Joshua jumped up knocking his chair backwards and did a full body shudder. “Let’s go back to the Weyr, now. I don’t want to stay here any longer. What if all the rooms are infested?”
Justin laughed at the look on the greenrider’s face. “Did you forget that you used to live here?”
“No not at all. But when I was drudging here I did it properly and kept the beds clean.”
A young scruffy girl approached the two men and curtseyed. “Your room has been prepared sir.” Justin smiled at her and her little elfin face flushed red and she ducked her chin into her chest.
“Thank you sweetie, what is your name?” Justin asked kindly.
The girl blushed again. “Sally,” she replied. “Lord Brannagan is my father.”
Justin looked at his lover who nodded his conformation of what the child had just said. He stood aside and let the young girl walk ahead of them leading the way.
“How is it the daughter of the Lord holder is dressed as a drudge and acting as a servant?” Justin whispered to Joshua.
“Maybe he thinks our eyes won’t see beyond the rags,” Joshua answered. “She is his only daughter perhaps he intends to consolidate his assets by marrying her into a good family. It’s not unknown for such things to happen.”
“If that is the case why should she tell us who she is?”
Joshua looked at his lover with a raised eyebrow. “Maybe she is not as happy with the match as her father is?”
Sally stopped. “This is your room dragonriders. I hope it is more to your standards and I will make sure that the other room is fumigated as soon as possible.” The young girl opened the door and stood aside for the riders to enter. This room was much bigger than the first room and had a large window with shutters made of iron that had been thrown open to allow fresh air to circulate.
“I’m sorry you will have to share a bed,” Sally said apologetically as she drew back the sheets to show a beautifully clean surface.
Joshua and Justin looked at each other hiding their smiles. “Sharing a bed will not be a problem Sally.” Joshua said winking at his lover. “It is a beautiful room.”
The Lord holder’s daughter blushed. “Thank you, I like this room very much and decorated it myself.”
“This isn’t your room is it?” Justin asked concerned that they had displaced the young girl.
“It’s alright really. It is an honour to have dragonriders stay in my room. What is it like? You know to ride a dragon?”
Joshua smiled widely. “It is incredible. The intense feeling of freedom makes your heart soar.” Joshua paused thoughtfully. “Would you like to fly on my dragon Sally?”
The holder girl clapped her hands gleefully. “Oh yes please I would like that very much.”
“Well after I have rested I will ask Edith if she will take us for a little ride,” Joshua winked again at Justin.
The young girl skipped away excitedly leaving the two riders alone in the room. Justin wrapped his arms around Joshua’s waist and nuzzled his neck. “You made a friend there today,” he said as he placed a kiss just behind Joshua's right ear.
Josh made a small grunt and leaned back in Justin's arms, giving in to his lover’s tongue that was drawing patterns down his neck and sending shivers up his spine.
“So do you mind sharing a bed with me?” Justin asked seductively in his ear.
“Well I am a dragon rider; shouldn’t I have a bed of my own?” Joshua yelped and giggled as Justin heaved him onto the bed and dived on top of him pinning him to the mattress.
“Oh you think you are too good to share my bed do you green rider?”
“Maybe,” Joshua giggled. “Maybe Turith won’t fly Edith in her next mating flight; maybe one of the bronze dragons will fly her, someone like G’rath’s Yourth or C’drick’s Dourath.”
“Yourth and Dourath will never fly me they may be bronzes but they are old and too slow to catch me.”
Joshua’s face betrayed nothing as his dragon spoke to his mind.
“No one will ever fly Edith but Turith. You are mine Josh, I won’t share you.” Justin licked Joshua's lips softly with his tongue and the greenrider nipped at it, pretending he was going to bite it.
The brown rider chuckled. “Wanna play rough do you?” he started to tickle Joshua without mercy, making him dissolve into a quivering boneless mess.
“I surrender,” the green rider howled in fits of laughter. “I surrender, I surrender.”
Justin pressed down against him and licked his mouth possessively. “Who will fly Edith in her next flight?” he asked firmly.
“Turith,” Joshua replied softly. He lifted his head from the pillow so that he could reach the pale pink lips that were hovering just out of reach and groaned as Justin's tongue filled his mouth and his groin rubbed relentlessly against his own.
“It’s more than dragon lust I have for you Josh. You do know that don’t you? “Justin stroked Joshua's hair as he spoke and looked him deeply in the eye. “I know that Lance wanted you and I know that when Edith rises again so will every unattached dragon in the Weyr. I won’t let them have you Joshua, even if by some misfortune Turith doesn’t mate Edith the next time. I won’t allow the rider to have you.”
“Can we do that?” Joshua asked naively.
“Yes we can. I have seen a green rise where her rider preferred women to men, the Weyrleader brought in some willing girls and encircled the riders involved with them instead, while the green rider had his female lover at his side.”
Joshua ran his hand down Justin's back and slipped it up under his tunic, caressing his skin.
“Make love to me,” he breathed.
Justin never had to be asked twice.
The sun had started to set when there was a tap at the door. Josh rolled out of bed and wrapped a sheet around him, moving to the far side of the room leaving Justin in bed alone,
“Come,” he shouted.
The door opened and Sally’s tussled head poked inside. She looked curiously at the young rider sitting looking out of the window but if she had any question she never voiced it.
“Dinner will be served at the fifth bell dragon rider. Would you and the brown rider like to join the Lord holder and his Lady in the dinning room?”
“Thank you Sally, when Justin awakes I will inform him of your invitation. Will you be joining us?”
Sally blushed and smiled. “No dragonrider; my father doesn’t want me to become familiar with you.”
“And yet he sends you to wait upon us, why is that?”
“My father doesn’t know. He thinks that a drudge sees to you but I persuaded the housekeeper to allow me to see to your needs.” Sally sucked her bottom lip into her mouth as if she was thinking deeply and plucking up courage.
“Do you have any needs that need to be satisfied dragonrider?” she asked shyly.
A slow grin spread across Joshua's face as the young girl’s meaning registered.
“My needs are seen to sweet Sally thank you for asking.”
Sally cheeks flushed pink. “I’m sorry dragonrider I never meant to insult you.”
“Sally dear I am flattered that you would make such a generous offer to me but I already have a mate. If I was free I would be honoured to accept.”
Sally fluttered her eyelashes and flushed a deeper rosy hue. “Goodnight dragonrider,” she sighed.
“Joshua, my name is Joshua, rider of green Edith.”
Sally smiled. “Goodnight Joshua, rider of Edith” she said shyly.
Joshua crossed the room and closed the door behind the Lord holder’s young daughter and then returned to bed. He lay beside Justin who seemed to still be sleeping soundly and gently drew circles on his naked chest with his finger. He leaned down and trailed his tongue over his lover’s nipple wetting it and then blowing over it softly till it hardened. Smiling he tucked his head onto his lovers chest and kissed the hard pecs. “I love you,” he breathed.
Justin’s hand travelled over him and rubbed his hair. “I love you too Josh,” Justin said sleepily. He pulled Joshua closer to him and kissed his head.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” Josh said nuzzling into his lover.
“You didn’t. I heard Sally talking to you. Or should I say propositioning you? Should I be jealous my love?”
“The child is infatuated with the thought of bedding a dragonrider.” Joshua laughed softly.
“The child is not a child she is a young woman and one that is desperate to escape the hold and on the back of a dragon is a good way to leave.” Justin propped himself on to his elbow and trailed his fingers down Joshua's silky back.
“What does Turith think of her?” Joshua asked.
“That she is not right to be a candidate. He thinks that she is not strong enough to be a queen rider.”
Joshua sighed. “Edith told me the same,” he said sadly shaking his head. “She is convinced that none here are worthy and that we are wasting our time.”
“Turith said more or less the same. We are agreed then that we will leave in the morning,” Justin asked. Joshua nodded his head agreeing.
“What about Sally?” he asked. “Do we have to leave her here?”
Justin hugged his lover and kissed him gently on the side of his face. “If she asks to go with us we will take her but you are not to encourage her my love. Dragonriders do not complicate their lives with holder business.”
The forth bell sounded and Joshua sat up reluctantly. “The Lord holder expects us to attend dinner with him and his Lady.” He swung his long legs off the bed and stood up stretching. He paused, his head cocked to the side as he listened to the melodious voice of his beloved Edith as she spoke in his mind.
“Riders approach from the north,” he repeated. “Edith says there is a full caravan with flags and dancers.”
Justin bespoke Turith and jumped out of bed. “Get dressed, my love and dress finely. The Master Harper is with them and where the Master Harper goes Benden is sure to follow.”
“Benden, here? But I don’t have any fine clothes with me. I thought we were just on search. I never expected to meet anyone important.” Joshua spoke urgently to his dragon. “Edith is willing to take me back to South Weyr. Do you want me to retrieve your gather suit?”
Justin was emptying his small riding bag frantically looking for something to wear. “Would you?”
“Of course, I will be right back.”
“Joshua,” Justin shouted after his lover. “Don’t meet yourself coming back.”
The green rider turned and smiled. “Don’t worry, Edith is always on time.” He blew his lover a kiss and strode out of the room. Turith bellowed from the heights letting Justin know that Edith had left. Seconds later Turith bellowed again signalling his mates return.
Edith flew Josh directly to his Weyr, hovering near to the ledge so that her rider could vault off. He dashed into the rooms he shared with Justin and began rummaging though his clothes chest.
“Well that’s one sexy ass sticking up in the air, must be Josh because Justin doesn’t have one.”
Josh stood up quickly and spun around to confront the speaker.
Lance leaned against the entrance and grinned. “Did you miss me green rider?”
Josh grinned back. “What the hell are you doing here? I thought you were at Telgar”
“Joe had some parchments he wanted Chris to see. Stuff from the landing that we found in some closed off caverns. He thought Chris should see it before Benden took it. You know what F’lar is like.”
“Shards, I have to get back to south hold,” Josh cursed as he remembered his task.
“What’s the hurry? Can’t you bear to be away from my dear brother for a few hours?”
“He’s waiting for me to bring back his gather clothes. The Benden Weyrleaders turned up unannounced and we don’t have anything to wear.”
Lance frowned. “Benden at South hold, why and why didn’t you say before?”
Josh shrugged. “Justin never told me to tell anyone just to get a change of clothes for us both.” Josh finished packing his and Justin's stuff. “I got to go.”
“You need to tell Chris that Benden are up to something.”
Josh shook his head. “You tell them. I don’t have the time.”
Lance laughed. “That’s where you’re wrong. Josh don’t you realise you have all the time in the world.” The blue rider took the small pack from him and placed it on the bed. “Let’s go and fill the Weyrleader in while we eat.”
“But,” Josh started to protest.
“No buts, I insist. We have a lot of catching up to do
Justin frowned Joshua had cut it really finely that time, he hadn’t left more than a few seconds before he arrived back. He would have to have strong words with him, maybe even have Lillith chastise Edith and scare her into being more careful.
Joshua bust through the door out of breath. “Sorry I took so long,” he panted. “Your brother insisted I had dinner with him and then he insisted that I waited for them to get ready.”
“Firstly you haven’t been gone longer than a heartbeat, and we will have a talk about that at a more convenient time, and secondly who is ‘them’ Josh?”
Chris peeped in through the door then Lance’s face appeared along with Joey's.
“Didn’t think we would let you have the Master Harper to yourselves did you?” Chris said cheekily. “Once Meredith knew he was here she insisted on coming.”
Justin glared at Josh who had the decency to blush. “It kinda slipped out when I was explaining why I was timing it …. again.”
Justin raised an eyebrow and waited for Josh to elaborate and Chris, Joey and Lance laughed loudly at the greenrider’s discomfort in being discovered by his lover.
“We shouldn’t keep the Benden Weyrleaders waiting,” Josh said hoping that reminding his lover of the two most important people on Pern were downstairs would distract him from interrogating him.
“Actually Joshua the Weyrleaders are not here,” Joey pointed out. “Justin was jumping to conclusions.”
“But the Master Harper is here,” Joshua protested. “I saw him before I returned to the Weyr.”
“That he is, I had Fanath bespeak Mnementh. He is still a Benden along with Ramoth,” Chris replied. “The Master Harper is here to accompany Lady Hannah to her intended husband.”
Justin screwed up his nose as he sat on the bed. “Lady Hannah?” he queried. “I don’t think I know her.”
“She is Ruathan,” Lance explained. “Lord Brannagan hopes that uniting the holds through her marriage to his son will give him more power. Hannah only has other younger sisters so the hold will go to her when her older brother, the current lord holder dies.”
Trumpets sounded outside and Joshua rushed to look out of the window. “They arrived,” he said blandly. “Meredith is outside waiting to greet them.”
Chris cringed as his dragon’s voice filled his head. “Lillith says you have to get down to the courtyard right now or Meredith will make your life miserable.”
“More miserable than she does already?” he answered in his head.
Fanath gave the equivalent of a dragon laugh, the sound rumbling in his riders head.
“Meredith requests our presence,” he informed the others.
Justin nodded and draped his arm casually over Joshua's shoulder. “We will be right down after we have got changed.”
The brothers said their goodbyes and Justin and Joshua were left alone once more in their room. The brown rider caressed the side of his lover’s face absentmindedly lost deep in thought.
“What are you thinking about?” Josh asked curious as to why Justin was unusually quiet.
He sighed deeply as soft lips moved up the side of his neck. “Lady Hannah is Ruathan,” Justin breathed against his skin.
The green rider groaned and stretched his neck so that Justin could gain better access to his sensitive spot. “So?” he groaned as Justin's teeth captured his earlobe.
“All the best Queen Riders come from Ruatha.”
Josh whimpered as Justin's hands pushed down the front of his pants and fondled him gently.
“But Hannah,” he panted, “is to be Derrick’s bride.”
Justin gave a low laugh and sucked softly on the side of Josh’s neck until a dark bruise appeared. He placed a loving kiss on the mark and then continued. “What better revenge could a former drudge have than to steal away the intended bride of the man that made his life hell for so many years?”
Josh chuckled as the implications of his lovers words began to make sense to him. He pressed his crotch into Justin's hand and ground against it, twisting his head so that he could reach the brown rider’s sweet lips. “Dragon riders do not complicate their lives with holder business,” he said repeating the same words that Justin had said to him earlier.
“Queen Riders are Weyr business, therefore are dragon rider business,” Justin whispered as he closed his mouth over Josh’s. The kiss was long and heated but prematurely broken by both riders as their dragons interrupted them with a message from Chris.
Josh giggled and Justin groaned as both Turith and Edith informed them to put their pants back on and to go downstairs now.
“We will finish this later dear heart,” Justin said and placed a hurried kiss on Josh’s already kiss swollen lips. Wordlessly he spoke to his dragon and asked him to tell his annoying brother that they would be right down and then dressed as he watched his beautiful lover refreshed himself and dress in his good clothes.
The main banqueting hall was lavishly decorated and the banners of both South hold and Ruatha hung from the beams and the best tapestries that Josh knew were kept stored away were now on the walls as to display the hold’s wealth. Josh frowned and stiffened as a middle aged woman passed by with a tray of pastries. He couldn’t tear his eyes from her as she wove in and out of the gathered people. Justin noticed his lover staring and followed his gaze. Confused he looked again seeing nothing but a drudge handing out food.
Justin snapped back around to look at Josh once more; the green rider had tears in his eyes. He reached out and took his hand, squeezing it reassuringly and gaining his attention.
“She walked right past me,” Josh muttered tearfully. “She hasn’t set eyes on me for more than a year and she walked right past me.”
Justin pulled Josh close to him and turned him so he could look into his eyes. “She never recognised you my love. It’s not her fault. All she sees when she looks at you is a dragon rider. She doesn’t see the child that she bore, he has gone forever. Her child was born a drudge and she doesn’t understand that the drudge became a free man. If you were in rags she would have seen you.”
“I shouldn’t have left her,” Josh muttered sadly. “How could I forget that she was still subject to the Lord holder’s whim?” He held his breath as the woman approached him, her eyes lowered.
“A pastry sire?” she asked as she dipped in a curtsy.
Josh reached out a shaking hand and took one of the offered nibbles. “Thank you,” he breathed. “Momma,” he added under his breath as the woman walked away. Justin rested his hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently. Josh tore his eyes from his mother and looked at him.
“We will take her with us when we leave if you want.”
Josh looked at his mother as she served the other guests. “She won’t leave,” he said sadly. “My siblings are beholden to Lord Brannagan also. She won’t leave them behind … like I did.”
“Don’t you dare Joshua. Don’t you blame yourself for not staying a slave, for not being a nothing. You were destined for Edith and her for you. If you had not been on the hatching ground that day she wouldn’t have impressed and would have died. It is preordained, fate if you like. You have nothing to reproach yourself about.”
“My my, if it isn’t young Justin,” a deep baritone voice rumbled.
“Master Harper!” Justin exclaimed his eyes lighting up with excitement.
“And looking so fine in his best gather suit too,” the Master Harper continued. “Who is this young man I don’t believe we have met before?”
Justin pushed his lover forward, encouraging him to offer his hand. “This is Joshua, rider of green Edith, Master Harper. Joshua may I introduce Master Harper Sebell.”
Josh blushed under the older man’s gaze. “I’ve never met a Master before. I am honoured.”
“I am just a man Joshua like any other. Albeit I am the top of my trade.” The Master Harper laughed warmly. “And do you sing Joshua. I’m sure that you know that Justin has a marvellous voice if he hadn’t inadvertently impressed Turith I’m sure the Weyr would have sent him to Harper hall to become a Journeyman. He might even have made Master Harper himself one day.”
“Really!” Joshua exclaimed beaming. He was pleased to hear his lover being praised.
“Joshua has a lovely voice too, he blends perfectly with my brothers and myself although he usually takes a lot of persuading because he claims to be shy,” Justin teased.
“I don’t claim to be anything Justin; I am shy.”
“Turith says you don’t seem to be shy when you are in bed with his rider and I agree you get very loud sometimes.”
Edith’s voice interrupted Josh’s line of thought and he choked blushing bright red as the Master Harper banged him helpfully on the back.
“A crumb go the wrong way did it? “he asked concerned. I’ll get you some wine to wash it away.”
Josh looked up through water filled eyes and saw Justin grinning at him; obviously he had heard what Turith had said to Edith.
“Let me get the wine Master Harper you are an honoured guest. Stay and talk with Josh a while.”
“Justin you have known me long enough to call me Sebell.”
Justin beamed at the honour that had been granted him and went off to find some wine leaving Josh alone with the harper.
Anxious to make an impression Joshua tried to engage Sebell in small talk. “Harper hall approves of this match then?” he asked as casually as he could.
Sebell snorted. “Brannagan is an oaf and his son a chauvinist lout. The lady Hannah is much too good for him, but with lord Jaxom dead and Hannah’s brother left to inherit, he decided that Derrick would make a perfect match.”
Josh leaned closer to the Master Harper and spoke in low tone in his ear so no other could hear. “And what does Benden say.”
Sebell chuckled. “You are rather young to be meddling in the affairs of Benden are you not green rider?”
“What Benden thinks effects us all Master Sebell.”
The Harper reached out and tucked a loose curl behind Josh’s ear and then whispered. “Benden would find favour with anyone that intervened accidentally or otherwise.”
Justin chose that moment to return with a full wineskin and three glasses. He frowned not liking the closeness between his beloved Joshua and the harper. He coughed and the two stepped apart.
“Ah Justin I was just telling Joshua here that Hannah is a fine catch for someone.” He winked at the jealous brown rider. “Is that by chance Benden wine?” he asked and Justin remembered the wineskin he held.
“No sorry it’s the sour stuff they brew at Tillek.”
“Oh well,” the harper sighed. “I suppose one shouldn’t be so choosy when at these little holds.” He sipped the brew and winced slightly. “Well gentlemen I have to mingle. Good day to you and Joshua remember what I told you about finding favour.”
The tall man strode away towards Brannagan a forced smile plastered over his face. Justin waited a few minutes hoping that his lover would elaborate without being asked. When he didn’t Justin grunted.
“What did he mean?” he demanded.
“I’m not sure,” Josh replied confusion in his voice. “I think he just gave me permission to interfere in the wedding plans.”
Justin thought for a moment and then chuckled. “That’s why he is here. The Master Harper doesn’t accompany every maiden to her intended and I couldn’t work out why he did with Hannah. He has been sent to stop the wedding anyway he can and my sweet Joshua you seem to be his chosen tool.”
Josh looked over to where the harper was transfixed in deep conversation with the lord holder and his lady.
“Why does that worry me?” he asked.
Edith woke Josh early the next morning, complaining bitterly that she itched and wanted a bath. Reluctantly Josh rolled over and opened his eyes. Justin was still sleeping soundly beside him, Turith not woken up yet. Again Edith whimpered in his mind and he sighed. He would have to get up and see to her. His eyes rested on his sleeping lover and he smiled contentedly. Justin looked so beautiful when he slept. The worry lines that laced his forehead disappeared and his thick dark lashes curled like two lazy caterpillars on his cheeks. Josh lay watching him sleep until Edith complained for a third time.
“I will be right there dear heart,” he spoke in his mind and rolled gently out of bed so that he didn’t wake Justin. Silently he pulled on his riding pants and a plain white tunic. He crept across the room to where his riding jacket, gloves and cap were resting and then he snuck out of the room.
It was still very early and the only people up and about were the drudges busily tidying up from the night before.
“Joshua please hurry. It itches really badly.”
Josh hurried out of the hold into the court yard, pulling on his jacket as he walked. Mentally he called the green dragon to him and Edith landed a few seconds later in a cloud of dust. She nudged him affectionately and then offered her foreleg for him to mount. Once seated Josh pulled on his cap and gloves.
“Where do you want to swim my precious?” he asked.
“The cove that is not far from here that way we could fly direct and enjoy the sunshine.”
“The cove it is then. Take us aloft dear heart.” With a powerful lunge Edith took flight, her mighty wings sweeping though the air with ease. Josh leaned back against his riding straps a bad habit he had developed and enjoyed the exhilaration of the wind rushing past his ears. It was only a short ride to the sandy alcove and Edith landed gracefully allowing Josh to dismount before she ambled off to the warm salty water. The dragon rider watched her go and couldn’t hide the adoration he had for her from showing on his face.
“Joshua come and play,” she begged.
Josh stripped down to his bare skin and leaving his clothes crumpled on the sand ran to join his frolicking soul-mate.
From the cover of a large rock a young woman watched as the dragon landed and its rider stripped himself naked and ran into the waves. She sighed with pleasure at the sight of the naked young man her large eyes drinking in the smooth pale skin and softly rounded peach of his ass.
He had to be one of the riders that were staying at South hold, the ones that were on search.
Curious she moved closer until she could see the young man’s features. From her new hiding place she could see the rider’s bright blue eyes and the soft curve of his mouth. She ran her hand through her long dark hair, patting it smooth; she had to meet the young man.
She stepped out from behind the rock and strode purposefully towards the sea, her long dress tucked up so it wouldn’t drag in the water.
“It looks like you are having fun,” she shouted.
Josh froze at the sound of her voice and distracted as he was Edith caught him unawares and knocked him under the waves.
“Oh!” she exclaimed and ran to help him disregarding the fact that she was getting soaked. “Are you alright?”
Josh accepted her help for a minute and then shrugged her hand off him.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded as he regarded the young woman. She had on a heavy brocade dress; her long chestnut hair was pulled back in a clip and hung loosely down her back
“How did you get here?” he demanded to know
The young woman straightened herself up and lifted her head haughtily. “I didn’t realise it was a private beach reserved for dragon men,” she snapped sarcastically.
“It’s not,” Josh snapped back. “You took me by surprise that’s all. How did you get here, I didn’t know that the beach was accessible from the ground?”
“I used one of Brannagan’s runners and a secret way down that I found when I was a child fostered here.” She held out her hand. “I’m Hannah,” she said introducing herself.
A sly smile spread over Josh’s face. “Lady Hannah?” he asked.
Hannah captured her lip between her teeth. “You are going to take me back aren’t you?”
Josh gave a sigh. “I should,” he said. He looked over his shoulder at Edith who had lost interest in the new arrival and swam to deeper water. “But Edith needs washing and oiling and if I don’t do it she will complain for the rest of the day.”
“I could help you if you like,” Hannah said hopefully.
Josh let her think he was considering his answer when really he already made up his mind. He bespoke his beloved green and asked her to tell Turith where he was and that he was spending some time with Lady Hannah and would be back later.
He looked at her dress which was now soaked. “Do you have anything on under that?” he asked.
The woman grinned and her eyes dropped below Josh’s waist, her eyes sparkled wickedly and she splashed her way back to the shore where she stripped off her outer dress and revealed her slip. “Will this do?” she asked.
Josh nodded his approval. “You had better bring me my underwear,” he said. “I don’t want to be challenged to a duel, accused of disgracing you.”
Hannah laughed lightly and tossed his underwear to him. “Shame,” she said laughing again as he blushed and struggled to put it on in the waves. He lifted his foot and Edith saw the opportunity to play a trick on him with a swift flick of her right wing she swept his feet from under him dunking him back under the water.
Hannah giggled and splashed out to fish him out again. “She is very playful isn’t she?”
Josh glared at his dragon whose eyes were swirling with deep blue greens as she feigned innocence. “Yes she is isn’t she,” he scrutinised Edith carefully then dismissed the thought from his mind.
“I should start to wash and oil her, she’s rather big and takes quite sometime.” Mentally he called the green dragon to him and waded out to where he had left his saddlebag and retrieved the sandsoap and brush he had brought with him. He paddled back to where Edith stood waiting patiently and Hannah joined him.
“I meant what I said about helping.”
Josh smiled. “Aren’t you afraid that she will eat you?”
Hannah snorted. “Dragon’s don’t eat people,” she said with contempt. “Besides I’m going to be a queen rider one day.”
Joshua almost choked as he tried not to laugh. “What makes you think you would make a queen rider?”
“I’m Ruathan,” Hannah snapped.
“So was the drudge that slept next to me in the cellar of south hold but he is still a drudge.”
Hannah snatched the brush off Josh and attacked Edith’s hide gaining a loud complaint. “Sorry,” she cooed. “How is that, better?”
Josh blanched as Edith mentioned where she was itching and Hannah moved straight to the spot.
“You can talk to dragons,” he gasped. “You can talk to Edith!”
“Did I forget to mention that? “She replied with a very smug smile.
Josh could hardly believe his ears as Hannah struck up a conversation with his beloved Edith and the strong sting of jealousy stabbed at his heart.
“I am still yours Joshua. It is nice to talk to Hannah but I would never leave you.”
Josh knew he was being unreasonable and swallowed the bitter words that were perched on the end of his tongue.
“How long have you been able to speak to dragons?” he asked hiding the bitterness in his voice.
“As long as I can remember,” Hannah confided. “I thought everyone could hear the thoughts of dragons. It was only later that I found out that dragons normally only speak to their riders.”
“Did you tell your guardian that you had this wonderful ability?”
Hannah looked sad and busied herself with a flaky patch under Edith’s left wing. “I told my brother yes.”
Josh moved closer to her and stayed her hand, sparing his Edith from further scrubbing. “Then why do the Weyrs not know about you?”
Hannah gave a disgusted grunt. “Brannagan made him an offer he couldn’t or rather didn’t want to refuse.”
Josh sighed, his mouth set in a grim thin line. “Do you want this match Hannah?” he asked.
The young woman stroked Edith’s emerald hide. “I want this,” she whispered jealousy lacing her voice..
“Then I will make sure that you get your chance.”
Hannah’s eyes sparkled with tears as they met with Josh’s. “Your word?” she breathed.
Josh nodded solemnly. “My word,” he promised.