As spring progressed, the rains began to slow, the ground solidified and new growth took root where it had once been drowned out. Likewise, under the warm eye of Rukbat, Lennoth grew egg-heavy, her belly growing further and further as the season progressed with what people were already assuring her looked to be a sizable clutch for Lennoth's first. The gold preened under her mate's care and the Weyr's attention and, as early spring turned into late spring, Rhianwen found herself rubbing oil into Lennoth's hide as often as she had done when the gold was still growing.
It was in early summer that Soquilith began to posture and prepare to rise and Lennoth snorted at the gold's peacocking. After all, who was it who was egg heavy with what the entire Weyr already knew was a good clutch? Rhianwen groaned as she listened to Lennoth's picking away at the other gold's appearance, character and age with backhanded compliments which, while true about Soquilith's strengths, poked precise holes at everything else.
The day of the flight was particularly bad as Lennoth was grounded with her swollen girth and remained in the Weyr for the flight's duration, growling and grumbling as Soquilith threatened what Lennoth felt was her current claim on the Weyr and its residents. Driven by competition and jealousy over the sands, even while Rhianwen promised it would be months before Soquilith required their use, Lennoth took to the Hatching Cavern and begun scratching around, hunting for the perfect location each day and taking the very center so that no others could squeeze themselves alongside.
She grew grumpy then for having left her place on the Weyr's ledge where she had enjoyed spending each day soaking up the warm rays and Soquilith was, once again, blamed.
It was nearly a week after the flight that Rhianwen, buried in some paperwork she had been assigned by Eavan, began to experience pain in her stomach and first wondered if her lunch had soured. Her stomach rolled and she bore down on it, raising her hand to her abdomen in confusion until Lennoth reached out for her in a pained voice, I need you, Rhianwen.
Rhianwen's response was instantaneous as she abandoned her incomplete work and waved down the rider on elevator duty to take her down to the Weyr floor before rushing into the Hatching Cavern where Lennoth squatted over the sand and shivered through each contraction. Astarin flew beside her the entire way, settling on the younger gold dragon and trilling support for a process she had been through multiple times before.
"You are doing so well," Rhianwen cooed as she brushed her hands along Lennoth's jaw and scratched at her browridges and rubbed behind her headknobs. The heat and humidity of the cavern was horrible, but the heat of summer made it more bearable than it tended to be in the winter season, for example, and while Rhianwen felt sweat dampen her body and hair, she ignored the feeling as she continued to support her dragon through the hours of her egg laying. Even as the contractions subsided and Lennoth, exhausted, wrapped herself around her bounty, Rhianwen focused on her dragon first, making sure she had some rest and even filling a large container with bucketfuls of cool water from outside so she could drink.
When Lennoth complained of hunger, as well, Rhianwen smiled and took it as the sign she was waiting for that Lennoth was appropriately recovered. "I bet Norieth would be happy to bring you a meal if you requested it," she suggested with a final pat before adding, "Ay'li will also likely come. Do you want me to stay."
Yes, you must, Lennoth replied and Rhianwen gave the tired dragon an indulgent smile and nod before walking around to where her wing covered the clutch.
"I need to send a message to Eavan," she said, "Could you let me see the eggs so I may count them?"
The tightening of the muscles within the wing was enough of an answer and Rhianwen pursed her lips and sighed before trying again. "I promise not to touch them; I know better than that. I only wish to see. Don't you want to check on them, as well? To know how many there are? I looked up previous clutches with browns to see what the average size would be; don't you want to know how yours compares? You can gloat if this is bigger than Soquilith's."
That seemed to catch the gold's interest and Lennoth raised her head to look backwards while raising her wing back just enough to display the glistening soft shells, still damp from the laying process. Rhianwen's count was quick and she even took the time granted her two count a second time to confirm before smiling proudly back up at Lennoth and waving for Astarin while grabbing a quick sheet of paper and charcoal pencil from a pouch she had prepared for this moment knowing she might be stuck in the Caverns quite a bit. "Eighteen eggs, Lennoth," she reported to the gold while writing the count and sending it off to Eavan with Astarin, "That is indeed larger than any of Soquilith's past clutches with browns. You must take after your granddam, Lilith. She had large clutches, too."
Lennoth hummed with pride as she looked once more at her eggs, pressed some sand up and over those peeking out too far, and lowered her wing back over the pile.
I am hungry, she said once more and Rhianwen smiled and shook her head at the gold's clear exhaustion.
"Then call out to Norieth," she suggested once more, "You can brag to him about how great you two flew together."
Lennoth huffed in annoyance but turned her head towards the entrance and reached out to her mate. Norieth, come see that which we have created together, she called out, pride infecting her every syllable. I wish to eat, as well, she added, knowing the brown would take it as the request it was.