Thread: Fan Fiction: The Skyboom (v2 - rewrite)
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Old Sep 23 2008, 06:37 PM   #1
D. M. Domini
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chicagoland
Gender: F
Fan of: Afra Lyon, and Robinton!
Now Reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix
The Skyboom (v2 - rewrite)

Writing Robinton is probably one of my biggest challenges in much so that I've started a re-write of my fic The Skyboom. The original thread can be found here, but I believe the new version will be vastly superior.

If you read, please review!. Always looking for ways to make my fics better.


(this fic is also up on

* * * *

The Skyboom

By D. M. Domini (aka Portalvast Magus)

Chapter One

There had to be something more miserable than emerging from between into a pouring thunderstorm whilst still treading the line between drunk and sober after one of the last, wild Gathers of the season, but Robinton, for the life of him, couldn't think of what it might be.

"You know," Robinton yelled in the bronze dragonrider's ear over the chaos of the storm around them, "If we had come out of between at the bottom of a lake, we probably would be a bit drier right now!" He blew out a strand of wet hair that had made its way into his mouth immediately upon opening it, but it didn't do much good; the wind was whipping hair and water every which way, including up.

F'lon giggled, or at least that's how Robinton interpreted the movements of the other man's shoulders in front of him. Then F'lon threw back his head and laughed, loudly enough that it could be heard over the blinding SNAP! of a lightening bolt somewhere to the lower left of them that briefly illuminated the cloud cover they were descending through.

Well. That was a bit of a funny image. The lake being less wet and all. Or so Robinton thought. Maybe it wasn't funny at all. To, you know, people who couldn't laugh. Were there people born who couldn't laugh? Maybe there were. He suspected he had met some of them before. That would be terrible, to not be able to laugh. He felt his own giggle welling up. He tried to suppress it, since he had already made a bit of an embarrassment about himself tonight, when he mistakenly let his guard down and sung the alternate lyrics for that old Holder's tune, and had been thrown out of the Harper tent by a furious Master-level Harper, but F'lon's laughter was insidious, and Robinton found himself giggling more a moment later, and after a few moments of serious contemplation of things (or perhaps not too serious given any half thought out idea that sifted through his mind made him giggle harder) he decided that he was still well and truly drunk.

Damned if he was going to show it, though. "Are we there yet?" Robinton said in F'lon's ear. The dragonrider immediately clouted him in the leg for that one, and Robinton laughed some more, even though his leg ached from the blow. "I want to go home," he whined, imitating an old uncle in a wheezy tone. "I don't want to get sopping wet in a thunderstorm." F'lon hit him again, or tried to; Robinton fended it off easily, which perhaps spoke volumes of how not-sober the physically-fit dragonrider was. Robinton was typically on the losing side of these sorts of fracas. But apparently not when they were both drunk.

Poor Simanith was the only one who wasn't drunk right now.

The bronze dragon, who was working his wings furiously against the wind and rain, didn't seem too put out by it however; thunder clapped, and he roared furiously, challengingly at it, or that's how Robinton interpreted the sound, being as he didn't actually know what the great dragon was thinking like F'lon did. The dragon's eyes glowed a vivid green-blue that sometimes flashed to orange when he roared, his throat and chest expanding beneath them with the bellow. A little messy storm was nothing for a great bronze dragon of Pern! Blow all you want, flash and clash and growl all you want, the bronze dragon will conquer!

Robinton let out a cheer at these thoughts, which F'lon matched for the bloody good fun of it, because, after all, the dragon was their only way down to the safe and possibly drier ground, and Robinton very much wanted Simanith to conquer anything he felt needed to be conquered on the way down there.

"Why are we cheering?" F'lon said a few moments later, twisting around so he could speak in Robinton's ear.

"Because we're home? Well, my home? Are we there yet?" The night and the cloud cover and the storm all conspired against Robinton being able to spot the familiar form of the Harper Hall and nearby Fort Hold below them.

"We're in Ista," F'lon said, a wicked grin on his lips. Robinton couldn't see his eyes through the rain-spattered goggles the dragonrider wore, but they probably had an equally evil glint in them.

"What?! Why?" Robinton asked. "You didn't pop us into a thunderstorm on purpose, did you? Because if you did, you and I will have to have words. Once I'm less drunk and I'm able to pronounce the more elaborate words without looking like a drunken fool. I'm soaking wet here! I'm going to catch my death!"

"Poor baby, you're wet through to the bone! Silly little Harper, where's your riding leathers? Did you forget them again?" F'lon asked in baby talk.

Robinton blinked, and realized that he indeed was only wearing his every day clothes. It explained why he'd soaked through so quickly. "You..." he paused to think of a good and vile description for the dragonrider, and came up blank. So he forged on. "You didn't check on your passenger before taking off! What sort of dragonrider are you?" he accused, putting the blame squarely on his friend's shoulders instead of his own.

"Not going to forget next time, are you?" F'lon asked with an evil laugh.

"I'm not a dragonrider," Robinton grumbled.

"You ride on a dragon more often than some weyrbred folk," F'lon said. "Time you learned an object lesson about how you need to dress for flying. The Weyrleader tanned my hide for it last time he saw it, you know?"

Robinton hadn't known about that, and felt more contrite. But not much more. "Unlike imbeciles like you, I am capable of learning things without hands-on experience," Robinton growled. "You could have told me. You know, 'Hey, Robinton, we're not taking off until you find your leathers' or the like."

"I'm lazy. I only wanted to tell you once. Think you're going to ever forget again?" he asked pointedly.

Robinton had to admit he'd probably remember this one. "Fine, fine," he said in F'lon's ear. "Can we head home now?" Another lightening bolt crackled and flashed, much closer and louder than the ones before, and Robinton began to feel alarmed despite the drunken relaxation of his body. "Really, I may only be a Harper, but riding in a thunderstorm seems somewhat dangerous..." And, well, he didn't have leathers. Although, twisting around to check, he saw that his gitar was safely stowed away, and he knew that that case would stand up to the elements or there was a certain case-maker that would see the sharper side of his tongue.


Robinton started to feel distinctly nervous; perhaps the wine was wearing off. Or maybe he just wanted to stay alive, even if it was a wet and miserable alive. "F'lon...that seemed perilously close to us."

"Don't worry!" F'lon said. "It's impossible for lightening to hit a drag--"


Robinton jumped out of his skin and made a choked sound as the world around them lit up in blinding white, and the stench of burning hair and hide filled his nostrils, accompanied by the screech of breaking, splintering wood...then suddenly, like an after-image, everything was replaced with stark, black, nothingness, cold, and without sound, shape, or form...


They were in between, they had to be. The world hadn't just ended around them. It took a few moments for Robinton to gather his scattered wits--despite being alone in this universe with only his own wits for company, they were surprisingly elusive and had skittered off in twenty directions. He hurried to catch up with events. Six, he thought, after a few moments. It had been six seconds since they entered between.

Seven. The word in his mind held the sonorous beat of one of the large, basso message drums from the drum towers.


Nine. Wait, nine? There shouldn't be a nine when going through between, Robinton knew. Everyone knew that, it was in the most basic of teaching songs. It was a cold, hard number that people going through between for the first time could hang on to. Maybe he was counting fast, panic trying to gnaw open his nerves, adrenaline burning away the alcohol in his veins?

Ten - one thousand, Robinton thought, trying to time his counting right. He could keep a regular beat. Although he'd never tried through the center of a thunderstorm while drunk and scared out of his wits, though...

Eleven--no, twelve - one thousand. That last thought had been long. Could a thought be overly-long? A part of him that was still alcohol-infused, and prone to believing that frivolous things were deep and profound, wondered.

Thirteen - one thousand...and, light, heavenly sunshine, warm against wet, between-frigid skin, raising steam from them like dawn on a dewy pasture.

Actually, part of the steam was smoke from F'lon's hair being on fire, where it poked out of the hole in his head gear. F'lon seemed stunned, so Robinton clumsily dragged F'lon's goggles and helmet off, the buckles unfamiliar to his fingers and smothered the flame with his bare hands.

Something which he'd shove in F'lon's face once it was assured that they'd all stay alive.

Surprisingly, the fire didn't really burn his palms (perhaps it was already out and merely smoldering), and F'lon's gloved fingers were trying to poke him in the eye as he flailed behind his head, no clue as to why Robinton had taken off his headgear. Robinton slapped them away. "Help Simanith, we're listing," he snapped at the disoriented bronze rider, who seemed to focus at the sound of his dragon's name. A good thing, considering Robinton could see a worrying dark stain on the dragon's head. A dragon's hide was soft, but thick, so he must have done a number on himself when he thrashed into that sky broom, splintering it in two, to be bleeding so much ichor. They would need each other to get them to the ground safely.

Most of the land below was covered in heavy greenery, the like of which Robinton had never seen before. Of course, he wasn't a dragonrider so perhaps it was common in other parts of the world. But he couldn't think offhand of any known land quite like this one, with thick forests--nay, jungles all over. Were they still in Ista?

Luckily he could see a coast line, off to his left, and made note of it in F'lon's ear. F'lon nodded, then shuddered, and Simanith tilted a bit drunkenly towards it.

Robinton would have liked to land on the beach, but perhaps that wasn't possible right now, as Simanith dropped into the ocean like a meteor, soaking them all and making giant waves explode out from under him. At least the water wasn't cold.

They bobbed in the warm ocean waves for a while, all of them taking inventory of their various knocks and bruises, with two of the three also shaking off the last drunken effects in their systems, and Robinton noted F'lon's left boot was smoking, and pointed it out.

"Yeah, I think lightening hit me," F'lon said slightly slurringly, wiggling his toes through the smoking toe. The toes were a little pink, but otherwise unharmed. He seemed bemused to see them. Robinton just felt disturbed at how close to disaster they'd come.

"Lightening did hit you," Robinton confirmed.

Simanith flapped his wings a bit against the water, and started paddling his way towards shore.

"But!" F'lon said, pointing one finger at the sky triumphantly. "It didn't hit my dragon!"

Robinton rolled his eyes, and tried not to feel vaguely seasick as the great bronze dragon splashed them forwards towards dry land.

"Ugh, my head feels like Simanith is sitting on it," F'lon groaned once Simanith had crawled them up onto the beach and mostly out of the water. He undid the belt straps fastening him to his dragon's harness, and slid down the side of his dragon's neck, looking disconcertingly like a fetus some bovine dam had just given birth to, sliding to the sandy ground.

Robinton blinked in surprise at his own chain of thoughts, and concluded he was still drunk, despite the fine tremors that manifested through his body as an aftershock to their recent events.

F'lon laughed then, almost as if he'd seen the strange mental image Robinton had had flit through his head. "No, I know you wouldn't, dearheart," he said.

Robinton tried to relax. If F'lon was joking around with his dragon after this, surely both dragon and rider were okay. The stain on Simanith's head worried him, though, and he eased himself over a neck ridge to sit in F'lon's former position so he could reach the Healing kit that every rider had attached to their dragon's harness as a matter of course. He quickly undid the snaps, then nudged F'lon in the shoulder with his foot to get his attention. "Here. Simanith's bleeding."

The dragonrider's eyes widened. "You're bleeding? Why didn't you tell me!" F'lon demanded, snatching the kit from Robinton. "I asked if you were alright! Yes, you are. No it's not okay. Above your eye. Move your head here, I want to take a look at this..."

"We hit a tree before we went between," Robinton said. "Let's not do this again."

F'lon glanced up at him, and looked embarrassed and apologetic, so Robinton bit his tongue on the stronger words that wanted to fly out; Simanith had gotten hurt, and that was likely going to cement this adventure in the man's mind as firmly as Robinton's cold, wet soaking was going to ensure he never forgot his riding gear again. So instead, Robinton shivered, and maneuvered to slide down the other side of the dragon's neck so he wouldn't land on F'lon.

His clothes were soaked with water, most of it still chill, so Robinton took off his boots and socks, and, finding the sand pleasantly warm between his long toes, proceeded to strip down to his smalls, laying his garments on the sandy beach so that they could bake dry. Then he rounded Simanith's head, and helped F'lon out of his riding gear while the dragonrider looked at his dragon's wounds, and got the small jar of numbweed out, along with some bandages. F'lon was muttering things to himself and to his dragon, and Robinton studied the man's head again as F'lon slathered numbweed into the dragon's wound with a small brush, and decided that, to his inexpert eyes, F'lon would live. Robinton rescued the brush from F'lon once he was finished using it on Simanith, rinsed it clean in the sea, and then had F'lon hold still while he numbed and wrapped a quick bandage around the man's head while F'lon was too distracted by his dragon to protest much.

"Where are we?" Robinton asked sometime later, as he sat on the sand, pensively wondering if he should sprawl out and sun himself like Simanith. He was cold from his dousing, but he wasn't sure he wanted the fine sand lodged in dubious spots of his anatomy later on, either.

"I just got hit by lightening. How would I know where we are?" F'lon said.

"Somehow, that response does nothing for me," Robinton said drolly. "Are you sure you don't want me to teach you a little something about the proper word choices to use in emergency situations? It might save you from a lynch mob in the future, assuming that you actually make it to Weyrleader, like you plan to."

"Emergency? Bah!" F'lon said. "So I don't know where we are. My dragon does, and my dragon can get us home. There's no emergency here. Let's just...wait until we're not looking so bedraggled. If I bring you home this way, your mother will kill me and use my guts for her gitar."

"Actually using guts for strings isn't all that common these days," Robinton said mildly. "We prefer steel."

"I'm not taking the chance she'll decide to go old-fashioned on me," F'lon said with a grin. Then his grin faded. "My head feels like two Simaniths are sitting on it. What about you?" he asked. Then he laughed, and shot a look at Simanith. "The difference there is that Rob and I are a lot lighter when we sit on you."

Robinton decided to brave the sand, and sprawled, so that he could dry out and warm up on the beach along with his clothing. "Wherries will soon be sending messages to the nearest drumtower using my skull."

"Will soon be?"

"It's not a full blown headache yet. I plan to be fast asleep before then." And Robinton shaded his face with his arm and closed his eyes.

"You know, that sounds like a very good idea. I'm glad you thought of it."

"Oh? You're giving me credit for my work? For once?" Robinton peered out from under his arm.

"If my brain thinks its actually doing any work, the Simaniths sitting on me might multiply to three. Keep the credit; it's on me." And with a sigh, F'lon sprawled out on his stomach next to Robinton, using his jacket as a pillow.

Robinton chuckled, and shaded his eyes again. Fueled by too much alcohol and a long day, they were asleep without too much delay.

* * * *

The dusk air was cooling off when they awoke and pulled on their clothes again, although it was not quite cool enough to make Robinton stop sweating in the unseasonable heat. But it wasn't as if they were going to fly straight or anything, and he preferred the heat to the cold, so Robinton endured it without comment and made sure his gitar was stowed away properly. It was always a worry during travel a-dragonback that the wood would crack when suddenly exposed to between. It happened to the best of instruments.

F'lon and Simanith did not play any games with them this time when taking off, and they flew upwards until they were at a distance acceptable for going between from. Then they hovered, and F'lon reached down to pat Simanith's neck before the cold of between enveloped them.

One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, Robinton chanted to himself, determined to keep the beat this time. And apparently he did; at eight one-thousand, the world appeared around them again, and a few specks of light below from glows and fires marked out where Ford Hold and the Harper Hall lie below.

Simanith began to drop, headed for the Harper Hall courtyard, but then changed direction suddenly and made a low noise in his throat. Robinton saw F'lon pat the bronze's neck comfortingly again, and they were set down in front of the great front doors of the Hall a few moments later, stirring a small cloud of up from the dragon's back-winging.

The night was cooler here, verging on too cold, but again Robinton disregarded it, since he would be inside soon anyway. He dismounted Simanith, caught the gitar after F'lon twisted around and unhooked it and carefully held it down for him, and then, with a flourishing bow, thanked the great bronze and his rider for today's adventure. Towards the bronze he was entirely sincere, since the dragon had been merely going along with his rider's plans, but there were notes of both amusement and sarcasm towards the bronzerider.

F'lon looked appropriately embarrassed, as far as Robinton could tell in the dark, but bid him good night.

Robinton quickly strode away, gitar in arms, to a distance suitable for watching the pair leave, and gazed after them until either the darkness or between swallowed them up again. Then he sighed, and turned back to the hall. His mother would laugh herself sick at this particular mis-adventure. After yelling at him for getting drunk enough to do stupid things like leaving his riding gear behind at Benden Hold.

Robinton climbed the stairs to the hall, ducked in the partially open front door, and nodded to the apprentice on duty, whom he didn't recognize. Then he paused, feeling as if he were making a great error. But for the life of him, he couldn't put his finger on it. He glanced at the apprentice again, wondering if he'd promised the boy something or other, or knew him or maybe his kin from somewhere, but the boy was tiredly studying a vocal score that Robinton knew was a hideous little piece of music, although it was effective for some types of vocalists for demonstrating a certain voice technique.

But the sense of...malcontent...had nothing to do with the boy. Robinton walked out of the main corridor, headed for his mother's quarters, but the moment he turned out of the main hallway, he stopped again. There was something wrong here. Aside from the decor--Master Gennell was notorious for getting tired of the current decor and pulling something so ancient it was brand new out of storage and plastering it all over the walls. Every time he visited after completing his latest Journeyman assignment, things looked strange.


Robinton backed out of the side corridor so he was back in the entry way.

"Are you lost, sir?" the apprentice called, finally taking note--or deciding to act--on his obvious confusion.

"I, ah, no." I've lived in this Hall most of my life--how could I be lost? He didn't let the words out, however. The boy looked tired enough as it was, he didn't need sarcasm directed at him. "I've decided I'm going to grab a bite to eat, before going to bed," Robinton said. It felt...safest, somehow, and his stomach was indeed grumbling along in a prelude to outright angry growling. So he followed his belly to the kitchens, the sense of being vastly in error still perusing him. And then his feet gradually stuttered to a stop since it felt as if a monster out of a story was about to leap out and--

Something large and heavy suddenly flapped directly at his head, and Robinton made a sound that was quite possibly unmanly and bolted three long steps out of the way and nearly bowled over a woman who was his own age or perhaps slightly older. "Pardon me!" he said, putting his hands on the side of either shoulder just in case he had managed to knock her over, but she seemed to be standing quite steadily in place, so he let her go and hoped that she hadn't heard that sound he'd made--or that she had ascribed it to the thing...that...that wasn't there anymore.

Bloody shards and red stars...he searched around him and above him frantically, but there was nothing there.

"Are you all right?" the woman asked him.

Robinton glanced at her. She was tall, with blue eyes, and an explosion of dark wavy hair that was nominally contained within a tail. She was angular and austere in build, a handsome woman rather than a beauty. She also had a Master's knot on her shoulder, which made Robinton suddenly feel worried for her. It wasn't unknown for a Singer to throw on her lover's shirt, knots and all, although this woman's beau must be an unusually slender man to wear that tunic. But some of the more chauvinistic Masters would go wher-maddened to see it, and that inevitably ended up in a brawl of some sort as half the hall retaliated against the boor that threatened the poor Singer, and the other half supported the boor with their words and fists.

Robinton reflected that the Hall needed improvement in that area. His mother, for example, often carried out all the duties of a Harper, barring the judicial ones, but to give her a Master's knot? Preposterous! Never mind that she was widely lauded as one of the most popular Singers ever to walk Pern. Actually acknowledging that her talents were equal to any other Harper's would get some untalented, incompetent wher-faced imbecile's smalls in a twist, and...

Well. Robinton sighed. No need to get angry here and now. Besides, he suspected the sudden anger was rooted in his fears of a moment ago, and his embarrassment at someone seeing him like that. So he swallowed it, along with his pride. "I feel as if the universe has made a grievous accounting error somewhere," he told her. "I'm unsure if that falls under the heading of 'all right'. Usually this type of thing only happens when I manage to quaff a white wine against my better judgment, but I'm afraid the last thing I drank was definitely a red, if you're being generous and calling it a wine. Albeit on an empty stomach. Which was why I was headed towards the kitchens. But I could have sworn something tried to land on my head a few moments ago--the apprentices didn't let loose a flock of waterfowl in here again, did they?"

The woman didn't actually laugh, but her eyes were bright with it. "That would have been Diver," the woman said. Robinton noted she was a mezzo-soprano. "Bronze firelizard. He was probably aiming for your shoulder, but your head got in the way."

"How terribly inconvenient for him!" Robinton said.

"Your shrieking and running away didn't help either; they usually like to land on stationary targets." The side of her mouth quirked up.

So she'd noticed. He could feel a subtle blush rise in his cheeks, which he tried to ignore. But--firelizards? It seemed as improbable to have those creatures flying about the hall as it would to have a flock of waterfowl trying to land on his head and then vanishing as if going between...oh. A thought clicked into place like a puzzle piece. So that's what had happened to it.

"Does the Masterharper know about them?" Robinton asked, and then felt somewhat silly for asking it. How, exactly, could one miss something that looked like a miniature dragon attempting a landing on one's head? Unless that sort of thing only happened to him. Which could be entirely possible.

The woman's eyes lost their amusement, and her smile faded. "Which Masterharper?" she asked after a moment, her voice holding a queer note.

The feeling of unease came back again. He thought of holding his tongue, of backtracking and seeing if, by chance, F'lon and Simanith had come back. But in all likelihood, the pair were back in Benden, seeing a Healer for a second opinion on their lightening-struck and tree-struck wounds. "Master Gennell," he said quietly.

The expression on the woman's face immediately became conflicted, several emotions flickering over it in quick succession until it smoothed out and became blank. Not the best actress he'd ever seen, but he didn't know her well enough to decipher that blank mask so it worked regardless. "I think should come with me."

"This isn't concerning these...firelizards anymore, is it?" Robinton asked.
"No. Not really." She carefully closed one hand around his bicep, as if the touch might frighten him away, or break something in him...or her...and led him to the upper level of the Hall.

* * * *

The woman led him upstairs and left him in the Masterharper's office. But it was obvious from the decor that an entirely different man called this office his own; redecorating the Hall at large with scenery tapestries was one thing...but you couldn't erase a man's personality and touch from his quarters nearly as easily. If Gennell still called these quarters home, Robinton would eat his gitar, case and all.

There were a few choices in seating in the room; a well-worn but comfortable looking leather couch against one wall, under a set of cupboards Robinton didn't recall as having been there before. A set of wooden armchairs before the desk. A stool to one side of the desk, probably either well-regarded or well-hated by apprentices, depending on this Master's leadership style. Seating himself in any of the choices didn't seem...quite right, and besides he hadn't been invited to sit down. So he paced around the room in lieu of examining it, because he knew some Masters were touchy about others looking at their things, even if they left them sitting around for all to come upon.

Well. He mostly didn't examine things. Could he help it if a half-written score sitting in a pile at the edge of the desk caught his eye? It was a catchy tune, and he ran his left fingers through the fingerings absently, before moving away to pace around again.

After a while, he noticed that up in the rafters, in the dark, were some more of the firelizards. Two golds, watching him as intently as he'd ever seen a firelizard stare at someone from afar. Also a bronze, and a...brown? It was difficult to tell, as they were far away from the glows. He also thought he saw something blue, but perhaps something Harperish was tucked into the rafters. "Hello," he said softly. They were rather fascinating, when they weren't flapping at his head exactly on cue when he was already feeling jittery, and scaring the red right out of his blood.

They didn't make a sound, just stared at him, blue and green hued eyes whirling slowly.

Then the door to the Masterharper's personal quarters opened suddenly, drawing Robinton's eyes, and a tall man, taller even than himself, emerged, and their gazes caught.

Shock. It was quickly masked, and masked much more skillfully than the woman's reactions, but Robinton saw it, and couldn't help but wonder--and fear, just a bit--the reasons why they were so...emotionally affected by seeing him.

It was probably connected to the reason he felt like some grievous error had occurred, whatever reason had caused Gennell to no longer be Masterharper, to cause those...gem-like creatures flying about within the Hall to create little to no comment from the woman. It was also probably connected to the real reason the decor had changed abruptly, and that almost made him laugh--how human of him to automatically ascribe the most likely culprit to that change, Master Gennell in this case, until all this other evidence suggested in a loud, blinding scream that the decor had nothing to do with Gennell's whims.

And then, Robinton suddenly wondered if, if he walked down the hall to the Masters' quarters, would he find his mother and Petiron in the appropriate rooms? Or would there be strangers there, staring up at him and his intrusion as he walked into their private rooms and lives?

Then the man, brown eyed, and brown haired, and brown skinned, came up to him, and clasped Robinton's hand in his. He had a warm, confident clasp, but the words that came out of his mouth didn't quite match the confidence. "Master Robinton?" he asked.

Master? Oh no, no, no, no, he was still studying his...and he hadn't walked...Robinton took his hand back and patted down his pockets, and finally withdrew a rather wrinkled and bedraggled Journeyman's knot. "I'm afraid not, Masterharper," he said, and held up the rank knot.

"Oh," the man said in confusion. "You're not Robinton?"

"I am Robinton," Robinton said. "But it's a little premature to call me a Master." He waved the Journeyman's knot like a small flag to call attention to it. Then he blinked and realized it might work better if he just put the blasted thing on his shoulder. Which he did.

The Harper in front of him blinked, then threw back his head and laughed. And laughed. And laughed, and finally stumbled back to sit on the edge of his desk, managing to avoid setting his rump down on open sand by mere inches, still laughing the entire time.

Robinton smiled wanly, game for understanding the joke, if there was one. Then he realized..."How did you know my name?" he asked.

"Menolly told me."

"Is that the woman's name? With the firelizards?"

"'That woman with the firelizards' works too," the Masterharper told him, just as the door into the private quarters opened again, and the woman entered the room. "I use it all the time. 'Woman! With the firelizards!'" This he directed at her.

She rolled her eyes.

The Masterharper chuckled again. "Since she obviously didn't introduce herself, Mast...Jour..." he paused, as if momentarily flummoxed by his inability to get the appropriate title out. "May I call you Robinton? Just...'Robinton'?"

Robinton spread his hands to indicate that he was well and truly lost here, and hadn't the faintest as to what was actually happening. A little informality wasn't likely to hurt things. "I imagine you could call me whatever you want. 'You there!' 'Man without firelizards!' 'Screaming Man!'" He threw out a few suggestions.

"Wha--?" the Masterharper looked a bit confused, but the woman--Menolly--laughed in delight.

"Well, this is the Harper Hall, I expect sooner or later it will get out that I had a...a...firelizard try to land on my head and I ran away screaming. It's usually not as bad if you admit it straight out. Gets it out of the way and all, deflates their sails 'fore the ship even leaves port. Don't ask me why I'm using nautical similes," he added with a smile, while shaking his head.

"It might be prudent to use another name," Menolly suggested to Robinton, while the Masterharper started to laugh again.

"You don't like the sound of 'Screaming Man'?" Robinton asked her in jest. "Or is my given name taboo?"

"Well, it's not that--" she started.

The Masterharper shook his head at her. "It will be the worst kept secret ever, Menolly."

"You think?" she asked him, cocking her head to the side and regarding him.

The Masterharper just nodded, and seemed thoughtful.

So Robinton took the opening, and said, "I don't mean to be a bother, but I seem to only have bits and pieces of this puzzle here, and I think I'm blind to boot, and if you've ever tried it, putting a puzzle together by touch alone is difficult to do."

Both of them turned to look at him expectantly, which wasn't quite what Robinton was expecting, but he forged on, ticking off letters on his fingertips.

"A--I don't believe I've met either of you, but you obviously have some knowledge of me. B--the Harper Hall is here, but the decor is different, and Master Gennell is obviously not the Masterharper for reasons unknown to me. C--there are tame firelizards here. D--Menolly doesn't think it would be good for me to go by my own name. E--please don't take this the wrong way, I don't mean offense, but you're wearing a Harper rank knot, Menolly, and it would take a very oddly proportioned gentleman to fit into your tunic." Menolly was turning a shade of red, and Robinton hoped it wasn't because she was upset or angry with him now. "The only things I can think of that would explain all of these things are that I'm having a very bizarre lucid dream, or that I ingested an overdose of felis juice and I am now severely hallucinating, and the Healers are probably tying me to a bed so I don't hurt myself even as we speak." Robinton paused, and tried to put into words other possibilities, other things he'd noticed. "There's also a small possibility that someone poisoned me," he added in a smaller voice, thinking of Fax. "Which could also induce--"

"How did you get to the Hall?" Menolly asked, cutting him off, but gently.

Right. No need to sound paranoid about an old boyhood enemy. "F'lon and Simanith," Robinton said. "A bronze pair," he added, in case the information was relevant.

"Where were you before that?"

Robinton shook his head. "A jungle somewhere, beach, by the ocean. F'lon didn't know where it was."

"How did you get there?" the Masterharper asked.

"Through between. Although we went between in the middle of a storm; F'lon was hit by lightening, and Simanith got partially tangled in a skybroom."

They stared at him, and then Menolly walked off and scrabbled in a bin for some hide, while the Masterharper rubbed his chin. "Where did they go after they dropped you here?"

"I presume home," Robinton said. "To Benden Weyr. They might have stopped at Benden Hold."

"It's probably too late to prevent the initial brouha, Sebell," Menolly said. "But this might help, if it gets to the right person. I'm going to send Beauty to F'nor, and let him know."

"You don't think F'lar will recognize his own...?" The Masterharper--presumably Sebell--replied.

"I'm more thinking of Ramoth's possible reaction to a dragonrider she doesn't know. F'nor will likely be close enough to get their attention, but not as immediately occupied if Ramoth isn't happy about this as F'lar might be. Or, on the other hand, I could be entirely wrong and they're all having klah and bubbly pies right about now, listening to the Weyrharper's latest tunes. I did send a packet of them the other day; he's probably had time to learn a few of them by now," Menolly said.

"Better safe than sorry. Write a copy for Kimi; we'll send her to F'lar, just in case. I'll get our riding gear."

"I'm afraid I'm lost again," Robinton interjected.

Sebell grimaced. "Once we talk to the Benden Weyrleaders, we'll have a better handle on what we can tell you. You see--you never mentioned this little incident to us."

Robinton tried to process this and failed. "And I should have?" he asked, cluelessly, raising his eyebrows.

"It's typically good form to," Menolly said. "Although I suppose you could have forgotten, you always had a lot on your mind. You can leave the gitar here--"

"No, you should take it," Sebell said.

Menolly gave Sebell a quizzical look, then shrugged. "Or take it."

Robinton chose to keep his gitar with him, and watched as Menolly strapped little harnesses around the two golden firelizards, who had flown down to the table, and then instructed the one called Beauty to go to F'nor, and the one called Kimi to go to F'lar. Then they waited a while, before Menolly suddenly said, "F'nor is here," as eerily as any dragonrider, and the three of them trooped down to meet this "brownrider from Benden".

* * * *

And here's the link to it on

Edit: Here's better links...links to download the fic right off of my own website! Dunno why I never thought of this before! Just right-click and do "Save As" to save it to your machine.

Last edited by D. M. Domini; Nov 4 2008 at 11:17 AM.
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