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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 fanfic...so 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.

Thanks!

(this fic is also up on Fanfiction.net.)

* * * *

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.

CRACK!

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--"

ka-BOOM!

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...

Between.

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.

Eight.

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.

Still...

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 perhaps...you 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 Fanfiction.net.

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.

http://www.dmdomini.com/fics/skyboom.doc
http://www.dmdomini.com/fics/skyboom.rtf

Last edited by D. M. Domini; Nov 4 2008 at 11:17 AM.
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Old Sep 24 2008, 11:24 AM   #2
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Chapter Two

F'nor was a steady-looking man of middle years, who rode a brown dragon named Canth, and he vaguely reminded Robinton of someone he couldn't quite put his finger on. Although that wasn't surprising; if the man was weyrbred, perhaps Robinton had met one of his relatives during the years he'd grown up at Benden Hold. Although, considering the circumstances...assuming that there might be people left in this world that he actually knew.

F'nor gave Robinton an inscrutable look, then tilted his head to look at his dragon, who seemed to be eyeing Robinton with interest. It was difficult to tell, but that's what Robinton thought was happening when the dragon snaked his head around to face him. A moment later, F'nor's brow furrowed, and he said to the Harpers, "Are you sure?"

Sebell gaped at him for a moment, then laughed.

"No offense meant," Menolly apologized for Sebell's behavior. "It's been a long day, and it just got a little...stranger."

"I'd hate to meet the rest of the Hall if I'm considered 'little'," Robinton quipped at her. "It might make me feel un-masculine, and unsure of myself." He smiled in amusement at his own joke.

Menolly blinked at him, and Sebell stopped laughing long enough to make the clichéd drum-and-cymbal bashing sound.

"Are you alright?" Menolly asked Robinton, looking concerned.

"There is a small possibility that I am still drunk," Robinton confessed to her. "The hangover hasn't set in quite like it will once the alcohol has made it out of my system."

F'nor made a sound, and Sebell stopped laughing. "There was wine involved in this?"

"I hesitate to dignify it with the moniker of 'wine'," Robinton said.

"Perhaps there was a reason he never told us of this," Menolly muttered softly to herself. Robinton still wasn't sure how he could have known to tell something to people he didn't knew, but agreed that he normally didn't feel that it was necessary to enlighten everyone as to his more embarrassing moments, which this could well turn out being.

"Was F'lon drunk?" F'nor asked.

Robinton sighed. "At one point. Probably not now. I think the lightening scared it out of him. Not literally," he added, realizing there had probably been a very good chance of one or the both of them vomiting all over the bronze dragon. Robinton resolved never to fly drunk again. That's a horrible thing. He also resolved to apologize to Simanith for putting the dragon in the position where he could be possibly puked upon.

My sire will appreciate that, someone told him. A second later it percolated through Robinton's mind that it must be the brown, Canth, speaking.

"Ah, yes, well..." he told the brown awkwardly.

"Canth, you spoke to him?" F'nor asked.

"He did," Robinton confirmed. "It's an honor," he added quickly, knowing that some riders could get bent out of shape at such things.

F'nor gave the dragon a look that said, well?

Caneth shrugged, an interesting movement to see on a dragon, and lost interest in Robinton.

Another inscrutable look from the dragonrider. "Well, let's go see what F'lon has to say," F'nor said, and gestured towards his dragon.

"Er," Robinton said. "I don't have any riding leathers."

Everyone looked Robinton over, as if he'd made an elementary mistake. And perhaps he had, given F'lon's earlier words about it. He felt the urge to say something melodramatic about his pride, but decided it would hit too close to home, given that he was now obviously a drunk too stupid to come in out of the cold--or rather, put on his riding leathers when mounting a dragon. And also, at this rate, it might be better to put a cork in it until his head cleared, and he had a better handle on the situation. There were some very strange vibrations operating underneath this conversation, and he still was not sure what they signified.

"Stay here," Sebell said. "I'll be right back."

Robinton stayed put, and slid his hands into his pockets.

The three of them were silent, and after a few moments, the silence began to be awkward, and Robinton found himself wanting to say something. But what could he say? Would Menolly know any of the songs he knew? Had there been a final Gathering of the season at Benden today for these people? Even if there had been, best to stay away from that topic. He didn't want to make himself to be a boor on top of being a drunken, stupid lout, and retelling what had happened to get him thrown out of the Harper's tent early would certainly do that. And he certainly didn't want to talk about the weather. He could come up with better conversation than that.

"You're not in trouble," Menolly offered him after a while.

"Excuse me?" he asked.

"You look very serious."

Robinton thought about this. He felt serious, underneath the Harper part of him that was struggling to keep a happier veneer up. "I arrive home and everyone I knew has been replaced by people I don't know. I'm sure you're all very nice people, but it is rather strange and unsettling."

Neither of them had a reply right away for that, but Menolly looked a bit sad.

Then there was a noise behind them, and Sebell returned, with a riding jacket and gloves over one arm. "Apologies for the delay; I'd forgotten where I'd kept this. Here you go," and he gave the jacket and gloves to Robinton.

Robinton shucked his gitar case carefully, lowering it to the ground by its strap, and pulled on the jacket. He could smell the scent of herbs that kept insects away from the leather during storage. It was a bit stiff from disuse, but when he slipped it over his shoulders, it fit surprisingly well--it actually made it down to his knees. It was also of particularly fine quality, the leather well cared for, the lining inside warm and soft; he immediately felt warmer and more comfortable upon donning it. Robinton suddenly wondered with a bit of dismay if the Masterharper had lent him one of his riding jackets; they were of a similar build, and this jacket was no Apprentice-work. "My eternal thanks for lending me this. I've gone through between unprotected enough times today!"

"How many times?" F'nor asked.

"Twice, but the first time I was soaking wet."

"Ugh," Menolly said.

"You might want to see if a Healer can dose you with something preventative," F'nor advised. "Perhaps Brekke can get you something when we arrive. Going between while soaked isn't something that's particularly good to do."

"Yes," Robinton agreed. "I found that out the hard way."

F'nor nodded, and motioned them up to his dragon. The brown obediently crouched so that they could climb up his shoulder.

And the four of them mounted up on Canth, and a few moments later, launched towards the dark night sky.
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Old Sep 24 2008, 11:41 AM   #3
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Chapter Three

"Sit, dragonrider."

Weyrwoman Lessa glanced across the table at her mate, and could tell that despite the calm, firm command, F'lar was not nearly as collected as he seemed. The young bronzerider pacing around the room was, after all, F'lar's long-deceased father, even if F'lon was not aware of this fact at the moment.

F'lon shot F'lar a rebellious look with oh-so-familiar yellow eyes, but sat on the stool on the other side of the table. Then he jumped up again. "They should be here by now. It shouldn't take this long to make a jump between from the Harper Hall to here. Did you send somebody incompetent?"

"Given the story you told us, I would be hesitant in calling somebody else incompetent," Lessa reprimanded her mate's father when F'lar hesitated a second too long in formulating a reply. "They will be here soon enough, so have patience; with the knock Simanith took to the head, he shouldn't be making any trips between for a while, particularly when you consider the circumstances at hand."

F'lon ran a hand through his long hair, and shook his head to himself. "I can't believe I left him there. Simanith decided not to land in the courtyard like he usually does, but I thought he just didn't want to navigate it in the dark, tired as we were. Shards. I just left Robinton among strangers!"

"He's not really among strangers," another voice said, and Manora entered the room, looking much more hesitant than normal. "He'll be fine. We sent F'nor to get him, and trust me, F'nor isn't going to let you down."

F'lon looked irritated for a second, then he gave Manora a second glance, and a furrow appeared between his brows. The other people in the room held their breaths, waiting to see if he recognized the woman who had borne his second son, but he didn't seem to entirely make the connection between the woman who stood in the doorway now, and the young woman he knew from his time, and looked away, the question in his eyes unanswered.

Manora pressed her lips together, but in the end, did not enlighten him. Not yet.

They didn't wait much longer for F'nor, Robinton, and the Harpers to arrive; the Weyrleaders glanced at one another when Mnementh and Ramoth told them that Canth had arrived, and not long after that three familiar figures walked in, and one mostly unfamiliar.

"Rob!" F'lon cried, and embraced the Harper as if they hadn't seen each other no more than an hour ago.

And as Robinton returned F'lon's surprisingly hearty hug in amiable surprise, Lessa realized with a shock that she recognized the man. Not as Robinton, their Robinton with white jaw-length hair and wisdom in his blue eyes and a ready smile for everyone, no, but as the man with the thick, long brown braid who had frequented Ruatha Hold more and more often in the days before Fax had...

"You taught me a song," she told him before she could stop herself.

"Beg pardon?" Robinton asked, realizing he was being addressed.

"You sat me on your knees," Lessa said. "And taught me a song my Harper didn't know."

"Which song?"

Lessa tried to recall the exact tune, and, surprisingly and to her own dismay, could not. "It was about the holds," she said pensively.

Robinton blinked. "This one?" And he sang one of the older teaching songs, in a clear, skilled baritone that had perhaps less age to it than they were accustomed to. It was a voice that hadn't been heard in the Weyr for Turns.

"I sing that one a lot to young children," Robinton said, after completing the first verse. "And it is true that I've sat some of those children on my knees before. The version that commonly circulates isn't my original, and I think the original is more in tune, if you will, to a young child's mind, given I was a young child myself when I composed it. But--" and he looked apologetic here, "--if I may be so bold, you're a little...grown...Weyrwoman...to have sat on my knees at any point while I sang you teaching ballads."

"Are you sure?" F'lon asked.

Robinton's brow furrowed. "What?" he said to his friend.

"Are you sure that, if you rack your brain, you've never sat a grown woman on your lap and sung to her?"

That surprised a tenor laugh out of Sebell. Menolly tried to hush him, but it didn't work well given the note of laughter in her voice too.

Robinton gave F'lon an indulgent look. "Yes. I'm sure."

F'lon turned away and ambled back to the stool he'd sat on earlier. "Well, that explains the sorry state of your love life," he said to the room in general, and sat. "Imagine, not using your biggest talent."

Robinton stalked over and laid a hand on F'lon's shoulder, while leaning over to speak in his ear. "Don't worry F'lon; you have a dragon. As long as he keeps catching greens, your love life will be just fine." And he patted F'lon's shoulder for effect.

"How much did you two actually have to drink at that Gather you were at?" Menolly asked, while F'lon struggled to either come up with a retort or restrain laughter. Lessa thought it was a good question.

"Enough that when we tried to go home, home was there, but without the people we're accustomed to," Robinton said, turning the course of the conversation onto a safer track. "I must say, I might actually abstain next time after this..."

"About that," Lessa said.

Robinton met her eyes directly for the first time, but there was no recognition on his end. He had never met her, as far as he knew. "...are you planning on holding me to my promise to abstain, Weyrwoman?" he asked.

"Actually no," Lessa said wryly. "That would likely be an impossible task. You shouldn't set unattainable goals for yourself, Harper," and she permitted herself the slightest of smiles as the rest of the room made a few sounds of amusement. "What I was referring to--you actually did teach me that ballad. I just didn't realize that had been you, until now. You never spoke of it, and by the time I met you again, you looked somewhat different."

"...I don't understand," he said.

"This is a topic that is classified," F'lar said. "Understand that it can not go beyond this room."

Sebell cleared his throat. "Naturally we'll be discreet, but there are a few individuals in the Hall that will be notified that haven't been already," he interjected.

F'lar nodded. "I'm more saying this for the benefit of these two," and he nodded towards F'lon and Robinton.

"I'm listening," Robinton said neutrally.

"Dragons are capable of--" F'lar started.

"Simanith has taken--" Lessa said at the same time, before halting. F'lar gestured for her to go on, his broody expression lightening with the faintest hint of a smile in the corners of his eyes. She kept her expression stern for the rest of the room, however. "Simanith has taken the three of you between in time," she said. "Forward, from your time to ours."

"--how far forward?--" F'lon said.

"--would this affect the duration of between?--" Robinton asked at the same time. They looked at each other, and Robinton made a motion of his hand, as if waving F'lon forward. "Your question is more pertinent."

"Over fifty Turns," Lessa said when they both turned their attention back to her.

F'lon let out a whistle. "Babes in diapers are grown with grandbabes of their own," he said.

"Do you know us?" Robinton asked, the pieces visibly falling into place on his face. "Or, did you? Are we still alive? As, as...older men?"

"Both of you have passed on," Menolly told them gently.

Both young men thought about that.

Menolly continued after a few moments. "I think the biggest issue here--and correct me if I'm wrong, Weyrleader, Weyrwoman--is that we were not expecting you."

Lessa nodded in confirmation.

"How do you mean?" F'lon said.

"Your present is our past," Lessa said. "What happens happens because it already happened, if you want to have a go at understanding that riddle, Harper. But neither I nor F'lar recall--"

"Menolly and I don't recall anything either," Master Sebell said.

"--being told that either of you remember coming forward. It seems a strange omission."

"Quite frankly it makes you a bloody good actor, and a bald faced liar," F'lar said to Robinton. "Considering that in your future--and my past--you disavow any previous knowledge of between times."

"I once had an intensive discussion about between times," Menolly said, "With...with the older you, Master Robinton--"

"--Journeyman," Robinton corrected softly.

"Journeyman," Menolly said, while Lessa narrowed her eyes. Why would Robinton and Menolly ever need to have an intensive discussion about between times? Had they been up to something?

"I was wondering about my firelizards, they were giving me...interesting...visions at the time, but anyway that's not important. What's...what I find confusing is that you, this younger-you, is here now, but yet you never made any hint or mention of this to me in the past. Why not? It seems a strange thing to omit, given the subject we discussed. It would have been more in character to pull me and Sebell aside, and warn us that you would be coming forward in time at one point, even if you never gave us details on how or when."

"Was I as similarly close-lipped?" F'lon asked her.

"I was never acquainted with you," Menolly said.

"You were convinced that Thread would fall again, but never mentioned anything to me about traveling between times," F'lar said.

"You never mentioned anything to me either," F'nor agreed.

"I've always believed Thread will return; why else would the Weyrs be here?" F'lon said. "You just don't find the manpower and time and resources to cut not just one, but several, Weyrs out of solid rock unless they are needed for some reason. And history gives us that reason," he explained.

"I think that negates that theory," Sebell said to Menolly.

"Theory?" F'lon said.

"That you were convinced Thread was going to return because you'd already come forward and seen it."

"Thread exists?"

Robinton began to laugh at F'lon, who turned around and shook a finger at him.

"Hey, now, there's no call for that. I never said that I believed Thread would fall soon. I can be surprised that Thread is falling in...in this time. I'm no hypocrite!"

"Peace," Robinton said. "I never said you were." But there was still laughter in his blue eyes. Then he sobered. "I can't even begin to calculate the ramifications of ending up over fifty Turns in the future. Or...or of the capabilities of dragons traveling between different...different whens."

F'lar nodded slowly in agreement. This version of the Masterharper was younger, perhaps, but not stupid. "There are ramifications, certainly. For example, if you were to go home now, you would know that the Ninth Pass is coming."

F'lon scratched his jaw thoughtfully. "And you were hoping that, in my future, I told you about Thread before it actually came back, because you just told me now?" F'lon asked.

"It usually works that way," F'lar said. "That it's not working that way now says that we're missing a piece of the puzzle, or that we are wrong in our understanding of things." His brow furrowed. "The latter is worrying."

Everyone was quiet again.

Finally Robinton spoke. "Would it be so inappropriate for me to indulge my curiosity in this...world-of-my-future?" He looked so hopeful and young that it nearly broke Lessa's heart.

Behind his back, the Harpers looked at each other, and Manora, who had been lingering, silent, the entire time, finally had a wisp of a smile cross her uncharacteristically dour face.

"I don't think--" Sebell began.

"No," F'lar said firmly.

F'lon chuckled, and looked at his friend. "C'mon, did you really think they were going to say yes? Besides, we'll eventually see it the good old-fashioned way," he added, blithely unaware of his future fate.
Robinton shook his head. "Not really; we're dead. Or did you miss that part, when Master Menolly told us?"

F'lon turned back to everyone else. "How long dead have we been? Are we just somewhat cold and stiff, or entirely rotted away?" His tone was light--that of a young man who had never seriously contemplated that he could die, and who was unwilling to look at it entirely front-on right now.

Nobody answered.

Robinton leaned over the bronzerider's shoulder. "C'mon, did you really think they were going to answer that?" he said, mimicking F'lon's earlier tone exactly. "What can we be told? Are we going to be brought home?"

"It would be best for Simanith to bring you two home," Lessa told them. "Once he recovers, and we provide proper training so that you two don't end up arriving before you left, or something else as complicated. He has the coordinates, and it is the simplest course of action."

"And until then?"

"Get some rest," F'lar said. "I was hoping talking to both of you as well as Masterharper Sebell and Menolly would give us some conclusive knowledge as to what and how much you should be made aware of, but that doesn't seem to be the case."

"It would be prudent to approach things with a fresh mind and fresh day," Sebell agreed. "I would invite the both of you to the Harper Hall for the night, except given that Robinton is recognizable upon sight by many of the senior Masters, that would probably be unwise, since it would cause considerable talk if they found out a younger version of a deceased Harper was staying at the Hall for the night."

"It would be best if both of you stayed here, at Benden Weyr," Lessa agreed.

"I'm not recognizable?" F'lon asked humorously.

"Dragonriders are more pragmatic about traveling between whens," Lessa said. "Stray time-travelers...happen. They will keep quiet about it, and won't bother either of you."

"Harpers are nosy and big-mouthed," Menolly added, shrugging. "Traveling between whens makes for a good ballad. And ballads get sung everywhere."
Robinton looked slightly thoughtful, Lessa noted, but did not elaborate on his line of thought.

"All right," F'lon said finally. "That's probably a good plan. Rob?"

"I certainly could use some sleep. Thank you for your hospitality, Weyrleaders."

"Never let it be said we ever give stray time-travelers the cold shoulder!" Manora said humorously, drawing attention to herself for the first time. "Come with me, Robinton, F'lon; I'll get you all squared away, and a bite to eat if you're looking for it, too."

"Manora runs the lower caverns," Lessa said. "We'll reconvene in the morning--does that work for you, Harpers?"

"Oh, we'll find time for it, somewhere," Sebell said with a grin. "Good night, Bronzerider F'lon, Journeyman Robinton."

And Sebell, Menolly, Lessa, F'lar, and F'nor watched as Manora led Robinton and F'lon out of the room.

"That's a trouble-making pair, if I ever saw one," Menolly commented with a smile as the door closed.

"Understatement," Sebell murmured. "Luckily for us, they don't seem inclined to mischief."

"Considering the wound on Simanith's head," Lessa said, "It might be more correct to say that they aren't inclined to mischief now."

"Do many of your dragonriders go between times by mistake?" Menolly asked.

"On occasion," F'lar said. "With poor visualization. But usually backwards, not forwards. Another reason this is unique. But...I would expect them to return to their own time within a sevenday or so without any issue."

"So the question is of if we should lock them in a very small windowless room until then," Sebell said.

Menolly looked horrified for a moment, then realized that the man was joking. Sort of. Mostly. She scowled at him direly, then softened when he winked.

"Not to cast doubt...well, yes, to cast doubt, but I don't actually mean to...Canth doesn't actually react to Robinton as if he's The Harper," F'nor said.

"How so?" Menolly asked.

"He's indifferent. I can't really get an explanation out of him, though."

"I would say it's more unusual for a dragon not to be indifferent to anyone who isn't a dragonrider..." F'lar said. "But I get your point. Lessa?"

Lessa had already started to ask Ramoth her opinion on things.

The Harper is gone, Ramoth replied, and wouldn't elaborate, although Lessa caught the feel that it was perhaps a stupid question to the great golden queen dragon. Mnementh and Canth had similar viewpoints, when she queried them on their thoughts about Robinton, and were similarly disinterested in elaborating on the difference between this Robinton, and the Robinton whose death had caused the entire planet to mourn. "They are ambiguous," she said. "It may just mean that this Robinton is too young for them to connect with our Robinton. I would think that fifty turns will alter how a man thinks. Perhaps they are picking up on that?"

F'nor seemed unconvinced, but was willing to let it drop; if the young man they'd talked to a few moments ago wasn't Robinton, he was certainly doing a good enough impression.

"What do the dragons think of F'lon?" Menolly asked, curious.

"He's F'lon," both F'lar and F'nor said at the same time.

"Simanith is Simanith," Lessa added.

"Well. Okay," Menolly said.

Sebell looked like he was about to say something, then shook his head and didn't. "In all seriousness, do we want to request that they limit themselves in exposure to our times? Or will it work itself out, because it already happened?"

"I thought a sticking point was that we don't know that it did happen," Menolly said. "Being as none of us were made aware of it. I don't know if we want to be making decisions on theories that are flawed. Particularly when both men involved end up highly influential."

Both Harpers looked at F'lar and Lessa.

Lessa spoke. "It's possible that we're just missing a piece as pointed out earlier; Robinton has a tendency to be very subtle. Is there any possibility you could look in the Harper Hall archives to see if something may be there?"
"We were intending to," Sebell said. "We'll let you know what we find, if anything."

"Thank you," Lessa said.

F'lar yawned, then looked around. "I suppose there's nothing else that can be done about this tonight; we'll look in our archives as well, although I don't expect to find anything."

"We'll take our leave, then," Sebell said. "F'nor, if we could impose upon you again--"

"--not a problem," F'nor assured them.

And with that, the meeting between Harpers and Dragonriders adjourned, until the next morning.
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Old Sep 24 2008, 11:49 AM   #4
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Chapter Four

"Did we ever go through all of this?" Menolly asked Sebell, as she sat on the floor of one of the archive rooms, in particular the room dedicated to Robinton, scrolls arranged into loose heaps in a way that would make Arnor, the Master Scrivener, cry.

"We stopped, if I recall, shortly before Lessa was found on Search. Little that happened before then is relevant in an everyday sense these days. I've been poking further back when occasion warrants it, but that applies to Gennell and the Masters before him as well. I wonder if I'm going to generate half as much archive material by the time I'm done on this planet," Sebell mused.

"Some of these have blots," Menolly remarked. "We can probably consider any material I haven't cried upon as unread."

Sebell started to laugh. "Oh, Menolly..."

"I can't believe I didn't recognize him," Menolly said, and her voice broke so unexpectedly in the middle of the words, that her hand flew to her throat. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm reacting to it all now..."

"Don't worry, I feel the same way. And I'd say you recognized him well enough to bring him upstairs and come flying in to tell me just who you'd just found wandering the Hall."

"No. I mean...I stood there talking to him, like I might with any stranger who'd just had a startle from one of my fair," Menolly said. "I mean, the similarities are there--the voice should have been a dead giveaway, especially when he started making those eloquent little jokes."

"Eloquent little jokes?" Sebell teased.

Menolly blushed. "You know," she accused. "But it didn't really hit me until I realized he hadn't a clue what firelizards were, or why they were in the Hall, and that he thought the Masterharper was still Gennell. When he mentioned Gennell, that's when I saw, that's when I realized. I had a thought, half a thought before that perhaps he was...a son, a son we hadn't known about--"

"--that wouldn't happen," Sebell said confidently.

"I know that, but when you come across a young man who has physical similarities to someone you know very well, what is the usual cause of that? Time-traveler, or the man's offspring?"

Sebell's mouth twitched. "I would vote for time-traveler," he said.

"Ha. Well, you're Masterharper," she said. "From down here in the rank-and-file I would say offspring. I'd be wrong in this case, but how many other cases would I be right on?"

"You never knew him when he was younger, and still had dark hair, Menolly," Sebell said. "I did."

"White hair doesn't make that big of a difference," she pointed out.

"No, but twenty Turns do. Ugly fellow, these days, isn't he?" the man asked mischievously.

"He is not ugly!" Menolly protested, to Sebell's laughter. "He is not!"

"Silvina always said he looked better when he got older..."

"Be that as it may, he's not any uglier than you are!"

Sebell winced. "Ouch!"

Menolly relented. "Neither of you are ugly...but it's strange seeing him with such a young face. I kind of want to reach over and tug on it."

"Shards, Menolly!"

"Well, you know. So it's in the right shape. His cheeks don't look right. You don't want to give them a little tug, to sort of re-arrange them?"

"Not particularly," Sebell said, screwing up his mobile face to give her a look.

"Oh, you."

"Don't 'oh, you' me. You're the one that wants to pull on his face like it's taffy."

They both paused, after that, looking at each other, and almost immediately broke into laughter.

"Are you imaging his face if he heard us discussing this?"

"I am." Sebell laughed to himself again, the sound almost silent.

They dug through the old files for a while after that without saying much--mostly due to the specter raised in both of their minds...of Master Robinton, their Master, walking in on them during such a ridiculous conversation.

"He never said anything to you, during that thing you did with Jaxom, about this?" Sebell asked after a while.

Menolly shook her head. "Nothing at all. Not during, not after, not even the few times we again discussed going between time. He had...numerable...openings. It's unlike him not to take them."

"And, as far as you're aware, since he's here now, he had to have experienced whatever he's here to experience in his youth?"

Menolly nodded. "That's how I've always understood how it works. F'lar and Lessa didn't really say anything to contradict." She quickly unrolled some scrolls, glanced through them, and rolled them back up again. "Perhaps he had memory loss, and forgot to tell us."

"Perhaps it's not really him, but his son, coming between through time. Then, we'd both be right!"

"Ha. But we've already confirmed that F'lon is F'lon. Why would his passenger, whom he calls 'Robinton', not be Robinton? And anyway--young or not, even if I was uncertain at first or not--it is him!" Menolly said.

"Indeed." Sebell rubbed his chin, then rose from his own spot on the floor and started pigeonholing all of the scrolls and hides he'd found no clues in. "There is the thought that perhaps he meant not to tell us. Or that he planned to be alive when it happened, but hidden behind us so he wouldn't have to get close enough to himself to fall ill like dragonriders do when they get too near to themselves."

"That still leaves enough questions open--enough to make my head hurt," Menolly said. "Maybe they will be able to successfully go between in a sevenday. Maybe we will decide to ask them not to go wandering about, and they will agree. If so, if Robinton has spent less than a full sevenday here, without really learning much more than that Thread does exist, there wouldn't have been a reason for him to say anything to us about it, would there be? That would fit; he never told us, because it wasn't very interesting and he knew we'd ask him to do this anyway. No point in making it even more complicated."

"I hate leaving him in the dark on purpose, though."

"Yes," Menolly said. "But, Robinton told me a long time ago about Lessa's journey to bring the weyrs forward, and never once indicated that he had any inkling of how things would turn out at the time. Do you think Robinton could have been acting the entire time? With me, and with F'lar?"

"He might have the gall to try. But I'm not sure he could pull it off. I'm not sure anyone would be able to pull that off; lying to F'lar's face while everyone was simultaneously having a nervous breakdown, wondering if the only Queen left was dead or not? That would be very...dedicated...acting. I say he didn't know."

They were quiet for a while, moving hides around and scanning them to see if something about between or future events or anything remotely related was ever mentioned.

"So we keep him in the dark?" Menolly asked. "Unless we find something conclusive in this moldering pile of hides?"

Sebell sighed. "It's probably the best course. For his own good. And for the good of his future to come. And the simplest explanation would be that he just never saw much of anything. Not everything turns out to be a conspiracy."
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Old Nov 4 2008, 11:16 AM   #5
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Chapter Five

Master Teslay slowly sat down in his chair after the large dragon that had landed in the courtyard at this strange hour of the night took off, with a passenger load of three. Two of them had been Masters Sebell and Menolly, which was not all that usual, particularly when dragons came calling after sunset. The third, however...

Well. There really was no call for a dead man to be riding around on a dragon, no matter how popular and well-loved he had been during life.

He wished it had been light enough to see their faces, or that he had returned to the guest quarters he was occupying just a little bit earlier. As it were, he'd only heard something through the open window about going between without proper riding gear. Although, come to think of it...that said quite enough, given who one of the speakers had been, and that rich baritone was unmistakable to any musician's ears.

Mater Teslay was of two minds regarding the late Masterharper Robinton; on one hand, there was no denying that he had cared very deeply for the people under his supervision. The Harper Hall had hit heights of popularity that had no precedent in known history during his tenure as Masterharper, and as a result, most everyone in the Hall had prospered. And in person, he was certainly charismatic, well-spoken, and not without a sense of humor, which Teslay thought was critical for men in power to have.

However...he was but a man, and Master Teslay was not sure that the complications of his last legacy for Pern were completely balanced out by the good he had done throughout his life.

This was practically a treasonous viewpoint to have among Harpers, and would get him well shunned among his peers if it ever got out, but Teslay wasn't entirely sure that the Abominators were entirely wrong. This wasn't an ignorant and ill-informed viewpoint; he had been stationed at Landing himself for several turns, and had used the machinery and computers left to them by their ancient ancestors himself. So, he considered himself to have an educated viewpoint, which was more than some people could say.

And, his viewpoint was, you didn't just unleash technological advancements and new ways of thinking upon people without expecting some form of socio-economic backlash greater than a few malcontents. He feared the hidebound and ignorant Abominators were the least of their worries; more disturbing was the possible long-term consequences on their society and planet, which would be paid for by their children's children's children long after everyone currently alive on Pern was dead. The Abominators were mostly driven by fear of the unknown, complicated by the fear of learning. But that didn't mean that there wasn't a grain of truth in their fears.

It was all a rather bit short-sighted of Robinton to have missed these things. And even more so for his Apprentices and effective heirs to keep on the same path, following close on his heels like a canine's litter of puppies, unhesitatingly and unthinkingly.

So it was worrisome to suddenly discover that Masterharper Sebell and the Dragonriders obviously couldn't let well enough alone, and had gone and done some sort of between time stunt to bring Masterharper Robinton back. For how else could the man be walking the planet again?

Teslay rubbed his face and wondered if he was going to get any sleep tonight with thoughts like this running through his head. No, probably not. He might need some klah to help, however.

There was only a single Journeyman whom Teslay was not familiar with in the kitchens when he arrived, but a pot of klah was still warm, so he gave a casual wave to the Journeyman and found himself a mug.

"Did you see that the Masterharper left again?" the Journeyman asked. He was nursing a small bowl of something at one of the tables. "Been in and out of here all day; I wonder what's gone wrong."

"I saw," Teslay said, sugaring his klah liberally. "Did you see who they had with them?"

The Journeyman chuckled. "Nah, already dark, and Canth casts a large shadow."

"Canth," Teslay said, thinking. "Isn't he..."

"Brown, rider is F'nor, the Weyrleader's kin."

"Ah yes. I knew I remembered the name. Must be getting old," Teslay quipped. "The Benden Weyrleader, right?"

"Indeed. Why, have the Fort dragonriders started getting involved in interesting things too?" the man asked with a laugh.

"Oh, that would get Fort Hold's tail in a bunch. They already have us to deal with!" Teslay said.

The Journeyman chuckled. "Very, very true." He tucked into his food.

Swishing a spoon in his mug to dissolve the sugar, Teslay nodded to the other Harper, bid him goodnight, and returned to his quarters.

It was good to know that others had noted the comings and goings of the Masterharper today, but after mulling over the idea of questioning around to gather more information, Teslay abandoned it; if he began probing locally, no matter how subtly, it would get back to Master Sebell or Master Menolly soon enough. And if he wanted to keep an eye on things, he couldn't afford being posted somewhere far away and inaccessible...as a Master he technically had a choice of positions, but in practice it would be trivially easy for the Masterharper to bring pressures to bear should he begin to make a nuisance of himself.

And that wasn't even counting the involvement of the shadow Harpers, and the pressures they could bring to bear merely by sitting in the same room as a man and staring at him.

So he sighed, and decided to start his digging abroad, best as he could. "Sapho?" he queried, looking around his quarters to see where his little blue scrap of a firelizard had stationed himself. "Sapho?"

A chirp, from the floor under the desk. Teslay looked there, and found his firelizard nestled in the velvet inside of his gitar case. "C'mere; I've a task for you."

Sapho was not the biggest or brightest of firelizards, but by dint of repetition and generous helpings of praise and spiced meat rolls, Teslay had trained him to the best of both their abilities, and Sapho had been known to do his assigned tasks better than browns, bronzes, and golds twice his size. Granted, he didn't have the initiative or flexibility of the higher ranking colors if something unexpected happened, but what he did do he did well. It was certainly a point of pride on Teslay's part, and he fancied Sapho was proud of himself too, sometimes.

Teslay held still as the blue firelizard unwound himself and climbed up his outstretched arm. "I've not updated your markings yet, have I?" he told the firelizard as it re-settled itself on his shoulder, noting that the colors for Landing were still visible on the creature's neck. "Ah, well. I'll get that fixed...just not right now. Might help us out a bit. Let me get your harness..."

Teslay had a friend he had made at Landing, a Tailor, who had then bounced around the various major Holds, Crafthalls, and Weyrs, making sure that this or that important or up-and-coming person was dressed to the nines for all the right Gathers. Currently he was at Benden Weyr, creating a commission for one of the junior queenriders.

The note Teslay wrote to his friend was quick; he said that there was an acquaintance he wanted to reestablish contact with, but it had been so long ago since he last saw him that his firelizard had never met the man, and was unable to find him. Blues just weren't quite as savvy as bronzes and golds, you know. He had heard, however, that the man had been to Benden Weyr recently. The man was tall, with blue eyes, and a baritone. Or, "middle-tone" as his friend liked to call it. Oh, and yes, he's a Harper. Was he actually there, or was the gossip wrong?

It was so technically true that it was painful, but Teslay figured it would do the trick. If his friend could confirm there was indeed a Harper there by that description, perhaps Teslay would then be able to find out a bit more about the situation. So he sealed the note with a dab of blue wax and his thumbprint, slipped it into a small carrying tube, and attached it to Sapho's harness. "There we go. Remember Tailor Camolien?" he asked, picturing the Tailor's lean, golden-skinned face and blue eyes. "Tailor Camolien?"

Sapho chirruped after a moment of staring at him, and unfolded his wings.

"Good. Bring this to him. See if he has a message. If so, bring the message back. Understood?"

Sapho made another chirp; Master Teslay hoped it was of confirmation. Either way, the little blue jumped off his shoulder, and went between a foot above the floor.

"And now I wait," he said to himself. He idly cleaned up his desktop of various scattered scores and pen nibs, then took his klah and dragged a wooden chair over to the window. It really was amazing how noise from the courtyard drifted up to the second story, crystal clear. Teslay settled down in the chair, and drunk his warm, sweet klah slowly, sorting through what he knew of the current political climate, and what within it might prompt Benden and the Harper Hall to try to bring The Harper back to work some sort of miracle.

#

Journeyman Camolien typically hated working by the light of glows; it gave everything a greenish or bluish tint, turned subtle colors into sullen ones, and made imperfections appear that weren't actually imperfections. But, he had no choice. This was a nighttime Gather, you see, or so goldrider Tiomandi insisted. Lit by glows, and also some lights rather like the ones at Landing. So the outfit had to look stunning in the sallow light glows provided, no matter that sleep dragged down his eyelids, and he'd jabbed himself so many times with the sharp steel needle that he'd had to resort to wearing a thimble. A thimble! Because he'd managed to stab through the thick calluses on his fingers. He felt like such an Apprentice.

When a familiar little blue firelizard appeared, the Tailor didn't know if he should be relieved or irritated. It was already well past his bedtime, and although the blue landed politely on his table, well away from any of his fabric or scissors or tools, it still represented something Unknown.

"You're Teslay's, aren't you?" Camolien asked the blue. "Bloody workaholic. He needs to learn how to go to bed like a normal man, rather than worrying over things of no consequence to normal people. Really, what do they feed Harpers? Every single one of them a..." And, grumbling to himself, he reached over and stroked the small blue's head, before removing the message from within the tube attached to Sapho's harness.

After reading the letter, he sighed. "And he wants me to do his spying for him. I wonder why?"

The blue chirruped.

"Are you waiting for a reply?" Camolien asked. "Sure he doesn't think I'm going to go running around in the dead of..."

Sapho watched him curiously.

"Of course he does. All right. This means he pulls strings, and gets me into the Harper Hall as a costumer. I'll do it. But I bloody well better be designing frou frou for some girl-Harper before this Turn is out. I better get a Masterpiece out of it too...these goldriders have no imagination! All they want to do is look like one another, except better. How do you get better if you don't try something different? You'd think weyr-women would be more adventurous than hold-women, but nooooo...!"

And with that exclamation, he sighed and got up to putter around his quarters, collecting empty bowls and mugs to bring back to the kitchens.

There were a few weyrfolk and dragonriders eating a late supper in the lower caverns, but to Camolien's eye, nobody that looked like a Harper. Camolien deposited his dishes in the appropriate spot, considered chatting someone up, and decided that really, he was just too grumpy for this. So he immediately changed his mind about helping that silly Harper Teslay, and decided to talk to people on the morrow, when he wasn't as likely to bite their heads off if they said something stupid, or criticize their clothing because they looked like a drunken wher had dressed them.

Sapho appeared in the room, flitted around near the ceiling watching him, and followed him back out when he stalked out again.

Manora was in the hallway of the guest quarters when he returned, escorting two men wherever they needed to be. One was...a visiting dragonrider. He had to do a double take, thinking at first it was the Weyrleader or maybe F'lessan. The other person following the Headwoman was a tall man with hair that really needed to be re-braided again, and, by the red star, he really, really needed some new pants too. Unless, of course, there was some weird youth style going on where your pant legs ended somewhere around your calves. He also had a worn spot going on on his right buttock, which would soon tear open if he managed to snag it on a bench, which would flash his hindquarter to all and sundry. Camolien highly doubted the young man would appreciate that happening. Young men had a lot of pride.

"You need some new pants," Camolien said.

The three of them turned around and looked at him. Camolien looked the one man up and down; he was wearing a rather nice riding jacket, but the pants? The pants looked like he'd borrowed them from his grandfather's old chest. They should be turned into rags by now.

"Excuse me?" the man said.

"He said you need new pants," the dragonrider said. "Isn't this the...third, fourth time someone in the Weaving or Tailoring crafts has told you about this?"

"Oh, you're a hopeless cause?" Camolien asked. "The kind that would wear burlap if it didn't itch so horridly?"

Manora eyed the Harper's pants too. "We can get you something from the stores, R--Harper," she said. "How have you been, Journeyman Camolien? The queenriders have been anxious to see your work."

Camolien almost brandished his oft-punctured fingers, but really, that wasn't something a Journeyman Tailor should be complaining about. So he shrugged. "They should be done in time. Do you really have something in his size in the stores? We don't even make pants that long for the Gather stalls." Then a light dawned...the poor man was wearing Gather pants. One of those poor souls who couldn't afford the custom work, even though their particular body shape demanded it. He patted down his pockets and found a measuring string. Before the man could run away from him (like some folk had been known to do), he did a quick measure from waist to ankle, memorizing the number of knots, and then darted behind him and did a quick measure from hip to hip across the plumpest part of the Harper's buttocks (while dragonrider started to look highly amused), and then around his waist, compensating for the thick riding jacket by subtracting a few knots. "There, you're done. I'll leave them in the lower caverns for you, Manora." He glanced at the Harper's face and complexion. Tanned, blue eyes, brown hair. Earthy. "They'll be green," he said decisively. "Not blue. I'm going to bed now, Manora--let me know if you need everyday wear in more strange sizes...I could use some rest from this finnicky stuff for the goldriders."

Manora laughed lightly. "Alright, Journeyman. Have a good evening."

Camolien tucked his string away, and chanted the song about knots to himself, so he would remember long enough to jot them down once he returned to his quarters. Sapho appeared in the hall again, flying back and forth above him, and followed him. Behind him, Manora and the two men turned down another corridor.

"Gather pants. Poor man was wearing gather pants. Whoever looks after him should be ashamed of themselves!"

#

Author's Notes

Edited to insert chapter. Many many apologies for taking so long; the holiday distracted me. (Stupid real life!) Original text of this post below:

I've updated this on fanfiction.net to add 4 more chapters. I'll add them here when I have a moment to go through and add all the italics, just wanted to make folks aware.

Or you can download the Word doc (my preferred format) at http://www.dmdomini.com/fics/skyboom.doc.
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Fanfic WIPs: The Day Benden Went to War (Pern/Talent); Slosh (Pern); Weyrbred Lads (Pern); When You Fall Asleep /Between/... (Pern)

Completed Fics: Flight (Pern), Flight v2 (Pern), Golden Glow (Pern)


Last edited by D. M. Domini; Dec 1 2008 at 02:53 AM. Reason: Inserting chapter 5.
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Old Nov 25 2008, 11:36 PM   #6
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Chapter Six

"Robinton?"

Robinton made a purposefully indecipherable mumbling noise, hoping that it would chase the man who was sitting on the edge of the bed away. But of course, it had no effect on F'lon at all, and the sagging presence on the edge of his mattress didn't disappear. So Robinton rolled over under the furs, his head throbbing unmercifully at his temples, and gave his friend a baleful glare. "What do you want, F'lon? I was sleeping." He rubbed his gritty eyes and wondered why a tunnel snake had decided it was necessary to excrete in his mouth sometime during the night.

"Well, you need to get up anyway. And I wanted to apologize. For insinuating that you have a lousy love life in front of the Weyrleaders and the Masterharper. And also, that female Harper. That was pretty ill-mannered of me--I don't really know what I was thinking. I can't believe I just left you there all by yourself!"

"...you were there with me when we spoke with them," Robinton said in confusion.

"No! I meant, when I left you at the Hall. I'm thinking, we're in a totally different era, so who knows what could have happened to you? I at least have Simanith around if I end up in a bad spot, an angry dragon scares the wits out of anyone in their right mind, and I know how to use this knife..."

Robinton wearily kicked off his furs and sat up. "I'm hardly a helpless babe, F'lon, and besides, they were quite nice to me. Especially since I was more than a little drunk at the time. But how does this have to do with your derogatory comments about my love life?"

"I'm sorry for both things, is all. And, also, that we got hit by lightening."

"I didn't, you did. It set your head on fire; I put it out with my bare hands."

"It was? You did? I don't recall that!"

Robinton chuckled a little, although it made his head throb a little more. "You were a little dazed at the time."

"I guess I owe you three apologies, and one debt of gratitude, then."

"Four apologies; you did wake me up just now," Robinton grumbled.

"That doesn't count; if I hadn't been the one to, I think Weyrwoman Lessa would be here instead. And," F'lon added, hastily looking over his shoulder to make sure nobody had entered the room to spy on them, "Frankly, I think that would have been worse. The more I observe her, the scarier she is. I don't ever want to get her well and truly angry at me. She has this presence..."

"...she's as tall as my bellybutton, F'lon," Robinton said. "As long as you treat her with respect, I don't know that there's anything to be scared of..."

"Have you seen her dragon? Ramoth?"

"No, not really. It's dark at night, you know."

"Ah, I won't say any more then. You'll understand everything when you do see her."

Robinton sighed, and slid out of bed. "Have you ever considered that maybe you have a phobia about Weyrwomen that might be affecting your judgment?" Robinton asked, as he found the pants and shirt he'd slung over a chair the night before, and pulled them on with a rustling of cloth. "Considering that you were thrown out of the Weyr in the first place by Weyrwoman Carola?"

F'lon narrowed his eyes. "I don't have a phobia. Being fostered out of the Weyr is a good thing, it broadens your horizons, keeps us in touch with the Holds; it's how I met you, after all."

Robinton held up his hands. "All right, all right. Let's not start off the day with arguing. You still owe me a fourth apology, though. I accept the other three, in the meantime."

"What about the debt of gratitude?" F'lon asked.

"I'll save that for a rainy day," Robinton said with a grin. "You can bring me to some small hold on the coast that unfortunately has a tragic lack of menfolk, and I'll show you why I've never had to resort to physically manhandling women into my lap so that I could spout bad poetry in their ears."

F'lon threw back his head and laughed. "That sounds like a plan, my friend! You let me know when you want to go do that!" Then he grimaced. "Ow, why did you make me laugh...?" he added, touching the side of his head gingerly. "Winehead isn't very fun."

"It's our bodies forcing us to do everything in moderation. If winehead was fun, everyone would be drunk all the time and nothing would ever get done. And the toilets would be very crowded. You said the Weyrwoman wanted us?" Robinton asked, once he was dressed.

"Yes. We're to meet her by the lake. She said we should bring our things--your gitar and the like."

"Are we leaving Benden?" Robinton asked.

"I don't know; I guess we'll see. Could be she just wants a tune."

Robinton grunted at the unlikeliness of that, and finished braiding his hair so that it was out of his face.

The guest quarters that they'd been tucked into were on the ground level of the Weyr, so it was only a brisk walk across the bowl to get to the lake. Halfway there, a queen descended, and landed on the bank; then a tiny speck on her back slid off to the ground.

Robinton stopped, and rubbed his eyes, which felt bleary. "Wait..." The perspective seemed...a little bit off.

F'lon laughed. "That's Ramoth."

"...that's one magnificent specimen of a dragon," Robinton finally admitted in awe, once his brain adjusted to the fact that not all of Ramoth's apparent size was due to Weyrwoman Lessa being a tiny little thing.

A few moments later, Simanith landed as well. Simanith was no small bronze, and his presence just reinforced how large the queen next to him was.

"See?" F'lon said.

"Indeed."

Once they were in range of the Weyrwoman, Robinton gave her a respectful bow--something he'd been too drunk, distracted, half-frightened and disoriented to do the night before. F'lon, too, acknowledged her seniority appropriately, and if Robinton was reading her right, she seemed pleased well enough by this.

Weyrwoman Lessa was dressed in full riding leathers, subtly different from the ones he was used to seeing on weyrfolk. He wondered if it had to do with the Ninth Pass being in progress, or if it was just a shift in fashion. She gave both of them an appraising look, then nodded. "I see that you've recovered your manners," she said.

"My mother will be wroth with me that it took so long, Weyrwoman," Robinton said meekly.

Lessa raised an eyebrow at F'lon. "And you?"

"His mother will be wroth with me that it took so long, Weyrwoman," F'lon said.

Robinton glanced at his friend. "Has my mother ever been wroth with you?"

"Yes. And I have to say, it's worse than my father being upset with me," F'lon said, surprisingly candidly.

"Huh," Lessa said, obviously suspicious that they were acting up again. But when neither young man said anything more, she got on with business. "We are going to meet the Harpers at a small outpost north of here; we'll be flying straight. I'm told, bronzerider, that Simanith should avoid going between for a couple of days, but should be fine with ordinary flying. Is this true?"

F'lon opened his mouth to speak.

"Good," Lessa said, nodding to Simanith.

F'lon closed his mouth and cocked his head to the side at his dragon.

"Robinton, you will fly with me. F'lon, you and Simanith follow behind. You can attach your gitar, Harper, with the luggage straps there," and Lessa, turning to stride back to her dragon, waved her hand at the harness behind the front riding positions.

"Right," F'lon said. "We'll be right behind you, Weyrwoman."

Robinton turned to look at the gigantic golden queen dragon, who, surprisingly, seemed to be eyeing him right back. He bowed deeply to her. "It is an honor to journey with you, Ramoth," he said, realizing that he'd never ridden upon any queen before, much less the biggest one he'd ever met.

Yes, it is, a voice said in his head casually. Soprano, a slightly deeper and richer echo of Lessa's voice. Then she crouched for both Lessa and himself to mount.

Robinton quickly strapped down his guitar so that it wouldn't get rattled about on the journey, and then donned the flying leathers he'd brought with him and seated himself behind the Weyrwoman, before strapping himself in. A large ridge separated him from Lessa, and he gripped it firmly (but hopefully not tightly enough to pain the dragon).

A firm grip will not hurt her, someone reassured him. Lessa, who had been climbing up in front of him, paused and gave him a long look.

"Weyrwoman?" he asked.

"Simanith is correct," she sad, after a pause. "Grip as tightly as you need to."

Robinton felt slightly awkward and exposed for some reason, as if he'd unintentionally committed blasphemy without knowing it, or even meaning to. But Lessa strapped herself in without further comment, and a few moments later she warned him that they were going to launch. Then Ramoth crouched even lower for a moment, her weight on her hindquarters, before launching them powerfully towards the sky.

Once aloft, Ramoth circled the Weyr below once, waiting for Simanith and F'lon to reach the proper altitude, and then both dragons turned northeast.

The Weyrwoman did not try to speak to him as they gained altitude, like F'lon was wont to do. Robinton had a few questions, mostly about where and why they were leaving the Weyr, but it didn't seem like he should ask about something that he would figure out soon enough once they arrived at their destination. So he sat back, and ventured to gaze down at the world unfurling below them; mountain tops capped in snow, with green valleys in between. Fields of crops, and fields for wherries and runners, all of them small moving dots to him at this high altitude. They were flying high enough above them that the herds didn't seem to panic and stampede at the dragons soaring overhead.

There was also a road, twisting between fields and out of a valley; as they flew, they seemed to cross back and forth over it a few times, and Robinton guessed that they were following it, but as a dragon would--no need to zig this way and that to avoid trees and irregularities in the landscape that caused a road to twist and turn.

Eventually, Ramoth tilted in a familiar-feeling landing spiral, and Robinton decided that they were going to stop at the small cot hold down below. There was already two dragons there, brown and bronze, and while Robinton didn't recognize the dragons by sight, it wasn't a far stretch to guess that Weyrleader F'lar and Brownrider F'nor were the riders of those two dragons, making the dragons themselves Mnementh and Canth. The only question was if the two Harpers Robinton had met were here as well.

That question was soon answered. Ramoth landed them on the road surprisingly lightly and delicately for a dragon of her bulk, and once they were settled on the ground, Lessa began unstrapping herself, and Robinton followed suit. A few moments later, he was standing on solid ground again, and slinging his guitar case over his shoulder. Lessa went into the cot hold. Behind them a few dragonlengths Simanith and F'lon had landed, and F'lon was in the process of dismounting.

"Weyrwoman Lessa, Master Robinton," the Harper woman Menolly called to them, ducking out of the small cothold to greet them as she did so.

"Er," Robinton began.

Menolly came up beside him, and noticed his discomfiture. "Sorry. Journeyman. But isn't it comforting to know that you'll make Master?" she asked him mischievously. "All that studying of decisively non-musical things will eventually pay off!" Her tone was knowing. The non-musical aspects of the Hall could sometimes be frustrating for Harpers that were deeply interested in music, who usually couldn't care less about politics and teaching and all of those other irritating things.

"I suppose it's comforting," Robinton said. Not all Journeymen became Masters. "If a little disconcerting in the manner of which I am informed of it. As it were, I do appreciate being addressed as 'Journeyman' if a title is necessary; to do otherwise would be a little conceited of me, by the standards of my own little world. Given my own little world is built upon a rather shaky foundation right now..." and he gave a little laugh.

"Does the world exist because we think it exists?" F'lon asked, coming up to stand next to Robinton. He stripped his riding gloves and goggles off, and undid a few buttons of his riding jacket.

"That's surprisingly philosophical for someone suffering from winehead," Robinton told him.

"Not really. I stole the line from you. I'm not smart enough to know what it means," and he winked at them mischievously.

Robinton's brow furrowed. "...I don't recall saying that. When did I say that?"

"I woke you up from some dream, and you directed the question at me. It was a turn or so ago. You spout a lot of weird theories on the edge of sleep. It's a hoot and a half, what comes out of your mouth at those times." He shook his head and grinned in a charming fashion.

Robinton stared at him.

"I'm sorry," F'lon said. "What were you two talking about?" he asked with a grin.

"The shaky foundations of my own little world," Robinton said.

The dragonrider grinned wider. "Oh, so your world is shaken, is it? Ha...it's strange day when the things you say are puerile, and the things I say are profound. Usually it's the other way around." Despite the potential insult in his words, his tone was teasing.

"...I thought you stole your profound thought from me. That would make me both puerile and profound."

F'lon raised an eyebrow and looked dubious. "If that's how you want to think of yourself..."

"Well, no, not really. Master Menolly--do you care to distract us with something of substance?"

"Oh no, I'm having way too much fun watching you to snipe at each other," Menolly said and smiled. One of her hands was scratching the eyeridges of the little queen on her shoulder.

F'lon gave a short laugh.

"If it wouldn't defeat the purpose of us coming here," came the voice of Masterharper Sebell, "I'd consider putting you two up on a stage."

Journeyman Harper and bronzerider both turned around, and politely acknowledged the man and his rank. Master Sebell looked at Robinton and quirked an eyebrow, but Robinton didn't understand what the Masterharper was trying to convey, so he dropped his gaze and bowed. When he looked up again, he thought he saw a ghost of unease cross the man's face, but then the man beckoned to them.

"Are you two feeling better today?" Master Sebell asked.

"I'd say we were actually feeling better yesterday, Masterharper," F'lon replied. "But I suppose we're more...clear-minded, today," and his tone was rueful.

"That's understandable," the Harper said. "Hopefully the headaches will pass soon. Or there might be some felis around here, somewhere." Then the man beckoned again, and the two young men, along with Master Menolly, followed him into the cot hold.

The cot hold had a rather martial air, Robinton noted, when they entered. It was only two stories high, and furnished sparsely and plainly. There were no tapestries on the wall, no dried flowers or herbs anywhere, no rugs, and very little color. In fact, it was rather uncertain if the cothold was actively occupied on a regular basis by anyone who wasn't a transient. The front room held a hearth, and a stone table with cold, unpadded stone benches on either side. On one wall there were weapons racks, and on the other, strange metal contraptions the size of a backpack, with odd hoses and nozzles. Robinton didn't have the foggiest of what they were there for, or what their purpose was. The scent of firestone lingered in the air, although it was stale, and mixed with something acrid, almost as if a Smith occasionally came here to do his work, although if there was a forge, it wasn't in this front room. Robinton momentarily wondered if he should be concerned about the martial nature of this cothold, when the dragonriders could have brought them anywhere, but then banished the thought from his mind as immaterial, because at this late date wondering if they were going to be locked up somewhere seemed too little, too late.

At the table, F'lar and F'nor were already seated, conversing quietly about something. Lessa was at the rack with the metal contraptions; she seemed to be checking them over for something, out of reflex. Sebell slid the metal door of the cot hold shut on its tracks behind them, and motioned for everyone who wasn't sitting to sit. Everyone except for Lessa obeyed, or rather, decided to comply; Lessa, however, was still occupied with the metal things on the one wall.

"We re-convened this morning, the five of us," Sebell began, addressing the two young men. "And to quickly come to the heart of the matter without any dancing about it, we've decided to request that you abstain from any unneeded contact with our when."

Ah, Robinton thought. It's nice that he's vaguely trying to ask us what is within their right to demand.

"What if we say no?" F'lon asked.

Robinton scowled at him. "That's a rhetorical question," he told the others.

F'lon raised an eyebrow. "It is?"

"I'd much rather be somewhat free in a secluded area that's likely not well accessible to most people than enclosed in a small windowless cell," Robinton told his friend. "Really, we're messing with time here, if by accident. It would be criminally incompetent to say, 'Oh, you don't want to? Well then, just go your merry way; maybe things will just turn out alright in the end!'."

F'lon laughed. "Point taken. So, rhetorical question...what if we say no?" he asked the others again.

"We lock you two in very small cells guarded by a starving watch wher," Sebell said, an evil glint in his eye. "And feed you nothing but gruel."

"See?" Robinton said. "I don't want to be eaten by a wher. The menu doesn't seem too appetizing either. Except maybe for the wher."

"In seems on par with the sort of things you cook," F'lon said. "You could make gruel. Probably. Maybe."

"I don't eat my own cooking," Robinton pointed out, to a few chuckles.

"So you agree to our request?" Lessa asked, bringing them back on topic.

"Our answer is probably yes," F'lon said, giving Robinton a look. "But what's the full terms?"

"This cot hold is used by our ground crews after threadfall; it's only accessible by a road from the Weyr, or by dragon, so any visitors you would have would have to fly in, or go through the Weyr to reach here. So yes, it is secluded," F'lar said. "We'd request that you stay here for the duration of Simanith's recovery, and during Simanith's training in going between times. You can hunt, fish, do whatever until then. You won't be allowed into the Weyr proper unless it is an emergency, and anyone coming here out here will be vetted by us first. Thread will not fall in this area for another two and a half sevendays, so you won't need to worry about that."

"Will it just be Robinton and Simanith and me?" F'lon asked.

"If we have your word that you won't hare off on Simanith, then we won't have anyone stationed here on a regular basis," Lessa said. "I would be coming by once a day however with F'nor's mate Brekke to check on Simanith, and later by myself to teach."

"Speaking preemptively here," Robinton said. "I realize you don't want us to have contact with this when, so I assume a bunch of sheet music to learn is out of the question, but do you think I could get a slate or something?" Robinton asked. "I suspect I won't be much more than a useless lump when F'lon and Simanith train with you, Weyrwoman. But I can keep myself occupied with a slate."

"Certainly," Sebell said promptly. "And I'm sure there's some sheet music we can find that won't destroy the universe if you read it," he said with a smile.

"Oh good. Thank you. I'd hate to destroy the universe by playing the wrong music," Robinton said humorously. "It would be rude of me."

"So we agree?" F'lon asked Robinton.

"The terms are reasonable," Robinton said. "But then I essentially already said that earlier."

"Alright," F'lon said. "I don't really want Robinton to be eaten by a wher either. So I agree."

"Very kind of you," Robinton said.

"I'm a generous guy," F'lon replied, while Harper Menolly seemed to be struggling not to show her amusement. Lessa looked resignedly tolerant, F'lar unfathomable, and F'nor inscrutable.

"This cot hold isn't really equipped for even temporary residence, so we'll be bringing over some necessities today," Lessa said. Then she paused and looked around. "It could also use a good scrubbing. Come with me, and I'll get you situated."

Robinton caught the Harper woman Menolly making a wide-eyed horrified look at him, before she flashed him a smile. He wasn't sure if she was laughing at, or providing sympathy over, the Weyrwoman's sudden implication that they were going to help her scrub the place down. He blinked, quirked an eyebrow at her, and rose to follow the diminutive Weyrwoman out of the room. F'lon caught on that they were supposed to be leaving, bowed to the other men in the room, and scrambled after.

Lessa gave them a quick tour of the cot hold; one room was being somewhat used for storage at one end of it, but there would be enough room to fit F'lon and Robinton and a bed or two into it, presumably, and, proving Robinton's theory correct, Lessa found some cleaning supplies and brooms, before abandoning them in the room that would become their sleeping quarters once cleaned out.

"I think this is punishment for being so crass as to travel between times drunk," F'lon said, while picking up a broom and looking at it as if he didn't quite know what to do with it.

"Indeed. Do you need me to show you how to use that?"

F'lon swiftly swung the broom around to hit Robinton with the straw end of it, but the Harper dodged easily. "I was a weyrling once--believe me, I'm a Master at wielding brooms!"

"Well then, Mastersweeper, you do what you know best. I'm going to see if I can organize some of this stuff so we can actually fit some sort of sleeping accommodations in here once someone brings them in."

"I'll laugh when you get everything all arranged perfectly to move a bed in here and they come back with sleeping bags," F'lon told him.

Robinton made a face. "Shush. Get to work."

"Since when does a mere Harper Journeyman tell the Mastersweeper what to do?" F'lon intoned imperiously. But he wasn't as good of an actor as Robinton, and his facade quickly broke and the two young men began laughing wildly for a long while. "Oh boy. This is going to be interesting," F'lon said, wiping tears from his eyes. Then he caught Robinton's gaze again, and they both broke into laughter again. The jokes weren't all that funny, but it perhaps eased the tension they felt at being in such a strange situation. "Alright, alright. Let's get this stuff sorted first. I won't be able to sweep until it's out of the way anyway."

"As the Mastersweeper commands," Robinton said snidely. This time F'lon's swat with the broom connected.

#

Author's Notes:

Again, to re-iterate...apologies for the delay in posting this! Original post below:

I've just uploaded chapter 9 to ff.net, and I see that I forgot to put italics in and post chapters 5-8 here. I promise to take a moment to do this tomorrow, for chapters 5-9 (have to run to the store tonight before it closes!). In the meantime, as always, it's up on fanfiction.net.
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Last edited by D. M. Domini; Dec 1 2008 at 03:01 AM. Reason: Added chapter 6.
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Old Dec 1 2008, 03:05 AM   #7
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Default Re: The Skyboom (v2 - rewrite)

Chapter Seven

Camolien was nursing a cup of klah sometime the next mor--well, actually it was noon. Drat. So much to do, and so little time. He stopped nursing the klah, gulping it down instead, and stared at his creation for the goldrider in disgust, before striding over to the scrap of paper he'd scribbled down that Harper's measurements on...

Oh. Oh! Well, shards. He had a mind like a sieve. He'd met a Harper last night, and Master Teslay was looking for a Harper in particular...

Camolien searched through his desk and threw some stray scraps of cloth into a bin, and found the note. Teslay's firelizard Sapho was nowhere to be found on the other hand, so he probably went back empty-clawed to his master sometime in the night. But the note...tall, dark haired, blue eyed...

"Well, I wouldn't be able to find my nose if it wasn't attached to my face," the man said to himself. Then he got a pencil and scribbled a reply underneath Teslay's words.

Yes, your Journeyman friend is here. I'm making him new pants. In green, mind you. Tell him he has no fashion sense. Also, now you owe me some very good words on my behalf when I apply for that costuming position at your Hall.

~ C


He set the note aside, thinking that Sapho would probably re-appear sometime during the day to nag him again, and ventured out to find some suitable green fabric. Pity that people thought green was a color of ill omen, but at least it made the fabric cheap and available.

#

"I never would have picked you as one having a subversive taste in music," Masterharper Sebell said to Master Teslay.

"It's possible I spent too much time in Landing," Teslay agreed carefully. "Listening to some of that music is like discovering that some people don't speak in words."

"Well, as I understand it, some people don't. It's called different 'languages'," Sebell said. "Quite interesting, actually..." Then he cleared his throat. "I don't think it will come as a surprise to you that I can't in good conscience give you the resources you need for this production."

Master Teslay was quiet for a moment. He'd been looking forward to a good attempt to persuade the Masterharper to approve this one, but after last night, the focus of his thoughts had changed and now it was like herding firelizards, trying to put together a pitch about music, when he was wondering what sort of strange political game this Masterharper was involved in. What had happened to force them to such desperate measures? Or was Master Sebell in as much thrall to the man's memory as half the planet? Teslay forced his mouth to move, and answer the man. "The music isn't intended to shock, actually, but pave the road for presenting all the other technologies we've re-discovered to the general population. Something to ease the integration." Of course, if it ever got out that Masterharper Robinton was alive and well and running around on this man's command, they'd likely have a far worse problem in the short term than ordinary people becoming confused and fearful of technology. The man was truly a legend now that he'd passed on.

"Yes, I saw your note. But the involvement of the Smiths will make the cost of production skyrocket, and I can't say for sure that...that music of this type won't start a riot at a Gather. And if that happened, Lord Groghe or whichever Lord that was hosting the Gather would be well within their rights to demand compensation, on behalf of himself and of any other Crafters that got caught in the crossfire, which, added to the already high production costs, would cause this production to run a very high risk of financially ruining the Hall."

"So I am prohibited from producing it?" Master Teslay said distractedly, jerking his thoughts back to the topic at hand, thinking he understood what the Masterharper was saying between the lines.

Sebell hesitated. "If you find Crafters willing to donate their time and materials, I will not forbid it, if you wish to go forward with production on your own time. But neither will I exempt you from your assigned duties as a Master to make time for it, nor will I shield you from any backlash you may get from the traditionalists in the Hall, should you succeed in producing it."

"But you will not forbid it outright?" he prodded the Craftsmaster.

"The Hall needs people not afraid to explore new ideas and themes, just as much as it needs traditionalists to give people the comfort of the familiar that they require to be secure in their lives. That being said...this is already pushing the line of acceptability. Use your good judgment, and I won't feel the need to interfere with the soup you're making here, to use a culinary term."

"Alright," Teslay said, bowing his head and accepting the restrictions for now, since arguing would only make his position worse, particularly when his thoughts were so scattered, and anxiety was starting to dog him. Then there was a flapping of wings, and Sapho alighted in his shoulder, greeting the Masterharper's queen firelizard Kimi with an appropriately polite chirp. The queen lazily opened one eyelid to look at him, chirped once in response, and went back to sleep.

"You have a message," Sebell said.

Teslay felt a chill creep up his spine even though it was an obvious observation, but hid it by nodding amiably. "I know a Tailor who wants to be posted here, Masterharper. He's probably asking for a good word," Teslay said. He did not retrieve the firelizard's message tube, however. Sapho, alert to his moods, made a little inquiring sound, and Teslay tried to calm himself and the firelizard both before their agitation became visible to the room.

"We should have a spot open up in a few months, if I recall correctly. Tell him to send us a few designs and samples; if we like them, we'll speak with the Mastertailor to see if he can be posted here."

Teslay smiled. "I'll let him know."

Sebell nodded, and gathered the score that was scattered over his desk together, and handed them back to him. "Good, good. Let me know if you do get any volunteers for it; I'd like to hear the music as you intend it to be heard, and I suspect I'm having trouble reading between the lines on this, judging from the key you have at the back explaining your non-standard terms and markings."

Teslay grimaced. "Many of the, ah, electronic sounds have no proper counterpart, although it is very possible or probable that I managed to snuff up the transcription on the more traditional parts too; I never expected to go into composition, and I daresay I slept through many of those lessons as an Apprentice," he said with a slight laugh. "Master Domick will get his revenge on me when I ask which of his Journeymen would be up to providing some remedial tutoring."

"Oh yes he will," Sebell said with a grin. Then he sighed. "It's nearly noon! I admit to being famished; will you join me as I walk down to the meal?"

"I have a few things to work on, Masterharper," Teslay said quickly. "I think I'll be taking my meal in my quarters today." But he rose with the Masterharper, and followed him out the door.

"Well then, I'll make note of that to Silvina," Sebell said, locking the door to his office and quarters behind him.

"That would be much appreciated, Masterharper."

"It's no bother. You have a good afternoon." And Sebell gave him a friendly clout on the shoulder, before turning to stride down the hall towards the afternoon meal.

#

If I hate being stressed so much, why do I put myself in these sorts of positions? Teslay thought to himself once he escaped the Masterharper's quarters and clutches with Sapho and, hopefully, a message from Camolien. There was a chance that the note was incriminating, and his heart was racing as if he'd participated in a sprint during some Gather. He hated the anxiety, and the feeling of fear that seeped through his veins lest he was discovered by one of those flashes of insight that men in power often had.

But really...finding a way to almost bring a man back from the dead was just wrong. The world needed someone to keep an eye on the people in power.

He wanted to rush back to his quarters to read the message, but knew if he did that, he'd be cooped up in there until his furious thinking subsided. If he stormed around the Hall in furious thought, someone would wonder, and really, he didn't want the Masterharper to think he was bent out of shape over his music any more than he wanted the man to know what he was really up to. So before braving the Tailor's findings, if any, he quickly grabbed a pot of klah from the kitchens, and amazingly a plate that was already being prepared, and, fortification in hand, retreated back to his temporary lair in the guest quarters.

Sapho was starting to pick up his anxiety again, so once he had secluded himself, he spent several moments calming down the twitchy little beast. Poor thing didn't need to jerk around and shiver on account of his moods. Only then, once Teslay had calmed himself and the little blue down, and taken a few stomach pleasing bites of food and a gulp of klah, he extracted the message that the firelizard has brought back to him.

A few moments later, he kindled a small fire in the hearth, and burned the note to ashes.

"Confirmed. Stupid, stupid, stupid people..." Although the fact that Camolien was making a new pair of pants for Masterharper Robinton without even knowing he was doing so--or at least, not letting on in the note--was by far one of the funniest things that Master Teslay could remember happening recently. The poor, ambitious, rank-climbing man--if only he knew!

And, a thought dawned on Master Teslay...if Camolien was making pants for the Harper, wouldn't he also perhaps be delivering them as well? And if that was so, wouldn't he be able to slip in a note with them?

But...what would Teslay say to Master Robinton? And what age was the man anyway? He couldn't assume anything when messing around with time. Was he Masterharper yet on his own timeline? Would he have apprentices yet? If not, perhaps he would seriously consider Master Teslay's thoughts. But if he had already Apprenticed Sebell on or Menolly, there was a large chance that Master Robinton would essentially rat him out if he provided his name or any sort of identification. But on the other hand, if Robinton didn't know who Sebell was, why would he trust someone who didn't even provide his name?

And...how long did it take to make a pair of pants for a supposedly simple Journeyman?

Teslay leapt to his feet again, and grabbed a sheet of parchment off of a shelf. Then he returned it, since it was awfully nice parchment, and found a scrap of paper--how ironic that something rather priceless not ten turns ago was now used so casually, he thought vaguely to himself, before finding a writing stick to scribble things down with. When you deliver the pants, can you take him a note for me? he asked. If so, let me know when you plan to make the delivery, and I'll have Sapho here bring you the note beforehand. There. Perhaps the man would then delay things a bit, giving him a little time to mull things over..."Come, my little man, I've another task for you," he said to his firelizard. The firelizard gave him what might be an indulgent look or maybe just a look of indigestion given the chunk of richly spiced meat he'd just stolen from Teslay's luncheon pie, and complied, and a few moments later, another note in Teslay's disjointed score was in progress.

#

"You again. That was quick. If the Harper boy was female, I'd suspect your Master has fallen in love," Camolien said, when a familiar blue firelizard popped into his quarters and made amazed sounds that Camolien was indeed there. Silly little thing. Camolien bribed the firelizard out of its flightiness and down to his desk with a bit of fruit. Camolien had no idea if the firelizard was short-sighted or just had a strange taste in foods for a firelizard, but it worked in luring the firelizard down, and shortly he had the bit of paper out of the tube.

"Mmm," he said after he had read it. "If you wanted to send a note, why didn't you include it, you daft Harper? I swear, you are sweet on the man or something. Just write the blasted note." And Camolien turned the paper over and wrote a patronizing reply. Then, since his mind was on the subject, he picked up the half-made pair of pants he had started working on earlier, and began working on them again. He'd finish them by this evening, just to mess with Teslay. Otherwise they'd be passing notes back and forth forever like two Apprentices lovesick over the same girl. "Here you go, Sapho. No need to take it back quick; go have a little vacation on a beach or something. Take some time off."

The firelizard gave him a curious look, as if it didn't understand him, and then launched into the air and disappeared.

"Right, then. I wish I had a timer..."
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Old Dec 1 2008, 03:08 AM   #8
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Chapter Eight

It was actually Lessa who brought Robinton a slate and chalk two days later; the slate was clean and new, housed in a metal frame, and had a hole bored in one corner, through which a cord was strung. The cord had a little bag with the Mining Hall stamp on it, and within the bag was several newly-made sticks of chalk. Some were in colors other than white, which was interesting. Robinton accepted it solemnly (his entire body was sore from the work she'd had the two of them do yesterday to make the cothold more livable), and watched as she gathered up F'lon and Simanith for some lessons on going between times, and left.

"I'm bored already," Robinton said to himself once the two dragons had vanished out of the sky, while looking at his blank slate. Then he shrugged and investigated the sticks of chalk in their bag. "I'll be quite the Seer when I get back home; Thread is coming, and, oh yes, we'll be able to put pigments into slate chalk in the future! Isn't that astounding?"

There was nobody to answer his dripping sarcasm, so he wandered back into the cothold and retrieved his gitar, parchments, a pen, and a bottle of ink. "Ah, well. Perhaps I'll get some sheet music tomorrow. For now, I will have to be content with attempting to put this all to music. It's a pity lyrics are quite out of the question. Or perhaps a blessing; how could I ever put words to this saga so that people from my time would understand? Or perhaps I should dress it up as a fantasy, an improbable tale. Of course, I'd need some suitable moral or point, otherwise it's just a story..." And he settled himself down outside under a tree, pulling out his gitar as he did so, already lost to the melodies beginning to unwind inside his mind.

The sun had risen quite high in the sky by the time Lessa, F'lon, and their dragons had returned. Lessa and Ramoth didn't land; instead they watched F'lon and Simanith from on high for a while, before disappearing between. F'lon dismounted, spotted Robinton under his tree, and immediately made a beeline towards him, shedding riding gear carelessly into the grass.

"How did it go?" Robinton asked as F'lon wadded up his riding jacket and collapsed onto the ground, using the garment as a pillow.

"Don't ask," F'lon groaned.

"Well, unfortunately I can't go between time and un-ask it, now that it's been asked," Robinton joked.

"Well, don't look at me, because neither can I!" F'lon said mournfully.

"The lessons went that bad?" Robinton said in sympathy.

"Yes. She's worse than Carola. What did you do with yourself all morning?"

Robinton showed F'lon his slate.

"I'm no Harper, but I see four notes there."

"That is correct. I didn't get too far." Robinton let out a melodramatic, gusty sigh.

"There's also a lot of erased smudges. Didn't anyone ever tell you not to use your shirt to erase slates?"

"They didn't give me an eraser," Robinton said, tugging on the hem of his shirt to inspect it. It puffed colored dust when he did so. "So I made do. At least I didn't try to lick the slate clean."

F'lon laughed. "You had one of those in your classes when you were little too?"

"I think there's always one or two. Just like there's always an Apprentice or two that sniffs the varnish."

"The varnish for what?" F'lon inquired.

"Instrument-making. It has fumes that do strange things to your head if you get too many of them. Someone always sniffs it on purpose and starts to hallucinate, then they end up in the Healer wings for a few days."

F'lon laughed. "That reminds me. Did you ever hear the story about the Journeyman Smith who specialized in chemistry who changed Crafts and became a Chef?"

"No, and it sounds more interesting than this," and Robinton threw the slate and chalk into the grass. "Tell me."

#

Later that afternoon, Robinton felt belatedly ashamed for using his shirt as an eraser when the Tailor they had met at the Weyr the other day came down the road to meet them, package in hand. Robinton was typically fairly oblivious to what he wore, aside from the occasions when his role on stage as a Harper required that he wear a costume of some sort, but there was nothing worse than a Tailor to make you feel acutely aware of exactly what you were wearing and the hideous state it was in. Journeyman Camolien eyed Robinton up and down, sniffed, and handed him a puffy package. "Clothing for you and the dragonrider. If you put on one of the pairs of pants and they don't reach your ankles, you have the wrong pair of pants on. Give it to the dragonrider. Unless you want to look like a fool in Gather pants. And for Faranath's sake, if you don't have the marks to purchase custom-made pants, check up the leg of the Gather pants for extra cloth; sometimes we'll sew a couple of inches of leg up inside, and even a Harper should be able to rip out that seam and let the legs out so they're the right length. If that fails, just wear a pair of short britches to the Gather and someone will take pity on you and do a quick and cheap custom job, if only to cover your long hairy thighs up as quickly as possible."

F'lon began to laugh behind them. Robinton ignored it, and thanked the Tailor for the package and the cranky advice.

"You should be able to retire those clothes to slate-duty full time now," the Tailor added flicking his hands at Robinton's untucked shirt-hem, then waved goodbye and began the long walk back to the Weyr.

"Goodbye," Robinton offered politely to the man's back.

After he had left, F'lon came up to stand beside Robinton. "Is it just me, or do you find Tailors a bit creepy?"

"How so?" Robinton asked, tucking the package under his arm.

"Well, every Craft teaches its members to size up a situation in some way. But I think Tailoring is the only Craft that teaches its members to look at people as if they have no clothing on." He grinned.

Robinton threw back his head and laughed. "You know, I think you're right."

"Are you going to change into those now?" F'lon asked, flicking a finger at the package.

Robinton shook his head. "Why dirty something up that I'll only wear for a little while? It's almost sunset. Speaking of that, and the fresh provisions they brought us the other day--who's cooking tonight!"

"Whoever gets hungriest first. I'm going to bathe in that stream; that Weyrwoman makes me break out in a cold sweat."

Robinton thought of the petite goldrider again, and shook his head. "You have a phobia, my friend."

"I do not."

"I'm afraid you do," Robinton teased. "She's as small and cute as a dragon's ear, and here you are, shaking in your trews."

F'lon looked at the Harper. "Dragons don't have ears. And if they did, they wouldn't be small. You aren't sweet on the Benden Weyrwoman, are you?"

Robinton laughed. "As long as she doesn't come bearing gifts of Benden wine, I'd say no."

"And if she does?"

"I'll be anything she wants me to be if I can have a glass. The Benden Weyrleaders probably have access to some very nice vintages. The best of the best. They didn't bring us anything to drink with the provisions, did you know?"

"I don't see why they would waste perfectly good Benden wine on one lousy Journeyman Harper and a random bronzerider," F'lon said. "Also...we arrived here drunk. They probably don't want to repeat that."

"We had good reason to be drunk; coming here was just an accident. Not a single skin of wine, Benden or otherwise, or even a local brew or anything. It's quite horrible."

"Is there klah?" F'lon inquired.

"Yes."

"That's drinkable."

"Technically."

F'lon snorted and punched Robinton in the arm. "Then drink that. And stop whining. I'll be back after I take a bath." And he gathered up bits and pieces of his riding gear from the ground, and vanished behind the cothold in the direction of the stream.

Robinton sighed, and with the thought of klah on his mind, decided that he would be the one cooking this evening. Starting with a pot of klah.

#

Later that night, after their meal had been finished, the dishes washed and put away, and F'lon was already dead asleep on his bed in the room that was their bedroom, Robinton shucked his own clothes in preparation to crawl into the other bed. He threw them on top of the small rather rickety bound-reed dresser, next to the package that the Tailor had brought them. The package caught his eye, so he undid the twine that held it closed, removed the rough burlap cloth, and found a couple of pairs of clothes. The first shirt he held up seemed to be for F'lon, so he put it to one side and looked through the rest of it. He found three shirts that seemed to have arms long enough for him, and three out of six pairs of pants that seemed long enough for him. Two were green, one was brown. He held each up to his waist to quickly check the size, and noted with surprise that there were pockets on the rump of all three. Not that he'd ever say no to pockets, but it seemed strange to put them where you'd sit on the contents of them. Perhaps it was a fashion thing, meant to draw one's eye to your rear end.

He laughed softly to himself at that.

As he folded the clothing up into two piles--his and F'lon's--he noted that one of the green pairs of pants rustled a bit. He groped at the buttoned pocket, glad F'lon wasn't awake to make fun of him, and a moment later withdrew a small folded letter on paper of all things, sealed with a nondescript blob of blue wax that had had no seal or fingerprint or anything to verify the sender embossed into it. His name was on front, written in something other than ink, which smudged the tiniest bit when he rubbed a thumb against it. The Ninth Pass really was reinventing the wheel, wasn't it? He wondered if it was some sort of super-thin chalk stick that had been used, given his experiences with the slate earlier that day.

Putting that thought away for later (maybe he could ask Lessa or one of the Harpers if he saw them again; it seemed a small enough question), he cracked the wax seal, opened the letter, and sat down on his bed.

Master Robinton --

I hope this letter finds you well and in good health. If not, tell the Tailor and we'll see what we can do.

- T

Robinton flipped the note over, and even held it up to the glows to see if there was another message watermarked or something so that a casual glance wouldn't catch it, but it seemed that all the letter held was that cryptic message. If the handwriting hadn't been all wrong for Tuck, he would have suspected one of those Harpers trying to contact him, but he didn't recognize this particular hand.

But...if Tuck was alive in this when, he would be an old man, with Apprentices of his own. It was possible that Tuck had arthritis or the shakes, and would have assigned someone else to write the note. So Robinton pulled his pants back on and wandered downstairs to light a small fire and conduct a few more tests with various ingredients from the kitchen just to ensure he hadn't missed something.

He hadn't. Not unless they'd reinvented the wheel here too and were using a technique that he had never been taught. But that would be shoddy research, applying techniques that came into use too recently, and Tuck's type of Harper was even more observant and thoughtful than the regular Harper, so Robinton doubted that was the case here.

Still. It was curious that someone had found out about him and F'lon, and were trying to contact them. Or him at least. Was it a test devised by the Benden Weyrleaders or the Masterharper to see if he and F'lon were keeping their word about limiting contact with this time? Or was it someone else entirely that couldn't contact him through the established route--the Benden Weyrleaders? And if so, what sort of intents and goals did they have? Were they aware that they were essentially meddling with time by contacting him? Was the Tailor directly involved, or just a vehicle for bringing the letter to him? As far as he could tell, meeting the Tailor at Benden Weyr had been chance. And his clothes had been rather ragged. The difference stood out to him, obvious, now that he'd just handled some brand new clothing.

Robinton sighed and flicked the letter into the hearth, and watched the paper burn easily, and the broken wax seal bubble up and run to spatter into the fire, hissing and spitting. It sounded like they were waiting for him to contact them, before initiating anything. If he were lucky, he could just ignore it and that would be that. If he wasn't lucky...hmm. Perhaps he should mention it to Lessa when she came tomorrow for F'lon's lesson.

He didn't like that option too much. It was really a question he should address to the Masterharper, if it really did involve Harpers of Nip and Tuck's type. Perhaps he should ask her if the Masterharper was going to visit them. Although that might provoke her curiosity.

Robinton shook his head to himself, and decided to sleep on it. So he went back upstairs, undressed again, and closed the glows.

It took him a while to get to sleep.
__________________
Read my Pern and Talent fanfic on Archive of our Own.

Fanfic WIPs: The Day Benden Went to War (Pern/Talent); Slosh (Pern); Weyrbred Lads (Pern); When You Fall Asleep /Between/... (Pern)

Completed Fics: Flight (Pern), Flight v2 (Pern), Golden Glow (Pern)

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Old Dec 1 2008, 03:23 AM   #9
D. M. Domini
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Default Re: The Skyboom (v2 - rewrite)

Chapter Nine

"Tell me, Harper...is it obvious?" F'lon asked Robinton a sevenday later, tossing his helmet on the stone table and plopping down on the cold, unpadded stone bench in a way that made Robinton's tailbone flinch.

Robinton caught the helmet before it rolled into his bowl of soup, and set it out of the way on the table. "I'm thinking that it is not, because I haven't the foggiest what you're talking about. Do you want some food?"

"Did you cook it?"

"It actually turned out well this time," Robinton admitted, stirring his spoon around in the broth. It kicked up rice and diced vegetables, and sent tiny savory particles swirling in the amber liquid.

"Ha! I'll have a little then." And F'lon jumped up again like he had springs in his boots and retreated into the kitchen. A few moments later he re-appeared with his own steaming bowl. "Hmmm. This is good!" he said, timidly sipping at the steaming hot liquid in his spoon as he sat.

"Thank you sir," Robinton said, and dipped a piece of bread into his bowl to sop up some broth. A few moments later he spoke up again. "What is it that you wanted to speak to me about?"

"F'lar and F'nor. Did you know they're brothers?"

"I didn't pick up on it, no. So I might say that it's not obvious from first glance."

"No, no, no, that's not the obvious part. Think about it again."

Robinton thought about it again, as commanded. "F'lar looks a bit like you," he said.

"Yes! So it is obvious!"

Robinton snorted. "Am I supposed to be drawing some sort of conclusion from that? I can think of three, maybe four other riders from our own time that have a resemblance to you. Probably half-brothers or cousins or whatever--I'm led to believe that that doesn't matter much among weyrfolk, though. Am I wrong?"

"You're not wrong, Robinton. Are you really not picking this up, or are you trying to make me feel better about not realizing it before now?"

"I didn't pick it up originally, but you've been leading me down a path for the last few moments. Are they related to you?"

"They're my sons!"

Robinton blinked in genuine surprise, trying to reconcile the stern, authoritative Benden Weyrleader and the quiet but watchful brownrider with that information. Both men were easily twice his age, so it took a few mental gymnastics to get his brain to accept it, despite the physical similarity between F'lar and F'lon. "They act nothing like you."

F'lon waved that away with his hand. "We've seen their public personas. Who knows what they're really like. I don't always act like fluff on the wind, you know. I've been a little discombobulated by events lately."

"That's a big word for a little dragonrider," Robinton teased.

The bronzerider threw a piece of bread at Robinton. "I have sons! And maybe you do too! Do you think Masterharper Sebell is related to you in any way? He's tall...like you..."

"It would be terribly convenient for your sons to run Benden Weyr and mine to run the Harper Hall, wouldn't you think?"

"Do you doubt that F'lar and F'nor are--"

"No, no, not at all. I'm doubting that Sebell is my son. Or Menolly my daughter, for that matter." Robinton paused, thinking about it. If he had a child, a son or a daughter...he would have expected him or her to act a bit differently, if he was, say, a parent come back from the dead. There had been a note of...of...of something, from both the Harpers. He'd seen the shock, warring with the need to act in an official capacity during this strange mixed-up betweening across whens. But it wasn't like how he would feel if, say, his mother had come back to him, if she...

Well, that was a depressing thought. "Thanks for making me imagine my mother gone," Robinton said, a touch of sarcasm in his tone.

"Oh. I'm sorry. Why were you thinking about that? Oh! Well, you might have fostered them..."

Robinton gave his friend a look. "No offense intended, I know the weyrs do it frequently, but I doubt I'll foster my children, if I ever have any."

"So you don't think that Masters Sebell or Menolly are--"

"I think they're my Apprentices," Robinton said. "Or were. Or will be."

F'lon raised his eyebrows. "So you're Masterharper? Before Sebell?"

Robinton hesitated. "It feels...arrogant to say yes. Being that I'm merely a Journeyman now. But," and he sighed. "Evidence suggests it. Master Gennel has been grooming me for it for a couple of Turns now; I would have to be blind to deny that that is what he's doing with me. If it wasn't, I would be one of the other Master's Apprentices; it doesn't make sense for a Masterharper to take an apprentice that won't follow in his footsteps, unless he already has a candidate under his wing. Regardless of the fact that formally you need a majority of the Masters to vote a new Masterharper in, historically it's been rare that they've chosen someone other than the previous Masterharper's student. So if I become Masterharper, and Sebell is Masterharper now, it follows that Sebell would have been my Apprentice. I would have groomed him to replace me. It would also explain why both Master Sebell and Master Menolly have such difficulties calling me 'Journeyman'." Robinton paused, then switched subjects again. "If F'lar and F'lon really are your sons...they seem like good men."

"Yes. I barely know them or what they've done, but I'm already proud of them. Isn't that strange? And they're both dragonriders!" F'lon seemed even prouder of that. Then he seemed to deflate. "I've been a horrible boor, though. The worst example of a father ever. Right in front of them. If I had only known...!"

Robinton laughed. "I think they'll understand."

"Are you embarrassed about how you've acted around your future Apprentices?"

Robinton considered this. "If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't start it out drunk."

"I don't think we'd be here in the first place if we hadn't been drunk. Or," and here F'lon shot his friend a very wicked grin, "You could have remembered your riding gear!"

"Hey now, just because I forgot my gear didn't mean you had to take us into a thunderstorm," Robinton quickly pointed out, stabbing a forefinger at his friend in emphasis. "Don't blame your failings on me!"

The two young men growled at each other over that one for a while, re-treading a mock-argument that had grown comforting and familiar over the past seven days. They managed to empty the cooking pot too, something which Robinton noted with a bit of bemused happiness; it didn't always happen when he was the one making the meal. His culinary explorations didn't work out nearly as well as his musical ones did. Although he was trying; the longer they stayed here, the more he became restless. He had nobody to teach, nobody to perform for, no destination to go to (within his control), no way to help F'lon and Simanith do...whatever it was that they needed to do to be able to return them to their own time. He wasn't quite sure what to do with himself.

Thinking of that..."How goes lessons?"

F'lon hesitated in his reach for the crusty end of the loaf of bread, then picked it up and with a frown tore it into pieces. "Not...not well. We don't know why."

"Oh," Robinton said. "How is it not going well?"

F'lon gave Robinton a look. "We're still here, aren't we?"

"That is true," Robinton said cautiously, hoping that F'lon would relent and give him some more information to work with.

F'lon rolled his eyes. "The mechanics are the same as going between like normal. I've verified it with the Weyrwoman hundreds of times now. We, Simanith and I, visualize our destination, like we normally would when going between. Then we add a fourth dimension--time. Typically time is implicit...when you want to go between from one spot to another, you want to go there now, not yesterday, or tomorrow. But when you want to go back in time, you adjust your coordinates to the proper when in addition to the where. You specifically imagine the place how it looked a sevenday ago, or Turns ago, or whatever, or you can also imagine it as you usually would, but specify yesterday, as a fourth, unseen, dimension. If you've never been personally to that when and where you can even use a very specific mental image, such as of the stars or alignment of the moons which only look a certain way during a certain when from a certain where, and let the when work itself out because the visual itself specifies the when because it only occurred in that configuration at a specific moment in time."

"Or so you've been told?" Robinton guessed.

"Or so we've been told. We've tried going backwards a day. From here-today to Benden Weyr-yesterday. We go between places fine, from here to the Weyr, but are still in the now when we arrive...today, not yesterday. We tried a month, and a turn. Same deal. Simanith has taken the destination directly from Ramoth. And Lessa. And myself. Using stars and planets, using a specific memory of how the place looked yesterday, trying all the different ways. Same result. We get to the where, but stay in the now." F'lon looked a little worried, but covered it up by using his shredded bread to clean up the last drips of soup from his bowl.

"They say this is unusual?"

"Oh she says nothing about if it's unusual or not. Her lips are sealed on that. And it's not unknown for a weyrling to pop out of between right where they entered it a few seconds later, or right back to their home weyr, rather than going where they intended to go; our dragons are trained to do that if something wrong happens, so we don't exit in a mountainside or something. But Simanith and I are not weyrlings. And I can tell that we're going wrong somewhere, just by the way she's expanded on the tactics to try to get us to time it somewhere successfully. You don't do that when training dragons unless the usual way isn't working."

"I would say you try that tactic with any student that's not performing as expected," Robinton mused. "Do all the dragonridrers here learn how to go between times as well as places?"

F'lon shook his head, then nodded, then shrugged. "Yes, no, maybe so? I get the impression it's not nearly as big of a production as it is with Simanith and I. The first time she introduced it, in our first lesson, it was merely as a fourth dimension. Like...to make a Harper analogy, playing a chord with four notes instead of three. Slightly different, but not so much that it should take this much effort."

"Unless you're missing a finger," Robinton said with morbid amusement. "Then you can play a three-note chord just fine, but will have all sorts of trouble adding a fourth note."

F'lon paused, as if seriously considering it. "But we got here. How did we get here in the first place if we only have three fingers?"

It was unhelpful, but Robinton didn't have any answers. Nor did he want to suggest that a fourth "finger" had been damaged on the way here, or some such. "I don't know."

"Man. I'm so sorry we got you into this..." the bronzerider told him with a maudlin expression, while shaking his head in apology.

"It's not your fault, F'lon. Nor Simanith's, nor mine. It just happened. Perhaps it has something to do with the lightening storm; perhaps the lightening strike addled your heads at precisely the wrong moment, and that's how we got here."

"Are you suggesting we find a tame thunderbolt to catalyze our way home?" F'lon asked. "Shards, I hope that's not the solution. I don't want to go flying in a thunderstorm again without the tingly glowy feeling of being entirely liquefied-drunk beforehand."

Robinton agreed with that. Yet, he couldn't help but consider it seriously. It was one wild card that had occurred while they had made the transition between. "It would be breaking our word, as we'd have to go seeking out a thunderstorm...but do you want to try it?"

F'lon glanced over his shoulder, as if seeking for invisible eyes and ears spying on them. "But how do you coax the lightening down out of the sky? It doesn't really strike on will, you know."

"Have you ever seen a wooden hold?"

"A what?"

"A hold. Built of wood."

"Why under the red star would anyone do that?"

"My mother has a cousin who is a woodsman. There are lots of trees around in the area where they live, but it's a bit of a trial to find stone. It's expensive to transport it in, and the Lord Holder isn't always willing to fund the creation of a new minor hold. The older families live in existing holds made of stone, but the newer ones, and the poorer woodsie people, use what's at hand. What's plentiful, what they have the tools to harvest. There are many people who don't believe in Thread, F'lon, and wood works just as well as stone to keep the rain off of your head and the drafts out of your bedroom."

"It's short-sighted of them."

"I don't know; it's been hundreds of Turns since Thread last fell. You can't really blame them for being practical."

"Robinton...you heard--"

"No, no, no, I'm not saying I believe Thread is never going to fall again, or that we were lied to about it, but in our time, without that information...it's not illogical. It's very easy to see why people have started to make that choice, to use wood. That's all I'm saying. Anyway, they understandably have an issue with fire. From lightening. They have these big metal poles attached to the peaks of the roofs of the holds. I asked my mother's cousin's family what they were for, the first time I saw them. And they said, it causes the lightening to hit the metal part rather than the wood, and somehow the lightening goes into the ground and that keeps things from being set on fire. I don't know exactly how it works, though. But the metal pole attracts lightening away from everything else in the area."

"So you say we should go find a metal pole, and then find a thunderstorm, and then go riding around it with the pole stuck out to see if lightening strikes us, and when it does, we should try to go between back to our own time?"

"I never said we should, F'lon," Robinton said, uncomfortably aware of the stupidity of the idea. "I'm just putting ideas on the table. Speculation number one: we're here because of the lightening. Solution number one: try to get lightening to hit us again."

"How is it that you make an awful lot of sense when saying stupid things?"

"It's a gift. I can make anything sound perfectly logical," Robinton said with a smile.

"What about the fact that lightening only strikes a man once, if ever?"

"Is that a myth, or is it true?" Robinton asked.

"How would I know?" F'lon said. "I never expected to be hit once."

"...alright. I'll hold the rod."

"So if we do this, you're volunteering?"

Robinton rolled a shoulder. "Never ask someone else to do something you wouldn't be willing to do yourself?" he offered. "And you've been hit once. I suspect that that tale is a myth, but I don't think we'll have the chances to try more than once, all the same."

"But you don't even know how the lightening didn't set the wood aflame, you said."

The Harper was uncomfortably aware of that, but shrugged. "Why does a string play a note when plucked? I don't know. But I can make and attach the string to my gitar. I suppose I can find a metal pole and. Er. Hold it out in a thunderstorm."

"...we're actually going to do this, aren't we?"

"We're not doing anything if you don't want to," Robinton said, and rose, gathering their dirty dishes to him. "It's not like I can go between all on my lonesome. Let's think it over." And with that he left the idea in the dragonrider's lap, and took their dishes to the kitchen so he could wash them.

#

Two nights later, some time after midnight with both moons riding high, Robinton and F'lon crawled out of bed. Without saying anything, they both made their beds, gathered their things, and made their way outside. Robinton had a pole that he had found stored away in one of the storage rooms. It was plain, and about as long as the spread width of his arms, and hollow so it wasn't as heavy as it could have been. It didn't seem to be used for anything, or if it was, it seemed like something that would be simple enough to replace, since if they were successful, they would be taking it with them.

"Did you ever get anything out of Lessa on if she thought the storm might have had anything to do with it?" Robinton asked his friend, as they exited the small cothold and slid the metal door shut on its track.

F'lon's stride hesitated, then corrected itself. "No."

Robinton frowned. "Did you ask her?"

"...no," F'lon admitted

Robinton closed his eyes for a moment. "F'lon--"

"She would have caught on, and put a stop to it! The moment I opened my mouth, no matter how I phrased it, she would have caught on. She can hear all dragons, you know?"

Robinton didn't know how that applied to F'lon, since he wasn't a dragon, merely a dragonrider. "You're still scared of her?" Robinton asked.

"I am not 'scared'. I am cautious. And since you obviously are not, why didn't you--"

"Because she definitely would have caught on if a Harper was asking about it. I technically have no need to know; without a dragonrider around, I can't apply the knowledge. I would need to coerce someone into helping me. Nevermind that; do you know where there's a thunderstorm around?"

"Nerat," F'lon said. "Rolling in near Half Circle Sea Hold."

"Ah. So we know that, at least."

"Yes. You brought the pole? Good." And F'lon grabbed Robinton's gitar case and strapped it on.

"I brought the pole. You know, I think I should leave these riding leathers behind..."

"What? No! Are you stupid? You're lucky you didn't come down with firehead or anything last time. Besides, they're yours."

"These are far finer than anything I've ever owned, my friend. They shouldn't be mal-used like this. And I'm just borrowing them."

F'lon turned around and rolled his eyes heavenward. "They're yours. I will bet you five marks on that."

"The Masterharper never said anything about giving..."

"Anxiety is slowing your brain down tonight, old man."

Robinton paused, thinking about that. "Wait. You think they were mine?" he asked, what F'lon was saying suddenly clicking.

"They still smell like storage!"

"Oh." Robinton looked down and touched the lapel of the jacket, which was snugly and warmly padded with fleece. It had blue-stitched patterns on it. "Oh." He didn't quite know what to think about wearing riding leathers that he had owned in these times...before he had passed away. It was more than a little strange.

"Don't worry about it. Get on, and bring the pole, and think on how you're going to explain those fancy riding leathers to your mother."

"I only wish," Robinton said. "Alright, let's get on with this ridiculous scheme."

#

"This isn't a very good thunderstorm," Robinton commented in F'lon's ear some time later, as they hovered above a crag-ridden shoreline. The moons still shone brightly at their backs, uncovered by clouds just yet, and the waves below crashed and roared with more than your standard vigor, but the storm rolling in from the south was little more than some surly dark clouds, and a few glimmers of lightening right now. It wasn't even raining; the air was thick and moist and smelled of ozone, but the moisture wasn't actually consolidating into droplets.

"You want we should look for a hurricane?" F'lon suggested.

"Not really. But this is sort of pathetic, as far as storms go."

"It'll get better. They usually do."

#

F'nor.

Hair tickled his nose, but it was a tickling of a good sort, and F'nor pulled his weyrmate Brekke closer into his arms under the furs. She made a vague sleepy sound, and curled her small warm hand around his.

F'nor. Wake up. Canth's voice was insistent.

What is it? F'nor asked, not quite believing that it was time to rise already.

Simanith is gone.

F'nor's eyes flew open, and he cursed under his breath as the lest webs of sleep were swept away. Brekke still slept, however, so he gently extracted himself from her and from the furs, and quickly climbed out of the bed. What? How?

Canth didn't answer such an obviously stupid question like that, and F'nor didn't blame him as he groped around in the dark for his pants. They've gone south, Canth said instead.

It was clear from Canth's tone that Simanith--and presumably F'lon and maybe even Robinton--that they had left under their own power. Canth would surely pick it up if the bronze was in some sort of distress, and the brown dragon was nothing if not calm. But the move baffled F'nor--both Robinton and F'lon had promised to stay put. And if you couldn't trust their words, who could you trust? F'nor shook his head to himself and hoped it had something to do with their youth. Even his father and the Masterharper had been young and impulsive once, as this whole state of affairs attested. Still. It was a bit strange. Are they still in this when?

Yes.

That was good, although not surprising considering Lessa's reports on the subject. Do you know what they're doing?

Should I ask?

No, no not yet. Such a question would likely be better put by Ramoth.

She will scare the sense into them, Canth agreed. I have just told her that they are gone.

Thank you, F'nor said. By the time he reached their quarters, they would be awake and dressed.

Well, mostly. F'lar was shirtless still when F'nor arrived, and Lessa hidden behind a screen, her riding jacket thrown over the top. "They left under their own will and power?" F'lar asked F'nor, pulling a shirt up both arms, and then over his head. He nodded before F'nor could reply, probably to something his bronze had said. "What do you think, Lessa?"

"If you're asking if I knew anything about this, no, I didn't," she said from behind the screen. Then the riding jacket was pulled down, and a moment later she emerged, dressed in her wherhide, her hands busy behind her head braiding her hair. "F'lon doesn't say much around me. He seems to only open his mouth when Robinton is there to back him up." Her tone was dismissive.

F'nor caught F'lar's eye, and they shared a look. It was a bit strange to see a man they had known as being so strong and in command being set wrong-footed by this particular Weyrwoman, but a little funny to watch as well. A moment later F'lar sighed. "So we essentially have no idea why they're up and about in the middle of the night."

Lessa peered at a mechanical clock on one of the tables that had been given as a gift to them from the Mastersmith. "It's after midnight. Why this late?"

"After midnight is a good time to be skulking around, if you have no intention of running into anyone." F'lar said. "And for even us to be asleep."

"Simanith must not have realized that Canth was keeping an eye on him," F'nor said, yawning.

"I thought the whole point of having Canth do it was so that Simanith would know," Lessa muttered to herself.

She underestimates me, Canth said smugly. F'nor felt a little stung at Lessa's comment, but knew Lessa likely didn't mean to imply what she had implied. She looked tired and still a little asleep--much like he felt himself.

"Alright, let's swoop down from on high and put the fear of us into them," F'lar said, a little jocularly.

Lessa wasn't impressed. "You think this is funny? They promised to stay put. Robinton even made a big production of saying why he was promising," Lessa said.

"Guess we'll have to feed him to the whers," F'nor said lightly, and Lessa glared at him too. Canth, he said. Is Robinton with F'lon and Simanith?

Robinton is gone, Canth said ambiguously.

Gone as in he went with them, or gone as in dead?

There was confusion in Canth's tone. Didn't we fly for him? he asked.

F'nor sighed. "Robinton may or may not be with F'lon; Canth doesn't think that this Harper and our Robinton are the same," he said outloud for F'lar's benefit.

"Ramoth says there's nobody in the cothold, so I'd presume he went with," Lessa said.

"Let's go then," F'lar said, pulling on his own riding gear. "And see what they're up to."

#

Robinton wondered if there was an ideal position for holding a metal pole when you were trying to use it to get hit by lightening. He held it straight up at first, mimicking the configuration he'd seen on the wooden holds, but even hollow it was heavy and he was concerned that if he dropped it, they wouldn't be able to find it in the dark on the ground below. Perhaps he should have attached a chain or rope to it. Of course, it didn't matter much now. "This storm is still pathetic," he told his friend. There was hardly any lightening at all, not like the one from before.

F'lon was quiet for a little while, his head cocked, as if he were speaking to his dragon silently. Then he leaned back, and Robinton put his ear by the man's mouth so he could hear. "Keroon usually has some good storms this time of year. Let's try there." And with that brief warning, they went between again. And emerged into a howling, pouring, flashing vortex that was probably a thunderstorm.

"I THINK THIS IS PRETTY PATHETIC TOO, MAYBE WE SHOULD TRY AGAIN?" F'lon howled over the shrieking of the wind at Robinton as the storm buffeted even the heavy bronze dragon about.

Robinton bonked him on the head with a light fist, which made the dragonrider laugh. Simanith, too, seemed to perk up at the storm, and roared at it in challenge. Not unlike before. A good sign? Maybe. He held the rain-slickened metal pole up above his head in a tight grip, trying to ignore the voice within that told him that this was very, very stupid. And he closed his eyes, not wishing to be blinded when the lightening struck, if it did.

He wasn't expecting to go between when they did some time later; there had been no lightening hitting them at all. When they emerged, he opened his eyes and queried F'lon. "Did we go home?" he asked, although he doubted it, because they were still in the middle of a storm.

"No!" F'lon yelled back. "The Weyrleaders are here!"

"Blast," Robinton muttered. "So soon? Weren't they asleep or something?" Or had they timed it, like F'lon was attempting to do?

F'lon didn't answer that, but Simanith tilted under them, and seemed to steer them into a darker bank of clouds. Robinton gamely held onto the metal rod, as rain blew sideways into his face. He was unsure if this was better than when he had been drunk or not; the rain was cold and managed to seep down the back of his jacket to kiss his spine.

"You hit yet?" F'lon yelled above the wind as a particularly close SNAP! of thunder roared.

"Believe me, you'll know when I've been hit!" Robinton said in the man's ear.

Lightening did not hit. They darted among the clouds, occasionally going between to avoid pursuit, or so Robinton presumed. He didn't know where they were any more, but held onto the pole, and sort of poked it in the direction the most lightening was flashing among the clouds.

No results. No direct lightening strikes, for all the thunder, nor did they emerge into the air above the Harper Hall of the correct when.

"I'm not sure this is working!" Robinton yelled in F'lon's ear. "And I'm going to be deaf soon from all this thunder!"

"What?"

Robinton didn't know if F'lon was messing with him or not, but didn't repeat the question. He was starting to feel a little sick from all the weaving and dipping and swerving the great bronze dragon was doing to stay aloft. He hoped Simanith was not struggling, and that he was doing all right.

I am not struggling, the bronze assured him. But Mnementh and Canth are following us. I am staying ahead of them.

"Thank you," Robinton said, not expecting a status report directly from the dragon himself, but appreciating it nonetheless. If the bronze, who was the one doing all the hard work, was not struggling, he certainly had a little more stamina in him. He held onto the metal rod grimly.

#

"What in the world are they doing?" Lessa asked the two other dragonriders, as they stood in the middle of a sopping wet Keroonian field in the middle of the night in a thunderstorm, shielded from the downpour by three overlapped wings.

"I thought they were fleeing from us," F'nor said. "But they keep returning to the center of this mess. It's like they're only jumping between so we'll stop bothering them, and there's something that they want here."

"But why would they break their word to visit a muddy, unused field in the middle of the night in a thunderstorm?" Lessa cried. "It's makes no sense!"

"There must be something here," F'lar agreed, rubbing at his chin and peering out into the darkness. Simanith and his riders were impossible to make out in the dark and in this weather, but it was possible that whatever they were after was visible. Lightening flashed, illuminating waist-high grain gyrating in the winds, but F'lar could not spot anything of value.

"Canth says they've stopped going between now that we're no longer pursuing them," F'nor said.

"And Simanith is not obeying Ramoth?" F'lar asked his Weyrwoman.

"He's being very polite, but is refusing my request to land," Lessa confirmed, her mouth thin.

"Ask Simanith if he will land once he's done here," F'lar asked suddenly.
Lessa looked surprised, but then understanding dawned, and her eyes became far away as she spoke directly to Simanith. A few moments later, her expression changed to one of curiosity. "He says he will land if things fail."

All three of them understood then.

"They're trying to--" F'nor began.

"--the proper when--" F'lar agreed.

Lessa nodded. "But they've been failing entirely during my lessons. Do they think the thunderstorm is what's going to catalyze their return home? It doesn't work that way!"

"How many people jump forward in time--without a guide?" F'lar pointed out.

Lessa hesitated, not willing to take his point, but not willing to refute it out of hand, either.

"They're landing," F'nor interrupted. "How long were they up there in the storm?"

"Too long," Lessa said, a sour tone returning to her voice. It was clear that she was not happy at all with the antics of the two young men. "F'lon should know better than to ride in a thunderstorm!"

"Let's see if they have any excuses for this," F'lar said, watching as Simanith landed a few dragonlengths away. Then he left the protection of their dragons' wings.

#

"Here comes out welcoming committee," Robinton said in F'lon's ear, as flashes of lightening showed the gathered forms of three dragons, and their three riders striding away from towards where Simanith had landed. "What are you going to say?"

"Me?" F'lon asked, and laughed. "That's what I brought you along for! Harper."

Robinton rubbed the back of his neck, which was beginning to prickle. "Right. Keep in mind that no matter what I say, we're going to be in serious trouble. And I can only do damage control if they want to be fooled. If you're looking for a happy ending, well, I'm fresh out of those right now."

"It's better than what I have," F'lon muttered, then stopped speaking as the Benden Weyrleader came within shouting distance.

"Bronzerider! Harper!" Weyrleader F'lar said. It wasn't exactly a greeting. More of an acknowledgement that they had gained his attention, and in the worst way possible. "Is there a particular reason you broke your word and dragged us out of our beds at this blighted hour? Into a thunderstorm no less?"

Robinton considered his options, and transferred the metal pole to his other hand, and started to unbuckle himself. If any damage control was to be done, it was better done face to face, and not while he seemed to be in a position where he could potentially flee from consequences if Simanith took off. Considering how the Weyrleaders themselves had deemed it necessary to rouse and pursue them in the middle of the night, he didn't doubt they'd have entire wings out after them if they made a serious attempt to leave that didn't involve in going between back to their own when. "My apologies, Weyrleaders," Robinton said loud enough to be heard, while undoing the last buckle, and swinging his leg over so that he could slide down Simanith's side. The movement made the hairs on his legs prick and pull painfully against the cloth of his pants. A rather odd reaction to the fear that tried to raise its head deep inside of him, but he pretended the anxiety belonged to someone other than him, and powered through it, focusing on being polite and contrite. "We didn't expect you to be joining us out here tonight."

"Is that supposed to be funny, Harper?" Lessa demanded, coming alongside her mate.

"No, no! Not at all," Robinton assured them, extending one foot to catch himself when he reached the ground. "We--"

Static sizzled up his spine from tailbone to scalp, making his hair crawl painfully, and suddenly his left hand exploded with a metallic sound, and his right foot, touching the ground, seized.

The world went white.

There was a scream. It was his.

Then the world went black.
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Read my Pern and Talent fanfic on Archive of our Own.

Fanfic WIPs: The Day Benden Went to War (Pern/Talent); Slosh (Pern); Weyrbred Lads (Pern); When You Fall Asleep /Between/... (Pern)

Completed Fics: Flight (Pern), Flight v2 (Pern), Golden Glow (Pern)

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Old Dec 27 2008, 05:38 AM   #10
D. M. Domini
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Fan of: Afra Lyon, and Robinton!
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Default Re: The Skyboom (v2 - rewrite)

Chapter Ten

"Izz zstill have a hand..." Robinton mumbled in amazement when it became clear to him that the bandage-wrapped hand lying next to him on the pillow was indeed his own, and he had awoken.

Immediately several people moved in the room, most of them coming to his bedside.

One of them was F'lon. "We're still here," he confided, sitting on the bed next to Robinton, and making it dip.

Robinton closed his eyes. His entire body ached and complained, in different ways. His left hand felt burned and sore. His right foot, particularly his toes right down to the bones and joints, the same. His ribs felt as if they'd been captured in a vise-grip at some point in time and squeezed, and his skin ached strangely all over, as if it had somehow been flayed and burned without touching the muscle or flesh underneath. "Thazz juss not fair," he slurred tiredly, his tongue not wanting to move properly with his lips. A little dismayed at his poor enunciation, he closed his mouth and then rubbed at it with his undamaged right hand.

Brekke was among the people gathered at his bedside. "Are you in pain?" she asked, taking the top off of a jar of numbweed she already held.

Not screaming-pain, no. But the throbbing, burning ache in his left hand worried him, and he drew the appendage in to himself and picked at the bandages lethargically, until Brekke reached over and helped him work it lose. The bandages they unwound were stained yellow with salve and fluids, but there wasn't much blood. When they got the last of the bandages off, Robinton could see that there was a large, straight, burned-looking welt across his palm and fingers, presumably where the metal pole had been clutched in his hand. Delicately, Robinton moved each finger one by one. It was painful, but each one seemed to have some sort of movement still. He didn't seem to have enough energy to actually try to make a fist, and he suspected that that would hurt unbearably if he tried, so he sighed and let Brekke take his hand back and dress it with fresh numbweed and bandages. Stupid that he had never considered the possible effects of lightning traveling through his hands...but F'lon hadn't been too affected by it, and when he had been hit it had gone through his head.

Perhaps that explained the difference. Robinton tried to file the thought away so he could tease his friend with it when he felt more like teasing.

"You should be able to play once that heals up," Brekke assured him.

"Thazz good. 'M not pretty enough t' be a Singer." Fatigue and sleep dragged at him. "'nd it'd make Petiron mad."

F'lon threw back his head and laughed at that.

"That you didn't fulfill his expectations?" Brekke asked soothingly.

"That'd compete with moth'r, too." Robinton muttered, and closed his eyes again for a moment or two.

F'lon laughed harder, and Robinton re-opened his eyes to make sure that F'lon was alright.. There was a note of something akin to hysteria in F'lon's laughter. The hysteria of relief. Robinton offered a quarter of a tired smile, hoping that would suffice to calm his friend down.

"How long do you think before he can play again?" Another voice asked. Sebell, Robinton identified.

"It's hard to give an exact estimate," Brekke said. "It depends on how deeply the damage went below the skin. He may need to exercise the hand once it heals, to ensure it's flexible enough."

"I have something that can help." Menolly, this time.

"I'd forgotten about that," Sebell murmured.

"I still use it," Menolly said. "From time to time."

Robinton didn't know what they were referring to, but it was very kind that they wanted to help him, despite that his own stupidity had put him in this state in the first place.

"You're going back to sleep, aren't you?" F'lon asked.

"'d be nice," Robinton said. And a moment later, he was offered some fellis juice. He opened his eyes and managed to sit up enough to drink it, and soon darkness rolled over him again.

#

"What happened?" Robinton asked a day or two later, when his head had cleared, he could enunciate words properly, some of the more minor aches had faded, and nobody else was in the room at that particular moment.

"Massive chaos," F'lon said. "You were talking pretty, getting down off of Simanith. And then, blam, out of nowhere, lightning hit that rod in your hand. And you. It pretty much blinded and deafened me, but Simanith is clever and he grabbed you around the chest and took us between. Unfortunately, it didn't work. We landed back where we were, and everyone was still recovering from being blinded and deafened. Simanith and I took you back to Benden Weyr after that, and they woke up Brekke to see if we needed to take you to the Healer Hall or not, and somebody got the Masterharper roused and to the Weyr when Brekke was examining you." F'lon hesitated, then nudged Robinton in the arm conspiratorially. "You're pretty bloody good at the diplomacy thing, you know, I'm really impressed; after that, nobody dared do more than give us dirty looks for the stunt we pulled. You just looked so pathetic lying there with your hair singed off that I bet they all figured that that was punishment enough!" F'lon paused, and seemed to relent how he was painting people. "In all fairness, they were all absolutely terrified that you had been seriously hurt. The Weyrwoman was nearly in tears and I don't think she's the type to cry very often." F'lon paused again, and patted Robinton in the shoulder. "I knew you'd pull through though," he said roughly, in a way that belied his words a bit.

Robinton pushed the furs away from himself and rose enough so that he could swing his legs around and sit on the edge of his bed. A quick examination showed a few bruises around his ribs--probably from where Simanith had grabbed him. He was somewhat glad he didn't remember that part; he liked Simanith quite well, but he still thought he would have had a moment of sheer panicked terror...assuming the terror wasn't all used up by the lightning...if the large bronze dragon had manhandled him like some sort of doll while he had been aware of things. "I suppose it was a pretty stupid idea."

"But if we hadn't tried it, we'd still be wondering."

"Indeed," Robinton said. Then he hesitated, something said earlier percolating through his mind. "My hair's singed off?" And he felt his hair, to see.

F'lon cocked his head to the side. "Something singed; you smelled pretty crispy-fried when we brought you to the Weyr. Your hair doesn't look too bad; perhaps it was the riding leathers that burned."

Robinton looked at the bronzerider dubiously, but he didn't encounter any obviously missing swathes of hair with his fingers when he searched. He did need a bath and a comb in any case, though. And some food stronger than broth. Feeling as if he had aged over seventy turns overnight, he sighed and pushed himself up out of bed.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa--where are you going?" F'lon asked him in alarm.

"Somewhere I can wash the singed smell away."

"Oh, I can't even smell that anymore," F'lon assured him. Then, upon seeing Robinton's expression, backpedaled. "...okay, alright. Lean on me, would you?" he offered, jumping up when Robinton took a step forward and found that his right foot really didn't like that idea. Robinton tried another painful step, but limped badly again, and when F'lon quickly rounded him in apprehension and propped him up on the right side, he didn't protest, but leaned on his friend's shoulder.

F'lon was a very good friend. Robinton wasn't sure that many people would still be talking to him after participating in such a spectacular failure that he had essentially masterminded. Not that there had been any Mastery to the scheme. Perhaps it was just because he wasn't a dragonrider, but it seemed that there wasn't all that much understanding of how between worked. If they knew how between worked in the first place, perhaps they would be able to figure out what was going wrong here.

"And how, exactly, does the sun shine?" Robinton muttered to himself as he and F'lon made a rather awkward and slow, limping way out of the room Robinton had been stashed away in, towards, presumably, the closest bathing area. "Once we know that we'll be able to make it light outside at night, and get more work done!"

"I'm assuming your babbling actually makes sense when you know what's going on inside your head," F'lon said.

"Isn't that always the case?" Robinton asked.

"I suppose I'm doing a little more than assuming. Simanith says your head is all right. I'm trusting him on this one."

Robinton made a sound that was possibly a laugh, and tugged the door to the bathing room. It was a little stuck, and took a good pull or two before flying open and banging right into his foot. He let out string of curses as pain flared up his shin all the way to the kneecap. "Bloody mother of a thread-eating wher's--" And he tacked on a few more adjectives and verbs before he trailed off. His toes throbbed direly.

"Nice one," F'lon said absently. "I'm almost tempted to step on your foot to see what else you come up with."

"Only if you want us to be emergency-flown to the Healer Hall so they can remove this foot from your--" Robinton warned, giving the dragonrider a dire look.

F'lon grinned like a madman, but didn't tempt fate by testing out matters. Instead he helped Robinton to the side of the pool, located some sweet sand for him, and even helped with a knot that Robinton's faultily-responding fingers had trouble with. Then he hared off to find them some food and replacement bandages while Robinton unwrapped the dressings from his hand and foot so he could get a good look at the damage.

Ugh. Both hand and foot had a lurid purple and red blistered welt across them, and they seemed to be... with a small sound of pain, Robinton removed his clothes, dropping them to the floor in a pile, and twisted around. The two welts were connected. It seemed the lightning had entered his left hand, streaked down the inside of his wrist and from his arm to his body, curled around the side of his ribs and down his back, across his right buttock, and down the back of his thigh until it curled around again under his knee to his shin, and then continuing downwards to encompass his right big toe. "Wonderful," he said to himself after examining the painful purple welt best he could, given much of it was on his backside. "I'm going to carry a full-body memento of this stupidity for the rest of my life."

After fulfilling his curiosity, he slid into the deep waters of the steaming bathing pool, hoping that perhaps F'lon would bring him back some numbweed too; the water made the welt start to throb furiously everywhere, to go along with the ache in his hand and foot. He ignored it best he could, and submerged himself, using the sweet sand to carefully wash away the grime and sweat from the ordeal.

Some time later, F'lon returned. He had the Harper woman Menolly along with him; she was holding a fresh pair of clothes and some bandages and numbweed, while F'lon carried a tray full of something that smelled delicious. Behind them, one of the tamed firelizards flew; it was the golden queen, and she caught Robinton's eye right away. What a lovely creature, Robinton thought, before re-focusing on the food as his stomach rumbled. F'lon set the tray down at the edge of the pool, while Menolly carefully set down the jar of numbweed next to it. Robinton wrung some of the water and the last of the sweet sand out of his hair and swam to the edge of the pool to examine things.

"I brought this for you, Master Robinton," Menolly said, seemingly having forgotten, once again, his proper rank. Robinton felt a little awkward, his instincts telling him that his earlier theories about Sebell and Menolly having been his Apprentices were almost certainly correct. And he didn't have the heart to correct her this time; she seemed rather worried about him, judging by her body language. Menolly held out a little wooden box, oblivious to his thoughts, and then, realizing he wouldn't be able to open it without using his wounded hand, opened it for him, and showed two perfectly spherical ceramic balls.

"What is it for?" Robinton asked, as F'lon observed from the side.

Menolly folded her rangy frame into a sitting position next to the food, and then showed him her own left hand. It had an old, deep scar, like a knife wound, cutting across the palm of it. "You use the balls, along with these oils once the wound has healed a bit more," and she waggled a different bottle he hadn't noticed nestled among the clothing, "to help keep the scar tissue stretched and supple enough to be able to play. You want to start using these, like so." She plucked the spheres out of the box and showed him some sort of exercise with her left hand, almost like something a juggler would do absently before hurling the balls into the air. Menolly didn't start to juggle, however. "The sooner you start the exercises the better, so that your hand heals with the proper mobility you need to continue with the gitar. I almost started too late, myself."

"And if I don't use them, I won't be able to play?" Robinton asked.

"That's something you will need to ask Brekke, or another Healer, to know for certain," Menolly said. Then she pointed at his hand. "But you're already holding it curled up. Doesn't take much foresight to know it could end up healing a little curled, instead of properly."

Robinton looked at his hand. It was true; it was curled a little, because it hurt to extend his fingers out. Cautiously he spread his fingers, and felt his palm ache and protest, but before he could force his fingers wider, Menolly caught his hand with hers and stopped him. "Wait until the skin heals a little more, so it doesn't split and get infected. But once the scabbing is gone, use these twice a day, every day, along with your gitar practice."

"And you're not a Healer?" he asked with a smile, given how earnest her instructions were.

Menolly wrinkled her nose at him, and looked a little embarrassed. "I'm only passing the instructions the Masterhealer gave to me on to you."

"The Masterhealer?" F'lon asked in surprise.

"To be certain his advice to me a few turns ago still applied here, I asked him about it." Menolly said. "Harpers don't actually acquire Healing knowledge by proximity. Although some of us like to think so."

Robinton chuckled at that. Once or twice a year they rounded up each new batch of Apprentices from both the Harper Hall and the Healer Hall and gave them a talking-to about incorrect information. The Healer Apprentices liked to goad Harper Apprentices into eating things vile but not technically toxic, saying anything from it being "good for your voice" to "it'll make your...you know...bigger...hey, stop hitting me! It's true!" and the Harper Apprentices liked nothing more than to lie their dear little heads off, the bigger story the better. Occasionally in the past these tendencies had escalated into mishaps, and the Halls liked to try to nip those sort of things in the bud. "You have my sincere appreciation for not attempting to fool me into eating wherry gallbladders and runner tripe, then," Robinton told her.

"...Wherries don't have gallbladders," F'lon said. "And more runner tripe makes its way into Gather meat pies than you know. It's harmless. I think. Simanith likes it well enough."

"Oh look!" Robinton said, pointing above F'lon's head.

F'lon glanced up. "What?"

"A joke went between right over your head, but you missed it."

Menolly stifled a laugh incompletely. "Sorry," she muttered, not looking very contrite.

The bronzerider made a face. "You sir, are something...I'm not actually going to utter because there's a lady in the room."

"Please," Menolly said. "I was the only Craftswoman in a Hall full of men for Turns." The gold firelizard that had settled onto her shoulder made a clearly disparaging sound in F'lon's direction.

Robinton laughed in delight. "Did she just...say something to him?" he asked Menolly. "Did the little queen say something to you, F'lon?" He asked his friend. He turned back to Menolly. "Do they say anything? Ever?"

"You're having entirely too much fun at my expense, Robinton," F'lon said.

"No, no, no, that's not it!" Robinton said, waving a hand at F'lon. "I think she said something. She put a lot of emotion into that noise. Petiron has trained Singers with less nuance. I have taught Harpers with less nuance. She said something, am I right?" Robinton asked hopefully.

"Firelizards aren't dragons," Menolly said after a moment, seeming reluctant to squash Robinton's expectations. "Depending on the firelizard, it's like talking to a very young child with an even shorter than normal attention span. Whether the child has one turn, or two turns, or four turns depends on the particular firelizard, and their color. Beauty here tends to react more to my emotions, and my state of mind, than have her own comments like a dragon would. That being said," and she regarded her queen firelizard, who was regarding her right back. "She's aware that we're talking about her. She will probably gossip with Masterharper Sebell's queen Kimi about this later on today. And she's apparently not afraid of Simanith, for all that he's a bronze dragon. That may be bravado, though."

Beauty made another noise.

"That was a comment," Robinton insisted.

"She knows I'm making fun of her," Menolly allowed with a laugh, and briefly rubbed the tip of the queen's muzzle with a finger.

"Firelizards are scared of dragons?" F'lon asked.

"It depends on the dragon," Menolly said, looking at him with her head tilted to the side. "Some dragons are annoyed by them, and chase them away by striking fear into their flighty little hearts. When that happens, I don't hear the end of it for days. Others are indifferent and don't care if they come or go. Some enjoy their presence, and their gossip. Those dragons tend to have something of a perpetual multi-colored escort. Firelizards find dragons pretty fascinating. They talk about them all the time."

"I thought you said they don't speak," Robinton prodded.

Menolly shrugged. "They sort of blast excited, disjointed pictures at you when they gossip. Emotions and pictures. Not really words. You sort of have to fill in the gaps, if you want to understand what they're actually saying. Sometimes you have to go talk to other people with firelizards before you get enough pieces of the puzzle put together." Menolly suddenly sighed. "I shouldn't be telling you this, you know." Her face was both resigned and amused.

"I won't tell," Robinton promised, giving her his most winsome smile.

"I recall you making a promise once before," Menolly said lightly, replacing the ceramic spheres she had been holding for a while into their box.

Robinton hadn't expected Menolly to be the first one to chide him for their stunt, and a hundred excuses vied in his mind for a moment, along with his inner melodramatic, theatric actor. Working on gut instinct, he dismissed all of it just as fast. "I had a reason," he told her with honesty, meeting her eyes squarely, and without missing a beat.

Menolly met his gaze. "That does not surprise me; you usually do. I'm just more used to working with you when you have a rather larger store of wisdom."

She delivered the words in a gentle manner, but Robinton felt the tips of his ears sting fiercely...along with a few of the other assorted wounds he bore from his ordeal. He fought not to let it become a full-body blush of embarrassment. "Ah...well..."

Menolly shifted topics to allow him a way out. "I'll let you eat before your food gets cold, and dress. If you feel up to more activity afterwards, rather than napping--the Healers recommend the nap, by the way--come meet Sebell and I downstairs."

"Me as well?" F'lon inquired.

"No, the Weyrleader would like to speak with you separately once you're done here. And you don't get a nap," she said with a wicked grin.

"Alright," F'lon said. Robinton could tell that he wanted to make a smart-aleck comment, but was refraining due to the circumstances.

"I probably won't nap," Robinton told Menolly. "I've been abed for most of two days.

"I rather thought you wouldn't," she said. "Eat up then. I'll see you soon." And Menolly unfolded herself and rose to her feet, and waggled her finger at the box with the spheres, and the small bottle of oil. "Don't forget about those. Not now, but soon enough."

"I won't," Robinton said, and watched her leave the room.

The two young men were silent for a few moments, then Robinton planted his palms on the edge of the pool and heaved himself out. F'lon handed him a cloth to dry himself with, and made a hissing noise when he saw the ugly welt traveling across Robinton's back. "That looks painful."

"It is, now that the numbweed has been washed off. Where'd that jar go?" Robinton asked. He dried his hair and legs and dropped the cloth in his lap and grabbed the jar. Then he spent a few moments re-dressing the wounds, and then himself, with some help from F'lon.

"Man, I'm so sorry this happened to you," F'lon started to say, but Robinton quickly shushed him.

"My idea, my fault," Robinton said. "At least it only hit me, and not you again. I'd feel much, much worse if it had been my idea and your body that ended up like this."

"Why are you bringing things like logic into this?" F'lon complained. "Doesn't make me feel any better."

Robinton chuckled. "True enough." He extracted a plate of food from the tray, and started to devour it by the side of the bathing pool. His stomach had been getting more and more insistent that it wanted to be fed. Fed right now, if you will.

"She's sort of interesting, you know?" F'lon told him while munching on a chunk of bread.

"Menolly? If all you can say about a woman is 'she's sort of interesting', you shouldn't be considering flirting with her," Robinton advised.

F'lon looked at him, and made a sound. "She's not really my type, Rob."

"Then why are you asking me if you should flirt with her?" Robinton asked, gulping down some klah.

F'lon widened his eyes and shook his head, making clear that he'd never actually asked that. "...so you're really just that interested in the firelizards?"

"What?" Robinton asked.

"Or are you just being situationally insensitive and deaf?"

"What was that?" Robinton asked. "Speak up, lad."

F'lon snorted. "Harpers!" he said to the air, as if that explained everything.

"This is my way of sticking my fingers in my ears and going, 'La la la la la!'," Robinton agreed. "Without the atonal 'la la la' part. And yes, I am that interested in firelizards. I wonder if Beauty would let me hold her? Or does she only allow Menolly to do that?"

"You are a sad, sad specimen of a man."

"Halls and Holds, Weyrling brat. Halls and Holds." Robinton put his empty dish back onto the tray, and shifted around in preparation to stand.

"Here, you're never going to make it on your own. Let me help."
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Old May 19 2009, 07:10 PM   #11
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I've put up Chapters 11, 12, 13, and 14 on fanfiction.net. I don't have enough time to get them coded up for here today, but once I do they'll be here too.
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Completed Fics: Flight (Pern), Flight v2 (Pern), Golden Glow (Pern)

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Old Aug 4 2009, 12:49 AM   #12
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Updated with chapters 15 and 16.
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Fanfic WIPs: The Day Benden Went to War (Pern/Talent); Slosh (Pern); Weyrbred Lads (Pern); When You Fall Asleep /Between/... (Pern)

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Old Aug 30 2009, 07:31 PM   #13
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Chapters 17 and 18 are up as well.

Anyone know of a .doc => BBCode converter? I'm getting so far behind in coding them for this board...
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Old Sep 19 2009, 09:29 PM   #14
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Chapter 19 is up now too, and my luck in finding a .doc to bbcode converter is horrible.
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