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Old May 5 2008, 11:33 PM   #1
D. M. Domini
D. M. Domini's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chicagoland

Fan of: Afra Lyon, and Robinton!
Now Reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix
The Skyboom (An Alternate Universe Pern Fic)

Disclaimer: The world and characters in this story come from the Dragonriders of Pern ® series by Anne McCaffrey. I do not own them, I am merely playing with fictional super-duper cool Pernese Action Figures!

Synopsis: A boom of thunder sets the stage, with Fate the playwright, and Robinton merely another Harper to be used in the production. Follow Robinton and F'lon as they are transplanted from Interval to Pass, and from Pass back to Interval in a tangled web of betweens and whens not even the Eridani would be able to untangle.

Author's Note: This is an Alternate Universe. It's also like a bowl of cereal so cracktastic that it Snap, Crackle, and Pops with extra fandom 'crack' in the crackle. Just so you are aware.

The Skyboom

Chapter One

It was foolish to be riding a dragon in the middle of a thunderstorm, although F'lon and Simanith seemed to find it some proof of manly dragonrider-ness, the former laughing challenges into the wind, and the latter simply roaring enthusiastically along with the thunder from beneath their legs. Robinton hung onto F'lon's wide leather belt, in an uncharacteristically dour mood, and prodded through his rather extensive vocabulary for variations of the words "idiot" and "moron" he could use on his friends once their feet were on firm, and hopefully dry, ground again. And if his gitar was soaked right through the casing, well then, he'd go well beyond that and they'd see why you should never, ever piss off a Harper.

Suddenly a crack of lightening went off practically on top of them, and Robinton nearly jumped out of his cold, wet hide at the sound, and then again when an eerie, fey light glowed around Simanith in some sort of aura for a few moments after. "What was that?" he demanded in F'lon's ear.

"Dragonfire," F'lon shouted back over the wind.

"No it's not," Robinton said. "That didn't come from Simanith."

"Figure of speech. It always happens within thunderstorms. It's harm--"


The world went blindingly white for a few moments, and then he smelled burning hair, hide, and the gigantic bronze beneath them let out a shriek of--fear?--before thrashing into something tall and woody with a splintering thunk, a few split seconds before pulling them all into the bitter cold of between.

* * * *




Nine. Wait, nine? There shouldn't be a nine when going through between, Robinton knew. Maybe he was counting fast, panic trying to gnaw open his nerves.

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, though...

Eleven--no, twelve - one thousand. That last thought had been long.

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

Actually, part of it was F'lon's hair on fire, where it poked out of the hole in his helmet. 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.

Not surprisingly, it burned, but not too badly, and F'lon's gloved hands were trying to poke him in the eye as he flailed behind his head, no clue of why Robinton had taken off his headgear. He 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, 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.

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.

Of course, 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.

They bobbed in the warm ocean waves for a while, all of them taking inventory of their various knocks and bruises, 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.

Simanith flapped his wings a bit against the water, and started paddling his way towards shore. F'lon laughed partway through this, hopefully at something his bronze had said. "He did."

"I did what?" Robinton asked.

"You told us it was a dumb idea."

"Oh no, I've not told you just how dumb an idea it was yet," Robinton said. "But make no worries, I'll enlighten you once we're ashore. And until the day I die, I'm going to tell people stories of how I had to put out your flaming, foolish head with my bare hands. Weyrleader indeed. I'd be surprised if you ever make it."

"My head's on fire?" F'lon asked, feeling it.

"Not anymore," Robinton replied. "Oh, and tell Simanith it's not a good idea to put his head in the water--the salt will sting."

The dragon heard him, and paused in his motion. Thank you, Harper. Simanith told him.

He blinked, surprised to hear the dragon speak to him as always, and sighed. "Thank you for getting us out of the sky safely. We don't happen to have any wine in your packs, do we, F'lon? I'd like to get drunk once we're on shore."

* * * *

After man and dragon had had their wounds cleansed with fresh water from a stream and dulled with numbweed, both went to sleep, and left Robinton alone to stand guard in what he was more and more certain was a new, and possibly dangerous, but very fascinating, verdant land.

He stripped off his riding jacket, tunic, and shirt to dry, along with his boots and socks, and carefully uncased his gitar to inspect it, taking care not to let the sand get in it. Surprisingly, it didn't have any water damage at all. His mother was right, these cases were worth their weight in marks. He played a quick, quiet little ditty to make sure all was well, then packed it away again.

There was no wine in F'lon's packs, nor food, which wasn't all that surprising, but he did have two empty canteens, which Robinton filled in the stream, and a small compact pack with basic first aid (felis juice, bandages, needle and thread, and the numbweed they had already used) and basic tools; a large hunting knife, a flint and striker, a few matches wrapped in waxed paper. Robinton contemplated hunting his own food, but then realized it would be a lot of work when they'd likely just go between back to civilization once dragon and rider awoke. Or would eat a haunch of whatever Simanith could catch, if there were herdbeasts around anywhere.

Still, he was hungry, so he dug up some tubers he found growing in the muck at the edge of the stream, washed them off, built a fire, and hoped his culinary skills wouldn't poison them all.

Some time later F'lon woke up, and half stumbled over to Robinton to sprawl on the sand next to him. He still wore his riding gear, and Robinton wondered how he wasn't boiling in it, yet.

"What did we drink?" F'lon asked him. "My head feels like Simanith is sitting on it. I'm not sure I've ever had a worse hangover then this."

"We haven't drunk anything--you got yourself hit by lightening," Robinton said.

"I know you wouldn't, dearheart," F'lon said, presumably to some comment of Simanith's. "We drank white lightening?" F'lon asked Robinton. "I thought you said that stuff wasn't fit for pigs."

Robinton leaned over and looked F'lon in the eyes, covering one, then the other, to see how the pupils reacted. They seemed to react normally, expanding and contracting in the middle of the yellow irises, even if he looked a bit woozy still. Then he yanked his head down by the ears to inspect the top of his head.


"Hold still..." F'lon desperately needed a haircut now, to even out the burned spots, and seemed to have a small blister on his scalp, but seemed, externally, otherwise fine. "Humph. You got hit by lightning. As in, those bright lights that flash in the sky and go boom during thunderstorms."

"Interesting. How did that happen?"

"You decided it would be fun to go flying in a thunderstorm. "

"Why did I decide that?"

"I don't know, go ask Simanith. He's the one that shares your thoughts!"

F'lon glanced over at the large, bronze dragon. "Simanith doesn't know."

"That makes three of us, then," Robinton said, and used a stick to prod a hot, steaming tuber out of the sand under the fire. "Here, try this."

"Is it edible?"

Robinton grinned. "Sure, why not?"

F'lon started stripping off the rest of his riding gear, finally aware of the heat. "I'm not sure that's the reply I want when I ask if something's edible," he said, tossing one boot, then the other, down the beach to lay in the sand to presumably bake dry in the sun. Then he pulled out his belt knife, stabbed the tuber through the middle of it, and went to wash the sand off of it in the stream. He was carefully trying to nibble on one end of it when he came back, but wasn't making much process due to the heat still rising from it.

Robinton dug his own tuber out of the fire, washed it in the stream as well, and set it upon a leaf upon a flat rock so he could slice it into pieces so it would cool faster. F'lon leaned over and nicked a piece, and went over to his bronze and offered it to him. Simanith, however, seemed to refuse.

"I thought you said you wanted some," F'lon said, surprised. Then he seemed to listen to his dragon's comment, and snorted. "Oh, come on. Robinton! You don't mind if Simanith has some, do you?"

Ah. Simanith had probably protested F'lar's stealing of Robinton's food. He suppressed a smile, and waved the concern away. "I'm not going to begrudge Simanith a bite of food." Although to a dragon of his size, it was less a bite and more a speck that would likely get caught in one of his teeth.

"See?" F'lon said, and carefully blew on the slice of tuber to make sure it was cool before setting it on Simanith's great tongue when the bronze opened his mouth slightly. Then he rejoined Robinton, and decided to copycat Robinton's technique of cutting his food up into slices to cool faster.

They ate in silence for a while. The tubers were soft enough...well, mostly, and a bit of crunch in the center wasn't going to hurt them. They were a bit bland. The water from the stream tasted faintly of algae and dirt, but washed their meal down well enough.

"Where are we?" Robinton asked, eventually.

F'lon looked embarrassed. "I don't know," he confessed. There was also a strange undercurrent to his voice, in addition to the humiliation he was obviously feeling.

Robinton chewed a crunchier slice of tuber thoughtfully. As far as he understood it, dragons had to fly straight at least once to a destination in order to acquire an adequate visualization of the place. That was the reason F'lon had suddenly appeared at the Harper Hall one day to drag him out of his classes in order to boast about his dragon. F'lon's official business at Fort and the Harper Hall had been to learn what they looked like, so he and his dragon could between their way there, if need be. But perhaps Robinton had understood it wrong; he wasn't a dragonrider, and given the look on the other man's face, he wasn't going to push the issue. "Well, in any event, this is a very beautiful place. A little warm for this time of year--not that I'm complaining. But I don't think I've ever seen a sea quite that color."

"Yeah. I mean, no, you're right, that color is unusual. I don't recognize some of these plants, either; do you want to explore a little?"

"Why not?"

"When do you have to be back at the Hall? I know Master Gennell has you running around like a lunatic these days--"

"I've been given the afternoon off; as long as we're back before dusk, nobody will particularly care."

F'lon shaded his eyes and looked up at the sky. "We've a bit of time then. How are you feeling Simanith?"

The dragon blew out a gusty sigh, but rose to his feet, a dusting of pale sand clinging to his belly.

"I feel the same; that lightening hit us hard, didn't it?"

"Do you feel we should go back?" Robinton asked. In his untrained estimation, F'lon didn't seem as battered as one might have thought a man hit by lightening would have, and if Simanith was really hurt F'lon wouldn't be acting so casually. But it was possible that--

"--oh no, no. I ache a bit. But I want to see this place! Might as well do a bit of looking around while we're here."

Robinton watched his friend for a moment, then shrugged.

* * * *

The dusk air was cooling off when they pulled on their riding gear, although not quite cool enough to make the heavy wherhide comfortable in this unseasonable heat. But it wasn't like they were going to fly straight or anything, so Robinton endured it without comment and made sure his gitar was stowed away properly. It was always a worry during the hotter days 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 this time when taking off, and flying 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, and they were set down in front of the great front doors of the Hall instead a few moments later, in a small cloud of dust kicked up by the dragon's back-winging.

The dusk was cooler here, a fact that Robinton was grateful for. 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, but there were notes of amusement and sarcasm towards the bronzerider.

F'lon looked appropriately embarrassed, as far as Robinton could tell when the man's face was hidden behind goggles and the light was nearly gone.

Then Robinton quickly strode away 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.

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 disease 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.

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 sarcastic words out, however. Boy looked tired enough as it was. "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 purring 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, but 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 he 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 she hadn't heard that sound he'd made--or had ascribed it to the thing...that...that wasn't there anymore.

Bloody shards and red stars...

"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 as skinny as she was to wear that tunic. But some of the more chauvinistic Masters would go spare 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.

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 underthings 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 some tepid brackish water. 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 geese 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 geese trying to land on his head and then vanishing as if going between...oh. So that's what had happened to it.

"Does the Master Harper 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.

The woman's eyes lost their amusement, and her smile faded. "Which Master Harper?" 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 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 left him in the Master Harper's office. But it was obvious from the decor that an entirely different man called this office his; 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 Master Harper's personal quarters opened suddenly, drawing Robinton's gaze, 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 Master Harper, 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 skin, 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, Master Harper," 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 Master Harper 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.

"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 Master Harper 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 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, while shaking his head.

"It might be prudent to use another name," Menolly suggested to Robinton, while the Master Harper 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--"

The Master Harper shook his head. "It will be the worst kept secret ever."

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

The Master Harper 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 Master Harper 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 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 even as we speak so I don't hurt myself. Or, as I hallucinate speaking to you." Robinton paused. "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.

"F'lon and Simanith," Robinton said. "They are 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 Master Harper asked.

"Through between. Although we took off in 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 Master Harper rubbed his chin. "Where did they go after they dropped you here?"

"I presume home," Robinton said.

"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 Master Harper--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."

"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.

"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.

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 them.

* * * *

Author's Notes: Fanfiction.net will, like always, be more up to date. There is also an explanation of why Robinton is surprised at Menolly's rank knot, considering his mother. Quickie explanation is that his mother was a Singer...like one of the girls Menolly first met in Dragonsinger, except immensely more talented than those girls. It's a "woman's rank", but doesn't have the same training, rank, pay, and privilege as Menolly's own "Master Craftswoman" rank.

Regarding reviews--please review! I'm most keen on learning if I'm keeping the characters in character or not. However, not to be a jerk, but...I'm not interested in terminology nitpicks...I'm trying to keep this as canon as it can be, but I've not read the books for years and Pern has word *exclusions* that, say, the Talent series doesn't have and I trip on them. I know I do, but I'm more interested in telling a story and writing good characters than the nitpicks of if calling someone "horse-faced" is going to be inappropriate because horses are called runners on Pern. (Ditto for "cur", "vulpine", etc.)

Characterization, canon, timeline nitpicks = good. Vocabulary nitpicks = bad.

I should have the next three chapters up shortly. Thanks for reading!
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Old May 5 2008, 11:37 PM   #2
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Re: The Skyboom (An Alternate Universe Pern Fic)

Chapter Two

"I can't tell you." F'lon's eyes pleaded with Robinton to understand.

Robinton sat back on the leather couch, and propped his boots up on a nearby bench that had conveniently wandered away from the table it belonged to, probably for this very purpose. "So we got here, wherever here is, due to a mishap going between, but nobody's telling me anything because I am not a dragonrider?"

"Possibly," F'lon said.

"That's a lie," Robinton said. "Because the two Harpers I met I think had a bloody good idea of what has happened, judging from their actions."

"Have they told you?"

"No, they wanted to come and speak to the dragonriders first," Robinton said. Then he grimaced at the anger in his tone. "I'm sorry, their actions are not your fault, F'lon." He rubbed his brows. "Perhaps I'm becoming paranoid."

"How so?"

"We do--something--strange between. We come to our respective homes, or so we think. And when we discover we've not actually come home, we're both whisked to the highest-ranked people in the Hall and in the Weyr, not even allowed for a second to talk to anyone else...and we're told precisely nothing. What are they hiding from us?"

F'lon made a face. "Why are they hiding it from you?"

"You don't think it's because I'm not a dragonrider? Or have you been gallivanting around the Weyr, meeting people who've obviously been here for Turns, that you've somehow never met before?"

"I haven't thought it all through yet, Rob. I mean, they told me what happened, and told me not to let you know, and because of what they told me...they're right. I can't let you know. I'm sorry. Have you tried going outside? I don't think they're forcing us to stay in here. You. To stay here."

"I haven't tried," Robinton admitted. "I'll stay here. For now."

F'lon sighed. "Well if you're just going to stay in here anyway, why are you complaining?" He came over and sat on the bench next to Robinton's feet. "Are you going to write a song about me? About a stupid wherry-brained dragonrider who flew his dragon in a thunderstorm and came out of between who-knows-where?"

"Maybe," Robinton said, with a wicked smile. "I'm still studying my subject in order to wring the most embarrassment and humiliation out of this as I can."

F'lon laughed. "I will never live this down with you, will I?"

"Not as long as I draw breath, my friend."

"Ah, good. I'm still your friend," F'lon joked, although the worry in his eyes betrayed that perhaps he wasn't entirely joking all the way. "I'm glad to know that."

"The fact that I'm sitting so calmly in this room shows that I am still your friend. They seem like nice enough people, but their actions lead to mistrust." Robinton shot F'lon a half grin. "Keep my trust, F'lon, and we'll be fine." Then he yawned, and changed the subject. "What do you think of those little firelizards?"

"I don't know, I haven't really seen them up close too much. You?"

"They're quite intelligent! Not like a dragon, obviously, but they're smart enough. Smarter than a runner."

"Most things are smarter than runners," F'lon said.

"Very few things act intelligently, you know, when facing several tons of hungry fire-breathing dragon," Robinton said wryly. "Including humans."

The bronze rider gave an expressive shrug.

Robinton imitated him, then continued. "They make the most fascinating array of sounds. I wonder if you could get them to sing. Menolly has a little gold, her name is Beauty. She sat on her shoulder, with her tail around her neck like a torc. She would accentuate Menolly's words with sounds. They were very faint, but there. Pianissimo. And then she realized I was staring at her and stopped."

"Menolly, or the firelizard?" F'lon asked.

"The firelizard."

F'lon snorted and said nothing.

"She might have stared back at me; it was difficult to tell," Robinton said, as the door at the other side of the room opened, and five people came in: Harpers Sebell and Menolly (who was indeed a Master Craftswoman, to Robinton's delight), and dragonriders F'lar, Lessa, and F'nor, riders of bronze Mnemoth, gold Ramoth, and brown Canth respectively.

"Hello," F'lon said to the unexpected crowd.

"Greetings and salutations," Robinton said as sincerely and with as straight a face as he could manage. However, it was a bit intimidating to have everyone suddenly in the room. And dismaying. Particularly in the way that F'lar, who had an uncanny similarity to F'lon--if F'lon lost his almost ever-present smile and became far more serious and brooding--was staring at him as if he suspected Robinton was hiding something beneath his facetious choice of hellos. Robinton stared back, knowing he should back down, that a journeyman Harper had no call to challenge the Weyrleader on anything, but the fact that they kept on keeping him in the dark angered him in a deep and fundamental way.

Still, challenging a man with twice his years and one very large bronze dragon was not one of his more brilliant ideas, no matter how angry he felt, and if it came to belt knives and blows, he highly doubted the most deftly planned and executed of head butts would get him out of it in one piece. So he smiled winningly, bowed to the inevitable, as well as physically to these people who outranked him, and let these strange men and women from this strangely-different Pern talk to him about precisely nothing and prepare him and a surprised-looking F'lon to...apparently go between back where they came, just like that.

So...you can go between places, Robinton mused to himself, as they walked outdoors into the night. And you can also go between in a way that you end up in the right place...but without the right details. The people are wrong, the decor is wrong. He'd felt that sense of eeriness before, when visiting Boll as a Journeyman, when he remembered bits and pieces of it from his youth when his family had visited there. As if a whole slew of things had passed when he was away, changing the look of the place in slight, subtle ways. Which is what had happened, in those cases.

He had the same feeling here. Almost as if time had passed as quickly as the distance between two places.

It was a bit of a pity that nobody realized the affable smile plastered on his face was probably the best bit of acting he'd ever done, in light of the stunned revelation that flashed through him. Distance was one thing...but time? The dragonriders could go between through time? Red, bloody stars, the kind of power that gave the dragonriders!

And what if...what if they got lost? He supposed that being lost in a normal jump between had its own terrible risk, and, taking a chance and calculating that their first overly long jump between had been the moment when they'd gone through time, the only perceptible difference might be a change in how long they spent in the dark, featureless space of between.

Nonetheless, the consequences of jumping between time alarmed him more than jumping between places, although he was fairly sure he could end up dead either way, if something went wrong.

He almost opened up his mouth to question F'lon, to press close and speak in his ear, asking if they were going forward or backwards in time. But it wouldn't be particularly smart to alarm the bronze rider just as they were about to take off. He assumed they were fit to fly, despite the lightening bolt, but still. best not to tempt fate. And they had taken such pains to keep him in the dark, although he still had no idea why. Unless, perhaps, the fact that dragonriders could fly through time was not the actual secret they wished to keep from him.

But as Simanith's powerful body flexed below them, and sprung, lifting them all into the air, Robinton supposed the point was moot anyway, and tried to settle down, push his worries away. After a rather strange adventure, they were obviously going home.
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Old May 5 2008, 11:42 PM   #3
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Chapter Three

That is, if you took "home" to mean "right back to Benden Weyr". In the wrong when.

It wasn't noticeable to either of them right away; one moment they were in between, and a between that was longer than eight seconds too, as Robinton had made sure to count again, and the next moment they were gliding down into the weyr's bowl again, in the dark. There very few clues to let them know that they hadn't gone anywhere until Simanith gave a confused bugle in response to a soprano roar, backwinged to set down on firm, grassy terra again, and a rather familiar group of five people (if you could call relative strangers "familiar") walked and jogged towards them, carrying glows in lanterns.

"We didn't go anywhere, Simanith," F'lon said in dismay, after raising his goggles and looking about them.

The dragon made another sound, more felt through Robinton's legs than heard.

"Did you visualize properly?" Weyrlady Lessa asked F'lon, approaching them foremost, and hoisting her lantern high. "That's the most important part--"

That stung F'lon's pride. "No, I visualized the bubbly pie Merelan gave me on my ninth birthing-day," he snapped.

"Leave my mother out of this, please," Robinton advised mildly, trying to diffuse the situation with humor.

Lessa's face was tight with anger as she faced down (or rather up, given the bronzerider was still mounted) F'lon, and they both ignored Robinton. "What did you use to visualize?" she demanded.

"What I always do, the weyr from above!" A gloved hand gestured upwards.

And from there they went into several variations of jargon and dragonrider-speak that Robinton had never witnessed before. It was rather intimidating, to realize just how much effort was put into the process of learning how to go between, given the dragon was the one that did all the work.

I did what I was asked to do, someone said mournfully in his head. It took Robinton a moment to realize it was Simanith.

Startled that the bronze would choose to speak to him while his rider was getting into it with the petite--but very assertive--Benden Weyrwoman, Robinton sighed and unbuckled himself before sliding down Simanith's neck. Lessa gave him a full body look-over, as if she were surprised he was dismounting, but then turned back to F'lon as Robinton wasn't obviously dismounting to speak to her.

As Robinton approached, Simanith lowered his head, so the great whirling green eye, slightly tinged with the yellow of alarm, could get a good look at him. "I know you did what you were told to do, Simanith," Robinton said. "I know you always do your best. I think they just want to yell at one another."

Are you angry with F'lon, Harper?

Robinton gave a loose, Gaelic shrug. "Speaking as a lowly Harper I don't think playing among the thunderheads and skybrooms was the smartest thing we've ever done, but we're still here. Speaking of that, why are we still here?" Robinton asked the bronze, curious to see if he had a response similar to the different theories F'lon and Lessa were loudly discussing (all the while carefully never once mentioning that the ride between was through time as well).

I went where we were going, but...it wasn't there? So I came back. The bronze sounded confused, and the green of his eyes shaded yellower, more lime-green than grass-green.

Feeling as if he weren't supposed to be doing it, but distressed he had caused the bronze to become more anxious rather than less, Robinton reached up and skritched the bronze's eyeridges like he'd seen F'lon and other riders do, while thinking soothing thoughts in case the bronze was picking them up like dragons were wont to do, and slowly the shade of the dragon's eye changed back to grass-green, then turquoise, then a pale sky blue.

"What are you doing?" Lessa suddenly asked from behind him.

Robinton hadn't even noticed her come up, and jumped, snatching his arm away so he wouldn't poke the dragon in the eye. There was a lot of eye to avoid poking. "I'm conversing with Simanith," Robinton said after a hesitation. "And trying not to poke him in the eye by accident when I'm approached without warning by Weyrladies from behind."

I appreciate not being poked in the eye, Harper, Simanith told him, apparently dead seriously, as far as Robinton could tell.

"I figured it was only polite," Robinton told him. "In other news, the next song I plan to compose is entitled, 'approached without warning by Weyrladies from behind'."

The others, who had been conversing among themselves, had chosen to pause by chance just at that moment, so Robinton's voice carried dismayingly well.

There was silence, then a little high-pitched moan of someone desperately trying to suppress laughter.

"You're going to hurt yourself if you don't let that out, Menolly," Master Harper Sebell said, patting the woman on the back.

She started hiccupping. Or sobbing. Or laughing. Or perhaps all three.
Lessa surprisingly did not erupt. Instead, she said, "You're different than I would have imagined. Not as much tact."

Robinton felt a blush, and was glad the darkness hid it. "I've been letting my tongue get the better of me. It's somewhat like a log rolling downhill. I apologize; the phrase just caught my attention after I said it, and I meant no offense; that would be an improper way to repay the hospitality you and everyone else has displayed towards F'lon and I."

Menolly was still giggling.

Lessa looked up at him, blue eyes to blue eyes. "Well, when you've finished composing it, I think I'd like to hear it."

Her eyes were quite beautiful, Robinton found himself thinking. Then he pushed that irrelevant thought to the side, and gave her his best diabolical grin. "You'll be the first to hear it," he promised.

* * * *

As they walked back inside the Weyr, F'lon tugged on Robinton's sleeve, and Robinton obligingly leaned over to allow the other man to whisper in his ear. "I thought you didn't think much of their hospitality. So to speak."

"It's called 'tact'," Robinton whispered back. "I was trying to recover from the accusation that I had none."

F'lon snorted. "Are you really going to make that into a song?" he said in a more normal voice.

"Didn't I promise her that I was?"

"Was that a promise?"

"Are we going to stop answering questions with questions?"

"I think you need to get some sleep," F'lon told Robinton. "I don't think I've ever seen you so...so..." he waved his hand in a circle, as if that would conjure the word he was searching for.

"...shirty?" Robinton offered.

"I was thinking more slap-happy. Like you've had a good drink or four in you, except you haven't, unless the Harpers let you imbibe before we brought you here. And to get down four drinks in fifteen minutes you would have had to be chugging it."

If they had offered him a drink, Robinton suspected that he would have chugged one, or four, down the hatch, before ending up here. Add to that to what Simanith had worryingly said--he hadn't been able to find the destination. Did that mean they were not going to go home again? Or merely that Simanith still had a bump on his head from the skybroom? Or that F'lon needed to take "visualization" lessons from the Weyrwoman?

Thoughts like this almost required a drink or two before thinking about them seriously.

* * * *

F'lar gave F'lon a weyr with a view, and Robinton the one next door, although Robinton had no dragon to occupy his. They were apparently in a section of the Weyr that had few occupants; Robinton wondered if this was coincidence, due to these weyrs being used only by visiting dragons and their riders, or not, but was tired and felt stressful and worried enough that, like so many other topics his agile mind had alighted on this day, he pushed those thoughts aside. So much that looked ominous one evening looked better the next morning; how well he had found that out when confronted by Lord Raid's problems at Benden Hold. So he undressed, splashed around in the small bathing pool to remove sand still remaining from the beach earlier in that day, and crawled under the furs and went to sleep.
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Old May 5 2008, 11:52 PM   #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'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 Master Harper 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 Master Harper," 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.

"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 said, and laughed to himself, 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...the thought of their 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 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." 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. And he confirms that Robinton is 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."

"That still leaves enough questions open--enough to make my head hurt," Menolly said. "Maybe they will be able to successfully go between tomorrow; F'lon was struck by lightening. If so, if Robinton has spent less than a full day here, there wouldn't have been a reason for him to say anything to us about it, would there be?"

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

"Yes," Menolly said. "F'lar and Lessa were vehement that he knew nothing about traveling between times before Lessa made her trip back for the Oldtimers. He was just as frantic as F'lar was, and just as upset with Lessa, too, when she returned. Do you think Robinton could have been acting the entire time?"

"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."

"So we keep him in the dark," Menolly said, sighing.

"Blast it. Yes. And two marks says he's not going to like it."

"Do you always bet only when it's a sure thing?"

"I try to," Sebell said with a wry grin.

* * * *

There was something...unusual...and maybe ironic as well...in the fact that she was essentially plotting with Sebell how best to keep this younger version of Robinton where they wanted him to stay, and only as informed as they wanted him to be informed. Familiar actions, but a decidedly ironic target. In Menolly's heart, she wanted to reach out to him, to just give him the information he was obviously craving, to assist him in his time of need like he had once assisted her. It must be impossibly confusing and frightening for him to be in this situation, but only his quickly joking or sarcastic tongue betrayed it as far as she could see, and for all she knew, that had not been unusual for Robinton at this age.

And...he was Robinton. Here, again, living amongst them. It was impossible to not to want to help him. But Master Robinton was such an...influential...person on the history of Pern, and certain bits of knowledge that were more or less commonplace now had not been a mere handful of turns back. They couldn't risk...

And that was the funny part. That they turned themselves inside out when everything was already ordained. The Weyrs had gone missing...because Lessa had brought them forward, which she had done...because they were missing. There was a certain strange paradoxical circle of logic there that Menolly wasn't sure their most ancient of ancestors would have been able to explain or unravel. Jaxom had had his hand in several matters that she suspected had been equally pre-destined. And this?

It was difficult to tell.

They'd left him at Benden Weyr last night, because there were fewer people there who knew him intimately enough that they would spot him, even hidden behind the youth the reversal of many, many Turns bestowed, and because dragonriders were more likely to keep mum on the subject of going between times, if only to avoid Lessa and F'lar's wrath. And also because Robinton might think twice about trying to sneak out of a Weyr, as it was a more dangerous feat, due to the elevations and location of a Weyr, than sneaking out of the Harper Hall.

Nonetheless, Sebell and Menolly had warned the two Weyrleaders that the longer Robinton and F'lon lingered in this when, the more likely they would be forced to make a critical decision: would they give Robinton enough information to win his trust, or would they, quite literally, imprison him somewhere? A gilded cage of some sort?

Lessa had looked shocked.

"Do you think it would come to that?" F'lar asked.

"He has no reason to trust us," Sebell said. "None of us were even a come-hither look in anyone's eye at this point in his life. And we've already agreed it would be best not to tell him anything about his later life, or about how he and F'lon managed to get here--I wouldn't be particularly trusting in that situation. Not at all." He shook his head slowly.

"And you think he will take action because of that?" Lessa asked.

"He didn't make Master Harper by sitting around, twiddling his thumbs," the current Master Harper pointed out.

"I don't know," Menolly said teasingly to Sebell. "He sat around, twiddling his thumbs, smiling like a manic, fairly regularly, as I recall."

"Well, he'd already taken action then, you see. He was just waiting for the result." And he shared a fond smile with Menolly, as they remembered their Master's quirks.

F'lar and Lessa shared their own look, which held a bit of worry.

"What about F'lon?" Sebell said. "I would say he had his own considerable impact on things..." and he gestured in F'lar's direction, indicating the Weyrleader's parentage.

F'lar didn't answer right away, so Lessa spoke. "He now knows what any dragonrider knows--what any modern dragonrider knows. It was necessary when explaining to him how to get back. It would be foolishly dangerous to try to dead-weight Simanith between Ramoth and Mnemoth to a when we've never been to--"

"He knew thread was coming," F'lar interjected. "With a certainty I never saw displayed again by any other dragonrider until we flew against it for the first time. I would be surprised if he didn't know it then because he knows it now. He knows we're in the middle of the 9th pass. It would be stupid to take needless risks and create elaborate plans just to hide from him something he likely knew when I was a lad."

"Ah," Sebell said. "That's good to know. Because neither Menolly nor I were told anything about this by our Master. We plan to go through the archives tonight to see if there's a scrap, a note, a hide or tablet anywhere that says anything, but it seems peculiar."

Lessa snorted. "Robinton keeping secrets seems peculiar?" she asked, a note of laughter in her voice.

"Well," Sebell said. "We were usually the first to know. When the secrets stopped being secrets." Neither Harper mentioned that there was still a lot that they knew that Lessa and F'lar had never been told.

It was better to let sleeping wherries lie, after all, Menolly thought, scratching Beauty on the top of her head.

* * * *

Menolly was picked up at the Harper Hall the next morning to be brought back to Benden by F'nor, who had witnessed most of what had gone on last night, but without much comment. Of course, he had spent several Turns on the Southern continent, doubling up on himself in order to grow up a group of dragons and dragonriders so that they could be added to the Weyr's laughably small fighting force before thread first fell. So she doubted much of anything involving between times would get a rise out of him. Sebell reluctantly stayed behind at the Hall; their night-time departure with an unknown third party had already stirred enough curiosity among their Harpers, and there were still a few records to scour that neither of them had touched yet. But he extracted from Menolly a promise to alert him or Kimi the moment anything interesting happened.

Menolly promised, and pondered where exactly he drew the line at "interesting" when she arrived at Benden Weyr just in time for the mid-day meal. Because she found it fascinating to observe the interaction between the younger version of her master and F'lon--there was a familiarity there, a friendship that eclipsed even the very close relationship between Robinton and the current Benden Weyrleaders had had. They're best friends, from boyhood, Menolly thought. She'd never known about that.

Robinton was as curious about her as she was about him, although for greatly different reasons. He asked her about how she had ended up in the Hall, and she immediately cursed the question in her head and said, "How does anyone end up in the Hall?" in an offhand manner. Robinton caught that she hadn't really told him anything with that phrase, and frustration flashed in his eyes before he gave her an affable smile to hide it.

The frustration and anger towards her hurt in a surprising way; she knew that this younger Robinton was not quite the man she'd known, and was not the man he would one day be, but his anger, directed at her, hurt all the same, much like the few times he'd shown disapproval towards her as Master to Apprentice. Beauty made a soft noise and shifted on her shoulder, and Menolly stroked the tail curled around her throat in order to soothe her.

"And how did you end up with firelizards so attached to you?" he asked. "Because I most acutely recall the creatures flitting away down the beach from me the one time I walked too near their resting spot when I was Journeying through Southern Boll. I tried to lure one to me for about a day, and it never worked, no matter what type of meat I offered."

Of course, this was another topic she was unsure if she should elaborate on. But...she glanced towards the open door into the hallway, tilting back in her chair to do so. Beauty had a few sounds to make about that, but she quickly returned her chair to all four legs on the ground, and then got up to close the door. "I'm not actually supposed to be telling you this," she said, asking Beauty with a silent query to look around and see if anyone but themselves were in this area of the weyr. The small queen chirruped, unwound her tail, and leapt off her shoulder to dart around Simanith and out the bowl entrance to the Weyr. Simanith lifted his great head and watched her go. "And once we get you two home, I'd appreciate it if you did not spread it about," she said with a small smile.

Robinton scooped up some porridge and ate it, while waiting for her to go on. It was a faint echo, or precursor, to the way he could hungrily consume a gigantic breakfast, looking incredibly preoccupied the entire time, while not missing a single thing she had to report to him. It also didn't escape Menolly that he didn't actually promise her a single thing right now, as he swigged down a cup of klah with an audible noise, his adam's apple bobbing.

Typical Robinton.

Menolly returned to sit at the table again, and a moment later, Beauty returned, making a self-satisfied chirp. The queen gave her a few scattered visions of chasing off some poor brown/green firelizard pair that had been innocently basking in the sun a hundred dragonlengths away, and Menolly rolled her eyes and laughed. "You didn't," she told her.

"She speaks to you?" F'lon asked, staring at them.

Menolly shook her head. "Not per se; I get scraps of visions, and emotions usually, not always very coherent. She just lambasted some poor green, and her brown beau, for sunning themselves too close to us. If you can call a hundred dragonlengths close." She snorted. "We stayed in Benden Weyr for a time when she was still mostly a baby, and she still seems to think she's the senior queen firelizard whenever we return." Menolly fondly stroked Beauty. "Anyhow--I Impressed my firelizards shortly after they hatched."

"They're Impressible?" F'lon asked, while Robinton continued to eat.

"Not like a dragon--they will Impress to anyone that stuffs their little gullets with food. They'll also go between and leave you forever if you treat them badly. And, obviously, you can Impress more than one. But I don't recommend it; with the ones I have, they have enough hide between them to cover a newly-hatched dragon, and they're often going ten different ways at once, which can make bathing and oiling an all-day event."

F'lon chuckled at that, obviously appreciating having to bathe and oil a lot of hide. "How many do you have?"

"I Impressed nine as a youngster, by accident, and then a tenth after that, again by accident. This on my shoulder is Beauty. I have the bronzes Rocky, Diver, and Poll, and browns Brownie, Mimic, and Lazybones, the greens Auntie One and Auntie Two, and a blue called Uncle." Menolly laughed as neither man purposely made comment about the names, so she answered the unspoken thoughts anyway. "I was all of fourteen turns, and names have never been my strong suit. They don't seem to mind, though."

"Beauty's name is apt," Robinton said.

"I've always thought so," Menolly said. "I attempted to rename Brownie once, in a fit of guilt because I was the only one with firelizards named...descriptively...but he just looked at me like I was crazy and went to sleep."

"Others don't follow your naming conventions?" Robinton asked.

"No. Sebell named his queen Kimi, and there's another queen Farli, and bronze Zair, and gold Merga," she said thoughtfully, remembering how she had gone through every firelizard she'd known of and hadn't found another one that wasn't hers that had a "descriptive" name. It had been rather distressing at the time.

"Zair sounds like a good name," Robinton said.

Menolly turned red, and decided to change the subject. "Has Lessa spoken to you about what you plan to do next?" she asked F'lon.

F'lon's shade started to match Menolly's. "We spoke a...short time...earlier, but we didn't make any definitive plans."

Both Robinton and Menolly waited for him to elaborate, but he stared back at them, yellow eyes innocent-seeming.

"What happened?" Robinton asked finally.

"Well...we only have what's on our backs, and we don't know when we will be going home, so I asked her about some clothing. Since she was there. And. You know. That's part of the Weyrwoman's duties. She wasn't too happy about it."

"You worded it poorly?" Robinton suggested.

"I...worded it poorly," he admitted. "But blazes, man, your rear is practically hanging out of there, or would be if you had a--"

Robinton forgot his food, and practically leaped over the table to clamp a hand over the dragonrider's mouth. "F'lon, we have a lady present, and we're eating breakfast," he said, as F'lon scrabbled at his hand, trying to pry it off of his face. "We don't need to hear this. However, if you promise to say no more, I'll let you go."

F'lon nodded immediately and vigorously.

Robinton let him go.

"You know, maybe if you wore underthings I wouldn't have mentioned it to the Weyrwoman--"

Menolly boggled at the mental image, and tried not to look like she was boggling. "Well, gentlemen," she said quickly, rising. "I'm going to run off now. I'll talk to both of you later." She scooted her chair in under the table, and turned heel before she could burst into laughter.

However, as she was opening the door, she did manage to get out, in all seriousness, in Robinton's direction. "I'm sure I can nick something from Sebell, if necessary..."

Robinton stared at her.

She lost her nerve and fled.

Behind her, before she got out of earshot, she heard Robinton lambaste F'lon. "Look at what you've done! She was actually talking about useful things and you come out of nowhere saying my naked arse is hanging out of my pants? Why?!"

"I...worded it poorly."

"You worded it--?!" his rich baritone held an ocean's worth of scorn and ridicule.

Menolly giggled to herself all the way down to the bowl of the Weyr.
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Old Jun 2 2008, 10:59 PM   #5
D. M. Domini
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Post Re: The Skyboom (An Alternate Universe Pern Fic)

Chapter Five

Sometimes, Master Teslay wondered if the late Master Harper Robinton had truly understood what they had discovered with the AIVAS. It was difficult to say; Teslay had, of course, seen the man on a daily basis during his Apprenticeship in the Harper Hall. And, like all Harpers, he had met with the man in person at least a handful of times--far fewer times than the man's personal Apprentices, of course, but more times than some other Harpers he knew. But Robinton had risen to power during a time when Harpers were actively persecuted, and had subverted his Craft to provide himself with the power his type of position and rank normally wouldn't ever obtain, so that he could protect his people. Or so the ballads went. And despite all the songs, and the effigies, and the uprising of adoration that had arisen in the wake of the man's death, Teslay thought that people forgot that the man had been a person who had sought out power, even if it had been with the best intentions. How else did a man whose duty were merely to supervise entertainers, to supervise teachers of children too small to Apprentice into a Craft, take a place as one of the most powerful men on Pern? It wasn't something you just stumbled upon. It wasn't even something forced upon you, like F'lar's position as the Weyrleader of Pern.

It was more like Lessa's rise to fame and glory by purposely taking a single action that had affected the Eighth Pass, the Ninth Pass, and everything in between. Except in Robinton's case, it was a series of smaller and more purposeful actions spread over many, many Turns...and thus, much more calculated.

But, even remembering those facts himself, Teslay still couldn't decide if Robinton had known, or hadn't known, exactly what they had discovered with the AIVAS. For example, it was still an open question, as far as he was concerned, if Robinton had had a hand in the AIVAS's...termination. Trying to put the dragon back into the egg, as it were. Or the ugly, mal-formed wher. There was a part of him, the little part of him that was caught up in the larger-than-life Harper's visions, that hoped that maybe the man had. Had known, and had taken action to correct things, to slow down the influx of knowledge so that it would not utterly ruin their society.

Master Teslay was sometimes an idealist in his heart of hearts, even though it was much more comforting to be cynical and knowledgeable than idealistic and blind.

He knew that it was a bit ironic that he would be sitting here with the present Master Harper, Sebell, while thinking these thoughts. But Teslay had never expected to stumble into composition so sideways either, and such late-career moves (he'd been a Master for turns already) were always vetted through other peers, other Master-level Harpers. And in his case, his music wasn't even playable without aid from the Smiths--and he didn't have access to these projects without Master Sebell's approval. So here he was, back in the Hall once again, thinking thoughts that could possibly turn the man in front of him against him in an instant, if the man only knew how "treasonous" they were.

Master Sebell was viewing one score, written on paper, with a faint line between his brows, and his lower lip thoughtfully caught under his teeth. On his shoulder perched his golden queen Kimi, and in his left hand he absently played with a wineglass, balancing it cocked to one side on its base, sloshing the small amount of deep red fluid around the bowl, and never spilling a single drop, all without tearing his gaze from Teslay's compositions.

"The transcription is imperfect," Teslay offered to the man. "I've done a lot of research into AIVAS's music banks, and there are genres of music there that contain sounds none of our current modes of written transcription can even transcribe accurately. Many things in there are approximation. And, of course, some of it is my incompetence." Teslay rubbed his jaw, embarrassed. "I never realized I'd approach composition seriously, so I was, shall we say, not the most attentive in those classes. I have much to re-learn in that respect."

Master Sebell waved the words away. "In your opinion, what would we use this music for?" he asked, and drained the rest of his wine out of the glass.

"I wasn't aware that music needed a use," Teslay said, stung, despite the fact that he had known quite well many--if not most--Harpers would dislike his compositions. He had never gone into composition when he was younger because none of the types of composition had ever interested him. Until he had discovered AIVAS's music banks in Landing. Music that was off-beat (sometimes literally) and strange enough to interest him.

"That was not my meaning; you are of course free to compose whatever you wish, as you wish it, as is any Harper's right. But, from your notes, you would need resources of other people--mainly Landing-educated Smiths--to bring these particular compositions to fruition. While the Hall has a substantial access to the new technologies of Landing, in comparison to other Crafts, our resources are not infinite. And, speaking more bluntly here, your lyrics are...interesting." Sebell looked up from the paper to meet his eyes. "Dropping manpower and marks into these compositions would turn a matter of personal expression into a more diplomatic one that would have long-reaching effects through the Hall."

"You would like me to censor myself?" Teslay asked.

"Mmm," Sebell said, which wasn't quite a comment, as he set the papers down and leaned back in his chair. "Different generations need different thoughts expressed through the outlet of music, and I am not yet convinced that these are representative of this post-AIVAS generation." His unspoken words held a challenge. Convince me.

Teslay stared back at the Master of the Harper Craft, and thought about how to put things into words. The compositions he'd given the man were...not gelded, but chosen carefully out of the river of music that had spontaneously flowed out of his mind. There were others in his bag that lampooned several people involved in the whole initial discovery of AIVAS, including Robinton, who may or may not have understood exactly what he was unleashing--and Teslay didn't intend to show those about until he got a bloody good feel about who would be receptive to them, and who would throw a punch or knife in his face for merely bringing the subject up.

A curious thing Teslay had noted about the Harpers assigned to Landing and associated projects in Cove Hold was that, aside from Menolly and perhaps the perpetually-occupied-by-very-important-matters Robinton, nobody had any true interest or talent in composition. Only Menolly had had the skill, ability, and free time to digest all the new and different genres of music, and bring to life some triumphant, fantastically popular life's work from the collision of styles, to be the voice of this new generation of people, to capture their souls and minds...and she hadn't. She'd gone on the musical equivalent of a...a bloodline, a genealogy search, finding the forefathers of their oldest songs, and reviving those, in a gentle...motherly...way. Like an old auntie, telling family stories that everyone had for the most part already heard before. A bit patronizing, if she really thought the common person would only be able to handle those variations on tunes they already knew.

And Teslay had to wonder...had Menolly gone on a musical genealogy search by her own design? Or was she instructed to keep the more...primal and interesting music away from uninitiated ears? Was there a reason nobody skilled in composition ended up stationed near the AIVAS complex, where non-acoustic music could be heard, or was it mere coincidence, as the same people skilled in composition were usually hard at work in the Hall, putting together the next Gather's merrymaking-music? Music that wouldn't cause the gathers to riot?

It was difficult to decide if he was being paranoid, or if, like his gut told him on the days when he'd passed one of those shadow-Harpers in Landing, the ones that only did enough musical Harping to fake it among those not involved in the Craft, that it wasn't paranoia if it were true.

And how to put together the argument for Sebell, and not only him, but the rest of the senior Masters in the Hall, that throwing out this...revival music, all of it, the good, bad, and utterly exotic and alien...would mirror the revolution and the fads of ancient-made-new that was spreading through their world? That the schisms it would create in the Hall would accurately mirror what was happening to their world?

Well. He doubted that Sebell would want schisms in the Hall mirroring those on the rest of Pern. Tesley threw that idea out to thread as a bad one, and tried to order his thoughts, because the man sitting across the desk was waiting on him. So after a few long moments, he spoke. "Would you hook a dragon up before a wagon, and have him walk across Pern, merely because that's how most of our population get themselves and their goods from one place to another?" Teslay asked the Master Harper rhetorically. "Of course not," he answered his own question swiftly. "That would be absurd. Dragons can fly, and moreso, they can go between. Even through time, as the Weyrwoman showed us at the beginning of the pass. Similarly...why should we limit ourselves to the known--the verse, chorus, verse--when we raise to our lips and run our fingers over musical instruments that are so different from what we have known before? Why should we limit ourselves out of fear? We should plunder our ancestor's vast archives of knowledge, and squeeze it through the sieve of music, so that when the time comes, our people already have a mental frame on which to associate these new things to, so that they do not panic, and they do not fear. This is a part of our duties as Harpers already, to educate and inform. How will people be educated if we play the same types of songs? How can we tell them not to fear, when we fear these new musics we now have re-discovered?"

"Why should the Smiths get involved in the Harper duties of educating?" Sebell asked mildly.

"Investing in, say, amplification technology would ease the spread of important information without the audience having to be utterly silent--as anxious audiences often are not. That benefits all. Not even the loudest-mouthed Harper can silence or out-bellow a crowd in a fuss. And that is just one example--the new instruments can assist Smiths in perfecting techniques that will later go into more serious uses...if an instrument suddenly can not be heard, or is out of tune, that is, frankly, only a major concern to the Harper performing. People won't die from it--nobody has actually ever died of embarrassment, as far as I know. But if the same technology is being used in a mine, or on a ship at sea, you want it to be reliable. Let the Smiths innovate on wild, new instruments and work their mishaps out there, let us Harpers innovate on the instruments as well, and work out the mishaps in the minds and emotions of this transformed society as well, so that when more serious times come, the questions we are poised to ask have already been answered in hearts and minds."

Sebell regarded him steadily, and Tesley hoped that what he had said made some sort of sense to the man. Then Sebell sat back in his chair, steepled his fingers before his chin...and smiled. "That's a very Robinton-esque argument of you," he said.

Tesley blinked. "I'll take that as a compliment, although it's fairly ridiculous these days to see people painting his image on the sides of their wagons." The criticism just slipped out, and he bit his tongue a little painfully.

Sebell's eyes widened just a fraction, as if he were surprised at that news, and Tesley wondered how a detail like that could have escaped the man. Surely someone had told him of that particular new fad. Hadn't they?

Then the man threw back his head and laughed.

"I'm hoping you find the mental image as terrifying as I do," Tesley said wryly.

"He would be absolutely mortified...horrified...if he wasn't dead already, I'm sure he would be stricken dead by the mere sight of such a thing, or mere thought," Sebell said around his chuckles.

"Well, I feel mortified on his behalf every time I look at one of the bloody things," Tesley muttered, and was gratified to note that Sebell did not seem offended by it. He actually wanted to take a scouring brush to the murals. This he actually managed to keep locked behind his tongue, however.

Sebell rubbed his face with a hand. "Any idea why they're putting murals on wagons? And where is this happening? You did come into the Hall over land?" As opposed to flying between, which was quick, but not the best way to gather information from the ground.

Tesley quirked an eyebrow. "I did. I saw most of it in Nerat. Why Nerat, I don't know. I saw a scattering of it between here and there. It may be an anti-Abominator...blazon, or sign, but that's really just speculation. Maybe he kissed one of their babies once upon a time, so they painted it as remembrance and it caught on like a fad. I'm sure Hiss, Slide, and Jog would be able to find out more." He pulled names out of a hat.

Sebell was the one who quirked an eyebrow this time. "Who?" he asked innocently, but his eyes held a mild reprimand. "Thank you for letting me know about the murals; it's possible someone mentioned it before but I thought they were not speaking literally. It's good to know about that. Anyway..." and Sebell set his glass down with a clink. "These...I will be taking a look at," and he thumped the small stack of papers with Teslay's scores written upon them. "In the meantime, if you're wishing to study composition--"

"Talk to Master Domick?"

"Well, no, unless you want to, but I gather you two never really had much fondness for one another..."

"Never personal," Teslay said. "I just didn't pay attention. And yes, I'd like to stay out of firing range of his sarcasm on that one--"

"--there are some books in the archive, Tagetarl has been working on converting our oldest archives into plates so that they can be re-printed at will when necessary, without condemning some poor Apprentice to half a year hunched over a table. There are one or two on composition that you may be interested in, if you're looking for a refresher. Granted, they are a bit outdated...but given your source of inspiration..." Sebell snorted slightly, and smiled.

Teslay nodded, to show his appreciation for the advice. "Thank you, sir."

Sebell did not end up jumping out of his seat, proclaiming that yes, he would allocate manpower and resources to Tesley's vision during their meeting, but at the same time, he also did not throw Tesley out of his office, or even give him a flat-out "no", and he was keeping the scores for later review, which Teslay wanted to believe was a good thing. And although Tesley knew Sebell was a better actor than he appeared, the man seemed to have lost the veneer of neutrality that had covered his earlier misgivings about Tesley's work, so he cautiously was hopeful when Sebell dismissed him. Perhaps he would get a chance after all.

Because he had surprised himself by the explanation that had risen up in him in the face of Sebell's unspoken challenge to be convincing. Before today, if someone had been able to get him drunk enough to spill his most private opinions about the most significant events of the past ten turns, he would say he was Abominator enough to get himself shunned by the majority of his Crafthall if they only knew. And possibly beaten. And yet, what he had told the MasterHarper was true...they were there to educate people. It was part of their duty. And that wasn't happening quickly enough. The Master Harper had already let the hatchling out of the egg and there was no Turning back; it was an impossible thing, the knowledge they had gained, as unstoppable as the fall of thread as the Ninth Pass crawled by, turn by turn, and it was the Harpers' duty to try to clean up the mess that was made by one of their own. Even if it meant making the massive changes in their music that Tesley feared were needed.

Tesley sighed when he got back to his temporary quarters, and rubbed his forehead, and tucked his bag with his figurehead-spearing tunes under the bed where a drudge or overly curious apprentice would not accidentally come upon it while tidying up the guestroom he was using. He wasn't sure he liked thinking about such weighty matters, and, fatigue tired his bones as his body insisted that it was just about bedtime in Landing, so why wasn't he asleep yet?

His stomach growled, and Tesley gave that part of him a silent voice as well. Because I'm hungry. So he pushed matters out of his mind, and clattered downstairs towards the kitchens to join the rest of the Hall for their evening meal.

* * * *

Author's Notes: Mmmm. This is much denser than the previous chapters, sorry for the sudden shift in depth, but I found a Plot, and also wanted to play with a specific type of character for which I found no canon equivalents for. Meet Teslay, a late-blooming Harper with a taste for wild music.

Anyway, as always, please R&R. Thanks! (New chapter coming very soon...)
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