Tanivel’s choices have lasting consequences…
As spring gradually gave way to summer, things went nearly back to normal.
Classes were shorter in the hot, muggy weather. They began two hours after sunrise and ended just before lunchtime. It was impossible to make the children concentrate for long.
Levon had been transferred into a class with older students, forcing him to work a little harder. Despite the added challenge, Levon managed to keep up. Although he didn’t seem to hold a grudge against Tanivel, he began spending time with boys his own age.
After lunch, many children played on the beach in the shade of the cliffs. They built sandcastles, hunted for spiderclaws and shiny agates, and explored every inch of the nearby coves. Some went swimming in the warm surf that shimmered in shades of teal above the dark golden sand.
One of Ista Island’s most amazing features was its colorful beaches. Near the Weyr, the sand was black and the ocean a dark, grayish blue. On the southern tip near the Hold, the cliffs and sand were a deep, wine red. Near Rocky Hold, the green sands made the ocean a beautiful emerald color. Everywhere else, the beaches were speckled orange, a coarse mix of tan, red, and black sand. Tanivel had been taught that no place on Pern was as beautiful as Ista Island.
Once the sun went down and the glow lanterns were lit, it was time for chores, music, and sports.
Tanivel made a new friend, a twelve-Turn-old baker’s assistant named Colbar. He was overweight but muscled; he loved sports and sweet breads in equal measure. His black hair was short on the sides in a style favored by dragonriders, or so he claimed. He had a good sense of humor and was agreeable, but he didn’t have much wit. Tanivel had to protect him from being the butt of jokes on more than one occasion.
The one place no one made fun of Colbar was in the wrestling ring. He made an excellent training partner. Together, they planned to soundly defeat their dread rival, Radek, at the Autumn Gather.
Radek was a herder boy who spent most of his time at physical labor. He had a stout body, a square Australian face with neatly cut brown hair, and sea blue eyes. He was blunt, fearless, and quick to fight when angered.
Maletin, no doubt under pressure from his wife Sonda, had forbidden Tanivel from exploring any more caves, at least until he was a bit older. The boy couldn’t pin his father down on just how much older he needed to be, and his mother turned cross whenever he brought it up.
Meanwhile, Beldon took it upon himself to teach Tanivel more about masonry. There were long lost passages winding behind and beneath the hold. Some of them had been abandoned for hundreds of Turns. They were safer to explore and offered up treasures of their own; mysterious items abandoned by his ancestors.
Beldon rewarded these finds as much as he had rewarded Tanivel for discovering mineral deposits. He also encouraged the boy to improve his drawing skills. There were many special symbols to memorize. It was also challenging to learn to draw three-dimensional maps.
One evening, as Tanivel was walking down the beach, he heard the sound of raised voices above the crash of the incoming tide. One of the voices sounded familiar and in distress.
He rounded the corner into a small cove, brightly illuminated by a pair of nearly full moons. There were half a dozen boys shouting and jeering at two others — Radek and Colbar.
“You just wait until the Gather,” Colbar was shouting, waving a finger at Radek’s face. “You’ll see, everyone will see how weak you are, we’re going to pin you down and make you slap the floor like a baby!”
Colbar wasn’t backing down but the high pitch of his voice kept him from hiding his nervousness.
Radek’s hands curled into tight fists at his sides, “How ’bout I make you cry like a baby, right here and now…”
The other boys, standing in a loose semi-circle around Radek and Colbar, started calling for a fight.
“You show ‘im, Radek!”, came the taunts. “Pasty little baker boy!”
There were no adults nearby. The cove was several hundred yards from the nearest entrance to the hold.