A new home, new family, and new friends…
Music: The Minstrel
Harper Hall was far more elegant than Fort Hold. Most of the stonework was tastefully carved. The Corinthian column capitals resembled leaping fish, spiraling fronds, and exotic plumes. Walls were decorated with frescoes, walkways had sweeping arches, and even the doors had fancy metal hinges. The air was filled with music coming from multiple directions. It was as if creativity was a tangible thing that danced around the Hall and displayed itself with wild abandon.
The courtyard was full of activity. If the entire Weyr turned out in the bowl, dragons and all, Ista could not have had more raw energy. People were chatting, laughing, debating, painting, napping, gaming, and tuning. The students themselves were intriguing. Kebrin had never imaged so much diversity in physical appearance or manner of speech.
Just before he reached the main entrance, a young man took notice of Kebrin and strode over to introduce himself. “Hello there, I’m Tumar, who are you?” He was in his late teens and a little shorter than average, with straight black hair, pale grey eyes, and feminine features. His smile seemed relaxed and genuine.
Once Kebrin showed him the acceptance letter, Tumar’s smile broadened. “Welcome to Harper Hall!” he exclaimed, thumping Kebrin on the back. “I can take you to the Academic Affairs annex, find out which dorm you’re in. We call it ‘triple A’ for short.”
Tumar led Kebrin to the office of Steward Marlen, a portly fellow in his mid-fifties with thinning brown hair. His dark blue doublet was embroidered with musical notes between two rows of piping across the chest.
“Find me when you’re done,” Tumar offered as he excused himself, “and I’ll give you a few pointers. Ask for me at Grenser.” When he noticed Kebrin’s confused expression, he quickly added, “That’s a dorm, Grenser. They have names.” With a wave, he was gone.
“Hello, young man, where do you hail from?” the Steward asked as he opened a thin notebook. After a brief introduction, Marlen located Kebrin’s name in a list of new students.
“So you’re Garoway’s boy, eh?” he asked, sizing Kebrin up. “It’s about time, isn’t it, yes quite,” Marlen said quietly, tapping the side of his nose with a finger.
[Attribute check: PER 10, rolled 10.]
Marlen noticed Kebrin peering at the notes on his doublet and asked, “What do you make of them?” Something about the tone of his voice motivated Kebrin take the question seriously.
[Skill check: Music Lore 13, rolled 6.]
“It’s part of a song called ‘Daughter of the Sky’. Oh tongue give sound to joy and sing, of hope and promise on dragonwing,” Kebrin answered easily.
Marlen laughed deeply, “Good, good boy, well done.” He took a deep breath and picked up a pen. “Let’s put you in Gannon dorm and see how you do,” he said as he jotted notes next to Kebrin’s name. “Your dorm delegate is Toben. That means he’s in charge. He’ll orient you to Hall life.”
Fortunately, there was a sizable map of the Hall on the Steward’s wall. Kebrin’s new home was located halfway down the western building.
The name ‘Gannon’ was carved into the transom above the dormitory door. Kebrin knocked and the door opened, revealing a boy a little younger than himself. He had pale skin, a mop of unruly brown hair, freckles, and ears one size too big.
The scrawny youth simply asked, “Yes?”
Kebrin explained that he was a new student, looking for Toben.
The door shut abruptly in his face.
“Dainen!” a stern male voice shouted somewhere inside.
“What?!” came a stubborn, sheepish answer.
The door opened again to reveal an older boy, perhaps fifteen Turns old and the epitome of an Igen plainsman — long-legged and dark-skinned with a wide face.
“Hello?” he asked, looking down at Kebrin. “Are you our number twelve? I’m Baylen.”
Kebrin was shown to a small sleeping room with a sturdy bunk bed. The scrawny boy was sitting on the top bunk, frowning petulantly. It didn’t take long to figure out why he had closed the door on Kebrin. He’d enjoyed a room all to himself.
“I’m Dainen,” the boy offered, warming slightly to Kebrin’s presence.
With the ice barely broken, Baylen showed Kebrin around the dorm.
There were five more cramped sleeping rooms, each with a bunk bed, a wardrobe, and two cabinets. Baylen explained that the rooms were tiny because students hardly spent any time in them. Kebrin’s room was messy, not with food but from general clutter. Fortunately, all of his belongings fit in the empty cabinet with room to spare.
The sitting room was a bit bigger, but the largest space in the dorm was the loft where all the musical instruments and equipment were stored. Much of it was unfamiliar to Kebrin, but it was also very interesting.
“Toben’s out, probably skiving a head. But hey, I won’t let you starve,” Baylen joked.
Kebrin heard a loud, resonant bell ring thrice in the courtyard.
“Oh, those ring every hour so students aren’t late for class, but they don’t work,” Baylen sighed, “Not for me, I’m bad with time.”
Although he only had one more “bell” until a class on “diatonic harmonic analysis in various musical textures”, Baylen was able to give Kebrin a thorough tour of the Hall. The layout was well organized, even more so than Ista Weyr.
The outer buildings surrounding the courtyard were mostly student dormitories, separated by gender and age rather than rank. The main courtyard was ever-changing and always full of music. Small groups gathered from pre-dawn to well past sunset.
The first floor had a main lobby with hallways leading to the Academic Affairs annex, kitchens, instrument workshops, Master’s offices, and conference rooms. A grand staircase led to a magnificent theater, more ornate than anything Kebrin had ever seen, complete with an orchestra pit, balcony, and box seating. Kebrin was amazed to learn it could seat three hundred and twenty five guests at one time.
The second floor centered around the Oval Lobby, a perfect oval shape with bas relief carvings of music, dance, and theater. Behind that was a curved, wide hall called the Master’s Gallery, where portraits of all the great Masters could be viewed. Many of the names were familiar to Kebrin. There was also a main hall, not unlike the Weyr’s living cavern, with an adjacent great hall. The East and West Commons were open rooms with wide windows where students could relax indoors. The recital hall was much smaller and more intimate than the theater but still quite elegant.
“That’s where you make it or break it,” Baylen said as they peered through the recital hall doors. Kebrin could hear the trepidation in his voice.
The third floor was the most important to students. Numerous rehearsal rooms and Journeyman classrooms were located there, along with two libraries. The first was a study library that seemed to be open around the clock. Students could be found there until nearly midnight, every single day. The second library was larger and visited only with express permission. This Great Library was the repository for all of the collected works of the performance arts.
“The Great Library has its very own Minecraft and Smithcraft masters,” Baylen explained at barely above a whisper. “They make sure the rooms stay perfectly dry.”
The uppermost floors were Kebrin’s home away from the dorm — Apprentice classrooms, general workrooms, and countless practice rooms. The noise was constant and nearly overwhelming at times.
At the end of the tour, two things stuck in Kebrin’s mind. First, privacy was more of a luxury than he had ever appreciated. Second, everyone at the Hall was passionate about music. Several of the students seemed driven to the point of obsession.
Once the tour was over and Baylen jogged down a hallway toward his classroom, it wasn’t difficult for Kebrin to find Grenser dorm. It was directly opposite his own in the western building.
He was just about to look for Tumar when an otherworldly sound distracted him. A wisp of a girl with braided blond hair and a watery blue dress was playing a bittersweet romantic ballad on a Benden harp, and the green firelizard perched atop it was singing a delicate counterpoint.
As he stood transfixed, a hand tapped him on the shoulder. Once again, Tumar had spotted him first.
“Hello, Weyrboy!” he said, obviously meaning it as a compliment. “That can’t be the first firelizard you’ve ever seen, so it’s the girl, right?”
Tumar nodded toward a stone table with a decorative tile top, surrounded by four stone stools. “C’mon, have a seat. I need to tell you some things that I wish someone had told me my first day, and I’ll bet you have questions, too.”