WARNING: Other players should not read this until Chapter 1 is complete.
Kebrin was fascinated when he learned Tumar’s position at Harper Hall. He didn’t know that such a position existed, or even could exist, because he had never lived somewhere with enough books to merit it. He asked him all about Harper Hall’s libraries, and what one had to do to gain entrance to them. Kebrin absolutely loved books, so unfettered access to all that history, and all those stories and songs, seemed worth almost any price to him.
Kebrin thanked Tomar for the advice concerning his initial assessment, and went into it with extreme confidence. He had a chance to hear other kids at the Hall play and knew he was worlds better than most of them. If they had been allowed to stay, then his initial assessment was more of a formality than anything else. Which was why it came as such a surprise when the three Masters obviously found his first technically-flawless performance somehow lacking. Concern took root and grew into gut-wrenching anxiety as he continued to perform and answer their questions perfectly but their disapproval only grew. For the first time in several Turns, the young Weyrling tasted real fear as he desperately wracked his brains, “What am I doing wrong?”
Kebrin was perversely grateful when the Masters stopped to whisper amongst themselves. Judging from their expressions and body language, he was fairly certain they still weren’t happy with his performance – but at least it gave him a moment to catch his breath and collect his increasingly panicked thoughts. He felt like he was drowning in deep water, with no sign of shore.
He remembered Tomar’s advice when Farrell asked his question, and was about to answer when Salinda interjected. He was about to say, “I don’t know, sir. I’ve never done it. But I’m willing to try.”
Salinda’s interruption, however, meant that he never got to say those three simple sentences that would have changed his life forever.
Her words hit him like a blow. How could she ask him to play about something so personal, so painful? And how did she already know, when the final decision had been made only a few short weeks before?
The young man swallowed hard, thinking furiously as he picked up his guitar, and then settled on something that he had played for himself when he had first learned that Ista Weyr – his friends, his family – wouldn’t always be there. He played an almost aggressive Weyr song about the beauty of dragons and the bravery of the dragonmen who rode them, about the hard-earned honor of leaving the comforts of hearth and home to battle the dreaded Thread and protect all that one loves. It wasn’t a traditional rendition of the song, though.
Instead, he gradually slowed the tempo as the song progressed and then shifted into a lower key – transforming a normally upbeat, energetic song into a wishful, wistful lament for better days, for lost glory. As he neared the end of the song, he strategically dropped a note and then another and another until only the main thread was barely still there – and then let the last verse falter into unfinished silence.
Just like his home.
Kebrin’s jaw was clenched tight and his eyes were obviously wet by the end of the song. His heart fluttered in his chest like a trapped bird as he stood there awkwardly on stage waiting for the Masters’ final decision. Instead of the discussion he had been expecting, they glanced briefly amonst themselves, exchanged a few brief words, and then Salinda – who Kebrin was still angry with for the humiliation of making him cry on stage – announced that she would take him as one of her students. The rest of the brief conversation passed in an emotionally-exhausted haze.
Later, Kebrin sought out Tumar to share the good news with him. He also thanked him again for the good advice, and told the older student that he owed him a solid favor should he ever need it.
Over the next few weeks, Kebrin did his best to find a place for himself in Harper Hall. Classes were surprisingly easy, even enjoyable, so he was able to concentrate on learning the rhythm of his new home. Which was good, because the tears he shed on stage for Master Salinda were not his first or his last. This was his first real time away from Ista Weyr, and he suffered from both extreme culture shock and homesickness those first few difficult days.
Grudgingly at first because it went against his insular instincts, Kebrin followed Garoway’s advice about making a point of meeting different people and trying lots of different things. He participated in many of the Hall’s optional extracurricular activities, such as a historical tour of Fort Hold – where the Journeymen bought them seasoned duck on a stick! – and the annual Harvest Dance that didn’t go well for Kebrin or his friends. The young boys gathered in one corner of the suddenly cavern-like commons while the young girls gathered in the other, and few were brave enough to cross the whole room – which felt like venturing into hostile territory – to ask for a dance.
Not wanting to write off the whole big night as a failure, Kebrin eventually worked up the nerve to ask Kealle, an older girl he shared a couple of classes with and actually liked, to dance. He was stricken when she turned him down, and felt like he was going to die of embarrassment. He was a little heartened when his friends congratulated him on at least being brave enough to try, and – showing surprising restraint or consideration for teenage boys – only ribbed him a little over his failure. For the next two weeks.
As the weather turned, Kebrin felt like he was starting to catch his stride. He put real effort every day into doing well in all of his classes, especially the personal lessons with Master Salinda, and also tried to spend at least a few hours a week helping other students. Kebrin still thought of himself as a Weyr brat who happened to be attending Harper Hall, not a Harper, and part of being a dragonman was helping everyone succeed if they were still really trying. This earned him a lot of casual friends and loose acquaintances that he wouldn’t have otherwise made. This was especially nice because some people, like Sean from Fort Weyr, seemed to take an instant dislike to him because he was from a Weyr or because most of the classes came so easily to him.
Kebrin also started paying closer attention to what the Senior Journeymen and Masters were studying and doing, as best as his busy class and social curriculum allowed.
Master Salinda’s knowledge of the closing of Ista Weyr, which he knew was still a secretive and somewhat private matter, had made him realize that Harper Hall was a hub of news and information from every Weyr, Hall, and Hold. According to Tomar, Harper Hall also had some of the largest and most extensive libraries in the whole world. It gradually dawned on Kebrin that Harper Hall was a bastion for the Arts, especially music, but it was a lot more than that. Harper Hall was about the preservation of history and traditions and vast stores of other knowledge – and music was a good way of doing that.
Kebrin got odd looks from his friends when he tried to share this revelation with them, and he quickly learned to keep his mouth shut about it. He never really figured out why they couldn’t see what seemed so plainly apparent to him, though.
Kebrin had never experienced true Autumn before, and absolutely fell in love with the clear skies, crisp air, and the color of flames on the trees. He was so taken with these colors, in fact, that they fueled the amateurish lyrics to several of the poem-songs he was working on for one of his classes. His friends laughed when he complained about the bitter cold, and warned him that it was going to get much, much colder. Autumn had come early this Turn, and his instructors predicted the first light snow in only a couple of months.
Kebrin discussed money-earning opportunities with both his close and casual friends, and any instructors who seemed sympathetic. He put out word that he was looking for a part-time job with which to buy essentials like clothes and school supplies, and maybe even afford a few luxuries like some of his classmates had.
Trying to think of jobs that other students from Harper Hall or Healer Hall wouldn’t or couldn’t do, or learn about, he also went to visit with K’len of Fort Hold one morning. The older dragonrider seemed to like him alright, and Kebrin hoped that he might be willing to help a Weyr brat out with advice about finding a good part-time job – maybe even helping out K’len with Pentiath, since they were both getting older and washing and oiling a dragon was hard work.
After talking to many other people at Harper Hall and discarding what felt like countless ideas for earning money during the upcoming Gather, Kebrin settled on a service where he would find and serenade – and bring small lovers’ gifts – to people for a fee. Taking this business opportunity as seriously as everything else he did, he worked with some older students to make neat printed signs on scrap paper to post on all the public advertisement boards on the days leading up to the Gather.