He wasn’t certain how he had gotten there. Maybe he had flown home for Turnover, or during one of the breaks between semesters. It didn’t seem important how or why. What was important was that he was back at Ista Weyr. He was a little surprised when no one, not even Garoway or Signar the Watch-wher keeper, came out to greet him but it was a small matter. He was home.
Something felt wrong as he walked toward the living caverns, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what at first. He was almost there when it dawned on him: there were no people coming and going from the cavern entrance, or anywhere to be seen in the large courtyard outside. Inside, the living caverns were well lit with fresh glows but still there was no one to be found. Increasingly concerned, he poked his head into the Great Hall and then the giant kitchen. Cheery fires glowed merrily in the hearths, it smelled like bread was baking in the massive ovens, and neat bundles and piles of fresh food lay scattered across the work counters in various states of preparation. It was like everyone had just left, right in the middle of whatever they were doing. His concern threatened to give way to full-grown fear. Kebrin ran through the empty halls and pelted up echoing stairs to Garoway’s familar, cluttered apartment – where he found the Weyr Harper’s guitar laying across his favorite chair like he had just stepped out for a moment. The cushion was still warm.
Kebrin quickly explored Garoway’s apartment and then the others nearby, but found the same thing again and again. It was like everyone in the whole Weyr had just set aside whatever they were doing and left. Eventually, he found himself running through empty corridors yelling for someone, anyone, to respond but no one ever did. After what felt like forever, he found himself back at the landing field in the bowl of the Weyr. He fell to his knees, confused and frightened and so terribly, terribly alone. His last thoughts before he woke up were ones that would haunt him for days afterward, “Why didn’t they take me with them? Why did they leave me?”
The Second Dream
He awoke at false dawn in a comfortably familiar weyr. He got up, stretched lazily, and walked to the cavern mouth. It was worked, dressed with rock carved to look like mortared stone. Some distant, vague part of him balked because this was wrong. Weyrs were supposed to be rough-hewn, almost cave-like. This same inkling tried to complain about the way he moved, but was quickly and firmly shoved back into the inky waters from which it has come. Such abstract concerns were silly.
He surveyed the huge, flat valley far below as he stretched some more, wishing that the warm early morning sun was a little higher so that it would crest the peaks and spill into the bowl. Giving the matter little more than a passing thought, he backed up a few feet to the mouth of his weyr and then ran forward, unfurling and stretching his huge wings. He launched himself into the air using his hugely-muscled hind legs, and exulted as he finished extending his wings and felt them grab the air. He beat them powerfully several times to gain both altitude and greater control, already halfway across the valley. He glanced down and saw his shadow chasing him rapidly across the bowl, then the peaks of the jagged cliffs encircling the Weyr, and then a seemingly endless sea of dark green forest beneath him. The monotony was broken only by occasional tall, stony outcroppings that he knew made excellent perches. On other days he adored basking on them, luxuriating in the contrast of the warm sun on his hide and the cool stone beneath, but not today. Today he had something else on his mind: the growing hunger in his belly.
He navigated using the nearby jagged towers of stone and distant peaks. After a short while, the forest abruptly fell away to be replaced by steep green hills. There! Several clusters of long-legged herdbeasts still grazed in the blue-silver morning twilight. He circled them high and at a distance, well beyond where they could see, and carefully chose a herd that had strayed a little too far from the forest’s edge. He was an experienced hunter; he put his back to the sun and adjusted his heading to account for the steady wind coming over and off the distant mountains. Once he was in position, he pulled in his wings a little and began his descent, pulling them tighter to his body when he was close to his quarry to arrow toward them in a very carefully controlled dive. The beasts didn’t see him until the last moment. They tried to scatter and run but it was far, far too late. He extended his wings and backbeat hard as his powerful hind legs came down to grab one of the largest bucks. His last thought has he dragged himself back to wakefulness, groggy and confused, was that he would eat well that day.