Kebrin’s dedication and diligence are rewarded…
Only a sevenday passed before a letter arrived for Kebrin from Garoway at Ista Weyr.
I could never claim you as my son.
There were times you wanted to be unfostered — un-different, un-scared, un-lonely, to un-do the dark days that separated you from your mother, the woman who first claimed your heart. You wished you didn’t need a new family at all. Those feelings were natural and I tried to handle them with gentle understanding.
It was a hard thing to reconcile that my greatest gain would have been born from your greatest heartache. Knowing that, I let you be a child of the Weyr, but you have always been special to me.
Now, you have claimed me as your father. This is the most profound and welcome gift I have ever received. I am honored to be the missing piece. I accept this gift with great humility.
Your birth father is brave and strong. He stepped aside only to fulfill his duties and give you the choices he never had, opening the door to more potential futures than any Hold- or Hall-bred child could dream of. You have already done much to honor his sacrifice.
Your birth mother is beautiful. She is smart and special. It is okay to miss her. In her own way, she loves you, too.
I will try to be the parent they would hope for.
You changed my life in unexpected ways. I have no regrets for choosing this path. The memories you have given me will last a lifetime. I will be here whenever you need to know how life works.
I will give you the advice that my father gave me because it was clearly meant for you:
Don’t ever be normal. Be great.
Kebrin quickly discovered that Ned responded better to sights than sounds. The drudge also memorized things faster if he could touch something. Fortunately, the Headwoman’s assistant was happy to loan Kebrin a set of wood letter blocks. Even with teaching aids, it was slow going.
Once they realized that Kebrin was sticking with it, the Hall staff was surprisingly supportive. Headwoman Gema reassigned a few of Ned’s duties so that he could practice reading. Busy administrator Leeland took Kebrin aside and thanked him for his kindness, promising to mention it to the Masters. Once in awhile, Fay, an adorable young drudge who laughed often, would sit at the table and watch. She wasn’t interested in learning, she just wanted to see what was going on.
After a semester of studying, Ned was able to sound out all the signs posted in the Hall, the labels on the supply crates, and even his posted list of chores. He was very proud.
Kebrin’s second Turn of study at Harper Hall was rapidly coming to a close. It was a time of absolute chaos. Students were arriving and leaving, moving to new dormitories, cramming for final exams, and dreaming of spring break. Now that his friends were young teens, the placid lake of social interaction upon which he sailed had become a turbulent sea of drama. At least Kebrin could look forward to his fifth semester classes — he could finally play percussion and try his hand at conducting. Unfortunately, he could also have to learn everything about a Harper’s Hold duties, musical and otherwise.
The last morning of the semester started early with dorm cleaning and personal grooming. There was much talk about the formal commencement dinner that would take place just after sundown. Kebrin had no need to pay attention to the gossip his first Turn, but now he had a better understanding of what it meant. Commencement wasn’t really about fancy food and girls in pretty dresses, it was covertly about politics and promotion.
Rank was a matter of public pride. Seating in the sprawling living cavern was organized by rank, so Kebrin and other Junior Apprentices sat farthest from the hearths and the Master’s ornate trestle table. The entire Hall watched as students “walked the tables” when they were promoted.
Between gifts from Master Salinda and Marks from Garoway, Kebrin had a fine outfit set aside for commencement dinner. He had never owned a doublet with intricate damask embroidery before and the cream-colored thread stood out splendidly on the cobalt blue cloth. He also had a new set of boots as he had quickly outgrown his old pair.
The dinner began with several short songs performed by Junior Journeymen, covering the rattling and clanking of dinner being served to nearly two hundred people.
I have no wings but wish I had
I dream about it every night
I’m soaring with the gentle winds
Above the Hold in graceful flight
In bluest seas of open sky
The white clouds look like winter snow
And sunlight falls in golden beams
Upon the mountain peaks below
Once the main dishes had been eaten, the fidgeting began. Students were careful to keep their voices low, sensing that the Masters could begin announcements at any time. Rashtin was particularly nervous. His voice had finished changing and promised to develop into a powerful tenor. He had mostly grown out of his nightmares and hoped to move to a dorm where he could make friends.
MUSIC: Walk The Tables
The Masterharper chimed his wine glass with a silver fork, commanding everyone’s attention as he stood. He looked noble and confident, even with all eyes upon him. The excitement in the air raised goosebumps on Kebrin’s arm. After several minutes of complimenting and thanking the Hall’s staff, he announced a short list of postings. Kebrin recognized few of the hold names. The applause was genuine but subdued, as many people realized their friends were leaving.
Masterharper Cameron referred to notes written on a small sheet of paper. It was potentially a good sign that he hadn’t memorized the list. Perhaps it was too long to easily commit to memory.
“The Masters have given me their recommendations,” he said, holding the paper up where he could read it. “After careful consideration, I am pleased to announce the following promotions. Bertram to Senior Journeyman, Marsila to Senior Journeyman, Randel to Junior Journeyman…”
The list started with the highest ranking promotions and worked its way down. With each name, there was a brief round of applause. By the time the Masterharper reached the Apprentice promotions, Dainen had turned red from holding his breath and Jomon had balled his hands into tight fists.
“…Mitch to Senior Apprentice,” the Masterharper read. Mitch almost jumped out of his skin and his eyes went wide. Dainen started chanting, “Walk the tables, walk the tables, go Mitch go!” Mitch stood from the bench and looked toward the next table.
“…Kebrin to Senior Apprentice,” came the call. He almost missed his own name while congratulating his friend.
Kebrin’s dorm mates renewed their applause. They thumped him on the back and offered as many congratulations as they could in the few moments allowed. Mitch seemed to gain confidence, finally able to make his legs carry him to the next table. When they arrived, Baylen bullied other students aside to make room for them.
Senior Apprentice. It was official.
When he finally thought to look in Master Salinda’s direction, he noticed that she was smiling brightly and her eyes were shining, perhaps a little wet with tears.
The next day, Kebrin’s former dorm mates helped him move from Gannon to Taskin, a larger building located closer to the Hall. He was moving from a children’s cot to an apartment complex for teenagers. Towards the end of spring break, new students would move into the place he had called home for the last two Turns, his first home away from the Weyr.