Not all Harpers are cut from the same cloth…
No season could compete with summertime in the mountains. The weather was pleasantly warm and the constant breeze was mild. The meadows were alive with bright colors and buzzing insects. Students spent time hiking on trails, fishing, and swimming in a nearby lake.
Kebrin began to notice that relationships between students were torrid and brief. Some couples only stayed together during summer break. Others fell headlong into bittersweet romance, knowing deep down that it could never last. Their dreams of promotion would see them posted to different Holds. Their love was wild and innocent and free of obligation. It was almost magical.
Summer break always ended too soon.
Kebrin’s third Turn of study would teach him that there was far more to being a Harper than playing music, at least for students intelligent enough serve in other ways.
After his fourth Turn, his life could follow one of two paths. He could choose a specialty, train for two more Turns, reach Senior Journeyman rank, and be posted to a Hold. He would negotiate a contract with a Holder, outlining the services he would provide and fair compensation.
He could also leave Harper Hall, return to Ista, accept whatever work he was assigned, and receive the same payment as any skilled crafter.
Kebrin was lucky to have that choice. Many students wouldn’t be sponsored by a Master and invited to stay. He knew that Master Salinda would be angry if he didn’t accept the invitation. His classmates assumed that he would become a Master some day, except for a few close friends who knew he hoped to return to the Weyr.
Six Turns was a long time to be away from home and family.
It wasn’t far into his fifth semester when Kebrin began to have suspicions about one of his dorm mates, a Senior Apprentice named Kailas.
He seemed like an average student at first glance. He was a little short with curly brown hair and dark brown eyes. He dressed plainly and spoke quietly. Only those who knew him well were aware of his rebellious streak. Kailas didn’t make a show of breaking rules, he simply did what he wanted and accepted the consequences.
Kailas spent his afternoons with Nissa, an Apprentice from Glenview, a small hold on the Tillek peninsula. She had tresses of silky blond hair and her chocolate brown eyes had a puppy dog’s charm. Her dainty nose, cute dimples, and perfect teeth gave her an almost doll-like appearance. She wasn’t Kebrin’s type but Kailas was head-over-heels in love with her.
Nissa wanted to be a musician but had little talent. Her slender, nimble fingers could pluck out a passable tune from lute or harp, but she was too naive and shy to be a real Harper. She also struggled with memorizing history and terminology.
[Attribute check: PER 11, rolled 8.]
Now and then, Kebrin noticed Kailas tucking tiny pieces of paper into Nissa’s sleeves. Later, he spotted the teen placing his hand on his desk in different positions during an exam. Kailas didn’t have the highest scores but Nissa’s were always close to his.
Something was definitely amiss.