WARNING: Other players should not read this until Chapter 1 is complete.
Toria had a fantastic time with Madi over the Spring break. The weather was nearly perfect, save for a few rainy days at the beginning of the trip. Because she was traveling as a guest of Madi’s family, she stayed in the fanciest lodgings she had ever seen, where a breakfast of fresh local fruits and pastries was served every morning and her bed felt like it was made of pure fluff, it was so soft.
She and Madi had plenty of fun hiking along various paths, eating fish her father and brother caught, and even sailing a few times – sunning themselves on the deck and talking about the future. Madi planned on getting a posting after her fourth Turn as close as she could to her family in Southern Telgar, and marrying Riley if he asked her like she thought he would.
Toria’s fourth Turn at Healer Hall began quietly. She was still working for Master Zemel, and took every opportunity to ask questions or watch him work. She’d decided to stay in the dorms and save her marks for now. Some of her dorm-mates were gone often enough that it usually wasn’t a problem. There were a few times she went to one of the many quiet spots she’d found around the Hall to study, but on the whole, it could have been much worse.
It was the regular day for Kebrin and Toria’s combat training. Kebrin, who was normally five minutes early to everything, was almost fifteen minutes late. For the first time Toria has ever seen, he looked disheveled. His hair was unkempt. Some attempt to groom had been made by a clearly sleep-deprived teen.
Toria shot up as soon as she spotted him. She was dressed in her usual attire, with a Journeyman’s Healer pin on her purple tunic. She had a worried look on her face.
“Kebrin, are you alright, what’s…” she began.
“Sure, fine,” Kebrin interrupted.
“Uh huh, would you like to try again?” Toria asked slowly.
“So I take it you’re the one person in all of Harper Hall and Fort Hold who hasn’t heard?”
Toria looked confused, “Apparently not, what haven’t I heard? Here, sit down.” She found an empty table nearby and took a seat, gesturing for Kebrin to do the same.
Kebrin sat across from her. “You’ve heard about the Search?” he asked in a weary voice.
“Yes, they’re doing one now…”
“Well, good news, I was picked,” Kebrin cut in, nodding with a solemn expression.
Toria didn’t look happy, prodding gently, “And then…”
“Told I couldn’t go,” Kebrin said flatly.
Toria looked dismayed. She knew Kebrin had always planned to be a dragonrider. “I’m… why? I’m so sorry…” she said, stumbling over the words.
“Couldn’t go,” Kebrin repeated.
Toria was stunned and confused. She waited for Kebrin to elaborate.
He plucked at his orange tunic, “Ista Weyr.” He gestured up at the mountain, “Fort Weyr.”
“I’m so sorry, I know that’s been a dream of yours since… well, since I met you. Is there nothing that can be done? Could you be Searched… maybe for Ista?”
Kebrin visibly tensed, clenching his jaw.
“Or not? Is it complicated? I’m sorry…” Toria added quickly.
“How much do you really want to know?” Kebrin asked, tilting his head slightly.
“Whatever you want to tell me. I think you could use a friend right now.”
“Well… can I have it on your honor as a Healer this goes nowhere?”
“Yes,” Toria promised.
“Are you sure?”
“On the First Egg.”
Kebrin nodded once, then said, “Masterharper Cameron says I won’t go even if it’s Ista.”
“It’s a waste,” he admitted reluctantly.
“What’s a waste? If you’re… I don’t understand. You’ve been picked for Search…” Toria’s thoughts were a jumble.
Kebrin lowered his head. “Because we’re not fighting Thread anymore and… you know how I told you that they changed up my duties at the Hall?”
“Yes, more responsibility… what else?”
“More Harper Stuff. A lot more harper stuff… leadership stuff. In another two and a half Turns, I’ll be a Master if I stay on course. But, if you do that sort of thing, you can’t be a dragonrider,” Kebrin explained. He swallowed hard.
Toria leaned over and put a hand on Kebrin’s shoulder, to comfort him.
“You know, we had a talk about it and he’s not wrong,” Kebrin continued.
“But you’re still not happy because you’re not able to see your dreams through…”
“No I’m not happy about it.”
“But they must have chosen you for a reason?”
“Sure. Sure,” Kebrin nodded. “And I’ll do my best at it. And they make a good point, I can do a lot more good helping to determine how things go in a Hold than being a dragonman.”
“What is it about you that made them chose you for this new path, that prevents you from being a dragonrider? Why you?”
“A bunch of reasons, but… I guess…” Kebrin struggled with the words. “The same sense of duty that prevents me from becoming a dragonrider.”
Toria lifted her eyebrows, waiting for him to explain further.
“Are most of your classmates more interested in the greater good of Healer Hall or are they just trying to get good grades for good postings?” he asked.
“Probably the second for a lot of them, but some also the first. You don’t train to be a Healer just for Marks,” Toria answered with pride.
“Well, I’m a believer. I’m Weyr-bred. You throw your lot in, you do your best. We still believe firmly in things like honor and duty and loyalty. We really believe in them, you know this. Well, that’s not common. Most people at Harper Hall want good grades for a good posting for a good life, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
“And… why are you different? What prevents you from…”
“How I’ve handled a few things…”
Kebrin sighed. His shoulders slumped.
“If you don’t want to tell me, it’s your prerogative, I just assumed you’d want to get it off your chest. You’ve listened to me more than once and opened my heart about… a few things,” Toria said gently.
“Fair enough, fair enough. Well, they like the fact that I look out for my dorm mates and my friends. I’ve kept a couple of them from dropping out already. Not by cheating. Just… you help your people out, if they haven’t given up then you don’t give up on them. Apparently it came to their attention that one of the drudges from the kitchen asked me to help him learn how to read, because he thought I was nice, so I spent the better part of a semester teaching him what words I could cram into his head.”
“That’s really good of you,” Toria complimented.
“Well again, if somebody’s trying, you’re obligated to help them.”
“Case in point,” Toria agreed, pointing at herself at her belt knife.
“If someone wants to be strong, you help them. But I think it really came down to a few semester ago when I caught a dorm mate cheating and… turned them in,” Kebrin admitted.
Toria listened intensely.
“They were kicked out of Harper Hall.”
Color drained from Toria’s face, “Really?”
“He kicked himself out. But… it was the right thing to do. He was helping his girlfriend, she couldn’t remember the longer teaching songs, couldn’t keep them straight. Sweet girl and I like them both, but…”
“Not Harper material,” Toria offered.
“Not Harper material,” Kebrin agreed, “And you can’t have them fudging the teaching songs.”
“No,” Toria replied, echoing Kebrin’s sentiments.
“So I wrestled with it and wrestled with it, and talked to a friend of mine about it, and ended up taking it to the Administrator. Because… maybe I was wrong, maybe I was over-reacting, maybe a lot of things.”
“The adults would know what to do.”
“Uh-huh. Because I had to trust in my leadership. They’re older, they’ve been down this road before.”
Toria nodded, “Right”
“Well, it came down, she was going to be kicked out because she really didn’t have much talent to begin with – I’m not saying that to be mean, again I liked her as a person – but all she had was a little bit of musical talent, that’s it. So the best she could hope for was to be an entertainer. Not a teacher, not a diplomat, not an emissary, not helping to guide a Hold which is what they’re hoping for from me.”
“I know it’s not your dream but it’s, like I said before…”
Kebrin let out a sharp bark of a laugh, “Yeah but we do what we must, right?”
Toria nodded and gave Kebrin a bear hug. “I know but it’s still a hard roll to eat,” she said sadly.
“So then, when all that was done, I had to walk back out into the courtyard of Harper Hall. Everyone had seen me Searched. Everyone.” Kebrin clicked his tongue. “I think that was about the longest walk of my life. The rumors are still flying.”
“No doubt, can you at least tell them why?” Toria asked hopefully.
“Oh sure, sure. I told Eurielle, I told my friends, I tried to get them to tell their friends, but that doesn’t stop rumors. Some of my students, I’ve had craziness coming from them…”
“Wait, you’re teaching?” Toria exclaimed, “Wow!”
“First Junior Journeyman I’ve ever heard of teaching,” Kebrin boasted.
“That’s an honor.”
“Overall, I think it’s going well, they’re ahead of where they’re supposed to be this semester. They like me. They’re learning what they’re supposed to and they don’t hate me with a passion, so I guess I can’t be doing too badly.”
“Again, your Masters must see something in you, though, that is worth…”
Kebrin smiled sadly, the pain obvious in his eyes. Toria’s voice trailed off.
“That’s the rest of the news. You’ve heard me say that I like my current master Salinda a whole lot, she’s been very kind to me.”
“Yes, more than once.”
“That stops at the end of my fourth Turn and I’m assigned to someone else. Some new person I haven’t even met yet.”
“She does music, he doesn’t.”
“What does he do?”
“Politics, guiding a Hold. I mean, that’s about the shape of it, isn’t it?”
“So I don’t know if he’s coming here or I’m going there.”
Toria’s face fell. “Oh no, what about all your friends and Eurielle? Oh…” she said sadly.
“So…” Kebrin blew out a long breath. “A little bit of a rough road right now.”
“Just I’m… I don’t know what to say, but I do know that the first time I met you, when we rode that dragon, you were the one who said it was going to be okay. You’ve always had a great interest in dragons. I’m really sorry. Is it possible that it might change in the future, or…?”
“Nobody knows what the future holds but… if I had to lay odds, you know which way the odds lie or you wouldn’t ask that question.”
“I just feel so bad for you,” Toria admitted, wishing she could help somehow.
“I want my sweet bread and I want to eat it too.”
“I know it’s no comfort, but at least you do have a future at Harper hall, and it’ll be a great one. You have talent, people are seeing it, and they want to train you.”
“Sure. Master Salinda cried, by the way. I did, too,” Kebrin admitted, his eyes shining with unshed tears. “I think I broke her heart. She didn’t take the news well, I mean she wasn’t angry but…”
“It wasn’t your choice at all?”
“It wasn’t mine, wasn’t hers.”
“Whose choice was it?”
“Wow, that’s…” Toria’s breath caught in her throat. “The Masterharper knows you and…”
“He was the one who said this is how it’s going to be. Master Salinda was the first one to tell me that he had mentioned me as a potential Hall Master.”
“That’s really saying something and it’s not a dragon but… wow, a Harper Hall Master?”
“Well, not just a Harper Master but maybe one day the…”
Toria’s eyes went wide. “That’s almost as big as…” She paused, “That is… not what you wanted, though.”
“Yeah, but I can’t cry over it, can I. Or I shouldn’t.”
“You shouldn’t but you still can.”
“Like I said, it’s been a rough road these last few days.”
Toria looked thoughtful, “Well hey, do you want to knock off one training day, maybe we could go hunt for firelizards…”
“I need to teach a class tomorrow.”
“Maybe go for a drink?” she offered.
“That I could do.”
Toria pat him on the arm. “I’m really sorry that you’re dream to be a dragonrider isn’t going to happen. I know that’s crushing. But hopefully whatever your future does hold, it’s…” She sighed heavily.
“I’m trying not to be ungrateful.”
“It’s really nice being trusted and respected, it’s a great honor to be able to teach Apprentices as a Junior Journeyman, and the Marks aren’t bad…” Kebrin laughed cheerlessly. “The money’s not bad either. You haven’t seen my new place, have you?”
“You should stop by. It’s small, but it’s mine. Four walls, the whole thing.”
“Well, it sounds like what needs to happen today is to get some ale and just talk about stupid things, because nothing I say will change the fact that you’ve had a tough time. Your dreams were well and thoroughly shattered and there’s nothing I can do to change that…”
“Nothing we should do to change it,” Kebrin cut in.
“And that’s what makes it harder. You still want to be a dragonrider and I understand that.”
“They said I have every right to stand the sands of Ista.”
Toria offered a look of sincere sympathy.
“I just shouldn’t,” Kebrin added, “because I can do more good as a Harper.”
“I understand. I know I’ve said it many times already, but I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s fine. It’s… there’s nothing for it. What else can I do? I should be happy. I’ll get there. It’s just hard letting that dream go.”
Toria nodded knowingly.
“Speaking of stupid things, I can tell you some of the questions my students ask,” Kebrin said, smiling wryly.
Toria leaned forward. “Do tell,” she dared him with a laugh.
Kebrin sat back and told a few anecdotal stories about his Apprentices, wondering to Toria if they were that stupid when they were young, even though that was only three Turns ago.
Toria tried to lift Kebrin’s spirits by telling some zingers about her ex-boyfriend, her first crush. She was obviously still bitter about the break-up but hoped changing the topic would lift his mood.
Kebrin offered sympathy, having seen several of his friends go through similar relationships. “It could be worse,” he said with a smirk and told Toria some of the more juicy tales.
Eventually, Toria walked with Kebrin to the Hold and bought him a couple of drinks.
By the time he left, Kebrin looked better for having spent time outside of Harper Hall.
Toria felt horribly for Kebrin, having his childhood dream crushed like it had been. It would’ve been bad enough if he simply had never been Searched, but he had been, and then told he couldn’t go because he had such a promising future as a Harper. It was both a blessing and a curse, she thought. And worst of all, his classmates and friends saw it and would be asking why he didn’t go with the dragonman, further rubbing in the hurt. She resolved to find something to give him that would cheer him up, maybe something for his new apartment.
Toria found herself hoping Kebrin would stick around with his new Master. She would miss her first friend in Fort Hold if he left the Hall. But then, wouldn’t they all be doing that, sooner or later?