WARNING: Other players should not read this until Chapter 1 is complete.
[Attribute check: Will 11, rolled 4]
Kebrin blossomed after his talk with Master Salinda. Only the other Masters knew about the conversation or just how deep it went, but everyone who knew him at all was certain that something fundamental had changed. Learning that the Masters thought so highly of him that they thought he could one day be entrusted with helping guide the course of history on Pern filled him with pride and, more importantly, a deep sense of purpose and belonging. Instead of being driven by fear of failure or competitiveness toward other students, he applied himself eagerly to his studies because he wanted to be up to the great tasks before him – whatever those might be.
No longer afraid of losing his place at Harper Hall for some reason he couldn’t comprehend or even really perceive, he became noticeably more confident and outgoing than before. He also began tentatively expressing more of his real personality and opinions in both the classes he took and the ones he taught – taking a more active hand in his own education, instead of just passively accepting what was being taught – and was again rewarded when more than one of his Masters commented on it positively. Master Chanler shocked him by quietly inviting him to join his ‘dinner club’, a select group of Masters and a few well-respected Senior Journeymen who met every other sevenday to learn about and openly debate delicate topics such as major events and their underlying political and economic causes. Kebrin couldn’t decide whether this was Harper Hall’s way of teaching him more about current politics, how to discuss difficult topics, or both.
Being Weyr-bred, Kebrin was both excited and intensely curious when he saw his friends K’len and Pentiath were coming to visit – which was exactly why K’len had to caution him to stand back almost immediately after landing. Kebrin took the not-so-subtle hint and retreated to stand in the cool shadow of his apartment’s main entryway, along with a couple of other brave Journeymen. Without thinking, he sipped absently on Jomon’s abandoned citrus juice as he tried to puzzle out what he was watching.
Kebrin watched with shock and then absolute, unbridled joy and excitement when he realized that Tumar, one of his oldest and best friends, had been Searched! He had to fight hard against the urge to jump up and down, or at least cheer, at his friend’s wonderful luck. The only reason he didn’t was because he told himself that he would only over-excite Tumar, who already looked more than a little bewildered, or might even embarrass himself in front of K’len.
In retrospect, Kebrin clearly remembered how casually K’len told him that he’d been chosen on Search but had no recollection of the long walk across the courtyard or to Steward Marlin’s office at all. Not until he saw Tumar. He closed the last short distance at a dead run, and half-tackled his friend into a fierce bear-hug, “You made it! I made it! We’re going to Fort Weyr! We’re going to stand the Sands!”
He released Tumar the moment he heard the concern in his voice, grabbed him firmly by the shoulders, and looked right into his eyes. “Yes, Tumar! Yes, yes, yes! This is the greatest day of our lives! We’re going to be Dragonmen!” Kebrin felt like this was the best day in his entire life, and he desperately wanted and needed his friend to share his joy and enthusiasm.
[Attribute check: Will 11, rolled 3.]
[Player’s Note: By the Shell, I am SO SORRY Tumar.]
If Tumar still seemed concerned, Kebrin reassured him, “Yes, I’ll be with you the whole way. This is going to be fantastic. You’ll see. Training in Fort Weyr will be a lot like our first days here at Harper Hall. There will be other Weyrlings…” He paused for just a moment as he tried to remember the exact number, “Feynith clutched twenty-five eggs, so probably forty-eight other students give or take a couple. They’ll be going through the exact same things as us at the same time. And Fort Weyr has been training new dragons and their dragonmen for hundreds and hundreds of Turns, so they have everything down pat. They know exactly what they’re doing, and soon you will, too. You’ll see. We’ll do what the Weyrlingmaster tells us and we’ll be just fine.”
Kebrin’s glow of excitement and confidence was finally penetrated by the look of clear dismay on Masterharper Cameron’s face, and he grew increasingly nervous the longer the Masterharper and K’len talked in private. Something was obviously wrong, but what?
His heart sank when he saw K’len’s grim expression, and it felt like the world – which had seemed full of infinite promise just a few short minutes before – was caving in around him. He fought desperately against these overwhelming feelings, not for his own sake but for Tumar’s. He struggled to find his voice and somehow managed just as K’len was escorting his friend out of the room. He called out to their backs, “You’re going to do brilliant, Tumar!”
[Attribute check: Will 11, rolled 5]
Instead of wallowing in uncertainty and confusion, Kebrin called upon some core of inner strength and determination that he didn’t know he had, followed K’len and Tumar out into the hallway, and then marched into Masterharper Cameron’s office.
He nodded slowly in response to the Masterharper’s words, grudgingly acknowledging the wisdom in them. He swallowed hard and spoke slowly, each word chosen with care, “Yes, sir. I… I understand. Thread hasn’t fallen in over four hundred Turns. I can do a lot more good here at Harper Hall than at Fort Weyr. Pern needs good leaders and diplomats a lot more than it needs Dragonriders.”
Kebrin believed every word that he uttered, but they were still the most awful, painful syllables he had ever spoken. He was abandoning his cherished childhood dream of becoming a Weyr Harper in order to actually serve the greater good and probably save many, many more lives. He was pinioned by honor. What else could a true Dragonman do?
The Masterharper’s final, incredible revelation should have shocked Kebrin, but it paled in comparison to having his cherished childhood dream violently ripped away from him. Still, his eyes went wide when the Masterharper openly spoke of what Kebrin thought of as his deepest, darkest secret. He again chose his words carefully, “Yes… yes, sir. I’ve suspected that I am… different… for a couple of Turns now. But I wasn’t certain, because I can’t control it. How did you know?” He fought down the urge to barrage him with other questions, but reminded himself that they would undoubtedly all be answered in time – many of them probably by Master Karthen, whoever he was. Kebrin prided himself on knowing, or at least knowing of, most of the people currently in Harper Hall and was certain he had never heard the name before.
Kebrin didn’t remember his walk to Steward Marlin’s office, but he remembered every long, lonely step from Masterharper Cameron’s office back to his own apartment. His classmates pretended not to stare. He pretended not to hear the urgent whispers behind his back. He repeated like a mantra with every heavy footfall, “You learn to use the gifts you have, instead of wishing for ones you don’t,” because he desperately needed to believe it.
A frantic Eurielle found him curled up on the couch in his apartment a few minutes later. She was gentle and patient with him. She held him and stroked his hair gently as he talked and finally faltered as the tears started to flow – finally accepting and mourning the death of his childhood.