A ship flying the orange and white pennant of Ista Hold has arrived at the Weyr…
The Great Hall was surprisingly clean and orderly. In fact, Kebrin hadn’t seen it so organized since preparations for Turnover celebration the previous winter.
Oswina, the headwoman’s young assistant, was directing three drudges to straighten all the chairs and add extra glows to the baskets. The Headwoman put her in charge of drudges and child discipline two Turns earlier. Her intense hazel eyes and angular features were intimidating when she grew angry. Oswina had always been fair and even-handed, but she wasn’t someone to cross lightly.
The Headwoman herself, Norilla, was helping the Harper with the round, fancy buttons of his best doublet. The heavy, burnt orange cloth was intricately embroidered with vine and leaf patterns in gold thread. Matched with formal trousers and soft leather boots, Garoway looked every inch the noble diplomat.
Kebrin knew better than to interrupt such important preparations. Fortunately, Garoway was perceptive enough to notice the curious boy. He fixed him with a look and nodded toward the lesser hearth near the entrance to the Living Cavern.
It was tacit permission to eavesdrop if he remained quiet and unobtrusive.
While the Great Hall was meant for formal occasions, high ranking Weyrmen, and important guests, the Living Cavern was a massive common area open to everyone. Kebrin could fetch himself a cup of juice, sit at the table near the hearth, and blend in.
Kebrin was almost instantly pressed into service cleaning the Great Hall’s hearth and fetching fresh firewood. He had just enough time to finish, clean up, and put on fresh clothes before the guests arrived.
As he approached the table Garoway had indicated, Oswina planted herself firmly in front of Kebrin, hands on her hips.
“And just where do you think you’re going?” she asked, scowling slightly.
“Kebrin, have you fetched my guitar yet?” Garoway called out behind her, striding in quickly. “Bring the one with the pickguard shaped like a firelizard. There’s a good lad!”
Oswina sighed slightly, suspecting the Harper’s motives but too busy to argue. She disappeared into the main kitchen.
Garoway winked at Kebrin, but the deep concern in his eyes bespoke the lie of his pleasant expression.
The Harper was joined by B’ran, leader of Belior wing, his wingsecond T’gan, Timor wingsecond R’nal, and finally the Weyrleader himself. G’mar was the only man among them who seemed at ease.
“Riders, Harper,” G’mar greeted everyone tersely.
Their murmurs of acknowlegement were interrupted by the arrival of the guests from Ista Hold.
Kebrin listened in as introductions were made —
Henrick, the stout and balding Steward in his early sixties, speaking for Lord Renatus. He seemed oddly comfortable for a visitor to the Weyr. Most people were more awed by the scale of it and the presence of dragons. Something about him seemed off, like a trader who slips a mark into his sleeve at the end of a sale.
Captain Brychan of the Cormorant, the Hold’s small but resplendent flagship. He seemed more trustworthy. His storm grey hair, full beard, and bushy eyebrows gave him a formidable visage. The leather clothes, wide belt, and large metal buckles made him every inch the weathered sea captain.
Three others traveled with Henrick as an escort but Kebrin didn’t catch their names as he stared innocently into his cup.
A trumpet of challenge from the starstone peak broke the obligatory casual conversation in the Great Hall.
“Visitors, dragons,” Kebrin thought for a brief moment, before a thunderous answering call made his hair stand on end.
Only a gold dragon could make a call like that. The Weyrwoman’s gold Liviath answered, the sound echoing across the bowl.
“Shall we move to the conference room?” G’mar asked the assembled men. “Weyrwoman Daena will meet us there.”
Captain Brychan gave him a flinty look. “I’ll stay here and see that my men are provided for, if’n you don’t mind.”
Garoway stepped up and took his arm. “I’m sure no one objects. Let me introduce you to our Headwoman.”
The Captain’s mood improved visibly as the Harper led him off through the Living Cavern. Meanwhile, the Holders and Weyrmen turned and followed the stairs up to the conference room adjacent to the Weyrleader’s quarters.