Kebrin speaks with the captain of the Cormorant and learns disturbing news…
Music: The Silent Weyr
Kebrin quickly returned with the Harper’s guitar but the men were already busy.
The Captain and Headwoman spent an hour settling the ship’s crew into the Living Cavern with a hearty beef stew and mugs of spiced apple cider. A few of the men started to complain about the lack of alcohol but Captain Brychan silenced them with a brief, piercing look as cold as between. After that, the crew treated Headwoman Norilla with nothing but utmost respect.
Oswina and the drudges disappeared into the kitchen, along with two strong canines to turn the roasting spit. A handful of riders wandered in and out of the Living Cavern, apparently as mystified by the visitors as anyone.
Kebrin imagined many more riders were sitting on their weyr ledges, comforting their dragons over the presence of another Weyr’s queen.
A quick peek outside revealed two majestic dragons stretching their wings in the morning sun. The first, a stunning burnished gold with lighter wingsails, glistening from a fresh oiling, wearing the heraldry of Benden Weyr. The second, a sturdy reddish bronze, undoubtedly her mate from his bravery in such close proximity to a queen. The gold began preening herself, probably aware of all the attention she was attracting.
Kebrin knew their names — Shanira and gold Tamarath, G’faen and bronze Jerosith. All the Weyrleader’s and Weyrwoman’s names had been drilled into him, along with their dragon’s. It was exceptionally rude not to know them.
Garoway and Captain Brychan eventually sat down at a small table, well away from the clanks and bangs of a kitchen preparing for a formal dinner. The captain leaned back in a heavy wood chair, one arm over the back and one foot up on an adjacent chair. The Harper leaned his elbows on the table across from him.
Kebrin was able to sit a short distance away with the guitar in his lap, waiting for a chance to join the conversation. He was close enough to hear them talking.
“Ye knew it would come to this, someday,” Brychan began, “But it’s still a hard roll to eat. You’ve my sympathies.”
Garoway nodded slowly, his shoulders slumped with resignation.
“I did. Shards, I thought I’d be ready, but I’m not. I’m begging the egg that the wingriders take it well.”
Brychan caught the eye of a drudge and asked him to bring a bottle of wine. Tig nodded and hurried into the kitchen. Fortunately, “Tig-tig” was the most reliable drudge at the Weyr and likely to remember to bring a pair of glasses along with a mid-grade bottle of white.
“Will the oldtimers stay posted, do ye think?” Brychan asked.
“Yes,” Garoway replied. “It won’t seem as though anything has changed, not for some time. Well,” the Harper amended, “not for most of us.”
Garoway reached into his doublet’s inner pocket and produced a sealed letter. He furrowed his brows and then handed it over to the Captain.
Brychan accepted it gently. “I’ll see it’s delivered.”
Garoway allowed himself a brief smile. He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, some of the worry lines disappearing from his face.
“I’ve not met the Benden Weyrfolk,” Brychan admitted, “But I’m not sure I care to. I’m a hulk around the gentry. And I’ve heard there’s ice water in her veins.”
Brychan stammered at Garoway’s stunned look, “No offense intended, mind ye!”
“It’s necessary for people in their position,” Garoway explained. “Hard duties require hard folk,” he added, quoting a bit of Hold folk wisdom.
Tig returned with a tray of wine, glasses, and two small sweet pies. The conversation paused and Kebrin found the perfect opportunity to approach the men.
Garoway smiled at the boy with obvious paternal affection. “Captain Brychan, allow me to introduce Kebrin, my informal apprentice.”
Brychan raised an eyebrow, glancing between the two, then took his boot off the chair and sat up straight. He offered Kebrin a calloused hand.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, lad. Might ye be interested in a tour of the Cormorant once yer duties are done for the day?”
He smiled with humor at Garoway, “You can bring yer Harper along, too, if ye like.”
Garoway chuckled and nodded. “In the meantime, Kebrin… play us a few tunes.”
[Hobby: Instrument – Guitar 14+2, rolled 15.]
Kebrin’s songs were passable but the Harper could tell his mind wasn’t on the music. Captain Garoway was complimentary, none the less. He called for another glass and poured a half measure of wine for Kebrin, engaging him in conversation.
“We’ll be docked fer at night or two, prolly not more,” Garoway answered when the questions began.
“We carry a bit o’ this and o’ that, fancy things that a wagon might break, or goods gong to a place a road doesn’t reach. Mostly passengers, important folk on official business,” he explained.
He stroked his beard thoughtfully. “In my fifteen Turns aboard the Cormorant, I’d say Lady Roselen’s bejeweled eggs were the most interesting cargo we carried. They were big as a man’s first, gold and enamel and shiny gems all over. I had to wear me glasses to see all the detail. “
“I’ve been as far east as Greystones and as far west as Tillek, which is as far east and west as a man cares to sail. I’d not mind spending a summer in Tillek, but I’m from Nerat, born and bred, and it always calls me home,” Garoway admitted with a hint of wistful longing in his voice.
Kebrin managed to ask a few more questions before Garoway gently prompted him to see to the day’s work.
The morning went by in a whirlwind of chores. Normally, Kebrin would have had plenty of distractions between them, but the prospect of touring the Istan flagship with its Captain was overwhelming. He finished in record time.
He was led on board the Cormorant just after Noon, walking across a thin wooden plank that bounced alarmingly as he stepped. Garoway followed along behind with an even stride. Clearly, it wasn’t his first time on a ship. The crew was already back on board, hard at work performing maintenance.
The Captain introduced him to several crew members — The first mate, in charge of the day-to-day running of the ship. The Navigator who used special tools to chart their track across the ocean. The bosun who saw to the maintenance of the ship. The Purser who served as both the Healer and the records keeper. Oddly enough, the Cook was also an important and highly respected officer of the crew.
Eventually, the Captain left Kebrin and Garoway to explore on their own. Garoway leaned on a rail on the quarterdeck, looking out over the ocean. His thoughts seemed far away. When Kebrin approached, he patted the boy on the head.
“I know you know something’s amiss,” the Harper began. “It’s time I tell you what’s been decided.”
Garoway fixed Kebrin with a most serious stare, one saved for commands that had a severe penalty if disobeyed.
“I’m trusting you with this. Let the others hear it from someone close to them.”
He nodded, satisfied with Kebrin’s wide-eyed agreement.
“Tithing to a Weyr is a great expense for a Hold, especially one as small as Ista,” Garoway began.
Kebrin hadn’t ever thought of Ista Hold as small and he didn’t like the direction this conversation seemed to be going.
“Lord Renatus has been supporting us out of tradition for decades, as did his father and grandfather before him. But it’s time for things to change.”
Garoway cleared his throat and stared out at the sea.
“All dragons born at Ista in the future will be transferred to other Weyrs. When the last of them are gone, we’ll be closing the Weyr for good.”