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Chapter nineteen: L’stev

The group dynamics of any class of weyrlings require delicate handling. Factions can form and dissolve overnight. Rivalries will blow up over the most absurd things. The young and the shy may find themselves singled out, shunned, or even victimised. Young dragonriders can be just as cruel and vicious as any other young people. Impressing won’t turn a bully into a paragon – or a victim into a hero.

And as if the frictions between a group of thirteen-to-twenty-Turn-olds of widely differing backgrounds aren’t enough to set them at each other’s throats, there’s nothing like a bunch of immature dragons to do the job. One green getting out of bed the wrong way in the morning can put all the rest in a bad mood. Bronzes suddenly discovering their natural authority over other dragons can turn their riders into monsters and fracture the whole class into cliques. And a queen allowed to dominate her clutchmates will command their obedience whether their riders agree or not.

– Weyrlingmaster T’geon, Management Of The Queen Weyrling

100.03.04 (100TH TURN, SEVENTH INTERVAL)
MADELLON WEYR

L'stev (Micah Johnson)L’stev couldn’t impose harmony on his weyrlings. He could encourage it, nurture it, create scenarios in which it could flourish; but he couldn’t force his charges to get on, and they very often didn’t.

It was almost always riders of the same colour who developed the strongest loathing for each other. L’stev himself had despised one of his classmates, the other brown rider, with a passion that had never dimmed. He still couldn’t bear to be in the same room as F’jaye. T’kamen and L’dro had detested each other with a fervour that had carried through into their adult lives. And there’d been a tension simmering between R’von and K’ralthe ever since they’d both Impressed. They’d put it on hold after the deaths of their classmates, but the truce hadn’t lasted long.

But any Weyrlingmaster who thought he’d seen it all was deceiving himself, and in the last few days L’stev had discovered that there was one sure-fire way to make a class cleave together.

There was nothing like a common enemy.

“Berzunth’s nose is really out of joint,” said C’mine, sitting down across the desk from L’stev.

He looked tired – more than tired, really. Strained. Feeling everyone else’s troubles too personally, L’stev thought. That had always been C’mine’s problem. Empathic to a fault. “Can’t blame her,” he replied, tipping a beer mug towards the blue rider inquiringly.

C’mine gave him a sad look. “Are you going to keep doing that forever?”

“Forever’s a long time,” said L’stev. “A sevenday isn’t.”

“This last one has been,” C’mine said.

He had been pitched in at the deep end, L’stev conceded. All the more reason to keep an eye on how he was handling it. Riders with fewer issues than C’mine might have crawled back into a bottle to cope. He poured for himself from his aleskin, and jabbed a thumb over his shoulder. “There’s still some juice in the cooler. Help yourself.”

He sipped contemplatively at his beer as C’mine went to get himself a drink. He supposed it was going better than his natural pessimism had let him believe it might. L’stev had always liked C’mine, right from the moment he’d first laid eyes on him as a freshly-Searched candidate from the Holds. The old affection for that kind, willing, gentle boy had probably got the better of his judgement when T’kamen had suggested him as a prospective assistant. C’mine had been on a classic downward trajectory since his weyrmate’s death, following the tried and true path that so many grieving riders before him had flown. Most pulled out of the nose-dive – a dragon was a powerful motivator in that respect – but not all.

L’stev had told C’mine that he wasn’t interested in curing him. That wasn’t, strictly, true. He didn’t want to see him dash himself to pieces on the rocks of his own despair. He was watching him to make sure that proximity to the weyrlings’ trauma didn’t tip him back into a crisis – and, unasked, Vanzanth had tuned himself into Darshanth’s state of mind – but so far, neither dragon nor rider had given L’stev cause to regret their appointment. The fact that M’touf had confided in C’mine about Atath’s trip between after only a handful of days was proof of the blue rider’s natural aptitude for pastoral work.

C’mine returned to his chair with a mug of juice. “I don’t think it would have been so difficult if Megrith were the younger of the two,” he said. “I think being relegated to junior in her own barracks has shaken Berzunth’s confidence. It’s bringing out the worst in her.”

“Don’t think it’s natural to have two young queens so close.” L’stev rolled a sip of ale thoughtfully around his mouth. “Not that there’s much precedent for it. Some Weyrlingmasters never get one queen to train, let alone two at once. I think that’s the problem we have with queens, C’mine. I’ve trained dozens of greens and blues, and I’ve had enough practice with browns and bronzes to know what I’m doing with them. You don’t get to practice with queen weyrlings. You get one shot at getting them right, and if you cock it up, the whole Weyr suffers for it.”

“You didn’t cock up with Valonna,” said C’mine.

“You’re very loyal,” L’stev said. “But of course I cocked up. You take your eye off a strand, it’s going to score you. We were all looking elsewhere that Hatching. She wasn’t meant to Impress the queen. But that’s chewing old ash. I let Valonna get her head turned by L’dro, and here we are. I had it in my mind I wouldn’t let Tarshe go the same way. She’s a good girl. Solid. And that cousin of hers won’t let any of the other bronzes sniff around. Never thought I’d be so grateful for nepotism.”

“Darshanth did Search her.”

“Yes he did. And he never chooses poorly. But the other queen: that’s scorched everything up. Young queens aren’t used to having peers. As long as Berzunth and Megrith are burning holes in each other with their eyes, there’s no way those Southern kids are ever going to play nicely with ours.” He wiped foam from his mouth, and added, “Makes you grateful queens don’t chew firestone.”

“I think they’re…damaged,” said C’mine. “The Southern weyrlings. They lost half their class – some of them lost siblings – and yet it seems like only Karika is glad to be out of Southern. The rest still seem to be loyal to P’raima. The dragonets won’t disobey Megrith, but if she and Karika ever change their minds about Madellon being a safer place for them than Southern, we’ll have a problem.”

“None of them have the sense of an hour-old hatchling,” L’stev said. “Not one of them was born outside Southern. They’ve never known anything but that old bastard of a Weyrleader.”

“It’s their age that troubles me. That brown rider, B’rode, wasn’t eleven Turns when he Impressed, and he had a younger sister who died on a green. Shards, L’stev. A ten-Turn-old girl on a green dragon? What Weyrleader allows that?”

L’stev felt his lips curling in disgust at P’raima, at Southern – and at himself. Thank Faranth we don’t have that to deal with, had been his first instinctive thought when he’d heard about the ten-Turn-old green rider. Then he’d automatically started thinking about how he’d have got the poor child through her dragon’s first mating flight at the age of eleven. The youngest green riders he’d ever trained had been twelve at Impression, almost fourteen when their dragons had started mating, and that was problematic enough, especially when they were Holdbred. Green dragons respected neither preference nor age, and while female dragons with very young riders tended not to be early risers, L’stev had never known a green to go much past eighteen months for her first flight. There were rules about which dragons were permitted to rise in pursuit of maiden greens, but even then some of the kids weren’t ready – emotionally, mentally, or physically.

He put the fact that he hadn’t lost more green riders to bad first matings down to the delicate game he played with his weyrlings’ sex education. It was a part of his job he’d never relished. He appreciated a nice pair of legs and a perky bosom on a grown woman as much as the next man, but he’d be sixty in a few months, and the need to poke his nose into the sex lives of adolescents made him feel every last minute of his age. Fortunately, what L’stev thought prurient, his dragon simply found amusing. As the dragonets got closer to maturity, Vanzanth listened in shamelessly, and he was old enough and experienced enough to know when there was a problem brewing. Once dragons were a Turn old, any danger of them panicking over their riders’ nocturnal activities was past, and the older weyrlings usually couldn’t wait to get into each other’s furs. The move from barracks to their own weyrs gave them the privacy – Vanzanth’s avid eavesdropping notwithstanding – to get on and experiment before their dragons matured and forced the issue. But there were always a few who didn’t find their own way, and there L’stev did interfere. The rider of a female dragon going into a mating flight as a wide-eyed virgin was a recipe for the kind of disaster that no amount of lectures from the Weyr Healer or anecdotes from adult green riders could avert. That was when L’stev made it his business to find riders who were kind and experienced and young to seduce the late bloomers ahead of time. It was no comparison to the frenzy of a flight and it never would be, but it beat the alternative.

Still, he had to wonder what P’raima had thought he was doing, allowing such young children to Impress. There was no excuse for that kind of mismanagement. “A shaffing bad one, that’s what,” he said, in belated response to C’mine’s question.

“And yet he’s been Weyrleader all these Turns. And a bronze rider.”

“As if being a bronze rider were any guarantee of decency,” L’stev said. “You know better than that, C’mine.”

C’mine sighed. “I suppose growing up around the Harperhall embedded those beliefs in me pretty deeply.”

“Oh, yes,” L’stev said savagely. “All those soaring, heroic ballads about honouring those the dragons choose.” He snorted. “It’s in the interests of every Weyr on Pern to nurture the myths about dragonriders. It doesn’t make them true. Faranth, C’mine, we’ve both known cowardly riders. Stupid riders. Mad, bad, dangerous riders. A dragonet won’t choose an outright lunatic, but Impressing can’t fix a personality that’s already flawed, nor prevent it from twisting later.”

“I’d like to think Darshanth wouldn’t let me do anything reprehensible.”

“He wouldn’t because you’re inherently decent,” L’stev said. “But he didn’t hatch with a moral compass. He learned that from you. Frankly, I think a dragon’s love can enable as much as it restrains. I’ve known riders to explore some very dark places they might have left alone but for their dragons’ unquestioning approval.”

“Do you think P’raima will come back?”

“Like he did that first night?” L’stev shook his head slowly. “No. If he was going to, he would have done it already. He knows full well we have bronzes stoked for flame. No one wins if dragons start burning each other.” C’mine actually shuddered. L’stev couldn’t blame him. The firestone had been Sh’zon’s idea, and while L’stev had no argument with its effectiveness as a deterrent, the notion that any Weyr might use dragon flame offensively was utterly repugnant. “No,” L’stev concluded. “Force won’t do it. Especially while he lacks a queen’s wholehearted support.”

“Then you think he’ll petition the Peninsula?”

“I’d imagine he already has,” said L’stev. “But he has a weyrling’s chance in Threadfall of that bearing any fruit. H’pold isn’t going to want to take sides. No other Weyr will. If they support us, it looks like they’re sanctioning one Weyr taking drastic action against another. If they support Southern, they’re endorsing a Weyrleader who got half his weyrlings killed and then covered it up when coming clean could have saved lives elsewhere. Nobody wants to get scored with either strand, so nobody’s going to get involved.” L’stev laughed. “It’s going to make the Long Bay Gather very interesting.”

“Then how is this going to play out?”

L’stev shrugged. “P’raima comes to his senses and bows out. Or is forced out.”

C’mine looked alarmed. “By us?”

“No,” said L’stev. “By his own. Tezonth’s an exceptional bronze – there’s no doubt about that – but a dragon his age will only keep flying the queen as long as the rest of the Weyr still wants him to. What’ll be interesting is if this goes on until Grizbath’s next flight, or if Southern’s bronzes force him out sooner.” He chuckled. “Though I’ll admit the notion of H’ned and Sh’zon attempting to stage a coup tickles me.”

“But they did persuade the Wingleaders to take the weyrlings in the first place,” said C’mine.

“You give them too much credit,” said L’stev. “For one thing, the Weyrwoman forced it through. For another, I’m sure T’kamen would have done it if he’d been here. And most crucially of all, Margone specifically petitioned Valonna for their relocation. Weyrlings have always been in the bailiwick of the Weyrwoman, not the Weyrleader. The Weyrlingmaster is supposed to be a domestic appointment, not a fighting one; did you know that?” He jabbed himself in the chest with a thumb. “Fianine put me in the post. Which just goes to show what a mad old wherry-hen she was.”

“I can’t think of anyone who’d do a better job of it than you, L’stev.”

“Then if I dropped dead tomorrow you’d be in trouble.” L’stev chuckled at C’mine’s suddenly anxious expression, hearing the malevolence in his own laugh. “Don’t worry. I might be getting green around the muzzle, but I don’t have any plans to expire just yet. Still. I don’t think many riders would be fighting you for the privilege of unpicking this knot we’re in. Welcome to Madellon Weyr, home of every dragon in the world who can’t go between.” He snorted again and refilled his mug. “Mind you, assuming the problem is between and not just southern dragons, Telgar will be joining our happy little club soon enough.” He shook his head. “The pressure on G’dorar. We know our weyrlings are afflicted. He doesn’t until he gets his to try, and the whole of Pern’s watching. The poor helpless sods.”

“Every day, I’m grateful that Carleah wasn’t in that first group,” C’mine said.

“She should have been,” said L’stev. “You know how bright she is.”

C’mine drew a sharp little breath. “What held her back?”

“It’s all in her file,” L’stev said pointedly.

“I’m…still behind on my reading.”

L’stev let that pass. “She asked M’ric some leading questions when he was mentoring her. He picked up on it straight away and flagged it with me. She wasn’t the only one who hinted in that direction, but she had more reason than most to take an interest. Well, they do say it’s an ill wind that blows no good. At least now I’m not worrying about anyone fooling around with timing.”

C’mine swallowed, visibly. “She was asking how to do it?”

“She was asking if we’d be teaching them how to do it, would you credit it! Ha! I’d be as well to send them all between without a visual!” C’mine looked a bit sick, and L’stev regretted his tasteless choice of phrase. “Like I said, not going to happen now. Don’t worry, C’mine. The girl’s not in any danger. She has an excessive regard for her own cleverness, but she’s not entirely devoid of sense, and I had some fairly strong words with her.”

“Have you ever –” C’mine began. Then he stopped, and started again. “Do you know anyone who has done it?”

“Yes,” L’stev said flatly, and when C’mine looked at him in horror, he added, “To both questions. You weren’t wrong with the first one.”

C’mine didn’t reply for a long time. L’stev wondered what had shocked him more: the confession, or the fact he’d confessed. “Was there a good reason for it?”

“Yes. Well. It wasn’t because I wanted to cheat on the runner racing, if that’s what you mean.” L’stev sipped his ale, and turned his head slightly in the direction of Vanzanth’s ledge. C’mine remained silent, and eventually L’stev relented. “Do you remember – well, you’d have been very young – but do you remember that nasty sickness in the summer of 77?”

“I remember,” C’mine said slowly. “We were quarantined at Kellad, but we still lost…”

He trailed off. L’stev nodded. “It was during P’keo’s stint as Weyrleader,” he said. “They thought it had come to Madellon with the guests for Cherganth’s Hatching. Relatives of candidates and such. Anyone over eleven or twelve Turns only got it as a cough and a headache, and as for the rest – well, who pays much attention to kids with snotty noses?” He felt a slow pain start in his jaw. “Of course, by the time anyone did, it was too late. I remember them saying it was a mercy it spared the adolescents. All those new weyrlings we could have lost. It only took the under-tens.” He paused, feeling the shapes of the old memories, softened only partially by age. Vanzanth’s listening presence edged fractionally closer. “My two youngest were five and three.”

C’mine reached over the desk and gripped his wrist. L’stev looked at his hand, mildly surprised. He wasn’t used to physical contact with other riders, apart from the odd lucky green rider whose dragon caught Vanzanth’s eye, and those were few and far between these days. “I wasn’t the only one who tried to do something,” he went on lightly, determined not to dwell on the details. “But it’s never as simple as you imagine. Go back to a time you’re already in and you get slow and stupid. Get too close to your earlier self and you can lose your mind completely. And even if you don’t…well. Sometimes you end up causing the very thing you’re trying to prevent.” He forced a smile. “Anyway, we survived, for all the good we did. No one ended up any better off for what we tried to do, and some of us…a lot worse. That’s the problem with visiting the past. It’s like trying to stop a wagon rolling down a hill. Best case scenario, you get a close-up view of the carnage. Worst, you discover you were the one who took the brakes off.” He paused expectantly. “Go on. Call me a hypocrite. It wouldn’t be untrue.”

Slowly, C’mine shook his head. “I’m sorry about your children, L’stev.”

“So am I,” L’stev replied. Then, firmly, but not unkindly, he shook C’mine’s hand off his arm. “Well, that was that Turn’s problem. We have enough of our own to preoccupy us.”

“What will you do with the queens?” C’mine asked, considerately following L’stev’s cue to change the subject.

“Appeal to authority, I think,” L’stev said. “I’m going to have to get Valonna involved. While between’s off-limits there’s not much else I can do with Berzunth, and Shimpath’s the only dragon equipped to intervene between two queen dragonets. Faranth knows Vanzanth doesn’t want to.” He heaved a sigh. “We also need to investigate Atath’s situation, but the last thing we need is something going wrong with her that spooks the lot of them, ours and theirs.” He pawed among the documents on his desk until he found the slate he wanted. “Tomorrow I think we start putting the Southerners through their paces. They’re – let’s see – about six sevendays older than the Wildfires, so I want to see where they are before I start flying them with ours. We’ll put them in trios first, so they don’t feel too exposed, then look at them individually.” He glanced down the list of names, then divided the nine Southern weyrlings into three groups. “They’ve trained under a brown, so Vanzanth shouldn’t have any trouble making them pay attention, but Darshanth might have trouble with the bigger ones. Tell him not to tolerate it. They’re still dragonets, and while they’re here, they’ll do as they’re bid.” He scowled at the list of names and ages, then thrust it towards C’mine.

C’mine studied the slate. “Isn’t it strange that there are only two greens?”

L’stev raised his eyebrows. “Aren’t two green riders under the age of thirteen enough for you?”

“No, I just mean…we lost two greens out of the three who tried to go between. Are they more vulnerable to whatever’s going wrong?”

“I have the breakdown of the dragonets they lost, somewhere,” said L’stev. “But I don’t think we can base a theory on such a small sample. We lost two browns, too, don’t forget.” He rummaged around for the list Margone had provided. “Here it is. Clutch of twenty-one; losses comprised a bronze, three browns, five blues and three greens.”

“That doesn’t sound right,” said C’mine. “The class had eight blues and only five greens?”

“It’s unusual,” L’stev conceded. “But not unheard of. I saw a Hatching at the Peninsula, Turns ago, with more blues than greens, and B’reko once had a clutch where every second dragonet was brown. But I’ll give you unusual.”

The middle watchdragon has just come on duty, Vanzanth reported from outside.

L’stev finished the beer in his mug and pushed himself upright. “All right. Let’s make sure they’re all tucked up for the night.”

C’mine went to look in on the girls. The Madellon weyrlings had adjusted to having a male rider as their nursemaid faster than L’stev had thought they would, but then Darshanth had Searched half of them and C’mine himself was completely trustworthy. Ghosting through the boys’ barracks fell to L’stev.

The territorial lines had been drawn clearly enough: Madellon dragonpairs one end, Southern down the other. L’stev had let the newcomers pick their own places and they’d organised themselves in a defensive formation, the two biggest dragons on the outside, the smaller within. Madellon’s boys had always claimed berths according to their own hierarchy, the most dominant dragons generally securing the couches closest to the door, to natural light and the outside, and the least making do with quarters farther back. But they had redeployed themselves since the arrival of the six Southern lads, and now Ellendunth and Oaxuth lay inboard of their clutchmates as if to protect them from the interlopers. It was a pointless show of bravado, but after so long looking after weyrlings, L’stev wasn’t surprised by it.

He walked down the line with the soft-footed silence he’d perfected Turns ago. Most of the Wildfires were asleep in the inelegant tangles of limbs and sheets so characteristic of adolescent boys. B’joro had dragged his bedfurs onto Lovanth’s couch and lay in the protective curl of his dragonet’s forepaw as he had every night since the accident. L’stev didn’t usually hold with that, but he hadn’t pulled B’joro up on it yet.

Nerbeth was awake, betrayed by her eyes. They reflected the faint light from L’stev’s shielded glow-basket like moons in the darkness. L’stev paused by the end of her couch. S’terlion was still awake, too, lying stiffly with his eyes shut to feign slumber. L’stev addressed Nerbeth quietly. “What is it? Something bothering you?”

One of the Southerners, Vanzanth supplied.

L’stev shook his head. “Don’t let them worry you. Ellendunth’s between you and them, anyway.” He stroked the young dragon’s forearm. It was silky and smooth. She was very well-loved. “Go to sleep, little girl.”

He moved on down the barracks, towards the Southerners; six sevendays older, more than six sevendays bigger. All dragonets grew fast at this age as they approached adult size, but the Southerners were definitely going to favour their massive sire. They already ate significantly more than the Madellon dragonets. There’d been scuffles in the feeding paddocks with the bigger home weyrlings squaring up to their Southern counterparts. But while the Southern dragonets had age and size on their side, the Madellon weyrlings outnumbered them. One way or another they’d have to learn to integrate.

They were all awake, the Southern dragons and riders. They’d broken off their conversation and were, like S’terlion, faking sleep. L’stev knew they were struggling to adjust to Madellon’s time zone. He’d let them have an easy couple of days to get over the shock of their relocation, but tomorrow they’d start on the same rounds of chores as the Madellon weyrlings. By the day after that, with a better idea of their capabilities, he hoped to have an outline training plan in place for them. He couldn’t just skip ahead in his standard schedule – even if his standard schedule hadn’t been rendered virtually useless with between apparently out of bounds. But he knew of no better way to overcome time-lag than enforcing a new routine, and full days of chores and training would soon sort out their sleeping patterns.

But the person-shaped hump on the end pallet, the one farthest from the door, looked suspiciously immobile to L’stev’s experienced eye. Still stepping quietly, he went to investigate. He didn’t need to turn back the bedfur to see that it covered only a roll of clothes and a pillow.

He looked at the dragonet on the adjacent couch, one of the blues. “Where is he?” When that elicited no response, he nudged Vanzanth. Almost immediately the dragonet gave a start, as though poked. The Southern bronze three couches along swung his head around, emitting a low growl. Tell him to shut up, L’stev told Vanzanth. The growl choked off with a whimper, and L’stev smirked in the darkness even as the five Southern weyrlings shifted unhappily in their beds. If nothing else, they’d learn to mind Vanzanth. Where’s the blue’s rider?

Slipped out. Down by the lake. Vanzanth sent him a visual.

That shouldn’t be possible, unless they were both going deaf. L’stev kept the barracks door rusty for that very reason. No one could get into or out of the weyrling quarters without the hinges announcing it with a tortured shriek. He realised what the lad had done when he inspected the hinges and found them dripping with harness oil. The little sod greased them.

How original.

Interfering with L’stev’s safety measures carried a stiff penalty that every member of a class had to pay unless the culprit owned up. Of course, the Southerners didn’t know that. L’stev made a mental note to have a talk with them in the morning. And another to get Magardon’s apprentice to bring a bucket of solvent to dissolve the oil off his door.

The Southern weyrling must have known he was coming, but to his credit – and L’stev’s relief, because he didn’t feel like playing hide-and-seek in the dark – he hadn’t moved from the spot by the lake where Vanzanth had located him. The lad was sitting on the flat rock that the weyrlings used to scrub out their clothes on laundry days, his arms clasped around his knees, staring out at the water. In the feeble light of the glows he’d smuggled out of the barracks he looked incredibly young. L’stev set down his own, rather more luminescent, glow-basket. “You’re out of bed, weyrling.”

The boy wiped at his face, but not fast enough to hide the tears that had gathered thickly on his eyelashes. “I had to do some washing.”

L’stev didn’t look too closely at the bundle beside the weyrling. If he’d had an accident, he wasn’t going to humiliate him for it. “That’s as may be, but you don’t leave the barracks after glows-out.” He kept his growl soft. “It’s T’gala, isn’t it?” He didn’t wait for a nod. “You need to go back to bed.”

“I don’t want to,” T’gala breathed.

“What was that?” L’stev asked.

“I want to go home.”

L’stev sighed, dismissing any hope of getting this one back to barracks any time soon. He eased himself laboriously down onto the edge of the rock where T’gala sat folded into himself. “You’ll go back to Southern when things have settled down there,” he said. “Until then you’ll be safe here. Not happy, maybe. Can’t always promise happy. That’s up to you and you dragon.” That didn’t prompt even the hint of a smile; if anything, T’gala curled in on himself even further. “Is someone making you unhappy?”

T’gala shook his head, barely, the kind of denial that L’stev didn’t believe. “Is it someone from Madellon?” he asked.

A more emphatic shake of the head.

“From Southern?” L’stev guessed.

No shake of the head at all this time, but fresh tears, dislodged by an almost imperceptible trembling, streamed down T’gala’s face.

L’stev had been cultivating his curmudgeonly reputation for decades, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t sensitive to a genuine crisis. “It’s all right, lad,” he said. “You don’t have to suffer in silence. Not here.” He put an arm around those slight shoulders, just lightly, just as he had a hundred times to a hundred weyrlings under his care.

Three things happened in rapid succession. T’gala flinched violently away from him, as if burned. The location, and the pile of clothes on the rock, suddenly made sense. And several things clicked together in L’stev’s mind.

Oh, said Vanzanth. Oh.

“I beg your pardon, T’gala,” he said gently. T’gala looked at him with naked fear. L’stev could read the expression as though it were scribed in sand. “How did this happen?” How did I not notice before?

T’gala’s face crumpled in misery. “I’m not meant to talk about it. They told me not to tell.”

“Who told you?” L’stev asked, still gently, though the initial shock he’d felt was quickly being superseded by anger. Why would I have thought of it? Faranth, Vanzanth. What else has been going on at Southern that we don’t know about?

“They said not to say anything!” T’gala cried.

“They aren’t here now,” he said. Is this P’raima’s doing? S’gert’s?

I don’t know.

“Come on, weyrling,” he said to T’gala. “You’d better come back inside. I think we need to have a talk.”

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One response to “Chapter nineteen: L’stev”

  1. Multi-Facets says:

    …. Aw, [censored], again!

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