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Chapter twenty-two: Carleah

Were it only slightly larger, the crater we now know as Little Madellon could have been a Weyr in its own right. Indeed, it would have sufficed to accommodate the population of a northern Weyr, and in all ways except size – altitude, climate, beauty – it surpasses the spacious but uninspiring caldera that became known first as Western, then M’dellon’s, then Madellon Weyr.

M’dellon secured a boon from the first holders of his protectorate that Madellon’s riders enjoy to this day. Little Madellon belongs wholly to Madellon Weyr. While it is too close to Madellon proper to ever serve as the Weyr of a separate territory, Little Madellon’s fine views, comfortable caves, and excellent hunting make it a popular retreat for riders seeking a break from the day-to-day tedium of an Interval dragonrider’s life.

– From An Aerial Survey of Madellon Territory, by Weyrwoman Lowenda

100.03.05 (100TH TURN, SEVENTH INTERVAL)
MADELLON WEYR

Carleah (Micah Johnson)“They’re hateful,” said Chenda, twisting a washcloth savagely in her hands, as Carleah stepped gingerly into the hot water of the bathing pool.

Chenda would know, Carleah thought: she could be pretty hateful herself. But she didn’t say that. “It’s not like we haven’t tried to be nice,” she said, settling into the steaming water. “They’re just not interested.”

“I was three hours with that Jhilia, helping her find new clothes,” Adzai chipped in. “You should have seen the way she looked at them. Like I was offering her rags.”

“Oh, they’ve all got that look,” Chenda went on, continuing to abuse the washcloth. “Like they’re better than us.”

“Like their dragons’ dung doesn’t smell!” Adzai agreed vehemently.

“And they’re completely kissing up to L’stev,” said Carleah. “Have you seen –”

I know!” cried Chenda. “That prissy little wherry of a so-called queen rider Karika!”

Adzai put her hands together under her chin. “Yes, Weyrlingmaster, no Weyrlingmaster, can’t I please put my nose up your bum, Weyrlingmaster.”

“Oh, stop!” Carleah objected.

Even Chenda wrinkled her nose. “Adzai, that’s just wrong.” She paused, then went on, “You’re right, though. The way she’s always trying to be the perfect Weyrlingmaster’s pet. And she doesn’t even have tits yet. Why did a queen choose her?”

“Not much choice,” said Carleah. “They’re all Weyrbred.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being Weyrbred,” said Chenda, spikily.

“That’s not what I meant, Chenda,” Carleah said, trying not to roll her eyes. “But they’re never met anyone from outside Southern before. That’s where all this superiority stuff comes from. Their Weyrleader’s told them they’re special.”

“Wasn’t this the Weyrleader who wanted to make them all try to go between even though half their class died?” asked Adzai.

“That’s what I said to Sia,” said Carleah. “And do you know what she said? ‘Well at least we have a Weyrleader.’”

Adzai gasped, and Chenda raised her eyebrows so incredulously high they nearly vanished into her hairline. “Well, did you hear what that V’ranu said when M’rany was explaining why we’re called Wildfire Class?”

“No; what?”

“‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!’

“He is such a tail-fork,” Carleah said. “Doesn’t he know that C’mine and Darshanth nearly died in that fire?”

“That’s what M’rany said,” said Chenda, “and V’ranu said it was moronic that we’d named ourselves after something like that.”

“It’s a commemoration,” Carleah exclaimed.

“I know.”

“I heard that we’re not going to get to go to Little Madellon next sevenday like we were meant to,” said Adzai.

“Oh, that’s old news, Adzai,” Chenda told her. “You thought that right from the start, didn’t you, Carleah?”

Carleah nodded. “There’s no way they could let the Southerners out of Madellon proper.”

“But why can’t we go?” Adzai complained. “It’s not fair!”

“Because L’stev would either have to leave the Southerners unattended here, or let us go without him.”

“And Low-Brow couldn’t bear to let Berzunth out of his sight for half a minute,” said Chenda.

“I can’t see us getting back to Little Madellon until this whole thing with Southern’s blown over,” Carleah continued.

“I wish they’d just go home,” said Chenda. “They clearly don’t like it here, and Faranth knows we don’t like them.”

There came a hammering on the door they’d locked, and a muffled shout. “It’s occupied!” they chorused back, not for the first time.

“And you know the worst thing?” Chenda went on, stretching her legs out in the hot water. “They’re younger than us, but their dragons are older. So on the feeding grounds, ours keep giving way. How is that fair?”

They didn’t all give way, Carleah thought. The two queen riders had quickly discovered the necessity of keeping their dragons as separate as possible. L’stev had lectured Tarshe and Karika – extensively, it seemed – on the fact that while juvenile dragons weren’t capable of restraining themselves, juvenile dragonriders were, and that much seemed to have sunk in. The two stayed as far apart from each other as they could. It hadn’t improved Tarshe’s mood. Carleah had bruises from their last hand-to-hand session, when Tarshe had thrown her to the ground with much more speed and force than required. Tarshe had apologised. But it was just one more small proof of how the presence of the Southern weyrlings was making life miserable for all of them.

The initial breakfast spat might have been forgotten entirely, had the Southerners just been willing to talk. There’d been plenty of opportunity. They weren’t training together yet, but they slept in the same barracks, ate at the same table, and did the same chores. L’stev had always assigned groups rather than letting the class default to its natural cliques, so Carleah had shovelled dung and washed floors and changed glows with all nine Southern weyrlings. It hadn’t taken long for her to realise that none of them had any interest in being friends.

She’d tried every technique, every angle she knew, but the Southerners met her attempts at starting conversations with indifference, outright hostility, or total silence. Questioning them on the most innocent subjects drew brief and nonspecific answers at best, icy retorts at worst. She’d tried flirting with the two oldest boys, V’ranu and N’grier, to no effect. Even complimenting their dragons – the surest way to a rider’s good opinion that Carleah knew – provoked no reaction warmer than a shrug, as if to say well, of course our dragons are better than yours.

The banging on the door came again. “We’re still in here!” Chenda shouted back irritably.

“I’m going to get out,” Carleah decided. She stood up from the pool, stripping the water from her arms and legs with her hands. Then she stepped out, picking up the towel she’d left on the tiled ledge by the basins.

“And they’re always complaining,” Chenda continued. “Like there’s something wrong with Madellon. So Southern was the first Weyr in the south; so what?”

“So ungrateful,” Adzai agreed quickly.

“To be fair, Southern’s not like any other Weyr on Pern,” said Carleah.

“Stop making excuses for them, Carleah,” said Chenda.

“I’m not,” she said. “But they aren’t used to being in the mountains. The air’s thinner up here. Even I noticed that when I first came here, coming up from living at Kellad. And it’s colder than they’re used to.”

Colder,” Chenda scoffed. “It’s been boiling!”

“Is that why they won’t strip off to wash their dragons?” asked Adzai.

“It’s probably at least as warm at Southern all Turn round as it is here now,” said Carleah.

“Wait till it’s winter,” said Chenda. “Then they’ll really have something to bleat about.”

“If they’re still here by then,” said Adzai. “Faranth, do you think they will be?”

“L’stev said we had to have them because their Weyrleader wasn’t being reasonable about the problem with between,” said Chenda. “So once we’ve figured that out…”

Carleah paused in the process of belting her tunic. “They don’t know what’s gone wrong with between, Chenda. They don’t have any idea why our dragons can’t do it properly. I don’t think they know what to do about it, either.”

“C’mine told you that?”

“He didn’t have to.”

“Haven’t you thought that maybe between will just –” Adzai made a vague hand gesture, “– get better?”

“And what if it doesn’t?” Carleah challenged her. “What if it can’t? What if our dragons can never go between?”

“But it’s not just ours,” said Chenda. “The Southern dragons can’t either.”

“But don’t you see that that’s even worse?” Carleah asked. “If ours can’t, and Southern’s can’t, and then the dragonets from Telgar can’t…if dragons Hatched from now on can’t go between, then…what then?”

The pounding on the bathing room door came yet again before Chenda or Adzai could answer. Carleah pushed her damp hair behind her ears, then unbolted and opened the door.

Outside, Jardesse had her fist raised to knock again. She stopped just in time. “Faranth, Carleah, I thought you’d all drowned in there!”

“We were just talking,” Carleah said, with a glance over her shoulder at where the other girls were still lolling in the hot water.

“You’ve got to come,” Jardesse said. “R’von and V’ranu are having a fight in the harness room!”

Carleah had never seen Chenda and Adzai get out of the bath so fast.

They raced to the scene, pulling on robes as they went. Half a dozen weyrlings – mostly male – of both Weyrs were blocking the doorway into the harness room. Carleah elbowed her way through them to see what was going on.

She took in the scene with a glance. R’von and V’ranu were circling each other, fists up. V’ranu’s nose streamed blood – Carleah felt a fierce rush of pleasure at that – but behind R’von, S’terlion was sitting on the ground, clutching his right hand to his chest, his face drained of colour.

“You shaffing Southern shitbag!” R’von shouted at V’ranu. “I’ll break your shaffing face for you!”

V’ranu wiped his nose with the back of his wrist, smearing gore. “One of your riders touches one of mine again, I’ll break his face!”

“You broke his shaffing arm!” R’von bellowed.

He sounded – and looked – so much like L’stev at that moment that Carleah was momentarily disconcerted. K’dam was standing beside her. “You have to break it up!” she hissed at him. “L’stev’s going to go spare!”

“I’m not breaking anything up,” said K’dam, with relish. “I want to see what happens!”

Idiot!” Carleah exclaimed. Jagunth, what’s going on?

The queens have forbidden us to make a fuss, Jagunth reported, though her voice was intense with emotion.

That meant L’stev wouldn’t even know yet. Carleah agonised. She didn’t want to be the snitch who went running to the Weyrlingmaster. But no one else in the room was likely to report to Vanzanth, either – C’seon, Jardesse, W’lenze, three of the Southern boys. Adzai wouldn’t unless Chenda told her to, and Chenda’s face was nearly as gleeful as K’dam’s. All the Madellon weyrlings who would have intervened or told L’stev were still out at chores.

Carleah sidled around the edge of the room to the other side of where the two boys were fighting. She crouched beside S’terlion. “Are you all right?”

“My wrist,” S’terlion moaned. “I think it’s broken.”

“Let me see,” Carleah said. The wrist looked swollen, and there were clear, livid fingermarks on S’terlion’s fair skin. Carleah’s temper flared. For a moment she felt Jagunth echo it, and then the green dragon’s anger snuffed out again. If the queens were controlling the dragonets, then not even S’terlion’s distress would be tangible to Vanzanth. “Maybe it’s not broken,” she ventured. “What happened?”

“I was getting Nerbeth’s harness,” he whispered back. “He was waiting for me! V’ranu!”

“Waiting for you?”

“He said I shouldn’t interfere with Southern riders,” said S’terlion. He gulped, and Carleah realised he was only just holding back tears. “But I wasn’t interfering! They were! They were –”

R’von’s shout of pain and anger interrupted him. L’mern, the little Southern bronze rider, had dashed out of the cluster of weyrlings and kicked him in the back of the leg. R’von went hard to one knee, swearing.

“You little tail-fork!” K’dam bawled, lunging at L’mern.

The situation was spiralling rapidly out of control. Carleah took a deep breath. Jagunth, tell Vanzanth

I can’t!

Why not?

Berzunth says not to!

Between with Berzunth! The boys were all facing off now, wild-eyed and shouting. Shards!

And L’stev was abruptly there in the doorway. “What in the shaff do you think you’re doing?” he roared.

Everyone froze. The muffling influence on Jagunth abruptly lifted. S’terlion’s whimpers were suddenly very loud in the silence.

L’stev stalked into the harness room. Wildfires and Southerners shrank from him. His gaze took in V’ranu’s bloody nose and R’von’s scuffed knuckles, but he stepped past them both, and dropped ponderously to one knee beside S’terlion. “You all right, lad?”

“It’s his wrist,” Carleah said, when S’terlion couldn’t speak through his gasps of pain.

“V’ranu broke it!” said R’von. He’d regained his feet, and was glowering at the Southern brown rider.

L’stev touched S’terlion’s wrist gently. S’terlion moaned with pain. “Chenda. W’lenze. Get a Healer. Double time.” As the two weyrlings hurried to obey, L’stev’s head turned sharply. “Not another step!”

P’lau, one of the Southerners, had been edging towards the door. He stopped dead, his face betraying his dismay. There was no point in trying to sneak out, Carleah thought. L’stev would already have identified and catalogued everyone in the room. No one was getting away unscathed. She mentally reviewed her account of events. She hadn’t done anything wrong!

Vanzanth is very angry, said Jagunth, confirming Carleah’s fears.

L’stev patted S’terlion’s left shoulder, then rose slowly back to his feet. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and thrust it at V’ranu, whose nose was still dribbling blood. “Tip your head back. It’ll stop bleeding in a minute.”

“He punched me in the face,” said V’ranu, casting a rancorous glare at R’von.

L’stev looked at R’von. “Is that true?”

“Yes,” said R’von, without hesitation.

“And did you do this to S’terlion?” L’stev asked V’ranu.

“Yes,” V’ranu replied indistinctly, through the handkerchief.

L’stev’s expression, seldom happy, went even stormier, and Carleah quailed despite herself. The Weyrlingmaster’s anger was terrifying even to witness. “Did anyone else here strike another weyrling?”

Carleah glanced sidelong at L’mern. The Southern bronze rider looked defiantly around, as if to dare anyone else to grass on him. Then he stepped forward. “I did.”

L’stev stared at him. Carleah almost – almost – admired the boy’s guts. “Anyone else?”

No one else spoke.

“You and you,” said L’stev, jabbing his finger at V’ranu and L’mern. “Go and wait for me in my office. “R’von, stay here. The rest of you, get out of my sight. I’ll be having words with you later.”

The weyrlings couldn’t move quickly enough. Carleah straightened up, but not before she’d stroked S’terlion’s uninjured arm comfortingly. “It’s going to be all right, S’terli.”

“Out, Carleah,” L’stev said. “And no listening at the door.”

She felt herself colour. “Yes, Weyrlingmaster,” she said, and fled.

 

“Tarshe is in so much trouble,” Kessirke said to Carleah later, as they both oiled their dragonets down by the sandy lakeside.

Berzunth was sitting at the base of Vanzanth’s mossy crag, the subject of the old brown dragon’s most withering stare. She didn’t look remotely contrite. “At least Karika is, too,” Carleah said. “That almost makes it worthwhile.”

“Do you think L’stev will put them on midden duty?” asked Kessirke. “I mean, you can’t have queens transporting poo.”

“I don’t see why not,” said Carleah. “We’ve all done it. Shards. I don’t think Tarshe’s ever been on punishment duties before.”

“Maybe she’ll just have to – I don’t know – help S’terli with Nerbeth,” said Kessirke. “I mean, he’s not going to be able to wash her or anything for sevendays with his wrist broken.”

S’terlion had come back from the infirmary with his hand and forearm in plaster, still obviously shaken, but with the pain much reduced. He wouldn’t answer any of Carleah’s questions about what had prompted V’ranu’s attack, though. “I just can’t understand why anyone would go after S’terli,” she said. “I mean, S’terli! He’s the most unthreatening rider in the whole Weyr!”

“He’s just a bully, that V’ranu,” said Kessirke. “I don’t even think the other Southerners like him.”

“They do what he says, though,” said Carleah. “They’re scared of him.” She sighed. “I wish I’d seen R’von plant that one on his nose.”

“That would have been good,” Kessirke agreed. “Don’t you think R’von looks handsome when he’s angry?”

“I think he looks like L’stev when he’s angry,” Carleah said, with a laugh.

“Oh,” Kessirke said, looking horrified. “I hadn’t thought of it like that. Oh, yuck!”

“T’rello’s over there, if you want to wash the thought out of your mind,” Carleah suggested.

Kessirke ducked under Irdanth’s neck. T’rello was bathing Santinoth, the largest bronze at Madellon, on the other side of the lake. He’d stripped down to his undershorts, and his muscles rippled in the afternoon sunshine. “R’von’s cute, but T’rello…” She sighed.

Carleah did throw one good look in T’rello’s direction, just for reference. “He’s a career bronze rider, Kess,” she said. “He’ll be after Tarshe. You just wait.”

“But maybe –”

Kessirke was interrupted by the sound of running footsteps. A moment later J’kovu swerved past their two greens. “Hey!” he shouted as he ran. “Hey, the Southerners are leaving! They’re leaving!”

Carleah and Kessirke looked at each other as J’kovu ran on down the beach calling the news to the other Wildfire weyrlings. “Faranth!”

But the Southern weyrlings weren’t leaving. “They’re just moving out of the barracks,” C’mine told Carleah. He was supervising as the Southern weyrlings lugged their borrowed belongings out in carrysacks.

“You mean they’re moving into weyrs?” Carleah asked incredulously. “They’re not even twelve months old!”

“It’ll be better for everyone,” he told her. “You can’t tell me you won’t be happier with them out from under your feet.”

“But they get to move into their own weyrs? How is that fair? V’ranu attacked S’terlion!”

“The Weyrwoman and Weyrlingmaster had already agreed this,” said C’mine. “What happened this morning just confirmed it was the right thing to do.”

“Will we get to move out when our dragonets are twelve months, then?” she asked.

“That’s up to the Weyrlingmaster.”

Carleah knew that tone, the one that meant don’t count on it. “That’s not fair, C’mine!”

“You know as well as I do how L’stev loves hearing weyrlings say that, Leah.”

Carleah glared at him, exasperated. “Car. Leah.”

She didn’t exactly see what happened at the barracks door. Most of the Southerners had loaded their gear onto their dragonets and taken off for their new weyrs. T’gala and B’rode, the two youngest boys, were the last out. One minute they were walking through the big double doors, laden down with their stuff, and the next both weyrlings were sprawling on the ground with the contents of their bags strewn around them.

Some of the watching Wildfires actually laughed, and then K’dam, who wasn’t clever enough to know when to keep his mouth shut, said, “Hope you both have a nice trip.”

“Oh, Faranth,” C’mine muttered, and then raised his voice. “K’dam!”

K’dam held up his hands, a picture of fake innocence. “Nothing to do with me, sir!”

C’mine frowned, an expression Carleah had always found endearing rather than alarming. “Wildfires, you should all still be getting ready for inspection. Anyone who doesn’t have anything better to do than stand around can go and report to the Headwoman for extra duties.” As he crossed to where the two Southerners were picking themselves up, he looked back at Carleah. “Come and give these two a hand.”

She sighed. The Southerners were never gracious about being helped. Resigned to it, she strolled over to help T’gala pick up some of the clothes that had spilled out of his carrysack.

“I don’t need any help,” he insisted. “Get off my stuff!”

He made a grab for the items Carleah had gathered up. Carleah reflexively pulled her hand back out of his reach. “Faranth, I’m trying to be helpful,” she said. “Here, have your stupid stuff.”

She thrust the parcel of clothes back at him. T’gala fumbled at it, and the bundle disintegrated into its component parts, scattering socks and shirts and underclothes.

For an endless, frozen moment, Carleah stared at the monthly belt that had landed smack on top of T’gala’s feet.

T’gala snatched it up, crumpling it and shoving it back inside the carrysack, and Carleah transferred her astonished stare to T’gala’s face, searching for and seeing there what she’d never have thought to find without a prompt. “Faranth’s shards and shells, you’re –”

“Leah.” C’mine’s hand closed abruptly on her shoulder. “I need you to run up to L’stev’s office and let him know the Southerners are all out of the barracks.”

Carleah dragged her eyes away from a study of T’gala’s suddenly ashen face: the shape of the cheekbones, the delicate jaw, the long lashes under the brutally short haircut that all the Southern boys shared. “But –”

“Carleah,” C’mine said, and there was a totally unprecedented forcefulness in his voice. “This is important. Speak to no one on your way and wait for me there. Go now.”

Darshanth is leaning on me, Jagunth exclaimed, with the same mixture of surprise and affront that Carleah felt herself.

Carleah stole a final astonished look at T’gala, and then hastened towards the stairs up to L’stev’s weyr, her mind buzzing with questions.

L’stev was hunching over a big chart unrolled on his desk. “What?” he asked as she entered, and then cocked his head. “What’s this Darshanth says about – oh.” He was silent for a long moment, his eyes boring into hers. “Well. I might have known.”

“I don’t understand,” Carleah said, and then, quickly, “Am I in trouble?”

L’stev seemed to give that some thought. “No,” he said, at length. “Suppose not.” He looked up as C’mine came into the room. “Are they all settled?”

“All but T’gala,” C’mine said regretfully. “Darshanth’s keeping Heppeth calm.”

“This had to happen now?” L’stev complained. “Bad enough that the other one worked it out. Give it another sevenday and every dragonrider from the Peninsula to Benden will know.”

“It’s not Leah’s fault,” said C’mine, walking over to stand behind her.

As he ruffled her hair, in the way he’d been doing ever since she was a little girl, Carleah turned around to look at him. “Am I right?” she asked. She looked back at L’stev, glowering behind his desk. “T’gala’s a girl?”

L’stev grumbled something under his breath. “Yes.”

“But Heppeth’s blue.” Carleah looked to C’mine again for confirmation. “Heppeth is blue, isn’t he? Not some weird…bluey…green?”

“He’s definitely blue,” C’mine agreed.

“Blues don’t choose girls,” Carleah said. “Everyone knows that.”

“Everyone’s wrong,” said L’stev.

Carleah’s thoughts whirled. “But how?”

L’stev sighed. “Long story.”

“This is why we’re moving all the Southerners out of the barracks,” said C’mine. “T’gala’s been…unhappy…bunked in with the boys.”

“But why couldn’t she just move into our barracks?”

“For the same reason that I sent you up here as soon as I saw your face,” said C’mine. “She doesn’t want everyone to know.”

“But the other Southerners must know!”

“Of course they know,” said L’stev. “But they don’t want to tell the world that their precious Weyr turns out deviant blues who choose girls for their riders.”

“Deviant?” Carleah echoed.

“Male dragon, female rider,” said L’stev. “It’s not natural, is it?”

His tone was sarcastic, but Carleah still objected to it. “My da was a male rider with a female dragon,” she said hotly. “And there was nothing deviant about him or Indioth!”

“No one’s saying there is,” L’stev said. He glanced at C’mine as he spoke. “Not here, anyway. Southern isn’t known for its tolerance of anything new or unusual. T’gala hasn’t been treated kindly there.”

“Those shaffing Southern tail-forks!”

“Language,” C’mine told her.

“You’ve now introduced another level of complication,” said L’stev, stabbing a finger at her. “The only way a weyrling can keep a secret is if he’s dead. Now there’s two of you. At this rate I’m going to run out of places to hide the bodies.”

“Who else knows?” asked Carleah.

L’stev heaved a great irritated sigh. “S’terlion.”

Carleah blinked. “Is that why V’ranu attacked him?”

L’stev and C’mine exchanged a look. “No sharding flies on this one, are there?” L’stev said disgustedly.

“There aren’t,” C’mine agreed.

“The other Southern lads have been pretty foul to T’gala in the barracks,” said L’stev. “Last night, S’terlion figured out why.” He snorted. “If you put any stock in V’ranu’s version of events, S’terlion threatened T’gala in the harness room this morning, and that’s why V’ranu went for him.”

“S’terlion wouldn’t threaten anyone!”

“No,” said L’stev. “And that’s why I’m inclined to believe his account. He said the Southern boys were being cruel to T’gala in the harness room this morning and he asked them to stop.” He shrugged. “You were there for the rest.”

“Poor S’terli,” said Carleah. “He was only trying to help.”

“If it makes you feel any more kindly towards T’gala, she’s very upset that he got hurt,” said L’stev. “She came to the infirmary to see him while the Healers were setting his wrist. Doubt she’s ever had anyone stick up for her before.”

“A female blue rider,” Carleah said. The idea was quite thrilling. She looked up. “And no one else knows? Apart from S’terli and me?”

“And the Weyrwoman,” said L’stev. “But that’s where it ends. And that’s the way I want to keep it, which means you keeping your mouth shut.”

“I can keep a secret,” Carleah said indignantly.

“You need to keep it secret that you even have a secret, Leah,” C’mine told her. “You’re just like…like your dad. I always knew when he was sitting on a juicy bit of gossip and bursting to tell someone.”

Carleah tried to find a way to be offended by that, but any comparison to her da could only be a compliment. “I won’t tell anyone,” she vowed. “I swear. I won’t even look at her – him – funny.”

“And Jagunth?”

“She won’t gossip,” Carleah said. “Anyway, I don’t think the dragons even notice most of the time. They only talk about so-and-so’s rider, not he or she.”

L’stev frowned more, the lines of his face compressing into a scowly squiggle. “Don’t discuss it with S’terlion,” he told her. “Or approach T’gala about it. We’ll make it clear to her that you’ve agreed to hold your tongue.” He squinted at the light coming from outside. “Evening inspection’s in less than an hour. Best you go.”

“Him,” Carleah corrected him piously, as she turned to leave.

“What?”

“T’gala’s a him, remember?”

“Faranth save me from over-clever weyrlings,” L’stev growled. “Now, get out of my sight.”

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