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Chapter eighty-three: Carleah

The holders of Speardike are now fully aware of the importance of a good narlbark harvest come next spring, and Master Berro – he has against, my better judgement, been reinstated in his rank – has been posted to the Hold to oversee the care of the black narl bushes. However dubious I am about his personal integrity, Berro is an excellent botanist, and I’m confident he will ensure a stable supply of narlbark resin for as long as it remains necessary.

My crafters and I are continuing our study of the felah formula. I am concerned – as are the Southern herbalists who worked on it for the late Weyrleader P’raima – about the long-term side effects of felah usage, and it is the opinion of the Masterhealer that the Hall should make a thorough study of the riders affected by it at all three southern Weyrs. To that end, Weyrwoman, I hope you will permit us continued access to yourself, as well as to your weyrlings Tarshe and Carleah, so that we can monitor your health.

In spite of the nefarious purposes for which felah was employed by Weyrleader P’raima, I also believe some considerable good may come of it as a beneficial treatment for dragonriders. In our experiments so far we have already discerned some promising applications for a combination of felah and other herbs, including as a sedative that, when administered to a rider, could also safely sedate that rider’s dragon, without exposing him to the known toxic effects of fellis derivatives on the draconic constitution.

– Extract from a letter from Master Healer Shauncey to Weyrwoman Valonna

100.06.02 (100TH TURN, SEVENTH INTERVAL)
MADELLON WEYR

Carleah (Micah Johnson)Carleah swiped a final, infinitesimal speck of dust off Jagunth’s couch, and then stepped back, surveying the space. It was clean. Not even L’stev could have found any fault with how she’d left it. The bedframe, stripped of linens and mattress, almost gleamed under the last coat of polish she’d given the worn wood. The ropes that criss-crossed the frame were taut and dark with wax. The dragon couch was still damp from the vinegar scrubbing she’d given it. The three-drawer chest between bed and couch was clear of everything except the pungent herb bag that would discourage vermin, and the trunk at the foot of the bed stood open and empty with its key standing in the lock.

She had only to finish writing the welcome note that the next weyrling assigned to the billet would find there, tucked into the top drawer. Carleah sat on the edge of Jagunth’s vacated couch and picked up the slate with its half-written message. She rested it on her knee and dropped her eyes to the first few lines she’d already written.

Dear New Weyrling

Congratulations on Impressing your dragon and joining us as a Green Rider of Madellon Weyr. (I shall assume you are a green rider, as gold eggs are so rare that the chance of you being a queen rider is extremely slim, and as this is the Girls’ Barracks, you must be a new lady rider. If you are not, get out of the Girls’ Barracks you filthy boy!)

She paused. Technically, the reader of the note could be the rider of green, gold, or blue. By the time anyone read the note, T’gala’s secret would surely be widely known; should she perhaps allude to the fact that she, Carleah, had been an early party to the knowledge that girls could Impress blue dragons? She thought hard about it, then decided that she should be circumspect. L’stev would be reading all the messages, and she’d hate to be made to rewrite hers.

As you are reading this letter your dragon is probably asleep. And you probably wish she would wake so you could hear her speak to you again. L’stev will tell you to enjoy the peace when your dragonet sleeps, because when she is awake she will want to eat or to bathe, and you will do very little in the first few sevendays of your life together except feed her and bathe her and pick up her poo. L’stev will tell you that you have your whole lives to talk nonsense to each other.

Carleah furrowed her brow over how to finish the paragraph for a moment. Then she wrote decisively.

HE IS WRONG and you can tell him I said so.

Here are some other things that you might find helpful:

  1. The small bathing room on the right has the hottest water.
  2. Measure hide for harness twice before you cut it.
  3. If your dragonet has not pooed for a day DO NOT wait for her tail to get thick before you tell someone. IT WILL BE MUCH WORSE IF YOU WAIT.
  4. Don’t ever let any rider of another colour tell you that you’re worth less just because you are a green rider.

Carleah tipped her head back for a moment, rubbing the crick in the back of her neck that craning over the slate was creating. She let her eyes move over the space that had been hers for the last Turn, thinking about everything that had happened while she’d been there.

Whether you are Weyrbred, or Holdbred, or maybe the Craftbred daughter of a dragonrider, like I am, here is one last thing. You should forget everything you thought you knew about what it means to ride a dragon, because it is probably wrong. Yes, even if you are Weyrbred. We are all told about the privilege and the honour of riding a dragon. We all listen to songs of the glory and courage of dragonriders. Those stories and those songs cannot capture more than the merest glimpse of what it is to be the chosen of a dragon of Pern. The reality is much more wonderful and terrifying and demanding than a non-rider will ever, ever, ever know.

Good Luck and Clear Skies

Carleah, green rider of Jagunth

She re-read what she’d written, decided it would do, and put the slate in the top drawer of the chest beside the cot. Then she picked up the last bag of odds and ends that she’d gathered from her space, glanced a final time around the echoingly empty barracks, and headed outside.

Jagunth was waiting there in a patch of sunlight, her wings fanned to catch every possible ray. Ready to go? Carleah asked.

Yes. Jagunth dipped her shoulder. She’d only started to have to do that in the last couple of sevendays. All the greens were experiencing a growth spurt, but Jagunth had put on nearly three hands in height in a month, and she was almost as tall as some of the blues.

Carleah tied her carry-sack to one of the rings on Jagunth’s harness and then swung up. You remember where our new weyr is?

Jagunth only hesitated a moment. Where Berzunth is?

Carleah strapped in, patting her dragon’s fore-ridge. Yes. But you’ll learn where it is without her soon.

Berzunth, already up on the high ledge, was as good a reference point as any, Carleah supposed. Jagunth warbled a greeting to her queen sibling as she backwinged to land neatly on the far end of the ledge. Berzunth hummed acknowledgement. Tarshe’s voice, slightly muffled, came from the weyr entrance. “That you, Carleah?”

Carleah unstrapped her carry-sack and went inside. “I found your hairbrush,” she reported as she walked through the dragon chamber. “It was down the back of Berzunth’s old couch.”

Tarshe came out of the sleeping alcove that she’d chosen. “Brilliant. Thanks. You all cleared out of the barracks now, then?”

Carleah nodded. “It feels strange,” she said. “Like the end of an era.”

“Beginning of a new one,” said Tarshe. “One where we have our own space.”

“I still don’t understand why you didn’t move into one of the queen weyrs,” Carleah said. “You’d have had twice this much room. And you wouldn’t have had to share!”

“Would have meant kicking out one of the senior Wingleaders,” Tarshe said. “And then he’d have kicked a more junior Wingleader out of his weyr, and he’d have kicked a Wingsecond out of his, and…” She shrugged. “Half a Turn’s time, some of the new weyrs in the south east’ll be ready, and me taking a queen’s weyr won’t be so disruptive.”

Carleah wasn’t completely convinced by Tarshe’s argument. But she couldn’t deny that she’d been pleased – and maybe even a bit flattered – when Tarshe had asked if she wanted to weyr-share with her. L’stev insisted that everyone who didn’t ride a queen had to share while they were still weyrlings, and Carleah had been dreading the prospect of having to bunk with Kessirke. It wasn’t that she didn’t like her, but she was just so shelling childish sometimes. She and Jardesse would have more fun together anyway. They’d be able to braid each other’s hair and talk about boys. Carleah found herself rolling her eyes at the thought.

But you think about boys, too, Jagunth pointed out.

Before Carleah could reply, Tarshe said, “Sorry, Carleah. I didn’t mean to, but I couldn’t help overhearing what Jagunth just said.”

“Oh,” Carleah said, and tried to keep the affront out of her voice. “Did you.” Jagunth, you need to be more careful with how you think to me!

“Like I said, I’m sorry,” said Tarshe. She sounded sincerely apologetic. “It’s the narlbark. It seems to have made me more sensitive than I was before. Maybe I don’t need such a strong dose any more.”

Carleah was still annoyed – not just that Tarshe could hear her dragon, but that she’d heard such an unedifying remark on Jagunth’s part – but she decided to let it pass. “You still haven’t told the Weyrwoman yet, have you?” she asked. “That you can hear dragons other than Berzunth.”

Tarshe shook her head. “Don’t want anyone else knowing, least till I’m not a weyrling any more.”

“Is that why you asked me to weyr with you?” Carleah asked. She said it without rancour or accusation – at least, not much.

“No,” said Tarshe, and then, after a moment, “well, maybe it was part of the reason. But not because I don’t trust you. Because I do.” She shrugged, a little awkwardly. “It’s hard, not having anyone to talk to who gets it. Berzunth thinks I shouldn’t give a watch-wher’s tail who knows. She doesn’t get that I’m still an outsider here.”

“No you’re –” Carleah began, and then stopped. Tarshe had been honest; she should do the same. “All right, you are, still. Only a bit. Mostly because of your accent.”

“Not much I can do about that.”

“You’re going to be a weyrwoman,” said Carleah. “The Weyrwoman, one day. You’ll never be just another rider.”

“I know,” Tarshe said. She sounded genuinely sad. Then she pointedly changed the subject. “Everyone else is cleared out of the Barracks now, then?”

“From our side, anyway,” Carleah replied. “I don’t know about the boys.”

“Chenda and Adzai still mardy with each other?”

Carleah laughed. “Yes. I’d love to be a trundlebug on the wall in their weyr.”

“I wouldn’t,” said Tarshe. “Like a wher and a wherry in a box.”

“They both asked L’stev to change,” Carleah said. “He wouldn’t let them. I think he’s enjoying it.”

“He would, the sick old wher,” said Tarshe. “I’m not surprised he wouldn’t let T’gala and S’terlion weyr up together, though. Walked in on those two in the harness room this morning. Guilty as snakes in a tangle.”

“He didn’t balk at Sol and Maris sharing, though, and everyone knows they’re a thing.”

“He trusts them not to get stupid,” said Tarshe. “S’terli and T’gala, not so much.”

“It’s the idea of Djeth flying that green that I can’t get over,” said Carleah. “I mean, what rider wants some baby bronze humping her dragon?”

“Not this rider,” said Tarshe.

“Nor this one,” said Carleah. She sat on the end of her new bed, a pile of clothes in her lap, and said, “But I suppose our dragonets aren’t really babies any more, are they?”

“Berzunth is,” Tarshe said, with a tolerant smile for her queen. “The biggest baby of the lot.”

“It just doesn’t seem so long ago that I’d wake up and find Jagunth had crawled up onto my bed in the night,” Carleah said.

“Thank the stars Berzunth never did that,” said Tarshe. “Even at her littlest she’d have squashed me flat.” She nodded towards the ledge. “Jagunth can’t be so far off her adult size now.”

“L’stev reckons she’ll put on another five or six feet in length by the time she’s grown.”

“Berzunth has more like twenty to go,” said Tarshe. “If I’m lucky, and she doesn’t go as big as Shimpath.”

“Oaxuth’s going to be the big dragon of the clutch, I think,” said Carleah. “If he’s ever going to grow into his forepaws, anyway. They’re massive.”

“He’s mature enough to chase now, too,” said Tarshe.

Carleah flicked her a speculative look, but Tarshe had her back to her, organising underclothes in the top drawer of her new chest. “You and R’von…?”

“Ha!” Tarshe turned with alacrity. “I don’t think so, Carleah. He’s a daft little boy. And a bronze rider. And…”

“…Bronze riders are all insane,” Carleah said along with her, their old refrain. After a moment, she asked, “Have you heard from your cousin?”

“Nah. Kawanth checks in with Berzunth once in a while, but they’re so involved with Rallai and the Peninsula.”

“Was that always his plan?” Carleah asked. “To become Weyrleader at the Peninsula, even though he wasn’t entitled?”

Tarshe shrugged. “Don’t know. Probably.” Her mouth twitched in a partial smile. “He promised me I’d ride a queen one day, you know. He’d been promising me that for Turns.”

“My da promised me I’d be a dragonrider too,” Carleah said. She looked above Tarshe’s bed, where she had hung the cross-stitched sampler, a gift from Valonna herself, that commemorated Berzunth’s Hatching day. “Except he never promised me a queen. But I wouldn’t change Jagunth for anything on Pern.”

“Course you wouldn’t,” said Tarshe. “Faranth knows, the time it takes to clean a sharding queen should be enough to put off anyone with a whit of sense.”

Carleah was still looking at Tarshe’s sampler, the shape of a dragonet picked out in shades of yellow thread. Her own sampler had spent the last Turn stuffed in her bottom drawer. When the Weyrwoman had given it to her, a few days after the Hatching, Carleah had still been too distraught to appreciate it; even sevendays later, the reminder of the best and worst day of her life had been too painful. She picked up the sack that she’d emptied her drawers into, rummaging around until she felt the distinctive texture of the cross-stitch. She pulled it out, and made a face. Valonna’s careful handiwork was rather crumpled from the abuse it had suffered. Carleah tried to smooth it flat, without much success. Then she held it in her two hands, looking at the words that had been lettered there. Leah, rider of green Jagunth.

Tarshe came over and sat down beside her. “Leah,” she said, reading the name. “That’s what everyone used to call you before you Impressed. I always thought it was strange that you made your name longer, not shorter.”

Carleah shook her head. “I’m from Kellad. Everyone there shortens to the last part of their name. My mum’s proper name is Lerobyn. My da’s was Carellos.” She traced the letters with her fingertips. “I didn’t want to just be ‘Leah’ any more. To not honour him with my name.”

“I didn’t realise,” said Tarshe. “I understand, now, why you get so angry when someone calls you Leah.”

“No one does any more, except my mum and…” Carleah paused. “And C’mine.”

“You still haven’t gone to see him?” Tarshe asked, with a gentleness Carleah hadn’t expected.

Carleah didn’t speak for a long time. C’mine had left her a message, asking her to come and see him, but she hadn’t. She was still too angry with him for ignoring her for so long. She was still too afraid that seeing her would be the worst thing for him. “Something broke in him, when my da died,” she said softly. “It broke, and it’s still not mended. L’stev says he’s fragile. Like a pot dropped on the ground. You can glue the pieces back together, but it’ll always be cracked. And if it comes apart in your hands…”

“C’mine wouldn’t hurt you,” Tarshe said. “Faranth. You should go and see him.”

“But L’stev –”

Between with L’stev, Carleah. Next to your dragon, there’s nothing on Pern more important than your family.” Tarshe caught her arm for emphasis. “No matter who they are. No matter what they’ve done. Trust me. I know.” She squeezed Carleah’s arm. “Go and see him.”

So Carleah did.

First she located Vanzanth, who was sunning his old bones up on the Rim, and had Jagunth find out by innocent enquiry that L’stev was in conference with the Weyrleader. Then she had Jagunth set her down a quarter of the Bowl away, and then sent her back up to the ledge with Berzunth. She made her way to C’mine’s weyr, the weyr that has been his and her da’s, by the most indirect route she could plot, walking casually past the beast pens as though she were selecting an appropriate wherry for her dragon’s dinner before crossing even more casually to the wall of the Weyr, and taking elaborate care not to look up at where Darshanth lay on the ledge of his weyr until she was almost in his shadow.

Then, abandoning all pretence, Carleah sprinted up the steps. She didn’t dare stay out there for the Weyr to see for long enough to greet the blue dragon properly, so she dashed inside, whispering as she passed, “Tell him I’m coming, Darshanth.”

For once, Darshanth heeded her. C’mine was already looking over his shoulder where he crouched over a crate on the floor as Carleah walked through the archway from Darshanth’s sleeping chamber. “Leah,” he said, and straightened up.

Carleah stopped in the archway, taking in the scene in the time it took for C’mine to turn to face her. Sacks on the floor, stuffed full. Boxes on the table. Shelves and cabinets empty and open. She hadn’t been shocked by Darshanth’s appearance; he’d been dull and listless for sevendays. She wasn’t shocked by C’mine’s either; the picture she’d built up in her mind of how thin and grey he had become actually surpassed the reality. But she was shocked by what she’d found him doing. “You’re leaving?

The accusation, spoken with as much outrage as hurt, made C’mine flinch. He was holding a plate in both hands. Carleah was almost disappointed that he didn’t drop it. C’mine set it carefully down on the table. Then he didn’t seem to know what to do with his empty hands. He let them fall by his sides. He didn’t deny Carleah’s charge; how could he, when he stood red-handed amidst the evidence of it?

“Where are you going?” she demanded, taking an angry step towards him.

After a long moment, C’mine said, “High Reaches.”

“High Reaches?” Carleah repeated the name with disbelief. “High Reaches? What in Faranth’s name do you want to go to High Reaches for?”

“Carleah –”

She ignored him. “There’s nothing at High Reaches but snow and ice and…and…more snow! You hate the cold!”

“The Weyrlingmaster –”

“Oh, between with the sharding Weyrlingmaster!” Carleah shouted. “Score and scorch and shaff him! I don’t care what he’s said, you can’t leave Madellon just because he says so!” And then her distress broke through her anger. “You can’t leave, Mine!”

How C’mine made his way across the room without barking his shins on a crate, Carleah didn’t know, but he did. If she’d been a little younger, or a little less changed by the events of the last Turn, she might have sobbed into his chest when he put his arms around her. But she was fifteen now, and she’d been kidnapped, drugged and almost killed. She didn’t sob into C’mine’s chest. She beat on it with her fists. “You’re running away,” she told him, with equal parts rage and disgust. “You’re running away. You coward.”

That shook him too. C’mine turned from her, raising his hands to his head, stricken. Then he sat down hard on the couch. “I can’t stay, Leah,” he said. “There’s nothing here for me at Madellon any more…”

What?”

“…nothing that doesn’t cause me pain,” he finished, against her cry of outrage.

“Pain makes you stronger!” Carleah shouted, and then regretted it; it was one of L’stev’s favourite profundities. “Everything worthwhile is painful!” That was better, even if it was lifted from a stupid Harper ballad. “He was my father! I loved him too!”

It was as close as she’d ever come to accusing him of claiming to have loved C’los more than she did, but if C’mine recognised the implication, he didn’t rise to it. “Carleah, sweetheart,” he said. “It’s not – not just – C’los, anymore.” He pressed the back of his fist to his forehead, anguished. “I’ve done things. Hurt people.”

“What things? What people?”

“I’ve burned every bridge here I had,” he went on, not answering her. “L’stev doesn’t trust me with the weyrlings. I’ve disappointed the Weyrwoman. Every rider at Madellon knows I’m a mess. Darshanth and I will never fly in a fighting Wing here again.”

“That’s nonsense!” Carleah declared, without much conviction, and then demanded, “What makes you think the High Reaches would be any different?”

“It’s a fresh start,” C’mine said. “Away from everyone and everything that I’ve done wrong here.” He shrugged, one-shouldered. “They need Search dragons. Weyrleader N’veag’s willing to give me a chance to prove I can make something of myself again. I’ll never get that at Madellon, Carleah. Nor at any other Weyr in the south. I have to put distance between myself and this continent.”

“And between yourself and me,” Carleah whispered. “Jagunth can’t go between, Mine. I’ll never see you again!”

C’mine looked wretched, and then he said, “For now, I think that’s for the best.”

“How can you say that? You don’t have the right to tell me what’s best for me any more!”

“Not just what’s best for you,” C’mine said. “What’s best for Darshanth.” He sat staring at nothing. “What I did, when I learned you’d been taken, at Long Bay…”

He fell silent. “What you did?” Carleah asked, and then fear of losing him made her lash out. “You fainted. That’s what the other weyrlings say. You didn’t do anything.”

C’mine met her eyes wordlessly, and Carleah recoiled a bit from the depth of reproach there. “What did you do?” she asked, chastened, and then, more urgently, “What did you do to Darshanth, C’mine?”

For a moment, she thought he’d tell her, and then he shook his head. “I put you before him,” he said. “Like I’ve been putting C’los before him. Putting myself before him. I can leave the Weyr, and it won’t be any the worse for me going. I can leave you, and you’ll be fine too. You and Madellon both will be better off without me.” He took a shuddering breath. “But I can’t leave Darshanth. And he can’t leave me. So I have to take him somewhere where I can earn back the right to call myself his rider.”

All of Carleah’s resistance failed her at once. “But I’ll miss you,” she whispered.

This time, when C’mine put his arms around her, she didn’t attack him. She just stood in the circle of his embrace, fighting back the tears. “You’re so like him,” C’mine said after a long moment. His voice was shaking too as he looked down into her face. He didn’t have to look down far, Carleah realised; she was almost of a height with him now. That shocked her.

“I want you to have something,” C’mine said.

Carleah watched him pick his way back across the room, but it wasn’t until he actually put his hand on C’los’ gitar that she believed it. C’mine lifted the instrument from its stand. He held it in his hands for a moment, looking down at it. Then, mutely, he turned and held it out to her.

When Carleah had been no older than eight or nine, she’d got her hands on her father’s gitar. Growing up in the Harperhall as she had, the idea of any instrument being off-limits was alien to her; the expensive and fragile ones were locked up safely away from the children, and any instrument that a youngster might come across was fair game to be picked up and played with. Carleah, visiting her father and his weyrmate at Madellon, had spotted C’los’ gitar, and – attracted as much by its elegant beauty as by the prospect of playing it – taken it from its rack.

It was the last time she’d touched it. She’d hardly placed her fingers on the neck, creating the softest ripple of sound from the strings, before C’los noticed what she was doing and snatched his gitar out of her grasp. “That’s not for you!” he’d shouted at her. “Never touch that! You could break it!”

Carleah had cried, and C’mine had intervened, as he always had when Da was too sharp with her, and then C’los had apologised, but not before he’d repeated his admonition that she wasn’t ever, ever to touch his gitar. “Two Turns of saving to have Master Naverik make this for me, girl,” he’d told her. “Two Turns! No one touches it but me, you understand?”

Now, as C’mine held out her father’s precious gitar to her, the old reluctance to transgress came over her again. “I can’t,” she said, resisting the urge to put her hands behind her back.

“He’d have wanted you to have it,” said C’mine. “You should have had it months ago. Take it. Please.”

Hesitantly, Carleah obeyed. She read the inscription on the back of the headstock. For when even you can’t find the right words.

She sat down suddenly, the gitar resting on her knee, curling her fingers around the inlaid fretboard. As it had that first and last time, Turns ago, it shimmered with unplucked sound at her touch. She stilled the strings with her hand. “It’s too good for me, Mine. I’m not a Harper.”

“Neither was Los,” C’mine said. It was the first time Carleah had heard him speak her father’s name in a long time. He leaned down to take something else from one of the boxes on the floor. “It didn’t stop him playing. Or writing.”

He held out a sheaf of hides to her. Carleah carefully laid the gitar down on the couch to take them from him. They were songs, notation and lyrics penned in good ink in her father’s clearest hand. C’los had never been shy about showing off his compositions, and Carleah recognised some of them. Brush You Off and Still Waiting. Midsummer Night was a love song. Tipsy Lizard was a silly ditty he’d written to make her laugh. But as she leafed through, she found songs she didn’t know, tunes she’d never heard: Tailwind, The Dawning, More Of Us. Hearts Of Fire wasn’t even finished, and others were no more than a few lines of lyrics with chords scribbled beneath them.

She tore her eyes away from the work of her father’s clever mind. “You should keep these, Mine.” She touched the notation for Midsummer Night. “He wrote most of them for you.”

“No.” C’mine spoke with finality. “I can’t play them. I can’t even bear to hear them. They should be played and heard. Just not by me.”

Carleah looked up at him despairingly. “You’re really leaving, aren’t you?”

“Sweetheart. I have to.”

She laid C’los’ music down, and picked up his gitar again. She ran her thumb across the strings. “It’s in tune,” she said, and placed her fingers for the first chord of Still Waiting. It had been nearly a Turn since she’d last held a gitar, but her hands hadn’t forgotten what they knew. She played the chord, and her fingers moved of their own accord to the next one.

“Leah,” C’mine said. There was sharp pain in his voice. “Please don’t.”

“One song,” Carleah begged. “Just play one song with me. Even if you never play another one again. Please?”

Slowly, as if it were the most difficult thing he’d ever been asked to do, C’mine lifted his own long-scale four-string gitar from its stand. Dust puffed from it in clouds of neglect as he handled it, and the first notes he struck were sour. Carleah thought he might change his mind and give up. But C’mine’s gitar, while not as refined as C’los’, not as valuable or fragile, had a robustness of its own. It was only a moment before the old mellowness thrummed from strings and wood, underpinning the brightness of the simple chords Carleah played on her father’s beloved gitar.

Knew you were out there
I knew it all along
Stars shining someone else’s morning
My time had to come

Turn towards the east, wait for the sun to rise
Day after day the darkness lay upon my eyes
Blind before you
Blinded by you

I was waiting for the sun
And if you hadn’t come
I’d be there still
Still waiting for your dawn
Still waiting


Tarshe wasn’t there when Carleah returned to their weyr, carrying C’los’ precious gitar and his equally precious music. For that she was glad. She didn’t want Tarshe to see her face, to see that she’d been crying. She didn’t want to talk about it to her. There were times when even a dragonrider needed human interaction. This wasn’t one of them. Carleah sat down in the circle of Jagunth’s forearms, leaned her head back against her chest, and wept.

By the time Tarshe and Berzunth did come back, hours later, Carleah’s fingers were burning, and her throat was nearly raw, but she’d done all her crying.

“Did you talk to him?” Tarshe asked, from Berzunth’s neck-ridges.

Carleah nodded, frowning over the tricky chord change in the middle of Settle The Bet. “He’s transferring to High Reaches.”

“Transferring? Permanently?”

She nodded again, missed the chord change again, and scowled. She gripped her left hand with her right, massaging the cramping muscles.

“You all right?” Tarshe asked.

“I just haven’t played in forever,” Carleah said. “My fingers are killing me.”

She knew it wasn’t what Tarshe meant, and she knew Tarshe knew, too. Still, she took the hint. “You play really well.”

“I don’t,” Carleah said. “Not as well as my da did, anyway. This was his.” She tried the change a third time and smiled when she got it right.

“You sound pretty good, to me,” Tarshe said. “Look, some of us are getting together at the west hearth in the dining hall for a drink to celebrate moving out.”

“A drink?” Carleah asked.

“We’re senior weyrlings now,” said Tarshe. “L’stev’s letting us have some wine. And to mix with some of the other riders. Do you want to come?” She hesitated just a breath before adding, “T’rello’s going to be there.”

It was one of the few things that could have made Carleah look up from what she was doing.

“He asked if you were going to be coming down.”

“Really?”

“Really,” Tarshe agreed gravely.

Carleah blinked. T’rello had been acting oddly around her: sometimes paying her almost too much attention, sometimes ignoring her completely. She liked him – of course she did: he was handsome and talented and a Wingsecond. She wasn’t sure she liked not knowing how he really felt. She wasn’t sure she wanted to be toyed with by a bronze rider. By any rider.

She shook her head. “Not today,” she said. “Tell him…maybe another time.”

Tarshe looked surprised, but then her mouth curved in a small, approving smile. “I’ll tell him,” she said. “You’re sure you’re all right?”

“I’m going to be fine,” Carleah told her earnestly.

But you like Santinoth’s rider, Jagunth said, when Berzunth had gone.

Carleah stroked her dragon’s chin. There are more important things than that.

She’d spread C’los’ music out around her, some hides draped over Jagunth’s forearms. One of them caught her eye, the notation for one of the songs she’d never heard: More Of Us. She pulled it towards her. “This is just What We Have To Do,” she said, reading the score. “Da wrote this Turns ago.” She fingered the first few chords, and then sang the familiar chorus.

Come the call, come the Fall, you know we will give our all
Fly and flame and sear and spiral, we know what we have to do
Bronze and queen, brown and green, blues complete the winning team
Thread will fear us coming near us, we know what we have to do

Jagunth said, That is a good song for dragons.

“Da never liked it,” Carleah said. “He said the tune was worthy of better lyrics.”

Then she turned the hide over, and found them.

Feels like we’re undervalued, feels like we’re overlooked
There’ll come a time when we won’t take it
We’re green and blue united, we want our history book
Our share of glory and we’ll make it

Time to rise up, time to shut the lies up, time to light the skies up
You can never keep us down
’Cause there’s more of us than you
And you know it’s true

We are proud, we’re unbowed, we are closer to the ground
Got the wind beneath our sails and there’s more of us than you
We are green, we are blue, we’re the best that ever flew
Disrespect us at your peril, ’cause there’s more of us than you

We’re done with condescension, we’re done with disregard
We won’t be treated like we’re nothing
The blues and greens are coming, you should be on your guard
We’ll play our hand and we’re not bluffing

See our faces, this is where the pace is, kick over the traces
You will never keep us down
’Cause there’s more of us than you
And you know it’s true

Won’t be long, we are strong, this is our defiant song
Tired of being in your shadow and there’s more of us than you
We are blue, we are green, we’re the best you’ve ever seen
So oppress us at your peril, ’cause there’s more of us than you

You won’t keep us in our place
You can’t match our speed or grace
We are green, we are blue, we’re the best that ever flew
Disrespect us at your peril
’Cause there’s more of us than you

Carleah looked at the hide, startled. She’d always known her father had believed passionately in more equitable treatment for the riders of the junior colours. She knew that T’kamen had become Weyrleader in part because of the support of green and blue riders, support C’los had nurtured and encouraged for a bronze rider committed to more equal rights for all Madellon’s dragonriders, regardless of colour. But the song in her hands wasn’t just a protest; it was a rallying cry, an inflammatory call to arms for green and blue riders to rebel against the established hierarchy of the Weyr. It would have been a lighted match to the firestone bunker that Carleah knew Madellon had been in the Turns before T’kamen had become Weyrleader.

It’s a song that Da wrote, she told Jagunth. A very angry song.

Why was he angry?

Because he was a green rider, and green riders weren’t treated well when he was alive.

Oh. Jagunth thought about that. Will you sing it to me?

Carleah almost refused. The words were too strong, the sentiment too rebellious. The thrust behind them was indisputably accurate. And the tune drove the song with relentless momentum. It was even more compelling, even more catchy, as a revolutionary anthem than it was as a simple Threadfighting chant.

She looked up from the song in her lap, out across Madellon Weyr. Green dragons filled more weyr ledges than all the other colours combined: greens of every shade, from the palest jade like Jagunth through grass and leaf and sea greens to the deepest emerald hues. Most that were not green were blue, from cerulean to cobalt, azure to indigo. Only occasionally did a brown or bronze hide intersperse the bright shapes of the junior colours, and most of those big dragons occupied the prime low-level weyrs, with all their accompanying benefits of ground access and private bathing.

“You were right, Da,” she said aloud. “It isn’t fair. There are more of us than them.”

Then she grinned, and put her fingers to the gitar.

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