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Stefeni and blue Earinath

The Road So Far!

It all began at the Harperhall at Kellad Hold, in the protectorate of Madellon Weyr, for Stefeni – a young girl of 15 Turns, dreaming of becoming a blue rider.

Stefeni was born the daughter of two Harpers at the Southern Harperhall, Kellad Hold. Surrounded by music, she was apprenticed to the Craft when she came of age. But she never excelled in any discipline, and it seemed as if an unremarkable career as a mid-level journeyman likely lay ahead for her. And then, in early 102, J'kel – a dragonrider of Madellon Weyr – came to Kellad Hold in search of candidates for the new clutch hardening on the Sands of Madellon Weyr. Stefeni caught the attention of J'kel's blue Hozrath. And a sevenday later, Stefeni arrived at Madellon Weyr, joining the candidate pool for senior queen Shimpath's first clutch by her new mate Muzzanth.

As a candidate, Stefeni was assigned a bunkmate – Jopha, a mischievous young Weyrbred girl prone to getting herself into trouble, who would soon become her closest friend in the Weyr. She also got to know many of her fellow candidates, including the Weyrbred twins Leover and Leoguy; Zielaph, the nephew of a Madellon bronze rider; and Arina, a level-headed young woman from Jessaf who'd stood at the previous Hatching.

But she also made an enemy – Thippia, a foul-mouthed girl from the Seacraft – who took a firm disliking to Stefeni! Backed up by her crony Berrin, Thippia became the thorn in Stefeni's side throughout the sevendays of candidacy.

Hatching Day

The dragons' hum woke Jopha and Stefeni on 102.03.17. Following a brief run-in with Thippia, the pair joined the rest of the candidates for a morning lecture. The Weyrlingmaster, L'stev, gave the whole cohort – increased by three late Searchees to a total of thirty-five – strict instructions about pre-Hatching preparations, including eating, drinking, bathing – and in some cases, getting a decent haircut – and then turned the group loose for the morning. Before Stefeni left, Jopha – whose Impression robe was sadly overlarge for her petite frame – recruited Stefeni's help in getting it adjusted by her nemesis Shookana in the mending room.

The one-armed green rider and the thieving queen

Immediately on leaving the candidate barracks, Stefeni was flagged down by M'shen – a green rider with one arm, a fire-lizard queen – and a problem. His queen, Squiffy, had stolen several pieces of the Weyrwoman's jewellery, and hidden it around the Weyr. M'shen recruited Stefeni to find it. The quest took Stefeni all over Madellon, from kitchens to lake to infirmary – but in the end she succeeded in reuniting the Weyrwoman's jewellery set, to general acclaim.

Respecting her elders

In the Weyr's kitchen gardens, Stefeni encountered R'hren, a former Weyrleader of Madellon, now peacefully retired to potter among his beloved plants. R'hren asked Stefeni to help him track down the ingredients for a warming salve to help his elderly bronze, Staamath, with his arthritic forepaws. Stefeni duly located the components of R'hren's salve, winning the old bronze rider's approval in the process.

Gifted a small pot of the salve, Stefeni offered it to old S'rius, who was equally appreciative of the gift. And while Kisha, the blind old green rider Stefeni encountered in the infirmary, would have nothing to do with one of R'hren's concoctions, she too grew to approve of Stefeni – especially after she solved all three of her fiendish riddles!

Southern comfort

Stefeni met G'kalte – a brown rider and Wingsecond, not to mention Weyrwoman Valonna's weyrmate – in the Bowl, and was quickly recruited by him to help with a diplomatic matter. G'kalte had been tasked with delivering two gifts from Valonna to her Southern counterpart Weyrwoman Karika – but he'd been summoned away to collect his own grandmother, Lady Coffleby, for the Hatching.

He asked Stefeni to figure out which of the seven Southern dragons visiting Madellon were the correct pair to hand over Karika's gifts. And while G'kalte's brown, Archidath, offered Stefeni some intelligence on the Southern seven, his advice was somewhat garbled! Nonetheless, Stefeni unravelled Archidath's confusing suggestions and got the right packages to the right dragons – without being growled at!

A Masterful order

In the dining hall, Stefeni met her fellow candidate Zielaph, who'd been tasked by his somewhat dim uncle, bronze rider Fr'ton, with delivering a complicated drinks order to a group of Master Crafters. Zielaph had information about their names, beverages, crafts, and fire-lizards – but not in any sensible order!

Luckily for him, Stefeni solved the puzzle of Fr'ton's confusing notes adeptly, delivering the correct drinks to the correct Masters, and earning a handsome tip in the process.

A rising problem

Stefeni encountered both Soleigh, whose green Bristath was preparing to rise near the lake, and her weyrmate Maris, who was getting very drunk in the dining hall on account of her fears that Soleigh was having an affair with a blue rider, G'tron. Stefeni's intervention successfully got rid of G'tron, whose Imdoth was very sweet indeed on Bristath, from the mating flight – not to mention G'pellas, another blue rider, needed in the Harper ensemble – and reconciled the two green riders.

A Harper born

Stefeni's Harper training came in handy when Carleah, the Weyr Singer, asked her to play a set with her ensemble in the dining hall. They played to a rapturous reception that gave Stefeni's confidence – and her mark purse – quite a boost!

Kitchen diplomacy

Madellon's kitchens – the heart of the Weyr, and domain of Headwoman Crauva – provided Stefeni with the opportunity to show off her work ethic before the Hatching. A round of chores duly pleased Crauva. And the kitchen was also the source of the hotfruit R'hren had sent Stefeni to find for his warming salve.

Eggs and baskets

A visit to the Archives led to a meeting with Tarshe, Madellon's Weyrwoman Second. When Stefeni expressed an interested in looking up some Weyr records, Tarshe offered her the loan of a glowbasket – on the proviso that she return it afterwards. Which – mindful of not offending such an important personage of the Weyr – Stefeni did!

A blue lady

Coming across T'gala, Pern's only female blue rider, bathing her Heppeth in the lake, Stefeni offered her assistance – which T'gala gladly accepted. Getting some first-hand advice about what it took for T'gala to Impress a blue dragon was an opportunity Stefeni didn't want to pass up.

Friend request

Knowing of Jopha's chequered history with Shookana, mistress of the Weyr's mending room, Stefeni approached the task of having her robe adjusted with considerable caution. Realising that falsehood would be the wrong approach, Stefeni went to Shookana with the truth – and a gift of popcorn. And while Stefeni doubted if Shookana and Jopha will ever be friends, the restoration of her Hatching robe to a suitable length did a great deal for her self-confidence!

Hair today

Mindful of the Weyrlingmaster's orders to be smart for the Hatching, Stefeni visited Madellon's resident barber – green rider Z'fell – for a trim. Very conscious of her dignity, Stefeni ensured she came away with a cut she actually liked.

A slithery customer

Early in the day, Stefeni found out about a secret way into the Hatching Ground via storeroom that might allow her a sneaky peek at the eggs before the Hatching. Successfully entering the combination to the lock on the storeroom door, and suitably equipped with a glowbasket, she crawled into a confusing maze of passages.

By a stroke of ill luck, Stefeni strayed into tunnel snake territory! A huge, aggressive, and potently venomous female tunnel-snake guarded the exit to the Hatching ground. Stefeni was lucky to avoid being bitten. But ultimately she evaded the snake, dodging past it and slipping out onto the Hatching Sands.

Having survived her encounter with the snake, Stefeni crept closer to the clutch – close enough to touch an egg – before beating a hasty retreat from the Hatching Ground!

The Hatching

When it came to the Hatching, Stefeni had to wait for every other dragonet to Hatch and choose a rider before the green-clouded blue egg Hatched to reveal the dark steel-blue hatchling who would choose her, naming himself Earinath.

A friend in me

And Stefeni wasn't the only lucky one. To her delight, Jopha also Impressed, becoming the rider of a big emerald-green hatchling, Deimoth.

Whatever happened to Thippia?

Sadly, there was at least one fly in the numbweed. Thippia Impressed a very vocal mint-green hatchling, making them Stefeni and Earinath's new classmates. (On the bright side, at least Berrin didn't Impress!)

After the Hatching

"Earinath" by Emily Holland

The Weyrlingmaster was the first to congratulate Stefeni on her Impression, but it was J'kel, thrilled that Hozrath had finally found a successful candidate after so long without, who stepped in to help with the immediate matter of Earinath's first meal. That was Stefeni's first opportunity to speak to Jopha, too, and they introduced each other, with considerable delight, to their respective dragonets, Earinath and Deimoth.

It wasn't long before Earinath's personality started to become evident. The dark blue dragonet, among the smallest of his colour, turned out to be of an endearingly shy and modest character, rather requiring of encouragement.

With both dragonets full to bursting with fresh meat, the newly minted dragonpairs left the Hatching sands for their new home: the weyrling barracks.

Big sister

Another friend Stefeni made along the way – a young Weyrbred candidate, Brithie, whom Stefeni had encountered in a sudden crisis of confidence directly before the Hatching – hailed Stefeni at the barracks – crediting her with her successful Impression of a tiny bottle-green dragonet, Epatanth!

Meeting the Weyrleader

As Stefeni and Jopha wiped the worst of the blood and sand from their tired new dragonets, the Weyrleader, T'gat, came to inspect both girls' dragonets – and in particular to remark upon Stefeni's unusual Impression of a blue. T'gat further enquired if Stefeni would like to elide her name, as T'gala had done, or not. Stefeni elected not to elide her name – content to remain Stefeni, rider of blue Earinath!

Following their audience with the Weyrleader, and the application of oily rags to relieve Earinath's and Deimoth's newborn itchiness, Stefeni and Jopha headed into the girls' barracks to claim the billets that would be theirs for the next Turn. Choosing adjacent cots, the two new weyrlings got their dragonets settled on the couches that they would take months to grow into. But there was no time for them to sit and admire their new dragons. The Weyrlingmaster soon came along to give them their new weyrling shoulder-knots, before chivvying them off to the Hatching feast!

The Hatching feast

Stefeni and Jopha soon went their separate ways to find family and friends. Many of the riders and Weyrfolk Stefeni had helped during the day greeted her with warm congratulations as she hunted through the throng – but, at last, she found her family.

Stefeni's Harper parents were absolutely delighted to find themselves the mother and father of a blue rider and happier still to learn that Stefeni had already brought her musical skills to the Weyr. And they were even more delighted to drink to Stefeni and Earinath when the Weyrleaders arrived to toast them!

The rest of the evening passed in a blur for Stefeni, and it came as a relief when the Weyrlingmaster ordered all the new weyrlings back to the barracks for a good night's sleep. But en route to bed, Stefeni was flagged down by a Weyrbrat, Emry, bringing the message that Weyrwoman Second Tarshe wanted to see her in the Archives.

Setting the record straight

Tarshe, tasked by the Weyrwoman with converting candidate documentation into weyrling records, went through Stefeni's background with her – including much of what she had got up to on the morning of the Hatching – for good and ill. She cleared up an anomaly with her new name, too. She offered Stefeni some advice about paying attention to her new classmates and surroundings, lest she fall foul of the Weyrlingmaster's penchant for snap quizzes, and made some observations on Earinath.

A close encounter

On her way back to the barracks , Stefeni had two peculiar encounters – first, with Tarshe's queen, Berzunth, who seemed quite agitated by one of the visiting dragons on the Rim; and then with a mysterious hooded figure, smelling strongly of what Stefeni would later realise was firestone, who called her by name – and gave her a curious wooden box.

"The Watchful Queen" by Chris S. Baily

Back at the barracks, Stefeni decided, on balance, not to tell the Weyrlingmaster about the stranger – though she did give L'stev her new name.

Returning at last to Earinath – billeted between Jopha's Deimoth and a pale green dragonet – Stefeni was too tired to examine the strange wooden box very closely, and put it in her clothes' chest for later examination. But even as she went to sleep – a dragonrider at last, her blue beside her – Stefeni was struck with a deep sense of foreboding. Who was the mysterious dragonrider in the hooded cloak? What was the significance of the strange wooden box? And how had the stranger known Stefeni's new name?

Stefeni and Earinath's story will continue in Dragonchoice: Weyrling, coming soon!

Stefeni's achievements

Achievement Unlocked:
CARRY ON WAYWARD SON

I travelled The Road So Far!

Achievement Unlocked:
OUR ROB, OR ROSS

I received a mysterious box!

Achievement Unlocked:
DEED POLL

I changed my name by choice!

Achievement Unlocked:
CEASE AND DESIST

I prevented legal difficulties by changing my name!

Achievement Unlocked:
ONE STEVE LIMIT

I avoided duplicating a Dragonchoice character's name!

Achievement Unlocked:
THEY'RE DEAD, DAVE

I changed my name to respect the deceased!

Achievement Unlocked:
THE YIN TO YOUR YANG

Earinath and I complement each other!

Achievement Unlocked:
SUGAR AND SPICE

I've been a very nice person (so far)!

Achievement Unlocked:
EBONY AND IVORY

Earinath and I agreed on something very important!

Achievement Unlocked:
IN TUNE

Earinath and I agreed on something quite important!