His parents were busy packing for their trip to Nerat, so Robinton had been told to go
outside and play. He always missed his mother, but it would be nice to stay with Kubisa
and Lina, where he could sing and play his pipe or his drum without worrying about
annoying his father. Now it was his turn to hop-it without smudging the chalk lines on the
flags, and his attention was utterly focused on the movement of his feet--until Libby made
him miss the longest hop by suddenly pointing skyward in astonishment.
"Oh, look, Robie!" she cried.
"That's not fair..."
His complaint died as he realized that the dragons soaring above were coming closer to the Harper Hall, rather than the Hold, where they usually landed. Half a wing of dragons--six of them. As they swept closer, backwinging, their hind legs stretching downward to land in the Harper Hall quadrangle, Robie, Libby, and Lexey pressed themselves tightly against the wall to stay out of the way. As it was, two of the dragons had to land outside, since the first four made the big quadrangle suddenly appear very small.
The ridged tail of a bronze was so close to Robie he could reach out and touch it. Which he did, greatly daring, while Lexey regarded him with staring eyes, aghast at his impudence.
"You'll get left out for Thread for sure, Robie," Lexey whispered hoarsely, pressing his sturdy body as close to the stone wall as he could, well away from the dragon's tail.
"He's soft," Robie whispered back, surprised. Runner beasts were soft, as were the spit canines, but watchwhers had hard hides, sort of oily. At least the Harper Hall's ol' Nick did. Were watchwhers another kind of dragon, the way runner beasts were another kind of herd beast?
No, they are most certainly not, a voice said in his mind. The dragon turned his huge head to see who had touched him, causing Lexey to hiss in alarm and Libby to whimper a bit in terror. Very different from dragons entirely, the voice went on.
"I do apologize. I didn't mean to insult you, bronze dragon," Robie said, giving a jerky little bow. "I've never seen one of you up close before."
We do not come as often to the Harper Hall as we used to. It had to be the dragon speaking, Robie decided, because the deep voice couldn't have come from anybody else nearby. The rider had dismounted and was standing on the steps talking to his mother and father.
"Are my mother and father going to ride on you to Nerat?" Robie knew that was why the dragons had come, to take all the harpers to Nerat for the espousal. His mother had told him that. Nerat Hold tithed to Benden Weyr, and so in turn could ask the Weyrleader to provide dragon transport. Going a-dragonback meant they wouldn't have a long land journey to make, so they wouldn't be away long. And besides, it was a great honor to go a-dragonback.
They are Harpers? the dragon asked.
"Yes, my mother's MasterSinger Merelan and my father is now Master Petiron. He writes the music they're going to sing."
We look forward to hearing it.
"I didn't know dragons liked music," Robie said, greatly surprised. That had never been mentioned with all the other things he'd learned about dragonkind.
Well, we do. So does my rider, M'ridin. Robie's sensitive ears caught the affection with which the dragon named his rider. He asked especially to convey your mother and father. It will be an honor for us to take a MasterSinger to Nerat.
Use of this excerpt from THE MASTERHARPER OF PERN by Anne McCaffrey may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing or additions whatsoever, and must be accompanied by the following copyright notice: copyright ©1998 by Anne McCaffrey
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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