Tara lay on her side staring happily at Naliath. The two were the first to reach the girls' side of the Weyrling barracks, and so had their pick of 'rooms'. Really, they were just areas partitioned off on three sides that opened into a central hall. Tara and Naliath both seemed to have similar tastes; without a word they'd headed together to the back left corner section, furthest from the entrance.
The young queen, exhausted from her earlier hatching efforts, curled up on the large stone couch and fell asleep almost instantly. She didn't even take up half of the area set aside for the dragonet, but Tara knew she would grow to fill it soon. She'd curled up beside her, happy just to be next to Naliath. Tara didn't think she'd seen a more beautiful creature in her life. She reached out, lightly brushing her fingertips over the dragonet's smooth, soft hide in an almost reverent manner.
Voices drifted over to her from just outside the entrance to the barracks. Tara sat half up, propping herself on one elbow to look out and down the hallway. Three girls, probably two years younger than her, walked in, trailed by three green dragonets.
Remembrance hit her; Tara had seen them standing near her on the sands. They'd all Impressed that day. She found herself unable to remember any of their names, though she believed the green dragonet with the faint leafy pattern on her was Ree-something.
The tallest girl looked over at her and smiled. "Hello. You're the one who Impressed the queen, aren't you?" Tara nodded, feeling a blush creeping over her face. "Well, I'm Shannen," She gestured towards the patterned dragonet, "And this beautiful girl is Rieundoth." She gave Tara a welcoming grin. "You look a bit older than us, but I don't suppose that'll really matter to the Weyrlingmaster. We're all in the same wherry pot now!"
Tara nodded, the brown-haired girl's cheerful manner putting her at ease. "I guess so. Have you met Willow yet?"
The girl with the long black hair shook her head. "No, we haven't. Not really. She brought you in on Search just today, didn't she?" At Tara's affirmative nod, she whistled sharply. "Well that was lucky timing! I'm Ilirrie, by the way." She gestured to one of the greens, so dark she was almost black. "She's Seboreth."
Shannen tucked a lock of her cropped brown hair behind her ear. "This is going to be some crazy ride. I imagine we'll be spending a lot of time together, living in the same quarters and going through lessons together and all."
Tara nodded and stood up, brushing off the candidate's robes she still wore. She held out her hand. "I'm Tara, and lazybones over there is Naliath." She smiled affectionately over at the new queen.
The third girl spoke up excitedly. "I'm Lianne. This sweetie is Sapphith."
"Shannen and Rieundoth, Ilirrie and Seboreth, and Lianne and Sapphith." Tara nodded to herself, then blushed a little. "I might forget, I'm terrible with names."
Shannen waved her hand in the air, dismissing Tara's confession. "It doesn't really matter, you'll remember eventually. Chances are we'll forget your name at some point too. There's 637 people in this Weyr alone, after all!" She shook Tara's still outstretched hand and grinned, looking around.
"It's a shame about old Faith. I can't be too sad, of course, she should have gone days ago. We all knew it was coming." Ilirrie sighed, settling herself down onto the bed in the area next to Tara's.
Shannen took the one across the central hallway from Tara, and Lianne took the one next to her, nodding along with Ilirrie's comment. "The timing was terrible, of course. It's always a shame, sort of dampens the cheer of a hatching some."
The three friends lapsed into silence as they went about emptying the small bags of clothing they carried with them from the candidates' barracks. Tara pulled her knees up inside her robe and wrapped her arms around them. Everyone in the Weyr seemed so confident and assured; it was intimidating. There was so much to learn, so much that everyone else seemed to know already and she hadn't a clue. Tara didn't like not knowing. She felt adrift, unsure. She didn't know what her place was anymore.
A faint smile broke over her face as a wordless sort of humming filled her mind. Naliath's spirit seemed to carry hers up, and anchor Tara. Of course she knew what her place was. It was here, with her beautiful queen. Everything else didn't really matter.
Across the hall, Shannen shook her head and yawned. "Wow... it's early yet, but I'm so tired."
Ilirrie and Lianne chimed in their agreement, citing the excitement of the Hatching as the reason for their exhaustion. Tara just smiled. She didn't really feel tired at all, but didn't mind the quiet. In fact, she reveled in it. And she may not be tired, but Naliath certainly was.
The other three girls seemed to know exactly what the routine was for preparing for bed, changing swiftly and easing into sleep almost immediately with a minimum of bustle. Tara marveled at their ability to fall asleep so quickly. She never could do that; she was the one who laid awake for hours, replaying in her mind every moment of the day. Trying to remain as quiet as she could, she too slipped under the covers and closed her eyes.
Tara picked absently at a loose thread on her shirt. Everyone was staring at her and Naliath. They were standing in the eastern end of the Weyr Bowl, waiting for Willow to show up for their lesson, and the other weyrlings, too preoccupied by their own lifemates yesterday to pay particular attention to the new goldrider who would become Weyrwoman, now found her fascinating.
Shuffling nervously from foot to foot, Tara muttered maledicts under her breath. "Shards Willow, in Faranth's name, will you hurry up?" She crossed her arms over her chest and looked steadily at the dust under her feet. As if in response, Willow appeared just then, followed by Rayenth.
A broad grin split her features. "All right, weyrlings. Today's lesson should be relatively simple. I want you all to come here and get a jar of oil from Lanora, and then oil your dragons. I'll walk around and make sure you're all doing it right... though I'm sure you'll be fine."
Lanora stepped out from behind Willow, laden with small jars of oil. All the weyrlings, save Tara, crowded around her, trying to grab a jar quickly so they could be the first to finish. Tara smiled nervously over at the weyrlingmaster, waiting for the crowd around Lanora to thin.
Willow returned the smile, trying to reassure her. She seemed awfully nervous, and terribly shy. It didn't seem to make a lot of sense that Tara had Impressed Naliath... but the dragon always knew. There was probably a lot more to the young woman than met the eye. Willow shook her head and leaned over the heads of some of the smaller weyrlings, grabbing a jar from Lanora and tossing it to Tara.
The blond smiled gratefully and knelt beside her gold, quickly smoothing the oil over her smooth hide.
Moments later, all the new riders were spread out over the barren drill field, massaging wherry oil into the hides of young dragonets. A chorus of contented croons rose from the reptilian creatures' throats.
Willow paced around them all, occasionally correcting someone's technique or pointing out missed spots. After making the rounds once, she stood in the middle of the group and whistled softly. Rayenth bugled once, quietly. Or, quietly for a dragon. It was plenty loud enough to draw everyone's attention to the large bronze. Seeing his gaze intent on Willow, they redirected their attention to the weyrlingmaster. "All right. You're all doing fine. Remember to listen to your dragons. They'll tell you if they're itchy, if you've missed a spot, or anything, really. Make sure you pay attention to everything they have to say. Some of you will probably even feel an extension of yourselves in your dragon; that is, you'll feel where they're itchy, if their wings are sore, even though your physiology is very different. It can be an unnerving feeling, so I'm giving you a heads up." She smiled. "You all can finish up oiling your dragons and then resume your chores." She turned and walked away, grinning.
I love this part, Rayenth. They're all so happy right now. She sighed softly. I wonder how many of them we're going to lose...