It was a warm summer evening, and with the sunset as late as it was, all the chores were done, excepting for those in the kitchen, and those tending the herds in the feeding grounds.
At the end of one of the tables sat two boys, both dark haired, one light and one dark. At least, they were laughing and carrying on like boys. At 17 and 19 turns Leyken and Alonndo, respectively, were men. Both were sons of Riders, and had lived and worked in the weyr all their lives. They'd both been fosterlings of the headwoman's second, Ikara.
Now, the blonde haired, green eyes Ikara, who had a daughter of her own, was the older sister of bluerider Onda - Alonndo's mother. So, not only was Ikara his foster mother, she was his aunt.
A girl, about 5'8" walked into the lower caverns, and went straight to the hearth to pour herself a warm drink. She ducked into the kitchens proper, and some light laughter followed. A few moments later, the grinning girl reappeared, with a fistful of dried fruit from the big bowl kept near the night hearth.
The two young men were still laughing and telling jokes. Suddenly, the younger piped up, intending to be heard across the room. "Alonndo - your ugly cousin is here!"
Drikara, blonde haired and green eyed like her mother and aunt, was anything but. She was slender, yet curvy in all the right places, and didn't care a lick about it.
She was wearing a loose-fitting boat-necked tunic, untucked, with fluffy poet's sleeves cuffed to the elbows. It was tied firmly around her waist with a wide wine-colored sash, the ends of which hung down the left side, with her belt pouch nestled behind. Her snug forest green breeches were tucked into her knee-high riding boots.
Her long strides carried her towards the table. "I love you too, Leyken." She said, then set her mug on the end of the table between her foster brothers.
Fetching a chair from a nearby table, Dri spun it around, and sat on it backwards. "So, what did you two do today?" she asked, popping a piece of fruit into her mouth.
Leyken, the lighter of the two piped up first. He was 5'4" tall, and gawky-slim compared to Alonndo, with short dark hair and dark eyes. "More of the same, Dri - cleaning, sweeping, eating. Alonndo was flirting with Riale though."
Alonndo blushed, and Dri bounced a dried grape off of Leyken's forehead with practiced accuracy.
Leyken put on an expression of mock insult before retrieving the fruit from where it had landed on the table. He looked at it, and then popped it into his mouth.
Drikara looked at her cousin.. "Okay Alonndo - spill it. Riale?"
The yellow-bronze skinned lad blushed again, averting his green eyes from his cousin. His dark hair, cut in a time-tested "bowl" cut, swung wildly as he shook his head. "It's not like that at all." Alonndo protested, "she was still washing that blue of hers - Niawith - and it was already dark, so I offered to help."
"Uh huh, sure!" Leyken interrupted. "And what'd you get in return?"
Alonndo shot him a glance. "Well oiled hands." He said, picking up his mug to take a drink. "What about you, Dri? What'd you do today? I didn't see you around."
Drikara set down her mug. "I was out with D'run, rounding up wild herdbeasts for the feeding grounds."
"I'm glad it wasn't me!" Leyken said, laughing.
Just about then, R'lan strolled through. "And if it was?" the Searchrider asked.
"Then I'd be sitting here complaining!" Leyken responded without hesitation, and his friends broke into laughter. "C'mon R'lan, join us!"
R'lan, preoccupied, didn't sit down.
Dri was first to notice. She always seemed to notice when something was bothering someone. "R'lan - are you okay?" she asked, turning her green eyes up to meet his.
R'lan, snapping out of it, smiled. "I'm fine. We just received a request for a candidate from a nearby Weyr. Their clutch is hardening, and is expected to hatch in the next few days, but they're still Searching."
Leyken piped up. "Someone from here?"
R'lan nodded. "And as soon as possible."
Alonndo's eyes about popped out of his head.
Dri aked the question they all wanted to ask. "Who's going?"
R'lan threw back his head and laughed. The three stared at him until he regained his composure. "Dri, Alonndo, Leyken." He said, nodding farewell to each in turn, then began to walk out. "See you in the morning." He said, laughing suspiciously cheerfully.
They stared at each other, shocked into temporary silence.
"Do you suppose..." Alonndo began.
"... he's saying..." Dri interjected, eyes wide.
"...one of US?!?" Leyken said, nearly bouncing out of his chair.
"Could be." Dri said, trying not to get her hopes up. "We'll have to wait and see." She got up and walked to the hearth, leaving her foster brothers to gossip while she retrieved refills for them all.
"I bet it's me!" Leyken said, slamming his hand to the table. "My parents are both Riders!"
Alonndo laughed. "No good! Mine are both Riders too - and Drikara's Dad is a dragonrider."
Leyken perked up, as if he could get any perkier. "That rules Dri out! She's only one rider parent!"
Alonndo shook his head. "Everyone knows D'run's Okserth is one of the best Searcher's Ryslen's got - and where was Dri today? Hmm?"
Leyken slumped in his chair. "Out with her dad."
Dri came back to the table, and poured out the klah.
"We think it's you, Dri." Alonndo said, picking up his renewed drink.
Dri turned the chair around and sat down. "Nah, can't be me. Alonndo's the most logical person I know, always thinking things through and never missing the details. And Leyken - you're such a mischief that you'd be the weyrling-class clown - I can see it now..." Dri said, a faint smile on her face as she leaned back, sipping the klah.
Leyken's eyes grew a bit unfocused as he thought about it. He suddenly snapped back to reality. "Nah, wingleaders don't clown around."
"What makes you so sure you'll even Impress?" A voice said, stopping their conversation in it's tracks. "With arrogance like that, and you'd be lucky if a green picked you." It was Tylar, a greenrider, who'd snuck up on them.
Leyken was dumbstruck. "I... I..."
Tylar sat down at the table. "I take it R'lan told you about the request we got tonight?"
They nodded. Tylar grinned, one of those 'I know something you don't know' grins, and leaned forward, putting her elbows on the table. A green emerald pendant swung forward, catching Dri's eye. "I like your necklace, Tylar. Did R'lan give you that?" Speculation was that R'lan's Ancith would be the first to catch Isemoth, after all.
"No," Tylar said, grining. "It was my mother's."
"But I thought..." Leyken began, and then Tylar rose, cutting off his sentence.
"Sometimes what you think you know is far from the truth." She said with a sly grin, then strode away, off to do whatever she'd intended to do in the first place.
They sat quiet for a few minutes, drinking from their mugs and occasionally looking at one another. At last, Dri drained her mug and set it on the table. "I think I'll turn in." she said. "the suspense is killing me."
"Good night, Cousin." Alonndo said, smiling at her as she stood up.
"Sweet dreams Drikara." Leyken said. "Just leave your mug. I'll take care of it."
Dri smiled. "Thank you, Leyken." She said, bending down to give her foster brother a hug. "Good Night." She said, still smiling as she hugged her cousin Alonndo as well. "Good luck, you two."
After Dri had gone, Alonndo looked at Leyken. "Do you think she's right? Am I trustworthy enough for a dragon to choose me?"
Leyken shrugged, answering his foster brother's question with a question. "Could I possibly Impress being as headstrong and foolish as Dri and Tylar think I am?"
Alonndo shook his head. "I don't know. We've seen Hatchings, we live at a Weyr, for the love of little green dragons. If a dragon wands one of us, what difference does it make how others see us?"
Leyken grinned. "You have a point, oh wise one." He stood up, and picked up his empty mug, and Dri's as well. "Can I take yours as well, sir?"
Alonndo laughed at Leyken's antics, then looked into his mug. He surveyed the remaining liquid, then drained it in one long draught. "If you'd be so kind." He said, handing Leyken his mug.
Alonndo rose from his seat. "I'm off to bed myself. Either I'll see you tomorrow, or I won't." he said cheerfully. "Sleep well."
"You too, Alonndo." Leyken said, taking the mugs and strolling off to the kitchen, to leave them to be washed.
Night descended on Ryslen, with only the Nighthearth cook, and the Nightwatch moving about.