Chapter 1

Horgey was overwhelmed when L'gal and T'rin told him that they felt him ready to go and be confirmed as Journeyman at the Harper Hall; it was only a few months since he had been reinstated as an apprentice!

T'rin had talked very fast to Masterharper Robinton, showing him Horgey's own work and the work of some of his pupils, weyr children and the apprentices the youth was helping to catch up, like Caralara, now C'lara. Her instrument crafting had gone from non-existent to almost adequate under Horgey's guidance; and as she was not, as T'rin pointed out, the most promising material where woodworking was concerned, not yet the sharpest stick in the bundle, to bring HER on so well was the sign of a good teacher. C'lara was as talented as the majority of boys who eventually made it to Journeyman; she would make an adequate Harper one day even if she was not the brightest of her siblings.

Under such relentless onslaught of evidence, as the Masterharper described it, and T'rin's impassioned pleas on behalf of his one-time enemy, Master Robinton capitulated. Horgey was Turned nineteen, after all; if he were not to be made Journeyman soon, even allowing for the disabilities caused by his broken back he risked being looked at askance by others.

The Masterharper had every intention of using the accident to explain Horgey's slower progress, even though he had progressed better since it, under T'rin's tutelage! It would however give the boy a better chance among the youngsters who had either forgotten the one-time notorious bully or had never even known him when he was at the Harper Hall, having come since he had left under a cloud.

Though the accident had left Horgey incapacitated, initially totally paralysed from the waist down, he was gaining more feeling and movement every sevenday! He took Weyrhealer Calla's advice to make haste slowly, but his range of movement was increasing gradually. He could stand now in water in the bathing pool, providing he supported himself against the cavern wall, and could now get himself onto the necessary stool with a series of grabrails without needing the hoist the logicator design team had made for him. The only thing he had to take care of was injuring himself by knocking into furniture and not having a full enough range of feeling to notice; though knee braces and shin pads such as the hurley players wore helped both to hold his knees so that walking and standing were easier; and the pads to prevent too much damage. Such things T'rin explained to Master Robinton, so that a room could be fitted out for Horgey in the Harper Hall to accommodate his wheeled chair and enable him to have the dignity of dealing with his own hygiene: that also meant he would not have to take up the time of a trained Healer.

Robinton was delighted; and requested the presence of Masterhealer Oldive. The Masterhealer promptly demanded plans for the necessary modifications, and asked also for copies of plans of the hoist to use with his own patients.

"Why Master, if you want one, we'll let you have Horgey's now he doesn't need it any more" said T'rin. "We can build another if we have to; and the plans too, of course. His is complex enough to use himself; you may not always want that, but it's there if you do" he grinned "Like to keep some idiot dragonman from grumbling when he's in with a broken leg!"

Oldive smiled.

"Nothing will stop an injured dragonman grumbling; but it should at least reduce it!"

Horgey was to be accompanied by his personal drudge to fetch and carry for him, and give him some support; Danel was simple, for his mother had been a silly and flighty piece who had been afraid to call in Calla for her labour, in the superstitious belief that having a healer present meant that things would go wrong. As a result she grew weak in her protracted and fruitless attempts to deliver a breach birth and she was on the verge of death when Calla was finally alerted by someone who had heard the girl's moans. The breach baby that was stuck was the first of twins; and Calla managed to turn it and deliver it, quite dead. The mother expired quietly too; and Calla, noticing feeble movement still in her belly cut out the remaining twin, Danel. He grew into a good natured and willing child and young man but had suffered the lack of air he needed at birth and was consequently a little slow. He loved music; though he could never learn to reproduce much, and certainly could not learn the complexities of reading music. He had a good sense of rhythm, however, and enjoyed playing drums and tambourine with Horgey. He was almost as excited as Horgey himself to be visiting the Harper Hall!

Help too would be at hand – or claw – from the person of Horgey's little green firelizard, Cadenza, who fetched and carried willingly, and sometimes even managed to fetch what she was sent for!

Thus it was that Horgey found himself in a well-equipped ground floor room at the Harper Hall; T'lana had overseen the construction of the rails and handles wherever he would need them. It was a new single level cot, built against the cliff butting on to the Harper Hall infirmary, with an emergency door into it, where a window had been, as well as the main door to the outside. First one entered a small classroom- office, such as the Masters had in their upstairs suites, at the end furthest from the Harper Hall, with a shiny new black board and chalks, a double board, one side plain the other painted with staves already for quickly demonstrating notation, all on a frame that could be lowered for him then raised for ease for the pupils to see instead of being attached to the wall. There was a good big window in here, and the heavy shutters could be wound shut by him alone using a ratchet set low enough to reach with ease. Through a wide door that took his chair with ease was a necessary on one side, bathing tub on the other, so that pupils could use the necessary if under shutters without going into his private room. Instead of doors, there were lightweight folding screens that just pushed at a touch on small wheels for ease of opening and shutting! And further on, with the door to the infirmary, was his own room, with rails to assist him to get up and down alone. The window in here was smaller, but with the same shutter arrangement. There were two beds in here, his own with its rails and another for Danel, with a curtain between for privacy. It was as excellent an arrangement as any might have come up with!

And, best of all, he was wearing the knots of a journeyman – or at least, acting-Journeyman, with his senior apprentice tassels attached to indicate his unconfirmed and temporary status.

Master Robinton came to Horgey as a courtesy to his disability: and waved the youth down as Horgey struggled to rise.

"No need for that, you must be careful, young Horgey" the Masterharper said in his beautiful voice. His tone was much softer than the last time he had spoken to Horgey; for that had been when he had verbally excoriated the boy before him before expelling him!

"S-sir, I want to say 'thank you' – first for having given me a second chance, and – and even considering me as journeyman – and for this lovely place!" stuttered Horgey.

"I have heard good things of your progress; and of your attitude. Your work is adequate to pass as Journeyman, your instrument crafting somewhat above adequate. It is not, as I am sure you are aware, as good yet as T'rin's; but rarely are we lucky enough to have so talented a youth as T'rin as a Harper. And I do not doubt that I shall soon be able to describe your instrument crafting as 'excellent' with the facilities Master Jerint has to give you more instruction."

Horgey nodded fervently.

"T'rin is brilliant in so many fields" he agreed "And so good at imparting knowledge too!"

"I hear you're good at that yourself" said Robinton.

Horgey flushed with pleasure at the praise.

"I'm glad they – T'rin and L'gal – think so. I – I suppose I remember how hard it was when I came here first and try to be patient. I guess I might have done better if I'd had a teacher as patient as T'rin rather than….er. if I'd been taught by T'rin from the beginning" he flushed deeply, seeing the Masterharper frown slightly as he began to criticise Master Morshal.

"Quite so, Horgey. Discretion is part of being a Harper" said Robinton dryly. "But there are those who respond to a, er, gentler approach in training; and I am going to assign you teaching duties as well as permitting you to work on as Master Jerint's special student crafting instruments. I shall ease you in gently, for you've only been used to small classes up until now; at first I am going to assign you only one class. But it's a tough one."

Horgey gulped.

"Masterharper, I'd do anything to prove how grateful I am for a second chance" he said sincerely.

Robinton smiled in approval.

"There's my good lad….the difficulty will be in patience more than anything else; I'm assigning you to a group of paying female students of Rank. They have some basic training, but…" he closed his eyes "It will require the exercise of much tact."

"Oh dear" Horgey pulled a face. "Well, at least I know what basics Ranking women are supposed to have learned, because of what I'linne has told me. She was Lady Imbellinne, daughter of Lord Meron of Nabol" he explained "And she had a thorough grounding in the basics. Only she's talented in other ways too – she extrapolated the patterns in the drumbeats and applied logic….." he tailed off as the Masterharper gave a crack of laughter.

"You certainly sound like someone from High Reaches Weyr, lad! Be warned, though, that if she's the young lady with the almost impossibly involuted periods of speech that I have heard about from T'rin she probably absorbed more than many of her Rank. I'd hesitate to describe any of them as dim, but…" he let the sentence lie.

"But they're a bit like those Riders T'rin had to tell gently to keep their music as a hobby because he knew fine well they'd neither the talent nor the dedication to ever be better than amateurs?" Horgey finished for him.

Robinton smiled approval on him once more.

"You have it precisely" he said. "Be moderately gentle with them; they are not being pushed to achieve a level of competence required by a craft. But do not let them play you up either; I will back any discipline you set, for I'll not have any be insolent to one of my people who I choose to set over them as their teacher."

"THANK you sir!" Horgey was grateful. "And your tone and choice of words tell me I might expect insolence; I shall try to nip it in the bud. Would – would it be too much to ask if I might have an apprentice to help me? Then I'd have some legs with knowledge attached to them as it were. Danel is good to me, but…."

Robinton nodded quickly. He had spoken to Danel on the way I and assessed him as being in similar case to his simple son, Camo. Danel actually had more understanding and initiative than Camo, but essentially the Masterharper was correct.

"Had you anyone in mind?" he asked.

Horgey flushed again.

"As it happens, yes….but I need to talk to T'rin's old friends and make my apologies before I can ask such a favour. Only I needed to as you if I would be permitted to ask it" he said.

Robinton nodded.

"You'll use her Rank then to keep the girls toeing the line?"

Horgey looked surprised.

"You guessed sir? Why everything that they say about you being omniscient is true!"

Robinton laughed.

"It's part of my job to guess things like that; and now you're using your brain properly, I have every respect for its abilities and your good sense in thinking of such an apprentice. I think it is an excellent idea, and from more than one aspect. It will be a way of weaning her back into being a girl again before it becomes too obvious through her baggy tunics anyway; she's getting too old to be a boy any longer. I'll ask them all to call in and see you, shall I?"

"If you wouldn't mind, sir!" said Horgey, gratefully.

He would like to get that interview over with in any case!

Ferry and friends – Anslas, Kerill, Shoris, Duthi, Stev, Lisend and Kit, or more properly Kitiara – came rather warily into the room where their old enemy sat in his wood and wicker wheeled chair. Their respective firelizards' eyes whirled rather more in nervousness than distress, for the little creatures quickly picked up their Impressed friends' feelings through the mental link.

The friends saw a young man very different to the fat, porcine-eyed bully-boy they had known; Horgey had a big frame, and his shoulders were broad, his arms muscular from lifting his own weight around: but the fat was gone, leaving a fairly good looking face made pleasanter by the tentative smile. There were lines of pain on his forehead – Horgey lived with more pain as feeling and use returned, but considered it a fair trade and refused fellis – but the sneering lines from his nose had gone entirely.

Horgey moistened his lips and swallowed hard, caressing little green Cadenza as his nervousness communicated itself to her.

"Thanks for coming" he said. "I owe you people an apology for my behaviour. I had my reasons; but it's no excuse. And I'm sorry, I truly am. I wish I'd been able to break the mould of the bully and have had the chance to make friends with you back then; but that's all past, and I can't change it. Are you big enough to try to get to know me now, or would you just prefer that we never met, if that can be arranged?"

The group looked at each other, their assorted firelizards gazing as suspiciously at Cadenza as some of the boys were at the new Journeyman.

Ferry broke the silence.

"If T'rin calls you friend these days, then shards! I should think we could, too!" he said, advancing with his hand out.

Horgey grinned in pleasure, and laid his hand in the younger boy's with a firm grasp.

The grin broke the ice more than his carefully rehearsed – though perfectly sincere! – apology; and he was bombarded with questions about the Weyr, and T'rin and L'gal and all the High Reaches apprentices. He held up his hands, laughing.

"Best if I tell it Harper fashion from the beginning" he said "Both the hearsay from before I got there, and what I know for myself. Why don't you go fetch cushions from my bed and make yourselves comfortable by the fire? Danel will help."

"Danel good at helping" said Danel.

Being used to Camo, Danel's simplicity was no shock to the youngsters; and they greeted him cheerfully as they curled up for the story.

The youngsters drank in tales of T'rin and the logicators, Kitiara sighing mournfully to hear of the Journeyman's attachment to Allessa, the Harperweyr Headwoman, whose son he had also fostered; and Horgey said hastily,

"The trouble with T'rin is he's far too talented for love, I think. Allessa will get hurt, I'm afraid, because I don't personally believe that T'rin could ever love truly any woman who does not understand his extremely clever music. And that's few enough people. I certainly don't understand all its subtle nuances and I'm not sure anyone else at the Harperweyr does except L'gal perhaps! Master Domick would, of course, but few of us are given to be that talented."

T'rin had apprised Horgey of Kit's infatuation; and that Ferry had fancied her. Ferry at least appeared to have outgrown whatever brief and violent passion he had felt for the red-haired girl, treating her like a younger brother as he seemed to be; and perhaps Kit was growing out of T'rin, for she only sighed and smiled ruefully. Horgey suspected that unrequited love had become no more than a habit for her, and that she was as much in love with the idea of being in love as with T'rin himself.

The youth grinned to himself.

There was almost a song in that thought.

Ferry was the one to ask,

"You said you had reason to bully – do you mind telling us? If we could understand, then as older apprentices maybe we could help younger would-be bullies to break the mould, as you put it. Which would be good for them as well as for their victims."

Horgey hesitated: then nodded.

"I guess people who bully have grown up knowing nothing but violence" he said. "It…..bear with me, it's not going to be easy to tell. Some of it is pretty…..embarrassing."

Kit reached over and patted his hand.

"You got yourself over it; that's what matters" she said practically.

Horgey gave her a smile of gratitude; and began his tale. The shocked looks in the eyes of the youngsters over his earliest memory being his mother's death at the hands of his drunken father and their cries of sympathy spurred him on to tell of the drunken beatings and to confess in a low voice filled with tears of the humiliations of his uncle's sexual abuse.

"I started eating to make myself ugly to put him off, to make myself big, because he said I was such a pretty and so little boy" he said. "And later, well, food was just comforting. So I got fat. Really fat, as you remember. And when I got here, of course, I was bullied about that, called names, used as a punching bag. Then I found I could use that extra weight to literally lean on smaller boys, and I could push myself up by pushing others down."

Ferry nodded. They had all drawn closer to him in sympathy.

"Now we're older" Ferry said "We can understand better what happened to you."

"People do strange things to make themselves overcome poor self image" said Shoris. "You've Rayenn in the Weyr, haven't you now…."

"Yes, I know about R'enn's background" said Horgey, "And now he's a Bronze Rider nobody can fardle with his head."

Shoris grinned and gave a melodious seabred yodel. His voice had settled down after breaking and was still just as golden in its deeper register!

"Good kid! Elissa said he'd come through!" he approved. "BRONZE Rider, eh? That'll show his worm of a father!"

Horgey grinned.

"I heard that Z'kan and H'llon showed him a few things too – like a a graphic demonstration of what a water-wheel driven saw can do to a man's fundamental parts without killing him to drive his dragon Between. But that's for your private ears – we don't criticise any dragonrider in public."

"Discreet as a Harper, Journeyman!" grinned Ferry "Oh, wait – we ARE Harpers!"

There was a burst of hilarity over that sally!

Horgey glanced at Kit.

"Lady Kitiara, if you are able to forgive my behaviour towards you, I've a favour to ask" he said.

Kit blinked.

"Don't call me that, I've no Rank here" she said "-sir, I should add."

"I didn't mean to offend; you are right, we are as logicators together here, there is no rank so no need for 'sir' either. But I do hope I may ask a favour?"

"You can always ask" she said. "I can refuse, I take it, if it's a favour not an order?"

"Oh yes, certainly. I hope you will agree to it, however; the Masterharper has asked me to teach the paying Ranking girls - yes, exactly" he added dryly as she pulled a face "And I'd like an apprentice as my legs who has a decent base of knowledge. And if I also had a Ranking girl with fine gowns and apprentice knots, then my apprentice wouldn't have to take any crackdust no matter HOW spoiled some of those little – er, girls, might be."

Kitiara grinned wickedly.

"That might even be fun!" she said. "Putting down a bunch of mimsy-mannered, stuck up, wherry-headed rattle-tongued excuses for a waste of space!"

"You might say so, apprentice; I couldn't possibly comment" grinned Horgey.