Robinton fidgeted nervously, drumming his fingers on his thigh. As soon as he recognized 'The Ballad of Moreta's Ride' he stilled his hand. This was absurd! He had performed hundreds of times in front of audiences of all sizes, and yet here he stood, practically trembling.
Of course, Robinton thought, as the first egg started to rock, he had never before stood on the hatching ground in Benden Weyr, attempting to impress his very own dragon.
As another egg began to rock, Robinton spared a brief thought for the time when he had almost given up on his dream: when word of the clutch was spread, but no dragonriders came to the hall - or anywhere - on search for new candidates. As the day of hatching drew closer, and closer, Robinton assumed that Falloner had forgotten all about him - a lack of faith in his best friend that Robinton was now kicking himself for.
The day of the Hatching, when the dragonriders came to collect the Masterharper and the other dignitaries, including Merelan, C'gan came to the Hall as well, at the Weyrleader's request, to collect young Robinton to stand on the hatching ground.
A handful of eggs suddenly started rocking violently, and Robinton felt Falloner squeeze his other hand. He glanced over at his best friend, and at Bravonner, who was holding his brother's other hand. They were the only three boys on the hatching ground standing so close together - the others were all spread out, giving nervous glances to the eggs and to each other. Robinton was somewhat surprised that the weyrbred boys were so nervous - with the exception of S'loner's boys. Robinton took strength from the stoic presence of Falloner beside him, and let his grip on the other boy's hand ground his nervous jitters.
The humming from the dragons ratcheted up a notch and Robinton felt an excitement and soothing warmth spread through his brain. Suddenly the first shell cracked, and a wet bronze nose poked out. A cheer went up from the weyrmen and guests, as a Bronze first was always lucky.
The nose having come so suddenly, Robinton imagined that the little beast would spring forward quite quickly, but the little bronze dragon seemed to take forever and ever to break through the rest of his shell.
As it struggled, two more eggs started to crack, and Robinton couldn't decide where to look. The three eggs were on different sides of the rough circle, and a small part of his brain couldn't help but point out that he, Falloner, and Bravonner were three candidates. Wouldn't it be something if they were all three to impress, and to get the first three dragons of the clutch?
Robinton tried to press such ideas to the back of his mind, as his mother would say it was frightfully arrogant. Robinton was not usually an arrogant boy, and in fact he often suppressed his thoughts that sounded even a little smug, for fear of what some person like his father would say upon hearing them.
But, surely, Robinton reasoned, this was the one time when he would be expected to be slightly arrogant. He, Robinton of the Harper Hall, was standing on the hatching ground of Benden Weyr, watching the hatching! And not just watching, attempting to impress one of the dragonets! It was a powerfully heady feeling, and in the glow of it, Robinton missed the first little bronze finally emerging from its shell.
Falloner's death grip on his hand brought Robinton back to reality and he shook his head, unconsciously mirroring the action of the little bronze. The second egg cracked quite suddenly, and a second bronze occupant emerged in a rush. Robinton missed the moment that it impressed - R'gul - as he later learned, because at that moment Falloner dropped his hand and ran towards the first beast.
"His name is Simanith!" came the triumphant cry.
Robinton and Bravonner whooped for his success, and quickly rejoined hands with each other - for comfort or for luck, Robinton was unsure.
As the gold egg began to rock, and as the other eggs began to hatch in every direction, Robinton lost track of which boy made impression, so caught up was he in the blur of colors and emotions.
And suddenly, his mind was filled with a sense of calm and clarity. Looking around, he saw a brown dragon staring at him. The minute he made eye contact, Robinton felt the most intense joy he had ever felt in his life - better even than when he had performed in the Weyr! Simultaneously, his stomach was assaulted by a gnawing hunger, and a voice spoke to him.
I am Torpenth.
A light treble voice that had echoes of baritone in it, the musical sound flooded his mind in a rush. Robinton shouted in delight - the sound was so melodically beautiful! And Torpenth was his!
He was vaguely cognizant of an echoing shout from Falloner, and as he swung around to glance at his friend, he caught a glimpse of his mother, seated on the bottom tier. Except that she was no longer seated - she leapt to her feet and clapped enthusiastically for her son. Robinton could tell that her wide grin mirrored his own, and he gave her an enthusiastic wave before turning back to his dragon.
Torpenth had moved to his side, as had Falloner and Simanith. At some point during the excitement, the gold egg hatched, and Robinton now noticed the queen and her new rider being led from the arena by C'rob and M'ridin. A moment later, S'loner was standing before the boys, beaming at them.
"Let's get your young lads fed now," he said cheerfully, draping one arm over Falloner's shoulder.
"His name is Simanith, Sir," his son made the introduction.
Before Robinton could respond to his friend's shortened name, Bravonner piped up from behind him. "B'vron, rider of green Sageth."
F'lon and Robinton both spun around to look at the younger lad, and the green dragon peering shyly out from behind him. "Shells, when did that happen?" F'lon gaped.
"Right after Robinton impressed," he replied, showing a sardonic smile much like his half brother's.
Robinton needed no prompting to introduce his brown as they continued to walk out of the Hatching Cavern. "R'bin, Sir, and this is Torpenth."
As B'vron squeezed under F'lon's arm, S'loner grinned and draped his free arm around R'bin's shoulder. "Then welcome, lads, to the life of a dragonrider!"