As soon as Weyrlingmaster K'nebel dismissed the class and left the students alone with their dragons, the boys began to whisper behind Mirrim's back.
"D'rin got beaten by a girl!"
"Shut up, Lenith and I weren't really trying. Who cares if you can do better than a girl?"
Lenith was trying, Path remarked. It's difficult to make sharp turns around an object with a wingspan as broad as his.
I know, replied Mirrim. And so do they.
The whispers grew louder, until they were clearly intended to be overheard:
"Wait till Path rises, then she won't act so proud."
"That's sure the only way Mirrim will ever get any!"
Mirrim spun around, marched across the sands of Benden Bowl, and banged D'rin and T'kim's heads together with a satisfying crack.
"You can't do that!" yelped D'rin. "We're dragonriders!"
F'lessan, who had been unbuckling his bronze Golanth's straps, stopped his work. "You're not acting like it."
Mirrim would have at least given him a grateful look, but she didn't want the other weyrlings to think she needed anyone's support. She returned to Path and mounted her dragon. Path leaped into the air and ascended toward their weyr, leaving the boys behind.
I will never let Lenith fly me, said Path. Or Ralath, or Forloth, or Derianth, or Surillith. Maybe Golanth. Are your fighting straps tight?
Mirrim laughed, knowing what was coming. "Go ahead."
Path arrowed up and looped over, briefly turning Mirrim upside down. Mirrim had taken off her riding helmet, and her long braid smacked her in the face.
Mirrim spat out a stray hair. "That was perfect."
Path spiraled down into their weyr and landed on the stone ledge. First brown Tolly, then the little greens Reppa and Lok popped out of between to greet Mirrim and Path. Mirrim scratched her fire lizards' brow ridges and soothed the indignant and lonely feelings they sent her.
Since Mirrim had been unable to prevent her fire lizards from attacking the boys every time she got angry at them, and also unable to prevent herself from getting angry, Weyrlingmaster K'nebel had banished the fire lizards from the weyrling class. Apparently, preventing the weyrlings from giving her reasons to be angry wasn't worth trying. She hoped it would be different when she joined a real fighting wing.
T'gellan likes you, said Path. So does N'ton. And G'sel. And T'gran. And F'nor. They're all in fighting wings.
"None of them are sixteen-year-old boys, either," Mirrim replied. "Oh, well. They always split up the new weyrlings, so no wing gets stuck with too many inexperienced riders at once. Maybe I'll be with F'lessan and…" she tried to think of two more boys in her class she didn't dislike. "…anyone but D'rin and T'kim."
A fire lizard landed on her shoulder. Mirrim tilted her head and squinted at it, then held out her forearm. The little queen switched perches and held out her front leg, chittering urgently.
Mirrim recognized her as Menolly's Beauty – with a message tied around her leg. Mirrim unrolled the damp, salty-smelling scrap of cloth. In smeary letters, it read, Follow the lizard.
"Is Menolly somewhere around here?" Mirrim asked, though she didn't know how the queen could reply to her.
The queen is picturing a beach, said Path.
Unless Menolly had inexplicably taken it into her head to return to Half Circle Sea Hold, Mirrim had a feeling she knew where that beach must be. "Is the image vivid enough for you to get there?"
It wasn't like Menolly to send a frivolous message that could be misinterpreted as a cry for help. If she did need help, Mirrim ought to alert the Weyrleaders about the situation. On the other hand, the message was neither explicit nor alarming, and was clearly directed at Mirrim. If Menolly wanted F'lar and Lessa to get the message, she could have sent Beauty to them.
Besides, Path had never been to the South. Sun, water, and abundant wild food: she would love it.
You miss it, said Path.
"I do," confessed Mirrim. "Benden is so cold."
Mirrim packed an assortment of medical supplies, blankets, spare riding gear, food, water, and, given that even with Thread back on a regular schedule it was better to be cautious than dead, firestone. She strapped in.
"Take me to that beach," said Mirrim. "And no loops, or everything will fall out of the baskets."
Path leaped from the ledge, seemed to hang in the air for an instant, then went between. Blackness wrapped itself around Mirrim like a smothering cloak.
Three heartbeats, and sight and sound and feeling were restored. Given the description of "a beach," Mirrim had pictured something idyllic, but the beach they hung above had been hit by a storm. The sand was ploughed up, trees were snapped off and uprooted, and driftwood and mounds of seaweed and the occasional dead fish were scattered across the sands. But now the sky was clear, the ocean was calm, and the air was hot and still.
Path circled, then landed in an area relatively free of debris. Mirrim dismounted and looked curiously down at the black volcanic sand. The beaches she was familiar with had been white or gold. She picked up a pinch of sand and rubbed it, half-expecting it to stain her fingers. The dark grains fell away, leaving nothing behind but the smell of the sea.
"Mirrim!" a familiar voice shouted.
Menolly stepped out from behind the fallen crown of an enormous tree. She was darkly tanned, her hair was overgrown and frizzing in the humid air, and her clothes were ragged and stained. Her fair of nine fire lizards followed her, and Mirrim's three rose into the air to join them in play.
"Path has gotten so big!" Menolly exclaimed. "But perfectly proportioned. She's one of the most sleek, graceful-looking dragons I've ever seen. And that landing was beautiful."
Mirrim glowed with happiness on Path's behalf.
I like her, said Path.
Mirrim unbuckled herself and slid down. "Please, flatter Path any time. She loves it. Don't you, you vain thing?"
Path sent Mirrim a sense of smug contentedness, followed by a wistful longing for the ocean.
"Menolly, do you need me to fly you out right now?" asked Mirrim. "Or is there time for Path to swim?"
"There's no rush," replied Menolly. "No one's expecting me back for a few more days. It's just that the boat I'd hidden here was destroyed in the storm."
Mirrim began to take off Path's riding straps and baskets. Menolly came over to help.
"What were you doing here, anyway?" asked Mirrim.
Menolly smiled enigmatically. "What a Harper hears is for the Harper's ears."
"Oh, fine," retorted Mirrim. "It's not like I can't guess. You and your fire lizards were spying on the exiled Oldtimers. Don't worry, I won't blab."
"I know that," said Menolly peacefully. "That's why I called you."
"No one at Benden would have blabbed," said Mirrim. "I suppose you thought everyone else had important work to do."
"Actually, I thought that out of everyone I know at Benden, you were the most likely to be busy - other than the Weyrleaders. I called you because you were the one I wanted to see."
Mirrim stopped with her fingers jammed between a strap and Path's velvet hide. "Me?"
"Yes. You. I've missed you."
Path's hide rippled impatiently. Mirrim hastily undid the last buckle, leaving Path clad in nothing but her emerald hide. The dragon shook herself, then raced into the ocean and began rolling around in the water, sending up clouds of sooty black into the blue.
Menolly ducked her head shyly. "It's only that you are so busy. And so am I. We haven't seen each other for half a Turn. I was here, and I needed to call someone, so…"
"No, no, it's fine! I'm glad you did." Mirrim's lips clamped tight together before she could blurt out any further confessions of neediness and insecurity, like, You're the first person who's gone out of their way to see me in half a Turn, other than Brekke, and she's my foster-mother.
The girls watched Path weave her slim green body in and out of the crashing waves.
"She really is beautiful. Maybe I'll write her a song some time," Menolly offered. "I can't think of any songs about green dragons. I think they get overshadowed by the queens."
"What's the matter?" asked Menolly. "Is Path feeling unappreciated?"
"More like I'm feeling unappreciated," confessed Mirrim. "Menolly, does anyone ever still harass you or whisper about you now that you're a journeyman?"
"Harass, not really. Whisper, sometimes. But it's not that bad. Are people being horrible to you?"
Mirrim hesitated. But if she couldn't talk to Menolly, who could she talk to?
"I'm the only girl in the weyrling class," Mirrim began. But once she started, all her pent-up resentment poured out in a flood. "I'm the only girl to ride a fighting dragon in hundreds – maybe thousands – of years. Since I was never supposed to be a candidate, I'm three years older than the oldest boy. They don't like having a girl in their classes, they don't like the idea of fighting with a girl, they don't like that I Impressed Path instead of one of their friends who didn't Impress at all, and they don't like that Path is the most agile dragon in the entire class."
"It sounds like they're jealous," said Menolly. "I remember that the more the Masters at Harper Hall complimented me, the more the girl students hated me."
"Oh, I do think the other greenriders are jealous of Path," said Mirrim. "And I don't mind that. But when they say, 'You think you're so special,' they don't mean, 'You're special because you ride the best green on Pern.' They mean, 'You're special because you're a girl.' And that's not why I want to be special. I wish there were others girls who rode fighting dragons."
"I wish there were other girl Harpers, too." Menolly absently hummed a few measures of a mournful tune that Mirrim didn't recognize. "There must be other girls who were like me before Petiron sent my songs to Master Robinton – Hold girls, Crafter girls, even Weyr girls with unrecognized musical talent. But there was only one Petiron."
"And there's only one Path."
Mirrim's dragon was barely visible as a shadowy streak of green beneath the blue. Dragons can hold their breath for a very long time. Path surfaced with an enormous splash and a silvery fish in her jaws. She swallowed it in a gulp, and sent Mirrim an impression of the particular pleasure of eating a small, tender morsel that one had cleverly caught oneself.
Good work, Path, Mirrim mentally called out.
She said aloud, "The weyrling boys especially don't like that back before I Impressed Path, when I helped out Manora in the Lower Caverns, I used to bang them on the head for stealing sweets – oh, and today I lost my temper and banged two of their heads together. That'll make them like me!"
Menolly began to laugh. After a moment, Mirrim joined her.
"Maybe I can come over later and bang some more heads," Menolly offered. "But at least you're here now. Are you hungry?"
"With all the exercising I've been doing, I'm always hungry."
Menolly beckoned Mirrim over behind a fallen tree, where she had cleared out what it took Mirrim a moment to recognize as a small living area: roof of dense branches, bed of sweet rushes and sailcloth, rock-ringed fire died down to glowing coals.
Menolly took a branch and pulled several leaf-wrapped packets out of the embers. Carefully unwrapping them, she laid out tubers, spiderclaws, and a slab of wherry meat. Steam rose up from the opened packets, carrying scents of land and sea.
"I killed a wherry this morning to feed my fair," Menolly explained. "If Path's still hungry, I can point her toward the rest of the flock."
"She ate a few days ago. I think she's just excited to try new things." Mirrim scooped up a helping of tubers. One was white and fluffy and sweet, one was purple, sharp, and grainy, and one was yellow, starchy, and dense. The three had been chopped together and seasoned with salt and seaweed. "That's delicious. If you have any tubers left, I'll bring them back for Brekke to try."
"I'll dig some more up for you." Menolly pushed the spiderclaws toward Mirrim. "Have some of these. Nice and plump!"
Mirrim cracked a shell and pulled out the buttery meat. But as she began a second one, she had the strange feeling that rather than delicate spiderclaw, she was eating gamy wherry, and not even baked wherry, but wherry fresh and raw and bloody. She could almost feel the coppery blood running down her throat. Maybe that was what was making her so hot, and making her shirt feel so tight. She tugged at her collar.
Menolly must be hot too. She was flushed and sweating. Mirrim reached out to wipe the sweat from her friend's face. Menolly's skin was so soft. Mirrim dropped the spiderclaw she was holding in her other hand, wiped her fingers on her pants, and traced her fingers along the delicate line of Menolly's throat.
Mirrim suddenly realized what was going on. "Where's that wherry you killed?"
Menolly pointed. The girls ran toward it together. Mirrim kept stumbling. It was hard to pay attention to anything but the taste of blood, the heat of Menolly's body beside her, and the lure of the open sky.
Reppa was perched on the remains of the dead wherry, sucking and tearing at its throat. She glowed brilliant green, and her eyes whirled red. Mirrim's Tolly and Menolly's six male fire lizards ringed the wherry, watching Reppa intently. The other female fire lizards were already in the air, shrieking.
Mirrim hastily sent Lok back to Benden. A moment later, Menolly's queens and greens also vanished.
If Mirrim didn't say anything, events would take their course and no one would ever blame her. But once she had that thought, she knew she had to speak. "I can go to Benden too, and come back for you later."
Do you want to leave? asked Path from the beach.
Almost simultaneously, Menolly said, "Do you want to go?"
It was impossible to want to leave when half of Mirrim was tearing hot flesh with Reppa, taking her own sweet time to taunt her eager suitors. But Mirrim tried to listen to the part of herself which wasn't Reppa, which was Mirrim who understood concepts like friendship and consequences.
"No," said Mirrim. "I don't. But I will if you want me to. If you want me to, Menolly, not Menolly-and-her-six-fire-lizards."
Menolly took Mirrim's sweaty hands in her own. "Don't go."
"Won't we feel silly if my own Tolly catches her," muttered Mirrim, watching Reppa's tongue flicking out to lick the blood from around her jaws.
"In a flight with two bronzes? Not likely. Besides -"
Reppa bugled a shrill taunt at her suitors. The other fire lizards tensed, trembling. With a flick of her tail, she was aloft, and Mirrim was aloft with her.
She soared above the fallen trees and angled out toward the sparkling ocean. Glancing behind her, she saw that the small blue and two of the browns were lagging, but the larger browns and the bronzes were not far behind. She abruptly dove down and looped behind them, sending them veering off in confusion. Darting back toward land, she swung in a tight arc around one of the few trees still standing, then ascended again into the sky, glorying in the power and freedom of flight.
A bugle broke into her reverie. Only the two bronzes were close now. She sped back to the ocean as she considered which of them she might favor. Or perhaps she would outfly them all. She dipped down toward the waves, flying so low that she was misted with spray from the waves. Let them risk the waters, if they dared!
A neck twined around hers. She squeaked in surprise. Neither of the bronzes had gotten close. It was the blue, the smallest of them all, who had camouflaged himself against the water in the hope that she would come to him. He had been clever enough to catch her, so she would have him. The two skimmed across the waters, locked together.
Mirrim barely retained consciousness of herself as a woman, so attuned was she to Reppa. Her arms and Menolly's were locked around each other, or was that Reppa's neck entwined with that of Menolly's blue? They lay together on the sands, or were they still flying over the ocean? Mirrim felt Menolly's hands on her body, but the final ecstasy was both Mirrim's and Reppa's, and so was the satiated sleep that overcame them in the end.
When Mirrim awoke, she was lying naked on the sand. Menolly had draped the sailcloth over her and she was shaded by a napping Path, so she hadn't been sunburned. Menolly had gotten dressed again in clothes that were distinctly more ragged and torn than when Mirrim had first seen then, and was sitting beside her nibbling on something.
"Spiderclaw?" Menolly held one out. She had brought all the food over.
"Thanks." Mirrim was still floating on leftover bliss, and also ravenous. She tore through three spiderclaws and a piece of leftover wherry before she remembered that Menolly was Hold-bred and Craft-trained, and might not be as contented as Mirrim. Mirrim frowned, trying to plan out her words rather than, as was her usual pattern, blurt out something tactless that would make everyone hate her.
You made her very happy, said Path, opening one opalescent eye. She will not hate you.
"Are you happy?" Mirrim spoke abruptly, not knowing how to say it other than to just say it.
Menolly's broad grin allowed for no ambiguity of interpretation. "Of course I'm happy! That was wonderful. Are you happy?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" asked Mirrim. "Oh, well, I mean, I only asked because I wasn't sure how you'd feel."
"My fire lizards have risen before, you know," said Menolly.
"So have mine. But not –"
"Not with another woman?" asked Menolly. "I thought Weyrfolk didn't care about that."
"Oh, we don't," Mirrim assured her. "We're not inhibited like you Holders… Crafters… er… Not that you were inhibited! I mean…"
Menolly ruefully gestured for her to continue.
Mirrim stopped and thought about what she had said. "Except for Path, fighting dragons are ridden by men. And queens and greens don't mate with each other anyway. So men can be with men during mating flights, but women can't be with women."
"But fire lizards don't care who they Impress."
"That's true," said Mirrim. "I don't understand why women stopped riding green dragons. I know they did in the past."
"Isn't it hard to carry a child to term if you go between too often?"
"But some women would rather foster. Some don't want children at all. Why shouldn't those women ride greens? Why shouldn't women ride blues, or browns, or even bronzes? Why shouldn't men ride queens? Brekke has a bronze fire lizard, and F'nor has a queen. What difference would it make if the Weyrleaders were a man riding a queen and a woman riding a bronze, or two men, or two women?"
Menolly gave Mirrim a mock-disapproving look. "Wherever did you get those radical ideas?"
"Brekke," said Mirrim simply. "She always wanted me to be a candidate for a fighting dragon. And F'nor, I suppose. Canth was going to try to fly Wirenth, even though browns aren't supposed to fly queens. And… I think… you. Before you, women weren't Harpers."
"Except for me, they still aren't."
"Yes, but there's no good reason for that. There's no good reason why no woman but me should ever Impress a fighting dragon."
If your weyrling class is typical, there's a good reason why more women should, remarked Path.
Mirrim repeated what Path had said, and added, over Menolly's chuckle, "So why shouldn't women be with women?"
"I'm glad they can." Menolly stretched. Her lower back popped audibly. "That was my first mating flight with anyone but Sebell. My bronzes always fly his queen Kimi. If it's one of my greens, or Beauty…" she shrugged ruefully. "I lock myself in a room. With Sebell, if he's there. By myself, if he's not."
"Will Sebell mind?" asked Mirrim. "I mean, about Reppa and Uncle. And us."
Menolly shook her head. "We knew this sort of thing could happen. And we've spent so much time at Benden, maybe some of Benden's attitudes wore off on us. Besides, he likes you. What do you usually do when your fire lizards rise?"
"Call in G'sel and his bronze fire lizard, Rill," said Mirrim promptly. "He's a greenrider a little older than me, who used to be at Southern and transferred to Benden. I like him."
"I thought you liked T'gellan."
"I do, but not for mating flights. He doesn't have a fire lizard, and it's not much fun being a stand-in." At Menolly's startled look, Mirrim said, "I guess Benden attitudes didn't wear off that much. Want to swim?"
Path followed the girls into the ocean, and stayed in after they emerged. The fire lizards returned in twos and threes, several of the males accompanied by wild greens. Reppa, in company with Uncle, exuded satisfaction, and even without an empathic link, Mirrim could read Uncle's pride in the tilt of his head. Mirrim and Menolly got dressed in the clean clothes Mirrim had brought, and went to Menolly's fallen tree home to warm themselves by the fire. The sky above the sea darkened, and the clouds became blood red edged with blazing gold.
"I suppose I should take you back now," said Mirrim.
"I suppose you should."
Neither of them moved. Mirrim watched the reflected fire dancing in Menolly's eyes.
"Would Sebell mind –" Mirrim began, just as Menolly said, "Would you like to try –"
They both stopped, looked at each other, then began again:
"I don't only mean that I'm curious –"
"A mating flight is completely different –"
Path's voice was tinged with laughter. She is trying to say, "Yes, please."
Mirrim put her hands on Menolly's shoulders and leaned in to kiss her. Her friend's lips were soft and speckled with tiny crystals of salt, and her mouth tasted like the sea. Mirrim didn't recall doing any kissing during the mating flight, but then she had been more Reppa than Mirrim, and Menolly had been more Uncle.
"Why did you have to name your blue 'Uncle?'" asked Mirrim. "I have to try to not think of him by name when I think of the mating flight, or it feels very, very wrong."
They were still so close together that Mirrim felt Menolly's warm breath on her lips when Menolly spoke. "I was trying to survive alone in a cave with nine fire lizards. Believe me, if I'd been thinking about future mating flights, I wouldn't have named both the greens Auntie either. Sebell keeps threatening to re-name them. He has a very old auntie with no teeth and three long hairs on her chin, and I don't think he enjoys being reminded of her at moments like…"
Menolly slid her hand up beneath Mirrim's shirt, and lightly drew her fingers over Mirrim's nipples. Mirrim stopped breathing.
"…This." Menolly removed her hand.
"Don't stop," said Mirrim.
Menolly pulled Mirrim's shirt off and put her tongue to work where her hand had been.
"Never mind, that's better, keep doing that," Mirrim gasped. And then, after a few minutes, "Take your shirt off. I want to see."
"You've already seen everything," Menolly pointed out.
"Only underwater," replied Mirrim. "It distorts. Come on."
Menolly put her hands on her shirt and grinned teasingly, flipping the hem up and down to expose and cover up the same two inches of brown skin.
"You're as bad as Reppa," said Mirrim, and launched herself at Menolly.
Menolly easily rolled over backward, allowing Mirrim to pin her. "Want it off? Take it off."
Mirrim slowly rolled the shirt upward, kissing Menolly's belly and chest as she went. Menolly was lanky and tall, flat-bellied and well-muscled. It was the type of woman's body that people called "boyish." But Mirrim had had her share of girlhood experimentation with boys at Southern Weyr, and though everyone had enjoyed themselves, the encounters had been distinctly awkward and hasty. No boy had ever been patient enough to let her explore their body like this.
Menolly's breasts were small, fitting perfectly into Mirrim's cupped hands, and their tips were very dark. Recalling how good it had felt when Menolly had flicked her tongue across Mirrim's own nipples, Mirrim did the same to Menolly. They stiffened under her tongue, and she felt more than heard Menolly's gasp.
Mirrim lingered there a while, then continued working her way up. Menolly had the most elegant collarbones, Mirrim thought as she traced them with her tongue. The hollow of the throat too was a beautiful and under-appreciated part of the body.
"Yours is especially nice," murmured Mirrim.
"My what?" Menolly sounded breathless, which was unusual for her. She normally had perfect control over her breathing and voice.
"Your throat. It's lovely. Must be all that singing. Your mouth too."
Menolly began to laugh. "Let me show you something I can do with my mouth that I didn't learn at Harper Hall… well, technically I did learn it there, but not in class."
Menolly rolled Mirrim on to her back, knelt over her, and squirmed out of her own pants. Her long runner's legs were scratched and bruised, but they weren't what Mirrim was looking at. She reached out to touch the lush nest of hair that had been revealed, expecting it to be as velvety as it looked. Instead, it was as rough as Mirrim's own. Intrigued, she slid her fingers through the thicket until she found the soft wetness within. Menolly caught her breath, and her hand on Mirrim's shoulder tightened its grip.
"You were saying…?" Mirrim asked mischievously.
Menolly shook her gently. "You keep doing what you're doing! You'll get your reward."
Mirrim slid a finger upward until she found the tiny knob that conveyed so much sensation. Menolly stiffened and gasped. Mirrim reached her other hand up around Menolly's back and pulled her down. Their lips met, and Mirrim moved her tongue in an instinctive rhythm with her hand. Menolly arched her back, offering Mirrim easier access. Mirrim was fascinated by how hot Menolly was inside. Would Mirrim feel the same way to Menolly? Suddenly, Menolly froze and let out a sharp cry, then melted into a bonelessly relaxed puddle on top of Mirrim.
Mirrim let her lie for a while, then poked her. "You're squashing me. Also, I believe there's a reward waiting for me… Not that that wasn't its own reward."
Menolly stretched lazily. "Oh, it's no trouble. You just stay where you are."
Mirrim put her hands under her head and watched as Menolly slithered down and parted Mirrim's thick hair. The touch of her fingers awakened Mirrim's desire, and she almost asked Menolly to use those instead. A Harper should be adept with both fingers and tongue, thought Mirrim with an inward grin.
Menolly's tongue was as hot as she was inside, and did indeed move with expert grace. Mirrim clutched at the reeds beneath her. She felt as if she was flying; as if she and Menolly were on their very own mating flight, spiraling up and up and up into the clouds and then plunging toward the water, joined together in mid-air.
By the time they untangled themselves and went once more to bathe, the moons were high over the trees.
I like it here, said Path. So do you. Do we have to go?
Mirrim sighed. "Yes, Path. Unfortunately." She turned to Menolly. "Harper Hall?"
"Let me get one thing." Menolly kicked aside a clump of seaweed on the beach, revealing the characteristic shape of a buried fire lizard clutch. She dug up the eggs and transferred them into a pot, nestled in warm sand. With three eggs left to move, she hesitated. "I don't know if you'll like this idea, Mirrim, but it occurs to me that if you had fire lizard eggs to hand out to your friends, it might inspire the boys to be nicer to you."
Mirrim considered it, then shook her head. "It might. But they don't deserve fire lizards. It's only another half-a-Turn before we all get transferred to fighting wings anyway. I can wait. What I'd rather do is try to get more girl candidates for fighting dragons."
"Talk to Lessa?" suggested Menolly dubiously. "No – talk to Brekke!"
"I was thinking of talking to the Search riders," said Mirrim. "And if that doesn't work, having Path talk to the Search dragons. If the dragons are willing to consider girls, they'll find girls. It would be just as radical to refuse to let a Searched candidate on the grounds as it would be for a girl to stand as a candidate for a fighting dragon."
Menolly covered the last eggs with sand. "Which makes it the Weyrleaders' problem, not yours. Sneaky. I approve."
So do I, said Path. I will speak to Trebeth and Relth.
"What about you?" asked Mirrim. "Will you look for more Harper girls?"
"I'll talk to Master Robinton. Though Harpers may be harder to influence than dragons."
The girls put on their riding leathers and mounted Path. Mirrim twisted around and kissed Menolly. "Do this again? Same time, next half-a-Turn?"
Menolly nodded. "It'll celebrate you and Path joining a fighting wing."
Path launched herself into the air. Mirrim pictured the sky over Harper Hall, and carried the memory of Menolly's warmth into the freezing darkness of between.