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Impression Song

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An image of a green dragon landing on the courtyard stones flickered into Menolly's mind, and she looked up, startled. Beauty chirped from her perch on one of the rafters, watching Menolly testing a fingering for one of her recent compositions. "A green dragon coming here? What for?" The answering projection brought a smile to Menolly's face, and she set down the sheets, spurring her steps into a light jog as she exited the building and headed to the courtyard. Beauty winked between, following Menolly outside and settling on a roof nearby.

"Mirrim!" she exclaimed. Mirrim was helping a young girl down from Path, and Menolly waited before giving her a hug. "What are you doing here?"

Mirrim grinned. "Bringing Kinret here to be an apprentice; Oharan recommended her."

"Another girl at the Harper Hall? How lovely!" Menolly took a closer look at the child. She wasn't particularly notable in size, being neither as small as Piemur had been, nor overly large, but her eyes were intelligent. They grew wide at Menolly's words.

"Are you . . . are you Journeywoman Menolly?" Kinret asked.

"I am," Menolly answered with a smile, squatting down to look Kinret in the eye. "You must enjoy music, to come to the Harper Hall."

"I do! I love to sing," Kinret exclaimed. She paused for a minute, looking at Menolly carefully. "I remember you telling us stories once. You told us about outrunning Thread."

Menolly laughed. "Oh yes, when I first came to Benden Weyr. My feet hurt a lot then, so I couldn't do much else but tell stories." She reached out to Beauty with her mind, sending a picture of Robinton with the desire for him to come. Beauty vanished between.

"Is that one of your firelizards?" Kinret asked, pointing to Rocky, who sat on the roof next to where Beauty had been moments before.

"He is," Menolly said, calling Rocky to come. He happily settled on her shoulders, and Menolly showed Kinret where to scratch.

Robinton's voice drew their attention as he came walking up. "What's this? Another girl in the Harper Hall? We'll be overrun!" he said with an exaggerated wink toward Menolly and Kinret. "And what's your name, child?"

"Kinret, sir."

"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance." Robinton patted her head, then looked up toward Mirrim, who quickly handed him a note. He scanned it, then looked back at Kinret. "Ahh, so Oharan says you sing well, is that right?" Kinret nodded. "Well then," he turned to direct his remarks to Menolly, "if you wouldn't mind showing her to Silvina; I'll talk to Master Shonagar about her this evening."

"I'll be happy to help her get settled, Master," Menolly said.

"Good, good. And do take the liberty of spending a little time here before you return, Mirrim--I'm certain Menolly wouldn't mind a chance to catch up with you," Robinton admonished the green rider. Menolly blushed a little. "I'll see you another time then, Kinret. I'm glad you're here." Robinton smiled at the newest apprentice at the Harper Hall before heading back inside.

"Where are her things?" Menolly asked Mirrim.

"This bundle here," Mirrim grunted as she grabbed the pack off Path.

"I can carry it," Kinret offered.

"It's heavy," Mirrim warned.

"I can do it," insisted Kinret. Mirrim relinquished her hold on the pack and rolled her eyes at Menolly while Kinret focused on shouldering her belongings.

Menolly poked her head in the kitchen. "Silvina?"

The headwoman didn't take long to come to the doorway. "Well, who's this?" she asked.

"This is Kinret; she's just arrived to be an apprentice here. Comes from Benden Weyr," Menolly informed the older woman.

"Kinret, is it? How many Turns do you have, child?"

"I've ten Turns, Headwoman Silvina."

"Oh, do call me Silvina. Are these your things?" Silvina reached for the pack, and Kinret let it slip from her shoulder. "Good, it looks like you packed well. Follow me, I'll show you to your room, and then we'll see about having Master Robinton introduce you to some of your teachers." She turned to Menolly and Mirrim. "Thank you for bringing her, Menolly. And Mirrim, isn't it?" Mirrim nodded in response. Silvina nodded back and led the young girl away.

"She's efficient," commented Mirrim.

Menolly smiled. "She's a good headwoman." She started walking down the hall. "Come, let's go to my room. Anywhere else, and we'll get mobbed."

Once inside, Menolly settled on the bed as Mirrim looked around. "This is nice!" Mirrim said, surprised. Her eyes took in the desk in the corner, a stand for the gitar, a nice large bed, and colorful woven pictures on the walls.

Menolly followed her gaze to the wall hangings and grinned. "They were a bit shabby and needing mending when I got them; I would've taken bare walls but Silvina insisted I at least have those. The mending really improved them." Menolly glanced around. "Some of the furniture I only got when I was made journeywoman."

Mirrim sat on the cot. "Well, the room is certainly nicer than mine at the weyr!" There was a silence for a few moments until Mirrim spoke again. "Do you think Kinret will enjoy it here?"

"If she loves music, I think she'll feel right at home," said Menolly. "Many of the apprentices are nice, and she's got enough spirit to handle some of the more challenging people she'll meet. She certainly has more confidence than I did. And she isn't arriving in such a state of haste as when I came. I had hardly any clothing with me--"

"What, we let you go off without proper clothing?" Mirrim interrupted with a frown.

"You did!" Menolly answered, laughing. "I didn't even have any underthings." Mirrim looked aghast. "It's fine, really. They had plenty of extras for me here, and I grew some after that anyhow."

The silence was broken with the appearance of a green fire lizard popping in and settling on the bed next to Mirrim. "I wondered how long it would take her to find me," Mirrim said, scratching Reppa's head. "Path probably told her."

Menolly smiled. "Do they communicate a lot, Path and your fire lizards?"

"Some," said Mirrim. "Path doesn't pay much attention to them most of the time, but she'll tell them where I am, and listen if they have something to tell her. Sometimes she helps interpret what they're trying to tell me."

There was a pause, and Menolly finally got up the courage to ask something she'd been wondering about. "How was it different, Impressing Path as compared to your fire lizards?"

The thoughtful tone in Menolly's voice made it unclear whether Menolly the friend or Menolly the Harper was asking. Mirrim decided to assume the latter, just in case. "Well, you already know that fire lizards don't give you their names, or speak to you in words." Menolly nodded. "The strongest difference is the feeling," Mirrim explained. "With fire lizards, it's like . . . oh, a child you're fostering that trusts and loves you and follows you around. You care for them, but they're not equals; they look to you. A dragon, on the other hand, is a partner. You work together, and you feel it right away. There's this instant joy throughout your whole body when Impression's made. You can feel you'll never be alone again, and it's different when you feel that equal partnership."

Menolly had been listening thoughtfully through most of Mirrim's explanation, but before Mirrim could get to the end of it, bits of a tune started to float through Menolly's mind. Her lips were alternately humming and mouthing phrases, and she soon got up and went to the desk in the corner of the room and pulled out a slate and a piece of chalk. Mirrim rose from the cot and walked over to Menolly. "When Impression's made, no, there's no good line to match that," Menolly mumbled before jotting down some things.

Mirrim rolled her eyes and laughed. "I can see you've gone all Harper now. I'd best be getting back to Benden anyway. Come visit sometime when you're thinking about something besides new tunes," she called, and Menolly waved at her with a quick smile before Mirrim disappeared through the doorway.

Menolly turned her attention back to the song, humming a phrase. No, "instant joy throughout" will match better. She wiped off her previous idea and wrote the new line down. Now, that bit about not being alone . . . She tweaked the third line, dissatisfied with the result. It doesn't match the first line. She decided to leave it alone for a bit. Perhaps she should work on a different verse. When was a good place to start talking about Impression? The humming! So "Dragons hum, hark the sound" . . . good.

She was concentrating so hard on the verses that she didn't notice Robinton was in the doorway until Zair chirped. "Oh!"

"Don't let me disrupt your concentration, I was just curious when I saw Mirrim left and you weren't visible. New song?" he asked.

"When I get the words down; the tune's half in my head already. Mirrim was talking about what it was like when she Impressed Path," Menolly explained.

"Ah, carry on then," Robinton said with a grand gesture and a broad smile.

Menolly smiled back. "I'll show you when I've got it finished."

"I'll be looking forward to it." With one last fond smile he slipped back into the hallway.

Menolly refocused on the song. A minor chord . . . there, yes. Now, D major under that phrase. And perhaps the harmony should move against the melody there. Several hours slipped away as she made marks, rubbed them out, and made more marks. Finally she set the slate down, eyeing it critically. It wasn't too bad. She wasn't entirely content with the harmony at that one spot, but no doubt Robinton would have a suggestion for her if he felt it needed fixing. She scooped up the slate and stepped outside her room.

"Hmm. Beauty?" Beauty flew from her rafter perch onto Menolly's shoulder and gave one questioning chirp. "Do you know where Master Robinton is?" She pictured the Masterharper in her mind, sending the image to Beauty as a question. A second later, Menolly received a mental picture of Robinton exiting Master Shonagar's room, and quickly headed in that direction.

"Master Robinton!" she called once he was in sight, and the Harper turned.

"Well, well, song finished so soon?" he asked.

"First draft of it, at least," she answered, holding it out.

Robinton scanned it, humming a bit, mouthing the occasional line. "Good, though I would probably tighten up that harmony at the end of the second line."

Menolly nodded, grinning a little. "I thought you might say that."

"Well, if you thought that, what are you waiting for?" Robinton exclaimed, handing it back. Menolly simply smiled and turned to go. "Menolly?"

"Yes?"

"This is going on the list to play at the next Impression feast. For all that we're distributing fire lizard eggs as fast as we can, it will be a long time before many people have them, and some never will. A song like this will go a long ways towards helping the ordinary person understand dragonriders. Well done." A light smile graced his face.

Menolly's smile was wider to match. "Thank you, Master."

*****

Robinton was true to his word. A few weeks later, Menolly found herself carefully packing the song (among other things) in her pack and hauling it to the courtyard. T'gellan was already there, greeting Robinton cheerfully, and Mirrim stood next to Path. "Come on, Menolly! You don't want to miss the Hatching!" Mirrim urged.

No sooner was Menolly properly situated and strapped in than Path launched herself into the air after Monarth. The cold of between didn't take Menolly by surprise, but she always forgot just how cold it was. She was glad when they landed at the Bowl. It might not have the heat of an Igen summer, but it was a welcome improvement. She flexed her hands as they recovered. "Where do you want me to take our packs?" she asked Mirrim.

"Oh, I'll help you with that. No, don't worry about it, Master Robinton," she scolded the older man as she took his pack from him. "I'm perfectly capable of getting your things settled. I'll bring Menolly back later."

Menolly hid a grin. Mirrim never did really change, but the sight of her ordering Robinton about naturally elicited some mirth. "Where are we going?"

"There's a storage room where we can put them till the feast," she said, gesturing in the general direction. "How's Kinret doing?"

Menolly's face lit up. "She's doing very well! Studies harder than a fair number of the boys. Her talents mainly lie in her voice, which will likely remain as good or better as she matures. She'll make a good harper."

"I'm glad to hear that; we've missed her here but it's good to know she's found a suitable place." Mirrim pushed open a door. "There, we can put the packs in here till you need them."

Menolly was glad to drop off her burden. "So," she asked Mirrim as the other girl deposited Robinton's pack beside hers, "who do you think will Impress the queen egg this time?"

Mirrim acquired a speculative look as she made a beeline for the Hatching Grounds. "If I bet on things like that — which I don't — my money would be on Idara from Benden Hold. She's got a good head on her shoulders. Livana's the daughter of one of Master Idarolan's captains, and a strong possibility, but I think it will be Idara." She paused to think. "I haven't paid as much attention to the candidates for the other eggs. None of them is a girl."

"Tsk tsk," said Menolly, with a twinkle in her eye. "The Harper Hall has more than one female now; the Weyrs should have more female green riders." She forestalled a retort from Mirrim with, "I know, I know, change takes time. Maybe I should write another song about you; perhaps that would help."

Mirrim glared. "Don't you dare! One was enough; I already get too much attention."

Menolly giggled as she climbed into the stands to sit next to Robinton. "I know you have other things to get to; we'll talk more later!" Mirrim waved goodbye and dashed off; Menolly turned back to listen in on a conversation Robinton was having with one of the Lord Holders.

*****

The Impression was thrilling but not particularly eventful. The feast was delicious, as usual, and Robinton was sampling some of his favorite Benden wines. "Nine turns back, from an earlier pressing," he announced to the small crowd around his table.

"How does he do it?" exclaimed one of the dragonriders nearby.

"My dear dragonrider, you might as well ask how you distinguish between hundreds of dragons if their riders are not visible," Robinton pointed out.

"We're up next after Oharan finishes this one, Master," Menolly reminded him.

"I'm afraid I'll have to continue this later, gentlemen," Robinton said to the group around them. He stood up and offered a hand to Menolly, leading her through the crowd to the platform where the other harpers were. The lively toe-tapping song finished, and Robinton picked up a gitar while Menolly stood, ready to sing. "This song," Robinton proclaimed, "is the newest one by Journeywoman Menolly. It's called The Impression Song." He glanced at Menolly and she nodded as Robinson started into the introduction.

Menolly found herself unexpectedly nervous; she had mostly gotten over her jitters at singing in front of a crowd, so it didn't make sense for her to be so nervous about this. Perhaps because I'm singing a song I wrote about an experience I haven't had and they have? As Mirrim had pointed out, Impressing a fire lizard and Impressing a dragon weren't really the same at all. She looked up and accidentally caught Mirrim's eye just as she launched into the verses. Mirrim smiled and Menolly relaxed some; if Mirrim liked it, chances were others would too. So she continued to sing, a song of dragon and rider, and the moment that brings them together.

Dragons hum, hark the sound
Candidates prepare
Food at hand, gather round
Dragon claws beware

Shells will rock, cracks appear
Watch the dragon eggs
Breaks apart, dragons here
Walk on brand new legs

Stand nearby, wait at ease
Or the chance to lose
Block no path, must not freeze
Let the dragon choose

Dragon comes, now Impress
Instant joy throughout
Feel the love, tenderness
Never more a doubt

The crowd roared with applause, and Menolly smiled broadly. They played for a few more sets before Oharan took the stage again. Mirrim met Menolly as she stepped down. "I thought you weren't going to write another song about me?" Mirrim asked.

Menolly caught the teasing glint in her eye just in time. "You were merely the inspiration. I must give you credit for at least one phrase, though," she said.

"Hmph. I suppose that's true." Mirrim paused, listening to what Menolly guessed was her dragon. "Path just reminded me to tell you that she liked it."

"Tell her thank you from me, please," Menolly said. "Now, I'll need to play more in a little while, but we can go sit at a table until then. I think I saw some fruit juice somewhere?"

"Ah, I know where, follow me," Mirrim ordered, immediately turning and walking briskly towards some tables against one wall.

Menolly hummed a bit as she followed, satisfied. Dragon approval of a song about dragons, what could be better?