Missa sat at the fireplace, absently mixing the morning meal. She adjusted her seat and pulled her withered legs onto the chair.
"I'm going to be working in the north field today," her father said as he entered the kitchen. "Is breakfast done?"
"Uh, yes, Da," she said sitting up.
A golden firelizard popped into the air above the girl. She swooped over to a shelf containing the crockery and pushed a bowl over the edge of the shelf.
"Thank you, Dawn," Missa said, catching the bowl neatly out of the air and ladling in some breakfast for her father.
"I don't know how you did it," her father said, shaking his head. "She's probably the best trained firelizard on all of Pern."
"She's really smart." The gold had wrapped herself around Missa's neck and crooned as she got head scritches from her mistress.
"Make sure you get your chores done before you decide to disappear today," Poli said in between gulps. Missa nodded as she spooned herself some breakfast.
"Da?" she asked.
"You want to know one of the neatest things about having a firelizard? Sometimes, Dawn gives me images of the antics she's up to. Sometimes, I see her flying over the trees and the river. I wonder what that it would be like to fly over the treetops like those dragonriders on their great big beasts."
Poli rubbed his face and stared at his daughter, sadness in his eyes. "Love, could I give you anything in the world, it would be the use of your legs. But you have to face facts. As much as you wish it, you cannot be a dragonrider. Dragons don't Impress girls with crippled legs."
"You've said so before," Missa said, looking down. "I just like to dream it sometimes."
Her father put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed it gently. "No harm in dreaming. But make sure you're solidly on the ground in the meantime."
As soon as her father walked out the door, she quickly cleaned up the breakfast pots and cockery with Dawn helping her with the putting away. She placed some cheese and the last night's meatrolls out on a plate for her father for lunch. Watching the sun , she hurried to pull out the old wash bundle with the armstraps her father had attached so she could put it on her back. Missa scooted along the ground until she was near the well. Da had strung the wash line across to the well so that it would be easier for Missa to hang the wet clothes. And as always, Dawn was there to help her drop them over the line further down. She fed the yard fowl and the milk herdbeast. She grabbed the broom and quickly swept out the kitchen before she threw the broom back in the house and shut the door.
Missa took a large breath, and smiling, scooted as fast as she could along the ground towards the stables. Nosey was waiting for her. His shaggy head shook as he caught her scent. He wickered and lipped at her hair as she climbed up the ladder, swinging her crippled legs over the special saddle her Da had made for her.
"Hello, boy," Missa said. "Ready for another adventure today?"
She pulled her leg straps on so she had a secure seat in Nosey's saddle. Gathering his reins, she gently encouraged the small runnerbeast to head to the back of the stables and to freedom. As soon as she hit the tree line, she gave Nosey a smack to the rump and he immediately sped into a gallop. Her head raised, the wind whipped her face and she let out a whoop of joy. Dawn popped into the air above Missa, whirling around and in front of beast and rider. Over a ridge, she saw Puddle Pond before them and she slowed Nosey to a canter so he could stop and take a drink. The little queen immediately perched on the girl's shoulder, wrapping her tail around her neck and rubbing her little head against Missa's cheek.
"I love you, too, sweet girl," Missa said as she scritched the firelizard's tiny eyeridges.
She let out a sigh. She knew her Da loved her, had protected her and nursed her back to health after her illness. But sometimes she felt like he treated her like that little girl lying in her bed, burning up with fever and not able to move her legs right. And she did her very best to do everything he needed her to do and them some. The cothold felt stifling sometimes. She looked up into the blue sky peeking through the branches of the trees. She let her mind daydream using the visual she got from Dawn flying in the sky. What it would be like to go where she pleased when it pleased her?
Caught up in her fantasy, the sky above her suddenly darkened. She opened her eyes just in time to see a green and brown dragon fly over head. Her heart soared. Dragonriders. In the innermost corners of her heart, there was a glimmer of hope that somehow she'd be Searched and ride one of those fantastic beasts. The memory of dragons flaming Thread out of the sky over her cothold had been seared into her brain as one of her first memories. Her shoulders slumped. She remembered what her Da had said earlier. Dragons simply didn't Impress people with physical or mental defects. But that didn't stop her from harboring a small hope that it could be possible.
She trotted Nosey over to a redfruit tree and picked a ripe one and bit into the juicy flesh. Missa, in her rush to get her chores done, had forgotten her own lunch. Unfortunate, but there was still plenty of daylight left before she had to return and fix up the evening meal.
Dawn turned her head around to look at her mistress and started to squawk and chitter in Missa's face. She launched herself off of Missa's shoulder and popped /between/ before Missa knew what was happening. Then before Missa could form any coherent thought about her gold firelizard's bizarre behavior, Dawn popped back above Missa's head. She refused to land and kept dive bombing the girl.
"What are you doing, crazy girl?" Missa said, half amused, mostly annoyed.
In her head, Dawn projected dragons sitting on the riverbank near her cothold.
"By the Egg!" Missa exclaimed. "Those dragons went to our cothold?"
She steered Nosey back towards the colthold and galloped him for all he was worth. Her heart beat rapidly in her chest. Dragons. Could they be here on Search? She pushed the hope and excitement down viciously. Even if they were, it would be of no use. They'd find out she was a cripple and then they'd leave. No use in getting hopes up when there was no reason to hope. But to see a dragon up close - now that was exciting! She wondered if they would let her touch one, or if the great beast would even let her touch it.
She veered to the west, riding along the bank of the river, an inlet of Island River, instead of taking a direct path to her cothold. Maybe she could sneak a look at one of the dragons before she had to watch them fly away. It wasn't long before she entered the border of her Da's holding, and she slowed Nosey so they could enter the treeline. She swung wide not wanting to make herself known. She didn't know how well dragons could hear but there was no sense in startling them. As she came to the river field, she could see in the distance two dragons lounging on the riverbank. One was a brown curled up in the sun like a canine. The other was a pretty emerald green, head laid down but wings spread out for maximum sun exposure.
The wind shifted down and it was then that Nosey got a whiff of the dragons. He shook his head nervously, and blew out his nose. Missa reached down and patted him. "It's ok, boy," she said, trying to calm his restlessness. "They won't eat you. At least I think I don't think they will." Her coaxing seemed to help him a little but she could still feel the tension in his muscles. She'd never felt him so skittish. He usually ignored lightning, wherries, loud noises and most people. The dragons definitely unnerved him.
She let herself down from the saddle slowly. She tied Nosey to a nearby tree and looked over to where the dragons rested. As far as she could tell, their riders weren't around. They had probably gone in search of her father. She scooted as fast as she could without making too much noise and without kicking up much too much dust. She was about halfway to the brown when Dawn popped into the sky, squawking. Missa tried to calm her queen down but the noise alerted the dragons by the river. The brown one's great eye opened. She was lost in the sight. It swirled and glinted like a great jewel, slow swirling colors of blues and greens. She knew he was watching her but he lay perfectly still. They sat like that for some minutes until she rallied enough courage to start towards him again. As she moved forward slowly, all the brown did was watch her. She was within an arms length of him, and was about to reach out to touch him when she heard a voice behind her.
"He likes scratches, right there at the back of his eye."
She turned her torso to see two people and her Da walking towards her.
"I'm sorry," she said putting her hands behind her back. "I should have asked first, but I just wanted to have a look at him and he didn't look he would mind but I know I'm supposed ask permission first but -"
The male dragonrider, by his shoulderknots, held up his hand. "Its ok. If he really didn't want you to touch him, he would have moved. But he says he doesn't mind."
She turned back towards the dragon and slowly put a hand out and scratched the back of his eyeridge the way Dawn liked to be. "He's so big. He's the color of klah. And his eye is bigger than I am!"
The dragonriders chuckled. "I felt the same way when I saw my first dragon up close," the female dragonrider said. "I'm a cothold girl myself."
Missa nodded her head, but didn't look away from the big eye. "What's his name, sir?"
"And that great green lump over there is Blith," the woman said.
"Pleased to meet you, Tranth and Blith."
"Well, now that we've found you," her Da said. "I guess we should hear what these two have come to say."