Jaymes lay in his bed, waiting for the other boys who shared his dormitory to fall asleep, and found himself wondering – not for the first time – why he'd agreed to this. He bit back a sigh as he recalled Danyl's earnest expression when the boy had told Jaymes the plan he'd come up with. His I'm-going-to-get-caught-and-get-in-so-much-trouble plan and, although Jaymes had managed to argue the stubborn boy out of his foolhardiness, it had only been by coming up with a better plan. One that Jaymes now regretted making and he could only hope they weren't discovered... He shook his head, worrying about what might happen wouldn't help. No, he needed to slip out before Danyl grew bored waiting and went on without him; and truth be told, Jaymes wanted to see them as much as Danyl did.
Jaymes waited until the only noises he could hear were soft snores before slipping from beneath his sleeping furs. He grabbed his thick-soled boots and padded on stocking feet towards the doorway, his hand raised to open the curtain when a sound stopped him. He froze, barely daring to breath, before a boy mumbled in his sleep and turned over. He waited for a couple of heartbeats for someone to wake, to question what he was up to, before continuing to creep out of the room. He breathed a sigh of relief when he found himself in the deserted corridor and, pausing only to put his boots on, hurried to meet Danyl.
He stopped to listen intently once he reached the small store room they'd agreed to meet in. Just because no one should be about didn't mean no one would be, after all, Jaymes was out and about in the dead of night. When Jaymes was satisfied that he was alone he moved the curtain to one side and stepped inside, frowning when he saw another boy with Danyl. Trust Danyl to bring someone else along and so increase the chance of discovery. He turned his attention from the blond, freckled boy to his ginger-haired friend to hiss, “Who's he?”
“Jaymes, this is Nycolas.” Danyl introduced the two boys. “He's craftsbred.”
“And he's here because?” Jaymes asked, worry making his words terse. It would have been bad enough to have another weyrbred boy on this adventure, but a boy who knew nothing about the Weyr...
Danyl shrugged. “I might have told him what we were planning.”
“Danyl!” Jaymes wondered if this could get any worse, the last thing he needed was a troop of boys wandering onto the sands.
“Look,” Nycolas spoke, his accent marking him as from one of the northern Holds. “I just want to see them, same as you.”
“He just wants to see...” Jaymes repeated before jabbing a finger at Danyl. “If we get caught, Danyl…”
“We won't,” Danyl promised.
“But we might be if we don't go now,” Nycolas added.
Jaymes nodded, knowing the craftsbred boy spoke truthfully. “Come on, and don't make a sound. Lilanth won't be sleeping soundly with eggs on the sands.”
He heard a sharp exhale behind him and knew it would be Nycolas; both Danyl and he had seen eggs before, albeit from the stands when they'd watched others Impress. Not that he was unaffected by the sight of the eggs lying before them, each as tall as Jaymes and with shells marked with a variety of colours and patterns. Each rumoured, so he had heard from the other boys and weyrlings, to indicate the colour of the dragonet within.
“They're beautiful,” Nycolas breathed behind him.
“That they are,” Danyl agreed.
“Come on,” Jaymes said, knowing they wouldn't have long before Lilanth returned. The queen wouldn't like anyone, even the boys who might Impress her young, near to her unhatched eggs. Jaymes led the way, his course taking him away from the golden-shelled queen egg; she would be Impressed by one of the girls Jaymes knew the riders had Searched for.
Nycolas' voice had Jaymes spinning around to find the craftbred boy touching one of the eggs, its shell marked by swirls of blue, green and yellow. “Don't touch it!”
Nycolas snatched his hands away. “What? Why?”
“No one touches an egg.” Jaymes turned towards Danyl for support, only to roll his eyes when he found the other boy peering closely at a blue, brown and white swirled egg. “Danyl?”
Danyl glanced up before giving Jaymes a cocky smile. He shrugged before reaching out for the egg. “I don't see what harm it will do them.”
Jaymes closed his eyes and counted to ten, wondering why he put up with Danyl? Except he knew why – they were friends as close as brothers; both having been raised by the women of the Lower Caverns, with Danyl's mother dead several turns and Jaymes' own too busy to look after him. He sighed before his own gaze drifted towards the egg nearest to him, swirls of white, blue and yellow marked it's shell and he found his hand moving to rest against it's hard, warm shell almost without conscious thought. To think that a dragonet lay within, maybe one which would become his... he shook his head and pulled his hand away. If the queen found them on the sands she would tell the Weyrleaders and they'd be punished. Worse would be if she knew they'd touched her eggs, she'd be furious and they'd be lucky if they were still allowed to Stand. “Come on, we need to go before Lilanth returns. She can't find us here!”
Morning came far too quickly, Jaymes feeling that he'd only been asleep for a moment. He dragged himself out of his bed and walked half-asleep to the table to join a grinning Danyl and a yawning Nycolas.
Before any words could be exchanged a thrum started. The sound increasing as more dragons joined in, the noise swelling and rising and every boy present, every inhabitant of the Weyr, knew what it meant – hatching.
The sound swept Jaymes' tiredness away and he joined the other boys as they ran for their white candidate's robes before racing to the sands. Jaymes skidded to a halt beside Danyl, clapping his friend's shoulder and giving him a thumbs up. All they could do now was wait for the first egg to crack.
Jaymes swallowed when he realised just how many dragons and people were gathered to watch the hatching, it had seemed so different when he'd been the one in the audience. His gaze turned back to the sands when the thrum became encouraging, the eggs were rocking now and he knew hatching was imminent.
He couldn't help worrying that he wouldn't Impress. There were 43 boys and only 23 eggs, almost half the boys would end up disappointed and he could only hope he wouldn't be amongst their number, left to stand and watch the new weyrlings leave with their dragons. He shook his head, worrying wouldn't help, everyone knew the dragon chose their rider.
A loud crack had the dragons thrumming even louder as all attention now fixed on the rocking eggs, especially the one which had a blue dragonet struggling to free itself. The little dragon, crying pitifully, staggered towards the boys, searching for his rider.
“Please,” Danny murmured beside him.
Jaymes understood the feeling, he felt the weight of expectation that as the son of the Weyrleaders everyone expected him to Impress. He knew most of the dragonets would be green or blue, that he was most likely to Impress one of them. Even though he knew all the colours were important, that the greens – the quickest and most agile – could catch the Thread the others couldn't, he still wanted a bronze. But as each dragonet found his or her rider, he couldn't help wonder if he would be left on the sands after all. He heard Danyl's gasp as two dragonets, a brown and a bronze, moved towards them and echoed Danyl's plea that one of them would chose him.
My name is Moniath, a voice sounded in his head. I'm hungry
Jaymes' world narrowed to the little dragonet before him – Moniath – and he smiled when the dragonet butted him gently, the bronze's voice plaintive in his mind as he broadcast his hunger. “The food is this way, Moniath.” He could feel the dragonet's happiness as they walked side-by-side to the tables groaning beneath the weight of raw meat.
“Well done, J'mes.”
Jaymes – no, he was J'mes now – smiled as he looked up into the proud face of his father, his Weyrleader, before Moniath butted him again. Hungry
J'mes gave his Weyrleader a quick salute before grabbing a tray from the table, feeding Moniath chunks of raw meat while trying not to let his dragonet bolt his food.
J'mes smiled. “You're always hungry.”
“Move over, J'mes.”
Danyl's voice sounded behind him and J'mes turned, hoping it meant his friend had Impressed as well. “Dan... D'nyl,” J'mes grinned at D'nyl and the brown dragonet beside him. Can you move over, Moniath?
Quineith has plenty of room, Moniath muttered. And I'm comfortable. But he still moved over to allow his fellow hatching to settle in the sand beside him.
“So, you got the brown...” J'mes said, remembering the brown dragonet which had been beside his own Moniath, the dragonets both boys had pleaded to be theirs.
“Aye,” D'nyl agreed. “But he'll be the best dragon in the clutch.”
J'mes grinned at D'nyl's vow. “He'll have to compete against Moniath.”
Nycolas' voice joined in the conversation. “And Cutianth.”
D'nyl grinned up at the other weyrling. “Fine bronze, N'las, but Quineith is better.”
Before the boys could begin their good natured bickering, they all winced when their dragonets broadcast one thought Hungry.
J'mes clapped D'nyl and N'las on the shoulders. “Come, let us feed these bottomless pits.”
The voice of the Weyrlingmaster had all three boy jump and spin to face him. “All they seem to do is eat and grow for the first turn, lads. Now, feed them and then join the other weyrlings. I need to go over how to care for your dragonet.”
“Yes, sir,” J'mes replied, brushing the sand from his clothes as he stepped into the Weyrbowl. His friends were at his side and his dragon was beside him, dragonriders now and forever.