As Path and Rymth scarfed down the prepared meat, Menolly and Mirrim exchanged glances over their greens' heads. When Mirrim had impressed, the entire Weyr had been shocked. A moment later, when another Green had followed her to the stands seeking Menolly, not a sound could be heard in the cavern.
After the first frantic feeding, both girls had been thoroughly interviewed by the Weyrleaders, the MasterHarper, and the Weyrling Master. Once it was determined that neither girl had done anything untoward when the eggs were still on the sands - indeed, Menolly had barely even left her bed in that time, and a dozen people could account for Mirrim's various duties - they were permitted to attend the feast.
While their friends, like T'gellan and Selma, stayed by the girls for most of the meal, their cheerful banter was unable to mask all of the whispers. Menolly was quite aware that she and Mirrim had both committed some kind of serious faux pas today. For not one, but two dragons to choose spectators? And those not traditionally matched with fighting dragons? It was unheard of in any ballad Menolly could recall. However, she didn't see how either she or Mirrim could be blamed for the event.
Menolly had accidentally impressed her fire lizards by feeding them, but she had done no such thing with young Rymth. The Green had simply sought her out, certainly with no prompting from Menolly! And Mirrim had tried to turn Path back! Clearly neither one had been trying to Impress!
But as well Menolly knew, others were inclined to believe the worst of people, and now she and Mirrim were both the envy and the blight of many in the Weyr.
After the feast, the dragons had needed another feeding, and both girls had been grateful to escape from the whispers in the dining cavern. Now, as they fed their new life mates, all of the stress from the meal began to melt away. It was hard to remain upset in the wash of another's unending love, and Menolly gave Rymth a loving scratch to her headknob. Rymth half-lidded her eyes for a moment in satisfaction before resuming her meal.
As their Greens continued to eat, Menolly considered Mirrim. The Weyrbred girl was handling her Green expertly, as were some of the boys around them. Menolly decided that they were likely Weyrbred as well. Despite Mirrim's shock at being chosen by Path, she had spent years caring for wounded dragons, and she knew exactly what a newborn needed. She was slipping into her role as Dragonmate perfectly, from what Menolly could tell.
Menolly, while having no practical experience with Dragons, was quite familiar with draconic appetite. Her nine fire-lizards had been a very good training experience for Rymth, Menolly was discovering. She was simply grateful that the meat for Rymth was already prepared for her, so Menolly didn't need to catch enough meat on her own to feed her giant companion.
Her fire lizards, and Mirrim's, had settled upon Rymth and Path quickly, resting on their back ridges and sleeping contentedly. From what Rymth had said between complaints of hunger and soft melodic snores, Menolly gathered that she liked her little cousins, and liked that Menolly had so many of them. They were quite willing to keep her company, and she was quite willing to accept it.
Frankly, Menolly was relieved. In the midst of the intense whirlwind of emotions that had accompanied her Impression, she had worried briefly that Rymth would dislike her fire lizards, as Ramoth did. Her fire lizards were such an important part of her life that she simply couldn't imagine giving them up - even for a dragon!
As the dragons began to slow down their gorging, the Weyrling Master spoke quietly, suggesting that the new riders escort them back to their barracks. During the interrogation with Lessa and the others earlier, it had been decided that Menolly and Mirrim would bunk with the other Weyrlings, in part because there were only two empty Queens' Weyrs, and one would be needed for Arwith and Talina.
One of the Weyrling barracks had been divided years ago to create a smaller room to isolate wounded Weyrlings, holding only four dragons and riders. The decision had been made to house Menolly and Mirrim there, separated from their male peers. Menolly had felt a tinge of jealousy of Talina for about half a second, before remembering how hard it had been to care for her flair on her own. She wouldn't mind having a roommate to learn with, this time around. For someone who had lived on her own for so long, the idea of having human company again was a strong pull. Not as much human company as the crowded caverns, but one roommate – a friend – was a wonder.
Menolly was so involved in her thoughts that she didn't notice the others leaving until Mirrim spoke. "Come along now," she said to Path, smartly leading her Green down the trail to the barracks. Menolly eyed Rymth, who appeared to be mulling over her last bite, and smiled. "Well, you heard Mirrim; come along," she teased. "Unless you want to get left behind."
Rymth blinked slowly at her, chewed purposefully one last time before swallowing, and then gracefully surged to her feet. I am coming, she replied primly.
Somehow the sleeping fire lizards managed not to fall off Rymth's back as the Green walked along beside her companion, and soon the two girls had settled in their partners in for another nap. Both girls changed into their sleeping clothes, and Mirrim carefully tended to Menolly's sore feet. Menolly thanked her, and Mirrim smiled tiredly before curling up beneath her sleeping rug and appearing to fall asleep almost instantly.
A few minutes later, lying on her new bunk with the fur pulled up to her chin, Menolly considered Mirrim's dozing form. A few days ago, Menolly had been living on her own, in a cave, with no human companions. And she had been grateful for the improvement over her life before. But now she was living in the Benden Weyr, and suddenly it seemed that she had gained two best friends in one day - one human and one dragon. Menolly had even met the MasterHarper of Pern, though only briefly! And Mirrim appeared to have gained a dragon and regained her mother in the same fell swoop. It was truly a momentous day for both of them.
Menolly closed her eyes, and sleep slowly overtook her. As she dreamed, music soared through her mind, powerful and triumphant, and backed by the faint impression of melodious dragon snores.