Jan 2003. This is a short piece of fan fiction I wrote many years ago. It is set in Anne McCaffrey’s Pern universe. Thankfully, Anne McCaffrey not only allowed but encouraged fan fiction inspired by her works. She is greatly missed.
Ballid knelt, carefully picking up shards of discarded shells and placing them in his carry basket. Hands and knees wrapped in rags as protection from the blistering sands, he worked diligently, sifting the volcanic residue for even the tiniest of pieces. He took pride in his work. It was important. Everything he did was important.
Must clean up after the pretties. Silly things. Can’t leave messes. He thought amusingly.
The sounds of festivities and the tantalizingly delicious smells of roasted meats drifted to him from across the bowl. Ballid ignored the temptation. There would be plenty left over, there always was after the new pretties hatched. This however, couldn’t wait. It was important.
He remembered the day he had stood on these very sands. So long ago. He had come to do something important. He remembered the great mottled eggs. They seemed so much bigger then. He even remembered the pretty who had come and stood at his feet, it’s wet head cocked as if listening, regarding him with whirling jeweled eyes. It was the most beautiful pretty he had ever seen. It was colored the blue of the morning sky with wonderfully dappled flanks and wing sails. He thought he had heard a voice, so far away. He remembered looking around for the source of the voice. It was so beautiful, even if he couldn’t understand the words. When he looked back, the blue colored pretty was gone, tottering off to look at another boy. He had watched them leave together. They were very happy but he felt very sad. He still remembered that siren call; it haunted his dreams like something very important missed. He didn’t like to miss important things. He was never again asked to stand on the sands and wait for the pretties to come out.
His basket full, Ballid stood stiffly and brushed the sand from his clothes. He was wearing his best shirt today. It only had a few small stains on it. Shirts weren’t important, but Sarina said he should wear it today. He liked Sarina, she made sure he was well fed and always praised him on a job well done. Today was important, even if shirts weren’t, so he wore his best, which meant cleanest, clothes. He took the full basket to the kitchen midden and dumped it in with the other seven loads already there before heading back to the broiling sands. When he was done, the sands were as clean as the day they were laid. It was a good job.
He entered the lower kitchen cavern and looked for Sarina. She had been very busy today. She was an important person. She made sure there was always food for everyone. She handed out the jobs and made sure everything was done right. She liked Ballid best though, and always gave the most important jobs to him.
He didn’t find her and he was hungry. There was lots of food left on the plates brought in from the dinning hall so he picked the best stuff off each one and made a plate for himself. It was very good, even if cold. After a while he retired to his place and went to sleep.
Ballid woke well before first light. He always woke early. He liked mornings. He smelled the klah warming on the night hearth and poured himself a cup before going outside.
“Has anyone seen Ballid? I need him to start butchering those herd beasts before the weyrlings wake up. Dear but they will be famished.” Sarina called to no one in particular.
“Aren’t they always?” Bekaba chuckled amiably as she entered from the side hearth. “Besides wasn’t today supposed to be bath day? He is probably hiding in the storage caves again. Leave it to him to disappear whenever a bath is involved. I swear that man has the worst fear of water I’ve ever seen.”
“Come on. Do you blame him?” Sarina defended “things would be a lot different for him if he hadn’t nearly drowned that day.”
“Oh. Your right, I’m sorry. I keep forgetting about that. Poor kid. I wish we had found him sooner. Only a sevenday before the hatching and he had to go nearly drowning himself in the bowl lake. What ever had he been doing there? He didn’t even know how to swim! Is it true the healer almost couldn’t save him.”
“Yes, it was a close thing. Nothing for it now.” Sarina said before spying another of the kitchen drudges. “Rellis. Have you seen Ballid?”
“Yes’m ‘soutside” Rellis answered, quickly ducking away and disappearing before Sarina could think of something for him to do.
“Excuse me Bekaba, I have to go find him.” Sarina called over her shoulder as she hurried off in a swirl of skirts.
Ballid was just draining the last of his klah as the horizon above the bowl rim began to lighten with the coming morning.
“Ballid there you are!” Sarina hurried to him “I need you to start butchering those herdbeasts the Lord Holder brought in yesterday. Do you know the ones I talking about? The black ones in the far pen?”
“Yes Lady Sarina. I know the ones.” He was always polite. It was important to be polite.
“Good. I knew I could count on you.” She said warmly, taking his now empty cup and pushing him in the proper direction. “Now get along. We need that meat.”
He trudged across the still dark weyr bowl to begin his new task. It was, after all, important.
The watch dragon, perched on the high rim, followed Ballid’s progress as he made his way to the distant beast pens. After a while, it turned it head to the rising sun, its dappled blue flanks catching the first rays of morning light.