Authors: Anne McCaffrey
“Hang on, let me send a different message,” Kindan said. “Nuella, lift your head or you’ll lose your hearing.”
Kindan knelt down again and tapped out a different code. F-A-R.
“Far? You’re asking how far they are?” Renna guessed. She had learned her drum codes from Kindan.
“Shh!” Nuella hissed again, her ear on the rail. She waited. And waited.
“Nothing,” she reported finally.
“Maybe they weren’t listening when you sent that message,” Cristov suggested in the dead silence that followed. “Maybe they were still sending their answer. Try again.”
Kindan dutifully rapped out the drum code again.
Nuella put her ear on the rail again and waited. After a while she plugged the other ear to shut out Renna’s fervent whisper of “please, please, please.”
“Nothing—wait! Ten!” Nuella said. “I thought I heard ten.” She listened again. “Yes, definitely ten.”
“They’re alive,” Zenor said in profound relief.
“Only eight of them, though,” Renna pointed out.
“But they’re ten meters down the tunnel,” Toldur said. “That means they’re eight meters away from us.”
“Three days,” Cristov muttered sadly. No one needed him to elaborate. It would take crews working around the clock for three days to clear eight meters of rubble, and the trapped miners had less than a day, probably less than half a day, of air left.
“Tell the MasterMiner,” Toldur said to Nuella.
“There has to be a way,” Cristov said fiercely. “There has to!”
“All that training,” Kindan said miserably. “All for nothing. We came this far and we can’t save them.” He turned to Nuella. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice choked with tears. “Nuella, I’m so sorry.”
“I’m not giving up,” Nuella said. “And you can’t either. You trained Kisk too hard, and we’ve come too far to give up now.”
“What can we do? We can’t dig through to them in time. We’d have to go
“Could a dragon get to them?” Renna wondered.
“They’re too big,” Zenor answered.
“And they have to see where they’re going,” Nuella added.
“Kisk could do it,” Kindan pronounced.
“Watch-whers don’t go
,” Nuella declared.
“Yes, they do, I saw Dask do it,” Kindan corrected. He saw that Nuella still looked doubtful and sighed. “Look, watch-whers and dragons were both made from fire lizards, right?”
Nuella nodded dubiously.
“Okay, then,” Kindan continued quickly, aware that time was running out for the miners, “if fire lizards can go
by themselves to places they know, and dragons can’t go
to places they
know unless a rider can give them an image—”
“But watch-whers see heat!” Nuella objected.
“Exactly!” Kindan agreed. “That’s why you have to ride her. You can give Kisk the right heat images.”
“Ride a watch-wher?” Cristov repeated in wonder.
“Danil did it once with Dask,” Zenor told him. “I remember.”
“She’s your watch-wher, Kindan,” Nuella protested. “I can’t ride her—she’s yours.”
“I can’t ride her: I can’t give her the right visual images,” Kindan countered. “
“Can you?” Renna asked desperately. “Can you save Dalor, Nuella?”
“I’d have to get a good visual image,” Nuella complained.
“Take a breath,” Kindan said in a low voice close to her ear so that the others couldn’t hear. “You can do it, Nuella.”
“But she’s yours,” she protested again.
“I’ll loan her to you,” Kindan said lightly. “She likes you anyway. You said watch-whers can change bonds, right?”
“Right,” Nuella agreed reluctantly. “But how will I know what the image should be?”
“You know your father and how he looks and you know Dalor. Start with them and imagine their heat images in your mind—you can do that, right?”
“I don’t know,” Nuella admitted nervously.
“You’ve done it with Dalor, playing hide-and-seek, right?” Reluctantly, Nuella nodded. “And you know the shape of your father, right? And you know what a heat image looks like, so you can imagine his heat image standing next to Dalor.”
“Yes, I can.”
“Good. Do that,” Kindan said. “I’ll take care of the rest.”
“Do you know how many people Kisk can carry at a time?” Nuella asked him.
“Nine,” Kindan answered immediately, lying. “I’m sure the number was nine.” To Toldur he said, “Can you take the others back to the main shaft? We need to set up a pattern that Kisk can recognize to go
to on this side.”
“All right,” Toldur said. “She sees in the dark, right?”
“No, she sees heat,” Kindan corrected. “What I want is for you to go to the far side of the shaft and form a line across it. Toldur, I want you nearest the shaft, ready to help people out. Renna, you stand beside him. Cristov, next to her. Zenor, you should be touching the west wall. All hold hands until Nuella arrives.”
“Nuella, will that work for you?” Kindan asked. “Can you imagine that?”
“I’ll tr—” She cut herself off. “Yes, I can,” she said firmly. “What if I have to make two trips, though?”
“If you have to make two trips, I’ll be there for the second one. I’ll stand in front of Renna and Cristov. Will that work?”
“Yes, I can see that,” Nuella agreed.
“Okay, Toldur and the others move off now, please,” Kindan said. “I’ve got to tap some instructions to the other side.”
“Don’t try doing that until they’ve gone,” Nuella cautioned.
“Don’t make any sparks!” Toldur reiterated.
“Right,” Kindan agreed. “No sparks. Sparks are bad.”
Ten minutes later, which seemed like ages to Nuella, Kindan lifted his head up off the rails.
“That could have gone faster if you’d let me listen,” Nuella told him sourly.
“You need to stay calm,” he reminded her. “And bond to Kisk.”
“She’s a sweetheart—I’ve always felt a special bond with her,” Nuella assured him.
“That’s what I always thought,” Kindan admitted cryptically. “Everything’s ready now. You need to imagine your father and your brother standing side by side, holding hands. Kisk should arrive with her nose touching Dalor’s, and everything will be fine.”
“Who’s on which side?”
“Dalor’s on the right, that’s what all my tapping was about,” Kindan said promptly. “I think you’ll want to climb onto Kisk’s back, but crouch low on her neck. Let me help you.”
Nuella scrambled onto the watch-wher’s back and wrapped her arms around the long neck.
“Ready?” Kindan asked.
“Remember, it only lasts as long as it takes to—”
Nuella fixed the image in her mind, two heat-rainbow bodies with a hot spot between them where they held hands, and gave the image to the watch-wher.
The cold of
enveloped her. Silence filled her ears.
Watch-wher, watch-wher, do you know
All the places you can go?
ough three times.
the watch-wher chirped. Sound filled Nuella’s ears. She took a cautious breath.
“Father,” she said, reaching out to where she
he would be, “I came as soon as I could.”
“Nuella!” At the sound of her father’s voice, tears streamed down Nuella’s face.
“Have everyone grab hold of the watch-wher,” she said. “If you’ve got anyone who can’t stand, help them onto her back with me.”
“She’s not big enough,” Dalor said doubtfully.
“She’ll bear the load,” Nuella replied. The watch-wher chirped a bold agreement.
“Hurry, the air’s getting too stale,” Natalon told the others.
“Let me know when they’re ready,” Nuella said.
“What are you going to do?” Dalor asked, his voice right beside her ear.
“Don’t worry,” Nuella said, raising her voice over the others, “we’re going to get you out. It’s going to be a strange ride but it will only last as long as it takes to—”
“Everyone’s ready,” Natalon told her.
Nuella brought the image to her mind. Toldur, Renna, Cristov, Zenor. She formed their fiery images and passed them to the watch-wher. “—cough three times,” she finished.
At Kindan’s shout, the miners in the Camp started collecting around them.
“Look, it’s Natalon!” someone exclaimed.
“Natalon’s been saved!” The shout rang round the Camp.
“Give them room!” Kindan bellowed above the crowd. “And someone send for the Harper and Jenella.”
A respectful silence descended as the rescued miners stumbled out of the shaft and collected beside Natalon.
“Who’s that with them?” a voice murmured from the back.
Natalon rose to his feet, resting an arm on Nuella’s shoulder. She shifted her weight to support him and the watch-wher slithered around to his other side and raised her head under his other hand.
Natalon looked down at the watch-wher and smiled, stroking the ungainly head with affection.
“I have an announcement,” he said, pulling himself fully erect. He slipped his arm underneath Nuella’s and hugged her tight to his side. “This is my daughter, Nuella. She cannot see, so I kept her hidden from you all.” He paused. “I was afraid that you would hold her lack of sight against her. And me.
“But it is I who have been blind—and foolish,” Natalon continued. “Nuella was not blind in our dark mines. She could ‘see’ where others could not. And so she—with her friends”—Natalon gestured toward Kindan and Zenor—“and the watch-wher rescued us poor, sighted miners.”
“You’re alive!” Jenella rushed into the crowd, baby Larissa tucked under one arm, and grabbed Natalon with the other. “Oh, you’re alive!” She looked around at the crowd of faces. “Who can I thank . . . ?”
Kindan pushed Nuella forward. Jenella looked down at her, eyes brimming with tears.
Nuella tilted her head up to her mother’s voice. “Me, mother.”
Jenella thrust Larissa into Kindan’s arms and grabbed Nuella in a tearful embrace. When she finally recovered enough to stand, she looked around at the crowd and said fiercely, “This is my daughter, Nuella.” She looked down at Nuella. “She is my pride and joy.”
“She didn’t do it alone,” Zenor said unexpectedly in the silence. Kindan shot him a look of amazement that Zenor would do anything to risk harming Nuella’s acceptance into the Camp. “Her watch-wher helped.”
Zenor grinned at Kindan, adding in a voice pitched so that only he could hear, “You knew, didn’t you?”
“I was hoping,” Kindan answered just as quietly.
Zenor reached over and squeezed his friend on the shoulder, tightly, in thanks and acknowledgment of Kindan’s sacrifice.
“Her watch-wher?” Natalon repeated blankly, looking at how the green sat curled possessively about Nuella without so much as a glance toward Kindan.
watch-wher?” Nuella repeated, turning toward Kindan.
Kindan nodded. “Ask her her name, Nuella.”
Nuella gave him an uncomprehending look, so Kindan explained, “Just like when you
, but with words this time.”
Nuella’s face took on an abstracted expression that suddenly changed to pure delight. “She says her name is Nuelsk!” She leaped in the air and ran to Kindan. “Her name is Nuelsk! Oh, Kindan,” she cried, in bittersweet joy, “you’ve given me your watch-wher!”
Kindan hugged her tightly and then let her go, smiling. “I think she was always yours, Nuella, and I was just helping you raise her, not the other way around.”
Zenor joined them, grabbing Nuella’s free hand. Kindan smiled as he watched Nuella squeeze Zenor’s hand back, tightly, and then wrap her arm around his shoulder.
“If you kiss him, then everyone will know,” Kindan whispered in Nuella’s ear.
“Good,” Nuella whispered back. She grabbed Zenor’s face and kissed him soundly on the lips. The gathered crowd roared with laughter at Zenor’s obvious surprise.
“Look after him, please,” Kindan begged her when Zenor managed to pull himself away, red-faced with embarrassment and joy.
“Haven’t I always?” Nuella replied. Then she frowned. “But Kindan, what about you?”
A figure separated itself from the shadows. “I think I may help.” It was Master Zist. “This is an official offer from the MasterHarper of Pern,” he said, pressing a parchment into Kindan’s hands. Kindan unrolled it and nearly dropped it as he read the words.
“I may be a Harper?” he asked, eyes wide.
“Well, you will certainly have the opportunity to try,” Master Zist said with a smile. “No doubt they’ll be pumping you for all this lost lore on watch-whers.” He leaned in close to Kindan and said in a voice for his ears alone, “You will do fine, lad, just fine.”
“So, Kindan,” Natalon asked with interest, “what will you do?”
“I think I’ll sing,” the newest Harper of Pern replied.
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously.
A Del Rey
Published by The Random House Publishing Group
Copyright © 2003 by Anne McCaffrey and Todd J. McCaffrey
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York,
and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada
Del Rey is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available
upon request from the publisher.