Story - Pejun and Xevoy
The term "friendly rivalry" is inherently contradictory, but somehow Pejun and Xevoy seemed to make it work. There was no other way to describe their competitive, yet always warm, relationship. From young, they had always competed with each other to prove that one or the other was the best. Despite their fierce rivalry, equally strong wills and inner ambitions, they still managed to be best friends. Perhaps it was because their personalities were so similar.
The contest between them started about four years ago, when Xevoy was 17 Turns old, and Pejun was 12. Xevoy was passing by the Weyr classroom one morning when she heard the teaching Harper announcing something that immediately grabbed her attention.
"Pejun has done very well in the selection test, and has been admitted into the special enrichment course held at the main Harper Hall at Fort Hold. It is indeed a great honour for us, as only a hundred students have been selected from all over Pern for this course. He will be leaving for the Harper Hall in a few days. Congratulations on your admission, Pejun," the Harper announced. Xevoy heard loud, enthusiastic applause from the other students.
Interesting. He's the only person in the Weyr who's been accepted for the course after me, Xevoy thought. The special course had only been introduced quite recently, and Xevoy had been part of the first batch of students. None of the younger children in the Weyr had been able to equal or surpass her achievement until now.
Come to think of it, Pejun's younger than I was when I entered the course, she remembered suddenly. The students must be aged between 12 and 16 to be accepted. I was 15 when I took that course. Pejun's perhaps only 12 or 13 Turns? He's certainly talented.
She wanted to stay and talk to him, but then recalled that she had urgent errands to run. She rushed off to the kitchens, resolving to find out more about Pejun later.
A few minutes later, the Harper dismissed the class early. He was giving the students a half-day holiday because of Pejun's results. After he exited, most of the children remained behind, crowding around the class star.
"Wow, you're great, Pejun. No one's been able to get into the course ever since Xevoy."
"You're so smart. How did you do it?"
Pejun basked in their admiration and compliments, thoroughly enjoying being the centre of everybody's attention. He smiled at his friends and said, "Well, I really wanted to take the course, so I worked hard and kept focused. I had to prove I was good enough to be accepted. And I did." His grin widened as he recalled the feeling of success.
"Anyway, don't you all have lots of other things to do besides hanging around here wasting time? It's a rare holiday, you know," he continued. The others took his fairly obvious hint and left the classroom. Pejun stayed for a while, reading through a textbook.
- - - - -
Just before dinner was served, Xevoy scanned the dining hall for where Pejun was seated. I hope there won't be anyone sitting with him, it'll make it rather awkward to talk, she thought. Her gaze fell on a figure sitting alone at a table and she sighed in relief. It was still quite early, so only a few people had arrived. Pejun's friends were apparently coming late.
She made her way over to the table and asked asked, "May I please sit here?"
Pejun blinked in surprise and replied, "Sure."
She sat down next to him and said, "I've been wanting to speak to you, actually. The only other person to surpass my record. Congratulations."
He blushed slightly at this praise, feeling honoured. "But really, you're the one who inspired me to do my best. I should be thanking you instead."
"Really? I'm flattered that you're actually seeing me as an example to follow. But you've done far better than me, getting accepted at such a young age. I'll have to watch out for your competition from now on."
"You think of me as your rival? Great, I've got someone to compete against now. I won't lose to you for sure."
"And neither will I. I'll do my best, and I'm sure you will too," Xevoy said, and held out her right hand. "Come, let's shake hands to seal our friendship, and our rivalry."
Pejun took her outstreched hand in a firm grip. Their eyes met in perfect understanding.
- - - - -
Years had passed since their promise to each other, and neither of them had given up their rivalry. The competition between them only seemed to grow more intense as time passed. As they grew older, what had started out almost as a game also grew more serious.
Xevoy was now known unofficially as the "Assistant Headwoman", since she was now doing many of the lesser administrative duties of a Headwoman. Despite her rather young age, she was performing very well, and the daily running of the Weyr was definitely much smoother with the contributions of such a capable assistant.
Pejun too had distinguished himself, first in his studies and then with his organisational abilities. Although he did not really have a permanent rank, official or otherwise, he was still the first choice to lead almost any project.
They barely had time to talk to each other these days, since they were far too focused on their work. Their conversations were restricted to brief snatches during the times they could meet up. Both of them still wanted to show that they were the best and most capable of the young people in the Weyr.
It was late afternoon, and Xevoy was currently making slow but constant progress in dealing with the huge pile of paperwork on her desk. The stack was comprised of several different types of documents: orders for goods the Weyr needed to be included in tithes from Holds and Halls, lists of the current stocks of goods in the store rooms, lists of rooms allocated to the Weyr residents, and finally personal request letters from various people. The only sound in the room was the rustling of paper and the scratching of a pen, as she read through the papers and noted down the important details in a consolidated report.
She was interrupted by footsteps outside the room, and looked up to find a very dirty and disheveled Pejun walking in and slumping on an empty chair. He took a big gulp from a bottle of cold water in his hand and sighed, "That's better."
Xevoy asked in a rather confused tone, "What's up? I haven't seen you the past few days. Did something happen during that time? And why do you look so tired?"
"I think 'exhausted' would be a better description. The fence around the herdbeast pens needed replacing. All of the Weyr boys were drafted for the job, and I was put in charge. Today some of them escaped and we had to chase them around for a while," he complained, then laughed. "Actually now I think it's kind of funny the way we were running around like crazy. But it's so tiring. I'm beat."
"You can rest here if you want to. I think you'll feel better if you have a hot bath and change into something cleaner," she suggested.
"Good idea," he said. "I'll be back soon." He exited the room as quickly as he had entered. Xevoy stared after him, then sternly reminded herself to get back to work.
- - - - -
Xevoy was right. I feel much better after that hot bath, Pejun thought as he changed. Hot water is good for aching muscles. His brown firelizard, Niwur, suddenly appeared above his head, just as he was pulling on a clean shirt.
"And where were you, lazy rascal? Leaving me alone to chase after the herdbeasts?" he scolded his pet jokingly. Niwur chirped an apology and landed on Pejun's shoulder, rubbing against his cheek.
"Apology accepted," he told the firelizard, then stretched his arms and legs briefly before walking slowly back to the room.
"I'm back, workaholic," he announced as he came in.
"I wish you wouldn't call me that. Please," she said quietly.
"Well, if you don't like it, I won't," he answered, still grinning. "Can I stay around and chat?"
"Of course you're welcome to stay. I'll be finished soon, and anyway I'd like to have someone to talk to."
Pejun sat down on a chair and stretched out his legs. Niwur jumped off his shoulder and curled up on his lap. He stared at her for a while and finally asked, "You know, I've been meaning to ask you this for a long time. Why do you have such a weird name anyway? 'Xevoy' sounds odd, and looks even stranger written down."
Xevoy looked up from the paper, surprised at his blunt question, and glanced at his curious, eager face. "My parents thought it would be interesting. And I quite like my name. It's unique," she replied with a slight smile.
"Hmm, really?" he murmured to himself.
She nodded in reply and went back to work. After about fifteen minutes, she wrote the last line and said with a sigh of relief, "There, it's all done."
"And here I was thinking this would take forever. Come on, let's get out of this stuffy room. You and I both need fresh air," he announced, standing up quickly. Niwur squeaked in surprise at the movement, but returned to perch on Pejun's shoulder.
"Wait, please. I need to hand these to the Headwoman," Xevoy explained as she gathered up the papers into a neat stack.
"Oh. Why don't you join me at the Weyr lake once you're done?"
"I will. Be sure to wait for me," she replied before hurrying off.
- - - - -
Pejun walked out into the Weyrbowl and sat down on the open field near the lake. This was where dragons would take off and land. Niwur hovered in front of him, telepathically asking him to play.
"Sorry. Not now, I'm too tired," he told the firelizard. "I know, you can call Fothen. You know her, she's Xevoy's pet." He gave Niwur a mental image of Fothen.
Almost instantly, Xevoy's green firelizard appeared just above his brown. The two immediately began chasing each other, performing incredible aerial manoeuvres and even diving into the lake. Pejun was so enthralled by their tricks that he did not notice Xevoy coming to sit next to him. The two firelizards, seeing their owners, flew back to them to be petted and praised.
When the pets had finally settled down, some dragons and their riders arrived at the lake to bathe. Xevoy, watching the scene, suddenly sighed.
"What's wrong?" Pejun asked.
"Seeing them, I wonder if I'll ever be a dragonrider. I've never even had a chance to be a candidate," she replied, sounding depressed.
"Don't worry. Lots of Weyrs want their candidates to be older nowadays. Especially queen candidates. I guess that's why you haven't been asked to stand yet. Everyone wants you to have more experience, then you'll make a good queen rider," he assured her.
"Queen rider?" Xevoy sounded surprised.
"Don't you dream of Impressing one? The queen, greatest of the dragons. I'm going for bronze of course," Pejun said confidently.
"Well, yes, I do hope to Impress a gold. But it's just a dream."
"Be confident and keep dreaming. Dragons like strong riders. I know there's a dragon out there for each of us. Mine's waiting for me. Maybe he's bronze, maybe he's not. But he's there. And there's a dragon waiting for you too."
She nodded firmly and answered, "Yes. We'll both Impress, one day. I don't know what colour my future dragon will be, but we'll find each other."
"That's the spirit!" he exclaimed, smiling brightly.