Imposter (Vignette)

Xanadu Weyr - Candidate and Weyrling Barracks
Xanadu's barracks are a massive, L-shaped amalgamation of caverns and construction, squared on one end, rough-hewn and oblong on the other, with weyrlings and candidates separated from one another by a large communal area. Wood and stone floors meet in a clever spiral pattern that interlaces and spreads, creating harmony in a space meant for completion of chores, classes, and storage of both dragon supplies and bedding for humans. A singular wooden door leads into an office for the weyrlingstaff.

Windows stretch the length of the candidate barracks, a long, low-ceilinged room that opens off the training grounds. One wall is slightly curved, set against the outer wall of the hatching arena, with a locked door closing off a tunnel that leads onto the sands. Cots are set in two rows along the length of the room, each with its own small press at the foot for personal belongings. It's always warm here when there are eggs on the sands; candidates seldom need more than a light blanket, but a diminutive hearth is available for the warming of beverages or the occasional firelizard-surprise.

The weyrling half of the barracks have been burrowed back into stone. Close and dark when shutters to the outside world are drawn, the ample paths between dragon couches have been lit with dim strips of light. Smaller couches are obviously intended for the very young weyrlings, while the largest ones at the back are for those close to graduation. A second small hearth abuts a massive cavern opening that slopes gently down to the training grounds outside.

Not for the first time that seven, Andalise felt herself jarring to awareness halfway through the night, eyes popping open in the darkness of the barracks.

She couldn't remember if she had had a nightmare, or if it was too warm to stay comfortably asleep, or maybe —

Maybe it was the little curl of dread that kept souring her stomach between midnights and dawns as the eggs grew harder and harder.

Rolling over onto her side, she shifted too-warm legs against sheets that suddenly felt almost suffocating with their stubborn cling.

Not for the first time that summer, Andy silently wondered if she shouldn't just leave her knotted-up dreams behind on her cot and sneak back to her old room where she at least knew she belonged.

You can ask to be a candidate when you're old enough, she remembered being told when she was ten.

She had never asked any follow-up questions; now, she wished she had.

Was it really the same as being Searched by a dragon and their rider? Were those who chose weighed as equally by the hatchlings as those who were chosen when it came to being face-to-face with maybe-destiny?

Was it a fool's errand to elect to present herself with the other young people as a dragonrider-hopeful? Was she really ready for the life that could await?

The lub-dub of the baker's heartbeat filled her ears, even as she pressed her head harder into her pillow to try to stifle the sound that grew into a rapid thud-thud-thud.

There was nothing for it but to squeeze her eyes shut and wait for sunrise.

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