Sontal was a bit nervous, even if he was not going to admit it. The smithing was something he seemed to have a knack for, something his teachers were proud of him over. The metal knew how to listen to him. Runnerbeasts… well, who knew what they would do? But this, farriering, was where smithing and beastcrafting intersected, and it was something he had to be familiarized with.
And beyond the fact that runners had minds of their own, well. The beastcrafters were not used to working with his hearing loss, while the smiths had grown accustomed to accommodating him. He had been practicing the signing, speaking with his hands, for two Turns by then, and he felt comfortable enough communicating that way if he had to. But precious few people in the weyr knew how to do it. And the fact that Sontal could speak to others just fine made it that much more difficult to expect that anyone should learn it for his sake.
He arrived to the day's work at the stables where he had been sent on time with his arms crossed. Hugging himself. The smiths had said they would send word ahead that he was hard of hearing, but that came with its own challenges. People assumed he was stupid even when they knew that was his issue.
Garatt’s hand was getting better and no-one had suggested he leave yet. This was a state of affairs that most certainly could not last, but..while it did, he was going to not question it. In the mean time even though it hurt far far less he went on not using it, carefully favouring his right hand. It felt as though if someone noticed that would be it for getting to stay and therefore.. Hiding it seemed wise.
It was hard grooming with one hand though and as days crept by he wanted to help. And it wasn’t as though runners could tell. It meant that when Sontal arrived he was working with energy -- and both hands -- but his left hand vanished guiltily behind his back when he realised he wasn’t alone. He offered the other boy a shy awkward smile. “Hi.”
Sontal had become quite used to watching other people's faces when he first saw them, because they would inevitably try to talk to him. And if he was not watching, he would not notice.
"Hello," he answered, waving back. There was a bit of an unusual quality to his accent, as he was relying on muscle memory alone to make the sounds.
“Do you need me to get one of the BeastCrafters?” Had he been able to hear it, Garatt’s voice was fairly soft in any case and he was already glancing around for a responsible adult. “Or-- or--” He looked at the gelding he had been grooming. “Is he yours?”
The words were simple enough, Sontal could follow along reading Garatt's lips without too much trouble. He got the gist.
"I thought you were the Beastcrafter," he said. "He's not mine. I came because I'm supposed to be learning to shoe. Are you learning, too?"
“I’m.. sort’ve helping,” Garatt offered after an awkward moment of not quite knowing how to explain it. “I’m not really-- it’s just for now, you know?” He looked about again. “I don’t know where the proper ones are.”
Sontal blinked for a moment as he tried to put together what Garatt was saying. He tilted his head and squinted as he processed. In the end, he decided that Garatt was also another apprentice. Maybe one that had the same special approval he did to start early. Though he did not look that young… Sontal shrugged. Early bloomers were a thing, he guessed.
"Should we wait for a proper one, or do we need to go looking?"
“I-- maybe looking?” Garatt suggested hesitantly. “Hang on, let me just make sure Chessy’s okay.” He patted the runner, still keeping one hand hidden -- in his pocket now -- as he carefully gathered up equipment to put away.
Sontal squinted again. What was this kid's deal, anyway? Was he fiddling with something in his pocket?
"Do you need some help?" he offered.
Garatt brightened. One hand was more difficult. “If you wouldn’t mind?” he agreed hopefully. “They just have to go away in case he tries to eat them or something.”
Sontal was not entirely sure what Garatt said, but it seemed that he was excited at the prospect of the help, so he stepped forward to do so. "Where does it go?" he asked.
“In that cupboard.” Garatt gestured as he talked which probably helped. “I’m not really meant to-- I’m not officially helping really, so I don’t want them to think I leave stuff out, you know?”
Sontal blinked a bit. Squinted. Decided he was not really going to piece together what the other boy said, and then put the things away for him.
"So, did you hurt your hand or something?" he asked. Putting the things away was trivial, so there had to be something wrong with it. Maybe the runnerbeast had bitten him, and he did not want anyone to know. "She bite you?" he gestured to the runner.
“Oh. No.” Garatt blushed again, but reached out to pet the runner as though he might be offended by the accusation. “No, Chessy’s fine,” he assured the other boy. “Here, look, you want to feed him something?”
"Feed him?" Sontal stood up straighter. Maybe he would bite Sontal! But then… well, if he was going to have to nail shoes into his foot. He would have to get used to being around him. Boy horse, apparently. Sontal knew how to tell, but you did not just go looking at other… creatures' stuff.
“He is okay.” Garatt read a certain amount of nervousness in the other boy’s expression. “I promise. Some of them get a bit nervous if they don’t know you well but Chessy’s just fine, aren’t you, boy?” That last remark was addressed fondly to the runner and Garatt packed everything into the cupboard and shut the door. “Here, I’ll get you an orangeroot.”
Sontal was a fan of orangeroots himself. Cooked, of course. He supposed runners had to eat them raw. Blech. Well, more for the runner, he supposed.
"And I just… put it in his face?" he asked, watching the other boy's mouth intently for the answer.
Garatt actually giggled, a rare thing for the boy of late. “No, you--” He half-reached for Sontal’s hand and then hesitated. “May I show you?”
"Sure." Sontal was used to swallowing the instinct to be offended at laughter. Laughter was usually a good sign, as much as his first assumption was that they were laughing at him. And he was also used to being physically guided for explanation at this point. He reached out his hand.
Garatt forgot himself enough to allow his other hand out of his pocket, reaching to gently flatten the other boy’s hand, setting the fingers straight before setting the orangeroot in it. It meant Sontal seeing the dressing (on probably longer than might have been required had he not been spending his days in stables and looking a little grubby) but he wasn’t thinking about that right now.
“He wouldn’t bite you on purpose, but they get a bit over-excited sometimes at food,” he explained. “If your fingers are flat they don’t catch them by mistake.”
Sontal missed the verbal explanation entirely, but he had taken very quickly to accepting this kind of physical demonstration without questioning it. He nodded. And, of course, he was more visually observant than another boy his age might have been, so he noticed the dressing. Whatever had caused it was embarrassing, obviously, so Sontal could read the cues and avoid asking about it. Probably.
He held out his flat open hand with the orangeroot in it toward the runnerbeast.
And the runner reached for it with big teeth and an eager tongue, plucking it not particularly delicately from Sontal’s hand and leaving a fair amount of drool around in the process.
Sontal giggled and said, "Gross." He wiped the drool on his pants. "Is that good?" he asked.
“Just right.” Garatt grinned at him shyly. “So, do you have to put his shoes on then?”
"Hm?" Sontal turned to Garatt from where he had been watching the runnerbeast chew, noticing that he had something more to say. "Sorry, what? I, uh… I can't really hear you, so I have to see your lips move."
“Oh! Um.” Garatt had to think to remember what he’d just said, thrown for a minute. “His shoes! Do you have to put them on?” He spoke a little more loudly, enunciating clearly in the hope this might help.
The more loudly was not especially helpful on its own. Even when Sontal could hear that someone was making sounds, he still could not tell what they were. But the enunciation was very helpful.
"I'm here to learn how; I have to watch someone else do it. Or. At least. I think that's what I'm supposed to be doing."
“Oh.” That made sense. The other boy was probably a bit small to do it on his own already. “I’m Garatt by the way,” he offered belatedly, still speaking carefully and clearly as he offered his hand - his good hand obviously, dirty though it was from grooming.
"Sontal," the other boy introduced himself as he shook Garatt's hand. "So, you, uh. You don't usually do this?" Was that what he said?
“I’m. Sort of.” Those words were less clear and mumbled hesitantly as Garatt stumbled through explaining. “They’re letting me stay just now. I uhm. Was a Candidate.”
"Oh. I was, too. Well. I wanted to be," said Sontal, correcting himself with a frown. "I was supposed to be." He was vaguely aware that some bad stuff had happened at the last Hatching, but no one was willing to say exactly what.
And Sontal did not have the luxury of overhearing it.
“I. You shouldn’t.” Garatt’s habit of starting and then stopping probably didn’t help. Nor did his sudden fidgetiness, balancing his weight on first his left and then his right foot as though standing still was hard. “The CandidateMasters are-- it’s not a good place.”
Sontal tilted his head again. Who would not want to be a Candidate? What could possibly be wrong with the Candidatemasters that it would not be worth it to have a chance to get a dragon?
"Well, they won't let me anyway," he grumbled.
“You don’t want to. Not really.” Those words were rushed and guilty, glancing around as though Garatt was afraid of being overheard. “They’re mean in there. It’s-- it’s better here. People don’t get angry as much.”
"People get plenty angry at me wherever I am," Sontal grumped. Which was especially unfair for the smiths, who had actually been very impressed with him. Or so they said. Sontal was still not entirely convinced that his mother had not managed to pull the strings that got him the special treatment.
“Not angry like this, I don’t think.” Garatt rubbed his hand absent-mindedly. It didn’t hurt any more, not really, not much, but soothing it had become an automatic movement when he was talking about stuff like this. “And dragons are-- you think they’ll be-- Close up they’re sorta scary.” Not something he would have admitted to someone like A’shran, but Sontal wasn’t big, Garatt wasn’t feeling the need to try to prove his manliness.
Sontal glanced at Garatt's hand. Had the Candidatemasters done that!? Surely, the Weyrleaders would never…
But then again. He did not really know them. Did he?
"I never really got to get up close." Sontal used to think that maybe one day he could get Talith to like him. Used to.
"Seems weird to be scared of dragons in a Weyr. I mean. For someone from here. Are you from somewhere else?"
This time the blush was deeper. “I’m. It’s not really scared, it’s--” Terrifying. Close up they were terrifying. “They’re just.. Not always.. Nice.” Garatt mumbled. “And I know, Weyr kids don’t think like that and it’s probably a Hold kid thing.” His shoulders hunched, shrinking in on himself a little.
Oops. Sontal had messed up.
"Hey, I… I didn't mean it. I've never even been close up," he said. "A… a lot of weyr kids get to, because, you know, their parents have dragons. My birth parents didn't, uh… didn't want me. So I just had a foster mom. And she doesn't have a dragon," he explained. "So. Maybe they are scary. I wouldn't know."
Garatt hugged his hand to his chest looking uncertain, wishing already that he hadn’t admitted to being scared. “Was your foster mom nice?” he asked after a moment, taking the subject change as a gift. “My aunt fostered me.”
"She is," said Sontal. "I still call her Mom. She's the only mom I ever had. And the only one I ever need." He stood up straighter and made his best determined and resolute face. The only parent he ever needed. "Family is more than just blood."
“I miss living with my aunt,” Garatt said wistfully. “And my cousins. Did she have other kids?”
"Lots," said Sontal. "She's a foster mom." He chuckled a bit. It seemed obvious to him, but things had to be different at the holds. "How come you don't go home?" he wondered.
Garatt made a face. “Because my father suddenly decided I should go live with him when I was ten,” he explained. “Because I’m meant to get ready to inherit the Hold. But-- I’m awful at it. So then I got Searched, and I thought that might be better.”
"Oh, slag! You're a Hold heir?" Sontal looked rather impressed. "That sounds way better than sticking around here not getting to be a dragonrider to me…"
Another boy might have revelled in that look. Garatt had never been comfortable with being the centre of attention even before M’ayen, never was comfortable being looked at. He went pink again and looked down, drawing with his toe in the scattered straw. “I’m awful at it though,” he repeated. “And-- and if you screw up when you have to do that, it’s really serious.”
"No more serious than screwing up on dragonback. If you screw that up, you die! And probably someone else, too," said Sontal. It was something he might not want to admit he was glad somewhere deep down that he would never face. "Besides, your dad isn't gonna just… die tomorrow, is he? You'll have forever to get good at it."
“It really is though,” Garatt said earnestly. “If-- if you mess the harvest up there’s lots and lots of people depending on that. And people need to get paid and people need to get fed. So, you’ve got to make sure you’re planting the right thing at the right time and harvesting it right and selling it in the best place or-- or everything goes wrong and it’s important.”
Sontal only caught about half of what Garatt was saying at this point, but he already had an idea of what he wanted to say even before Garatt finished talking.
"Your dad does all the planting himself?"
“No. He-- he sort of--” Garatt gestured vaguely. “He tells everyone what they have to do. He’s good at it.” There was pride in that if Sontal could have heard it, and a fair amount of awe as well.
"I bet the farmers already know how to farm, and he doesn't have to tell them," said Sontal. Perhaps the bit about knowing what to sell where was important, but Sontal had not been able to piece that part together. "And in like a hundred Turns when you have to be in charge, you can just ask them what they think and then say, ‘yes, do that.’."
Garatt stared at him a moment and then giggled uncertainly. “...I don’t think that’s allowed.”
"Who's gonna stop you?" Sontal countered. "You'll be the boss." The farmers were not about to tell him to go pound sand, after all.
“I--” Somehow he had always imagined his father and a tutor would be stood behind him looking disapproving but they really wouldn’t be, would they? “...I don’t know.” Garatt hesitated, thinking. “Lord Prental, maybe?”
"You think he's gonna come over to check whether you told them or they told you?" Sontal asked. He grinned, feeling like he had unlocked a super power for Garatt. "Nah, you can do it. And it's just like anything else. The more you do it, the more you'll already know the answer."
“I guess.. Maybe..” Garatt conceded, smiling a little as he surrendered that argument. He looked again up at Chessy. “..I’d rather be in here though.”
"Ahh, I see now." Sontal grinned. There was something about getting you do what you loved. Even he could admit now that he really did love smithing. And he might give it up if they let him Stand. But in a few Turns? Maybe not.
"Well. Gotta learn how to do runners better than Callamere, then, eh?"
“It’d be easier if he’d let me near them at the Hold,” Garatt said, wistful again as he stroked the runner’s neck. “He doesn’t like them though. Thinks it’s time wasting.”
"Well. Stay here as long as you can, then." Speaking of staying long, Sontal turned to gaze back at the door. "Should we go remind someone we're here?"
“Yeah, probably. Are they expecting you?” Garatt patted Chessy again then moved out, closing the stable door firmly. “I think mostly I don’t count as being here but they might wonder where you are.”
"Well, I thought so, but… I don't always get it right when they say stuff to me, so maybe I went to the wrong place," Sontal blushed. When it came to very important things, they tended to write them down.
“It’s okay. I told you. They’re not mean here,” Garatt reassured him. “C’mon. We’ll go find someone.”