Did you ever have one of those moments that you wish you could take back? One of those times in your life when you realize, a second too late, that you might have made a mistake?

The thing is, Tivaly knows she can undo this mistake. She could simply find him, this brownrider, this G'zarm, and ask him… change it… but, with a frustrated exhalation, she knows she'll never be able to do that. It would be a blow to her pride, admitting that she'd made a mistake in the first place, admitting that she does actually want it, this opportunity. But it's so hard to go back.

When he said the words - "Would you like to be a Candidate?" - there was the fraction of a second when she thought, Yes! More than anything she'd ever considered doing in her life, this was an opportunity that Tivaly the Harper wanted. She wanted to put aside the precious blue knot of a Harper, the one that estranged her from the father that she obeyed unquestioningly for sixteen Turns, and take up the white cords of a Candidate. But then her racing heart skipped a beat: did she really throw away the tranquility of a dutiful daughter to risk it all on the gamble of dragon eggs?

She knew that the brownrider G'zarm was looking at her, waiting for an answer, his eyes full of the question he'd just asked. She knew that, nearby, his dragon was eager for her acceptance. She knew that, at Harper Hall, her father was doing his duties but - maybe, somewhere in the back of his mind - he might be sparing a thought for the child that had disobeyed him. She knew that, in her heart, she really did believe she was Tivaly the Harper, not Tivaly the dragonrider.

So she heard herself saying three little words: "No, thank you."

And there will be one less Candidate on the Sands of Fort Weyr this time, one less girl whose hopes are pinned on the shattered eggshells.

But there will be one more Harper. "Just what the world needs," she tells the inkpen in one hand before, resolutely, she bends back to the work before her. She made this Harper-shaped bed, after all.