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At Benden Weyr, Ramoth’s latest clutch hardens on the Hatching Grounds. Keevan, the son of a dragonrider, is one of the candidates for this, although Beterli; an older candidate, repeatedly teases him about his small stature, suggesting the dragons won’t want him. At dinner, Keevan overhears a group of older riders; including F'lar and Lessa, debating about whether or not to let the younger candidates attend the hatching - restricting the hatching to older riders so they can fight Thread sooner. Lessa notes that fewer candidates on the Hatching Grounds could mean a dragon wouldn’t find a compatible mate.
Keevan fears this will mean he is removed from the candidacy, despite his foster mother Mende reassuring him the following day that debates like those occur before every hatching without change being made.
When Keevan attempts to get on with his morning chores by shovelling black rock, Beterli taunts him by stealing his shovel and implying that Keevan has been taken off the list of candidates. When Keevan tries to get his shovel back, Beterli hits him in the chest with it, causing him to fall over the wheelbarrow and break his leg and skull. Keevan wakes not long afterwards to find himself in his room with Mende tending to his injuries and Lessa enquiring what happened. He is told that Beterli has been barred from any future hatching, and Keevan fears the other boys will blame him for “starting” the attack. Due to his injuries, Keevan is told he will not be attending the Hatching.
Despite this, when Keevan hears the dragons humming; indicating the Hatching has begun, he forces himself into the candidate tunic and rushes to the Hatching Grounds using a wooden pole as a walking stick.
Upon reaching the Hatching Grounds, Keevan finds all the eggs have hatched. Fearing the taunts of the other candidates, he attempts to hide, not realising that the last hatchling is heading his way. At first believing it to be a taunting candidate, he tells the hatchling to go away, only to hear its confused voice in his head ask him why.
Keevan gets up and impresses the hatchling - Heth, the only bronze in the clutch - and F’lar and Lessa congratulate him, before he proudly leaves the Hatching Grounds with his dragon.
- Main article: List of characters in The Smallest Dragonboy
Preceded By: Dragonquest Pern Stories (In Publication Order) Followed By: Dragonsong Preceded By: The Impression Pern Stories (In Chronological Order) Followed By: The White Dragon