Amber Hills Hold
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The new Turn brought startling news at the Harper Hall - Hallmaster Vestian has named a woman as his new Hallsecond. Master Jayala has taken to her duties with her usual efficiency, but not everyone is pleased by a female harper taking the second rank in the Hall. One person who was delighted was elderly Master Zahira, who decided that her granddaughter's promotion meant she could return to Emerald Falls for the first time since the plagues.
Master Eilomar brought a surprise for his wife Merlish - an adorable little kitten. The gift was happily received, despite Eilomar ending up with a few scratches and gnawed fingers, but later an intimate moment between husband and wife was interrupted by feline crying. Will Eilomar end up regretting the new addition to the family?
Jayala continued her quest to recruit more female apprentices by offering a tour to one prospective applicant - Gesylle, the daughter of Trader Westyn - and invited her to the concert for the Lord Holder's birthday. She had a setback when the parents of another apprentice sent for her to return to their hold to be married.
Journeywoman Tasni has been continuing her search for the guard who was blamed for the fire at the Harper Hall. With the help of fellow journeyman Ueltin, she planned a trip to Forest Springs Hold, where the holder may have a grudge against Lord Corowal, and the two set off together in the guise of a bickering husband and wife. Unknown to her, Ueltin has been reporting back to Master Jayala about Tasni's activities. Is she a Northern spy, or does she have her own reasons for infiltrating the outlying holds?
There's plenty of mystery, politics and opportunities for new crafters at the Harper Hall!
Written by Estelle as L2 on September 28th 2020
The Harper Hall at Emerald Falls Hold had been in existence for a little over a century, but the harper presence had been there since the Hold's founding. The original building was a small stone structure, housing four classrooms and a few small sleeping rooms. There, the children of the Hold and nearby cotholds gathered for lessons. Several journeyfolk, under the supervision of one master, used it as a home base as they visited outlying areas. Occasionally a likely apprentice would be found, and would serve at the Hold until travel could be arranged to the Harper Hall in the North.
With growth of population and expansion of territories, it was decided that a Hall was needed in the South, both to aid in education of the general population, and to identify and train new crafters. Several locations were considered, but the presence of ready lumber at Emerald Falls decided the matter.
There it served for more than a century until then-Hallmaster Gilas changed his policy and allowed a female to apprentice to the Hall. This did not sit well with the ultra-conservative residents of the Hold. One night, two of the holders, drunk from ale and intending only to scare the Harpers into rethinking their new policy, set fire to the Harper Hall, destroying much of the buildings, instruments and records. Luckily, no one was killed in the blaze. The true arsons escaped without suspicion. One of the Lord Holder's trusted guards instead was accused of the crime.
The relations between Hold and Hall, which had been strained by the change in policy, had seemed to have taken a dangerous turn. It was decided by the South's Craftmaster that upon Gilas sudden retirement, his own Hallsecond, Master Almonteo would assume leadership of the Hall.
Along with Harpers, the Printer Hall found themselves homeless. With little other choice, save disbanding the Hall, it was decided that the Printers would merge with the Harpers, creating one Hall under Almonteo's leadership. In his hopes to ease relations between the two Halls, he has appointed a female Master Printer, Thanja, to serve as his Hallsecond. This was done despite the objections from some of the Harpers.
It was also decided that the Hall residents would leave Emerald Falls for their own safety and establish a new, temporary Hall at Dolphin Cove Weyr. Though many Harpers were wary of Weyrfolk and their scandalous ways, Almonteo was determined to make things work, at least until a more permanent arrangement with a Hold could be made.
The Harpers remained at the Weyr until a new Lord Holder took control of Emerald Falls. In Turn 5, Lord Corowal invited the Harpers to return to the Hold and offered help with rebuilding. Almonteo accepted the offer, and soon construction of the new Hall began.
In Turn 7, Almonteo had to stand down from his role as Hallmaster for health reasons. There was speculation as to whether the Harper Craft would have its first female Hallmaster, with Master Jayala a strong candidate, but in the end, Master Vestian was chosen to lead the Hall.
The Hall stands a good quarter candlemark walk from the Hold, making it easily accessible to the residents. Concerts are often held at the Hall which attract holders to visit, and young holders from well-off families sometimes attend classes as paying students.
The original Hall began as a single building but grew until it resembled a cross, with four wings in the directions of the compass surrounding the old Great Hall, now used for dining and performance. The North Wing housed vocal music and art, the West instrumental (including workshops), the East Wing housing and offices for craftsmen, and the South the kitchens, laundry, and staff quarters.
After the fire, the Great Hall was rebuilt with a central area for dining and performance, kitchens and an office for the Headwoman at the back, and a new upper floor containing the masters' suites, guest accommodation and the archives. Two wings were added: classrooms, a range of practice rooms for instrumental and vocal music, and the art studios are found in the east wing, while the west wing consists of apprentice dormitories, journeymen quarters and study areas.
Close to the main Hall are smaller buildings housing the laundry, store rooms and offices, and housing for staff and families. The workshops for instrument making and printing are located here, reduced in size due to losses in the blaze but allowing for future expansion.
The outer walls are built from stone with a tiled roof to protect the inhabitants from Thread. Precautions against fire have also been taken, including a large water tank and a plentiful supply of buckets, pumps and hoses, and fire drills are a regular part of the Hall's schedule. Inside, a combination of wood paneling and padded fabric have been used both to soundproof, and to supply appropriate acoustical properties to the practice rooms.
Up to forty-eight apprentices are housed in four large dormitories - three for boys and one for girls. Junior journeymen are housed in twelve double rooms, and senior journeyfolk in fourteen single rooms. The Hallmaster, Hallsecond, and Master of Apprentices each have suites of rooms, while five additional masters have large single rooms with private baths. Of course, only dire need or event would bring all harpers assigned to the Hall within the walls at one time. Usually at least a half of the journeyfolk are on teaching rounds or special missions.
The building of the new Hall took advantage of the latest technology. Electricity from the generator at the falls is available in the communal rooms and classrooms (and indeed, open flames are frowned upon except in the kitchens), while glows are used in the sleeping quarters and storerooms. While most of the harpers tend to use time-honored methods of making instruments or keeping records in their work, the Printer craft keeps up to date with the latest innovations.
Before the fire, the Harper Hall at Emerald Falls traditionally followed the lead of the Southern Craftmasters, banning female crafters. However, Harper Hallmaster Gilas in the third turn of the present Pass gave tentative approval to begin accepting female apprentices. This was not viewed with favor by many at Emerald Falls Hold, a more conservative Hold. Nor were many of the harpers assigned to the Hall happy about the new state of affairs.
After local Hold residents set their Hall ablaze, the Hall moved to the Weyr. There, Hallmaster Almonteo began the unenviable project of making his Hall co-educational. At the Weyr the young ladies had several Weyr trained female Harpers to look up to, along with those in the Printer Hall with whom they have been merged. However, some of the male harpers found it harder to adjust to having female crafters in their midst.
The Hall has continued to accept female crafters since its return to Emerald Falls, with the support of the Lord Holder, and Hallmaster Vestian has appointed a Weyrhold trained female Master as Hallsecond. However, women are still in the minority and may face prejudice from some of the more hidebound crafters and holders.
Population and Plague Effects
The Harper Hall was hit hard by the plagues, and this was followed by the expulsion of women of childbearing age from the Craft, many of whom chose to leave the Hall. Over the following Turns, the population of the Hall recovered and by the beginning of the Pass, it had almost reached its former levels.
In the aftermath of the fire, many crafters chose to accept postings in the holds rather than go to the Weyr, but these losses were balanced by the admission of female harpers. However, when the Hall returned to Emerald Falls, the population was reduced again as some preferred to remain with friends or family at the Weyr. Since then, the population has again increased, and there is considerable competition for the few places available at the Hall
The Harper Hall supports itself in two main ways: directly through sale of artwork, musical instruments and payments for performances at Gathers and other celebrations, and contributions from the major Holders - both in marks and trade goods - in return for teaching, entertainment and maintenance of Records provided by its journeymen and masters. Tuition fees for students, often young ladies from wealthy families learning to sing or play a musical instrument, have become a growing source of income since the return from the Weyr.
The fire was a devastating blow which destroyed the Hall's stores of trade goods, but over time, these have been gradually rebuilt with the support of the local Lord Holder, who was keen to have the Harpers return.
Visitors usually arrive at the Hall by traveling on the trade roads or by riverboat to Emerald Falls, then walking the remaining distance or hiring transport from the Hold. Those of higher rank, such as Masters and journeyman heading for or returning from far-flung postings, can take advantage of dragon transport thanks to the close ties with the Weyr.