A Southern Assignment
Date Posted: 8th April 2018
The day had begun with a summons to see the Hallmaster. Once that would
have been a dismal prospect for someone who'd got into as much mischief
as an apprentice as the young harper journeywoman had, and if Tasni was
honest with herself, if it had got better since her promotion, that was
largely on account of her spending so much time travelling away from the
She had done well in Bitra, though, and kept her nose out of trouble
since she'd got back. But now she'd finished luxuriating in the
pleasures of soft beds and hot baths, and completed her report for the
Archives, the restlessness which had brought her to the unwelcome
attention of the Masters so many times had begun to stir. She was
longing for another assignment and when she'd received the message to
come to the Hallmaster's office, she'd let out a yell of joy that caused
her room-mate Telvia, still half asleep, to throw a pillow at her.
When she heard where she was going, she knew it had been worth the wait.
Heading back to the room she shared after the meeting, she heard voices.
It sounded as though Telvia had invited some of their friends around,
and they were discussing the reason she'd been called to see the
Hallmaster. They must know there were going to be postings - everyone
except the newest apprentices knew that - but they wouldn't know who was
going where yet.
"Hi!" She pushed open the door and sauntered in. There were two visitors
sitting on her bed, both journeymen from their class, and from their
expressions they'd definitely been talking about her.
"Oh, hey, Tasni," Telvia said with a creditable effort at casual ease,
although not enough to fool her room-mate.
The shorter of the two journeymen, Sifan, showed no such restraint. "Well?"
She widened her eyes in pretended innocence, relishing their
anticipation. "Well, what?"
"What did the Hallmaster say? Did you get posted?"
"It's the Weyr, isn't it? It's got to be the Weyr. Look at that smug
grin on her." Zhelan sighed dreamily. "All those handsome dragonriders..."
"And the parties..."
"And the wine..." Sifan smacked his lips. "Weyrfolk get the best wine in
"You deserve it, after that last assignment in Bitra," Telvia said,
shuddering. She hoped she'd never get posted that far north.
"It's not the Weyr," Tasni said, sitting down on the bed and accepting a
mug of klah from Zhelan.
"It's better than the _Weyr_?"
She nodded, eyes bright with mischief as all three stared at her.
"Ista?" Zhelan guessed. "I've heard the beaches are pretty spectacular."
"No. You need to think further afield."
Telvia frowned. "You don't mean..."
"Well, I don't know what she means," Sifan said grumpily. "Go on, Tasni.
We give up. Where are you off to?"
"Emerald Falls," Tasni said, and sat back to enjoy the uproar.
"You can't go there! They hate harpers...and women!"
"What did you _do_?" Sifan stared at her with obvious pity in his eyes.
"Did you insult the Hallmaster's mother? Spill klah on one of his new
"It can't be that bad," Telvia said doubtfully. "There's a Hall there,
"Yes. They rebuilt it not that long ago after the holders burned it down!"
"Oh! Where Calenta's from." The young woman frowned. "I thought she had
to run away from that place?"
"I don't think she ran away, I think she left with the others after the
fire and came here instead of going back." The journeywoman singer
didn't talk about her former home much. "Perhaps I'd better ask her
advice. The Hall ought to be all right if they've agreed to me coming,
but if I'm going to travel..."
"You're going to journey there?" Zhelan asked, incredulous. "Oh, Tasni!
They'll kidnap you and marry you off to some backwoods holder with no
"Ah, she'll be fine. They marry their cousins down there, not
outsiders." Sifan nodded sagely. "You'll see. If you catch one with his
boots off, count the toes."
"Stars and shells, you two are so prejudiced." Telvia pulled a disgusted
face at the unrepentant men. "Don't listen to them, Tasni." Although she
was trying to be reassuring, she didn't entirely put it past the Masters
to give her friend a less than pleasant assignment. Tasni was fun to be
around, but she could also be a tad full of herself, all the more so
since she'd got back from whatever she'd been up to in Bitra. Maybe they
wanted to teach her humility by sending her where female harpers didn't
get much respect.
Then again, Tasni's idea of a good posting was most likely _very_
different to hers.
"Aren't you Southern, anyway?" she asked.
"I'm weyrbred, which is a very different matter, and I haven't been back
there since I was thirteen, but if it helped me get the assignment, I'll
be as Southern as...well, as a backwoods holder with no teeth." She gave
the two journeymen an impish look. Even if Emerald Falls Hold was as
unwelcoming to female crafters as they said, the thought of going there
gave her a thrill of excitement. The Masters wanted information about
what their Southern counterparts were thinking, and she would be in a
position to provide it. If she did well, this could improve her
reputation even more than rooting out bandits in Bitra.
Still, she wasn't going to share her thoughts on that aspect of her
assignment, even with her friends. The Hallmaster was relying on her to
"I haven't heard of many Northern harpers going through that Hall's
Archives in detail, let alone the Hold's. Imagine what I might find
there." There might be something worthy of a Mastery project. Tasni knew
she was too young yet to be considered for that rank, but there was no
harm in being prepared. If this assignment went as she hoped, she ought
to be well on her way.
"Weren't their Records all burnt?"
"I don't know. They may have saved some, and there's the Hold's, if
they'll let me see them."
"Well, send us any new music you find in those dusty old Archives while
you're digging up the secrets of the past, won't you," Telvia said. She
pointed at Zhelan. "We could do with something fresh to play while we're
waiting for this one's latest masterpiece."
"I'll do my best. There must be so much - we don't know nearly as much
as we should about the Plagues."
"And if it's dangerous?"
She grinned. "I'm dangerous."
Telvia rolled her eyes. "Stars above, that Southern Hold isn't going to
know what's hit it."
"I'd still rather get the Weyr," Zhelan sighed.
"Maybe you will, now I'm out of the running," Tasni teased.
A bell rang and Sifan jumped to his feet in alarm. "Telvia! Ensemble
practice with Master Agavon. We'd better hurry or he'll have our hides
for drum skins."
"No, he'll have _your_ hide, he'll just shake his head at me..."
"Oh, I forgot - you're the one who's his pet this season..." Their
voices faded as Sifan hurried the journeywoman away down the corridor.
"I should go too. Those apprentice harmony assignments won't mark
themselves." Zhelan pulled a face. "I think you're right, though. Talk
to Calenta. She should know that place better than any of us, even
though it's been Turns."
"Yes. Maybe that's why I'm going," Tasni said thoughtfully. "We need to
understand the South better than we do. I hope you do get the Weyr,
Zhel. You'll like it there."
"Perhaps I'll write my next ballad in praise of dragons, as a hint for
the powers that be." He got up, but paused in the doorway. "Promise me
you'll come back safe. Don't let those Southerners marry you off!"
"I don't think they do that, really, but if they try I can promise you
this." Her sudden, bright smile reminded Zhelan of that of a hungry
feline, and for a moment he could almost believe his friend was hoping
some Southern holder would dare cross her. "They'll definitely regret it."
Last updated on the April 10th 2018