A Place of Interest
Date Posted: 24th September 2018
Tasni stood outside the Harper Hall, taking a quick rest after carrying
her bag and gitar case from the riverboat dock in the heat of a Southern
afternoon and trying to get her bearings. It was quiet - the apprentices
must be in class - and bigger than she'd expected. It looked as though
they'd prospered since the fire.
She felt the itch to explore that being in a new place always inspired
in her, but they'd be expecting her to report in without delay. Tasni
picked up her belongings, and approached a woman carrying a basket of
laundry across from one of the building's wings.
"Excuse me - I'm looking for Hallmaster Vestian?"
"Of course, Journeywoman. His office is in the building where I came
from - through that door and down the corridor on your left. You can't
miss it." She smiled. "You must be new. Welcome to the Hall!"
"Thanks!" Well, they seemed friendly enough. Maybe this assignment was
going to be more peaceful than she'd thought, and she wasn't sure
whether to be relieved...or disappointed.
The interior of the Hall was cool after the heat outside. Although it
was a few Turns old now, it still had the feel of a new building - the
stone floors and the wood and paint were still relatively bright and
undamaged, without the scuffs and darkening of past centuries that she
was used to from her Northern home.
She found the Hallmaster's door quickly enough, knocked and waited, but
there was no response. Of course, he wouldn't be in his office all day.
She chewed her lip and wondered what to do next. Should she take this as
an excuse to go poking around the Hall, or try and find someone else in
Before she could make up her mind, she heard footsteps and turned to see
a dark-haired woman approaching from the end of the hallway. Like Tasni,
she carried a gitar case, but hers was much finer and lovingly cared
for, the leather dyed a deep reddish maroon and embossed with an
intricate, waving pattern that made the young journeywoman think of flames.
To her surprise, she saw that the woman was wearing Master's knots.
While that wouldn't have been unusual back home, she hadn't expected to
see female Masters at the Southern Hall. Tasni thought back to what
she'd learned of Southern history. The ban on female crafters had been
brought in around fifty Turns ago, and unless she was very well
preserved, this woman couldn't have been more than a child then. She
might be weyrbred - or perhaps the ban hadn't been as all-encompassing
as the histories suggested.
"Can I help you?"
The young journeywoman realised she was staring and quickly assumed a
respectful expression. "Oh - yes, Master. I was looking for the
Hallmaster? I just arrived from the North."
"He's not in his office?" An expression crossed the older woman's face -
annoyance? - but it passed so swiftly that Tasni wasn't sure if she'd
imagined it. "Well, perhaps he's teaching, at this hour. You must be
Journeywoman Tasni." She transferred the gitar case to her left hand and
held out the other in greeting. "Welcome to Emerald Falls. I'm Master
Jayala, the instrumentalist."
"Thank you." Tasni put down her bags and returned the gesture. "I'm glad
to be here at last."
"You must have had a long journey," Jayala said. "I was looking for the
Hallmaster myself, but since he isn't here, why don't I show you where
the kitchens are so you can have a drink and rest for a while? You can
put those in my practice room," she added, gesturing to the bags.
"They'll be safe there."
"I'd be glad to - though the riverboat journey wasn't so tiring,
compared to some I've made." She followed the master down the hallway up
some stairs and down another corridor to a door which she unlocked. The
room turned out to be bright and airy, with shelves filled with
leather-bound scores, an immaculate desk with only an inkwell and a
blotter on it, and space for a small group of musicians, with
chairs and music stands. Tasni found a corner to leave her belongings,
while Jayala carefully placed her gitar on a shelf alongside what looked
like a covered harp.
"You're an archivist, if I remember correctly," Jayala said as she
locked the door behind them both and headed briskly back towards the stairs.
"Yes, Master." Judging by her manner - and the state of her office -
Tasni reckoned that Master Jayala had never remembered anything
incorrectly in her life. She would have to tread carefully with this
one. "I've come to study the Southern Records, and to help in your
archives if I can be any use."
"I'm sure you can. We're still restoring our archives - you heard about
the fire, of course?" She glanced back. "Since then we've been
recovering documents from wherever we can - the Hold, copies held by
travelling journeymen, even some from the Weyrs. There's not as much to
be done as there was in the early days, but I expect our Master
Archivist will find work for you."
Tasni hid a grimace. Copying old Records was not her favourite activity,
but it was inescapable for someone with her speciality. "I'd be glad to
contribute in any way I can, since the Hallmaster's been good enough to
accept me here."
"Yes," Jayala said thoughtfully. Tasni wondered whether the Hallmaster
had consulted the other masters about whether to admit her to the
Southern Hall, and if so, whether Master Jayala had been in favour. As a
fellow female crafter, she would have hoped so.
"I saw you were carrying a gitar case," she went on. "Is that instrument
a secondary speciality of yours?"
"Well, I wouldn't say I specialised exactly. Although I'm an archivist,
I'm the travelling kind," Tasni explained. "I go out to - to places my
Master is interested in, and send back reports. On my journeys, I
provide some teaching and entertainment if it's wanted, and the gitar
helps." That was, if she was travelling in the guise of a harper, which
wasn't always the case.
"Oh?" Jayala smiled. "And is our Southern Hall a place your Master
is interested in?"
Tasni did her best to look guileless. "I suppose it must be. It
certainly is interesting to me."
"I see." She nodded, as if confirming something she'd suspected. "It
will be up to the Hallmaster whether you do any teaching while you're
here, of course. Some of the holds in this territory are...not as
forward-thinking regarding craft-trained women as we are here in the
main Hold. We will have to consider your safety, if you leave the Hall.
However, if you want to keep from getting out of practice, I organise
small chamber groups for the journeymen and senior apprentices. If
you'll come by my office and show me what you can do, I'll find a place
at the right level."
Tasni gulped and felt very glad for all the dull hours of practice she'd
put in on the riverboat. "Thank you, Master."
She waved a hand. "Your arrival is convenient. I lost one of my most
promising journeywomen to the Weyr a few months ago. Since then, the
young men have been in need of someone to keep them on their toes. Some
of them don't like being outplayed by a woman..."
Tasni had to smile. "I've noticed that. Even in the North."
"The world over, it seems," Jayala said, with a weary tone that sounded
like it came from experience.
"I doubt I can match your journeywoman, but I'll do my best."
"That's all I ask." The Master's sly smile returned. "Trust me,
Journeywoman, the Hall will find ways to keep you busy. The kitchens are
just through here." She opened a door and gestured for the younger woman
to precede her.
Tasni immediately found herself immersed in the warmth and bustle of a
Crafthall kitchen, the scents of klah and baking bread mingling with
less familiar herbs and spices that must be native to the South. After
one of the staff had found her a place at a long table and gone to fetch
her a cool glass of water, she sighed and finally relaxed - but never
quite stopped listening. Of all the places in Pern, the best place to
overhear gossip had to be the kitchens of a Harper Hall.
Last updated on the October 2nd 2018