Every Problem Has a Solution (1/2)
Date Posted: 9th January 2019
Jayala put down her pen and read over the letter that she'd just
finished writing. She had chosen good quality paper, as a sign of
respect to the family, and as always, her handwriting was immaculate.
More than that, she had to make sure every word was carefully chosen.
She'd even been to the Records to research the hold, and studied the
reports their assigned journeyman had sent back.
She was writing to the parents of a twelve-Turn-old girl who had been
identified by the journeyman as having the potential to become an
apprentice. According to the harper, they had no strong objections to
female crafters, and might be persuaded to allow their daughter to come
to the Hall. Like many families, they were more concerned with making
sure their children were happy and well provided for than with hold
Jayala had made sure to emphasise how well the apprentices were looked
after, and that she could have a respectable career as a teacher or a
musician alongside a family life, if she chose. A few well chosen words
could make all the difference.
She had been writing letters like these for many Turns - since she had
come to Topaz Sea Hold as a journeywoman, and first experienced life in
a Hold which was starting to admit women to the crafts after Turns of
the ban. Some families had been excited by the new opportunities for
their daughters, others had been suspicious or hostile.
Back then, she had never thought she'd be able to write such letters
from the Harper Hall itself, in the heart of Emerald Falls. There had
been times in her life when it had seemed everything was getting worse...
** Madron's Hold, Thayan Peak Weyrhold, 17 Turns ago **
She had been preparing for the afternoon's lessons when the girl came to
tell her that the Holder wanted to see her. She didn't know what it was
about, but did offer the information that a runner had brought an
official message, and that Holder Madron had been closeted in his office
Jayala wondered if he wanted her advice on some matter, as the hold's
harper. Ever since they'd had the news of the terrible earthquake at
Thayan Peak, people had been wondering what it might mean for the hold,
and how they could help. She immediately put her work aside and left the
small but bright, airy room that she'd taken over for her teaching.
In the hold's main communal area a few drudges were clearing up the last
of the noon meal, while others were working on indoor tasks such as
mending clothes. An elderly auntie was keeping an eye on the hold's
youngest residents: two toddlers and a baby in a crib. Jayala returned
their friendly greetings with a polite nod and crossed the room to a
side passage which led to Madron's study.
The holder was a middle-aged man who always seemed more comfortable out
in the fields with his workers than behind a desk. They'd known each
other for Turns, but she had never seen him looking so careworn as he
had over the last month.
"Journeywoman. Thank you for coming so promptly." He ran his fingers
through his thinning hair. "Please, sit. I've something important to
discuss. It won't be easy... "
"Holder?" She'd not been a harper for so many Turns without learning to
recognise a bearer of bad news. "What's the matter?"
Madron hesitated, taking a deep breath. "That runner who arrived today -
you heard about that? He brought...I suppose you could call it a
proclamation. From our new Lord Holder." He grimaced. "There have been
decisions made as to where the lands which formerly looked to the
Weyrhold should be assigned. It seems my hold is now part of Emerald
Jayala went very still. "Lord Ziadriel." She surprised herself with how
calm she sounded, as if abruptly finding herself in the territory of the
Lord who'd expelled her mother from the Harper craft she'd known all her
life, along with all the other women of childbearing age, was nothing to
be concerned about.
"I'm afraid so." Madron met her gaze, and she could read the shame in
his eyes as clearly as a melodic line. "The letter says that his laws
now apply throughout his new lands. He - or rather his steward - asks
for a list of all 'former' female crafters in my hold, and the more
suitable occupations they've been reassigned to."
"I see. And what does the Lord of Emerald Falls consider a suitable
occupation for a harper of twenty Turns' experience?" Jayala asked.
The holder winced. "Marriage and motherhood are encouraged."
She couldn't help a burst of astonished laughter. "Well, that's clearly
absurd. Who'd want to marry me? I've thirty-seven Turns, no dowry, and
I'm hardly the motherly type."
Madron had to admit, she wasn't the meek and obedient type that these
Emerald Falls men held up as their ideal of womanhood. He didn't
entirely share her confidence that no one would want her as a wife. He
would never dare say so, but the harper was attractive in a way, with
those fine, strong features and the challenge in her dark eyes. There
was a certain sort of man who enjoyed crushing the spirit of a proud,
defiant woman. He hoped none of his people fit that description - he'd
sent one or two packing in his time - but now, with these new laws, he
suspected his power to protect the hold's women from such people had
Still, there was no reason to worry her, just yet. He managed a wry
smile. "Work in the kitchens or the laundry would be acceptable."
"Drudge work?" Jayala shook her head. "I didn't leave my family, didn't
struggle all my life to follow my craft, only to give it up to scrub
pots and iron shirts."
"I thought you might say that." He sighed. "Jayala, you've been a
wonderful harper for the hold. My children have grown up with you as
their teacher. You always expected the best from them, and they gave it
to you. Not without some complaining, but they did, in the end! I'd
hoped you would stay, be harper to my grandchildren one day."
"Then I have to go."
"Not at once," he said hastily. "I'm not going to throw you out. You can
stay as long as you need, in gratitude for all you've done. But there
will come a time when you won't be able to practise your craft here any
"I see." She ought to have expected something like this. Emerald Falls
was the closest Hold; it made sense that they'd take over authority now
the Weyrhold was gone. She'd been so caught up in the aftermath of the
disaster, wondering what it would mean for the dragonriders, for the
South, that she hadn't stopped to think what it might mean for her.
Where could she go? She'd heard the survivors were founding a new Weyr,
over in the east by the sea, but she knew no one there. Would they even
accept her, or dismiss her as another mouth to feed? If she'd been a
smith, or a mason, it would have been easier, but they likely had all
the harpers they needed.
She'd been so lost in her thoughts that she'd hardly heard what Holder
Madron had said. "I... I might need a little time..."
"Of course. There's no rush. I can stall Lord Ziadriel for a little
while, and he'll surely have other matters to attend to. We aren't his
only new possession." The holder smiled weakly, pretending a confidence
he didn't feel. He'd heard troubling rumours about the Lord of Emerald
"Thank you, Holder." She got to her feet. "I can always go to my family,
I suppose. I won't be a burden on you for long."
"Don't think that. I do mean it, you know. About our gratitude."
"I don't doubt it. But I don't intend to retire at thirty-seven,
either," Jayala said, feeling some of her courage return. "I always
meant to study for my Master's knots, and I can't do that here, even
without the decrees of our new Lord Holder. I need to go where there are
other harpers to learn from." That might mean the Weyr. Or the North.
She couldn't quite imagine such a distance, nor yet.
She left the holder's office with a promise of his aid, wherever she
chose to go, and a reassurance that she could take her time. As she
crossed the hold's dining hall towards the classroom, though, a sense of
urgency and disquiet quickened her steps. Perhaps she was safe for the
moment, but could she trust everyone in this hold not to report her to
the Hold Guard for practising a craft in violation of the law? What if a
reward was offered?
Then, if she wanted to leave, she would have to travel through Lord
Ziadriel's lands, where she would not have Madron's friendship to
protect her. Best to go soon, while the former weyrhold lands were still
in transition. But where?
Last updated on the January 21st 2019