Every Problem Has a Solution (2/2)
Date Posted: 9th January 2019
Jayala closed the classroom door behind her and strode over to the far
wall, where a map of Pern was pinned to the wall for use in lessons. She
touched the location of Madron's Hold, marked out with a large yellow
circle, and traced the distance to the former Weyrhold. That had been
several days' journey, and yet it seemed such a small distance in the
map. A vast expanse of sea separated them from the Northern Continent.
It looked tiny, a curved scrap of land, compared to the expansive South.
In circumstances like this, Jayala thought, it was best to be calm and
methodical. Every problem had a solution, whether it was a difficult
question of music theory or an escape from a hostile Hold. She would
make a list of possible destinations, their advantages and
disadvantages, and the risk involved in travelling there. Then she would
compare them against each other and make a decision.
She sat down at the teacher's desk, found a worn piece of hide and
picked up her pen. Her hand shook slightly as she began to write, and
droplets of ink speckled the hide. Jayala forced herself to steady and
focus her attention on her task. First, the Weyrs. The new Weyrhold was
nearest, but she didn't want to impose on them at such a time. The next
closest was River Bluff. That would be a long journey through territory
belonging to Emerald Falls, to a place where she knew no-one.
Then there was the Harper Hall in the North. That would be an ideal
place to study for her Master's knots, and it was not so far to the
nearest sea hold. But would she be able to board a ship, without a
husband or other male companion? That was a question she'd need to
answer before she tried it.
Finally, there was home, and her family. She could study in secret with
her grandmother, hoping for better times. She would not be alone. A
sudden rush of longing to see her Grandma Zahira again startled her with
its force. She would even have been happy to see her mother, despite
their differences. If she went North, would she ever see them again?
Jayala sighed and put down her pen, resting her head in her hands. In
her heart, she knew that going home would mean giving up on her dream of
becoming a Master. She would be expected to do some work suitable for an
older, unmarried woman - taking care of elderly holders, perhaps - which
would leave little time for practice and study.
Maybe she should be grateful. At least she'd had her training, her Turns
practising the craft she loved. The girls in her class wouldn't have
that chance. She had taught them that with hard work, they could achieve
anything their male classmates could. Without knowing it, she'd prepared
them for nothing more than disappointment and frustrated dreams.
A tap on the classroom door distracted her from her gloomy thoughts. She
smoothed down her hair, hid her list under a stack of other hides and
took a deep breath to calm herself before calling to the visitor to come
in. It wouldn't do for her students to see her looking worried.
"Journeywoman?" The voice was not that of a student, but a woman perhaps
ten Turns her senior. Vialla was the Holder's wife, and a woman Jayala
greatly esteemed. She and her husband ran their hold with a combination
of efficiency and fairness that had won her respect early on. She was
taller than the harper, with light brown hair braided into a knot at the
back of her neck, and her sharp eyes missed little.
"I see Madron has told you about the letter." She came in and closed the
"Yes. I was thinking about what to do." Jayala had got to her feet. "I
won't put your Hold at risk, I promise."
"I never thought you would." The holder's wife sighed. The faint lines
around her eyes seemed deeper than usual. "Madron considered objecting
to the ruling. We clearly don't suit the culture and customs of Emerald
Falls. But..." She gestured towards the map. "It's the closest major
Hold. It makes sense geographically, if nothing else. And if judgement
goes against us, then we'll have begun by offending our new Lord Holder."
"I understand." As she'd begun to realise, the consequences of this
ruling were far-reaching. Madron and Vialla would have plenty to worry
about, besides her fate. "I'll think of something. We harpers are
"I'm truly sorry..."
"Don't be. My advice is to keep your heads down and give Lord Ziadriel
the reports he wants. Madron won't be able to protect your holders if he
gets replaced with someone more supportive of the new laws." Jayala
usually wouldn't have spoken so directly to Vialla and she wondered if
she'd overstepped the mark. But when the older woman met her gaze, it
was with a warmth and respect that went beyond her usual polite reserve.
"Thank you." There was a trace of humour in her voice. "You'd have made
a good Holder's lady, Jayala. Almost makes me think there's something in
Lord Ziadriel's obsession with marriage."
The harper let out a contemptuous puff of breath. "If he knew how much
hard work is actually involved in holding your rank, he wouldn't spout
all this nonsense about the frailty of women."
Vialla shook her head. "That's the truth. I feel sorry for his Lady."
"As do I." The women shared a glance of real friendship. Jayala felt a
moment of regret that she would have to leave, just when she felt she'd
earned Vialla's trust. "If there's anything I can do to help, while I
still can, you only have to ask."
"Well...actually, I came here wondering if I could help you," Vialla
said. She lowered her voice. "I have a suggestion."
She walked over to the map. "My cousin and his family live in Topaz Sea
Hold. We've been sending messages back and forth with his fire-lizard."
She placed her finger on the marking for the location of that Hold,
further up the coast to the east. "He told me that Lord Jaryd has opened
his Hold to the Weyrs for Search."
"Yes, I'd heard that. His sister Impressed gold." Jayala frowned. That
was old news. There had been Search riders here, too, and they'd spoken
of unusually large clutches in the last few Turns. She supposed that
would end now. Emerald Falls did not allow Search.
"Because of that, the Halls have withdrawn their crafters from the Hold
in protest." Vialla turned away from the map. "The Southern crafts, that
is. My cousin told me that they have been replaced by Northern
"Of course." Jayala joined the holder's wife at the map and found Topaz
Sea Hold. It would be a long journey, but it was the nearest location
that would permit a woman to practise her craft. And it was a major
Hold. There would be a Master there, who she could study with.
"He says there aren't many yet, but those that have come South are
training girls as apprentices. The people welcome them now that they've
proved their worth. They're still in need of experienced crafters. Not
all Northerners are willing to come South."
"Do you think they would accept me?"
"I think it's highly likely." Vialla smiled. "Especially since you'll
come with excellent references from your previous posting. Madron and I
are grateful for everything you've done here. We'll miss your music, in
"I don't know what to say...except, thank you." They shared a glance
that spoke more than words. "I should go soon, I think, so I don't cause
any trouble. I'll leave a report and notes on the children's progress
for my replacement."
"Well, I think we have time for a few more evenings of harper music.
Madron could easily lose that letter from Emerald Falls among his papers
for a few days; I'm always telling him to keep them in better order.
That'll give us time to find a trader caravan going the right way. And
I'll write to my cousin to send someone to meet you. It's not easy for a
woman travelling alone, these days."
"You don't have to..."
"Don't give it another thought."
"I hate to leave you like this." She had never liked to leave a task
"Maybe some day, things will change, and we'll see you again." Vialla's
words were cheerful enough, but there was a distant look in her eyes.
"With the dragons producing clutches as they are, and the Weyrs filling
"You believe that Thread will return?" Jayala asked, startled. It wasn't
unknown, here in the former Weyrhold lands, but it was considered rather
eccentric among holders.
"I don't know about that, but I do know that change is in the air." She
shook herself, reverting to her usual brisk manner. "But unless it
happens in the next few days, we have a great deal to do to prepare for
your journey. Don't say anything to anyone just yet."
The harper nodded. "I'll get started on that report before afternoon
"Thank you. We'll speak again, soon." The holder's wife smiled briefly
and left the room.
On her own again, Jayala returned to her desk and took out fresh paper
to start on her report. She rolled up the hide with its potential
destinations and concealed it in her pocket. Vialla's suggestion sounded
ideal, but it was still worth keeping her options open. She couldn't
help thinking of the woman's parting words, though. It was true. The
Search riders had spoken of large clutches, and she knew, from the
Jayala took up her pen and began to write, inwardly shaking her head at
her own foolishness. She had enough troubles to contend with, without
adding the return of a mysterious and deadly enemy which came from the sky.
** Present day, Emerald Falls Harper Hall **
The letter was finished, and Jayala carefully blotted the paper, then
folded it up and sealed it. Strange to think how much had happened since
she'd left for Topaz Sea Hold. The Hold she had known was no longer
there, of course, destroyed in a hurricane. And Thread had returned.
Vialla had been more right about the future than either of them could
Last updated on the January 21st 2019