Don't Screw it Up
Date Posted: 24th March 2019
The morning after her visit to the tavern, Tasni arrived in the dining
hall feeling unusually energised for someone who'd had a late and busy
night. Of course, she hadn't drunk as much as she'd pretended to, and
the evening had turned out to be very useful. She'd got the whole story
of the trap the Captain had laid for the bandits out of one of Tevalin's
friends, including the details of the stolen goods they'd discovered in
Terren's barn, and a hint that at least one thief had turned on the others.
She considered what that would mean for her case, and what to do next,
over breakfast with a few other journeymen. Perhaps, she thought, it was
time to call in a few old favours.
Once the meal was over, they cleared away their trays, and she was about
to head back to her room to write the letter she had in mind when she
found Master Jayala in her path.
"Journeywoman. Would you mind sparing me a few moments? I want a word
Tasni was left in no doubt that she had better not mind if she knew what
was good for her. "Of course, Master."
Jayala turned on her heel and stalked out of the dining hall, leaving
Tasni to hurry along behind. She might want this discussion to happen in
private, but she was also making it abundantly clear to all the watching
harpers that she was displeased with their northern visitor. The short
walk to the Instrumental Master's practice room passed in ominous
silence. Once they were there, Jayala closed the door firmly behind them
and fixed the younger woman with an icy glare.
"What in the world were you thinking?"
"Master?" Tasni asked. "What have I done?"
"Don't pretend to be more foolish than you are, Journeywoman. You've
taken it upon yourself to defend one of those thieves that the Hold
guard have been trying to capture for months."
"Holder Terren's not accused of being a thief," Tasni pointed out, "he..."
"I don't care what he's accused of. He's been stealing from honest
people, directly or otherwise."
"But the Charter..."
"Don't tell me what the Charter says, young lady," Jayala snapped. "The
man deserves representation, of course, like anyone else, but by the
"What do you mean, the right person? I'm a trained archivist. I've
studied the laws, and I've been reading up on Southern cases," Tasni
pointed out, feeling slightly aggrieved. Did even Master Jayala dismiss
her because she was a young woman?
"He had the hold harper, who would have done a perfectly adequate job
without making it seem like the Harper Craft was helping criminals to
evade justice." Jayala put a hand to her brow, the fingers pressing at
her temples. "Or, in some parts of the Hold where opinion is not quite
as enlightened as it could be, like we assigned a silly girl harper to
defend an honest cotholder so he wouldn't have a chance in the Lord
"What?" She wasn't sure whether to be flattered that her services would
be seen as an advantage, or insulted that anyone would think the
opposite. "People believe that Terren - the cotholder - is the victim?"
That had possibilities.
"Not many in the Hold itself, but once the trial gets under way, there
might be. There are still people in this Hold who think that burning
down the Hall was an admirable idea." Jayala sighed and sank down into
the chair behind her desk. "I'd thought you were more intelligent than
this, Journeywoman. We may train female harpers now, but you can't come
here and behave as if you were still in the North, where no-one thinks
your rank is anything out of the ordinary. There are undercurrents here
that you don't appreciate."
Tasni bit back a heated response. She knew more than this Master
realised. But she couldn't say that. "Are you ordering me to drop the case?"
"No. It would seem that the Masters of the Harper Hall were interfering
with justice as set out in the Charter. Even you couldn't do that much
damage to the Craft. But I will need you to handle this carefully. Don't
screw it up."
"No, Master." She frowned. "Don't do badly for the cotholder, but don't
do too well, either?"
"Precisely. And _don't_ get him off, whatever you do." Jayala didn't see
how the girl possibly could, but then she hadn't anticipated this
situation in the first place.
"It's my duty to do my best for him," Tasni objected. "I'd be betraying
Jayala made an exasperated sound. "The best for him would be if he were
to confess to his crimes and take his just punishment. But if you must
defend him, do so in a straightforward manner. No dirty tricks. No
digging up stories, or paying witnesses to undermine the testimony of
the guards. No gazing beseechingly at the Lord Holder with those big
blue eyes of yours."
"Master! I would never..." She felt a grudging admiration for Jayala.
Those weren't bad ideas.
"Good. Then we're agreed."
"Yes, ma'am." Tasni sighed. In some ways it was fortunate. Holder Terren
was so obviously guilty that getting him cleared of the charges was
likely beyond the ability of a Masterharper of Pern. At least now, it
wouldn't be her fault. "May I go?"
"You may. I expect I'll see you again later today, when I drop in on
your chamber music rehearsal." Jayala got some small satisfaction from
seeing the girl turn a shade paler. None of the journeymen found their
Master turning up at practice a comfortable experience.
Tasni left the room with the distinct feeling that she'd been
outmanoeuvred. She wasn't used to it, and it was irritating. But after
all, Jayala was a Master Harper. And even if she might have to change
tactics, there were still ways...
But for now, she realised with a sinking feeling, she was going to have
to do some emergency gitar practice.
Last updated on the April 4th 2019