I Don't Want to Be a Lady
Date Posted: 28th July 2019
R'fal arrived at his aunt and uncle's cothold to be greeted by an
excited group of cousins, who swarmed around Marlath as soon as his
claws touched the ground. Usually, his younger sister would have been
one of the first to get there, but she wasn't among them today, so he
went on into the cothold to look for her.
His uncle and the older boys were out in the fields, though judging by
the sun and the scent of cooking, they ought to be back soon for noon
meal. He expected it would be a special one, since this was the last
time that his sister would be eating with them before she left for
Emerald Falls, to be fostered alongside the Lord Holder's own children.
After taking a moment to greet his aunt, he went on to the back of the
building where the sleeping quarters were. His mother and sister had
shared a room since they'd come to the cothold, and he could hear the
sound of a discontented voice coming from inside.
"Oh, Ma! Please..." Telany was clutching a pair of short trousers with a
look of despair on her face. They were similar to the ones she was
currently wearing, faded to a pale grey-brown and almost worn through at
the knees. Beside her, on the bed, was a half-filled travel bag and a
dress laid out beside it.
Lirena sighed. "You can't wear those at the Hold. You're going there to
learn to be a lady." Her daughter had only the one good dress, which she
wore reluctantly at family celebrations and Turn's End. Usually, she
managed to slip away and change out of it despite her mother's best
efforts. Ever since she'd been offered the place at the Hold, Lirena had
been working hard to alter some of her older daughters' cast-off dresses
to fit the girl.
"I don't want to be a lady," Telany protested. "I want to be a dragonrider!"
"You're too young to be a dragonrider yet," Lirena reminded her. "And
dragons visit Emerald Falls much more often than they do here." She
gently took the garment from the girl and folded it to return it to her
press. "Besides, you can be a lady and a dragonrider. The Weyrwoman is a
"But I don't _want_ to be Weyrwoman, I want to be a dr..."
"You don't always get to choose." R'fal smiled as he entered the room.
"The dragons decide. What's the matter, Sis?"
"Ma says I can only wear dresses at the Hold." She picked up her
favourite, most comfortable pair of trousers. "Please, Ma. Just one?"
"She might need them," R'fal suggested with a quick conspiratorial
glance at his sister. "For riding. Ladies learn to ride, don't they?"
Lirena gave him a look. "I think they have special gowns for that.
You're not helping, R'fal!"
Telany turned a wide-eyed, pleading gaze on her mother. She didn't
mention that she could already ride the cothold's steady old mare, Rue.
Perhaps, she thought, they'd have faster runners at the Hold. That
wouldn't be so bad.
"Oh, very well." Their mother took the trousers from Telany, folded
them and tucked them in to the bottom of the bag. "But don't let the
Lord Holder catch you wearing those, or your new foster mother. In fact,
don't let anyone see you."
"Thank you!" Telany's spirits lifted for a moment, then were cast down
again as she saw her special-occasion shoes going into the bag as well.
Like dresses, she rarely wore shoes at the cothold, instead wearing
either her battered old sandals or going barefoot.
"We're going to go to the shoemaker's while I'm at Emerald Falls,"
Lirena said firmly. "You'll need a second pair, better than these."
"Aww!" She sat down on the bed with a thump. "I don't want to go. Can't
Sivele go instead?"
"Your cousin hasn't been asked for by Lord Corowal himself - "
"But Lord Corowal has never met me. He won't know the difference. And
she says I'll have to sit around doing sewing all the time." Telany
wrinkled her nose. "That's what ladies do. And have babies. I don't want
"You don't have to worry about that yet," Lirena said, hiding a smile.
"There'll be plenty else to do at Emerald Falls. You'll have your
classes with the Hold Harper, and you'll learn how to manage a hold."
She tried to think what else a lady did that might appeal to her
daughter. "There'll be walks, and dancing lessons."
"And you can arrange flowers," R'fal teased, "and make tea..."
"Boor-ring!" She flopped back against her pillow and sighed.
"R'fal, what did I just say about helping?" Lirena paused in her
fruitless search through her daughter's press for respectable clothing
and turned to face them, arms folded. "And Telany, if I hear the words
'I don't want' one more time, I will take that pair of trousers out of
your bag and you can leave them behind. You have no idea how lucky you
are. The Lord Holder has never invited a girl from the cotholds to be
fostered alongside his children before. This is a great honour not just
for you, but for the whole family, and I expect you to be happy,
grateful and on your best behaviour."
"Urgh!" Telany pulled a face, but then saw her mother reaching into her
bag and reluctantly sat up straight. "Yes, Ma."
R'fal sat down on the bed beside his sister. "You'll like it at Emerald
Falls, Sis, really. The Hold's beautiful, and it's huge. So many people
live there, you can't even imagine. You won't get tired of exploring
even if you're there a whole Turn. And there'll be parties, and Gathers,
and Marlath and I will come and visit you, as often as we can."
"Really?" She sniffed, and both R'fal and his mother could suddenly see
that her recalcitrant attitude was a show, covering the natural fears of
a nine-Turn-old leaving her family for the first time.
"Really." He smiled. "Don't forget, Marlath is going to fly us there.
You'll get to ride a dragon for the first time."
"Yes!" Telany bounced to her feet. "Is he outside? Can I go and greet him?"
R'fal glanced at his mother, who hesitated, then nodded. "Go on, but be
ready to come in for noon meal any minute. I've made bubbly pies." She'd
prepared her daughter's favourite dessert for her last meal with the family.
"Ooh!" Distracted from her imminent departure by the thought of both
bubbly pies and Marlath in one day, she darted out of the bedroom and
the patter of her bare feet could be heard running across the cothold's
main room and out into the yard.
Lirena watched her go, her expression resigned. "Stars above, R'fal, but
I don't know how they're ever going to teach her to be a lady." She sat
down on the bed beside him. "I hope she'll be happy there."
"Me, too." He'd tried to put thoughts of their father's trial out of his
head for his sister's sake, but he didn't envy her, having to go and
live in the very place where it had all happened. "Does she know about
what happened to Da?"
"I told her and your brother that your father had to go away for a
while. That he made a mistake and listened to some bad people, and he
had to pay for it. They don't know the details." She made one last check
through the contents of the travel bag, then pulled the drawstring to
close it. "Hold gossip doesn't last long, not like it does out in the
cotholds. People ought to have found something else to talk about by now."
"Yes, I expect so. I'll look in on her, like I said."
"You're a good son, R'fal. Make sure you spend some of your restdays
with your friends at the Weyr, though?" He'd also promised to visit his
little brother when he'd gone to live with Holder Galveden, and she
worried that between trips to see the three of them he'd have little
time to enjoy himself.
"Yes, Ma. Don't forget, it only takes a few breaths to go /between/."
R'fal pushed down the nagging feeling of guilt when she mentioned his
friends. Since graduation he'd hardly seen them, and though he told
himself it was the pressure of fighting and Wing drills, he knew he
wasn't being entirely honest with himself. Despite Olwinna's advice, he
couldn't be as easy with them he had before the trial, and he'd been
using any excuse - duties, studying, family visits - to avoid spending
time with them.
And then there was his secret. The request his father had made of him,
and that he'd failed to carry out - yet.
She gave him another long look. "I know. R'fal, you would tell me,
"Tell you what, Ma?"
"Oh, I don't know. If something was troubling you."
"Nothing's troubling me. I'm doing what I always wanted." He touched her
shoulder gently. "Fighting Thread in the Wings, with Marlath. And I know
you're safe, and so are Telany and Kerril. That's all that matters."
"Yes, I suppose so." Lirena sighed. "She's the last one to go, R'fal.
All of my children are leaving me." Galveden had offered to let her stay
at his cothold and she would have dearly liked to live with her younger
son, but she had to think of the future. When her husband returned, he
wouldn't be allowed to stay so close to his former lands. She had to
make them a home elsewhere.
R'fal hugged her tightly. It was true, the whole family had been
scattered. He'd never imagined it could happen, that day back at the
cothold when the dragons had come. Perhaps if he had, he'd never have
left. "I know. But Da will be back, it won't be long." Sooner than she
thought, maybe, if he could only find a way...
"Well. I'd better get those pies out of the oven before they burn. And I
need to pack my own things." She planned to stay at the Hold a few days,
to help Telany settle in with her foster family. "You can go on out and
call the children inside. And if you can persuade your sister to put on
that dress, I'll have an extra pie for you."
"I'll try, Ma!" He laughed. That was enough of a challenge, for now.
Last updated on the July 30th 2019