Plans for a Journey
Just as Master Jayala had predicted, it was only a few days later that
Tasni sought out Ueltin again. She found him in a classroom just after
he'd finished teaching, her eyes bright and her arms filled with hides
"I've been busy in the archives!" She dropped her notes on one of the
classroom tables as the last of the apprentices left, and unrolled a map
of Emerald Falls Hold. "It seemed hopeless at first, but when you
eliminate the holders who were appointed by Lord Corowal, and look for
anyone with a reputation for disapproving of his changes and who was at
the Hold at the time of the fire, there aren't that many."
"Good work, Tasni. So, who are the prime suspects?" Ueltin grinned at
"There are a few large cotholds out here in the mountains, in the
territory of Black Rock and High Hills, where the records show visits to
Emerald Falls at the right time." She pointed out the locations on the
maps. "The holds are isolated out here, not many people come that way,
and from the harpers' reports they're slow to accept change. But there
are strong loyalties to Lord Corowal in that area, he appointed many of
the holders. His policies have made them prosperous, especially those
who carry out mining or logging for trade. However, over here..."
Her finger traced along the mountains to the east. "These holds were
less badly hit by the Plagues, and they've been in the same families for
generations. There are notes in the journeymen's reports about girls
receiving little education, and experiencing hostility and threats when
they tried to offer it. There was grumbling about the Lord Holder, too,
and the weight of the tithes. The holders of Withy Grove, Ash Vale and
Hevlan's Ford...they were all at Emerald Falls at the right time,
bringing tithes or visiting Lord Enrizial with petitions."
Tasni lowered her voice, her eyes meeting Ueltin's. She knew what she
was suggesting could be dangerous, even here in the Harper Hall. "So was
Holder Giffin of Forest Springs. He's wealthy, with a large holding, and
he could afford enough guards that one more wouldn't be noticed."
Ueltin considered what he knew about those places. "From what I've
heard, Holder Giffin would fit. He's patriarchal, has been in rule since
the Plagues killed his father and there's been complains about him
stealing land or resources from his neighbours. Corowal put a stop to
it, so he has valid reasons not to like our Lord Holder. If we want more
information of him, we could talk to some old master here at the Hall."
"He sounds delightful," Tasni said sardonically. "We should find out
more, certainly, though it might be wise not show too much interest."
Glancing over her shoulder at the empty classroom, she thought for a
moment, as if deciding how far to trust him. "It might be worth someone
making a journey out that way, and we don't want these holders getting
word of it."
"Yes," he agreed. "I can't remember if there's a harper assigned to his
Hold. Should be, it's large enough for it," Ueltin replied and shrugged.
"The easiest and fastest route would be by the rivers," his fingers
traced the route at the map.
"I travelled on a riverboat to get here, from the North. It was very
interesting." She remembered all that she'd overheard from holders'
gossip along the way. Even if she didn't find the guard, she was sure
the Masters in the North would want to hear anything she found out. "I'd
love to do it again. What do you think? Should I ask leave to go there?"
"Yes, you should. However, I wouldn't recommend you to go alone. Some of
those people don't take female crafters or harpers kindly. Besides,
there's holdless. Those bandits that were recently in trial weren't the
only ones," Ueltin replied.
Tasni could have replied that she was well able to take care of herself,
even among bandits, but she held her tongue. She didn't want anyone here
in the South to know about her other talents besides searching the
archives, and besides, he might have a point. Even the best agents could
run into trouble in unfamiliar territory. "Are you trying to say you
want me to take you along?"
Ueltin flashed a grin. "I miss travelling," he said honestly. He had
found it easier to tell the truth if possible. Just not tell all of the
truths. "I've spent most of my career as journeyman as a travelling
teacher. While I love the Hall, I also miss the travels, the excitement,
meeting new people and seeing new places."
"Well..." She pretended to consider it carefully. "I suppose you could
join me. After all, you did help with the guards, it wouldn't be fair to
leave you out." Though she tried, she couldn't quite hide her
excitement. She'd been at the Hall for more than six months now, and she
was itching to be out on her travels again.
"We probably need to hide that we're harpers," Ueltin had trouble hiding
his excitement too. "I know enough of woodworking thanks to my
instrument making to pass as a non-hall trained woodsmith. Forest
Springs main trade is lumber. How about you? I could introduce you as my
wife or sister?"
"Perhaps we'd better pretend to be married," she teased, gathering up
the maps. "From what I've heard, you might need a spouse to protect you
from Holders' daughters."
"Oh, yes, that," Ueltin grinned sheepishly. "Be warned though, as a
married couple we're expected to share a bed."
She looked up at him through her lashes, with a smile that was
distinctly inviting. "I don't mind if you don't."
"I certainly won't mind," Ueltin replied with out hesitation.
Last updated on the February 15th 2020