An Unexpected Offer
The small box was sitting on Jayala's desk when she returned from a
rehearsal with a group of journeymen, along with a pile of other
hidework, some from the Hall, others from traveling journeymen or
harpers posted to the Southern Holds. She realized what it might contain
at once. She'd been waiting for it to be delivered for some time. It was
only a symbol of the duties she'd been doing for the past few months,
but it made it seem real, all the same.
She set her gitar case in its usual place on a shelf and went to sit at
the desk. Her fingers brushed the lid of the box, as she remembered the
day, last Turn, when she'd received an offer she hadn't been expecting
in the least...
Jayala carefully wrote out the last item on her list of proposed music
for Turn's End, replaced her pen in its holder and gently shook the
paper to dry it. She'd put a lot of thought into the programme, after
her discussion with Master Eilomar, and chosen several new works as well
as the old favorites. She'd added some ballads of dragons, too. Those
were always popular, and given recent events, a reminder of what they
owed the Weyr wouldn't go amiss.
Before she could start rehearsals, though, she'd have to get the
approval of the Hallmaster. Jayala sighed in frustration. She would bet
a sack of marks to a bent pin that he would barely glance at it and tell
her to do what she liked. She felt a moment's envy for the dragonriders.
Even the most frustrated bronzerider, trapped in a position too low for
his ambition, knew that at any time the flight of the senior queen could
make him Weyrleader. Crafters had to wait for someone to retire, and she
was older than Vestian. She couldn't even look for a position elsewhere.
Few Holds would accept a female Master, and even if they did, she
couldn't abandon her students.
It couldn't be helped. She picked up the list and the copies of the
scores and headed for his office, hoping he'd be there.
"Come," Vestian called when he heard the tap on the door. He set down
the paper in his hands. Yet another recommendation for someone's
son-in-law for the position of Hallsecond. This was getting ridiculous.
There was always something the Masters had to complain about or try to
push on him. He wished they would just leave him alone and let him move
at his own pace! "You don't have kids, do you?" he asked when Jayala
opened the door.
Jayala hesitated for a moment, slightly taken aback by the question.
"I'm not married, Hallmaster. The Craft is my family." She frowned. "Is
something the matter?"
"I just wanted to be sure you're not walking in here in the hopes to
advance one of your offspring," Vestian sighed, crumpling up the letter
in his hands and throwing it onto his desk with disgust.
She couldn't help a slight smile. "No, I'm afraid I'm here about the
Turn's End concert." She offered him a sheet of paper. "I've drawn up a
suggested programme of music with Master Eilomar's assistance, but of
course you have the final say as Hallmaster."
"I'm an artist. It's ridiculous to think that I should know more about
music than the Choir Master just because I wear heavier knots," he said
with a wave of his hand. "I trust your judgement in the matter. Thank
you for taking that on. It's a huge relief." Really the only reason he
felt he stayed sane while the Masters were hounding him about a Second
was Jayala's help taking on some of these more annoying distractions.
Perhaps he should just name her Second and be done with it. **Wouldn't
that just make the Master's foam at the mouth...** he thought, a small
smile on his lips.
He knew the Masters hated the idea of a woman being named to power.
After all, wasn't that why they had begged him to take on the job in the
first place? Jayala was not without her support within the Hall. Some
with rather loud voices. Her name had been close to the top of the list
as the Masters deliberated who should take over for Almonteo. The
former Hallmaster himself looked on the idea favorably. The old guard's
fear of her gaining his seat was what made them ask him, a young up and
comer, to throw his name in for consideration. Suddenly a young artist
with freshly minted knots and no experience in administration looked
like a great a desirable prospect. Oh if only he had let her win, he
would not be bogged down in bureaucracy. He would just be holed up in
his studio with a brush in his hand and a canvass before him. They had
promised him that everyone would be clamoring for commissions for a
former Hallmaster when he eventually stepped down. But Vestian was a
young man. How long would he have to rot in this prison before he could
finally be free of the chains disguised as ranking knots. Those
bastards were stealing the best Turns of his life. **Wouldn't that
"Master Jayala, would you be interested in being my Second?"
For a moment she wasn't sure she'd heard correctly. There had been a
good deal of speculation about who would be named to the position of
Hallsecond and she had tried to stay aloof, not wanting to have her
hopes dashed once again. She'd thought to see one of the more
traditionalist Masters named, if only to keep them from grumbling too
loudly. There were several who weren't pleased that Vestian showed no
sign of reversing the policy of admitting women to the craft. This was
She pushed down the thought that it should have been her in his place,
choosing a Second. That couldn't be changed, and she was not going to
let this opportunity pass.
"I would be honored, Hallmaster, and glad to offer my assistance in any
way I can. It can't have been easy these last few months."
"Yes, well, that's just the job," he said with a shrug, though inwardly
he seethed at the fact that he had been tricked into taking it. The
thought of just how angry her appointment would make those old hidebound
bastards made his eyes gleam slightly. "You know not everyone will like
seeing you outrank them. Are you ready for that challenge?"
For a moment, the usual cool and businesslike expression Jayala wore
when dealing with the Hallmaster was replaced by a flash of pure
mischief. Then she composed herself. "I believe so. Not everyone was
pleased by my elevation to Master, either. I should be able to deal with
any problems that arise without troubling you."
"I don't care about trouble," he said with a wave of his hands. It was
hard for him to care about much these days. He barely kept his calm
exterior as he said, "And don't be afraid to suggest changes. We could
use some fresh ideas." And wouldn't _that_ just make those Masters
regret putting him in this position in the first place!
She smiled and lifted the lid of the box, regarding the new Hallsecond's
knots for a moment before she lifted them out and attached them in the
place of her old Master's knots. In the time since that day, she had
suggested several new ideas, and she thought that for every disgruntled
master there were plenty of journeymen and apprentices pleased to see a
Now, she had a visible symbol of her new rank and influence. It might
not be the role Jayala had hoped for, but it was something, when not
many Turns ago her Craft hadn't even accepted her outside the Weyr.
Perhaps one day, one of her students would be the first female
Hallmaster of the Harper Hall, and she would have prepared the way.
Last updated on the May 31st 2020