When Opportunity Knocks
Jayala was returning from a meeting of the Masters when the junior
apprentice nearly ran into her. Fortunately, he managed to pull up
quickly enough and spoke before she could rebuke him for running in the
hallways. "Hallsecond Jayala, there's a dragonrider outside asking to
"A dragonrider?" She looked down at the boy, expectantly. "Apprentice
Hyllem, you've been a harper for nearly a Turn now. You can do better
Hyllem took a moment to catch his breath. "Bluerider H'run, Hallsecond,
from Dragonsfall. And he's got harper knots. A journeyman." The boy
frowned. "I think he must be from a rich family? He's well dressed."
"We'll see." Dragonriders could dress well if they chose, Jayala
thought, but at least the apprentice's observational skills were
improving, and she was curious. She didn't have any former students by
that name. "Thank you, Apprentice. You can go and tell the bluerider
that he's welcome to the Hall, and I'll see him in my practice room."
That was how H'run found himself in a sunny room, telling himself quite
sternly to keep his fingers away from the Hallsecond's gitar. She was an
instrumentalist, he knew, and the craftsmanship of her instruments made
him long to hear how they sounded. They were, however, the most
impressive thing in the room. This was obviously a personal space for
her, but it was fairly bare and the furniture sturdy but not
ostentatious. It struck the right chord for the first female Harper
Hallmaster, he thought.
So did the wait. H'run settled himself in a chair in a very calculated
study of nonchalance and prepared himself for the inevitable boredom. No
Hallsecond would jump to meet a strange bluerider that showed up on
their doorstep. Yet.
It wasn't too long before footsteps were heard in the corridor outside,
and Jayala swept in, carrying a folder of sheet music which she laid on
a table beside the door. She'd taken time to put away her notes from the
meeting, but hadn't lingered. It was right, she thought, to show respect
for the Weyr, no matter the rank of the dragonrider.
"Journeyman H'run, it's a pleasure to welcome you to the Harper Hall."
She offered a hand in greeting. "I'm Hallsecond Jayala."
H'run leapt to his feet as she entered and bowed over her extended hand.
"The pleasure is all mine, Hallsecond. Thank you for making the time to
"I can always find time for a dragonrider. We in the harper craft know
our duty to the Weyr. Please, have a seat." Jayala gestured towards a
pair of more comfortable chairs, set aside for the master to listen to
her chamber groups as they rehearsed. "I don't think we've met before,
is this your first visit to the Hall?"
The bluerider shook his head as he sank gracefully into the proffered
chair. "I apprenticed here before I was Searched, although that was a
good number of Turns ago now. I have been back but not as often as I'd
like, and less so now that we are in a Pass. We are both Weyr-trained. I
believe you were trained at Thayan Peak?"
"Yes, that's right, though I lived mainly at a hold that looked to the
Weyr." That might have saved her. She still remembered the day when the
earth shook, though they'd not known of the destruction at the Weyrhold
until later. "Then I practised my craft at Topaz Sea Hold, until the
Hall came to Dolphin Cove Weyr. And now I'm here." Back in the Hall that
had once taken her mother's craft rank from her, had rejected women for
so many Turns. She couldn't help but feel some satisfaction at that.
"May I ask, have you chosen a speciality in our craft, Journeyman? Do
you play any instruments?"
"I play gitar, Hallsecond, and am passable on the pipes. I compose a
little as well, although nothing worthy of a true instrumentalist,"
H'run said modestly. His tunes were just that-- small songs for around
the drinking table or at a Gather, nothing that would impress a woman
like Jayala. "My talents lie more with history and charter law than
music or art, I'm afraid. And with the Pass... well, I never was able to
specialize as I wished."
"That's to be expected. You have other responsibilities. Still, I
wouldn't underestimate the value of those talents of yours," Jayala
said. "Our Archives are the heart of our Hall, and we welcome visitors
to study from all over Pern. We did lose most of our Records in a fire
early in the Pass, but we've been reconstructing them ever since and the
Weyrs have been very helpful in that regard. You'd be welcome to come
and work here, or even to sit in on a class with the Master Archivist if
you choose." She thought for a moment. "If you'd be interested, I'd be
happy to show you."
Pride warred with ambition; ambition won. H'run wore his harper knots
proudly but hadn't seriously turned his hand to his Craft since the
start of the Pass. But he wanted to be Weyrharper someday, the highest
rank someone like him could hope for. If he was to be Weyrharper, he'd
need the support of the Harper Hall. H'run bowed from his seat. "I would
be honoured, Hallsecond. You show me too much kindness."
"Not at all." Jayala stood and opened the door, gesturing for him to
precede her out. "We had a journeywoman from the Northern Hall working
here until recently. She was studying the aftermath of the plagues, and
the break between her craft and ours. Unfortunately she's away on a
research trip to one of the outer holds, but perhaps you can meet her on
her return." If she returned, and didn't get herself killed. "Are you
interested in that period of history? Or earlier times?"
"Post-plague, but also contemporary times," H'run said, stepping into
the hallway. "We do live in an interesting age."
"That's true. I hardly expected to return to the Hall in my lifetime,
let alone rise to my current position." She closed the door of her
practice room behind her and set off in the direction of the archives.
"The return of Thread has brought many changes, and some unrest,
unfortunately. It keeps us busy."
"Sometimes a little unrest is welcome, Hallsecond." The bluerider nodded
at her knots. "Two generations isn't that long, yet its long enough to
create traditions that go back to time immemorial. A paradox."
"And one that it's up to our Craft to resolve, by reminding people that
while some traditions are valuable, others aren't as time-honoured as
they think," Jayala said. "The trick is to generate enough unrest to see
new ideas flourish, but not so much we have our Hall burned down around
us. That takes care, and an awareness of the mood in the Holds."
H'run inclined his head to her in a subtle bow. "You navigate a narrow
path, Hallsecond. The moods of the Weyrs are, by and large, less
capricious, and I-- being who I am, have been fortunate for it."
"The Weyrs have long been a haven for those wanting to break free from
hidebound traditions." She thought of a girl, long ago now, dreaming of
a life spent devoted to music, rather than marriage and family, and how
she'd had to leave her home to find it. "My hope is that gradually, more
Holds and Halls will offer the same freedoms. And it has been getting
better, though there's a long way still to go, in some places."
"Then I am doubly glad that you wear the Hallsecond's knots," H'run said
after a moment. Internally he winced; it sounded a bit obsequious but
the sentiment was genuine. Hopefully Jayala wouldn't turn out to be a
terrible politician; her success would pave the way for women and girls
across the Southern Continent. And perhaps for boys like him, as well.
Jayala bowed her head slightly, accepting the compliment. "Thank you.
Though we all have our part to play, in bringing about the future we
seek. Masters, journeymen...and dragonriders." She glanced at him,
thoughtfully, then stopped and opened a door, revealing a bright, airy
room with the scent of paper and ink in the air. "Here we are. The
H'run paused at the doorway. The Archives were bright with diffuse
light, with ceilings that arched like dragon wings and wide passages
between the stacks of books and scrolls. Somewhere, hidden from view, he
could hear the murmur of voices; scholars and students, the rustle of
hide and paper and the scrape of ink and the pen nibs. He'd only been at
the Harper Hall for two years of his young life, but the fall of the
light and scent of history made him ache for something he hadn't
realized he'd missed at all. "I... am so happy that the fire at the
Harper Hall didn't lose more..."
"I'm grateful for what was saved. Much of this is the result of the hard
work of our archivists over the last few Turns, though, and the
generosity of the Weyrs and Holds in lending their Records and their
musical scores for us to copy. The fire did a great deal of damage." She
nodded to the journeyman on duty, crossed the room and turned into the
passage between two shelves of hidebound volumes. "It can't be allowed
to happen again."
"No." H'run followed, although given the choice he'd have lingered in
the stacks. "If the Holds are Pern's heart, then the Harper Halls are
its mind. I'm ever so grateful that this could be rebuilt... or at
"As am I. It's an ongoing task, bringing together all the knowledge and
history of Pern, and I'm sure there's more out there to be found. Old
maps and traders' tales, half-remembered songs..." She slowed her pace,
as if to study the titles of the bound Records, then glanced back over
her shoulder. "If you should come across anything of interest in the
Weyr - or on your travels, as a dragonrider - the Hall and I would
welcome your contributions."
"Of course! I'd be delighted." H'run bowed slightly. He'd haunt the
archives for an opportunity to impress the Harper Hall. "Is there
anything in particular that the I should be keeping an eye out for?"
"I expect the Master Archivist could advise you of his more pressing
needs. For myself, if you find any music you don't recognize I'd be most
interested to see it." She paused, considering her words. "And as I'm
sure you remember from your own training, the Harper Hall likes to keep
in touch with thoughts and attitudes out in the holds. To protect our
own people, of course, but more than that, to help us make this land as
peaceful and united as we can. All the more so, now we're in a Pass."
The bluerider blinked. Then he nodded. "I understand, Hallsecond. And I
would be delighted to do so."
"Good. Thank you." Jayala inclined her own head in return. So he was as
intelligent as she'd thought. That could prove to be useful. "I must
leave you now - I've a journeyman chamber group to attend to - but
you're very welcome to explore the archives, and speak to the Master
when he returns." She offered a hand. "I hope we'll meet again soon."
"As do I." H'run took her hand and brushed a brief kiss over her
knuckles. "You have been very kind to this bluerider, Hallsecond, and I
hope to one day return the favour."
"Perhaps you will." And soon, Jayala thought. She couldn't precisely put
her finger on it, but she sensed something in the air in the holds, and
she wanted to nip it in the bud before they had another incident between
Hold and Weyr. "Fly safe, Bluerider H'run." Then she turned and walked
back through the stacks, her thoughts turning to other channels by which
she might discover what was afoot.
Last updated on the November 11th 2020