What if I'm Wrong?
Alina stared at the sewing in her hands, barely seeing the stitching. She sighed and set it aside, then paced around her weyr for a bit with Stumpy at her heels. Finally she went to sit on the ledge with Imarith, watching as the sun went down over Dolphin Cove Weyr in streaks of orange and peach that faded to a deep, star-spackled indigo.
Stumpy jumped up and raced into the weyr when he heard the door open; J'ackt was back from his sword practice. Alina stood and followed the canine more slowly. "Hi. How was your day?"
J'ackt was promptly greeted by an ecstatic canine the moment he stepped in. Scratching Stumpy around the ears, but not letting him jump up on him, he looked up at Alina and gave a brief smile. "Busy. I've got two new Candidates who want to learn, but honestly, they're all thumbs and about as clumsy as newly hatched flits. They trip over their own feet." Stripping off a sweaty tunic, he tossed it into the basket that held his soiled clothes. "I didn't see Imarith with Zith today. Did you have sweeps or something this morning?"
Alina shook her head. "Just a few drop-offs to weather stations. J'ackt... can I ask you something?"
"Sure." He patted Stumpy again, then rose from a half-crouch where he'd been scratching the canine. "You always can. Might not have a good answer though." He walked to the wardrobe and pulled out clean linen pants to change into after his bath. "Something up?"
"Maybe." She sighed as she watched J'ackt move around their room, Stumpy at his heels. "You know the weather reports I pick up? I think... I'm not sure, but I think that one of the Starsmiths... isn't actually the person he says he is."
J'ackt stilled and looked over his shoulder at her for a long moment before turning to face her. "That's...probably pretty serious." He frowned. "Why don't you think he is?"
She sighed again, twisting her braid over her shoulder to rub the end against her fingertips as she spoke. "I had a conversation with J'pil today... he said that the Starsmith was ancient and walked with a limp, but he's neither. And then last sevenday I was asked by a Journeywoman here to get him to recalibrate his instruments because his measurements were off, and it's just... I get the feeling something is off."
That brought an immediate frown and J'ackt put down the linen pants on the bed, immediately concerned. "Did you tell the Starsmith here about it? If you haven't then you need to. If that's not the person you're supposed to be talking to, it could be anyone. Was he acting strange? What did he look like?"
"He's been perfectly polite and he _has_ been doing the reports. I'm just as likely to be wrong," Alina said. "I don't want to create trouble for someone if I don't need to."
"Doesn't matter. Ask anyway. Trust your gut, Alina." J'ackt's voice was crisp. "If you think there's something wrong, then say something. If there isn't then at least you know you checked. If there is, well, then you caught something that might be important."
The greenrider was quiet for a moment. "I've been thinking... what if... what if he's holdless?"
J'ackt paused, pursing his lips as he thought about it. "A Holdless man doing weather reports? I suppose, depending on what he was made Holdless for, it's possible, but..." He frowned, rubbing his chin. "What's he like when you go there? What does he look like?"
"He's... he's middle aged, maybe. Usually a bit rumpled but not like when I first met him. It's just... there's literally nobody for as far
as the eyes can see-- even on dragonback. I don't know if there's anywhere more isolated on Pern." Alina shook her head. "It just doesn't seem _possible_ that it's not him."
J'ackt fell silent, debating with himself for a moment. "And the man supposed to be old with a limp?" He looked up at Alina. "Say something to the Starsmith as soon as you can. When I was Holdless, I purposefully found a place that was isolated; I mean sure, I could leave to go get what I needed, but if I found a place like what you're talking about, where supplies would be dropped off...well, honestly, I could tell you what I would do if I needed shelter and supplies. An old man? Alina, that's easy prey."
She shook her head. "I don't believe that you would do something like that."
His brows rose. "Alina, I would have. Without hesitation. If it was a choice between me, shelter and food against an old man...I came first. That's how you think when you're Holdless, Alina, especially if you're desperate." J'ackt frowned, his gaze darkening. "If he _is_ Holdless, Alina, and he suspects you're suspicious...don't get close to him. I'm serious. I want you to go and say something. Just in case."
"Imarith is right there," she said testily. "I really don't feel threatened. And if he _is_ Holdless... I remember you talking about
how it wasn't your fault. What if it's the same for him? He could be like _you_."
"Because sometimes it is their fault. My Da should have been made Holdless for what he did; he just took me and my mam with him. And it doesn't matter if Imarith is right there. You get hurt, she'll panic, Alina." He reached for her arms and held her there. "Please. Say something. For my peace of mind. Because if he hurts you..." He shook his head, shuddering at the thought. "Go to the Starsmith. Please."
She sighed, then finally nodded. It felt hard to say something when she wasn't certain, and if she was wrong her reputation would be on the line. "I just wish I knew for sure. If I'm wrong I'll be in a lot of trouble."
"How? If anything, I'd think they'd appreciate you asking or saying something if you were worried." J'ackt pointed out. "Shells, have that journeyman or someone who knows the Starsmith go with you or something next time you take a flight out. Just to make sure. They can make up some excuse or something for being there."
"Maybe," she muttered. If something _was_ wrong, having a stranger there might spook the man into running. But without someone who knew Rehaan there, she'd never be certain. "I'll take care of it somehow. Thanks for listening."
He rubbed her arms slowly. "Always. Just...please, go ask, okay?"
"All right." What was the point of asking her weyrmate for advice if she didn't follow it? It was good advice, although she was nervous about taking her issue to the Starsmiths. The greenrider leaned into his touch. "Have you had dinner yet?"
He bent to kiss her brow, relieved. "No, not yet. I'm sweaty and dusty and I need to get a good scrub in before I eat." J'ackt grinned suddenly. "Care to scrub me?"
She pretended to think about it. "All right. But then you have to come to the Dining Cavern with me and sit beside me when we have dinner."
J'ackt gave a huge, falsely put-upon sigh. "Sounds like a high price for a good back scrub, but I suppose that I can manage."
The greenrider smiled. "Good. It's a deal then."
Last updated on the January 13th 2021