On Gil's Trail
Jayala drew in a breath of relief as the brown dragon emerged from the
absolute dark of/between/ and she saw the familiar landscape of Dolphin
Cove Weyr below. Although the Hall at Emerald Falls was her home now,
this had been where she'd first joined her fellow harpers, when they'd
moved here after the fire and started accepting women into the Craft,
and where she had gained her Master's knots. She still had friends
here...which meant she could visit without attracting much attention.
Once they'd landed, she thanked the dragon and rider and started towards
the crafters' quarters, then turned back as if she'd just remembered
something. "Oh - would you mind asking the Weyrleader if he could spare
a few moments? The Hallmaster asked me to pass on some messages while
I'm here. He should be expecting me."
The rider nodded, not looking particularly interested, which suited
Jayala. The information she brought should be known to as few people as
possible, for now.
N'vanik was indeed waiting for her and grew more eager when he got
news that she'd arrived. He'd asked the Hallsecond to gather any
information she could about the people responsible for poisoning the
weyrlings. Harpers would be in the perfect position to talk to holders
and poke around a bit. The conspirators would likely be wary, as it
was well known the Harper Hall and the Weyr were close, but regular
holders would certainly be more inclined to talk to a harper than a
dragonrider. And N'vanik had gotten the impression that Jayala had
some . . . unsanctioned spying going on.
"Weyrleader, thank you for seeing me. I have some messages from
Hallmaster Vestian that he asked me to drop off..." Jayala closed the
door behind her. She remembered from her time here that weyrbrats were
almost as bad as apprentices for eavesdropping. "And some news about
that other matter you asked us to look into."
"What have you found out?" He needed to know. The person who'd
poisoned the meat was awaiting her fate in an inaccessible weyr, but
other people had helped her, planned it. He needed to know who was
involved and get them out of the picture one way or another to make
sure his people were safe.
"This man you were looking for, who had some connection to the attacks
on the Weyr." She took out a copy of the drawing and description that
had been circulated. "We don't know where he is now, unfortunately, but
we think we've discovered who was employing him."
She hesitated for only a moment before going on. What she was about to
say wasn't something she'd usually reveal outside her Craft, but the
conspirators threatened both the Hall and the Weyr and it was too
important to keep silent. "There have been reports about suspicious
activity at one of the outlying holds in Emerald Falls. Not directly
related to the Weyr, but still worrisome. So, I sent a journeyman there
in the guise of a servant, to investigate."
"Clever. So has the journeyman found something?" He was right about
her sending spies, and he didn't ask if the Hallmaster knew about
"There has certainly been wrongdoing. People forced to work in a stone
quarry in unsafe conditions, without proper pay or a conviction for a
crime, and far more guards hired than necessary. That's all a matter for
the Hold, and it's been reported. But the journeyman also heard a lot of
unpleasant talk about the Weyr, more than the usual rumors. They were
saying that young man, Grevan, was murdered by a bronzerider, that his
family have been persecuted, and that dragons burned their cothold. I
doubt stories like that would spread without the Holder's knowledge - or
encouragement." Jayala's lip curled in distaste. "Also, a man called Gil
was mentioned, a guard. He matches the description, and they said he
often traveled on the Holder's business."
N'vanik leaned slightly forward. "Gil, he works there?"
"Worked. Past tense. My journeyman overheard a conversation between the
Holder and another man. It seems that one of them ordered Gil to deal
with a woman who they believed was collaborating with the Weyr. He
apparently discovered some spark of a conscience and refused to do it."
Jayala paused in her story. As much as she wanted to help the Weyr, the
flow of information didn't have to be entirely one-way. "Would you
happen to know anything about this woman? A mother with children, who
may have been visited by a dragonrider."
"Alyena," he said after a brief pause. He couldn't think of a reason
to keep the information from her. "His warning saved her. They burned
her cot down but she got out. She's here now, with her kids." So the
other conspirators knew Gil had warned Alyena, and it seemed now Gil
was running from them. N'vanik could definitely use that to his
advantage . . . once he got his hands on him.
"So they tried to kill Grevan's mother - and now they're blaming the
Weyr for it." Jayala raised an eyebrow. She was almost impressed by
their ruthlessness. The rumor that dragons had set fire to the cot could
be a serious problem if it caught on. However, the conspirators had also
made a mistake. "They must have found out what Gil did, or else he
didn't seem sufficiently loyal, because he was beaten and thrown into
the quarry with the other prisoners. But around Turn's End, he escaped."
"Ah. I sure hope we can catch him before they do, because I suspect
they might decide to get rid of him permanently." Too bad they hadn't
gotten this information before Gil escaped. N'vanik flexed his hand
with frustration. "Any lead on where he might have gone?"
"Not so far. It's possible he didn't make it," Jayala admitted. "It's a
difficult journey out of that hold." If Gil was lying dead in the wilds
somewhere or had become food for a feline, that would certainly explain
why he'd not been found. "It sounds like he is - or was - a resourceful
individual, though, and used to traveling alone."
She considered for a moment. "If he did survive, there aren't many
places left he could hide. At large holds he'd be recognized, and he
can't shelter with his old employers any more. He might be with the
holdless, if they'd welcome a man who was once a guard, or more likely
somewhere small and out of the way. Or perhaps he'll attempt to get
away to the North."
N'vanik sighed. While Gil didn't know the Weyr was after him, the man
knew he was being hunted and that would make it all the more difficult
to find him. "Shards, I need to root these tunnelsnakes out and right
now Gil is our best lead." He ran a hand through his hair. "Follow up
as best you can. I've got every sweeprider on the look out and I think
at this point everyone in the Weyr has seen his sketch."
"I'll see to it that every harper has seen it too, and I'll ask my
counterpart in the Seacraft to keep a close eye on any passengers
leaving the continent. In the meantime, the misconduct at the quarry
will give the guards an excuse to investigate his former home. They
might find something." Jayala suspected the Holder would have covered
up any traces of being involved in the conspiracy, but it was worth a
try. "Unfortunately, that family has blood ties to Emerald Falls, so
we have to tread carefully until we have strong evidence."
"Blood ties?" The Weyrleader asked with an arched eyebrow. That could
definitely be a problem.
"Yes, the wife is a distant relation. Closer to the old Lord Holder
than the present one, which might explain some of what's behind all of
this. Lord Corowal is known to be an ally of the Weyr, so by stirring
up resentment between dragonriders and holders, they undermine his
rule." Jayala sighed. "If it's any comfort, Weyrleader, they may not
have much of a real grudge against you and your people. It's all
"Well." N'vanik wasn't sure how to feel about that. "If they're
against Lord Corowal whether he supports us or not, that gives him a
strong incentive to stay on our side." Corowal had never given an
indication he would turn against the Weyr, but you could never trust
what a Lord Holder might do.
"I'm sure Lord Corowal knows his duty, when the Red Star passes. As do
we all." Jayala hoped the relationship between Hold and Weyr hadn't
already been badly damaged. There was a history of distrust from the
time of Corowal's predecessors which could all too easily return. The
sooner they caught the conspirators and put a stop to their
activities, the better. "I'd best be going. I'll keep you updated if I
hear any more news."
N'vanik nodded. "If I have something to share I'll let you know, too."
The more eyes and ears they had on this, the better. He clenched a
fist, hoping he'd get his hands on Gil soon.
Last updated on the June 25th 2023