Date Posted: 3rd February 2022
It was almost half a candlemark before the evening meal, but when Arrilon entered the dining hall, there were already some Hall residents seated, chatting. He saw two fellow harpers having an animated conversation and joined them, taking a seat next to Valinar, his roommate. The blond harper was slightly younger than him but, having lived at the Hall since he apprenticed at the age of 13, had taken Arrilon under his wing. Arrilon had appreciated the insights (and gossip) Valinar had shared about many of the residents, which had helped him avoid several awkward interactions. Arrilon had also peppered him with questions, especially in his initial sevendays at the Hall. The two sat across from Tyrak, a slightly older senior journeyman with significant teaching experience, who served as a teaching mentor of sorts.
"Teaching issue?" Arrilon guessed. Valinar was giving recorder lessons to a small group of apprentices, which supplied a seemingly endless stream of funny anecdotes, deep discussions about teaching techniques, and playful bets about how many creative ways novices could mess up a song.
Valinar sighed loudly in response, although his supposed frustration was belied by the twinkle in his eye. "Olkin made the same mistake _six_ times in a row. Six times! How hard can it be to not take a breath right in the middle of a run?"
"Breath control takes a long time to learn," Tyrak's deep voice cut in. Arrilon could imagine apprentices liking his soothing presence. "And it's something all of us could probably stand to improve."
"It certainly is! That's why I assigned a breathing exercise as homework. All of them have to practice making the sound of a buzzing fly and hold it as long as they can. They're supposed to do this for a minute or two at a time, at least ten times in the next two days."
"At least that sounds helpful," Arrilon said. "Although, you could have chosen a quieter breathing exercise."
"I could have. But what's the fun in that? I even suggested that practice right before bed and right after waking up might be particularly helpful." Valinar smiled widely. Arrilon smiled back, and even Tyrak's mouth twitched. "We say that teaching should be fun when possible, to help students stay engaged. Well, I think it should be fun for the teacher as well, right? Makes us more excited to walk into the classroom every day."
"You have a point," Arrilon conceded, although he wasn't sure everyone would agree with Valinar's methods. He wasn't doing any harm though.
"How is Nasira doing?" Tyrak asked. "I know she was struggling with some of her lessons, but I was hoping she'd enjoy practicing the recorder."
Valinar shrugged. "She's fine, I guess. Not as bad as Olkin, although that's not saying much."
"Is she new?" Arrilon hadn't met many of the apprentices yet.
"She's been here for close to a Turn now," Tyrak supplied. "She has some real potential as an artist."
"It might be best for her to just stick with art," Valinar suggested.
"She just needs time to improve in other areas," Tyrak said.
"Maybe." Valinar shrugged. "Not everyone is cut out to be a harper. Besides, she can always make little drawings for family and friends."
"I know my art was pretty terrible at first," Arrilon chimed in. "It took me Turns to get decent, and even now my art is just passable."
Arrilon was surprised, and confused, to hear a bit of heat in Valinar's tone. "How so?"
"Well, you were at the Weyr. Everything is different there. She's here at the Hall. And she'll just leave in a few Turns to go marry whoever her father finds for her. Or, maybe she'll try to snag one of us."
"Valinar," Tyrak said, a hint of warning in his tone. "We treat all our apprentices the same here."
"I know. But it's always the girls who stop their studies. I'll teach them, because it's my job, but what's the point?"
Arrilon was overwhelmed by what he was suddenly learning about Valinar. He not only seemed to hold Weyr trained harpers to a lower standard but also thought female apprentices weren't good enough to be harpers, or just came to the Hall to pass the time until marriage, or maybe both. Rather than being angry or offended, although he imagined those emotions would come later, he was mainly disappointed to learn that someone he considered a friend held such conservative views.
"Some young women are close to walking the tables," Tyrak said, ever the calming voice in the room. "And, it's still a benefit to have harper-trained men and women across Pern, even if they don't continue with the craft. They can help us find talent or can pass along any interesting things they overhear."
Valinar shrugged. "It still seems like a waste of time and energy teaching people we know will never walk the tables."
Arrilon didn't want to push Valinar too much, since they needed to share a room for the foreseeable future. However, he wanted to better understand the man's views. "The Hallsecond is a woman."
Valinar waved his hand. "She's from a different generation. And she's Weyr trained." He lowered his voice, "Besides, isn't it strange it seems she never married or had children? Who knows what the story is behind that." His tone seemed to imply that there must be something wrong with her.
"Not everyone marries. And I'm Weyr trained." Arrilon didn't know if he could continue this conversation, or even continue spending time with Valinar.
"It's different," Valinar said, echoing his earlier comment. "You're a man, so what you did when you were at the Weyr isn't a big deal. Besides, you're here now." He smiled, perhaps not realizing the distance that now existed between the two of them.
Arrilon shook his head, not sure what to say. He wished he had the right words to help Valinar see how his views were wrong. Being Weyr trained wasn't so different from being Hall trained. And, maybe more girls who came to the Hall as apprentices would stay if they were taught by those who believed they belonged there. Valinar wasn't the only one with these views, but the fact that it had taken Arrilon over three months to learn them when they shared a room meant they were more widespread than he had imagined.
"We're all here now," Tyrak said, trying to break the tension. "We'll all keep working with the apprentices we have, and giving them silly exercises to annoy others in their dormitories. Besides," he gestured, "it's time to eat."
Both Arrilon and Valinar nodded and smiled, but Arrilon was left with a sense of loneliness he thought he'd left behind when he had arrived at the Hall. Even surrounded by harpers, he worried he wouldn't be able to find a group of people who shared his passions and values. Was he too conservative for the Weyr and too open-minded for the Hall? And, more pressingly, how would he interact with Valinar going forward? He gave a small sigh and stood with the others to get food and drink. He had a lot of thinking to do.
Last updated on the February 10th 2022