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Dragon Singer

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Content


DRAGONSINGER
ANNE McCAFFREY
To Andre Norton
this book is respectfully, admiringly,
lovingly dedicated
At the Harper Craft Hall
Robinton--Masterharper; bronze fire izard! "air
Masters #erint--Instr$%ent %a&er
Do%ic&--Co%position
Morsha--M$sica 'heor(
Shona)ar--*oice
Arnor--Archi+ist
Odi+e--,eaer
#o$rne(%en Sebe; )od fire izard! -i%i
.r$de)an
'a%or
Der%ent(
Apprentices /ie%$r
Ran(
'i%in(
.ro(
.onz
Meno(; 0 fire izards
)od! .ea$t(
bronze! Roc&(
Di+er
bro1n! 2az(bones
Mi%ic
.ro1nie
b$e! 3nce
)reen! A$ntie One
A$ntie '1o
St$dents A%ania
A$di+a
/ona
.riaa
Si+ina--head1o%an
Ab$na--&itchen 1or&er
Ca%o-haf-1itted &itchen dr$d)e
D$nca--cothoder of )ir4s cotta)e
At Fort Hold
2ord ,oder Gro)he; )od fire izard! Mer)a
.enis--son of Gro)he
*iderian--fosterin)
2i)and--5o$rne(%an tanner
/ai%--ba&er
'4edon--dra)onrider
At Half- Circle Sea Hold
Yan$s--Sea ,oder
Ma+i--Sea ,oders 2ad(
Ae%i--son of Yan$s
/etiron--od ,arper
E)ion--ne1 ,arper
At Benden eyr
F4ar--6e(reader
2essa--6e(r1o%an
'4)een--bronze dra)onrider
F4nor--bro1n dra)onrider; )od fire izard Gra
.re&&e--7$eenrider; bronze fire izard .erd
Manora--,ead1o%an
Feena--second in char)e
Merri%--fosterin) of .re&&e; 8 fire izards
Dra)onsin)er
Chapter 9
The little !ueen all golden
Fle" hissing at the sea#
To stop each "ave
Her clutch to save
She ventured bravely#
As she attacked the sea in rage
A holderman came nigh
Along the sand
Fishnet in hand
And sa" the !ueen midsky#
He stared at her in "onder
For often he$d been told
That such as she
Could never be
ho hovered there, bright gold#
He sa" her plight and !uickly
He looked up the cliff he faced
And sa" a cave
Above the "ave
%n "hich her eggs he placed#
The little !ueen all golden
&pon his shoulder stood
Her eyes all blue
'lo"ed of her true
&ndying gratitude#
6hen Meno(! da$)hter of Yan$s Sea ,oder! arri+ed at the ,arper Craft ,a! she ca%e in st(e! aboard a
bronze dra)on: She 1as seated on Monarth4s nec& bet1een his rider! '4)ean! and the Masterharper of /ern!
Robinton: For one 1ho had been tod that )irs co$d not beco%e harpers! 1ho had r$n a1a( and act$a( i+ed
hodess beca$se she co$d not contin$e ife 1itho$t %$sic! this 1as so%ethin) of a tri$%pha s$ccess:
Yet it 1as aso fri)htenin): 'o be s$re! %$sic 1o$d not be denied her at the ,arper ,a: 'r$e! she had
1ritten so%e son)s that the Masterharper had heard and i&ed: .$t the( 1ere 5$st t$nin)s! not an(thin)
i%portant: And 1hat co$d a )ir! e+en one 1ho had ta$)ht her ,od4s (o$n)sters their 'eachin) Son)s and
.aads! do at a ,arper ,a fro% 1hich a teachin) son)s ori)inated; Especia( a )ir 1ho had inad+ertent(
I%pressed nine fire izards 1hen e+er(one ese on /ern 1o$d )i+e a eft ar% to o1n 5$st one; 6hat had Master
Robinton in %ind for her to do here in the ,arper ,a;
She co$dn4t thin&! she 1as so tired: She4d had a b$s(! e<citin) da( at .enden 6e(r on the opposite side of
the continent 1here ni)ht no1 1as 1e ad+anced: ,ere in Fort ,od! the s&( 1as 5$st dar&enin):
=#$st a fe1 %in$tes %ore!= said Robinton in her ear: She heard hi% a$)h beca$se 5$st then bronze Monarth
tr$%peted a )reetin) to the Fort ,od 1atch dra)on: =,an) on! Meno(: I &no1 (o$ %$st be e<ha$sted: I4 p$t
(o$ in Si+ina4s care the %o%ent 1e and: See! there!= and she foo1ed the ine of his pointin) fin)er and sa1
the i)hted 7$adran)e of b$idin)s at the foot of the Fort ,od ciff: ='hat4s the ,arper ,a:=
She shi+ered then! 1ith fati)$e! the cod of their passa)e bet"een and apprehension: Monarth 1as circin)
no1! and fi)$res 1ere po$rin) o$t of the ,arper ,a into the co$rt(ard! 1a+in) 1id( to cheer the
Masterharper4s ret$rn: So%eho1! Meno( hadn4t e<pected that there4d be so %an( peope in the ,arper Craft
,a:
'he( &ept 1e bac&! tho$)h their sho$ts of 1eco%e didn4t abate! 1hie the bi) bronze dra)on setted in the
co$rt(ard! )i+in) hi% pent( of 1in)roo%:
=I4+e )ot t1o fire izard e))s>= sho$ted Master Robinton: ,$))in) the earthen pots ti)ht( a)ainst his bod(!
he sid fro% bronze Monarth4s sho$der 1ith the ease of considerabe practice in dis%o$ntin) dra)ons: ='1o
fire izard e))s>= he repeated 5o(f$(! hodin) the precio$s e)) pots abo+e his head and stridin) 7$ic&( to
sho1 off his prizes:
=M( fire izards>= An<io$s( Meno( )anced $p and abo$t her: =Did the( foo1 $s! '4)ean; 'he(4re not
ost bet"een#(
=No chance of that! Meno(!= '4)ean repied! pointin) to the sated roof behind the%: =I as&ed Monarth to
te the% to perch there for the ti%e bein):=
6ith infinite reief! Meno( sa1 the $n%ista&abe o$tines of her fire izards on the rooftop a)ainst the
dar&enin) s&(:
=If on( the( don4t %isbeha+e as the( did at .enden : : :=
='he( 1on4t!= '4)ean ass$red her easi(: =Yo$4 see to that: Yo$4+e done %ore 1ith (o$r fair of fire izards
than F4nor has 1ith his one itte 7$een: And F4nor4s a trained dra)onrider:= ,e s1$n) his ri)ht e) o+er
Monarth4s nec&rid)e and dropped to the )ro$nd raisin) his ar%s to her: =.rin) (o$r e) o+er: I4 stead( (o$ so
(o$ 1on4t 5ar those sore feet of (o$rs!= and his hands braced her as she sid do1n Monarth4s sho$der: ='hat4s
the )ir! and here (o$ are! safe and so$nd in the ,arper ,a:= ,e )est$red broad( as if on( he co$d ha+e
acco%pished this %ission:
Meno( oo&ed across the co$rt(ard! 1here the Masterharper4s ta fi)$re and presence do%inated those
s$rro$ndin) hi%: 6as Si+ina one of the%; 6eari( Meno( hoped that the ,arper 1o$d find her 7$ic&(: 'he
)ir co$d p$t no reiance on '4)ean4s )ib ass$%ption that her fire izards 1o$d beha+e: 'he(4d on( 5$st )ot
$sed to bein) at .enden 6e(r! a%on) peope 1ho had so%e e<perience 1ith 1in)ed antics:
=Don4t 1orr( so! Meno(: 5$st re%e%ber!= said '4)ean! )rippin) her sho$der in a1&1ard reass$rance!
=e+er( harper on /ern has been tr(in) to find /etiron4s ost apprentice : : :=
=.eca$se the( tho$)ht that apprentice 1as a bo( : : :=
='hat %ade no difference to Master Robinton 1hen he as&ed (o$ to co%e here: 'i%es are chan)in)!
Meno(! and it4 %a&e no difference to the others: Yo$4 see: In a se+enda( (o$4 ha+e for)otten (o$4+e e+er
i+ed an(1here ese:= 'he bronze dra)onrider ch$c&ed: =Great shes! )ir! (o$4+e i+ed hodess! o$tr$n
'hread! and I%pressed nine fire izards: 6hat4s to fear fro% harpers;=
=6here is Si+ina;= 'he Masterharper4s +oice rose abo+e the others: 'here 1as a %o%entar( $ and
so%eone 1as sent to the ,a to find the 1o%an: =And no %ore ans1ers no1: Yo$4+e the bones of the ne1s! I4
fesh it o$t for (o$ ater: No1! don4t drop these e)) pots! Sebe: Ri)ht no1! I4+e %ore )ood ne1s> I4+e fo$nd
/etiron4s ost apprentice>=
A%id e<ca%ations of s$rprise! Robinton bro&e free of the cro1d and bec&oned '4)ean to brin) Meno(
for1ard: For a brief second! Meno( fo$)ht the $r)e to t$rn and r$n! i%possibe as it 1as 1ith her feet bare(
heaed fro% tr(in) to o$tr$n 'hread and 1ith '4)ean4s ar% abo$t her: ,is fin)ers s7$eezed on her sho$der as
if he sensed her ner+o$sness:
='here4s nothin) for (o$ to fear fro% harpers!= he repeated in her ear as he escorted her across the co$rt:
Robinton %et the% haf1a(! bea%in) 1ith peas$re as he too& her ri)ht hand: ,e f$n) $p his other ar% to
co%%and sience:
='his is Meno(! da$)hter of Yan$s Sea ,oder! ate of ,af-Circe Sea ,od! and /etiron4s ost
apprentice>=
6hate+er response the harpers %ade 1as co+ered b( an e<posion of fire izard cries fro% the rooftop:
Fearf$ that the fair %i)ht 1in) do1n on the harpers! Meno( t$rned! sa1 that their 1in)s 1ere indeed spread
and stern( co%%anded the% to sta( 1here the( 1ere: 'hen she had no e<c$se for not confrontin) the sea of
faces? so%e s%iin)! so%e 1ith %o$ths a5ar in s$rprise at her fire izards! b$t too %an(! %an( peope:
=Yes! and those fire izards are Meno(4s!= Robinton 1ent on! his +oice easi( pro5ectin) abo+e the
%$r%$rs: =#$st as that o+e( son) abo$t the fire izard 7$een is Meno(4s: On( it 1asn4t a %an 1ho sa+ed the
c$tch fro% the sea! it 1as Meno(: And 1hen no one 1o$d et her pa( or sin) in ,af-Circe Sea ,od after
/etiron died! she ran a1a( to the fire izard 7$een4s ca+e and I%pressed nine of the e))s before she reaized
1hat she 1as doin): F$rther%ore!= and he raised his +o$%e abo+e the ra))ed cheers of appro+a! =f$rther%ore!
she fo$nd another c$tch! 1hich pro+ided %e 1ith t1o e))s>=
'he second cheer 1as %ore 1hoehearted! re+erberatin) in the co$rt(ard and ans1ered b( shri 1histes
fro% the fire izards: 3nder co+er of )ood-nat$red a$)hter at that response! '4)ean %$ttered! =I tod (o$ so=
in her ear:
=And 1here is Si+ina;= as&ed the ,arper a)ain! a note of i%patience a$dibe:
=,ere I a% and (o$ o$)ht to be asha%ed of (o$rsef! Robinton!= said a 1o%an! p$shin) thro$)h the rin) of
harpers: Meno( had an i%pression of +er( 1hite s&in and ar)e e<pressi+e e(es set in a broad-chee&ed face
fra%ed b( dar& hair: 'hen stron) b$t )ente hands too& her fro% Robinton4s )rasp: =S$b5ectin) the chid to s$ch
an ordea: No! no! (o$ ot ca% do1n: A this noise: And those poor creat$res $p there too scared o$t of their
1its to co%e do1n: ,a+en4t (o$ an( sense! Robinton; A1a(> 'he ot of (o$: Into the ,a: Carr( on a ni)ht if
(o$4+e the ener)( b$t I4% p$ttin) this chid to bed: '4)ean! if (o$4d hep %e : : :=
As she $pbraided e+er(one i%partia(! the 1o%an 1as aso %a&in) her 1a(! 1ith Meno( and '4)ean!
thro$)h the cro1d 1hich parted respectf$( b$t h$%oro$s( before her:
=It4s too ate to p$t her 1ith the other )irs at D$nca4s!= said Si+ina to '4)ean: =6e4 5$st bed her in one of
the )$est roo%s for the ni)ht:=
3nabe to see cear( in the shado1s of the ,a! Meno( bar&ed her toes on the stone steps! cried o$t
in+o$ntari( at the pain and )rabbed at the s$pportin) hands:
=6hat happened! chid;= as&ed Si+ina! her +oice &ind and an<io$s:
=M( toes: : :%( feet>= Meno( cho&ed bac& tears that the $ne<pected pain had bro$)ht to her e(es: Si+ina
%$stn4t thin& her a co1ard:
=,ere> I4 carr( her!= said '4)ean and s1$n) Meno( $p into his ar%s before she co$d protest: =#$st ead
the 1a(! Si+ina:=
='hat dratted Robinton!= Si+ina said! (he can )o on a da( and ni)ht 1itho$t seep b$t for)ets that others
@=
=No! it4s not his fa$t: ,e4s done so %$ch for %e: : := Meno( be)an:
=,a> ,e4s deep( in (o$r debt! Meno(!= said the dra)onrider 1ith a cr(ptic a$)h: =Yo$4 ha+e to ha+e
(o$r heaer see to her feet! Si+ina!= '4)ean contin$ed as he carried Meno( $p the broad fi)ht of stairs that
ed fro% the %ain entrance of the ,a: ='hat4s ho1 1e fo$nd her: She 1as tr(in) to o$tr$n the eadin) ed)e of
'hreadfa:=
=She 1as;= Si+ina stared o+er her sho$der at Meno(! her )reen e(es 1ide 1ith respectf$ astonish%ent:
=She near( did! too: Ran her feet ra1: One of %( 1in)%en sa1 her and bro$)ht her bac& to .enden 6e(r:=
=In this roo%! '4)ean: 'he bed4s on the eft-hand side: I4 5$st open the )o1 bas&ets : : :=
=I see it!= and '4)ean deposited her )ent( in the bed: =I4 )et the sh$tters! Si+ina! and et those fire izards
of hers in here before the( do )et into tro$be:=
Meno( had et hersef sin& into the thic& %attress of s1eet r$shes: No1 she oosened the thon) hodin) the
s%a b$nde of beon)in)s to her bac& b$t she hadn4t the ener)( to reach for the seepin) f$r foded at the foot
of the bedstead: As soon as '4)ean had the second sh$tter open! she caed her friends in:
=I4+e heard so %$ch abo$t the fire izards!= Si+ina 1as sa(in)! =and had on( the )i%pse of 2ord Gro)he4s
itte 7$een that: : :Gracio$s )oodness>=
At Si+ina4s started re%ar&! Meno( str$))ed o$t of the thic& %attress to see the fire izards dippin) and
1heein) abo$t the 1o%an:
=,o1 %an( did (o$ sa( (o$ ha+e! Meno(;=
='here are on( nine!= repied '4)ean! a$)hin) at Si+ina4s conf$sion: She 1as t1istin) abo$t! tr(in) to )et
a )ood oo& at one or another of the )(ratin) creat$res:
Meno( tod the% to sette do1n 7$ic&( and beha+e: Roc&( and Di+er anded on the tabe near the 1a
1hie the %ore darin) .ea$t( too& $p her acc$sto%ed perch on Meno(4s sho$der: 'he others ca%e to rest on
the 1indo1 ed)es! their 5e1eed e(es 1hirin) 1ith the oran)e of $ncertaint( and s$spicion:
=6h(! the(4re the o+eiest creat$res I4+e e+er seen!= said Si+ina! peerin) intent( at the t1o bronzes on the
tabe: Roc&( chirped bac&! reco)nizin) that re%ar&s 1ere bein) %ade abo$t hi%: ,e fipped his 1in)s neat( to
his bac& and coc&ed his head at Si+ina: =And a )ood e+enin) to (o$! (o$n) bronze fire izard:=
='hat bod feo1 is Roc&(!= said '4)ean! =if I re%e%ber correct(! and the other bronze is Di+er: Ri)ht!
Meno(;= She nodded! reie+ed in her 1eariness that '4)ean 1as read( to spea& for her: ='he )reens are
A$nties One and '1o!= and the pair be)an to chatter so i&e od 1o%en that Si+ina a$)hed: 4'he itte b$e is
3nce b$t I ha+en4t )ot the three bro1ns sorted o$t : : := and no1 he t$rned in7$irin)( to Meno(:
='he(4re 2az(bones! Mi%ic and .ro1nie!= Meno( said pointin) at each in t$rn! =and this: : :is .ea$t(!
Si+ina!= Meno( spo&e the 1o%an4s na%e sh(( beca$se she didn4t &no1 her tite or ran& in the ,arper ,a:
=And a .ea$t( she is! too: #$st i&e a %iniat$re 7$een dra)on: And 5$st as pro$d! I see:= 'hen Si+ina )a+e
Meno( a hopef$ oo&: =.( an( chance! 1i one of Robinton4s e))s hatch a 7$een;=
=I hope so! I rea( do!= said Meno( fer+ent(: =.$t itAs not eas( 1ith fire izard e))s to te 1hich is the
7$een:=
=I4% s$re he4 be 5$st as thried no %atter 1hat the coor: And spea&in) of 7$eens! '4)ean!= and Si+ina
t$rned to the dra)onrider! =do pease te %e! did .re&&e re-I%press the ne1 7$een dra)on at (o$r ,atchin)
toda(; 6e4+e been so 1orried abo$t her here! since her 7$een 1as &ied:=
=No: .re&&e didn4t re-I%press!= and '4)ean s%ied 7$ic&( to reass$re Si+ina: =,er fire izard 1o$dn4t et
her:
=No;=
=Yes: Yo$ sho$d ha+e seen it! Si+ina: 'hat itte bronze %id)et fe1 at the 7$een dra)on! scodin) i&e a
1herr( hen: 6o$dn4t et .re&&e near the ne1 7$een: .$t she snapped o$t of that depression! and she4 be a
ri)ht no1! F4nor sa(s: And it 1as itte .erd 1ho p$ed the tric&:=
=6e! that rea( is interestin):= Si+ina re)arded the t1o bronzes 1ith tho$)htf$ respect: =So the(4+e a f$
set of 1its : : :=
='he( see% to!= '4)ean 1ent on: =F4nor $ses his itte 7$een! Gra! to send %essa)es to the other Dra)on
6e(rs: Of co$rse!= and '4)ean ch$c&ed dispara)in)(! =she doesn4t a1a(s ret$rn as pro%pt( as she
)oes: : :Meno(4s trained hers better: Yo$4 see:= 'he dra)onrider had been ed)in) to1ard the door and no1
)a+e a h$)e (a1n: =Sorr( : : :=
=I4% the one 1ho sho$d apoo)ize!= repied Si+ina! =ind$)in) %( c$riosit( 1hen (o$ t1o are a b$t
aseep: Get aon) 1ith (o$ no1! '4)ean! and %( than&s for (o$r hep 1ith Meno(:=
=Good $c&! no1! Meno(: I &no1 (o$4 seep 1e!= said '4)ean 1ith a 5a$nt( 1in& of fare1e: ,e 1as
o$t of the door! his boot hees cic&in) on the stone foor before she co$d than& hi%:
=No1! etAs 5$st ha+e a 7$ic& oo& at these feet (o$ ran ra))ed : : := Si+ina )ent( t$))ed off Meno(4s
sippers: =,%%%: 'he(4re a b$t heaed! Manora4s ce+er 1ith her n$rsin)! b$t 1e4 ha+e Master Odi+e oo& at
(o$ to%orro1: No1! 1hat4s this;=
=M( thin)s! I don4t ha+e %$ch : : :=
=,ere! (o$ t1o 1atch that and &eep o$t of %ischief!= Si+ina said! p$ttin) the b$nde on the tabe bet1een
Roc&( and Di+er: =No1! sip off (o$r s&irt! Meno(! and sette do1n: A )ood on) seep! that4s 1hat (o$ need:
Yo$r e(es are b$rned hoes in (o$r head:=
=I4% a ri)ht! rea(:=
='o be s$re (o$ are! no1 (o$4re here: 2i+in) in a ca+e! did '4)ean sa(; 6ith e+er( harper on /ern oo&in)
for (o$ in hods and crafthas:= Si+ina deft( t$))ed at s&irt tapes: =#$st i&e od /etiron to for)et to %ention
(o$ bein) a )ir:=
=I don4t thin& he for)ot!= Meno( said so1(! thin&in) of her father and %other and their opposition to her
pa(in): =,e tod %e )irs can4t be harpers:=
Si+ina )a+e her a on) hard oo&: =Ma(be $nder another Masterharper: Or in the od da(s! b$t s$re( od
/etiron &ne1 his o1n son 1e eno$)h [email protected]=
=/etiron 1as Master Robinton4s father;=
=Did he ne+er te (o$ that;= Si+ina pa$sed as she 1as spreadin) the seepin) f$r o+er Meno(: ='he od
st$bborn foo> Deter%ined not to ad+ance hi%sef beca$se his son 1as eected Masterharper: : :and then pic&in)
a pace haf1a( to no1here: I be) (o$r pardon! Meno( : : :=
=,af-Circe Sea ,od is haf1a( to no1here:=
=Not if /etiron fo$nd (o$ there!= said Si+ina! reco+erin) her bris& tone! =and sponsored (o$ to this Craft:
No1 that4s eno$)h ta&in)!= she added! cosin) the )o1 bas&et: =I4 ea+e the sh$tters open: : :b$t (o$ seep
(o$rsef o$t! (o$ hear %e;=
Meno( %$%bed a rep(! her e(eids cosin) despite her effort to re%ain poite( a1a&e 1hie Si+ina 1as
in the roo%: She et o$t a soft si)h as the door ban)ed soft( sh$t: .ea$t( i%%ediate( c$red $p b( Meno(4s
ear! and the )ir fet other s%a hard bodies %a&in) the%se+es co%fortabe a)ainst her: She co%posed hersef
for seep! a1are no1 of the d$ throbbin) of her feet and the achin) of her ban)ed toes:
She 1as 1ar%! she 1as co%fortabe; she 1as so tired: 'he ba) that encosed the thic& r$shes 1as sto$t
eno$)h to &eep stra( ed)es fro% di))in) into her fesh! b$t she co$dn4t seep: She aso co$dn4t %o+e beca$se!
1hie her %ind t$rned o+er a the da(4s incredibe e+ents! her bod( 1asn4t hers to co%%and b$t in so%e nether
re)ion of $nresponsi+eness:
She 1as conscio$s of the spic( odor of .ea$t(! of the dr( s1eet scent of the r$shes! the earth( s%e of 1et
fieds borne in b( the ni)ht 1ind! accented occasiona( b( the to$ch of acrid bac&stone s%o&e: Sprin) 1as not
ad+anced eno$)h to dispense 1ith e+enin) fires:
Stran)e not to ha+e the s%e of sea in her nostris! Meno( tho$)ht! for sea and fish odors had do%inated
a b$t the ast se+enda( of her fifteen '$rns: ,o1 peasant to reaize that she had done 1ith the sea! and fish!
fore+er: She4d ne+er ha+e to )$t another pac&tai in her ife! or ris& another infected c$t: She co$dn4t $se her
in5$red hand as %$ch as she 1anted to (et! b$t she 1o$d: Nothin) 1as i%possibe! not if she co$d )et to the
,arper ,a in spite of a the odds a)ainst it: And she4d pa( )itar a)ain and harp: Manora had ass$red her she4d
$se the fin)ers proper( in ti%e: And her feet 1ere heain): It a%$sed Meno(! no1! to thin& that she4d had the
te%erit( to tr( to o$tr$n the eadin) ed)e of 'hreadfa: R$nnin) had done %ore than sa+e her s&in fro%
'hreadscorin)? it had bro$)ht her to .enden 6e(r! to the attention of the Masterharper of /ern and to the start
of a co%pete( ne1 ife:
And her dear od friend! /etiron! had been Master Robinton4s father; She4d &no1n the od ,arper had been a
)ood %$sician! b$t it had ne+er occ$rred to her before to 1onder 1h( he had been sent to ,af-Circe Sea ,od
1here on( she had profited fro% his abiit( as a teacher: If on( her father! Yan$s! had et her pa( )itar 1hen
the ne1 ,arper first arri+ed: : :b$t the(4d been so afraid that she4d dis)race the Sea ,od: 6e! she hadn4t! and
she 1o$dn4t> One da( her father! and (es! her %other! too! 1o$d reaize that Meno( 1as no dis)race to the
,od of her birth:
Meno( drifted on tho$)hts of tri$%ph $nti so$nd in+aded her refections: Mae +oices! a$)hin) and
r$%bin) in con+ersation! carried on the dear ni)ht air: 'he +oices of harpers; tenor! bass and baritone! in
a%$sed! ar)$%entati+e! ca5oin) tones! and one 7$er$o$s! sort of 7$a+er(! oder! 1hin( +oice: She didn4t i&e
that one:
Another! a +e+et-soft! i)ht baritone! rose abo+e the cran&( tenor! soothin): 'hen the Masterharper4s deeper
baritone do%inated and sienced the others: 'ho$)h she co$dn4t $nderstand 1hat he 1as sa(in)! his +oice
$ed her to seep:
Chapter B
Harper, tell me of the road
That leads beyond this Hold,
That "ends its "ay beyond the hill# # #
)oes it go further on until
%t ends in sunset$s gold*
Meno( ro$sed brief(! reactin) to an inner ca that had nothin) to do 1ith the s$n4s risin) on this side of
/ern: She sa1 dar& ni)ht and stars thro$)h the 1indo1! fet the seepin) fire izards t$c&ed abo$t her! and
)ratef$( 1ent bac& to seep a)ain: She 1as so tired:
Once the s$n had ceared the roof of the o$ter side of the rectan)e of b$idin)s that co%prised the %ain
,arper Craft ,a! it shone direct( at her 1indo1s! set in the eastern side of the ,a: Grad$a( the i)ht
penetrated the roo%! and the $n$s$a co%bination of i)ht and 1ar%th on her face 1o&e Meno(:
She a(! her bod( not (et responsi+e! 1onderin) 1here she 1as: Re%e%berin)! she 1as $ncertain 1hat to
do ne<t: ,ad she %issed so%e )enera 1a&in) ca; No! Si+ina had said that she 1as to seep hersef o$t: As
she p$shed bac& the seepin) f$rs! she heard the so$nd of +oices chantin): 'he rh(th% 1as fa%iiar: She s%ied!
identif(in) one of the on) Sa)as: Apprentices 1ere bein) ta$)ht the co%picated ti%in) b( rote! 5$st as she had
ta$)ht the (o$n)sters in ,af-Circe Sea ,od 1hen /etiron 1as sic& and ater after he died: 'he si%iarit(
reass$red her:
As she sid fro% the bed! she cenched her teeth in anticipation of to$chin) the coo hard stones of the foor!
b$t to her s$rprise! her feet on( fet stiff! not painf$! this %ornin): She )anced o$t the 1indo1 at the s$n: It
1as 1e into %ornin) b( the cast of shado1? she4d rea( sept: 'hen she a$)hed at hersef! for! to be s$re she
had? she 1as haf1a( ro$nd /ern fro% .enden 6e(r and ,af-Circe ,od! and she had had at east si< ho$rs
%ore rest than $s$a: Fort$nate( the fire izards had been as tired as she or the(4d ha+e 1a&ened her 1ith their
h$n)er:
She stretched and shoo& o$t her hair! then hobbed caref$( to the 5ar and basin: After 1ashin) 1ith
soapsand! she dressed and br$shed her hair! feein) abe to face ne1 e<periences:
.ea$t( )a+e an i%patient chirp: She 1as a1a&e: And +er( h$n)r(: Roc&( and Di+er echoed the co%paint:
Meno( 1o$d ha+e to find the% food and ri)ht soon: ,a+in) nine fire izards 1o$d pre5$dice eno$)h
peope a)ainst her! 1itho$t ha+in) $n%ana)eab( h$n)r( ones 1ho 1o$d irritate e+en the %ost toerant of
peope:
Reso$te(! Meno( opened the door to a sient ha1a(: 'he aro%atic odors of klah, ba&in) breads and
%eats fied the air: Meno( decided she need on( foo1 the s%es to their so$rce to satisf( her friends:
On either side of the 1ide corridor 1ere doors; those on the o$tside of the ,a 1ere open to et s$n and air
food the inside: She descended fro% the $pper%ost e+e into the ar)e entrance1a(: Direct( in front of the
staircase 1ere dra)on-hi)h %eta doors 1ith the %ost c$rio$s cosin)s she4d e+er seen? on the bac& of the doors
1ere 1hees! 1hich e+ident( t$rned the hea+( bars into foor and ceiin): At ,af-Circe Sea ,od there had
been the hea+( horizonta bars! b$t this arran)e%ent 1o$d be easier to oc& and oo&ed %$ch %ore sec$re:
'o the eft 1as a do$be-doored entrance into a Great ,a! probab( the roo% 1here the ,arper had been
ta&in) ast ni)ht: 'o the ri)ht! she oo&ed into the dinin) ha! a%ost as ar)e as the Great ,a! 1ith three on)
tabes parae to the 1indo1s: Aso to her ri)ht! b( the stair1e! 1as an open door1a(! eadin) to shao1 steps
and the &itchen! 5$d)in) b( the appetizin) odors and fa%iiar so$nds:
'he fire izards creeed in h$n)er! b$t Meno( co$dn4t ha+e the 1hoe fair in+adin) the &itchen and
$psettin) the dr$d)es: She ordered the% to perch on the cornices in the shado1s abo+e the door: She4d brin)
the% food! she pro%ised the%! b$t the( had to beha+e: .ea$t( scoded $nti the others setted %ee&( into
pace! on( their )o1in)! 5e1e-faceted e(es )i+in) e+idence of their positions:
'hen .ea$t( ass$%ed her fa+orite perch on Meno(4s sho$der! her head haf-b$ried in Meno(4s thic& hair!
and her tai 1rapped sec$re( abo$t Meno(4s throat i&e a )oden nec&ace:
As Meno( reached the &itchen! the scene 1ith the dr$d)es and coo&s sc$rr(in) abo$t preparin) the %idda(
%ea feetin)( re+i+ed %e%ories of happier da(s at ,afCirce: .$t here! it 1as Si+ina 1ho noticed her and
s%ied! as Meno(4s %other 1o$d not ha+e done:
=Yo$4re a1a&e; Are (o$ rested;= Si+ina )est$red i%perati+e( at a sac&-feat$red! c$%s(-oo&in) %an b(
the hearth: =-ah! Ca%o! po$r a %$) of &ah! for Meno(: Yo$ %$st be fa%ished! chid: ,o1 are (o$r feet;=
=Fine! than& (o$: And I don4t 1ant to bother an(one : : :=
=.other; 6hat bother; Ca%o! po$r the &ah into the %$):=
=It4s not for %(sef I4% here : : :=
=6e! (o$ need to eat! and (o$ %$st be fa%ished:=
=/ease! it4s %( fire izards: ,a+e (o$ an( scraps : : :=
Si+ina4s hands fe1 to her %o$th: She )anced abo$t her head as if e<pectin) a s1ar% of fire izards:
=No! I4+e tod the% to 1ait!= Meno( said 7$ic&(: ='he( 1on4t co%e in here:=
=No1! (o$ are a tho$)htf$ chid!= Si+ina said in so fir% a tone that Meno( 1ondered 1h( and then
reaized that she 1as the ob5ect of a )ood dea of f$rti+e c$riosit(:
=Ca%o! here: Gi+e %e that>= Si+ina too& the c$p fro% the %an! 1ho 1as 1a&in) 1ith e<a))erated care not
to sop an o+erf$ container: =And )et the bi) b$e bo1 fro% the cod roo%: 'he bi) b$e bo1! Ca%o! fro%
the cod roo%: .rin) it to %e:= Si+ina deft( handed the c$p to Meno( 1itho$t spiin) a drop: ='he cod
roo%! Ca%o! and the b$e bo1:= She t$rned the %an b( the sho$ders and )a+e hi% a )ente sho+e in the
proper direction: =Ab$na! (o$4re nearest the hearth: Do dish $p so%e of the cerea: /ent( of s1eetenin) on it!
too! the chid4s nothin) b$t s&in and bones:= Si+ina s%ied at Meno(: =No $se feedin) the fo1 and star+in)
the ser+ant! as it 1ere: I sa+ed %eat for (o$r friends 1hen 1e tr$ssed $p the roast!= and Si+ina nodded to1ard
the bi))est hearth 1here )reat 5oints of %eat 1ere t$rnin) on hea+( spits! =since %eat4s 1hat the ,arper said
fire izards need: No1! 1here 1o$d the best pace : : := Si+ina )anced abo$t her $ndecided(! b$t Meno( had
noticed a o1 door that ed $p a short fi)ht of steps to the co%er of the co$rt(ard:
=6o$d I dist$rb an(one o$t there;=
=Not at a! (o$ are a considerate chid: 'hat4s ri)ht! Ca%o: And than& (o$:= Si+ina patted the haf-1it4s ar%
&ind(! 1hie he bea%ed 1ith the peas$re of a 5ob proper( done and re1arded: Si+ina tipped the ed)e of the
bo1 to1ard Meno(: =Is this eno$)h; 'here4s %ore : : :=
=Oh! that4s a )racio$s pent(! Si+ina:=
=Ca%o! this is Meno(: Foo1 Meno( 1ith the bo1: She can4t carr( it and her o1n brea&fast: 'his is
Meno(! Ca%o! foo1 Meno(: Go ri)ht o$t! dear: Ca%o4s )ood at carr(in) thin)s : : : at east 1hat doesn4t
spi:=
Si+ina t$rned fro% her then! spea&in) sharp( to t1o 1o%en choppin) roots! biddin) the% to sice! not
stare: *er( %$ch a1are of scr$tin(! Meno( %o+ed a1&1ard( to the steps! c$p in one hand! bo1 of 1ar%
cerea in the other! and Ca%o sh$ffin) behind her: .ea$t(! 1ho had re%ained discreet( co+ered b( Meno(4s
hair! no1 craned her nec& abo$t! s%ein) the ra1 %eat in the bo1 Ca%o carried:
=/rett(! prett(!= the %an %$%bed as he noticed the fire izard: =/rett( s%a dra)on;= ,e tapped Meno(
on the sho$der: =/rett( s%a dra)on;= ,e 1as so an<io$s for her ans1er that he a%ost tripped on the shao1
steps:
=Yes! she is i&e a s%a dra)on! and she is prett(!= Meno( a)reed! s%iin): =,er na%e is .ea$t(:=
=,er na%e is .ea$t(:= Ca%o 1as entranced: =,er na%e is .ea$t(: She prett( s%a dra)on:= ,e bea%ed as
he o$d( decared this infor%ation:
Meno( sh$shed hi%! not 1antin) either to aar% or distract Si+ina4s hepers: She p$t do1n her %$) and
bo1 and reached for the %eat:
=/rett( s%a dra)on .ea$t(!= Ca%o said! i)norin) her as she p$ed the bo1 so fir%( c$tched in his h$)e!
thic&-fin)ered hands:
=Yo$ )o to Si+ina! Ca%o: Yo$ )o to Si+ina:=
Ca%o stood 1here he 1as! bobbin) his head $p and do1n! his %o$th set in a 1et! 1ide )ri%ace of chidish
dei)ht! too entranced b( .ea$t( to be distracted:
.ea$t( no1 creeed i%perio$s(! and Meno( )rabbed a handf$ of %eat to 7$iet her: .$t her cries had
aerted the others: 'he( ca%e! so%e of the% fro% the open 1indo1s of the dinin) ha abo+e Meno(4s head!
others! 5$d)in) b( the shrie&s of dis%a(! thro$)h the &itchen and o$t the door b( the steps:
=/rett(! prett(: A prett(>= Ca%o e<cai%ed! t$rnin) his head fro% side to side! tr(in) to see a the fittin)
fire izards at once:
,e didn4t %o+e a %$sce as A$ntie One and '1o perched on his forear%s! snatchin) )obbets of %eat
direct( fro% the bo1: 3nce sec$red his taons to the fabric of Ca%o4s t$nic! his ri)ht 1in)tip 5abbin) the %an
in the nec& and chin as the ittest fire izard fo$)ht for his fair share of the %eat: .ro1nie! Mi%ic! and
2az(bones ran)ed fro% Ca%o4s sho$ders to Meno(4s as she tried to distrib$te the %eat e+en(:
Aternatin) bet1een e%barrass%ent at her friends4 bad %anners and )ratit$de for Ca%o4s stoid assistance!
Meno( 1as ac$te( a1are that a acti+it( had ceased in the &itchen to 1atch the spectace: Mo%entari(! she
e<pected to hear an irate Si+ina order Ca%o bac& to his ordinar( d$ties! b$t a she heard 1as the b$zz of
1hispered )ossipin):
=,o1 %an( does she ha+e;= she heard one cear 1hisper o$t of the )enera %$%be:
=Nine!= Si+ina ans1ered! i%pert$rbabe: =6hen the t1o the ,arper 1as )i+en ha+e hatched! the ,arper
,a 1i ha+e ee+en:= Si+ina so$nded s%$)( s$perior: 'he b$zz increased in +o$%e: ='hat bread4s risen
eno$)h no1 Ab$na: Yo$ and -a(a shape it:=
'he fire izards had ceared the bo1 of %eat! and Ca%o stared into its hoo1! his face contorted b( an
e<pression of dis%a(:
=A )one; /retties h$n)r(;=
=No! Ca%o: 'he(4+e had %ore than eno$)h: 'he(4re not h$n)r( an(%ore:= In fact! their beies 1ere
distended! the(4d )or)ed so: =Yo$ )o to Si+ina: Si+ina 1ants (o$! Ca%o!= and Meno( foo1ed Si+ina4s
e<a%pe? she too& hi% b( the sho$ders! t$rned hi% do1n the steps! and )a+e hi% a )ente sho+e:
Meno( sipped the )ood hot &ah! be)innin) to thin& that Si+ina4s %ar&ed attentions and &indness 1ere
deiberate: Or 1as that fooish; Si+ina 1as 5$st a &ind! tho$)htf$ person? oo& ho1 she treated d$-1itted
Ca%o: She 1as patience itsef 1ith his inade7$ac(: Nonetheess! Si+ina 1as ob+io$s( the head1o%an at the
,arper Craft ,a and! i&e serene Manora at .enden 6e(r! $ndo$bted( 1ieded a )ood dea of a$thorit(: If
Si+ina 1as friend(! others 1o$d foo1 her ead:
Meno( be)an to rea< in the 1ar% s$n: ,er drea%s ast ni)ht had been tro$bed tho$)h she co$dn4t
re%e%ber detais no1 in the bri)ht %ornin)! on( a sense of $neasiness and hepessness: Si+ina had done
%$ch to dissipate the in)erin) %is)i+in)s: +othing to fear from harpers# '4)ean had repeated( tod her:
Across the co$rt(ard! (o$n) +oices bro&e into a $st( rendition of the Sa)a pre+io$s( chanted: 'he fire
izards rose at the er$ption of so$nd! settin) a)ain as Meno( a$)hin)( reass$red the%:
'hen a p$re s1eet tri fro% .ea$t( soared in deicate descant abo+e the apprentices4 %ae +oices: Roc&(
and Di+er 5oined her! 1in)s haf-spread as the( e<panded their $n)s for breath: Mi%ic and .ro1nie dropped
fro% the 1indo1 ed)e to add their +oices: 2az( 1o$d not p$t hi%sef to an( s$ch effort! and the t1o A$nties
and b$e 3nce 1ere at best indifferent sin)ers! b$t the( istened! heads coc&ed! 5e1eed e(es 1hirin): 'he fi+e
sin)ers rose to their ha$nches no1! their throats thic&enin)! their chee&s s1ein) as their 5a1s rea<ed to e%it
the s1eet p$re notes: 'heir e(es 1ere haf-idded as the( concentrated! as )ood sin)ers 1i! to prod$ce the
f$tin) descant:
'he( 1ere happ( then! Meno( tho$)ht 1ith reief! and pic&ed $p the %eod( of the Sa)a! not that the fire
izards needed her +oice 1ith the apprentices s$pp(in) the t$ne and har%on(:
'he( 1ere on the ast t1o %eas$res of the chor$s 1hen Meno( s$dden( reaized that it 1as on( hersef
and the fire izards sin)in)! that the %ae +oices had ceased: Started! she oo&ed $p and sa1 that a%ost e+er(
1indo1 abo$t the co$rt(ard 1as fied 1ith faces: 'he e<ceptions 1ere the 1indo1s of the ha fro% 1hich the
+oices had co%e:
=6ho has been sin)in);= de%anded an irate tenor! and a %an4s head appeared at one of the e%pt( 1indo1s:
=6h(! that4s a )rand 1a( to 1a&e $p! .r$de)an!= said the cear baritone of the Masterharper fro% so%e
point abo+e Meno( and to her eft: Cranin) her head $p! she sa1 hi% eanin) o$t of his 1indo1 on the $pper
stor(:
=Good %ornin) to (o$! Masterharper!= said .r$de)an co$rteo$s(! b$t his tone indicated that he 1as
dis)r$nted b( the inter+ention:
Meno( tried to sit s%a! hearti( 1ishin) hersef bet"een, she 1as certain( frozen %otioness:
=I didn4t &no1 (o$r fire izards co$d sin)!= Si+ina said! appearin) on Meno(4s ri)ht and absent(
retrie+in) %$) and bo1 fro% the steps: =A nice co%pi%ent to (o$r chor$s! eh! .r$de)an!= she added! raisin)
her +oice to carr( across the co$rt(ard: =Yo$4d be 1antin) (o$r &ah no1! Robinton;=
=It 1o$d be 1eco%e! Si+ina:= ,e stretched! eaned f$rther o$t to peer do1n at Meno(: =Enter a fair of
fire izards sin)in)> A o+e( 1a( to be 1a&ened! Meno(; and a )ood %ornin) to (o$! too:= .efore Meno(
co$d respond! a oo& of dis%a( crossed his face: =M( fire izard: M( e))>= and he disappeared fro% si)ht:
Si+ina ch$c&ed and she re)arded Meno(: =,e4 be of no $se to an(one $nti it4s hatched and he4s )ot one
of his o1n:=
At that point! .r$de)an4s sin)ers rene1ed their son): .ea$t( chirr$ped 7$estionin)( at MenoI(:
=No! no! .ea$t(: No %ore sin)in)! not no1:=
(They need the practice!= and Si+ina )est$red at the ha: =No1 I4+e the ,arper4s %ea to see to and (o$ to
sette : : := She pa$sed! )ancin) abo$t at the fire izards: =.$t 1hat to do 1ith the%;=
='he( $s$a( seep 1hen the(4re as f$ as the( are ri)ht no1:=
=A to the )ood: : :b$t 1here; Merc(>=
Meno( tried not to a$)h at Si+ana4s astonish%ent! beca$se a b$t .ea$t(! 1ho too& her $s$a perch on
Meno(4s sho$der! had disappeared: Meno( pointed to the roof opposite and the s%a bodies andin) there!
apparent( o$t of thin air:
='he( do )o bet"een, don4t the(;= Si+ina said %ore than as&ed: =,arper sa(s the(4re %$ch i&e dra)ons;=
'hat 1as a 7$estion:
=I don4t &no1 that %$ch abo$t dra)ons! b$t fire izards can )o bet"een# 'he( foo1ed %e ast ni)ht fro%
.enden 6e(r:=
=And the(4re obedient: I co$d 1ish the apprentices 1ere haf so 1iin):= 'hen Si+ina %otioned Meno( to
foo1 her bac& into the &itchen: =Ca%o! t$rn the spit: Ca%o! no1 t$rn the spit: I s$ppose the rest of (o$ ha+e
been 1atchin) the (ard instead of the food!= she said! sco1in) indiscri%inate( abo$t the &itchen: 'he coo&s
and dr$d)es ai&e pretended ind$str(! can)in)! ban)in)! spashin) or bendin) 1ith assid$o$s care o+er 7$ieter
tas&s of parin) and scrapin): =.etter (et! Meno(! you ta&e the ,arper his &ah! and chec& that e)) of his: ,e4
be roarin) for (o$ soon eno$)h! so 1e %i)ht as 1e anticipate: 'hen I sha 1ant Master Odi+e to see (o$r
feet! not that Manora hasn4t a b$t heaed the% an(1a(: And : : := Si+ina ca$)ht Meno(4s eft hand and
sco1ed at the red %ar&: =6here+er did (o$ )et s$ch a fierce 1o$nd; And 1ho b$n)ed the heain) of it; 'here
no1! can (o$ )rip 1ith that hand;= Si+ina had been asse%bin) on a s%a tra( the +ario$s ite%s of the
,arper4s brea&fast! the ast of 1hich 1as a hea+( pot of &ah: No1 she )a+e the tra( to Meno(: ='here no1:
,is roo% is the second door on the ri)ht fro% (o$rs! Meno(: '$rn the spit! Ca%o! don4t 5$st hod on to it:
Meno(4s fire izards are fed and seepin): Yo$4 ha+e another )a1& at the% ater: '$rn the spit no1>=
As bris&( as Meno( co$d %o+e on her stiff feet! she %ade her 1a( o$t of the &itchen and $p the broad
steps to the second e+e: .ea$t( h$%%ed soft( in her ear! a )ent( disobedient descant to the Sa)a that
.r$de)an4s p$pis 1ere sin)in) $sti(:
Master Robinton hadn4t so$nded anno(ed abo$t the fire izards4 sin)in)! Meno( tho$)ht: She4d apoo)ize
to #o$rne(%an .r$de)an 1hen she )ot the chance: She si%p( hadn4t reaized she4d ca$se a distraction: She4d
been so peased that her friends 1ere rea<ed eno$)h to 1ant to sin):
Second door on her ri)ht: Meno( tapped: 'hen rapped! then &noc&ed! hard eno$)h to %a&e her &n$c&es:
stin):
=Co%e: Co%e: And! Si+ina : : : oh! Meno(! (o$4re 5$st the person I 1anted to see!= the ,arper said!
thro1in) open the door: =And )ood %ornin) to (o$! pro$d .ea$t(!= he added! )rinnin) at the itte 7$een 1ho
chirped an ac&no1ed)e%ent as he too& the tra( fro% Meno(: =Si+ina4s fore+er anticipatin) %e : : : 6o$d
(o$ pease chec& %( e)); It4s in the other roo%! b( the hearth: It fees harder to %e : : := ,e so$nded an<io$s as
he pointed to the farther door:
Meno( obedient( entered the roo%! and he 1a&ed 1ith her! settin) the tra( do1n as he passed the
sandtabe b( the 1indo1 and po$rin) hi%sef a %$) of &ah before he 5oined her b( the hearth in the ne<t roo%
1here a s%a fire b$rned )ent(: 'he earthen pot had been set at the ed)e of the hearth apron:
Meno( opened it! caref$( br$shin) aside the 1ar% sand that co+ered the precio$s fire izard e)): It 1as
harder! b$t not %$ch %ore so than 1hen she had )i+en it to the Masterharper at .enden 6e(r the pre+io$s
e+enin):
=It4s fine! Master Robinton! 5$st fine: And the pot is 1ar% eno$)h! too!= she said! r$nnin) her hands do1n
the sides: She repaced the sand and the top and rose: =6hen 1e bro$)ht the c$tch bac& to .enden 6e(r t1o
da(s a)o! 6e(r1o%an 2essa said it 1o$d ta&e a se+enda( for the% to hatch! so 1e4+e fi+e da(s %ore>=
'he ,arper si)hed 1ith e<a))erated reief: =Yo$ sept 1e! Meno(; Yo$4re rested; A1a&e on);=
=2on) eno$)h:=
'he ,arper b$rst b$t a$)hin) as she reaized ho1 %$ch cha)rin she4d p$t into her tone:
=2on) eno$)h to set a fe1 peope b( the ears! h$h; M( dear chid! did (o$ not notice the difference in the
chor$s the second ti%e; Yo$r fire izards ha+e chaen)ed the%: .r$de)an 1as on( )r$ff 1ith s$rprise: 'e
%e! can (o$r fire izards i%pro+ise descants to an( t$ne;=
=I don4t rea( &no1! Master Robinton:=
=Sti not s$re! are (o$! (o$n) Meno(;= ,e didn4t %ean the fire izards4 abiities: 'here 1as s$ch &indness
in his +oice and e(es that Meno( fet $ne<pected tears behind her e(es:
=I don4t 1ant to be a n$isance : : :=
=Ao1 %e to differ both to state%ent and content! Meno( : : := 'hen he si)hed: =Yo$4re o+er(o$n) to
appreciate the +a$e of n$isance! atho$)h the i%pro+e%ent in that chor$s is a point in %( ar)$%ent: ,o1e+er!
it4s %$ch too ear( in the %ornin) for %e to e<po$nd phiosoph(:= ,e )$ided her bac& into the other roo%! 7$ite
the %ost c$ttered pace she had e+er seen and in direct contrast to the neatness of his bedcha%ber: 6hie
%$sica instr$%ents 1ere caref$( stored on hoo& and shef in cases! pies of record s&ins! dra1in)s! [email protected]
1a< and [email protected] e+er( s$rface and 1ere heaped in co%ers and a)ainst the 1as of the roo%: On one
1a 1as a fine( dra1n %ap of the /ern continent! 1ith s%aer detaied dra1in)s of a the %a5or ,ods and
Crafthas pinned here and there on the borders: 'he on) sandtabe b( the 1indo1 1as co+ered 1ith %$sica
notations! so%e of the% caref$( shieded b( )ass to pre+ent eras$re: 'he ,arper had set the tra( on the center
isand! 1hich separated the sandtabe into t1o ha+es: No1 he p$ed a s7$are of 1ood to protect the sand and
positioned the tra( so be co$d eat co%fortab(: ,e s%eared a thic& sice of bread 1ith soft cheese and pic&ed
$p his spoon to eat his cerea! %otionin) 1ith the spoon for Meno( to seat hersef on a stoo:
=6e4re in a period of chan)e and read5$st%ent! Meno(!= he said! %ana)in) to spea& and eat
si%$taneo$s( 1itho$t cho&in) on food or )arbin) his 1ords: =And (o$ are i&e( to be a +ita part of that
chan)e: Yesterda( I e<erted an $nfair press$re on (o$ to 5oin the ,arper ,a : : : Oh (es! I did! b$t (o$ beon)
here>= ,is forefin)er stabbed do1n1ard at the foor and then 1a))ed o$t at the co$rt(ard: =First!= and he
pa$sed to s1ao1 &ah! 1ashin) do1n bread and cerea! =1e %$st disco+er 5$st ho1 1e /etiron ta$)ht (o$
the f$nda%entas of o$r craft and 1hat (o$ need to f$rther (o$r )ifts: And : : := be pointed no1 to her eft hand!
=: : : 1hat can be done to correct that scar da%a)e: I4d sti i&e to hear (o$ play the son)s (o$ 1rote:= ,is e(es
fe to her hands in her ap so that she 1as a1are of her absent%inded &neadin) of her eft pa%: =Master Odi+e
1i set that ri)ht if an(one can:=
=Si+ina said I 1as to see hi% toda(:=
=6e4 ha+e (o$ pa(in) a)ain! %ore than 5$st those pipes: 6e need (o$! 1hen (o$ can craft son)s i&e
those /etiron sent %e and the ones E)ion fo$nd st$c& a1a( at the bac& of the harper4s she+es in ,af-Circe:
Yes! and that4s a %atter I4d better e<pain : : := he 1ent on! s%oothin) the hair at the bac& of his nec& and! to
Meno(4s a%aze%ent! appearin) to be e%barrassed:
=E<pain;=
=Yes! 1e! (o$ ob+io$s( hadn4t finished "riting that son) abo$t the fire izard 7$een : : :=
=No! I hadn4t act$a( : : := Meno( fet that she 1as not hearin) his 1ords proper(: For one thin)! 1h( did
the Masterharper ha+e to e<pain an(thin) to her* And she4d on( 5otted do1n the itte t$ne abo$t the fire izard
7$een! (et ast ni)ht : : : No1 she re%e%bered that he4d %entioned the son)! as if a the harpers &ne1 abo$t it:
=Yo$ %ean! ,arper E)ion sent it to (o$;=
=,o1 ese 1o$d I ha+e )ot it; 6e co$dn4t find (o$>= Robinton so$nded anno(ed: =6hen I thin& of (o$!
i+in) in a ca+e! 1ith a da%a)ed hand! and (o$ hadn4t been allo"ed to finish that char%in) son) : : : So I did:=
,e )ot $p! r$%%a)ed a%on) the pies of 1a<ed sates $nder the 1indo1! e<tracted one and handed it to her:
She oo&ed at the notations obedient( b$t! atho$)h the( 1ere fa%iiar! she co$dn4t %a&e her %ind read the
%eod(:
=I had to ha+e so%ethin) abo$t fire izards! since I beie+e the(4re )oin) to be far %ore i%portant than
an(one has (et reaized: And this t$ne : : := his fin)er tapped the hard 1a< s$rface appro+in)(! =: : : 1as so
e<act( 1hat I needed! that I 5$st br$shed $p the har%onics! and co%pressed the (ric stor(: /robab( 1hat
(o$4d4+e done (o$rsef if (o$4d had the chance to 1or& on it a)ain: I co$dn4t rea( i%pro+e on the %eodic ine
1itho$t destro(in) the inte)ra char% of : : : 6hat4s the %atter! Meno(;=
Meno( reaized that she4d been starin) at hi%! $nabe to beie+e that he 1as praisin) a si( t$ne she4d on(
scra1ed do1n: G$iti(! she e<a%ined the sate a)ain:
=I ne+er did )et a chance to pa( it : : : I 1asn4t s$pposed to pa( %( o1n t$nes in the Sea ,od: I pro%ised
%( father I 1o$dn4t : : : so (o$ [email protected]=
=Meno(>=
Started! she oo&ed $p at his ste% tone:
=I 1ant (o$ to pro%ise %[email protected] (o$4re no1 %( [email protected] 1ant (o$ to pro%ise %e to 1rite do1n an(
t$ne that co%es into (o$r %ind? I 1ant (o$ to pa( it as often as necessar( to )et it ri)ht : : : do (o$ $nderstand
%e; 'hat4s 1h( I bro$)ht (o$ here:= ,e tapped the sate a)ain: ='hat 1as a )ood son) e+en before I ta%pered
1ith it: I need )ood son)s bad(:=
=6hat I said abo$t chan)e affects the ,arper ,a %ore than an( other craft! Meno(! beca$se 1e are the
ones 1ho effect chan)e: 5$st as 1e teach 1ith o$r son)s! so 1e aso hep peope accept ne1 ideas and necessar(
chan)es: And for that 1e need a specia &ind of harperin):=
=No1! I sti ha+e to consider Craft principes and standards: Especia( in (o$r $n$s$a sit$ation! the
con+entiona proced$re %$st be obser+ed: Once 1e4+e dispensed 1ith the for%aities! 1e can proceed 1ith (o$r
trainin) as fast as (o$ 1ant to )o: .$t this is 1here (o$ beon)! Meno(! (o$ and (o$r sin)in) fire izards:
.ess %e b$t that 1as o+e( to hear this %ornin): Ah! Si+ina! )ood %ornin) and to (o$! as 1e! Master
Odi+e : : :=
Meno( &ne1 it 1as i%poite to stare at an(one and oo&ed a1a( as soon as she reaized that she 1as
starin)! b$t Master Odi+e re7$ired a on) oo&: ,e 1as shorter than hersef b$t on( beca$se his head 1as a1r(
on his nec&: ,is )reat ean face tited $p fro% its per%anent sant! and she had the i%pression of enor%o$s dar&
e(es $nder +er( sha))( bro1s ta&in) in e+er( detai of hersef:
=I4% sorr(! Master Robinton! ha+e 1e interr$pted (o$;= Si+ina pa$sed on the threshod indecisi+e(:
=Yes! and no: I don4t thin& I4+e con+inced Meno( b$t that 1i ta&e ti%e: Mean1hie! 1e4 )et on 1ith the
basics: 6e4 spea& a)ain! Meno(!= said the ,arper: =Go aon) 1ith Master Odi+e no1: 2et hi% do his best!
or his 1orst! for (o$: She %$st pa( a)ain! Odi+e:= 'he ,arper4s s%ie as he )est$red to Meno( to foo1 the
%an i%pied co%pete faith in his abiit(: =And Si+ina! Meno( sa(s the e))4s safe eno$)h for fo$r or fi+e
da(s! b$t (o$4 pease arran)e to ha+e so%[email protected]=
=6h( not Sebe; ,e4s )ot his e)) to chec&! too! doesn4t he; And 1ith Meno( here in the ,a : : := Si+ina
1as sa(in) as Master Odi+e! $sherin) Meno( o$t of the roo% before hi%! cosed the door:
=I4% to see to (o$r feet as 1e! Si+ina tes %e!= 1as the %an4s co%%ent as he indicated Meno( sho$d
ead the 1a( to her roo%: 'he Master4s +oice 1as $ne<pected( deep: And 1hie he %i)ht be shorter than
hersef in the torso! he4d as on) a e) and ar% and %atched her stride do1n the corridor: As he p$shed 1ider
her door! she reaized that his stat$re 1as d$e to a terribe %afor%ation of his spine:
=.( %( ife>= Odi+e e<cai%ed! stoppin) abr$pt( as Meno( preceded hi% into the roo%: =I tho$)ht for a
%o%ent (o$ 1ere as bi)hted as %(sef: It is a fire izard on (o$r sho$der! isn4t it;= ,e ch$c&ed: =No1! there4s
one on %e! so it is: Is the creat$re friend(;= ,e peered $p at .ea$t(! 1ho chirr$ped peasant( bac&! since
Odi+e 1as patent( addressin) her: =As on) as I4% friend( to (o$r Meno(! I ta&e it; Yo$4 ha+e to 1rite
another +erse to (o$r fire izard son)! pro+in) the re1ards of &indness!= he added! )est$rin) her to sit on the
1indo1 side of the bed as he p$ed $p the stoo:
=Oh! that4s not %( son) : : := she said! re%o+in) her sippers:
Master Odi+e fro1ned: =Not (o$r son); .$t Master Robinton assi)ns it to ([email protected](!=
=,e re1rote it : : : he tod %e so:=
='hat4s not $n$s$a!= and Master Odi+e dis%issed her protest: =/roper %ess (o$ %ade of (o$r feet!= he
said! his +oice ta&in) on a distant! tho$)htf$ 7$ait( as he oo&ed at first one! then the other foot: =R$nnin)! I
beie+e : : :=
Meno( fet repro+ed: =I 1as ca$)ht o$t d$rin) 'hreadfa! (o$ see! far fro% %( ca+e and had to r$n : : :
oooh>=
=Sorr(! did I h$rt; 'he fesh is +er( tender: And 1i re%ain that 1a( a1hie on)er:=
,e be)an to s%ooth on a p$n)ent-s%ein) s$bstance! and she co$dn4t &eep her foot sti: ,e )rabbed her
an&e fir%( to co%pete the %edication! co$nterin) her e%barrassed apoo)( b( re%ar&in) that her t1itchin)
pro+ed that she4d done the ner+es no har% 1ith the po$ndin) she4d )i+en her feet:
=Yo$4re to &eep off the% as %$ch as possibe: I4 te Si+ina so: And $se this sa+e %ornin) and ni)ht: Aids
heain) and &eeps the s&in fro% itchin):= ,e repaced Meno(4s sippers: =No1! this hand of (o$rs:=
She hesitated! &no1in) that his opinion of the b$n)ed 1o$nd 1as i&e( to echo Manora4s and Si+ina4s:
/er+erse( she 1as afficted b( an obsc$re o(at( to her %other:
Odi+e re)arded her steadi(! as if di+inin) so%e %eas$re of her re$ctance! and e<tended his o1n hand:
Co%peed b( the +er( ne$trait( of his )aze! she )a+e hi% her in5$red hand: 'o her s$rprise! there 1as no
chan)e of e<pression on his face! no conde%nation or pit(! %ere( interest in the probe% the thic&-scarred
pa% posed for a %an of his s&i: ,e prodded the scar tiss$e! %$r%$rin) tho$)htf$( in his throat:
=Ma&e a fist:=
She co$d 5$st abo$t do that b$t! 1hen he as&ed her to e<tend her fin)ers! the scar p$ed as she tried to
stretch the pa%:
=Not as bad as I 1as ed to beie+e: An infection! I s$ppose : : :=
=/ac&tai si%e : : :=
=,%%! (es: Insidio$s st$ff:= ,e )a+e her hand another t1ist: =.$t the scar is not on) heaed! and the tiss$e
can sti be stretched: A fe1 %ore %onths and 1e %i)ht not ha+e been abe to do an(thin) to fe< the hand:
No1! (o$ 1i do e<ercises! ti)htenin) (o$r fin)ers abo$t a s%a hard ba! 1hich I 1i pro+ide (o$! and
e<tendin) the hand:= ,e de%onstrated! forcin) her fin)ers $p1ard and apart so that she cried o$t in+o$ntari(:
=If (o$ can discipine (o$rsef to the point of act$a disco%fort! (o$ are doin) the e<ercise proper(: 6e %$st
stretch the ti)htened s&in! the 1ebbin) bet1een (o$r fin)ers! and the stiffened tendons: I sha aso pro+ide a
sa+e! 1hich (o$ are to r$b 1e into the scar tiss$e to %a&e it softer and %ore piabe: Conscientio$s effort on
(o$r part 1i deter%ine the rate of pro)ress: I s$spect that (o$ 1i be s$fficient( %oti+ated:=
.efore Meno( co$d sta%%er her than&s! the astonishin) %an 1as o$t of the roo% and cosin) the door
behind hi%: .ea$t( %ade a [email protected] 7$izzica chirp! haf appro+in) b$rbe: She4d co%e oose fro%
Meno(4s nec& d$rin) the e<a%ination! 1atchin) the proceedin)s fro% a depression in the seepin) f$rs: No1
she 1a&ed o+er to Meno( and stro&ed her head a)ainst Meno(4s ar%:
Fro% the apprentices4 ha across the co$rt(ard! the sin)in) 1as rene1ed! 1ith +i)or and +o$%e: .ea$t(
coc&ed her head! h$%%in) 1ith dei)ht and then! 1hen Meno( sh$shed her! oo&ed 1istf$( $p at the )ir:
=I don4t thin& 1e sho$d sin) a)ain 5$st no1! b$t the( do so$nd )rand! don4t the(;=
She sat there! caressin) .ea$t(! dei)htin) in the %$sic: *er( cose har%on(! she reaized appro+in)(! the
sort on( trained +oices and 1e-rehearsed sin)ers can achie+e:
=6e!= said Si+ina! enterin) the roo% bris&(! =(o$ ha+e stirred the% $p: It4s )ood to hear that od rooter
s$n) 1ith so%e spirit:=
Meno( had no ti%e to re)ister astonish%ent at Si+ina4s co%%ent! for the head1o%an po&ed at Meno(4s
b$nde of thin)s on the tabe! and t1itched the seepin) r$) into neat fods:
=6e %i)ht 5$st as 1e )et (o$ setted in D$nca4s cotta)e no1!= Si+ina contin$ed: =Fort$nate(! there4s an
o$tside roo% $nocc$pied : : := 'he head1o%an 1rin&ed her nose in a si)ht( dispara)in) )ri%ace: ='hose
hoder )irs are i%possibe abo$t bein) o$tside! b$t it o$)htn4t to 1orr( (o$:= She s%ied at Meno(: =Odi+e
sa(s (o$4re to &eep off (o$r feet! b$t so%e 1a&in)4s )ot to be done: Sti! (o$ 1on4t be in a chore section : : :
another )ood reason to &eep (o$ at D$nca4s! I s$ppose : : := Si+ina fro1ned and then oo&ed bac& at Meno(4s
s%a b$nde: ='his is a (o$ bro$)ht 1ith (o$;=
=And nine fire izards:=
Si+ina a$)hed: =An e%barrass%ent of riches:= She )anced o$t the 1indo1! peerin) across the co$rt(ard to
the far roof 1here the fire izards 1ere sti s$nnin) the%se+es: ='he( do sta( 1here the(4re tod! don4t the(;=
=Genera(: .$t I4% not s$re ho1 )ood the( are 1ith too %an( peope abo$t or $n$s$a noise:=
=Or fascinatin) di+ersions : : := Si+ina s%ied a)ain at Meno( as she nodded to1ard the 1indo1s and the
%$sic iss$in) fro% the apprentices4 ha:
='he( a1a(s san) aon) 1ith %e ::: I didn4t reaize 1e [email protected]=
=,o1 sho$d (o$; Not to 1orr(! Meno(: Yo$4 fit in here 5$st fine: No1! et4s 1rap $p (o$r b$nde and
sho1 (o$ the 1a( to D$nca4s: 'hen Robinton 1ants (o$ to borro1 a )itar: Master #erint is s$re to ha+e a spare
$sabe one in the 1or&shop: Yo$4 ha+e to %a&e (o$r o1n! (o$ &no1: 3ness (o$ %ade one for /etiron at the
Sea ,od;=
=I had none of %( o1n:= Meno( 1as reie+ed that she co$d &eep her +oice stead(:
=.$t /etiron too& his 1ith hi%: S$re( (o$ : : :=
=I had the $se of it! (es:= Meno( %ana)ed to &eep her tone e+en as she ri)id( s$ppressed the %e%or( of
ho1 she had ost the $se! of the beatin) her father had )i+en her for forbidden t$nin)! pa(in) her o1n son)s: =I
%ade %(sef pipes : : := she added! di+ertin) Si+ina fro% f$rther 7$estions: R$%%a)in) in her b$nde! she
bro$)ht o$t the %$tipe pipes she had %ade in her ca+e b( the sea:
=Reeds; And done 1ith a bet &nife b( the oo& of the%!= said Si+ina! 1a&in) to the 1indo1 for %ore i)ht
as she t$rned the pipes in a critica e<a%ination: =6e done for 5$st a bet &nife:= She ret$rned the pipes to
Meno( 1ith an appro+in) e<pression: =/etiron 1as a )ood teacher:=
=Did (o$ &no1 hi% 1e;= Meno( fet a 1a+e of )rief at her oss of the on( person in her ho%e hod 1ho
had been interested in her:
=Indeed I did:= Si+ina )a+e Meno( a fro1n: =Did he not ta& of the ,arper ,a at a to (o$;=
=No: 6h( sho$d he;=
=6h( sho$dn4t he; ,e ta$)ht (o$! didn4t he; ,e enco$ra)ed (o$ to 1rite : : : Sent Robinton those son)s
Si+ina stared at Meno( in rea s$rprise for a on) %o%ent! then she shr$))ed 1ith a itte a$)h: =6e!
/etiron a1a(s had his o1n reasons for e+er(thin) he did! and no one the 1iser: .$t he 1as a )ood %an>=
Meno( nodded! $nabe for a %o%ent to spea& beratin) hersef for e+er once do$btin)! d$rin) those one(
%iserabe da(s at ,af-Circe after /etiron4s death! that he4d done 1hat he said he4d do: 'ho$)h the od ,arper4s
%ind had ta&en to 1anderin) : : :
=.efore I for)et it!= Si+ina said! =ho1 often do (o$r fire izards need to be fed;=
='he(4re h$n)riest in the %ornin)! tho$)h the( eat an( ti%e! b$t %a(be that 1as beca$se I had to h$nt and
catch food for the%! and it too& ho$rs: 'he 1id ones see%ed to ha+e no tro$be : : :=
=Fed 4e% once and the(4re a1a(s oo&in) to (o$! is that it;= Si+ina s%ied! to soften an( i%pied criticis%:
='he coo&s thro1 a scraps into a bi) earthen 5ar in the cod roo% : : : %ost of it )oes to the 1atch1hers! b$t I4
)i+e orders that (o$4re to ha+e 1hate+er (o$ re7$ire:=
=I don4t %ean to be a bother : : :=
Si+ina )a+e her s$ch a oo& that Meno( bro&e off her atte%pt to apoo)ize:
=.e s$re that 1hen (o$ do bother %e! I4 infor% (o$:= Si+ina )rinned: =#$st as& an( of the apprentices if I
1on4t:=
Si+ina had been eadin) Meno( do1n the steps and o$t of the ciffhod of the ,arper ,a as she ta&ed:
No1 the( passed $nder an arch that )a+e onto a broad road of pa+in) stones! ne+er a bade of )rass or spot of
%oss to be seen an(1here:
For the first ti%e Meno( had a chance to appreciate the size of Fort ,od: -no1in) that it 1as the odest
and ar)est ,od 1as 7$ite different fro% seein) it! bein) o$tside the to1erin) ciff:
'ho$sands of peope %$st i+e in the ciffhods and cotta)es that h$))ed the roc& paisade: A1ed! Meno(4s
steps so1ed as she stared at the 1ide ra%p eadin) to the co$rt(ard and %ain entrance of Fort ,od! hi)her in
the ciff face than the ,arper Craft ,a! and 1ith ro1s of 1indo1s e<tendin) $p1ard in sheer stone! a%ost to
the fire hei)hts the%se+es: In ,af-Circe Sea ,od! e+er(one had been in the ciff! b$t at Fort ,od! stone
b$idin)s had been b$it o$t in 1in)s fro% the ciff! for%in) a 7$adran)e si%iar to the ,arper Craft ,a:
S%aer cotta)es had been added onto the ori)ina 1in)s! on either side of the ra%p: 'here 1ere d1ein)s
borderin) the sides of the broad pa+ed road that ed in se+era 1e-tra+eed directions; so$th to the fieds and
past$res! east do1n the +ae( to1ard the o1 foothis and 1est aro$nd to the pass in the ciff that 1o$d ead to
the hi)her %o$ntains of the Centra Fort Ran)e:
Si+ina )$ided Meno( no1 to1ard a cotta)e! a )oodsized one 1ith fi+e 1indo1s! a of the% sh$ttered
ti)ht! on the $pper foor: 'he cotta)e nested a)ainst the sope of the ra%p: As the( )ot cose eno$)h! Meno(
reaized that the itte cot 1as aso 7$ite od: And the cotta)e door 1as %eta! too> Incredibe> Si+ina opened it!
cain) o$t for D$nca: Meno( had 5$st ti%e to notice that the %eta door cosed as the one at the ,arper ,a
did! 1ith a s%a 1hee thro1in) the thic& rods into )roo+es in ceiin) and foor:
=Meno(! co%e and %eet D$nca 1ho hods the cotta)e for the )irs 1ho st$d( at the ,arper ,a:=
Meno( d$tif$( )reeted the short! d$%p( itte 1o%an 1ith bri)ht bac& e(es and chee&s i&e a p$ffbe(4s
sides: D$nca )a+e Meno( a ra&in) oo&! at odds 1ith her 5o( appearance! as if %eas$rin) $p Meno( to the
)ossip she4d aread( heard: 'hen D$nca sa1 .ea$t( pee&in) aro$nd Meno(4s ear: She )a+e a shrie&! 5$%pin)
bac&:
=6hat4s that;=
Meno( reached $p to ca% .ea$t(! 1ho 1as hissin) and raisin) her 1in)s! )ettin) one entan)ed in
Meno(4s hair:
=.$t! D$nca! s$re( (o$ &[email protected]= Si+ina4s +oice chided the 1o%an! [email protected] Meno( had I%pressed fire
izards:=
Meno(4s sharp ear ca$)ht the ed)e to Si+ina4s +oice! and so did the itte 7$een! for .ea$t( thr$%%ed
soft( and 1arnin)( in her throat as her e(es 1hired at D$nca: Meno( sient( caed her to order:
=I4d heard, b$t I don4t a1a(s credit thin)s I4% tod!= said D$nca! standin) as far a1a( fro% Meno( and
.ea$t( as the ha per%itted:
=*er( 1ise of (o$!= repied Si+ina: 'he set of the head1o%an4s ips and the 1ar( a%$se%ent in her )ance
tod Meno( that Si+ina 1as not o+er( fond of the itte cothoder: =No1 (o$4+e a 1indo1ed roo% +acant!
ha+e (o$ not; I thin& it4s best if 1e setted her there:=
=I don4t 1ant another h(sterica )ir 1ho4 panic d$rin) 'hreadfa and scare $s a 1ith i%a)inin) that
'hread is act$a( in the cotta)e>=
Si+ina4s e(es danced 1ith s$ppressed a$)hter as she )anced Meno(4s 1a(: =No! Meno( 1on4t panic:
She is! b( the 1a(! the (o$n)est da$)hter of Yan$s Sea ,oder of ,af-Circe Sea ,od! behoden to .enden
6e(r: 'he sea breeds ste% so$s! (o$ &no1:=
D$nca4s bri)ht itte e(es 1ere a%ost ost in the fods of her e(e fesh as she peered $p at Meno(:
=So (o$ &ne1 /etiron! did (o$;=
=Yes! I did! D$nca:=
'he cothoder )a+e a dis)$sted snort and t$rned so 7$ic&( her f$ s&irt foo1ed in hast( s1irs as she
%ade for the stone steps car+ed into the 1a at the bac& of the ha1a(: She &ept t1itchin) her s&irt! )r$ntin) at
the steepness of the risers as she hea+ed her s%a fat person $p1ard:
'1o narro1 corridors! it at either end b( di%%in) )o1s! 1ent eft and ri)ht fro% the stair1e: D$nca
t$rned ri)ht! ed the% to the far end and thre1 open the ast door on the o$tside:
=2az( s$ts!= she said tr$c$ent(! f$%bin) at the catch of the )o1bas&et! ='he(4+e ceared the )o1s:=
=6here are the( &ept;= as&ed Meno(! 1ishin) to in)ratiate hersef 1ith the cot&eeper: Feetin)( she
1ondered if she4d a1a(s be trottin) $p and do1n narro1 steps after )o1s:
=6here4s (o$r dr$d)e! D$nca; It4s her tas& to brin) )o1s! not Meno(4s!= said Si+ina as she 1a&ed past
D$nca and fipped open first one! then a second set of sh$tters! foodin) the roo% 1ith s$ni)ht:
=Si+ina> 6hat are (o$ doin);=
='hreadfa4s not for t1o %ore da(s! D$nca: .e sensibe: 'he roo%4s f$st(:=
D$nca4s ans1er 1as a shrie& as the other fire izards s1ooped in thro$)h the opened 1indo1! di+in) abo$t
the roo%! chitterin) e<cited(: 'here 1as nothin) for the% to cin) to! since the 1as 1ere bare of han)in)s and
the bed a fra%e! e%pt( of r$shes! the seepin) f$r roed $p on the s%a press: 'he t1o )reen A$nties and b$e
3nce fo$)ht for andin) space on the stoo and then zoo%ed o$t the 1indo1 a)ain as D$nca4s screa%s started
the%: 'he itte cothoder co1ered in the corner! s&irts abo$t her head! shrie&in):
Meno( ordered the bro1ns to stop di+in)! tod A$ntie One and '1o and 3nce to sta( on the 1indo1
ed)e! )ot Roc&( and Di+er to sette on the bedstead 1hie Si+ina ca%ed D$nca and ed her fro% the corner:
.( the ti%e the cothoder had been ca5oed into 1atchin) Si+ina hande 2az(bones! 1ho4d et an(one caress
hi% so on) as it in+o+ed no effort on his part! Meno( reaized that D$nca 1o$d ne+er be co%fortabe in
their presence and that the 1o%an disi&ed Meno( intense( for 1itnessin) her fearf$ness: For a on)! sad
%o%ent! Meno( 1ished that she co$d ha+e sta(ed at the 6e(r 1here e+er(one co$d accept fire izards
e7$ab(:
She si)hed soft( to hersef as she stro&ed .ea$t(! absent( istenin) to Si+ina4s reass$rances to D$nca that
the fire izards 1o$dn4t har% an(one! not her! not her char)es; that D$nca4d be the en+( of e+er( other
cothoder in Fort to ha+e nine fire izards : : :
=Nine;= D$nca4s protest ca%e o$t in a terrified s7$ea&! and she reached for her s&irts to thro1 o+er her
head: =Nine of those beast( thin)s fittin) and di+in) abo$t %( ho%[email protected]=
='he( don4t i&e to sta( inside! e<cept at ni)ht!= said Meno(! hopin) to reass$re D$nca: ='he(4re rare( a
1ith %e at one ti%e:=
Fro% the horrified and %aicio$s oo& D$nca )a+e her! Meno( reaized that she hersef 1o$d be rare(
1ith D$nca if the cothoder had an(thin) to sa( in the %atter:
=6e can stop here no on)er no1! Meno(: Yo$4+e to pic& a )itar fro% the 1or&shop!= said Si+ina: =If (o$
need %ore r$shes! D$nca! (o$4+e on( to send (o$r 1o%an to the ,a!= she added as she %otioned Meno( to
precede her fro% the roo%: =Meno( 1i be %ore cose( in+o+ed 1ith the ,a than the other )irs : : :=
=She4s to be bac& here at sh$tter ti%e! sa%e as the others! or sta( at the ,a!= said D$nca as Si+ina and
Meno( 1ent do1n the steps:
=She4s strict 1ith the )irs!= Si+ina re%ar&ed as the( e%er)ed into the bri)ht %idda( s$n and started across
the broad pa+ed s7$are! =b$t that4s to the )ood 1ith a those ads +(in) for their attention: And ta&e no heed to
her )r$%bes o+er /etiron: She4d hoped to 1ed hi% after Merean died: I4d sa( /etiron resi)ned as Fort ,od
,arper as %$ch to )et free of D$nca as to cear the 1a( for Robinton: ,e 1as so +er( pro$d that his son 1as
eected Masterharper:=
=,af-Circe Sea ,od is a on) 1a( fro% Fort ,od:=
Si+ina! ch$c&ed: =And one of the fe1 paces isoated eno$)h to pre+ent D$nca fro% foo1in) hi%! chid:
As if /etiron 1o$d e+er ha+e ta&en another 1o%an after Merean: She 1as the o+eiest person! a +oice of
$n$s$a bea$t( and ran)e: Ah! I %iss her sti:=
More peope 1ere abo$t? fied 1or&ers co%in) in for their %idda( %ea; a part( of %en on e))( r$nners!
so1in) to an a%be thro$)h the cro1d: An apprentice! intent on his errand! ran ri)ht into Meno(: ,e 1as
%o$thin) an apoo)( 1hen .ea$t(! peerin) thro$)h Meno(4s hair! hissed at hi%: ,e (eped! d$c&ed 1ith an
apprentice4s 1e-de+eoped instinct! and 1ent petin) bac& the 1a( he4d co%e:
Si+ina a$)hed: =I4d i&e to hear his tae 1hen he )ets bac& to his ha:=
=Si+ina! I4%@=
=Not a 1ord! Meno(> I 1i not ha+e (o$ apoo)izin) for (o$r fire izards: Nor 1i Master Robinton:
'here 1i a1a(s be foos in the 1ord i&e D$nca! fearf$ of an(thin) ne1 or stran)e:= 'he( had entered the
arch1a( of the ,arper ,a: ='hro$)h that door! across the stairha! and (o$4 find the 1or&shop: Master #erint
is in char)e: ,e4 find (o$ an instr$%ent so (o$ can pa( for Master Do%ic&: ,e4 %eet (o$ there:= 6ith an
enco$ra)in) pat and a s%ie! Si+ina eft her:
Chapter 8
Speak softly to my li-ard fair
+or raise your hand to me#
For they are !uick to take offense
And !uicker to champion me#
Meno( 1ished that Si+ina had sta(ed on) eno$)h to introd$ce her to Master #erint! b$t she )$iti(
reaized ho1 %$ch of the head1o%an4s +a$abe ti%e she had aread( had: So! s7$arin) her sho$ders a)ainst
her ridic$o$s s$r)e of ner+o$sness! Meno( entered the s7$are stairha and sa1 the door that %$st ead to the
1or&shop of Master #erint:
She co$d hear the so$nds of 1or&shop ind$str(? ha%%erin)! the scrape of sa1 on 1ood! toots and th$%ps;
b$t the instant she opened the door! she and .ea$t( )ot the f$ i%pact of +ario$s noises of t$nin)! sandin)!
sa1in)! po$ndin)! the t1an)in) of to$)h 1herhide bein) stretched o+er dr$% fra%es and snappin) bac&:
.ea$t( et o$t a penetratin) shrie& of co%paint and too& off! strai)ht for the bracin) bea%s of the
hi)h-ceiin)ed 1or&shop: ,er ra$co$s ca and her fi)ht s$spended a acti+it( in the roo%: 'he s$dden sience!
and then the 1hisperin)s of the (o$n)er 1or&ers! a starin) at Meno(! attracted the attention of the oder %an
1ho 1as bent a%ost do$be! )$ein) a cr$cia piece of ina( on the )itar in his ap: ,e oo&ed $p and aro$nd at
the starin) apprentices:
=6hat; 6e;=
.ea$t( )a+e another cr(! a$nchin) hersef fro% the rafter bea% bac& to Meno(4s sho$der no1 that the
distressin) so$nds had ceased:
=6ho %ade that appeain) noise; It 1as ani%a! not instr$%enta:=
Meno( didn4t see an(one pointin) at her! b$t s$dden( Master #erint 1as %ade a1are of her presence b(
the door:
=Yes; 6hat are (o$ doin) here; And 1hat4s that thin) on (o$r sho$der; Yo$ o$)htn4t be cartin) pets
abo$t! 1hate+er it is: It isn4t ao1ed: 6e! ad! spea& $p>=
'itters in +ario$s parts of the 1or&roo% indicated to the %an that he 1as in so%e error:
=/ease! sir! if (o$4re Master #erint! I4% Meno( : : :=
=If (o$4re Meno(! then (o$4re no ad:=
=No! sir:=
=And I4+e been e<pectin) (o$: At east! I thin& so:= ,e peered do1n at the ina( he4d been )$ein) as if
acc$sin) the inani%ate ob5ect of his absent%indedness: =6hat is that thin) on (o$r sho$der; Did it %a&e that
noise;=
=Yes! beca$se she 1as started! sir:=
=Yes! the noise in here 1o$d starte an(one 1ith hearin) and 1it:= #erint so$nded appro+in) and no1
craned his head for1ard! 1ithdra1in) the instant .ea$t( )a+e one of her itte chirps and fro1nin) in s$rprise
that she reacted to his c$riosit(: =So she is one of those %(thica fire izards;= ,e acted s&eptica:
=I na%ed her .ea$t(! Master #erint!= Meno( said! deter%ined to 1in other friends for her fire izards that
da(: She fir%( $n1o$nd .ea$t(s tai fro% her nec& and coa<ed her to her forear%: =She i&es to ha+e her
head&nob stro&ed : : :=
=Does she;= #erint caressed the )o1in) )oden creat$re: .ea$t( cosed the inner id of her briiant e(es and
s$b%itted co%pete( to the Master4s to$ch: =She does:=
=She4s rea( +er( friend(! it4s 5$st a that noise and so %an( peope:=
=6e! I find her 7$ite friend(!= #erint repied! one on) cao$sed and )$e-co+ered fin)er stro&in) the itte
7$een 1ith )ro1in) confidence as .ea$t( be)an to h$% 1ith peas$re: =*er( friend( indeed: Are dra)ons4
s&ins as soft as hers;=
=Yes! sir:=
=Char%in) creat$re: C$ite char%in): M$ch %ore practica than dra)ons:=
=She sin)s! too!= said a stoc&( %an sa$nterin) fro% the bac& of the ha! 1ipin) his hands on a to1e as he
ca%e:
As if this ne1co%er reeased a hidden sprin)! a %$r%$ro$s 1a+e of haf )i))e! haf e<cited 1hisperin)s
ripped thro$)h the apprentices: 'he %an nodded at Meno(:
=Sin)s;= as&ed #erint! pa$sin) in %id-caress so that .ea$t( b$tted her nose at his hand: ,e contin$ed to
stro&e the no1 co(( c$r+ed nec&: =She sin)s! Do%ic&;=
=S$re( (o$ heard this %ornin)4s )orio$s descant #erint;=
'his stoc&( %an 1as Master Do%ic& for 1ho% she %$st pa(; 'r$e! he 1ore an od t$nic 1ith a faded
5o$rne(%an4s %ar&in)s! b$t no 5o$rne(%an 1o$d ha+e addressed a %aster b( his bare na%e nor 1o$d be so
sefass$red:
='his %ornin)4s descant;= #erint bin&ed 1ith s$rprise! and so%e of the boder apprentices chorted at his
conf$sion: =Yes! I re%e%ber thin&in) the pitch 1as a bit $n$s$a for pipes! and besides that Sa)a is traditiona(
s$n) 1itho$t acco%pani%ent! b$t then .r$de)an is a1a(s i%pro+isin) ,e )a+e an irritabe 1a+e of his hand:
.ea$t( reared $p on Meno(4s ar%! started into fannin) her 1in)s for baance and di))in) her taons
painf$( thro$)h Meno(4s thin see+e:
=Didn4t %ean (o$! (o$ prett( thin)!= #erint said b( 1a( of apoo)( and caressed .ea$t(4s head&nob $nti
she4d s$bsided to her for%er position: =.$t a that so$nd fro% this itte creat$re;=
=,o1 %an( 1ere act$a( sin)in)! Meno(;= as&ed Master Do%ic&:
=On( fi+e!= she repied reser+ed(! thin&in) of D$nca4s reaction to the fi)$re nine:
=On( fi+e of the%;=
'he dro tone %ade her )ance apprehensi+e( at the stoc&( Master! 1onderin) if he 1ere ta$ntin) her!
since the haf-s%ie on his face )a+e her no rea hint:
=Fi+e>= Master #erint roc&ed bac& on his hees 1ith a%aze%ent: =Yo$ : : : ha+e fi+e fire izards;=
=Act$a(! sir! to be tr$thf$ : : :=
=It is 1iser to be tr$thf$! Meno(!= a)reed Master Do%ic&! and he 1as teasin) her! not too &ind( either:
=I I%pressed nine fire izards!= said Meno( in a r$sh! =beca$se! (o$ see! 'hread 1as fain) o$tside the
ca+e! and the on( 1a( I co$d &eep the hatchin)s fro% ea+in) and )ettin) &ied b( 'hread 1as to feed the%
and that : : :=
=I%pressed the%! of co$rse!= Do%ic& finished for her! 1hen she fatered beca$se Master #erint 1as
1ide-e(ed 1ith astonish%ent and incred$it(: =Yo$ 1i rea( ha+e to add another +erse to (o$r son)! Meno(!
or possib( t1o:=
='he Masterharper has edited that son) as he fees necessar(! Master Do%ic&!= she said 1ith 1hat she
hoped 1as 7$iet di)nit(:
A so1 s%ie spread across the %an4s face:
=It is 1iser to be tr$thf$! Meno(: Didn4t (o$ train a (o$r fire izards to sin);=
=I didn4t act$a( train the%! sir: I pa(ed %( pipes! and the(4d sin) aon): : ."
=Spea&in) of pipes! #erint! this )ir has to ha+e an instr$%ent $nti she can %a&e one hersef: Or didn4t
/etiron ha+e eno$)h 1ood to teach (o$! )ir;=
=,e e.plained ho1: : := Meno( repied: Did Master Do%ic& thin& Yan$s Sea ,oder 1o$d ha+e 1asted
precio$s ti%ber for a girl to %a&e a harper4s instr$%ent;
=6e4 see in d$e ti%e bo1 1e (o$ absorbed that e<panation: In the %eanti%e! Meno( needs a )itar to
pa( for %e and to practice on : : := ,e dra1ed the ast t1o 1ords! his stern )ance s1eepin) aro$nd the roo% at
a the 1atchers:
E+er(one 1as s$dden( e<ceedin)( occ$pied in their interr$pted tas&s! and the res$tant ener)etic bo1s!
t1an)s and 1histes %ade .ea$t( spread her 1in)s and screech in protest:
=I can hard( fa$t her!= said Do%ic& as Meno( soothed the fire izard:
=6hat an e<trordinar( ran)e of so$nds she can %a&e!= re%ar&ed Master #erint:
=A )itar for Meno(; So 1e can 5$d)e the ran)e of so$nds she can %a&e;= Do%ic& re%inded the %an in a
bored tone:
=Yes! (es! there4s an( n$%ber of instr$%ents to choose fro%!= said #erint! 1a&in) 1ith 5er&( steps to1ard
the co$rt(ard side of the 2-shaped roo%:
And indeed there 1ere! Meno( reaized as the( approached the corner c$tter of dr$%s! pipes! harps of
se+era sizes and desi)ns! and )itars: 'he instr$%ents depended fro% hoo&s set in the stone and cords attached
to the ceiin) bea%s! or sat d$sti( on she+es! the a(ers of d$st increasin) as the instr$%ents 1ent be(ond eas(
ran)e:
=A )itar! (o$ said;= #erint s7$inted at the assort%ent and reached for a )itar! its 1ood bri)ht 1ith ne1
+arnish:
=Not that one:= 'he 1ords 1ere o$t before Meno( reaized ho1 brash she %$st so$nd:
=Not this one;= #erint! ar% sti $praised! oo&ed at her: =6h( not;= ,e so$nded h$ff(! b$t his e(es
narro1ed si)ht( as he re)arded her! there 1as nothin) of the si)ht( absent-%inded crafts%an abo$t Master
#erint no1:
=Its too )reen to ha+e an( tone:=
=,o1 1o$d (o$ &no1 b( oo&in);=
So! tho$)ht Meno(! this is a sort of test for %e:
=I 1o$dn4t choose an( instr$%ent on oo&s! Master #erint! I4d choose b( the so$nd! b$t I can see fro% here
that the 1ood of that )itar is bad( 5oined on the case: 'he nec& is not strai)ht for a it4s been +eneered pretti(:=
'he ans1er e+ident( peased hi%! for he stepped aside and )est$red to her to %a&e her o1n seection: She
pic&ed the strin)s of one )itar restin) a)ainst the she+es and absent( shoo& her head! oo&in) f$rther: She sa1
a case! its 1herhide 1orn b$t 1e-oied: Gancin) bac& at the t1o %en for per%ission! she opened it and ifted
o$t the )itar; her hands caressed the thin s%ooth 1ood! her fin)ers c$rin) appreciati+e( abo$t the nec&: She
paced it before her! r$nnin) her fin)ers do1n the strin)s! across the openin): A%ost re+erent( she str$c& a
chord! s%iin) at the %eo1 so$nd: .ea$t( 1arbed in har%on( to the chord she str$c& and then chirr$ped
happi(: Meno( caref$( repaced the )itar:
=6h( do (o$ p$t it bac&; 6o$dn4t (o$ choose it;= as&ed #erint sharp(:
=Gad(! sir! b$t that )itar %$st beon) to a %aster: It4s too )ood to practice on:=
Do%ic& et o$t a b$rst of a$)hter and capped #erint on the sho$der:
=No one co$d ha+e tod her that one4s (o$rs! #erint: Go on! )ir! find one 5$st bad eno$)h to practice on b$t
)ood eno$)h for (o$ to $se:=
She tried se+era others! %ore conscio$s than e+er that she had to choose 1e: One so$nded s1eet to her!
b$t the t$nin) &nobs 1ere so 1orn that the strin)s 1o$d not &eep their pitch thro$)h a son): She 1as be)innin)
to 1onder if there 1as a pa(abe instr$%ent in the ot 1hen she spotted one dependin) fro% a hoo& a%ost ost
in the shado1s of the 1a: One strin) 1as bro&en! b$t 1hen she chorded aro$nd the %issin) note! the tone 1as
si&( and s1eet: She ran her hands aro$nd the so$nd bo< and 1as peased 1ith the fee of the thin 1ood: 'he
caref$ hand of its creator had p$t an intricate pattern of i)hter shades of 1ood aro$nd the openin): 'he t$nin)
&nobs 1ere of ne1er 1ood than the rest of the )itar b$t! e<cept for the %issin) strin)! it 1as the best of a b$t
Master #erint4s:
=I4d i&e to $se this one! if I %a(;= She hed it to1ard #erint:
'he Master nodded so1(! appro+in)(! i)norin) Do%ic&! 1ho )a+e hi% a co$t on the sho$der: =I4 )et
(o$ a ne1 E strin): : := And #erint t$rned to a set of dra1ers at one end of the she+es! r$%%a)ed a %o%ent and
bro$)ht o$t a caref$( coied en)th of )$t:
As the strin) 1as aread( ooped! she sipped it o+er the hoo&! ined it o+er the brid)e and $p the nec& into
the hoe of the t$nin) &nob: She 1as +er( conscio$s of intent scr$tin( and tried to &eep her hands fro%
tre%bin): She t$ned the ne1 strin) first to the ne<t one! then to the others and str$c& a tr$e chord; the
%eo1ness of the so$nd reass$red her that she had chosen 1e:
=No1 that (o$ ha+e de%onstrated that (o$ can choose 1e! strin) and t$ne! et4s see if (o$ can pa( the
)itar of (o$r choice!= said Do%ic&! and ta&in) her b( the ebo1! steered her fro% the 1or&roo%:
She had on( ti%e to nod her than&s to Master #erint as the door sa%%ed behind her: Sti )rippin) her ar%
and $npert$rbed b( .ea$t(4s hissin)! Do%ic& propeed her $p the stairs and into a rectan)$ar roo% b$it o+er
the entrance arch1a(: It %$st ser+e a d$a p$rpose as an office and an additiona schooroo%! to 5$d)e b( the
sandtabe! the record bins! the 1a 1ritin) board and the she+es of stored instr$%ents: 'here 1ere stoos p$ed
bac& a)ainst the 1as! b$t there 1ere aso three eathered co$ches! the first that Meno( had e+er seen! 1ith
ti%edar&ened ar%rests and bac&s! so%e patched 1here the ori)ina hide had been repaced: '1o 1ide 1indo1s!
1ith fodin) %eta sh$tters! o+eroo&ed the broad road to the ,od on one side! the co$rt(ard on the other:
=/a( for %e!= Do%ic& said! )est$rin) for her to ta&e a stoo as he coapsed into the co$ch facin) the hearth:
,is tone 1as e<pressioness! his %anner so nonco%%itta that Meno( fet he didn4t e<pect her to be abe to
pa( at a: 6hat itte confidence she had )ained 1hen she had apparent( chosen $ne<pected( 1e ebbed
fro% her: 3nnecessari( she str$c& a t$nin) chord! fidded 1ith the &nob on the ne1 strin)! tr(in) to decide
1hat to pa( to pro+e her co%petence: For she 1as deter%ined to s$rprise this Master Do%ic& 1ho teased and
ta$nted and didn4t i&e her ha+in) nine fire izards:
=Don4t sin)!= Do%ic& added: =And I 1ant no distraction fro% her:= ,e pointed to .ea$t( sti on Meno(4s
sho$der: =#$st that:= ,e 5abbed his fin)er at the )itar and then foded his hands across his ap! 1aitin):
,is tone st$n) Meno(4s pride a1a&e: 6ith no f$rther tho$)ht! she str$c& the openin) chords of the =.aad
of Moreta4s Ride= and had the satisfaction of seein) his e(ebro1s ift in s$rprise: 'he chordin) 1as tric&(
eno$)h 1hen +oices carried the %eod(! b$t to p$c& the t$ne as 1e as the acco%pani%ent increased the
diffic$t(: She did stri&e se+era so$r chords beca$se her eft hand co$d not 7$ite %a&e the e<tensions or
respond to the rapid shifts of har%on( re7$ired! b$t she &ept the rh(th% &een and the fin)ers of her ri)ht hand
fic&ed o$t the %eod( o$d and tr$e thro$)h the str$%%in):
She haf-e<pected hi% to stop her after the first +erse and chor$s! b$t! as he %ade no si)n! she contin$ed!
+ar(in) the har%on( and s$bstit$tin) an aternati+e fin)erin) 1here her eft hand had fatered: She had
a$nched into the third repetition 1hen he eaned for1ard and ca$)ht her ri)ht 1rist:
=Eno$)h )itar!= he said! his e<pression inscr$tabe: 'hen he snapped his fin)ers at her eft hand! 1hich she
e<tended in so1 obedience: It ached: ,e t$rned it pa% $p! tracin) the thic& scar so i)ht( that the tic&in)
sensation %ade her spine t1itch in reaction tho$)h she forced hersef to &eep sti: ,e )r$nted! noticin) 1here
her e<ertion had spit the ed)e of the 1o$nd: =Odi+e seen that hand (et;=
=Yes! sir:=
=And reco%%ended so%e of his stic&( s%e( sa+es! no do$bt: If the( 1or&! (o$4 be abe to stretch for the
fin)erin)s (o$ %issed in the first +erse:=
=I hope so:=
=So do I: Yo$4re not s$pposed to ta&e iberties 1ith the 'eachin) .aads and Sa)[email protected]=
=So /etiron ta$)ht %e= she repied 1ith an e7$a( e<pressioness +oice! =b$t the %inor se+enth in the
second %eas$re is an aternati+e chordin) in the Record at ,afCirce Sea ,od:=
=An od +ariation:=
Meno( said nothin)! b$t she &ne1 fro% his +er( so$rness that she had pa(ed +er( 1e indeed! despite her
hand! and that Do%ic& didn4t 1ant to be co%pi%entar(:
=No1! 1hat other instr$%ents did /etiron teach (o$ to pa(;=
=Dr$%! of co$rse:=
=Yes! of co$rse: 'here4s a s%a ta%bo$r behind (o$:=
She de%onstrated the basic dr$% ros! and at his re7$est did a %ore co%pe< dr$% dance beat! pop$ar 1ith
and pec$iar to seahoders: 'ho$)h his e<pression re%ained band! she sa1 his fin)ers t1itch in ti%e 1ith the
beat and 1as in1ard( peased b( that reaction: Ne<t! she pa(ed a si%pe $ab( on the ap harp! 1e s$ited to
the i)ht s1eet tone of the instr$%ent: ,e tod her he 1o$d ass$%e that she co$d pa( the )reat harp b$t the
octa+e reaches 1o$d pace too )reat a strain on her eft hand: ,e handed her an ato pipe! too& a tenor one and
had her pa( har%on( to his %eod( ine: 'hat 1as f$n! and she co$d ha+e contin$ed indefinite( beca$se it
1as so sti%$atin) to pa( d$et:
=Did (o$ ha+e brass at the Sea ,od;=
=On( the strai)ht horn! b$t /etiron e<pained the theor( of +a+es! and he said that I co$d de+eop a )ood
ip 1ith %ore practice:=
=I4% )ad to hear he didnt ne)ect brass:= Do%ic& rose: =6e! I can pace (o$r instr$%enta standard: 'han&
(o$! Meno(: Yo$ %a( be dis%issed for the %idda( %ea:=
6ith so%e re)ret! Meno( reached for the )itar: =Sho$d I ret$rn this to Master #erint no1;=
=Of co$rse not:= ,is e<pression 1as sti coo! a%ost r$de: =Yo$ )ot it to practice on! re%e%ber: And!
despite a (o$ &no1! (o$ 1i need to practice:=
=Master Do%ic&! 1hose 1as this;= She as&ed the 7$estion in a r$sh! beca$se she had a s$dden notion it
%i)ht be his! 1hich co$d acco$nt for so%e of his cario$s anta)onis%:
='hat one; 'hat 1as Robinton4s 5o$rne(%an4s )itar:= 'hen! 1ith a broad )rin at her astonish%ent! Master
Do%ic& 7$it the roo%:
Meno( re%ained! sti ca$)ht b( s$rprise and dis%a( at her te%erit(! hodin) the no1 do$b( precio$s
)itar a)ainst her: 6o$d Master Robinton be anno(ed! as Master Do%ic& see%ed to be! that she had chosen his
)itar; Co%%on sense reasserted itsef: Master Robinton had %$ch finer instr$%ents no1! of co$rse! or 1h( ese
1o$d his 5o$rne(%an4s effort be hidden a%on) #erint4s spares; 'hen the h$%or of her choice str$c& her? of a
the )itars there! she had pic&ed the discarded instr$%ent of the Masterharper: S%a 1onder he 1as ,arper here
if this fine )itar had been %ade 1hen he 1as sti (o$n): She str$%%ed i)ht(! head bent to catch the s1eet
%eo1 7$ait(! s%iin) as she istened to the soft notes die a1a(: .ea$t( chirped appro+in)( fro% her perch
on the shef: Chirp( echoes abo$t the roo% apprised her that the other fire izards had snea&ed in:
'he( a ro$sed and too& 1in)! s7$ea&in)! as a o$d be! see%in)( ri)ht o+erhead! be)an to to: 'he sharp
notes p$nct$ated a pande%oni$% that er$pted fro% the roo%s beo1 and into the co$rt(ard: Apprentices and
5o$rne(%en! reeased fro% their %ornin) casses! spied into the co$rt(ard! a %a&in) the best possibe speed
to the dinin) ha! 5ostin)! p$shin) and sho$tin) in s$ch an e<cess of spirits that Meno( )asped in s$rprise:
6h( so%e of the% %$st be o+er t1ent( '$rns od: No seahoder 1o$d act that 1a(> .o(s of fifteen '$rns! her
a)e! 1ere aread( ser+in) on boats at the Sea ,od: Of co$rse! an e<ha$stin) da( at sai ines and nets eft itte
ener)( to e<pend on r$nnin) or a$)hin): /erhaps that 1as 1h( her parents co$dn4t appreciate her %[email protected]
1o$dn4t appear to be hard 1or& to the%: Meno( shoo& her hands! ettin) the% fap fro% her 1rists: 'he(
ached and tre%bed fro% the constricted %o+e%ents and tension of an ho$r of intensi+e pa(in): No! her
parents 1o$d ne+er $nderstand that pa(in) %$sica instr$%ents co$d be as hard 1or& as saiin) or fishin):
And she 1as 5$st as h$n)r( as if she4d been tra1in): She hesitated! )itar in hand: She 1o$dn4t ha+e ti%e to
ta&e it bac& to her roo% in the cotta)e: No one in the (ard see%ed to be carr(in) instr$%ents: So she p$t the
)itar caref$( in a +acant spot on a hi)h shef! tod .ea$t( and the others to re%ain 1here the( 1ere: She co$d
5$st i%a)ine 1hat 1o$d happen if she bro$)ht her fire izards to that dinin) ha: As bad as the noise 1as no1 :
: :
S$dden( the co$rt(ard 1as e%pt( of h$rr(in) fo&: She too& the stairs as fast as her feet co$d )o and
crossed the co$rt(ard 1ith a fair appro<i%ation of her nor%a s1in)in) stride! hopin) to enter the dinin) roo%
$nobtr$si+e(: She reached the 1ide door1a( and hated: 'he ha see%ed o+er( f$ of bodies! standin) in
ri)id attention at the on) tabes: 'hose facin) the 1indo1s stood ta$t 1ith e<pectation 1hie those facin) the
inner 1a see%ed to be starin) hard at the co%er on her ri)ht: She 1as abo$t to oo& 1hen a hissin) to her eft
attracted her: 'here 1as Ca%o! )est$rin) and )ri%acin) at her to ta&e one of the three +acant seats at the
1indo1 tabe: As 7$ic&( as possibe! she sid into pace:
=,e(!= said the s%a bo( ne<t to her! 1itho$t %o+in) his head in her direction! =(o$ sho$dn4t be here: Yo$
sho$d be o+er there: 6ith the%>= ,e 5er&ed his fin)er at the on) tabe nearest the hearth:
Cranin) her head to peer past the screenin) bodies! Meno( sa1 the sedate ro1 of )irs! bac&s to the hearth:
'here 1as an e%pt( seat at one end:
=No>= 'he bo( )rabbed at her hand: =Not no1>=
Obe(in) so%e si)na Meno( co$dn4t see! e+er(one 1as seated at that precise %o%ent:
=/rett( .ea$t(; 6here4s prett( .ea$t(;= as&ed a 1orried +oice at her ebo1: =.ea$t( not h$n)r(;= It 1as
Ca%o! in each hand a hea+( patter pied 1ith roast %eat sices:
='a&e it 7$ic&!= said the bo( beside her! )i+in) her a di) in the ribs:
Meno( did so:
=6e! )et (o$rs and pass it!= the bo( 1ent on:
=Don4t 5$st sit there i&e a d$%%(!= added the bac&haired ad opposite her! fro1nin) fierce( and shiftin)
his b$ttoc&s on the hard 1ood of the bench:
=,e(! )rab; don4t )ab!= ordered another ad! f$rther $p the tabe 1ith considerabe irritation at the dea(:
Meno( %$%bed so%ethin)! and rather than 1aste ti%e f$%bin) for her bet &nife! she t1ea&ed the
top%ost sice fro% the patter to her pate: 'he bo( across fro% her deft( sna))ed fo$r sices on his &nife point
and transferred the%! drippin) 5$ices! to his pate: 'he bo( beside her str$))ed 1ith the hea+( patter! ta&in)
fo$r sices! too! as he passed it on:
=Sho$d (o$ ta&e so %$ch;= she as&ed! her s$rprise at s$ch )reed o+erco%in) reticence:
=Yo$ don4t star+e in the ,arper ,a!= he said! )ninnin) broad(: ,e siced the first piece into ha+es! foded
one haf o+er neat( 1ith his bade and then sho+ed it into his %o$th! catchin) the 5$ices 1ith his fin)er! 1hich
he %ana)ed to ic& despite the %o$thf$ he 1as b$s( che1in):
,is ass$rance 1as borne o$t b( the deep bo1 of t$bers and roots! and the bas&et of siced breads! 1hich
Ca%o deposited beside her: Fro% these Meno( heped hersef %ore ibera(! passin) the dishes aon) as
7$ic&( as she co$d:
=Yo$4re Meno(! aren4t (o$;= as&ed the bo( beside her! his %o$th sti f$:
She nodded:
=6as it rea( (o$r fire izards sin)in) this %ornin);=
=Yes:=
6hate+er in)erin) e%barrass%ent for that incident Meno( retained 1as dispersed in the )i))e fro% her
tabe co%panion and the s( )rins of those near eno$)h to o+erhear the con+ersation:
=Yo$ sho$d4+e seen .r$ddie4s face>=
=.r$ddie;=
=#o$rne(%an .r$de)an to $s apprentices! of co$rse: ,e4s choir eader this season: First he tho$)ht it 1as %e
p$in) a st$nt! 4ca$se I sin) hi)h trebe: So he stood ri)ht beside %e: I didn4t &no1 1hat 1as $p! a4co$rse: 'hen
he 1ent on to Fedon and .onz! and that4s 1hen I co$d hear 1hat 1as happenin):= 'he bo( had so en)a)in) a
)rin that Meno( fo$nd hersef s%iin) bac&: =Shes! b$t .r$ddie 5$%ped abo$t: ,e co$dn4t trace the so$nd:
'hen one of the basses pointed o$t the 1indo1>= 'he bo( chorted! s$ppressin) the so$nd 1hen it rose abo+e
the )enera e+e of tabe noise: =,o14d (o$ train 4e% to do that! h$h; I didn4t &no1 (o$ co$d )et fire izards to
sin): Dra)on4 h$%! b$t on( 1hen it4s ,atchin) ti%e: Can anyone teach a fire izard to sin); And do (o$ rea(
ha+e ee+en a (o$r o1n;=
=I4+e on( )ot [email protected]=
=On( nine! she sa(s!= and the bo( roed his e(es! enco$ra)in) his tabe%ates to second his en+io$s
response: =I4% /ie%$r!= he added as an aftertho$)ht of co$rtes(:
=She sho$dn4t be here!= co%pained the ad i%%ediate( opposite Meno(: ,e spo&e direct( to /ie%$r! as
if b( i)norin) Meno( he co$d be r$de: ,e 1as bi))er and oder oo&in) than /ie%$r: =She beon)s o+er there
1ith the%:= And he 5er&ed his head bac&1ard! to1ard the )irs at the hearth tabe:
=6e! she4s here no1! and fine 1here she is! Ran(!= said /ie%$r 1ith $ne<pected a))ressi+eness: =She
co$dn4t +er( 1e chan)e once 1e 1ere seated! co$d she; And besides! I heard that she4s to be an apprentice!
sa%e as $s: +ot one of the%:=
=Aren4t the( apprentices;= as&ed Meno(! incinin) her head in the )irs4 )enera direction:
='he%;= /ie%$r4s asto$nded 7$er( 1as as scornf$ as the oo& on Ran(4s face: =No>= 'he dra1 in his
ne)ati+e p$t the )irs in an inferior cate)or(: ='he(4re in the specia cass 1ith the 5o$rne(%en! b$t the(4re not
apprentices: No road>=
4'he(4re a ri)ht n$isance!= said Ran( 1ith rich conte%pt:
=Yeah! the( are!= said /ie%$r 1ith a refecti+e si)h! =b$t if the( 1eren4t here! I4d ha+e to sin) trebe in the
pa(s! and that4d be dire> ,e(! .onz! pass the %eat bac&:= S$dden( he et o$t a started (ip: =Fedon> I as&ed
first: Yo$4+e no ri)ht : : := A bo( had ta&en the ast sice as he handed do1n the patter:
'he other bo(s sh$shed /ie%$r +i)oro$s(! dartin) apprehensi+e )ances to1ard the ri)ht corner:
=.$t it4s not fair: I as&ed!= /ie%$r said! o1erin) his +oice si)ht( b$t not his insistence: =And Meno(
on( had one sice: She sho$d )et %ore than that/(
Meno( 1asn4t certain if /ie%$r 1as %ore o$tra)ed on her behaf or his o1n! b$t so%eone n$d)ed her ri)ht
ar%: It 1as Ca%o:
=Ca%o feed prett( .ea$t(;=
=Not no1! Ca%o: 'he(4re not h$n)r( no1!= Meno( ass$red hi% beca$se his thic& feat$res re)istered s$ch
an<iet(:
='he(4re not h$n)r(! b$t she is! Ca%o!= /ie%$r said! sho+in) the %eat patter at Ca%o: =More %eat! Ca%o:
More %eat! pease! Ca%o;=
=More %eat pease!= Ca%o repeated! 5er&in) his head to his chest; and before Meno( co$d sa( an(thin)!
he had sh$ffed off to the co%er of the dinin) ha 1here sidin) she+es bro$)ht food direct( $p fro% the
&itchen:
'he bo(s 1ere sni))erin) 1ith the s$ccess of /ie%$r4s strate)e%! b$t the( 1iped their faces cear of
a%$se%ent 1hen Ca%o sh$ffed bac& 1ith a 1e-aden patter:
='han& (o$ +er( %$ch! Ca%o!= Meno( said! ta&in) another thic& sice: She co$dn4t fa$t the bo(s for their
)reed: 'he %eat 1as tast( and tender! 7$ite different fro% the to$)h or sated st$ff she 1as $sed to at
,af-Circe Sea ,od:
Another sab 1as d$%ped onto her pate:
=Yo$ don4t eat eno$)h ! = /ie%$r said! sco1in) at her:
='oo bad she4 ha+e to sit 1ith the others!= he tod his tabe%ates as he passed the patter: =Ca%o i&es her:
And her fire izards:=
=Did he rea( feed the% 1ith (o$;= as&ed Ran(: ,e so$nded do$btf$ and en+io$s:
='he( don4t fri)hten hi%!= Meno( said! a%azed at ho1 fast ne1s of e+er(thin) spread in this pace:
='he( 1o$dn4t fri)hten %e!= /ie%$r and Ran( ass$red her on the sa%e breath:
=Sa(! (o$ 1ere at I%pression at .enden 6e(r! 1eren4t (o$;= as&ed /ie%$r! n$d)in) Ran( to be sient:
=Did (o$ see 2ord #a<o% I%press the 1hite dra)on; ,o1 bi) is he rea(; Is he )oin) to i+e;=
=I 1as at the I%pression : : :=
=6e! don4t )o off in a trance!= said Ran(: ='e $s> A 1e )et is secondhand infor%ation: 'hat is! if the
%asters and 5o$rne(%en think 1e apprentices o$)ht to &no1:= ,e so$nded so$r and dis)$sted:
=Oh! she it! Ran(!= = /ie%$r s$))ested: =So 1hat happened! Meno(;=
=I 1as in the tiers! and 2ord #a<o% 1as sittin) beo1 %e 1ith an oder %an and another bo( : : :=
='hat4d be 2ord 6arder 2(to! 1ho4s raised hi%! and the bo( 1as probab( Feessan: ,e4s the son of the
6e(reader and 2essa:=
=I &no1 that! /ie%$r: Go on! Meno(:=
=6e! a the other dra)on e))s had hatched! and there 1as 5$st the itte one eft: #a<o% s$dden( )ot $p
and ran aon) the ed)e of the tier! sho$tin) for hep: 'hen he 5$%ped onto the ,atchin) Gro$nd and started
&ic&in) the e)) and sashin) at the thic& %e%brane inside: 'he ne<t thin)! the itte 1hite dra)on had faen o$t
and : : :=
=I%pression>= /ie%$r finished for her! brin)in) his hands to)ether: =#$st i&e I tod (o$! Ran(! (o$ si%p(
ha+e to be in the ri)ht pace at the ri)ht ti%e: 2$c&! that4s a it is: 2$c&>= /ie%$r see%ed to be pressin) an od
ar)$%ent 1ith his friend: =So%e peope )ot a ot of $c&; so%e don4t:= ,e t$rned bac& to Meno(: =I heard (o$
1ere da$)hter of the Sea ,oder at ,af-Circe:=
=I4% in the ,arper ,a no1! aren4t I;=
/ie%$r stretched o$t his hands as if that sho$d end the disc$ssion:
Meno( t$rned bac& to her dinner: #$st as she finished %oppin) the ast of the 5$ices on her pate 1ith
bread! the shi%%erin) so$nd of a )on) bro$)ht instant sience to the ha: A sin)e bench scraped across the
stone foor as a 5o$rne(%an rose fro% the top o+a tabe at the far end of the ha:
=Afternoon assi)n%ents are? b( the sections; apprentice ha! 9D; (ard! 0; ,od! E; and no s1eepin) behind
the doors this ti%e or (o$4 do an e<tra haf-da(: Section F! barns; G! H and I! fieds; 8 is assi)ned to the ,od
and B and 9 to the cothas: 'hose 1ho reported sic& this %ornin) are to attend Master Odi+e: /a(ers are not to
be ate this e+enin)! and the ca is for the t1entieth ho$r:=
'he %an sat do1n to the acco%pani%ent of e<a))erated si)hs of reief! )roans of co%paint and %$%bes:
/ie%$r 1as not peased: ='he (ard a)ain>= 'hen he t$rned to Meno(: =An(one %ention a section n$%ber
to (o$;=
=No!= Meno( repied! atho$)h Si+ina had %entioned the ter%: =Not (et!= she added as she ca$)ht Ran(4s
bac& stare:
=Yo$ ha+e a the $c&:=
'he )on) bro&e thro$)h the r$%be of reaction! and the bench $nder Meno( be)an to %o+e o$t fro% $nder
her: E+er(one 1as risin)! so Meno( had to rise! too: .$t she stood in pace as the others s1ar%ed b(! %iin)
to pass thro$)h the %ain entrance! a$)hin)! sho+in)! co%painin): '1o bo(s started )atherin) pates and %$)s!
and Meno(! at a oss! reached for a pate to ha+e it snatched o$t of her hand b( an indi)nant ad:
=,e(! (o$4re not in %( section! = he said in an acc$sin) tone! tin)ed 1ith s$rprise! and 1ent abo$t his tas&:
Meno( 5$%ped at a i)ht to$ch on her sho$der! stared and then apoo)ized to the %an 1ho had co%e $p
beside her:
=Yo$ are Meno(;= he as&ed! a hint of dispeas$re in his tone: ,e had s$ch a hi)h-brid)ed nose that he
see%ed to ha+e diffic$t( foc$sin) be(ond it: ,is face 1as ined 1ith dissatisfaction! and a sao1 co%pe<ion
set off b( )ra(in) oc&s tin)ed 1ith (eo1 did nothin) to ater the )enera i%pression he )a+e of s$perciio$s
discontent:
=Yes! sir! I4% Meno(:=
=I a% Master Morsha! Craft%aster in M$sica 'heor( and Co%position: Co%e! )ir! one can4t hear onesef
thin& in this $proar!= and he too& her b( the ar% and be)an to ead her fro% the ha! the thron) of bo(s partin)
before hi%! as if the( fet his presence and 1ished to a+oid an( enco$nter: ='he Masterharper 1ants %( opinion
on (o$r &no1ed)e of %$sica theor(:=
Meno( 1as )i+en to $nderstand b( the tone of his +oice that the Masterharper reied on Master Morsha4s
opinion in this and other far %ore i%portant %atters:
And she aso )athered the distinct i%pression that Morsha didn4t e<pect her to &no1 +er( %$ch:
Meno( 1as sorr( she had eaten so hearti( beca$se the food 1as be)innin) to 1ei)h $neasi( in her
sto%ach: Morsha 1as ob+io$s( aread( predisposed a)ainst her:
=/ssst> Meno(>= A hoarse 1hisper attracted her attention to one side: /ie%$r d$c&ed o$t fro% behind a
taer bo(! 5er&ed his th$%b $p1ard in an easi( interpreted )est$re of enco$ra)e%ent: ,e roed his e(es at the
obi+io$s Morsha! )rinned i%p$dent( and then popped o$t of si)ht in his )ro$p:
.$t the )est$re heartened her: F$nn(-oo&in) &id! /ie%$r 1as! 1ith his tan)e of ti)ht bac& c$rs! %issin)
haf a front tooth and b( far the s%aest of the apprentice ot: ,o1 &ind of hi% to reass$re her:
6hen Meno( reaized that Master Morsha %$st be ta&in) her to the archroo%! she sent a %enta
co%%and to the fire izards to sta( 7$iet or )o find a s$nn( roof $nti she caed the% a)ain: 'here 1asn4t so
%$ch as a r$ste or a chirp 1hen she and Morsha entered: 6ith a resi)ned attit$de! he seated hi%sef on the
on( bac&ed chair at the sandtabe: As he didn4t indicate that she co$d seat hersef! she re%ained standin):
=No1! recite for %e the notes in a C %a5or chord!= he said:
She did so: ,e re)arded her steadi( for a %o%ent! and bin&ed:
=6hat notes 1o$d co%prise a %a5or fifth in C;=
6hen she had ans1ered that! he be)an to fire 7$estions at her! irritabe if she pa$sed! ho1e+er brief(! to
rep(! b$t /etiron had dried her too often the sa%e 1a(: Morsha4s bored e<pression 1as disconcertin) b$t! as
his 7$eries beca%e %ore and %ore co%pe<! she s$dden( reaized that he 1as ta&in) e<a%pes fro% +ario$s
traditiona Sa)as and .aads: Once he %entioned the si)nat$re and 1hich chord! it 1as si%pe eno$)h for her
to +is$aize the record hide and recite fro% %e%or(:
S$dden( he )r$nted and then %$r%$red in his throat: Abr$pt( he as&ed her if she4d been ta$)ht the dr$%:
6hen she ad%itted so%e &no1ed)e! he as&ed tedio$s 7$estions abo$t basic beats in each ti%e factor: ,o1
1o$d she +ar( the beat; No1! as to fin)er positions on a tenor pipe! 1hat cos$res did one %a&e for a chord in
F; ,e too& her thro$)h scaes a)ain: She co$d ha+e de%onstrated %ore 7$ic&(! b$t he )a+e her no chance to
s$))est it:
=Stand sti! )ir!= he said testi( as she shifted her throbbin) feet: =Sho$ders bac&! feet to)ether! )ir! head
$p:= ,e heard a soft t1itter! b$t as he4d been )arin) at Meno(! it 1as ob+io$s she hadn4t opened her ips: ,e
)anced abo$t! to see& the so$rce! as Meno( sient( reass$red .ea$t( and $r)ed sience: =Don4t so$ch: 6hat
1as %( 7$estion;=
She tod hi%! and he contin$ed the barra)e: 'he %ore she ans1ered! the %ore he as&ed: ,er feet 1ere
achin) so that she had to as& per%ission to sit! if on( brief(: .$t! to her a%aze%ent! before she co$d! Morsha
abr$pt( stabbed a fin)er at the stoo ne<t to hi%: She hesitated! not 7$ite beie+in) the )est$re:
=Sit> sit> sit>= he said in an e<cess of irritation at her dea(: =No1! et4s see if (o$ &no1 an(thin) abo$t
1ritin) do1n 1hat (o$4+e been repeatin) so )ib(:=
So she4d been ans1erin) correct(! and he 1as anno(ed beca$se she &ne1 so %$ch: ,er fa))in) spirits
ifted! and as Master Morsha dictated %$sica notations! her fin)ers dro+e the pointer 7$ic&( o+er the sands: In
her %ind! a different! &inder +oice dictated; and the e<ercise beca%e a )a%e! rather than an e<a%ination b( a
pre5$diced 5$d)e:
=6e! %o+e bac& so I can see 1hat (o$4+e 1ritten:= Morsha4s test( +oice recaed her to the present:
,e peered at her inscriptions! p$rsed his ips! h$%phed and sat bac&: ,e )est$red pere%ptori( for her to
s%ooth the sand s$rface and rapid( )a+e her another set of chords: 'he( inc$ded so%e diffic$t %od$ations
and ti%e +a$es! b$t after the first t1o! she reco)nized the =Ridde Son)= and 1as +er( )ad /etiron had %ade
her earn the ha$ntin) t$ne:
='hat4s eno$)h of that!= Master Morsha said! dra1in) his o+ert$nic abo$t hi% 1ith 7$ic&! an)r( %otions:
=No1! ha+e (o$ an instr$%ent;=
=Yes! sir:=
='hen )et it and that third score fro% the top shef: O+er there: .e 7$ic& abo$t it:=
Meno( hissed to hersef as she stepped on her throbbin) feet: Sittin) had not reie+ed the s1ein)! and her
feet fet thic& at the an&es and stiff:
=,$rr( $p! )ir: Don4t 1aste %( ti%e:=
.ea$t( )a+e a soft hiss! too! fro% her perch on the top shef! $niddin) her e(es! and fro% the r$stin)
so$nds in the sa%e )enera area! Meno( &ne1 the other fire izards had ro$sed: 6ith her bac& to Master
Morsha! she )est$red to .ea$t( to cose her e(es and be 7$iet: She crin)ed at the tho$)ht of Master Morsha4s
probabe reaction to fire izards:
=I said to h$rr(! )ir:=
She sh$ffed to the pace 1here she had aid the )itar and h$rried bac& 1ith instr$%ent and %$sic: 'he
Master too& the hides! his ips t1itchin) 1ith anno(ance as he t$rned the thic& ea+es: 'his 1as ne1 cop(in)!
Meno( sa1! for the hide 1as a%ost 1hite and the notes cear and easi( read: 'he hide ed)es 1ere neat(
tri%%ed! too! the ines )oin) fro% %ar)in to %ar)in! to be s$re! b$t no notes ost in deca(ed ed)es:
='here> /a( %e that>= 'he %$sic 1as sid across the sandtabe [email protected]( tho$)ht! so%e1hat shoc&ed
@co%pete disre)ard for the +a$e of the 1or&:
.( so%e frea& of chance! Master Morsha had chosen the =.aad of Moreta4s Ride:= She4d ne+er %ana)e
the +erse chords as 1ritten! and he4d fa$t her if she co$dn4t:
=Sir! %( : : := she be)an! hodin) o$t her eft hand:
=I 1ant no e<c$ses: Either (o$ can pa( it as 1ritten or I ass$%e that (o$ are $nabe to perfor% a traditiona
1or& to a creditabe standard:=
Meno( ran her fin)ers across the strin)s to see if the t$nin) had hed:
=Co%e! co%e: If (o$ can read 1ritten scores! (o$ can pa( the%:=
'hat 1as ass$%in) a ot! Meno( tho$)ht to hersef: .$t she str$c& the openin) chords and! %indf$ that he
1as $ndo$bted( 1aitin) for her to fater! she pa(ed the so 1e-&no1n .aad accordin) to the score before
her! rather than b( rote: 'here 1ere +ariations in the chords? t1o of 1hich 1ere easi( %ana)ed! b$t she f$bbed
the fo$rth and fifth beca$se her scarred hand 1o$d not stretch:
=I see! I see!= he said! 1a+in) her to stop! b$t he oo&ed odd( peased: =Yo$ cannot pa( acc$rate( at
te%po: *er( 1e! that is a: Yo$ are dis%issed:=
=I be) (o$r pardon! Master Morsha : : := Meno( be)an! a)ain e<tendin) her hand as e<panation:
=Yo$ 1hat;= ,e )ared at her! his e(es 1ide 1ith incred$it( that she see%ed to be def(in) hi%: =O$t> I 5$st
dis%issed (o$> 6hat is the 1ord co%in) to 1hen )irs pres$%e to be harpers and pretend to co%pose %$sic>
O$t> Great shes and stars>= ,is +oice chan)ed fro% scod to panic: =6hat4s that; 6hat are the(; 6ho et the%
in here;=
Aread( %a&in) her 1a( do1n the steps! Meno( ost her an)er 1ith hi% at the fri)ht in his +oice: ,is
an)er had ro$sed her friends! and since she 1as apparent( in dan)er! the( had r$shed to protect her! b(
s7$ea&in) and di+in) at hi%: She a$)hed as she heard the sa%%in) of a hea+( door! and as instant( re)retted
the scene: Master Morsha 1o$d be a)ainst her! and that 1o$d not %a&e her ife eas( in the ,arper ,a:
=Nothin) to fear fro% harpers;= 6as that 1hat '4)ean had said ast ni)ht; Ma(be not fear! b$t certain( she
1as )oin) to ha+e to be ca$tio$s 1ith the%: /erhaps she o$)ht not to ha+e been so &no1ed)eabe abo$t %$sic;
that had irritated hi%: .$t 1asn4t that &no1ed)e 1hat he 1as testin); Once a)ain! she 1ondered if there rea(
1as a pace for her here; /res$%e to be a harper; No! she hadn4t! and it 1as $p to Master Robinton! 1asn4t it;
6ere Master Morsha and Master Do%ic& part of the con+entiona proced$res Master Robinton had %entioned;
E+en if she needn4t ha+e %$ch to do 1ith the%! she sensed their anta)onis% and disi&e:
She si)hed and t$rned on the andin) for the second fi)ht and stopped: /ie%$r 1as in the ha! %otioness!
his e(es enor%o$s as he foo1ed the e<cited fittin) of the fire izards: 2az( and 3nce had s$bsided to the
banister:
=I4% not seein) thin)s;= he as&ed her! 1atchin) 2az( and 3nce 1ith apprehensi+e )aze: Fro% the hand
hed ri)id at his side! the forefin)er indicated the t1o fire izards:
=No! (o$4re not: 'he bro1n one is 2az(! and the b$e is 3nce:=
,is e(es foo1ed the fi)ht of the others a %o%ent on)er! tr(in) to co$nt: 'hen the( popped o$t f$rther as
.ea$t( anded dainti( on Meno(4s sho$der! in her $s$a position:
='his is .ea$t(! the 7$een:=
=Yes! she is! isn4t she;= /ie%$r &ept starin) as Meno( descended to the foor e+e:
.ea$t( stretched her nec&! her e(es 1hirin) )ent( as she ret$rned his oo&: S$dden( she bin&ed her e(es!
and so did /ie%$r! 1hich %ade Meno( )i))e:
=No 1onder Ca%o 1as crac&in) his she o+er her:= 'hen /ie%$r shoo& hi%sef! a o+er! i&e a fire izard
sheddin) sea1ater: =I 1as sent to brin) (o$ to Master Shona)ar:=
=6ho4s he;= as&ed Meno(! 1ear( eno$)h fro% the session 1ith Master Morsha:
=Od Marshface )i+e (o$ a hard ti%e; Don4t 1orr( abo$t it: Yo$4 i&e Master Shona)ar; he4s %( Master!
he4s the *oice Master: ,e4s the best:= /ie%$r4s face it $p 1ith rea enth$sias%: =And he said that if (o$ can sin)
haf as 1e as (o$r fire izards do! (o$4re an assss ::: atest ::: ;=
=Asset;= It a%$sed Meno( to be so considered b( an(one:
='hat4s the 1ord: And he said that it didn4t rea( %atter if (o$ croa&ed i&e a 1atch1her! so on) as (o$
co$d )et the fire izards to sin): Do (o$ thin& she i&es %e;= he added! for he hadn4t stopped starin) at .ea$t(:
Nor had he %o+ed:
=6h( not;=
=She &eeps starin) at %e so! and her e(es are 1hirin):= ,e )est$red absent( 1ith one hand:
=Yo$4re starin) at her:=
/ie%$r bin&ed a)ain and oo&ed at Meno(! s%iin) sh(( and )i))in) a bit sef-conscio$s(: =Yeah! I
1as! 1asn4t I; Sorr( abo$t that! .ea$t(: I &no1 it4s r$de! b$t I4+e a1a(s 1anted to see a fire izard> ,e(!
Meno(! c4%on!= and no1 /ie%$r %o+ed off at a haf-r$n! )est$rin) $r)ent( for Meno( to foo1 hi% across
the co$rt(ard: =Master Shona)ar4s 1aitin)! and I &no1 (o$4re ne1 here! b$t (o$ don4t e+er &eep a %aster
1aitin): And sa(! can (o$ &eep the% fro% foo1in) $s! 4ca$se the( %i)ht sin)! and Master Shona)ar did sa( it
1as (o$ he 1anted to hear sin) toda(! not the% a)ain:=
='he(4 be 7$iet if I as& the% to:=
=Ran(! he sat across the tabe fro% (o$! he4s fro% Cro% and he4s so s%art! he sa(s the( on( %i%ic:=
=Oh no! the( don4t:=
=Gad to hear that! beca$se I tod hi% the(4re 5$st as s%art as dra)ons! and he 1o$dn4t beie+e %e:= /ie%$r
had been eadin) her to1ard the bi) ba 1here the chor$s been practicin) that %ornin): =,$rr( $p! Meno(:
Masters hate to be &ept 1aitin)! and I4+e been )one a1hie trac&in) (o$ do1n:=
=I can4t 1a& fast!= Meno( said! )rittin) her teeth at the pain of each step:
=Yo$ s$re are 1a&in) f$nn(: 6hat4s the %atter 1ith (o$r feet;=
Meno( 1ondered that he hadn4t heard that tidbit of ne1s: =I )ot ca$)ht a1a( fro% the ca+e 5$st at
'hreadfa: I had to r$n for safet(:=
/ie%$r4s e(es threatened to b$)e o$t of their soc&ets: =Yo$ ran;= ,is +oice s7$ea&ed: =Ahead of 'hread;=
=I ran %( shoes off %( feet and the s&in as 1e:=
Meno( had no chance to spea& f$rther beca$se /ie%$r had bro$)ht her to the ha door: .efore she co$d
ad5$st her e(es to the dar&ness 1ithin the h$)e roo%! she 1as tod not to )a1& b$t co%e for1ard at a proper
pace! he detested da1din):
=6ith respect! sir! Meno(4s feet 1ere in5$red o$tr$nnin) 'hread!= said /ie%$r! 5$st as if he4d a1a(s been
in possession of this tr$th: =She4s not the da1din) &ind:=
No1 Meno( co$d see the barre-shaped fi)$re seated at the %assi+e sandtabe opposite the entrance:
=/roceed at (o$r o1n pace then! for s$re( a )ir 1ho o$tr$ns 'hread has earned not to da1de:= 'he +oice
fo1ed o$t of the dar&ness! rich! ro$nd! 1ith the r4s roed and the +o1e so$nds p$re and rin)in):
'he other fire izards s1ooped in thro$)h the open door! and the Master4s e(es 1idened si)ht(: ,e
re)arded Meno( in %oc& s$rprise:
=/ie%$r>= 'he sin)e 1ord stopped the bo( in his trac&s! and the +o$%e! 1hich started Meno(! ca$sed
/ie%$r to fic& her a )rin: =Did (o$ not con+e( %( %essa)e acc$rate(; 'he creat$res 1ere not to co%e:=
='he( foo1 her e+er(1here! Master Shona)ar! on( she sa(s the(4 be 7$iet if she tes the% to:=
Master Shona)ar t$rned his hea+( head to re)ard Meno( 1ith hooded e(es:
=So te the%>=
Meno( detached .ea$t( fro% her sho$der and ordered the% a to perch the%se+es 7$iet(: And not to
%a&e a sin)e so$nd $nti she said the( co$d:
=6e!= re%ar&ed Master Shona)ar! t$rnin) his head si)ht( to obser+e the obedience of the fire izards:
='hat is a 1eco%e si)ht! s$rro$nded as I )enera( a% b( %ass disobedience:= ,e )ared narro1-e(ed at
/ie%$r! 1ho had had the te%erit( to )i))e! and! at Master Shona)ar4s stare! tried to ass$%e a sober e<pression:
=I4+e had eno$)h of (o$r bod face! /ie%$r! and (o$r diator( %anner: 'a&e the% a1a(>=
=Yes! sir!= said /ie%$r cheerf$(! and t1istin) abo$t on his hees! he %arched hi%sef s%art( to the door!
pa$sin) to )i+e Meno( an enco$ra)in) 1a+e as he s&ipped do1n the steps:
=Rasca!= said the Master in a %oc& )ro1 as he fic&ed his fin)ers at Meno( to ta&e the stoo opposite
hi%: =I4% )i+en to beie+e that /etiron ended his da(s as ,arper at (o$r ,od! Meno(:=
She nodded! tacit( reass$red b( his $ne<pected 1iin)ness to address her b( na%e:
=And he ta$)ht (o$ to pa( instr$%ents and to $nderstand %$sica theor(;=
Meno( nodded a)ain:
=In 1hich Masters Do%ic& and Morsha ha+e e<a%ined (o$ toda(:= So%e dr(ness in his tone aerted her!
and she re)arded hi% %ore 1ari( as he tited his hea+( head side1a(s on his %assi+e sho$ders: =And did
/etiron!= and no1 the bass +oice roed 1ith a hint of co%in) dispeas$re! so that Meno( 1ondered if her
ori)ina assess%ent of this %an 1as 1ron) and he 1as 5$st as pre5$diced as c(nica Do%ic& and so$red
Morsha! =did he ha+e the a$dacit( to teach (o$ ho1 to $se (o$r +oice;=
=No! sir: At east! I don4t thin& he did: 6e : : : 1e 5$st san) to)ether:=
=,a>= And the h$)e hand of Master Shona)ar ca%e do1n so forcef$( on the sand tabe that the drier
portions 5$%ped in their fra%es: =Yo$ 5$st san) to)ether: As (o$ san) to)ether 1ith those fire izards of (o$rs;=
,er friends chirped in7$irin)(:
=Sience>= he cried! 1ith another sand-dispacin) th$%p on the tabe:
So%e1hat to Meno(4s s$rprise! beca$se Master Shona)ar had started her a)ain! the fire izards fipped
their 1in)s to their bac&s and setted do1n:
=6e;=
=Did I 5$st sin) 1ith the%; Yes! I did:=
=As (o$ $sed to sin) 1ith /etiron;=
=6e! I $sed to sin) descant to /etiron4s %eod(! and the fire izards $s$a( do the descant no1:=
='hat 1as not precise( 1hat I %eant: No1! I 1ish (o$ 5$st to sin) for %e:=
=6hat! sir;= she as&ed! reachin) for the )itar s$n) across her bac&:
=No! not 1ith that!= and he 1a+ed at her i%patient(: =Sin)! not concertize: 'he +oice on( is i%portant
no1! not ho1 (o$ %as& +oca inade7$acies 1ith peasant str$%%in) and ce+er har%on(: I 1ant to hear the
+oice: : : It is the +oice 1e co%%$nicate 1ith! the +oice 1hich $tters the 1ords 1e see& to i%press on %en4s
%inds! the +oice 1hich e+o&es e%otiona response; tears! a$)hter! sense: Yo$r +oice is the %ost i%portant!
%ost co%pe<! %ost a%azin) instr$%ent of a: And if (o$ cannot $se that +oice proper(! effecti+e(! (o$
%i)ht 5$st as 1e )o bac& to 1hate+er insi)nificant hod (o$ ca%e fro%:=
Meno( had been so fascinated b( the richness and +ariet( of the Master4s tones that she didn4t rea( pa(
heed to the content:
=6e;= he de%anded:
She bin&ed at hi%! dra1in) in her breath! beated( a1are that he 1as 1aitin) for her to sin):
=No! not i&e that> Dot> Yo$ breathe fro% here!= and his fin)ers spread across his barre-1idth %idsection!
pressin) in so that the so$nd fro% his %o$th refected that press$re: ='hro$)h the nose! so : : := and he inhaed!
his %assi+e chest bare( risin) as it 1as fied! =do1n the 1indpipe!= and he spo&e on a sin)e %$sica note! =to
the be(!= and the +oice dropped an octa+e: =Yo$ breathe fro% (o$r be( : : : if (o$ breathe proper(:=
She too& the breath as s$))ested and then e<peed it beca$se she didn4t &no1 1hat to sin) 1ith a that
breath:
=For the sa&e of the ,od that protects $s!= and he raised his e(es and hands aoft as if he co$d )rasp
patience fro% thin air! =the )ir si%p( sits there: Sin)! Meno(! sin)>=
Meno( 1as 7$ite 1iin) to! b$t he had so %$ch to sa( before she co$d start or thin& of 1hat to sin):
She too& another 7$ic& breath! fet $nco%fortabe seated! and 1itho$t as&in)! stood and a$nched into the
sa%e son) that the apprentices had been sin)in) that %ornin): She had a brief notion of sho1in) hi% that he
1asn4t the on( one 1ho co$d fi the ha 1ith reso$ndin) tones! b$t so%e fra)%ent of ad+ice fro% /etiron
ca%e to %ind! and she concentrated on sin)in) intense(! rather than o$d(:
,e 5$st oo&ed at her:
She hed the ast note! ettin) it die a1a( as if the sin)er 1ere %o+in) off! and then she san& do1n onto the
stoo: She 1as tre%bin)! and no1 that4 she4d stopped sin)in)! her feet be)an to throb in a d$ beat:
Master Shona)ar on( sat there! )reat fods of chin bio1in) do1n his chest: 6itho$t iftin) his hand! he
tited his bod( bac&1ard and stared at her fro% $nder his fesh( and bac&-haired bro1s:
=And (o$ sa( that /etiron ne+er ta$)ht (o$ to $se (o$r +oice;=
=Not the 1a( (o$ did!= and Meno( pressed her hands de%onstrati+e( a)ainst her fat be(: =,e tod %e
a1a(s to sin) 1ith %( )$t and heart: I can sin) o$der!= she added! 1onderin) if that4s 1h( Shona)ar 1as
fro1nin):
,e 1a))ed his fin)ers: =An( idiot can beo1: Ca%o can beo1: .$t he can4t sin):=
=/etiron $sed to sa(! 4If (o$ sin) o$d! the( on( bear noise! not so$nd or son):4=
=,a> ,e tod (o$ that; M( 1ords> M( 1ords e<act(: So he did isten to %e! after a:= 'he ast 1as
dei+ered in an $ndertone to hi%sef: =/etiron 1as 1ise eno$)h to &no1 his i%itations:=
Sient( Meno( brided at the aspersion: Fro% the 1indo1 ed)e! .ea$t( hissed! and Roc&( and Di+er
echoed her senti%ent: Master Shona)ar raised his head and re)arded the% in %id perpe<it(:
=So;= and he fi<ed his deep e(es on her: =6hat the %istress fees the prett( creat$res echo; And (o$ o+ed
/etiron and 1i hear no i-1ord a)ainst hi%;= ,e eaned for1ard si)ht(! 1a))in) a forefin)er at her: =-no1
this! Meno( 1ho r$ns! 1e a ha+e i%itations! and 1ise is he 1ho reco)nizes the%: I %eant!= and he setted
bac& into his chair! =no disrespect for the departed /etiron: For %e that 1as praise:= ,e tited his head a)ain:
=For (o$! the best thin) possibe; for /etiron had sense eno$)h not to %edde b$t to 1ait $nti I co$d attend to
(o$r +oca ed$cation: 'e%per and refine 1hat is [email protected] prod$ce : : := no1 Master Shona)ar4s eft
e(ebro1 1as 5er&in) $p and do1n! the one archin) 1hie the other re%ained $n%o+ed! so that Meno( 1as
fascinated b( his contro! =: : : prod$ce a 1e-paced! proper sin)in) +oice:= 'he Master e<haed h$)e(:
'hen Meno( too& in the sense of 1hat he4d been sa(in)! no on)er distracted b( his facia contortions:
=Yo$ %ean! I can sin);=
=An( idiot on /ern can sin)!= the Master said dispara)in)(: =No %ore ta&: I4% 1ear(:= ,e be)an br$shin)
her a1a( fro% hi%: ='a&e those other s1eet-throated frea&s aon) 1ith (o$! too: I4+e had eno$)h of their
baef$ oo&s and assorted noises:=
=I4 see that the( sta( : : :=
=Sta( a1a(; No:= Shona)ar4s e(ebro1s rose sharp(: =.rin) the%: 'he( earn fro% e<a%pe! one ass$%es:
So (o$ 1i set the% a )ood e<a%pe:= A distant oo& co$ded his face! and then a so1 s%ie t$))ed $p the
co%ers of his %o$th: =Go! Meno(: Go no1: A this has 1earied %e be(ond beief:=
6ith that! he eaned his ebo1 on the sandtabe so hea+i( that the opposite end eft the foor: ,e c$shioned
his head a)ainst his fist and! 1hie Meno( 1atched be%$sed! be)an to snore: Atho$)h she didn4t thin& an(
h$%an co$d fa aseep so 7$ic&(! she obe(ed the i%picit dis%issa and! bec&onin) to her fire izards! 7$iet(
departed:
Chapter I
Harper, your song has a sorro"ful sound
Though the tune "as "ritten as gay#
0our voice is sad and your hands are slo",
And your eye meeting mine turns a"ay#
Meno( 1o$d ha+e i&ed to find so%epace to c$r $p and seep hersef! b$t .ea$t( be)an to cree soft(:
Si+ina had said so%ethin) abo$t sa+in) scraps! so Meno( crossed the co$rt(ard to the &itchen door: She
co$dn4t see either Si+ina or Ca%o 1ith a the co%in) and )oin): 'hen she sa1 the haf-1it sta))erin) in fro%
the stora)e roo%s! his ar%s caspin) a )reat ro$nd (eo1 cheese: ,e sa1 her! )rinned and deposited the cheese
on the on( cear space at one of the 1or&tabes:
=Ca%o feed prett( ones; Ca%o feed;=
=Ca%o! )et on 1ith that cheese! there4s a )ood feo1!= said the 1o%an Meno( re%e%bered as Ab$na:
=Ca%o %$st feed:= And the %an had )rabbed $p a bo1! $ncere%onio$s( d$%pin) its contents onto the
tabe! and %arched bac& to the storeroo%:
=Ca%o> Co%e bac& and ta&e care of this cheese>=
Meno( 1as sorr( she4d co%e to the &itchen! b$t Ab$na sa1 her:
=So (o$4re the probe% 1ith hi%: Oh! a ri)ht: ,e4 be no $se ti he4s heped (o$ feed those creat$res> .$t
&eep the% o$t of %( &itchen>=
=Yes! Ab$na: I4% sorr( to bother ([email protected]=
=And so (o$ sho$d be in the %idde of )ettin) read( the s$pper b$t : : :=
=Ca%o fed prett( ones; Ca%o feed prett( ones;= ,e 1as bac& traiin) )obbets of %eat fro% an o+erf$
bo1:
=Not in %( &itchen! Ca%o: O$tside 1ith (o$: O$tside no1: And send hi% bac& in 1hen the(4+e et! 1i (o$!
)ir; One thin) he can do is )et the cheese read(>=
Meno( ass$red Ab$na! and s%iin) at Ca%o! dre1 hi% o$t of the &itchen and $p the steps: .ea$t( and the
others i%%ediate( con+er)ed on the%: 'he t1o A$nties and 3nce a)ain perched on con+enient portions of
Ca%o: 'he %an4s face 1as ecstatic! and he stood ri)id! as if the si)htest %otion on his part 1o$d disco$ra)e
his $n$s$a )$ests! as the other fire izards s1ooped to snatch food or c$n) to hi% on) eno$)h to eat direct(
fro% the bo1: .ea$t(! Roc&( and Di+er fed b( preference fro% Meno(4s hands! b$t the bo1 1as soon
e%pt(:
=Ca%o )et %ore; Ca%o )et %ore;=
Meno( ca$)ht hi%! forcin) hi% to oo& at her: =No! Ca%o: 'he(4+e had eno$)h: No %ore! Ca%o: No1
(o$ %$st 1or& on the cheese:=
=/rett( ones ea+e;= Ca%o4s face beca%e a %as& of tra)ed( as he 1atched one after the other of the fire
izards circe azi( $p to the )abe points of the ha: =/rett( ones ea+e;=
='he(4re )oin) to seep in the s$n no1! Ca%o: 'he(4re not h$n)r( an(%ore: Yo$ )o bac& to the cheese
no1:= She )a+e hi% a )ente sho+e to1ard the &itchen: ,e 1ent! bo1 in both hands! starin) bac& o+er his
sho$der at the fire izards so intent( that this ti%e he did ban) ri)ht into the doorfra%e! corrected his direction
1itho$t e+er ta&in) his e(es fro% the fire izards! and disappeared into the &itchen:
=Co$d I hep feed the%; Ma(be; Once;= as&ed a 1istf$ +oice at her ebo1: Started! she 1hired to see
/ie%$r! frin)e of hair da%p abo$t his face and a ine of rearran)ed dirt on each side of his nec& $p to his ears:
Other ads and so%e of the 5o$rne(%en 1ere be)innin) to drift across the co$rt(ard to the ,a: =Rasca!=
Master Shona)ar had caed /ie%$r! and Meno( a)reed! for a )ea% $r&ed in /ie%$r4s e(es for a his
painti+e +oice:
=Got a bet on 1ith Ran(;=
=.et on;= /ie%$r )a+e her a searchin) oo&: 'hen he ch$c&ed: =A s%a )$( i&e %e! Meno(! has )ot to
sta( a 5$%p ahead of the bi) ones! i&e Ran(! or the( p$t on %e in the dor% at ni)ht:=
=So 1hat did (o$ p$t $p 1ith Ran(;=
='hat (o$4d et %e feed the fire izards beca$se the( i&e %e aread(: 'he( do! don4t the(;=
=Yo$ rea( are a rasca! aren4t (o$;=
/ie%$r4s )rin beca%e a cac$ated )ri%ace! and he shr$))ed ad%ission of the char)e:
=I4+e aread( )ot Ca%o fain) o+er hi%sef to feed : :=
=: : : 4/rett( .ea$t(!4= and /ie%$r %i%ic&ed the oder %an4s thic& +oice perfect(! =4Feed prett( .ea$t( : : :4
Oh! don4t 1orr( Meno(! Ca%o and %e are friends: ,e 1on4t ob5ect to %e hepin)! too:=
As if that had setted the %atter! /ie%$r )rabbed Meno(4s hand to p$ her $p the steps: =,e(! (o$ don4t
1ant to be ate for the tabe a)ain!= he said! eadin) her to1ard the dinin) ha:
=Meno(>=
'he t1o hated at the so$nd of the ,arper4s +oice and t$rned to see hi% descendin) the stairs fro% the $pper
e+e:
=,o14s the da( )one for (o$! Meno(; Yo$4+e seen Do%ic&! Morsha and Shona)ar! ha+e (o$; I %$st
%a&e (o$ &no1n to Sebe! too! +er( soon: .efore the e))s hatch>= 'he Masterharper )rinned! %$ch as /ie%$r
had 5$st done! in anticipation of the e+ent: =And this sca%p has attached hi%sef to (o$! has he; 6e! %a(be
(o$ can &eep hi% o$t of tro$be for a1hie: Ah! .r$de)an! a 1ord 1ith (o$ before s$pper:=
=C$ic& : : := /ie%$r had her b( the ar% and 1as h$rr(in) her into the dinin) ha so that bet1i<t the ,arper
and /ie%$r! it oo&ed to Meno( as if neither 1ished her to %eet 5o$rne(%an .r$de)an! 1hose practice her fire
izards had interr$pted: =Sebe4s a rea ce+er feo1!= /ie%$r added in s$ch a cas$a fashion that Meno(
berated hersef for i%a)inin) thin)s: =,e4s to )et the other e)):= /ie%$r 1histed in his teeth: =Yo$ thin& (o$
)ot tro$bes; Sebe4s on( 5$st 1a&ed the [email protected]=
=6a&ed the tabes;= Meno( 1as started:
='hat4s 1hat 1e sa( 1hen (o$4+e been pro%oted a )rade: It happens at s$pper: If (o$4re an apprentice! a
5o$rne(%an stands b( (o$r seat and then 1a&s (o$ to (o$r ne1 pace:= ,e 1as pointin) fro% the on) tabes to
the o+a ones at the far end of the dinin) ha: =And a %aster escorts a 5o$rne(%an fro% the% to the ro$nd tabe:
.$t it4 be a on) ti%e before an( of that happens to %e!= he said! si)hin): =If it e+er does:=
=6h(; Don4t a apprentices beco%e 5o$rne(%en;=
=No!= repied the bo( 1ith a )ri%ace: =So%e )et sent ho%e as $seess: So%e )et d$ 5obs aro$nd here!
hepin) 5o$rne(%en or %asters! or sent to a s%aer craftha ese1here:=
Ma(be that 1as 1hat the Masterharper had in %ind for her! hepin) a 5o$rne(%an or a %aster in so%e hod
or craftha: 'hat %ade )ood sense! at east! b$t Meno( si)hed: A si)h echoed b( /ie%$r:
=,o1 on) ha+e (o$ been here;= Meno( as&ed: ,e oo&ed a poor( )ro1n nine or ten '$rns! the a)e at
1hich bo(s 1ere c$sto%ari( apprenticed! b$t he so$nded as if he4d been in the ,a a on) ti%e:
='1o '$rns I4+e been apprenticed= he ans1ered 1ith a )rin: =I )ot ta&en in ear( on acco$nt of %( +oice:=
,e said that 1itho$t the east bit of conceit: =No1! oo&! (o$ )o on o+er there 1here the )irs sit: And don4t
1orr(: Yo$ ran& 4e%:=
6itho$t e<painin) that! he darted in bet1een the first and second tabes: Meno( tried not to hobbe as she
%o+ed to the benches he had indicated! &eepin) her sho$ders bac&! her head $p! and 1a&in) so1( so as to
dis)$ise her pain-footed )ait: She 1as a1are of! and tried to i)nore! the o+ert and co+ert )ances of the bo(s
aread( in position at the tabes: She4d better et /ie%$r hep her feed the fire izards? &eepin) on his )ood side
%i)ht be as i%portant as sta(in) in the ,arper4s )ood )races:
'he seats e+ident( reser+ed for the )irs 1ere %ar&ed b( faps of c$shion on the hard 1ood: She too& the
end position! a1a( fro% the fiercest heat of the hearth fire and stood poite( 1aitin):
'he )irs entered the dinin) ha to)ether: 'o)ether in %ore than one sense! for a re)arded her steadi( as
the( crossed to the tabe: 'heir $nit( 1as aso %aintained in their ban& e<pressions: Meno( s1ao1ed a)ainst
the dr(ness in her throat! )anced aro$nd her! an(1here b$t at the fast approachin) )irs: She ca$)ht /ie%$r4s
e(es! sa1 hi% )rin i%pish(! and she had to s%ie bac&:
=Yo$4re Meno(;= as&ed a 7$iet +oice: 'he )irs 1ere ran)ed be(ond their spo&es%an! a)ain in a ine that
beto&ened $nit(:
=She co$dn4t be an(one ese! co$d she;= as&ed the dar& )ir 5$st behind her:
=M( na%e is /ona! %( )randfather is 2ord ,oder of .o:= She hed o$t her ri)ht hand! pa% $p! and
Meno(! 1ho had ne+er had an opport$nit( to %a&e the )est$re of for%a )reetin)! co+ered it 1ith hers:
=I a% Meno(!= and! re%e%berin) /ie%$r4s co%%ent abo$t ran&! she added! =%( father is Yan$s! Sea
,oder of ,af-Circe Sea ,od:=
'here 1as a started %$r%$r of s$rprise fro% the others:
=She ran&s $s!= said so%eone! rebeio$s and astonished:
='here4s ran& in the ,arper ,a;= as&ed Meno(! dist$rbed and 1onderin) 1hat other ee%ents of co$rtes(
she %i)ht $n1ittin)( ha+e ne)ected: ,adn4t /ediron a1a(s tod her that the ,arper Craft! in partic$ar! aid
stress on s&i and %$sica achie+e%ent rather than nata ran&; .$t /ie%$r had said! =Yo$ ran& 4e%:=
=,af-Circe is not the odest seahod: 'ie& is!= said the dar&-co%pe<ioned )ir! rather cross(:
=Meno( is da$)hter! not niece!= said the )ir 1ho had %entioned o$tran&in): She no1 e<tended her hand!
ess )r$d)in)(! Meno( tho$)ht: =M( father is 6ea+er Craft%aster 'i%areen of 'e)ar ,od: M( na%e is
A$di+a:=
'he dar&-co%pe<ioned )ir 1as abo$t to na%e hersef! her hand e<tended! 1hen a s$dden sh$ffin) of feet
aerted the% a! and the( too& their paces at the bench as e+er(one in the ha stood strai)ht and oo&ed
for1ard: Meno( 1as then facin) a ta bo( 1hose si)ht( prot$berant e(es 1ere b$)in) 1ith interest on the
itte scene he had 5$st 1itnessed: 2oo&in) o+er his eft sho$der and thro$)h a )ap! she sa1 /ie%$r! roin) his
e(es as far to his ri)ht as possibe: Meno( tried peerin) in the sa%e direction and decided it %$st be the
,arper4s tabe that /ie%$r 1atched: 'hen e+er(one 1as 5$%pin) o+er the benches to )et seated! and she
hastened to do the sa%e:
,ea+( pitchers of a thic&! %eat(! hot so$p 1ere passed! and tra(s of the (eo1 cheese! 1hich Ca%o %$st
e+ent$a( ha+e ta&en care of! as 1e as bas&ets of cr$st( bread: E+ident( %eas 1ere re+ersed here in the
,arper Craft ,a! 1ith the hea+iest %ea in the %idde of the da(: Meno( ate h$n)ri( and 7$ic&( $nti she
reaized that the )irs 1ere a ta&in) haf-spoonsf$ and brea&in) their bread and cheese into daint( bite-sized
portions: /ona and A$di+a 1atched her s$rreptitio$s(! and one of the other )irs tittered: So! tho$)ht Meno(
)ri%(! her tabe %anners differed fro% theirs; 6e! to chan)e 1o$d %ean ad%ittin) that hers 1ere fa$t(:
She did so1 do1n! b$t she contin$ed to eat hearti(! %a&in) no bones abo$t as&in) for %ore 1hie the )irs
1ere sti b$t haf1a( thro$)h their first ser+in):
=I $nderstand that (o$ 1ere pri+ie)ed to attend the atest ,atchin) at .enden 6e(r!= /ona said to Meno(
1ith a the air of one conferrin) a fa+or b( s$ch con+ersation:
=Yes! I 1as there:= 1rivileged* Yes! she s$pposed it 1o$d be considered a pri+ie)e:
=I don4t s$ppose (o$ can re%e%ber 1ho %ade I%pression;= /ona 1as +ita( interested:
=So%e of the%! (es: 'aina of R$atha ,od is the ne1 7$een4s 1e(r1o%an : : :=
=Yo$4re certain;=
Meno( )anced be(ond her to A$di+a and sa1 %erri%ent in her e(es:
=Yes! I4% certain:=
='oo bad those three candidates fro% (o$r )randfather4s ,od didn4t I%press! /ona: 'here4 be other ti%es!=
said A$di+a:
=6ho ese do (o$ re%e%ber;=
=A ad fro% Master Nicat4s Craft ,a I%pressed a bro1n : : := For so%e reason that see%ed to pease /ona:
=Master Nicat aso recei+ed t1o of the fire izards4 e))s:=
/ona t$rned her head to stare ha$)hti( at Meno(: =,o1 e+er did it co%e abo$t that (o$ : : := and Meno(
1as %ade intense( a1are of her $n1orthiness =: : : ha+e nine fire izards;=
=She 1as in the ri)ht pace at the ri)ht ti%e! /ona!= said A$di+a: =2$c& doesn4t reco)nize ran& and pri+ie)e:
And it4s than&s to Meno( that there 1ere fire izard e))s for Master Robinton and Master Nicat:=
=,o1 do (o$ &no1 that;= /ona so$nded s$rprised b$t her tone ost its affectedness:
=Oh! I had a 1ord or t1o 1ith 'a%or 1hie (o$ 1ere b$s( tr(in) to %a&e $p to #ess$an and .enis:=
=I ne+er : : := /ona 1as e+ident( as 7$ic& to ta&e offense as )i+e it! b$t she o1ered her tone at A$di+a4s
1arnin) hiss:
=Don4t 1orr(! /ona: #$st so on) as D$nca doesn4t catch (o$ fippin) (o$r s&irts at a son of the ,od! I4
hod %( peace:=
6hether A$di+a 1as s$bt( defectin) /ona fro% pesterin) Meno( 1ith snide 7$estions or not! Meno(
didn4t &no1! b$t the )ir fro% .o i)nored her for the rest of the %ea: As Meno( had been ta$)ht that it 1as
i%poite to ta& thro$)h or aro$nd so%eone! she co$dn4t con+erse 1ith the apparent( friend( A$di+a! and the
bo( beside her 1as ta&in) to his %ates! his bac& to her:
=M( $nce of 'ie& sa(s that fire izards are )oin) to be nothin) %ore than pets! and I tho$)ht pets 1eren4t
ao1ed in the cotta)es : : := said the dar& )ir! her %o$th settin) pri%(! as she cast a side1a(s oo& to1ard
Meno(:
='he Masterharper doesn4t rate fire izards as pets! .riaa!= said A$di+a in her dro 1a(! and she 1in&ed at
Meno( o+er /ona4s head: =Of co$rse! (o$4+e on( )ot one at 'ie& ,od:=
=6e! %( $nce sa(s the 6e(r%en are spendin) too %$ch ti%e on these creat$res 1hen the( o$)ht to )et
do1n to basic probe%s and )o after 'hread on the Red Star: 'hat4s the on( 1a( to stop this dreadf$ %enace:=
=6hat are the dra)onriders s$pposed to do;= as&ed A$di+a scornf$(: =E+en (o$ sho$d &no1 that dra)ons
can4t )o bet"een bind:=
='he( o$)ht to 5$st fa%e the Red Star cean of 'hread! that4s 1hat:=
=Co$d the( rea(;= as&ed the )ir be(ond .riaa! her e(es ro$nd 1ith a%aze%ent and a sort of hopef$
horror:
=Oh! don4t be ridic$o$s! A%ania!= said A$di+a in dis)$st: =No one4s e+er been to the Red Star:=
='he( co$d tr( to )et there!= repied /ona: ='hat4s 1hat %( )randfather sa(s:=
=6ho4s to sa( the first dra)on%en didn4t tr(;= as&ed A$di+a:
='hen 1h( isn4t there a Record of the atte%pt;= de%anded /ona 1ith ha$)ht( condescension:
='he(4d certain( ha+e 1ritten a son) abo$t it if the( had!= said .riaa! peased to see A$di+a confo$nded:
=6e! the Red Star is not o$r probe%!= said A$di+a:
=2earnin) son)s is:= .riaa4s +oice had a 1aiin) ed)e to it: =And "hen are 1e )oin) to ha+e a chance to
earn that %$sic 'a%or set $s toda(; 6e4+e )ot rehearsa toni)ht! and it4 )o on and on beca$se those bo(s are
a1a([email protected]=
='he bo(s; #$st i&e (o$ to ba%e it on the bo(s! .riaa!= said A$di+a: =Yo$ had pent( of ti%e this
afternoon to practice (o$r essons! sa%e as the rest of $s:=
=I had to 1ash %( hair! and D$nca had to et o$t the sea%s of %( red )o1n : : :=
=If (o$4d stop : : : Oh! not redfr$it a)ain;= /ona so$nded a))rie+ed! b$t Meno( e(ed the bas&et of
deicacies 1ith s$rprised dei)ht:
/ona %i)ht affect indifference! b$t she 1as 7$ic& to snatch the c$rio$s( shaped fr$it fro% the bas&et 1hen
it 1as passed to her: Meno( too& hers and ate it 7$ic&(! )ettin) as %$ch of the s1eet! tan)( 5$ice as possibe:
She 1ished she had the co$ra)e to ic& her fin)ers the 1a( the bo(s 1ere doin): .$t the )irs 1ere so st$ff( and
%annered! she &ne1 the(4d stare if she did:
S$dden( the de%ands of the da(! the e<cite%ents and tensions! sapped the ast of Meno(4s ener)(: She
fo$nd it a%ost $nbearabe to ha+e to sit at the tabe a%id so %an( $n&no1n peope! $nabe to )$ess 1hat %ore
%i)ht be as&ed of her before she co$d see& the 7$iet and soit$de of her bed: She 1orried abo$t her fire izards!
and then tried not to! for fear the( 1o$d see& her o$t: She 1as conscio$s of her throbbin) feet; her hand ached!
and the scar be))ed to be scratched: She shifted on the bench! 1onderin) 1h( the( 1ere hed here at tabe:
Restess( she craned her nec& to peer aro$nd at the ,arper4s tabe: She co$dn4t see Master Robinton b$t the
others 1ere a$)hin)! ob+io$s( en5o(in) an after%ea con+ersation: 6as that 1h( e+er(one 1as bein) hed so
on); 3nti the %asters had stopped ta&in);
She on)ed for the peace of her ca+e near the Dra)on Stones: E+en for the itte c$bice in her father4s Sea
,od: She4d $s$a( been abe to sip a1a( to it 1itho$t acco$ntin) to an(one for her disappearance: At east
once the da(4s 1or& 1as done: And so%eho1! she4d ne+er tho$)ht of the ,arper Craft ,a bein) so : : : so
pop$ated! 1ith so %$ch to be done and doin)! and a the %asters and Si+ina and : : :
She 1as ca$)ht $na1ares and had to str$))e to her feet as the others rose %ore )racef$( to theirs: She
1as so reie+ed to be abe to )o that at first she didn4t reaize no one 1as ea+in) the benches b$t %asters and
5o$rne(%en: /ona4s hiss ca$)ht her attention before she4d %o+ed %ore than a fe1 strides: E%barrassed! she
stood 1ith a the )irs )arin) at her as if she had co%%itted a far %ore heino$s cri%e than %o+in) o$t of t$rn:
She ed)ed bac& to1ard her +acated pace: 'hen! as soon as the apprentices and the )irs be)an to sa$nter o$t of
the dinin) ha! she sat do1n a)ain: She did not 1ant to be a%on) peope! especia( a these stran)e peope
1ho had odd notions and different %anners! and see%in)(! no s(%path( for the ne1co%er: 'he 6e(r had been
as bi) and 1e-pop$ated! b$t she had fet at ho%e there! 1ith friend( )ances and $ncritica! s%iin) faces:
=Yo$r feet h$rtin) a)ain;= It 1as /ie%$r as&in)! his bro1s contorted in a 1orried sco1:
Meno( bit her ip:
=I )$ess I4% 5$st s$dden( +er( tired!= she said:
,e 1rin&ed his nose dro( and then t1itched it to one side: =I4% not s$rprised! (o$r first da( here and a!
and ha+in) the %asters )i+in) (o$ a po&e and prod: 2oo&! (o$ can ean on %( sho$der across to D$nca4s: I can
sti )et bac& in ti%e for rehearsa : : :=
=Rehearsa; Do I ha+e to be so%e1here ese no1;= Meno( fo$)ht an a%ost o+er1he%in) desire to
1eep:
=Sho$dn4t thin& so! (o$r first da( here: 3ness Master Shona)ar said so%ethin); No; 6e! the( can hard(
ha+e sorted o$t 1hat (o$r standard is! e+en if (o$ co$dn4t pa( note one: And (o$ &no1! (o$ oo& r$dd( a1f$:
A1f$ tired! I %ean: C4%on! I4 hep (o$:=
=.$t (o$ ha+e a rehearsa : : :=
=Don4t (o$ 1orr( (o$r head abo$t %e! Meno(:= ,e )rinned %ischie+o$s(: =So%eti%es an astest : : :
asset : : : to be s%a!= and he %ade a 1ea+in) %otion 1ith his band! then s7$ared his sho$ders and stood!
radiatin) innocent attention: ,e 1as so co%ic that Meno( )i))ed:
She rose! e<cessi+e( )ratef$ to hi%: ,e ratted on abo$t the rehearsa for the $s$a sprin) affair at Fort
,od: 'he rehearsa 1as $s$a( f$n beca$se .r$de)an 1as in char)e this season: He 1as )ood at e<painin)
e<act( 1hat he 1anted (o$ to do! so if (o$ istened sharp! (o$ didn4t %a&e %ista&es:
'he s1ift sprin) e+enin) 1as settin) o+er the co%pe< of ,od and ,a so there 1ere +er( fe1 passers-b(:
/ie%$r4s ph(sica presence and his chatter! bithe( i)norin) her sience! 1ere %ore s$pporti+e than his bon(
sho$der! b$t she co$dn4t ha+e %ade the 1a& 1itho$t it: Meno( 1as )ratef$ that she4d on( the short fi)ht of
steps to )o: 'he fire izards chirped s(%pathetica( at her fro% the 1indo1 ed)e o$tside her fast-sh$ttered
roo%:
=Yo$4re o&a( no1! 1ith the%!= said /ie%$r! )rinnin) $p at the fire izards: =I4 dash off: Yo$4 be fine in
the %ornin)! Meno(! 1ith a )ood ni)ht4s rest $nder (o$r ear: 'hat4s 1hat %( foster-%other a1a(s tod $s:=
=I4% s$re I 1i! /ie%$r! and than& (o$ so %$ch : : :=
,er 1ords traied off beca$se he 1as dashin) and o$t of earshot: She opened the door! cain) tentati+e( for
D$nca! b$t there 1as no ans1er! nor an( si)n of the p$%p cot&eeper: Gratef$ for that $ne<pected %erc(!
Meno( be)an to ci%b the steep steps! one at a ti%e! p$in) hersef aon) b( the raiin) and ta&in) as %$ch
press$re off her feet as she co$d: ,af1a( $p! .ea$t( appeared! chirr$pin) enco$ra)e%ent: Roc&( and Di+er
5oined her on the top step and added their co%fortin) noises:
6ith a sense of $t%ost reief! Meno( cosed the door behind her: She hobbed to the bed and san& do1n!
f$%bin) 1ith the ties of the seepin) f$rs! not rea( a1are of the scratchin) on the cosed sh$tters $nti .ea$t(
et o$t an a$thoritati+e s7$a1&: Fort$nate(! Meno( on( had to stretch o$t her ar% to open the sh$tters:
A$nties One and '1o fe in! catchin) the%se+es b( 1in) 5$st off the foor! scodin) her so$nd( as the( fe1
abo$t the roo%: 2az(! .ro1nie and 3nce entered 1ith %ore di)nit( and Mi%ic 1added to the 1indo1 ed)e!
(a1nin):
Meno( re%e%bered to r$b the sa+e on her feet! tho$)h the( 1ere so tender! tears 5$%ped to her e(es:
.rief( she 1ished that Mirri% 1as there! 1ith her bris& chatter and )ente to$ch: Feet 1ere indeed +er(
a1&1ard to tend (o$rsef: She r$bbed the other st$ff into her hand scar! restrainin) the $r)e to scratch the
itchin) tiss$e:
She sipped o$t of her cothes and $nder the seepin) f$rs! on( +a)$e( a1are that the fire izards 1ere
%a&in) the%se+es co%fortabe abo$t her: +othing to fear from harpers, h$b; '4)ean4s co%%ent %oc&ed her:
As she fe deep( aseep! she 1ondered if en+( 1as a&in to fear;
Chapter H
2y nightly craft is "inged in "hite3
A dragon of night- dark sea#
S"iftborn, dreambound and rudderless3
Her captain and cre" are me#
% sail a hundred sleeping tides
here no seaman$s ever been
And only my "hite- "inged craft and %
4no" the marvels "e have seen#
'he ne<t da( did not start propitio$s( for Meno(: ,er seep 1as bro&en b( shrie&s? D$nca4s! the )irs4! and
the fire izards: Dazed! Meno( at first tried to ca% the fire izards s1oopin) abo$t the roo%! b$t D$nca!
standin) in the door1a(! 1o$d not be 7$iet; and her terror! 1hether ass$%ed or rea! on( sti%$ated the fire
izards into s$ch aeria acrobatics that Meno( ordered the% a o$t the 1indo1:
'his on( chan)ed the tone of D$nca4s screa%s beca$se the 1o%an 1as no1 pointin) at Meno(4s n$dit(
$nti she co$d snatch $p the discarded shirt and co+er hersef:
=And 1here 1ere (o$ a ni)ht;= D$nca de%anded in a sobbin)( an)r( +oice: =,o1 did (o$ )et in; 6hen
did (o$ )et in;=
=I 1as here a ni)ht: I )ot in b( the front door: Yo$ 1eren4t in the cotta)e:= 'hen! seein) the oo& of
co%pete disbeief on D$nca4s p$%p face! Meno( added! =I ca%e here direct( after s$pper: /ie%$r heped %e
across the co$rt:=
=,e 1as at rehearsa: 6hich 1as 5$st after s$pper!= said one of the )irs cro1din) in at the door:
=Yes! b$t he )ot there o$t of breath!= A$di+a said! fro1nin)! =I re%e%ber .r$de)an ro$ndin) hi% on it:=
=Yo$ %$st a1a(s infor% %e 1hen (o$ co%e in!= said D$nca! b( no %eans pacified:
Meno( hesitated and then nodded her head in ac7$iescence; it 1as $seess to ar)$e 1ith so%eone i&e
D$nca! 1ho had ob+io$s( %ade $p her %ind not to i&e Meno( and to pic& e+er( fa$t possibe:
=6hen (o$ are 1ashed and decent( attired!= and the tone of D$nca4s +oice s$))ested that she do$bted
Meno( 1as capabe of either! =(o$ 1i 5oin $s: Co%e! )irs: 'here is no reason for (o$ to dea( (o$r o1n
%ea:=
As the )irs fied obedient( past the open door1a(! %ost of the faces refected D$nca4s disappro+a: E<cept
A$di+a 1ho 1in&ed soe%n( and then )rinned before she schooed her feat$res into a ban& e<pression:
.( the ti%e Meno( had attended to her feet! had a 7$ic& 1ash! dressed and fo$nd the s%a roo% 1here
the other )irs 1ere eatin)! the( 1ere a%ost finished: As one! the( stared critica( at her before D$nca
br$s7$e( %otioned her to ta&e the e%pt( seat: And as one! the( a 1atched her so that she fet do$b(
a1&1ard abo$t the si%pe acts of che1in) and s1ao1in): 'he food tasted dr( and the &ah 1as cod: She
%ana)ed to finish 1hat had been set before her and %$%bed than&s: She sat there! oo&in) do1n at her pate!
on( then noticin) the fr$it stains on her t$nic: So! the( had reason to stare: And she had nothin) to chan)e into
1hie this top 1as 1ashed! e<cept her od thin)s fro% her ca+e da(s:
'ho$)h she had eaten! she 1as sti conscio$s of h$n)er pan)s: 'he fire izards 1ere 1aitin) to be fed> She
do$bted that D$nca 1o$d s$pp( her need! b$t her responsibiit( to her friends )a+e her the co$ra)e to as&:
=Ma( I be e<c$sed! pease; 'he fire izards %$st be fed: I ha+e to )o to Si+ina : : :=
=6h( 1o$d (o$ bother Si+ina 1ith s$ch a detai;= de%anded D$nca! her e(es poppin) si)ht( 1ith
indi)nation: =Don4t (o$ reaize that she is the head1o%an of the entire ,arper Craft ,a; 'he de%ands on her
ti%e are enor%o$s> And if (o$ don4t &eep those creat$res of (o$rs $nder proper contro : : :=
=Yo$ started the% this %ornin):=
=I4% not ha+in) that sort of carr(-on e+er( %ornin)! fri)htenin) %( )irs 1ith the% f(in) at s$ch dan)ero$s
speeds:=
Meno( refrained fro% pointin) o$t that it had been D$nca4s screa%in) that had aar%ed the fire izards:
=If (o$ can4t contro the% : : : 6here are the( no1;= She oo&ed 1id( abo$t her! her e(es b$)in) 1ith
aar%:
=6aitin) to be fed:=
=Don4t )et pert 1ith %e! )ir: Yo$ %a( be the da$)hter of a Sea ,oder! b$t 1hie (o$ are in the ,arper
Craft ,a and in %( char)e! (o$ are to beha+e (o$rsef: 6e4 ha+e no ran&in) here:=
,af-torn bet1een a$)hter and dis)$st! Meno( rose: =If I %a( )o! pease! before the fire izards co%e in
search of %e : : :=
'hat s$fficed: D$ties co$dn4t )et her o$t of the cot fast eno$)h: So%eone sni))ered! b$t 1hen Meno(
)anced $p she 1asn4t s$re if it had been A$di+a or not: It 1as a s%a enco$ra)e%ent that so%eone had
reco)nized D$nca4s h(pocris(:
As she stepped o$t into the crisp %ornin) air! Meno( reaized ho1 st$ff( the cot had been and )anced
o+er her sho$der: S$re eno$)h! a the sh$tters! e<cept her o1n! 1ere cosed ti)ht: As she crossed the 1ide
co$rt! she recei+ed %ornin) )rins and )reetin)s fro% the far%hoders %a&in) their 1a( to the fieds! fro%
apprentices dashin) to their %asters: She oo&ed abo$t her for her fire izards and sa1 one 1heein) do1n
behind the o$ter 1in) of the Craft ,a: As she 1a&ed $nder the arch! she sa1 the others cin)in) to the &itchen
and dinin) ha ed)es: Ca%o 1as in the door1a(! a )reat bo1 in the croo& of his eft ar%! a h$n& of so%ethin)
dan)in) fro% his ri)ht hand as he tried to entice the fire izards to hi%:
She 1as haf1a( across the co$rt(ard before she reaized that it 1as %$ch easier to 1a& on her feet toda(:
,o1e+er! that 1as one of the fe1 )ood thin)s that happened: Ca%o 1as chastized b( Ab$na for tr(in) to coa<
the fire izards to eat 1hen he sho$d ha+e been dei+erin) the cerea to the dinin) ha Jfor the fire izards
1o$d not eat fro% his hands $nti Meno( arri+edK: 'hen the fire izards 1ere fri)htened a1a( 1hen the
apprentices and 5o$rne(%en ca%e tearin) o$t of the dinin) ha! fiin) the co$rt(ard 1ith (es and shrie&s and
1id antics as the( %ade their 1a( to their %ornin) casses: Meno( oo&ed +ain( for /ie%$r! and then! as
abr$pt(! the co$rt(ard 1as cear: E<cept for so%e oder 5o$rne(%en: One of the% pa$sed b( her! officio$s(
de%andin) to &no1 1h( she 1as han)in) abo$t the (ard: 6hen she said that she hadn4t been tod 1here to )o!
he infor%ed her that she ob+io$s( sho$d be 1ith the other )irs and to )et hersef there i%%ediate(: As he
)est$red in the )enera direction of the archroo%! Meno( ass$%ed that 1as 1here the )irs %et:
She reached the arch1a( roo% to find the )irs aread( practicin) scaes on their )itars 1ith a 5o$rne(%an!
1ho tod her she 1as ate! to )et her instr$%ent and see if she co$d catch $p 1ith the others: She %$%bed an
apoo)(! fo$nd her precio$s )itar! and too& a stoo near the others: .$t the chords 1ere basic and e+en 1ith her
in5$red hand she had no tro$be 1ith the dri: Not so the others: /ona see%ed $nabe to brid)e strin)s 1ith
forefin)er? the 5oint &ept snappin) $p; and atho$)h the 5o$rne(%an! 'a%or! patient( sho1ed her an
aternati+e chordin)! she co$dn4t )et to it fast eno$)h to &eep the rh(th% of the e<ercise: 'a%or had )reat
patience! Meno( tho$)ht! and id( ran sient fin)ers do1n the nec& of her )itar! doin) his aternati+e
pace%ent: Yes! it 1as a bit a1&1ard if (o$ 1ere after speed! b$t not as i%possibe as /ona 1as %a&in) it o$t
to be:
=Since (o$ are so )ood at it! Meno(! s$ppose (o$ de%onstrate the e<ercise: In the ti%e : : := and 'a%or
directed the beat:
She ca$)ht it 1ith her e(es! &eepin) her head sti! for /etiron abhorred a %$sician 1ho had to $se
$nnecessar( bod( %otion to &eep a rh(th% )oin): She 1ent thro$)h the chords on the scae as directed and then
sa1 A$di+a re)ardin) her 1ith fierce intent: /ona and the others )o1ered:
=No1 $se the re)$ar fin)erin)!= 'a%or said! co%in) o+er to stand b( Meno(! his e(es intent on her
hands: Meno( e<ec$ted the r$n: ,e )a+e a sharp nod of his head! e(ed her inscr$tab(! and then ret$rned to
/ona! as&in) her to tr( it a)ain! tho$)h he o$tined a so1er ti%e: /ona %astered the r$n the third ti%e! s%iin)
1ith reief at her s$ccess:
'a%or )a+e the% another set of scaes and then bro$)ht o$t a ar)e cop( of a piece of occasiona %$sic:
Meno( 1as dei)hted beca$se the score 1as co%pete( ne1 to her: /etiron had been! as he phrased it! a
teachin) ,arper! not an entertainer! and tho$)h she had earned the one or t1o occasiona pieces of %$sic he
had in his possession! he had ne+er ac7$ired %ore: 'he Sea ,oder! Meno( &ne1! had preferred to sin)! not
isten; and %ost occasiona %$sic 1as instr$%enta: In the bi))er ,ods! /etiron had tod her! the 2ord ,oders
i&ed %$sic d$rin) the dinner ho$r and at ni)ht 1hen the( entertained )$ests in con+ersation rather than son):
'his 1as not a diffic$t piece! Meno( reaized! scannin) it and sient( fin)erin) the one or t1o transitiona
chords that %i)ht be tro$beso%e:
=A ri)ht! A$di+a! et4s see 1hat (o$ can %a&e of it toda(!= 'a%or said! s%iin) at the )ir 1ith
enco$ra)e%ent:
A$di+a: )$ped! e<hibitin) a ner+o$sness that p$zzed Meno(: As A$di+a be)an to pic& o$t the chords!
noddin) her head and tappin) one foot at a %$ch so1er rh(th% than the %$sica notation re7$ired! Meno(4s
perpe<it( )re1: 6e! she tho$)ht! charitab(! %a(be A$di+a 1as a ne1 st$dent: If she 1as! she 1as far %ore
co%petent than .riaa! 1ho apparent( had tro$be 5$st readin) the %$sic:
'a%or dis%issed .riaa to the tabe to cop( the score for ater practice: /ona 1as no i%pro+e%ent on the
other t1o: 'he s(-faced! fair-haired )ir pa(ed 1ith )reat ban)in) a)ainst the )itar be(! at ti%e! b$t 1ith
%an( inacc$racies: 6hen it 1as fina( her o1n t$rn! Meno(4s sto%ach 1as roied b( fr$strated istenin):
=Meno(!= said 'a%or at the end of a si)h that e<pressed his o1n fr$stration and boredo%:
It 1as s$ch a reief to pa( the %$sic as it sho$d be that Meno( fo$nd hersef increasin) the ti%e and
e%phasizin) the chords 1ith a +ariation of her o1n in the str$%:
'a%or 5$st oo&ed at her: 'hen he bin&ed and e<haed hea+i(! p$rsin) his ips to)ether:
=6e! (es: Yo$4+e seen it before;=
=Oh! no: 6e had +er( itte occasiona %$sic in ,af-Circe: 'his is o+e(:=
=Yo$ pa(ed that cod;=
On( then did Meno( reaize 1hat she4d done? %ade the other )irs oo& inade7$ate: She 1as a1are of their
cod! chi sience! their hostie stares: .$t not to pa( one4s best see%ed a dishonest( that she had ne+er
practiced and co$d not: .eated( she reco)nized that she co$d ha+e hed)ed? 1ith her scarred hand she co$d
ha+e fatered! %issed so%e of the chordin)s: Yet it had been s$ch a reief! after their i%pin) renditions! to pa(
the %$sic as it 1as %eant to be pa(ed:
=I 1as the ast to )o!= she said in a a%e effort to retrie+e %atters! =I4d %ore ti%e to st$d( it! and see : : :=
She4d started to sa(! =see 1here the( 1ent 1ron):=
=Yes! 1e! so (o$ did!= 'a%or said! so hasti( that Meno( 1ondered if he4d aso reaized 1hat a brea&
she4d %ade: 'hen he added in a r$sh of i%patience and irritation: =6ho tod (o$ to 5oin this cass; I4d rather
tho$)ht : : := A sni))er interr$pted his 7$er(! and he t$rned to )are at the )irs: =6e;= he as&ed Meno(:
=A 5o$rne(%an : : :=
=6ho;=
=I don4t &no1: I 1as in the co$rt(ard! and he as&ed %e 1h( 1asn4t I in cass: 'hen he tod %e to co%e here:=
'a%or r$bbed the side of his 5a1: ='oo ate no1! I s$ppose! b$t I4 in7$ire:= ,e t$rned to the other )irs:
=2et4s pa( it in : : := 'he )irs 1ere starin) pointed( at the door1a(! and he oo&ed abo$t: =Yes! Sebe;44
Meno( t$rned! too! to see the %an to 1ho% the other co+eted fire izard e)) had )one: Sebe 1as a
sender %an! a hand or so taer than hersef? a bro1n %an! tanned s&in! i)ht bro1n hair and e(es! dressed in
bro1n 1ith a faded ,arper apprentice bad)e haf-hidden in the sho$der fod of his t$nic:
=I4+e been oo&in) for Meno(!= be said! )azin) steadi( at her:
=I tho$)ht so%eone o$)ht to be: She 1as %isdirected here:= 'a%or so$nded irritated! and he )est$red
sharp( for Meno( to )o to Sebe:
Meno( sipped fro% the stoo! b$t she 1as $ncertain 1hat to do abo$t the )itar and )anced 7$estionin)(
at Sebe:
=Yo$ 1on4t need it no1!= he said so she 7$iet( p$t it a1a( on the shef:
She fet the )irs starin) at her! &ne1 that 'a%or 1as 1atchin) and 1o$d not contin$e the esson $nti she
had )one! so it 1as 1ith intense reief that she heard the door cose behind her and the 7$iet bro1n %an:
=6here 1as I s$pposed to be;= she as&ed! b$t he %otioned her do1n the steps:
=Yo$ )ot no %essa)e;= ,is e(es searched her face caref$( atho$)h his e<pression )a+e no hint of his
tho$)hts:
=No:=
=Yo$ did brea&fast at D$nca4s;=
=Yes : : := Meno( co$dn4t s$ppress her distaste for that painf$ %ea: 'hen she ca$)ht her breath and
stared at Sebe! co%prehension a1a&enin): =Oh! she 1o$dn4t ha+e : : :=
Sebe 1as noddin)! his bro1n e(es re)isterin) an $nderstandin) of the %atter: =And (o$ 1o$dn4t ha+e
&no1n (et to co%e to %e for instr$ctions : : :=
=Yo$ : : := ,adn4t /ie%$r said so%ethin) abo$t Sebe 1a&in) the tabes! to beco%e a 5o$rne(%an; =: : :
sir;= she added:
A so1 s%ie spread across the %an4s ro$nd face:
=I s$ppose I do rate a 4sir4 fro% a %ere apprentice! b$t the ,arper is not as strict abo$t s$ch obser+ances as
other %asters: 'he tradition here is that the odest 5o$rne(%an $nder the sa%e %aster is responsibe for the
ne1est apprentice: So (o$ are %( responsibiit(: At east 1hie I4% in the ,a and I4% en5o(in) a respite fro%
%( 5o$rne(in)s: I didn4t ha+e the chance to %eet (o$ (esterda(! and this %ornin) : : : (o$ didn4t arri+e as
panned at Master Do%ic&4s : : :=
=Oh! no:= Meno( s1ao1ed the hard &not of dis%a(: =Not Master Do%ic&>= E+en /ie%$r 1as caref$ not
to anno( hi%: =6as Master Do%ic& +er( : : : $pset;=
=In a %anner of spea&in)! (es: .$t don4t 1orr(! Meno(! I sha $se the incident to (o$r ad+anta)e: It
doesn4t do to anta)onize Do%ic& $nnecessari(:=
=Not 1hen he doesn4t i&e %e an(ho1:= Meno( cosed her e(es a)ainst a +ision of Master Do%ic&4s
c(nica face contorted 1ith an)er:
=,o1 do (o$ constr$e that;=
Meno( shr$))ed: =I had to pa( for hi% (esterda(! I &no1 he doesn4t i&e %e:=
=Master Do%ic& doesn4t i&e an(one!= repied Sebe 1ith a 1r( a$)h! =inc$din) hi%sef: So (o$4re no
e<ception: .$t! as far as st$d(in) 1ith hi% is concerned : : :=
=I4% to st$d( 1ith hi%;=
=Don4t panic: As a teacher! he4s top ran&: I &no1: In so%e 1a(s I thin& Master Do%ic& is s$perior!
instr$%enta(! to the ,arper: ,e doesn4t ha+e Master Robinton4s fare and +itait(! nor his &een perception in
%atters o$tside the Craft:= Atho$)h Sebe 1as spea&in) in his c$sto%ar( i%persona 1a(! Meno( sensed his
co%pete o(at( and de+otion to the Masterharper: =Yo$!= and there 1as a si)ht e%phasis on the prono$n!
=1i earn a )reat dea fro% Do%ic&: #$st don4t et his %anner f$ss (o$: ,e4s a)reed to teach (o$! and that4s
7$ite a concession:=
=.$t I didn4t co%e this %ornin) : : := 'he %a)nit$de of that tr$anc( appaed Meno(:
Sebe )a+e her a 7$ic& reass$rin) )rin: =I said that I can t$rn that to (o$r ad+anta)e: Do%ic& doesn4t i&e
peope to i)nore his instr$ctions: It is not your 1orr(: No1! co%e on: Eno$)h of the %ornin) has been ost:=
,e had directed her $p the steps into the ,a! and to her s$rprise opened the door into the Great ,a: It 1as
t1ice the size of the dinin) ha! three ti%es the size of the Great ,a at ,af-Circe: Across the far end 1as
fitted a raised and c$rtained patfor% that 5$tted into the foor space: 'abes and benches 1ere pied haphazard(
a)ainst the inner 1as and $nder 1indo1s: I%%ediate( to her ri)ht 1ere a coection of %ore co%fortabe
chairs arran)ed in an infor%a )ro$pin) abo$t a s%a ro$nd tabe: 'o this area Sebe %otioned her and seated
hi%sef opposite her:
=I4+e so%e 7$estions to p$t to (o$! and I can4t e<pain 1h( I need to ha+e this infor%ation: It is ,arper
b$siness! and if (o$4re tod that! (o$4 be 1ise to as& no f$rther: I need (o$r hep : : :=
=2y hep;=
=Stran)e as that %i)ht see%! (es!= and his bro1n e(es a$)hed at her: =I need to &no1 ho1 to sai a boat!
ho1 to )$t a fish! ho1 to act i&e a sea%an : : :=
,e 1as tic&in) off the points on his fin)ers! and she stared at his hands:
=6ith those! no one 1o$d e+er beie+e (o$ had saied : : :=
,e e<a%ined his hands i%persona(: =6h(;=
=Sea%en4s hands )et )nared 7$ic&( fro% poppin) the 5oints! ro$)h fro% sat 1ater and fish oi! %$ch
bro1ner than (o$rs fro% 1eatherin) : : :=
=6o$d an(one b$t a sea%an &no1 that;=
=6e! % &no1 it:=
=Fair eno$)h: Can (o$ teach %e to act! fro% a distance!= and his )rin teased her! =i&e a sea%an; Is it hard
to earn to sai a boat; Or bait a hoo&; Or )$t a fish;=
,er eft pa% itched! and so did her c$riosit(: ,arper b$siness; 6h( 1o$d a 5o$rne(%an harper need to
&no1 s$ch thin)s;
=Saiin)! baitin)! )$ttin) : : : those are a 7$estion of practicin) : : :=
=Co$d you teach %e;=
=6ith a boat and a pace to sai! (es : : : 1ith hoo& and bait! and a fe1 fish:= 'hen she a$)hed:
=6hat4s f$nn(;=
=#$st that : : : I tho$)ht 1hen I ca%e here! that I4d ne+er need to )$t a fish a)ain:=
Sebe re)arded her sardonica( for a on) %o%ent! a s%ie pa(in) at the co%ers of his %o$th: =Yes! I can
appreciate that! Meno(: I 1as andbred and tho$)ht I4d done 1ith 1a&in) abo$t: #$st don4t be s$rprised at
an(thin) (o$4re as&ed to do here: 'he ,arper re7$ires $s to pa( %an( t$nes for o$r Craft : : : not a1a(s on
)itar or pipe: No1!= and he 1ent on %ore bris&(! =I4 arran)e for the boat! the 1ater and the fish: .$t 1hen;=
At this re7$isite! he 1histed soft( thro$)h the si)ht )ap bet1een his t1o front teeth: ='i%e 1i be the
probe%! for (o$ ha+e essons! and there are the t1o e))s : : := ,e oo&ed her s7$are( in the e(e then! and
)rinned: =Spea&in) of 1hich! ha+e (o$ an( idea 1hat coor %ine %i)ht be;=
She s%ied bac&: =I don4t thin& (o$ can rea( be as s$re 1ith fire izard e))s as (o$ can 1ith the dra)on4s!
b$t I &ept the t1o ar)est ones for Master Robinton: One o$)ht to be a 7$een! and the other sho$d t$rn o$t to be
a bronze at east:=
=A bronze fire izard;=
'he rapt e<pression on Sebe4s face aar%ed her: 6hat if both e))s prod$ced bro1ns; Or )reens; As if he
sensed her apprehension! Sebe s%ied:
=I don4t rea( care so on) as I ha+e one: 'he ,arper sa(s the( can be trained to carr( %essa)es: And sin)>=
,e 1as a )reat teaser! this Sebe! tho$)ht Meno(! for a his 7$iet %anner and soe%n e<pressions! b$t she fet
co%pete( at ease 1ith hi%: ='he ,arper sa(s the( can )et as attached to their friends as dra)ons do to their
riders:=
She nodded: =6o$d (o$ i&e to %eet %ine;=
=I 1o$d! b$t not no1!= he repied! sha&in) his head r$ef$(: =I %$st pic& (o$r brains abo$t the sea%an4s
craft: So! te %e bo1 )oes a da( at a Sea ,od;=
A%$sed to find hersef e<painin) s$ch a thin) in the ,arper ,a! Meno( )a+e the bro1n 5o$rne(%an a
dri( fact$a acco$nt of the ro$tine that 1as a she4d &no1n for so %an( '$rns: ,e 1as an attenti+e istener!
occasiona( repeatin) co)ent points! or as&in) her to eaborate others: She 1as )i+in) hi% a ist of the +ario$s
t(pes of fish that inhabited the oceans of /ern 1hen the tocsin ran) a)ain and her e<panation 1as dro1ned b(
sho$ts as apprentices er$pted into the co$rt(ard on their 1a( to the dinin) ha:
=6e4 1ait $nti the sta%pede has setted! Meno(!= Sebe said! raisin) his +oice abo+e the co%%otion
o$tside! =5$st )i+e %e that r$ndo1n on deep 1ater fishes a)ain:=
6hen Sebe escorted her to her pace! the )irs treated her 1ith a ston( sience! e%phasized b( p$rsed ips!
a+erted e(es and then sni))ers to each other: .$o(ed b( Sebe4s reass$rances! Meno( i)nored the%: She
concentrated on eatin) the roast 1herr( and the cr$st( bro1n t$bers! bi))er than she4d e+er seen and so f$ff(
inside their cr$st that she ate %ore of the% than bread:
Since the )irs 1ere so pointed( sn$bbin) her! Meno( oo&ed abo$t the roo%: She co$dn4t spot /ie%$r!
and she 1anted hi% to co%e hep her feed the fire izards in the e+enin): She4d better stren)then 1hat
friendships she co$d 1ithin the ,arper ,a:
'he )on) a)ain caed their attention to anno$nce%ents; and to her s$rprise! Meno( heard her o1n na%e
caed to report to Master Odi+e: I%%ediate( the )irs fe to 1hisperin) a%on) the%se+es! as if s$ch a
s$%%ons 1as $nto1ard! tho$)h she co$dn4t i%a)ine 1h(! $ness the( 1ere doin) it to fri)hten her: She
contin$ed to i)nore the%: And then the )on) reeased the diners:
'he )irs re%ained 1here the( 1ere! pointed( not oo&in) in her direction! and she 1as forced to str$))e
fro% the bench:
=And 1here in the na%e of the first she 1ere (o$ this %ornin);= as&ed Master Do%ic&! his face set 1ith
an)er! his e(es sitted! his +oice o1 b$t pro5ected so that the )irs a co1ered a1a( fro% hi%:
=I 1as tod to )o [email protected]=
=So 'a%or infor%ed %e!= and he br$shed aside her e<panation! =b$t I had eft 1ord 1ith D$nca for (o$ to
report to %e:=
=D$nca tod %e nothin)! Master Do%ic&!= Meno( fic&ed a )ance be(ond hi% to the )irs and sa1 in their
s%$) e<pression the &no1ed)e that the(! too! had &no1n there4d been a %essa)e for her! 1hich D$nca had
deiberate( ne)ected to pass on:
=She said she did!= said Master Do%ic&:
Meno( stared bac& at hi%! bereft of an( response and hearti( 1ishin) for Sebe to prod$ce his assistance:
=I reaize!= Do%ic& 1ent on sarcastica(! =that (o$4+e been i+in) hodess and 1itho$t a$thorit( for so%e
ti%e! b$t 1hie (o$ are an apprentice here! (o$ 1i obe( the %asters:=
In the face of his 1rath! Meno( bo1ed her head: 'he ne<t %o%ent! .ea$t( ca%e di+in) into the roo%!
1ith t1o bronze and t1o bro1n shapes ri)ht behind her:
=.ea$t(> Roc&(> Di+er> Stop it>=
Meno( 5$%ped in front of Do%ic&! ar%s o$tstretched! protectin) hi% fro% the onsa$)ht of 1in)ed
retaiation:
=6hat do (o$ %ean! disobe(in) %e; Attac&in) Master Do%ic&; ,e4s a ,arper> .eha+e (o$rse+es:=
Meno( had to sho$t beca$se the )irs! seein) the fire izards s1oopin) do1n! screa%ed and tried +ario$s(
to )et $nder the tabe or off the benches! o+ert$rnin) the%; an(1here a1a( fro% the fire izards:
Do%ic& had sense eno$)h to stand sti! incred$o$s as he 1as at the attac&: Despite the )irs4 shrie&!
Meno( had the $n)s to be heard 1hen she 1ished to:
'1itterin)! .ea$t( circed once and then ca%e to Meno(4s sho$der! )arin) baef$( at Do%ic& fro%
behind her %istress: 'he others ined $p on the %ante! 1in)s sti spread! hissin)! their 5e1eed e(es 1hirin)!
oo&in) read( and 7$ite 1iin) to po$nce a)ain: As Meno( stro&ed .ea$t( to ca%ness! she str$))ed 1ith an
apoo)( to Do%ic&:
=.ac& to 1or&! (o$> 'he rest of (o$! aon) to (o$r sections!= Do%ic& said! raisin) his o1n +oice to ener)ize
the stra))ers in the dinin) ha 1ho had obser+ed the stran)e attac&! and the bo(s 1ho 1ere cearin) the tabes:
=I4d for)ot abo$t (o$r o(a defenders!= he tod Meno( in a ti)ht b$t controed +oice:
=Master Do%ic&! 1i (o$ e+er for)i+e : : :=
=Master Do%ic&!= said another +oice near the foor! and A$di+a cra1ed fro% $nder the tabe: Do%ic&
e<tended a hand to hep the )ir to her feet: She )anced to1ard the entrance! then )a+e Meno( a brief nod:
=Master Do%ic&! D$nca tod Meno( nothin) abo$t (o$r %essa)e! b$t 1e a &ne1 abo$t it: Fair4s fair:= 6ith
one %ore )ance at Meno(! she h$rried across the dinin) ha to catch $p 1ith the other )irs in the co$rt(ard:
=,o1 did (o$ contri+e to aienate D$nca;= as&ed Do%ic&! his e<pression s$en b$t ess fierce:
Meno( )$ped and )anced at the fire izards:
=Oh! the%> Yes> I can 7$ite see her point:= 'here 1as no fe<ibiit( in Master Do%ic&4s attit$de: ='he( do
not! ho1e+er! inti%idate %e:=
=Master Do%ic&@=
='hat4s eno$)h! )ir: Since (o$ ha+en4t the nati+e intei)ence to be tactf$! I sha ha+e [email protected]=
=Master Do%ic&@= Sebe ca%e h$rr(in) $p:
=I &no1! I &no1!= and the Master c$t off the 5o$rne(%an4s e<panation: =Yo$ do see% to ac7$ire so%e
cha%pions at an( rate: 2et4s hope the end res$t is 1orth the effort: I4 see (o$ to%orro1 %ornin)! pro%pt(
after brea&fast! in %( st$d(! 1hich is on the second e+e to the ri)ht! fo$rth door on the o$tside: Yo$ 1i ta&e
(o$r pipes this afternoon to Master #erint for the first ho$r: I4% tod (o$ %ade the pipes (o$rsef in that ca+e of
(o$rs; Good> 'hen the second ho$r (o$4re to see Master Shona)ar: No1! )et (o$rsef off to Master Odi+e: ,is
office is at the top of the steps on the inside! to (o$r ri)ht: No! Sebe! (o$ do not need to ho+er abo$t her so
protectin)(: I4% not so ost to co%%on sense as to p$nish her for bein) the +icti% of en+(:= ,e )est$red
i%perati+e( at the 5o$rne(%an to acco%pan( hi% and then strode o$t of the ha: Sebe )a+e her a 7$ic& nod
and foo1ed:
=/ssst>= Attracted b( the so$nd! Meno( oo&ed do1n and sa1 /ie%$r cro$ched $nder the tabe:
=Is it safe to co%e o$t;=
=Aren4t (o$ s$pposed to be in chore section;=
=Yeah! b$t ne+er %ind: I4+e )ot a fe1 seconds ee1a(: ,e(! those fribbes ha+e it in for (o$! don4t the(; Or
%a(be D$nca made the% not te (o$;=
=,o1 %$ch did (o$ o+erhear;=
=A of it:= /ie%$r )rinned! )ettin) to his feet: =I don4t %iss %$ch aro$nd here:=
=/ie%$r>=
=Meno(! can I hep (o$ feed the fire izards toni)ht;= he as&ed! e(ein) .ea$t( 1ari(:
=I 1as )oin) to as& (o$:=
=Great>= ,e bea%ed 1ith peas$re: =And don4t 1orr( abo$t them,( he added! 5er&in) his head to1ard the
door! %eanin) the )irs: =Yo$4re %$ch nicer4n the%:=
=Yo$ 5$st 1ant to %a&e friends 1ith %( fire izards : : :=
='oo ri)ht>= ,is )rin 1as i%p$dence itsef! b$t Meno( fet that he4d ha+e been her friend 1itho$t .ea$t(
and the others: =Gotta sca%per! or I4 be p$t on: See (o$>=
She %ade her 1a( to Master Odi+e4s office: ,e had the hard-)$% ba for her and sho1ed her bo1 to
e<ercise her hand aro$nd it:
=Not!= he said! )i+in) her the )ri%ace of his s%ie! =that (o$r hand 1i ac& e<ercise of other sorts aro$nd
here: ,o1 %$ch does it ache;=
She %$%bed so%ethin)! so he )a+e her a ste% oo& and aid a s%a pot in her hand:
='here is on( one e<c$se on this panet for the e<istence of that odoro$s pant &no1n as n$%b1eed! 1hich
is to ease pain: 3se it 1hen needed: 'he sa+e is %id eno$)h to )i+e (o$ reief 1itho$t oss of sensiti+it(:=
.ea$t(! 1ho4d obser+ed e+er(thin) fro% her perch on Meno(4s sho$der! )a+e an ad%onitor( chirp! as if
a)reein) 1ith Master Odi+e: 'he %an ch$c&ed! e(ein) the itte 7$een:
='hin)s are i+e( 1ith (o$ ot abo$t! aren4t the(;= he said! addressin) the fire izard direct(: She chittered
in response! t$rnin) her head this 1a( and that as if oo&in) hi% o+er: =,o1 %$ch ar)er 1i she )ro1;= he
as&ed Meno(: =I $nderstand (o$rs are not on) o$t of the she:=
Meno( coa<ed .ea$t( fro% her sho$der to her forear% so that Master Odi+e co$d e<a%ine her cose(:
=6hat4s this; 6hat4s this;= he as&ed! )ancin) fro% .ea$t( to Meno(: =/atch( s&in;=
Meno( 1as horrified: She4d been so en)rossed in her o1n probe%s that she hadn4t been ta&in) proper care
of her fire izards: And here 1as .ea$t(! her bac& s&in fa&in): /robab( the others 1ere in tro$be! too:
=Oi: 'he( need to be oied : : :=
=Don4t panic! chid: 'he %atter is easi( ta&en care of!= and 1ith one on) ar%! he reached to the she+in)
abo+e his head! and 1itho$t see%in) to oo&! bro$)ht do1n a ar)e pot: =I %a&e this for the adies of the ,od!
so if (o$r creat$res don4t %ind s%ein) i&e fe%aes fair : : :=
Sha&in) her head! Meno( )rinned 1ith reief! re%e%berin) the stin&in) fish oi she4d $sed first for the fire
izards at the Dra)on Stones ca+e: Master Odi+e scooped $p a fin)ertip of the oint%ent and )est$red to1ard
.ea$t(4s bac&: At Meno(4s enco$ra)in) nod! he )ent( s%oothed the st$ff on the patch( s&in: .ea$t( arched
her bac& appreciati+e(! croonin) 1ith reief! and then she stro&ed her head a)ainst his hand in )ratit$de:
=Most responsi+e itte creat$re! isn4t she;= Master Odi+e said! peased:
=*er(!= b$t Meno( 1as thin&in) of .ea$t(4s deporabe attac& on Master Do%ic&:
=No1! I4 ha+e a oo& at (o$r feet: ,%%%: Yo$4+e been on the% too %$ch; there4s 7$ite a bit of s1ein)!=
he said stern(: =I 1ant (o$ off (o$r feet as %$ch as possibe: Did I not %a&e that cear;=
.ea$t( s7$ea&ed an)ri(:
=Is she a)reein) 1ith %e or defendin) (o$;= as&ed the Master:
=/ossib( both! sir! beca$se I had to stand a ot (esterda( : : :=
=I s$ppose (o$ did!= he said! %ore &ind(! =b$t do tr( to &eep off (o$r feet as %$ch as possibe: Most of the
%asters 1i be $nderstandin):= ,e dis%issed her then! )i+in) her the e<tra 5ars and re%indin) her to ret$rn the
ne<t da( after dinner:
Meno( 1as )ad the Master had an inside office! or he4d ha+e seen her tr$d)in) across the co$rt(ard after
her pipes; b$t there 1as no other 1a(! if she 1as to report 1ith the% to Master #erint: And she didn4t 1ish to
offend another %aster toda(:
'he chore sections 1ere at 1or& in the co$rt(ard! s1eepin)! ceanin)! ra&in) and doin) the )enera hea+(
dr$d)er( to &eep the ,arper ,a in order: She 1as a1are of f$rti+e )ances in her direction b$t affected not to
notice the%:
'he door to the cot 1as haf-cosed 1hen she reached it! b$t Meno( cear( heard the +oices raised inside:
=She4s an apprentice,( /ona 1as sho$tin) in strident and ar)$%entati+e tones: =,e said she 1as an
apprentice# She doesn4t beon) 1ith $s: 6e4re not apprentices> 6e4+e ran& to $phod: She doesn4t beon) in here
1ith $s> 2et her )o 1here she does beon) : : : 1ith the apprentices>= 'here 1as a +icio$s! hatef$ ed)e to /ona4s
+oice:
Meno( dre1 bac& fro% the door1a(! tre%bin): She a( fat a)ainst the 1a! 1ishin) she 1ere an(1here
b$t here: .ea$t( chirped 7$estionin)( in her ear and then stro&ed her head a)ainst Meno(4s chee&! the
perf$%ed sa+e a s1eetness in Meno(4s nostris:
One thin) 1as certain? Meno( did not 1ant to )o into the cotta)e for her pipes: .$t 1hat 1o$d happen if
she 1ent to Master #erint 1itho$t the%; She couldn$t )o into the cot: Not no1: ,er fair s1ired abo$t! depri+ed
of their c$sto%ar( andin) spot b( the cosed sh$tters of Meno(4s disp$ted roo%! and she 1ished 1ith a her
heart that she co$d consoidate her nine fire izards into one dra)on and be borne aoft! and bet"een, bac& to
her 7$iet ca+e b( the Dra)on Stones: She did beon) there beca$se she4d %ade it her pace: ,ers aone> And
rea(! 1hat pace 1as there for her in the ,arper ,a! %$ch ess the cot; She %i)ht be caed an apprentice! b$t
she 1asn4t part of their )ro$p either: Ran( had %ade that pain at the dinin) tabe:
And Master Morsha didn4t 1ant her to =pres$%e= to be a harper: Master Do%ic& 1o$d as soon she
disappeared! for a he4d been 1iin) to teach her: She had pa(ed 1e for hi%! scarred hand and a: She 1as
certain of that: And she 1as cear( a far better %$sician than the )irs: No fase %odest( pro%pted that
e+a$ation:
If her on( $se at the ,arper ,a 1as to instr$ct peope on bein) bo)$s sea%en or t$rnin) fire izard e))s!
so%eone ese co$d as easi( perfor% those ser+ices: She4d %ana)ed to aienate %ore peope than she4d %ade
friends! and the fe1 friends she4d ac7$ired 1ere far %ore interested in her fire izards than the( 1ere in her:
.rief( she 1ondered 1hat 1eco%e she 1o$d ha+e recei+ed if she hadn4t bro$)ht the fire izards or the t1o
e))s 1ith her: 'hen there 1o$d ha+e been no fire izard son) for the Masterharper to re1rite: And he4d
apoo)ized to her for that: 'he Masterharper of /ern had apoo)ized to her! Meno( of ,af-Circe Sea ,od!
for i%pro+in) on her son): ,er son)s 1ere 1hat he needed! he said: Meno( too& in a deep breath and e<peed
it so1(:
She did ha+e %$sic in the ,arper ,a! and that 1as i%portant> 'here %i)ht not be )ir harpers! b$t no one
had e+er said there co$dn4t be )ir son)-crafters and that %i)htn4t be a bad f$t$re:
Not to thin& of that no1! Meno(! she chided hersef: 'hin& 1hat (o$4re )oin) to do 1hen (o$ appear
before Master #erint 1ith no pipes: ,e %i)ht see% absent%inded! b$t she do$bted +er( %$ch if he rea( 1as:
'he pipes 1ere in her roo%! on the itte press! and nothin)! not e+en obedience to! and o+e of! the
Masterharper 1o$d force her into the cot 1hie those )irs 1ere ra)in) on abo$t her:
.ea$t( too& off fro% her sho$der! cain) to the other fire izards! and 1hen the( 1ere a %idair abo+e her!
the( disappeared: Meno( p$shed hersef a1a( fro% the cot4s 1a and started bac& to the ,arper ,a: She4d
thin& of so%ethin) to sa( to Master #erint abo$t the pipes:
'he fire izards e<poded into the air abo+e her! s7$eain) so shri( that she oo&ed $p in aar%: 'he( 1ere
)ro$ped in a ti)ht c$ster! ho+ered 5$st a spit second 1hie her e(e too& in their $n$s$a for%ation! and then
the( parted: So%ethin) dropped: A$to%atica( she hed o$t her hands! and the %$tipe pipes s%ac&ed into her
pa%s:
=Oh! (o$ darin)s: I didn4t &no1 (o$ co$d do that>= She c$tched the pipes to her! i)norin) the stin) of her
hands: On( the stiffness in her feet pre+ented her fro% dancin) 1ith the 5o( of reief and the disco+er( of this
$ne<pected abiit( of her friends: ,o1 ce+er! ce+er the( 1ere! )oin) to her roo% and brin)in) her the pipes:
No one co$d e+er a)ain sa( in her presence that the( 1ere 5$st pets and n$isances! )ood for nothin) b$t
tro$be>
='he 1orst stor% thro1s $p so%e 1ood on the beach!= her %other $sed to sa(; %ost( to soothe her father
ca$)ht hodbo$nd d$rin) a stor%:
6h(! if she hadn4t needed the pipes so bad(! and if the )irs hadn4t been so nast(! she4d ne+er ha+e
disco+ered ho1 +er( ce+er her fire izards co$d be>
It 1as 1ith a considerab( i)htened heart that she entered Master #erint4s 1or&shop: 'he pace 1as
$ne<pected( e%pt(: Master #erint! bent o+er a +ise attached to his 1ide and c$ttered 1or&tabe! 1as the on(
occ$pant of the bi) roo%: As she co$d see that he 1as %etic$o$s( )$ein) +eneer to a harp shaft! she 1aited
and 1aited: And 1aited $nti! bored! she si)hed:
=Yes; Oh! the )ir> And 1here ha+e (o$ been this on) ti%e; Oh! 1aitin)! I see: Yo$ bro$)ht (o$r pipes
1ith (o$;= ,e hed o$t his hand! and she s$rrendered the%:
She 1as a bit started b( the s$dden intensit( of his e<a%ination: ,e 1ei)hed the pipes in his hand! peered
cose( at the 1a( she had 5oined the sections of reed 1ith braided seapant; he po&ed a too into the bo1 and
fin)er hoes: M$tterin) $nder his breath! he bro$)ht the pipes o+er to the ran& of 1indo1s and e<a%ined the%
%in$te( in the bri)ht afternoon s$n: Gancin) at her for per%ission! he arran)ed his on) fin)ers appropriate(
and be1 on the pipes! his e(ebro1s archin) at the p$re cear tone:
=Sea reeds; Not fresh 1ater;=
=Fresh 1ater! b$t I c$red the% in the sea:=
=,o14d (o$ )et this dar& shine;=
=Mi<ed fish oi 1ith sea )rass and r$bbed it in! 1ar% : : :=
=Ma&es an interestin) hint of p$rpe in the 1ood: Co$d (o$ d$picate the co%po$nd a)ain;=
=I thin& so:=
=An( partic$ar t(pe of sea )rass; Or fish oi;=
=/ac&tai!= and despite hersef! Meno( 1inced at ha+in) to %ention the fish b( na%e: ,er hand t1itched:
=And shao1-1ater sea )rass! the sort that cin)s to sand( botto%s rather than roc&:=
=*er( )ood:= ,e handed her bac& the pipes! )est$rin) for her to foo1 hi% to another tabe 1here dr$%
rin)s and s&ins of +ar(in) sizes had been aid o$t! as 1e as a ree of the oied cord necessar( to sec$re dr$%
hides to fra%e: =Can (o$ asse%be a dr$%;=
=I can tr(>=
,e sniffed! not critica(@refecti+e(! Meno( tho$)[email protected] then %otioned for her to be)in: ,e t$rned
bac& to his patient 1ood1or&in) on the harp:
-no1in) that this 1as i&e( another test! Meno( e<a%ined each of the nine dr$% fra%es caref$( for
hidden fa1s! for the dr(ness and hardness of the 1ood: On( one did she fee 1orth the tro$be! and the dr$%
1o$d be a thin! sharp-so$ndin) instr$%ent: She preferred a dr$% 1ith deep f$ notes! one that 1o$d c$t
thro$)h %ae +oices in a chor$s and &eep the% on the beat: 'hen she re%inded hersef that here she 1o$d
scarce( ha+e to 1orr( abo$t &eepin) sin)ers in ti%e: She set to 1or&! p$ttin) the %eta cips on the fra%e ed)e
to hod the s&in: Most of the hides 1ere 1e c$red and stretched! so that it 1as a %atter of findin) one the
proper size and thinness for her dr$% fra%e: She softened the chosen hide in the t$b of 1ater! 1or&in) the s&in
in her hands $nti it 1as fe<ibe eno$)h to dra1 across the fra%e: Caref$( she %ade sits and s&e1ered the
hide to the cips! s(%%etrica(! so that one side 1asn4t p$ed ti)hter than another est it %a&e an $ne+en tone
aon) the o$tside of the dr$% and a so$r one in the center: 6hen she 1as s$re she had the hide e+en( paced!
she ashed it aro$nd the fra%e! t1o fin)ers fro% the ed)e of the s$rface: 6hen the hide dried! she4d ha+e a ta$t
dr$%:
=6e! (o$ do &no1 so%e of the tric&s of the trade! don4t (o$;=
She near( 5$%ped o$t of her o1n hide at the so$nd of Master #erint4s +oice ri)ht b( her ebo1: ,e )a+e her
a itte 1intr( s%ie: She 1ondered ho1 on) he4d been standin) there 1atchin) her: ,e too& the dr$%!
e<a%inin) it %in$te(! h$%phin) to hi%sef! his face %a&in) a +ariet( of contortions that )a+e her no rea idea
of his opinion of her handi1or&:
,e p$t the dr$% caref$( on a hi)h shef: =6e4 5$st et that dr(! b$t (o$4d better )et (o$rsef off to (o$r
ne<t cass: 'he 5$niors are abo$t to arri+e! I hear!= he added in a dr(! $na%$sed tone:
Meno( beca%e i%%ediate( conscio$s of e<terior noise; a$)hter! (es and the d$ th$ddin) of %an(
booted feet: D$tif$( she %ade her 1a( to the chor$s roo% 1here Master Shona)ar! see%in)( not ha+in)
%o+ed since she4d eft hi% the da( before! )reeted her:
=Asse%be (o$r friends pease! and ha+e the% dispose the%se+es to isten!= he tod her! bin&in) a bit as the
fire izards s1ept into the hi)h ceiin)ed ha: .ea$t( too& $p her fa+orite position on Meno(4s sho$der!
=Yo$>= And one on) fat forefin)er pointed direct( to the itte 7$een: =Yo$ 1i find another perch toda(:= 'he
forefin)er %o+ed ine<orab( to1ard a bench: ='here>=
.ea$t( )a+e a 7$izzica cheep b$t obedient( retired 1hen Meno( sient( reinforced the order: Master
Shona)ar4s e(ebro1s ascended into his hair ine as he 1atched the itte fire izard sette hersef! pri%( fippin)
her 1in)s to her bac&! her e(es 1hirin) )ent(: ,e )r$nted! his be( bo$ncin):
=No1! Meno(! sho$ders bac&! chin $p b$t in! hands to)ether across (o$r diaphra)%! breathe in! fro% the
be( to the $n)s : : : No! I do not 1ant to see (o$r chest hea+in) i&e a s%ith4s beo1s : : :=
.( the end of the session! Meno( 1as e<ha$sted? the s%a of her bac& and a of her %idriff %$sces
ached! her be( 1as sore! and she fet that dra))in) nets for offshore fishin) 1o$d ha+e been chid4s pa(: Yet
she4d done no %ore than stand in one spot and atte%pt! in Master Shona)ar4s pith( phrase! to contro her
breathin) proper(: She4d been ao1ed to sin) on( sin)e notes! and then scaes of fi+e notes! each scae done
on the breath! i)ht( b$t in tr$e tone and on pitch: She4d ha+e )$tted a 1hoe net of pac&tai 1ith ess effort! so
she 1as intense( )ratef$ 1hen Master Shona)ar fina( 1a+ed her to a seat:
=No1! (o$n) /ie%$r! co%e for1ard:=
Meno( oo&ed aro$nd in s$rprise! 1onderin) ho1 on) /ie%$r had been sittin) 7$iet( b( the door:
='he other %ornin)! Meno(! o$r ears 1ere assaied b( p$re so$nd! in descant to a chor$s: /ie%$r here
see%s of the opinion that the fire izards 1i sin) for or 1ith an(one: Do (o$ conc$r;=
='he( certain( san) the other %ornin)! b$t I 1as sin)in)! too: I do not &no1! sir:=
=2et $s cond$ct a itte e<peri%ent then: 2et $s see if the( 1i sin) 1hen in+ited to do so:=
Meno( 1inced a itte at his phrasin)! b$t /ie%$r4s 1r( s%ie tod her that this 1as Master Shona)ar4s odd
+ersion of h$%or:
=S$pposin) I 5$st sin) the %eod( of the chor$s 1e 1ere doin) the other %ornin)!= said /ie%$r! =beca$se if
(o$ sin) "ith %e! the(4re sti sin)in) 1ith (o$ and not aon) 1ith %e;=
=2ess chatter! (o$n) /ie%$r! %ore %$sic!= said Master Shona)ar! so$ndin) e<tre%e( bass and i%patient:
/ie%$r too& a breath! proper(! Meno( noticed! and opened his %o$th: 'o her s$rprise and dei)ht! a tr$e
and deicate( s1eet so$nd e%er)ed: ,er astonish%ent re)istered in the t1in&e in /ie%$r4s e(es! b$t his +oice
refected none of his inner a%$se%ent to her reaction: .eated( she enco$ra)ed her fire izards to sin): .ea$t(
fitted to her sho$der! 1rappin) her tai i)ht( aro$nd Meno(4s nec& as she peered to1ard /ie%$r! coc&in)
her head this 1a( and that as if ana(zin) the so$nd and Meno(4s co%%and: Roc&( and Di+er 1ere ess
restrained: 'he( fe1 fro% their perch on the sandtabe and! rearin) to their ha$nches! be)an to sin) aon) 1ith
/ie%$r: .ea$t( )a+e a f$nn( scodin) so$nd before she sat $p! one forepa1 restin) i)ht( on Meno(4s ear:
'hen she too& $p the descant! her fra)ie +oice risin) s$re and tr$e abo+e /ie%$r4s: ,is e(es roed in
appreciation and! 1hen Mi%ic and .ro1nie 5oined in! /ie%$r bac&ed $p so that he co$d see a of the sin)in)
fire izards:
An<io$s(! Meno( )anced at Master Shona)ar! b$t he sat! his fin)ers shadin) his e(es! en)rossed in the
so$nds! )i+in) abso$te( no indication of his reception: Meno( %ade hersef isten critica(! as the Master
1as $ndo$bted( doin)! b$t she fo$nd itte to criticize: She hadn4t ta$)ht the fire izards ho1 to sin)? she had
on( )i+en the% %eod( to en5o(: 'he( had en5o(ed it! and 1ere e<pressin) that en5o(%ent b( participation:
'heir +oices 1ere not i%ited to the fe1 octa+es of the h$%an +oice: 'heir piercin)( s1eet tones resonated
thro$)h their isteners: She co$d fee the so$nd in her ear bones! and! fro% the 1a( /ie%$r 1as pressin) behind
his ears! he fet it as 1e:
='here! (o$n) feo1!= said Master Shona)ar as the echo of the son) died a1a(! =that4 p$t (o$ in (o$r
pace! 1on4t it;=
'he bo( )rinned i%p$dent(:
=So the( 1i 1arbe 1ith so%eone besides (o$rsef!= the Master said to Meno(:
O$t of the co%er of her e(e! Meno( sa1 /ie%$r reach o$t to stro&e Roc&( 1ho 1as nearest hi%: 'he
bronze i%%ediate( r$bbed his head aon) /ie%$r4s hand! 1hether in appro+a of the sin)in) or in friendship
1as irree+ant! 5$d)in) b( the char%ed e<pression on the bo(s face:
='he(4re $sed to sin)in) beca$se the( i&e it! sir: It4s diffic$t to &eep the% 7$iet 1hen there4s %$sic abo$t:=
=Is that so; I sha consider the potentiaities of this pheno%enon!= and 1ith a br$s7$e 1a+e! Master
Shona)ar dis%issed the% a: ,e setted his head a)ainst his propped ar% and a%ost i%%ediate( be)an to
snore:
=Is he rea( aseep; Or sha%%in);= Meno( as&ed /ie%$r 1hen the( 1ere o$t in the co$rt(ard:
=Far4s an(one4s been abe to te! he4s aseep: 'he on( thin) that4 1a&e hi% is a fat tone or %eas: ,e ne+er
)oes o$t of the chor$s ha: ,e seeps in a itte roo% at the bac&: Don4t thin& he co$d ci%b steps an(1a(: ,e4s
too fat: ,e(! (o$ &no1! Meno(! e+en in scaes! (o$ )ot a prett( +oice: Sort of f$rr(:=
='han&s>=
=Don4t %ention it: I i&e f$rr( +oices!= /ie%$r 1ent on! $ndis%a(ed b( her sarcas%: (I don$t i&e hi)h! thin!
screech( ones i&e .riaa or /ona : : := and he 5er&ed his th$%b to1ard the cot: =Sa(! hadn4t 1e better feed the
fire izards; It4s near( s$pperti%e! and the( oo& &inda faded to %e:=
Meno( a)reed! as .ea$t(! ridin) on her sho$der! be)an to cree piteo$s(:
=I s$re hope that Shona)ar 1ants to $se the fire izards 1ith the chor$s!= /ie%$r said! &ic&in) at a pebbe:
'hen he a$)hed! pointin) to the &itchen: =2oo&! Ca%o4s read( and 1aitin):=
,e 1as there! one thic& ar% 1rapped abo$t an enor%o$s bo1! heaped hi)h 1ith scraps: ,e had a handf$
raised to attract the fire izards 1ho spiraed in on hi%:
3nce and the t1o )reen A$nties had decided( adopted Ca%o as their feedin) perch: 'he( too& so %$ch of
his attention that he didn4t notice that Roc&(! 2az( and Mi%ic draped the%se+es abo$t /ie%$r to be fed: It
certain( %ade it easier to apportion the scraps fair(! 1ith three peope feedin): So! 1hen she ca$)ht /ie%$r
)ancin) abo$t the co$rt(ard to see if an(one 1as noticin) his ne1 tas&! Meno( s$))ested that he4d be needed
on a per%anent basis if that didn4t )et hi% into an( tro$be 1ith the %asters:
=I4% apprenticed to Master Shona)ar: ,e 1on4t %ind> And I s$re as shes don4t:= 6here$pon /ie%$r be)an
to stro&e the bronze and the t1o bro1ns 1ith an a%ost proprietar( affection:
As soon as the fire izards had finished )obbin)! Meno( sent Ca%o bac& into the &itchen: 'here had been
no o$d co%paints fro% Ab$na! b$t Meno( had been conscio$s of bein) 1atched fro% the &itchen 1indo1s:
Ca%o 1ent 1iin)( eno$)h! once she ass$red hi% that he4d be feedin) the fire izards a)ain in the %ornin):
Sated! the nine azi( spiraed $p1ard to the o$ter roof of the ,a! to bas& in the ate afternoon s$n: And not a
%o%ent too soon: 'he( 1ere on( 5$st settin) the%se+es 1hen the co$rt(ard beca%e f$ of bo(s and %en
fiin) into the ,a for their s$pper:
='oo bad (o$ )otta sit 1ith the%!= /ie%$r said! 5er&in) his head at the )irs seated at their tabe:
=Can4t (o$ sit opposite %e;= as&ed Meno(! hopef$(: It 1o$d be nice to ha+e so%eone to ta& to d$rin)
the %ea:
=Na1! I4% not ao1ed an(%ore:=
=Not ao1ed;=
Aternatin) bet1een so$r dis)$st and peased recoection! /ie%$r )a+e a shr$): =/ona co%pained to
D$nca! and she )ot on to Si+ina:
=6hat did (o$ do;=
=Oh! nothin) %$ch!= /ie%$r4s shr$) 1as eo7$ent eno$)h for Meno( to )$ess that he4d probab( been
do1nri)ht 1ic&ed: =/ona4s a sorr( 1herr( hen! (o$ &no1! ran&-happ( and peased to p$ it: So I can4t sit near
the )irs an(%ore:=
She %i)ht re)ret the prohibition! b$t it enhanced her esti%ation of /ie%$r: As she re$ctant( %ade her 1a(
to1ard the )irs! it occ$rred to her that a she had to do to a+oid sittin) 1ith the% 1as to be ate to %eas: 'hen
she4d ha+e to sit 1here she co$d: 'hat re%ed( peased her so %$ch that she 1a&ed %ore reso$te( to her pace
and end$red the hostiit( of the )irs 1ith fortit$de: She %atched their codness 1ith ston( indifference and ate
hearti( of the so$p! cheese and bread and the s1eet past( that finished the si%pe s$pper: She istened poite(
to the e+enin) anno$nce%ents of rehearsa ti%es and the fact that 'hreadfa 1as e<pected %idda( to%orro1:
A 1ere to hod the%se+es cose to the ,a! to perfor% their aotted tas&s before! d$rin) and after Fa:
Meno( heard! 1ith pri+ate a%$se%ent! the ner+o$s 1hisperin) of the )irs at the ad+ent of 'hreadfa and
per%itted hersef to s%ie in disdain at their terror: 'he( co$dn4t really be that afraid of a %enace the(4d &no1n
a their i+es;
She %ade no %o+e to ea+e the tabe 1hen the( did! b$t she 1as s$re that she ca$)ht A$di+a4s 1in& as the
)ir foo1ed the others o$t: 6hen she 5$d)ed the% 1e a1a(! she rose: Ma(be she4d be abe to )et bac& into
the cot a)ain 1itho$t confrontin) D$nca:
=Ah! Meno(! a %o%ent if (o$ pease:= 'he cheer( +oice of the Masterharper san) o$t as she reached the
entrance: Robinton 1as standin) b( the stairs! ta&in) to Sebe! and he )est$red for Meno( to 5oin the%:
=Co%e and chec& o$r e))s for $s: I &no1 2essa said it 1o$d be a fe1 %ore da(s b$t : : := and the ,arper
shr$))ed his an<iet(: ='his 1a( : : := As she acco%panied the t1o %en to the $pper e+e! he 1ent on: =Sebe
sa(s that (o$4re a %ine of infor%ation:= ,e )rinned do1n at her: =Didn4t e+er thin& (o$4d ha+e to ta& fish in a
,arper ,a! did (o$;=
=No! sir! I didn4t: .$t then! I don4t thin& I rea( &ne1 1hat does )o on in a ,arper ,a:=
=6e said! Meno(! 1e said!= and the ,arper a$)hed as 1e as Sebe: ='he other crafts can 5ibe that 1e
1ant to &no1 too %$ch abo$t 1hat is not strict( o$r b$siness! b$t I4+e a1a(s fet &no1ed)e of %atters %inor
or %a5or %a&es for better $nderstandin)s: 'he %ind that 1i not ad%it it has so%ethin) %ore to earn
to%orro1 is in dan)er of sta)natin):=
=Yes! sir:= Meno( ca$)ht Sebe4s e(e! an<io$s( hopin) that the ,arper had not heard the %[email protected] 1as
it %[email protected]%atter abo$t her %issin) her sched$ed esson 1ith Do%ic&: An a%ost i%perceptibe sha&e of the
bro1n %an4s head reass$red her:
=Gi+e %e (o$r opinion of o$r e))s! Meno(! for I %$st be o$t and abo$t a )reat dea! b$t I don4t 1ish to
ris& the ,atchin) 1itho$t %e in attendance: Ri)ht! Sebe;=
=Nor do I 1ish t1o fire izards instead of the one I4% entited to ha+e:=
'he t1o %en e<chan)ed &no1in) )ances as Meno( obedient( chec&ed the e))s in their sand-fied! 1ar%
pots: She t$rned each one si)ht( so that the coder side faced the heat of the )o1in) e%bers on the hearth:
Robinton added a fe1 %ore bac&stones and then e(ed her e<pectant(:
=6e! sir! the e))s are hardenin)! b$t the( are not hard eno$)h to hatch toda( or to%orro1:=
=So! 1i (o$ chec& a)ain to%orro1 %ornin) for %e! Meno(; I %$st be a1a(! atho$)h Sebe 1i a1a(s
&no1 1here I can be reached:=
Meno( ass$red the Masterharper that she 1o$d &eep a 1atchf$ e(e on the e))s and infor% Sebe if there
1ere an( aar%in) chan)es: 'he ,arper 1a&ed her bac& thro$)h his st$d( to the door:
=No1! Meno(! (o$4+e pa(ed for Do%ic&! been thoro$)h( catechized b( Morsha and s$n) for Shona)ar:
#erint sa(s (o$r pipes are 7$ite ao1abe! and the dr$% is 1e-constr$cted and sho$d dr( o$t so$nd: 'he fire
izards 1i sin) s1eet( 1ith others than (o$rsef! so (o$4+e acco%pished a +er( )reat dea in (o$r first da(s
here: ,asn4t she! Sebe;=
Sebe a)reed! s%iin) at her in a 7$iet! &ind 1a(: She 1ondered if either %an &ne1 ho1 D$nca and the
)irs fet abo$t her presence in the ,arper ,a:
=And I can ea+e the %atter of the e))s in (o$r )ood hands: 'hat4s )rand: 'hat4s +er( )ood! indeed!= the
Masterharper said! co%bin) his fin)ers thro$)h his si+ered hair:
For a feetin) %o%ent! his $s$a( %obie face 1as sti! and in that $n)$arded %o%ent! Meno( sa1 si)ns
of strain and 1orr(: 'hen he s%ied so cheerf$( that she 1ondered if she4d on( i%a)ined his 1eariness: 6e!
she co$d certain( spare hi% an<iet( abo$t the fire izards:
She4d chec& the% se+era ti%es d$rin) the da(! e+en if it %ade her ate to Master Shona)ar:
As she ret$rned to the cot! peased that there 1as so%e s%a 1a( in 1hich she co$d ser+e the
Masterharper! she recaed 1hat he4d said abo$t fish in a ,arper ,a: For the first ti%e! Meno( reaized that
she4d ne+er rea( tho$)ht abo$t ife in a ,arper ,[email protected]<cept as a pace 1here %$sic 1as pa(ed and created:
/etiron had spo&en hazi( abo$t apprentices and his ti%e as a 5o$rne(%an! b$t nothin) in detai: She had
i%a)ined the ,arper ,a as so%e %a)ica pace! 1here peope san) a con+ersations! or earnest( copied
Records: 'he reait( 1as a%ost co%%onpace! $p to and especia( inc$din) D$nca and the spitef$ /ona:
6h( she had considered a ,arpers! and harper peope! abo+e s$ch pettiness! endo1ed 1ith %ore h$%anit(
than Morsha or Do%ic& had sho1n her! she did not &no1: She s%ied at her nai+et(: And (et! ,arpers i&e
Sebe and Robinton! e+en c(nica Do%ic&! 1ere abo+e the ordinar(: And Si+ina and /ie%$r 1ere basica(
)ood! and certain( had been &ind to her: She 1as in far better circ$%stances than she4d e+er en5o(ed in
,af-Circe! so she co$d p$t $p 1ith a itte $npeasantness! s$re(:
It 1as as 1e she had reached this conc$sion beca$se! no sooner 1as she inside the door! than D$nca:
po$nced on her 1ith a ist of )rie+ances: Meno( recei+ed a tirade abo$t her fire izards! ho1 dan)ero$s and
$nreiabe the creat$res 1ere! ho1 the( %$st beha+e the%se+es or D$nca 1o$d not toerate the%! that
Meno( had better reaize ho1 itte ran& %attered in D$nca4s cot and that! as the ne1co%er! she %$st beha+e
1ith %ore deference to those 1ho had been st$d(in) far on)er at the ,arper Craft ,a: Meno(4s attit$de 1as
pres$%pt$o$s! $ncooperati+e! $nfriend( and disco$rteo$s! and D$nca 1as not ha+in) a t$nne-sna&e in her cot
1here the )irs 1ere as friend( and as considerate of one another as an( fosterer co$d 1ish:
After the first fe1 sentences! Meno( reaized that she co$d p$t forth no defense of hersef or her friends
acceptabe to D$nca: A she co$d do 1as sa( =(es= and =no= at appropriate inter+as! 1hen D$nca 1as forced
to stop for breath: And e+er( ti%e Meno( tho$)ht the 1o%an %$st s$re( ha+e e<ha$sted the s$b5ect! she
1o$d s$r)e onto another i%a)ined si)ht $nti Meno( serio$s( considered cain) .ea$t( to her: 'he
appearance of the fire izard 1o$d certain( c$rtai the fo1 of ab$se! b$t 1o$d irre+ocab( destro( an(
possibiit( of )ettin) into D$nca4s fair record:
=No1! ha+e I %ade %(sef pain;= D$nca as&ed $ne<pected(:
=Yo$ ha+e!= and since Meno(4s ca% acceptance %o%entari( robbed D$nca of speech! the )ir fe1 $p the
steps! i)norin) the stiffness of her feet and )rinnin) at the e<posi+e and f$rio$s repri%ands D$nca %ade at her
retreat:
Chapter 6
The tears % feel today
%$ll "ait to shed tomorro"#
Though %$ll not sleep this might
+or find surcease from sorro"#
2y eyes must keep their sight,
% dare not be tear- blinded#
% must be free to talk
+ot choked "ith grief, clear- minded#
2y mouth cannot betray
The anguish that % kno"#
0es, %$ll keep my tears till later,
But my grief "ill never go#
2enolly$s (Song for 1etiron(
.ea$t( 1o&e her at s$nrise: 'he other fire izards 1ere a1a&e! too! tho$)h one thin) 1as s$re! no one ese
in the cot 1as a1a&e (et:
2ast ni)ht! 1hen Meno( had reached the reati+e safet( of her roo%! she had cosed and barred the door!
and then opened the sh$tters to ad%it her friends: She had reco+ered her co%pos$re b( oiin) their patch( s&in
1ith Master Odi+e4s sa+e: 'his 1as the first opport$nit( she4d had since the(4d eft the ca+e b( the Dra)on
Stones to tend and fonde each one: 'he(! too! 1ere co%%$nicati+e: She )ot %an( i%pressions fro% the%!
%ost( that the(4d been bathin) dai( in the a&es abo+e Fort ,od! 1hich 1eren4t %$ch f$n beca$se there
1eren4t an( 1a+es to sport in: Meno( ca$)ht pict$res fro% their %inds of )reat dra)ons and of a 6e(r!
differin) in shape fro% .enden: .ea$t(s pict$res 1ere the sharpest: Meno( had en5o(ed her 7$iet e+enin)
1ith the%; it had %ade $p for D$nca4s irrationa attit$des:
No1! as she beca%e a1are of the ear( %ornin) stiness! she &ne1 she4d ha+e ti%e to do a fe1 tas&s for
hersef: She co$d )et a bath and 1ash the fr$it stains o$t of her t$nic: It o$)ht to dr( 7$ic&( on the 1indo1
ed)e in the %ornin) s$n: 'here sho$d be ti%e before 'hreadfa! for she re%e%bered that 1o$d occ$r toda(:
C$iet( she $nbarred the door! istenin) in the corridor! and heard on( the faintest echo of a snore: /robab(
D$nca: Ad5$rin) her fire izards to sience! she 1a&ed noiseess( do1n the steps to the bathin) roo% at the
bac& of the first e+e: She4d a1a(s heard of the ther%a poos in the bi) ,ods and 6e(rs! b$t this 1as her first
e<perience 1ith the%: 'he fire izards ca%e c$sterin) in behind her! and she h$shed their e<cited t1itterin)s at
the si)ht of the 1aist-hi)h tro$)h of stea%in) 1ater: Meno( dipped her fin)ers in the peasant 1ar% 1ater!
chec&ed to see if there 1ere sandsoap and then! thro1in) her cothes on the foor! sipped into the bath:
'he 1ater 1as dei)htf$( 1ar% and soft to her s&in! a chan)e fro% the harsh sea or the %inera-hea+(
1ater in ,af-Circe Sea ,od: Meno( s$b%er)ed co%pete( and ca%e $p! sha&in) her hair: She4d 1ash a
o+er: One of the others p$shed A$ntie '1o into the bath! and she et o$t a hi)h-pitched s7$ea of protest and
fri)ht! then padded happi( abo$t in the 1ar% 1ater: 'he ne<t thin) Meno( &ne1! a the fire izards 1ere
spashin) abo$t! their taons $ne<pected( catchin) her bare s&in or tan)in) in her hair: She h$shed the% often
and stern(! beca$se she 1asn4t s$re ho1 far noise carried fro% the bathin) roo%? a she4d need! after ast ni)ht!
1as for D$nca to co%e char)in) in! ro$sed fro% her ni)ht4s rest b( her east-1anted )$ests:
Meno( sandsoaped a of the fire izards thoro$)h(! rinsed the% 1e! )ot hersef! her hair and fina( her
cothes 1e 1ashed! then )ot bac& to her roo% 1itho$t an(one the 1iser for her ear( %ornin) acti+it(: She
1as oiin) a ro$)h patch on Mi%ic4s bac& 1hen she heard the first stirrin)s o$tside? the cheer( )reetin)s of the
herds%en )oin) to attend their beasts 1ho 1o$d be hodbo$nd toda( 1ith 'hreadfa d$e: She 1ondered ho1
Fa 1o$d affect the b$siness of the ,arper ,a? probab( the apprentices and 5o$rne(%en 1ere re7$ired to
assist the hoders in fa%e-thro1er detais: 'han& )oodness no one had as&ed her 1hat she4d done after Fa in
,af-Circe: She heard the sa%%in) of a door beo1 and decided that D$nca 1as $p: Meno( sipped into her
on( other cothes! the patched t$nic and tro$sers of her ca+e da(s: 'he( 1ere at east cean and neat:
'he( 1ere not! ho1e+er! it 1as pointed o$t to Meno( at the brea&fast tabe! s$itabe attire for a (o$n) ad(
i+in) in D$nca4s cot: 6hen Meno( e<pained that she had on( the one other chan)e! 1hich 1as no1 dr(in)!
D$nca et o$t a shrie& of o$tra)e and de%anded to &no1 1here the cothes 1ere dr(in): Meno( 1as
e%phatica( tod that she had co%%itted (et another $n1ittin) sin b( han)in) her 1ashin)@i&e the
co%%onest fied 1or&[email protected] the 1indo1 ed)e: She 1as ordered to brin) do1n the offendin) )ar%ents! sti
da%p! and sho1n b( the f$%in) D$nca 1here s$ch a$ndr( 1as to be h$n)! in the inner recesses of the cot:
6here! Meno( 1as s$re! the( 1o$d ta&e da(s to dr( and s%e %$st( besides 1ith no air to freshen the%:
*er( %$ch a1are of her dis)race and destit$te condition! Meno( finished her brea&fast as 7$ic&( as
possibe: .$t 1hen she rose fro% the tabe! D$nca: de%anded to &no1 1here she tho$)ht she 1as )oin):
=I %$st feed %( fire izards! D$nca! and I 1as tod to report to Master Do%ic& this %ornin) : : :=
=No %essa)e 1as recei+ed b( %e to s$ch effect:= D$nca dre1 hersef $p in officio$s disbeief:
=Master Do%ic& tod %e (esterda(:=
=,e %ade no %ention of s$ch instr$ctions to %e:= D$nca4s %anner i%pied that Meno( 1as %a&in) $p the
order:
=/robab( beca$se (esterda(4s %essa)e 1ent astra(:=
And! 1hie D$nca sta%%ered and st$ttered! Meno( sipped o$t of the roo% and o$t of the cot! trottin)
across the road! the fire izards )racef$( s1irin) abo+e her head $nti the( 1ere s$re she 1as headed to1ard
the ,arper ,a: 'hen the( disappeared:
'he( 1ere perched on the 1indo1 ed)es 1hen she reached the &itchen co%er! their e(es 1hirin) red( in
anticipation of brea&fast: 'here see%ed to be %ore than the $s$a a%o$nt of conf$sion in the &itchen! b$t
Ca%o! once he ca$)ht si)ht of her! i%%ediate( p$t do1n the side of herdbeast he4d been $))in) and eft the
carcass! its e)s obscene( droppin) across the passa)e! 1hie he disappeared bac& into the storeroo%: ,e
e%er)ed 1ith (et a bi))er bo1! scraps spiin) do1n its sides as be 5o))ed to %eet her: S$dden( he )a+e a
started cr(; and Meno(! peerin) in the 1indo1! sa1 that Ab$na! 1ooden spoon $praised! 1as chasin) after
hi%: ,e sithered b(! b$t her dress )ot ca$)ht on the e<tr$din) e)s of the carcass:
Meno( d$c&ed into the space bet1een the 1indo1s! fer+ent( hopin) that Ca%o4s preocc$pation 1ith the
feedin) of fire izards 1as not )oin) to ca$se a %a5or breach 1ith Ab$na: 'here %i)ht be nothin) to fear fro%
harpers! b$t the 1o%en in the ,arper ,a 1ere certain( possibe ene%ies:
=Meno(! a% I too ate /ie%$r ca%e char)in) across the co$rt(ard fro% the apprentice dor%itor(! his boots
haf-fastened! his t$nic aces $ntied and his face and hair sho1in) si)ns of haf-hearted 1ashin):
.efore he co$d asse%be his cothin) proper(! Roc&(! 2az( and Mi%ic attached the%se+es to hi%? Ca%o!
ca%e o$t of the &itchen to be assa$ted b( his three; and the three h$%ans 1ere e<horted b( shri h$n)r(
creein)s to be fed:
Ca%o4s )reat bo1 1as fina( e%ptied! and as if on c$e! Ab$na4s +oice rose to co%%and Ca%o bac& to his
d$ties: Meno( h$rried( than&ed the %an and p$shed hi% $r)ent( do1n the &itchen steps! ass$rin) hi% that
he4d sa+ed 7$ite eno$)h food for the pretties! that the pretties co$d not st$ff in another %o$thf$:
6hen the brea&fast )on) so$nded! Meno( sta(ed in the &itchen corner $nti the co$rt(ard 1as ceared of
the h$n)r( harpers: She had to see Master Do%ic&! for 1hich inter+ie1 she 1o$d need her )itar: She 1ent to
the archroo% to coect it and in)ered there! since e+er(one 1as sti eatin): She t$ned the )itar! dei)htin)
afresh in its rich s1eet tone: She atte%pted so%e of the brid)es fro% the %$sic she4d pa(ed in the aborti+e
esson 1ith the )irs! stretchin) and stretchin) a)ainst the p$ of the scar $nti her hand %$sces 1ent into a
spas% of cra%pin): A of a s$dden! she re%e%bered her other chore; to chec& the fire izard e))s: .$t! if the
Masterharper 1ere sti aseep : : : No 1a( of tein) fro% here: She ran i)ht( do1n the steps! peased that her
feet 1ere ess stiff and tender this %ornin): She pa$sed in the %ain ha! istenin)! and heard the distincti+e
so$nd of the Masterharper4s +oice at the ro$nd tabe: So she h$rried $p the steps and do1n the corridor to his
roo%:
'he fire izard pots 1ere 1ar% on the side a1a( fro% the fire! so the(4d ob+io$s( 5$st been t$rned: She
$nco+ered each e)) and chec&ed the shes for hardness! for an( si)n of crac&in) or striation: 'he( 1ere fine:
She )ent( co+ered the% 1ith sand and repaced the ids:
As she e%er)ed fro% the Masterharper4s roo%s! she heard Master Do%ic&4s +oice on the steps: 6ith hi%
1ere Sebe! carr(in) a s%a harp! and 'a%or! )itar s$n) across his bac&:
='here she is!= Sebe said: =Yo$ chec&ed the e))s! Meno(;=
=I did! sir: 'he(4re fine:=
=Co%e this 1a(! then! step i+e( no1 : : : if (o$ can : : := Do%ic& said! fro1nin) as he beated( recaed
her disabiit(:
=M( feet are near( as )ood as ne1 no1! sir!= she tod hi%:
=6e! (o$4re not to r$n an( races 1ith 'hread toda(! hear;=
Meno( 1asn4t certain! as she foo1ed the three %en into the st$d(! if Do%ic& 1ere teasin) her or not: ,e
so$nded so so$r! it 1as diffic$t to te! b$t Sebe ca$)ht her e(e and 1in&ed:
Do%ic&4s st$d(! 1e-it b( h$)e bas&ets of )o1s! 1as do%inated b( the bi))est sandtabe Meno( had
e+er seen! 1ith a its spaces )ass-co+ered! tho$)h she poite( a+erted her e(es fro% the inscriptions: Do%ic&
%i)ht not i&e peope peerin) at his %$sic: 'he she+es 1ere 5a%%ed 1ith oose record hides! and thin!
1hite-beached sheets of so%e s$bstance e+en( c$t aon) the ed)es: She tried to )et a coser oo& at the%! b$t
Master Do%ic& caed her to attention b( tein) her to ta&e the %idde stoo:
Sebe and 'a%or 1ere aread( settin) the%se+es before the %$sic rac& and t$nin) their instr$%ents: So
she too& her pace and cast a 7$ic& )ance at the %$sic before the%: 6ith a thri of s$rprise! she sa1 that it 1as
for fo$r instr$%ents! and no eas( read:
=Yo$4re to pa( second )itar! Meno(!= Do%ic& said! 1ith the s%ie of one 1ho is conferrin) a fa+or: ,e
pic&ed $p a %eta pipe 1ith fin)er stops! one of the f$tes that /etiron had tod her 1ere $sed b( %ore
acco%pished pipers: She poite( s$ppressed her c$riosit(! b$t she co$dn4t contro her dei)hted s$rprise 1hen
Do%ic& ran a test scae: It so$nded i&e a fire izard4s +oice:
=Yo$4 need to oo& thro$)h the %$sic!= he said! obser+in) her interest:
=I 1i;=
Master Do%ic& ceared his throat: =It is c$sto%ar( 1ith %$sic (o$4+e ne+er seen before:= ,e tapped the
%$sic 1ith his pipe: ='hat!= and his tone 1as +er( acid! =is no chidren4s e<ercise: Despite (o$r dispa( for
'a%or (esterda(! (o$ 1i not find this eas( to read:=
Reb$&ed! she s&i%%ed the %$sic! tr(in) an aternati+e chordin) in one %eas$re to see 1hich 1o$d be
easier on her hand at that te%po: 'he co%pe<it( of the chordin) 1as so fascinatin) that she for)ot she 1as
&eepin) three harpers 1aitin): =I be) (o$r pardon:= She t$rned the %$sic bac& to the be)innin) and oo&ed at
Do%ic& for hi% to )i+e the% the beat:
=Yo$4re read(;=
=I thin& so! sir:=
=#$st i&e that;=
=Sir;=
=*er( 1e! (o$n) 1o%an! at the beat!= and Do%ic& stern( tapped o$t the ti%e 1ith a stron) sta%p:
It had been f$n! a1a(s! for Meno( to pa( 1ith /etiron! partic$ar( 1hen he et her i%pro+ise aro$nd his
%eod(: It had been a peas$re (esterda( to see ne1 %$sic in 'a%or4s esson! b$t no1! the sti%$ation of
pa(in) 1ith three &een and co%petent %$sicians )a+e her s$ch i%p$sion that she see%ed to be an irree+ant
%edi$% for fin)ers that had to pa( 1hat her ea)er e(es sa1: She 1as ost co%pete( in the thra of the %$sic!
so that 1hen the r$shin) finae ended! she s$ffered a shoc& as &een as pain:
=Oh! that 1as %ar+eo$s: Co$d 1e pa( it a)ain;=
'a%or b$rst o$t a$)hin)! Do%ic& stared at her! and Sebe co+ered his e(es 1ith his hands as he bo1ed
his head o+er his harp:
=I didn4t beie+e (o$! 'a%or!= Do%ic& said! sha&in) his head: =And I4d pa(ed 1ith her %(sef: 'r$e! on(
basic thin)s: I didn4t thin& she 1as $p to an( de%andin) standard:=
Meno( inhaed sharp(! 1orried that she had so%eho1 erred! as she had 1ith the )irs the pre+io$s da(:
=And I &no1!= Do%ic& 1ent on in that ti)ht! dr( tone! =that (o$ can4t e+er ha+e seen that piece of %$sic
before : : :"
Meno( stared at the Master: =It 1as fascinatin): 'he inter1ea+in) of %eod( fro% f$te to harp and )itar:
I4% sorr( abo$t this section!= and she fipped bac& the sheets: =I sho$d ha+e $sed (o$r chords b$t %( hand : : :=
Do%ic& stared at her $nti her +oice traied off: =Did Sebe 1arn (o$ 1hat 1o$d happen this %ornin);=
=No! sir! on( to sa( that I %$stn4t fai to co%e toda(:=
=Eno$)h! Do%ic&: 'he chid4s 1orried sic& that she4s done so%ethin) 1ron): 6e! (o$ ha+en4t! Meno(!=
'a%or said! pattin) her hand enco$ra)in)(: =Yo$ see!= he 1ent on! )arin) in a )ood-nat$red fashion at
Do%ic&! =he 5$st finished 1ritin) it: Yo$4+e pa(ed the fin)ers off Sebe and %e: Do%ic&4s pantin) for breath:
And (o$4+e %ana)ed to po1 thro$)h one of Do%ic&4s tort$o$s in+entions 1ith : : : 1e! I did hear one fa$t(
chordin) besides the one (o$ 5$st pointed o$t! b$t! as (o$ sa(! (o$r hand : : :=
No1 Sebe ifted his head! and Meno( stared at hi% beca$se his e(es 1ere o+erfo1in) 1ith tears: .$t at
the sa%e ti%e! he 1as a$)hin)> Con+$sed 1ith %irth he 1a))ed an i%potent fin)er at Do%ic&! $nabe to
spea&:
Do%ic& batted irritab( at Sebe4s hand and )ared at both 5o$rne(%en: ='hat4s eno$)h: A ri)ht! so the
5o&e4s on %e! b$t (o$4 ha+e to ad%it that there 1as )ood precedent for %( s&epticis%: An(one can pa( soo : :
:= ,e t$rned on the be1idered Meno(: =Did (o$ pa( a )reat dea 1ith /etiron; Or an( of the other %$sicians
at ,af-Circe;=
='here 1as on( /etiron 1ho co$d pa( proper(: Fishin) ea+es a %an4s hands too stiff for an( fine %$sic:=
She fic&ed a )ance at Sebe: ='here 1ere a fe1 dr$%%ers and stic&%en : : :=
,er rep( set Sebe a$)hin) a)ain: ,e hadn4t see%ed the sort! Meno( tho$)ht! bein) so ca% and 7$iet:
'o be s$re he 1as a$)hin) 1itho$t roarin) b$t : : :
=S$ppose (o$ te %e e<act( 1hat (o$ did do at ,af-Circe Sea ,od! Meno(: M$sica(! that is: Master
Robinton4s been too b$s( to confer 1ith %e at an( en)th:=
Do%ic&4s 1ords i%pied that he had the ri)ht to &no1 1hate+er it 1as she %i)ht te Master Robinton! and
she sa1 Sebe noddin) his head in per%ission: So she tho$)ht for a %o%ent: 6o$d it be proper! no1! to te
the ,arpers that she had ta$)ht the chidren after /etiron had died and before the ne1 ,arper had co%e; Yes!
beca$se ,arper E)ion %$st ha+e tod Master Robinton! and he hadn4t chided her for steppin) into a %an4s
d$ties: F$rther! Master Do%ic& had ta$nted her 1ith tein) the tr$th once before: Rather than anta)onize hi%
for an( reason! she had best be candid no1: So she spo&e of her sit$ation at ,af-Circe Sea ,od? ho1 /etiron
had sin)ed her o$t 1hen she 1as od eno$)h to earn 'eachin) .aads and Sa)as: ,e had ta$)ht her to pa(
)itar and harp! =to hep 1ith the teachin)!= she ass$red her isteners! =and 1ith the e+enin) sin)in):= Do%ic&
nodded: And ho1 /etiron had sho1n her a the %$sic he had! =b$t he4d on( three pieces of occasiona %$sic
beca$se he said there 1asn4t need for %ore: Yan$s! the Sea ,oder! 1anted %$sic to sin) to! not isten to:=
=Nat$ra(!= Do%ic& repied! noddin) a)ain:
And /etiron had ta$)ht her ho1 to c$t and hoe reeds to %a&e pipes! to stretch s&in on dr$% fra%es! ar)e
and s%a! the principes in+o+ed in %a&in) a )itar or s%a harp! b$t there 1as no hard1ood in the Sea ,od
for another harp! and no rea need for Meno( to ha+e either harp or )itar: '1o '$rns a)o! ho1e+er! she4d had
to ta&e o+er the pa(in) of the 'eachin) beca$se /etiron4s hands had beco%e cripped 1ith the &n$c&e disease:
And then! of co$rse! and no1 Meno( fet the $%p of )rief risin) in her throat! she4d done a the teachin)
1hen /etiron had died beca$se Yan$s reaized that the (o$n) %$st be &ept $p in their 'eachin) .aads and
Son)s since he &ne1 his d$t( to the 6e(r! and she 1as the on( person in the ,od 1ho co$d be spared fro%
the fishin):
=Of co$rse!= Do%ic& had said: =And 1hen (o$ c$t (o$r hand;=
=Oh! the ne1 ,arper! E)ion! had arri+ed so I : : : 1asn4t re7$ired to pa( an(%ore: And besides!= she hed
her hand $p e<panatori(! =it 1as tho$)ht I4d ne+er be abe to pa( a)ain:=
She 1asn4t conscio$s of the sience at first! her head bent! her e(es on her hand! r$bbin) the scar 1ith her
ri)ht th$%b! beca$se the intensi+e pa(in) had ca$sed it to ache a)ain:
=6hen /etiron 1as here at the ,a! there 1as no finer %$sician! no better instr$ctor ! = Master Do%ic& said
7$iet(: =I had the )ood fort$ne to be his apprentice: Yo$4+e no need e+er to be asha%ed of (o$r pa(in) : : :=
=Or of (o$r 5o( in %$sic= Sebe added! no a$)hter in his e(es no1 as he eaned to1ard her:
5oy in music/ ,is 1ords 1ere i&e a reease: ,o1 co$d he ha+e &no1n so ac$te(>
=No1 that (o$4re at the ,arper ,a! Meno(! 1hat 1o$d (o$ i&e best to do;= Master Do%ic& as&ed her!
his tone so cas$a! so ne$tra that Meno( co$dn4t thin& 1hat ans1er he e<pected of her:
5oy in music: ,o1 co$d she e<press that; In 1ritin) the &ind of son)s Master Robinton needed; ,o1
1o$d she &no1 1hat he needed; And hadn4t 'a%or said that Do%ic& had co%posed the %a)nificent 7$artet
the( had 5$st pa(ed; 6h( did Master Robinton need another co%poser if he aread( had Do%ic& in the ,a;
=Yo$ %ean! pa( or sin)! or teach;=
Master Do%ic& 1idened his e(es and re)arded her 6ith a haf-s%ie: =If that4s 1hat (o$ 1ish;=
=I4% here to earn! aren4t I;= She a+oided his ta$nt:
Do%ic& ac&no1ed)ed that that 1as tr$e eno$)h:
=So I4 earn the thin)s I ha+en4t had the chance to earn before beca$se /etiron tod %e there 1ere a ot of
thin)s he co$dn4t teach %e: 2i&e ho1 to $se %( +oice proper(: 'hat4s )oin) to ta&e a ot of hard 1or& 1ith
Master Shona)ar: ,e on( ets %e breathe and sin) fi+enote scaes : : := 'a%or )rinned so broad( at her! his
e(es dancin) as if he &ne1 so e<act( her feein)s that she too& enco$ra)e%ent fro% hi%: =I4d rea( o+e : : :=
'hen she hesitated beca$se of 1hat Do%ic& %i)ht sa( and she dreaded his ce+er-ed)ed ton)$e:
=6hat do (o$ rea( 1ant! Meno(;= as&ed Sebe &ind(:
=Yo$4re fri)htenin) her! Do%ic&!= 'a%or said at the sa%e ti%e:
=Nonsense! are (o$ fri)htened of %e! Meno(;= ,e so$nded s$rprised: =It4s ha+in) to train idiots that so$rs
%e! Meno(!= said Master Do%ic&! b$t his +oice 1as s$dden( )enter: =No1 te %e 1hat facet of %$sic
appeas to (o$ %ost;=
,e ca$)ht her )aze and 1o$d not reease her e(es! b$t his phrasin) had )i+en her the ans1er:
=6hat appeas to %e %ost; 6h(! pa(in) i&e this! in a )ro$p:= She )ot the 1ords o$t in a r$sh! )est$rin) at
the rac& in front of her: =It4s so bea$tif$: It4s s$ch a chaen)e! to hear the inter1ea+in) har%onies and the
%eod( ine chan)in) fro% instr$%ent to instr$%ent: I fet as if I 1as : : : 1as f(in) on a dra)on>=
Do%ic& oo&ed started and bin&ed! a so1 peased s%ie i)htin) his other1ise do$r face:
=She %eans it! Do%ic&!= 'a%or said in the pa$se that foo1ed:
=Oh! I do: It4s the %ost e<citin) thin) I4+e e+er pa(ed: On( : : :=
=On( 1hat;= $r)ed 'a%or 1hen she fatered:
=I didn4t pa( it ri)ht: I sho$d ha+e st$died the %$sic on)er before I started pa(in) beca$se I 1as so b$s(
1atchin) the notes and ti%e chan)es that I didn4t! I co$dn4t! foo1 the d(na%ic %ar&in)s : : : I a% sorr(:=
Do%ic& bro$)ht his hand a)ainst his forehead in an e<asperated s%ac&: Sebe disso+ed a)ain into his 7$iet
a$)hter: .$t 'a%or 5$st ho1ed! sappin) his &nee and pointin) at Do%ic&:
=In that case! Meno(! 1e 1i pa( it a)ain!= Do%ic& said! raisin) his +oice to dro1n the a%$se%ent of the
others: =And this ti%e : : := he fro1ned at Meno(! an e<pression 1hich no on)er distressed her beca$se she
&ne1 that she had to$ched hi%! =1atchin) those d(na%ic si)ns! 1hich I p$t in for +er( )ood reason: No1! on
the beat : : :=
'he( did not pa( the %$sic thro$)h: Do%ic& stopped the%! ti%e and a)ain! insistin) on a retard here! a
+ariation of the desi)nated ti%e here! a better baance of the instr$%ents in another section: In so%e respects!
this 1as as satisf(in) as pa(in) for Meno(! since Do%ic&4s co%%ents )a+e her insi)hts to the %$sic as 1e
as its co%poser: Sebe had been ri)ht abo$t her st$d(in) 1ith Do%ic&: She had a ot to earn fro% a %an 1ho
co$d 1rite %$sic i&e this! p$re %$sic:
'hen 'a%or be)an to ar)$e interpretation 1ith Do%ic&! an ar)$%ent c$t short b( the eerie so$nd that
be)an soft( and increased in +o$%e and intensit( so that it 1as a%ost $nbearabe in the cosed roo%:
Abr$pt( her fire izards appeared:
=,o1 did the( )et in here i&e that;= 'a%or de%anded! h$nchin) his sho$ders to protect his head as the
st$d( )ot o+ercro1ded 1ith ner+o$s fire izards:
='he(4re i&e dra)ons! (o$ &no1= Sebe said! e7$a( 1ar( of ca1 and 1in):
='e those creat$res to sette do1n! Meno(!= co%%anded Do%ic&:
='he noise bothers the%:=
='hat4s on( the 'hreadfa aar%!= said Do%ic&! b$t the %en 1ere p$ttin) do1n their instr$%ents:
Meno( caed her fire izards to order! and the( setted on the she+es! their e(es 1heein) 1ith aar%:
=6ait here! Meno(!= Do%ic& said as he and the others %ade for the door: =6e4 be bac&: 'hat is! I
1i : : :=
=And I!= =I! too!= said the others! and then the( a sta%ped o$t of the roo%:
Meno( sat $neasi(! a1are that the ,a 1as preparin) for 'hreadfa! as she had prepared for the %enace
a her conscio$s (ears: She heard racin) feet in the corridors! for the door 1as haf a5ar: 'hen the can)in) of
sh$tters! the s7$ea of %eta! %an( sho$ts and a )rad$a co%pression of air in the roo%: 'he s$dden throb as the
)reat +entiatin) fans of the ,a 1ere set into %otion for the d$ration of 'hreadfa: Once a)ain! she fo$nd
hersef 1ishin) to be bac& in the safet( of her seaside ca+e: She had a1a(s hated bein) cosed in at ,af-Circe
Sea ,od d$rin) 'hreadfa: 'here ne+er see%ed to be eno$)h air to breathe d$rin) those fear-fied ti%es: 'he
ca+e! safe b$t 1ith a reass$rin)( cear +ie1 of the sea! had been a perfect co%pro%ise bet1een sec$rit( and
con+ention:
.ea$t( chirped in7$irin)( and then spran) fro% the shef to Meno(4s sho$der: She 1asn4t ner+o$s at
bein) cosed in! b$t she 1as +er( %$ch a1are of 'hread4s i%%inence! her si% bod( ta$t! her e(es 1hirin):
'he catter and can)s! the sho$ts and sta%pin)s ceased: Meno( heard the o1 %$r%$r of %en4s +oices on
the steps as Do%ic& and the t1o 5o$rne(%en ret$rned:
=Granted that (o$r eft hand 1on4t do octa+e stretches (et!= Do%ic& said! addressin) Meno( b$t %ore as if
he 1ere contin$in) a con+ersation be)$n 1ith the t1o 5o$rne(%en! =ho1 %$ch harp instr$ction did /etiron )i+e
(o$;=
=,e had one s%a foor harp! sir! b$t 1e4d s$ch a desperate ti%e )ettin) ne1 1ire! so I sort of earned
to : : :=
=I%pro+ise;= as&ed Sebe! e<tendin) his harp to her:
She than&ed hi% and poite( proffered the )itar in its pace! 1hich he! 1ith e7$a( )ra+e co$rtes(!
accepted:
Do%ic& had been riffin) thro$)h %$sic on the she+es and bro$)ht o+er another score! 1orn and faded in
spots b$t e)ibe eno$)h! he said! for the p$rpose:
Meno( r$bbed her fin)ertips e<peri%enta(: She4d ost %ost of the harp-strin) ca$ses! and her fin)ers
1o$d be sore b$t perhaps : : : She oo&ed $p at Do%ic& and recei+in) per%ission! p$c&ed an arpe))io: Sebe4s
harp 1as a 5o( to $se! the tone sin)in) thro$)h the fra%e! hed bet1een her &nees! i&e i7$id so$nd: She had to
shift her fin)ers a1&1ard( to %a&e the octa+e r$n: Despite the fact that her scar %ade her 1ince %ore than
once! she beca%e so 7$ic&( in+o+ed in the %$sic that the disco%fort co$d be i)nored: She 1as a bit started
1hen she reached the finae to reaize that the others had been pa(in) aon) 1ith her:
=In the so1 section!= she as&ed! =is the %a5or se+enth chord accented thro$)ho$t; 'he notation doesn4t
sa(:=
=6hether it is or not %$st 1ait for another da(!= Do%ic& said! fir%( ta&in) the harp fro% her and handin)
it bac& to Sebe: =Yo$4 i+e to pa( harp another ti%e! Meno(: No %ore no1:= ,e t$rned her eft hand o+er
so she 1as forced to notice that the scar had spit and 1as beedin) si)ht( fro% the tear:
=.$t : : :=
=.$t : : := Do%inic& interr$pted her %ore )ent( than he $s$a( spo&e! =it4s ti%e to eat: E+er(one has to eat
so%eti%e! Meno(:=
'he( 1ere a )rinnin) at her and! e%bodened b( the rapport she4d had 1ith the% d$rin) their practice! she
s%ied bac&: No1 she s%eed the aro%a of roasted %eat and spices and 1as %id( astonished to fee her
sto%ach ch$rnin) 1ith h$n)er: 'o be s$re! she hadn4t eaten %$ch at the cot! 1ith e+er(one )arin) at her so:
So%e of her eation 1ith the %ornin)4s satisf(in) 1or& 1as da%pened b( the reaization that she4d ha+e to
sit 1ith the )irs: .$t that 1as a s%a be%ish on the peas$re of the ho$rs )one past: 'o her s$rprise! ho1e+er!
there 1ere no )irs at the hearth tabe! and the )reat %eta doors of the ,a 1ere oc&ed ti)ht! the 1indo1s
sh$ttered! the dinin) ha it b( the )reat centra and corner bas&ets of )o1s; in so%e obsc$re 1a(! the ha
oo&ed %ore friend( than she4d seen it before:
E+er(one ese 1as seated! tho$)h her 7$ic& )ance did not sho1 Master Robinton to be in his c$sto%ar(
pace at the ro$nd tabe: Master Morsha 1as and fro1ned at her $nti Master Do%ic& )a+e her a sho+e to1ard
her pace as he dre1 o$t his o1n chair: Sebe and 'a%or see%ed in no 1a( abashed as the( 1ent ate to the
o+a 5o$rne(%en4s tabes: .$t Meno( fet %ore conspic$o$s than e+er as she 1a&ed a1&1ard( to1ard the
hearth tabe: And it 1asn4t her i%a)ination? e+er( e(e in the roo% 1as on her:
=,e(! Meno(!= = said a fa%iiar +oice in a harsh b$t carr(in) 1hisper! =h$rr( $p so 1e can )et fed:= She
sa1 /ie%$r sappin) the e%pt( pace beside hi%: =See;= he said to his nei)hbor! =I tod (o$ she 1o$dn4t be
hidin) in the ,od 1ith the others:= 'hen he added! $nder the co+er of the noise of e+er(one ta&in) their seats!
=Yo$ aren4t afraid of 'hread! are (o$;=
=M( sho$d I be;= Meno( 1as bein) tr$thf$! b$t it ob+io$s( stood her in )ood credit 1ith the bo(s near
eno$)h to hear her rep(: =And I tho$)ht (o$ said (o$ 1eren4t s$pposed to sit at the )irs4 tabe;=
='he(4re not here! are the(; And (o$ said (o$ 1anted so%eone to ta& to: So here I a%:=
=Meno(;= as&ed the bo( 1ith the prot$berant e(es 1ho $s$a( sat opposite her! =do fire izards breathe
fire i&e dra)ons and )o after 'hread;=
Meno( )anced at /ie%$r to see if he 1ere bac& of the 7$estion: ,e shr$))ed innocence:
=Mine ne+er ha+e! b$t the(re (o$n):=
=I tod (o$ so! .ro(!= repied /ie%$r: =Dra)onets in the 6e(rs don4t fi)ht 'hread! and fire izards are 5$st
s%a dra)ons: Ri)ht! Meno(;=
='he( do see% to be!= she said! te%porizin) si)ht(! b$t neither debater noticed:
4'hen 1here are the( no1;= .ro( 1anted to &no1! si)ht( sneerin):
=In Master Do%ic&4s st$d(:=
'he %eat reached the% and f$rther disc$ssion 1as s$spended: 'oda( Meno( bithe( speared fo$r sices of
5$ic( %eat to her pate: She reached for bread! beatin) .ro(4s )rab for so%e: And she dished /ie%$r so%e of
the redroots! 1hich he 1asn4t )oin) to ta&e: ,e 1as %$ch too s%a not to eat proper(:
6hether it 1as /ie%$r4s co%pan( or the absence of the )irs! or both! Meno( didn4t &no1! b$t s$dden(
she 1as inc$ded in the tabe con+ersations: 'he bo(s opposite her had 7$estion after 7$estion abo$t her fire
izards? ho1 she had accidenta( disco+ered the 7$een4s c$tch in the sand; ho1 she4d sa+ed the hatchin)s fro%
destr$ction b( 'hread! ho1 she had fo$nd eno$)h food to s$pport their +oracio$s appetites; ho1 she4d dra))ed
a 1herr( fro% the %ire to pro+ide oi for her fire izards4 patch( s&ins: She sensed that the bo(s )rad$a(
beca%e reconcied to her possession of so %an( fire izards beca$se it 1as ob+io$s( no )ather da( to ta&e care
of the%: 'he( had the %ost bizarre theories abo$t fire izards and a fe1 $ns$bte 7$eries abo$t 1hen 1o$d her
7$een f( to %ate and ho1 soon 1o$d there be a c$tch and ho1 %an( in it:
='he %asters and 5o$rne(%en 1o$d )et first crac& an(ho1!= /ie%$r said! dis)r$nted:
=It o$)ht to be free choice! the 1a( the dra)ons choose their riders!= said .ro(:
=Fire izards aren4t 7$ite the sa%e as dra)ons! .ro(!= said /ie%$r! )ancin) at Meno( for s$pport: =2oo&
at 2ord Gro)he: 6hat dra)on 1o$d4+e pic&ed hi% if it had had another choice;=
'he bo(s sh$shed hi%! )ancin) ner+o$s( abo$t to see if an(one had o+erheard his indiscreet re%ar&:
='he 6e(rs ha+e contro of the fire izards an( road!= said .ro(: =Yo$ can 5$st bet the 6e(rs4re )oin) to
hand 4e% o$t 1here the(4 &eep the 2ord ,oders and Craft Masters happ(:=
Meno( si)hed for the tr$th of that s$r%ise:
=Yes! b$t (o$ can4t make a fire izard sta( 1ith (o$ if (o$4re %ean to hi%!= said /ie%$r fat(: =I heard that
2ord Meron4s disappears for da(s:=
=6here do the( )o;= as&ed .ro(:
As Meno( didn4t &no1! she 1as 5$st as )ad that the eerie so$nd! 1hich Do%ic& had said 1as the 'hread
aar%! so$nded! effecti+e( endin) the con+ersation:
='hat %eans 'hread is direct( o+er $s!= said /ie%$r! h$nchin) his sho$ders and pointin) to1ard the
ceiin):
=2oo& at that>= And .ro(4s started e<ca%ation %ade e+er(one t$rn abo$t:
On the %ante behind her 1ere ran)ed a nine fire izards! their e(es spar&in) 1ith rainbo1 refections of
intense a)itation! their 1in)s spread! taons $nsheathed: 'he( 1ere hissin)! retractin) and e<tendin) their
ton)$es as if ic&in) i%a)inar( 'hread fro% the air:
Meno( haf rose! )ancin) to1ard the ro$nd tabe: She sa1 Do%ic& noddin) per%ission to her as he! too!
)ot to his feet: ,e 1as )est$rin) to so%eone at the 5o$rne(%en4s tabes:
='he aar% chor$s 1o$d be appropriate! .r$de)an!= he caed as he crossed to the hearth! a 1ar( e(e on the
fire izards:
Meno( %otioned to .ea$t(! b$t the itte 7$een i)nored her! risin) to her ha$nches and startin) to &een a
piercin) series of notes! $p and do1n an a%ost ina$dib( hi)h octa+e: 'he others 5oined her:
=For the sa&e of o$r ears! Meno(! can (o$ )et (o$r creat$res to sin) 1ith the chor$s no1; .r$de)an!
1here4s (o$r beat;=
Feet be)an to sta%p! one! t1o! three! fo$r! and s$dden( the fire izards4 &een 1as co+ered b( the %ass
chor$s: .ea$t( fanned her 1in)s in s$rprise! and Mi%ic bac&1in)ed hi%sef off the %ante! on( %issin) a
drop to the foor b( ca1s bitin) into the 1ood:
=Dr$%%er! beat! and piper! bo1!
,arper! stri&e! and sodier! )o : : :
san) the %assed +oices: Meno( 5oined in! sin)in) direct( to the fire izards: She 1as a1are of .r$de)an!
then Sebe and 'a%or co%in) to stand beside her! b$t facin) the bo(s: .r$de)an directed! c$ein) in the parts!
the descant on the refrain: Abo+e the %ae +oices! p$re and piercin)( thriin)! ran) the fire izards4 tone!
1ea+in) their o1n har%onies abo$t the %eod(:
'he ast tri$%phant note echoed thro$)h the corridors of the ,arper ,a: And fro% the door1a( to the
o$ter ha! there ca%e a si)h of peas$re: Meno( sa1 the &itchen dr$d)es! an $tter( entranced Ca%o a%on)
the%! standin) there! e+er( face 1reathed 1ith s%ies:
=I4d sa( that a rendition of 4Moreta4s Ride4 %i)ht be in order! if (o$ thin& (o$r friends 1o$d obi)e $s!=
.r$de)an said! 1ith a si)ht bo1 to Meno( and a )est$re to ta&e his pace:
.ea$t(! as if she $nderstood 1hat had been said! )a+e a co%pacent chirp! bin&in) the first ids across her
e(es so that those nearest a$)hed: 'hat started her! and she fanned her 1in)s as if scodin) the% for
i%p$dence: 'hat pro%pted %ore a$)hter! b$t .ea$t( 1as no1 1atchin) Meno(:
=Gi+e the beat! Meno(!= said .r$de)an! and beca$se his %anner indicated that he e<pected her obedience!
she raised her hands and s&etched the ti%e:
'he chor$s responded at the $pstro&e! and she e<perienced a c$rio$s sense of po1er as she reaized that
these +oices 1ere hers to direct: .ea$t( ed the fire izards in another dizz( ci%b of so$nd! b$t the( san) the
%eod(! octa+es abo+e the baritones 1ho introd$ced the first stanza of the .aad! to the %$ted h$%%in) of the
other parts: 'he baritones! Meno( fet! 1ere not rea( 1atchin) her? she si)naed for %ore intensit( beca$se!
after a! the .aad tod of a tra)ed(: 'he sin)ers )a+e %ore depth to their part: Meno( had often ed the
e+enin) sin)s at the ,af-Circe Sea ,od! so cond$ctin) 1as not ne1 to her: It 1as the 7$ait( of the sin)ers!
their responsi+eness to her si)nas! that %ade as %$ch difference as cha& fro% cheese:
Once the baritones had finished tein) of the dread sic&ness in the and! 1hich had str$c& 1ith incredibe
speed across the breath of /ern! the f$ chor$s 7$iet( introd$ced the refrain! of Moreta sec$ded 1ith her
7$een! Orith! 1ho is abo$t to c$tch in Fort 6e(r! 1hie the heaers fro% a hods and 6e(rs tr( to isoate the
for% of the disease and find a c$re: 'he tenors ta&e $p the narration! 1ith increasin) intensit(! the basses and
baritones e%phasizin) the pi)ht of the and! herdbeasts eft $ntended! 1herries brea&in) into crops as hoders!
crafters! dra)onfo& ai&e are cons$%ed b( the dread fe+er:
A bass sin)s the soo of Capia%! Masterheaer of /ern! 1ho isoates the iness and s$))ests its c$re: 'hose
dra)onriders 1ho are sti abe to sta( on their beasts! f( to the rain forests of Nabo and Ista! to find and dei+er
to Capia% the a-i%portant seeds that contain the c$re! so%e riders d(in) 1ith the effort as the( co%pete their
tas&:
A diao)$e bet1een baritone! Capia%! and the soprano; Moreta 1as s$n)! Meno( 1as on( +a)$e(
co)nizant! b( /ie%$r: E<cite%ent b$ids as Moreta! once Orith has c$tched! is the on( heath( dra)onrider at
the Fort and one of the fe1 i%%$ne to the disease: It is $p to her to dei+er the %edicine: Moreta! p$shin)
hersef and her 7$een to the i%its of their end$rance! fies bet"een fro% hod to hod! craftha to cot! fro%
6e(r to 6e(r: 'he fina +erse! a dir)e 1ith &eenin) descant! this ti%e so appropriate( rendered b( the fire
izards that Meno( 1a+ed the h$%ans sient! ended in the sorro1f$ fare1e of a 1ord to its heroines as
Orith! the d(in) Moreta on her bac&! see&s the obi+ion of bet"een#
S$ch a deep sience foo1ed the soft fina chord that Meno( shoo& off the spe of the son) 1ith diffic$t(:
I 1onder if 1e co$d e+er repeat that a)ain!= .r$de)an said so1(! tho$)htf$(! after a f$rther %o%ent of
a%ost $nend$rabe sience: A si)h of reease fro% the thra of the %$sic spread thro$)h the ha:
=It4s the fire izards!= said the +er( soft +oice of the $s$a( i%p$dent /ie%$r:
=Yo$4re ri)ht! /ie%$r!= .r$de)an repied! considerin) the s$))estion! and there 1as a %$r%$r of assent
fro% the others:
Meno( had ta&en a seat! her &nees sha&in) and her insides )ripped b( a rh(th%ic sh$dderin): She too& a
sip of the &ah re%ainin) in her c$p; cod or not! it heped:
=Meno(! do (o$ thin& the(4d sin) i&e that a)ain;= .r$de)an as&ed! droppin) to the bench beside her:
Meno( bin&ed at hi%! as %$ch beca$se she hadn4t had ti%e to reco+er fro% the e<traordinar( e<perience
of directin) a trained )ro$p as beca$se he! as 5o$rne(%an! 1as as&in) the ad+ice of the ne1est arri+a in the
,arper Craft ,a:
='he( san) fine 1ith %e (esterda(! sir!= said /ie%$r: 'hen he )i))ed: =Meno( tod Master Shona)ar that
it4s hard to &eep 4e% 7$iet 1hen (o$ don$t 1ant 4e% sin)in): Ri)ht! Meno(;= /ie%$r chorted a)ain! a his
i%p$dence re+i+ed: ='hat4s 1hat happened the other %ornin)! sir! 1hen (o$ didn4t &no1 1ho 1as sin)in):=
'o Meno(4s reief! .r$de)an a$)hed hearti(! e+ident( reconcied: Meno( %ana)ed a sh( and
apoo)etic s%ie for that $nto1ard incident! b$t the chor$s eader 1as 1atchin) the fire izards no1: 'he( 1ere
preenin) their 1in)tips or )ancin) abo$t the roo% at a the peope! obi+io$s to the sensation the( had 5$st
ca$sed:
=/retties sin) prett(!= said Ca%o! appearin) beside Meno( and .r$de)an! a pitcher of stea%in) &ah in one
hand: ,e po$red so%e into each e%pt( c$p! and then Meno( noticed that the drin& 1as bein) ser+ed
thro$)ho$t the ha:
=Yo$ i&ed their sin)in)! eh! Ca%o;= as&ed .r$de)an! ta&in) a 5$dicio$s sip fro% his %$): =Sin) hi)her
than /ie%$r here! and he4s )ot the best +oice 1e4+e had in %an( a '$rn: As if he didn4t &no1 it:= .r$de)an
reached across the tabe to r$ffe /ie%$r4s hair:
=/retties sin) a)ain;= as&ed Ca%o painti+e(:
='he( can sin) an( ti%e the( i&e for a of %e!= .r$de)an repied! noddin) to Meno(: =.$t ri)ht no1! I
1ant to )et so%e practice done: 6e4+e that bi) chorae 1or& to poish proper( before 2ord Gro)he4s
entertain%ent:= 6ith a si)h! he p$shed hi%sef to his feet and tapped an e%pt( &ah pot for sience: =Don4t stop
the% if the( fee i&e sin)in)! Meno(!= he added! incinin) his head to1ard the fire izards: =No1 then! (o$ ot:
6e4 be)in 1ith the tenor soo! Fesna! if (o$ pease : : := And .r$de)an pointed to one of the 5o$rne(%en 1ho
rose to his feet:
2istenin) to the rehearsa 1as not 7$ite the sa%e in+o+in) e<perience as directin): 'hen! Meno( had fet
hersef to be an e<tension of the chora )ro$p: No1 she fo$nd it ob5ecti+e( interestin) to obser+e .r$de)an4s
direction! and to thin& 1hat she 1o$d do 1ith the sa%e passa)es: Abo$t the ti%e she decided that he 1as an
e<ceedin)( ce+er director! she reaized that she4d been settin) hersef in co%parison 1ith a %an in e+er( 1a(
s$perior in e<perience and trainin):
Meno( a%ost a$)hed ao$d: Yet! she refected! this 1as 1hat ife sho$d be in a ,arper ,a? %$sic!
%ornin)! noon! afternoon and e+enin): She co$dn4t ha+e eno$)h of it! and (et! she co$d no1 see the o)ic of
afternoons spent on other chores: ,er fin)ertips ached fro% the harp strin)s! and her scar fet hot and p$sed:
She %assa)ed her hand! b$t that 1as too painf$: She4d eft the 5ar of n$%b1eed in the cot! 1hich %eant she4d
ha+e to 1ait $nti after 'hreadfa to )et ease%ent: She 1ondered if the )irs &ne1 1hat 1ent on in the ,arper
,a d$rin) 'hreadfa: ,adn4t /ie%$r said the( 1ere $p at the ,od d$rin) Fa; She shr$))ed; she 1as far
happier to be here:
Once %ore the eerie aar% c$t thro$)h other so$nds: .r$de)an abr$pt( ended the practice! than&in) his
chor$s %e%bers for their attention and hard 1or&: 'hen he stood bac& poite( as a ta oder 5o$rne(%an
1a&ed 7$iet( to the firepace! raisin) his hands $nnecessari( for attention:
=E+er(one re%e%bers his d$ties no1;= 'here 1as a %$r%$r of assent: =Good: As soon as the doors are
open! 5oin (o$r sections: 6ith $c& and Fort 6e(r4s $s$a efficienc(! 1e4 be bac& in the ,a b(
s$pperti%e : : :=
=I4+e %eatros for the o$tside cre1s!= anno$nced Si+ina! standin) $p at the ro$nd tabe: =Ca%o! ta&e the
tra( and stand b( the door>=
A second 1eird hootin)! and then the can) and rin) of %eta and a pondero$s crea&in)! Meno( haf
1ished that she 1ere in a position to see the ,a doors 1or&in) as i)ht be)an to food the o$ter ha1a(: A
cheer 1ent $p! and the bo(s s$r)ed to1ard the entrance! so%e )oin) across the tide to ta&e %eatros fro%
Ca%o4s patient( hed tra(:
'hen the dinin) ha sh$tters can&ed bac&! the afternoon s$ni)ht an assa$t on e(es acc$sto%ed to the
softer i$%ination fro% )o1 bas&ets:
=,ere the( co%e> ,ere the( co%e>= rose the sho$t! and the fo1 to1ard the door beca%e a scra%be! despite
the atte%pts of %asters and 5o$rne(%en to &eep an order( pace:
=6e can see as 1e fro% the 1indo1s! Meno(: Co%e on>= /ie%$r t$))ed at her see+e:
'he fire izards reacted to the e<cite%ent! strea&in) thro$)h the open 1indo1s: Meno( sa1 the spira of
dra)ons descendin) in 1in)s to the )ro$nd be(ond the ,a co$rt(ard: 'r$( the( %ade a %a)nificent si)ht: 'he
s&( see%ed to be as co))ed 1ith dra)ons as 5$st recent( it %$st ha+e been 1ith 'hread: 'he bo(s et o$t a
cheer! and Meno( sa1 the dra)onriders iftin) their ar%s in response to the h$rra(> She %i)ht ha+e ost her
fear of 'hread! of bein) ca$)ht o$t hodess! b$t she 1o$d ne+er ose that ift of heart at the si)ht of the )reat
dra)ons 1ho protected a /ern fro% the ra+a)es of 'hread:
=Meno(>=
She 1hired at the so$nd of her na%e and sa1 Si+ina standin) there! a si)ht fro1n creasin) her 1ide
forehead: For the first ti%e since %ornin)! Meno( 1ondered 1hat she had done 1ron) no1:
=Meno(! has nothin) been for1arded to (o$ fro% .enden 6e(r in the 1a( of cothes; I &no1 that Master
Robinton dra))ed (o$ o$t of there 1ith scant ti%e to asse%be (o$rsef : : :=
Meno( co$d sa( nothin)! reaizin) that D$nca had co%pained abo$t her tattered tro$sers to Si+ina: 'he
head1o%an 1as )i+in) her cothes a &een scr$tin(:
=6e! for once!= and Si+ina4s ad%ission 1as )r$d)in)! =D$nca is ri)ht: Yo$r cothes are 1orn to the 1oof:
Can4t ha+e that: Yo$4 )i+e the ,arper Craft a bad na%e! 1anderin) abo$t in ra)s! ho1e+er attached to the%
(o$ %a( be:=
=Si+ina! I : : :=
=Great shes! chid! I4% not an)r( 1ith (o$>= And Si+ina too& Meno(4s chin fir%( in her hand and %ade
her oo& e(e to e(e: =I4% f$rio$s 1ith %(sef for not thinking/ Not to %ention )i+in) that D$nca a chance to
snipe at (o$> On( don4t )o repeatin) that, pease! for D$nca4s $sef$ to %e in her o1n 1a(: Not that (o$ ta&
%$ch an(ho1: ,a+en4t heard (o$ p$t t1o sentences to)ether (et: 'here no1> 6hat ha+e I said to distress (o$;
Yo$ 5$st co%e aon) 1ith %e:= And Si+ina too& Meno( fir%( b( the ebo1 and %arched her to1ard the
co%pe< of stora)e roo%s at the bac& of the ,arper ,a on the &itchen e+e:
='here4s been so %$ch e<cite%ent these da(s! I ha+en4t an( %ore 1it abo$t %e than Ca%o: .$t then! e+er(
apprentice is s$pposed to co%e 1ith t1o decent sets of cothin)! ne1 or near( ne1! so it ne+er occ$rred to %e:
And (o$ ha+in) co%e fro% .enden 6e(r! I tho$)ht : : : tho$)h (o$ 1eren4t there on) eno$)h! no1! 1ere
(o$;=
=Feena )a+e %e the s&irt and t$nic! and the( too& %( %eas$re for boots : : :=
=And Master Robinton thre1 (o$ a-dra)onbac& before (o$ co$d sa( a 1ord: 6e no1! et4s 5$st see!= and
Si+ina $noc&ed a door! fipped open a )o1 bas&et to i$%inate a storeroo% stac&ed fro% foor to ceiin) 1ith
bots of coth! cothin)! boots! hides %ade or $nc$t! seepin) f$rs and ros of tapestries and r$)s: She )a+e
Meno( another appraisin) oo&! t$rnin) her fro% side to side: =6e4+e %ore that4s s$itabe for bo(s and %en
fro% the 6ea+er and 'anner ,as : : :=
=I4d rea( prefer tro$sers:=
Si+ina ch$c&ed &ind(: =Yo$4re an&( eno$)h to 1ear the% 1e! I %$st sa(! and since (o$4re to be $sin)
an instr$%ent! tro$sers 1i be handier than s&irts: .$t (o$ o$)ht to ha+e so%e finer(! chid: It does ift the
spirit and there4re )athers : : := She 1as sortin) thro$)h foded s&irts of bac& and bro1n! 1hich she repaced
disdainf$(: =No1 this : : := and she p$ed o$t a bot of rich! dar& red fabric:
='hat4s too fine for %e : : :=
=Yo$4d ha+e %e dress (o$ in dr$d)es4 coors; E+en the( ha+e so%ethin) )ood>= Si+ina 1as scornf$: =Yo$
%a( not be pro$d in (o$rsef! Meno(: In point of fact! (o$r %odest( has done (o$ )reat ser+ice! b$t (o$ 1i
&ind( consider the chan)e in (o$r circ$%stances: Yo$4re not the (o$n)est chid in a fa%i( of an isoated Sea
,od: Yo$4re an apprentice harper! and [email protected]+ina tapped her chest s%art( 1ith her fin)[email protected]=ha+e
appearances to %aintain: Yo$ 1i dress (o$rsef as 1e as! and if I4+e %( 1a(! better than! those
f$%be-fin)ered fe%aes! or those %$sica %id)ets 1ho 1i ne+er be %ore than senior apprentices or +er(
5$nior 5o$rne(%en: No1! a rich red 1i beco%e (o$: Ah! (es! this 1i s$it (o$ 1e!= she said hodin) the red
$p a)ainst Meno(4s sho$der: =3nti I can ha+e that %ade $p! tro$s 1i ha+e to do!= and she hed $p a pair of
dar& b$e hide pants to Meno(4s 1aist: =Yo$4re a e): And here:= She sho+ed a pair of cose1o+en b$e-)reen
tro$sers at Meno(: ='his sho$d %atch the eather pants! and it does!= she said tossin) to Meno( a dar& b$e
5er&in: =/$t that ot on the chest there and tr( on this 1herhide 5ac&et: Yes! that4s not too bad a fit! is it; ,ere4s a
hat and )o+es: And t$nics: No1 these!= and fro% another chest Si+ina e<tracted breast bands and $nderpants!
snortin) as she passed the% to Meno(: =D$nca 1as 7$ite incensed that (o$4d no $nderthin)s at a:= Si+ina4s
a%$se%ent ended as she sa1 Meno(4s face: =6h(e+er are (o$ oo&in) so stric&en; .eca$se (o$ 1ore (o$r
$nderthin)s o$t; Or beca$se D$nca4s pried into (o$r affairs; Yo$ can4t honest( be 1orried 1hat that fat od
foo thin&s or sa(s or does; Yes! (o$ can and (o$ are and (o$ 1o$d>=
Si+ina p$shed Meno( bac&1ard $nti she sat abr$pt( on the chest behind her 1hie Si+ina! hands on her
hips! re)arded her 1ith a c$rio$s( intense e<pression:
=I thin&!= said Si+ina so1(! in a +er( )ente +oice! =that (o$ ha+e i+ed too %$ch aone: And not 5$st in
that ca+e: And I thin& (o$ %$st ha+e been terrib( bereft 1hen od /etiron died: ,e see%s to ha+e been the on(
one in (o$r ,od 1ho $nderstood 1hat4s in (o$: 'ho$)h 1h( he eft it so on) to te Master Robinton I si%p(
don4t $nderstand: 6e! in a 1a( I do! b$t that4s neither here nor there: One thin) certain! (o$4re not sta(in) on
in that cot: Not another ni)ht : : :=
=Oh! b$t [email protected]=
=Don4t 4oh b$t Si+ina4 %e!= the 1o%an said sharp(! b$t her e<pression 1as %oc&in)! not stern: =Don4t thin&
I4+e %issed /ona4s itte tric&s! or D$nca4s: No! the cot is the 1ron) pace for (o$: I tho$)ht so 1hen (o$ first
arri+ed! b$t there 1ere other reasons for p$n&in) (o$ there at first: So 1e4 ta&e the on) +ie1! as sho$d be
done! and shift (o$ here: Odi+e doesn4t 1ant (o$ on (o$r feet so %$ch! and s$re as Fa4 co%e a)ain! the fire
izards are as $nhapp( at D$nca4s as she is to ha+e the%: 'he od foo> No! Meno(!= and no1 Si+ina 1as
an)r( 1ith Meno(! =it is not (o$r fa$t> .esides 1hich! as a f$ harper apprentice! (o$ rea( ha+en4t an(thin)
to do 1ith the pa(in) st$dents: F$rther! (o$ o$)ht to be near those fire izard e))s $nti the( hatch: So! (o$4re
sta(in) here in the ,a> And that4s the end of the %atter:= Si+ina )ot to her feet: =2et4s 5$st )ather these cothes!
and 1e4 sette (o$ ri)ht no1: .ac& in the roo% (o$ had the first ni)ht: It4s hand( to the ,arper4s and [email protected]=
='hat4s %$ch too )rand a pace for %e>=
Si+ina )a+e her a dro oo&: =I co$d! of co$rse! %o+e a the f$rnit$re o$t! ta&e do1n the han)in)s! and
)i+e (o$ an apprentice4s cot and a fod stoo : : :=
=I4d fee better abo$t it : : :=
Si+ina stared at her so that Meno( bro&e off! f$stered:
=6h(! (o$ n$%b1it: Yo$ thin& I %eant that;=
=Didn4t (o$; .eca$se the thin)s in that roo% are far too +a$abe for an apprentice:= Si+ina 1as sti starin)
at her: =,a+in) nine fire izards is ca$sin) eno$)h tro$be: 'he roo% 1o$d be 5$st )rand! and if I4+e on( the
f$rnishin)s of an( other apprentice! 1h(! that4s proper! isn4t it;=
Si+ina )a+e her one %ore on)! appraisin) oo&! sha&in) her head and a$)hin) to hersef:
=Yo$4re ri)ht! (o$ &no1: 'hen none of the others co$d 7$ibbe abo$t the chan)e: .$t an apprentice4s cot is
narro1! and (o$4+e the fire izards to consider:=
='1o apprentice cots; If (o$ ha+e the% to [email protected];=
=Done> 6e4 tie the e)s to)ether and heap the r$shes hi)h:=
6hich is 1hat the( did: 6itho$t the rich han)in)s and hea+( f$rnit$re! the cha%ber 1as echoin)( e%pt(:
Meno( insisted that she didn4t %ind; b$t Si+ina said it 1asn4t $p to her beca$se 1ho 1as head1o%an in this
,a; ,an)in)s that Si+ina had re%o+ed for shabbiness 1ere reco+ered fro% stora)e! and Meno( 1as tod
that she co$d %end the% 1hen she had free ti%e: Se+era s%a r$)s 1ere spread on the foor: A on) tabe
fro% the apprentices4 st$d( J1ith a e) %ended after bein) da%a)ed in a bra1K! a bench and a s%a press for
stora)e )a+e the roo% so%e ho%e(ness: Si+ina said that the pace oo&ed heartess( pain b$t certain( no one
co$d fa$t it for not dispa(in) an apprentice4s o1( state:
=No1 then! that4s setted: Yes! /ie%$r! (o$ 1ere oo&in) for %e;=
=No! Si+ina: It4s Meno( I4% after: For Master Shona)ar: She4s dead ate for her esson:=
=Nonsense! there4re no re)$ar essons on a 'hreadfa da(: ,e sho$d &no1 that as 1e as an(one!= Si+ina
said! ta&in) Meno( b( the ar% as she started to ea+e the roo%:
='hat4s 1hat I tod hi%! Si+ina!= said /ie%$r! )rinnin) fro% ear to ear! =b$t be as&ed %e 1hen had Meno(
been assi)ned to a section: And! of co$rse! I &no1 she hasn4t! so he said that she4d ha+e nothin) better to do 1ith
her ti%e so she4d better earn so%ethin) constr$cti+e: So : : := And /ie%$r shr$))ed his hepessness in the face
of s$ch o)ic:
=6e! )ir! (o$4d better )o then: 6e4re a setted here an(1a(: And (o$! /ie%$r! (o$ pop o+er to D$nca4s:
As& A$di+a! poite(! too! (o$ i%p! to b$nde $p Meno(4s thin)s : : : inc$din) the s&irt and t$nic Meno(
1ashed toda(: 6hat ese did (o$ ha+e there! Meno(;=
Si+ina s%ied as if she &ne1 perfect( 1e that Meno( 1as )ratef$ not to ha+e to ret$rn to the cot:
=Master #erint has %( pipes so there4s on( the %edicines:=
=Off 1ith (o$! /ie%$r! and %ind (o$ %a&e s$re it4s A$di+a:=
=I4d4+e as&ed for her an(ho1! Si+ina>=
=.od as brass (o$ are!= Si+ina caed after hi% as he sca%pered do1n the steps: =A )ood ad at heart:
Yo$4+e heard hi% sin); ,e4s (o$n)er than I i&e to ha+e the% in the ,a! b$t he does hod his o1n! rasca that
he is! and 1here ese sho$d he be 1ith a )orio$s trebe +oice i&e that; /antin) t$bers or herdin) the beasties;
No! for s$ch ori)inas as /ie%$r and (o$rsef! (o$4re better here: Off 1ith (o$ no1! before Master Shona)ar
starts beo1in): 6e don4t rea( need a ca<on 1ith hi% in the ,a! so 1e don4t:=
Si+ina had 1a&ed Meno( do1n the steps and no1 )a+e her a )ente sho+e to1ard the open ,a doors as
she t$rned to1ard the &itchen: Meno( 1atched her for a %o%ent! s$ff$sed b( an inartic$ate )ratit$de and
affection for Si+ina4s $nderstandin): 'he 1o%an 1asn4t at a i&e /etiron! and (et Meno( &ne1 that she co$d
)o to Si+ina! as she had to /etiron! 1hen she 1as perpe<ed or in diffic$ties: Si+ina 1as i&e : : : i&e a stor%
anchor: Meno(! trottin) obedient( across the (ard to Master Shona)ar! s%ied at s$ch a sea%an( %etaphor
for a andbo$nd 1o%an:
Master Shona)ar did roar and beo1 and carr( on! b$t! b$o(ed b( Si+ina4s co$rtesies! Meno( too& the
beratin) in sience $nti he %ade her pro%ise faithf$( that 1hate+er ese happened to her d$rin) the %ornin)
ho$rs! the afternoon 1as his: Other1ise he4d ne+er %a&e a sin)er of her: So she 1as to report to hi%! pease and
than& (o$! thro$)h Fa! fo) or fire! for ho1 ese 1as she to be a credit to his s&i or the Craft ,a that had
been peased to e<hibit its secrets for her edification and ed$cation;
Chapter F
)on$t leave me alone/
A cry in the night,
6f anguish heart-striking,
6f soul- killing fright#
'he restessness of the fire izards abo$t her 1o&e Meno( fro% a deep seep: She 1ished irritab( that the(
didn4t insist on seepin) 1ith her; it had been an e<citin) and tr(in) da(! and she4d had a hard eno$)h ti%e
)ettin) to seep: ,er hand ached so fro% the da(4s pa(in) that she4d had to sather the scar 1ith n$%b1eed to
d$ the pain: .ea$t(4s tai t1itched +ioent( a)ainst Meno(4s ear: She n$d)ed the itte 7$een! hopin) to stir
her o$t of 1hate+er drea% dist$rbed her: .$t .ea$t( 1as a1a&e! not drea%in)? her e(es! (eo1 and 1hirin)
1ith an<iet(: A the fire izards 1ere a1a&e and $n$s$a( aert in the dar& of the ni)ht:
Seein) that Meno(4s e(es 1ere open! .ea$t( crooned! a haf-fearf$! haf-1orried so$nd: Roc&( and Di+er
%inced $p Meno(4s e)s and cro$ched on her sto%ach! e<tendin) their heads to1ard her: 'heir e(es! too! 1ere
1hirin) 1ith the speed and shade of fear: 'he rest! c$ddin) cose a)ainst her! crooned for co%fort:
/roppin) hersef $p on one ebo1! Meno( peered to1ard the open 1indo1s: She co$d 5$st distin)$ish the
Fort ,od fire hei)hts! bac& a)ainst the dar& s&(: It too& her so%e ti%e to ocate the dar& b$& of the 1atch
dra)on: ,e 1as %otioness! so 1hate+er distressed the fire izards did not apparent( concern hi%:
=6hate+er is (o$r probe%! .ea$t(;=
'he itte 7$een4s croon increased its intensit(: First Roc&(! then Di+er! added their notes: A$nties One and
'1o crept $p and n$zzed to )et $nder Meno(4s eft ar%: 2az(! Mi%ic and 3nce b$rro1ed into the f$r at her
ri)ht side! their t1ined tais atchin) fierce( onto her 1rist 1hie .ro1nie piteo$s( paced across her feet: 'he(
1ere afraid:
=6hat4s )otten into (o$;= Meno( co$dn4t for the ife of her i%a)ine an(thin) 1ithin the ,arper Craft ,a
that 1o$d %enace the%: Co+et the%! (es; in5$re the%! no:
=Sh$sh a %in$te and et %e isten:= .ea$t( and Roc&( )a+e itte sp$rtin) so$nds of fear! b$t the( obe(ed
her: She istened as hard as she co$d! b$t the on( so$nds on the ni)ht air 1ere the co%fortabe %$r%$r of
%en4s +oices and an occasiona a$)h fro% the ,a beneath her: It 1asn4t as ate as it had first see%ed to her
then! if the %asters and oder 5o$rne(%en 1ere sti chattin):
Gent( disen)a)in) tais! Meno( sipped fro% her seepin) f$rs to the 1indo1: Se+era rectan)es of i)ht
shone on the stones of the co$rt(ard! t1o fro% the Great ,a and one abo+e it! fro% Robinton4s 7$arters!
be(ond hers:
.ea$t( )a+e a 1orried cheep and fe1 to Meno(4s sho$der! 1rappin) her tai ti)ht( aro$nd the )ir4s nec&
and b$rro1in) into her hair! the sender itte bod( tre%bin): 'he others set $p an an<io$s ca%or fro% the f$rs!
so Meno( h$rried( ret$rned to the%: 'he( 1ere panic-stric&en: 'he Masterharper %i)ht not appro+e of
Si+ina4s %o+in) her into this roo% if her fire izards dist$rbed his st$dies at ni)ht: She tried to 7$iet the% 1ith
a soft son)! b$t no1 .ea$t(4s +oice rose 7$er$o$s( abo+e her $ab(: Meno( )athered a of the fire izards
a)ainst her: 'heir tais t1ined abo$t her ar%s so fir%( that she co$dn4t $se her hands to stro&e the%:
No1 she fet a conf$sed sense of i%%inent dan)er; cear( a the fire izards 1ere respondin) to a %$t$a(
e<perienced threat: Meno( fo$)ht a)ainst the panic their fear stirred in her:
=Yo$4re bein) ridic$o$s: 6hat can har% $s in the ,arper ,a;=
.ea$t( on one side! Roc&( on the other! stro&ed her face $r)ent( 1ith their heads! cheepin) in %o$ntin)
distress: 'hro$)h their to$ch and %inds! she )ot the distinct i%pression that the( 1ere reactin) to a fear be(ond
the%! be(ond the 1as! at a distance:
='hen ho1 co$d it h$rt (o$;=
S$dden( their terror er$pted in her 1ith s$ch intensit( that she cried o$t:
=Don4t>= ,er in5$nction 1as spontaneo$s: She tried to thro1 $p her ar%s to protect hersef fro% this
$n&no1n dan)er! b$t her hands 1ere izard-bo$nd: 'heir fear 1as co%pete( and $tter( hers: And!
incoherent(! she repeated the cr(! =Don4t> DON'>=
In her %ind! o$t of no1here! Meno( recei+ed an indeibe i%pression of t$rb$ence? sa+a)e! r$thess!
destr$cti+e; a press$re ine<orabe and dead(; ch$rnin) %asses of sic&! sic&( )ra( s$rfaces that hea+ed and
dipped: ,eat as %assi+e as a tida 1a+e: Fear> 'error> An inartic$ate on)in)>
A screa%! heard in her %ind! a screa% i&e a &nife $pon ra1 ner+es>
=DON4' 2EA*E ME A2ONE>=
Meno( didn4t thin& she had cried o$t: She 1as! as far as she co$d thin& sane(! certain that she hadn4t
heard the cr(! b$t she &ne1 that the 1ords had been spo&en at the e<tre%e of so%eone4s an)$ish:
Si%$taneo$s( the door to her roo% b$rst open! and the 1atch dra)on on the ,od fire hei)hts et o$t a
shrie& so i&e the one in her %ind that she 1ondered if the dra)on had caed before: .$t dra)on4s don4t spea&:
=Meno(> 6hat4s 1ron);= Master Robinton 1as stridin) across the foor to her: 'he fire izards too& 1in)!
dartin) o$t one 1indo1 and bac& in the ne<t! %aniaca 1ith fear:
='he dra)on>= Meno( pointed! di+ertin) Robinton4s e(es to the 1indo1! to pro+e that she 1asn4t aone in
aar%: 'he( both sa1 the 1atch dra)on a$nchin) hi%sef! rideress! into the s&(! b$)in) his distress: Robinton
and Meno( heard! on the ni)ht air! the faint echo of ans1erin) b$)es! a %o%ent of sience and then the eerie
screech of an h(sterica 1atch1her fro% the Fort ,od co$rt:
=Is e+er( 1in)ed thin) in the ,od o$t of its %ind;= as&ed Robinton: =6hat %ade (o$ screa%! Meno(;
4Don4t 1hat;=
=I don4t &no1!= Meno( cried! tears strea%in) do1n her face: She e<perienced a profo$nd )rief no1 and
h$))ed hersef a)ainst the chi of an a1e-fied panic she co$dn4t e<pain and (et had e<perienced so
profo$nd(: =I 5$st don4t &no1:=
Robinton d$c&ed as .ea$t(! eadin) the others! s1ooped past hi% and o$t the 1indo1: 'he 7$een 1as
screa%in) at the others to foo1: Meno( sa1 the% o$tined brief( b( the i)ht of the Masterharper4s 1indo1
and then the entire fair disappeared: .efore Meno(! fri)htened for fear the fire izards had )one co%pete(
fro% her! co$d te Master Robinton! Do%ic& ca%e char)in) into the roo%:
=Robinton! 1hat4s )oin) [email protected]=
=C$iet! Do%ic&>= 'he Masterharper4s stern +oice interr$pted: =6hate+er has fri)htened Meno( has aso
aar%ed the 1atch dra)on! and e+en the dead co$d bear that 1atch1her4s ho1in): F$rther%ore! the dra)on
1ent bet"een, 1itho$t his rider>=
=6hat;= Do%ic& 1as started! no on)er an)r(:
=Meno(!= said Robinton! his hands 1ar% and fir% on her sho$der! his +oice &ind( ca%! =ta&e a deep
breath: No1! ta&e another: : :=
=I can4t: I can4t: So%ethin) terribe is happenin)!= and Meno( 1as appaed at the sobs that tore at her! the
cod terror that %ade her tre%be so +ioent( in the )rip of this $n&no1n disaster: =It4s so%ethin) terribe : : :=
Others 1ere cro1din) into her roo% no1! ro$sed b( her in+o$ntar( cries: So%eone said o$d( that there
1asn4t an(thin) stirrin) in the co$rt or on an( of the roads: Another re%ar&ed that it 1as ridic$o$s to be
started o$t of a so$nd seep b( an h(sterica chid! tr(in) to attract attention:
=,od (o$r si( ton)$e! Morsha!= said Si+ina! p$shin) thro$)h the cro1d to Meno(4s bed: =.etter sti!
)et off to (o$r beds: A of (o$: Yo$4re no hep here:=
=Yes! if (o$4d pease ea+e!= said Robinton in a +oice as cose to an)er as an(one had e+er heard in hi%:
=It isn4t the e))s hatchin)! it is;= Sebe as&ed an<io$s(:
Meno( shoo& her head! str$))in) to contro hersef and to stop the spas%odic sh$dders of fear that 1ere
depri+in) her of +oice and 1it eno$)h to e<pain 1hat 1as so ine<picabe:
Si+ina 1as soothin) her: =,er hands are ice cod! Robinton!= she said! and Meno( c$n) to the 1o%an! as
Robinton sipped to the other side of the do$be cot to s$pport her sh$dderin) bod(: =And these aren4t h(sterica
tre%ors : : :=
Abr$pt( the spas%s eased! then ceased co%pete(: Meno( 1ent i%p a)ainst Si+ina! )aspin) for breath!
forcin) hersef to breathe as deep( as Robinton a)ain $r)ed her to do:
=6hate+er 1as 1ron) has stopped!= she said! spent:
Si+ina and the ,arper eased her a)ainst the bed r$shes! Si+ina dra1in) the f$r $p to her nec&:
=Did the fire izards ta&e a fit;= the head1o%an as&ed! )ancin) abo$t the no1-bri)ht roo%: ='he(4re not
here : : :=
=I sa1 the% )o bet"een# I don4t &no1 1here: 'he( 1ere so afraid: It 1as incredibe: 'here 1as nothin) I
co$d do:=
='a&e (o$r ti%e and te $s!= said the Masterharper:
=I don4t &no1 a of it: I 1o&e beca$se the( 1ere so restess: 'he( $s$a( seep 7$iet(: And the( )ot %ore
and %ore fri)htened: And there 1asn4t an(thin) : : : nothin) ::: I co$d see that : : :=
=Yes! (es! b$t so%ethin) ca$sed the% to react:= Robinton had capt$red her hand and 1as stro&in) it
reass$rin)(: ='e $s the se7$ence:=
='he( 1ere fri)htened o$t of their 1its: And it )ot to %e! too: 'hen!= and Meno( s1ao1ed 7$ic&(
a)ainst that fash of +i+id i%pression! =then! in %( %ind! I 1as a1are of so%ethin) so dan)ero$s! so terribe!
so%ethin) hea+in)! and )ra( and dead( : : : Masses of it : : : a )ra( and : : : and : : : terribe> ,ot! too: Yes! the
heat 1as part of the terror: 'hen a on)in): I don4t &no1 1hich 1as the 1orst : : := She c$tched at the
co%fortin) hands and co$d not &eep bac& the sobs of fri)ht that rose fro% her )$ts: =I 1asn4t aseep either: It
1asn4t 5$st a bad drea%>=
=Don4t ta& an(%ore! Meno(: 6e can hope the terror has passed co%pete(:=
=No! I ha+e to te (o$: 'hat4s part of it: I4% s$pposed to te: 'hen : : : I heard! on( I didn4t hear : : : e<cept
that it 1as as cear as if so%eone had sho$ted it ri)ht in this roo% : : : ri)ht inside %( head : : : I heard
so%ethin) screa%! 4Don4t ea+e %e aone>4=
'he %$sces in her bod( rea<ed a at once no1 that she had spo&en of the 1ei)ht of terror:
=4Don4t ea+e %e aone4;= 'he ,arper repeated the 1ords haf to hi%sef! p$zzin) o+er the si)nificance of
the phrase:
=It4s a )one no1: .ein) afraid! I %ean : : : and : : :=
'he fire izards s1ooped bac& into the roo%! ai%in) for the bed! b$t so%e of the% dipped and darted for the
1indo1 ed)es! a1a( fro% Master Robinton and Si+ina! t1itterin)! b$t on( 1ith s$rprise! not fear: .ea$t( and
the t1o bronzes anded on the foot of the do$be cot! chirpin) at Meno( 1ith itte cas that so$nded so
nor%a( in7$isiti+e that Meno( et o$t an e<asperated e<ca%ation:
=Don4t scod the%! Meno(!= said the Masterharper: =See if (o$ can deter%ine 1here the(4+e 5$st been:=
Meno( bec&oned to .ea$t(! 1ho obedient( cra1ed $p to her ar% and per%itted Meno( to stro&e her
head and bod(:
=She4s certain( not bothered b( an(thin) no1:=
=Yes! b$t 1here did she )o;=
Meno( raised .ea$t( to her face! oo&in) into the id( 1hirin) e(es! a(in) the bac& of her hand a)ainst
.ea$t(4s chee&: =6here4d (o$ )o! pet; 6here ha+e (o$ 5$st been;=
.ea$t( stro&ed Meno(4s hand! )a+e a s%$) chirr$p! coc&in) her daint( head to one side: .$t an
i%pression reached Meno(s %ind! of a 6e(r .o1! and %an( dra)ons and e<cited peope:
=I thin& the(4+e been bac& to .enden 6e(r: It %$st be .enden> 'he( don4t &no1 Fort 6e(r 1e eno$)h to
be that +i+id: And 1hate+er happened in+o+ed %an( dra)ons and ots of e<cited peope:=
=As& .ea$t( 1hat fri)htened her:=
Meno( stro&ed the itte 7$een4s head for a %o%ent on)er! to reass$re her! beca$se the 7$estion 1as s$re
to $pset the itte fire izard: It did: .ea$t( a$nched hersef fro% Meno(4s ar% so +ioent( that her taons
scratched deep eno$)h to dra1 bood:
=A dra)on fain) in the s&(>= Meno( )asped o$t the pict$re: =Dra)ons don4t fa in the s&(:=
=She scratched (o$! chid : : :=
=Oh! that4s nothin)! Master Robinton! b$t I don4t thin& 1e4 )et an(thin) %ore o$t of her:=
.ea$t( 1as cin)in) to the firepace! chitterin) irritab(! her e(es 1heein) an)ri( oran)e:
=If so%ethin) has happened at .enden 6e(r! Master Robinton!= re%ar&ed Si+ina in a dr( tone of +oice!
=the( 1on4t be o+eron) in sendin) for (o$:= Si+ina had to raise her +oice to co$nteract the e<cited cries of the
other fire izards! 1ho 1ere reactin) to .ea$t(4s scodin): =6e4d best not $pset the creat$res an( f$rther no1:
And I4% )ettin) (o$ a dose! (o$n) ad(! or (o$4 ne+er seep toni)ht fro% the oo& of (o$r e(es:=
=I didn4t %ean to dist$rb e+er(one : : :=
Si+ina )a+e her an e<asperated snort! dis%issin) the need for an apoo)(! atho$)h Meno( co$dn4t hep
b$t see! as Si+ina opened the door! that harpers 1ere in)erin) in the corridor: Meno( heard Si+ina beratin)
the% and tein) the% to )et off to their beds! 1hat did the( thin& the( &ne1 abo$t fire izards;
='he stran)est aspect to this incident! Meno(!= said the Masterharper! his forehead creased 1ith tho$)ht
ines! =is that the dra)on reacted! too: I4+e never seen a dra)[email protected] of a %atin) fi)[email protected])o off 1itho$t his
rider: I sho$dn4t 1onder!= and Robinton s%ied 1r((! =if 1e don4t ha+e '4edon o+er here de%andin) an
e<panation fro% (o$ for the disappearance of his dra)on:=
'he notion of a dra)onrider co%peed to as& her for ad+ice 1as so abs$rd that Meno( %ana)ed a 1ea&
s%ie:
=,o14s that hand; Yo$4+e been pa(in) a ot! I hear!= and the ,arper t$rned her eft hand o+er in his: ='hat
scar4s too red: Yo$ ha+e been doin) too %$ch: Ma&e haste a itte %ore so1(: Is it painf$;=
=Not %$ch: Master Odi+e )a+e %e so%e sa+e:=
=And (o$r feet;=
=So on) as I don4t ha+e to stand too %$ch or 1a& too4 far : : :"
='oo bad (o$r fire izards can4t co%bine to )i+e (o$ one itte dra)onpo1er:=
=Sir;=
=Yes;=
=I thin& I o$)ht to te (o$ : : : %( fire izards can ift thin)s: 'he( bro$)ht %e %( pipes the other da( : : : to
spare %e the 1a& : : := she added hasti(: ='he( too& it fro% %( roo% at the cot! a in a c$ster! and then
dropped it into %( hands>=
=No1 that is +er( interestin): I didn4t reaize the( had so %$ch initiati+e: Yo$ &no1! .re&&e! Mirri% and
F4nor ha+e )ot theirs to carr( %essa)es on a coar abo$t their nec&s : : := 'he Masterharper s%ied 1ith
a%$se%ent! =: : : tho$)h the( aren4t a1a(s )ood abo$t arri+in) pro%pt(:=
=I thin& (o$ ha+e to %a&e certain they &no1 ho1 $r)ent the %atter is:=
=2i&e ha+in) (o$r pipes for Master #erint;=
=I didn4t 1ish to be ate! and I can4t 1a& fast:=
=6e4 et that stand as the reason then! Meno(!= said Robinton )ent(! and 1hen Meno( )anced $p at
hi% started! she sa1 the &ind $nderstandin) in his e(es and f$shed: ,e stro&ed her hand a)ain: =6hat I don4t
kno", % so%eti%es )$ess! &no1in) the 1a( peope interact! Meno(: Don4t &eep so %$ch botted inside! )ir:
And do te %e an(thin) $n$s$a that (o$r fire izards do: 'hat4s far %ore i%portant than "hy the( did it: 6e
don4t &no1 %$ch abo$t these tin( co$sins of the dra)ons! and I ha+e a s$spicion the(4 be +er( i%portant
creat$res to $s:=
=Is the itte 1hite dra)on a ri)ht;=
=Readin) %( %ind! too! Meno(; 2itte R$th is a ri)ht!= b$t the ,arper4s hea+(! si)ht( hesitant tone )a+e
the ie to his reass$rance: =Don4t fret (o$rsef abo$t #a<o% and R$th: #$st abo$t e+er(one ese on /ern does:=
,e paced her hand bac& on the f$rs 1ith a fina pat:
Si+ina ret$rned! offerin) Meno( the %$) she4d bro$)ht! and stood o+er her 1hie she do1ned the dose!
)a))in) a itte at the bitterness:
=Yes! I &no1: I %ade it stron) on p$rpose: Yo$ need to seep: And Master Robinton! there4s a %essen)er
fro% the ,od for (o$ beo1: 3r)ent! he said! and he4s o$t of breath>=
=Seep (o$rsef o$t! Meno(!= the ,arper said as he rapid( eft the roo%:
='ro$be;= Meno( as&ed Si+ina! hopin) to be tod so%ethin):
=Not for (o$! or beca$se of (o$! %4)ir:= Si+ina ch$c&ed! p$shin) the seepin) f$r $nder Meno(4s chin: =I
$nderstand that Gro)he! 2ord of Fort ,od! e<penenced the sa%e $nner+in) ni)ht%are! as he cas it! that (o$
did and has sent for Master Robinton to e<pain it to hi%: No1 rest and don4t f$ss (o$rsef:=
=,o1 co$d I; Yo$ %$st ha+e do$bed that dose of feis 5$ice!= said Meno(! rea<ed and tactess in the
)rip of the dr$): She co$dn4t &eep her e(es open and effortess( drifted to seep to the so$nd of another
ch$c&e fro% Si+ina: One ast tho$)ht et her sip easi( into $nconscio$sness? 2ord Gro)he4s fire izard had
reacted! so she 1asn4t h(sterica:
She a1o&e si)ht( at one point! not 7$ite conscio$s of her s$rro$ndin)s b$t a1are of a r$%bin) +oice! a
trebe response! and h$n)r( creein)s: 6hen she 1o&e co%pete( ater! there 1as an e%pt( bo1 on the foor!
and her friends 1ere c$red $p abo$t her in s$%berin) bas! 1in)-i%p: 'he )na1in) in her sto%ach s$))ested
that she had sept 1e into the da(! and the h$n)er 1as a her o1n: If the fire izards had been that star+ed!
the(4d4+e been a1a&e: Do$btess Ca%o and /ie%$r had done her the fa+or of feedin) her friends: She )rinned;
/ie%$r and Ca%o %$st ha+e been dei)hted at the chance:
'he sh$tters 1ere open and! 1ith no so$nds of %$sic or +oices! she )$essed it %$st be afternoon and the
,a4s pop$ation dispersed to their +ario$s chores: 'he 1atch dra)on 1as bac& on the fire hei)hts:
She sat $pri)ht in bed as the %e%or( of the pre+io$s ni)ht4s terror shattered her peasant so%noence: At the
sa%e %o%ent there 1as a tap on her door! and before she co$d ans1er! Si+ina entered! carr(in) a s%a tra(:
=M( ti%in)4s +er( )ood!= she said! peased and s%iin): =Do (o$ fee rested;=
Meno( nodded in rep( and than&ed Si+ina for the hot &ah she 1as handed: =.$t! if I can be bod! (o$
don4t oo& as if (o$ sept at a:= Si+ina4s e(es 1ere dar&-circed and red-shot:
=6e! (o$4re ri)ht and (o$4re not bod! b$t I4% on %( 1a( to %( bed! I can ass$re (o$! as soon as I4+e
strai)htened $p for Robinton: No1 : : := and Si+ina n$d)ed Meno(4s hip so the )ir %ade roo% for her to sit
on the bed! =(o$ o$)ht to hear 1hat dist$rbed (o$r friends ast ni)ht: No one ese 1i thin& to te (o$ 1ith the
,arper a1a(: Aso! I4+e 5$st chec&ed the e))s! and I thin& (o$ sho$d ta&e a oo& at the% : : : Not! ho1e+er!
$nti (o$4+e finished (o$r &ah!= and Si+ina p$t a restrainin) hand on Meno(4s sho$der: =I 1ant (o$r 1its in
pace and not feis-f$dded:=
=6hat happened;=
='he bare bones of the %atter are that F4nor! bro1n Canth4s rider! too& it into his head to )o to the Red Star
ast ni)ht : : :=
Meno(4s )asp 1o&e the fire izards:
=Mind (o$r tho$)hts! )ir: I don4t 1ant the% t$rnin) h(sterica a)ain! than& (o$:= Si+ina 1aited $nti the
creat$res had setted bac& into their naps:
='hat4s 1hat see%s to ha+e set the fire izards off! at an( rate: And not 5$st (o$rs: Robinton said that an(one
1ho has a fire izard had the sa%e tro$be (o$ did! on( 1ith (o$r ha+in) nine! it 1as intensified: 6hat
happened 1as that Canth and F4nor 1ent bet"een to the Red Star : : : Yes! s%a 1onder (o$ 1ere terrified:
6hat (o$ tod $s abo$t )ra(ness and a that hideo$s heat and ch$rnin)! that4s 1hat4s on the Red Star: No one
co$d and there>= She pa$sed! )a+e a s%$) )r$nt: ='hat4 sh$t $p the 2ord ,oders for 1antin) to )o there>=
=Canth and F4nor;= Meno( fet fear stab cod( $p her throat! and she re%e%bered the screa%:
='he(4re ai+e! b$t on( 5$st: And 1hen (o$ said! 4Don4t ea+e %e aone4; 6hat (o$ heard : : : and it had to
be thro$)h (o$r fire izards : : : 1as .re&&e cain) o$t to F4nor and Canth:= Si+ina bro&e her narrati+e for
effect: =So%eho1 the( )ot bac&: 6e! part1a( bac& fro% the Red Star: It %$st ha+e been the %ost incredibe
si)ht : : := Si+ina4s tired e(es narro1ed! reconstr$ctin) that +ision: ='he reason the hod dra)on too& off 1as to
hep and Canth: It 1as i&e a path! Robinton tes $s! of dra)ons in the air! catchin) Canth and F4nor! and
bra&in) their fa: 'he( 1ere both senseess! of co$rse: Robinton sa(s there isn4t a scrap of hide eft on Canth; as
if so%e %i)ht( hand had sanded his s&in a1a(: F4nor is not %$ch better! for a he 1ore 1herhide:=
=Si+ina! ho1 co$d %( fire izards &no1 1hat 1as happenin) at .enden 6e(r;=
=Ra%oth caed the dra)ons : : : the .enden 7$een can do that! (o$ &no1: Yo$r fire izards ha+e been at
.enden 6e(r: /erhaps the( heard her! too!= Si+ina dis%issed that part of the %(ster( i%patient(:
=.$t! Si+ina! %( fire izards 1ere afraid on) before Ra%oth caed the Fort dra)on! e+en before I heard
.re&&e ca:=
=6h(! that4s ri)ht: Ah 1e! 1e4 find the ans1er to that %(ster( in d$e ti%e: 6e a1a(s do at the ,arper
,a: If dra)ons can ta& to dra)ons across distance! 1h( can4t fire izards;=
=Dra)ons thin& sense!= Meno( said! )ent( scratchin) her 1a&in) 7$een4s itte head! =and these bea$ties
don4t: At east not often:= =.abies don4t %a&e sense! and (o$r fire izards aren4t a that on) o$t of the she: .$t
thin& on it! Meno(: Ca%o doesn4t %a&e %$ch sense! b$t he does ha+e feein)s:=
=6as it he 1ho fed %( fire izards this %ornin) so I co$d seep;=
=,e and /ie%$r: Ca%o f$ssed and f$ssed before brea&fast $nti I had to send hi% $p here! 1ith /ie%$r! to
sh$t his %oans:= Si+ina4s ch$c&e 1as haf a%$se%ent! haf re%e%bered irritation: =Na)! na)! na) abo$t
4pretties h$n)r(!4 4feed pretties:4 /ie%$r said (o$ didn4t 1a&e: Did (o$;=
=No:= .$t the %atter of fire izard intei)ence 1as %ore $r)ent in Meno(4s esti%ation: =I s$ppose bein) at
.enden 6e(r %i)ht e<pain their reaction:=
=Not entire(!= Si+ina repied bris&(: =2ord Gro)he4s itte friend responded! too: It 1asn4t hatched at
.enden and has ne+er been there: 'here %a( 1e be %ore to these creat$res than bein) si( pets after a: And
%a&in) idiots of %en 1ho fanc( the%se+es as )ood as dra)onriders:=
=I4+e finished %( &ah: Sha 1e see the e))s no1;=
=Yes! b( a %eans: If his e)) sho$d hatch 1itho$t the ,arper! 1e4d ne+er hear the end of it:=
=Is Sebe abo$t;=
=,o+erin)>= Si+ina4s )ri%ace 1as so %aicio$s( e<pressi+e that Meno( a$)hed: =,o14re (o$r feet
toda(;=
=On( stiff:=
=#$st re%e%ber that that sa+e doesn4t do (o$ an( )ood in the 5ar:=
=Yes! Si+ana:=
=Don4t (o$ 4(es! Si+ina4 %e %ee&(! %4)ir!= and there 1as $ne<pected 1ar%th and affection in the 1o%an4s
tone: Meno( s%ied sh(( bac& as the head1o%an eft the roo%:
She dressed 7$ic&( in one of the ne1 t$nics and the b$e 1herhide tro$sers! p$%ped $p the r$shes in their
ba) and s%oothed the seepin) f$r o+er a:
Si+ina had 5$st finished tid(in) $p the ,arper4s roo% 1hen Meno( entered! .ea$t( 1in)in) in )racef$(
behind her: She anded on Meno(4s sho$der and! as Meno( chec&ed both e))s! peered 1ith e7$a( c$rio$s
interest: She chirped a 7$estion at Meno(:
=6e;= dra1ed Si+ina! =no1 that (o$ e<perts ha+e conferred : : :=
Meno( )i))ed: =I don4t thin& .ea$t( &no1s an(%ore than I do: She4s ne+er seen e))s hatch! b$t the( are a
)ood dea harder: 'he(4+e been &ept so nice( 1ar%: I don4t &no1 for s$re! b$t I s$spect the(4 batch at an(
ti%e no1:=
Si+ina dre1 in her breath sharp(! startin) .ea$t(: ='hat ,arper> 'he probe% 1i be &eepin) trac& of
hi%:= She )a+e the r$sh ba) a fina po&e and t1itched the seepin) f$r strai)ht: =If 2ord Gro)he!= and Si+ina
5er&ed her head to1ard the Fort ,od paisade! =isn4t sendin) for hi%! F4ar is: Or 2ord 2(to for that 1hite
dra)onet:=
=If he 1ants to I%press his fire izard! he4 ha+e to %a&e a choice! 1on4t he;=
Si+ina )aped at Meno( for a on) %o%ent and then b$rst o$t a$)hin):
=Mi)ht be the best thin) that4s happened since the 7$eens 1ere &ied!= Si+ina said! %oppin) a$)h tears
fro% her e(es: ='he %an4s had no %ore than a fe1 ho$rs seep a da(: : : := Si+ina )est$red to1ard the st$d(
roo%! fic&in) her fin)ers at the scattered pies of records! the scra1s on the sandtabe4s s$rface! the haf-e%pt(
1ine sac& 1ith its po$rin) nec& coapsed $dicro$s( to one side: =,e 1on4t %iss the I%pression of his fire
izard> .$t isn4t there so%e si)n to te if the ,atchin) is i%%inent; 'he dra)on%en can te: And 1hat the
,arper4s doin) is rea( $r)ent:=
=6hen .ea$t( and the others hatched! the od 7$een and her fi)ht h$%%ed! sort of deep in the throat : : :=
Meno( said ca$tio$s(! after a %o%ent4s tho$)ht:
Si+ina nodded enco$ra)in)(:
='his isn4t .ea$t(4s c$tch! so I don4t &no1 if she4 react! tho$)h the dra)ons at .enden 6e(r h$%%ed for
Ra%oth4s c$tch: So it see%s o)ica that the fire izards 1o$d react the sa%e 1a(:=
Si+ina a)reed: ='here4d be a si)ht inter+a in 1hich 1e co$d trac& the ,arper do1n; S$pposin) 1e can4t
)et hi% to sta( p$t here for the ne<t da( or t1o;=
Meno( hesitated! re$ctant to a)ree to a conc$sion achie+ed b( )$ess1or&:
=And the( eat an(thin) 1hen the( hatch;= as&ed Si+ina 1ho appeared content 1ith the s$pposition:
=#$st abo$t:= Meno( re%e%bered the sac& of spiderca1s! not the easiest of edibes! that had )one do1n
the throats of her ne1( hatched friends: =Red %eat is best:=
='hat 1i pease Ca%o!= Si+ina said cr(ptica(: =No1 I thin& (o$4d best sta( here: 6e! 1hat4s 1ron)
1ith that; Robinton 1o$d )i+e $p %ore than the pri+ac( of his 7$arters to ha+e a fire izard: ,e4s e+en
threatened to fore)o his 1ine: : := Si+ina had a snort for that $ni&e( sacrifice: =6e! 1hat is 1ron) 1ith
(o$;=
=Si+ina : : : it4s afternoon! isn4t it;=
=Yes! indeed:=
=I4% ped)ed to )o : : : I %$st )o : : : to Master Shona)ar: ,e 1as +er( insistent : : :=
=Oh! he 1as! 1as be; And 1i he e<pain to Master Robinton that (o$r +oice is %ore i%portant than the
,arper4s fire izard; Oh! don4t )et (o$rsef in a p$c&er: Sebe can sit in for (o$: And (o$ te (o$r fire izards to
stand b( : : := Si+ina 1a&ed to the open 1indo1 and peered do1n into the co$rt(ard: =/ie%$r> /ie%$r! as&
Sebe to step $p to the ,arpers roo%! 1i (o$; Meno(; Yes! she4s a1a&e and here: No! she can4t attend
Master Shona)ar $nti Sebe arri+es: Yes; 6e! )o thro$)h the choir ha to the 5o$rne(%en4s 7$arters and )i+e
Master Shona)ar %( %essa)e: Meno( ans1ers to Master Robinton first! %e second and then an( of the other
%asters 1ho re7$ire her attention:=
Meno( fretted abo$t Master Shona)ar4s certain 1rath 1hie Si+ina %ade her 1ait $nti /ie%$r had fo$nd
and ret$rned! at a ran! 1ith Sebe:
='he(4re hatchin);= Sebe sithered to a stop in the door1a(! breathin) hard! his face f$shed and an<io$s:
=Not 7$ite (et!= Meno( said! read( to speed to Master Shona)ar b$t $n1iin) to br$sh i%poite( past the
5o$rne(%an boc&in) the entrance:
=,o1 1i I &no1;=
=Meno( sa(s the fire izards h$%!= repied Si+ina: =Shona)ar insists on her presence no1:=
=,e 1o$d> 6here4s the ,arper;=
=At R$atha ,od b( no1! I thin&!= Si+ina said: =,e 1ent off to .enden 6e(r 1hen the dra)onrider ca%e
for hi%: ,e said he4d stop off to see Masters%ith Fandare at 'e)ar : : :=
Sebe4s e(es 1ent fro% Si+ina to Meno( in s$rprise! as if Si+ina 1ere bein) indiscreet:
=More than an( other! sa+in) (o$rsef! Meno( 1i need to &no1 ho1 %an( t$nes a harper! %$ch ess the
,arper! pa(s!= she said: =I4 send %ore &ah and : : := no1 she ch$c&ed! =ha+e Ca%o a( abo$t 1ith that
hatchet of his on the %eat:=
Meno( tod the fire izards to sta( b( Sebe! and then she sc$rried do1n the steps and across the co$rt(ard
to the chor$s ha:
Despite Si+ina4s reass$rance! Meno( 1as apprehensi+e as she %ade her tard( arri+a before Master
Shona)ar: .$t he said nothin): 'hat %ade her dereiction harder: ,e &ept oo&in) at her $nti she ner+o$s(
be)an to shift her 1ei)ht fro% foot to foot:
=I do not &no1 1hat it is abo$t (o$! (o$n) Meno(! that (o$ can disr$pt an entire Craft ,a! for (o$ are
not pres$%pt$o$s: In fact! (o$ are i%%odest( %odest: Yo$ do not bra) nor fa$nt (o$r ran& nor p$t (o$rsef
for1ard: Yo$ isten! 1hich I ass$re (o$ is a peas$re and reief! and (o$ earn fro% 1hat (o$ are tod! 1hich is
+eritab( $nheard of: I be)in to entertain hope that I ha+e fina( disco+ered! in a %ere sip of a )ir! the
dedication re7$ired of a tr$e %$sician! an artist> Yes! I %i)ht e+en coa< a rea +oice o$t of (o$r throat:= ,is fist
ca%e do1n 1ith an a%i)ht( 1aop on the sandtabe! the opposite end fappin) onto its s$pports: She 5$%ped:
=.$t e+en I cannot do %$ch if (o$ are not here/(
=Si+ina said : : :=
=Si+ina is a 1onderf$ 1o%an: 6itho$t her the ,a 1o$d be in chaos and o$r co%fort i)nored!= Master
Shona)ar said! sti in a o$d tone: =She is aso a )ood %$sician : : : ah! (o$ didn4t &no1 that; Yo$ sho$d %a&e
the occasion to isten to her sin)in)! %( dear )ir : : : .$t!= a)ain the +oice boo%ed! Master Shona)ar4s be(
bo$ncin)! atho$)h the rest of hi% see%ed stationar(! =I tho$)ht I had %ade it pain that you are to be here
"ithout fail e+er( sin)e da(>=
=Yes! sir>=
=Co%e fo)! fire or Fa> ,a+e I %ade %(sef pain eno$)h;=
=Yes! sir>=
(Then # # #( and his +oice dropped to nor%a proportions! =et $s be)in 1ith breathin) : : :=
Meno( fo$)ht the desire to )i))e: She %astered it b( breathin) deep( and then setted 7$ic&( to the
discipine of the esson:
6hen Master Shona)ar had dis%issed her 1ith a f$rther in5$nction to be on ti%e not the ne<t da(! 1hich
1as a rest da( and he needed his rest! b$t the da( foo1in)! the 1or& parties 1ere bac& fro% their chores: 'o
her s$rprise! she 1as )reeted b( %an( of the bo(s as she raced past the% to )et bac& to the fire izard e))s: She
ans1ered! s%iin)! $ns$re of na%es and faces b$t in1ard( 1ar%ed b( their reco)nition: As she too& the steps
to the hi)her e+e t1o at a ti%e! she 1ondered if the bo(s a &ne1 abo$t the pre+io$s ni)ht4s dist$rbance:
/robab(: Ne1s spreads faster in this Craft ,a than 'hread co$d b$rro1:
'he so$nds of soft )itar str$%%in) reached her ears as she )ot to the $pper ha: She so1ed do1n! o$t of
breath an(ho1! and arri+ed at the ,arper4s 7$arters sti breathin) hea+i(! %$ch as Sebe had done: ,e )anced
$p! )rinned $nderstandin)(! and hed $p a hand to reass$re her: 'hen his hand )est$red to the sandtabe: A
her fire izards 1ere there! cro$ched! 1atchin) hi%:
=I4+e had an a$dience: 6hat I can4t te is if %( %$sic has peased the%:=
=It has!= Meno( tod hi%! s%iin): She e<tended her ar% for .ea$t(! 1ho i%%ediate( )ided to her: =See!
their e(es te (o$ : : : the )reen is do%inant! 1hich is seepin) peas$re: Red %eans h$n)er! b$e and )reen are
sort of )enera shades! 1hite %eans dan)er! and (eo1 is fri)ht: 'he speed of the e(e 1hirin) tes (o$ ho1
intense( the( fee abo$t so%ethin):=
=6hat abo$t hi% then;= And Sebe pointed to 2az( 1hose e(es 1ere first-idded:
=,e4s caed 2az(bones for )ood reason:=
=I 1asn4t pa(in) a $ab(:=
=E<cept 1hen he4s h$n)r(! he4s that 1a(: ,ere!= and Meno( scooped 2az( $p fro% the sandtabe and
deposited hi% on Sebe4s ar%: Started! the %an froze: =Stro&e his e(e rid)es and the bac& 5oints of the 1in)s:
'here> See; ,e4s croonin) 1ith dei)ht:=
Sebe had obe(ed her instr$ctions! and no1 2az( coapsed abo$t the 5o$rne(%an4s forear%! oc&ed his
ca1s oose( abo$t the 1rist and stretched his head across the bac& of Sebe4s hand: Sebe caressed hi%! a sh(
and dei)hted s%ie on his face:
=I hadn4t tho$)ht the(4d be so soft to the to$ch:=
=Yo$ ha+e to 1atch for patch( s&in and oi it 1e: I did a thoro$)h 5ob on these the other e+enin)! b$t (o$
can see 1here I4 ha+e to do the% a)ain: #$st sta( there : : := And Meno( 7$ic&( 1ent do1n the ha to her
roo% for the sa+e! .ea$t( co%painin) at the 5o$ncin) on her sho$der:
As the( spread sa+e on the fire izards! Sebe )re1 %ore confident of his handin) of the creat$res: ,e
1ore a haf-s%ie! as if s$rprised to find hi%sef at s$ch a tas&:
=Do a fire izards sin);= he as&ed! oiin) .ro1nie:
=I don4t rea( &no1: I s$ppose %ine earned si%p( beca$se I $sed to sin) to the% in the ca+e:= Meno(
s%ied to hersef! re%e%berin) the fire izards perched attenti+e( on the ed)es abo$t the ca+e! their itte heads
t$rnin) fro% side to side to catch the so$nds of %$sic:
=An( a$dience bein) better than none;= as&ed Sebe: =Did an(one thin& to te (o$ that 2ord Gro)he4s itte
7$een has recent( started to sin) aon) 1ith the ,od ,arper;=
=Oh no>=
=If Gro)he co$d carr( a t$ne!= Sebe 1ent on! en5o(in) her dis%a(! =it4d be $nderstandabe: Don4t 1orr(
abo$t it! Meno(: I heard aso that Gro)he4s dei)hted:= 'hen Sebe4s e<pression atered s$bt(:
=I4 bet 2ord Gro)he 1asn4t so happ( abo$t ast ni)ht; 1as be;= she hesitated! then b$rted o$t: =Do (o$
thin& Canth and F4nor 1i i+e;=
='he( ha+e %$ch to i+e for! Meno(: .re&&e needs the% to sta( ai+e: She4s ost her 7$een aread(: She4
%a&e the% i+e: 6e4 &no1 %ore 1hen the ,arper ret$rns:=
Ca%o entered the roo%! carr(in) a hea+i( aden tra(: ,is thic&-feat$red face chan)ed fro% $dicro$s
an<iet( to bea%s of 5o( as he sa1 first the fire izards and then Meno(:
=/rett( ones h$n)r(; Ca%o! has food;= And Meno( sa1 t1o h$)e pans of %eat in pieces a%on) the other
dishes on the tra(:
='han& (o$ for feedin) the pretties this %ornin)! Ca%o:=
=Ca%o +er( 7$iet: *er( 7$iet:= 'he %an bobbed at Meno( in s$ch a fashion that the pitcher of &ah
spashed:
Sebe deft( reie+ed hi% of the tra( and set it on the sandtabe center board:
=Yo$4re a )ood %an! Ca%o!= the 5o$rne(%an said! =b$t )o to the &itchen no1: Yo$ %$st hep Ab$na: She
needs (o$:=
=/rett( ones h$n)r(;= 'he disappoint%ent 1as 1rit ar)e on Ca%o4s face:
=No! not no1! Ca%o!= Meno( said )ent(! s%iin) $p at hi%: =See! the(4re aseep:=
Ca%o t$rned hi%sef in a circe to1ard the sandtabe and then the 1indo1 ed)es 1here se+era of the fire
izards 1ere spra1ed on the s$n-1ar%ed stone! )istenin) 1ith their recent oiin):
=6e4 feed the% a)ain toni)ht! Ca%o:=
='oni)ht; Good: Don4t for)et; /ro%ise; /ro%ise; Ca%o feed pretties;=
=I pro%ise! Ca%o!= Meno( said 1ith e<tra fer+or: 'he 1istf$! piteo$s 1a( in 1hich the poor %an as&ed
her to pro%ise s$))ested that too %an( pro%ises %ade to Ca%o! 1ere con+enient( for)otten:
=No1!= Sebe said as the %an sh$ffed fro% the roo%! =Si+ina said (o$4d no ti%e for %ore than &ah 1hen
(o$ 1o&e: If I re%e%ber Shona)ar4s essons! (o$4 be star+ed:=
'o Meno(4s dei)ht! there 1as redfr$it on the tra( as 1e as %eatros! &ah! cheese! bread and a s1eet
conser+e: Sebe ate i)ht(! %ore to &eep her co%pan( than beca$se he 1as h$n)r(! tho$)h he said he4d been
st$d(in): 'o pro+e that! he ratted off the na%es and descriptions of the fish she had )i+en hi% the other
%ornin):
=Did I re%e%ber the% a correct(;= he as&ed! peerin) at her as she stared at hi% in a%aze%ent:
=Yes! (o$ did>=
='hin& I can pose as a sea%an no1;=
=If (o$ on( ha+e to na%e fish>=
=If on(: : := he pa$sed dra%atica(! %a&in) a )ri%ace for that restriction: =I had a chat 1ith a bronze
dra)onrider I &no1 at Fort 6e(r: ,e4s a)reed to ta&e $s! on the 7$iet! to an( bod( of 1ater that (o$ fee is
ade7$ate to teach %e ho1 to sai:=
='each (o$ ho1 to sai>= Meno( 1as appaed: =In one eas( esson! i&e those fish na%es;=
=No! b$t I don4t thin& I4 act$a( ha+e to sai: I sho$d &no1 the f$nda%entas and ea+e : : := he )rinned at
her! =: : : the doin) to the e<perts in the craft:=
She breathed a si)h of reief for she i&ed Sebe! and she4d been distressed to thin& that he %i)ht be
foohard( eno$)h to atte%pt saiin) on the ocean b( hi%sef: Yan$s had often said that no one e+er rea(
earned a there 1as to &no1 abo$t the sea! the 1inds and the tides: #$st 1hen one )ot confident! a s7$a co$d
%a&e $p and s%ash a ship to spinters:
=I do fee! that to be con+incin)! I4d better &no1 ho1 to )$t fish as 1e: 'hat see%s a %ore inte)ra part of
the craft than act$a saiin): So that 1i ta&e priorit( in (o$r instr$ction: N4ton said be co$d ac7$ire so%e fresh
fish for %e 1ith no probe%s:=
A)ain Meno( s$ppressed her c$riosit( as to 1h( a 5o$rne(%an harper needed to be con+ersant 1ith the
seacraft:
='o%orro14s a rest da(!= Sebe contin$ed: 4'here %a( e+en be a )ather if the 1eather hods! 1hich to %(
ands%an4s e(e! see%s i&e(: So! if the fire izards brea& she! and if 1e can disappear circ$%spect(! perhaps
so%e da( after that : : :=
=I can4t %iss %( essons 1ith Master Shona)ar : : :=
=,as he )ot (o$ ditherin) so soon;=
=,e is so e%phatic : : :=
=Yes! he $s$a( is: .$t he rea( &no1s ho1 to b$id a +oice! if that4s an( consoation to (o$: I co$d a1a(s
pa( an instr$%ent : : := and Sebe )rinned in re%iniscence! =: : : b$t I ne+er tho$)ht I4d %a&e a sin)er: I 1as
terrified I4d be sent a1a( fro% the ,a : : :=
=Yo$ 1ere;=
=Oh! indeed I 1as: I4d 1anted to be a harper since I earned %( first .aads: I4% ands%an bred! so
harperin) is +er( respectabe: M( foster father )a+e %e a the assistance I needed! and o$r ,od ,arper 1as a
)ood technician! not +er( creati+e!= and Sebe 1a))ed a hand! =b$t capabe of teachin) the f$nda%entas
thro$)h(: I tho$)ht %(sef a ri)ht proper %$sician : : : $nti I )ot here:= Sebe $ttered a sef-deprecatin) noise
at his bo(ish pretensions: ='hen I earned 5$st ho1 %$ch %ore there is to harperin) than pa(in) an instr$%ent:=
Meno( )rinned 1ith co%pete $nderstandin): =#$st i&e there4s %ore to bein) a sea%an than &no1in) ho1
to )$t a fish and tri% sai;=
=Yes: E<act(: 6hich re%inds %e! Do%ic& did e<c$se (o$ fro% this %ornin)4s session! b$t he hasn4t
e<c$sed (o$ fro% the 1or& : : : So! 1e %i)ht as 1e p$t 1aitin) ti%e to $se: Incidenta(! %( co%pi%ents on
(o$r %anner 1ith Do%ic& (esterda(: Yo$ str$c& e<act( the ri)ht note 1ith hi%:=
=I ne+er pa( fat:=
Sebe )a+e her a 1ide-e(ed stare: =I didn4t %ean! pa(in):= ,e stared at her a %o%ent %ore: =Yo$ %ean!
(o$ rea( i&e that sort of %$sic; Yo$ 1eren4t disse%bin);=
='hat %$sic 1as briiant: I4+e ne+er heard an(thin) i&e it:= Meno( 1as a bit disconcerted b( Sebe4s
attit$de:
=Oh! I )$ess it 1o$d see% so to (o$: I on( hope (o$ ha+e the sa%e opinion se+era '$rns fro% no1 after
(o$4+e had to end$re %ore of Do%ic&4s eterna search for p$re %$sica for%s:= ,e )a+e a %oc& sh$dder:
=,ere : : := and he spread o$t sheets of ne1 %$sic: =2et4s see ho1 (o$ i&e this: Do%ic& 1ants (o$ to pa( first
)itar! b$t (o$4re to earn the second as 1e:=
'he occasiona %$sic for t1o )itars 1as e<tre%e( co%pe<! s1itchin) fro% one ti%e +a$e to another! 1ith
chordin) diffic$t eno$)h for $nin5$red hands: She and Sebe had to 1or& o$t aternati+e fin)erin) for the
passa)es that her eft hand co$d not %ana)e: 'he repetiti+e the%e had to do%inate! b$t it s1$n) fro% one )itar
part to the other: 'he( had )one thro$)h t1o of the three sections before Sebe caed a brea&! a$)hin) at his
s$rrender as he stretched and &neaded tired fin)ers and sho$ders:
=6e 1on4t )et this %$sic note-perfect in one sittin)! Meno(!= he protested 1hen she 1anted to finish the
third %o+e%ent:
=I4% sorr(: I didn4t reaize : : :=
=6i (o$ stop apoo)izin) for the 1ron) thin)s;=
=I4% [email protected] 6e! I didn4t %ean to : : := She had to rephrase 1hat she 1anted to sa( as Sebe a$)hed at her
atte%pt to obe( his in5$nction: ='his sort of %$sic is a chaen)e: It rea( is: For instance here : : := and she
t$rned to a 7$ic& ti%e passa)e that had been e<tre%e( diffic$t to fin)er:
=Eno$)h! Meno(: I4% bone tired! and 1h( (o$ aren4t : : :=
=.$t (o$4re a 5o$rne(%an harper : : :=
=I &no1 b$t this 5o$re(%an harper cannot spend a his ti%e pa(in) : : :=
=6hat do (o$ do; .esides cross-craft:=
=6hate+er the ,arper needs %e to do: /ri%ari( I 5o$rne( : : : oo&in) a%on) the (o$n)sters in hod and
craft to see if there4re an( i&e( ones for the Craft ,a: I brin) ne1 %$sic to distant harpers : : : (o$r %$sic
%ost recent(@=
=M( %$sic;=
=First to f$sh (o$ o$t beca$se 1e didn4t &no1 (o$ 1ere a )ir: Second! beca$se the( 1ere e<act( the son)s
1e need:=
='hat4s 1hat Master Robinton said:=
=Don4t so$nd so s$rprised : : : and %ee&: Ad%itted( it4s nice to ha+e one %odest apprentice in this co%pan(
of ra%pant e<tro+erts : : : 1hat4s the %atter;=
=6h( isn4t %$sic i&e Master Do%ic&[email protected]=
=Yo$r %$sic can be pa(ed easi( and 1e b( an( hafstrin)ed harper or f$%be-fin)ered idiot: Not that I4%
%ai)nin) (o$r son)s: It4s 5$st that the(4re an entire( different &ette of [email protected] $se a sea%an( %[email protected]
Do%ic&4s: Don4t (o$ 5$d)e (o$r son)s a)ainst his standard> More peope ha+e aread( listened to (o$r %eodies
and i&ed the%! than 1i e+er hear Do%ic&4s! %$ch ess i&e the%:=
Meno( s1ao1ed: 'he +er( notion that her %$sic 1as %ore acceptabe than Do%ic&4s 1as incredibe! and
(et she co$d appreciate the distinction that Sebe 1as %a&in): Do%ic& 1as a %$sician4s co%poser:
=Of co$rse! 1e need %$sic i&e Master Do%ic&4s! too: It ser+es a different p$rpose! for the ,a! and the
Craft: ,e &no1s %ore abo$t the art of co%posin)@1hich (o$ ha+e to [email protected]=
=Oh! I &no1 I do:= 'hen! beca$se the probe% had been 1ei)hin) hea+i( on her conscience! she spied the
1ords o$t in a r$sh: =6hat do I do! Sebe! abo$t the fire izard son); Master Robinton re1rote it! and it4s %$ch!
%$ch better: .$t he4s tod e+er(one that I 1rote it:=
=So; 'hat4s the 1a( the ,arper 1ishes it to be! Meno(: ,e has his reasons:= Sebe reached o$t to )rip her
&nee and )i+e her a itte sha&e: =And he didn4t chan)e the son) %$ch: #$st sort of : : := Sebe )est$red 1ith
both hands! co%pressin) the space bet1een the%! =: : : ti)htened it $p: ,e &ept the %eod( as (o$4d 1ritten it!
and that4s 1hat e+er(one is h$%%in): 6hat (o$ ha+e to do no1 is earn ho1 to poish (o$r %$sic 1itho$t
osin) its freshness: 'hat4s 1h( it4s so i%portant for (o$ to st$d( 1ith Do%ic&: ,e has the discipine? (o$ ha+e
the ori)inait(:=
Meno( co$d not rep( to that assess%ent: 'here 1as a $%p in her throat as she re%e%bered the beatin)s
she4d ta&en for doin) e<act( 1hat she 1as no1 enco$ra)ed to do:
=Don4t h$nch $p i&e that!= Sebe said! a%ost sharp(: =6hat4s the %atter; Yo$4+e )one 1hite as a sheet:
Shes>= 'his ast 1ord ca%e o$t as an e<peti+e and ca$sed Meno( to oo& in s$rprise at the 5o$rne(%an: =#$st
1hen I didn4t 1ant to be interr$pted : : :=
She foo1ed the ine of his )aze and sa1 the bronze dra)on circin) do1n to and be(ond the co$rt(ard:
4'hat4s N4ton: I4+e )ot to spea& to hi%! Meno(! abo$t o$r teachin) trip: I4 be ri)ht bac&:= ,e 1as o$t of the
roo% at a trot! and she co$d hear hi% ta&in) the steps in a catter:
She oo&ed at the %$sic the(4d been pa(in)! and Sebe4s 1ords echoed thro$)h her %ind: =,e has the
discipine; (o$ ha+e the ori)inait(:= =E+er(one4s been h$%%in) it:= /eope i&in) her t1iddes; 'hat sti didn4t
see% possibe! atho$)h Sebe had no %ore reason to ie to her than the Masterharper 1hen he4d said that her
%$sic 1as +a$abe to hi%: 'o the ,arper Craft: Incredibe> She str$c& a chord on the )itar! a tri$%phant!
incredibe chord! and then %od$ated it! thin&in) ho1 $ndiscipined that %$sica reaction had been:
'he( 1ere sti t1iddes! her son)s! $ni&e the bea$tif$! intricate %$sica desi)ns that Do%ic& co%posed:
.$t if she st$died hard 1ith hi%! %a(be she co$d i%pro+e her t1iddes into 1hat she co$d honest( ca
%$sic:
Fir%( she t$rned her tho$)hts to1ard the )itar d$et and ran thro$)h the tric&( passa)es! so1( at first and
then fina( at ti%e: One of the chords %od$ated into tones that 1ere so cose to the a)onized cr( of the
pre+io$s ni)ht that she repeated the phrase:
()on$t leave me alone( and then fo$nd another chord that fit! ='he cr( in the ni)htLOf an)$ish
heart-stri&in)L Of so$-&iin) fri)ht:= 'hat4s 1hat Sebe had said? that .re&&e 1o$d not 1ant to i+e if Canth
and F4nor died: =2i+e for %( i+in)LOr ese I %$st dieLDon4t ea+e %e aone:LA 1ord heard that cr(:=
.( the ti%e Meno( had arran)ed the chords in the paint to her satisfaction! .ea$t(! Roc&( and Di+er 1ere
soft( croonin) aon) 1ith her: So she 1or&ed on the +erse:
=6e! (o$ appro+e;= she as&ed her fair: =/erhaps I o$)ht to 5ot it do1n on so%ethin) : : :=
=No need!= said a 7$iet +oice behind her! and she 1hired on the stoo to see Sebe seated at the sandtabe!
scribin) 7$ic&(: =I thin& I4+e )ot %ost of it:= ,e oo&ed $p! sa1 the started e<pression on her face and )a+e her
a brief s%ie: =Cose (o$r %o$th and co%e chec& %( notation:=
=.$t : : : b$t : : :=
=6hat did I te (o$! Meno(! abo$t apoo)izin) for the 1ron) thin)s;=
=I 1as 5$st t$nin) : : :=
=Oh! the son) needs poishin)! b$t that refrain is poi)nant eno$)h to set a ,od to tears:= ,e bec&oned a)ain
to her! a crisp )est$re that bro$)ht her to his side: =Yo$ %i)ht 1ant to chan)e the se7$ence! )i+e the peri first!
the so$tion ne<t : : : tho$)h I don4t &no1: 6ith that %eod( : : : do (o$ a1a(s $se %inors;= ,e sid a )ass
across the sand so the scribbin) co$dn4t be erased: =6e see 1hat the ,arper thin&s: No1 1hat4s 1ron);=
=2ea+e it; Yo$ can4t be serio$s:=
=I can be and $s$a( a%! (o$n) Meno(!= he said! risin) fro% the stoo to reach for his )itar: =No1! et4s
see if I p$t it do1n correct(:=
Meno( sat! i%%ersed in ac$te e%barrass%ent to hear Sebe pa(in) a t$ne of her %a&in): .$t she had to
isten: 6hen her fire izards be)an to croon soft( aon) 1ith Sebe4s deft pa(in)! she 1as abo$t read( to
concede pri+ate( that it 1asn4t a bad t$ne after a:
='hat4s +er( 1e done! Sebe> Didn4t &no1 (o$ had it in (o$!= said the Masterharper! appa$din)
+i)oro$s( fro% the door1a(: =I4d rather dreaded transferrin) that incident to %$sic : : :=
='his son)! Master Robinton! is Meno(4s:= Sebe had risen at the ,arper4s entrance! and no1 he bo1ed
deferentia( to Meno(: =Co%e! )ir! it 1h( the ,arpers searched a continent for (o$:=
=Meno(! %( dear chid! no b$shes for that son):= Robinton seized her hands and casped the% 1ar%(:
4'hin& of the chore (o$ 5$st sa+ed %e: I ca%e in haf1a( thro$)h the +erse! Sebe! if (o$ 1o$d pease : : := and
the ,arper )est$red to Sebe to be)in a)ain: 6ith one on) ar%! Robinton sna&ed a stoo o$t fro% $nder the
fat-botto%ed sandtabe! and sti hodin) Meno( b( the hand! he co%posed hi%sef to isten as Sebe4s ce+er
fin)ers p$c&ed the ha$ntin) phrases fro% the a$)%entin) chords: =No1! Meno(! thin& on( of the %$sic as
Sebe pa(s! not that it is (o$r %$sic: 2earn to thin& ob5ecti+e(! not s$b5ecti+e(: 2isten as a harper:=
,e hed her hand so ti)ht( in his that she co$d not p$ a1a( 1itho$t )i+in) offense: 'he casp of his
fin)ers 1as %ore than reass$rin)? it 1as therape$tic: ,er e%barrass%ent ebbed as the %$sic and Sebe4s 1ar%
baritone +oice fo1ed into the roo%: 6hen the fire izards h$%%ed o$d! Robinton s7$eezed her hand and
s%ied do1n at her:
=Yes! a itte 1or& on the phrases: One or t1o 1ords co$d be atered! I thin&! to hei)hten the effect! b$t the
1hoe can stand: Can (o$ scribe: : : : Ah! Sebe! 1e done: 6e done!= said the Masterharper as Sebe tapped
the protectin) )ass: =I4 1ant it transferred to so%e of those neat paper sheets .endare& s$ppies $s 1ith! so
Meno( can )o o+er it at her eis$re: Not too %$ch eis$re!= and the Masterharper hed $p a 1arnin) hand!
=beca$se that fire izard echo s1ept ro$nd /ern! and 1e %$st e<pain it: A )ood son)! Meno(! a +er( )ood
son): Don4t do$bt (o$rsef so fierce(: Yo$r instinct for %eodic ine is +er( )ood! +er( )ood indeed: /erhaps I
sho$d send %ore of %( apprentices to a sea hod for a ti%e if this is the sort of taent the 1a+es pro+o&e: And
see! (o$r fair is sti h$%%in) the ine : : :=
Meno( dre1 o$t of her conf$sion on) eno$)h to reaize that the fire izards4 h$% had nothin) to do 1ith
her son)? their attention 1as not on the h$%ans b$t : : :
='he e))s> 'he(4re hatchin)>=
=,atchin)>= =,atchin)>= .oth %aster and 5o$rne(%an cro1ded each other to )et thro$)h the door to the
hearth and the fire-1ar%in) pots: =Meno(> Co%e here>=
=I4% )ettin) the %eat>=
='he(4re hatchin)>= the ,arper sho$ted: ='he(4re hatchin): Grab that pot! Sebe! it4s 1obbin)>=
As Meno( dashed into the roo%! the t1o %en 1ere &neein) at the hearth! 1atchin) an<io$s( as the
earthen pots roc&ed si)ht(:
='he( can4t hatch IN the pots!= she said 1ith a certain a%o$nt of asperit( in her +oice: She too& the pot fro%
the protectin) encirce%ent of Sebe4s c$r+ed fin)ers and caref$( $pended it on the hearth! her fin)ers
c$shionin) the e)) $nti the sand spied a1a( fro% it: She t$rned to Robinton! b$t he had aread( foo1ed her
e<a%pe: .oth e))s a( in the i)ht of the fire! roc&in) si)ht(! the striations of hatchin) %ar&in) the shes:
'he fire izards ined $p on the %ante and the hearth! h$%%in) deep in their throats: 'he p$sin) so$nd
see%ed to p$nct$ate the no1 +ioent %o+e%ents of the e))s as the hatchin)s f$ttered a)ainst the shes for
e<it:
=Master Robinton;= caed Si+ina fro% the o$ter roo%: =Master Robinton;=
=Si+ina> 'he(4re hatchin)>= 'he ,arper4s 5$biant beo1 started Meno( and set the fire izards to
s7$a1&in) and fappin) their 1in)s in s$rprise:
Other harpers! c$rio$s abo$t the noise! be)an to cro1d in behind Si+ina! 1ho stood at the door to the
,arper4s seepin) 7$arters: If there 1ere too %an( peope in the roo%! Meno( tho$)ht:
=No> Sta( o$t> -eep the% o$t>= she cried before she reaized she4d said an(thin):
=Yes: Sta( bac& no1!= Si+ina 1as sa(in): =Yo$ can4t a see: Yo$4+e )ot the %eat! Meno(; Ah! so (o$
ha+e: Is it eno$)h;=
=It sho$d be:=
46hat do 1e do no1;= as&ed the ,arper! his +oice ro$)h 1ith s$ppressed e<cite%ent as be cro$ched abo+e
the e)):
=6hen the fire izard e%er)es! feed it!= Meno( said! so%e1hat s$rprised! for the ,arper %$st ha+e been a
)$est at n$%ero$s dra)on hatchin)s: =#$st st$ff its %o$th 1ith food:=
=6hen 1i the( hatch;= as&ed Sebe! 1ashin) his fin)ers in his pa%s 1ith e<cited fr$stration:
'he fire izards4 h$% 1as )ettin) %ore intense? their e(es 1hirin) 1ith participation in the e+ent: S$dden(
a second itte )oden 7$een er$pted into the roo%! her e(es spinnin): She et o$t a s7$ea 1hich .ea$t(
ans1ered! iftin) her 1in)s hi)her! b$t in )reetin)! not chaen)e:
=Si+ina>= Meno( pointed to the 7$een:
=Master Robinton! oo&>= said the head1o%an and! as the( a 1atched! the ne1( arri+ed 7$een too& her
pace on the %ante beside .ea$t(! her throat +ibratin) as fast as the others:
='hat4s Mer)a! 2ord Gro)he4s 7$een!= said the ,arper! and then he )anced o+er his sho$der at the door: =I
hope it isn4t an a1&1ard ti%e for hi%: 'his sort of s$%%ons co$d be incon+enient : : :=
Abo+e the fire izards4 +ibrant so$nds! the( a heard the ,arper4s na%e beo1ed:
=So%eone )o and escort 2ord Gro)he!= ordered the ,arper! his e(es ne+er ea+in) the hearth and the t1o
e))s:
=Robinton>= It 1o$d see% that his order 1as $nnecessar( for the beo1er 1as rapid( approachin):
=Robin:::: 6hat; 'he( are; D4(o$ &no1 1hat; 'hat Mer)a of %ine4s in another ta&in): Forced %e to co%e
here> ,ere no1! 1hat4s a this; 6here is Robinton;=
Meno( tore her e(es fro% the t1o e))s! tho$)h she 1as certain she sa1 a 1idenin) crac& in the one on the
eft! to see the entrance of the Fort 2ord ,oder: As his +oice indicated! he 1as a bi) %an! a%ost as ta as the
,arper b$t %$ch broader in the torso! 1ith thic& thi)hs and b$)in) ca+es: ,e 1a&ed i)ht( for a his %ass
atho$)h he 1as breathin) hea+i( fro% ha+in) co%e to the ,a at a fair pace:
='here (o$ are> 6hat4s this a abo$t;=
='he e))s are abo$t to hatch! 2ord Gro)he:=
=E))s;= 'he bro1s of the ,oder4s forid face 1ere contracted into a p$zzed sco1: =Oh! (o$r e))s: 'he(4re
hatchin); And Mer)a4s reactin);=
=I tr$st not at an( incon+enience to (o$! 2ord Gro)he:=
=6e! not so4s I 1o$dn4t co%e 1hen she insisted: ,o14d the creat$re &no1;=
=As& Meno(:=
=Meno(;= And s$dden( Meno( fo$nd hersef the ob5ect of his intense! fro1nin) scr$tin(: =Yo$4re
Meno(;= 'he bro1s 1ent $p in s$rprise: =2itte bit of a thin)! aren4t (o$; Not at a 1hat I e<pected: Don4t
b$sh: I don4t bite: M( fire izard %i)ht: 6o$dn4t 1orr( (o$! tho$)h! 1o$d it; 'hese are a (o$rs; 6h(! %(
7$een4s beside (o$rs! friend( as can be: 'he(4re not dan)ero$s at a:=
=Meno(>= 'he ,arper4s e<ca%ation bro$)ht her attention bac& to the hearth:
,is e)) had )i+en a con+$si+e roc&! a b$t spinnin) itsef off the hearthstone: Gaspin)! he4d p$t o$t both
hands to pre+ent its fain): 'he she crac&ed 1ide open! and a itte bronze fire izard roed into his hands!
creein) 1ith h$n)er! its bod( )istenin):
=Feed it> Feed it>= Meno( cried:
Robinton! $nabe to ta&e his e(es off the fire izard! f$%bed for the pied %eat and sho+ed food into the fire
izard4s open %o$th: 'he itte bronze! sha&in) its 1in)s o$t for baance! snatched ferocio$s( at the %eat!
)obbin) so fast that Meno( hed her breath for fear the creat$re 1o$d cho&e in its )reed:
=Not too %$ch: Ma&e it 1ait> 'a& to it: Soothe it!= Meno( $r)ed: 5$st then the other e)) spit:
=It4s a 7$een>= sho$ted Sebe! roc&in) bac& on his hees in the e<cess of his s$rprise: On( 2ord Gro)he4s
7$ic& hand on his bac& &ept hi% fro% fain) o+er:
=Feed her>= the 2ord ,oder bar&ed:
=.$t I4% not to ha+e the 7$een>= For one spit second! Sebe started to t$rn and offer the 7$een to the
,arper:
='oo ate>= Meno( sho$ted! di+in) for1ard to intercept the )est$re: She 5a%%ed %eat on Sebe4s see&in)
hand and then p$shed it bac& to the frantica( creein) 7$een: =Yo$4re s$pposed to ha+e a fire izard: It doesn4t
%atter 1hich>=
'he ,arper 1as obi+io$s to the interchan)e: ,e 1as intent on his bronze! stro&in) it! feedin) it! croonin) to
it: 'he itte 7$een had )obbed Sebe4s initia offerin)! her tai 1rappin) so fir%( abo$t his 1rist that he co$d
not ha+e disentan)ed hi%sef had he %ana)ed to s$stain his %o%ent of sacrifice:
Meno( t$rned to assist the ,arper! b$t 2ord Gro)he 1as &neein) beside hi%! enco$ra)in) hi%: 6hen the
t1o hatchin)s 1ere b$)in) 1ith food! Meno( re%o+ed the %eat bo1s:
4'he(4 b$rst 1ith another %o$thf$!= she tod the reproachf$ ,arpers: =No1! hod the% a)ainst (o$:
Stro&e the%: 'he( sho$d fa aseep: 'here no1:= As the %en co%pied 1ith her $r)in)s! the ne1 fire izards!
sated for the present! 1eari( cosed their e(es! their itte heads droppin) to the protectin) forear%s: She4d
for)otten 1hat a scant handf$ a ne1( hatched fire izard 1as: ,er friends had )ro1n so %$ch since hatchin):
2ord Gro)he4s Mer)a 1as as ta in the sho$der as .ea$t(! b$t not so deep( chested: 'he t1o 1ere no1
e<chan)in) co%pi%ents! stro&in) heads and to$chin) c$r+ed 1in)s:
=Its incredibe!= the ,arper said! his 1ords no %ore than an artic$ated 1hisper! his e(es briiant 1ith 5o(:
=It is abso$te( the %ost incredibe e<perience I ha+e e+er had:=
=-no1 1hat (o$ %ean 2ord Gro)he repied in an e%barrassed %$%be! d$c&in) his head! b$t Meno(
co$d see that the b$r( ,oder4s face 1as f$shed: =Can4t for)et it %(sef:=
Caref$( Master Robinton rose fro% his &nees! his e(es on the seepin) fire izard! his free hand poised in
case an inca$tio$s %o+e%ent $nsetted the itte bronze:
=It e<pains so +er( %$ch that I co$d ne+er ha+e $nderstood abo$t dra)onriders: Yes! it opens a 1hoe ne1
area of $nderstandin):= ,e sat do1n on the ed)e of his bed: =No1 I can sense! di%(! 1hat 2(to! 1hat .re&&e
%$st ha+e s$ffered: And I &no1 1h( (o$n) #a<orn %$st ha+e R$th:= ,e s%ied at 2ord Gro)he4s )r$nt at that
state%ent: =Yes! I ha+e stood so on) peerin) thro$)h a s%a openin) into another ,od of $nderstandin): No1
I can see 1itho$t obstr$ction:= ,is chin had dropped to his chest as he spo&e in soft refecti+e tones! %ore to
hi%sef than those cose eno$)h to catch the 1hispered 1ords: ,e shoo& hi%sef si)ht( and oo&ed $p! his
s%ie a)ain radiant: =6hat a )ift (o$ ha+e %ade %e! Meno(: 6hat a %a)nificent )ift>=
.ea$t( ca%e to perch on Meno(4s sho$der! her h$%%in) no1 di%inished to a soft %$r%$r of so$nd: 2ord
Gro)he4s 7$een! Mer)e! fe1 to his sho$der! 1rappin) her tai abo$t his thic& nec&! 5$st as .ea$t( did:
=I don4t &no1 ho1 it happened! Master Robinton!= Sebe said! risin) fro% the hearth 1ith e<a))erated care:
,is %anner 1as both defensi+e and apoo)etic: ='he pots 1ere in the 1ron) order: I don4t $nderstand: Yo$
sho$d ha+e had the 7$een:=
=M( dear Sebe! I co$dn4t care in the si)htest: 'his bronze feo1 is e+er(thin) I co$d e+er 1ant: And
fran&(! I beie+e that it %i)ht be %ore ad+anta)eo$s for (o$ to ha+e the 7$een! )oin) o$t and abo+e the and as
(o$4 ha+e to do: Yes! I thin& chance has 1or&ed %ore for than a)ainst $s: And I a% 7$ite content! oh! indeed I
a%! 1ith %( bronze %an here: 6hat a o+e(! o+e( creat$re>= ,e had eased hi%sef bac& a)ainst the boster!
the fire izard sn$))ed in the croo& of his ar%! his other hand protectin)( cradin) the open side: =S$ch a
o+e( bi) feo1>= ,is head fe bac&! his e(es hea+(! a b$t aseep hi%sef:
=No1 that4s a rea %irace!= said Si+ina in a +er( soft +oice: =Aseep 1itho$t 1ine or feis 5$ice; O$t>
O$t>= She shoo& her hands at those cro1din) the door! b$t her )est$re to 2ord Gro)he to precede her fro% the
roo% 1as a to$ch %ore co$rteo$s: 'he 2ord ,oder nodded a)ree%ent and %ade a )reat sho1 of tiptoein)
7$iet( across the roo%: ,is e<it ceared the door1a( of onoo&ers:
Si+ina pic&ed $p the haf-fied bo1s b( the fire and p$t one near the ,arper4s hand: Meno( bec&oned to
the rest of her fair and the( fitted o$t the 1indo1:
=Got the% 1e-trained! ha+en4t (o$;= 2ord Gro)he said once Si+ina had cosed the door to the ,arper4s
cha%ber: =6ant to ha+e a on) chat 1ith (o$ abo$t 4e%: Robinton sa(s the(4 fetch and carr( for you: D4(o$
beie+e! as he does! that 1hat one fire izard &no1s! th4others do! too;=
'oo disconcerted to rep(! Meno( )anced frantica( at Si+ina and sa1 her nod enco$ra)in)(: =It 1o$d
see% o)ica! 2ord Gro)he: Ah : : : it 1o$d certain( acco$nt for : : : for 1hat happened the other ni)ht: In fact!
there4s no other 1a( to acco$nt for that! is there; 3ness (o$ can spea& to dra)ons:=
=3ness (o$ can spea& to dra)ons;= 2ord Gro)he a$)hed pondero$s(! po&in) Meno(4s sho$der 1ith his
fin)er in )ood h$%or: =Spea& to dra)ons; ,ahaha:=
Meno( fet hersef )rinnin) beca$se his a$)hter 1as a bit conta)io$s! and she didn4t &no1 1hat ese to do:
She hadn4t %eant to be f$nn(: 'hen Si+ina sh$shed the% i%perio$s(! pointin) $r)ent( at the ,arper4s cosed
door:
=Sorr(! Si+ina!= 2ord Gro)he said! contrite(: =Most a%azin) thin)> 6o&e %e $p o$t of a so$nd seep!
scared o$t of %( 1its: Ne+er happened to %e before! I can te (o$:= ,e nodded his head e%phatica(! and
Mer)a chirped: =6asn4t (o$r fa$t! pet!= he said! stro&in) her tin( head 1ith a thic& forefin)er: =On( doin) the
sa%e as the others: 'hat4s 1hat I 1ant (o$ to teach %e! )ir:='he forefin)er no1 pointed at Meno(: =Yo$ 1i!
1on4t (o$; Robinton sa(s (o$ ha+e (o$rs trained a treat:=
=It 1o$d be %( pri+ie)e! sir:=
=6e spo&en:= 2ord Gro)he t$rned his hea+( torso in Si+ina4s direction! fa+orin) the head1o%an 1ith a
fierce stare: =6e-spo&en chid: Not 1hat I e<pected: Can4t tr$st other peope4s opinions: Ne+er did: Ne+er 1i:
I4 arran)e so%ethin) 1ith Robinton ater: Not too %$ch ater: .$t ater: Good da( to (o$ a:= 6ith that the
2ord ,oder of Fort strode fro% the roo%! noddin) and s%iin) to the harpers sti )athered in the corridor:
Meno( sa1 Sebe and Si+ina e<chan)in) 1orried )ances! and she %o+ed across the roo% to stand before
the%:
=6hat did 2ord Gro)he %ean! Si+ina; I4% not 1hat he e<pected;=
=I 1as afraid (o$4d catch that!= Si+ina said! her e(es narro1 1ith a contained an)er: She patted Meno(4s
sho$der absent(: ='here4s been oose ta&! 1hich has done the% no )ood and (o$ no har%: I4+e a fe1 &nees to
set &noc&in)! so I ha+e:=
Meno( 1as thoro$)h( and $ne<pected( cons$%ed 1ith an)er: .ea$t( chittered! her e(es be)innin) to
1hir red(:
='hose cot )irs sta( $p at the ,od d$rin) 'hreadfa! don4t the(;=
Si+ina )a+e Meno( a on)! 7$ein) oo&: =I said I4 hande the %atter! Meno(: Yo$!= and Si+ina
pointed at her! =1i occ$p( (o$rsef 1ith harper b$siness:= She 1as cear( as f$rio$s as Meno(! and fic&ed
i%a)inar( d$st fro% her s&irt 1ith $nnecessar( force: =Yo$4re to sta( here! both of (o$! and be s$re nothin)
dist$rbs the ,arper: Nothin)! (o$ $nderstand>= She pinned apprentice and 5o$rne(%an 1ith a ste% )are: =,e4s
aseep! and he4s to sta( aseep as on) as that itte creat$re ets hi%: 'hat 1a( he %i)ht )et ca$)ht $p on hi%sef
for a chan)e before he4s 1orn to death:= She pic&ed $p the tra(: =I4 send (o$r s$ppers $p 1ith Ca%o: And their
s$ppers as 1e:=
She cosed the door fir%( behind her: Meno( oo&ed at the cosed door for a on) %o%ent! sti feein) the
an)er in her )$ts: She4d not rea( done the )irs an( &ind of har%! so 1h( 1o$d the( tr( to pre5$dice the 2ord
,oder a)ainst her; Or perhaps it 1as a D$nca4s conni+ance; Meno( &ne1 that the itte cothoder hated her
for the h$%iiation ca$sed b( the fire izards: No1 that Meno( 1as at the ,a! 1h( sho$d D$nca persist; She
)anced bac& to Sebe! 1ho 1as re)ardin) her e+en as he craded his seepin) 7$een:
=2ea+e it! Meno(!= he said in a 7$iet b$t e%phatic tone: ,e )est$red her to the sandtabe: =,arper b$siness
is better b$siness for (o$ no1: Master Robinton said (o$ 1ere to cop( the son) onto sheets:= Mo+in) caref$(
so as not to dist$rb his itte 7$een! he )ot s$ppies fro% the she+es and p$t the% on the center board: =So!
cop(>=
=I don4t $nderstand 1hat the( tho$)ht the(4d acco%pish! pre5$dicin) 2ord Gro)he a)ainst %e: 6hat 1o$d
he do;=
Sebe said nothin) as he hoo&ed a stoo $nder hi%! and sat do1n: ,e pointed at the %$sic:
=It4s on( ri)ht for %e to &no1: 'he ins$t is %ine to sette:=
=Sit do1n! Meno(: And cop(: 'hat4s far %ore i%portant to the ,arper and the ,a than an( pett(
%achinations of en+io$s )irs:=
='he( co$d do %e a %ischief! co$dn4t the(; If the(4d )ot 2ord Gro)he to beie+e 1hat the( said: I ne+er
h$rt those )irs:=
='r$e eno$)h b$t that is not harper b$siness: 'he son) is: Cop( it> And one %ore 1ord fro% (o$ on an(
other s$b5ect and [email protected]=
=If (o$4re not 7$iet! (o$4 1a&e (o$r fire izard!= Meno( said! b$t she sat do1n at the tabe and started
cop(in): She co$d reco)nize obstinac( 1hen she sa1 it! and it 1o$d do her no )ood to set Sebe a)ainst her:
=6hat are (o$ )oin) to na%e her;= she as&ed:
=Na%e her;= Sebe 1as started! and Meno( 1as dis%a(ed to reaize ho1 %$ch of his 5o( in his 7$een
had been di%inished b( her si( concern o+er )ossip: =6h(! I can ha+e the pri+ie)e of na%in) her! can4t I;
She4s %ine: I thin& : : := and his e(es )o1ed 1ith affection for the hatchin)! =I thin& I4 ca her -i%i:=
='hat4s a o+e( na%e!= repied Meno( and then bent to her cop(in) 1ith a )ood heart:
Chapter E
'atherl 'ather/ %t$s a gather day/
+o "ork for us, and Thread$s a"ay#
Stalls are building, s!uare$s s"ept clear,
'ather all from far and near#Bring your marks and bring your "ares,
Bring your family for there$s
Food and drink and fun and song#
The Hold flag flies so gather along/
=6hat4s 1ron) 1ith the ,od;= Meno( as&ed /ie%$r the ne<t %ornin) as she! the bo( and Ca%o 1ere
feedin) the fire izards: /ie%$r &ept cranin) his nec& past the roofs of the ,arper ,a to see the fire hei)hts of
Fort ,od:
=Nothin)4s 1ron): I 1ant to see if the )ather fa)4s $p:=
=Gather fa);= Meno( recaed that Sebe had %entioned a )ather:
=S$re> It4s sprin)! and s$nn(: It4s a restda(: 'hread4s not d$e! so there o$)ht to be a )ather>= /ie%$r re)arded
her a on) %o%ent! then his face scre1ed $p into an incred$o$s e<pression: =Yo$ %ean! (o$ don4t ha+e
)athers;=
=,af Circe is isoated!= Meno( repied defensi+e(: =And 1ith 'hread fain) : : :=
=Yeah! I for)ot that: No 1onder (o$4re s$ch a s%ashin) %$sician!= he said! sha&in) his head as if this 1ere
no rea co%pensation: =Nothin) to do b$t practice> Sti!= he added so%e1hat s&eptica! =(o$ %$st ha+e had
)athers before 'hread started;=
=Of co$rse 1e did: 'raders ca%e thro$)h the %arshes three and fo$r ti%es a '$rn:= /ie%$r 1as
$ni%pressed: Meno( reaized that she hersef had on( the +a)$est %e%ories of s$ch e+ents: 'hreadfa had
started 1hen she 1as bare( ei)ht '$rns od:
=6e ha+e )athers as often as it4s s$nn( on a restda(!= /ie%$r said! chatterin) a1a(! =and there isn4t an(
'hread d$e: Of co$rse! o$r bein) a ,od 1ith se+era s%a crafthas! as 1e as the %ain ,arper Craft ,a!
does %a&e for )reat )athers: Yo$ don4t happen!= and he coc&ed his head s((! =to ha+e an( %ar&s on (o$;=
=Mar&s;=
/ie%$r 1as thoro$)h( dis)$sted 1ith her obt$seness: =Mar&s> Mar&s> 6hat (o$ )et in e<chan)e for 1hat
(o$4re sein) at a )ather;= ,e reached into his poc&et and p$ed o$t fo$r s%a 1hite pieces of hi)h( poished
1ood! on 1hich the n$%eras 8B had been incised on one side and on the other! the %ar& of the S%ithcraft:
=On( thirt(-seconds! b$t 1ith fo$r I )ot an ei)hth! and S%ithcraft at that:=
Meno( had ne+er act$a( seen %ar&s before: A tradin) transactions had been carried o$t b( her father!
the Sea ,oder: She 1as astonished that so (o$n) a bo( as /ie%$r had possession of %ar&s and said so:
=Oh! I san)! (o$ &no1! e+en before I )ot apprenticed: I4d a1a(s )et a %ar& of so%e a%o$nt or other: M(
foster %other &ept the% for %e $nti I ca%e here:= /ie%$r 1rin&ed his nose in dis)$st: =.$t (o$ don4t )et paid
for sin)in) at )athers if (o$4re a harper! and (o$ ha+e to do (o$r o1n t$rn an(1a(: I ha+en4t anything to )i+e
the %ar&s%en here: I &eep trying, b$t Master #erint 1on4t p$t his sea on %( pipes! so I ha+e to fi)$re o$t other
1a(s of t$rnin) the odd : : : ,e(! oo&! Meno(!= and he )rabbed her ar%! =there )oes the fa)> 'here4 be a
)ather>= ,e 1ent f(in) across the co$rt as fast as he co$d to the apprentice dor%itor(:
On the top of the Fort ,od fire hei)hts! Meno( no1 sa1 the bri)ht (eo1 pennant! and fappin) beo1 it
on the %ast! the red and bac& barred strea%er that apparent( si)naed a )ather: She heard /ie%$r4s cries
echoin) in the apprentice dor%itor( and the so$nds of seepers stirrin) in co%paint: As if /ie%$r4s si)htin) of
the pennant had been a si)na! the dr$d)es! herded b( Ab$na and Si+ina! entered the &itchen: 'he fa) and
pennant on the ,od %ast 1ere d$( noted and the %ea preparations 1ere cond$cted in a cheerf$ h$%or:
Meno( dispersed her fair to their s$nnin) and bathin) and! findin) Si+ina in the &itchen 1ith Ab$na!
offered to ta&e brea&fast to the ,arper and his bronze! 1ho% he4d na%ed "air:
=I tod (o$! Ab$na! that 1ith Meno( to hep! t1o %ore fire izards 1o$d be no probe%!= Si+ina said!
p$shin) the &itchen 1o%an onto so%e other tas& as she s%ied 1ar%( at Meno(: =Not that the ,arper 1i be
here %$ch 1ith his! nor Sebe either!= she caed to Ab$na 1ho 1ent off )r$%bin) to hersef: =2on) as she4s
i+ed in the ,arper ,a! (o$4d thin& she4d be $sed to chan)e-abo$t:=
Meno( 1anted to as& Si+ina abo$t the )irs and their )ossipin)! b$t Si+ina 1as a+oidin) her e(e: #$st
then the( both heard Meno(4s na%e bein) caed in a frantic +oice: Sebe ca%e crashin) do1n the &itchen
steps! hodin) $p his tro$sers 1ith one bare ar%! 1incin) at the c$tch of his fire izard 7$een on the other: -i%i
1as creein) 1id( 1ith h$n)er:
=Meno(> 'here (o$ are> I4+e been searchin) e+er(1here: 6hat4s the %atter 1ith her; O$ch>= Sebe 1as
1ide-e(ed 1ith an<iet(:
=She4s on( h$n)r(:=
=On( h$n)r(;=
=,ere! co%e 1ith %e!= and Meno( too& Sebe b( the ar%! pic&ed $p the tra( she had prepared for the
Masterharper and p$ed the 5o$rne(%an o$t of the &itchen! to spare hi% Ab$na4s bac& sco1! and into the
reati+e peace of the dinin) ha: =No1! feed her>=
=I can4t: M( pants>= Sebe nodded to his tro$sers! 1hich! betess! threatened to sip off his hips:
Stifin) a )i))e! Meno( $nb$c&ed her o1n 1orn bet and sec$red Sebe4s pants for hi%: ,e )rabbed a
handf$ of %eat and hed it o$t for -i%i: 'he $n)ratef$ 1retch hissed and $n)ed at the %eat! di))in) her
ca1s into his forear%:
6e! Meno( co$dn4t )i+e hi% her t$nic! too: She spotted a scrap of to1ein) b( the ser+ice hatch: Deft(
she disen)a)ed the 7$een4s e)s fro% Sebe4s forear% and 1rapped the coth abo$t his scratched and beedin)
ar%! then %ana)ed to redeposit -i%i before the 7$een 1as a1are of bein) shifted:
=Oh! than& (o$! than& (o$! than& (o$>= si)hed Sebe! sin&in) to the nearest bench: =And (o$ had nine of
these creat$res to feed e+er( da(;= ,e )a+e her a oo& of rene1ed respect: I don4t &no1 ho1 (o$ did it> I rea(
don4t>=
Meno( pointed to his &ah as she too& $p a handf$ of %eat: -i%i didn4t care 1hose hand hed the %eat! so
Sebe )ratef$( )$ped so%e &ah:
=Meno(>= Another +oice roared fro% the top of the stairs:
=Sir;= Meno( dashed to the foot of the steps:
=,e4s %a&in) the %ost o$tandish noises!= the ,arper (eed: =Is he h$rt or 5$st h$n)r(; ,is e(es are
fa%in) red:=
=,ere (o$ are!= said Si+ina! appearin) fro% the &itchen 1ith a second tra( of food for h$%an and fire
izard: =I tho$)ht 1e4d be hearin) fro% hi% once Sebe appeared:=
Meno( co$d not &eep fro% a$)hin) 1ith Si+ina: She too& the steps t1o at a ti%e 1itho$t spiin) so
%$ch as a drop of the &ah or t$%bin) a )ob of %eat fro% the pied bo1:
'he ,arper had ta&en ti%e to dress! and he4d tho$)ht to 1rap his ar% a)ainst the neede-sharp ca1s of his
itte bronze! b$t he oo&ed not a 1hit ess harried or distressed than Sebe:
=Yo$4re s$re it4s on( h$n)er;= as&ed Master Robinton: .$t his fire izard4s creein) abated 1ith the first
%o$thf$ of %eat:
Robinton )est$red Meno( to1ard his 7$arters! b$t the fire izard! beie+in) the food 1as bein) 1ithdra1n!
et o$t an indi)nant shrie& and s1atted at Meno(4s hand:
=,ere! here! eat! (o$ )reed( thin)!= said the ,arper 1ith )reat affection in his +oice: =#$st don4t 1a&e
e+er(one: It4s restda(:=
='oo ate!= re%ar&ed Do%ic&! in an acid tone of +oice! his seepin) r$) p$ed aro$nd hi% as he stood in the
door1a( of his roo%: =.et1een (o$ ho1in) i&e an in5$red dra)on! Sebe so$ndin) i&e a fi)ht of 4e%! and
these pes&( beasts 1ith tones that co$d bend %eta! no one4s )oin) to en5o( a restda(:=
='he )ather Ra) is f(in)!= the ,arper said in a conciiator( 1a(: ,e contin$ed to feed "air as he and
Meno( proceeded to his roo%:
=A )ather; 'hat4s a I need:= Do%ic& sa%%ed his door:
=I tr$st there 1on4t be a repetition of this!= said Master Morsha as the ,arper and Meno( ca%e abreast of
his roo%: ,e 1ore a oose robe! b$t he ob+io$s( had been dra1n fro% his bed b( the creein) and sho$ts: ,is
so$r )aze 1as directed f$( on Meno(! as if she 1ere the soe ca$se of the co%%otion:
=/robab(!= the ,arper repied cheerf$(! =$nti I fi)$re o$t this precio$s creat$re4s habits: ,e on( hatched
(esterda(! Morsha: Do )i+e hi% a fe1 da(s4 )race:=
Morsha sp$ttered so%ethin)! )ared baef$( and acc$sin)( at Meno(! and then sh$t his door! pointed(
1itho$t sa%%in) it: Meno( a too cear( heard other doors cosin) aon) the corridor! and she 1as +er(
)ratef$ to be in the ,arper4s co%pan(:
=Don4t et od Morsha $pset (o$! Meno(!= said Master Robinton in a 7$iet +oice:
Meno( oo&ed $p 7$ic&(! )ratef$ for his reass$rance: ,e s%ied a)ain as he nodded for her to enter his
roo% and )est$red for her to set the tra( do1n on the center of the sandtabe:
=Fort$nate(!= he 1ent on! so$chin) in a chair! a the 1hie s$pp(in) %eat bits for "air! =(o$ don4t ha+e to
sit casses 1ith Morsha:=
=I don4t;=
Robinton ch$c&ed at the note of reief in her +oice and then a$)hed a)ain as "air %issed a %orse! creeed
an<io$s( $nti the ,arper had retrie+ed it fro% the foor and deposited it neat( in the open %o$th:
=No! (o$ don4t: Morsha teaches on( at the apprentice e+e:= 'he Master ,arper si)hed: =,e rea( is adept
at driin) basic theor( into rebeio$s apprentice %inds: .$t /etiron aread( ta$)ht (o$ %ore than Morsha
&no1s: Reie+ed! Meno(;=
=Oh! (es: Master Morsha doesn4t see% to i&e %e:=
=Master Morsha has a1a(s considered it a 1aste of ti%e and effort to teach an( )irs: 6hat )ood 1o$d it
do the%;=
Meno( bin&ed! s$rprised to hear her father4s opinion echoed in the ,arper ,a: 'hen she reaized that
Master Robinton had been spea&in) in deft %i%icr( of Master Morsha4s test( %anner: 6ar% fin)ers ca$)ht her
chin! and she 1as %ade to oo& $p at the ,arper: 'he ines of fati)$e and 1orr( 1ere pain( +isibe! despite his
)ood ni)ht4s rest:
=Morsha4s disi&e of the fe%inine se< is a standin) 5o&e in this ,a! Meno(: Gi+e hi% the co$rtes( d$e his
ran& and a)e! and i)nore his biased thin&in): As I said! (o$ don4t ha+e to sit casses 1ith hi%: Not that Do%ic&
1i be an( easier to st$d( 1ith: ,e4s a hard tas&%aster! b$t Do%ic& 1i ta&e o+er (o$r t$ition 1here /etiron
eft off in %$sica for% and co%position $nti I can: 3nfort$nate(!= and the ,arper4s s%ie of re)ret 1as
sincere! I a% bad( pressed for ti%e 1ith a that4s happenin)! %$ch tho$)h I 1o$d prefer to $nderta&e the tas&
%(sef: Sti! Do%ic&4s $nderstandin) of the tr$( cassica for% is s$perior! and he4s &een to %onopoize an(
instr$%entaist capabe of pa(in) his intricate %$sic: Don4t %iss (o$r essons 1ith Master Shona)ar! for (o$
%$st be abe to sin) (o$r son)s effecti+e(! b$t!= and he ifted a 1arnin) fin)er! =don4t fa for .r$de)an4s
i%port$nin)s abo$t fire izard chor$ses: 'hat can be sched$ed for a ater ti%e 1hen 1e4+e setted (o$ proper(
in (o$r craft:
=I4d i&e (o$ to concentrate on (o$r instr$%ents : : : as far and as fast as that hand of (o$rs per%its: ,o1 is it
heain)! b( the 1a(;= And he reached for her eft hand: =,%%%! (o$4+e done too %$ch b( the oo& of those
spits: Does it h$rt; I 1on4t ha+e (o$ crippin) (o$rsef in (o$r zea! Meno(! $nderstand that>=
Meno(! sensin) his &ind concern! s1ao1ed a)ainst the $%p in her throat and %ana)ed a tentati+e s%ie:
=It is ne+er eas(! s1eet chid! to ha+e a rea )ift? so%ethin) ese is 1ithhed to co%pensate:=
Meno( 1as started at the sadness! that %eancho( in his e(es and face! and he 1ent on! a%ost to hi%sef!
=If (o$ 1on4t s$rrender the %ar&! (o$4 ne+er be %ore than haf ai+e: Spea&in) of %ar&s : : := and his
e<pression atered co%pete(: ,e eaned for1ard! across the sandtabe! r$%%a)in) in the co%part%ents of the
centra brid)e b$it abo+e the act$a sand e+e: =Ah! here!= and he pressed so%ethin) into her hand: ='here4s a
)ather toda(! and (o$ deser+e so%e rea<ation: I s$spect di+ersions 1ere fe1 and infre7$ent in (o$r Sea ,od:
Find so%ethin) prett( to 1ear at the stas : : : a bet perhaps : : : and b$( so%e of the b$bb( pies: /ie%$r 1i
ead (o$ to the%! the sca%p:
=.$t to%orro1!= and Master Robinton 1a))ed a fin)er at her! =bac& to 1or& for (o$: Sebe sa(s (o$ %a&e
a )ood cop(ist: Did (o$ ha+e a chance to poish the .re&&e son) (esterda( e+enin); I thin& (o$4 a)ree the
%eodic ine faters in the fo$rth phrase : : := and he h$%%ed it: ='hen I 1ant (o$ to re1rite the baad
obser+in) a the traditiona %$sica for%s: 'hin& of it as an e<ercise in %$sica theor(: Mind (o$! I4% of the
opinion that the stren)th of (o$r 1or& 1i ie in a ooser! ess for%aized st(e: 'here are! ho1e+er! p$rists in
the Craft 1ho %$st be %oified 1hie (o$4re an apprentice:=
"air! his be( so s1oen that the indi+id$a $%ps of %eat co$d be discerned a)ainst his s&in! )a+e a
s$dden b$rp and coapsed into seep in the croo& of the ,arper4s ar%:
=I sa(! Meno(! ho1 on) 1i he do nothin) b$t eat and seep;= 'he ,arper so$nded disappointed:
='he first se+enda(! and %a(be a fe1 da(s on)er!= Meno( ans1ered! sti tr(in) to assi%iate his
astonishin) instr$ctions and phiosoph(: =,e4 de+eop a personait( in a +er( short ti%e:=
='hat4s a reief:= 'he ,arper hea+ed an e<a))erated si)h: =I4d been 1orr(in) that perhaps his brains had )ot
added! )oin) bet"een so %$ch in the e)): Not that I4d care for hi% an( the ess!= and he s%ied tender( do1n
at the spra1ed for%: =,o1 did (o$ e+er %ana)e to fi nine rapacio$s beies;= No1 his s%ie 1as a for her:
=And 1hat a reief to ha+e (o$ here to hep $s: In this I a% (o$r apprentice:= ,is e(es hed hers a %o%ent
on)er! sti t1in&in) 1ith a%$se%ent atho$)h his face setted into a serio$s e<pression: =In a other %atters!
(o$ are to consider (o$rsef %( apprentice! (o$ &no1:
=No1! (o$ %a( ta&e the tra( bac& to the &itchen! and (o$ are dis%issed to the )ather: 3ness! of co$rse!= he
added 1ith that 1innin) s%ie! =so%ethin) $nto1ard happens to this feo1:=
She bro$)ht the tra( and e%pt( dishes to the &itchen! 1here Ab$na! 1ith %ore than her $s$a co$rtes(!
s$))ested that Meno( had better )et so%e brea&fast before it 1as a )one: 'he(4d be cearin) the tabes soon!
and if the az(bones hadn4t eaten! too bad: Not b$t 1hat the( co$dn4t st$ff the%se+es at the )ather4s stas:
'hat re%inded Meno( of the %ar& that the ,arper had p$t in her hand: At first she tho$)ht it 1as the di%
i)ht of the passa)e! b$t 1hen she )ot into the entrance ha! she co$d pain( see that the t1o 1as $nderscored?
it 1asn4t a haf-%ar&! 1hich 1o$d ha+e been scored abo+e: She cenched the precio$s piece in her fist! a%azed:
'he Master ,arper had )i+en her a 1hoe t1o-%ar& piece to spend on hersef: '1o 1hoe %ar&s> 6h(! she
co$d b$( an(thin)>
No! he4d said that she 1as to b$( so%ethin) prett( to 1ear: A bet: 'he ,arper4s &een e(e had noted the
absence of hers: And it 1as a 1orn bet! an(ho1: .$t a ne1 one! instead of one handed do1n : : : a bet she
co$d choose for hersef> ,o1 +er( &ind of Master Robinton: And he4d said she 1as to b$( b$bb( pies: She
oo&ed abo$t the scatterin) of bo(s at the apprentice tabes for /ie%$r4s c$r( head of hair: ,e 1as! as $s$a!
deep in con+ersation 1ith se+era bo(s! and probab( pannin) %ischief to 5$d)e b( the coseness of a the
heads: 'here 1ere no %asters at the circ$ar tabe and 5$st a fe1 5o$rne(%en at the o+a ones! c$stered abo$t
Sebe! ad%irin) -i%i! aseep on his ar%:
=She co$dn4t )i+e 4e% a1a( if she 1anted to!= /ie%$r 1as sa(in) in a strident tone as Meno( approached
his )ro$p: So%eone %$st ha+e 5abbed hi% in the ribs beca$se he )anced o+er his sho$der and! 1hie he oo&ed
in no 1a( abashed! it 1as ob+io$s fro% the e<pression of the others that Meno( had been the =she= he4d
%eant: =Can (o$;= he as&ed b$nt(:
=Can I 1hat;=
=Gi+e an(one ese one of (o$r fire izards;=
=No:=
=I tod (o$>= /ie%$r pointed an acc$sin) fin)er at Ran(: =So Sebe co$dn4t ha+e )i+en Robinton the
7$een: Co$d he! Meno(;=
=.$t the Masterharper sho$d ha+e had the 7$een!= said Ran(! rebeio$s and $ncon+inced:
=Sebe did offer the 7$een to Master Robinton 1hen she hatched!= Meno( said 7$ic&(! =b$t it 1as too
ate: I%pression had occ$rred! and that can4t be atered:=
=6e! 5$st ho1 did Sebe )et his hands on the 7$een e));= No1 Ran(4s e(es hot( acc$sed her of
co%picit(:
=Co%pete( b( accident!= she said! %asterin) her irritation at s$ch an o$tra)eo$s s$))estion: =First! there
rea( isn4t an( positi+e 1a( of &no1in) 1hich is the 7$een e)) in a fire izard c$tch: Second! it isn4t an(one4s
b$siness b$t Master Robinton4s and Sebe4s:= She4d 5$st a( this di+isi+e r$%or into an ear( )ra+e and repa( a
itte of her )reat debt to both %en: ='hird! I pic&ed the t1o bi))est e))s in the c$tch for Master Robinton!= and
the bo(s nodded 1ith appro+a! =b$t the( co$d both ha+e been bronzes:= 'hen she a$)hed: =It a happened so
fast 1hen the e))s started to hatch! no one bothered to see 1hich pot 1as 1hose: Master Robinton and Sebe
5$st )rabbed beca$se both pots 1ere roc&in) fit to fa: 'he itte bronze hatched first! ri)ht into Master
Robinton4s hands! and that 1as that! ri)ht then: ,e ca$)ht it 5$st before it co$d fa fro% the hearthstone:= 'he
bo(s snatched in breath for that near catastrophe: =And then there 1as Sebe 1ith a 7$een in his hands: 'hen!
he tried to )i+e her to the ,arper! b$t "air had I%pressed and so had itte -i%i: 'here4s no 1a( to chan)e that:
And I don4t 1ant to hear another 1ord fro% an( of (o$ as to 1ho )ot 1hat and 1ho sho$dn4t ha+e: 'here4s
eno$)h )ossip f(in) abo$t this ,a:= She 1ished she co$d for)et her 1orries abo$t 1hat those )irs had tod
the 2ord ,oder:
=I &ept tr(in) to te the%!= said /ie%$r! thro1in) his hands o$t! his e(es bri)ht 1ith in5$red innocence
beca$se Meno( 1as no1 )arin) at hi%: 'hen he c$tched dra%atica( at his throat beca$se his +oice had
s7$ea&ed on the ast 1ord: =I4+e )one hoarse ta&in) : : :=
=Can4t ha+e the )oden throat hoarse! can 1e;= said Ran( sarcastica(:
/ie%$r 1as testin) &ah pots on the tabe to see if there 1ere an( that 1as sti 1ar%: Findin) one he po$red
t1o %$)s! offerin) one to Meno(: ,e )$r)ed as he do1ned haf a %$)! r$bbed his hand across his %o$th and
then tod her that she4d better eat 7$ic&( beca$se the(4d be cearin) an( %in$te:
=No1! et4s )et back to the %ar& probe%: 'his 1i be on( the second )ather of the '$rn! so I fi)$re that
the(4 be sendin) an oder 5o$rne(%an fro% the S%ithcraft ,a! to &eep an e(e on the (o$n)er feo1s and
s$per+ise the bar)ainin): And that 5o$rne(%an is 5$st i&e( to be %( father4s friend! /er)a%o; and if it4s
/er)a%o! then I can )$arantee that (o$4 )et top %ar&s for (o$r 1or&: And : : := be hed $p a siencin) hand as
Ran( opened his %o$th to co%%ent! =if it isn4t /er)a%o! it4 be so%eone 1ho &no1s hi%:=
=And if it4s 5$st a (o$n) 5o$rne(%an 1ho4s on to (o$! /ie%$r;= Ran( as&ed in a ca$stic tone:
='hen I b$bber>= /ie%$r dis%issed this probe% 1ith a the disdain of the practiced disse%ber: =I4% 5$st a
i4 feer! and I ne+er ha+e %$ch and I : : := Great tears 1eed $p in his e(es! and his face 1as a %as& of tr$stin)
and an<io$s innocence:
=If I %a( dist$rb this tactica %eetin)!= said a different +oice! and a the bo(s oo&ed )$iti( aro$nd to see
Sebe! fire izard craded in his ar%! =for a fe1 1ords 1ith Meno( : : :=
She rose and foo1ed the 5o$rne(%an to the 1indo1: ,e pressed her roed-$p bet in her hand! as he
than&ed her for sa+in) his di)nit( that %ornin):
=No1! can I &eep -i%i 1ith %e a the ti%e;= he as&ed! i)ht( stro&in) the fire izard4s foded 1in)s: E+en
in her seep she responded to his to$ch 1ith a si)h:
='he %ore she4s 1ith (o$ the stron)er the bond 1i )ro1: If not on (o$! near (o$:=
=Is she too (o$n) to be ta$)ht to sit on %( sho$der i&e (o$r .ea$t( does; I4+e )ot to ha+e both hands for a
1hie toda(:=
=6hen she 1a&es! p$t her on (o$r sho$der:= Meno( )rinned: =And )et $sed to ha+in) (o$r nec&
throtted:=
=,o1 often does she eat;=
=She4 et (o$ &no1:= Meno( a$)hed at Sebe4s consternation: =At east (o$ don4t ha+e to )o catch it:
-eep a fe1 %eatros in (o$r bet po$ch! atho$)h I4% s$re Ca%o 1i a1a(s be read( to chop-chop for (o$
an(ti%e:= Sebe ch$c&ed! too: =One thin) (o$4 need to do dai( is oi her s&in:=
=Does it ha+e to stin& i&e the st$ff (o$ $se;= Sebe 1as dis%a(ed:
Meno( s$ppressed a )i))e: =Master Odi+e had that oi on hand: ,e said he %a&es it for the adies of the
,od to $se on their faces : : :=
=Oh! no:=
=.$t I4% s$re he4d %a&e (o$ so%ethin) %ore s$itabe for (o$r : : := She pa$sed! not certain 5$st ho1 %$ch
she co$d tease Sebe:
=M( %ae di)nit( and ran&;= Sebe )rinned at her: =I4 5$st ha+e a 1ord 1ith hi% no1!= and he stroed off
1ith a it in his step:
Meno( 1as +er( peased that she4d s$ppressed the bo(s4 %isapprehension o+er the fire izards4 hatchin):
Sebe 1as so nice: And! it 1asn4t as if Master Robinton had been $pset at I%pressin) the bronze: ,e )en$ine(
hadn4t cared a 1hit once "air had I%pressed and 1as his +er( o1n: And if Master Robinton 1as content! the
rest of the ,a sho$dn4t 7$arre>
'hen she 1orried abo$t the )irs4 )ossip? if the apprentices co$d ta&e a si%pe s1itch i&e the ,atchin) and
deri+e deep ins$t fro% it! 1hat had the )irs done 1ith her rep$tation at the ,od;
=2oo&! Meno(!= /ie%$r said! poppin) $p beside her! =I )otta co$pe of thin)s to do no1! b$t after dinner!
(o$ 1ant %e to ta&e (o$ ro$nd the )ather; Seein) as ho1 (o$ ha+en4t been to one : : : here! that is:=
She readi( a)reed! c$rio$s to see 5$st ho1 his pans 1o$d affect his bar)ainin): ,e darted o$t of the ,a
then! the others bo(s hard on his hees:
A fe1 5o$rne(%en sti o$n)ed at the o+a tabe! drin&in) &ah! b$t %ost of the apprentices had dispersed:
At the ro$nd tabe! Master Morsha no1 )o1ered dar&( at her as he ate in soitar( di)nit(: Meno( eft the
dinin) ha for the sanct$ar( of her roo%:
,er fire izards 1ere c$red $p on the deep 1indo1 ed)e! their 1in)s )intin) briiant( in the s$n b$t their
5e1eed e(es cosed behind their se+era ids: .ea$t( stirred! raised her head! parted the o$ter id! s7$ea&ed
soft( and! 1hen Meno( stro&ed her reass$rin)(! si)hed and res$%ed her interr$pted nap:
Fro% the +anta)e point of the second e+e! Meno( co$d see the s7$are be(ond the ,arper ,a and the
broad road1a(: 'here 1as aread( considerabe acti+it(? b$rdenbeasts %o+in) $p the ri+er road! their so1 on)
stride one of indoence! rather than abor $nder hea+( 1ei)ht: Stas 1ere bein) asse%bed! for%in) a oose
s7$are abo$t an open space: 'abes and benches 1ere aread( in pace! facin) the dance s7$are: For dancin)
there 1o$d s$re( be! 1ith a h$ndred or %ore harpers to do the pa(in): 'here4d be %ore dancin) than she4d
e+en seen: And probab( different dances fro% the ones pop$ar in her Sea ,od: Oh! this 1o$d be a )rand
)ather: ,er first here! and her first since 'hread started fain):
Meno( ca$)ht si)ht of the )irs e%er)in) fro% the cot! bri)ht( cad! 1ith fi%( scar+es to protect their
hair fro% the i)ht 1ind: Oh! 1hat she4d i&e to do to their hair> /ona4s hair! 1ith its on) neat paits to be p$ed
o$t b( the roots : : : Meno( stopped her tho$)hts! a itte appaed at the intensit( of her disi&e: After a! the
)irs had faied in their ai% to pre5$dice 2ord Gro)he a)ainst her: 6h( 1as she botherin) her head abo$t the%;
She4d better thin)s to occ$p( hersef 1ith: She 1as an apprentice harper! not a so%eti%e st$dent: She 1as
Masterharper Robinton4s apprentice: Of co$rse! since he 1as Master of the ,arper ,a! e+er(one 1ithin 1as
his apprentice:
.$t she 1as an apprentice: And she intended to re%ain one: More than e+er no1 that the )irs had %ade an
effort to 5eopardize her ten$re: She 1as )oin) to sta(! to spite the%! and her parents: She 1as )oin) to %a&e her
pace here beca$se this 1as 1here she beon)ed! as Master Robinton had said: ,ere 1as 1here she co$d
perfect her %$sic: ,ere she co$d %a&e her o1n pace for hersef! not sip into a spot eft b( so%eone ese!
an(one ese: 5$st as she4d %ade the ca+e her o1n! she 1o$d %a&e her o1n pace here in the ,arper ,a: And
no one! partic$ar( a snea&( itte t1itterhead 1hose on( cai% to i%portance 1as bein) so%eone4s
)randda$)hter! 1as )oin) to disod)e her> Or a conni+in) co1ard i&e cothoder D$nca>
Meno( 1ondered if Si+ina had done an(thin) abo$t settin) the r$%ors: Rea(! it 5$st 1asn4t i%portant!
Meno( tod hersef stern(: /artic$ar( 1hen 2ord Gro)he see%ed to appro+e of her and had act$a(
s$))ested that she hep hi% train his 7$een! Mer)a:
Meno( a$)hed to hersef: #$st 1ait ti those sissies heard abo$t that> She! apprentice trainer of fire
izards! the on( s$ccessf$ one on /ern: 'he teacher 5$st one step ahead of the st$dent: She )i))ed no1!
co+erin) her %o$th 1ith her hands beca$se she &ne1 she 1as actin) the 1herr(: .$t she4d been si( not to see
before that she had se+era t$nes to pa( in this ,arper ,a? the t$nes she %ade! her fire [email protected](es! and ho1
to )$t fish and tri% sai 1hene+er so%e harper needed to &no1: And 1h( did Sebe need to &no1; She si)hed
)$sti(:
'oo bad abo$t those )irs! tho$)h: She 1ished A$di+a didn4t ha+e to sta( 1ith the%; she 1as abo+e the
)enera sort at the cot! and it 1o$d ha+e been nice to ha+e a )ir friend: Not that she didn4t ha+e a )ood friend in
/ie%$r: 6hen /ie%$r )re1 $p and ost his briiant +oice! 1o$d he ha+e to ea+e the Craft ,a; No! beca$se
the( %$st s$re( be trainin) hi% to pa( one of those =other= t$nes: She didn4t 7$ite see hi% steppin) into
Master Shona)ar4s sippers : : :
She rose fro% the 1indo1 ed)e! re%inded of the tas& that Master Robinton had set her as his apprentice:
She t$ned her )itar and be)an to rehearse the .re&&e son)! soft( est the ,arper 1as b$s( in his roo%s: Did he
honest( thin& that son)! a t1idde to 1hie the ti%e a1a( $nti Sebe ret$rned! 1as )ood eno$)h to be
perfected;
Of their o1n +oition! her fin)ers 1ere p$c&in) o$t the %eod(: She fo$nd hersef ca$)ht $p once %ore in
the poi)nanc( of .re&&e4s an)$ished co%%and> )on$t leave me alone/ She pa(ed the son) thro$)h! a)reein)
1ith the ,arper that the fo$rth phrase needed poishin) : : : ah! (es! if she dropped to the fifth! it 1o$d intensif(
the phrase and co%pi%ent the chord:
'he tocsin ran) for %eati%e fina(! and sho$ts and a$)hter bro&e her concentration: She 1as a%ost an)r(
1ith the disr$ption: .$t 1ith a rene1ed a1areness of her s$rro$ndin)s! she reaized ho1 her hand ached: ,er
bac& and nec& %$sces 1ere stiff fro% cro$chin) o+er the )itar: She4d no idea she4d been practicin) that on)!
b$t the son) 1as set in her hand and her fin)ers no1: She 1o$d ha+e it finished in ne<t to no ti%e once she had
%ore in& and those paper sheets:
She chan)ed into the cothes she 1anted to 1ear to the )ather? not as rich as the )irs 1o$d be 1earin)! b$t
ne1: 'he cose-1o+en tro$sers and the contrastin) coored t$nic 1ith the see+eess hide 5$%per dispa(in) the
apprentice bad)e %eant %ore to her than fine coth and fi%( scar+es: As she p$ed on her sippers! she noticed
that the constant sc$ffin) on the stone foors 1as 1earin) soes and toes o$t: At east here! she needn4t fear to
approach Si+ina! and perhaps her feet 1ere heaed eno$)h for proper boots! 1hich 1o$d ast on)er:
Chapter 9
The fickle "ind$s my foe,
ith tide his keen ally#
They$re 7ealous of my sea$s love
And rouse her "ith their lie#
6h s"eet sea, oh dear sea,
Heed not their stormy "ile
But bear me safely to my Hold
And from their "atery trial#
8astern Sea Hold Song
'here 1as an e<cite%ent in the air of the dinin) ha! the bo(s chatterin) %ore o$d( than e+er! a
con+ersationa b$zz that dropped off on( si)ht( 1hen the( 1ere seated and the hea+( patters of stea%in)
%eat sices 1ere bro$)ht aro$nd: She sat 1ith Ran(! /ie%$r and 'i%in(! 1ho a $r)ed her to eat hearti( for
the(4d be $c&( to )et stae bread for s$pper:
=Si+ina co$nts on o$r st$ffin) o$rse+es on o$r o1n %ar&s at the )ather!= /ie%$r tod Meno( as he
cra%%ed %eat into his %o$th: ,e )roaned as she heaped t$bers on his pate: =I hate 4e%:=
=Yo$4re $c&( to ha+e 4e%: 'he( 1ere treats 1here I co%e fro%:=
='hen (o$ ha+e %ine:= ,e 1as )enerosit( itsef! b$t she %ade hi% eat his o1n:
No one spent ti%e o+er the %ea! and the diners 1ere dis%issed as soon as .r$de)an had caed o$t the ist
of na%es:
=6e! I4% not on a t$rn toda(!= said /ie%$r 1ith the air of a ast %in$te reprie+e:
='$rn;=
=Yeah! bein) ,arper ,a and a! this ,od e<pects contin$o$s %$sic! b$t no one does %ore than one set!
either sin)in) or dance %$sic: No )reat probe%: Yo$ &no1! Meno(! (o$4d better te (o$r fire izards to sta(
a1a(!= /ie%$r said as the( a %ade their 1a( across the co$rt(ard to the arch1a(: 'he other bo(s nodded in
a)ree%ent: =No tein) 1hat ra)ta) is )oin) to appear at a )ather:= ,e so$nded dar&( forebodin):
=6ho4d h$rt a fire izard;= Meno( as&ed! s$rprised:
=Not h$rt 4e%: #$st 1ant 4e%:=
Meno( oo&ed $p and sa1 her friends s$nnin) on the 1indo1 ed)es: As if her notice 1as s$fficient!
.ea$t( and Roc&( ca%e strea&in) do1n to her! chirpin) in7$irin)(:
=Co$dn4t I 5$st ta&e .ea$t(; No one sees her 1hen she hides in %( hair:=
/ie%$r shoo& his head so1( fro% side to side: 'he other bo(s %i%ic&ed hi% 1ith earnest e<pressions of
concern:
=e!= and he %eant ,arpers! =&no1 abo$t (o$ and ha+in) nine: 'here4re so%e di%1its co%in) toda( 1ho
1o$dn4t $nderstand: And (o$4re 1earin) an apprentice bad)e? apprentices don4t o1n nothin) or co$nt for
an(thin): 'he(4re the o1est of the o1 and ha+e to obe( an( 5o$rne(%an! or %aster! or e+en a senior apprentice
in an( other craft: Shes! (o$ &no1 ho1 .ea$t( acts 1hen so%eone tries to ran& (o$; Yo$ can4t ha+e .ea$t(
ta&in) a s1ipe at an honorabe 5o$rne(%an or craft%aster! no1 can (o$; Or so%eone fro% the ,od;= ,e
5er&ed his th$%b to1ard the ciff-side as he dropped his +oice to &eep the %ere possibiit( of s$ch disco$rtes(
fro% e<ated ears:
='hat 1o$d )et Master Robinton in tro$be;= Considerin) the )ossip 1or& aread( done at the ,od!
Meno( 1o$d as soon re%ain anon(%o$s to the%:
=It co$d>= Ran( and 'i%in( nodded in soe%n accord: =,o1 do (o$ %ana)e to sta( o$t of tro$be!
/ie%$r;= Meno( as&ed:
=4Ca$se I 1atch %( step at a )ather: One thin) to c$t $p in the ,a 1hen it4s a ,arpers! b$t : : :=
=,e(! /ie%$r:= 'he( a t$rned and sa1 .ro( and another apprentice 1ho% Meno( did not &no1 r$nnin)
to1ard the%: .ro( had a bri)ht( painted ta%bo$rine and the other a handso%e( poished tenor pipe:
='ho$)ht 1e %i)ht ha+e %issed (o$! /ie%$r!= the bo( )asped: =,ere4s %( pipe! and Master #erint sta%ped
it and .ro(4s ta%bo$rine: 6i (o$ ta&e 4e% to the %ar&s%an no1;=
=S$re: And it4s %( father4s friend! /er)a%o! i&e I tod (o$ it 1o$d be:=
/ie%$r too& char)e of the instr$%ents! and 1ith a 7$ir& of a s%ie at Meno(! ed the 1a( to1ard the
oose( arran)ed stas on the peri%eter of the )ather4s s7$are:
For the first ti%e Meno( reaized ho1 %an( peope i+ed in this ,od area: She 1o$d ha+e i&ed to 1atch
a bit on the sideines! to )et $sed to s$ch a thron) of peope! b$t )rabbin) her hand! /ie%$r ed her ri)ht into
their %idst:
She near( pied into /ie%$r 1hen he ca%e to a s$dden co%pete stop in the space bet1een t1o booths: ,e
)anced 1arnin)( o+er his sho$der! and Meno( noticed that he had the instr$%ents behind his bac& as he
co%posed his face into an e<pression of 1istf$ in)en$o$sness: A tanner 5o$rne(%an 1as bar)ainin) 1ith the
1e-dressed %ar&s%an in the sta! his S%ithcraft bad)e )ea%in) 1ith a )od thread in the desi)n:
=See! it is /er)a%o!= /ie%$r said o$t of the side of his %o$th: =No1 (o$ ot )o on! across there to the &nife
stand $nti I4% finished: Men don4t i&e a ot of han)ers abo$t 1hen the(4re a)reein) the %ar&: No! Meno(! (o$
can sta(>= /ie%$r snatched her bac& b( the 5er&in as she obedient( started to foo1 the others:
Atho$)h Meno( co$d see /er)a%o4s ips %o+in)! she heard nothin) of his speech and on( an
occasiona %$r%$r fro% the bar)ainin) 5o$rne(%an: 'he S%ithcraft %ar&s%an contin$a( stro&ed the fine(
tanned 1herhide as he dic&ered! a%ost as if he hoped to find so%e fa1 in the hide so he co$d ar)$e a f$rther
red$ction: 'he hide 1as a o+e( b$e! i&e a s$%%er s&( 1hen the air is cear and the s$n settin):
=/robab( d(ed to order!= /ie%$r 1hispered to her: =Sein) it direct neither has to pa( t$rno+er fee: 6ith
$s! once #erint has sta%ped the instr$%ent! the %ar&s%an doesn4t have to sa( it 1as apprentice-%ade: So 1e )et
a better price not sein) at the ,arper booth! 1here the( ha+e to sa( 1ho %ade it:=
No1 Meno( co$d appreciate /ie%$r4s strate)(:
'he bar)ain 1as handseaed! and %ar&s sipped across the co$nter: 'he b$e hide 1as caref$( foded and
p$t a1a( in a tra+e ba): /ie%$r 1aited $nti the 5o$rne(%an had chatted! as co$rtes( re7$ired! and then he
s&ipped to the front of the sta before an(one ese co$d inter+ene:
=.ac& so soon! (o$n) rasca: 6e! et4s ha+e a oo& it 1hat (o$4+e bro$)ht: ,%% : : : sta%ped as (o$ said : :
:= /er)a%o e<a%ined %ore than the sta%p on the ta%bo$rine! Meno( noticed! and the S%ithcrafter4s e(es sid
to hers as he pin)ed the stretched hide of the ta%bo$rine 1ith his fin)er! and raised his e(ebro1s at the
s1eet-so$ndin) tin&e of the tin( c(%bas $nder the ri%: =So ho1 %$ch 1ere (o$ oo&in) to recei+e for it;=
=Fo$r %ar&s>= said /ie%$r 1ith the attit$de that he 1as bein) e%inent( reasonabe:
=Fo$r %ar&s;= /er)a%o fei)ned astonish%ent! and the interchan)e of bar)ainin) be)an in earnest:
Meno( 1as dei)hted! and %ore than a itte i%pressed b( /ie%$r4s shre1dness 1hen the fina fi)$re of
three and a haf %ar&s 1as handcasped: /ie%$r had pointed o$t that for a 5o$rne(%an-%ade ta%bo$rine! fo$r
%ar&s 1as not $nreasonabe? /er)a%o did not ha+e to sa( 1ho %ade it! and he sa+ed a thirt(-second on
t$rno+er: /er)a%o repied that he had the carria)e of the ta%bo$rine: /ie%$r disco$nted that since /er)a%o
%i)ht +er( 1e se the ite% here at the )ather! since he co$d price it $nder the ,arpercraft sta: /er)a%o
repied that he had to %a&e %ore than a fe1 spinters profit for his 5o$rne(! his effort and the rent of the sta
fro% the 2ord ,oder: /ie%$r s$))ested that he consider the fine poish on the 1ood! isten a)ain to the s1eet
5in)e of the best 7$ait( %eta! thin( ha%%ered! 5$st the sort of instr$%ent for a ad( to $se : : : and a hide
tanned e+en(! no ro$)h patches or stains: Meno( reaized that! for a the e<tre%e serio$sness 1ith 1hich the
t1o dic&ered! it 1as a )a%e pa(ed accordin) to certain r$es! 1hich /ie%$r %$st ha+e earned at his foster
%other4s &nee: 'he bar)ainin) for the pipe 1ent %ore s%art( since /er)a%o had noticed a pair of s%a
hoders 1aitin) discreet( be(ond the sta: .$t the bar)ainin) 1as done and handseaed! /ie%$r sha&in) his
head at /er)a%o4s stin)iness and si)hin) %i)hti( as he poc&eted the %ar&s: 2oo&in) so de5ected that Meno(
1as concerned! the bo( %otioned for her to foo1 hi% to the spot 1here the others 1aited: ,af1a( there!
/ie%$r et o$t a si)h of reief and his face bro&e into the broadest of his happ( )rins! his step too& on a 5a$ntier
bo$nce and his sho$ders strai)htened:
='od (o$ I co$d )et a fair dea o$t of /er)a%o>=
=Yo$ did;= Meno( 1as conf$sed:
=S$re did: 'hree and a haf for the ta%bo$rine; And three for the pipe; 'hat4s top %ar&>= 'he bo(s cro1ded
ro$nd hi%! and /ie%$r reco$nted his s$ccess 1ith %an( 1in&s and ch$c&es: For his efforts! he )ot a 7$arter of
a %ar& fro% each of the bo(s! tein) Meno( that that 1as an i%pro+e%ent! for the%! on the f$ haf-%ar& the
,arpercraft char)ed for sein):
=C4%on! Meno(! et4s )ad abo$t!= /ie%$r said! )rabbin) her b( the ar% and t$))in) her bac& into the
strea% of so1( %o+in) peope: =I can s%e the pies fro% here!= he said 1hen he had e$ded the others: =A
1e ha+e to do is foo1 o$r noses : : :=
=/ies;= Master Robinton had %entioned b$bbin) pies:
=I don4t %ind treatin) (o$! since toda( is (o$r first )ather : : : here : : := he added hasti(! oo&in) to see if
he4d offended her! =b$t I4% not b$(in) for those botto%ess pits:=
=6e 5$st finished [email protected]=
=.ar)ainin)4s h$n)r( 1or&:= ,e ic&ed his ips in anticipation: =And I fee i&e so%ethin) s1eet! b$bbin)
hot 1ith berr( 5$ice: #$st (o$ 1ait: 6e4 d$c& thro$)h here>=
,e %ane$+ered her thro$)h the cro1d! )oin) across the %o+in) traffic in an obi7$e ine $nti the( reached
a 1ide brea& in the s7$are: 'here the( co$d see do1n to the ri+er and the %eado1 1here the traders4 beasts
1ere )razin)! hobbed: /eope 1ere %o+in) $p a the roads! arri+in) fro% the o$t(in) pain and %o$ntain
hods: 'heir dress t$nics and shirts %ade bri)ht accents to the fresh )reen of the sprin) fieds: 'he s$n shone
briiant( o+er a: It 1as a )orio$s da(! tho$)ht Meno(! a %ar+eo$s da( for a )ather: /ie%$r )rabbed her
hand! p$in) her faster:
='he( can4t ha+e sod a the pies!= she said! a$)hin):
=No! b$t the(4 )et cod! and I i&e 4e% hot! b$bbin)>=
And so the confections 1ere! carried fro% an o+en in the ba&er4s hod on a thic&! on)-handed tra(? the
berr( 5$ices spiin) dar&( o+er the sides of the deicate( bro1ned cr$sts that )istened 1ith cr(staized s1eet:
=,o! (o$4re o$t ear(! are (o$! /ie%$r; 2et %e see (o$r %ar&s first:=
/ie%$r! 1ith a sho1 of )reat re$ctance! dra))ed o$t a thirt(-second bit and sho1ed it to the s&eptic:
='hat4 b$( (o$ si< pies:=
=Si<; Is that a;= /ie%$r4s face refected $tter despair: ='his is a %e and %( dor% %ates co$d raise:= ,is
+oice 1ent $p in a piteo$s note:
=Don4t )i+e %e that od 1heeze! /ie%$r!= said the ba&er 1ith a derisi+e snort: =Yo$ &no1 (o$ eat 4e% a
(o$rsef: Yo$ 1o$dn4t treat (o$r %ates to as %$ch as a sniff:=
=Master /ai% : : :=
=Master %e nothin)! /ie%$r: Yo$ &no1 %( ran& sa%e as I &no1 (o$rs: It4s si< pies for the thirt(-second or
stop 1astin) %( ti%e:= 'he 5o$rne(%an! for that 1as the bad)e on his t$nic! 1as sippin) si< pies off the tra( as
he spo&e: =6ho4s (o$r on) friend here; 'hat dor% %ate (o$4re a1a(s ta&in) abo$t;=
=She4s Meno( : : :=
=Meno(;= the ba&er oo&ed $p in s$rprise: ='he )ir 1ho 1rote the son) abo$t the fire izards;= A se+enth
pie 1as set beside the others:
Meno( f$%bed in her poc&et for her t1o-%ar& piece:
=,a+e a pie for 1eco%e! Meno(! and an( ti%e (o$ ha+e a spare e)) that needs a 1ar% ho%e : : := ,e et
the sentence peter o$t and )a+e her a broad 1in&! and a broader s%ie so she4d &no1 he 1as 5o&in):
=Meno(>= /ie%$r )rabbed her 1rist! starin) at the t1o-%ar&er! his e(es ro$nd 1ith s$rprise: =6here4d (o$
)et that;=
=Master Robinton )a+e it to %e this %ornin): ,e said I4% to b$( a bet and so%e b$bb( pies: So pease!
5o$rne(%an! I4d i&e to pa( for the%:=
=No 1a(>= /ie%$r 1as fat( indi)nant! &noc&in) her e<tended hand a1a(: =I said it 1as %( treat 4ca$se this
is (o$r first )ather: And I kno" that4s the first %ar& piece (o$4+e e+er had: Don4t (o$ )o 1astin) it on %e:= ,e
had haf t$rned fro% the ba&er and 1as )i+in) Meno( a one-e(ed 1in&:
=/ie%$r! I don4t &no1 1hat I4d4+e done 1itho$t (o$ these past fe1 da(s!= she said! tr(in) to %o+e hi% o$t
of her 1a( so she co$d )i+e /ai% the %ar&er: =I insist:=
=Not a chance! Meno(: I &eep %( 1ord:=
='hen p$t (o$r %one( 1here (o$r %o$th is! /ie%$r!= said /ai%! =(o$4re boc&in) %( co$nter!= and he
indicated the ba&in) fi)$re of Ca%o bearin) do1n on the%:
=Ca%o> 6here4+e (o$ been! Ca%o;= cried /ie%$r: =6e oo&ed a o+er for (o$ before 1e started for the
pies: ,ere4s (o$rs! Ca%o:=
=/ies;= And Ca%o ca%e for1ard! h$)e hands o$tstretched! his thic& ips %oist: ,e 1ore a fresh t$nic! his
face 1as shinin) cean! and his stra))in) crop of hair had been br$shed fat: ,e had e+ident( ho%ed in on the
s1eet aro%a of the pies as easi( as /ie%$r:
=Yes! b$bb( pies! 5$st i&e I pro%ised (o$! Ca%o!= /ie%$r passed hi% t1o pies:
=6e! no1! (o$ 1asn4t ha+in) %e on! 1as (o$! abo$t feedin) (o$r %ates: Atho$)h ho1 co%e Meno( and
Ca%o : : :=
=,ere4s (o$r %one(!= said /ie%$r 1ith so%e ha$)htiness! thr$stin) the thirt(-second piece into /ai%4s
hand: =I tr$st (o$r pies 1i i+e $p to standard:=
Meno( )aped! beca$se there 1ere no1 nine s%a b$bb( pies on the co$nter front:
='hree for (o$! Ca%o:= /ie%$r handed hi% a third: =No1 don4t b$rn (o$r %o$th: 'hree for (o$! Meno(!=
and the pastr( 1as 1ar% eno$)h to stin) Meno(4s scarred pa%! =and three for %e: 'han& (o$! /ai%: It4s
)ood of (o$ to be )enero$s: I4 %a&e s$re e+er(one &no1s (o$r pies : : := and despite the heat of the cr$st!
/ie%$r bit deep( into the pastr(! the dar& p$rpe 5$ices dribbin) do1n his chin! = : : : are 5$st as )ood as e+er!=
and he said that ast on a si)h of content%ent: 'hen %ore bris&(! =C4%on! (o$ t1o:= ,e 1a+ed to the ba&er
1ho stared after the% before he $ttered a bar& of a$)hter: =See (o$ ater! /ai%>=
=6e )ot nine pies for the price of si<>= she said 1hen the(4d )ot far eno$)h a1a( fro% the sta:
=S$re! and I4 )et nine a)ain 1hen I )o bac&! beca$se he4 thin& I4% sharin) 1ith (o$ and Ca%o a)ain:
'hat4s the best dea I4+e p$ed on hi% (et:=
=Yo$ %ean : : :=
=/rett( s%art of (o$ to fash that t1o-%ar&er abo$t: ,e 1o$dn4t ha+e been abe to chan)e it this ear( in the
afternoon: I4 ha+e to tr( that an)e a)ain! ne<t )ather: 'he ar)e %ar&er! I %ean:=
=/ie%$r>= Meno( 1as appaed at his d$picit(:
=,%%%%;= ,is e<pression o+er the ri% of the pie 1as $npert$rbed: =Good! aren4t the(;=
=Yes! b$t (o$4re o$tra)eo$s: 'he 1a( (o$ bar)ain : : :=
=6hat4s 1ron) 1ith it; E+er(one has f$n: 4Specia( this ear( in the season: 2ater on the( )et bored! and
e+en bein) s%a and oo&in) sorro1f$ doesn4t hep %e: Ah! Ca%o!= and /ie%$r oo&ed dis)$sted: =Can4t (o$
e+en eat cean;=
=/ies )ood>= Ca%o had st$ffed a three pies into his %o$th: ,is t$nic 1as no1 stained 1ith berr( 5$ices! his
face 1as fec&ed 1ith pastr( and berr( s&ins! and his fist had s%eared a p$rpe strea& across one chee&:
=Meno(! 1i (o$ oo& at hi%> ,e4 dis)race the ,a: Yo$ can4t ta&e (o$r e(es off hi% a %o%ent:
C4%ere>=
/ie%$r dra))ed Ca%o to the bac& of the ine of stas $nti he fo$nd a 1ater s&in dan)in) fro% a thon) on a
sta fra%e: ,e %ade Ca%o c$p his hands and 1ash his face: Meno( fo$nd a scrap of coth! not too dirt(! and
the( %ana)ed to re%o+e the 1orst of the pie! stains fro% Ca%o4s face and front:
=Oh! bast the she and sear the s&in>= said /ie%$r in a ro$nd oath as he too& $p his third pie: =It4s cod:
Ca%o! (o$4re %ore tro$be than (o$4re 1orth so%eti%es:=
=Ca%o tro$be;= 'he %an4s face fe into deep sorro1f$ ines: =Ca%o cod;=
=No! the pie4s cod: Oh! ne+er %ind: I i&e (o$! Ca%o! (o$4re %( friend:= /ie%$r patted the %an4s ar%
reass$rin)(! and the n$%b1it bri)htened:
=Cod or not!= Meno( said after she too& a bite fro% her third! and cooed! pastr(! =the(4re e+er( bit as
)ood as (o$ said! /ie%$r:=
=Sa(!= and /ie%$r e(ed her thro$)h narro1ed ids! =%a(be (o$4d better bar)ain the ne<t ot o$t of /ai%:=
=I co$dn4t eat another:=
=Oh! not no1: 2ater:=
=It4 be %( treat then:=
=S$re thin)>= ,e a)reed 1ith s$ch a%iabiit( that Meno( decided that she4d ta&en the bait! hoo& and a:
=First!= he 1ent on! =et4s find the tanner4s sta:= ,e too& her b( the hand and Ca%o b( the see+e and ha$ed
the% do1n the ro1: =So (o$4re rea( Master Robinton4s apprentice; 6o1> 6ait4 I te the others> I tod 4e%
(o$ 1o$d be:=
=I don4t $nderstand (o$:=
/ie%$r shot her a started oo&: =,e did sa( that (o$ 1ere his apprentice 1hen he )a+e (o$ that t1o-%ar&er!
didn4t he;=
=,e4d tod %e I 1as before toda(! b$t I didn4t thin& that 1as $n$s$a: Aren4t a the apprentices in the ,a
his apprentices; ,e4s the Masterharper : : :=
=Yo$ s$re don4t $nderstand:= /ie%$r4s )ance 1as one of $ndi$ted pit( for her denseness: =E+er( %aster
has a fe1 specia apprentices : : : I4% Master Shona)ar4s: 'hat4s 1h( I4% a1a(s r$nnin) his errands: I don4t
&no1 ho1 the( did it in (o$r Sea ,od! b$t here! (o$ )et ta&en in as a )enera apprentice: If (o$ t$rn o$t to be
specia( )ood at so%ethin)! i&e %e at +oice! and .ro( at %a&in) instr$%ents! the Master of that craft ta&es
(o$ on as a specia apprentice! and (o$ report to hi% for e<tra trainin) and d$ties: And if he4s peased 1ith (o$!
he4 )i+e (o$ the odd %ar& to spend at a )ather: So : : : if Master Robinton )a+e (o$ a t1o-%ar&er! he4s peased
1ith (o$! and (o$4re his specia apprentice: ,e doesn4t tap %an(:= /ie%$r shoo& his head so1( fro% side to
side! 1ith a soft e%phatic 1histe: ='here4s been ots of hea+( bettin) in the dor% as to 1ho he4d pic& since
Sebe too& his 1a& as 5o$rne(%an : : : not that Sebe doesn4t sti oo& to the Masterharper e+en if he is a ran&
$p : : : b$t Ran( 1as so s$re he4d be tapped:=
=Is that 1h( Ran( doesn4t i&e %e;=
/ie%$r dis%issed that 1ith a )est$re: =Ran( ne+er had a chance! and the on( one 1ho didn4t &no1 that 1as
Ran(> ,e thin&s he4s so )ood: E+er(one ese &ne1 that Master Robinton 1as hopin) to find (o$ : : : the one
1ho4d 1ritten those son)s> 2oo&! there4s the tanner4s sta: And 5$st sp( that bea$tif$ b$e bet: It4s e+en )ot a
fire izard for a b$c&e ton)$e>= ,e4d p$ed her $p and o1ered his +oice for the ast 1ords: =And b$e> Yo$ et
%e bar)ain! hear;=
.efore she co$d a)ree! /ie%$r approached the sta! actin) cas$a(! )ancin) o+er the tabards! soft shoes
and boots dispa(ed! apparent( obi+io$s to the bet he4d 5$st indicated to Meno(:
='he(4+e )ot so%e b$e boot hide! Meno(!= he said! to her:
-no1in) the shre1dness /ie%$r had aread( dispa(ed! Meno( foo1ed his c$e! and! )ancin) at the
tanner for per%ission! to$ched the thic& 1herr( eather: She co$d see the bet o+er his sho$der! and the ton)$e
had been fashioned i&e a si% fire izard:
=No1! don4t te %e (o$ ha+e %one( in (o$r tro$s! short st$ff!= the tanner 5o$rne(%an said to /ie%$r and
then peered $ncertain( at Meno(4s cropped hair! tro$sers and apprentice bad)e:
=Me; No! b$t she4s b$(in): ,er sippers are a dis)race:=
'he tanner did oo& do1n! and Meno( 1anted to hide her sc$ffed foot1ear:
='his is Meno(!= /ie%$r 1ent on! bithe( $na1are of the e%barrass%ent he 1as ca$sin) her: =She4s )ot
nine fire izards! and she4s Master Robinton4s ne1 apprentice:=
6onderin) 1hat on earth 1as possessin) /ie%$r! she )anced an(1here b$t at the c$rio$s 5o$rne(%an: She
ca$)ht a )i%pse of bri)ht fi%( %aterias! and rich( decorated t$nics: She steadied her )aze and sa1 /ona! her
ar% thro$)h a ta ad4s: ,e 1as 1earin) the (eo1 of Fort ,od and the sho$der &not of the 2ord ,oders
fa%i(: .ehind /ona ca%e .riaa! A%ania and A$di+a! each of the )irs escorted b( a 1e-dressed (o$th!
fosterin)s of 2ord Gro)he4s to 5$d)e b( the different hod coors and ran& &nots:
=,ere! Meno(! 1hat do (o$ thin& of this hide;= as&ed /ie%$r:
=And be s$re she has the %ar&s for it!= said /ona! pa$sin): ,er +oice 1as too s%ooth to be ins$tin)! and
(et her %anner )a+e her 1ords an offensi+e rin): =For I4% certain she4s on( 1astin) (o$r ti%e and 1i fin)er
Yo$r 1ares dirt(: 6hereas I 1ant to co%%ission (o$ to %a&e %e so%e soft shoes for the s$%%er: She hed $p
a 1e-fied 1aist po$ch:
=She4s )ot t1o %ar&s!= /ie%$r said! t$rnin) to chaen)e /ona! his e(es fashin) 1ith an)er:
=If she does! she stoe it!= repied /ona! abandonin) her indoent %anner: =She4d nothin) on her 1hen she
1as sti per%itted to i+e in the cot:=
=Stoen;= Meno( fet hersef tensin) 1ith f$r( at the tota( $ne<pected acc$sation:
=Stoen! nothin)>= /ie%$r repied hot(: =Master Robinton )a+e it to her this %ornin)>=
=I cai% ins$t fro% (o$! /ona!= cried Meno(! her hand on her bet &nife:
=.enis! she4s threatenin) %e>= /ona cried! cin)in) to her escort4s ar%:
=No1! see here! apprentice )ir: Yo$ can4t ins$t a ad( of the ,oders: Yo$ 5$st hand o+er that %ar& piece!=
said .enis! )est$rin) pere%ptori( to Meno(:
=Meno(! don4t ta&e ins$t!= A$di+a p$shed her 1a( past the others and )rabbed her ar%! restrainin) her:
=It4s 1hat she 1ants:=
=/ona4s )i+en %e too %an( ins$ts! A$di+a:=
=Meno(! (o$ %[email protected]=
=Get the %ar&! .enis!= /ona said in a hiss: =Ma&e her pa( for threatenin) me>=
=O$t of the 1a(! .enis! 1hoe+er (o$ are!= said Meno(: =/ona has to ans1er for the ins$ts she )i+es! ad(
hoder or not:= Meno( %o+ed side1a(s! co$nterin) /ona4s atte%pt to e+ade her:
=.enis! she can be dan)ero$s> I tod (o$ so>= /onds +oice 1ent $p in a fri)htened! breathess s7$ea&:
=Yo$ %$stn4t! Meno(!= A$di+a said! catchin) Meno(4s see+e: =She 1ants (o$ to : : : /ie%$r! hep %e>=
=Don4t (o$ dare! A$di+a>= /ona4s +oice 1as no1 ed)ed 1ith an)r( %aice: =Or I4 sette (o$ )ood as 1e:=
=Co%e! )ir! the %one(: ,and it o+er and 1e4 sa( no %ore abo$t atte%pted ins$t : : := said .enis in a
patronizin) tone:
=/ona4s ins$ted Meno(>= cried /ie%$r indi)nant(: =#$st beca$se (o$4re [email protected]=
=Cose (o$r %o$th>= .enis 1asted no co$rtesies on /ie%$r: ,e too& a stride to cose the distance bet1een
hi%sef and Meno(! his 5a1 set in a disa)reeabe )rin as he disdainf$( %eas$red the three si)ht and defiant
ad+ersaries:
/ona )a+e a itte s7$ea as .enis eft her standin) on her o1n: 'hen! another as Meno(! steppin) a1a(
fro% .enis! %ade a $n)e at her! tr(in) to catch her on) paited hair:
=,e(! no1 5$st a %in$te! (o$!= said the tanner in a o$d +oice! sensin) an i%%inent fi)ht: ,e d$c&ed $nder
the co$nter of his sta! e%er)in) into the 1a&1a(: ='his is a )ather! not a : : :=
.enis 1as 7$ic& on his feet! too! and he )rabbed Meno( b( the sho$der! spinnin) her to1ard hi% and
sec$rin) her eft ar%! 1hich he i%%ediate( t1isted $p behind her: 6ith a cr( of tri$%ph! /ona darted for1ard!
her hands b$s( 1ith Meno(4s bet po$ch: /ie%$r spran) to Meno(4s assistance! &ic&in) .enis in the shins and
)rabbin) /ona b( the hair: 'he &ic& %ade .enis oosen his hod on Meno(4s ar%: 6ith a stren)th de+eoped
b( '$rns of ha$in) and handin) hea+( nets! she 1renched free of his )rasp! dancin) o$t of his 1a(:
=I sette /ona>= She sho$ted to /ie%$r! bec&onin) hi% a1a(:
=.enis! sa+e %e>= /ona screa%ed! r$shin) to the (o$n) ,oder! b$t /ie%$r 1as sti han)in) onto her pait:
.enis et f( a &ic& at /ie%$r! trippin) hi% $p and added another one to the ribs as the bo( %eas$red his
en)th in the d$st:
=2ea+e hi% aone>= For)ettin) her 7$arre 1ith /ona! Meno( a$nched hersef at .enis: /$ttin) sho$der
and bod( behind her fist! she dro+e it ri)ht into .enis4s face: ,e sta))ered bac&! roarin) in o$tra)e and pain:
One of the other fosterin)s ca%e char)in) for1ard! fist coc&ed to sa% Meno(! b$t A$di+a h$n) onto his ar%:
=*iderian> Meno(4s a seahoder> ,ep $s>=
Started! her escort bo$nded in to hep A$di+a! 5$st as Meno( d$c&ed $nder .enis4s s1in) and tried to
protect /ie%$r! 1ho 1as str$))in) to )et on his feet! bood strea%in) fro% his nose:
'he ne<t %o%ent! the air 1as f$ of shrie&in)! ca1in)! fi)htin) fire izards: /ie%$r 1as screa%in) that
.enis better not hit the ,arper4s apprentice! or there4d be rea tro$be; Ca%o 1as ho1in) that his prett( ones
1ere afraid! and he 1aded in! thic& ar%s faiin)! hittin) indiscri%inate( at friend and foe: Meno( )ot a co$t
across the ear as she tried to restrain the %is)$ided Ca%o:
=Shes> It4s the ,a4s d$%%(>= =Scatter>= =Get her>= =-noc& hi% do1n>= =Got her! Meno(>=
'he fire izards 1ere not ha%pered b( Ca%o4s inabiit( to distin)$ish friend and foe: 'he( 1ent for /ona!
.riaa! A%ania! .enis and the other ads: Meno(! tr(in) to catch her breath! reaized that thin)s 1ere
co%pete( o$t of hand and desperate( tried to ca off the fire izards: 'he )irs 1ere scatterin)! screa%in)!
+ain( tr(in) to co+er their heads! hair and e(es: Attac&ed fro% abo+e! so did the fosterin)s:
(Be still/ 8veryone/( 'he beo1 1as stentorian eno$)h to penetrate shrie&! ho1 and batte cries! and stern
eno$)h to co%%and instant obedience: =Yo$ there! han) on to Ca%o> Do$se hi% 1ith that s&in of 1ater> Yo$!
tanner! hep the% 1ith Ca%o: Sit on hi%! &noc& his feet o$t fro% $nder hi% if necessar(: Meno(! contro (o$r
fire izards> 'his is a )ather! not a bra1>=
'he ,arper strode into the %idst of the %eee! (an&in) a fosterin) to his feet! spinnin) one of the )irs to
the ar%s of the fo& 1ho had con+er)ed on the scene! )i+in) a bood(-nosed /ie%$r a hand $p fro% the d$st:
'he Masterharper4s actions 1ere so%e1hat ha%pered b( the distressed s7$eas of the itte bronze fire izard
cin)in) ti)ht( to his eft ar%! b$t there 1as itte do$bt of the Master4s f$r(: A sience bro&en b( the )$pin)
sobs of /ona and .riaa hed attac&er! attac&ed and 1itnesses ai&e:
=No1!= said the ,arper! his +oice controed atho$)h his e(es 1ere fashin) 1ith an)er! =5$st 1hat has been
)oin) on here;=
=It 1as her>= /ona sta))ered a step to1ard Master Robinton! 5abbin) her fin)er at Meno( and str$))in) to
contro her sobs: 2on) scratches %arred her chee&s! her head scarf 1as torn and her hair p$ed fro% its paits:
=She4s a1a(s ca$sin) [email protected]=
=Sir! 1e 1ere %indin) o$r o1n b$siness!= said /ie%$r indi)nant(! =1hich 1as b$(in) a bet that (o$ said
Meno( o$)ht to ha+e! 1hen /ona [email protected]=
='hat itte snea& tripped %e as 1e 1ere passin)! and then her hideo$s beasts attac&ed a of $s: 'he(4+e
done it before: I ha+e 1itnesses>=
She stopped %id-)$p! arrested b( the oo& on the ,arper4s face:
=2ad( /ona!= he said in an a too )ente +oice! =(o$ are o+er1ro$)ht: .riaa! ta&e the chid bac& to D$nca:
'he e<cite%ent of a )ather appears to be too %$ch for s$ch a fra)ie spirit: A%ania! I thin& (o$ o$)ht to hep
.riaa:= 'ho$)h his +oice e<pressed concern for their 1e-bein)! it 1as ob+io$s that the ,arper 1as
discipinin) the three )irs 1ho bore e+idence of the $nfriend( attentions of the fire izards:
No1 he t$rned to the ,od fosterin)s: .enis! his eft e(e aread( br$isin)! his ip c$t! his hair to$sed and
forehead bearin) fire izard %ar&s! 1as strai)htenin) his t$nic and br$shin) d$st fro% his see+e and tro$sers:
'he other (o$ths 1ho had been escortin) the no1 banished )irs %aintained the ri)id stance the( had adopted as
soon as the( reco)nized the Masterharper:
=2ord .enis;=
=Masterharper;= .enis contin$ed to ad5$st his )ar%ents! a1ardin) the briefest of )ances to the ,arper:
=I4% )ad (o$ &no1 %( ran&!= said Robinton! s%iin) si)ht(:
Meno( had been soothin) .ea$t( and Roc&( 1ho had ref$sed to ea+e 1hen she sent the others a1a(: At
his tone! she oo&ed at the ,arper! a%azed that he co$d e<press so profo$nd a repri%and 1ith a brief phrase
and a s%ie:
One of the other fosterin)s 5abbed .enis in the ribs! and the (o$n) %an oo&ed an)ri( abo$t:
=I e<pect (o$ ha+e b$siness ese1here : : : no1>= said the Masterharper:
=.$siness; 'his is a )ather da( : : : sir:=
=For others! indeed! it is! b$t not! I thin&! for (o$!= and the Masterharper indicated 1ith his hand that .enis
had better retire: =Or (o$! and (o$! and (o$!= he added! indicatin) the other fosterin)s 1ho dispa(ed ca1
%ar&s: =6i (o$ occ$p( (o$rse+es 7$iet( in (o$r 7$arters or 1i I ha+e to %ention this to 2ord Gro)he;= ,e
accepted the frantic sha&in)s of their heads:
'hen he t$rned his bac& on the% and peasant( indicated to those 1ho 1ere a+id( obser+in) his s$%%ar(
5$stice that the( sho$d no1 contin$e their interr$pted p$rs$its: ,e 1a&ed to 1here Ca%o 1as sti bein)
restrained b( three ar)e 5o$rne(%en! b$bberin) noisi( abo$t his pretties bein) h$rt and str$))in) to free
hi%sef:
='he pretties are not h$rt! Ca%o: Not h$rt: See; Meno( has the pretties:= 'he ,arper4s +oice soothed the
1retched %an as he )est$red for Meno( to co%e for1ard into Ca%o4s ine of si)ht:
=/retties not h$rt;=
=No! Ca%o: .r$de)an! 1ho ese is abo$t;= the ,arper as&ed his 5o$rne(%an: Se+era other harpers
obedient( %o+ed a)ainst the tide of the dispersin) cro1d: =Ca%o had better )o bac& to the ha: ,ere!= and the
,arper reached into his po$ch and passed .r$de)an a %ar& piece: =.$( hi% a ot of those b$bb( pies on (o$r
1a( bac&: 'hat4 hep sette hi%:=
'he cro1d had %eted a1a(: 'he Masterharper! stro&in) his )rad$a( 7$ietin) fire izard! t$rned bac& to
the s%a )ro$p sti c$stered to)ether: ,e )est$red the% to the $nocc$pied space bet1een the nearest stas:
=No1! et %e hear the se7$ence of e+ents! pease!= he said! b$t his +oice no on)er hed that chiin) note of
dispeas$re:
=It 1asn4t Meno(4s fa$t>= said /ie%$r! battin) at A$di+a4s hands as she tried to sta$nch the fo1 fro% his
nose 1ith the berr(-stained coth $sed earier on Ca%o: =6e 1ere oo&in) at bets : : := ,e t$rned to the tanner
for confir%ation:
=I don4t &no1 abo$t bets! Master Robinton! b$t the( 1eren4t ca$sin) an( tro$be 1hen the bonde )ir! 2ad(
/ona! started p$in) ran& on (o$r apprentice: Made a nast( acc$sation abo$t the )ir ha+in) %one( she o$)htn4t
to ha+e:=
A oo& of dis%a( crossed the ,arper4s face: =Yo$ didn4t ose the %ar& in the f$ss! did (o$! Meno(;= ,e
sc$ffed aro$nd the tra%ped area 1ith his boot toe: =I don4t ha+e %an( t1o-%ar& pieces! (o$ &no1:=
'he tanner stifed a bar& of a$)hter! and the ,arper si)hed 1ith a%ost co%ic reief as Meno( soe%n(
dispa(ed the ca$se of the tro$be:
='hat4s a %erc(!= Master Robinton said 1ith a s%ie of appro+a for Meno(: =Go on!= he added to the
tanner:
='hen this ass!= and the tanner )est$red to1ard A$di+a! =too& Meno(4s part: So did the (o$n) seahoder: I
thin& a 1o$d ha+e co%e to nothin) if Ca%o hadn4t )ot $pset! and the ne<t thin) I &no1 the air4s f$ of fire
izards: Are the( a hers;= ,e 5er&ed his th$%b at Meno(:
=Yes!= said the ,arper! =a fact that o$)ht to be borne in %ind since the( do see% abe to reco)nize
Meno(4s : : : a%%% : : :=
=Sir! I didn4t ca the% : : := Meno( said! findin) her +oice:
=I4% s$re (o$ didn4t need to:= ,e cosed his hand reass$rin)( on her sho$der:
=Master Robinton! /ona bears a )r$d)e a)ainst Meno(= said A$di+a in a r$sh as if she had to %a&e the
ad%ission before she co$d chan)e her %ind: =And she4s )ot no rea ca$se at a:=
='han& (o$! A$di+a! I4+e been a1are of the pre5$dice:= 'he ,arper %ade a si)ht bo1! ac&no1ed)in) the
ta )ir4s o(at(: ='he 2ad( /ona 1i not tro$be (o$ f$rther! Meno(! nor (o$! A$di+a!= he contin$ed! that
hint of i%pacabiit( tin)in) an other1ise peasant tone: =Good of (o$! 2ord *iderian! to s$pport another
seahoder! tho$)h it is a o(at( I 1o$d prefer to render $nnecessar(:=
=M( father! Master Robinton! is +er( %$ch of Yo$r %ind! 1hich is 1h( I a% fostered in a andbo$nd ,od=
said *iderian 1ith a respectf$ bo1: ,e stiffened! his e(es 1idenin) at so%e dist$rbin) si)ht: ,e s1ao1ed
hard! an<iet( pain( 1ritten on his face:
=Ah!= said the ,arper! ha+in) foo1ed the direction of *iderian4s )aze: =I 1ondered ho1 on) it 1o$d ta&e
2ord Gro)he to respond to pro%ptin)s : : := ,e )rinned! hi)h( a%$sed at so%e inner refection: =*iderian! do
%a&e off 1ith A$di+a: No1> And en5o( (o$rse+es>=
A$di+a needed no $r)in) and )rabbed the (o$n) seahoder4s ar%! hastenin) do1n the aise $nti the( 1ere
ost in the cro1d:
=It4s 2ord Gro)he>= said /ie%$r in a croa&! p$in) at Meno(4s see+e:
'he ,arper ca$)ht the bo( b( the sho$der: =Yo$4 sta( b( %e! (o$n) /ie%$r! so 1e %a( ha+e an end of
this affair no1>= 'hen he t$rned to the tanner: =6hich bet te%pted Meno(;=
='he one 1ith the fire izard on the b$c&e!= said /ie%$r in an $ndertone to the ,arper and then ed)ed
hi%sef caref$( so that the ,arper 1as bet1een hi% and the onco%in) 2ord ,oder:
=Robinton! %( 7$een4s doin) it a)ain: Ah! Meno(! 5$st the person>= said 2ord Gro)he! his forid face
i)htin) 1ith a s%ie: =Mer)a4s been ::: h$%ph> She4s stopped>= 'he ,oder re)arded his 7$een acc$sin)(:
=She4s been f$ssin)> Ri)ht $p $nti I reached the s7$are : : :=
='hat4s rather easi( e<pained!= said Robinton in an off-handed %anner:
=Is it; .oth of 4e% are at it no1:=
Meno( had been a1are of it first! beca$se .ea$t( 1as chirpin) and s7$ea&in) at Mer)a thro$)h 2ord
Gro)he4s con+ersation: She fet coor risin) in her chee&s: 'he disco$rse finished as 7$ic&( as it had be)$n:
'he t1o itte 7$eens fipped their 1in)s cosed on their bac&s and beca%e tota( disinterested in each other:
=6hat 1as that a abo$t;= 2ord Gro)he de%anded:
=I s$spect the( 1ere catchin) $p on the ne1s!= said Robinton! 1ith a ch$c&e! for that 1as 1hat it had
so$nded i&e? a spate of $r)ent )ossip: =6hich re%inds %e! 2ord Gro)he; I heard that the 1ine%an has a &e) of
)ood! a)ed .enden 1ine:=
=,e does;= 2ord Gro)he4s interest 1as di+erted: =,o1 did he )et his hands on it;=
=I thin& 1e o$)ht to chec&:=
=,$%ph> Yes> No1>=
=6o$dn4t do to 1aste )ood .enden 1ine on peope $nabe to appreciate it! 1o$d it;= Robinton too& 2ord
Gro)he4s ar%:
=Not at a:= .$t the ,oder co$d not be co%pete( di+erted and t$rned to fro1n at Meno(: She steeed
hersef before she reaized that his fro1n 1as not %enacin): =6ant a chance to ta& to this )ir: Didn4t see% the
ti%e or pace to do so t4other da( 1ith the ,atchin) and a:=
=Of co$rse! 2ord Gro)he! 1hen Meno(4s finished her bar)ainin) : : :=
=.ar)ainin); ,$%ph: 6e! can4t interr$pt a bar)ain at a )ather : : : h$%ph>= 2ord Gro)he p$shed o$t his
o1er ip as he oo&ed fro% Meno( to the ho+erin) tanner: =Don4t be a da( abo$t it! )ir: 'h4afternoon4s a
)ood ti%e to ta&: Dont ha+e %an( chances to sit and ta&:=
=Finish (o$r dic&er for that bet! Meno(!= the ,arper tod her! one ar% )ent( propein) the 2ord ,oder
a1a( fro% the apprentices! =and then 5oin $s at the 1ine%an4s sta: And (o$!= the Masterharper4s forefin)er
pointed do1n at /ie%$r! =1ash (o$r face! &eep (o$r %o$th cosed! and sta( o$t of tro$be: At east $nti I4+e
had so%e .enden 1ine to fortif( %e:= 2ord Gro)he h$%phed at the dea(: =If it is .enden 1ine : : : 'his 1a(!
%( 2ord ,oder:= 'he t1o %en 1a&ed off to)ether! in step! each stead(in) the fire izards the( carried:
A soft 1histe at her ebo1 bro&e the trance hodin) Meno( as she stared after the t1o %ost inf$entia
%en in the ,od: /ie%$r 1as dra%atica( dra))in) a hand across his bro1 to si)naize a cose escape:
=6hat do (o$ bet! Meno(! that the s$b5ect of (o$r crac&in) .enis in the face ne+er co%es $p; And
1here4d (o$ earn to p$nch i&e that;=
=6hen I sa1 that bi) b$( &ic&in) (o$! I 1as so fa%in) %ad! I : : : I : : :=
=Ma( I add %( con)rat$ations to /ie%$r4s;= as&ed a 7$iet +oice: 'he t1o 1hired to see Sebe! eanin)
a)ainst the side of the tanners sta: 'he e(es of his (o$n) 7$een 1ere sti 1hirin) 1ith the red of an)er:
=Oh! no!= said Meno( 1ith a )roan! =not (o$! too> 6hat a% I )oin) to do 1ith the%;= She 1as $tter(
disco$ra)ed and de5ected: It had been bad eno$)h to ha+e the fire izards di+in) and s1oopin) at pain noise;
o$tra)eo$s of the% to ha+e fo1n at Master Do%ic& beca$se he4d on( spo&en an)ri( to her: And no1 this +er(
p$bic fracas 1ith the son of the Fort 2ord ,oder:
=It 1asn4t (o$r fa$t! Meno(!= said /ie%$r sto$t(:
=It ne+er is! b$t it is>=
=,o1 on) ha+e (o$ been here! Sebe;= /ie%$r as&ed! i)norin) Meno(4s 1ai:
=On the hees of 2ord Gro)he!= said the 5o$rne(%an! )rinnin): =.$t I ca$)ht a )i%pse of (o$n) .enis
%a&in) trac&s o$t of the ,od proper! so it 1asn4t hard to fi)$re o$t 1here he )ot the scratches!= he 1ent on!
)ancin) at the perched fire izards and absent( stro&in) -i%i: =I ha+e on( one b$rnin) 7$estion? 6ho had the
a$dacit( to )i+e .enis a coored e(e;=
=A rare si)ht that 1as!= said the tanner 1ho been &eepin) bac& b$t no1 stepped $p: ='he )ir anded as
s1eet a p$nch in that (o$n) snot4s e(e as e+er I4+e seen! and I4+e been to %an( a )ather that boasted a )ood
bra1: No1! (o$n) harper )ir! 1hich bet had (o$ in %ind before the fracas started; I tho$)ht (o$ 1as after
boot eather:= ,e e(ed /ie%$r sharp(:
=Meno( 1ants the b$e one 1ith the fire izard b$c&e:=
=It4d be %$ch too e<pensi+e!= Meno( said hasti(:
'he tanner d$c&ed bac& $nder his co$nter and pic&ed the co+eted bet fro% its hoo&:
='his the one;=
Meno( oo&ed at it 1istf$(: Sebe too& it fro% the tanner4s hands! e<a%ined it! )a+e it a t$) to see if
there 1ere fa1s or if the hide 1as too thin to 1ear 1e:
=Good 1or&%anship in that bet! #o$rne(%an!= the tanner said: =/roper for the )ir to ha+e it! 1ith her
o1nin) the fire izards:=
=,o1 %$ch 1ere (o$ as&in) for it;= as&ed /ie%$r! settin) do1n to the b$siness of bar)ainin):
'he tanner oo&ed do1n at /ie%$r! stro&ed the bet! 1hich Sebe had handed bac& to hi%! then )anced at
Meno(:
=It4s (o$rs! )ir: And I4 not ta&e a %ar& fro% (o$: 6orth it to %e to see (o$ pant one on that (o$n)
ro1d(4s face: ,ere! 1ear it in )ood heath and on) ife:=
/ie%$r )aped! %o$th 1ide! e(es poppin):
=Oh! I co$dn4t!= and Meno( e<tended the t1o-%ar& piece: 'he tanner pro%pt( cosed her fist o+er the
%ar&er and aid the bet on her 1rist:
=Yes! (o$ co$d and (o$ 1i! apprentice harper> And that4s the end of the %atter: I4+e str$c& the bar)ain:=
,e p$%ped her hand in the traditiona co$rtes(:
=Ah! 'anner 2i)and!= Sebe stepped $p! eanin) on the co$nter and bec&onin) the tanner to bend cose to
hi%: =6hie I didn4t see %$ch of the affair : : := Sebe be)an to r$b his forefin)er on one side of his nose! =it4s
not e<act( the sort of incident : : :=
=I ta&e (o$r %eanin)! ,arper Sebe!= the tanner repied! noddin) his head in acceptance of the adroit
s$))estion: ,is )rin 1as r$ef$: =Not that the tr$th doesn4t %a&e fine tein): Sti! those fire izards of (o$rs are
(o$n)! aren4t the(! )ir! e<citabe-i&e! not $sed to a )ather! I e<pect : : : Oh! I4 sa( 1hat4s proper: Don4t (o$
1orr(! harpers:= ,e patted Meno(4s hand! sti o$tstretched 1ith the %ar&er: =No1 cheer $p! (o$4+e a face i&e
a 1et '$rn: Yo$4+e done %ore )ood than har% this )ather da(: And 1hen (o$4+e the need for sippers to %atch
the bet! 5$st (o$ send %e the 1or&: I 1on4t do (o$ in the %ar&!= and he fashed a oo& at the s&eptica /ie%$r:
=Not that I don4t i&e a )ood ti)ht bar)ain no1 and then : : ."
/ie%$r %ade a )ar)in) so$nd in his throat and 1o$d ha+e disp$ted the state%ent:
=2et4s cean (o$ $p! /ie%$r! as Master Robinton s$))ested!= said Sebe! 1arnin) the bo( b( the tit of his
head to be sient:
=I4+e a 1ater-carrier at the bac& of the sta (o$4re 1eco%e to $se!= said 2i)and! =And here4s a ceaner coth
than the one Meno( has>= ,e hed o$t a 1hite s7$are to her and dis%issed her prof$se than&s 1ith a s%ie and
a 1a+e to be off:
No sooner had Sebe and Meno( p$ed /ie%$r to the bac& of the tanner4s sta than peope be)an to step
$p to his co$nter:
=,ah>= said /ie%$r! oo&in) o+er his sho$der: =,e4s s(! that 2i)and! )i+in) (o$ the bet: ,e4 )et three
ti%es as %$ch b$siness beca$se ([email protected]=
=Cose (o$r %o$th!= s$))ested Sebe! as he r$bbed fir%( at the bood( strea&s on /ie%$r4s face: =,od
hi%! Meno(:=
=,e( : : : I : : := b$t /ie%$r4s co%paints 1ere effecti+e( %$ffed b( the da%p coth Sebe $sed in earnest:
='he ess %entioned abo$t this %atter! /ie%$r! the better: And 1hat I said to 2i)and hods for (o$ as 1e:
,ere and in the ,a: 'here4 be eno$)h r$%or and 1ran)e 1itho$t (o$ addin) (o$r bits:=
=Do (o$ thin& : : : %$%be : : : %$%be : : : I4d do an(thin) : : : ea+e %e aone ::: to h$rt Meno(;=
Sebe s$spended the ceanin) operation and re)arded the bo(4s fashin) e(es and the indi)nant set of his
5a1: =No! I )$ess (o$ 1o$dn4t: If on( not to ose (o$r chance at feedin) the fire izards:=
=No1! that4s not fair : : :=
=Sebe! 1hat a% I )oin) to do abo$t the%;= Meno( as&ed! fina( )ettin) o$t the fears she4d been
s$ppressin):
='he( 1ere on( protectin) : : := /ie%$r be)an! b$t Sebe sienced hi% 1ith a hand o+er his %o$th and a
ste% oo&:
='oda( the( apparent( had ca$se! as /ie%$r said: 'he other e+enin) the( reacted to 1hat 1as )oin) on at
.enden 6e(r 1ith F4nor and Canth! thro$)h .re&&e4s fire izard: A)ain! ca$se:= Sebe )anced bac& to1ard the
tanner4s sta and noticed that so%e of the thron) 1ere s$rreptitio$s( re)ardin) the three harpers: ,e %otioned
to Meno( and /ie%$r to 1a& o$t of si)ht! do1n behind the stas! a1a( fro% the c$rio$s: =A of this!= and
Sebe4s hand too& in the to1erin) face of the ,od ciff behind the%! the ,arper ,a across the pa+ed s7$are
no1 ined 1ith stas! =is as ne1 to (o$ as to the%: Eno$)h to ca$se aar% and apprehension: 'he(4re (o$n) and
so are (o$! for a (o$4+e %ana)ed to acco%pish: It4s a)ain a 7$estion of discipine!= he said! b$t his s%ie 1as
reass$rin):
=I had no discipine this afternoon!= she said! repentin) of her attac& on /ona: She %i)ht 1e ha+e
5eopardized e+er(thin)! cr(in) ins$t fro% /ona:
=6hat d4(o$ %ean; Yo$ had a fantastic ri)ht p$nch>= cried /ie%$r! de%onstratin) 1ith a )r$nt: =And (o$4d
e+er( ri)ht to cr( ins$t on /ona! after a she4s done to (o$ : : := /ie%$r hasti( co+ered his %o$th! his e(es
1idenin) as he reaized he 1as bein) indiscreet:
=Yo$ cried ins$t on /ona;= as&ed Sebe! fro1nin) in s$rprise: =I tho$)ht that Si+ina and I tod (o$ to
ea+e the %atter:=
=She caed %e a thief: She tried to )et .enis to ta&e %( t1o-%ar&er fro% %e:=
='he t1o-%ar&er that Master Robinton hi%sef had )i+en Meno( to b$( that bet!= said /ie%$r! sta$nch(
confir%in) the affair:
=If /ona has added ins$t to the in5$r( she4s aread( tried to do (o$!= said Sebe so1(! =then! of co$rse!
(o$ had to ta&e action! Meno(:= ,e s%ied si)ht(! his e(es sti considerin) her face: =In fact! it4s )ood to
&no1 that (o$ 1i ta&e action on (o$r o1n behaf: .$t! the fire izards part : : :=
=I didn4t ca the%! Sebe: .$t! 1hen .enis tripped /ie%$r and then &ic&ed hi%! I 1as scared: ,e 5$st a(
there : : :=
=S$re! s%artest thin) to do in a &ic&in) fi)ht!= /ie%$r repied! $npert$rbed:
=I cannot! ho1e+er! condone apprentices fi)htin) 1ith each other or 1ith hoders : : : especia( hoders of
an( of ran& : : :=
=.enis is the bi))est b$( in the ,od! Sebe! and (o$ &no1 1e4+e a had tro$be 1ith hi%:=
=Eno$)h! (o$n)ster!= said Sebe %ore sharp( than Meno( had (et heard hi% spea&: As 7$iet and
sefeffacin) as the 5o$rne(%an $s$a( 1as! 1hen he spo&e in that a$thoritati+e tone of +oice! it 1o$d ta&e a
sta1art person to disobe( hi%: ='hat 1as not! ho1e+er! 1hat I %eant b( discipine! Meno(: I %eant the
abiit( to stic& 1ith a pro5ect! i&e that son) (o$ 1rote (esterda( : : : 6as it rea( on( (esterda(;= he added:
,e s%ied tender( do1n at -i%i 1ho 1as no1 aseep in a ba! sn$))ed bet1een his bod( and ebo1:
=Yo$ 1rote a ne" son);= /ie%$r bri)htened: =Yo$ didn4t te %e: 6hen4 1e )et to hear it;=
=6hen 1i (o$ )et to hear it;= Meno( heard her +oice crac&in) on the ast fe1 1ords:
=6hat4s the %atter! Meno(;= Sebe too& her ar% and )a+e her a itte sha&e b$t she co$d on( stare at
the%:
=It4s 5$st that : : : it4s so different : : := She sta%%ered $nabe to e<press the $phea+a in her %ind! the
re+ersa of a that she had been e<pected to do: =D4(o$ &no1 : : : d4(o$ &no1 1hat $sed to happen to %e 1hen I
1rote a son);= She tried to stop the 1ords that 1ere threatenin) to b$rst fro% her! b$t she co$dn4t! not 1ith
/ie%$r4s face contorted 1ith distress for her: And Sebe 7$iet( enco$ra)in) her to spea& 1ith the s(%path( so
pain on his face: =I $sed to )et beaten b( %( father for t$nin)! for t1iddes as he caed the%: 6hen I c$t %(
hand: : := she hed it $p! oo&in) at the red scar and then t$rnin) it to the%! =: : : )$ttin) pac&tais! the( et it hea
a 1ron) so I 1o$dn4t be abe to pa(: 'he( 1o$dn4t e+en ao1 %e to sin) in the ,a! for fear ,arper E)ion
1o$d fi)$re o$t that it 1as %e 1ho4d ta$)ht the chidren after /etiron died: 'he( 1ere ashamed of %e> 'he(
1ere afraid I4d dis)race the%: 'hat4s 1h( I ran a1a(: I4d rather ha+e died of 'hreadscore than i+e in ,af-Circe
another ni)ht : : :=
'ears of bitter and &een( fet in5$stice strea%ed do1n Meno(4s chee&s: She 1as a1are of /ie%$r $r)ent(
be))in) her not to cr(! that it 1as a ri)ht! she 1as safe no1! and he o+ed e+er( one of her son)s! e+en the
ones he hadn4t heard: And he4d te her father a thin) or t1o if he e+er %et hi%: She 1as conscio$s that Sebe
had p$t his ri)ht ar% abo$t her sho$ders and 1as stro&in) her 1ith a1&1ard consoation: .$t it 1as .ea$t(4s
an<io$s chirpin) in her ear that re%inded her that she4d better )et her e%otions $nder contro: Master Robinton
and 2ord Gro)he 1o$dn4t be peased b( a second aar% incited b( her ac& of sef-discipine: /artic$ar( if it
dra))ed the% a1a( fro% )ood .enden 1ine:
She dashed the tears fro% her e(es! and )$pin) do1n one ast sob! oo&ed defiant( into the started faces of
Sebe and /ie%$r:
=And I 1anted (o$ to teach %e ho1 to )$t fish>= Sebe et o$t a on) si)h: =I 1ondered 1h( (o$ 1ere so
hesitant: I4 find so%eone ese! no1 I $nderstand 1h( (o$ hate it:=
=Oh! I "ant to teach (o$! Sebe: I 1ant to do e+er(thin) I can! if it4s )$ttin) fish or teachin) (o$ to sai: I
%a( be on( a )ir! b$t I4% )oin) to be the best harper in the entire ,a : : :=
=Eas(! Meno(!= said Sebe! a$)hin) at her e<cess: =I beie+e (o$:=
=I do! too>= said /ie%$r in a o1! intense tone of reass$rance: =I ne+er &ne1 (o$4d had that &ind of hod ife:
Didn4t an(one ever isten to (o$r son)s;=
=/etiron did! b$t after he died : : :=
=I can see no1 1h( it4s been so hard for (o$! Meno(! to appreciate ho1 i%portant (o$r son)s are: After
1hat (o$4+e been thro$)h!= and Sebe )ent( s7$eezed her eft hand! =it 1o$d be hard to beie+e in (o$rsef:
/ro%ise %e! Meno(! to beie+e fro% no1 on; Yo$r son)s are +er( i%portant to the ,arper! to the ,a and to
%e: Master Do%ic&4s %$sic is briiant! b$t (o$rs appeas to e+er(one! hoder and crafter! ands%an and
sea%an: Yo$r son)s dea 1ith s$b5ects! i&e the fire izard and .re&&e4s ca to F4nor and Canth! that 1i hep
chan)e the sort of set attit$des that near( &ied (o$ in (o$r ho%e hod:
='here4s so%ethin) 1ron) in not appreciatin) one4s o1n specia abiities! %( )ir: Find (o$r o1n
i%itations! (es! b$t don4t i%it (o$rsef 1ith fase %odest(:=
='hat4s 1hat I4+e a1a(s i&ed abo$t Meno(? she4s )ot her head on ri)ht!= said /ie%$r 1ith a the
sententio$sness of an ancient $nce:
Meno( oo&ed at her friend and then be)an to a$)h! as %$ch at /ie%$r as at hersef: ,er o$tb$rst had at
on) ast ifted a 1ei)ht of intoerabe depression: She strai)htened her sho$ders and s%ied at her friends!
fin)in) o$t her ar%s to si)na her reease:
'he( a heard the happ( 1arbin) of the fire izards: .ea$t( crooned 1ith peas$re! r$bbin) her head
a)ainst Meno(4s chee&! and -i%i )a+e a dro1s( chirp that %ade the trio of harpers a$)h:
=Yo$ are feein) better no1! aren4t (o$! Meno(;= said /ie%$r: =So 1e4d better foo1 orders! beca$se it
doesn4t do to &eep a 2ord ,oder 1aitin)! %$ch ess Master Robinton: Yo$4+e )ot (o$r bet and I4% 1ashed $p!
so 1e4d better )et to the 1ine%an4s sta:=
Meno( hesitated 5$st a %o%ent:
=6e;= as&ed Sebe! raisin) his e(ebro1s to enco$ra)e her to ans1er:
=6hat if he finds o$t I4% the one 1ho hit .enis;=
=Not fro% .enis he 1on4t!= repied /ie%$r 1ith a snort: =.esides! he4s )ot fifteen sons: And on( one fire
izard: ,e 1ants to ta& to (o$ abo$t her: Not e+en the Masterharper &no1s as %$ch abo$t fire izards as (o$
do: Co%e on>=
Chapter 9D
Then my feet took off and my legs "ent, too,
And my body "as obliged to follo"#
2e "ith my hands and my mouth full of cress
And my throat too dry to s"allo"#
2enolly$s (9unning Song(
'o Meno(4s intense reief! a 2ord Gro)he did 1ant to ta& abo$t 1as the fire [email protected] in partic$ar and
in )enera: 'he fo$r of the%! Robinton! Sebe! 2ord Gro)he and hersef! sat at a tabe apart fro% the others! on
one side of the s7$are! each of the% 1ith a fire izard: Meno( 1as torn bet1een a%$se%ent and a1e that she!
the ne1est of apprentices! sho$d be in s$ch e<ated co%pan(: 2ord Gro)he! for a his cipped speech and an
a%azin) ran)e of descripti+e )ri%aces! 1as +er( eas( to ta& to! once she )ot o+er her initia ner+o$sness abo$t
the fracas 1ith .enis: She heard! in detai! abo$t the ,atchin) of Mer)a! s%ied 1hen 2ord Gro)he )$ffa1ed
re%iniscent( o+er his ear( an<ieties abo$t her:
=Co$d4+e $sed so%eone 1ith (o$r &no1ed)e! )ir:=
=Yo$ for)et! sir! that %( friends bro&e she at abo$t the sa%e ti%e Mer)a did: I 1o$dn4t ha+e been %$ch
hep to (o$ then:=
=Yo$ can be no1! tho$)h: ,o1 do I )o abo$t teachin) Mer)a to fetch and carr( for %e; ,eard abo$t (o$r
pipes:=
=She4s 5$st one: It too& a nine of %ine to brin) %e the pipes: 'he(4re hea+(:= Meno( considered the
probe%! seein) the disappoint%ent on 2ord Gro)he4s feat$res: =For 5$st Mer)a aone! it 1o$d ha+e to be
so%ethin) i)ht! i&e a %essa)e! and (o$4d ha+e to 1ant it +er( bad(: It 1as : : : 1e! %( feet sti h$rt and it
1as s$ch a on) 1a& to the cot : : :=
,is e(es! 1hich 1ere a disconcertin)( i)ht bro1n! fi<ed on hers: =Got to 1ant it bad(! h$h; ,$%ph:
Don4t &no1 as I 1ant an(thin) badly/( ,e )a+e a snort of a$)hter at her e<pression: =Yo$ 1ant thin)s badly
1hen (o$4re (o$n)! )ir: 6hen (o$4re %( a)e! (o$4+e earned ho1 to pan:= ,e 1in&ed at her: ='a&e the point!
tho$)h! since Mer)e4s a b$nde of e%otion! aren4t (o$! pet;= ,e stro&ed her head 1ith a re%ar&ab( tender
to$ch for a bi)! hea+(-fin)ered %an: =E%otion! that4s 1hat the( respond best to: 6ant4s sort of an e%otion! isn4t
it; If (o$ 1ant so%ethin) bad eno$)h : : : ,$%ph:= ,e a$)hed a)ain! this ti%e 1ith an obi7$e oo& at the
,arper: =E%otion! then! ,arper! not &no1ed)e! is 1hat these itte beasties co%%$nicate: E%otion! i&e
.re&&e4s fear t4other ni)ht: ,atchin)4s e%otiona! too: And toda( : : := he t$rned his i)ht e(es bac& to Meno(:
='oda( : : : that 1as a %( fa$t! sir!= Meno( said! )rabbin) at a re%ar& of /ie%$r4s for e<c$se: =M(
friend! /ie%$r! the itte feo1!= and Meno( %eas$red /ie%$r4s hei)ht fro% the )ro$nd 1ith her free hand!
=st$%bed in the cro1d: I 1as afraid he4d be tra%ped : : :=
=6as that 1hat that 1as a abo$t! Robinton;= as&ed 2ord Gro)he: =Yo$ ne+er did e<pain!= b$t 2ord
Gro)he see%ed %ore interested in the ac& of 1ine in his c$p: Robinton poite( topped the c$p fro% the
1ines&in on the tabe:
=It ne+er occ$rred to %e! 2ord Gro)he!= said Meno( 1ith )en$ine contrition! =that I4d be aar%in) (o$ or
the Masterharper or Sebe:=
='he (o$n) of e+er( &ind tend to be easi( aar%ed!= re%ar&ed the ,arper! b$t Meno( co$d see the
corners of his %o$th t1itchin) 1ith a%$se%ent: ='he probe% 1i disappear 1ith %at$rit(:=
=And increases no1 1ith so %an( fire izards abo$t her= added 2ord Gro)he 1ith a )r$nt: =,o1 %$ch %ore
d4(o$ thin& the(4 )ro1! )ir! if (o$rs are the sa%e a)e as Mer)a;= ,e 1as fro1nin) at .ea$t( and )ancin)
bac& to Mer)a:
=Mirri%4s three fire izards at .enden 6e(r 1ere fro% the first c$tch! 1eren4t the(; 'he(4re not %ore than a
fin)ertip on)er!= said Meno(! ea)er( seizin) on the ne1 topic: ='he(4d be oder b( se+era se+enda(s! I
thin&:= She )anced at the Masterharper 1ho nodded in confir%ation: =6hen I first sa1 F4nor4s 7$een! Gra! I
tho$)ht it 1as %( .ea$t(:= .ea$t( s7$ea&ed indi)nant(! her e(es 1hirin) a itte faster: =On( for a %o%ent!=
Meno( tod her in apoo)( and stro&ed .ea$t(s head! =and on( beca$se I didn4t &no1 the 6e(rs had aso
disco+ered the fire izards:=
=An( notion ho1 od the( %$st be to %ate;= as&ed 2ord Gro)he! sco1in) in hopes of a fa+orabe ans1er:
=Sir! I don4t &no1: '4)ean! Monarth4s rider! is )oin) to &eep a 1atch on the ca+e 1here %( fire izards
hatched! to see if their 7$een 1i co%e bac& to c$tch there a)ain:=
=Ca+e; 'ho$)ht fire izards aid their e))s in sand on the beaches;=
Master Robinton indicated that she 1as to spea& free( to the 2ord ,oder! so Meno( tod hi% ho1 she4d
seen the fire izard 7$een %atin) near the Dra)on Stones! ho1 she4d happened to be bac& that 1a(! oo&in) for
spiderca1s J=Good eatin)! those!= 2ord Gro)he a)reed and )est$red for her to )et on 1ith the taeK ::: and
heped the itte fire izard 7$een ift the e))s fro% the sea-threatened strand into the ca+e:
=Yo$ 1rote that son)! didn4t (o$;= 2ord Gro)he4s fro1n 1as s$rprised and appro+in): ='he one abo$t the
fire izard &eepin) the sea bac& 1ith her 1in)s> 2i&ed that one> 6rite %ore i&e it> Eas( to sin): 6h( didn4t (o$
te %e a )ir 1rote it! Robinton;= ,is sco1 1as no1 acc$sator(:
=I didn4t &no1 it 1as Meno( at the ti%e 1e circ$ated the son):=
=,$%ph: For)ot abo$t that: Go on! )ir: Did it happen 5$st as (o$ 1rote the son);=
=Yes! sir:=
=,o1 co%e (o$ 1ere there in the ca+e 1hen the( hatched;=
=I 1as h$ntin) spiderca1s and 1ent f$rther do1n coast than I sho$d ha+e: 'hreadfa 1as d$e: I 1as
ca$)ht o$t! and the on( sheter I co$d thin& of 1as the ca+e 1here Id p$t the fire izard e))s: I arri+ed : : : 1ith
%( sac& of spiderca1s : : : 5$st as the e))s be)an to brea&: 'hat4s ho1 I I%pressed so %an(: I co$dn4t +er(
1e et the% f( o$t into 'hread: And the( 1ere so h$n)r(! 5$st o$t of the she : : :=
2ord Gro)he )r$nted! sniffed and %$%bed to the effect that he4d had eno$)h tro$be &eepin) one fed! his
co%pi%ents for handin) nine> As if %ention of food had penetrated their seep! -i%i and "air ro$sed!
creein):
=I %ean no disco$rtes(! 2ord Gro)he!= said Master Robinton! risin) as hasti( as Sebe:
=Nonsense: Don4t )o: 'he( eat an(thin)! an(1here:= 2ord Gro)he s1$n) his hea+( torso abo$t: =Yo$ there!
1hat4s (o$r na%e : : := and he 1a+ed i%patient( at the 1ine%an4s apprentice! 1ho ca%e r$nnin): =.rin) a tra(
of those %eatros fro% the stas: A bi) tra(: ,eaped: Eno$)h to feed t1o h$n)r( fire izards and a co$pe of
harpers: Ne+er &no1n a harper 1ho 1asn4t h$n)r(: Are (o$ h$n)r(! harper )ir;=
=No! sir; than& (o$! sir:=
=Ma&in) a iar o$t of %e! harper )ir; .rin) bac& so%e b$bb( pies! too!= the 2ord ,oder roared after the
departin) apprentice: =,ope he heard %e: So (o$4re the da$)hter to Yan$s of ,af-Circe Sea ,od:=
Meno( nodded ac&no1ed)e%ent of the reationship:
=Ne+er been to ,af-Circe: 'he( bra) abo$t that ca+ern of theirs: )oes it hod the fishin) feet;=
=Yes! sir! it does: 'he bi))est can sai in 1itho$t $nsteppin) the %asts! e<cept! of co$rse 1hen the tides r$n
e<ceptiona( hi)h: 'here4s a roc& shef for repairs and careenin)! a section for b$idin)! as 1e as a +er( dr(
inside ca+e for storin) 1ood:=
=,od abo+e the doc&in) ca+ern;= 2ord Gro)he see%ed d$bio$s abo$t the 1isdo% of that:
=Oh! no! sir: ,af-Circe Sea ,od rea( is a haf circe:= She coc&ed her th$%b and c$r+ed her forefin)er:
='his!= and she an)ed her ri)ht hand to sho1 the direction of the c$r+e! after s7$intin) to see 1here the s$n
1as! =%( th$%b is the doc&in) ca+ern! and this!= and she pointed to the en)th of her forefin)er! =is the
,od : : : the on)er part of the haf circe! and then this %$ch!= and she to$ched the 1ebbin)! =is sand( beach:
'he( can dra1 din)hies $p on it or )$t fish! se1 nets and %end sai there in fair 1eather:=
=They*= as&ed 2ord Gro)he! his thic& e(ebro1s risin) in s$rprise:
=Yes! sir! they# I4% a harper no1:=
=6e said! Meno(!= repied 2ord Gro)he! sappin) his thi)h 1ith a crac& that %ade Mer)a s7$ea in
aar%: =Gir or not! Robinton! (o$4+e a )ood one here: I appro+e: I appro+e:=
='han& (o$! 2ord Gro)he! I 1as confident (o$ 1o$d!= said the Masterharper 1ith a si)ht s%ie! 1hich he
shared 1ith Sebe before he nodded reass$rin)( at Meno(:
.ea$t( chirped a 7$estion! 1hich 2ord Gro)he4s Mer)a ans1ered in a sort of =that4s that= tone:
=Cross-craftin) 1or&s! Robinton: 'hin& I4 ha+e to spot a fe1 %ore of %( sons abo$t: Seahods! too:=
'he notion of .enis in ,af-Circe Sea ,od appeaed to Meno(! tho$)h she didn4t &no1 if that 1as 1ho%
2ord Gro)he had in %ind:
'he sap of r$nnin) feet and hoarse breathin) interr$pted the con+ersation as the apprentice ad! 5$))in)
t1o tra(s! a b$t sid the contents into the aps of those he ser+ed:
As the ne1 fire izards 1ere fed! Meno( sa1 that %ore and %ore peope 1ere fiin) into the centra s7$are!
ta&in) seats at tabes and benches: At one end 1as a 1ooden patfor%: No1 a )ro$p of harpers too& their paces
and be)an to t$ne $p: I%%ediate( sets 1ere for%ed for a ca-dance: A ta 5o$rne(%an harper )a+e his
ta%bo$rine a 1arnin) sha&e and then caed o$t the dance fi)$res in a o$d +oice that carried abo+e the %$sic
1hie his ta%bo$rine e%phasized the step rh(th%:
'hose 1atchin) on the sideines capped in ti%e to the %$sic! sho$tin) )ood-nat$red enco$ra)e%ents to the
dancers: 'o Meno(4s s$rprise! 2ord Gro)he added a heart( s%ac&in) beat of his hands! sta%pin) his feet and
cheerf$( )rinnin) abo$t at e+er(one:
Once the %$sic started! the s7$are fied $p! and sti %ore benches 1ere an)ed into an( free space:
Meno( sa1 coors of a the %a5or crafts on 5o$rne(%en and apprentices fro% the has of the Fort ,od
co%pe<: Gro$ps of %en stood abo$t! drin&in) 1ine and 1atchin) the dancin)! their hea+( boots and cean!
tho$)h earthstained! tro$sers %ar&in) the% as s%a hoders in fro% nei)hborin) far%s for the restda( and a bit
of tradin) at the )ather: 'heir 1o%enfo& had con)re)ated aon) one side of the s7$are! chatterin)! tendin)
s%aer chidren! 1atchin) the dancin): 6hen the sets chan)ed! so%e of the hoders dra))ed their )i))in) b$t
1iin) 1o%en o$t to %a&e $p ne1 )ro$ps as the %$sicians be)an another foot-tappin)! hand-cappin) t$ne:
'he third 1as a co$pe4s dance! a 1id )(ration of s1in)in) ar%s and s&ippin) e)s! an e<ercise that
rendered e+er( participant breathess and thirst( to 5$d)e b( the cas on the 1ine%an4s ads 1hen the dance
ended:
A chan)e of harpers occ$rred no1! the dance-pa(ers )i+in) $p the patfor% to .r$de)an and three of the
oder apprentices 1ho ran)ed the%se+es si)ht( behind .r$de)an: At his si)na the( san) the son) that E)ion
had s$n) the ni)ht of his arri+a at ,af-Circe Sea ,od? it 1as one Meno( had ne+er had a chance to earn:
She eaned for1ard! ea)er to catch e+er( 1ord and chord: On her sho$der! .ea$t( sat $p! one forepa1 i)ht(
caspin) Meno(4s ear for baance: 'he itte 7$een )a+e a tri! )anced in7$irin)( at Meno(:
=2et her sin)!= said Master Robinton: 'hen he eaned for1ard! =.$t! if (o$ can &eep the others 1here the(
are on the roofs! I thin& that %i)ht be 1ise:=
Meno( sent a fir% co%%and to her friends 5$st as Mer)a rose to her ha$nches on 2ord Gro)he4s sho$der
and added her +oice to .ea$t(s:
As the fire izards4 descant rose abo+e the harpers4 +oices! Meno( 1as conscio$s of bein) the foc$s of
started attention: 2ord Gro)he 1as bea%in) 1ith pride! a s%$) s%ie on his face! the fin)ers of one hand
dr$%%in) the beat on the tabe 1hie he 1a+ed the other as if he 1ere directin) the e<te%poraneo$s chor$s:
6id appa$se foo1ed the son)! and cries of 4'he Fire 2izard Son)4>= =Sin) the C$een4s son)>= 4Does she
&no1 it;= =Fire izard>=
Fro% the patfor%! .r$de)an bec&oned i%perio$s( to Meno(:
=Go on! )ir! 1hat4s hodin) (o$ bac&; 2ord Gro)he fic&ed his fin)ers at her to obe( the s$%%ons: =6ant
to hear (o$ sin) it: Yo$ 1rote it: O$)ht to sin) it: Sha&e (o$rsef $p! )ir: Ne+er heard of a harper not 1antin)
to sin):=
Meno( appeaed to Master Robinton! b$t the ,arper had a 1ic&ed t1in&e in his e(es! despite the band
e<pression on his face:
=Yo$ heard 2ord Gro)he! Meno(: And it4s ti%e (o$ did a t$rn as a harper>= She heard the e%phasis on the
ast 1ord: ,e rose! hodin) o$t his hand to her as if he &ne1 +er( 1e ho1 ner+o$s she 1as: She4d no choice
no1! for to ref$se 1o$d be to sha%e hi%! si)ht the ,a! and anno( 2ord Gro)he:
=I4 acco%pan( (o$! Meno(! if I %a(: Yo$ do re%e%ber the ne1 1ordin);= Robinton as&ed as he handed
her $p to the patfor%:
She %$%bed a hast( affir%ati+e and then 1ondered if she did: She hadn4t act$a( s$n) the ne1 1ords! or
the t$ne! for that %atter! since she4d co%posed it so +er( on) a)o in the itte ha in ,af-Circe ,od: .$t there
1as .r$de)an! )rinnin) a 1eco%e! and )est$rin) to t1o )itar pa(ers to hand o+er their instr$%ents to her and
the Masterharper:
Meno( t$rned and sa1 a the faces! a the peope %assed on each side of the s7$are: A h$sh fe! and into
that attenti+e sience! the ,arper str$c& the first chords of her fire izard son): Master Shona)ar4s oft-repeated
ad+ice fashed thro$)h her %ind? =Stand strai)ht! ta&e (o$r breath into (o$r )$ts! sho$ders bac&! open (o$r
%o$th : : : and sin)>=
(The little !ueen all golden
Fle" hissing at the sea#
To stop each "ave
Her clutch to save
She ventured bravely#(
'he appa$se that )reeted the fina +erse of the son) 1as so deafenin) that .ea$t( rose on 1in)! s7$eain)
1ith s$rprised aar%: 'hen the cro1d a$)hed and )rad$a( the noise s$bsided:
=Sin) so%ethin) fro% (o$r Sea ,od!= said the Master ,arper in her ear as he pa(ed a fe1 ide chords:
=So%ethin) these ands%en %i)ht not ha+e beard: Yo$ start? 1e4 foo1:=
'he cro1d 1as nois(! and Meno( 1ondered ho1 she4d be heard! b$t as soon as she str$c& the first notes!
the )ather 7$ieted: She $sed the chor$s for introd$ction! )i+in) the Masterharper the chordin)! and s%iin)!
e+en as she san)! to find hersef so 1e acco%panied:
(6h "ide sea, A s"eet sea,
Forever be my lover#
Fare me on your gentle "ave
Yo$r 1ide bed o+er:=
O+er the appa$se 1hen she finished! she heard the Masterharper sa(in) ri)ht in her ear! ='he(4+e ne+er
heard that one before: Good choice:= ,e bo1ed! )est$red for her to ta&e a bo1 and then %otioned to the harpers
1aitin) 5$st be(ond the patfor% to start the second dance )ro$p:
S%iin) and 1a+in) to +ario$s peope! he ed Meno( fro% the patfor% and bac& to the tabe 1here 2ord
Gro)he 1as sti enth$siastica( cappin): Sebe )rinned appro+in)( and rose to pass bac& to the Masterharper
the +er( irritated itte "air:
Meno( 1o$d ha+e preferred to sit do1n and reco+er fro% the s$rprise of her first p$bic appearance as a
harper and the 1ar%th of the reception! b$t 'a%or ca%e $p:
=Yo$4+e done (o$r d$t( b( craftha no1! Meno(! et4s dance>= ,e spied .ea$t( on her sho$der: =.$t
co$d she sit this one o$t; No tein) ho1 she4d %isconstr$e %( %an-handin) (o$ in a dance>=
'he harpers had aread( str$c& a fast prance t$ne:
=6i she sta( 1ith %e;= as&ed Sebe! offerin) his ar% and a padded see+e: ="air didn4t %ind too
%$ch : : :=
Meno( coa<ed .ea$t(! 1ho chattered 1ith anno(ance b$t ao1ed hersef to be transferred to Sebe4s
sho$der: 'a%or! one ar% abo$t Meno(4s 1aist! s1$n) her e<pert( and 7$ic&( into the 1hirin) dancers:
After that! it see%ed to Meno( that she4d no %ore than ti%e to ta&e a 7$ic& sip of 1ine to %oisten her
parched throat and reass$re .ea$t(! before she 1as cai%ed b( another partner: *iderian too& her for the ne<t
set dance! 1ith 'a%or partnerin) A$di+a in the sa%e )ro$p: 'hen .r$de)an ca$)ht her hand for a dance and!
to her co%pete s$rprise! Do%ic& after hi%: She acceded to /ie%$r4s boast that he co$d dance as 1e as an(
5o$rne(%an and %aster and 1asn4t he her best friend! despite a ac& of hands in hei)ht and '$rns in a)e:
C$artets of sin)ers speed the dance pa(ers $nti Meno( 1as certain that e+er( sin)e harper %$st ha+e
perfor%ed: .oth of the son)s that /etiron had sent to the ,arper 1ere so fre7$ent( re7$ested that Meno(
1rithed a bit 1ith e%barrass%ent $nti Sebe ca$)ht her e(e! coc&in) an e(ebro1 and )rinnin) at her
disco%fort:
As f$ dar& setted o+er Fort ,od! the cro1d be)an to thin! for those 1ith a distance to tra+e had to start
their 5o$rne(s ho%e: Stas 1ere ta&en do1n and foded a1a(! the )razin) herdbeasts and r$nners 1ere capt$red
and sadded to bear their o1ners do1n the roads fro% the ,od: 'he 1ine%an! since he &ept a hod in the Fort
ciff! contin$ed to ser+e those $n1iin) to end a )ather:
/ec&in) Meno( $r)ent( on the chee&! .ea$t( re%inded her that the fire izards had poite( 1aited for
their s$pper on) eno$)h: Abashed at her tho$)htessness! Meno( r$shed bac& to the ,arper ,a: On the
&itchen steps! Ca%o sat disconsoate(! his thic& ar%s cradin) an enor%o$s bo1 of scraps! his e(es on the
arch1a(: 'he instant he ca$)ht si)ht of her and the fire izards 1heein) and di+in) as escort! he rose! cain) to
her:
=/retties h$n)r(; /retties +er( h$n)r(> Ca%o 1aitin): Ca%o h$n)r(! too:=
Fro% no1here! /ie%$r appeared:
=See! Ca%o! I tod (o$ she4d be bac&: I tod (o$ she4d 1ant $s to feed her fire izards>=
/ie%$r stopped her breathess apoo)ies as he handed o$t )obs of %eat to his $s$a trio:
='od (o$ )athers 1ere f$n! didn4t I! Meno(; 'od (o$ it 1as abo$t ti%e (o$ had so%e! too: And (o$ san)
5$st )reat> Yo$ sho$d a1a(s sin) 4'he Fire 2izard Son)4> 'he( o+ed it> And ho1 co%e 1e don4t &no1 that
sea son); It4s )ot a )reat rh(th%:=
='hat4s an od son)@=
=I ne+er heard it:=
Meno( a$)hed beca$se /ie%$r so$nded as test( as an od $nce instead of a haf-)ro1n bo(:
=,ope (o$ &no1 so%e %ore ne1 ones i&e that beca$se I4% so bored 1ith a the st$ff I4+e heard since I 1as
a babe : : : ,e(! (o$ had the ast piece! 2az(: It4s Mi%ic4s t$rn : : : there> .eha+e (o$rsef:=
'he h$n)r( fire izards %ade short 1or& of Ca%o4s bo1: 'hen Ran( eaned o$t of the dinin) roo%
1indo1! $r)in) the% to co%e and eat before the food 1as ceared a1a(: 'here 1eren4t %an( in the dinin) ha?
/ie%$r had been ri)ht that the( )ot scant( rations on a )ather da(! b$t the cheese! bread and s1eetin)s 1ere a
Meno( co$d eat:
6hen the Apprentice Master %arshaed the (o$n)er ones to the dor%itor(! Meno( 7$iet( ascended the
steps to her o1n roo%: 'he itin) strains of sti another dance t$ne drifted on the ni)ht air: She4d done her first
t$rn as a harper! and done 1e: She fet i&e a harper for the first ti%e! as if she rea( did beon) here in the
,a: 2$ed b( the %$sic and distant a$)hter! she fe aseep! the 1ar% bodies of the fire izards nestin)
a)ainst her:
'he ne<t %ornin)! oo&in) fro% her 1indo1 to the pace 1here the )ather had been hed! she sa1 fe1 traces
of itter! on( the de1-)istenin) tra%ped earth of the dancin) s7$are: ,oders tr$d)ed to1ard the fieds!
herds%en 1ere )$idin) their beasts to the %eado1s! and apprentices dashed $p and do1n the hod1a( on their
errands: Do1n the ra%p fro% Fort ,od paced a troop of e))( r$nners! fresh after a da(4s rest! frettin) a)ainst
the so1 pace to 1hich their riders hed the% $nti the( 1ere past the a%bin) herdbeasts: 'he( disappeared in a
co$d of d$st do1n the on) road to the east:
Meno( heard the noise fro% the apprentices4 dor%itor(! and a soft! a b$t ina$dibe! creein) coser b(:
She thre1 on her cothes and dashed do1n the steps:
=-ne1 (o$ 1o$dn4t %iss! Meno(!= said Si+ina! %eetin) her on the steps fro% the &itchen: She carried a
tra(! 1hich she thr$st ahead: =Do ta&e this $p to the ,arper! i&e a pet! 1o$d (o$; Ca%o4s 5$st abo$t finished
1iedin) that chopper of his for (o$r fair:=
Meno(4s poite tap at the Masterharper4s door bro$)ht an instant response: ,e had a f$r c$tched aro$nd
hi% and an insistent( creein) fire izard ca1in) at his bare ar%:
=,o14d (o$ &no1;= he as&ed! dei)hted and reie+ed to see her: ='han& )oodness (o$ did: I rea( can4t
appear in the &itchen 1rapped in a seepin) f$r: 'here! there> I4% st$ffin) (o$r face! (o$ botto%ess pit: ,o1
on) does this insatiabe appetite contin$e! Meno(;=
She hed the tra( for hi% so he co$d feed "air as the( crossed the roo%: She sid the tra( onto the %idde of
the sandtabe and! anticipatin) the ,arper4s o1n re7$ire%ents! offered "air his ne<t fe1 pieces of %eat 1hie
Master Robinton )ratef$( )$ped do1n stea%in) &ah: ,e )rabbed a piece of bread! dipped it into the
s1eetin)! had another sip of &ah and then! his %o$th f$! 1a+ed at Meno( to ea+e:
=Yo$4+e )ot (o$r o1n to feed! too: Don4t for)et to 1or& on (o$r son): I4 re7$ire a finished cop( ater this
%ornin):=
She nodded and eft hi%! 1onderin) if she o$)ht to chec& and see if Sebe 1as %ana)in) 1ith -i%i: ,e
1as! seated at one of the 5o$rne(%en4s tabes! 1ith %ore than eno$)h 1iin) assistants:
,er fire izards 1aited patient( at the &itchen steps 1ith /ie%$r and Ca%o: Once her friends had been fed!
she 1as en5o(in) a second c$p of &ah 1hen Do%ic& ca%e stridin) across the co$rt to1ard her:
=Meno(!= and he 1as fro1nin) 1ith irritation! =I &no1 Robinton 1ants (o$ to finish that son) for hi%! b$t
1i it ta&e a %ornin); I 1anted (o$ to )o thro$)h that 7$artet %$sic 1ith Sebe! 'a%or and %(sef: Morsha
has the )irs for theor( on firstda( so 'a%or4s free: I4 ne+er )et that 7$artet read( for perfor%ance $ness 1e
ha+e a fe1 %ore )ood rehearsas:=
=I4 start the cop( ri)ht no1! on( : : :=
=On( 1hat;=
=I don4t ha+e an( cop(in) toos:=
=Is that a; Finish (o$r &ah 7$ic&(: I4 sho1 (o$ Arnor4s den: #$st as 1e I4% ta&in) (o$!= Do%ic& said!
)$idin) her to1ard the door in the opposite corner of the co$rt: =Robinton 1ants the son) done on those sheets
of p$ped 1ood! and Arnor 1on4t hand them o$t to apprentices:=
Master Arnor! the ,a4s archi+ist! occ$pied the ar)e roo% behind the Main ,a: It 1as briiant( it 1ith
)o1 bas&ets in each co%er! in the center of the roo%! and s%aer ones dependin) abo+e the tited 1or&tabes
1here apprentices and 5o$rne(%en bent to tas&s of cop(in) faded record hides and ne1er son)s: Master Arnor
1as a f$sser? he 1anted to &no1 1h( Meno( 1as to ha+e sheets; apprentices had to earn ho1 to cop(
proper( on od hide before the( co$d be entr$sted 1ith the precio$s sheets; 1hat 1as a the h$rr( abo$t; And
1h( hadn4t Master Robinton tod hi% hi%sef if it 1as a this i%portant; And a )ir; Yes! (es! he4d heard of
Meno(: ,e4d seen her in the dinin) ha! sa%e as he sa1 a the other n$isanc( apprentices and hoder )irs
and! oh! 1e! a ri)ht! here 1as too and in&! b$t she 1asn4t to 1aste it no1! or he4d ha+e to %a&e %ore and that
1as a en)th( process and apprentices ne+er paid cose attention to the si%%erin) and if the so$tion boied! it
1o$d be r$ined and fade too soon and oh! he didn4t &no1 1hat the 1ord 1as co%in) to>
A 5o$rne(%an had been $nobtr$si+e( asse%bin) the +ario$s ite%s! and he handed the% to Meno(! )i+in)
her an a%$sed 1in& for his %aster4s 7$er$o$sness: ,is s%ie aso con+e(ed to Meno( the tip that the ne<t
ti%e she sho$d co%e direct( to hi% rather than approach his cran&( %aster:
Do%ic& )ot her a1a( fro% the od archi+ist after the barest of co$rtesies: As the( 1a&ed bac& to the ,a
entrance! he a)ain directed her not to be a %ornin) at the cop(in) or he4d ne+er )et the ne1 7$artet s$fficient(
rehearsed before the Festi+a: As he opened the door to the Main ,a! she heard the Masterharper4s +oice and
sped $p the stairs:
As she 1or&ed in her roo%! her concentration 1as penetrated no1 and then b( +oices raised in disc$ssion in
the ,a beo1: Absent( she identified the +ario$s %asters? Do%ic&! Morsha! #erint! the Masterharper and! to
her s$rprise! Si+ina! and others 1hose +oices she co$dn4t reco)nize as readi(: As the con+ersations apparent(
had to do 1ith postin) 5o$rne(%en to +ario$s positions abo$t the co$ntr(! she paid scant heed:
She 1as! in fact! 5$st finishin) the third and ooser interpretation of the son) 1hen a bris& tappin) at the
door started her so %$ch she a%ost s%eared the sheet: At her ans1er! Do%ic& strode in:
=,a+en4t (o$ finished (et;=
She nodded to the sheets! spread o$t to dr(: Sco1in) 1ith e<asperation! he strode across the roo% and
pic&ed $p the nearest sheet: .efore she co$d 1arn hi% abo$t da%p in&! she noticed that he too& the sheet
caref$( b( the ed)es:
=,%%%: Yes: Yo$ cop( neat( eno$)h to pease e+en od Arnor: Yes! no1 : : := he 1as scannin) the other
sheets: ='raditiona for%s a d$( obser+ed : : : Not a bad t$ne! at a:= ,e )a+e her an appro+in) nod: =.it bare
of chord! b$t the s$b5ect doesn4t need %$sica e%beish%ent: Co%e! co%e! finish that sheet! too:= ,e pointed to
the one before her: =Oh! (o$ ha+e> Fair eno$)h:= ,e be1 )ent( across the sheet to dr( the ast ine of sti
)istenin) in&: =Yes! that4 do: I4 5$st be off 1ith these: 'a&e (o$r )itar across to %( 7$arters! Meno(! and
st$d( the %$sic on the rac&: Yo$4re to pa( second )itar: /a( specia attention to the d(na%ic 7$aities of the
second +ariation:=
6ith that he eft her: ,er ri)ht hand ached fro% the cra%ped position of cop(in)! and she %assa)ed it! then
shoo& her fin)ers +i)oro$s( fro% the 1rist to reie+e the strain:
=No1!= she heard the Masterharper4s +oice fro% the roo% beo1! =the point is that a b$t one of the
for%aities has been obser+ed: Ad%itted(! there4s not been %$ch ti%e spent in the ,a! b$t an apprenticeship
ser+ed ese1here $nder a co%petent 5o$rne(%an has a1a(s been ad%issibe: Does an(one 1ish to re)ister an(
reser+ations abo$t the co%petence of that 5o$rne(%an;= 'here 1as a short pa$se: =So that4s setted: Ah! (es!
than& (o$! Do%ic&: No1! Master Arnor : : := and Meno( ost the so$nd of his +oice as he e+ident( %o+ed
a1a( fro% the 1indo1:
She 1as $nco%fortab( a1are that she 1as not on( an inad+ertent ea+esdropper on Craft %atters not her
b$siness! b$t disobedient to Master Do%ic&4s orders: Not that she didn4t 1ish to foo1 the%: She pic&ed $p her
)itar: /a(in) 1ith 'a%or! Sebe and Do%ic& 1as a p$re dei)ht: ,ad Master Do%ic& %eant to inti%ate that
she4d be part of that 7$artet in a perfor%ance; 6e! if (esterda( 1as an( sa%pe of bein) a harper! (es! she
probab( 1o$d be perfor%in) in that 7$artet! ne1 as she 1as to the ,arper ,a: 'hat 1as part of bein) a
harper! after a:
6hen Meno( entered Do%ic&s 7$arters! 'a%or and Sebe! -i%i disposed on his sho$der and not
oo&in) too peased to be shifted fro% the croo& of his ar%! 1ere aread( disc$ssin) the %$sic: 'he( )reeted her
cheerf$( and as&ed if she4d en5o(ed her first )o in a )ather at Fort ,od: 'he( both a$)hed at her enth$siastic
repies:
=E+er(one4s the better for a )ood )ather!= said 'a%or:
=E<cept Morsha!= said Sebe! and! )ancin) side1a(s at 'a%or as if the( shared so%e secret! r$bbed the
side of his nose:
=2et $s pa(! 5o$rne(%an Sebe!= Meno( tho$)ht that 'a%or so$nded repro+in):
=.( a %eans! 5o$rne(%an 'a%or!= said Sebe! not the east bit pert$rbed: =If (o$ 1i 5oin $s! Apprentice
Meno(:= 'he bro1n %an )est$red eaborate( for Meno( to ta&e the stoo beside hi%:
As Meno( chec&ed the t$nin) of her )itar! 'a%or t$rned the sheets of %$sic on the rac&: =6here does he
1ant $s to start;=
=Master Do%ic& tod %e to st$d( the d(na%ics of the second +ariation!= said Meno( 1ith hepf$
deference:
='hat4s ri)ht! that4s 1here!= said 'a%or! snappin) his fin)ers before he fipped the correct sheets to the
front: =At the beat then : : : s1eet shes! he4s chan)in) the ti%e in e+er( third %eas$re : : : 1hat does he e<pect
of $s;=
=Are the d(na%ics diffic$t;= as&ed Meno(! feein) apprehensi+e:
=Not diffic$t! 5$st Do%ic& a o+er!= said 'a%or 1ith the si)h of the on)-s$fferin): .$t he tapped the
appropriate beat on the 1ood of his )itar and )a+e a %ore e%phatic fifth beat for the% to start:
'he(4d had a chance to )o thro$)h the second +ariation once before Do%ic& entered the roo%: Noddin)
co$rteo$s( to the%! he too& his pace:
=2et4s start at the be)innin) of the second +ariation! no1 that (o$4+e had a chance to pa( thro$)h it:=
'he( 1or&ed steadi(! )oin) strai)ht thro$)h the %$sic once: 'he second ti%e the( pa$sed fre7$ent( to
perfect the %ore diffic$t passa)es and baance the parts: 'he dinner be p$nct$ated the bris& notes of the
finae: 'a%or and Sebe p$t do1n their instr$%ents 1ith s%a si)hs of reief! b$t Meno( refin)ered the fina
three chords soft( before she aid her instr$%ent do1n:
=Does (o$r hand h$rt;= as&ed Do%ic& 1ith $ne<pected soicit$de:
=No! I 1as 5$st 1onderin) if the strin) 1as tr$e:=
=If (o$ heard a so$r so$nd! it 1as %( sto%ach!= said 'a%or:
='oo %$ch )atherin);= as&ed Sebe 1ith itte s(%path(:
=No! not eno$)h brea&fast! than& (o$>= repied 'a%or 1ith the br$s7$eness of so%eone bein) teased: ,e
rose and eft the roo%! foo1ed cose( b( the sient( a$)hin) Sebe:
=Master Shona)ar has (o$ this afternoon! Meno(;= as&ed Do%ic&! %otionin) for Meno( to co%e 1ith
hi%:
=Yes! sir:=
=6e! then (o$4d ha+e to contin$e that +oice instr$ction an(1a(!= he said in a cr(ptic fashion: Meno(
decided he %$st be 1ishin) to ha+e her practice 1ith hi% %ore steadi(! b$t Master Robinton had been specific?
her %ornin)s 1ere sched$ed to Master Do%ic&; afternoons she 1as to )o to Master Shona)ar:
6hen the( entered the dinin) ha! the roo% 1as aread( 1e fied: Do%ic& t$rned to the ri)ht to1ard the
%asters4 tabe: Meno( ca$)ht one )i%pse of Master Morsha! aread( seated! his face set in the so$rest ines
she had (et seen on the bad-te%pered od %an! so she oo&ed 7$ic&( a1a(:
=/ona4s )one>= /ie%$r po$nced on her fro% the eft! his face 1reathed 1ith s%$) satisfaction: =So I can sit
1ith (o$! near the )irs! no1: A$di+a said I co$d 4ca$se it 1as /ona 1ho )ot snott(: A$di+a sa(s 1i (o$
please sit 1ith her:=
=/ona4s )one;= Meno(! both s$rprised and ner+o$s! per%itted /ie%$r to p$ her to1ard the hearthside
tabe: 'here 1ere t1o e%pt( paces! one on either side of A$di+a! 1ho s%ied hesitant( as she sa1 Meno(
approachin): She bec&oned to the seat on her ri)ht! a1a( fro% the other )irs:
=See! /ona is )one> She )ot ta&en a1a( a-dra)onbac&!= /ie%$r added! his peas$re in her depart$re
so%e1hat aa(ed b( the presti)io$s %anner of her )oin):
=.eca$se of (esterda(;= 'he thin &not of 1orr( in her %idde )re1 ar)er and coder: /ona in the cot!
contained b( the discipine of the ,arper ,a! 1as bad eno$)h; b$t! in her )randfather4s ,od! po$rin) o$t acid
+en)eance! she 1as %$ch %ore dan)ero$s for ,arper apprentice! Meno(:
=Na1! not 5$st (esterda(!= /ie%$r said fir%(: =So don4t (o$ )o feein) )$it( abo$t it: .$t (esterda( 1as
the fina crac&! the 1a( I heard it! bearin) fase 1itness a)ainst (o$: And D$nca4s been ra&ed o+er b( Si+ina>
'hat peased her no end; she4s 5$st been itchin) to ta&e D$nca do1n:=
'i%in( 1as straddin) three seats across fro% A$di+a! and )est$rin) $r)ent( to Meno( and /ie%$r to
ta&e the%:
=Yo$ sit 1ith 'i%in(! /ie%$r: I4% )oin) to sit ne<t to A$di+a: 2oo&s i&e she4s bein) p$t on b( .riaa 1ith
that e%pt( seat and a:=
As she stepped to the pace! she ca$)ht .riaa4s started! anta)onistic )ance: 'he dar& )ir n$d)ed her
nei)hbor! A%ania! 1ho aso t$rned to )are at Meno(: .$t Meno( s%ied at A$di+a and! as she stood b( the
ta craft)ir! she fet A$di+a4s hand f$%be for hers and the )ratef$ press$re of her fin)ers: Steain) a side1a(s
)ance! she noticed that A$di+a4s e(es oo&ed red and her chee&s sho1ed the p$ffiness of recent and proon)ed
1eepin):
'he si)na to be seated 1as )i+en! and the %ea be)an: If Meno( fet too sef-conscio$s and A$di+a too
$pset to ta&! /ie%$r s$ffered no inhibitions and babbed on abo$t ho1 he4d %ade his %ar&s co$nt:
=I )ot nine %ore b$bb( pies! Meno(!= he tod her )ai(! =ca$se the ba&er tho$)ht the( 1ere for (o$! %e
and Ca%o: I did share 1ith 'i%in(! didn4t I! 'i%; And then I 1on a 1a)er on the r$nners: An(one 1ith haf an
e(e co$d te the one 1ith the sore hoof 1o$d r$n faster : : : so he 1o$dn4t ha+e to r$n so on):=
=So! ho1 %an( %ar&s did (o$ co%e bac& 1ith;=
=,a>= /ie%$r4s e(es fashed 1ith his tri$%ph: =More4n I 1ent to the )ather 1ith! and I4% not sa(in) ho1
%$ch that is:=
=Yo$4re not &eepin) it in the dor%! are (o$;= as&ed 'i%in(! 1orried:
=,a1> I )a+e it to Si+ina to &eep safe for %e: I4% no foo: And I tod the entire dor% 1here %( %ar&s are!
so the( &no1 it4s no )ood p$ttin) on %e to find o$t 1here I4+e hid 4e%: I %a( be s%a! b$t %( )o1s not di%:=
.riaa! 1ho 1as pretendin) to i)nore the% a! %ade a disa)reeabe so$nd: /ie%$r 1as abo$t to ta&e
$%bra)e 1hen Meno( &ic&ed his shin to 1arn hi% to be sient:
=Yo$ &no1 1hat! Meno(!= and no1 /ie%$r eaned across the tabe! e<$din) %(ster( as be )anced fro%
her to A$di+a and 'i%in(! =the(4re postin) 5o$rne(%en:=
=Are the(;= as&ed Meno(! %(stified:
=Yo$ o$)ht to &no1: Co$dn4t (o$ hear an(thin) in (o$r roo%; I sa1 the 1indo1s of the Main ,a open!
and (o$4re ri)ht o+er 4e%:=
=I 1as b$s(!= Meno( said stern( to /ie%$r: =And I 1as bro$)ht $p not to isten to other peope4s pri+ate
con+ersations:=
/ie%$r roed his e(es in e<asperation for s$ch niceties: =Yo$4 ne+er s$r+i+e in a ,arper ,a then!
Meno(> Yo$4+e )ot to be one 5$%p ahead of the %asters : : : and the 2ord ,oders : : : A harper4s s$pposed to
earn as %$ch as be can : : :=
=2earn! (es; o+erhear! no!= repied Meno(:
=And (o$4re an apprentice!= added A$di+a:
=An apprentice earns to be a harper b( o+erhearin) his %aster! doesn4t be;= de%anded /ie%$r: =.esides! I
)otta thin& ahead: I )otta be )ood at so%ethin) besides sin)in): M( +oice 1on4t ast fore+er: Do (o$ reaize that
on( one o$t of h$ndreds!= and he 1a+ed his ar%s in s$ch an e<pansi+e )est$re that 'i%in( had to d$c&! =of
bo( sopranos ha+e an( +oice 1hen the( hit the chan)e; So! if I4% not $c&(! b$t if I4% )ood at di))in) thin)s
o$t! %a(be I4 )et posted i&e Sebe and ha+e a fire izard to ta&e i%portant %essa)es fro% hod to ha : : :=
'hen /ie%$r froze! and ca$tio$s( t$rned to oo& at Meno(! his e(es 1ide 1ith consternation:
She a$)hed; she co$dn4t hep it: 'i%in(! 1ho had ob+io$s( heard /ie%$r4s on)-ran)e pan before! )$ped
so fierce( that his nec& cartia)e bobbed $p and do1n his throat i&e a net foatin) in a fast c$rrent:
=I rea( do i&e the fire izards! Meno(! I rea( do!= said /ie%$r! tr(in) to $ndo the indiscretion and
reinstate hi%sef in Meno(4s )ood )races:
She co$dn4t resist a pretense of disdain! and i)nored hi%! b$t his e<pression 1as so )en$ine(
panic-stric&en that she reented sooner than she intended:
=/ie%$r! (o$4+e been %( best and first friend in the ,a: And I rea( do thin& %( fire izards i&e (o$:
Mi%ic! Roc&( and 2az( et (o$ feed the%: I %a( not be abe to hep! b$t if I do e+er ha+e an( sa( in the %atter!
(o$4 )et an e)) fro% one of .ea$t(4s c$tches:=
/ie%$r4s e<a))erated si)h of reief attracted attention fro% the other )irs! 1ho 1ere sti pretendin) that
that end of the tabe didn4t e<ist: /atters of ste1ed %eats and +e)etabes 1ere no1 bein) ser+ed! and Meno(
too& ad+anta)e of the )enera noise to as& A$di+a ho1 thin)s 1ere 1ith her:
=A ri)ht! once the f$ror died do1n: I ran& the rest of the%! e+en if ran& is not s$pposed to be a
consideration 1hie 1e4re at the ,arper ,a:=
=Yo$4re aso the best %$sician of the ot!= said Meno(! tr(in) to cheer A$di+a: She so$nded +er(
depressed! and she %$st ha+e been cr(in) a ot to ha+e s$ch p$ff( chee&s:
=Do (o$ rea( thin& I can pa(;= as&ed A$di+a! s$rprised and peased:
=Fro% 1hat I heard that %ornin)! (es: 'he others are hopeess: If there4s no reason (o$ have to sta( at
D$nca4s 1hen (o$ ha+e free ti%e! %a(be (o$4d i&e to co%e to %( roo%: 6e co$d practice to)ether if that
1o$d hep:=
=Me; /ractice 1ith (o$; Oh! Meno(! co$d I pease; I rea( do 1ant to earn! b$t a the others 1ant to do
is ta& abo$t the fosterin)s at the ,od! and their cothes! and 1ho their fathers are i&e( to choose as h$sbands
for the%! and I 1ant to earn ho1 to pa( 1e:=
Meno( e<tended her hand! pa% $p! and A$di+a )ratef$( seized it! her e(es spar&in)! a traces of her
$nhappiness erased:
=#$st 1ait ti I te (o$ 1hat happened in the cot!= she said in a confidentia tone that reached on(
Meno(4s ears: She sa1 /ie%$r coc&in) his head to tr( and hear! and 1a+ed hi% a1a(: =It 1as a treat> A rare
treat> 6hat Si+ina said to D$nca>= A$di+a )i))ed:
=.$t 1on4t there be tro$be abo$t /ona bein) sent bac&; She is the )randda$)hter of the 2ord ,oder of
.o:=
A$di+a4s face co$ded brief(: ='he ,arper has the ri)ht to sa( 1ho sta(s in his o1n ,a!= repied A$di+a
7$ic&(: =,e has e7$a ran& 1ith a 2ord ,oder! 1ho can dis%iss an( fosterin) he chooses: .esides! (o$4re a
hoder4s da$)hter:=
=,oder4s! not 2ord ,oder4s: On( I4% an apprentice no1:= Meno( to$ched her sho$der bad)e! 1hich
%eant %ore to her than bein) her fathers da$)hter:
=Yo$4re the Masterharper4s apprentice!= said /ie%$r 1ho indeed had sharp ears if he4d heard their 1hispers:
=And that %a&es (o$ specia:= ,e )anced to1ard .riaa! 1ho had aso been tr(in) to o+erhear 1hat Meno(
and A$di+a 1ere sa(in): =And (o$4d better re%e%ber that! .riaa!= he said! %a&in) a fierce )ri%ace at the dar&
)ir:
=Yo$ %a( thin& (o$4re specia! Meno(!= said .riaa in a ha$)ht( +oice! =b$t (o$4re on( an apprentice!
after a4s said and sifted: And /ona4s her )randfather4s fa+orite: 6hen she tes hi% a that4s been )oin) on here!
(o$ %a( not be that an(%ore>= And she snapped her fin)ers in a derisi+e )est$re:
=Cose (o$r %o$th! .riaa> Yo$ ta& nothin) b$t nonsense!= said A$di+a! b$t Meno( ca$)ht the note of
$ncertaint( in her +oice:
=Nonsense; #$st 1ait4 (o$ hear 1hat .enis pans for that *iderian of (o$rs>=
'he( 1ere a distracted b( a s$dden )roan fro% /ie%$r:
=Shes! /ona has )one> 'hat %eans that I4% st$c& 1ith sin)in) her part> 6hat a r$dd( bore>= ,is dis%a(
1as co%ic! b$t it t$rned the ta& to a disc$ssion of the $pco%in) Sprin) Festi+a:
/ie%$r tod Meno( that if she tho$)ht a )ather 1as f$n! she sho$d 5$st 1ait for the Festi+a: E+er(one in
the ,od ciff do$bed $p so that the entire 1estern haf of /ern co$d be $nder sheter there for the t1o da(s of
the Festi+a: Dra)on%en ca%e fro% a o+er! and harpers and craft%asters and hoders! ar)e and s%a: 'hat4s
1hen an( ne1 craft%asters 1ere %ade! and ne1 apprentices tapped! and it 1as )reat f$n! e+en if he 1o$d ha+e
to sin) /ona4s roe! and there4d be dancin) a ni)ht on) instead of 5$st $nti s$ndo1n:
'he )on) so$nded! and the chores 1ere assi)ned? %ost of the sections 1ere to cean $p the )ather area and
ra&e the fieds 1here the beasts had been tethered: /ie%$r %ade a h$)e )ri%ace since his section dre1 the fied
d$t(: .riaa s%ied %aicio$s( at his cha)rin! and he 1o$d ha+e ans1ered in &ind! b$t Meno( toed his shins
sharp( a)ain: ,e roed his e(es at her b$t! 1hen she coc&ed her head %eanin)f$( and tapped her sho$der! he
s$bsided! reaizin) that he 1o$d ha+e to sta( in her )ood record to )et his fire izard:
She reported! as ordered! to Master Odi+e 1ho chec&ed her feet and prono$nced the% so$nd eno$)h: ,e
s$))ested that she see Si+ina abo$t boots: ,er hand sho1ed i%pro+e%ent! b$t she 1as to be caref$ not to
o+erstretch the scar tiss$e: So1( b$t s$re( 1as the tric&! and she 1asn4t to ne)ect the heain) sa+e:
As she crossed the co$rt(ard for her esson 1ith Master Shona)ar! the fire izards appeared in the air:
.ea$t( anded on her sho$der! broadcastin) i%a)es of a o+e( s1i% in the a&e and ho1 1ar% the s$n had
been on the fat roc&: Mer)a had e+ident( been 1ith the%! for .ea$t( pro5ected a second )oden 7$een on the
roc&s: 'he( 1ere a in )ood spirits:
Master Shona)ar had not %o+ed: One thic& fist $phed the hea+( head on the s$pportin) ar%! his other ar%
1as coc&ed! hand on thi)h: At first Meno( tho$)ht he 1as aseep:
=So! (o$ ret$rn to %e; After singing at the )ather;=
=6asn4t I s$pposed to sin);= Meno( hated so abr$pt( in her astonish%ent at the repri%and in his +oice
that .ea$t( cheeped in aar%:
=Yo$ are ne+er to sin) 1itho$t %( e<press per%ission:= 'he %assi+e fist connected 1ith the tabetop:
=.$t the Masterharper hi%sef : : :=
=Is Master Robinton (o$r +oice instr$ctor; Or a% I;= 'he beo1ed 7$estion roc&ed her bac& on her hees:
=Yo$ are! sir: I on( tho$)ht : : :=
=Yo$ tho$)ht; I do the thin&in) 1hie (o$ are %( st$dent : : : and (o$ 1i re%ain %( st$dent for so%e
ti%e! (o$n) 1o%an! $nti (o$r +oice is proper( trained for (o$r d$ties as a harper> Do I %a&e %(sef cear;=
=Yes! sir: I4% +er( sorr(! sir: I didn4t &no1 I 1as disobe(in) : : :=
=6e!= and his tone abr$pt( %odified to one of s$ch bene+oence that Meno( a)ain stared in disbeief! =I
hadn4t act$a( %entioned that I didn4t consider (o$ read( to sin) in p$bic (et: So I accept (o$r apoo)(:=
Meno( )$ped! )ratef$ for the reprie+e:
=Yo$ didn4t! a thin)s considered! perfor% too bad( (esterda(!= he 1ent on:
=Yo$ heard %e;=
=Of co$rse I heard (o$>= 'he fist anded a)ain on the tabe! tho$)h 1ith ess force than the pre+io$s th$%p:
=I hear e+er( sin)in) +oice in this ,a: Yo$r phrasin) 1as atrocio$s: I thin& 1e4d better )o o+er that son) no1
so that (o$ can correct (o$r interpretation:= ,e hea+ed a si)h of profo$nd resi)nation: =Yo$ 1i $ndo$bted(
be obi)ed to sin) it a)ain in p$bic; that4s ob+io$s! since (o$ 1rote it! and it is $ndeniab( pop$ar: So (o$
%i)ht 5$st as 1e earn to sin) it 1e> No1! 1e sha start 1ith breathin) e<ercises: And 1e can4t!= another
crash on the sandtabe! =do that 1hen (o$4re haf1a( across the ha and tre%bin) a o+er: I 1on4t eat (o$!
)ir!= he added in the )entest of the +oices he had (et $sed in her presence: A si)ht s%ie parted his ips: =.$t I
1i!= and his tone too& on a sterner note! =teach (o$ to %a&e the %ost of (o$r +oice:=
Atho$)h the esson be)an 1ith a tota( $ne<pected scodin)! Meno( eft Master Shona)ar4s presence 1ith
a feein) of considerabe acco%pish%ent: 'he( had )one o+er ='he Fire 2izard Son)!= phrase b( phrase!
occasiona( acco%panied b( .ea$t(4s triin): .( the end of the session! Meno( stood in f$rther a1e of
Master Shona)ar4s %$sica ac$%en: ,e had dra1n fro% her %eod( e+er( possibe n$ance and shadin) of tone!
hei)htenin) its tota i%pact:
='o%orro1!= Master Shona)ar said as he dis%issed her! =brin) %e a cop( of that atest thin) (o$ 1rote: 'he
one abo$t .re&&e: At east (o$ ha+e 1it eno$)h to 1rite %$sic (o$ can sin)! that ies in the best part of (o$r
+oice: 'e %e! do (o$ do that on p$rpose; No! no! that 1as an in+idio$s 7$estion: 3n1orth( of %e:
Inappicabe to (o$: A1a( 1ith (o$ no1! I4% e<cessi+e( 1earied>=
,is fist ca%e $p to s$pport his head! and he 1as snorin) before Meno( co$d e<press her )ratit$de for his
sti%$atin) esson:
.ea$t( fe1 to her perch on Meno(4s sho$der! chitterin) happi(! and Meno(! be)innin) to fee as 1ear(
as Master Shona)ar cai%ed to be! absent( chec&ed to see 1here her other friends 1ere: As $s$a! the( 1ere
s$nnin) on the rooftops! 1here the(4d $ndo$bted( re%ain $nti feedin) ti%e:
Meno( entered the ,a! 1onderin) if she sho$d as& Si+ina abo$t boots! b$t she co$d hear a ot of b$ste
and noise fro% the &itchen and decided to bide her ti%e: She %ade her 1a( to her roo%! sa1 the door a5ar! and
1as s$rprised to find A$di+a 1aitin) for her:
=I too& (o$ at (o$r 1ord! Meno(! b$t! honest(! if I had to sta( one %ore %o%ent in that poisono$s
at%osphere : : :=
=I %eant it:=
=Yo$ oo& tired: Master Shona)ar4s essons are e<ha$stin): 6e ha+e on( one in the 1ee&! and (o$ ha+e to
)o e+er( da(; 6as he in one of his ban)in) %oods;= A$di+a )i))ed! and her e(es spar&ed 1ith %erri%ent:
Meno( a$)hed! too: =I san) (esterda( at the )ather "ithout his e<press per%ission:=
=Oh> Great stars:= A$di+a 1as torn bet1een )i))es and concern: =.$t 1h( 1o$d he co%pain; Yo$ san)
so bea$tif$(: *iderian said it 1as the best he4d heard that sea son) done: Yo$4+e %ade another )ood friend in
*iderian! if that4s an( consoation: 'hat fist in .enis4s face: ,e4s 1ished so often that he co$d ban) that
arro)ant boob(:=
=A$di+a! co$d 2ord San)e of .o %a&e Master Robinton : : : =
=Yo$ didn4t pa( heed to that spitef$ 1herr(! .riaa; Oh! Meno( : : :=
=.$t can an apprentice : : :=
=An apprentice! an ordinary apprentice! (es!= A$di+a said! 1ith a re$ctant si)h for the tr$th! =beca$se
apprentices ha+e no ran&: #o$rne(%en do: .$t (o$ are Master Robinton4s o1n specia apprentice! 5$st as /ie%$r
said! and it4d ta&e %ore than a 2ord ,oder to shift Master Robinton 1hen he4s %ade $p his %ind: .esides! (o$
1eren4t at fa$t: /ona 1as: .earin) fase 1itness: No1! (o$ isten to %e! Meno(! don4t (o$ dare et that b$nch
of s( sippers 1orr( (o$> 'he(4re 5$st 5eao$s: 'hat 1as /ona4s probe%! too: .esides!= and A$di+a4s face
bri)htened as she tho$)ht of the tein) ar)$%ent! =2ord Gro)he needs (o$ here to hep hi% train Mer)a:
'here4s (o$r ne1 son): Oh! Meno(! 'a%or 1as pa(in) it! and it4s the %ost bea$tif$ thin) I4+e e+er heard:
42i+e for %( i+in)Lor ese I %$st die:4= A$di+a had a throat( contrato +oice that throbbed poi)nant( on the
deep note: =I 1anted to 1eep! and 1hie I &no1 I4% 5$st a si( )[email protected]=
=Yo$4re not 5$st si(: Yo$ stood $p for %e a)ainst /ona : : :=
A$di+a bit her ip )$iti(! her e<pression contrite: =I didn$t te (o$ abo$t Master Do%ic&4s first
%essa)e : : := She pa$sed! f$ of sef-reproach: =I &ne1 abo$t it: I heard hi% te D$nca: 6e a did: And I &ne1
the( 1ere tr(in) to %a&e tro$be for (o$ beca$se (o$ had the fire izards: : :=
=.$t (o$ tod Master Do%ic& that I hadn4t been tod:=
=Fair4s fair:=
=6e! then! if fair4s fair! (o$ did stand $p 1ith %e a)ainst /ona and a those fosterin)s 1hen it rea(
%attered: 2et4s for)et e+er(thin) ese : : : and 5$st be friends: I4+e ne+er had a )ir friend before!= Meno( added
sh((: =Yo$ ha+en4t;= A$di+a 1as shoc&ed: =6eren4t (o$ fostered o$t;=
=No! bein) the (o$n)est and ,af-Circe bein) so isoated and 1ith 'hread fain)! and that4s 1hat the
,arper $s$a( does! and /etiron ne+er : : :=
=#$st as 1e od /etiron &ept (o$ b( hi%! the 1a( thin)s t$rned o$t! isn4t it;= A$di+a )rinned: =.$t "e$re
friends no1! aren4t 1e;=
And the( seaed the bar)ain 1ith a handsha&e:
=Are the( rea( practicin) %( son);= as&ed Meno(! a itte apprehensi+e:
=Yes! and hatin) e+er( %in$te of it beca$se (o$ 1rote it:= A$di+a 1as dei)hted: =I4d be obi)ed if (o$4d
teach %e so%e si%per chords than the ones (o$+e 1ritten: I cannot )et %( hands : : :=
='he( are si%pe:=
=For (o$! %a(be! b$t not for %e>= A$di+a )roaned o+er her inade7$ac(:
=,ere!= and Meno( thr$st her )itar at A$di+a: =Yo$ can start 1ith a si%pe E chord : : : )o on! str$% it : : :
No1! %od$ate to an A Minor : : :=
Meno( soon reaized that she didn4t ha+e as %$ch patience as she o$)ht to 1ith A$di+a! especia( since
A$di+a 1as her best friend no1! and she certain( did tr( to foo1 Meno(4s instr$ctions; b$t both )irs 1ere
reie+ed 1hen .ea$t(4s creein) interr$pted the practice: A$di+a decared that she4d ha+e to f( to chan)e before
s$pper: She 1o$dn4t ha+e the ti%e after! or she4d be ate to rehearsa: She )a+e Meno( a 7$ic& and )ratef$
e%brace! and cashed do1n the steps ahead of her:
Ca%o and /ie%$r 1ere 1aitin) for Meno( at the &itchen e+e: It see%ed incredibe to Meno( as she fed
her h$n)r( friends that she4d on( been at ,arper ,a a se+enda(: So %$ch had happened: And (et the fire
izards had setted in as if the(4d ne+er i+ed an(1here ese: She had estabished a ro$tine in her sessions 1ith
Do%ic& and the 5o$rne(%en in the %ornin)s! 1ith Shona)ar in the afternoon: Abo+e a! she had the ri)ht! the
e<7$isite( s1eet ri)[email protected]! an in7unction fro% the [email protected] 1rite the son)s that had once been tota(
forbidden her:
Se+en da(s a)o! standin) in this +er( co$rt(ard! she4d been scared to tears: 6hat had '4)ean said; Yes!
he4d )i+en her the se+enda( to )et ad5$sted: And he4d been ri)ht in that! tho$)h she4d do$bted hi% at the ti%e:
,e4d aso said that she didn4t ha+e an(thin) to fear fro% harpers: 'r$e eno$)h! b$t she had e<perienced en+(
and to so%e e<tent o+erco%e it? she4d %ade sta$nch friends! and )ood i%pressions on those in ,a and ,od
1ho %attered to her f$t$re: She4d %ade not one! b$t se+era paces for hersef in the Craft ,a? 1ith her son)s!
her fire izards and! $ne<pected(! her &no1ed)e of seacraft:
On( one s%a 1orr( na))ed at her? 1hat if the +en)ef$ /ona co$d pre5$dice her )randfather! 2ord
San)e! a)ainst a o1( apprentice in the Craft ,a; Not a 2ord ,oders 1ere toerant %en i&e 2ord Gro)he:
Not a of the% had fire izards: Meno( had had too %$ch stripped fro% her before in her ho%e ,od to ca%
that an<iet(:
Chapter 99
: Tongue, give sound to 7oy and sing
6f hope and promise on dragon"ing/
Do%ic& ca$)ht her before she eft the dinin) ha the ne<t %ornin):
='hat sea son) (o$ san) at the )ather; 6o$d it ta&e (o$ on) to note it do1n; I ne+er heard it before>4
Meno( 1asn4t s$re fro% his fro1n if he ba%ed her for that o+ersi)ht or not: =Master Robinton 1ants sea
son)s inand and and son)s on the seaside : : = Do%ic& oo&ed anno(ed! $nti he sa1 Meno(4s e<pression:
=Oh! I a)ree 1ith hi% in principe! b$t he 1ants thin)s done no1: 6ith the 5o$rne(%en to be posted toda(! he
1ants as %an( copies to )o 1ith the% as possibe: Sa+e trips ater : : :=
=I co$d %a&e se+era copies as easi( as one!= she said:
Do%ic& bin&ed as if he4d for)otten: =Of co$rse! (o$ co$d: And a %i)ht( neat hand (o$4+e )ot: E+en od
Arnor had to ad%it that>= For so%e obsc$re reason this a%$sed Do%ic&: ,e contin$ed in a %$ch better h$%or:
=A ri)ht then! to sa+e a ot of $seess ta& and 1asted ti%e! 1o$d (o$ pease cop( that sea son); And do a
co$pe of ='he Fire 2izard Son):= I4% not certain ho1 %an( Arnor has co%peted! and (o$ )ot a taste of his
attit$de (esterda( : : := Meno( )rinned: =Yo$ re%e%ber 1ho to )o to if (o$ need %ore %aterias; Der%ent(4s
his na%e:=
6ith that he eft Meno(! b$t he 1histed absent( as he strode to1ard the no1 cosed door of the %ain ha:
Sea son)s inand and and son)s on the seaside! tho$)ht Meno( as she ci%bed the steps to her roo%: She
1ondered 5$st ho1 Yan$s! her father! 1o$d appro+e of and son)s at ,af-Circe Sea ,od: 6e and )ood! and
1o$dn4t it be the best of a 5o&es if the and son)s introd$ced at ,af-Circe b( ,arper E)ion 1ere ones she
hersef had 1ritten or copied o$t; Dis)race the ,od! indeed>
No1 she 1ondered if she sho$d 1rite her %other! Ma+i! or her sister! and 5$st cas$a( %ention that she
1as apprentice to the Masterharper of /ern: 'hat a her t1iddes and t$nin)s had considerab( %ore %erit than
an(one at ,af-Circe had the 1it to appreciate: E<cept! of co$rse! ,arper E)ion: And Ae%i! her brother:
No! she 1o$dn4t 1rite her %other or her father! and certain( not her sister: .$t she %i)ht 1rite Ae%i: ,e4d
been the on( one 1ho cared: And he4d &eep the &no1ed)e to hi%sef:
.$t ri)ht no1 she had thin)s to do: She or)anized her %aterias! her in& and toos! and caref$( set abo$t
cop(in) do1n the sea son): She 1or&ed 7$ic&(! tho$)h she had to sand o$t se+era s%a errors: Ne+ertheess!
she had si< fair copies b( the ti%e the dinner be! ran):
Do%ic& 1as in the ha1a(! in earnest con+ersation 1ith #erint 1ho appeared anno(ed abo$t so%ethin):
Do%ic& ca$)ht si)ht of her! e<c$sin) hi%sef fro% #erint b$t 1ith 5$st that hint of reprie+e that s$))ested
Meno(4s appearance 1as a 1eco%e e<c$se:
=Si< : : := he eafed thro$)h her sheets! =and e+er( one a fair cop(: M( than&s! Meno(: Can (o$ do : : : No!
(o$ %$st 1or& 1ith Shona)ar this afternoon : : :=
=I4d need %ore paper! Master Do%ic&! b$t I4 ha+e ti%e to do t1o or three %ore copies before s$pper! if (o$
need the% : : ."
Do%ic& )anced at the so1( fiin) dinin) roo%: ,e too& her hand: =If (o$ co$d s7$eeze in %a(be three
copies of (o$r fire izard son)! I4d be in (o$r debt: Co%e 1ith %e: Arnor sho$d ha+e retreated fro% his
do%ain! and 1e can )et as %$ch paper as 1e 1ant fro% Der%ent(: At east! toda(:=
'he( 1ere o$t the door 1ith no %ore dea(! headin) to1ard the Archi+e roo%:
=I don4t %ean to %a&e a habit of this 1ith (o$! Meno(! beca$se it4s %ore i%portant that (o$ create than
that (o$ cop(: An( apprentice can cop(: .$t! 1ith so %an( 5o$rne(%en )oin) off : : : 'hat4s 1h( #erint is
oo&in) pee+ed: And 1ait ti Arnor hears:=
=#o$rne(%en )oin) off;=
=Yo$ didn4t thin& the( sta(ed here fore+er and %odered : : :=
Act$a( Meno( had e<perienced a s1ift pan) of re)ret beca$se 'a%or and Sebe 1ere 5o$rne(%en! and
Sebe said he =5o$rne(ed:=
=Don4t 1orr( abo$t o$r 7$artet!= repied Do%ic& 1ith s$dden perception: =It4s one thin) to send a1a(
so%eone 1ho4s rea( needed here and 7$ite another for a %aster to ref$se to et a 7$aified 5o$rne(%an )o o$t
of the ,a beca$se he$ll be p$t to the bother of trainin) a ne1 assistant: 'he 1hoe point of the ,arper ,a is to
e<tend &no1ed)e:= Do%ic&4s ar%s s1ept 1ide to inc$de a /ern: =Not to confine it!= and his ri)ht fist %ade a
ti)ht ba: ='hat4s 1hat4s been 1ron) 1ith /ern! 1h( 1e ha+en4t rea( %at$red; e+er(thin)4s been &ept in
shao1 itte %inds that for)et i%portant thin)s! that resist ne1 &no1ed)e! and e<perience : : := ,e )rinned at
her! ='hat is 1h(! I! Do%ic&! Co%position Master! kno" that (o$r son)s are as i%portant to the Craft ,a! and
/ern! as %( %$sic: 'he( are a fresh +oice! fresh ne1 1a(s of oo&in) at thin)s and peope! 1ith t$nes no one
can &eep fro% h$%%in):=
=6o$d (o$ e+er ea+e the ,a;= as&ed Meno(! )reat( darin): She 1as storin) $p his 1ords to thin&
abo$t ater:
=Me;= Do%ic& 1as started! and then fro1ned: =I %i)ht! b$t it 1o$d ser+e itte p$rpose: Mi)ht be )ood for
%e! at that:= 'hen he shoo& his head a)ain! re5ectin) the idea: =/erhaps! 1hen there4s a bi) occasion at one of
the ar)er ,ods or another Craft ,a : : : Or a ,atchin) : : : .$t there rea( isn4t a ,od or Craft that needs a
%an of %( abiities:= Do%ic& spo&e 1itho$t conceit and aso 1ith %odest(: It 1as a fact:
=Do %asters a1a(s sta( in the ,a;=
=Shes! no: 'here are an( n$%ber assi)ned to the ar)er ,ods and Crafthas: Yo$4 see: Ah! Der%ent(!
5$st a %o%ent : : := and Do%ic& si)naed the 5o$rne(%an 1ho 1as abo$t to ea+e b( another door at the far end
of the Archi+e4s 1e-it ha:
Meno( 5$st had ti%e to )et to her roo% 1ith an ar%oad of s$ppies and off to the dinin) ha before
e+er(one sat do1n: It 1as tr$e that Master #erint and Master Arnor 1ore e<pressions of s$en discontent: She
1ondered 1ho 1as ea+in): .$t she had no ti%e to spec$ate: 'here 1as dinner! and then her esson:
No sooner 1as she reeased b( Master Shona)ar than she ret$rned to her cop(in)! this ti%e of ='he Fire
2izard Son):= At first she fet a1&1ard cop(in) her o1n %$sic! then she be)an to reish the notion: ,er son)s!
)oin) inand so that peope 1o$d )et so%e $nderstandin) of seaside creat$res that had once been tho$)ht to be
p$re in+ention: 'hat o+e( od sea son)! one she4d heard at ,af-Circe since her first conscio$s appreciation of
%$sic! 1as a fine one to teach inand peope ho1 the sea%an re)ards the broad ocean:
Do%ic&4s attit$de to1ard her %$sic had been reass$rin)! too: It 1as a reief to her to &no1 that there 1as no
a1&1ardness bet1een the%: ,e tho$)ht her son)s 1ere ser+in) a p$rpose! and that s$ited and peased her:
It 1as! Meno( tho$)ht! one thin) to 1or& hard da( in and da( o$t to brin) in food eno$)h to feed onesef!
one4s fa%i( and one4s ,od; it 1as 7$ite another thin)! and +ast( %ore satisf(in)! to pro+ide co%fort for other
one( %inds and t$neess hearts: Yes! Master Robinton and '4)ean had been ri)ht? she did beon) in the
,arper ,a:
.efore she reaized ho1 ti%e had fo1n! it 1as e+enin): She caref$( p$t a1a( her instr$%ents! the in& and
the $n$sed sheets! dei+ered the %$sic to Master Do%ic&4s roo%! and 1ent to the &itchen e+e to feed her
friends:
.ea$t( and the bronzes 1ere cro1ded ro$nd her 1hen! tho$)h scarce( sated! the( s$dden( oo&ed
s&(1ard: .ea$t( crooned soft( in her throat: Roc&( and Di+er ans1ered! as if a)reein) 1ith her! then a three
a)ain de%anded food:
=6hat 1as a that abo$t;= as&ed /ie%$r:
Meno( shr$))ed:
=6i (o$ oo& at that;= /ie%$r cried! e<cited(! pointin) s&(1ard as three! then fo$r! dra)ons appeared in
the s&(! so1( circin) do1n to the 1ide fieds: =And (o$r fire izards &ne1> D4(o$ reaize that! Meno(; Yo$r
fire izards &ne1 there 1ere dra)ons co%in):=
=6h( 1o$d dra)ons be co%in);= Meno( as&ed! and that $%p of fear )re1 a fe1 sizes ar)er: =It isn4t
ti%e for 'hreadfa a)ain! is it;= She do$bted that 2ord San)e 1o$d send dra)onriders to discipine a %ere
apprentice:
=I tod (o$!= and /ie%$r so$nded e<asperated 1ith her obt$seness: ='he %asters 1ere coseted (esterda(
and toda(! reassi)nin) 5o$rne(%en: So!= and he shr$))ed as if that e<pained the presence of dra)onriders! =the
dra)ons transport the% to the ne1 hods: '1o b$es! a )reen! and : : : he( : : : a bronze>= ,e 1as i%pressed: =I
1onder 1ho rates the bronze>=
No1 the Fort ,od 1atch dra)on b$)ed a 1eco%e and 1as ans1ered b( the circin) beasts: .ea$t( and
the other fire izards added their tri of )reetin):
=Oh! no!= /ie%$r )roaned: ='he(4re andin) in the fied! and 1e 5$st )ot it ceaned $p>=
=Dra)ons are not r$nner beasts!= said Meno( in a tart +oice: =And don4t st$ff 2az(! Roc&( and Mi%ic so
fast: 'he(4 cho&e: Yo$4 see the dra)onriders soon eno$)h! I e<pect! if the(4re co%in) here for the
5o$rne(%en:=
/ie%$r 1as not the on( apprentice 1ith sharp e(es: Soon the co$rt(ard 1as spotted 1ith )ro$ps of c$rio$s
ads: 'he dra)onriders strode o$t of the shado1s of the arch! and Meno( distin)$ished the coors of Istan!
I)en! 'e)ar and .enden 6e(rs on the dra)onriders4 t$nics: And none of the% a 1atch-dra)onrider 1earin) the
coors of .o: 'hen she reco)nized the .enden dra)onrider as '4)ean:
=Meno(> I4+e )ot 4e% for (o$!= he sho$ted across the co$rt(ard! 1a+in) an odd( shaped %ass abo+e his
head: ,e spo&e to his co%panions! 1ho contin$ed on1ard to the steps of the ,a 1here Do%ic&! 'a%or and
Sebe 1aited to )reet the dra)on%en: '4)ean then strode at an obi7$e an)e to1ard Meno(: As he neared
her! she reaized that he carried a pair of boots b( their aces? boots tanned b$e 1ith c$ffs of b$e-h$ed 1id
1herr( do1n:
=,ere (o$ are! Meno(> Feena 1as in a state! 1orr(in) that those i)ht sippers 1o$d 1ear o$t before (o$
)ot these: I see the toes are )oin)! aren4t the(; -eepin) (o$ on 4e% here! are the(; .$t (o$4re oo&in) )ood: Sa(!
(o$r fire izards are )ro1in)! aren4t the(;= ,e bea%ed appro+in)( at Meno(! then at Ca%o and /ie%$r!
1hose e(es 1ere enor%o$s at this pro<i%it( to a rea bronze dra)onrider: =Gad (o$4+e )ot so%e hep:=
='his is /ie%$r and that4s Ca%o! and the(4+e both been %ar+eo$s hep:=
=6i this ad be read( for a fire izard then;= as&ed '4)ean 1ith a s( 1in& at Meno(:
=6h( do (o$ thin& he4s hepin) %e;= as&ed Meno(! $nabe to resist teasin) /ie%$r:
=A1! Meno(:= 3ne<pected( /ie%$r 1as b$shin)! e(es do1ncast and so thoro$)h( o$t of co$ntenance
that Meno( reented:
='r$(! '4)ean! /ie%$r4s been a sta$nch and tr$e friend since the first da( I )ot here: I co$dn4t %ana)e
1itho$t hi% and Ca%o:=
=Ca%o feed pretties: Ca%o +er( )ood feedin) pretties>=
'4)ean )a+e her a started oo&! b$t he sapped the dr$d)e affectionate( on the bac&: =Good %an! Ca%o:
Yo$ &eep on hepin) Meno( 1ith her pretties:=
=More food for pretties;= Ca%o per&ed $p:
=No! no %ore no1! Ca%o: /retties aren4t h$n)r( no1!= Meno( said h$rried(:
=,a+e (o$ finished 1ith Ca%o (et! Meno(;= Ab$na appeared at the &itchen door: =Oh>= She 1as started
to see the co%pan( her haf-1itted dr$d)e 1as &eepin):
=Ca%o hep Ab$na no1: /retties fed! Ca%o: Yo$ hep Ab$na>= Meno( )a+e Ca%o the c$sto%ar( t$rn and
p$sh to1ard the &itchen:
=No1! Meno(! (o$ sit there! on the steps!= said '4)ean! pointin)! =and tr( these boots on: Feena )a+e %e
e<picit instr$ctions that I 1as to see if the( fit: .eca$se if the( don4t : : := '4)ean eft the threat han)in):
='he( o$)ht to? the 6e(r tanner too& %( %eas$re : : := said Meno( as she discarded the 1orn sippers and
p$t on the ri)ht boot: =I don4t see ho1 he co$d %iss! e+en if %( feet 1ere sti a bit s1oen: Oh! it fits> It fits
5$st fine: And so soft inside: 6h(!= and she p$t her hand in the eft boot! =he4s ined it 1ith soft hide : : :=
=Yo$4 need the do$be protection! Meno(!= said '4)ean! and then his face too& on a oo& of p$re
%ischief! =partic$ar( if (o$ do an( %ore r$nnin) : : :=
=I4% not r$nnin) an(1here an(%ore!= she said fir%(: And hasti( for)ot abo$t 2ord San)e and /ona:
=/ease than& Feena! and )i+e %( o+e to Mirri%! and than& Manora and e+er(one : : :=
=,e(! he(! I 5$st )ot here: I4% not )oin) an(1here (et: I4 see (o$ before I )o! b$t I4d better 5oin the others
no1:=
=And a dra)onrider : : : a bronze dra)onrider brin)s (o$ b$e harper boots : : := /ie%$r4s e(es 1ere
enor%o$s 1ith astonish%ent as the( both 1atched '4)ean4s an&( fi)$re stridin) to1ard the ,a entrance:
=I don4t s$ppose the( 1anted to 1aste eather the(4d aread( c$t to fit %e 1hen the( tho$)ht I4d be sta(in)
on in the 6e(r!= Meno( said! nonetheess deep( to$ched b( the )ift: She 1i))ed her toes a)ainst the s%ooth
soft hide: She 1o$dn4t need to bother Si+ina for ne1 foot1ear no1: And harper b$e> 6h(! she 1as
harper-)arbed fro% head to toe no1:
'he s$pper be ran)! and the c$rio$s &nots of bo(s and 5o$rne(%en bended into a thron)! con+er)in) at
+ario$s speeds on the steps: Aon) the 1as opposite the dinin) ha as she and /ie%$r entered! Meno( sa1
bac&sac&s and instr$%ent cases:
=I tod (o$:= /ie%$r n$d)ed her in the ribs: =#o$rne(%en are bein) assi)ned toni)ht: 'here4 be )aps at the
o+a tabes to%orro1:=
Meno( nodded! thin&in) that there 1o$d be so%e frantic %asters! too! 1ith fe1er 5o$rne(%en to hep:
'4)ean 1as at the ro$nd tabe! b$t Meno( noticed that the other dra)onriders 1ere standin) on the
5o$rne(%en4s side of the dinin) ha: She %ade her 1a( to her seat beside A$di+a! sti that space eft bet1een
A$di+a and .riaa: /ie%$r stood opposite A$di+a and Meno(:
Specia %eat and fish ros acco%panied the c$sto%ar( so$p and there 1ere sharp cheeses! bread and!
after1ard! 1ed)es of beachberr( pies: /ie%$r )r$%bed beca$se the pies sho$d be hot! and Meno( co$ntered
that he o$)ht to be )ratef$ for the treat so soon after a )ather>
'a& 1as spirited thro$)ho$t the ha! atho$)h the se+en )irs contin$ed their sient treat%ent of A$di+a and
Meno(: 'here 1as a c$rrent of e<cite%ent in the air! %$ch of it fro% the 5o$rne(%en4s tabes:
='he(4re on( tod in ad+ance that the(4re bein) assi)ned! (o$ &no1!= /ie%$r tod Meno( and A$di+a:
=Not 1here: Ei)ht of the% )oin)! if I co$nted the pac&s ri)ht: 'he Masterharper rea( %eans to spread the
1ord:=
=6ord;= 'i%in( 1as baffed:
=Don4t (o$ isten to an(thin)! 'i%in(;= /ie%$r 1as dis)$sted: =.et (o$ not one of those 5o$rne(%en is
)oin) bac& to his o1n hod or craftha! i&e the( $sed to do: Master ,arper4s set on sh$ffin) e+er(one aro$nd:
Crosscraftin) 1ith a +en)eance: 'he( a )ot copies of (o$r son)s! Meno(;=
S$dden( the %o%ent e+er(one had been anticipatin) happened: 'he )on) shi%%ered! and before the
%etaic tones had died a1a(! the ha 1as sti: E+er( e(e 1as on the Masterharper 1ho had risen fro% the
tabe:
=No1! %( friends! 1itho$t f$rther ado and to per%it those hodin) their breaths to breathe! I 1i anno$nce
the postin)s:= ,e pa$sed! )rinnin)! as he )anced aro$nd the ha: 'hen he oo&ed across the apprentices4 tabes
to the 5o$rne(%en:
=#o$rne(%an Farno! Car is (o$r assi)n%ent! in Ista: #o$rne(%an Sefran! pease do 1hat (o$ can to
i%pro+e $nderstandin) and e<tend eni)hten%ent in 'e)ar at .aen ,od: #o$rne(%an Ca%pio! (o$ are aso
'e)ar-bo$nd! to the Minercraftha $nder Facenden: See 1hat (o$ can do to i%pro+e the 7$ait( of %eta for
o$r pipes and brasses: #o$rne(%an Der%ent(! I4d i&e (o$ to assist 6ansor! the Stars%ith at 'e)ar
S%ithcraftha:= 'here 1as a %$r%$r of s$rprise fro% Der%ent(4s co%panions: =Yo$ ha+e the finest hand 1ith
draftin)! and 1hie I a% sorr( to rob Master Arnor of his %ost acc$rate cop(ist! (o$r efforts are essentia if
6ansor4s st$dies are to pro)ress and be proper( recorded:
='here4s a s%a seahod on I)en Ri+er %o$th that re7$ires a %an of (o$r toerance and )ood nat$re!
#o$rne(%an Str$d: I aso 1ant (o$ to &eep an e(e on the beaches for possibe fire izard %o$nds: Yo$ are!
ho1e+er! to report the% to (o$r ,oder! not to %e:= 'he re)ret in the Masterharper4s +oice ca$sed a rippe of
a%$se%ent to r$n thro$)h his a$dience: =#o$rne(%an Deece is aso I)en bo$nd! to the ,od: ,arper .ant$r
needs a (o$n) assistant: ,e4s a dab hand at brin)in) on a )ood harper to $nderstand the co%pe<it( of a
Masterharper4s 5ob: And (o$4+e the ne1 son)s to )i+e hi% as 1e: #o$rne(%an /etio! it4s no sinec$re! b$t I
need (o$r patience and tact at .itra to boster ,arper Frans%an:
=#o$rne(%an Ra%%an(! 2ord As)enar at 2e%os has as&ed for so%eone fro% Master #erint4s hands: Yo$4
1or& principa( 1ith 6oods%ith .enee&! and I don4t thin& (o$4 find that too onero$s a tas& 1ith s$ch 1ood
as .enee& dries for $s: ,o1e+er! be s$re (o$4re on band to choose the ne<t consi)n%ent of 1ood for o$r $se!
and Master #erint 1i bess (o$:
=6i a the 5o$rne(%en pease co%e to the Great ,a for a fare1e c$p of 1ine; .enden 1ine! of co$rse:
.$t first! I4+e one %ore +er( peasant and $n$s$a anno$nce%ent:
='o be a harper re7$ires %an( taents! as (o$ a o$)ht to reaize b( no1!= and he fro1ned at the +er(
(o$n)est of the apprentices 1ho )i))ed ner+o$s(: =Not a of these s&is need to be earned 1ithin these
1as: Indeed! %an( of o$r %ost +a$abe essons are %ore forcef$( earned at so%e distance fro% this
hao1ed ,a!= and he fro1ned at the 5o$rne(%en! 1ho )rinned bac& at hi%: =,o1e+er! 1hen the
f$nda%entas of o$r craft ha+e been 1e and tr$( earned! I insist that 1e hod no one bac& fro% the ran& the(
are entited to b( &no1ed)e and abiit(! and in this case! rare taent: Sebe! 'a%or! since neither of (o$ 1i
resi)n in the other4s fa+or : : :=
A sience e%phasized b( /ie%$r4s tin( )asp of astonish%ent fe o+er the dinin) ha as Sebe and 'a%or
rose fro% their tabe and 1a&ed $p the aise b( the hearth: 'he( stopped: Started! Meno( oo&ed $p at
SebeI4s sh( )rin and 'a%or4s broad s%ie:
She co$dn4t )rasp the si)nificance of their presence! tho$)h she heard A$di+a4s cr( of 5o( and sa1 the
st$nned a%aze%ent on the faces of .riaa and 'i%in(: She )anced 1id( abo$t her! sa1 Master Robinton
)rinnin)! noddin)! )est$rin) for her to rise: .$t it 1asn4t $nti /ie%$r &ic&ed her on the shins that she shed her
para(sis:
=Yo$4re s$pposed to 1a& the tabes! Meno(!= /ie%$r said in an a$dibe hiss: =Get $p and 1a&: Yo$4re a
5o$rne(%an no1: Yo$4+e %ade 5o$rne(%an:=
=Meno(4s a 5o$rne(%an> Meno(4s a 5o$%e(%an>= echoed the other apprentices! cappin) their hands in
rh(th% to their chant: =Meno(4s %ade 5o$rne(%an: 6a& Meno(! 1a&: 6a&! Meno(! 1a&>=
Sebe and 'a%or too& her b( the ebo1s and ifted her to her feet:
=Ne+er sa1 an apprentice so oath to ta&e a 1a&!= %$ttered 'a%or $nder his breath to Sebe:
=6e co$d carr( her!= Sebe said! in a 1hisper! =beca$se! bet1een (o$ and %e! I don4t thin& her e)s are
)oin) to 1a& her:=
=I can 1a&!= said Meno(! sha&in) off their hepin) hands: =I4+e e+en )ot harper boots: I can 1a&
an(1here>=
'he ast +esti)e of an<iet( ifted fro% Meno(4s %ind: As a 5o$rne(%an in b$e! she had ran& and stat$s
eno$)h to fear no one and nothin): No f$rther need to r$n or hide: She4d a pace to fi and a craft that 1as
$ni7$e to her: She4d co%e a on)! on) 1a( in a se+enda(: 'he p$se of her 1ords s$))ested a t$ne: She4d thin&
of that ater: No1! hodin) her head hi)h! 1hie the fire izards s1ept in fro% the 1indo1s! triin) their happ(
reaction! she 1a&ed bet1een 'a%or and Sebe to the o+a tabes of her ne1 station in the ,arper Craft ,a of
/ern:

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