After three moons at the Hall, Menolly has more or less accustomed herself to the fuss and flutter around her apprenticeship and subsequent elevation to journeyman status. She mostly achieves this by ignoring the gossip and the chatter, and setting herself to her composition and music.
More difficult to ignore is the attention from the other journeymen.
Harpers have their prejudice, too.
“Menolly, will you pass that platter?”
Menolly looks around, her fingers still tapping out a rhythm for a new twiddle that she has in mind – something about the clatter of footsteps through the courtyard of the Harper Hall, snatches of conversation, and occasional song...
It takes her a moment to identify which platter Enslor is talking about, and when she realises where it is – just at the edge of her reach, she frowns, but gestures for the platter to be passed over the table. Expecting Enslor to take it from her, she’s somewhat surprised when he instead takes his time about selecting his choice of meat, and then invites his friends across the table and next to him to do the same.
By the time she passes the platter back, her forearms ache a little and she’s lost the rhythm of her thoughts.
It’s not until later that she realises that he didn’t thank her for her efforts, either.
Talmor pushes open the door of the Archroom to the distinct sound of someone holding forth.
“...that and The Fire-Lizard Song were the most-requested. Up-mountain they all wanted to hear those new songs the Masterharper has been sending out. Who wrote those, anyway? Did they ever find out?”
The speaker isn’t someone she recognises, which probably means he’s a returned journeyman back from his rounds. And so it starts over once more.
Heads turn to stare at Menolly, including the newcomer.
“Oh, good,” he says, smiling kindly at Menolly. “Someone left their lunch tray behind, girl. You’d better take it back down to the kitchens when you’re done with the fire.”
He’s sharp enough to know that he’s somehow misstepped from the silence that unfolds around him, but not yet harper enough to accurately read the situation.
“Ah, Journeyman Lembarin.” The Masterharper pauses in the door of the archroom. “Good to see you back. You wouldn’t have met Menolly yet. Our newest Journeyman and the composer of those songs. Glad to hear they were effective – one of the many reasons why the Harper Hall is fortunate to have Menolly with us now.”
As he speaks, Master Robinton crosses the room, scoops up the tray and takes it back out, bending to set it down so one of the servingwomen can take it away at her leisure. Then he closes the door behind him. “Take a seat, Menolly – ah, I see Sebell is holding space for you and Talmor. Excellent. Anyway, to business. Tonight, I wished to speak to all of you about a program which the SmithcraftHall is setting up towards the dissemination of information throughout Pern with the intention of drawing in hold, craft, and weyr...”
With the lessons at the Smithcrafthall come friendships with dragonriders and holders and other craftsmen and women.
“That girl with all the fire-lizards,” someone mutters by a window inside the hall, unaware that Menolly is outside, leaning against the wall with young Lord Jaxom, and T’dirl, a greenrider weyrling from Igen Weyr. “How’d they let her keep them all?”
“One. Haven’t you been listening? Fire-lizards Impress, same as dragons. Two. Haven’t you been listening? That’s Menolly, you idiot. Journeyman Harper Menolly who wrote the Fire Lizard Song?”
There’s a moment of silence, in which Lord Jaxom opens his mouth before Menolly shakes her head.
“Still seems a waste,” grumbles the first as they move away from the window, reluctant to relinquish his complaint.
Jaxom turns to her. “Now why didn’t you let me say something?”
“Because it’s not worth it. Master Robinton says sometimes people are going to believe what they want to believe, and the truth be damned.”
“Hidebound idiots,” T’dirl comments. “Although I wish you had spoken up, Lord Jaxom. It’d be a right justice if the shock made them wet their trous!”
Menolly laughs. T’dirl is from a small Hold like her own, and his sense of humour is earthy. “But then think of how we’d have to endure the smell for the rest of the morning!”
The Spring Festival comes and goes, and Menolly’s fame is cemented with her performance alongside Master Domick, Sebell, and Talmor.
Well, that and her new song about all the Weyrs, Crafthalls, and Holds working together, and the idea that all the little pieces together make up the whole. The melody is what makes it popular – easily sung and very memorable – but the part she’s most proud of is the fully-arranged accompaniment which holds what she thinks of as the ‘underHall themes’.
“It’s a bit like the rhythm of the kitchen,” Silvina observed when Menolly asked what she thought of the new piece after rehearsals. Then her gaze sharpened on Menolly’s expression. “That’s the idea, isn’t it?”
It warmed Menolly to know that the underlying musical theme resonated enough with Silvina, whose work in the Hall is so important to it’s smooth running, but she is downright shocked when the Benden Weyrwoman noted it, too.
“I don’t usually notice these things,” she says to Menolly. “But the group arrangement was very different to the usual harper presentation – a lot more...I’m going to say ‘depth’ because I don’t know what else to call it. Like...oh, the women working in the weyr’s Lower Cavern, putting everything together, keeping the weyr – or the hold or the hall – running. And that contribution adds to the collective success of Pern, too.” Her smile is glittering. “Sometimes we – dragonriders, Lord Holders, and Mastercraftsmen – forget that too easily.”
What touches Menolly, though, is that Lessa arranges for the song to be played – among other Harper Hall repertoire – in the Weyr during a restday so Weyr Headwoman Manora and the women of the Lower Cavern can hear it, too.
“So, Menolly,” Master Robinton says when the door has closed behind Silvina, “Now that you’ve been at the Hall for half a turn, I wanted your thoughts on your time here – if you’re willing, of course. It hasn’t always been easy, but you seem happy here.”
“Oh, I am, Master Robinton!”
He waits, and after a moment says, “I can hear the qualification in there, Menolly.”
She chooses her words carefully. “As yet, I’m still the only female Harper on the continent – officially, I mean. I know there are harpers looking a promising young women, but no apprentices have been selected yet.”
“Well, not everyone has your gifts, Menolly.”
“I...I know, Master Robinton. But...not all Harpers need to have my gifts, just...just a...a joy in music.”
For a moment she thinks that he’s angry for criticising him, but his expression is troubled, not irritated. Then he sighs. “You’re right – it’s not just about skill. I’ll advise my Harpers to look for – what did you say? ‘Joy in music’ and not just musical giftedness. But, Menolly,” his expression gentles, “not all holders or crafters are willing to give up their daughters to Harpering.”
“Composing a new song again?” Lembarin asks when Menolly sits down at the tables late. He passes her meat and tubers and vegetables on a plate he seems to have saved for her.
She stares at the plate for a moment, bewildered, then takes a slice of bread and folds the meat inside. “Laundering my Gather clothes.”
“Ah, yes.” For all his initial dismissal, Lembarin has been friendly the last half-turn, working with her on a musical item for the new Spring Festival. “I...I probably should have said then, but you looked splendid in the red dress, with the lace scarf. Elegant as a Lady Holder.”
His voice is lowered, intimate, and Menolly blushes as she realises where this is tending.
Looking away, she catches Sebell’s sober stare in her direction, before his mouth quirks and he winks in teasing laughter.
Menolly’s stomach is suddenly too unsettled for her meal, and her cheeks burn like braziers.
Sebell’s once-pale hands are now dark and tanned, a little more weathered, although still too supple to belong to a true seaman. But his smile is as ready as ever, and his intellect as sharp as he tells Menolly and Master Robinton about the ‘sidetrips’ he’s been making into the Southern continent.
Watching him talk and laugh and gesture, Menolly realises that she doesn’t really want the attention from other journeymen.