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Old Jun 2 2008, 11:59 PM   #5
D. M. Domini
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Chicagoland
Gender: F
Fan of: Afra Lyon, and Robinton!
Now Reading: Sabriel by Garth Nix
Post Re: The Skyboom (An Alternate Universe Pern Fic)

Chapter Five

Sometimes, Master Teslay wondered if the late Master Harper Robinton had truly understood what they had discovered with the AIVAS. It was difficult to say; Teslay had, of course, seen the man on a daily basis during his Apprenticeship in the Harper Hall. And, like all Harpers, he had met with the man in person at least a handful of times--far fewer times than the man's personal Apprentices, of course, but more times than some other Harpers he knew. But Robinton had risen to power during a time when Harpers were actively persecuted, and had subverted his Craft to provide himself with the power his type of position and rank normally wouldn't ever obtain, so that he could protect his people. Or so the ballads went. And despite all the songs, and the effigies, and the uprising of adoration that had arisen in the wake of the man's death, Teslay thought that people forgot that the man had been a person who had sought out power, even if it had been with the best intentions. How else did a man whose duty were merely to supervise entertainers, to supervise teachers of children too small to Apprentice into a Craft, take a place as one of the most powerful men on Pern? It wasn't something you just stumbled upon. It wasn't even something forced upon you, like F'lar's position as the Weyrleader of Pern.

It was more like Lessa's rise to fame and glory by purposely taking a single action that had affected the Eighth Pass, the Ninth Pass, and everything in between. Except in Robinton's case, it was a series of smaller and more purposeful actions spread over many, many Turns...and thus, much more calculated.

But, even remembering those facts himself, Teslay still couldn't decide if Robinton had known, or hadn't known, exactly what they had discovered with the AIVAS. For example, it was still an open question, as far as he was concerned, if Robinton had had a hand in the AIVAS's...termination. Trying to put the dragon back into the egg, as it were. Or the ugly, mal-formed wher. There was a part of him, the little part of him that was caught up in the larger-than-life Harper's visions, that hoped that maybe the man had. Had known, and had taken action to correct things, to slow down the influx of knowledge so that it would not utterly ruin their society.

Master Teslay was sometimes an idealist in his heart of hearts, even though it was much more comforting to be cynical and knowledgeable than idealistic and blind.

He knew that it was a bit ironic that he would be sitting here with the present Master Harper, Sebell, while thinking these thoughts. But Teslay had never expected to stumble into composition so sideways either, and such late-career moves (he'd been a Master for turns already) were always vetted through other peers, other Master-level Harpers. And in his case, his music wasn't even playable without aid from the Smiths--and he didn't have access to these projects without Master Sebell's approval. So here he was, back in the Hall once again, thinking thoughts that could possibly turn the man in front of him against him in an instant, if the man only knew how "treasonous" they were.

Master Sebell was viewing one score, written on paper, with a faint line between his brows, and his lower lip thoughtfully caught under his teeth. On his shoulder perched his golden queen Kimi, and in his left hand he absently played with a wineglass, balancing it cocked to one side on its base, sloshing the small amount of deep red fluid around the bowl, and never spilling a single drop, all without tearing his gaze from Teslay's compositions.

"The transcription is imperfect," Teslay offered to the man. "I've done a lot of research into AIVAS's music banks, and there are genres of music there that contain sounds none of our current modes of written transcription can even transcribe accurately. Many things in there are approximation. And, of course, some of it is my incompetence." Teslay rubbed his jaw, embarrassed. "I never realized I'd approach composition seriously, so I was, shall we say, not the most attentive in those classes. I have much to re-learn in that respect."

Master Sebell waved the words away. "In your opinion, what would we use this music for?" he asked, and drained the rest of his wine out of the glass.

"I wasn't aware that music needed a use," Teslay said, stung, despite the fact that he had known quite well many--if not most--Harpers would dislike his compositions. He had never gone into composition when he was younger because none of the types of composition had ever interested him. Until he had discovered AIVAS's music banks in Landing. Music that was off-beat (sometimes literally) and strange enough to interest him.

"That was not my meaning; you are of course free to compose whatever you wish, as you wish it, as is any Harper's right. But, from your notes, you would need resources of other people--mainly Landing-educated Smiths--to bring these particular compositions to fruition. While the Hall has a substantial access to the new technologies of Landing, in comparison to other Crafts, our resources are not infinite. And, speaking more bluntly here, your lyrics are...interesting." Sebell looked up from the paper to meet his eyes. "Dropping manpower and marks into these compositions would turn a matter of personal expression into a more diplomatic one that would have long-reaching effects through the Hall."

"You would like me to censor myself?" Teslay asked.

"Mmm," Sebell said, which wasn't quite a comment, as he set the papers down and leaned back in his chair. "Different generations need different thoughts expressed through the outlet of music, and I am not yet convinced that these are representative of this post-AIVAS generation." His unspoken words held a challenge. Convince me.

Teslay stared back at the Master of the Harper Craft, and thought about how to put things into words. The compositions he'd given the man were...not gelded, but chosen carefully out of the river of music that had spontaneously flowed out of his mind. There were others in his bag that lampooned several people involved in the whole initial discovery of AIVAS, including Robinton, who may or may not have understood exactly what he was unleashing--and Teslay didn't intend to show those about until he got a bloody good feel about who would be receptive to them, and who would throw a punch or knife in his face for merely bringing the subject up.

A curious thing Teslay had noted about the Harpers assigned to Landing and associated projects in Cove Hold was that, aside from Menolly and perhaps the perpetually-occupied-by-very-important-matters Robinton, nobody had any true interest or talent in composition. Only Menolly had had the skill, ability, and free time to digest all the new and different genres of music, and bring to life some triumphant, fantastically popular life's work from the collision of styles, to be the voice of this new generation of people, to capture their souls and minds...and she hadn't. She'd gone on the musical equivalent of a...a bloodline, a genealogy search, finding the forefathers of their oldest songs, and reviving those, in a gentle...motherly...way. Like an old auntie, telling family stories that everyone had for the most part already heard before. A bit patronizing, if she really thought the common person would only be able to handle those variations on tunes they already knew.

And Teslay had to wonder...had Menolly gone on a musical genealogy search by her own design? Or was she instructed to keep the more...primal and interesting music away from uninitiated ears? Was there a reason nobody skilled in composition ended up stationed near the AIVAS complex, where non-acoustic music could be heard, or was it mere coincidence, as the same people skilled in composition were usually hard at work in the Hall, putting together the next Gather's merrymaking-music? Music that wouldn't cause the gathers to riot?

It was difficult to decide if he was being paranoid, or if, like his gut told him on the days when he'd passed one of those shadow-Harpers in Landing, the ones that only did enough musical Harping to fake it among those not involved in the Craft, that it wasn't paranoia if it were true.

And how to put together the argument for Sebell, and not only him, but the rest of the senior Masters in the Hall, that throwing out this...revival music, all of it, the good, bad, and utterly exotic and alien...would mirror the revolution and the fads of ancient-made-new that was spreading through their world? That the schisms it would create in the Hall would accurately mirror what was happening to their world?

Well. He doubted that Sebell would want schisms in the Hall mirroring those on the rest of Pern. Tesley threw that idea out to thread as a bad one, and tried to order his thoughts, because the man sitting across the desk was waiting on him. So after a few long moments, he spoke. "Would you hook a dragon up before a wagon, and have him walk across Pern, merely because that's how most of our population get themselves and their goods from one place to another?" Teslay asked the Master Harper rhetorically. "Of course not," he answered his own question swiftly. "That would be absurd. Dragons can fly, and moreso, they can go between. Even through time, as the Weyrwoman showed us at the beginning of the pass. Similarly...why should we limit ourselves to the known--the verse, chorus, verse--when we raise to our lips and run our fingers over musical instruments that are so different from what we have known before? Why should we limit ourselves out of fear? We should plunder our ancestor's vast archives of knowledge, and squeeze it through the sieve of music, so that when the time comes, our people already have a mental frame on which to associate these new things to, so that they do not panic, and they do not fear. This is a part of our duties as Harpers already, to educate and inform. How will people be educated if we play the same types of songs? How can we tell them not to fear, when we fear these new musics we now have re-discovered?"

"Why should the Smiths get involved in the Harper duties of educating?" Sebell asked mildly.

"Investing in, say, amplification technology would ease the spread of important information without the audience having to be utterly silent--as anxious audiences often are not. That benefits all. Not even the loudest-mouthed Harper can silence or out-bellow a crowd in a fuss. And that is just one example--the new instruments can assist Smiths in perfecting techniques that will later go into more serious uses...if an instrument suddenly can not be heard, or is out of tune, that is, frankly, only a major concern to the Harper performing. People won't die from it--nobody has actually ever died of embarrassment, as far as I know. But if the same technology is being used in a mine, or on a ship at sea, you want it to be reliable. Let the Smiths innovate on wild, new instruments and work their mishaps out there, let us Harpers innovate on the instruments as well, and work out the mishaps in the minds and emotions of this transformed society as well, so that when more serious times come, the questions we are poised to ask have already been answered in hearts and minds."

Sebell regarded him steadily, and Tesley hoped that what he had said made some sort of sense to the man. Then Sebell sat back in his chair, steepled his fingers before his chin...and smiled. "That's a very Robinton-esque argument of you," he said.

Tesley blinked. "I'll take that as a compliment, although it's fairly ridiculous these days to see people painting his image on the sides of their wagons." The criticism just slipped out, and he bit his tongue a little painfully.

Sebell's eyes widened just a fraction, as if he were surprised at that news, and Tesley wondered how a detail like that could have escaped the man. Surely someone had told him of that particular new fad. Hadn't they?

Then the man threw back his head and laughed.

"I'm hoping you find the mental image as terrifying as I do," Tesley said wryly.

"He would be absolutely mortified...horrified...if he wasn't dead already, I'm sure he would be stricken dead by the mere sight of such a thing, or mere thought," Sebell said around his chuckles.

"Well, I feel mortified on his behalf every time I look at one of the bloody things," Tesley muttered, and was gratified to note that Sebell did not seem offended by it. He actually wanted to take a scouring brush to the murals. This he actually managed to keep locked behind his tongue, however.

Sebell rubbed his face with a hand. "Any idea why they're putting murals on wagons? And where is this happening? You did come into the Hall over land?" As opposed to flying between, which was quick, but not the best way to gather information from the ground.

Tesley quirked an eyebrow. "I did. I saw most of it in Nerat. Why Nerat, I don't know. I saw a scattering of it between here and there. It may be an anti-Abominator...blazon, or sign, but that's really just speculation. Maybe he kissed one of their babies once upon a time, so they painted it as remembrance and it caught on like a fad. I'm sure Hiss, Slide, and Jog would be able to find out more." He pulled names out of a hat.

Sebell was the one who quirked an eyebrow this time. "Who?" he asked innocently, but his eyes held a mild reprimand. "Thank you for letting me know about the murals; it's possible someone mentioned it before but I thought they were not speaking literally. It's good to know about that. Anyway..." and Sebell set his glass down with a clink. "These...I will be taking a look at," and he thumped the small stack of papers with Teslay's scores written upon them. "In the meantime, if you're wishing to study composition--"

"Talk to Master Domick?"

"Well, no, unless you want to, but I gather you two never really had much fondness for one another..."

"Never personal," Teslay said. "I just didn't pay attention. And yes, I'd like to stay out of firing range of his sarcasm on that one--"

"--there are some books in the archive, Tagetarl has been working on converting our oldest archives into plates so that they can be re-printed at will when necessary, without condemning some poor Apprentice to half a year hunched over a table. There are one or two on composition that you may be interested in, if you're looking for a refresher. Granted, they are a bit outdated...but given your source of inspiration..." Sebell snorted slightly, and smiled.

Teslay nodded, to show his appreciation for the advice. "Thank you, sir."

Sebell did not end up jumping out of his seat, proclaiming that yes, he would allocate manpower and resources to Tesley's vision during their meeting, but at the same time, he also did not throw Tesley out of his office, or even give him a flat-out "no", and he was keeping the scores for later review, which Teslay wanted to believe was a good thing. And although Tesley knew Sebell was a better actor than he appeared, the man seemed to have lost the veneer of neutrality that had covered his earlier misgivings about Tesley's work, so he cautiously was hopeful when Sebell dismissed him. Perhaps he would get a chance after all.

Because he had surprised himself by the explanation that had risen up in him in the face of Sebell's unspoken challenge to be convincing. Before today, if someone had been able to get him drunk enough to spill his most private opinions about the most significant events of the past ten turns, he would say he was Abominator enough to get himself shunned by the majority of his Crafthall if they only knew. And possibly beaten. And yet, what he had told the MasterHarper was true...they were there to educate people. It was part of their duty. And that wasn't happening quickly enough. The Master Harper had already let the hatchling out of the egg and there was no Turning back; it was an impossible thing, the knowledge they had gained, as unstoppable as the fall of thread as the Ninth Pass crawled by, turn by turn, and it was the Harpers' duty to try to clean up the mess that was made by one of their own. Even if it meant making the massive changes in their music that Tesley feared were needed.

Tesley sighed when he got back to his temporary quarters, and rubbed his forehead, and tucked his bag with his figurehead-spearing tunes under the bed where a drudge or overly curious apprentice would not accidentally come upon it while tidying up the guestroom he was using. He wasn't sure he liked thinking about such weighty matters, and, fatigue tired his bones as his body insisted that it was just about bedtime in Landing, so why wasn't he asleep yet?

His stomach growled, and Tesley gave that part of him a silent voice as well. Because I'm hungry. So he pushed matters out of his mind, and clattered downstairs towards the kitchens to join the rest of the Hall for their evening meal.

* * * *

Author's Notes: Mmmm. This is much denser than the previous chapters, sorry for the sudden shift in depth, but I found a Plot, and also wanted to play with a specific type of character for which I found no canon equivalents for. Meet Teslay, a late-blooming Harper with a taste for wild music.

Anyway, as always, please R&R. Thanks! (New chapter coming very soon...)
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