| That night Asyat was in her room, preparing what she was going to say to her father. No matter what he told her, she wouldn’t marry someone not of her own choosing.
It had taken Asyat a long time of crying and thinking to reach that decision. No one would chose for her. And if Yuviel wanted one of Shelinoa’s own, he’d have to marry Larina or ask for Iamara’s hand. But Iamara was saving herself for someone far richer and more important than Yuviel.
Yuviel was the son of one of her father’s old cronies, Velieryan. Yuviel had inherited the small family Holding of Gold Rise when Velieryan had died. Of course Yuviel would need a wife, and since he was doing horribly at managing the Hold, he probably figured to call on an old ‘friend of the family’ for some help.
Asyat could throw up. How dare Yuviel, someone she had openly hated whenever he visited, be so presumptuous as to ask for her hand in marriage? Asyat gritted her teeth and sat on her bed. It would do no good to be in such a mood when she went to her father. For all she knew, Larina was just being spiteful, and no such arrangement had ever been made. Asyat let herself fall backwards until she was laying on her bed, hoping that the day would just be over already. Laer, who had been sleeping on Asyat’s pillows, crooned at her and moved to she could scratch his head. Asyat smiled at him and placed him on her stomach, where he curled into a little ball and tried to go back to sleep.
He’s so beautiful. Asyat thought to herself. If only I didn’t have to worry about anything but being with him. But that thought left a hole in her. As much as she enjoyed spending time with Laer, it wouldn’t satisfy her to do nothing else. Asyat patted Laer’s wings down and gently placed him back on the pillows. He stirred and warbled a bit in his sleep, but didn’t wake up.
Maybe he’ll sleep through what’s to come. Asyat thought, hoping that if she got dragged into an argument with her father, Laer would not “come to her rescue”, as he tended to do.
As she was leaving her room, Asyat looked down at the table by the doorway, and saw her journal. She picked it up, ran her hands along its smooth cover. All her thoughts, all her dreams for the future, were hidden in this book. Not a very good hiding place. Asyat told herself, and resettled the book on the table. Deciding better of it, Asyat opened the table’s top draw and stuffed her journal underneath a bunch of papers. It wouldn’t do for someone to find the journal and start reading it now, of all times. Straightening her tunic and taking a deep breath, Asyat set out to go confront her father.
"I know why you're here love, and I don't pretend to not understand your disappointment.." Similaron began, but Asyat held up her hand to him.
"How could dare you even think of such a thing." Asyat told her father coldly, and he gave her a firm look before going on.
"How dare I? Dearheart, you're being quite presumptuous. It's more like how dare you. You are my daughter, and under my jurisdiction. I will decide what is best for you, and the rest of my children."
"And the rest of your daughters." Asyat spat out. "But your sons don't have their wives picked for them, do they? No, they get to choose who they marry." Asyat turned her head away, and stared out the window in her father's work room. It was a cold night, misty and silent. Asyat hated those kinds of nights.
Tomorrow will be better. A tiny voice, somewhere in the back of Asyat's mind, told her. Asyat shook it off, but it persisted. Stormy nights give way to rainbows in the morning.
No! Asyat yelled at herself. No, there will be no rainbow in this! My family will disown me if I go through with this...
No they won't. The voice said again, and Asyat clenched her teeth.
You don't even know! Maybe if my mother was still here...She'd help me. But she's dead, and if I marry Yuviel, I will be too. I have to get out.
Stay. The voice commanded, and Asyat shook her head.
"Asyat?" Her father asked, looking with concern on his daughter. "Is everything all right?" He grimaced then, realizing his words would release whatever his daughter was holding inside. He was right.
"All right? You call marrying an incompetent, poor, horrendous, Holder all right? I can't believe you'd ask me such a thing? Did it ever occur to you to ask me what I wanted?" Her father laughed at that one.
"What you wanted? You mean who you wanted to marry? If I left that up to you girl, you'd marry the first kind stableboy that asked you. No, it's better this way. With connections to me, and you as a wife," Similaron beamed proudly at her on this one, "Yuviel will turn into a decent
Asyat pondered this. Maybe her father was right? Surely it wouldn't be so bad, and with Yuviel as a husband, she'd definately be in charge of everything.
But she didn't want to be 'in charge' of everything. She wanted to help people, she wanted to be herself, and she wanted...
"I want to be a Harper." Asyat said, finally admitting to her father her dream. Actually saying that aloud took Asyat by surprise, she hadn't actually thought she'd let herself mention that. But if was a relief, no more hiding, no more pretending. Now was the easy part; figuring out how she was going to go about becoming a Harper.
The Holder laughed out loud at his daughter. He sputtered and giggled and wiped a tear from his eye.
"Oh, dear child, a Harper? That's a good one Asyat, even for you." Similaron seated himself behind his desk. Still shaking his head, he looked up at his daughter. "I never thought I'd hear any of you children say that. Especially since the only Harper you've ever known is Holmaren." Asyat gulped at that, and made herself shrug.
"He himself may be insufferable, but I've met other Harpers, I know what they do."
"Is that so? Tell me then, Asyat, what do Harpers do?" Similaron leaned back in his chair, obviously expecting some sort of fake answer, but Asyat answered as true as she could.
"Harpers are teachers." Asyat said, the look in her eyes going far away, almost dancing with the thoughts in her mind. "Harpers teach other people how to be good people. They teach the Holders and the Crafters to honour the dragonmen who protect us, and they keep tradition alive through song. Father, you know I can play the gitar and the harp quite well, and you know I can sing. I could make Journeyman, Father, I know it. Will you deny me this chance to help others?"
Asyat pleaded with her father, but inside she knew this was it, whether he said yes or not, she would travel to the Harper Hall. Dragonriders were coming tomorrow, she'd prevail upon them to take her.
But to Asyat's surprise Similaron seemed to be mulling this over. He tapped his fingers on the desk in the familiar tune to the name-song. Finally he heaved a sigh and looked up at his grinning daughter.
"Thank you Father, I won't disappoint you!" Asyat rushed to her father's side, and threw her arms around his neck. That wasn't so bad. Not nearly half the trouble she'd htought it would be. But Similaron wasn't finished, he untangled himself from his daughter's arms and looked at her sternly.
"One turn Asyat, that's it. You can go to the Hall for one turn. If you apply yourself, and advance as I hope you will, we'll consider whether or not you can stay. But I'm warning you, don't disgrace us. It's bad enough that I'm sending one of my children to become and apprentice. You'll represent your Hold and your family well Asyat, and don't think you won't.
There will be no betting, no gambling, and no sneaking away in the middle of the night to hunt for flit eggs." And Similaron stopped, remembering that day, right after Asyat's mother had died, when Asyat had snuck away to do just that. He'd been sick with worry, just knowing that Iatrina's death had caused something to snap in her middle daughter.
But the next morning Asyat had come home, dirty and frightened, but safe; and she was carrying three fire-lizard eggs. Because of what it had meant to her, Similaron let her keep one for herself. Not that he could have stopped her. He thought back with amusement. That bronze of hers would have been hers whether I agreed to it or not. Sort of like this Harper thing.
Asyat herself was thinking about all the things journeying to Harper Hall would mean. No more being spoiled, that was for certain. Asyat thought she could get along without a lot of things well enough. No more argueing over ridiculous male domination. Asyat thought crudely. I can't pick a fight with every hide bound wherry-necked male who thinks he should be in control.
"But," The Holder said, in a warning tone, "I will call you home if I find a more suitable match for you. If you're not turning yourself into a proper Harper, and another marriage offer comes along, I won't hesitate to take it." But Asyat knew this was just a threat to keep her behaving "appropraitely".
Of all the trouble behaving "appropriatly" causes, this just might be worth it. Asyat thought happily. Of course she'd need to get some things arranged before tomorrow, when she would be leaving.
She talked with her father for several minutes more, and then went off to pack. She'd have to travel light, if she was going to travel a dragonback.
That thought filtered into her mind and made her heart stop. Why did it do that? Surely the thought of being near a dragon didn't make her afraid? No, Asyat decided, she wasn't afriad. It was almost the same feeling she got, two turns ago, when she decided she wanted to be a Harper. Asyat shivered and pushed the thouht from her mind.
I need to pack. She told herself firmly, and headed up to her room to do just that.