Sixteenth day of spring, forty-ninth Turn, Tenth PassLocation:
Ylisa and Falada discuss their suspicions
It is sunset of the sixteenth day of springon the forty-ninth Turn of the Tenth Pass.
Falada knocks at the door leading to Ylisa's Room and announces herself.
Ylisa's voice calls out from inside, "Come in!"Ylisa's Room
Ylisa is sitting on a chair playing her gitar. The music stand in front of her holds a sheet of hide; the music written on it is in her own handwriting. It's a rousing, singable melody.
Falada steps in and closes the door softly so as not to interrupt the music. She stands there for a moment, enjoying the melody, before she walks into the room. "That's nice," she comments, peering at the hide. "You wrote it?" It's a rhetorical question, of course.
Ylisa smiles up at Falada. "Yes. It's one of the end-of-Pass cycle I've been working on. This is the one for the Weyrs." She launches into the refrain again, but this time, she sings too."So hold to your purpose and hold to tradition,
Be ready, be watchful, and never forget;
Riders and weyrfolk, stay faithful forever:
Though it be centuries, there will be Thread!"
Falada nods thoughtfully as she listens. "It's good, very clear in the message. Teaching songs should be." She waves a rolled up hide that she's carrying in her hand. "I found those sketches that I was looking for the other day, the ones I wanted to show you."
"Oh, yes!" Ylisa smiles. "Come and sit down. I was hoping to be able to see those." She gets up from her chair and sets the gitar on a stand while she brings up another seat for Falada. "We rather got distracted from that, didn't we."
Falada chuckles wryly and rolls her eyes as she unties the cord holding the hide in a roll. She unrolls it, revealing a hide about four feet long and two feet tall. "We rather did. I must admit, I felt a little hypocritical saying anything at all... But it wasn't right when I did it, and I can't allow it now."
Ylisa looks at the hide with interest, tracing the Red Star's path with a finger held just above the surface. She looks up, nodding appreciatively. "That's very effective. How's it going to be done: as a mural?"
Falada nods. "That was the plan. We need to find a place to do it. The concept was Falana's idea. She did up the sketch." She sighs regretfully. "You can see why I'm sorry to lose her to the vocals department."
"She's good, though. And going to be better." Ylisa gives a final glance towards the sketch. "Is it for the Hold, or the Hall?"
Falada rolls the hide back up, careful not to smudge the charcoal lines. "That hadn't been decided yet, actually. I suppose it could be for either, or for whichever is in greater need of a new mural. It would be spectacular in a tapestry, but I rather think the apprentices have their hearts set on getting to paint it. I know I wouldn't give up the chance."
Ylisa nods. "Yes, it's a while since we've done one. The last one in the Hall was - oh, shells. The Lessa one, in the rehearsal hall." She pulls a wry face at the memory of that
piece of artwork.
Falada frowns slightly, not quite sure why the wry face, but she shrugs it off. "Something like that, if she was doing it all herself, is the sort of thing worthy of a journeyman project, but I don't guess it would qualify, even if she were ready for it, as it's not her area." She shakes her head and sighs. "What are we going to do about that situation, anyway? Have you had a chance to speak to Erikkhan yet?"
Ylisa shakes her head. "I've not managed to catch him, so far. But I will - I'll find an excuse to haul him into the office, but it's a case of doing it when there's nobody else around." She lets out a sigh. "We have got to keep Veldara from knowing about this. She'd make mincemeat of both of them."
Falada purses her lips and can't help glancing about, as if she almost expects Veldara to be there listening in on their conversation. "That
is a situation I would very much like to do something about," she mutters.
Ylisa raises an eyebrow. "Our respected Crafthead? I'd cheerfully serve her on toast for breakfast. But I think we're stuck with her." She looks curiously at Falada. "Or... do you have some ideas on that score?"
Falada wears an expression that is at once angelic and purely evil. "I say we stake her out and then deny any knowledge." She is, of course, kidding, but her burst of macabre humor is disturbing.
Ylisa raises an eyebrow, but there's concern in her expression and voice as she simply asks, "Has something else happened?"
Falada shakes her head, the earlier expression giving way to one of annoyance. "No, not so much... she heard rumors about Erikk and Falana -- which apparently were true -- and confronted Falana about them a few days ago. It bothers me to see her preaching to the apprentices on craft rules when I know
that there's got to be something that she's doing. I don't make it my business to know how she spends her own personal money, but that woman has more new dresses than any Lady Holder, and all as fine or better."
Ylisa nods slowly. "She has. I wonder if she's got private means. I mean, even a Crafthead's stipend isn't up to those tapestries..." She's looking very thoughtful. "And I can't help feeling that it goes against the grain, when she's complaining about the cost of basic supplies. Did you know she told Edsel he had to use less harp wire?"
Falada scowls. "A harp can't be played without wire," she says, "And there's only so little that can be used and from what Lana has told me, wires are hard enough to come by for violins."
Ylisa nods. "Well, didn't you negotiate for it for us, when you were at the Smith Hall?" She shakes her head slowly. "Poor Edsel. He wanted to build another harpsichord. He's got some really good ideas for improving the action. But, she vetoed that, as well."
Falada makes disgruntled noises in her throat, reminiscent of the sounds she used to make as a mute apprentice. "I just can't see how the Hall can be so low on funds as she's making out that we are."
Ylisa nods slowly. "Since Jueann negotiated the training contract with Fort, we've been in a much better position. Has she been on at you about the art supplies again?"
Falada raises her voice in a mocking mimicry of Veldara's affected tones. "'Journeyman Falada, you really must be careful how much paint you let the apprentices use. We can't be giving it to them on a whim, you know, it's not free.'" She snorted. "As if she even knew what it takes to get paints. The senior apprentices make their own, and mostly from local materials. It's only occasionally that we have to buy raw materials for paints, and if she were as intimate with the Hall finances as she seems to be, she'd know that."
Ylisa winces. "Oh dear. I wonder if Majori's still having trouble with her. Veldara wouldn't let her near the books, when she was first he-" She breaks off suddenly, and turns a wide-eyed look on Falada. "You don't think...?"
Falada had just come to possibly the same conclusion, just as Ylisa said it. "Unless... she is
intimate with the Hall's finances..."
"Nobody else gets much of a look at them, in fact," Ylisa continues. "Unless Liesana does. I don't think so, though." She takes a deep breath as she thinks about that. "We need to get a look at the accounts. Which are all in Veldara's room."
Falada narrows her eyes, thinking. "I'm certain we could find a way to get in, if we could get her away for long enough. She doesn't keep fire lizards, she hates them, and besides there are not many of the Hall lizards that will defy Shavira. I would be willing to bet that Stitch could get through any locks she may have on her door."
Ylisa looks very thoughtful. "You know, she doesn't
keep firelizards. At least, she doesn't keep
firelizards. Remember how she created all that fuss over the egg that she wanted Erikkhan to have, that he gave away? There was a big egg in that clutch that I reckoned might have been a gold, and she took that for herself. I never saw a hatchling, though."
Falada is tempted to pause and think about the fact that she and Ylisa are seriously discussing breaking into the Craftmaster's private rooms and stealing sensitive Hall documentation. To resist that temptation she rises from her seat and starts to pace. "Trust her to run off a gold fire lizard. Blind loyalty or not, no flitter is going to put up with abuse. I wonder what she did to the poor thing."
"Scared it into going wild within about two minutes of impressing it, I expect," Ylisa replies with a roll of the eyes. "Honestly, I don't assume that there's something wrong with somebody just because they don't like firelizards, but if firelizards don't like them..." She lets the thought trail off, and sits in silence for a few moments while a thought hangs unspoken in the air. Finally, she gives it voice. "If she's skimming from Hall funds, it won't be clear from the accounts. She'll have falsified the records. How can we prove it?"
Falada hadn't thought of that. For some reason it had seemed to her that all the proof she might need would be right there. "Well... don't each of the departments keep their own records? I know I do, because I have to turn in my tally sheets every month. Couldn't we cross-check the department records with the Hall records?"
"Yes, so do I, but my specialty doesn't need a lot, beyond hide and ink. Edsel turns in detailed records of supplies used, though." Ylisa is frowning thoughtfully. "Accounts are basically in two parts: what comes in and what goes out. I wonder what would be easiest to fiddle. Oh, we must have had a lesson on this!" Her brow creases as she tries to remember that long ago training. "Wasn't saying you'd spent more than you actually had one way of doing it?"
Falada frowns over the matter and continues to pace. "That's one way, claiming that the items bought are more expensive than they are, and claiming that items sold sell for less than they are actually bringing in..." She sits down with a plop. "Then she could just take the difference for herself. It basically ceases to exist at that point. Also, she could claim to have bought supplies that were never purchased and then write them off to water damage, or snakes or something."
"We don't know
that she's doing anything dishonest," Ylisa says. "It could just be that she has another source of marks - high-ranking parents, or something." She sounds a bit dubious about it, though. "Maybe we should put out some feelers, and see what we can find out about her background. Before we start trying to raid her bookshelves, I mean."
Falada nods thoughtfully. Committing felonious acts had not been high on her list of things to accomplish. "What we need is an accounting of her private expenditures and incomes... And we need to get them without her knowing. If she is imbezzling and she knows we suspect her, she's still got the power to... Well, she could make it inconvenient for us to talk to anyone about it."
"Yes," Ylisa says, with a note of tension in her voice. Her fingers are starting to drum against her thigh, as well. She catches herself doing it, and forces the hand to lie flat. "I wonder if we know anyone who knows her." She frowns at that, and answers her own question. "We do, of course. She was at Fort for turns before she came here. But I'm not too keen to approach our esteemed Masterharper on this one. Or even Teraille or Caramak. Not directly, anyway."
Falada frowns and sighs. "There has got to be some way... How is young Erikkhan at subterfuge? Could he convince her to trust him enough to discover anything?"
Ylisa hesitates before answering that. "How far do we trust him? He's a pleasant enough lad, and she's certainly given him a hard time, but... I don't know. And, it seems a bit steep to ask the boy to work against his own mother."
Falada looks at once doubtful and hopeful. "I'm not real sure," she says slowly, "But the impression I've gotten from him has always been that he doesn't care much for her. It is unfair of us to ask him, though. She is his mother."
"And if he let something slip..." Ylisa bites her lip. She's looking worried. "It may be that he can tell us something about her background, though. If it happened to come up in casual conversation."
"I wonder..." Falada is on her feet again. "I wonder if we could guide him in the endeavor without telling him what he's doing, or why?"
Ylisa looks up curiously, a flicker of interest in her eyes. "I don't think I follow. What do you mean?"
Falada shrugs. "I don't know... encourage him to find out more about her... for his own sake. Maybe convince him that he needs to build a relationship with her or something?"
"The poor lad." Ylisa looks rather uncomfortable at that. "He'd be in a good position to do it; she's been trying to come across as the concerned parent, after all. But..." She frowns. "It seems rather manipulative."
Falada sighs deeply and flops down in her seat again. "I know, and I don't want to go there. I'd much rather he do it of his own accord. Maybe we could feel him out, see how his opinion of her lies, and then decide if he can be trusted."
Ylisa nods reluctantly. "That's probably best. And, if we're lucky, he may actually know something that might help. He must have been curious about her - his own mother."
Falada looks doleful. "I admit I was curious about my own parents... of course, the more I learned of my father the less I wanted to know. Well..." she stood up once more, retrieving the rolled hide with the sketch on it. "I have things I need to get to, as much as I'd like to stay here and chat with you." She glanced at the door regretfully. "We should get together sometime very soon, you and I."
Ylisa gets to her feet, looking rather disappointed. "Let's do that. And Falada? When we do... Every time we talk, we end up talking about that woman. Can we just... not, for a bit?"
Falada nods silently. She lifts her hand as if to reach out to Ylisa, but then she withdraws it again and disappears out the door.