Josis was distinctly nervous to be going to the Woodcrafter Hall, a place she vaguely remembered from her early childhood; so much had happened in the last turn and a bit, she sometimes found it hard to believe that it was real!
It had seemed like a terrible nightmare back when she was just thirteen, almost seven turns before, when the carelessness of another had killed her father, leaving a bereaved daughter and apprentice stripped of her knots by Holder Vorn, because sending her to the Woodcraft Hall was too much trouble, especially when he wanted a personal drudge for his revolting spoilt daughter, Vorinia. The next few turns had been awful.
And then a trip to the Weyr had given Vorinia furiously to think; and to ask Josis if she really was as revolting as she had been told she was. From a frank discussion had arisen friendship; tentative at first, but growing stronger as Vorinia made determined efforts to improve herself, and when both girls were away from Holder Vorn, fostering at Northfork Runnerhold.
There Josis discovered that her cousin Hallon was now Bronze Rider H'llon, who had taken deposition of her story: and had arranged compensation for her. Holder Tragen of Northfork had also arranged for her to resume her apprenticeship under his Master Woodcrafter, Pettar, alongside the Master's nephew Redlan, a senior apprentice. Redlan had been rather tonguetied at first with the introduction of a pretty girl into the crafthall; but over the turn he had managed to blossom out somewhat, providing safe subjects like wood crafting were adhered to!
Josis was delighted to find that, once back with wood, the craft came easily to her. Pettar had a pole lathe, that was not, he explained, quite so good as a treadle lathe; but quite adequate for everyday needs.
And a turn on, Josis and Redlan were both on their way to the Woodcrafter Hall in the hopes of qualifying as Journeymen over the next turn; by which time she hoped to be able to stand for Impression at High Reaches Weyr with Vorinia, her own ambitions of Impressing held back by having seriously crippled herself in saving the life of another girl, an action that would have been inconceivable to the old Vorinia!
H'llon took both youngsters to the Woodcrafter Hall; a serious honour to arrive on a Bronze Dragon – and an honour too, to be escorted by a man now Master of a new craft! H'llon could not stay; as he said, he had to turf out drunken Lords Holders, Masters, and other sundry people from the Inauguration Feast of the Craft of Printcrafting. H'llon was however determined to escort his own young cousin personally to the Woodcrafter Hall, and her friend Redlan too!
Two young women met the newcomers; one was a pretty girl with rich chestnut hair and creamy skin; the other, with more charisma than conventional beauty, was brown of hair, skin and eyes, the last with golden flecks that danced with lively intelligence. Both wore Journeyman's knots.
"This is Sadvia, and I'm Elissa" said the lanky young woman with golden flecked eyes. "You'll dorm with Isrona, Josis, and Sadvia, who's in charge there. I'm afraid you'll be the oldest unless we get others in to confirm. I was H'llon's apprentice at the Weyr, so feel free to come and ask me questions about it! I hear you've both had access to a lathe?" she glanced at Redlan as well.
He flushed and nodded wordlessly.
"Pole lathe; I learned to build one too" said Josis. "Redlan already knew how, turns since. It's a pleasant occupation, we are both looking forward to trying out treadle lathes."
"You'll find them easier to use than pole lathes once you've got over the shock of how fast you can turn the stock! Master Gerney will be glad to have a couple of older ones capable of turning; his oldest special just made Journeyman and has gone to teach turning as a new skill at Threewoods Crafthall in the High Reaches. I'm his other special and I also have fosterlings that take some of my time, of whom two are two of the three of his newest specials and them just babes of twelve turns! Redlan, I've arranged you to be in a dormitory with senior apprentices about your own age; you're sixteen, aren't you?"
The boy nodded, blushing again.
"Yes, Journeyman" he managed.
"Tirlo'll look out for you, and Teerel will too, until you find your feet; some of their cronies went with the new teaching Journeymen to Threewoods to be assistants. Tirlo and Teerel are both decent boys, both craftbred, but please try not to second-guess Tirlo when he stutters, he gets there eventually and he gets intensely irritated when people try to speak for him."
"I, er, I guess I can appreciate that, ma'am" said Redlan, managing to find his tongue.
"Elissa will do if it's not in a formal situation" said Elissa. "Good, I'll show you over. Sadvia will take you, Josis; we're not formally started on the new Turn yet, you'll have a day or two to find your ways about and meet the Masters before lessons start again."
Josis and Redlan both murmured thanks; and let themselves be drawn away, quite overwhelmed!
Tirlo and Teerel quickly made the new boy welcome, and introduced him to two others, slightly younger lads, recently come to Lemos from Threewoods. One was a boy named Keltor, who had come because a senior Journeyman had been placing pressure on his mother through punishing him unduly, Teerel explained succinctly. Teerel had a twisted spine and claimed a twisted sense of humour to go with it, but beyond this cryptic explanation he was quite reticent.
"We don't gossip about it, you know" he said "It's bad for the craft and it's all sorted out now. But Keltor's new and might like a friend, although you're older. And Horslas is new too, nearly our age, and he's been led astray so he's trying to start over again; perhaps you'd be nice to him too."
There was apparent history between Horslas and Keltor, who did NOT like each other at all. That Tirlo and Teerel did not seem to much like Horslas either made Redlan chary; but he gave the large, rather lumpy-looking lad a friendly enough nod. Redlan had no trouble with shyness among other boys, and was soon chattering happily about his upbringing and training with his uncle. His uncle was more a father-figure than an uncle, in truth, for Pettar and his wife Redissa had fostered the illegitimate boy from the time Pettar's sister had died birthing her son Redlan.
Redlan had heard stories of the High Reaches Weyr logicators and was amazed to find a branch here at the Woodcrafter Hall! When Teerel invited him to join, Redlan was delighted. He was really going to be happy here, and from the descriptions of the lessons, would hardly have time to be homesick.
Tirlo and Teerel also had firelizards, Tirlo's brown Hoggy fully grown, and Teerel's little green Willow still just a baby, and Redlan was glad to volunteer to help with her.
There were at this moment just two other girls under the motherly care of Isrona, in her craftcot, and Josis soon discovered that Isrona was another cousin of hers when Sadvia cheerfully pointed this out.
"Half the crafthall are related to our family one way or another, it sometimes seems! We've an extensive and talented family, including young Kisra, H'llon's sister, and Lianka and Beka through adoption by Gerney. You'll meet them later as they're spending the break with their respective immediate families, Kisra with her parents and the others with Elissa and Gerney. Seeta and Rahani have too far to go, so they won't leave the crafthall until they qualify as Journeymen."
This seemed a hard thing to have to happen, thought Josis; though had she gone to the Woodcrafter Hall before her father had died, she would have been in similar situation with him posted in the High Reaches. As it was she would never see her father again; perhaps that made her more acutely aware how hard it must be for little girls away from home who did not have to come to terms with knowing that they never could see their parents. Wanting something that was almost possible must be harder, she thought, than wishing the impossible. She determined to try to like these girls.
Seeta was a quiet girl of about fifteen turns with intelligent eyes.
"It's nice not to be the oldest any more" she said "Though I expect if you've been sent to graduate, you'll be Journeyman at next Autumn's postings. I know it'll take me another couple of turns at least to make the grade."
"And I say how nice to have someone new!" said Rahani. "I don't count Lianka and Beka being promoted to this dorm to make room for more little ones, for they're bosom cronies of Kisra anyway and you may fall over the lot of them anywhere!"
Seeta and Rahani had struck up a friendship of sorts since Rahani has moved in last turn, being the sort of opposites who attracted each other. Seeta was far better trained in woodcrafting than Rahani but gave the impression of being less accomplished since she was quiet and very modest, whereas Rahani could speak for two and was enthusiastic about all she had been learning. They seemed sufficient unto each other, and Josis thought wistfully that it was going to be a little lonely unless she might be friends with jolly-looking Sadvia, if the young Journeyman did not despise friendship with an apprentice.
Sadvia was enough of a logicator to guess what was going through Josis' mind, and grinned at her.
"I hear you've virtually passed to Journeyman despite only short training," she said, "because of the early training too, I guess. I know the story. I think you and I might have more in common than you have with the younger girls, perhaps Isrona will let us move the curtain for a SENIOR senior dormitory as you might say."
"That would be rather nice" she said. "I would like that; and perhaps you'll show me about too?"
"Oh I'd be happy to!" said Sadvia. Sadvia was a happy-go-lucky girl who made friends easily, and looked forward to having a friend who would be sharing her dormitory. Elissa's marriage and fostering had placed a bit of a gulf between the friends as marriage was not something Sadvia wanted to contemplate for a long while yet! And being a Journeyman meant that she was her own woman and had no need to do so.
Next morning, Sadvia showed Josis around the various workshops and introduced her formally to the Masters. Josis did not need to attend either toolcraft classes nor basic jointmaking; she had progressed beyond them long since. Therefore she had no need to do more than greet Master Jaben and the Journeyman now teaching Toolcraft, Journeyman Sanlas.
Josis was lucky to have a talent as well as having worked hard enough for two over the last turn. Acting-Master Arkis – another cousin as Sadvia chuckled, leading him to embrace his new cousin cheerily - had nothing to complain about in her free carving. They moved on to meet Master Idoghen, the cabinet-maker, who had sparing praise for her plain, but beautifully proportioned clothes press. He asked her opinion on a highly decorated press that was stood at the back of the room.
Josis surveyed it with dismay.
It had showy marquetry that was already starting to peel, and by the way it stood, it must be badly made and was warping out of shape. Surely the cabinet maker had not made this? No, his other work was exquisite, if plain; this must be a test. She could be honest.
"Oh dear" said Josis, pulling a face. "Can any wood be salvaged from it, or at least the veneer to cut smaller pieces?"
Idoghen gave a grim smile of satisfaction.
"More tact than a certain apprentice named Elissa who recommended chopping it up for firewood" he said. "But I hear in your voice similar sentiments. You're not one to be satisfied by the showy."
"I've seen too many decorative and showy Ranking youths who beat their drudges and who could not turn a day's work for me to be likely to go by appearances, sir" said Josis dryly. "Besides, the showy decoration is poorly executed like a loving wench made Holder's mistress and dangling jewels to hide the sad place in an ageing cleavage."
Idoghen actually gave a crack of laughter.
"Blunt, my dear, but a beautiful simile! Oh I must remember that next time Tuon complains my work is too plain!"
"Master Idoghen! Airing Masters' rivalries in front of an apprentice?" said Sadvia, pretending to be shocked.
"Well, my dear Sadvia, if it were serious and meant anything – as some rivalries do to some people – then we'd not let it show, would we?" said Idoghen. "Tuon and I bicker for points without it becoming serious. It's a valid debate that each apprentice must have with himself or herself about the level of applied decoration to use and how much they feel comfortable with. Tuon's view is as valid as mine – only NEVER tell him I said so!"
Idoghen was only being so open because of Josis' age and the fact that everyone expected her to confirm as Journeyman by Autumn.
"Oh, Master Tuon isn't really talking to me anyway since I turned down his proposal of marriage" said Sadvia.
Idoghen sniffed. It was a speaking sniff.
Josis was curious – if not entirely keen – to meet Master Tuon!
Master Tuon was evidently susceptible to pretty girls; he sighed gently at the sight of Sadvia – like a dyspeptic ovine, that unimpressed maiden said later – but he noticed that Josis was pretty!
Josis wore her attractiveness with unconscious grace; drudges were not pretty – not if they could avoid it, anyway – but she had blossomed with self confidence. Her green eyes sparkled with the joy of living and her complexion was healthy with much outdoor exercise and good food, and was framed by her short curls, since drudges also kept their hair short, having no time to deal with long hair. Once her unruly short locks had been neatened up by Kaili at Northfork, Josis found that it had suited her and had not troubled to grow her hair, especially as long hair was a potential risk with such things as lathes. It would too make life easier should she Impress. The colour was pretty now she had time to care for it too; a definite dark red rather than a muddy sort of chestnut that the lack of time to wash it often had led it to be for so long. Josis also dressed well, for Vorinia had an eye for style and delighted in finding her friend clothing that suited her tall, slender form and enhanced her colouring! Josis had no idea that she was an uncommonly pretty girl, comparing herself to the remarkable loveliness of her friend Vorinia; but she was no fool, and knew she was attractive, though it was of secondary importance to her skill. She ignored the Master noticing her.
"Both pieces you submitted were well done" said Tuon. "The simple tumbling-box design on that small box was smartly lined up; and the mastery of the precise angles of the diamonds that make the design shows your skill well. The brass stringing inlaid in the second box was ambitious but again, well executed."
"We had no boxwood, sir; and I don't know that I'm competent to lay in boxwood stringing. I'd like to learn" said Josis.
"It can be most effective; from a simple line if you eschew much decoration, or in curved knotwork as complex as you can manage, though that's better done as marquetry than inlay" said Tuon. "I can show you some work the senior apprentices have been doing, and my own work if you like."
Sadvia, out of sight of the Master, rolled her eyes at Josis; but Josis said,
"I'd like that; Master Pettar didn't do much decoration save to teach Redlan and me. Holder Tragen is a plain man and cares more for a quality build than for appearance. I expect that Redlan is coming round visiting with his new friends."
Tuon gave a slightly forced smile.
"Yes, indeed, he has been to see me; nice enough boy, a little immature of course….and not that interested in marquetry. What was that you said, Sadvia?"
"Sorry, Master Tuon, I coughed" Sadvia lied smoothly after covering a giggle at the Master's rather obvious tactics.
Josis enjoyed seeing works of great complexity. She thought some of the Master's work a trifle overly decorated; but that it would sell to the Ranking she had no doubt! She could not feel that the view 'the plainer the better' was right, and hoped to do well in this class. The Master, if amorous, seemed to be honourable at least, and did not make her feel soiled as some people at Lambo's Field Hold had done when she was a drudge.
The machinery at the sawill fascinated Josis; though not as much as the incongruity of the massive Master Challer and his chief assistant, his diminutive daughter Leichalle!
Challer told Josis that she had much to learn about the hardwoods of Lemos; but that her knowledge of trees that grew in the High Reaches was excellent.
"Master Pettar had been in the High Reaches for most of his adult life, sir" Josis said. "He did not feel qualified to give me more than the basics on the Lemos hardwoods; he said I'd soon pick it up from you."
"Hmm, well, considering the circumstances of your being here now, and not six turns and more ago, I'd say you have every chance of picking up all you need and more" boomed Challer. "You've a good grasp of safety, and that's the most important lesson anyone can learn."
Josis found Finishmaster Tirris less interesting; making varnishes and dyes did not intrigue her in the least, though she hoped to know exactly what finishing should be used on each piece. She preferred the natural colour of the wood to those artificially dyed; if she needed other colours she intended to use soapstone, as H'llon had told her that Elissa had pioneered, inlaying it rather than using marquetry.
Redlan and Josis met up in the latheshop; and Master Gerney set them to turn something each. Each had their own set of chisels of course; and they chose a lathe each. The treadling was much smoother than using a pole lathe turned by the movement of the bending and relaxing of a green pole or young sapling, and Josis found it a most soothing motion. She picked a lump of maple to carve a wood for the perennially popular game of bowls; Redlan made a spool suitable to wind leatherworker's thread on.
"Practical" Gerney approved of the spool; then turned to Josis. "A sphere; well it shows your control, but what use is it now?"
Josis stared at him.
"It's a wood, sir" she said. "To play bowls. Don't they play it here? It's popular at Northfork, we often had to make new woods as the old ones became too battered."
Gerney blinked in confusion.
"I've not come across the game" he said. "Which is not to say it is unknown here… I shall endeavour to find out. You must tell me how to play it and, er, how many, er, woods are needed."
"Six, sir, three each painted for each team, and a jack, which is smaller. The harder the wood the better of course; but maple's our best in the High Reaches. And they splinter after a while from impacting on each other. Maple is good because it resists splintering."
"Make some of skybroom and sell 'em to Northfork; that's almost as hard as wood gets."
"THAT would go down well" she said. "Thank you, sir!"
"People need recreation. Not as useful as a spool or toolhandle; but valid" said the grim faced Master. "You both did well; I'm pleased with you."
"And better praise you won't get" whispered Sadvia. "Not from your grumpiest cousin!"
He was yet another cousin? Isrona was right, it did almost seem as though every other woodcrafter was a relative, thought Josis!