by Randy Goldberg
with Bunny Hagerty
20.06.12 - Cove Harper Hall
"Letter for you, Master Gaellon!" Timony, the youngest apprentice in Cove's Archives came pelting into the office of the Assistant Archivist.
"Slowly, child. Haste causes carelessness, which leads to accidents. I'd rather not have to write your mother and father and explain how you came to have a broken skull." The boy grinned impudently at his favorite Master. "Scamp. Let me see."
The blond harper took the scroll from the boy. Seeing the seal of Elaeis Hold, his heart sank. Shaking himself, he expertly cracked the seal and unrolled the parchment.
Timony watched, concerned, as all color drained out of Gaellon's face. "Master? Are you all right? Master Gaellon?"
Gaellon's thoughts whirled around him as he read, and remembered. All he could say was, "J-j-josina's dead? Great Faranth, how will I explain this to M'zel?"
17.09.06 - Elaeis Hold
Gaellon yawned and stretched. The harper rose from his bed, then stretched again. There had been a Gather the previous day, and he had had just a little too much to drink. "The sun is a bit too bright this morning," he thought, as he splashed his face at the basin. He ran his fingers through his longish blond hair, instinctively settling it into place. He grabbed a blue silk shirt from the press, and slid into a pair of harper blue leather trousers. Pulling his boots on he headed off to the kichens for some breakfast. On the way down, he stopped to knock on Josina's door "Josina, I'm going to breakfast! Care to join me?"
Josina, the daughter of a minor Holder, was a journeyman first harper. Gaellon's three journeyman knots made him her superior in the Craft; their time together in the Archives had made them friends.
When Gaellon had first been assigned to Elaeis Hold, he didn't know anyone at all. The Hold's Harper was nice enough, but he was substantially older, and wasn't really "friend material." Gaellon spent several lonely months pouring over the records the Ancients had left behind. When Josina walked the tables and got her first journeyman knot almost two Turns ago, she was assigned as his assistant, and they very quickly became friends.
"Coming, Gaellon!" he heard dimly through the door. It popped open, and Josina stepped out. She had long, sandy blonde hair, a full but not chubby face, and was about a handspan shorter than Gaellon himself. The older journeyman thought to himself, She's quite pretty, isn't she? Not my type, of course. He chuckled quietly to himself.
"What's so amusing?" she demanded.
"Oh, nothing. It's not important." They walked companionably down to the kitchens.
Two days later, after the midday meal, Josina ran up to Gaellon. Catching up to him just outside his door, she tapped him on the shoulder. "May I have a word with you, Gaellon?" she asked.
"So formal, Josina? Of course. Come in," he replied, opening the door. "Have a seat." Josina stepped across and opened the shutters, letting the light stream in. "Is something wrong, Josina?"
"Not exactly wrong, Gaellon." She drew a deep breath. "A couple of Turns ago, my father tried to force me to marry someone I didn't want. I refused ... and Father disowned me, and cast me out of the family."
Where is this going? She isn't going to ask me to marry her, is she? Gaellon thought in a panic.
"I don't WANT to get married!" Josina burst out angrily. "I didn't want to then, and I don't want to now!"
Gaellon allowed himself an unobtrusive sigh of relief. "So, what seems to be the problem?"
" The problem is, I do want a child. This could be a little difficult, you know," she said with a wry grin.
"I can see where that might be a problem. How are you planning to get pregnant without help?"
"Oh, I didn't say I don't want help. I just don't want to be married. I was hoping you would help me."
Gaellon collapsed onto his bed, stunned. "Me?" he squeaked. Clearing his throat, he got his voice back under control and said, "Why me?"
"Well, I like you. I think you like me - you do like me, don't you?" Gaellon could only nod. "You're a very handsome man, Gaellon. And I don't think you'd insist on getting married."
"Shards and Shells," he swore softly. He looked up into her eyes. "Jo, there's something you don't know." She looked at him quizzically, and he averted his eyes. "Maybe I've been too discreet. Josina . . . I don't . . . sleep . . . with women."
Josina gave him a puzzled look. As he slowly turned red, she suddenly blushed, and her hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, no! Gaellon... I'm... I'm so sorry!"
And she fled. By the time Gaellon was able to get to the door, she had already gotten to her room and slammed the door behind her.
17.09.12 - Elaeis Hold
Gaellon tried to catch Josina's arm as she left the Archives. "Jo, you've been avoiding me all seven-day. Please talk to me."
Josina blushed. "I can't, Gaellon. I can't believe I did what I did." She pulled away and ran for the door, but Gaellon's longer legs allowed him to catch up to her easily.
"Whoa, slow down! Jo, I'm flattered that you asked me!" He searched her eyes, looking to see if she believed him.
"You're not angry with me?"
"Hardly! How could I be angry? You had no way to know - I went out of my way to be sure that you DIDN'T. I'm very flattered, in fact. I'm glad to know that you think so highly of me."
To her surprise, Gaellon's hand came up and stroked her cheek. "It would hardly be gentlemanly of me to refuse you completely. Shall we go upstairs and discuss it?"
She took his hand. "Let's."
They entered Gaellon's room, and he locked the door behind him. "Won't you sit down?" He waved at the bed. Josina sat in the chair facing the bed. With a grin, he sank onto the bed with his legs folded. "I've been thinking for the past few days, Jo."
She looked him in the eye. "Yes, Gaellon? What have you been thinking?"
He glanced away, breaking the eye contact. "I'm tremendously flattered by your offer."
"I'm not trying to flatter you. You simply struck me as the kind of man I wanted to father my child."
Gaellon blushed. "In point of fact, Josina, I'm . . . not entirely averse to this idea."
"You're not?!?!? I thought you didn't . . . "
"Well, I haven't so far. But I rather like the idea of having a child. And I'm willing to try . . . with you." Josina moved over to the bed and sat next to the older harper.
She laid her hand on his knee. "You will?" He looked up again and met her eyes. With a slight hesitation, Josina said, "You know, Gaellon . . . the next few days should be the best time for me this month. Are you willing to try?"
He covered her hand with his. "I am, if you are." She cupped her free hand against his cheek and leaned forward. Tentatively, carefully, their lips met.
Two days later, Gaellon knocked on her door on his way to the kitchen, as he did every morning. She came out, and as they walked down the hall, she stopped and laid her hand on his arm. She stood up on tiptoe and kissed Gaellon gently on the cheek. "Thank you, Gaellon," she said. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"
"No, but I still think women aren't much my style."
She grinned and said, "Well, after three tries, I think we've succeeded, so you won't have to do it again. I won't know for two seven- days or so, but I'll let you know. I'm hungry; let's go get some breakfast."
Josina couldn't keep the smile off her face as she walked, almost skipping, down the hall toward Gaellon's rooms. Rapping lightly on his door, she called out, "Gaellon, are you there?" She could hardly contain her excitement as she waited. As Gaellon came out, Josina grabbed his arm. "We did it, Gaellon. We did it! I went to the Infirmary this morning and had it confirmed - although I already knew. I'm so glad."
Gaellon finally got a chance to say, "Are you trying to tell me something, Josina?" He smiled at her. "Such as, we made the baby you wanted?"
"Uh huh. And the midwife said I have a very good pelvic girdle for birthing. She said she thinks it will be a very easy pregnancy and birth."
Gaellon put his arm around her for a quick hug and then asked, "So what are you going to do next?"
"Oh, not much. Life as usual, at least for the next few months. I'm very happy; I know our baby will be just perfect. Thank you so much, Gaellon."
Gaellon seemed pleased also. "It was my pleasure to be of service, my lady." Josina giggled as Gaellon executed a courtly bow and escorted her down to the dining hall.
"Do you have to go? I can't bear the thought of Tamma growing up without her father. She'll miss you terribly."
Gaellon thought he heard the words behind words - "I'll miss you terribly." Though he had not slept with her since that time nearly two Turns before, nor had she asked him to, he still had the feeling she would have liked the relationship to continue. She would never ask, knowing his tastes, but that couldn't stop her from hoping.
"Jo, I have to go where the Master sends me. You know that as well as I, Journeyman. I've been ordered to Cove Harper Hall, and that's where I'm going. This posting is obviously important enough to the Master that he arranged for me to be sent a-dragonback; he'll be here any minute."
To Gaellon's surprise, he saw a tear trickle brightly down Josina's cheek. "Oh, my dear," he cried as he enfolded her in a hug. "No tears! Mail goes back and forth regularly, and I'll see what I can do about making a friend at the Weyr whom I can ask to fly me here once in a while." He brushed the tear from her cheek, then kissed her where it had lain. "You'll always be my dearest friend. Take good care of her, Jo. I'll see you when I can."
Out of the corner of his eye, Gaellon saw a dragon pop into existence high above and begin a long spiral glide down to the Gather field. He knelt, and held open his arms. The nineteen-month old toddled into his arms and planted a wet kiss on his cheek.
"Papa go bye-bye?" Tamma asked.
"Yes, sweetling, Papa is going away for a while. I'll be back to see you when I can."
"No, Tamma is going to stay here with Mama." He folded the child in his arms and planted a kiss on the top of her head. As the dragon landed behind him, he kissed her on the cheek and sent her back toward her mother. "Goodbye, Josina. I'll write as soon as I've settled in." He turned and walked away quickly so she would not see the tears on his face.
Gaellon sat in the Archives Hall, quietly reading a record skin, as the apprentices bustled around him. While he liked being left alone to read in peace, he also preferred to be near people while reading. This particular bit of history might be utterly boring to anyone else, but Gaellon was fascinated. The history of Pern entranced him, from the tiniest minutiae to the broadest sweeping vistas. As the light faded, he rolled up the hide and dropped in a drawer. Picking up a smaller scroll from the desk, he headed for his rooms at the Hall.
The sun was setting over the trees on the far side of the cove for which the Hall had been named, as a compact blue dragon backwinged to land beside the main building. The rider pulled off his helmet as he jumped down off the beast's back, shaking out his curly black hair. With a purposeful stride, he headed off for the main Hall.
He dashed across the courtyard, nodding at Master Gwydion and Master Goss, who were chatting in the yard. Gwydion grinned at him, but Goss only scowled. He ducked up the stairs and quietly opened the door to Gaellon's rooms. As he expected, the blond harper was there at his desk, his back to the door, reading by the light of a glowbasket. M'zel tiptoed up behind him and covered his eyes, eliciting a startled yelp.
"M'zel!!!" Gaellon cried. Shaking his head ruefully, he said, "You'd think by now I'd be used to you doing that." Nervously, almost guiltily, he rolled up the scroll he had been reading and tucked it into his belt.
"You get so lost in your reading, you wouldn't notice if Thread came through that window over there!" replied the blue rider with a laugh. "Come on, handsome. Time to get something to eat. I'll bet you haven't budged from that spot all day, have you?"
"Actually, I spent the day at the Archives Hall."
"But I'll bet you still never ate anything, did you?"
"I had a meatroll for nooning, so there." With a grin, he shrugged into his wherhide jacket. He slung his arm around M'zel's waist and headed for the door. M'zel pulled away as they approached the courtyard.
"Goss was out here when I came in . . . we don't want to give him any more reason to complain."
They strolled across the courtyard and out of the building. "Good evening, Tifereth! You're looking in fine fettle tonight," said Gaellon as they approached.
"He says to tell you that he hasn't eaten in several days, and is feeling a little peckish. Otherwise, he's fine." M'zel swatted the dragon on the nearest haunch. "You had three runners two days ago. You can't possibly be hungry yet." Pulling the archivist up in front of him, he signalled the dragon to rise.
After a moment of bone shattering cold, no longer than it takes a man to cough three times, they popped back out into the warm, humid air over Sable Weyr. It was almost mid-winter, yet the weather along the Black Rock River was still hot and muggy most days. With a swoop and a whoosh, they landed on the ledge at M'zel's weyr.
"I thought we were going to get some dinner," asked Gaellon with a smile.
"We've been flying Fall every third day for the last eleven. I haven't seen you in two seven-days! We can eat later." M'zel grabbed his weyrmate's hand and dragged him into the darkness of the weyr.
Later that evening, over dinner, Gaellon pulled a scroll from his belt. He frowned down at it, then looked up at M'zel. "I had a letter today," he remarked, as he dropped the scroll on the table.
"From whom, love?" Gaellon just stared into space. "Gaellon?"
The harper heaved a heavy sigh. "There's something I've never told you, M'zel. When I was still at Elaeis, I . . . had an assignation."
"So? That's long in the past. You know I have other lovers when Tifereth rises . . . He's not coming here, is he?"
Gaellon smiled sadly. "No. In fact, it isn't a 'he' at all."
M'zel surged to his feet, knocking over the table. "I thought you told me you're not interested in women at all. She can't have you, if she's coming here to get you back!"
Gaellon grinned fondly at his lover's rather youthful exuberance. "Sit down, M'zel. First, you can't duel a woman. Second, I'm all yours, and no one can separate us."
His anger forgotten as quickly as it had flared to life, M'zel grinned wickedly and grabbed Gaellon's hand. "Do you mean it?" When the blond nodded, he said, "Let's have dessert . . . back in my weyr."
"Not just yet. There's more. Josina died last month. M'zel . . . Josina and I were very good friends. I only slept with her a couple of times. She wanted a baby so very much, but she didn't want to get married. It was an ideal situation, you see? We both knew that the only purpose to our sleeping together was for her to conceive. He family . . . rejected her, for having a child without being married. They're very conservative holder-types. Shards, what they'd do if they ever found out about me! Well, in any case, they don't want Tamma. They're sending her here; she should arrive within the seven-day. M'zel, we're going to be daddies."
"M'zel? M'zel!" Gaellon jumped out of his chair and ran to where his weyrmate had crumpled to the floor. Gaellon slid under him, cradling M'zel's head in his lap as Edana ran up from where she had been enjoying her own evening meal across the cavern. Gently lifting an eyelid, Edana peered closely at M'zel's face. Reaching into her satchel, the healer removed a small glass ampoule and deftly cracked it under the unconscious boy's nose. The pungent odor of enaitchthree immediately became evident, and M'zel's eyelids twitched as he flinched away from the smell under his nose.
"Back among the living, M'zel?" Edana asked with a laugh. "And what did you have to say, Master Gaellon, that caused him to faint?" M'zel sat up and looked at Gaellon. "Did you say what I think you said?"
"Probably." With a wry grin, the harper looked at the healer. "I told M'zel we are about to become parents." Edana goggled at him. She found her voice and quipped, "Now THIS, I have to hear!" As they climbed to their feet, Edana said, "Perhaps we should retire to my Weyr?"
Gaellon settled himself comfortably on the couch in Edana's outer weyr, as M'zel flopped down beside him. Edana seated herself across from them, as D'vid sauntered into the weyr. "Keneth tells me you have something interesting for me, my dear?" Completely deadpan, Edana replied, "Well, as near as I can tell, either M'zel or Gaellon is pregnant." All four collapsed into the giggles.
"All right," D'vid gasped, as he composed himself. "Given the anatomical impossibility, how exactly are you becoming parents?" "Well, I'm already a parent. M'zel's the one who's becoming a parent, I guess." Gaellon looked over at his lover, unsure of M'zel's reaction. M'zel just looked back calmly.
"About three Turns ago, while I was stationed at Elaeis, my assistant, Josina, um.... propositioned me. She wanted a baby, but refused to be bullied into a marriage she didn't want. I think I was as surprised as she when I agreed to try to help her. "The baby's name is Tamma, after Josina's grandmother. Apparently, Josina died a few seven-days ago of some unidentified fever. Her family refuses to care for the child; they're simply sending her here and 'dumping her in my lap,' as they put it."
"How do you feel about it, Gaellon?" Edana asked gently.
"I love my daughter dearly, Edana. I'm thrilled at the thought of having her here with me, and I'm saddened at Josina's death; she was a good friend. But I don't know if I can raise her. I mean, what do I know about raising a child, especially a girl-child?"
"You could foster her, you know," put in D'vid. "I know, and I'm certainly not ruling that out. But I think I'd like to try raising her myself first. I wish I could know how she'll react... I haven't seen her since I left Elaeis seven months ago." M'zel grabbed Gaellon's hand. "Don't worry. It'll be fine. I have a good feeling about this."
Back to the previous story: A Dragon Knows
Back to Gaellon's page
Back to the home page
Published in Flights of Fancy #26, the fanzine of
Author: Randy Goldberg MD
Last modified: 19-Mar-03