Part 4 – Something Old, Something New
Barony of Tehryn
Jäna de Tehryn leaned forward to get a better look as she stood beside her father, watching him sign the parchment in front of him on the table in the solar. Her dark auburn hair was a sharp contrast to his grizzled grey as she leaned farther in to hand him the pounce pot and watched as he sprinkled the pounce on the paper to dry the signature and then deftly tapped the excess back into the pot. Her favourite part came next, after the old baron had carefully folded the parchment and dripped melted gold wax over the center of the overlapped end. Carefully he pressed his large signet ring into the wax and when he removed it, the Tehryn wyvern remained in the wax.
“And that seals the deal,” Jerrill de Tehryn said as he slid the document into the mail pouch with a flourish.
Jäna grinned at her father while Lady Amah, seated across the solar at her loom, shook her head in mild reproof.
“Jared and Justin will be so pleased with their new ponies,” Jäna said happily, with no trace of envy in her voice. “Two beautiful ponies from Llannedd.”
“Two sturdy ponies,” her father corrected, “suitable for young pages who will soon outgrow the ponies they have now. Nothing extravagant, but very suitable.”
“Extravagant enough,” Amah said mildly.
“Pah!” Jerrill responded.
“The ponies will still come here first with Prince Payne?” Jäna asked eagerly.
“Yes, Kitten. His Highness will include them in his baggage train when he comes north for King Kelson’s Easter Court. He will be our guest here for a few days before we join him on the journey to Rhemuth.”
“Where we will see Jared and Justin again!” For Jäna, the excitement of seeing her brothers again overshadowed the excitement of the pending visit by Prince Payne, Duke of Travlum.
“Yes, but you must keep the ponies a secret until after Easter Court. We don’t want to distract the boys from their duties,” Jerrill reminded her.
“We have duties to do ourselves to prepare for Prince Payne’s visit,” Amah stated. “There are a few matters I would like your approval of, My Lord.”
“Yes, of course,” Jerrill said quickly. “But I should get this out to the gate for the rider.”
“You have a squire for that,” Amah began, but the Baron of Tehryn was already moving out the solar door.
Amah sighed. “It is surprising how quick he can still be when he wants to be.”
Jäna smiled at the woman seated at her loom. “You know he will approve whatever you suggest, Amah.”
“That may be, but the protocols should still be followed.”
Prince Payne Haldane, aged sixteen and son of the king’s uncle, Prince Nigel, had spent most of the winter and early spring in Carthmoor, acting on his father’s behalf and learning more of the skills he would need to administer his own duchy from his father’s skilled lieutenants. Prince Nigel continued to spend the majority of his time in Rhemuth as one of the king’s principal advisors and had thought it beneficial to have his youngest son be the Haldane presence in the duchy over the winter. At Prince Nigel’s suggestion, Payne had sent word to Baron Jerrill that he would like to pause in Tehryn on his way to Rhemuth for Easter Court and had extended an invitation to Jerrill and his party to join them in the journey north. Although surprised, Jerrill had readily accepted; the additional company would be welcome, as would whatever information Prince Payne might bring.
Lady Amah pushed back the bench she was sitting on at her loom and stood up, arching her back slightly to stretch. “Shall we work on your music for a while, Jäna?” she asked.
“Well yes, I suppose so,” Jäna replied, sounding disappointed. It wasn’t that she minded practicing her lute, but she had hoped for a lesson in magic. Ever since they had received word of Prince Payne’s proposed visit, lessons in magic had been set aside.
“If you are going to play a song for His Highness, you want to play it well, don’t you?”
“I am not sure I will ever play well enough for that.”
Amah smiled and said encouragingly, “Of course you will. It just takes time and practice.”
“Or a small miracle,” Jäna said as she moved across the room to fetch Amah’s lute and her smaller one and bring them to the window seat. Although she would have preferred magic to music, Jäna enjoyed her morning lessons with Amah. Amah kept the lessons varied; sometimes music, sometimes matters of the household, sometimes weaving or sewing. In the afternoons, her lessons were with Father Auric, learning to read and write Latin. Although the learning came easily to her, Father Auric made it very dull.
The next little while was spent tuning the instruments. Amah would tune her first course and then Jäna would tune hers as exact to it as she could. Amah would then move down to the next course, and Jäna would follow until all five courses were tuned. Amah would never accept “close;” the pitch had to be exact, so tuning always took a while. How Amah always knew what the exact pitch was for the first course remained a mystery to Jäna; whenever she asked, Amah would smile and simply say that someday she would know.
Amah nodded approval as Jäna plucked the last course with her quill plectrum. “Play the song we worked on the last time. Remember how you want it to sound and then play.”
Jäna nodded once and settled the lute on her lap. After a moment of concentration, she began to play as song that began simply, but required more skill as she progressed through the melody.
Lady Amah listed carefully and managed not to twinge as the young girl began to make mistakes. The fingering with her left hand was well enough done, but she had trouble with the rhythm as she plucked the courses with the plectrum in her right hand. Jäna was fine as long as the tempo of the song remained slow and steady; it was when it picked up speed and complexity that she faltered. Just like her mother.
Amah set her hand on Jäna’s shoulder to stop the song and Jäna looked up, frustration clear in her green eyes.
“It was horrible and I know it. I try, Amah, I DO try!”
“I know you do, child. Your mother did too, with much the same result.” Amah gave the girl a gentle hug.
“Amah, surely Mama played better than I do. Papa says she played like an angel.”
Amah laughed and said, “Your father would say your mother played like an angel if she was banging a kettle with a cooking ladle. But,” she added before Jäna could take offense, “your mother did play well by the time she met your father.”
“She practiced a lot, didn’t she?” Jäna asked and sighed, expecting the inevitable answer.
“Yes, she did, and we enjoyed playing together. That did not make the difference though.”
“We had to make a little change. Anya was as stubbornly left-handed as you are, dear child. Wait here.” Amah rose and went into her chambers, returning with a leather bag Jäna had not seen before.
“This was your mother’s lute, Jäna.” Amah opened the top of the bag and pulled out a full-sized lute. “Do you see the difference?”
Jäna set aside her lute and took the other carefully, setting it upright on her lap. It was an older instrument, but very well made. The rose behind the strings was intricately carved, and the nine strings that made up the five courses were…backwards.
Puzzled, Jäna positioned the lute in her lap as she normally would to play. “Amah, I can’t play it this way.”
“Try it the other way. Use your right hand to finger the strings.”
“Oh,” the girl said, beginning to understand what the difference would mean. Picking up the plectrum with her left hand, she strummed across the courses and then began the song again. It was so much easier to play, except that her smaller hand could not finger the lower strings cleanly.
As Amah watched Jäna play the song, she thought of another one she could teach her, one that only used the higher strings that Jäna could reach cleanly. It gave her another idea as well; one that she thought was the right time to try.
“Set the lute down a moment, Jäna. I know a song that is a bit more difficult, but that I think you can now master if you put your mind to it.” Amah smiled, realizing that what she had just said was truer than Jäna knew. “Will you trust me to teach you in a different way?”
“Of course I will, Amah. What do you need for me to do?”
“Come sit in my lap and then open your mind to me. I will show you the song and the words that go with it. You won’t know the words though, until you have mastered the song.”
Intrigued, Jäna did as she had been asked and took a deep breath to relax, closing her eyes as the older woman gently pulled her backwards to rest against her. Amah placed her thumbs and forefingers at the girl’s temples and forehead. To Jäna, it seemed as if no time had passed at all before Amah released her.
“Was that comfortable?” Amah asked Jäna as the girl moved off her lap to sit again beside her, picking up her mother’s lute eagerly.
“Yes Amah, I never knew you were there. Will you teach me how to do that?”
“Someday,” the older woman replied, “but now let us see if it worked. Try the beginning of the song.”
Concentrating on the melody that seemed to come of its own accord into her mind, Jäna began the song. Smiling with satisfaction, Lady Amah took up her own lute and began to play along.