The Master Harper Of Pern | Chapter 25 of 28 - Part: 1 of 15

Author: Anne McCaffrey | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 23306 Views | Add a Review

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

A very weary Nip appeared late one night in the second month of the new Turn.

"He's at it again," he said, dropping a tattered hide coat to the floor and pouring himself a drink, swallowing it before he spoke.

"I can get you soup," Robinton suggested when he saw how blue Nip was about the lips.  He rose from his comfortable chair.  Nip shook his head, poured himself a second glass and came over to the fire.  "What's he at?"

"His tricks," Nip said, sinking gratefully into the chair Robinton had vacated.  "How he plans his invasion of holds, large and small."

"Really?" Robinton poured wine for himself and, hooking his foot around a stool, slid it to the hearth and made himself comfortable to listen.  "Do tell."

"Oh, you'll get chapter and verse from me."

"If you don't fall asleep first."

"I won't.  My subject matter will keep me wide awake," Nip said bitterly.  He downed the second glass of wine.  "Pity to waste it like that, Rob, I know, when it's good Benden, but it goes to a good purpose."

I'm listening," Robinton said patiently, and filled Nip's glass a third time.  The harper sipped this one slowly.

"He visits his intended victim, all smiles and reassurances, compliments the man on his fine holding.  Buys whatever the hold produces, pays over the mark for what he calls the best quality.  He asks how such yields are achieved on such poor, good, medium, excellent soil...  under such trying, hot, cold, dry conditions...  In short..."

"He makes himself a friend of the hold," Robinton said, nodding ruefully.

"Then he sends down a man to learn from the holder.  Or he starts buying the produce, at higher prices, and brings others to see how well this holder is doing with his land.  I mean, how can they be taken in so easily?"

"Some of those upland holds are isolated.  Often they don't get to but one Gather a Turn."

"True," Nip sighed.  "Now, he's very canny about how he insults the Harper Hall, especially if the hold in question has a harper, or is on a well-travelled route.  He's careful with his slanders," and Nip pantomimed a dagger being inserted gently in and then slowly twisted.  "He gives examples of harper lies and exaggerations.  So he plants the seeds of doubt.  Then he invites the man and his family to come to his next Gather, and sometimes, if the gullible fool believes him, he offers to send men to tend the herd-beasts or the fields, or whatever, while the holder and his family are away."

"So that his men become familiar with the place."

"Exactly." And Nip took a sip.  "One man and his family never did get back from that Gather and so Fax has acquired Keogh Hold recently."

"That makes..."

"Four."

"I see.  Let me take those boots off for you, Nip.  They look soaked." Actually, Robinton had caught sight of the way Nip was shivering despite the wine and the heat.

"You're the only man I'd allow such a privilege," the irrepressible Nip replied as he lifted his left leg and then placed his right boot on Robinton's butt.  "I know many people who'd love to have the MasterHarper of Pern on the end of their boot!" he added, chuckling, and gave Rob a hefty push, all to help remove his boot, of course.

In spite of Nip's pessimistic report, Fax was quiescent again, seemingly content to ride his extended borders, encouraging, as Nip put it drolly, his dependants to increase their production.

Robinton could not spend all his time worrying about where Fax would go next.  He had the Hall to run, with all its problems and scheduling, especially when the bias against harpers was increasing.

However, when he heard that Nemorth had actually risen in a good mating flight with Simanith, Robinton sent congratulations and had a special visit from F'lon who looked excessively pleased with himself.

"How did you manage?" Robinton asked, pouring two glasses from the Benden wine-skin F'lon had brought to celebrate.

"First we starved the pair of them.  I never thought a queen dragon could be so difficult.  All the bronzes were needed to snatch anything she killed.  She'd sneak out the Weyr at night to get something to eat."

"Who?  Jora or NemorthT

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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