Settling Things

Fort Sea Hold & the Fortian Crafthalls


It wasn’t actually uncommon that with Taimri’s turnday came traveling; she liked to go to different places and visit people, and Mirinda always did her best to indulge that. Usually it was a trip back to Fort Sea to see her grandparents and great-aunt and -uncle, or since the divorce back to Landing to visit Tasirn (the one Mirinda was, of course, least enthusiastic about — but she would always do anything for her child). This time, though, was different.

They took four days — surely the Weyr could manage for four days? and in the end, it did, meaning that either Fort Weyr wasn’t truly cursed or Mirinda herself wasn’t the curse, but it definitely ruled out the accused notion that she was lucky — and started at Fort Sea, where Mirinda’s parents and Lady Isama were overjoyed to see them. She even ran into a couple of her actual siblings, equally pleased to spoil her daughter. Everyone also enjoyed the taste of actual fish, and while Mirinda was briefly tempted to press into why it was that the imports were all messed up and the Weyr didn’t have much of any fish at all, she didn’t actually let herself. This was a nice visit, not an inquest.

(Well, this part wasn’t an inquest.)

Fort Sea lasted two days, and then they moved on; went by runner, instead of dragon, to the crafthalls.


“Mama?”

“Yes, dear?”

“How come Zhirayr never comes to see me anymore?”

Mirinda sighed, pulling her child close to her side and kissing the top of her head. “That’s part of why we’re here,” she explained. “To find out.”


Stopping at Healer Hall wasn’t just work-oriented; most of it was, indeed, part of Taimri’s birthday trip. Mirinda could come to the Hall to work whenever she needed to, and she didn’t need to bring her child with her. But Taimri had friends there her own age, the children of some of Mirinda’s own classmates — that, and right over at Harper was one of Mirinda’s sisters, someone the now six-turn-old eagerly wanted to see.

Someone Mirinda frequently wanted to see, too. Four years older, Daina usually had a way of helping to put things in life in perspective. Maybe it was her artist’s way, her complete disconnect from the way Mirinda thought, and maybe it was just that she was older and louder.

“You’ll watch her for the day?” she asked, as she deposited Taimri in the Harper Master’s suite and the little girl was instantly distracted by the drums. “I mean, I know you have to teach, but it’s what, instruments she’ll like?”

“I’m happy to, and she is showing some aptitude for percussion there — but I don’t understand what exactly it is you’re doing.”

“Trying to find a cause of death.”

“From months ago, though? Does it usually take that long?” Daina wasn’t the right kind of Harper to be concerned with that particular end of death, and Mirinda was perfectly willing to let her maintain her innocence.

“It usually takes a while. It doesn’t usually take this long. I’m thinking it’s either further foul play or — more likely — a continued string of bad luck.”

“You’re not still seeing him, are you?”

Mirinda shook her head. “No.”

“Maybe you made a mistake,” her sister suggested, pursing her lips tight. “Maybe it really was all just bad luck. You’d been awfully happy. We were all happy for you — I mean, I was, I thought maybe you’d get married again and —”

“Dai, when you get married we can talk about me again.”

“Oh,” Daina sighed, “well, that’ll never happen.”


Mirinda had become more and more convinced over the passing months that it was, in fact, just that — a long string of bad luck — and the grieving Zhirayr hadn’t done anything except be in a bad mood when she tried to talk to him, which in retrospect made just as much sense as his abrupt dismissal of her. She’d spoken to him maybe twice since then, but the second time she promised him an answer, and it really had gone on long enough. The most nefarious thing here was the lack of answer, and the person guilty there probably wasn’t Fort’s new Steward. He hadn’t even known Lycander left his personal effects to him.

The bureaucracy of the Hall kept putting her off and putting her off, not finding her files or her information or even the right people to talk to about her information for the longest time, and it momentarily made her wish she hadn’t settled down and started a family, and pushed harder on her education instead. Then she’d be a Master now and they’d have to listen better; maybe she’d even be such a well-established Master that no one would dare lose anything of hers lest she ruin them.

But of course, had that happened, she wouldn’t have been Fort’s Weyrhealer at all.

And in truth, she really did like being Weyrhealer, though there was nothing that said a Master couldn’t be, especially not at the Weyr nearest to the Hall and not with riders who liked her enough to give her personal rides whenever she needed. The opportunity simply hadn’t been presented, though. She knew Fort was supposed to be a challenge — was it a challenge she was supposed to defeat and win? Or one she was simply meant to maintain? Would she in the end have to pick between that promotion and her place at the Weyr, tenuous as it was as her place — she couldn’t think of herself as a Weyr person, even now, and Fort Sea was always home, but she did have a place at the Weyr.

The real answer was promotion wasn’t even an option, not when her work had been entirely focused on general practice; not when she had nothing to set her apart from every other senior journeyman. That was the trouble with not specializing. There was no special research, no glint, no shine.

It was something to mull over while sitting on an uncomfortable high-backed chair waiting to talk to a series of people who may or may not actually exist, though.


“You called in how many experts?”

“Four.” The journeyman looked just as confident as Mirinda did. “Otherwise known as all the death experts, ma’am. We just, uh, we misplaced most’ve the experts’ reports — it’s because everyone knows Fort Weyr’s trouble so we wanted to be real sure that he didn’t just suddenly drop dead —”

“Therist,” Mirinda cut him off. “What happened to my edict. Where is my death paperwork.”

“Good question, ma’am,” he said with a shrug. He’d been her student once. That confidence was leaking out. “I’ve been looking for them.”

“I’m not going to leave here without them,” she said firmly, “so you’d better keep looking.”


“You’re staying how long?” Daina asked, searching to clarify.

“I have no idea,” Mirinda replied. “I only have today and tomorrow off, still, but I said I wasn’t leaving without that paperwork. I want to be able to put all this to bed. I’m sure your co-workers would appreciate being able to get his things out of — escrow?”

“Probate.”

“Thank you.”

“I have basic law knowledge.”

“So you seem to.”

“Zhirayr didn’t actually do it, then?”

“I don’t think so. It’s kind of sad how few actual experts there are, though I guess it’s a grisly field, but it seems like more people should —”

“How about you,” Daina cut her off.

“What?”

“How about you study it,” Daina repeated, except with actual added clarity. “You’ve said you wanted to make Master by thirty-five, a lofty goal for a Healer,” as if it wasn’t for a Harper, but of course, she’d accomplished it and she’d done it by thirty, so maybe it wasn’t as difficult for a Harper after all, “a lofty goal that needs some backing behind it. And you live at Fort Weyr. Everyone knows it’s the most disastrous place on Pern. Someone ought to be an expert.”

Mirinda shuddered a little.

A death expert.

Not exactly the person she wanted to be known as.


She was becoming known as something of a local pain in the rear end, though, as regarded deaths. Lycander’s was not the first body Mirinda had sent back to the Hall, though it was the only one she personally accompanied. And eventually she did always show up for her paperwork, irritated at how long it had taken.

This time was only a little different. The same people kept putting her off, because they’d been just a little bit afraid of what she’d have done if they admitted that they didn’t know where that paperwork was, and that the cause of death experts and the poison experts (mostly the same people) didn’t have the foggiest clue either.

“That’s not right,” Therist said, “it’s not that they don’t know, it’s that none of them found anything, and they’re experts, so we could as a result conclude that the cause of death was simple cardiac arrest from old age, but we lost the proof.”

“We?”

Therist ducked a little. “Not we we. I didn’t.”

“I didn’t think you had.” Mirinda grinned at him. He lifted his head up again. “Why,” she continued, “is it that you had to call in experts, though? Why aren’t any of them here?”

“Good question,” Therist said yet again, shrugging. “Not a popular field? Not even a real specialty, just — figuring out causes of injury’n stuff, some people get good at it, I guess. I’m surprised you haven’t yet.”

“Shells, the Weyr really has a reputation.”

“We read your reports.”

“It’s almost becoming funny.” Almost. But she was smiling.


Seventeen hours later — seventeen hours during which Mirinda left once, to take her daughter out shopping and get her dinner and put her to bed and then she returned to her file vigil — the documents were all finally located.

It was at that point that Mirinda learned the initial error had been made when they lost the body almost immediately after its arrival, between the examination of Expert One and Expert Two. Except for pinching the bridge of her nose with her fingers and shaking her head, she didn’t say anything further about it.

Fort’s late Steward, Lycander, had officially died of “narrative verdict,” which was classified as a cardiac arrest postulated as to be of old age. Foul play had been summarily ruled out in every possible manner. And that was as good as it was going to get.

Cardiac arrest.

Everyone died of cardiac arrest.

Everyone.

Literally.

Before she left, to spend one last night at her sister’s and then take her child home in the morning, having extended her trip only a single day, Mirinda stopped in to see the Craftsecond. Aniste had trained with her mother, and was something of a family friend. After they talked about the incident, and Mirinda reported on just who’d screwed up at keeping track of things the most, the conversation of course fell to Fort Weyr’s absurd bad luck with disasters, deaths and criminal happenings. It was like how one shouldn’t speak the word ‘quiet’ in a triage room, except for how it was actually the words ‘quiet’ or ‘calm’ or ‘looking up’ anywhere in the entire vicinity of the Weyr.

“And so that’s why it’s so frustrating,” Mirinda explained, “the fact that the apparent experts in causes of injury and death are so far away.”

“Why don’t you study it, dear?” Aniste suggested. “Maybe that’ll be the final key to your so coveted Mastery, and if you’re intent on staying at Fort —”

“— where you sent me in the first place! —”

“Yes, I know. You needed the change. It suits you well. I think you’d best consider it. Not normally a suitable calling for a Weyrhealer, but at that particular Weyr …”

“I’ll consider it,” she agreed.


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