Finarvi — Childs Play
????, Sea Season
Sea Season, very early in the year. Finarvi comes to see how the Blue Tree clan is getting on. [[[s02:session-32|Session 32]]]
Slightly spoilery for Yehna’s family
It is a little over a week into Sea Season. A redsmith arrives in the Blue Tree tula, riding into the village compound to see familiar faces.
There are other visitors here too. Horses that look rather more expensive than the Blue Tree usually hosts are in a guest pen, and there is an extra chariot on its end under the eaves of the longhouse. A very little enquiry reveals that the White Lady Mellia and her young wind lord in waiting, Venlar, have arrived with bodyguards.
Mellia is in the Chalana Arroy shrine, so she hasn’t come to investigate the noise yet.
The redsmith’s horse is shaggy in her curly winter coat, the mule that follows her is laden with parcels wrapped in oilskins against the weather, bundles of salt from Grey Rock, amphorae from Clearwine: gifts for clan and offerings for the shrine. Finarvi slips off Madryn’s back with a happy smile. His eyes seek out Berra’s sister in the crowd.
“Yehna! Greetings.” He pulls a small bundle out of his coat, a leather teething toy. “For Haran. I’m sure he’s chewed through the last one by now.”
Yehna offers Finarvi one of her most enthusiastic hugs, full of joy and happiness and generosity. “He has! He has so many teeth now!” Her hair is in a loose plait on one side, a tight one on the other. The reason for this is tied to her side, a diminutive undoer of knots and bindings who is currently working on being very deeply asleep, the end of her hair in his hand. Even in the short time Finarvi has been away, Haran has managed to chew through the top of his carry-sling.
Finarvi returns the hug warmly and beams down at little Haran with evident fondness. He resists the urge to stroke the tot’s unruly mess of hair, but it reminds him of something. “Oh, I saw Berra not long ago. She and the others were going to head North. Did they come this way?”
Yehna shakes her head, regretful. “She sent gifts from Dangerford, and a message.” The woman turns to someone beside her, a teen that Finarvi cannot name. “Go tell Mellia that Finarvi is here, if she wants to see him.”1Finarvi fails Insight(Human), and cannot read Yehna’s thoughts.
The younger woman walks off at an important pace to call at the door to the little shrine. Haran stirs, fighting foes in his sleep, and then settles to clinging to his mother again.
Finarvi looks towards the shrine expectantly. It has been a long time since he last saw Mellia. He missed her in Boldhome.
When Mellia doesn’t appear straight away, Finarvi returns his attention to Yehna. “Is there any news?” He does not ask directly about Berra’s message, in case it was for Yehna alone.
“About?” Yehna looks around the place. “It is all about Venlar and the new arrivals right now. They have been looking over the herds. Have you met the Lord? He has a terrible warrior sister!”
“Yamia. He rode here, but she came in a chariot, like a Rune Lord. She has been looking at our spearmen with terrible disappointment.” Yehna shoos away a midsized child who was watching Finarvi, perhaps in the hope he would explode in a shower of gifts. “He brought several thralls, and even someone to cook for him on the way!” Riches, beyond the dreams of most here.
Finarvi wrinkles his nose at the mention of thralls but doesn’t comment. “Are those her horses?” He nods in the direction of the guest pen, at a couple of ponies that might be fit to pull a chariot, if he were feeling charitable.
“And Venlar’s,” Yehna says. “They are southern breed, of course, so they would need to be kept elsewhere through the Dark. I don’t know if he maintains her in his household, or if she is a free warrior who serves. I have not asked yet.”2Passed Scan
Over by the horses, in the shadow of the longhouse, quite casually, someone is standing watching Finarvi. She looks like being actively hostile is not far from her mind, in rather the same way that a spider might never not be thinking of the next meal. A brief moment of eye contact with Finarvi is all it takes for him to get the idea she knows how to kill him.
Deliberately, Finarvi turns away. “Yamia, eh? She looks friendly.” His tone is light, but it’s not pitched to carry.
“She… sort of is.” Yehna tries her best. “But very pointed. Would you like me to get you help to unpack?” Haran has slumped across her front, meaning Yehna is not going to be much help at moving things.
Finarvi steps back to give her space and moves towards the mule. “Tell me where I should put these things where they won’t get damp or be in the way, and I will do the rest. I wouldn’t put it past Redoubtable to bite. She hates the mud.”
“You can sleep in my house, or the longhouse. Ivalla is not here.” Yehna levers Haran upright. He flops over again.
“I thank you for your hospitality.” Finarvi makes a polite gesture of acceptance, and warms it with a smile at Haran. “I have a few things in my pack for the family. I hope that is alright.”
“I would be delighted for your to share my roof, my fire, my food,” she replies. “Do you know the way?”
Yehna walks that way, with a couple of casual greetings along the way, and lifts the wooden latch on her door. “There is a pen at the back for animals, but if Redoubtable wants to be free, the herds will be nearby.”
Yehna’s house is outside the village, far enough that the walls are a good walk away, and her land is around them in a little cluster of houses.
Finarvi nods in greeting to the faces he knows on the way through the village, and once at Yehna’s house he unloads the mule first, then unsaddles his horse. He takes his time caring for them, ensuring they’re both spotless and sound after the journey, before turning them loose. He talks to them in his own tongue, instructing them both to behave themselves. The mule dips a condescending ear in his direction then heads purposefully towards the Blue Tree herd. Madryn follows. He suspects it will not be long before she’s had a good roll and undone all his hard work. He rubs stray horse hairs off his hands, gives his clothes a more perfunctory grooming, then goes inside.
In the mean time, Yehna has lit the fire and there is the smell of spices rising from a pot in the ashes. She puts plates out on the table as he comes in. “Watch for the wild one!”
Haran, awake, makes for the door.
Finarvi drops into a crouch and catches the toddler before he can make good his escape. Squeals and tickling ensue.
Haran is finally reduced to sucking on Finarvi’s sleeve, happily.
Yehna fishes a hot stone out of the cook pot, and puts in another. “How was your journey?” She is only cooking for two, to judge from the plates.
“Blessedly uneventful. The footing was treacherous in places. It looks like the last storm washed out part of the path in the lower hills.” He glances around the room, looking for signs of Yehna’s husband’s things.
This house looks like a woman lives here alone. No cloak slung up against a return of the snow, no repair tools left around. And the bed… The bed has two pillows and one is sized for a toddler.
“I will make sure Thane Dogva knows about the path,” Yehna says.
Finarvi wonders what he has missed, and whether he should ask. He opts for an oblique approach. “How have relations been with the Green Fish?”
“Very good, compared to how they were. We have half a dozen warriors here, protecting the shrine. They are showing off, but we let them. I think Lady Yamia might end up taking them to task, although many are Humakti. I think she wants to. But with their wives and sometimes children visiting, the border tension has eased. They like being called the Alynxfish clan, though. Their Wyter is a fish as big as a man.”
“Alynxfish? That does sound more impressive. I’m glad things have improved. We do the Lunars’ work for them when we fight each other.” He pauses. “We had trouble with Tusk Riders in Apple Lane. We fought them off, with the Gods’ aid, but Arim is doing all he can to get the fyrd up to fighting strength in case they return.”
Yehna says, “I’d spit, but I’m inside,” with a smile that’s all Berra. She lifts Haran onto her chair and then goes to pull the cooking pot out of the ashes. It goes into a padded cylinder holder that she lifts onto the table, a combination that keeps her hands from burning, and will keep the food warm.
Food is a vegetable gruel, spiced in an Esrolian style, with stale crusts to drop in, and butter to float on top. “Do please serve yourself. I would, but he’s hungry. Take as much as you like.” Haran throws her spoon onto the floor, and she pulls another one from her belt and starts eating while feeding him and fending off his chubby fists as he tries to tip over the bowl.
Finarvi obliges, making a show of unfeigned appreciation. The spices give the gruel an aroma that reminds him of Nochet, but Yehna’s cooking is far better than anything he and Serala had on campaign. Which makes him think about Varanis, and marriage, which brings his thoughts back around to the gifts in his saddle pack, and the good bronze knife he had set aside for Dostiarag. A useful tool for a farmer, and still useful to a farmer’s wife, he decides.3Finarvi passes Scan
Looking around the room, he spies a sharp, new, gleaming knife is hung up by the cooking equipment, along with a ladle and a short bronze chain with useful sizes of link.
Seeing this, Finarvi changes his mind. Perhaps Ivalla or her brother will welcome the knife. The thought pleases him.
“He’s growing well,” he says, nodding to where Haran is doing his best to make his dinner achieve maximum coverage. “Has he reached the age where you have to hitch him to a post to get anything done?”
“He has a hook in the floor in the great house,” Yehna replies. “He was born in Disorder week and it shows. But he loves his cuddles too, and he’s…” She is silenced by Haran kissing the hand which holds the spoon.
“My uncle used to tie me to a saddle when I got to be too much. Until I learned to untie knots.” His eyes crinkle at the memory of his grouchy old uncle telling him this in an effort to curb his own disorderly behaviour. But Verars had never been very fond of cuddles.
“There are not many children in my clan. Not enough, according to my grandfather.” He sighs, uncomfortably reminded that both he and Serala are disappointing the old shaman, and have every intention of continuing to do so.
“We have enough in this house right now,” Yehna says, but she is gazing at her son. He tries to get the spoon, and despite his best efforts, all he gets is a soaked crust to chew on. That seems to do him, and Yehna can eat in peace. “Was the saddle on a horse?”
“Sometimes it must have been,” Finarvi muses. “I have a memory of chewing on a horse’s mane, how coarse the hairs felt against my gums.” He gives himself a shake. “Later, Uncle Verars would still threaten to tie me to a saddle, but it was a wooden pack horse saddle he knew was too heavy for me to shift.” He shrugs, then grins. “And I could outrun him by then.”
“And outride?” Yehna is quick.
“Oh no. I was actually scared of horses as a child. I was always being told one would step on me or kick me or bite my arm off.” He gives Yehna a bemused smile. “I didn’t learn to ride until I was seven or eight, and Serala teased me into it against my better judgement. I suppose it’s good sense to be wary of anything big enough to crush you to death. Like dragons, for instance.”
“In the Grazelands?” Yehna puts Haran down with another soaked crust, and he totters over to the middle of the floor to sit down and eat both. “My sister has never been sensible. She always used to be the one doing what Haran does, but for a different reason.”
Finarvi pictures Berra as a toddler with sticking-up hair, and barely manages to stifle a snort of horrified laughter. “Did she have that glowering stare as a baby?”
“As far as I know she was a polite, usually quiet child who always ran away. She’s older than I am, but I know she loved to move. If Haran could escape like she could, I would have to learn to run like our mam. She was fast, and I think it was because she used to have to catch Berra.”
“She is still like that,” Finarvi says. “Even with a horse, it can be hard to keep up with her sometimes. Her mind changes direction like birds evading a hawk.”
“She ran with the horses last time she was here, when you first came. Beat everyone. In armour.” Yehna smiles. “She sent me these, look.” Now is the time to show off the wealth of the household, the new knife and metal gear, the tiny fur-lined shirt that Haran is growing into, the toys and tools. “Some of it would be best in her house, for a while,” is all Yehna says about the things best suited for men. “But it only just arrived, and I need to see what they need.”
“I remember that. I remember thinking how strange it was to race a horse on foot, and then watching her vanishing into the distance while I was doing my best not to slip and fall.” The smile is back, no trace of embarrassment at his lack of agility or of being outrun by someone a head shorter and carrying heavier gear. “Her house? Forgive me, I did not realise Berra had a house here.”
“She has land, and her tenant lives in the house that is hers,” Yehna says. “She slept there the first night she owned it, and while she was here, and then she left. I’m sure she means to come back.”
“Ah.” He still looks a little confused, but that could be down to a misunderstanding of language.
“Warriors can own land in Sartar,” Yehna reminds him. “And the Prince gave her two hides. This is one of them.”
A look of understanding comes over his face at that. “This…” he looks at the walls around them. “I see. Yes, I do remember.”
“Some of the tools there are worn,” Yehna says, and then, “Haran! No drop. Don’t drop food!” Haran pouts.