1627, Sea Season, Death Week
Finarvi wakes in Yehna’s hut, with Matila’s invitation to answer.
Matila’s hut is out by a horse station, outside the village itself.
Finarvi has to ask for directions.
The last of last night’s ice disappears from puddles even as he rides there, and then… The door is a little open, as the sunny day allows it. Smoke escapes from the thatch.
He looks around before dismounting, to see if anyone is abroad, and calls out a greeting in the Heortling fashion.
“Come in?” suggests Matila.
There is the sound of her putting down a heavy burden carefully.
Finarvi does so. He’s washed himself clean of the worst of the night’s excesses in Yehna’s water pail, but his head is still woozy.
“Good morning, Matila,”
“Good morning.” She was putting a fire-warmed pot onto the table. “Please come and sit down.”
Antoril is in a hanging harness on the wall, watching her work. A pad of cloth behind him keeps the cold away.
Finarvi does as he’s told, admiring the harness. The hut is noticeably warmer than the morning outside.
Matila is just finishing scooping out pickled vegetables from a jar, but she picks up the child, complete with harness, and comes to put him on the table. It has a solid bottom, so it stands up. “Just keep a hand on him so he can’t fall?”
Finarvi obliges, grasping the frame so Antoril can’t upset it with his contortions.
Antoril knows he is a prisoner and takes it in peaceful good heart, staring at his mother as she finishes up. Bread and vegetables and salted porridge for breakfast. She sits down opposite Finarvi at the tiny low bench that does for a table, and asks, “Did you sleep well?”
“Like a stone,” he replies, and hopes, belatedly, that this colloquialism has the same meaning to an Orlanthi. He had woken up disoriented, confused about the night before, and it had taken Yehna patiently confirming that yes, what he remembered had happened and no, it was not a dream.
Matilda’s trade-talk breaks down at that, but she gives a smile.
It might be time to hand over the jar of honey that Yehna gave Finarvi to give to her. Only Antoril has found his finger and taken it prisoner.
That’s alright. He has another hand spare. He has to twist a bit to get to the jar left-handed, and he nearly fumbles it getting it free of his coat, but he’s close enough to the little table that it wouldn’t fall far. He puts it safely down with an air of triumph, calculatedly out of the reach of small, grabby hands.
“For you,” he offers in awkward Heortling.
“Very generous,” she Trade-talks. It is the wrong form of ‘generous’ and what she should be saying is that it was kind of him, not that it is a big helping, but it is an easy mistake to make. Antoril twists the finger he has, and with tiny grunting noises, tries to bring it to his mouth to eat it.
Finarvi smiles in return and surrenders his finger to the inevitable gumming. He’s been bitten by worse.
This is not a dragon, or a horse, or even Haran, who this morning was trying to eat the beetles that came out of a piece of firewood. Antoril is impressively bad at keeping the finger captured, but he seems to have his mother’s attention.
Finarvi eyes the bread and porridge with relief. His constitution has never quite forgiven him for the Powsey incident, and he’s concerned his stomach might rebel at anything adventurous this morning.
The salty taste of the porridge is interesting, but not directly unpleasant. The other food makes a crunchy change.
Matila does not eat much. She just watches.
He pauses, feeling awkward. “You are not eating?” he asks, resorting to Tradetalk. It is bad manners to be the only one eating, but it’s also bad manners not to accept food a host has offered.
“Just a bit,” she says, and takes a few bites.
The food is, now that Finarvi thinks about it, a bit odd for the season1Finarvi passes Farm.. The bread is made with oats, he is pretty sure. And the vegetables are what he distantly remembers vendref feeding to cattle. Either this is a subtle insult, or there is not much food to spare.
He decides nobody would go to the trouble of pickling fodder crops unless they’re desperate. He eats slowly and sparingly. His abused stomach is grateful for it, and he protests satiety after eating a small amount of porridge and a little bread.
“Too much drinking last night,” he apologises with a rueful smile. “I am still full of perry, I think.”
Looking around the hut, there are a couple of beds here, and tools hung up on the wall by a stool, and a spindle tucked neatly away in a basket. This is where Matila lives with her parents, most likely, or at least, with others. Otherwise there might be the same number of tools, but there would be less furniture.
“They told me about your song. It was beautiful. Jemal sang it.”
“Venlar is very gifted,” Finarvi smiles at her. “I am lucky to have such friends.”
“He joins us. That is good.” Joins in this case should mean arrives among, and her use is ‘glues’ but again, a beginner mistake that many make. Matila does eat a little more now that Finarvi has slowed down.
“It is. His father buys land here also, Venlar tells me.”
Matila looks puzzled. “Buys? Live?”
“For Venlar and Mellia, and their household to live on.”
“Oh, extra! Yes, bigger holding. Father-gift.” She nods. “Yamia?” Already there is wariness there.
“Yamia will stay too, I think. She is his bodyguard.” He considers a moment, then adds, “Has there been trouble?”
“Malani – he … wants to show her he is best.” Matila looks uncomfortable, and gives Antoril an adoring look instead.
“Which Malani? Do you know his name?”
“Delesos.” Matila holds out her hand to him. “Do not get between them.”
“Yamia is Humakti. I plan to stay well clear. Does Delesos want to triumph over her, or impress her?”
Matila shrugs. “Man. Warrior. Both? Yamia is small.”
Finarvi chuckles richly at that. “Delesos is a fool to think small means weak. If he’s not careful, Yamia will teach him.”
“Still. Malani. Humakti too.” Matila looks at Antoril, who has fallen asleep again.
“I will make sure Venlar knows. Though I trust he knows already.”
He gazes at the sleeping baby.
“Do Malani want to trade?” he wonders aloud. He doesn’t expect Matila to know, but is interested to know her opinion.
“Trade Delesos? Nobody wants troublemakers. Trade red? Probably.”
He grins at this witticism. “Bored young warriors are trouble. Give them something active to do. Guard travellers. Fetch goods. Then they will be too tired to make trouble.”
“I should go to horses,” Matila says, but makes no move.
“Shall I help you clean up?” He gestures to the table, but he too stays seated.
“Watch Antoril,” she says after a long pause.
He nods his assent.
Antoril, exhausted by having discovered he can hold a finger, takes a victory snooze as Matila takes the bowls to find water. The day outside is warm, which might be why she dallies.
Finarvi leans his elbows on the table and watches him sleep. He smells faintly of sour milk and linens that could have done with a longer boiling.
He has a hairline that looks like Giland’s back when Giland had hair.
Seeing this, Finarvi has the queasy realisation that his clan back home should probably be told about this development. Or at least, Giland should know.
Fat children. He said something about making sure those got provided.
Fin’s fairly sure he’d prefer it if the fat children were Serala’s, but in the absence of such Hippogriff’s feathers the old man will doubtless be appeased with less.
And Matila herds. She does not farm.
He can avoid mentioning that the horses she herds are too small to ride. Of course they are inferior to Grazeland ponies – all horses are.
And some of them are big enough. Just.
Even if Redoubtable towers over them and bullies them when she feels like it.
Antoril blows a bubble in his sleep. The little popping sound is the loudest thing ever.
He’s fairly sure this is no cottar’s shack. Matila’s father must be a carl. Not that it matters very much. Nothing will please hard-nosed traditionalists, but he has the advantage that nobody has ever expected very much of him.
Matila comes back in, holding the plates, which are now clean. “Time for me to go,” she says, leaning them against each other on a cloth on the bench where they were eating. “Did he wake?” She is still a new enough mother for that to have been a long time, or just that she does not know what babies do.
“No, not once.” Finarvi stands up. “May I walk you to the horses?” He doesn’t presume to pick Antoril up, but steps aside to give her space.
She slips the harness onto her back. A warmer day means a more comforatble ride for the tiny child. “Can’t stop you.” The pride that was once in her bearing is back.
It’s a prickly way to say yes, and it doesn’t make the question he needs to ask any easier. He steps outside into the glorious morning, squinting a little after the dimness of the hut.
The sun shines down. Matila takes his hand.
That startles him.
She shrugs. “Got you. Just the walk.”
He clasps her hand in return and they walk. Finarvi clicks to Madryn to follow.
- 1Finarvi passes Farm.