1627, Sea Season
Finarvi finds a fresh jug of perry and a clean cup and goes over to thank Venlar and do his best to revive him. Venlar looks like he is in shock or has a fever, but the symptoms do not make sense. The shaking, the smile he gives when Finarvi arrives, the lack of high colour – he looks like he should be ill but is not.
Sosa has not just Matila’s friends, but Matila, at the White Lady’s shrine.
Mellia offers the cup to Matila. “Finarvi didn’t know what to do with the cup. The brooch is in token of abject apology.”
Matila bursts into tears on seeing it, and hugs Mellia. “I knew you could solve it!” She sobs damply for a bit, and then pulls herself together. “Antoril is asleep within the shrine. Sosa said it was alright because he had never hurt a living being.”
Mellia smiles. “Of course it’s fine. Let’s get things settled. Finarvi will be glad to be name-father. He does want to see Antoril from time to time. Finarvi is also willing to support the two of you.”
“I know! It says so!” She smiles at the cup and at Mellia about as widely.
“Well then, how often may Finarvi see his son?”
“Whenever he comes by, of course!” Matila looks only a little puzzled.
Mellia says, “That is wonderful! How much support do you want?”
“Well… what gifts would he normally give?” She looks into the cup. “The money will be handy if the harvest fails, and if Antoril needs anything I will let him know. The village will feed him and then I gift back to the village.”
“Finarvi could send money, or he could send smith work. Money is easier.”
“Really, things that are useful for the village will be useful for Antoril, because if I can give gifts, people give them back, but in different shapes.”
“Finarvi can do this. How much do you want every season?”
“We don’t ask like that,” Sosa says gently. “We ask every season if anything is needed, or we present things unasked for.”
“Oh, sorry. Finarvi can certainly write once a season to see what is needed. Well, someone else would be doing the writing,” Mellia adds.
Sosa noda. “If you want we can arrange to have an elder look after that sort of thing, but really we should go dress up Antoril and present him.”
“A fine idea. I left Finarvi in the long hall.” Mellia looks down at her robe, checking to make sure she is presentable.
Mellia’s robe is in a decent state, and Antoril is wrapped up against the cold, but Matila says his clothes are good underneath, and he needs the blanket.
Back in the longhouse, Venlar looks pleased to have perry, but does not lift it to his lips.
Finarvi studies him with concern. “Are you alright, my friend? You don’t look well.”
Venlar nods, holding up a hand that shakes in a gesture that could be one of peace. “It happens. Orlanth has left me. I was singing what he told me.”
“You sang very well. No-one in the hall was left unmoved. I owe you a great deal of gratitude.”
Venlar grins, just a little. “I enjoyed it. I am at my best when I worship with song or sword.”
Finarvi refills his own cup. He’s feeling far too sober all of a sudden. “Jorrim sings a fine tale, but I liked yours better.”
“Oh, your sage-god friend?” Conversation seems to be perking Venlar up, or else he is recovering quickly.
Finarvi gives a little half-laugh at this description. “Yes, he’s saved our hides a few times with his graceful words. And his song in Alda Chur caused a riot.”
“A riot? What marvellous words those must have been. Did he mean to?” A shudder goes through Venlar, and he blinks a little, and then relaxes back into being himself. He just leans casually against the table, but most of the shakes are gone.
Then the door opens and in comes a group of women.
Finarvi, seeing Mellia return with Matila, swallows and whispers to Venlar, “Are there any special words I need to say?”
Mellia whispers to Sosa, “Now what?”
“Just let her do it,” Sosa whispers back.
To Finarvi, Venlar says, “She’ll lay the child at your feet. Pick him up, and admire him, and say he is yours. That’s all you need to do.”
Matila, head high against rejection in a hall that could not be more friendly to her, takes a moment to unwrap Antoril. He is a little lump dressed in brown, at that distance.
Dogva looks around his companions, and sits straighter in his wood and horse-skin chair.
Mellia nods to Sosa and settles down to watch.
Matila approaches Dogva first. Meanwhile, Venlar scoots over so that there is a clear space by Finarvi. The young woman asks permission to introduce a child of the clan to his father, and Dogva smilingly says she may, and this house rejoices in the happy time.
So, Matila turns to bring Antoril over to Finarvi, and put him down. “This is your son,” she says, “If you want him.”
Finarvi bends and picks up the tiny bundle. Antoril’s blue-grey eyes regard empty space. He is too young to see things yet, but his brows crinkle in uncertainty. It’s such a mirror to how Finarvi is feeling that he can’t help the smile that breaks out on his face.
He tries to imagine how Jorrim would speak, how Endars would sound if he was the one standing where Finarvi stood. He pitches his voice to carry. “This is my son,” he says simply. He speaks in Tradetalk, not trusting his war-camp Heortling to be up to the task. The words sound strange to his ears, like someone else is saying them.
There is a lot of congratulating, and Matila stands closer so she can say, “He has your nose. You can see already.” The nose is small and cute, and has a couple of tiny white spots on.
Finarvi gives into the urge to cuddle the infant.
Antoril is small and strong, refusing to be moulded into an easier cuddling shape. Matila seems to feel she needs to stand close lest he spontaneously learns to crawl and tries to leave Finarvi’s arms, but she does not seem to object to being beside the Grazer.
Finarvi scrunches his nose up to see if he can improve the likeness, and he’s only been holding Antoril for five breaths and already he’s making silly faces. He’s doomed.
Antoril manages to grab his father’s clothing, by accident rather than design. Sosa tells Mellia, “A good grip is important for a ploughman, or a horseman.”
“My mother and grandmother were both herders,” says Finarvi. The word for ‘herder of horses’ is one of the few Heortling terms he knows. “How old is he?”
“Storm season. The first time you visited. So he’s a little older than a Sacred Time. A year old, but not born a year.” Matila smiles at Antoril. He gurgles, and she reaches for him instinctively.
Reluctantly, Finarvi hands him back to his mother. “I am sorry for being such a dense, ignorant outlander,” he tells her. He gives a wry, self-mocking twist of a smile.
“You are stupid, but pretty,” she tells him. “Come by tomorrow when it is light. Have food.”
He grins at that, and bows his assent to her.
Matila takes Antoril away, with her friends clustering up behind her. Venlar asks, “More to drink? I want to.”
“By all the gods, yes,” Finarvi says fervently. He lets Venlar lead him away.
Matila gives Mellia a wide, grateful smile on the way out. Mellia smiles back at Matila. If no one stops her, Mellia will go back to the shrine.
Venlar takes him over to a quiet corner. “I’m told my father’s reaction to finding out we were triplets was to kiss my mother then go hunting for a week. But my father says a lot of things.”
Finarvi watches her go. “My mother died when I wasn’t much older than Antoril is now. My father was away more than he was there. I grew up thinking he was away fighting wars. I was seven when I found out he was a trader.” He makes the occupation sound like a dirty word.
Venlar pours his own, this time without wobbling hands. “Mine was exiled. But he came back. I’ve always had Mama, and my brother and sister were in the same cradle. Family are important, no matter how they happen.”
Finarvi takes a long drink. “Yes. And family are inescapable. Unless you’re Humakti.”
“Yamia? She’s my sister. Probably always will be. But then again, father lost a brother to Humakt. So your point is a good one.”
Finarvi refills his cup. “I used to think Humakti were demented. But maybe there’s wisdom in separation after all. When Serala and I left the clan, I didn’t think we’d ever return. But we were welcomed back.”
“She’s happy. She likes her life and she likes being a bodyguard and she likes terrifying the living hell out of people. What more could a warrior want?” Venlar sounds mostly serious.