Mellia — Home With Venlar V
1627, Sea Season, Disorder Week
Sea Season, Disorder Week, Windsday. [[[s02:session-31|Session 31]]]
Venlar shows Mellia around the courtyard properly now. In the daytime it is easier to see what is there. A rectangle at one end is cleared and has cinders down on it for footing and to keep weeds down. Yamia practices there, working on consistent, hard blows. Her breathing stays steady, but she may have chosen the exercise so that she does not need to breathe hard. It is all about strength, not staying power.
Two big buildings open up onto the yard; the animal house by which they came in last night, and the house that is for the better-off residents, and honoured guests. There are other smaller buildings too – grain storage, tools, sheds for animals in isolation. Those are mostly pressed up against the walls of the little compound, and in some cases form the walls.
Most of the inner space is filled with a kitchen garden, and some of the herbs are medicinal. Many, Mellia does not recognise, but there are some behind a fenced enclosure, which probably means that they are poisonous. The plants of early Sea Season are up, and of course rosemary, almost impossible to kill as long as you weed it. Winter herbs are dark green, growing shoots are light green.
Venlar has a happy glow to him as he proudly shows off all that is there.
Mellia is enchanted by the courtyard. She pays particular attention to the herbs. Mellia would eventually remind Venlar that they are looking for Thenaya.
Venlar says, “She will be inside, in the kitchen. I’ll show you the way.” He draws a knife, though, and cuts a bit of something sharp-smelling and tough, and tucks it into the pin of his cloak. “There. Now I’m back.”
Mellia smiles at Venlar and kisses Venlar on the cheek.”It’s usually good to be home. Unless you have relatives like mine. Let’s go see your mother.”
Thenaya is not in fact in the kitchen, but in the central room, labouring carefully over letters. She is writing one out that she has scratched onto wax, in draft. “M.m…mmmm hello?” Her cheeks buckle into a smile as soon as she has stopped concentrating on her sentence, but she still puts a little mark in the wax to tell her where to start copying again.
Mellia smiles. “Good morning, Mother. Should we come back later?”
“No, it will do me good to stand. The fingers do the work, but the back bends to it.” Thenaya stands to give her son a kiss on the cheek, and then her daughter. “It is good to see you both here.”
“I am glad to be here.I think Yamia may have need of me.” Mellia kisses Thenaya’s cheek.
“She’s being very stubborn,” Thenaya agrees. “But she would always have her way, when she wanted it. Venlar, love, would you go tell the kitchen I will be a while longer?”
He bows, and goes off to do the menial task, and Thenaya watches him go before asking, “Does he know?”
“I didn’t tell him and she didn’t either. She can’t hide it much longer. Is there a White Lady Yamia has been seeing?”
“No, she won’t see anyone. She says it is her matter.” Thenaya sighs. “It… it is not how a woman should be.”
Mellia frowns. “Yamia should be seeing someone at least twice a season. At least she is in good shape. Perhaps the problem is that Yamia is devoted to death and this is the creation of life.”
Thenaya nods. “I think so. She… she is trying to stay herself, perhaps?”
Mellia nods. “I think you’re right. As far as I know, Humakt should not be angry. I wish Berra was here.”
2 August 2020
“There is a shrine in Wilmskirk, and a Temple in Whitewall,” Thenaya says, “And we could ask, but she does not want it known, or she would have told people.”
Mellia sighs. “I have no idea who the father might be. Hopefully he’s Esrolian and won’t make a fuss.”
“She has not shown interest in men for years.” Thenaya sounds puzzled.
“Now that’s interesting. There were plenty of women to be interested in. Also lots of parties and Humakti. I wonder- no, that’s crazy.”
“It must have been a man, but maybe a Nandan man?” Thenaya sighs, and then asks, “Did she meet someone there?” She even brightens up a little.
“Not that I ever noticed,” Mellia replies.
“She’s not showing much,” Thenaya says. “And … she was emotional down there. Sil… the Thane told me so.”
“There were a lot of parties. Yamia will have to tell us what happened.”
Thenaya sighs, and sits down again, picking up her pen to flex it as she thinks. It is a habit that Venlar has too. “I think she will not, and we will do our best anyhow. Will you be seeing the herds or the fields today?”
“That depends on the weather. If it is not raining I would like to see the fields. I want to ask you about the herbs. I don’t recognize some of them.”
“Oh, of course! I grow most of them here, but it’s not a patch on what I have in the thralls’ courtyard.” Thenaya glances towards the door. “I need to finish these letters, and I’ll be in the kitchen for about an hour. Can Venlar keep you entertained?”
Mellia smiles. “I am sure that he will think of something,Mother.”
“No doubt he will.” Thenaya falls silent as the light at the open door dims, and a damp rider comes in. He bows in her direction, and Thenaya stands and says, “Lord Venlar is within. How may I …. oh, hello Imfring. I didn’t recognise you – new cloak?”
Imfring smiles. “It’s really dry and warm,” he says. “Sealskin. From the coast!”
“Well, come take it off and let it drip on the floor and have something to eat and drink,” Thenaya tells him, and he hands over a letter to her as he goes to deal with getting fed.
“This is for you,” Thenaya says, puzzled only momentarily, and then delighted. “Of course they would know to bring it here. You belong here.”
Mellia smiles, takes the letter and tries to read it. “I wonder who it’s from?”
The writing is unfamiliar, and scratchy. She is going to need someone else to help.
Mellia thanks the courier, then yells, “Venlar! Please help me with this letter!”
A few people look around, because a letter is a big thing to get, even if Thenaya sends them often. Venlar comes back from the kitchen, chewing. “Mmhppph? I … mm.”
He holds out a tiny parcel of leaves to Mellia, and nods enthusiastically.
Mellia exchanges the tiny parcel of leaves for the letter. “Do I eat these? Look at that scratchy handwriting.”
“Eat the whole parcel,” Thenaya says, looking up from her wax tablet. “It is chewy on the inside, and Venlar will be a few moments. Sweet and salty.”
Mellia thanks her and eats the whole parcel.
It is indeed sticky, and sweet, and oozy, and also salty enough that the sweetness is not cloying, and there is a hint of spices she does not recognise.
Venlar swallows, and says, “The leaves are baby vine, that have been soaked in brine. I don’t know much about the rest…” Then he sits down by Thenaya’s light, to read the letter. “This is sent by someone who has been taught, but never learned much,” he says, “But on good quality parchment. I will take a moment if you do not mind, to read it over and be sure of it?”
It would be rather hard to answer him just now.
The flavour changes and lingers as she swallows, oddly subtle.
“It is from Varanis,” Venlar says, holding the parchment at an angle to the light. “And a private letter for which she did not have a scribe.”
Thenaya gives Mellia a glance, and pushes her chair back a little, getting ready to get up.
Mellia eventually says, “No Xenofos? Venlar, we should go to our room with that.”
“Of course.” Venlar then fails to get off the bench on which he sat down. “Say that again? Our room? It sounds so good.”
Mellia says,”Our room. I hope Xenofos is well.”
“Yes.” That sobers him, and he gets up. On the way he says, “It does not mention any problems, as such, but she may think it private.”
“I don’t know. I think we need to read the letter and find out.”
Venlar sits down by the window to look at the letter carefully. “To Mellia,” he begins.
“I wish you were here. Something has happened and I wish I could talk to you about it. I was proposed to by someone I want to marry.” He pauses only for a moment before he goes on.
Mellia perks up. “That’s wonderful! I hear a ‘but’.”
“… That is the very next word,” he replies. “But, well- it’s not a good political match. I said yes, but that I would need approval. I asked my liege and she said to ask again after I do a thing for her.”
Mellia comments,” I don’t like the sound of that.”
“A scribe cannot comment. Your lover will in a moment.” Venlar tilts the paper, brow creased in concentration. The scar holds his cheek half-rigid. “I cannot say what in writing,” he goes on. “Not wise to put too many things in words. I know that marriage is not about love for us, but you showed me that it could happen.” A tiny smile creeps onto his face.
Mellia beams and kisses Venlar.
He kisses back, and then says, “A letter should not be interrupted. This is a very serious thing.” It now has to be held one-handed because his arm is around her shoulders. “There’s more.”
Mellia says, “Sorry, please keep reading.”
Blushing rather, Venlar goes on. “Is it so bad to want that too?” He pulls her a little tighter, for a moment. “I wish we could talk again like we did when we were girls. I am sorry I have not been what I should be. I am trying, truly. I want you to know, in case something happens, I am happy for you. I send my best to you and Venlar. There the writing ends.”
Mellia mutters a bad word. “Varanis is in trouble again. I noticed she didn’t say where she is going. I would send a reply if she had.”
“There are ways of finding out,” Venlar notes. “You forget that nobility talks to nobility. Father will be able to tell you soon, if you ask him to look into it. The way to do that is to wonder where she might be – although he probably knows she is leaving Boldhome, and therefore may not understand the weight of the question. Still, there are forms of words for this.”(edited)
“I am tempted to go join her, but I have promises to keep. I wonder if I could use my boon to help Varanis?”
“Bad form to change after you have asked, but if you want to, it will go through Tennebris. We’d ask him if that were possible. It depends on whether the Prince agreed in an open court.” Venlar folds the letter carefully, along the lines that made it private when it arrived. “If you were to, you should ask advice about how. The wedding might be a political affair she now wishes to have, or it might be a distraction she wishes to avoid.”
Mellia thinks. “I had to get Irillo to ask for me. I doubt it was in Court. We were hustled out of Sartar in quiet and haste.”
“He was in Boldhome too. Varanis’ letter has a hint of leaving, in the task that was set, and I understand there was mule-packing happening.” Either he was keeping an eye on the courtyard of the White Grape, or his messenger reported back. He wrote a lot of letters on the day they left.
“I wish I had been able to see Irillo. Perhaps we should go to Boldhome. We just got here, though. I don’t want to leave so soon.”
“There are many things we should do, but some need not be done in person. That is what thralls are for. The delivery to the Greyrock clan could certainly be left to others. The inspection of my lands is overdue, and I would like to stay, but father is only a few hours away and he will likely know more. It is important not to trip over a task on the way to another; a lesson I have learned well, in my life.”
Mellia says, “Dare we send a letter to your father? I think if we want to keep this quiet, we should inspect your land and then see him in person.”
“I can send a messenger I trust,” Venlar says. “Yamia, or mama. Really I should stay here and try to cheer up Fera, or at least have her come along to Boldhome.”
Mellia nods. “I wish I could send Varanis a letter. One thing at a time. I hope the Feathered Horse Queen didn’t propose.”
Venlar stares for a moment, and then blinks. “Probably not, on balance,” he says. “It would be odd in her. She might invite Thane Varanis to attempt the marriage tests, but that is not a proposal. It would also probably cause enough of a fuss that she would not write about it, given that Prince Kallyr must attempt it, and that is known in Sartar.” He gives Mellia a brief smile and then a slightly longer one as if he has just realised who he is looking at. “To be King of Dragon Pass, a Prince must make Sartar’s marriage.”
Mellia nods again. “We can hope things aren’t too bad. Which of us is writing to your father?”
“I can do it more easily, but perhaps you should practice.” Venlar tears his eyes away. “If you like, I will read through your letter, and advise you?”
“Please do; I need the help.”
Mellia tries to write:
“I find myself thinking about my cousin Varanis and wondering where she is. Would you please find out?
“Many thanks and much love,
“Mmm,” says Venlar. “If you’re writing to him as ‘father’ and he accepts it, that’s a law-thing. So it’s a good word to use, because then he can say the letter itself is unreliable. I would use ‘can you ease my mind?’ rather than making a direct request. Other than that single change, all is well. But… let me write you a clear version to copy. Some of your letters need clarity.”
He does just that, in a clear hand that is easy to read.1Mellia has failed read/write, and Venlar gives her a copying exercise so she will never know she has.
Mellia thanks Venlar for the help and copies the letter.
“You get to choose the messenger,” she tells him. “I will see if your mother can send the fertility statue to Greyrocks.”
“I’ll do that, and you do that too. When we leave and come back, we might have furniture fit for a wedding.”
Mellia grins and gets the statue. She goes back to Thenaya.
- 1Mellia has failed read/write, and Venlar gives her a copying exercise so she will never know she has.