Mellia — In Nochet Xiii
1627, Fire Season, Disorder Week
Fire Season, Disorder Week, Waterday. Venlar keeps courting Mellia [[[s02:session-41|Session 41]]]
A letter the next morning brings this:
You were born on the brightest of days
The noonday sun cannot whiten your dress further
In your left hand is mercy, in your right hand my heart
Your name is on the lips of mourners who know
I will marry you and love you forever
On the back of it is a calligraphed version of two names together. Scribes would likely sniff at it, but it is definitely written with love. It’s just that, being Venlar, he managed to smudge it a few times. There is some scraping out, but no evidence of ink spillage or bleeding.
Mellia is delighted and starts thinking about rewarding Venlar.
Maybe an inlaid board for his gaming. Or a flirtatious glance as she sits down. Or a big hug that lasts as long as he likes… So many options. So few of them allowed until they are married.
The inlaid board sounds good. Mellia just hopes she has the money for it.
This morning is a good morning anyhow. Venlar’s invitation to come and play games is open for some hours.
Can Mellia get a nice inlaid board in time, or should she just go play?
Getting him a board would probably require hours of shopping to find the right thing, which will also require hours of having the guards along.
Right, Mellia will just go play.
It is in his rooms, or rather, in Jengharl’s corridor, a whole area turned over to the Orlanthi. The most pleasant room, and the one where the brothers are probably staying, opens onto a balcony and a miniature garden, containing statues that hold rockery plants which fall in profusion. The room itself is a little warm, for the end doors are open, but Yelm is not shining straight in, and there is a tiny breeze.
The two Yelmalians on duty, Delanos and Vontor, take up seats inside. There are a few of Jengharl’s warriors here, off in a group. They are passing around a harp, keeping themselves occupied.
Venlar sends someone to open the door, but he stands up to give Mellia a smile that is almost shy, then suddenly brilliant. “You look good.”
Mellia says, “Thank you, my wonderful poet. Your words would melt a heart of stone.”
“Come sit. Jengharl says if he survives seeing Lady Kirse, he will come in on your side if need be. I don’t know if I should back my brother or my new kin, your mother.”
There is a chord which sounds like wounded disagreement, and Venlar looks at his warriors, and back at Mellia, and sighs. “Alright. My brother. But I’ll be part of your family soon, and you’ll be part of mine.” He has forgotten to sit down, but one of his thralls pulls out a stool for Mellia.
Mellia sits down with a happy smile. “It’s hard to wait, but the wedding will be soon.”
Venlar sets out the pieces, but although it is hard to remember how they move, it is also clear that he has forgotten he should be concentrating on the game. His gaze falls back on Mellia, and he remembers himself with a blush and a start, and for a moment has to freeze lest he disturb everything. It is not a shadow on his previous great disasters, however. “Yes,” he says once he has made sure his sleeves are not caught on anything. “But I realised I don’t often make you laugh. You smile around me, but your laughter? I seldom hear it.”
Mellia laughs, just for him.
Venlar, looks down, hiding his face for a moment. “It sounds like bubbles dancing in a stream.”
The lord’s ears have gone red. It is not helped by the harper – who is very good – suddenly taking up a liquid, flowing line of music.
Mellia blushes and giggles.
After that, Venlar tries to concentrate on the game. He is not a great player, but then again, Mellia is just learning. She can take advantage of several mistakes he makes, and for a little while there is quiet in the room, save for the music of the harp. Finally, though, practice tells, and when Venlar stops gazing at Mellia, he stops making the most basic mistakes, and begins to pull ahead. “So, Jengharl did not bring his wife,” Venlar says. “And two of his men have already been asked if he has one.”
Mellia grins. “You can’t blame them. If you didn’t exist, I would ask that question too.”
“Well, it makes me think. Some of the men here are getting on in years…” He glances at the harpist, who falters briefly. Apparently Venlar does not need music to have his revenge.
“I trust your brother to behave, despite temptation.”
“Oh, completely. He’s got a happy marriage – father chose well. But here is a question. Do you know of any women who need warriors who want to marry somewhere warm?” Venlar looks like he is serious. “There are close ties to be had, and more than just to the Blue Tree.”
“Alas, I don’t. It would be nice if I did.”
There is a small shrug from Venlar. “Ask around?” He goes back to looking at the board, just as Mellia spots a way of making defeat happen – for him – out of apparent victory. Venlar fails to cut it off, and leaves a hole in his defenses.
Mellia takes advantage of the hole. “I will ask, sweetheart, but I may not know enough people.”
“I don’t believe you. Your mother’s an advisor of the house. You don’t have to know them in person. And you’re too sweet about what you can do. I know you can do anything you set your mind to.” Venlar watches in dismay as his carefully marshalled shield-wall formation begins to fall apart.
Mellia grins and presses the attack. “You say the sweetest things, my love. Perhaps we should hold a party for the Great Hospital.”
“Here? Will your grandmother not object?” Venlar tries, and fails, to keep his command stones safe, and finally cedes the game and sets up a new one. “Well done.”
“Thanks. We’d better hold the party elsewhere. I will ask and see if there’s anything we can use.”
“Do healers often marry warriors?” Venlar looks innocent. “To ensure someone to practice on?”
Mellia laughs. “No, but for your people they might make exceptions.”
Venlar attends to winning back his pride over the next game, and then Jengharl comes in. The brothers share a glance and Jengharl looks at the stones used to mark the count of games. “You’re …. not doing as well as you could, brother.”
“….” Venlar makes an incoherent noise, and some hand-waving that has Mellia in it, and also the board. Jengharl nods seriously to that.
Mellia smiles at Jengharl. “He was distracted. I see you survived my mother. Well done.”
“She was charm itself. Which side should I be sitting on, here? If I sit with you, will he be less distracted? Does he need my help more? I could take my turn at the harp.” Jengharl is as smooth as ever, with a smile like his father’s.
Mellia replies, “I think you should help me. By the way, your brother wants to see his guards wed here.”
Jengharl sits down, pulling a stool closer. “He stands no chance against us. They are not all his guards, though… Father is keen to build ties with all of Nochet, so if anyone wishes to take on a foreign husband, he understands that they would be welcome to try.”
Venlar glowers, but only in play.
Mellia adds, “I thought you might want to host a party or something, so they could meet the women here. We’d have to find somewhere to hold it.”
Jengharl considers. “Better to meet widely, but all sorts of people will be coming to the wedding party. Lady Kirse tells me many matches are made in small groups then. We should look to more than just the Saiciae, of course, but their allies – or at least the people they invite – are a good place to start.”
Venlar does his best under the combined assault, but it seems that Jengharl is either not a great player, or is being kind to his brother, as he is not so much helping Mellia as talking to her.
“Then we should plan to stay for a bit after the wedding, if we can. We scheduled the other wedding for early Earth Season.”
Mellia suddenly looks troubled.
“I’m looking forward to that one more,” Venlar admits. “For one, I’ll be able to protect you on the way there.”
Mellia smiles again, but says, “I wish we could talk in private.”
Mellia plays a board game with Venlar and his brother