Mellia — Spear Fishing
????, Earth Season, Season/Stasis Week
Earth Season/Stasis Week/Godday/early evening right at the end, in Kirse’s chambers [[[s02:session 16 |Session 16]]]
It is late on Godday. Lenta went home in her palanquin, escorted by Hulta guards. From the palace to the palazzo for everyone else was not a long walk. It is early evening, but Yelm still shows, and so it is still Godday.
In the courtyard there is a bustle of activity, as questions are asked and everyone wants to know answers all at once. The woman who helps Mellia to dismount tells her, “Your mother will see you now.”
Mellia looks exhausted, which she is, and may still be all muddy, unless the Queen had everyone cleaned up at the palace. “Do I have time to change?”
This is a horse from Grandmother’s stables, and it was brought for Mellia, but… nobody else had horses. This one was at the Palace already, and… well, that’s interesting. Just for her, not for anyone else, which means either the Queen or Grandmother was sending a message.
Mellia replies, “Probably not,” and follows the servant to see Mother Dearest.
The servant gets inside and takes her along a slightly unusual route. After about a minute, it is clear that there are footsteps behind them, that can only be following them.
Mellia wonders what is going on but resists the temptation to look behind her.
“She’s here,” says Yamia’s voice, and then there is a laugh from the Humakti, and the footsteps, or at least one pair of them, speed up. The servant, who is looking round, takes on a sudden look of displeasure.
Mellia silently snickers, much cheered by the thought that Yamia and Venlar are here.
Venlar comes to a halt beside her, and the servant huffs and walks on. Venlar offers his arm. “Are you to bed, my lady?” he asks. He seems to be expecting a yes.
Mellia takes Venlar’s arm. “Not yet, my dearest love. Mother wants to see me now.”
He stares for a moment, as he falls in with her pace. “Is she joking?” Behind them, Yamia’s steps match them steadily.
“No, Mother is not joking,” says Mellia. “Someone sent one of Grandmother’s horses for me and only for me. Of course, if Varanis were fit to ride, she might have gotten the same treatment.”
Venlar sighs. “Would you like me to come in with you?” he asks. “Or go get your bed ready?”
“Come with me,” Mellia says, “I am exhausted.”
Venlar nods, but the servant says, “Only Mellia was called for.”
“Then why are you coming?” Yamia asks in a clear but puzzled voice.
And then they are at Kirse’s room and the woman chooses to knock on the door instead of answering.
“Enter,” calls Kirse.
Venlar leans to open the door for Mellia, but it is done by the servant instead.
Mellia gives Venlar a quick peck on the cheek, then enters the room.
Venlar comes afterwards, and bows, and remains silent rather than giving oratory greeting. Kirse looks to Mellia, to her young man, and back to Mellia. She is seated by a table set, very definitely, for two.
“Good evening, Mother.” Mellia does not sit just yet. “Venlar is here to make sure I do not fall into slumber on your floor. I am that weary.”
Kirse nods. “I see. Then take your seat. Your intended may stay, but we will talk again when you have slept. Come eat, and tell me what the Queen ruled, and what you think the Hulta will do now.”
Venlar puts his hands behind his back and attempts to look like he is not there.
Mellia sits. “Thank you, Mother. ” Mellia eats a few bites…
Venlar comes nearer, but only to make sure he can see Mellia closely, just in case. That, or he wants to look at her. He is blushing a little.
“Her Majesty has declared this matter closed. Varanis was declared innocent of all charges. Her Majesty made it clear that this mess is over. If the Hulta were rational, they’d apologize to us, but they don’t think that clearly as a rule, apparently.”
“The charge was brought to you, and not to me or Grandmother,” says Kirse. “Was it well known outside this house?”
“That would depend on the Hultas. I think they didn’t have time to publicize it. Not with Kesten and his men wandering around the swamp. Then again, the Queen knew about the proposed duel.”
“Of course she did. She is the Queen. But this could be smoothed over, quite easily, and it would be better for the Hulta if it were. But if it came out we had accepted such an insult tamely, what then? The Queen says the matter is over, but the Hulta and the Saicaie are always watched.” Kirse has not eaten much. This is not the sort of meal where Kirse eats.
Mellia eats a little more while thinking. “To be honest, they should be thanking me on bended knee for saving Lenta’s life. Garin gave her an overdose of poppy extract. I fear the best we can expect from the Hulta is silence.”
Kirse smiles. “Then what will you need to do, to be sure this thanks happens?”
“Make certain the truth gets out, of course. Catching Garin would be better, but he has a habit of flying away, literally. Plus too many of us are too injured to give chase. I wish the Lightbringers would gift the Hultas with intelligence, but They seem to have chosen otherwise.”
“Perhaps, but would it not be better to find out from the Hultas which of them is willing to champion that thanks? Suggesting rather than forcing is always the first move. Naturally that includes a suggestion about how the truth would be heard.” Kirse’s lacquered fingernails make a bright splodge of colour around a tall drinking glass.
“Agri Hulta might do it. I healed him enough to let him move around and fight. He was there and helping when I treated Lenta. Lenta definitely would publically thank me, but I think her mother is going to lock her up once she gets home. Kesten is honest enough to face the truth, but I don’t know about the rest of them.”
“You’ve named two men there, and men do not make decisions. So I think the message you send will have to come through me. Lenta’s mother is… unlikely to be able to back down from her position without losing face, so the question becomes who wants her to lose face, and should I be generous to her.” Kirse gives Venlar a smile. “Are you able to keep up, young man?”
He smiles in return. “I am sure I can support her.”
Kirse gives a tiny nod, as if to say that is a satisfying answer. “A question I can’t answer for you with your young man here is what Grandmother wants of this, but there are two points that are important. The insult, and the help we gave. The arrival of men in armour can easily be described as an appeal for help, if necessary, although again that would be looked upon as a weakness of the Hulta. Whatever we decide on, the message will have to be delivered privately, and the sending of some message made public. Do you understand why?”
“It is important that the Houses see us make a response, but they do not need to know what that response is.”
“Good,” Kirse says. “For the Queen’s goodwill and her strength, and so that nobody tries to take advantage of perceived weakness. So… Come up with a list of suggestions of how that might be delivered or made known. Gifts, or the movements of soldiers, or any advantage that we might take in public. I will let you know who you are sending the message to, and help you to form it if you wish. Tomorrow, when your Orlanth is absent, and women can talk.”
Orlanth makes a tiny noise of displeasure, possibly too quiet for Kirse to hear.
Mellia nods, smiling. “I think gifts would be best. The way Lenta behaves around Varanis is, I think, well known.”
“A list, not just one thing. What will work depends on who gets approached, and on how aggressive the house is. They were exonerated too and could stand on that if they chose.” Kirse gives Mellia a level look. “This is a negotiation, not a demand. We have the upper hand, but the way the Varanis behaves around Lenta is also known, even if it is not accurate.”
“She’s tired,” Venlar says. Kirse gives him a quelling look, and then runs her eyes over Mellia, thoughtfully.
Mellia is tired, drained of magic and quite possibly still muddy. Don’t forget Varanis and Lenta vomiting on her too.
“She is fine,” Kirse says. “A daughter of mine can be expected to be clear-headed when tired. Mellia, we have talked of the thanks, and they may be presented in a way that removes the insult, but what of the insult itself? What should Grandmother do, to accept the Queen’s ruling and not assume her displeasure on this house?”
Mellia considers this carefully. “The best way would be to find a way to graciously accept an apology from the Hulta. If I were matriarch of the Hulta, I would be planning a celebratory banquet featuring Grandmother’s favorite dishes and invite all of us to attend. The Queen might even be pleased to hear of a joint party, hosted by them and by us, supposedly to celebrate everyone’s safe return. Grandmother could accept a private apology during the party.”
“A hosting moment is a very good thought,” Kirse says, and there is a pleased note in her voice. “And a show of amity is a strong thing. Perhaps Grandmother will chose to lament in clay how the hunting has been bad on her estates lately?”
“An excellent idea. As everyone’s healer, I would give it a few days. I thought Varanis was going to die on me.”
“Oh, the arrangement must begin soon, but do you really think Grandmother can clear an evening quickly?” The corner of Kirse’s lip twists in a carmined arc. “The day will have to be set so that it is known we were deciding it. Known in the Hulta, that is. Or else they decide but make some other concession.” Again, she gives Venlar a glance.
Venlar, eyes on Mellia, is definitely listening.
“I think it would be best if we choose the date. Grandmother is busy and this could be bogged down in scheduling debates otherwise.”
“That is the position we would put forward, certainly. Have you any thoughts about whether Lenta’s immediate family should be helped out here?” Kirse spears something on her plate – seafood of some nameless sort, in a sauce that must have been chosen to suit her nails.
Mellia asks, “I apologize, Mother. I’m confused. With what? Lenta? The medical bills? Now, Garin’s immediate family could use aid – if they’re still alive.”
“Their position. They have caused the House of Hulta to make an expensive mistake. How those who know the matter treat it may alter their fate, but approaching them will be difficult. We may be able to cause the Hulta to blame them, and thus nobody else, for any errors we can point out. But if we do, we make enemies forever. Are they already enemies, do you think, or might they calm down? You have met the… mother, I think?”
Mellia nods. “A strong and stubborn woman,” Mellia muses. “Before all this happened, there was some argument between Lenta and her mother over the future direction of Lenta’s life, I think. Agri has seen the truth. Kesten may come around, given time; he and Berra have things in common. Yet Lenta’s mother will be the key. I fear the mother is too stubborn to yield ground to what she may well view as a bad example.”
“Then we are unlikely to be able to move her. This answers the question; Lenta’s behaviour does indeed reflect badly in the family, as her mother feared.” Only now does Kirse eat what she has speared, after a moment’s further consideration.
Mellia sighs. “I’ve met songbirds with more sense than Lenta.”
“All is good, then. We have a plan and I shall decide who will have the honour of your letter. Eat, then go, before your young man bursts from trying to get to into his arms.” Kirse sets to her food finally.
Mellia smiles. “Thank you, Mother.” Mellia eats, then leaves with Venlar.