1628, Earth Season, Movement Week
Later in the day, after the various meetings in the bathhouse and Serala has cornered Varanis. Hopefully it wasn’t too difficult to do so, but Serala has Ulterior Motives! A tour of the house though, perhaps not as exciting as other options. The Grape was Serala’s not-home-from-home in Boldholme and she definitely wants to know her way around Varanis pad. “So why the house?” she asks. “Did you get bored of other people cleaning up after you at the pub?” She considers that for a moment, “Unless you have staff here to do that instead?”
Varanis flushes a little. “Well, yes. We do have some staff. Just a few people from Blue Tree who help look after the place. We’re away a lot, so it’s good to make sure the house isn’t sitting empty. Berra and I bought it together. This way, we don’t have to abuse Rondrik’s hospitality at the Grape anymore. And well, it’s a bit about social expectations too. My daughter and I are Prince Kallyr’s heirs until her child is born, for what that’s worth. And I could live at the palace if I wanted to, but… I wanted a place where we could all be together if we chose.” She fidgets as she explains.
Serala tilts her head to one side, studying you for a moment before she shrugs. “No watching eyes? I prefer out on the steppes for that, where only the wind is watching.” She moves as though to lean in for a friendly shove, then pauses, clearly a little confused after the Lenta revelations of earlier, and maintains her distance instead. “You know you’re allowed to live as your status dictates you must? No-one will think ill of you for that. Well, no-one that matters, anyhow.”
Varanis flushes more and leans closer to whisper, “It’s hard to afford it. Looking after my people when the crops haven’t been good… and I’ve given a lot of what I have away.” Then she smiles brightly and steps back. “I want to show you around! So far, you haven’t made it past our common room. This is the one some people have started referring to as the Praxian room.”
It’s obvious why. For all that the space is rectangular, instead of round like a yurt, Varanis has tried to make it look yurt-like. There are Praxian wall hangings and baskets, hides on the floor, and various decorations that look like someone raided a market in New Pavis. Incongruously, there’s also a large table with wooden benches and a hearth.
“I have little use for coin.” Serala points out, “Any that I have, is yours.” She does consider that, and her own responsibilities for a moment, “Well, there is the upkeep of Apple Lane, I have to make sure of that, but we are doing well enough there; and we have little need of display. We all work together for the good of all – whereas here…” She can’t help it, she shudders a little, “How do you stand it?” She follows Varanis, nodding, “I like it. I can see Rajar sitting here, calling for more beer! In fact, I should bring some beer here and we can all have a gathering together. Shake some of the travel dust from our feet, once and for all. You think?”
“I’d like that,” Varanis replies with a broad smile. “You wouldn’t mind the walls?” Looking around, there are only very small window slits on this level. Not enough to get a person through. They have shutters that can be barred from the inside.
There is a headshake from the Grazelander. “I’m not going to pretend walls are my favourite thing, but I have learned from that rider that first came to the city,” she allows. “And there is sense in staying safe in a place where there are enemies who prefer to lurk in shadows than come out and declare themselves.” She wrinkles her nose a little, “Why do people make it all so complicated? Is there not enough in life to keep them entertained without looking for intrigue and confusion?”
The next room on this level is hidden behind a wall hanging. Varanis moves it aside to wave Serala through. The room is long, with more of the small windows. There’s another door and another hanging.
The room has a narrow wooden table along the wall, a good height for standing at. There’s a hearth at one end, away from the doors. And near the hearth is a huge basin, big enough to fit a small person in.
“Snug.” Serala offers. “Dancing on the table in here? Or… formal receptions, with delicate little nibbles?” She is teasing, but taking a guess anyhow. Varanis probably does have to have to invite the great and the good around. “Kitchen through there?”
“This is the kitchen,” Varanis tells her. “We eat in the common room. That,” and now the Vingan beams, “is the privy!”
Serala rolls her eyes, “Indoors? You’re a philistine. What is wrong with outdoors and a shovel?”
“Have you seen the snow here?!”
“Your point being?” No, she’s not backing down on this one. Serala isn’t going to back down from some white fluffy stuff. Not the woman who survived the Great Blizzard of 1621, never!
“I’d rather pee without risking it freezing mid-stream,” Varanis says with a laugh.
Serala nods, accepting the point of freezing streams being somewhat suboptimal. “It’s very nice.” she agrees. “If not a patch on our tents when it comes to mobility. Lead on, dear heart, show me what other glories await.”
“Do you want to see the garden or go upstairs to the sleeping spaces?” Varanis asks. “The garden is just big enough that Yehna’s been talking about growing some herbs and Berra and I can do a little bit of sword work before running into the walls.”
“Upstairs.” Serala chooses. “Once we’ve done this, I’m taking you riding so we can get our fill of the outdoors. At least houses are meant to be small. Gardens are not.” Perhaps she has a slightly skewed view on what a ‘garden’ should be. “But it’s nice that you have one, in the city I can’t imagine there is much spare space for nature?”
As they are about to duck back through the curtain, the other one rustles and a young woman steps through. “Oh, hello, Thane!” she exclaims. “I thought you’d already left.” She is short, but sturdily built. She wears the style of the Blue Tree Clan and has her dark hair bound back in a tidy bun.
“Ore,” Varanis says, “I’m sorry to have invaded your space. This is my… Serala. She’s the Thane of Apple Lane and the best rider you’ll ever see, on and off the Grazelands.”
“It’s your space…” Ore looks confused, but smiles.
Serala is on her very best behaviour. Varanis gets no more than a half smile before she offers a courteous bow to the other woman. “Blue Tree?” she asks. “I am honoured to be part of that Clan as well. It is an honour to meet you.”
“We sing all your gongs,” Ore squeaks. She probably means songs, but Tradetalk is hard.
“Serala and her cousin, Finarvi, you met him the other day, will be staying with us,” Varanis says. “Can you plan for them for meals?” Turning to the Grazelander, she asks, “You don’t have any food geasa, do you? Berra can’t eat vegetables and Maalira can’t eat meat, so I’m afraid we don’t make things easy on Ore at times.”
“No meat on Fire Days.” Serala admits, “You probably don’t usually notice that, usually I eat whatever comes to hand, but I will gladly share with Maalira on Fire Days and Berra on the others. “It’s not nearly as onerous as some, I just have to remember to mark the turning of the days, which is perhaps not quite as easy as it sometimes feels it should be, once I get wrapped up with whatever is going on. These are not quiet times in which we live.”
Then Varanis takes Serala’s hand and tugs her toward the curtain. “C’mon,” she demands. “I want to show you more!”
Serala dutifully follows. “I’ve heard tell of a most wondrous feather bed, which I will never manage to escape if I trip and fall into it,” she notes drily.
“Finarvi’s been telling tales!” Varanis drags Serala back into the common room and up a set of stairs steep enough to almost be a ladder.
Serala has no compunctions about using both hands and feet to scramble up the stairs, “Of course he has… he’s Finarvi!” she agrees cheerfully. “If that boy doesn’t have a fun tale to tell, he wouldn’t be my cousin.”
Waiting at the top, Varanis offers a hand to Serala. They’ve come out into a little landing with four doors. Three are covered by curtains, while the last actually has a wooden door!
“More than I originally thought, from the way Finarvi was describing your woes at working out who would sleep where…” she notes. “Perhaps that cousin of mine was teasing me… I really shouldn’t be surprised at that fact, I suppose. It’s lucky he didn’t tell me we all had to sleep on the tables, I would have believed him at that.” Her fingers tighten on Varanis’s for a moment, before she looks around guiltily, checking no-one has seen.
Varanis laughs and doesn’t let go of Serala’s hand. “This one is Xenofos’ room,” she says, pointing to the door by the top of the stairs. “Beside it is the guest room, where I think Lenta is living. That’s Berra’s. Yehna and her husband and the children stay there when they are in the city. And this one is mine.” It is, of course, the one with the door.
“Lenta… isn’t living with you then?” If Serala is teasing there is, perhaps1insight? Varanis rolls a 2. a somewhat brittle, vulnerable edge to it. “I mean… I wouldn’t object. I have no place to.”
“Lenta is lovely. And she’s a capable and interesting person, but I don’t… I don’t feel for her as she does for me. That one-sidedness would break her eventually,” Varanis says sadly.
Serala sighs softly, “I don’t wish her ill. I respect her. But I’m glad to not have to fight for you in the time we have together. But…” She pauses, lifting her chin, “We should be circumspect when we are not sure we are alone. Good job I plan on taking you out riding a long way from any prying eyes.”
There’s an answering grin, then Varanis tugs Serala to her room. “Just to look,” she promises. “I want you to see the bed that Finarvi is so afraid of.”
“It might eat me! Swallow me whole! Like a dinosaur!” Serala is laughing openly now, mock-fear clear on her expression. “It might be full of ducks, ready to leap out and ambush me!”
Inside the room, there’s a large rectangular platform, too big for one person. On top is something that looks thick and soft and piled with blankets and sleeping hides. At the end of this is a large wooden chest. There’s also a small table with a stool, a shelf with various boxes on either side of a window big enough to be a door with its shutters open.
Looking at what must be the bed, it seems likely that Finarvi wasn’t exaggerating after all.
Serala moves across to the bed and pokes at it gently… her tentative promptly vanish up to her palm in the luxurious softness. “There is such a thing as overkill, you know…” And her words don’t stop her, for a single second, backing up, before taking a run at the bed and all but vaulting onto it, and floofing right into its softness. “Hey Varanis… I think I might suffocate,” she giggles. “Heeeeeelp me!” Even the straight-laced Serala can be silly when safely in private, as Varanis knows full well.
Varanis laughs aloud and when she launches herself in the direction of Serala, it seems like discretion has been forgotten after all.
- 1insight? Varanis rolls a 2.