1627, Storm Season, Truth Week
Late in Storm Season, Berra’s room at the house has become very full with the addition of Yehna’s lover, Mehrim. Varanis eyes the door in perplexity every time she passes it.
There are often the sounds of singing or talking behind it, which at least means they are not tucked behind their blanket-hangings, sharing secrets of Orlanth and Ernalda. They are generally good about not making too much noise when that happens.
One day, Varanis enters the kitchen with her baby wrapped onto her the way Yamia showed her. Little Berra is quietly snoring. “Yehna? Do you have time for me to ask you about something important?”
“Of course,” Yehna says with a touch of distraction. “Let me just get this over with…” She pulls a stringy hank of wool from her copper dye-pot, a new thing bought by her lover, examines it, and puts it back in. “It needs cooling time.” The dye-pot gets hung on a hook, and Yehna checks her bare arms for splashes before rolling down her sleeves. She is in older clothes today, just in case of accidents.
The Vingan watches with curiosity. “What colour will it be?”
“It’s going to be a deep green, but with a touch of red to it. Not bright. I’m trying to match something that Mehrim’s mother made for him. This is the first dye, and it’s yellow-orange once it sets, but it looks really pale until it does, I’m told. When it starts turning you take it off the heat and let the fire settle into it.”
“Ah.” Awkwardly, Varanis shifts in place. Finally she asks, “Are you marrying him?”
Yehna says, “I really like him. I think I want to. I think maybe I want to more than he wants to, but I know he wants to.” Her face softens into a smile. “I’m trying to stay level-headed, but he’s very sweet…”
A fond smile turns up the corners of Varanis’ lips. “I’m glad you like him. I like seeing you happy.” The smile fades as she studies the young Ernaldan. “I want to ask you a thing, but… I want you to understand that you should feel free to refuse what I’m asking. It will not change anything between us if you say no.”
Yehna returns the gaze for a few long moments, and then nods. “Ask, then.” There is a lot of Berra in her when she looks straight at someone, and a hint of someone that Berra does not resemble; a softer chin, a different shape to the lips at rest.
“I cannot be Berra’s mother. I’m just… not that. While she may grow up to join a temple one day, I want her to have a choice. I want her to have a family.” Varanis stares down at the cloud of fine red hair on top of her baby’s head. She turns her gaze back to Yehna, glassy-eyed, but determined. “Would you consider being her mother for me?”
Yehna looks down at the little bundle, steps close, and bends to drop a kiss on Berra’s head.[Special on Fertility. Baby needs help! Adopt!] “Of course,” she says. “Babies should be loved by those who know how to do it best.” The look she gives Varanis is full of care, maybe even joy, maybe even sorrow.
“I understand, thank you for… wait. You said yes? You will love her and teach her? And kiss her better when she is sick and all the things that a mother does? And will Haran be her brother and he will love her too?” As Varanis’ disappointment turns to disbelieving joy, she begins to babble about all the things she wants for her daughter. The things she feels she missed out on herself.
“I’ll tell him he has a sister, although I might break it to him carefully. He needs to want things before he has them. But yes. I can look after two. It’s not much harder than one, if you have a village around you.” Yehna looks at Berra and her hand lifts to stroke the baby’s back, even from a step away.
“I will make sure you have everything you need,” Varanis promises. “A wet nurse and guard, clothing, extra food, whatever you need.”
Yehna considers. “I suppose I should talk to the Earth Temple,” she says. “Either there or here. I suppose you’ll want her brought up like a Lordling?”
Varanis considers. “She will need the skills to manage in that world,” she admits. “She is of Sartar’s line and that might matter one day.”
Yehna says, “I don’t know how to do that, but I can learn. Can you not tell anyone for the next few days? I’ll make sure that Haran wants a sister, and there are a few other things to handle.” She finds Berra to smile at again.
The baby begins to stir. A chubby arm finds its way out of the wrap to wave about. Dark blue eyes open and peer up at the Vingan. Varanis smiles sadly at her child, and little Berra returns the look with her first smile. “She… smiled!” Varanis bursts into tears and Berra begins to wail in response.
“Sometimes they do,” Yehna says. “They’re still finding our what their faces are.” She reaches for the baby, and then says, “Not just now. Take her to her nurse. Give me until the end of Windsday. I need that long.”
Varanis nods and then flees, seeking the wet nurse.