1627, Dark Season
Varanis and Yehna do a bit of house-hunting in Boldhome. After session 55 (Wolf at the Door).
Varanis catches up with Yehna at the Grape one morning while Berra is still at her temple. “I’ve heard of a couple of houses for sale out near the West Pocket. Do you have time to come look with me?”
“Yes!” Yehna looks excited already. “I would love to.” Haran is out being walked. It is a good time for her to leave.
“Let’s bundle up then. The snow is surprisingly deep! But I’m eager to get out for some air. It’s crisp.” Varanis heads up the stairs to her little room without waiting for any reply from Yehna, returning swiftly with a heavy cloak and her odd bison-hair hat. She really is eager to get outside.
Yehna dresses in thick wool, and a horsehair cloak a lot like Venlar’s. While Varanis is away she asks about the roads, and on her return says, “Riding animals will be fine.”
“You’ve met my horses, right?” Varanis says with a laugh. Nevertheless, she agrees to bring Doqeia.
“You don’t have to,” Yehna says, “But they need exercise too. You don’t have a groom, do you?” Rondrik gets a nod, and goes off to get the animals ready, which is more than he does for most people. He likes Yehna.
“I usually saddle my beasts myself. They are ornery and I try not to inflict them on others. Serala taught me that.”
“Serala is not a noble,” Yehna says. “It is good you know how to, but your time should not be taken on that.”
“She is very important in her clan!” Varanis protests.
“But she does not know the importance of Sartarite thanes,” Yehna says evenly. “How could she?”
Varanis sighs. “I can’t seem to work things out, you know. I’m too Sartarite for Esrolia, too Esrolian for Sartar and the things I’ve learned these last couple of years from the people I hold dear are often unhelpful. Alright. I have chosen Sartar as my home. I will listen to your advice on how to do that right. I suppose this means we’ll need a groom for the house?” It starts as a complaint but shifts into something more determined before she’s done. She will do this right.
Yehna says, “We’ll need the right servants. A groom is an expert, but if you are not present, you might not need one.” She walks through into the stables as she talks. “One of the questions to think about is whether you leave your horses in the care of someone else. Stabling for a household of warriors is expensive, but they do make sure there is always a warm space. A groom will have to have other duties as well. He might be your doorkeeper.”
Rondrik is managing the work pretty well, although Doqeia is not helping. Yehna adds, “A groom means you are employing someone who otherwise might go hungry.”
Varanis nods thoughtfully. “A groom who is also a doorkeeper. Someone comfortable with diverse riding animals.”
“And a cook. I can do that while I am here, but…” Yehna hesitates. “I might be elsewhere.” It sounds like she has found a husband, or one has found her – the way she says it talks of future movements to ‘elsewhere’.[ Fumbled Insight (Human) from Varanis.]
Varanis leaps to that conclusion quickly. “Have you chosen a husband already?”
Yehna has a Berra stare sometimes. Now is one of those times. “I haven’t thought about it,” she says quietly, when she manages to get her voice back.
“Oh. I just… sorry.” Varanis flushes. Or else the cold has reddened her cheeks. “Clearly I’ve been spending too much time with Mellia’s husband. The man thinks like a Grandmother sometimes.”
“He’s very persuasive,” Yehna says. “And I think he’s right about it, but not yet. I have time. I’m nineteen.” She shrugs, and goes to pull Rode out of the stable, her face softly sad. “Let us ride, and look.”
Varanis takes Doqeia’s reins and follows. She remains silent for a time, possibly still chewing her shoe leather.
Yehna lets Varanis lead for a while, looking out over the whitened city-scape. The roads are mostly clear of snow, although here and there is packed ice, dangerous to those who do not know it is there, but not a problem as long as one follows the flows of traffic. The road rises towards the West Pocket.
Varanis slows her mare to let Yehna come alongside. “How do I find a wet nurse?”
Yehna replies, “If there isn’t a young mother who can’t use her milk, then you ask at the House of Ernalda.” A moment later, just like Berra does, she adds a thing. Yehna differs by not changing the subject. “For Yamia, we all knew who should do it. Enranin’s got a child already, but she’s really good at feeding, and only needed to help, not to do it all.”
“Did… Does Yamia feed Tamakt herself?” Varanis looks surprised. “She’s so very… Humakti.”
“She does, a little,” Yehna replies. “She really loves him, for all she is a Humakti, but has no way to tell him that, so she feeds him love. But she could not keep him from starving if it were only her.”
“Ah. I… hmmm.” Varanis falls silent and rides ahead again. A few breaths later, “I think we want that street,” she says, pointing.
Yehna dutifully follows, letting Varanis lead.
They come to a large, two-story house at the end of the street. While the houses to either side are well-maintained, this one shows its age.
Varanis looks at it skeptically. “I think this is it.”
Yehna looks it over thoughtfully. “I see…” She does not concentrate like Berra does. Her face looks puzzled, not angry.
“I was told that the woman who lives here has decided to retire to her Temple in her final years. She has no children left and her husband died a while back.” Varanis adds, “I don’t know much else about it, save that she has lived here since her marriage, back in Tarkalor’s reign, I think.”
“We should talk to the Household Guardian, and find out if it is a good place,” Yehna says. “And summon an Elemental to look over the roots. I think it could work if you did not want to show off your wealth from the start, though. The wood in the walls does not look twisted, and the wall has good stone. Have you asked what her neighbours think of her?”
Varanis looks sheepish. “No? It didn’t occur to me.”
“That’s alright. They might be able to tell you more than they think, even if they like her. Are we going in, or are we going on?”
“Let’s go in. She’s expecting me today anyway. I sent a message yesterday.” Varanis glances around, but there are no signs of anyone to take the horses and the stable must be out back. “Will you hold my reins while I knock, please?”
Yehna dismounts. She is good enough around horses not to give Doqiea an easy opportunity, although she does not ride well.
The snow lies in drifts in front of the door. Footprints show that someone has left the property recently, but no attempt has been made to clear the snow. Picking her way through it, Varanis comes to the door and knocks.
Where Berra would be clambering up the wall, Yehna just waits patiently in the snow.
The door is opened by an aging woman. She and Varanis exchange a few words and shortly thereafter a youth comes to take the reins from Yehna, inviting her to join Varanis.
Yehna gives the young man a smile and a thank you, and goes in, shaking off her cloak as she reaches the door.
“Mistress Kenyr is resting just now,” the woman tells them. “But I am to show you around if you wish. I am her housekeeper.” The housekeeper looks as if she could do with a rest too, but her welcome is an honest one.
Yehna lets Varanis speak, although her eyes travel and she is obviously taking in details.
“Thank you,” Varanis replies with a charming smile. “We would love to see it and to hear about the house from someone who has lived here a while.”(Let me just roll that charm… Lol. Not a fumble, anyway.) (Berra: Heheh.)
They look through the house and while the housekeeper answers questions, she offers little of her own accord. The interior is in better condition on the lower level than the outside might imply, but the upper rooms are crammed full of things and it is difficult to get a sense of the place. A bitter draft runs through the upper floor.
Yehna nods a little, from time to time, like she is taking this in. Berra would be wriggling into crannies, or at the very least, moving to get a better view of everything.
When they are done, Varanis says the appropriate things and they make their escape back into the cold.
Yehna says only, “Let us look at the other one?”
“Agreed.” Varanis leads them back up the street. This time, the house they are looking at lies really close to the base of the Pocket, just off Brass Street. The houses here look well-maintained. High-end crafters, priests, thanes – it’s too low on the wall for the richest of these, but definitely a well-to-do area.
“This would be an easier one. What is the price on each?” Yehna huddles under her cloak, as the cold finally starts to get to her.
“The first was 60 wheels with some of the staff staying on. This one is more. At least 80,” Varanis tells her. “I wouldn’t be able to buy it on my own, but the choices are limited and I wanted to see.”
“That’s good to know.” Yehna does not voice more, but does look at the door and the wall as before. “You knock. I want to hang back again.”
Varanis nods and heads for the door.
A man answers, taking a moment to work out who Varanis is, and then invites her in. Yehna gets a glance and he calls for someone to hold the horses.
Varanis waits for Yehna and when she is freed up, the Vingan enters the house, looking around as she does.
“My Lady has instructed me to give you every possible help,” the doorman says. “Please ask if you wish to know aught.”
“Thank you,” Varanis tells him. “Have you lived here long?”
“Twenty years,” he replies. “I took service when I was an apprentice but never got on in my guild.” He’s a garrulous one, and it looks like he could spout away at any provocation.
“I would appreciate a tour of the house and anything you might tell me of its history then,” Varanis says. “Twenty years is very respectable.”
He takes her around, showing interesting carvings, the fine state of the walls, the stone-built chimney in the kitchen, and a double-seated latrine. “Good for a big household,” as he points out. There are beams painted and carved in a Heortland style, which is to say, Heortling with stories that are not entirely familiar. The place is large, although for the price it would have to be. There are eight rooms including a large entrychamber. The stables are separate, but there is a door out of the garden and into the back of them. Everything is neat and well presented, although a house goose that looks exceedingly pleased with itself for being upstairs hisses to protect one of the rugs. Yehna gives a small offering to the household snake.
This place is about what is needed.
“Thank you for your time,” Varanis says. “I will be in touch with your Lady and when I am, I shall inform her of how well you have carried out your duties. You are a credit to her.”
He bows his head, explains to the stable boy that these fine people are to be given their mounts, and sees them out.
As they ride back, Varanis tells Yehna, “I want to help the widow, but I am not sure if I can take on a project like that in Dark Season. Getting builders in would be expensive.”
“You cannot,” Yehna says. “You would have to start on it when the weather improves, and it felt like there was a hole there, so the rains will make things worse. It would be a wheel or two extra by the time you could get to it. But it is a nice house and at a low price. Only you would not be able to move in this winter.”
“With the baby coming… I want a home sooner, rather than later.” Varanis looks startled suddenly. “I think it just kicked me. Do you think that means anything?”
“It means it’s impatient, like a Heortling should be,” Yehna says. “There’s also the smaller house we saw, with the nice courtyard. That one would work, but it doesn’t have stabling. It’s a cheaper option, but it doesn’t look cheap.”
“Where would our animals go?”
“The King’s herd, as she is your kin,” Yehna replies. “Or a Hyorling shrine. You’d be saving money on it, probably, given how much they would be eating even in stabling here, but it it less convenient.”
“Do we get Berra back tonight? Or in the morning?”
“We could go to the Temple after dusk,” Yehna replies. “It is not too windy.”
“I would like to discuss it with her. I got the impression that she wants to share the costs, though I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to do.”
Yehna’s expression says she worries for her sister, but her voice is businesslike. “It would be fine for you to each own part of the house as long as the Earth Temple agrees,” she says. “I am sure of that.”
“They’ll test her limits, but they won’t harm her, Yehna. I trust D’Val.” She tries to reach out to offer reassurance to the Ernaldan, but Doqeia takes offence at a swirl of snow and she needs both hands for the reins.
Yehna nods. “I know she would follow him anywhere, because she trusts him, but she has never been good at knowing when to stop.”
“He is though.”
“Very well. We can go see her in the morning.” Yehna seems convinced.