1627, Dark Season
At the Sambari mansion in Boldhome. After Session 2.55 (Wolf at the Door).
One evening later in Dark Season, after the house has been purchased and as it is being prepared for Varanis and Berra to take possession, Varanis drops by the Sambari mansion to speak to Venlar.
Venlar is taking a little air on one of the terraces, which coincidentally looks over the town. He greets Varanis with a bow. “My Thane. What joyful errand brings you here?”
“I come for advice, Venlar,” she says, greeting him with an Esrolian kiss to the cheek. “But could we perhaps talk inside? Near a hearth?” Her nose and cheeks are red with cold and her eyes have the glassy look of someone who has been riding in a brisk wind.
“Of course.” He sweeps into the house, and orders a brazier brought to a room that is already cosy. “We can take it out if we get too hot,” he explains. “And this way we are not taking up the main hearths.” There is no fire here, but for some reason the room is toasty.
She sheds the cloak, handing it to a servant to ensure that it is hung to dry. It’s a wonder anybody could be cold wearing that much fur. Beneath she is wearing layers of wool clothing, and her growing bump has become visible. She gratefully takes a seat close to the brazier.
Venlar calls for a bowl of wine and a table to be set down as well, as if aware one must have standards. He lets the silence grow once the servant has left, making sure that the wine is mixed with his usual care for such things; he spills nothing.
“How do I make sure that the servants I hire aren’t anyone’s spies?” she blurts, forgoing the formalities in favour of expediency.
“By making them your spies,” he replies instantly. “Bring them from home and keep them busy with things that give them pride.”
“From Esrolia? Those will inevitably be Grandmother’s people. Or did you mean Blue Tree?”
“Which of those is home to you really?” he says in admonition. “You have the chance to employ people of the Blue Tree, and even perhaps give them gifts they can send home. That would be your initial pool.”
Varanis flinches at his criticism. “I have hides, but no place to live there,” she points out. “But yes, your suggestion is a good one. And I’m sure that between you and Yehna, we can work out who is best suited and most likely to come.”
“There is an option that I personally would think better,” he ventures, “But it may not be to your taste.”
“Oh?” She sips at the wine and then returns the bowl to the table, giving him her full attention.
He picks up the bowl. “I would not try to stop spies. I would decide who in my household should have access to what, instead. Am I a spy for my father, or am I a link to him?” He takes a sip as he watches Varanis.
She stares at him wordlessly, trying to make sense of his meaning.
He gives her another moment. He is enjoying the wine.
Although her expression becomes outwardly blank, there is a storm brewing in her eyes. To Venlar’s familiar gaze, it looks like hurt and confusion, rather than anger, but it could blow in that direction.
“If you decided to ask the Prince for advice,” Venlar says, “Then Tennebris would no doubt provide, and protect you from other provision.”
She sighs heavily then, slumping a little. “Berra to High Sword Eril, Irillo to Grandmother, Rajar to Venna, you to your father… it is all the same, isn’t it? My life is not my own and I have known this for a long time. I just tried to pretend that I could make it so for a while.”
“Not entirely what I meant,” Venlar says. “I am your ally, and Berra and Rajar, your friends. We have other friends too, and that is a different matter. You must control your household, and that includes deciding what it tells and how.”
“I see. I think. It is not a good time for people to make the journey from Blue Tree, so perhaps I will see if I can hire short-term with a possibility of staying on after Sacred Time.” She chews her lower lip. “I’m sorry for my sudden suspicion. Sometimes my emotions carry me away right now. I’d have thought being pregnant would make me feel more Ernaldan, but instead I just feel scattered.”
“You are a child of movement,” he says, “Far more than I. It is a failing in me as an Orlanthi.” He offers over the wine bowl. From him it looks like a grand gesture. “To be a child of the Air is to be open to the world, proud and naked. We hide only in storms, and those are of our own making. What fear do you have of spies, that is not something mere household gossip will not echo?”
She arches a brow at him. “I know you’ve been to Esrolia. But, let me consider my answer.”
The wine stays close by for a moment longer. She takes the bowl and sips at it, passing it back. “You have excellent taste in wine.”
He smiles a little. “I cannot take credit for more than the selection,” he notes. “It seems my father is well respected here.”
Finally, she attempts to explain. “I resent that my life belongs to others and the presence of spies is a reminder of that. Those sorts of spies I do not fear. It bothers me, but much in the same way that Grandmother’s meddling in my training did. It was the lack of freedom and choice.” She places her hands on her belly, which emphasizes the bump. “Those of my lineage… we must be careful who we trust. Having the wrong person in my home may mean there is someone there to clear the path for an assassin.”
“Ah, yes. I would think that you could live within the compass of the Prince, but you do not have to. Your life does not belong to others, however… you are the wind, trying to resist. Nobody will judge you here for anything but being yourself, and yet you fear it still. You are Vingan. Negotiate, but do not give way. Let the demands blow, and when it is done, you are still the Air and may consider what they say.”
“I shall think on your advice, Venlar. But still, I must return to this. How do I hire people within Boldhome that I can be certain will not allow anyone in to harm my child?”1What’s his insight? The roll I just did wasn’t definitive enough to make an assumption.2 45ish?
This is the first time that Venlar has heard her speak of the baby in the possessive. It might have been a slip in her use of Heortling though.
“Tennebris and the Prince,” he replies. “Or Humakti.”
Varanis grimaces. “The Humakti don’t have the best record for protecting Esroli…” She stops. “That is unjust of me. I shall speak to Kallyr and Tennebris. You are right.”
The baby kicks at her insides and she winces. “Please tell me you have an indoor latrine here?”
“Of course. Even the Sambari have heard of civilisation. Shall I show you there rather than waiting on a servant?” He is already standing up to do that.
She follows and after, she decides it is time to head back. She hugs Venlar, thanking him for his advice.
- 1What’s his insight? The roll I just did wasn’t definitive enough to make an assumption.