Xenofos — At The Blue Tree Village
Blue Tree Tula, harvest time [[[s02:session-54|Session 54]]]
Sun is shining warmly as it does in days ofharvest. On the road from Dangerford two riders approach Blue tree tula resting peacefully in the sun, like it was taking a breather before getting down to the great effort of reaping the harvest.
A voice from the hillside calls, “Identify yourselves!” The scout is well hidden, but steps out after a moment so she can be addressed. She might one of the hunters here, dressed without fur because of the heat, but in a jerkin and a short skirt. She has the sun behind her; little more can be seen.
The man raises his right hand, empty. “I am Xenofos of Saiciae, cousin of your thane. We came in peace, with tidings.”
“Pass on,” the huntress calls, and fades back into her hide. A moment later there is a horn call; a plain one, easily faked but also impossible not to hear.
Xenofos nods to Lenta and the two ride forward towards the village of the Blue Tree.
By the time they arrive, there are a few people gathered to meet them. Tall in any crowd, bare-chested and hot from exercise, is Venlar. Arianatha and a couple of old women are there, looking well dressed, and a crowd of mid-sized children make everyone look taller than they are. It is the Vingan who steps forward to bow to Xenofos, saying, “Welcome, thane’s cousin. Dogva tends to the fields, and will be here soon. Come take refreshment.”
“Thank you for your welcome Arianatha. May I introduce to you my countrywoman, lady Lenta, returning from war in Tarsh.” Scribe gestures towards the Ernaldan still sitting on her horse.
Arianatha gestures to Venlar, who looks a little surprised but comes over to offer Lenta help in dismounting. “All welcome,” she says. “The more so if you bring good news.” She does not seem worried the news will be bad. Venlar might be, but if so he is too busy trying to find out what Lenta needs to ask.
Lenta makes a bow to Arianatha as gracefully as a noblewoman can despite being on horseback. She takes Venlar’s hand and slides down.1 normal fail, it could be more graceful landing but there is Venlar to lean on
Venlar hands off the horse to one of the larger children, with a quiet instruction to look after the tack well, and politely disentangles himself from Lenta. At least, as politely as one can in such situations.
“My chief’s house is yours,” Arianatha says. “Come cool down after your long journey, and we can fend off children. Our warriors are at play, but may come by to gossip.” She turns to limp towards the greathouse, age sitting heavier on her than when the group left.
“Thank you for your hospitality, good Vingan. It is met with gratitude” Lenta answers undaunted by her dismounting. Xenofos asks another kid if he will get his horse tended too and follows the women.
Venlar follows afterwards. “Yehna should be on her way,” he says. “Someone took a horse out for her. You know they just run beside them as friends here, sometimes?” The last is to Lenta, who may or may not have seen the size of the local horses.
“Is that so? How fascinating.” Lenta answers to Venlar without turning. “Can I help you, aunt.” She asks the Vingan stepping on her side.
Arianatha shakes her head. “No, I’ve got people who would get jealous.” She pulls herself upright, thinks better of it, and calls for food and drink for the travellers. Venlar takes the hint from Lenta, and drops back.
A slim figure in dark brown is by the largest hearth, which is currently unlit. She is singing to a baby. The pale skin and dark hair are familiar – Yamia. Yamia, in dark linen, not thin wool. The song is a nursery rhyme, the words unfamiliar but the notion identical here and in Esrolia. On the other side of the fire from her are two other mothers with small children, looking like they are glad to be here but wondering quite what is happening.
Arianatha stumps past that to the high table, and gestures to one end. “Sit, be at ease. Kick off your shoes.” There is already a large bowl of water there, and a jug and beakers.
Xenofos nods to Yamia. Lenta looks at her curiously while passing. At the table she bows to Arianatha exactly as one should to an aunt of different clan and sits down.
Yamia gives Xenofos a slow nod, and Lenta a look of interest that sharpens and then turns to apparent amusement.
Arianatha has laid on all the conveniences – a couple of children come up to offer to wash hands and feet. Behind them, a crowd of toddlers stares, ready to stampede.
The Esrolians look at the proceedings, divest themselves of their riding boots and let the children do their work.
Arianatha asks, as they settle down, “What can you tell us before Dogva arrives?” just as hooves outside augur an arrival. The toddlers do indeed stampede, one of them running straight for the door and shouting ‘mama!’ As he has to plough through the rest, this sends them off in all directions.
Xenofos is left looking at the kids.
“Alda-Chur has fallen to King Argrath after the siege.” Lenta tells the Vingan.
“It’s done, then. Payback for the Praxians, I suppose.” Arianatha does not show joy or despair.
The various women – except for Yamia – get up to console children and gather them up. The disruptive toddler is scooped up at the door by Yehna, who kisses him and then has to put up with him wriggling to get onto her shoulders. He shouts in joy as she walks towards the top table.
Xenofos’ face is lit with quiet smile as he looks at the approaching woman. Lenta looks at her and there is flicker of hesitation before she smiles politely.
“Hush, little warrior.” Yehna swings Haran off. “You have met Xenofos, but you were too small to know.” She does not approach the table until Arianatha says, “This is Yehna, daughter of Jarang.”
“How is Berra?” Yehna looks hopeful. Xenofos gets her attention after a tiny but polite bow to Lenta.2 Lenta will probably be able to find a family resemblance. They’re 4:5 scale models of each other.
The little warrior holds onto his mother’s hands and swings on them, kicking up his legs. Yehna relaxes into a relieved smile. “Oh good. Thank you.” She expertly dodges Haran’s attempt to try to twist around to climb up her with his feet.
“I can see resemblance to his aunt. She told you to kiss Haran for her. It is all in the letter though if you want to read that somewhere in peace and quiet.” Xenofos hands over the rambling letter Berra dictated in Dangerford. “She was hurrying to her temple to report.”
There is a brief moment in which Yehna can take the letter while she twirls Haran around with one hand. “Thank you. I should pay the monster some attention or he will eat me.”
“Eatchoo,” Haran replies.
Lenta looks with fascinated horror. Xenofos smiles. “Ofcourse. We’ll talk later, if you have questions of wish to send an answer to her? I think we are leaving early in the morning.”
“I’ll let you know.” Yehna gives Lenta a despairing smile as she is pulled away. She might want to look at Xenofos, but that is not what Haran wants her to do.
“A handful, that one,” says Arianatha, and picks up the jug to fill Lenta’s cup. “Have you ever had perry before?”
“I don’t think I have had he pleasure, no.” Lenta says with a relieved smile after that one meter tall storm has passed.
“Then you’ll want it with a little water.” Arianatha pours. “If you know Rajar, you’ll know someone who likes it strong.”
It is a few minutes before Dogva arrives. Haran pulls his mother over to every corner of the hall and excitedly shows her things, then is given a stick of something to chew on, during which time Yehna makes her escape, going over to Yamia to have the letter read.
Xenofos greets the chief politely when he arrives. Lenta follows suit when she notes him raising, maybe Dogva did not look like a chief to her.
Dogva has put on decent clothes, after coming up from the field. Behind him are a couple of warriors, and Venlar, who is now resplendent in embroidered clothing that probably came from Wilmskirk, and perfume and make-up that definitely came from Nochet. Between the four of them there is a fair show of wealth, if one is from a poor in Northern Sartar.
Dogva recites the ritual greetings well, asks after health, and finally invites them to come sit by him, not at the table’s end. The children who have done the foot-washing get to look about them proudly, but are given no words of reward.
Lenta looks at Xenofos and then thanks the chief for his kind welcome.
He has questions, of course, first for one guest and then for another; what happened in Alda Chur, is Argrath unhurt, what does Kallyr say?
Xenofos and Lenta have answers for some of the questions. Some they could not possibly know since they have not been to Boldhome.
Despite water and drinking carefully Lenta has a small hickcough.
Dogva is asking related questions, nothing that could offend anyone left alive until he knows what is going on, and he is finding out what is going on pretty well. His instincts are good, for the chief of a clan so far off the beaten track that the road has cinders on it. However, he is also a polite man, and is swift with coming to a close, asking, “Do you have a place to stay for the night?” about the time that Lenta starts to make tiny noises.
“Nothing settled yet, chief. I wish to talk with my cousin and travel early tomorrow morning. I came mainly for that, and to bring tidings from Berra to Yehna. See my own tenants if they are present and have time…” scholar says over his cup of perry.
Dogva nods. “If Yehna has not yet claimed you, then I shall. Thus Mellia might over-rule me, but their house is still plans, and this one larger than her room at the shrine. We have expanded it.” To Lenta he says, “Dear green woman, you are welcome here, but I need not hold you – the roof is yours to wander under.”
Xenofos looks first at Yehna tugged around by Haran and then at Lenta who thanks Dogva for his kind offer.
Yehna is now lying on her back with Haran sitting on her, playing a clapping game. Yamia has handed over the letter to Venlar, who is explaining the worth of the envelope to her. She looks very patient. The baby in her arms looks very small, already dark-haired like its uncle, and pale-skinned.
Xenofos strokes his beard, watches Haran and Yehna playing and for a while misses the thread of discussion between Dogva and Lenta.
Haran is very active, very glad to have his mother there. Yehna is getting talked at a lot, although the boy cannot really talk. He has his aunt’s hair.
After a while Xenofos nods and excuses himself and mutters something about Mellia.