[AW] there ain't no gold in this river
Quote:Tend to the Garden — water/trim/prune the plants, till the soil, ensure critter or pest damage is minimalized, etc. Even in winter, mulch can be laid down, plants can be covered with burlap, and other maintenance can be performed.

All around her there were towers of evergreen. The centre of the garden spiralled out in sleepy rows; the beds laid to rest beneath a layer of mulching leaves. There had been hoops of twisted willow to keep some of the taller plants upright, but now many lay wind torn and flat.

Odalis worked in a circle, tidying the rows with a long hoe before dropping to her knees, content to work the dirt with her hands. There were tubers to be saved and replanted, soggy weeds to be pulled as the earth prepared to sleep.

She sang as she worked, old songs that she had thought forgotten. They were from a life she had written off; a life filled with courtly intrigue and ruffles of silk as long as her arm. Marina had brightened her life in ways that she had not expected, but she found herself watching for fluffs of white hair - signs that Alejandra had come to reclaim her child.

A snarl rippled through her throat, interrupting her song.

With a grunt she realized she had clenched her fists in the dirt. She wiped her hands on her apron and sat back on her heels to survey her work.

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Odalis be working in the garden :)
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The garden was located along the narrow path that headed towards the eastern border. Whisper knew this because she sometimes rode horses along the path. Today, though, she had chosen to bring Tanya on foot – her father had told her that they could begin training her to take a saddle in the spring, something which delighted the young woman. She had spent many long months getting the yearling used to her, and now thought that they had formed a solid (if still growing) bond.

It was almost comical, in some way – the tall wolfdog leading the palomino by her lead, neither burdened by anything more than their own skin. Every so often Whisper would give a command, either with her hands or with the lead, and Tanya would react and follow these orders. While feisty, she did fall in line relatively easily. At least this was how she behaved for Whisper, who despite her capacity to hold a firm hand, spoiled the pretty mare with attention and treats.

There was another path that circle back along the creek, though Whisper intended to divert from the Deception and cut through the woodland itself. She would be able to follow this back to the main road and then home. It would be a good walk for the pair of them, though slower than a proper ride might one day be.

A woman with red hair was in the garden. She was recognizable not only for this but from the long fall of her ears and tawny fur. The former-servant had once been her neighbor, though Whisper had little idea where Odalis had gone after the Boss forgave her debt.

She looked irritated, Whisper thought. When her gaze drifted to the garden, she noted the collection of torn plants and upturned earth made in the woman's wake. This carnage had left gaps between the flowers and herbs, though Whisper recognized weeds within these piles and imagined this was what all of the debris was.

“It's looking better,” she commented, though she and her horse lingered on the path beyond the stick-fence.

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She picked debris from her apron and cast it off onto the path. Soon the first frost would come through and harden the earth so that it was no longer workable. Whenever she worked in the garden it reminded her of Thalia’s rose gardens. They had sprawled across the Amaranthe grounds in a kaleidoscope of colors.

The Salsolan garden was cast in shades of brown.

The sound of a horse distracted her from her musings, and Odalis raised her head to squint with her good eye. Whisper Eternity lead the animal towards her, the pretty horse following obediently behind.

When she called out, Odalis raised a hand in tentative greeting.

”I wasn’t expecting to see anyone out here.” She rubbed dirt from her palms and raised an arched brow, "You have an interest in gardening?"

(///) | NPCs: na

just noting Whisper is leading her horse and not riding at the moment! :>

Whisper had to think about her answer. She supposed plants were of some interest. Mostly, she needed to know which were and were not safe for herself and the horses. Everything outside of that seemed less important. Sure, she knew a little bit about food, but Heulwen usually handled this. Once she moved out, she'd have to come up with her own meals.

The hunt with Wrath came to mind. She scowled a little, but the expression hardly changed the stern lines of her face.

“Not particularly, no,” she answered honestly. “But I come by here, and it was getting ugly and really overgrown. It looks better now.”

Her hawkish eyes fixed on Odalis. The ugly scar that cut down her face had left her eye blind and cloudy. It was one of her most interesting features. Whisper had seen plenty of others with scars, which she had learned about early in her youth, and knew them to be signs of survival. Had Odalis not been strong enough to survive, she would not have been welcomed into Salsola.

That meant something, Whisper knew, though she could not fully quantify the meaning.

“Do you like gardening?”

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”Thanks.” She huffed softly, finally allowing herself to come to a stand. Odalis surveyed her work and allowed a ghost of smile to settle on her features. One day she would bring Marina to the garden and teach her how to grow seedlings. Argive would know more of the medicinal plants and their uses – much of what Odalis knew was for ornamental design. She aspired to have a personal flower garden that would bring anyone down to their knees with its beauty.

She picked her nails and canted her head towards the horse.

”There’s something about watching everything grow – it feels good.” She made her way to the fence, rubbing her hands on her apron. ”I’m sure it’s the same when you work with your horse and see her skills improve.”

”I used to have a horse. Now that I'm... free-” She raised a brow. The word still tasted strange on her tongue, 'I would like to get another one. Teach Marina how to ride."

(///) | NPCs: na

“Yes,” Whisper agreed. She had gotten Tanya when she was young, and her father's mare – the white one – had given birth to a little colt early in the summer. He had grown up remarkably fast. Too fast, Whisper thought, for he had been weaned and taken away from their home already. Her father had told her this had always been the plan, but after her conversation with Velour, the young horsewoman was trying to decide how she felt about the matter.

She looked back at the palomino, who regarded her with a bored sort of expression. Amused, Whisper blew air out of her nose.

“You should talk with my father. Sometimes there are horses he is willing to trade.” As she recalled the status of the woman in the garden, Whisper made what she thought was a muted noise (in reality, it was quite noticeable). They had a woman indebted to their family, after all. All of the things Heulwen had came from her parents. What would Odalis, who had spent a longer time in servitude than Whisper had upon the earth, possibly have to offer for such a prize?

“You could always borrow a horse too,” Whisper went on. “I can't ride Tanya yet, she's too young. When I want to ride I take one of the other horses.”

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When Marina finally turned one (a notion which suddenly struck Odalis as strange, fo she did not know when her daughter had been born) she would give her a gift – just as her mother had her. Akantha had doted on her first born daughter with the hopes that one day she would ascend as the next Baronessa. Instead Odalis had sought freedoms in the wilds of her birthplace – a twisted tale that had never gone as intended.

A horse would be useful, and Odalis sought to provide the little girl every opportunity.

”Who is your favorite?” There were many to choose from in the stable – all with pretty markings and shiny hooves – but Odalis trusted the word of the Equinests daughter. ”I’ve always thought that the horses your father breeds are quite handsome.”

(///) | NPCs: na

There were plenty of horses among the ones kept in Salsola's stables. Even among its people, most households had something of the sort – for travel, or muscle. There was more variety in the private stock, which were not bound to anything more than what their owner desired. Horses did not require wise masters, though this could prove costly for both Luperci and beast in the long-run.

“Favorite” did not always mean best. Right now, even though she was still learning, Tanya was Whisper's favorite of all. She had bonded with the young filly, and when she was old enough to take to saddle they could really begin training. Until then, Whisper relied on the other animals Salsola made available for her to improve her own skills.

“I think it depends on what you're doing,” Whisper explained. “Laurel is a good horse if you wish to travel far. If you want to go fast, you'd want a Pauson. Iskra, she's a good horse – she has a foal now, so you wouldn't be able to use her.” The young woman paused and considered the rest of the animals in the collective.

“Zaria would be my other favorite. She's big – she's Tanya's mother,” the wolf added with a smile, and turned to pat her mare on the neck.

“A better horse will be more valuable,”
Whisper added not long after. “But sometimes there are more horses. If you do want to go riding sometime, I could go with you.”

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Odalis brightened somewhat at the girls offer. It had been so long since she had set foot outside of Salsolan territory that she wondered if anything had changed. The Court of Miracles was gone, Sapients territory long absorbed by some other group. Anticipation prickled over her shoulders and settled in her gut and she offered a pleased grin.

”I used to like going fast – you know, feeling the wind in your hair.”

She huffed, ”But its been awhile. Better to start with an easy ride.”

”If you ever wanted company… I would be intrigued to go beyond the border.” She shrugged her shoulders, ”It’s been awhile.”

Now that she was a properly ranked member of the pack the world was her oyster – the neutral lands filled with Outsiders and secrets that were ripe for the taking.

(136) | NPCs: na

Whisper smiled. She did know the feeling – oh, she could run fast on her own legs, but when she was on the back of a horse things felt different. From high up she could see farther, and she was not half so tired as she was after she ran. Horses and wolves were made to run. It was one of the things that she found familiar about the animals, even if they were very, very different from Luperci.

“We can start slow,” she assured the red-head. It would help Whisper determine Odalis' capacity on horseback, and whether or not she could handle a speedy horse. Some of their collection required firm hands, and while gardening demanded a certain amount of strength, controlling a half-ton animal was an entirely different matter. It was not Odalis herself that Whisper was concerned about, but her impact upon the horse. A foolish or ignorant handler could damage even the sturdiest of animals. As someone who not only valued but greatly loved horses, Whisper could not in good conscious allow this to pass.

“If not before winter, then after,” the wolfdog agreed. Behind her, Tanya pushed her nose into Whisper's shoulders abruptly. The young woman glared at her young mare briefly and then turned back to Odalis. “I'm going to keep going now,” she said. “I'll talk to you again.”

They exchanged farewells, and Whisper and the horse continued on the trail, leaving Odalis to her work.

[+ 243]

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