Number Six Cheeseman Street is solid; steady.
It’s the first place that Daja knows nothing short of an(other) earthquake can shake her from. No temple politics, no conditional welcome from friends or Trader caravans.
She’s drawn to the house first for its forge, already set up for a smith’s hot work. When she enters the small outbuilding, she’s immediately comforted by the lingering tang of hot metal. Though Cheeseman Street is a quiet lane, there’s something about the way the sharp scent of the smithy wraps around her that seems to insulate her even further.
The world is loud, and bright, with a dizzying array of aromas and textures. When Daja steps into a smithy, the overwhelmingness fades, becoming muffled by the familiar heat-light-smell . She’s used to experiencing the world through the shimmer of air as it wavers above hot coals; the dim lighting of a space whose main illumination comes from the roaring fire. When she leaves, the abrupt uptick in visual stimulus is frustrating.
She almost doesn’t want to leave the empty smithy to look at the rest of the house, though she knows she must. Her fingers itch with the desire to start the fire, to lay out her tools. She can almost hear the hiss, almost see the steam billow as white-hot iron meets water in the barrel that will live in the corner.
Daja runs her copper-covered palm over one of the stone workbenches, closing her eyes to try and gather the sense-memory of the forge and tuck it around her as she explores the rest of the property. She imagines it wrapped around her like a cloak, falling into her meditation breathing.
Some time later, she’s ready to brave the world again. Time to investigate the gardens and see if they’ll suit Briar.
The house is set back from the road, the land in front striped in neat furrows. Daja notes the trellises in some of the rows; clearly this is meant to serve as a small kitchen garden. Outside the tidy grid, clumps of purple and orange wildflowers grow along the edges of the land.
This is nice, but it’s not exactly what she’s looking for. She walks around to the back of the house and finds a secluded garden that seems more promising.
Several old oak trees form a sort of parallelogram, their canopies shading a mossy clearing. A previous owner tried to coax some vines to grow between the trees, but seems to have only been partially successful. The vines happily twine up the tree trunks and around some branches, but seem to be uninterested in growing between them.
Daja gently strokes a dark green vine where it coils around a low branch. It’s warm to the touch, and seems healthy. She suspects Briar will have more luck with the vines than the previous owners.
She slips her sandals off to step gently onto the moss. It squishes beneath her toes, cool and damp in the shade of the trees. She walks across the moss to investigate the large, flat rock under one of the trees, humming as she feels the moss spring back as she lifts her feet.
The boulder seems perfectly situated to serve as a table or recliner. She hops up onto it to observe the rest of the garden: though the previous owner didn’t manage to convince the vines to grow between the trees, they do seem to have had luck with the smaller bushes and flowers planted along the perimeter.
There are clumps of multicolored flowers, purples and pinks and blues on the same stem. They have silver-speckled leaves, fuzzy to the touch. There are several types of cone-shaped flowers, one that almost looks like shredded paper, another that reminds Daja of a honeycomb.
She bends down to sniff that one, curious to see if it smells like honey, but something stops her. In the back of her mind, she feels a prickle of danger. A voice that sounds suspiciously like Briar says Poisonous, Daj’. Can’t go dyin’ on us ‘til we get back.
She smiles, automatically reaching out toward the voice, before she remembers that Briar is still across the continent. This is merely her memory, or imagination, of him. She sighs, casting a final look around the garden before slipping her sandals back on and walking away.
Seems like this will suit Briar just fine.
As she walks through the three-story house, Daja notes the large kitchen, dining room, and formal sitting room on the ground floor. She climbs the stairs to the second floor and finds two respectably-sized bedrooms.
Nothing about the house itself is particularly special until Daja opens the last door on the hallway to reveal a room with floor-to-ceiling windows along one side. They overlook the back of the house, so they’re not covered with iron scrollwork like the windows along the front of the house. The back of the house faces south; the afternoon sun bathes the room, illuminating the dust motes that dance in the air.
Daja imagines Sandry’s loom in the center of the room; her sewing table along one wall. She can almost see the racks of fibers, organized neatly by color, flowing from reds on one end to purples on the other. If she listens, she can almost hear the gentle clacking of the foot pedals as Sandry lifts different sets of threads.
Daja knows that Sandry lives with Duke Vedris; that she’s likely his heir, even if she refuses to admit it to herself. Daja knows Sandry’s unlikely to ever need a home. But if she wants one, even as a temporary escape, Daja will gladly give it.
The third floor is a mirror of the second, two bedrooms and one larger room. This room, though, takes advantage of the slant of the roof. The main light in the room comes from a large window set into the slanted roof, which allows the walls to be almost completely covered with built-in shelves.
Two walls have those bookcases running floor-to-ceiling. One wall’s bookcases are interrupted only by the door, and there are additional shelves over the door, as if the previous owner couldn’t bear to waste any precious inches where they could cram more books.
Daja’s lips quirk as she imagines Tris’s vehement agreement that nothing should go to waste. Her expression spreads into a full smile as she walks across the room to investigate the window seat that breaks up the bookcases along the back wall of the house.
Because of the way the shelves are built into the walls, the windows seem to be almost recessed, sticking out further than the rest of the house. When she peers out, though, she sees that the windows lie flat along the wall of the house. She can see the trees that shelter the back garden, though the foliage blocks her from seeing the ground.
The window seat has thick padding covered in a deep blue fabric. When she sits, she’s pleased to find that it’s not for show; the padding is firm and the fabric is soft to the touch. She runs her fingertips along the tightly-woven fabric. She thinks it’s broadcloth; the fabric feels cotton-sturdy. There are additional shelves above the windows, and drawers below the bench. There’s a worn ladder leaning against the shelves next to the window seat.
Clearly, this room was well-loved by its previous owner. Daja can easily see these shelves populated with Tris’s ever-expanding library. She imagines Tris herself curled up in the window seat, books spread all around her, forgetting to come down for dinner if she’s not reminded. The library is even on the top floor, providing maximum insulation from the clacking of the loom and the clanging of the forge.
Daja knows that she’s changed, that her siblings likely have, too. She knows they may never live together again, much less in this house. Still, being able to offer them a home that can be theirs as much as it is hers makes a feeling like the comforting warmth of a forge glow in the back of her mind.
She buys the house immediately.
Briar vanishes into the back garden almost immediately upon his arrival at Number Six. They all know not to bother him there—he’s pricklier than the thorns he’s named for, and jumpy to boot. Almost immediately, the vines weave themselves into thick barriers around the space, clearly responding to Briar’s instinctive need for protection.
Any time Daja goes looking for Briar, the vines bristle and rearrange themselves to prevent her from getting anywhere near him. She wonders if Tris is having better luck reaching out to Briar, but the door to Tris’s library sparks whenever Daja approaches it, so she doesn’t ask.
When they return from Namorn, Briar invites them all into the back garden. The vines part before he even reaches them, and once they’re inside, they gently shift to form a surface for them to lean their backs on.
One of the vines drapes itself over Daja’s shoulder, reaching for the living metal. The tip of the vine curls up in her copper-covered palm and seems to rest there. The significance is not lost on her.
Daja looks around the garden, watching Briar run his fingers along the bark of a tree as he argues with Sandry. Tris is reading, seemingly ignoring them but for the small smile almost hidden behind her book.
Daja sees her family, together in body and spirit, and feels suffused with contentment.
Yes, Number Six Cheeseman Street is home.