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September 26, 2022

The Aser Stories 25: Rose-Covered Cottages

By Sand Pilarski

What kind of house suits you?

"This," said Dan Ur-Jennan, waving an arm at a round room with oriental carpet on the floor and a few well-upholstered but not particularly comfortable-looking pieces of furniture, "is the Reception Area." She stepped to a side table and lifted the polished lid and did a game show hostess gesture. "The wet bar."

"Nice," I said, not knowing what else to say, other than perhaps, is it stocked?

We walked up the circular stone stairs to the next room. "The Office," she said, and we climbed again past the big desk with its filing cabinet. "The Laboratory," she droned as we arrived in the next level up to see test tubes and display cases and huge stone tables. One more flight of stairs and we reached a room with huge windows open to the ocean air, free of any furniture at all, with a circle-and-geometric figure etched boldly into the floor. "The Incantation Room."

"Nice view," I said.

"You can't use it except for magical spells," she replied, with a curl of her upper lip. "Some bullshit about magical static charges."

"Now, wait, I've heard of that myself," I started.

"Don't even tell me about it. I've heard probably three solid months worth of lectures on why I shouldn't even think about being up here more than a few seconds." We went back down the stairs, and left the tower rooms. "This is the Library, isn't it wonderful, all these books and scrolls -- no windows, of course, because of professional rivalry and espionage. That's why it smells so crummy."

We walked along the dark stone halls, poking our heads in here and there. "The Study, the Sitting Room, down that hall are the Bedrooms (Mystical Seven, she asided), the Dining Room, the Auxiliary Kitchen, the Laundry and Linen Room. Beyond that was a long colonnade that led to the rest of the great structure.

"You've got virtually an entire wing of Oceanwind Castle." I commented.

"A wing? A broken wing!" Danner shouted. "One lousy day trip up to Skuleflight Harbor and all the rest here! Can't even grow potted plants it's so damn dim in this hole!"

This turret wing of Oceanwind would be ideal for many people, especially magicians like Cloudraft the Great; indeed, it had been his home for many years. For Danner it was a bit of a stretch, her having grown up in the airy open buildings under the trees of Ur. Her apprenticeship to Cloudraft the wizard was taking place in a less than agreeable venue for her.

"#*!#**!!?#!" continued Danner, describing her current dwelling.

Houses people have should reflect what they need in life, I think. Lizardmen, for instance, tend to live in big communal caves so that they can snuggle in huge groups for warmth. (Eck.) Wood sprites like to live in and on the trees in tall forests, usually keeping their tiny possessions high in the forest canopy. Trolls by and large like big rough planked houses on one floor (they hate stairwells -- too easy to get stuck) with the floorboards a bit on the gappy side, which allows dirt to fall through the cracks. Trolls aren't real big on housework.

When you have a commitment between large extended families, a castle-type dwelling is great if you can afford it, so that portions of the alliance can hide from other portions when they're crabby or disapproving. Or sometimes the land is just so harsh and survival so difficult that a community longhouse for sleeping and resting and eating makes sense, because most of the time the people are out trying to find enough to eat.

I've seen one room apartments for people who value a special view or locale above space or furniture, and plaza style homes for people who only want to talk to each other when they're in the courtyard in the middle.

On the way here, I stopped at a little village tavern to find some midday soup, and listened to an excited man telling another about his great plan that would revitalize the area. Not far from the main road, the enthusiast said, we build houses close together. Big enough for a little garden in the back, but aiming at people who can ride the wagon train up to Skuleflight Harbor for work but don't want to live in the city.

People will want more property than a little garden, said his possible partner.

Not if the houses are already built for them. Think of the headaches that will save people! We get your company to build all the houses; that guarantees work for you and your crew, and the folks who move in don't have to worry about the neighbor having a barn in the back yard or a foundry in the garage or stuff, because the houses will be just for living in. We make 'em pretty much the same so there isn't this envy thing, and that'll save costs on building plans, too! What do you think?

I finished my soup and butted into the conversation. "Here's what I think! I think any time you try to cram different people into the same boxes, you're taking something away from them. You're pushing them into buying the same furniture, doing the same things, conducting their families the same way. What if it's important for someone to have a high narrow house so that they can see the weather coming? What if the next person would rather have more room for guests to gather than have an enclosed kitchen? I think that putting making a lot of money before the hopes and happiness of people is downright damned criminal!"

"So arrest us," the idea-man told me.

Get ready, village, here comes suburbia with all its monotony and wasted space.

"Would you rather live in a housing development?" I asked Danner.

"!*&##!" she told me.

Living in this castle wouldn't suit me, either. The stone floors are damn cold and there's just too much stuff to take care of. My preference is for my little house under the bank with the nice door built into part of the tree in front of it, small and snug, easily heated with a twig fire. Herbs will hang from the ceiling, and the door will be defensible against traveling salesmen. Nothing else like it around. Travel is broadening, but Home Sweet Home.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-08-20
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