Men of Property
Anders excused himself and went back upstairs to put on a more appropriate outfit, clean his teeth and comb his hair. He returned downstairs a few minutes later looking much more like an Important Citizen, and with the cash in hand. The three of them made the trek back to Whiterun and up to Dragonsreach, where they dealt with Proventus Avenicci (a friend of Wyll and Anders, as he was the father of Kat’s friend Adrianne).
The balding Imperial witnessed the exchange and signed the official documents, transferring the deed to Chillfurrow Farm to Katja, in joint tenancy with Wyll and Anders. The laws of Whiterun permitted married couples to own property together so that if one died the other was automatically the sole owner. In this case, Proventus had never seen an arrangement quite like the one Anders tried to explain to him; but he went along with it – as his Jarl was clearly throwing his support their way.
They both shook hands with Nazeem, the man flinching as Wyll’s bear paw squeezed his hand tight. Then Katja’s two fiancés waved “thanks” to Balgruuf as they exited Dragonsreach and proceeded down the steps. They stopped in at Breezehome briefly to tell Lydia and Argis the news. Argis had now also been brought into their conspiracy, and he was eager to help. He accompanied them as they continued on their way out of town, keen to visit their new acquisition. “You’re an amazing artist, Argis,” Wyll told him. “Have you ever done any architectural drawings?”
Argis frowned slightly as they walked along. “I’ve drawn pictures of buildings,” he said. “But I haven’t done the kind of drawings that builders use with all of the measurements exact, so that the workers know where to place the foundations, how big to make the walls, how long to make the floor joists and the rafters and so forth. That takes special skills.”
“Floor joists? Rafters? You’re ahead of us, then” said Anders. “Let’s just go take a look, and maybe we can put our heads together so you can draw the house as we want to see it when it’s done. Then we can hire somebody who can put in all the details. We need to move fast, if we’re going to get it all done in time. I have the feeling Kat’s going to come back from her trip with a wedding date.”
Argis grinned at him. “That I can do, if you tell me what you want to see.” The three of them continued on down the road past the meadery and over the bridge, to find themselves at Chillfurrow Farm. As usual at this hour of the late morning, Wilmuth was out working the fields and forking some hay into the paddock for the farm’s lone cow. “Ho, Wilmuth!” Anders called. The sour man turned as they approached with a look that implied irritation at once again being interrupted at his chores.
“I thought you ought to know,” Anders said, unable to keep a grin from spreading, “that Nazeem is no longer your landlord. This farm is now the property of Thane Katja, along with me and my associate Wyll,” he added – gesturing at Wyll and brandishing the deed.
Wilmuth looked nonplussed, then said “Does this mean you’ll be throwing me out, then?” Uh oh. Anders hadn’t really considered this aspect of the transaction. “Because,” Wilmuth continued, “I’d be really glad to get the hell out of here. I’ve got a daughter down Falkreath way, keeps telling me I should move in with them and help look after the little nippers. Seems like a lot less work than all this. But I’ve had responsibilities, like, to Nazeem. Couldn’t just leave.”
He looked at them appealingly, and Anders smiled at him. “Do you think you could stay on for a few weeks, Wilmuth? We’ll be needing to make some major additions to the house before we’re ready to move in here.
“Oh, that’ll be alright,” he replied with the first smile either of them had seen on his face during the time they had known him. “Belike, you’ll be needing some help with that construction? I’ve got some skills that way, and I can put you onto some mates of mine. They really know the craft, and they’ll fix you up a treat.”
“Excellent!” Anders exclaimed. “We’ve got plenty of gold for you and your mates, if you can do the job right. Do you mind if we look around?”
“Step right in,” Wilmuth said, leading them to the front door. The house was, as Nazeem had said, sturdily built. And the room on the other side of the door was good-sized. A fire pit similar in size to the one at Breezehome occupied the middle of it, with a spit for hanging pots and another for roasting meats suspended above it. But that was almost the entire cottage.
Off to the left there was a narrow bedroom with a single bed, and a small alcove gave off the main living area for a pantry. But that was it. The place made Breezehome look like a palace, and Anders was almost thinking Nazeem might have gotten the better of their deal. On the other hand, there was all that land.
“Go ahead with what you were doing, Wilmuth,” Anders suggested. The man went back to his farm chores as Anders and his two companions seated themselves on a bench that ran down one side of the room’s dining table. There was another good-sized table over against the wall to the left of the entry door, but no chairs. It appeared the farmhouse had been set up for a lone tenant, not a growing farm family.
Anders had a roll of paper in his pack, and he pulled it out. With a slim stick charred in the fire, he began sketching on the paper. “Here’s the existing house,” he said, drawing a series of small rectangles off toward one edge. “I think we’re going to need three or four bedrooms and a large nursery, a dining hall, a good-sized bathroom, a real kitchen, a space for alchemy and enchanting, and some outdoor areas for relaxing and enjoying the views of the river. Does that seem about right to you, Wyll?”
Wyll looked at him, a bit taken aback. “Uh, Anders… how many kids are we planning to have? Why so many bedrooms?” he asked.
“That’ll be up to Kat and the gods, I suppose,” Anders replied. “But three of those bedrooms are for you, me, and Kat. I think we should each have our own space. We can’t all sleep together all the time, but I think one of those bedrooms – probably Kat’s – ought to be big enough so we can. With a custom-made bed. The extra bedroom could be the one that’s here now, so we can have a servant living in. We’re rich, don’t forget!”
Wyll mulled that over for a while, and from the look on his face he was liking the idea. Yeah, they were rich. Even Skyrim’s wealthiest citizens had a lifestyle not that much different from that of the average merchant, but then they might just be lacking in imagination. “What about a bathing pool?” he asked. “I’m assuming Kat can walk down the road to the use the smithing facilities at the Suite, but she’s not going to be trotting over there naked. We’ll need some kind of a hot bath here.”
“I have some ideas, about that,” Anders said. “I’ve heard about places where they have cisterns on the roof, or up on a tower, to catch the rainwater. Then they pipe the water down to the house and it just comes out of a sort of valve in the kitchen or the bathroom. I don’t think we’d have room for a bathing pool the size of the one at the Suite, but we could make one big enough for two or three people. And there are a lot of ways we could heat the water.”
“And a privy, right?” Wyll asked. Usually privies were closets that deposited wastes a goodly distance down, into a pit of some kind. The smell was pretty obnoxious, especially in summer. Using chamberpots allowed you to carry the wastes further afield; but that involved a lot of unpleasant labor.
“I have another idea,” Anders told him. “There’s a system where you use a sort of porcelain chair and your wastes are carried away by water to a tank underground. All contained, so there’s no smell. Then the wastes break down in the tank and the remnants are gradually distributed through perforated pipes and soak into the soil, enriching it. We could plant cabbages over the top!”
“Nice cabbages?” Wyll asked skeptically.
“No smell, I swear! After your stuff has decomposed for a while it’s a good fertilizer!” Anders insisted.
“Sounds like a good idea, then,” Wyll agreed. As they’d been talking Argis’ lone eye had lit up with inspiration. He seized the charcoal stick from Anders and began sketching on the paper, working out from the current floor plan. “I think it would be better to stay on one level,” he said as he worked. “I don’t think you want to support a second story on top of this house, and you’ve got plenty of room to spread out.” He continued mapping out the house Anders had described.
“You could run a porch all along the east side here,” Argis said, pointing. “You’ll have views of the sunrise over the mountains, the river, and the Suite. Then each of the three main bedrooms would give out onto the porch, where you could just hang out and relax – also, easy access from one bedroom to another…” he glanced at them. He was still a bit unsure about the moral implications of his friends’ three-way relationship with his Thane, but he’d concluded it was not his part to judge them. They were clearly good people.
“This room we’re sitting in could be split up into kitchen and dining,” Argis continued. “That little bedroom off to the side could be for the servant or whoever. And then on the west side of the three new bedrooms, you’ll have a hall with your bathroom and a big crafting area giving off of it, and the nursery running crosswise to cap the addition. What do you think?”
All three men were excited. What could be finer, really, then envisioning something and having the ability to turn it into reality? Anders looked thoughtful. “What about a library-slash-schoolroom?” he said. Wyll and Argis regarded him blankly. They were not scholars, as he was. “Well, maybe later,” he said ruefully. If they did end up with a pack of kids, they would certainly be needing a place in which to educate them. Despite the high literacy rate in Skyrim, there were no public schools.
Having come up with a working sketch, the three of them walked back out of the cottage and found Wilmuth. “We have an idea what we want,” Anders told him. “Is any of your builder friends able to produce architectural plans?”
“No problem,” the man replied. “Tell you what – you’re down at the Suite, right?” Anders nodded. “I’ll go talk to Hegmar up in town, and I’ll have him come down and meet you there later on today. All right?”
“That would be great,” Anders said. “Here, let me give you some money so you can get things started.” He slipped Wilmuth a hundred gold, with which he seemed well pleased.
“Well!” he exclaimed. “I’ll just be off then. See you later!” With that he took his tools over to a shed built onto the side of the cottage, and legged it off in the direction of Whiterun.
“Looks like we’re underway, then” Anders said with a grin at his companions. “Argis, care to come down to the Suite for some lunch?” Argis considered. Inn food and an ale or two with his friends was very appealing, but he had a family life now that meant a lot to him.
“Another time,” he said regretfully. “Liddy and Ani will be expecting me.” Wyll and Anders exchanged glances, then smiled and bid him farewell as he, too, began walking toward Whiterun.
“Is this what we have to look forward to?” Wyll asked with a smile, as he and his friend turned their footsteps toward the Suite.
“Yes,” Anders said contentedly, “I believe it is.”