Daughters of Clio is a new prompt-a-week group four of us started – Trix, Clare, Tara, and I.
This week the prompt was my choice to pick a person, and I picked “the mapmaker’s child.” It’s set in the world of Rin & Girey, newly-christened the Reiassan world after the continent on which it’s set.
Skill and Dreams
“You have quite a skill with that, Pera.” Her father studied the small map she’d finished, a layout of the town green and the surrounding two blocks. “You’ll do well with the business when your mother and I are ready to pass it down to you.”
The praise felt nice. Her father was one of the best surveyors in the land, her mother one of the best map-artists. They made a fine team, travelling the length and breadth of the continent documenting towns and borders and the occasional shifting river, and they were famed for their work. Her father wouldn’t pad his praise or lie to spare her feelings, not where his profession was concerned.
“Thank you,” she murmured. Despite herself, she continued, pointing at the centerpiece of the map. “The temple to the north of the town square was the trickiest, because it’s not laid out along compass points.” The triangular building faced only one point towards the green, which sent the roads out from it in an awkward V that everything else shifted to fit. “I had to take measurements from each point and, ah, triangulate.”
“A lot of the older towns have temples laid out like that. They went where they wanted to, and reasonable layout could go begging.” He smiled. “It looks like you got it spot on. Good job, honey. You’re going to make a wonderful mapmaker.”
There had never been any question in her parents’ minds. Perizja had the talent, she had a good head for figures, and they were in a time in which young women could do such things easily; besides, she was their only surviving child. Her mother’s mother, who had been born during the reign of Empress Alaszia, pressured her to take as much freedom as she could while it lasted. The Emperor wouldn’t live forever, after all.
That the life her parents led didn’t suit her never game up in these discussions. It was a good life, after all. They made a beautiful home of their wagon, and were in love with their itinerant lifestyle. They spoke dismissively of home-bound, village-bound people who never went further than the nearest fair; they loved the exploration, drawing new places onto the maps where before there had been only vague scribbles or blankness.
That part of the job, Perizja loved just as much as they did, laying down in precise fashion things that had been only guessed and suggested before, making those diagrams beautiful, making them accurate and useful. If she could have done it settled into one place, she would have been happy to take up the family business. The problem was the wagon.
It was a nice wagon, a snug, warm home with everything a small family needed to survive, but it was very snug, for a very small family, and it was created for a wandering lifestyle. Perizja wanted a big family, children coming out the windows, and a stable house in a nice village with a town square that wasn’t. She wanted a husband in the trades who’d never been any further away than the nearest fair. She wanted a homebound life.
Her grandmother, when she’d mentioned this to her, had frowned and talked about the opportunities a girl her age had, opportunities that hadn’t been there for her grandmother’s mother. “Right now, you can determine your own life. You have a skill; you shouldn’t squander it.” And that was that, or it had been when they’d last visited her, a season past. She’d dropped the topic, and tried to resign herself to a life on a wagon with one or two children, if she could find a like-minded mapmaking husband. She was good at it, after all, when not many people were; surveying and mathematical mapmaking were still new enough to be a very small field. She could make a very comfortable life for herself, within the confines of the wagon and the road.
As resigned as she was to it, she found herself irritated with her grandmother. It had been two seasons since they were last in her grandmother’s town, the tiny village in the heart of Callia where Perizja, her mother, and her grandmother had been born. Perizja had been able to ignore her pique, like she could ignore her frustration with the wagon and the ruts in the road, when there was nothing she could do about it. But here they were, mapping her grandmother’s home town, heading to have dinner with her that evening, and there was no more ignoring the anger. She didn’t want to talk to her.
She smiled anyway, putting “talking to ancestors” in the realm of other inevitabilities, and followed her father to the snug house. Grandmother Tatya had a house. She’d had a husband, and four children who lived, three cats and a tidy kitchen garden laid out in perfect rows, and now she shared the house with her youngest daughter and family, grandchildren coming out the windows. Perizja caught an underfoot cousin as they entered and shifted her to a hip, cuddling the little girl. Aunt Zaide was on her sixth, possibly her seventh, and she never minded another hand to help out.
“There you are!” Tatya bustled out from the kitchen, smiling broadly. “Come here and give your grandmother a hug, there, that’s fine, I can hug you and Titi at the same time. Come over into the kitchen, Pera, I have a present for you.”
Last time it had been a map case, a fine-carved thing good for travelling, both treasured and detested. Today, holding on to her irritation and her niece, she found it hard to be too excited. Another pen? A travelling inkwell?
Tatya handed her a folded piece of paper. “Careful, pumpkin, don’t let Titi drool on that. There you go, yes, open it up.” She was looking over Perizja’s shoulder as she spoke; watching for someone? Her parents were still out in the doorway talking to Zaide. Something secret from them? She unfolded the paper quickly, read it, and read it again.
“You’ll have to make another diagram of the house for me, I’m afraid, sweetheart. I sent it to a man I know in Lannamer. They’re beginning a project, you see, to map out and survey the entire city.”
“Lannamer’s huge! And it’s a maze of streets… that sort of thing would take every mapmaker in the country a lifetime to do properly!” She stared in awe as Tatya’s smile grew, and slowly found hers growing as well, in a sort of desperate hope. “Grandmother…”
“This is the other half of your present.” She handed her a brass key. “It’s a very small place, but it will do for starters.”
She was gaping, now, staring at the key. “But how…?”
Tatya leaned over and kissed Perizja and Titi both on the foreheads. “I always wanted to be an artist,” she confided quietly. “I’ve done a few paintings, over the years…”