Carpathia III: Episode 55 - Basement Tour

Unassumed Lands, Vayhama House

Kaoru and Quilyon trudged back through the woods after another day of target shooting. Though the gun bags were full, they were at least grateful that the food and water bags were nearly empty. Kaoru was sullen, not feeling optimistic about his chances of learning to shoot well.

Kaoru: I only hit three of the cans.

Quilyon: That's three more than last time, isn't it? You can't become perfect in a day. Once you can hit the cans, then we'll switch to moving targets, like live animals.

Kaoru stroked his chin as he watched the family cabin come into view.

Kaoru: I suppose I'd learn faster if we didn't spend half our time doing... other things.

Quilyon snapped her fingers and looked up at the sky.

Quilyon: That's right, I forgot to mention this. We're getting back a little late, so I want you to go wash as quickly as possible, before Mom comes up from the basement.

Kaoru's eyes widened and he suddenly turned his head towards Quilyon.

Kaoru: I know I'm a little dirty, but...

Quilyon shook her head vigorously.

Quilyon: No, no, you don't understand. Elves have a very strong sense of smell, and... she'll be able to smell me all over you. I'm going to wash right away too.

Kaoru: Oh... OH! I see what you mean. Yes, I'll wash right away.

Together, they walked up the stairs of the porch and approached the door. All was quiet around them and nothing appeared to be amiss. Quilyon turned the knob and stepped inside, followed by Kaoru.

Tarja: There you are! You're a bit late today, aren't you?

Quilyon gasped in terror as she caught sight of her mother relaxing in a chair with a book in her hand.

Tarja: Why the shocked expression? This isn't the first time I've finished early cutting the meat. Now you two put your stuff away and...

Kaoru wanted to run immediately, but thought it best to follow Quilyon's lead. It was a foolish error. Quilyon froze like a steel potato in the middle of the foyer.

Tarja didn't finish her sentence and paused instead. One of her eyebrows lifted as she began to sniff the air. She looked around, sniffing again every time she turned her head in a different direction. Finally, she stood and slowly made her way towards a trembling Kaoru who was now also too terrified to move. Tarja leaned in close to him and sniffed heavily.

Tarja stopped sniffing. Kaoru's heard pounded as he awaited what would happen next. A million scenarios poured through his mind, each more horrible than the one before it. Tarja stood up straight, emphasizing her full height, and put her hands on her hips, looking down at Kaoru. He hadn't realized how tall Tarja was until that moment. Though she continued to glare daggers at Kaoru, her first words were for Quilyon instead.

Tarja: Quilyon. Bath. Now.

Quilyon: Yes ma'am.

Without another word, Quilyon rushed off towards the washroom. Tarja now had her full attention on him.

Tarja: You. Out.

Tarja jabbed her finger at the front door. Kaoru was devastated at the thought of being kicked out. Muttering "sorry" over and over, he quickly placed the bags on the floor and hurried out the door.

Once outside, Kaoru plodded down the steps. Where would he go now? Would someone else take him in? Maybe, he thought, they would let him live in the barn by the field he was tending. He continued to plod in little circles, wondering what he was going to do next.

Tarja: Where do you think you're going, young man? You're coming with me!

Kaoru spun around and saw Tarja standing on the porch with her arms folded across her chest. She reached out and motioned for him to follow her. Kaoru, entertaining his most dire scenario, started thinking this was the day he was going to die. Regardless, he did as he was told and stepped onto the porch with her.

Tarja: Follow me. I think it's time that I show you what my job is around here.

Right away, Tarja started walking around the porch as Kaoru nervously followed. At the end, she stepped down and rounded to the side of the house where there was a small door. As she opened it, Kaoru could feel a sudden cool air rolling up from down the stairs. The smell coming up was strong and unfamiliar to him, though it vaguely reminded him of the meat counter at the supermarket back in Rune Lake.

Tarja disappeared down the dark stairway and Kaoru followed. This was his first time to the basement of the Vayhama home and he was surprised how deep it was. He was sure he was below the surface of the lake and he wondered how they kept the water out.

Kaoru trod carefully down the creaky, dark staircase, feeling colder and colder as he went. When Tarja reached the bottom, she flipped a switch and the lights came on. At first, Kaoru was happy that he could see properly, but his happiness didn't last long. What he saw down there was like nothing he ever imagined.

Kaoru shivered as he looked around. The room was vast and likely bigger than the footprint of the house upstairs. In one corner was a large stack of packages wrapped in brown paper and tied with strings. He'd seen Reuli emerge from the basement and load them into the truck before and he knew that's where the prepared meat was kept. The other corners held various implements, the purpose of which he could not guess. What was shocking to him was the center of the room. One strong light was pointed at a large butcher block. It was significantly worn, showing different toolmarks on each corner. On the wall behind it hung the tools of Tarja's trade, knives, cleavers, cutters, and other strange tools. All were shiny and sharp. All looked distressingly lethal.

Tarja immediately strode to the cutting implements on the wall.

Tarja: I thought you might want to see what goes on down here.

Tarja picked one fo the smaller knives off of the wall.

Tarja: This one is for general cutting. I have a few of these, depending on the meat.

Tarja replaced the small knife and took out a much more hefty one. This one had a long blade which was aggressively curved and forked at the end.

Tarja: Before you get to the general cutting, you have to remove the skin from the animal. We sell those to people who can make them into leathers and furs. That's what this knife is for.

Tarja demonstrated with a slicing motion on an imaginary animal, as though she were skinning it right in front of him. Then, she replaced the curved knife and took a cleaver. The blade was massive and heavy and had a small hole in the upper corner from where it was hanging.

Tarja: This one is for cutting between the joints in the bones. As you can see, it's quite heavy, but you still have to swing it hard sometimes to pierce the ligaments. With practice, you can do it with one swing.

Tarja raised the cleaver over her head and slammed the sharp end of the blade down on the butcher block, causing Kaoru to flinch. The tip didn't even peirce an inch into the block, but it was enough for it to remain where it was, upright, after Tarja let it go.

Tarja: You'll notice on the block that each corner has different marks on it. That's because you have to cut different types of meat in different places. You don't want the blood and juices to mix.

Tarja paused for a few moments, glaring at Kaoru. He dared not make a move or say anything. Suddenly, to his surprise, she smiled broadly.

Tarja: So, that's your introduction. Be sure to turn off the light when you leave.

With that, Tarja strode quickly past the frozen Kaoru and walked up the stairs. Kaoru remained where he was until he was sure that Tarja would be out of sight when he left as well. Then, he turned off the light and quickly climbed the stairs himself.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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