“Do you know,” the old human leaned against the cordon around the worksite. “of one Ralonnt Who Writes Dramas?”
The crowfolk worker, whom the old man fancied a friend of his, did not stop their labor to say, “Is there now a Who for that?”
“It is true, I was surprised to hear it. However, you bear the name, ‘Who Builds Homes,’ and there was once a time when your work was thought unworthy.”
Kreykai Who Builds Homes did glance up at that. A wearing glare across their forearm-long beak, just long enough for the human not to notice it.
“What makes this Ralonnt Who so impressive?” they asked.
“I could not speculate. I rather suspect, she has a following whom she has especially pleased, and who has perhaps queried to see her granted the name. I hear that her dramas are exceedingly simple.”
“Simple?” Kreykai Who Builds Homes stabbed the nose of the shovel with which they were marking a house’s footprint into the earth, to lean on its handle. “How does a writer of simple dramas earn herself accolades such as that?”
Sotacs Who Once Weighed Justice had no answer but a shrug. He had brought a sandwich with him, made from a heel of bread stuffed with meat and eggs and flattened, to eat while he pestered Kreykai today.
“Perhaps she pleases the Plains,” the crow suggested. They flexed their vestigial wings to stretch the tired muscles of their back. “Tor-mait-des Who Builds the Homes of Masters designed an estate, once, which pleased the Plains so well that he has not aged a year in the last twenty.”
“Tor-mait-des Who was the master of your apprenticeship, yes?” Sotacs wiped his chin uncouthly with the fabric of his sleeve.
“Have you designed a home that has pleased the Plains?”
Kreykai returned to digging. The house had a complex outline, and its foundations were to reach the irrigation line that fed the fields west of the town.
“Have you decided a trial in such a way that it pleased the Plains?” they muttered.
“The Plains adjudicates on its own accord,” Sotacs Who scowled slightly. He might be offended, or he might have had a mouthful of gristle. “Mortals as we never decide things such as it would judge one way or another.”
“And, being a Once, you shall not have another chance to impress it so. I have many years to plan houses and perfect my craft.”
Sotacs raised an eyebrow, and spat a bite of chewed meat over the cordon. Pursed his lips, and decided them even.
“I think I should like to see a drama such as made it possible to take the name Who,” he said. “I’ve been bored of Polythe dramas of late. I am not interested in knowing what god of what specific rye field bears a grudge against what half-divine dry season thunder spirit, nor how that explains the spines of the hedgedeer.”
Kreykai could not prevent a small smirk at that. It had just been the couplet of the Hermit Queen in the half-wet season, which had meant a grueling nine days of pious religious festivities, which no wise professional personage would risk not being seen to attend. Verg-gasis Who Distributes Lumber had taken the chance to ride a caravan to the dolewood forest far in the south just to avoid it – and, of course, imposed serious delays upon Kreykai’s construction.
“Let us hope,” the crow said. “that this Rolannt Who’s dramas do not come into fashion for children to act.”
“I do think I would not survive that,” Sotacs nodded with what could have been faux seriousness. “not if they are so simple as that.”
Sotacs Who Once Weighed Justice did not leave Kreykai alone the rest of the afternoon, but stood in the warm sun, batted insects away from his wrinkled face, and occasionally asked his – they would admit it – friend for an opinion on this or that matter. Meanwhile the shallow ditch the crow dug took shape and came more to reflect the drawing they carried with them. They cut its corners square, scraped its bottom flat with a corvine foot, and checked over its measurements to be sure it was correct. Set then to defining the inner walls, where a crew of laborers would dig deeper and pour concrete over the next four-beat.
As the sun reached the distant eastern horizon, Kreykai stepped out of the hole a final time to inspect it all as one. With a sinking in their breast, they found that they did not much like what they saw. The house would function, might be interesting to look at, but there was nothing impressive about it, no matter how many convolutions its designer had given its outer walls.
“You are waiting for me to offer to take you to see a drama by this Ralonnt Who Writes Dramas,” they observed to the old man.
“I suppose I am.” Sotacs was sheepish.
“Perhaps,” Kreykai Who Builds Homes took up the vest they had discarded at the hottest point of the day and deposited their sketch pad in one of its pockets. “I might like that, too.”