One drowsy summer afternoon, after I'd eaten lunch and realized I was bored, I decided to do some housework.
I mean, fortress-work. Because I live in a fortress.
Now, don't worry—I don't have to clean the entire fortress by myself. Everybody who lives on Worgen Island pitches in and does their share. But as the Pirate Queen, I feel a certain sense of responsibility toward at least my husband's and my quarters, and sometimes I'll branch out from there. Depends on how bored I am.
The other nice thing about doing housework in Ivalice is that if you know magick, chores are much, much easier.
"Water!" I shouted, my voice echoing off the stone walls and the floor where I'd rolled up the rugs. I flung out my hand in a sweeping gesture, and a raging torrent of water flooded the hallway, finally dying down at the stairs. Sure beats mopping.
"Perfect," I said to myself, rubbing my hands together. "Annnd… Aero!" Again I splayed my fingers, and fierce winds whipped down the corridor, blow-drying the stone.
If you're wondering, the reason why I call out the names of my spells is because that's supposed to help you focus on the magick better. Yes, in combat it means your opponents have a heads-up, but generally by the point you've shot the spell at them, they don't have any time to prepare a defense.
Also it makes me feel like a video-game heroine, so that's cool.
I pranced along the hallway, making sure I'd dried everything adequately, before moving on to my next target: the big conference room. This was where my husband held meetings with his subordinates, leaders from the coastal villages we traded with, and political figures. It was also where he kept his collection of horned helmets. He is a Viking, after all.
I flicked my wrist at the helms hung carefully on the walls, sending magick winds to dust off the armor pieces and keep them looking nice. Qrrog had gotten these helmets from all over—we like to keep an eye out for them when we travel. They're of all sorts of styles, including a few antiques and historical pieces from cultures that don't exist anymore. He takes great pride in his collection, and I take great pride in helping him with its upkeep.
Thinking about that made me miss him. If he had been available, I definitely would have been hanging out with him instead. But he was off conducting some business on the coast—not the fun kind of business, but the kind that involved dealing with lots of contentious folks all trying to get the biggest slice of the pie. He told me he'd be back before dinner, so I just had to keep myself occupied and productive until then.
I'd already tidied our quarters, and done a load of dishes, so I decided to start on another hallway, the one leading to the apartments where our clan members live. But someone had beat me there.
"Nyoom!" said a young viera boy as he ran down the hall with a toy airship. "Vrreeow!" He nearly ran into me, but stopped himself just in time. "Hi Terra!" he said.
"Hey, Bartelo!" I said with a laugh. "What's up?" His parents keep telling him to call me "Mrs. Squallhammer", but honestly I feel honored when kids like me enough to be on a first-name basis with me.
"Um—" Bartelo's ears swiveled as he looked over his shoulder. "Just playing!" he said.
The way he said it made me not quite believe him. "Just playing, huh?" I asked with a smile. "Anything I can help with?"
"Uh… nope!" the viera said. "I gotta go, bye!" With more sound effects, he and his toy continued down the hallway.
I folded my arms and watched him, wondering what that was about. I didn't put much stock into it. It might have been just another game he made up. Once he'd disappeared around the corner, I rolled up the rugs and cast another Water-flood.
I felt quite satisfied seeing that deluge rush headlong toward the far end of the hall—until someone else stepped around the corner.
"Ah—look out!" I shouted, too late.
Another viera, slightly older than her brother, screeched as the water hit her legs like she'd been standing in the surf at the beach. She froze and stared down at her wet pants in dismay as the flood moved past her, hit the far wall, and disappeared into wherever spells go when they're expended.
"Sorry, Mimmy!" I said to her, cringing. "I didn't know you were coming! Here—Aero!"
Her brown ears were tucked back against her pale pink hair as the wind dried her legs and the hallway, but gradually her ears moved forward again and I knew I was forgiven. "It's okay," she said as she approached me. "It just surprised me. That was kinda cool! Have you seen Bartelo?"
"He went that way," I said, pointing down the hall where I'd come from. "Why?"
"Mother told him to clean his room," Mimmy said, "and he hasn't! He always slacks off like this!"
"Hmm, I see," I said, holding my chin in thought.
"He's going to be in big trouble when I find him!" the girl said, stalking off with her ears held high.
Again, I watched her go, and wondered if there was anything I could do. I didn't want chores to be a miserable experience for this kid for the rest of his life. I finished up with the hallway, and decided to see if I could find our errant viera—hopefully before his sister did.
By the time I located him, Bartelo was hanging out on one of the terraces, pretending the stonework was an obstacle course for his airship.
"Hey, Barts?" I said, leaning on the rampart. "Want help cleaning your room?"
He looked up at me and his ears fell. "I don't wanna clean my room!" he said.
"I know," I said. "But what if I showed you a way to make it fun?"
"It's not fun," he said, scowling and puffing out one cheek like he always does when he's upset.
I smiled. "Maybe you just haven't been doing it right," I said. "Should we give it another try? I think you'll feel a lot better once it's done. And then you won't have your sister breathing down your neck, either."
This made him pause. He looked down at his airship, twiddled it between his fingers, and then looked back up at me. "How d'you make it fun?" he asked.
My grin widened. "I'll show you," I said.
"Yeah, uh… I can see why you need to clean your room," I said. "No offense." The kid looked like he'd summoned a hurricane. Clothes and toys were strewn everywhere, as were remnants of snacks and half-finished study work.
"I hate cleaning my room," Bartelo grumbled, kicking at a nearby coat on the floor.
"You know," I said, "when I was your age, I hated cleaning my room too. It, uh, took me longer than I'd like to admit to stop hating it. But then I learned—a clean room is a happy room."
Bartelo wrinkled his nose. "What's that mean?" he asked.
"I find," I said, "that when my room is messy, it kinda makes me feel more cluttered, too. When everything's put away, and the room looks nice, I feel organized and peaceful. Plus, it's a lot easier to find what you need when you need it."
"I am missing one of my airships," Bartelo said, looking longingly at the toy in his hand. "But how do you make it fun?"
"Turn it into a game," I said. "Look—here are some books." I crouched down and picked up a couple of books. "What if you just picked up all the books? I wonder how clean your room would look afterward." I hoped he'd take the bait. I knew often my idea of fun wasn't other people's idea of fun. But if I could get this kid into doing his chores cheerfully, I figured his parents would be eternally relieved.
Bartelo knelt down beside me, picked up a book, and stared at it skeptically for a long moment, his ears swiveling back and forth. Finally he looked up at me. "… Will you help me?" he asked.
"Of course!" I said. "Okay, just books for now, and we'll see how big of a dent that makes!"
With the two of us working together, it didn't take long at all to re-shelve the books, and Bartelo put his hands on his hips as he surveyed his room. "It doesn't look much cleaner," he said.
"So let's try something else!" I said. "What do you think there's the most of in here?"
"Clothes… no, toys!" Bartelo said. "I don't know which one!"
"Let's pick one and see what happens!" I said. You probably think I'm incredibly odd for getting excited over cleanliness. You'd be right.
Bartelo nodded. "Okay, clothes first!" he said. "Since they're bigger."
We combed our way through the room again, picking up all of his clothes and depositing them either in his dresser or his laundry basket. Although sometimes it was tough to tell what went where, since everything seemed like it needed a good washing. Clearly he'd been having a lot of fun romping around the island.
"That looks a lot better!" I said when we finished.
"There's my Valfarre!" Bartelo cried, leaping to a toy fighter craft that had lain hidden under a shirt. "We found it, we found it!"
"Yay!" I said. "I guess we'd better put your toys away so it doesn't get lost again."
Bartelo nodded fiercely, and I helped him collect all of his playthings and put them in his toybox. "Whoa, you've got an entire Archadian fleet going on here!" I said as I picked up a hefty Shiva-class cruiser.
"I like the Archadian ships," Bartelo said as he tossed a tonberry action figure into his toybox. "They're neat-looking. Mother and Dad buy me some whenever we go to town!" He paused. "I reeeeally want Sky Fortress Bahamut, but that one's kinda expensive. They said they'll get it for my birthday. It has light-up glossair rings and everything!"
"Ooh, fun!" I said. "I bet Bahamut will take up like half your room!"
"Pretty much!" Bartelo said. He looked down. "Hey—we're almost done!"
"Then let's finish up!" I said, and we made quick work of the rest.
I put a few last pencils in their holder on his desk, and then mussed the boy's mint-green hair. "Hey Barts, guess what," I said.
"What?" he asked.
"We're done!" I said. "Do you have any more chores that need doing?"
"Nope!" Bartelo said.
"Then you're free to enjoy the rest of your day!" I said, giving him a high-five. "Oh, and pro tip: if you keep things off the floor in the first place, they won't ever pile up like that again."
He laughed. "That's true," he said. "I'll try."
"Bartelo!" Mimmy yelled from outside. A moment later she swung around the doorway. "Bartelo, I'm telling Moth—you cleaned your room?!"
He grinned at her. "It was fun!" he said. "Terra turned it into a game!"
His sister stared at me incredulously. "It was?" she asked. "You did?"
"Yep!" I said. "No sweat! We showed that messy room who was boss!" I smiled. "Do you need any help with chores, Mims?"
One of Mimmy's ears turned back, and she looked aside. "I have to clean the bathrooms," she said. "I hate that chore."
"I can see why," I said. I mean, I'm grateful that this fortress has indoor plumbing, but bathrooms are still bathrooms. "Want us to help you make it fun?"
"Yeah, we can turn that into a game too!" Bartelo said. "Like maybe… see if you can wash and dry a whole mirror with only two towels!"
Mimmy gave him a confused, but hopeful look. "You really think that'll make it fun?" she asked.
"We should try!" Bartelo said. "C'mon, let's go!" He grabbed his sister's arm and tugged her to their parents' bathroom.
I followed behind them, unable to stop smiling. It certainly had been a productive afternoon.