"Please," I said. As it poured, I sat across from the second Jokkad, our Head of Household, Kamil--emodo, since that position is restricted to breeders, and in practice only males are suited to the work. I thanked Paza for the cup and waited for them to tell me whatever it was that had tainted their scents so.
"How did your errand to Transactions go?" Kamil asked.
My ears flattened. "Not well. For my part, there are no eperu who list the guardianship of the anadi as their primary duty, and even those who listed it as secondary did not have experience with the severely mind-taxed. In the matter of replacing Raddin... there were many who could do the work, but none we could afford."
Kamil grimaced. "That is poor news. We had hoped--"
He didn't finish, and neither Paza nor I filled the silence that followed. A grim cloud hung over House Gesha. We were a relatively new House adjacent to het Serelni, a town with many more established clans; our business was farming, and we'd had enough modest successes that we'd been hoping to enlarge the House by breeding some of our females after spring planting. A large part of that was my doing, for I am an unusual asset in a field where few are talented: I am a scent-maker. I mix lotions for dry skin, rinses for manes and tails, cleansing pastes for claws and fangs and perfume for all the body. I work underground in the anadi caverns, where the cool damp slows the decay of my oils, and there I spend the other half of my day warding the anadi. We have six females, bought at low cost... for all of them are severely mind-taxed, good only for the breeding we'd hoped to finally begin.
In anticipation of the forthcoming children, Gesha had been planning to hire a new eperu to work as a jarana, an anadi-guardian, leaving me to scent-work for the entire day to earn extra shell. But then one of our best workers, Raddin, had died abruptly of fever, taking with it all its knowledge and its quick competence in the fields. Suddenly our plans for children were jeopardized at a time when we needed to grow our own labor, and now a good portion of the fields would go unplanted.
"Well, there is nothing for it," Paza said. "If there is no one we can hire, we will not create someone by wishing. What are we to do?"