This is the original scene cut from the rough draft of Heart Secret, most of the first dialogue with the house is still in, I think, Chapter 7 and 8. Most of the scene after that was all cut.
"But the Turquoise House is your friend, you should want to gift him with a stone!" Artemisia protested to BalmHeal Residence. She sat on the windowseat in her bedroom and looked in the general direction of the first sacred grove made by the Earth colonists when they'd arrived on Celta. "Why don't you want to donate a rock for his HouseHeart?"
"Upstart," BalmHeal Residence sneered, deep in his grumpy-old-man persona. "We'd be tied together forever."
She raised her brows. "That assumes that every rock and stick on this estate belongs to you."
"And you can feel each and every bit?"
"You want to take it from my best grove."
"That's right. A grove established several years before your walls and the oldest of your foundations. If anything defines this place, it's the groves and the Healing pools."
All the open doors of the Residence slammed shut.
There was a short cry from Artemisia's mother.
"Be careful," Artemisia snapped.
"No one is careful of me. Of my feelings," the Residence rumbled.
"That is not at all true." Artemisia sighed in exasperation, and donned her patience. She'd had to learn it as a Healer, and it usually came more in handy with the Residence than her patients. "We love you. The Turquoise House deeply, deeply admires you. He is thrilled that you would so condescend to allow him to have a...a pebble for his HouseHeart."
! He asks for only a pebble? Who does he think he is? He believes he can store data and think in pebbles
! Rude upstart." The shutters on the wall outside the window clacked shut, then open.
Artemisia didn't feel it was wise to inform her own Residence that the upstart already worked with pebbles. "I suppose you could, perhaps, donate a large stone, then? Perhaps even a dressed one, like one of those in the outside storage area?" She put a wheedle in her voice. The Residence liked that humans might have to beg for his beneficience.
"And you will be staying away from me
." This time the shutters clapped over the window as if to hold her in. "A whole eightday."
"Yes," Artemisia said to her home, BalmHeal Residence. "I'll be away from you and my Family and the sanctuary for a week. That's the term of the project. None of us, even FirstLevel Healer Ura Heather, anticipates that the experiment will take that long." Her voice lowered of its own accord. "The FirstLevel Healers actually think it will take GentleSir Primross no longer than five or six days to throw off the sickness." She heaved a sigh for the Residence. "It's too bad we couldn't bring him here, you
are the best HealingHall in all of Celta. Because you are the oldest."
"Yes." The slats of the shutters opened and she could see the green of verdant summer outside the window, the swathes of lawn, the glitter of Healing pools, the tall tops of trees. There was more than one sacred grove, more than one Healing grove on the estate. Beloved, familiar, exquisite.
"That young house. It has no occupants?" the Residence asked.
"No. And it is empty, white walls. Pitiable."
A groan of the wood of the window seat under her was disconcerting.
"It is, perhaps, lonely?"
"Maybe," she agreed.
"It knows nothing of abandonment, of loneliness." Back to a snapping sneer. And that was the issue, of course. BalmHeal Residence had been abandoned for centuries, so long that it had nearly died. The estate had welcomed the desperate, but few had gone to the house, even fewer had managed to get past its shields and inside.
Artemisia hauled up another sigh, let it out noisily. "I don't want to go, but I was not exactly asked." She rubbed the molding around the window up and down. It was always shiny there because of her habit.
"You could always stay here, always."
An old argument, and one she knew how to counter. "I need to be outside if I am to meet a man and have children for you."
The Residence wanted children. Might not want the man. "We all know that Tiana will most likely live outside, at least for several years." Artemisia pressed her palm on the window glass. "So my children are the ones who might tend to you in the future."
There came the sound of her door latch depressing and the door swung open. BalmHeal Residence knew she hated when it did that, but she wasn't going to make an issue of the action.
This was an acquiesence to her and TQ's request.
"The new young house may have a rock from the summerhouse on the estate."
"Not from the oldest grove? Ple-ease
"Oh, very well. A largish stone from the summerhouse. A pebble from the sacred grove."
"Thank you so much!"
"You will be back this evening?"
"For dinner, I swear." She raised a hand.
"Your pillow is already on the way to the youngster," BalmHeal Residence said.
"But not my favorite."
"Thank you." She ran through the door, closed it behind her and patted it, then took off for the summerhouse that was not really on the way to the sacred grove which was in the far south western corner of the estate. But she was pleased with herself for cajoling the Residence and being able to fulfill TQ's dreams. And pleased with the Residence for being so generous. It, too, was Healing well, emotionally. But slowly.
In the fifteen years since her Family been the guardians of the BalmHeal estate, they'd cleared and repared ancient paths, worked hard on the gardens. Since the estate was huge and there were only four of them, there was still plenty of naturally overgrown areas. The Family was also getting help from the shields on the walls for greenery near them, and the sentience of the Residence was creeping out farther than just its building – not by much. And, of course, the Family funnelled much of the energy they called during holiday rituals into maintaining the house and the estate.
Living here was emotionally satisfying to Artemisia. Her mother was an excellent Healer, her father, an ex-judge, usually stayed on the estate, working in a more physical fashion than he had before. Lately, though, he'd been publishing work in the outer world on law under a pseudonymn.
Still, the path she ran along to the summerhouse was clear and in good shape – not tangled as it had been when the Mugworts had arrived. She knew just the stone she wanted from the summerhouse. There was an egg-sized and shaped stone that someone had left in one of the window seats of that building. Artemisia and Tiana had discovered it...and the human sensations on the stone had been over a century old. None of the others would care if she gifted the egg to the Turquoise House, and the stone might have some resonances that TQ would prize.
She didn't stay very long at the summerhouse, though it looked out on a trio of bathing pools and she became aware of a slight film of sweat drying on her skin from her run. These particular clothes didn't have inbuilt Flair spells to dissipate persperation.
She'd wanted to look good for Garrett Primross. Such an irritating man. But the sky was blue with puffy clouds and she was in her favorite place in the world and in this moment had to please no one but herself. So she walked through the grass and the meadows to the sacred grove.
When she entered the deep shade of the trees, the atmosphere hushed and she was aware, here, as no other place, of her own soul. Her steps slowed, her pulse slowed, her life slowed to contemplation of the beauty of the world.
So she stood and soaked up the filtered light through the trees, let the sunlight slide away into shade. Lived and breathed and enjoyed.
Finally, when all the hectic tension-seconds that had filled the last two days had sifted from her, she breathed deeply and studied the grove. Usually the Family only held rituals here on the most sacred of holidays, the ones when they aligned themselves with the sun.
Tiana had held the blessing ritual the night before in the main Healing grove, since the matter they prayed for was a successful Healing, an addition to Healing knowledge and medicine.
The scent of thriving plantlife, ferns and flowers swirled into Artemisia's nostrils. She let her gaze unfocus and scanned the green, smiling. She was at peace, soaking up the serenity of this sacred place, letting the pulse of the grove, of the plants, of the trees wash through her.
Magical and spiritual, a place for the divine.
A glitter of red caught her eye and she blinked. Slowly she walked over to the one short pillar and the slab of stone atop it that was the altar. There, caught in blooming thyme at the base, was a shining red stone. No bigger than a pebble.
She picked up the sunwarmed gem and held it to the light. White lines streaked over the surface. A star ruby cabachon. Something no one had discovered in the grove during the weeding, during the rituals. A stone that would have been like blood in the snow.
She wouldn't question its presence, surely it had been revealed for her to give to the Turquoise House.
She held the ruby flat on her palm in the sun, sent her mind questing for her mother, her father, her sister, all who were on the estate.
Look! Look what I found in the sacred grove!
Mental murmurs of awe flowed to her from her Family.
Her mother said telepathically, The Residence informed us – with great irritation – of the Turquoise House's Request and the Residence's great generousity in allowing you to take a pebble from the grove and a stone from the summerhouse.
That is wonderful
! Tiana said. The Lady and Lord provide.
, Artemisia said.
Did you take the marble egg from the summerhouse
? her father asked.
Artemisia laughed and felt Tiana's laughter, too. So much for thinking their parents didn't know about everything on the estate.
, Artemisia said.
Blessings to the Turquoise House, then
, Tiana said, and her words were echoed by the older Mugworts.
See you at dinner
, her mother said. BalmHeal Residence has insisted that you have your favorite foods.
Artemisia's mouth watered at the thought of furrabeast and vegetable stew, fresh bread, greens and individual fruit pies.
The Residence has doubts that the 'upstart' will feed you well
, said her father.
'Porting to CityCenter Teleportation pad now,
Artemisia said. Later.
Her fingers closed over the ruby. She plucked a large maple leaf off the altar and wrapped the ruby in it, fastened the precious gem closed with a little spell and put it in the long square pocket of her left sleeve.
Found treasures were the best. Found treasures in the sacred grove were divinely sent. Not one of them questioned that.
And so the feeling of love came from her Family and Artemisia left with a smile.
That lasted until she arrived on the public carrier to TQ and saw the man in the courtyard.
Yes, the beta readers saw this, but I don't think anyone else...