1628, Earth Season, Illusion Week, Godday
Varanis realises something is wrong with her lover, Serala, and drops back to find out. Session SA3.11.
When Varanis realises that Serala has ridden off, she heads towards the back of the pack, intent on collecting Manasa and following.
“What’s going on?” she asks Maalira.
The thunder of hooves rapidly recedes, Serala and Pag apparently needing some time to ride whatever demons are lurking on Serala’s shoulder out of their system. It’s not often that Serala really lets loose, too careful of her horse’s needs, but sometimes – for both their sakes – needs must, it seems.
“Serala was having a moment, and Berra was, uh, having a moment.” Maalira’s cheeks look darker than usual.
Varanis looks around in confusion, before staring back the way they came again. “Where’s she going? She’s not abandoning me… us, I mean. Is she?”
“She said something about her bird sulking, I think?” Maalira says. “She’s coming back.”
Berra is off examining the wide southern vistas. Maybe if she looks hard enough she can see the Shadow Plateau.
Given there’s no sign of Serala any more, not even the dust of her hooves, and Manasa is glaring at Varanis balefully, the Vingan decides to wait.
As they continue their progress, she glances over her shoulder frequently, now staying at the back of the group.
Valgarar does not stop the march of the ducks.
It doesn’t take too terribly long before the grey pony reappears in sight, Serala atop with Mouse riding on the hardened leather of her shoulder. A hawk-perch made for her shoulder, that is, not her shoulder itself. She is cantering more sedately now, still making good time compared to the main group and will be back with everyone imminently.
Varanis starts walking backwards, watching Serala’s approach.
Ducks may be implacable enemies of Undeath, but they have short little legs.
Serala smiles as she approaches Varanis and Manasa, slowing down to allow Varanis to sort out the demon horse. “Mouse got left behind.” The explanation short, to the point, and completely avoiding any other questions that might get asked. “How long to the next stop? Any idea? I’d ask the ducks but.. well..” A glance at the sky, it’s not an eyeroll, really. Much. “Ducks.”
Varanis shrugs. “I’m not sure. Sometimes they remind me of Mostali. Once moving, they can go forever it seems.”
Serala pats Pag’s neck, “Well, so can Pag.” she points out, “AND he has long legs.” She leans to one side, dangerously close to overbalancing it might appear. “Well. LongER.”
“I… ummm… can’t help but notice that you look like you took a tumble.” Varanis waves at the newish layer of road dust on the Grazelander. “Are you ok?”
“I was already on the ground.” Serala’s response is easy, quick… and a clear attempt to deflect. “So it wasn’t far to fall. No harm, no foul.” Another stroke of her horse, “He was probably just trying to remind me that we’d left Mouse behind.”
Varanis’ eyebrows vanish beneath her helm, but she lets it slide.
A cool wind blows from the North, as the weather begins to remember it is the end of Earth Season.
Serala shivers slightly, looking forward, beyond the marching-ducks, and glancing up towards the moons in the sky. “I’m looking forward to going back home.” She considers that for a long while before adding quietly, “I’m not looking forward to us going our separate ways again though.”
“Me neither.” Varanis falls into step beside Pag. Peering up at the rider, she says, “We didn’t get a chance to talk this morning. Did you dream more after you went back to sleep?”
“Would you mind… if we don’t speak of it?” Serala asks, but the tension is already clear to see in her. Although this time, when Pag tosses his head, she calms him with a light touch. “It’s not … calming. And we may need to be calm in the Marsh.”
“As you wish, Serala. I didn’t mean to upset you.” Varanis shrugs noncommittally. 1Insight: She’s worried and trying to hide it and probably not doing so particularly well.
Serala bites her lower lip, concerned as she studies the other woman. “There is too much death.” she says simply. “It haunts me. And I know that that woman will be there again. She is always there. It feels.. unfair.” She swallows, trying to smile, “Ignore me. I wallow. Others have to live harder parts. Maalira, her emotions wound like a braided mane. Finarvi, having to flee for his life, time and again. Berra herself, tortured by a future she fights to change.” She lifts her chin, “I must simply be stronger.”
Now Varanis stops hiding her worry, placing a hand on Serala’s leg as if she needs the lifeline. “But… that is a good reason to be concerned, beloved. She shouldn’t have taken up residence in your head. I mean, Eril has done so to Berra, but it’s his quest and his life and … well, it’s supposed to be about him! If that Lunar is sunk so deeply into you, does this mean it’s her quest too????”
Over to the right of the road, Berra is walking with her hands behind her back, one holding another in the casual grasp of a young Lord who is thinking very deep thoughts. It is another look that is not Berra’s – she would be twisting her fingers together and tilting her head from side to side.
Serala almost freezes at the question, fingers tightening on the reins, letting Pag take a step to bring her closer to Varanis. At the question, at the mention of Berra, she turns towards the small Humakti and for a moment, a look of hatred, dark and deep, flickers in her grey eyes. Just for a second and then it is Serala again, worried as she looks towards Varanis. “What do you suggest I do?” she asks softly. “Tell Berra, the first outside of my tribe that I ever cared for, that I will no longer help her because I am too weak to carry the burden? “
“No!” Varanis exclaims. “If you are weak in this, then so is she, and I don’t believe that to be true of either of you. I think we need to talk though. All of us. Because we have been so focused on this being Eril’s quest, that we have no considered who else might be involved. If the Lunars are trying to interfere through you, that doesn’t mean you are weak or should be leaving.” Thinking fast, Varanis says, “It means that this is important. That Berra is right and that we need to commit ourselves even more.” Her fingers tighten their grip on Serala. “If you have an enemy in your mind, then we know where she is. And because we know that, we can work to counter her. Do you see, my love? Because of you – because you are fighting her and are aware of her, we know where the danger hides.”
“Not fighting hard enough.” The Grazelander stares up at the sky, blinking to force back the sudden sparkle of tears. “I told him, you know? Tennebris. After the incident at the gate, when he dismissed us all… I paused a beat. I told him where Berra was, even knowing he was trying to stop her.” She will no longer meet Varanis’ gaze. “I sent Mouse to circle overhead when we were being followed, to lead her pursuers to the door. All this time… I.. I’ve been.” A deep furrow crosses her scarred brow. “I can’t be trusted any more, beloved. You would be better leaving me now. But would she take someone else then? Would she take you?” Fear, fury, a fire born of fright in her as she turns her stormy gaze to Varanis. “I couldn’t live with that. But I don’t know that I can live with this, either.”
Varanis starts shaking her head. “You’re not leaving us. And you can live with this for a bit longer. We’ll get her out of your mind before this is all done, I promise.” There’s a grim look. “As for doing things for HeroQuests that we might regret later, I still have you beat. I willingly entered into a quest with Onjur’s influence. I wasn’t sucked into it, like you’ve been. I sought him out and said yes. So I’m not going to let you browbeat yourself over what’s happening now.”
The tallest Humakti present is walking along without apparent cares, twisting her fingers together behind her back and writhing her shoulders as if she wants to be a snake when she grows up and is getting into practice.
Serala leans sideways, reaching to press her hand to Varanis’s shoulder. “I can browbeat myself better than anyo… oh. No. That’s not true, if I want a good browbeating, both Finarvi and Grandfather can do better.” A weak joke, perhaps, but nevertheless, an attempt at humour. “It tears me up though. I want this to be over. But when it’s over… you will be leaving. You, Berra, Maalira. And I will have a hole in my soul once more.”
Varanis peers up with glassy eyes. “I wish you could stay in Boldhome.”
“Can you see me in a city?” Serala asks ruefully. “I wouldn’t be the woman you want, then.”
Varanis growls. “I’d want you anywhere. But… you’re right. It’s not fair of me.”
Serala quirks her lips into a rueful smile. “It’s the same as me asking you to forget your duties to your family, nobility and heritage. We are what we are – what we are brought us together, just as it holds us apart.” She closes her eyes, trusting Pag to find the way, trying to hide the shimmer of tears. “We can long, and we can love, but the chances of us having even a peaceful retirement together after spending our youth fighting for Sartar seem slim enough. The chances of us spending our youth fighting together?” She raises her hands in hopelessness, even as a slow tear rolls down her cheek. “I don’t want to be realistic about this. Realism is full of horse shit.”
Varanis adds a string of colourful, if slightly mangled, Grazelander curses in agreement. There’s something about horse shit, asses, sailors, and the Luminous Stallion King, none of which really makes sense, but at least she’s enthusiastic. Finarvi should probably gets back to her lessons.
Serala can’t help laughing, letting the mood go. They have the now, the present, and the present can be good. She reaches down a hand, offering it to Varanis, “Ride with me?” she asks, patting the blanket behind her in invitation. “Pag says he doesn’t mind the extra weight… not since it’s you.”
Serala’s hand tightens in Varanis’s and she braces to support the Vingan as she hops up. Vingans, they can do all this flying and jumping around, right, so it should be easy… Or not. Varanis hops, Serala holds, Varanis kicks Pag hard on the rump as her right leg comes over the horse. His ears go back, his tail swishes, but Serala has her legs tight on him, reassuring him even as he thinks about expressing his displeasure. In the end he settles for an annoyed snort as he feels the double weight, Varanis settling behind Serala as though she was born to ride.2Varanis fumbles Ride, Serala criticals.
Varanis lets out a sigh of relief. “I thought that was going to go poorly for a moment. But, I think I’m getting better at riding!”
“One day we’ll have you riding as well as I can swim.” Serala agrees gravely.
Varanis just laughs and wraps her arms around the other woman. “I suppose racing ahead would make our escort unhappy.”
Serala looks back over her shoulder, looking completely herself in the moment as she winks. “They’re only ducks.” she points out cheerfully as she nudges Pag lightly in the ribs and the warpony gladly breaks into a canter, zipping past the slow marching ducks, “Catch us if you can!” she calls to Finarvi as the pair barrel past.
- 1Insight: She’s worried and trying to hide it and probably not doing so particularly well.
- 2Varanis fumbles Ride, Serala criticals.