Coming Clean

1628, Fire Season, Movement Week


Context

After meeting with Lord D’Val and the Iron Lord, Varanis took her rapier to the Air Temple and then returned to collect Berra for an excursion.

The day after the return to Boldhome, sometime after Session 3.20 HeroQuest 5. Follows on from Owed a Sword and continues in Vingan Judgement.

Events

After the sword has been delivered, it is time for Varanis to return to the Temple of Humakt.  The guards are still in their places, the gates open for anyone inside to come and join at the practice if they both wish and dare.

Varanis presents herself at the gates, asking after the initiate, Berra.

Berra, wearing a single sword and an expression of determined confusion, comes out a few minutes later.  She is wearing Eril’s bronze sword at her left hip, but not his torc.  Her clothing is light linen, suitable for the summer season.  Her armour is nowhere to be seen.1B: Scan roll? V: Pass scan. Also, convenient! Varanis went out without armour too.

Dressed in a Vingan style of tunic and trews with a short skirt of blue wool, Varanis’ only armour appears to be Kallyr’s arm ring and some bronze jewellery. She wears a broadsword, rather than her rapier.

Subtle, but there.  Berra has the black feather usually in her helmet tied onto her scabbard, flat to it.  She has been missing it for a while.  “Hey there.”  Varanis gets a smile.  The Humakti even lifts up a hand in greeting.  The left, like a Dragonewt, or someone keeping their sword-hand clear.

“I want company,” Varanis proclaims, as if D’Val hadn’t suggested this. “But I’m trying to decide what to do. We could climb, or swim, or go get a bite to eat, or visit the ice wall, or run, or…” She rattles off a long list of options, shifting from foot to foot.2B: Do me an Insight (Friend)? V: Alas. Even with a bonus, that’s bound to be a fail. 88

Berra considers those things.  “High Sword says I need a bath,” she finally replies.  “Which is his way of saying he’s really pleased with me but doesn’t want to seem like he’s bending so he’s giving me personal criticism instead, I think.” Berra is usually about as good as she can be at hygiene in the field, but that does not often mean the use of pumice.3B: And another Scan or an INTx5, go on. V: Pass INT

Looking back, thinking back, Berra spent as little energy as she could on the way back.  She would roll out of her bedroll and into armour, or just unlace what she was wearing and crawl under a cover.  She is probably in need of a heavy-duty clean.

Varanis wrinkles her nose. “I didn’t want to say, but you are a little wiffy,” she teases. “So, we still have choices! We could visit the Ulerians, who frankly have the best baths in the city. We could go to one of the public baths. There’s the river. Or… I’ve had a large bathing bucket delivered to the house. It’s in a corner of the kitchen, so the water doesn’t have to be carried far. I thought Yehna might use it for the children. If we like it, then when I return this I’ll order something.” She keeps rambling, “I think I want something bigger though. My knees end up under my chin!”4Missed call from B. B: damnit.  Wet screen. V: Not available for a call yet. Wet screen? 👀

It takes a moment for Berra to answer once more.  “The Ulerians,” she says, decidedly.5B: I am in the bath already, come join me. … Or else, being rained on. V: Wait…. You were turning on your camera in… the rain. GM: Turning on….

Varanis nods. “Decision made! Let’s go.”6B: No, the rain turned it on.  I was trying to type. V: There he is… now that we have successfully cast the summoning spell, we should do the binding one! B: Phone-chest interface.  Don’t tell Tom. I just did. `7Why include these kinds of footnotes? Because if I have to suffer through this, any poor sod reading the log should have to as well!

Berra does the usual magic, as if by habit, but she seems not to be keyed up for action.  “How’re you doing?” The spell sparks no assassins.  Berra’s little tilt of the head points out nothing that makes her attack.  The gate-guards do not comment.

Varanis shrugs. “It’s been interesting, I suppose. Orlanth Rex’ High Holy Day approaches and there are a lot of preparations.”

“We only got back yest…”  Berra subsides and nods.  “Right.  I’m going to be at the Temple for a few nights, probably.”

“The High Holy Day won’t wait for me to be rested,” Varanis points out. “I had word from the palace waiting for me when I woke this morning. Things I need to do and such. I’ll get to it. But for now, baths.” She glances back at the Humakti temple. “Just nights? You’re free in the days?”

“They don’t need me, unless they need everyone.  I reported last night, and… yes, daytime free.”  Her voice is slower than normal and quieter, maybe more thoughtful.

Varanis glances sharply at her friend. “Are you ok?” she asks quietly, as they gain some distance from the temple gates and the guards who watch them.

“I didn’t sleep much last night,” Berra says.  “I’ve got a few things I need to sort out.”  Her expression twists briefly into an unhappy one, although she looks away to hide it.  “I’ll sleep at D’Val’s door tonight.” She adds, a little too late, “Lord D’Val’s door.”

There’s a nod of reply, then the Vingan leaves things be, not pressing for more. They cross the road. She leads them across the nearby bridge, confidently shouldering her way through the busy foot traffic.

Berra says as they walk, “I did some things I’m still too gnarled up to be ashamed of, but I think I should be.  He helps me.”

There’s a sharp inhale of breath and her companion tenses beside her, as if suddenly ready for a fight.

“I know.  It’s going to take a while to be over it.  You showed me myself.  And I di’nt…”  Berra sighs.  “Let’s go talk about it in the bath.  I’ve got a grudge against that whole Temple and it’ll be good practice to put it aside.”  Her words are a mix of anger, determination, and damage.

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Berra,” Varanis hisses through a clenched jaw. “You survived something that ….” She shakes her head and slowly expels the rest of her Air. “No. I will shut up and listen and not until we are neck deep in hot water of the enjoyable sort.”

“Yeah.”  Berra perks up a little as they walk.  “Bath.  And then the High Sword can find some other reason to prod.”  Maybe that amuses her.

Once they are across the bridge, their path takes them southeast along the road that runs parallel to the river, before turning sharply away from the water to the large Temple. Through the main entrance they are provided with the usual choices and Varanis indicates that their wish simply for a quiet bath. If the acolyte thinks that one of them might have a particularly impressive need for a bath, her expression does not give it away. They are conducted to the first rooms where they can strip and scrub away the worst of the dirt.8B: Nuther Scan roll! V: Pass. Also… you probably ought to too. I don’t think V knows about her new tattoo yet and don’t know if you noticed the Iron Lord’s mark on her palm. And those red marks on your face… still there?

Berra does that with the efficiency of someone used to using river water in winter, or snow-melt.  Her clothes are relatively clean, at least.  She is wearing a tunic with Yehna’s neat stitching.  There is a new scar on her left forearm, curving around over the tendons.  It looks long but not bad.9B: The red marks will appear when she gets warm in the water, I think.  I shall roll Scan for the rest.

Varanis stares at Berra’s forearm. She lifts a hand to reach for it, then stops herself. “That looks like it hurt.”10B: Berra also has a new mark but I have not designed it yet.  Beast, Death.  Something.  Maybe one made of the other.  Pass on both Scans but I think I would need a special for the palm. V: Xenofos was going to confirm the placement of my new tattoo, but since he hasn’t, I’m assuming it’s on my back. Neck would have been noticed by now.

That provokes more emotion.  “It was pretty clean,” Berra says.  “And worth it.  I gave the worst report of my life to Lord Eril.”

“Do you wish to talk about it? And would you prefer to do so here or once we are soaking? Some of that grime is so deeply embedded, it’ll need time to cook off.”

“I need a rub-down.  Wouldn’t want to get this into the water unless they can change it really well.  But I kind of need to talk about some but I don’t want to make it harder on you right now.”  Berra rubs at the scar and then at the patch left behind by rubbing.  “Normally I do this with a cloth.”  Normally, that is sufficient for the field, but bits of her still have the field attached.

“You won’t make it harder on me,” Varanis tells her. “Not really. My imagination is very good and I’m doing an excellent job of making it hard on myself, thank you very much.” She grabs a boar bristle scrub brush, a fresh bucket of hot water, and a pot of the cleansing oil. “Let me help? I can at least scrub your back and hair.”

“Um…”  Berra thinks about that for a moment.  “I don’t want anyone behind me right now?”  She winces.  “It’s not you.  I might lash out.”

Varanis arches a brow at that. “Well, I could do your front, I suppose. But you’ll still be stuck trying to contort enough to clean your own back. Mind you, you are pretty flexible.” Her light tone and teasing words belie the worry in her expression.

“Again, cloth.  But those are not the bits that need cleaning most.”  Berra gets on with it, but after a while she pipes up, “I did a couple of things.  Like I killed a Rune Lord who couldn’t strike back at me.”

Varanis is applying the brush to her own arms, scrubbing fiercely. When Berra speaks, she glances up, but doesn’t say anything.

“I was up at the top of the mountain, and they were Onjur’s people.  But it wasn’t an honourable action, was it?”  Berra pauses in going over her ankle with a scraper.  Her posture shows the edge of a new tattoo, or at least one of the private sort that people do not mention having.  It looks a little like a Beast Rune, with spikes.11Ribs, bottom right, about where her elbow would normally hide it, or a bit behind that. Or maybe the classical Beast Rune with the lines coming from the corners, but I’ve always liked this one.  But done by an artist.

“That’s new,” Varanis comments, trying to see without moving any closer to Berra.

“Eh?”  Berra looks puzzled.  “Me killing people with sling stones?  I guess so?”

“No. The tattoo. On your ribs.”

Berra looks down, left and right, and fails to see anything.  Then being her she twists, and with a yelp a bit like a wolf might give, stands up as if trying to get away from the new lines and dots.

“Calm,” Varanis cautions. “The floor is wet. You’ll fall.” She adds, “Do you want me to get a mirror?”

Berra holds up her arm, and peers.  “Alright, that is new.”  She does a graceful pirouette by accident as she tries to see the patch of blue.  “Uh, yes?”

Varanis summons one of the bathing attendants and requests a mirror be brought to them. What gets delivered is a highly polished circle of copper with a handle shaped like a rounded Fertility Rune.

Meanwhile, Berra has nearly said something a couple of times, and when the attendant has come and gone, she says, “You… um, you have a new one too?”

Her companion twists to check her ribs. “I don’t see anything.”

“I’m gonna touch you,” Berra warns her, and then, once sure Varanis will not spook, she traces a spiral between her shoulders.  “Where your balance-strength comes from.”

Varanis quivers slightly as Berra traces the tattoo, but she doesn’t flinch away. “I didn’t… do you think… the quest?”

Berra steps back.  “Yeah.”  She moves the mirror to prop it against the wall, on a bench, so they can both look at once.  For Varanis it may be easier to summon a second mirror – she can see her own new tattoo pretty clearly.

A second mirror is requested and delivered. It sort of works, but there is only so much that can be accomplished with polished copper. Still, Varanis gets a sense of it. Using her free hand, she traces the rune. “Are those… Mastery runes?”

“Yeah, all the way around.  You really were Orlanth, you know.”  Berra looks impressed, and gives Varanis a grin.  It is a fragile one, though, and it crumbles after a moment, and the Humakti looks away.

Varanis snorts softly. “Four arms and all. Did your Sword tell you I collected the rapier? It’s at the Vingan Temple now.”

Berra nods, and after a while manages to collect herself.  She straightens.  “Yes.  Thank you.  I didn’t know how to hand it over without making something of it and I didn’t know what to make of it.”

She gets a bit of a wobbly smile. “I’m sure you may be busy over the next while, but… wait. It’s getting chilly. Are you clean enough to soak in the hot water for a bit?”

Berra rubs her face mostly clean.  “No.  Want me to join you there in a bit?”  She glances again at the mirror, thoughtfully.

“I’d rather wait for you, unless you’d rather I go away,” Varanis tells the Humakti. “I’ll just warm up with a bucket of hot water for now.”

“I’m not cold,” Berra replies, but she does see to the rest of the dirt quickly, and then pours cold water over herself to clean off.  That leaves her gasping and obviously regretting her choices.  “Uuuuuhggghhh…”

“How about now?” Varanis asks with a nod towards the passage to another chamber.

“My ears are ringing,” Berra complains, still in a gasp, but she follows along.  “That was iced, I’m sure!”

Varanis slips into a heated pool of water with a happy sigh. She dunks herself under and stays for several heartbeats before resurfacing. “Much better.” The water streams off her hair and lashes.

Berra steps in gingerly, sitting down on the edge to help herself ease in.  “Now the hot water hurts,” she tells Varanis.  “Never….”  She trails off, then just steps in.  “Ow.  Never try that?”

“Sometimes you just have to throw yourself into…” Varanis trails off, becoming aware of the double meaning in her words. “Sometimes. And other times, things need to be thought through.”12B: How big is the pool, do you think? V: In past scenes, Xenofos and I have had 3 people in it without being uncomfortable.

“If…. ah, let’s leave it.  Just be quiet for a bit.  I need to think, anyhow.”  Berra keeps one hand on the edge of the bath and tries to spread out, but she is too muscular to float without that little bit of aid, and is leaving a polite amount of space for Varanis.  She soon folds herself back into place, and looks up at the ceiling, picking out the details above.

For her part, Varanis sinks until only her head is above the surface of the water. The longer they stay, the more flushed her face becomes. She shows no evidence of being ready to leave though.13B: Do me an Insight? V: Pass

Berra seems far away.  Her skin flushes, her body relaxes, but something stays tense within her.  It is normal for her to keep her sword within arm’s length, but she moves from time to time as if to reach for it, and then remembers herself and subsides.  There is some kind of fight going on inside her.

Her companion watches, but says nothing.14V: You’re too distracted to notice this, I think, but I want it recorded. Several times Varanis looks like she wants to talk, but she generally just sinks a little deeper and is silent when she comes back up again.

After a while, Berra says, “Maybe I should try to pay for… he’s dead, and I don’t mind that.  But I probably should.”  She is explaining to the ceiling.

“Do you know who he was?” Varanis asks quietly.

“Not a clue.  Someone in silver armour.  Cavalry.  One of Onjur’s people.”  Berra glances at Varanis.  “I’d been climbing for a while.”15V: Have you told Varanis much of what happened to you? B: Berra was pretty quiet on the way back.  I think she reported briefly in IC plotty plotty?  But she was just trying to get back.

“You know I’ll listen without judgement, should you wish to talk about it, right?”

Berra nods.  “I think I need judgement, though.  Maybe not from you.  The High Sword is busy.  Lord D’Val doesn’t tell me things.  He lets me think about them.  But he’s got this one wrong.  I need telling.  I’m never going to tell myself.”

“I have found Tennebris to be fair but honest,” Varanis suggests. “Venlar or Lord Silor. But perhaps you need a Humakti. I don’t know how such things work within your cult.”

“I don’t know.  I don’t want to leave here,” Berra says.  “I can’t handle the thought of not being by the Temple right now.  And hardly anyone knows what we did.  I mean, the details.  The stuff that went on.  It gets pretty close to dangerous secrets.”

“Tennebris knows,” Varanis points out. But then she lets the subject drop and leaves Berra in peace for the time being.

“He’s not the right person.”  Berra stretches, and reaches her arms along the edge of the pool.  Her muscles tense slowly and relax.  “My problem is I don’t want to judge, and I hate having people in judgement over me.”

Berra is small enough that she can float in the pool.  Only a duck could take to water so.16Or a Helering.

Varanis mutters something under her breath.17V: Listen? B: Fail. V: Ears full of water, obvs.

Berra gestures up at the ceiling as she thinks, sinks down, and rises up to sit in place once more.  Varanis gets her attention now, and a sigh.  “I don’t know how to put away what I’m feeling, but lemme tell you what I did?”

Varanis nods, attentive as the steam rises around them.

“So, after I refused being Lhankor Mhy for the third time, I didn’t really get back into the Hero World for a while.  But I’d been breathing bad air, and I was trying to get away from Onjur because he wanted to be where he could control me.  It did mean letting him go free – I couldn’t keep him with me AND not have him talking to me, and he’s better at talking.  So I climbed the mountain.”  It’s more a ring cliff, but in either case it’s a lot of rock.

There’s an appropriate listening noise from across the pool.

“And up at the top, I could see his camp.  It was a bit more than a stone’s throw away, but I was… well, I had the makings of a sling.  Was it dishonourable to strike at them from there?”18V: I have rolled Honour and passed. I don’t think it’s dishonourable, so I’m going with Varanis doesn’t. But I am aware that in some times and places it might be seen that way. Vingans are honourable but carry some of Ernalda’s pragmatism. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. B: GM may wish to prompt or explain details that might not occur to us, but yay, judgement!

“Why would it be? You were up against an entire army and dealing Death. Perhaps Death’s purest form comes from the blade, but it can come in many ways and from many directions. I don’t know know the workings of your cult and cannot offer you the judgement you seek. Besides, you said you wouldn’t have it from me. But if you were a Vingan, I would tell you that your sling stones were as bolts from the hand of Vinga.”

Berra considers that.  “Alright.  I think I know, then.  There are some things we are told not to do that we don’t usually need a geas to stop us.  We just don’t do them.  Then there are some things we do.  I’d fight from ambush.  D’Val doesn’t.  But ambush isn’t dishonourable.  It’s just not open all the way.” She adds, “I think the question for me is whether they were my enemy.”

“They were Lunars,” comes Varanis’ instant reply.

“So can I kill a Lunar farmer?”

“No. But you were firing into the ranks of their army, not into a farmer’s field.”

“Yeah.  So I think I ambushed them.  And I’m alright with that.”  Berra sinks down into the water, until only her face is above it.  Her Truth Rune has those little dots in again.

Varanis pulls herself out of the water to sit on the edge of the pool. While her face is flushed, from the neck down her skin is so red it looks burned.

Berra sits up and looks at her own skin.  “Ew.  Red is bad.”  That’s enough for her, and she stands and stretches, still in water up to her thighs.  The tops of her thighs.  She is short enough that she needed a bumper on her seat – provided by the attendants before they came, of course, and sunk down to be comfortable and warm for their arrival, or left by the last person who wanted to sit up in the water.

“A quick dip in the cold pool and then out into the air?” Varanis suggests, rising gracefully.

“Sure.”  Berra flexes her shoulders.  She seems a lot more relaxed now, but it was the talk and not the bath that did it for her.

The pool is cold and refreshing. The linen towels are crisp. They are handed beakers of cool water for drinking while their clothing is delivered. Their garments smell as if they have been freshly laundered, despite the brevity of their time here. Before long, they are stepping back out into the streets of Boldhome, where Yelm glares down from above.

  • 1
    B: Scan roll? V: Pass scan. Also, convenient! Varanis went out without armour too.
  • 2
    B: Do me an Insight (Friend)? V: Alas. Even with a bonus, that’s bound to be a fail. 88
  • 3
    B: And another Scan or an INTx5, go on. V: Pass INT
  • 4
    Missed call from B. B: damnit.  Wet screen. V: Not available for a call yet. Wet screen? 👀
  • 5
    B: I am in the bath already, come join me. … Or else, being rained on. V: Wait…. You were turning on your camera in… the rain. GM: Turning on….
  • 6
    B: No, the rain turned it on.  I was trying to type. V: There he is… now that we have successfully cast the summoning spell, we should do the binding one! B: Phone-chest interface.  Don’t tell Tom. I just did.
  • 7
    Why include these kinds of footnotes? Because if I have to suffer through this, any poor sod reading the log should have to as well!
  • 8
    B: Nuther Scan roll! V: Pass. Also… you probably ought to too. I don’t think V knows about her new tattoo yet and don’t know if you noticed the Iron Lord’s mark on her palm. And those red marks on your face… still there?
  • 9
    B: The red marks will appear when she gets warm in the water, I think.  I shall roll Scan for the rest.
  • 10
    B: Berra also has a new mark but I have not designed it yet.  Beast, Death.  Something.  Maybe one made of the other.  Pass on both Scans but I think I would need a special for the palm. V: Xenofos was going to confirm the placement of my new tattoo, but since he hasn’t, I’m assuming it’s on my back. Neck would have been noticed by now.
  • 11
    Ribs, bottom right, about where her elbow would normally hide it, or a bit behind that. Or maybe the classical Beast Rune with the lines coming from the corners, but I’ve always liked this one.  But done by an artist.
  • 12
    B: How big is the pool, do you think? V: In past scenes, Xenofos and I have had 3 people in it without being uncomfortable.
  • 13
    B: Do me an Insight? V: Pass
  • 14
    V: You’re too distracted to notice this, I think, but I want it recorded. Several times Varanis looks like she wants to talk, but she generally just sinks a little deeper and is silent when she comes back up again.
  • 15
    V: Have you told Varanis much of what happened to you? B: Berra was pretty quiet on the way back.  I think she reported briefly in IC plotty plotty?  But she was just trying to get back.
  • 16
    Or a Helering.
  • 17
    V: Listen? B: Fail. V: Ears full of water, obvs.
  • 18
    V: I have rolled Honour and passed. I don’t think it’s dishonourable, so I’m going with Varanis doesn’t. But I am aware that in some times and places it might be seen that way. Vingans are honourable but carry some of Ernalda’s pragmatism. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. B: GM may wish to prompt or explain details that might not occur to us, but yay, judgement!