Varanis has been short on sleep and long on worries for some time now. Having just spent the entire night snooping around Alda Chur with Valseena and Berra, draining herself of much of her connection to Vinga and then dealing with Venna, she’s exhausted. She arrives back in the Esrolian part of camp just in time to join the other Vingans for the Yelmrise rituals, during which time she puts on a good performance, but as soon as it’s done, she looks like she is too.
Berra has come to guard the warriors killing Yelm as she often does, and now she steps forward, looking like she has a thing to say. She gestures to Varanis, in the direction of the tent.
For the barest moment, the Vingan looks inclined to argue, then she shrugs and heads for the tent.
Berra looks back, nods to a couple of people, and says, “They’ll try to talk to you and be excited if you let them, and they’re gonna want all the details.” She grins. “First big night sneaking in somewhere?”
“No. But, first one that was more… hmmm. Most of the other times, it was either a prank or something small. And never before have I had so many people counting on me to make it back.”
Berra nods. “Yeah. That one felt sharp.” She falls silent then, pacing quietly, giving Varanis room to be silent.
“Was I wrong to put myself at risk? Some think so. But, I couldn’t stay here while Valseena went in.” Varanis sighs. “No. I wasn’t wrong. But it could have gone terribly badly. I’m glad the gods were on our side. Do you think they know someone was inside the walls?”
“No, of course not! You should risk yourself or else you’re not a leader. And I’m glad I did as well.” Berra considers the next bit, bouncing along as if she is full of wakefulness still. “Yes. Because there was trouble inside. So they’ll suspect. We didn’t leave a track, but they’ll wonder if they heard the horses going before the shouts did. Even if they didn’t think we came in, they might think that was a signal from inside.”
There’s a nod. “Makes sense. I wonder… they’d be stupid to respond. They seem to have enough to support them for the time being and it won’t be long until Dark Season. They might be able to wait us out.”
“Yeah. They’re not going to come out for something like that. They’ll just use it to think how stupid we are for being here. The only thing I wonder is if they know about our negotiations. I think that’s probably the big thing. Although Argrath’s gotta know that.” There is another shrug from Berra, who does not have to think about that level of problem.
Inside the tent, Varanis drops bonelessly onto her sleeping hides. Then she looks down at them and mutters a curse. “Dark Season is coming and I’m not sure we have the resources to keep our troops warm.
“We don’t. We need to send them home, probably two weeks before Earth Season ends, or see them in tents. We might be able to billet them – to put them in with people – but they’ll freeze and die if they stay out here like they are.” Berra goes to a flattened patch of ground and sits with mixed strength and grace, and very little elegance. She looks set to meditate, but Varanis still has her attention.
“I’m going to have to tell the Khan that there’s a limit to how long these troops are available.” The Vingan frowns. “I doubt it will matter to him. I don’t think any of the Praxians view them as useful.”
“Yeah, he knows that. What you should do is just ask him for shelter. But we shouldn’t keep them here in the cold. Once Dark Season starts they’ll be… well, you remember Prax? It’ll be a lot worse up here. You have to retreat to the cities.” Berra states it as a fact.
Varanis’ eyes widen. “Worse than Prax? You told me this before… snow drifts?”
Berra points out, “Up here, it’ll probably be even colder. I mean, than in Sartar. The rivers’ll freeze, obviously, Even down by the Blue Tree that happens most years. And the snow-drifts can be taller than I am, easily. In a really bad year they’ll be taller than Rajar. Shelter will see us here for longer, and hides will make it easier on people travelling home, but nobody campaigns in Dark Season, except trolls and wolves.”
There’s something in her expression, shock perhaps, that suggests Varanis may have missed out certain aspects of her geography lessons. “So, Argrath needs to break Alda Chur soon…”
“Uhuh.” Again, Berra seems unworried. “But he knows all that. Maybe he didn’t know what was against him, and he still wants to try. Maybe he did, and he thinks he’s got a plan. You’re not the only part of it – you can’t have been, because he knows city sieges enough. I mean, New Pavis happened and he could deal with the walls. So I figure he’s not here to fail, but maybe it’s not right yet, or… well, he had different resources at New Pa…” She pauses for a moment, smiles slightly, and goes on. “-vis.”
“I just wish he’d give me a reply for the Prince. A communal marriage would be a excellent solution. Bind two of the lines of Sartar to the Feathered Horse Queen. It would unify Prax, Sartar, and the Grazelands. That combined power should draw other allies across Dragon Pass and finally give us what’s needed to drive the Lunars out. But instead, he’s sitting outside Alda Chur and leaving me to cool my heels without an answer.” Words of frustration and impatience, uttered quietly enough that without magic, only Berra should be able hear.
Berra considers that for a bit rather than jumping straight on to savage it. Then she says, “He won’t give you an answer until after Alda Chur, I reckon. If we can find any Grazelanders around here – if any visit – then we should make sure they know Kallyr is helping him.”
Varanis nods. “Have you seen any or heard any reports of them? I’ve been watching, but the camp is big.”
“Nah, and there would be horses around. But we’ve got two-hundred people. Surely we can get them to ask?”
“Yes. That’s a go…” A huge yawn interrupts her. “…idea. Why am I so tired? It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve gone without sleep.” She yawns again.
“You’ve done a lot. And maybe you finally reckon it’s time. I’m probably going to sleep for a day when I get done with this.” Berra, were she anyone else, might think about sleeping for a week.
“I’m going to take a short rest. Just a few minutes, so I can be more alert if Argrath deigns to see me.”
“We’ll wake you if you need to be woken,” Berra says, getting up by rolling to her left, then shoving herself up to the right to rock onto her feet. Standing is a matter of continuing the movement so she does not fall over, although she does have to move to get her feet under her afterwards. “Take a few hours.”
Without bothering to change out of her climbing clothes, remove the dried woad, or even get under her sleeping hide, Varanis lies down. She’s very clearly done for the moment.
Berra tugs the hide over her, tender as any Humakti.