1628, Earth Season, probably Freezeday of Stasis Week
There is talk between Varanis and Berra about what happens next. Session 3SA.06.
The sun breaks free of the horizon, and Berra relaxes a little and looks around. “Hmm. I’ve never been here before. It doesn’t have the regular Temple layout.” It’s a ring of six standing stones, and several smaller markers.
Although she had not slain the sun, as per Berra’s request, Varanis had been caught up in morning prayers. With Yelm fully risen, she finishes and looks around.
This is a low rise that looks over farmland to one side. There is a road not far away, a few trees, and not more than a few hundred yards away, a misty blur with tangled vegetation – an outcropping of a marsh of some kind.
“Is that the Upland Marsh?” Varanis asks, pointing.
“It looks a lot like the… yeah. I think so. Some of it, anyhow.” Berra wrinkles her nose at it, accidentally charming to people who like sulky weirdos.
The Vingan strides towards one of the standing stones nearest to the marsh, curiosity lighting her expression.
“Um…” Berra looks around and then sighs. “Don’t leave the Temple yet?” she suggests, and then leave those who are not kin to Alynxes alone, and tags along with Varanis.
“I’ll stay inside the circle. I just want a better look.”
Berra nods. “Yeah. It was a lot like that when we did the Heroquest of Irillo and my Lord. That’s sort of a middle bit of the Marsh.”1Everyone present fails Homeland Lore and does not realise that this bit of the Marsh should not be here.
Varanis looks even more curious. “I wanted to help with that quest,” she murmurs. “But the thought of water… you know, I think whatever that was has finally be purged from me. I honestly don’t remember the last time I dreamt of drowning.” She’s reached the edge of the circle. Her hand rests lightly on a standing stone as she peers past it.
Berra winces only slightly, and bows to the stone in passing. “It’s probably gone. Maybe crocodiles can’t be afraid of water?”
Glancing at Berra, the Vingan breaks into a toothy smile. “That works for me,” she says. Realising she’s touching what is likely a sacred monument, she winces in an unconscious mirror of the Humakti and removes her hand. “Sorry,” she tells the stone awkwardly.
“I think it prob… it didn’t kill you. But I think they were here to greet Humakt.” Berra shrugs. “I still want to climb around the Temple some day. But yeah, that looks like the Marsh, so I guess that’s why there’s a Temple here? Or… maybe it couldn’t come any closer?”
“I know that Humakt cut himself off from kin and that to Humakti, the separation is perfect and complete. But as a Vingan, Humakt is still my uncle,” Varanis says, her smile turning wry. “Maybe the uncle who you don’t expect to teach you how to ride a horse or to offer an opinion on a dress, but he’s family. He’ll kill me when it’s time, if that’s his task. But, I don’t believe he’d strike me down for touching his stuff uninvited.”
She winces again, then adds, “If he did, I’d be dead several times over.”
“No, but Death might, and he’s Death. But I think these stones are… not all him. Not like that.” Berra shrugs. “It’s… some things can be protective. But if anyone can ever come into this Temple the right way, we just did.”
“So, are we safe here, for now? …Does anyone know where we are?” Finarvi asks, sounding doubtful.
“Yeah. I mean, we do. And Giland might. But maybe nobody else?” Berra comes back a bit towards the others, leaving Varanis to not steal monumental temple architecture. She adds, “And we’re safe, for now. This might end up pretty political, but I don’t know, and I need to make the right declaration – when people come here I need to tell them I brought a thing out of Hell. But really… well, unless the Lismelder are at war with the Colymar, we’re fine.”
Varanis turns to her. “Do you need help figuring out how to say something?”
Berra thinks. “Options would be good. I know what to say, but it might depend on who’s there. I gotta be able to not annoy High Swords.”
There’s a chuckle from her friend, but then she turns serious. “Let’s talk it through then.”2Varanis rolls 001 on Orate, to help Berra find what to say.
Berra listens, talks, makes her own suggestions – most of which are going to fall flat or irritate someone – and finally nods. “Right. I think I’ve got it. Respect then announcement, and… try to stay off telling them it’s a new power but without not saying it?” And as she goes through that list, her body language is about right for each part.
Varanis beams at her. “We’ll make a politician of you yet,” she teases. “Before you know it, you’ll be Eril’s Chief Priest.”
Berra stares. “I’d last a day,” she says.
Varanis is unrepentant. “But it would be a glorious day to watch!”
“Alright. And after we’ve killed me and he’s annoyed, what next?” Berra grins, but she might have an ulterior motive.
“Ummm… it stops being funny and I end up mad at some people?”
“Well, I was hoping for annoying him more, but I’ll take that.” Berra smiles. “We should go… I don’t know if I can go back to Boldhome, y’know?”
Varanis looks puzzled. “Because of Harrek?”
“Yeah. It’s all… I’d have to go see a lot of people, and Lord Eril doesn’t want me there and he’s pretty busy right now.” Berra’s elastic features go past wistfully perplexed and into pityingly condescending.
“Meh, he’s always busy,” Varanis points out. “But… I’m not sure Boldhome is where I want to go just yet anyway. We’ve already search the city for information on my armour, so we need to think about the next step. And besides, I’m not sure I’m ready to present myself to the Prince again just yet. She’d find something else to keep me busy and I’d have to put this aside again.” She runs her fingers along the runes of her vambrace. “This feels important.”3Failed Loyalty Kallyr.
Berra nods. “That’s fine, then. I’ll want to visit my river, we can look for the sagas and try to find what happened to the Backboy.”
“Speaking of which…. I’m still thinking about whether or not I want a Backboy of my own. On the one hand, it could be really useful. On the other, if I had one, they might be stuck with Giland and Manasa just now!”
“So that would be useful. Could bring your things.” Berra shrugs.
“I should find one who is good with horses. Maybe I’ll get Finarvi and Serala to vet any potential candidates for me.” Varanis sighs. “Later. For now, can we get to your river without crossing into Colymar lands?”
“Horses, and armour polishing.” Berra looks speculatively at Finarvi. “Yeah. The river goes into these lands – I don’t know where the Temple is compared to it, but if we go South we should hit the King’s Road, and I guess if we go East we hit the river. We’re at the edge of the marsh.”
“And how long do we need to wait for someone to come to us? Perhaps we should look for the closest village?”
“It’s just past Yelmrise. This is someone’s Temple. We’ll wait a bit longer – they’ll be at worship somewhere else or there would be someone here.” Berra shrugs. “I don’t think it’s forbidden to eat breakfast here, but it’s probably not polite to break down and start cooking.”
Varanis snorts. “You have food? Mine is in my saddle bags.”
Berra pats a belt pouch. “It’s really boring stuff, but yeah. Dried fruit and nuts, and some jerky.” Because she’s always got useful stuff on her belt, or at least, snacks.
After a moment’s consideration, Varanis shakes her head. “I’m fine, for the moment. Not in the way I usually mean it, but for real. Maybe Maalira could use a few nuts though? She’s looking a bit worse for wear.”
Berra nods, and goes to distribute her food.
Finarvi, listening to all this, huffs a sigh and lies down on the ground, determined to nap while nothing is trying to kill him.
Berra looks approving.
Varanis paces around the stone circle, studying the stones and peering into the distance beyond as if searching.
Berra comes up to Varanis after a few minutes. “You get a bite to eat as well,” she says. “Because you never know when the next meal won’t be.”
Varanis tenses momentarily, then takes a slow breath. “Thank you. You’re right.” She accepts a piece of jerky to nibble on.
Berra says, “All of it. You’ve mostly got the fruit, but we all eat together or don’t.” She is matter of fact about it, like this is just a thing she is explaining to a younger initiate.
The Humakti receives a glare, but no argument and the food is accepted.
Berra looks slightly surprised, but rallies. “The Temple’s empty. It shouldn’t be, I think. So I want to be sure we’re ready and fed, in case we’re walking for a day.”
Varanis shakes her head ruefully. “I’m not sure where I went there… it felt like you were telling me what to do and for a heartbeat, I rebelled. It’s passed now, I think. You’re right about this. You often are.”
Berra considers for a moment, then nods in acceptance, and does her best to squeeze Varanis’ shoulder despite the armour. “We walked a long way. We didn’t sleep. We did something magical. Now we can pause to see if there is a thing that’s right to do. Which I admit we should all probably help with.”
Putting her hand on top of Berra’s, Varanis says, “Friends, yes? Not Orlanth to Humakt or commander to initiate. Not because of duty or obligation. Friends working together because we matter to each other?”
There’s a brief blink. “Yeah. But this got deep.”
With a self-conscious laugh, Varanis shrugs. “Wandering around in the underworld is becoming a habit.”
Berra pauses, thinks, and then keeps eye contact while she slowly crunches down on a hazelnut.
“Berra!” Varanis protests, still laughing. “That’s creepy. Are you imagining crunching my bones or something?”
A tiny fragment of jerky gets eaten, crushed between canines, and then Berra is laughing rather than eating. The grinning action was too much for her.
- 1Everyone present fails Homeland Lore and does not realise that this bit of the Marsh should not be here.
- 2Varanis rolls 001 on Orate, to help Berra find what to say.
- 3Failed Loyalty Kallyr.