1626, Fire Season, Movement Week
In Boldhome, after Spark to a Flame (Session 1. 33). Xenofos has discovered that Varanis is missing (takes place after the beginning of Visions of Fire and Darkness, but that log is spoilery for this one).
Xenofos looks around at the inn and approaches Berra.
Berra, alert, sober and calm, lifts only an eyebrow in greeting. The Humakti is still sleeping at the Temple and attending night services, but here during the days.
“Evening, have you seen Varanis around?”
“No. I haven’t looked, but I don’t recall seeing her.” Berra considers. “And I should have.” There is no change in how she looks, but she does turn all of her attention to Xenofos. “How long?”
“Not after yesterday.”
“Crap. On favoured sandals.” She gets up to go to the bar and ask for Rondrik’s girl, and asks when Varanis last asked for something brought up. Not for a couple of days. Berra is by now looking dangerous, although thankfully not at the young woman. There is immediate stress coming onto her.
“I take that she has not told you what she is up to.” Quite a serious look from Xenofos.
Berra answers by breaking into a run, heading for the stairs and the way up to Varanis’ room. That would probably be a no, then.
“Thank you girl. You may go now. You have done nothing wrong. No she is not angry with you.”
The woman bobs a little bow, and gives a nervous smile. From upstairs comes the sound of a door being wrenched open, the hide hinges protesting.
Xenofos follows upstairs with slightly less haste.
Berra says, “Thank Humakt. Or any god you like. No body.” She is on her way back already. “Stables. See where her horses are so we know her range.”
“Wait. Lets see what gear is missing from this mess.”
“That too. You do that. I’ll check the horses. Back in a moment.” She takes the stairs three at a time, swinging around at the bottom by putting a foot to the wall.
The mess contains all of the things that a twenty-two year-old used to servants might leave behind. If Varanis planned a long journey, it is impossible to tell. “The fanciest dresses seem to be here…. Jewelry box… Open – at least it was not plain robbery.”
Berra is hardly out of breath as she re-appears. “Her horses are here. So if she left of her own accord she’s in the city. We should ask Rondrik if she took food. But we should ask at the Palace, the Temple, and with Kalis. And if she means to hide she’ll buy her own food anyhow. If. She might have gone… for three days, she’s at one of those places, or maybe looking at the Bowl of the Flame for clues. But I don’t know why she wouldn’t tell us.”
“I asked at the temple of Vinga and Ernalda discreetly. If there, they are not telling.The Palace will let us know if she is detained there – on their own time. But probably not if we ask.”
“Then, the Palace might tell. Or the Flame, maybe. Or the amphiteatre saddle. You can see the Flame from there, and she likes the view. You can see people coming.”1Insight: Berra is panicking inside, trying to keep calm, and nearly managing. She needs to breathe more, and she knows it, and is forcing herself to the act of looking less worried than she is, but there is a scream locked inside.
“Of course. The Flame. But you said there is place above that with a view? That sounds even more like her.” Xenofos seems to be deep in calculations and not paying too much attention to Berra’s feelings . At least until he asks for confirmation on topography.
“It’s a long way away. The middle valley has an amphitheater at the top end. On the way up there is a rock wall that is part of it, but you can climb that. I could get up the face, or run up. Or ride.” Plans are starting to come together, and Berra sounds exactly like she is in control of her thinking. “If those are our two options I would say the Flame is more likely. I saw her face there.”
“Well she could be at the temple but under open sky does sound more likely. ” Xenofos grimaces “But if she has gone there, seeking solitude and wisdom from it who are we to disturb that quest though we love her and want to protect her from all harm”
“We’re the people who will keep her alive. Flame, Theatre, or one each?” Berra does not sound like she intends to negotiate.
“Theatre. We see her from there or she is there.”
“It’s a mile away from the flame. It’s not above. We’d need Serala’s sight, and she might be on the other side.” The panic is starting to show now, and Berra looks like she might act without any thinking at all.
“Food, water, maybe a blanket…” Xenofos gives Berra a sideways look. “She might have been fasting.” His is a calm, practical list of stuff.
It might be odd to see Berra without plans, but she is seeking for things to do and not finding any. Without a direct foe, and with her fears before her, she is close to breaking. “No time. We find her, then we work out what to do. I’ll … I can show you the way up to the Flame and then get to the Theatre.” Maybe the calm list is helping, but it seems that Berra cannot believe in calmness right now.
“How hard is the cliff ? I am not expert climber but do we need gear for that?”
“We can – I can – go around on a horse. I’ll take Road, show you the stair up to the Flame, and then ride for the amphitheatre.” Berra is on her way to the stables before she has finished talking.
“Pack a satchel of victuals and take a cloak or blanket, cold and hunger are probably her worst enemies now.”
“Saddlebags,” says Berra. “Always packed.” No, apparently she is not slowing down or calming down. Road stands by patiently as she puts his saddle on, and she leads him out. “This is going to be a stiff climb for you, but I’ll give you water and food to take up. It’s a stair, but it’s steep going.”
Methodically Xenofos gets ready, though taking most of his armour, which he does not take off in this den of snakes. The greaves remain lonely in his room.
Berra stares at him, as if amazed by how slowly he can go, her whole being tensed around her fears.
Risking his arm Xenofos pats Berra on the shoulder. “I hate not knowing as much as you do, little cousin. But we cannot cage her and she must take some roads alone.” His language is informal, politeness discarded in favour of comfort.
Berra does not bite, but she does say, “The longer she is out, the more chance anyone can see it.” Her voice is strained, every word pronounced too clearly. Comfort is failing her.
“If she is out there, she is out there because she must. For as long it takes and Orlanth and Kallyr and anyone can see.”
“Yes. Fine. Come ON.” Berra mounts up on her second attempt, having failed to tighten the saddle properly. Even that does not make her pause to take stock.
“But I am not wise enough to let her be alone either so we can go.”
“But just one sec I leave a word to Mellia where we are.”
“We can’t leave her alone.” Berra snaps in reply to the first. To the second she says, “If we don’t find her, go to the other place, and then come back here. Then we’ll know she’s missing. We can send up to the top of the Ramp, too. The view there is good, although there are people.”
“If she returns while we are gone or others start looking I don’t want them to think we have eloped.” The reply is snapped.
Berra looks at Xenofos coldly. “Not the time for jokes,” she replies. There, again, is the sharp edge to her, the killing look that could easily be focused on him and is instead held back by effort. Despite, or because of, her worry this is a very dangerous warrior right now.
Walking the Road after having left the word/note. “When there is little time, one has to be efficient. Just rushing things does not save time. “
“We could be on the road already,” Berra says in reply. She keeps her horse down at its natural preferred speed, a walk, but it is obvious she wants to be going faster. Fortunately, this part of the journey is short, for the White Grape is close to the Royal Complex. She neither calms down nor falls apart, until they are at the bottom of a tall, narrow stair carved into the rock. “Up there,” she says. “Only one way.” Then she leans over to put a hand on Xenofos’ shoulder. She does try to cast something, but the spell falls apart and she grimaces. “I can try to make the climb easier,” she explains. Her face is pale, and her expression is the look of someone not entirely connected to the world.
Xenofos looks at her with veiled expression and starts climbing in long economical strides pacing himself for long gruelling rise.
Berra makes one more attempt while she can still reach him, and this time the Vigour spell goes off, making the climb easier. It is not a thing one can take in strides – this goes almost straight up the cliff, and the steps are mostly taller than they are deep, with some requiring a split step on one side just to help get up to the next ledge. A polite name for it would be ‘stair’. ‘Ladder’ would be pushing it, however. And as soon as Xenofos gets on his way, Berra is off on Road, getting a decent trot out of the gelding as she goes up towards the amphitheatre.
After an hour or so, when Xenofos has found Varanis, comes the sound of someone coming up the stairs rather too fast. Nobody sane would take that dangerous ladder-stair at that speed.
- 1Insight: Berra is panicking inside, trying to keep calm, and nearly managing. She needs to breathe more, and she knows it, and is forcing herself to the act of looking less worried than she is, but there is a scream locked inside.