1626, Earth Season, Death Week, Clayday afternoon
At House Saiciae, Nochet
Early afternoon, a dripping Varanis storms out of the baths. She is dressed in a white linen robe and her rage. A damp Mellia is running after her.
When Mellia calls out to Varanis, she stops and the two confer briefly. Then they head in the direction of Xenofos’ room, Mellia scurrying to keep up with the taller woman’s angry stride.
“Xenofos!” Varanis roars as she gets close to his room. She’s not even waiting until he’s in front of her to start yelling.
Mellia is doing her best to keep up, which is why she’s not yelling.
Berra is either asleep or dozing in front of the door to Xenofos’ room. Her eyes ace closed, her head supported upon her left hand. Her right hand clutches the scabbard of Wind Tooth, and she is in her light armour, other than the body. Her scale corselet is on. This is a new sleeping combination for her, and will probably lead to bruising in the shape of scales on her shoulderblades.
As Varanis closes in on the sleeping Berra, she yells again, “Xenofos!!!”
“Berra,” Mellia says gently, “you want to move.”
A very scared looking servant girl peeks out of the door.
Berra opens one eye, closes it again, and opens both, sitting up smoothly without being awake yet. She blinks a little, and transfers her scabbard to her left hand.
Varanis looks like she’s ready to leap over Berra, which could potentially be awkward, given Berra is armed and in full armour and Varanis is dripping wet and wearing a bathrobe. But Berra is little and Varanis is angry.
Behind Berra and the scared girl comes the quietly voiced instruction: “Please show my cousin Varanis in, Nerestina.”
Berra stands, asks, “Where’s the fire?” and then pulls herself together and seems a little more awake. She is not in the way from the point where she is most of the way up, and she steps neatly out of the way with a nod to the servant.
“It’s in there,” Mellia tells Berra. “Do you know what Xenofos has gotten himself into?”
“Uhh? He’s not married too is he?” That, from Berra, is probably not helpful.
“No,” explains Mellia, “he’s fighting a duel with someone who duels for fun.”
Varanis storms into the room to confront Xenofos. She looks a little wild. Her hair has tumbled look about her shoulders. Her robe is damp. Her cheeks are flushed with rage. “You are fighting a duel?”
Berra looks to the servant, to see what the girl is trying to do, after giving Mellia a confused shrug.
Mellia asks Berra, “Are you his second?”
“So it has been agreed, yes.” Xenofos is leaning on a sofa and finishing a light meal of chestnuts, some gruel, kelp and ormer. In front of those are four tiny goblets of wine in a square. “Do you wish to have some breakfast?” he offers. “Nerestina can fetch some, less martial…”
“Yes,” Berra says to Mellia. She seems rather confused by the shouting. “We’re still an hour or so early.”
“Thank the Goddess,” says Mellia to Berra. “Then there’s still time to stop this.”
“Orlanth’s blue balls!” Varanis curses. “Why?”
“A disagreement on manners. When I pointed out lack of such my opponent felt offended. I told him where to find me.”
“Uh, stop it why? I mean, you could try, but you’d have to get an apology.” Berra looks unworried. “He’s House Deleaos, but there is strictly no apology from here, and if you imply one we’ll end up mired in it.” Then she checks, “That’s how it works here, right?” with Xenofos. Berra probably knows, but looks unsure. Maybe she only fought Sartarites while here. Maybe she did not duel.
Xenofos sounds surprisingly rested and very calm. “No way of stopping it now. I have agreed to go.”
“Fair enough.” Berra nods.
“Screw House Deleaos,” replies Mellia, “Xenofos’ opponent is known to fight duels for fun. That means the man is good. Accidents happen.”
“He can’t back out, Mellia. He’ll lose face and so will Saiciae.” Varanis looks furious still, but slightly less likely to tear someone’s throat out.
Xenofos nods at Varanis’ explanation.
“Manners? You are willing to risk death for manners?” The stormy eyes bore into Xenofos. “That is beyond stupid. There are so many better reasons to throw your life away.”
Mellia yells through the door, “That’s right! What were you doing not telling me?”
“Uh, Varanis. You’re an Orlanthi telling people they can’t fight for honour. Breakfast time?” Berra points into the room.
“I have no intent to throw my life away. Besides, it is not of original quarrel, but standing behind my words.”
Varanis wheels on Berra. “Stay out of this. You’re helping him.”
“As my second, she probably should.” Xenofos observes coolly.
“Well, yes,” Berra says. “And if he told you not to fight trolls, I’d be… well, I’d probably tell him to calm down too. Have breakfast. Consider his Honour. He was challenged.”
“He was challenged? Not the other way around?” Varanis asks.
“Yes,” Xenofos confirms.
“If he kills you, you know I will have to kill him, right? And if you survive this, I’m going to thrash you.” The Vingan is beginning to sound resigned.
“I said that one fights for fun,” Mellia calls out.
“If he accidentally kills me you will do nothing of the sort and there is no feud nor revenge from our house.” The scholar is firm in his words.
Berra shrugs to Mellia. “Beside the point. But I’ll help with a feud if …” Then she catches up with what Xenofos said, and sighs.
“LIKE HELL!” Mellia yells at Xenofos.
“That doesn’t matter, Mellia. Xenofos can’t ignore the challenge unless it was made under false pretences.” The rage suddenly drains from Varanis.
“This is agreed on duel and will result in no grudge if fought honourably.”
Berra even manages to look a little chastened at what Xenofos says.
“If,” Mellia says. “I need to be there. Accidents happen.”
Berra looks to Xenofos, in question.
Xenofos confirms, “One friend, close by. But of course he will have his guards somewhere close, as well as stretcher bearers or a healer.”
“Right, I’m going with you, Xenofos,” Mellia states.
Berra nods. “You could make up a travelling party,” she says to Mellia, “But I’m the friend there. The second. It’s probably fine to have Mobility cast on you just in case, though.”
Mellia nods to Berra.
Varanis looks at Xenofos’ servant. “Wine. Please.” She stalks over to a chair and drops into it looking drained. “Fine, if the fight is honourable, I won’t kill him. But I do not promise not to challenge him myself. And either way, I’m still considering thrashing you.”
“Serzeen will provide guides to us, I am not sure of the precise spot.” He looks solemn. “So – some breakfast, and then I need to check my gear, write a little and calm down a bit.”
“If you die, I will find a way to punish you,” Varanis warns hollowly. “I intend to be as close as I can be.”
Mellia says, “If you die, Xenofos, I will drag you back to life just so Varanis can punish you.”
“Ranie – this is just something I must do.” The use of his childhood name for her drains the last of the fight out of the Vingan.
“Well, I think Esrolian custom is not to make sure a body can’t come back while in the square itself, so you could get lucky.” Berra makes sure to be out of the way of the door by standing just into the room, to one side.
Mellia says, “The duel would be over at that point anyway.”
“I know,” Varanis says in reply to Xenofos. “But I don’t have to like it.” The look she turns on him is now completely empty of the earlier fury. She looks wrung out and bedraggled. “When?”
“Hour before Yelm sets. And it is to first blood, so you are talking accidents.”
Berra carefully does not say anything to Xenofos.
“Damn straight,” Mellia tells Xenofos.
“Promise me you won’t leave here without me?” Varanis demands.
Xenofos is quiet for quite long time. “I was thinking of going with just Berra to better descend to the serenity required. But I will let you know when we leave?”
Mellia rolls her eyes and mutters something foul.
“And where we can wait? Mellia and I will wait together, but we have to be close enough to help if worst comes to worst.” It’s a counter offer, not a demand. “We will keep our distance from you, so you can maintain your peace.” This is offered very reluctantly by Varanis.
Berra considers, and goes for one of Xenofos’ wine cups, giving him a questioning look before she touches it. “Ask Serzeen where it will be, and where to watch from,” she suggests.
Xenofos shudders a bit, but nods. And offers a cup to both Mellia and Varanis, leaving one for himself and raising it. “To Earth.”
Mellia accepts the cup. “To Earth.”
Varanis accepts and raises the cup. “To Earth. May She not call you to Her before it is time.”
There is cloud on Xenofos’ brow, but he looks the three in the eyes one at turn, nods and drains the cup.
“To Earth,” murmurs Berra, and gives Xenofos a nod afterwards.
Mellia leaves after draining her cup, presumably to go get dressed.
When Varanis has drained her cup, she places it carefully on the table. Once Mellia has left, she asks quietly, “What do you know of him? And of the way he fights?”
“He is of house Deleos, ill-mannered and can’t in my opinion behave when in his cups. Fancies himself a horseman. But had enough bottle to follow up an altercation at a party. Which is honorable.”
“Varanis. This is not the time. We’ll see him when we approach and if he decides to show off by warming up we’ll know a lot more. Beyond that, calm. Less thinking.”
“What is his preferred weapon? How skilled is he?” Varanis frowns. “He duels for fun, has he ever…” She breaks off at Berra’s interruption. “But…” She heaves a sigh. “You don’t think this Hofhrai is learning about my cousin right now?”
“That doesn’t matter. Now, if you’re going to keep my Lord calm, you may stay.”
This earns Berra a glare from Varanis and a sideways glance from Xenofos.
“I’m his second. You want me to look after him. I’m looking after him.” Berra smiles.
“I am trained. I have fought in battles. World is full of swordsmen, some worse some better than me. Worrying will not avail at all. Planning and extra training would have been useful if I fought season from today, but now – as Berra said – calm and open mind.”
Varanis pushes her hair out of her face and looks between the scholar and the Humakti in silent frustration. She sighs again. “I will leave you to prepare.” She rises, heading for the door. As she reaches Berra she murmurs very softly, so Xenofos won’t hear, “If something goes wrong, you know I won’t simply accept it, right?”
Berra gives Varanis a warning look, and walks Varanis to the door. Low, she too speaks. “Remember what happened this morning. Honour.”
“Ranie?” Xenofos walks to the door.
Berra steps back, away, over to the wine again.
Varanis stops and turns to face her cousin. “Yes?”
Xenofos hugs her. “Farewell. I have every intent to come back none the worse for exercise, but just in case…”
Her breath hitches. She returns the hug fiercely. “I will thrash you,” she warns, but there’s no anger in the threat anymore.
Berra makes sure her wine is fully finished.
Varanis steps away and leaves in the direction of her own room. When she lets go, Xenofos walks back into room and start inspecting his kit. Which suspiciously looks like it has been polished and maintained today.
Berra tidies away the remains of food and puts them on a small tray table to be dealt with by a servant, and then goes to stand guard outside his door.