1626, Dark Season, Disorder Week, Wildday
Berra has been slowly recovering from her wound. Varanis has been helping to find worshippers for Lord Raven. Session SA3.13.
That evening, Berra does take a palanquin most of the way to the Temple, but she walks the rest of the way, with the sword nestled in the crook of her arm. It takes her a while, but she did leave in good time, and does not have to hurry. “There is a room set aside for us,” she says, “But also the practice hall is free for Lay Membership. Stories are sung and danced there, and there are two meals, one for everyone and one for initiates.” Because another word for ‘lay member of the Humakti’ is ‘warrior’.
“I practiced earlier,” Varanis admits, “but will do so again.”
“Do that while it is light,” Berra advises. “Unless you wish to practice blind-fighting. The torches in there are mostly put out for the prayers.”
Varanis studies Berra’s face. “You’ll be ok until I’m back?”
“I will be preparing the place of sacrifice,” Berra says, “And checking that we have the chicken. That is very important.” Since she was healed she is at least a little more animated.
Varanis attempts to stifle a laugh and it comes out as a muffled snort.
The day passes into evening. Many of the people here are Orlanthi or even Yelmalian, although it seems that the spear-men are mostly here to show off. There is a lot of chatter about how Eril is a Hero; some of those who are talking would not normally be here, but in Dark Season it is quiet, and so there is a chance to look on a living god.1Pass Intrigue. Most, however, are here for the boasting and the training.
Varanis’ previous training partner finds her in the crowd. “You’re about to be wanted – I’ll take you. It’s a long way from here.” He has a friend with him, as promised; two others also said they would arrive.
Varanis greets him with a grin. “I’ve got a bruise the size of my head right above my belly button,” she tells him. “You’ll show me how you landed that sometime?” She weaves through the crowd alongside the lean warrior.
Even as they make for the door, the lights from the wall are being carried forward towards top of the training room, where there is a platform that is not there most of the week. Some of the warriors are holding torches, and others are putting them into holders. A Sword of Humakt, face terrifying in a precisely-applied snarl to scare demons, takes the stage, and silence begins to fall. It might be anyone but D’Val under there, for the armour is ritual clothing, belonging to nobody in particular.
Several other people are also leaving the room, through different doors.
“Of course,” he says. “But let me know how you decapitated me just before that.” His name is Darl, she seems to remember – an oddly short name that should have an ending but does not. “But for now, we walk quietly.” He has cheap boots that squeak.
Her silent nod conveys both an agreement for later and an understanding of his instructions for now. Her armour clanks with each step, but otherwise she is silent.
The room is up the length of the Temple’s blade, off to the left. Through closed doors they can hear chanting in the big central altar chamber, and the air feels cooler here. Perhaps it is just that winter is on its way in. Darl ignores the sound, not even trying to creep past. He just walks, taking Varanis to a room where Berra is armed and armoured, if lightly. She is in her leathers, with Wind Tooth at her hip. Eril’s bronze sword lies across an oddly familiar altar; it is the red stone from the Temple of Lhankor Mhy.2Pass INTx5. There are already two people there, which makes the meeting complete, although the room could hold a dozen times that without being uncomfortably full. Darl crosses the room towards the altar, and waits at a polite distance.
Behind the altar a chicken makes surprised-to-be-here sounds. Nobody pays it any attention. On the wall beyond hangs the sword with a personality.
Varanis bows to the altar and to the Wyter Priest.
The Wyter Priest looks pretty nervous.3Varanis passes Insight.
Berra nods to those present, and says, “Welcome. I shall tell you now of a Hero, and his deeds. Some of you know them already…”
She manages a decent story about Eril’s life, up to the binding of the Wyter, which is a matter of mystery, and the Humakti only know that he did it, not how. Then she calls back to his time in Boldhome, and the use of the Heroquest of the Upland Marsh. She has definitely practiced this, and probably been coached by an expert.
Varanis listens intently and trying to look encouraging. She does her best to give Berra her full attention throughout.
The Humakti are quiet by nature, or because of the size of the group. They listen, paying attention to things some of them already seem to know. Darl looks like he is learning.
Then there’s a sacrifice, and Berra paints chicken blood mixed with wine onto the faces of the worshippers, in the shape of the sword that hangs above her, asking Eril’s second worshipper, Thane Vareena, to do it for her. The room thrums with magic and expectation, and the sword glows on the wall, giving little helpful light yet somehow completely clear to see in the darkness.
Varanis does as commanded, her expression solemn and her movements precise.
The lights in the room dim, although nobody visible has put them out. A dark, shadowy figure forms from the sword, in the pose of the Death Rune.
This does not feel like last time, in the shrine in Jonstown.4It is time to give up magic points to the Wyter. Varanis gives 10, and so does Berra. Then, there was a sensation of aloneness, of casting power into the darkness to be accepted. It is also unlike any worship she has been to before, where a great community is together. Instead, she can feel a little of each of the people around her, although not which, with any accuracy. A thread that is ambitious and violent, a snatch of song that can laugh as it is wounded, a rock that smells of wet earth and rain, a torch held in the right hand, and an empty cup, still pouring out what is within. All are accepted woven and tied together, and off in the distance, a demigod accepts them, and even more distantly, a presence so Separate that her being rebels against it is also touched for a moment.
The darkness goes on for some time, and seems to have been over in a moment when it is done. The torches re-establish the rules of Fire.
Varanis sucks in a deep breath, almost staggering with it. She looks as though she might speak, but stays silent.
“So know his power,” Berra says quietly, and then heaves a deep breath of relief. “Right. Varanis, can you take the wine? It should go to the kitchen.” For a moment, Berra gives a smile that is an echo of what she should be. “We can take omens as Humakti. Tell them the sacrifice will follow.”
Insight: Varanis is finally feeling the awe she ought to be. Don’t worry, she’ll get better. Also, she is being sent away so the Humakti can do secret things that exclude her, but she’ll be brave about being cut off.
Varanis gives the Wyter Priest a bow, just so, then collects the wine. She steps towards the door, then hesitates.
Berra is a little surprised, maybe by how she feels. There is a moment in which she looks at Varanis as if trying to recall something she nearly had, and then she gives her the reassuring, polite smile, and cocks her head a little as if waiting to be talked to.
“I’m not Humakti, Lady Berra,” Varanis points out finally. “I don’t know where the kitchens are here and I’m not permitted to move about freely.”
Berra sighs, just like the Wyter does. “I apologise.” She falls back on formality. “Let me find someone to go with you.” She looks into the air and then turns to the group by the altar. “Teesdal, accompany Varanis and then take her back to the practice hall. Food should be about two hours.”
The Vingan gives her guide an apologetic shrug, then waits by the door.
Teesdal drifts away from the group, gives Varanis a nod, and says, “It’s not a difficult path.”
“We’ll be quick and then you can get back,” she offers. “I’m hoping to maybe get some more practice in before food, if it’s permitted, so I’m eager to get to the hall anyway.”
“I’ll not interrupt here,” he says. “I’ll show you the way.”
It is a left turn, which leads them up to the corridor where the High Sword’s rooms are, a right along there, and a right along the long, familiar way down to the practice hall. The kitchens are on the left and then Teesdal walks her back to the practice hall. There is a demonstration sword and buckler match in progress.
Varanis goes looking for people who want to practice. Her broadsword work is still weak and she is determined to improve it.
There are plenty to find, and then about an hour later there is a performance of Humakt in the Wilderness, fighting to remove Death from those things that are not worthy of it. It is notable for the number and style of swords he uses, changing slightly after each one, but always going back to his broadsword.
While Varanis does not embarrass herself, nothing is particularly impressive either. Still maybe she learned a thing.
Later, there is a feast. Berra cannot eat the meat, but some of the wine was untouched by blood, and that is shared now. There is also other meat, and she eats well, although she is obviously in pain some of the time.
Lord Raven appears when the food is put out, taking up the spot at Berra’s right hand. As he fades, having enjoyed some of the wine-cooked chicken and a little of a vegetable dish, he asks Varanis to speak of great deeds, Eril’s and Berra’s.
Varanis is an Orlanthi. That goes well.
- 1Pass Intrigue.
- 2Pass INTx5.
- 3Varanis passes Insight.
- 4It is time to give up magic points to the Wyter. Varanis gives 10, and so does Berra.