Eril — 0196 Eril And Venlar Meet
This is three or four days after the High Sword agreed to kill Varanis, and not much longer after he got his promotion to Emeritus Status. Kallyr is dead, and Leika has just arrived and moved into the Palace. Tennebris has not yet been moved out. A young man with a surprising resemblance to Lord Eril presents himself at the gates of the Temple, late at night, and asks if he may deliver a message to the Emeritus High Sword. He has the bearing of someone with great confidence, and is richly dressed, bearing fine cheek tattoos and an expensive sword but little jewellery.
Venlar thanks the woman who shows him the way, as is polite, and he takes a moment to compose himself, and then steps into the room, bows, and freezes up, just staring.1Fumbled Oratory. 100. Completely overtaken!
Eril waits, patient. Considering. “A Silorsson, I think?”
Venlar manages a nod, staring at Eril. His eyes move over the Priest’s features, as if trying to take everything in.
“You are welcome. I am Eril.”
That finally spurs the young man to speak. “I am Venlar Silorsson,” he says, and bows. “I bear a message from my father.” His accent is that of the Cinder Foxes, and his tattoos say he is the son of a chief. The scar over his eye is marked with the henna and ash of the tattoo, indicating its age.
The older man nods, and extends a hand, tiredly, for the message. An assumption of literacy.
Venlar is slightly flushed, but the clumsiness that is often with him has been left behind, at least for the moment. He holds out the letter, a folded parchment in a wrapper. “He says I am to wait for a reply.” Venlar takes the chance to look at Eril more closely. “And that I should offer to leave if you wish, while you read it.” The Chief of the Cinder Fox Clan seals his letters with a dab of wax in which, naturally, a cinder is embedded. It probably melted the wax on there.
Eril cracks the seal, “That will not be necessary. My Truth is open and clear to all.”
“You’re not like I expected,” replies Venlar. He is still staring a bit. It could be considered rude, but for the odd circumstances.
A patrician eyebrow arches. “Oh?” And he unfolds the message to read it.
The human mirror of the patrician in question walks straight into that. “Yes. I asked about you. I’ve never had an uncle before.” Then he steps back a little to give Eril at least notional privacy for the time it takes to read the letter. His look is that of someone trying to take in everything.
Lord Eril is silent for a little while, reading.
During that time, Venlar waits, all at odds. His expression is one of wonder in both senses of the term. His stance is polite, but he inhabits it with the air of someone who does not know how to be comfortable in his own skin. He does not fidget, but he instead concentrates too hard on the line of Eril’s jaw, the way his hand curls around the letter – Venlar’s own hand curls in precise sympathy – the apparently coincidental choice to shave, instead of growing a beard like any normal man. Venlar’s hair is a little shorter, the tight waves in it still pure black, but beyond age, the resemblance is plain.
The Letter (contains spoilers for Silor’s plans)
From Silor Cracks-Rock, Chieftain of the Cinder Fox Clan, to Eril Humakti, High Sword of Boldhome, let respectful greetings flow.
My thanks are due to your Initiate and her friends for the closing of an old wound. I will not write what they have done, for you know already, but the Marsh is gone from Cavalry Pond, and those responsible for the original Heroquest are no longer under that strange protection I have always felt upon them.
However, a new mystery has appeared in its place. Long ago I felt my brother torn from me, and Thenaya felt her friend wrested away. I had always assumed this to be the result of your relationship with your God, but Jarangsdottir tells me the feeling was unusual.
Thenaya felt it again recently, but I did not. Instead, where I felt old grief, I now feel nostalgia, and I use that word wisely, for your jests often brought the most exquisite pain. I have forgiven you for all but one; tempted as I am to ask as a favour you reveal that last punchline to me, I have a different request, in recompense for aid.
Rejoin my Clan. You were thrust out unjustly, and it would please me to redress that. I cannot say it will not be of advantage to the Sambari or to me. Indeed if it were only a personal matter or a Chief’s honour I must ask a different thing. However, I know you well enough to wish you as a freely acting agent within Sartar, Sambar, and the Steading.
I cannot insist on this, knowing your God may have himself forbidden such a thing, but it is the first thing I ask, and if you can accept then it should be the last.
I send my son Venlar with this, to bear any reply you wish. He does not know what I ask, but he is intelligent enough to question on the subject of local politics at least.
A vow I have made takes me from Sartar at this vital moment. My heir is Jengharl, whom you met before he could talk, but who is a tolerable politician and rising warrior. He would be pleased to have any advice you can give, but he does not have your brilliance, or anything close to my experience in the local area. He does know the people and personalities, and is well liked, but Venlar knows them better, having studied rather harder.
It was, I recall, never your habit to wish a man luck, but only to comment on his preparations. Still, I wish you the very best fortune in the upcoming weeks. Orlanth tells me storms are coming, and his omens are strange. Be swift to move, when you do, and remember the assets of the Clan.
Then the letter is folded. “Very well. Tell your father that I will be glad of his aid, and of yours, in what inevitably lies ahead.”
Venlar bows. “He instructs me to offer it from this point, if your answer is yes.” He is angling, gently, to be told the question.
“Thank you. I shall let you know how I may use your aid in the way forward.”
That gets a small smile, as if in admiration of the brush-off. “I’ve other letters to deliver,” Venlar adds. “Will it make things difficult if I am seen at the Palace?”
“I doubt it. I am sure people will remark on the similarity of our features. It is, I suppose, possible someone may try to assassinate you. Do kill or capture them if you have the opportunity.”
Venlar considers that. “If Orlanth is with me, yes.” He seems confident, maybe too much so. “I am glad you were awake. If I may, I would like to address a personal matter.”
“Of course. I anticipated there might be.”
Venlar flushes, taking a moment to get his thoughts in order. His even, deep voice could command a room if he put any force behind it, yet he seems to have forgotten how to be Orlanth. “You freed my mother,” he says finally. “And as you say, our features are similar. Hengrast and Lord Silor are the same, but people who talked forgot sometimes that we shared a cradle. As I grew up, it was a lot easier to ignore rumours that would have hurt my parents, because I was born to a free woman. I wanted you to know that means a lot to me – that I was, and that you helped them, even if you did not know.” The thing he is not asking does not get asked.
Eril nods, “It was simply the right thing to do. I am delighted that you have a family resemblance. I may have been severed from your Clan, but I have pleasing memories.”
Venlar’s blush deepens. “I should go. I have things to do, and Mellia says you are doing too much. I don’t want to keep you up. But it has been a pleasure to meet you, too. It’s gratified a certain intellectual curiosity, as well as letting me meet an uncle.” In a moment of formality, standing and speaking as a formal visitor should, he finally sounds like someone men would listen to for the pleasure of it.
“The young lady is overly generous. I feel I am husbanding my resources sufficiently.”
Young love and familial loyalty fight their way to a standstill on Venlar’s face. “Out of care, is caution born,” he replies, his stock of court aphorisms rising to that challenge, at least. His whole stance is different as his confidence grows, and it seems the young man could be persuasive after all. The set of his shoulders, the suddenly confident use of hand position, are all marks of a well-trained and talented speaker, and beyond that, he seems to take genuine pleasure in it being Eril he talks to.2Finally, Venlar hits Orate without it hitting him back.
There is a slight, approving nod, “Wise indeed. And a noble defence of the White Lady, I think.”
“The continuation of my defence, alas, is to leave, thus answering her desires. Still… I will be seeking my father in the morning. Permit me to note, Lord, that he asked me to have a direct Aye or Nay, if you could give one, and I regret that, not having seen the contents of his missive, I cannot conclude exactly what your answer is. While seeking it would keep me here, I feel duty calls me away.”
“Tell him, ‘Aye’.”
Venlar bows. “Thank you, my lord.” In stepping backwards as part of his farewell, he lets his foot scuff against the floor and for a moment stops. He takes a moment to account for his own weight and height, calmly, before continuing. It seems he is used to that, for he appears entirely easy about nearly having lost his balance. Halfway back to shyness again, he gives Eril a smile with no apology for the awkward moment.
Eril plays host to the young man who is definitely not in any way his son.