1628, Earth Season, Fertility Week, Windsday
Irillo has found out that Yamia (and Tamakt) have gone to join the army that flooded North to help Koraki. He follows. Session S3SA.04.
It’s Fertility Week. It should be harvest time, and the fields are full of women, but lacking in men. Alda Chur is empty of warriors. The army has marched, in Earth Season, with Koraki at its head, and some good personal friends alongside.
Rumour, good and reliable1Pass Intrigue, says that Koraki rode with Kallyr, but that Argrath took his army across hillsides, always just a little ahead. The mess made on occasional slopes bears this out.
An army is easy to follow, but Irillo’s job is made even easier by the falling of ravens, and by riders coming the other way, at first gallopers, and then small groups of cavalry, mounted on horses or nomad animals, often pacing each other.
Irillo enquires, from passing people, how went the battle.2Special on POWx5.
The first group of people who are at a speed where conversation is possible are a band on horseback, richly dressed, and among them the tribal markings of the Malani. “Depressing,” says one of them. “We still live.”
It seems to be a joke. At least, everyone grins, and then the man adds, “A rout – the Red Emporor is either dead or fled, and his red lover torn to bits by Harrek the Berserk.”
Irillo blanches. “The White Bear is ahead?”
“Went after the Emperor, which is why we don’t know if he’s dead yet – nobody could keep up. They tried, but only found carnage in his tents, and who would follow Harrek without orders?”
He nods, seemingly relieved. Not a big Harrek fan, it seems. “Any word of Thane Varani… Varaena and her warband?”3Here, a fail on POW.
There is some looking back and forth, as they think about that and try their memories.
“Sorry, friend-stranger,” their spokesman says at last. “We don’t know that name.”
He shrugs, “Not a problem. My thanks. Berra, the Dagger of Humakt?”4A fail on POW and a fumble on Insight (Human).
There’s another, collective look around. “Small, but loud? She marched us up there,” one says with a smile. A sort of smile. “After that she was in the other Regiment. We were with the Aldachuri.” He pronounces it all as one word. Farplacers.
It is easy enough to read these people – they are protecting Irillo from news. They mostly liked that little initiate, and the only gift that Truth-tellers can give is silence. Whatever happened, they do not want to tell him.
There is one who does not care, and one who is irritated at the mention of her, but the other three in the group are not giving him bad news.
His eyes narrow a touch, and then he nods. “Very well. I shall bring libations.”
After that, they wish him luck, and move on, and there’s the same sort of story from most people, although he gets a little more – Varaena, the cousin of Kallyr, was greeted with honour and fought with the Alda Chur cavalry, probably in the air. She was assigned to the care of a Grazelander, or possibly a Colymar bodyguard.
No news on anyone from the Sambari here, except of course Lord Eril, a noble. He’s a Hero, it was revealed on the battlefield, and he dueled Jar-eel, and lived, or possibly got swept aside by Harrek doing so.
Irillo rides forward, expectant of Berra’s pyre.
By evening, he reaches the army itself. Pyres for the Humakti are being organised over there and an eye that has seen too many battlefields can read the stories here. Someone carved through a lot of infantry. This army, at least, is in good order. The central part is Koraki’s, and the Humakti are on the right flank with the animal nomads on either wing. More than that is hard to see.
There are the usual marks of a battlefield, but nothing that he can read, beyond the very obvious.5Failed Battle.
His options are to find the wagon train and ask there for what the suppliers know, to look to the Humakti, or to try to find someone who knows where the others were – possibly Kallyr, or at least her camp. Or, of course, he might think of something else.
Koraki is the obvious place. Still, he goes to the Humakti pyres first.
The Humakti pyres are relatively few, and the Sword in charge of them is vaguely familiar – a woman with a greatsword slung across her back, and an expression of peaceful calm. Her name occurs to Irillo just as she nods to him. Graria. Lay mistress of the Temple. She is in charge of hiring out of guards and warriors, as well as training and organising the laity in peace and war.
He says tentatively, “I seek word of two. Yamia Cinder Fox and Berra, the Dagger? Are they in your care?”
“Neither passed away from the light, that I know,” Graria replies. “You might try up at Alda Chur for the Lady Yamia, if she’s not here. She didn’t fight with the Regiment, so if she was here, she’ll have been embedded – probably left of the anvil-stone. The Yelmalians.” She gives Irillo a disapproving look. “Initiate Berra might still be drunk.”
He blinks. “Oh.” Yep. Briefly surprised. “Thank you. Should I pour out drink for the dead?”
“Only if you know them,” Graria replies. “We prefer to go sober into what awaits.” She adds, “Try the hospital for Jarangsdottir. Whatever happened out there, she ended up trying to die drunk.”
He blinks again. “My thanks” . And he heads to the Yelmalians
The Yelmalians are a solid cluster, in ranked tents, on the other side of the hillside and back the way he came. They look like they are settled in for a day or two yet, and they deny having met Yamia or indeed anyone else, because, well, ‘phalanx’. But to the left of them at the centre of the battle were the Alda Churi under Koraki, and you could try there. The Humakti were to our right, sir, but they haven’t chosen to camp here – they sleep on the battlefield…
In short, it is the usual dispiriting experience of looking for someone after a battle. Yet there is Gallem of Alda Chur taking a brief moment of thought alone, and up the hill is the hospital, and that big command tent must hold secrets – and Irillo probably has enough rank and fame to at least bluff his way into any of those.
He certainly does. And does… He chooses the command tent, and its associated canvas outbuildings.
Up by the command tent are a great many important people, but standing outside it and talking to Lord Eril is King Koraki. Paydirt – if only they can be separated. And that is not a problem, because Koraki gestures Irillo closer. “I was hoping for a wine-boy,” he says, “But you’ll do. Thank you, High Sword. Please do think on Gallem’s offer. He gets so excited when he has an idea and I don’t have the heart to tell him…” Then Irillo has the King’s attention.6Special on Insight (Human) here includes Eril as a human.
Koraki looks the usual sort of tired that you get when you are a King after a battle, but also like he actually wants to talk to Irillo. Eril, though, looks like he just had an idea that makes him happy, as he adds, “After you are through with the Merchant, please do send him my way.” Then Koraki gets a bow, and gives a nod in return.
He gestures for wine before he answers any questions, and then adds, “Obviously, most people here read lips. Have you come to tell me who the Ernaldan was?”
There is a blink. Confusion. “Mostly I came to ask where Lady Yamia and my friends are?”
“Lady Yamia…” Koraki glances around, probably to check that Eril is gone. “Didn’t fight. But her son did and she accompanied the boy. Probably checking on form, I don’t know. Can he hold a sword yet? And her brother accompanied her, and nobody died. At least, nobody you’re asking about.” He does not stop to worry about Irillo’s reaction, just starts walking with the wine in his hand. “And your friend Berra punched me. I felt this was most unfair as I had not even stolen her girl, and indeed she’s not even allowed a girl for me to steal, so I can’t do it in arrears.” Somewhere along the line he switched to accented but understandable Esrolian.
“Her…. SON?” His voice goes up several octaves, and he almost doesn’t switch to Esrolian. “What the hell was she thinking?”
“If I knew that about women, my dear, I probably would not have been punched in the face by one.” Koraki smiles. “Oddly familiar, but not something I’ve missed… say, the Hospital’s a Temple, isn’t it?”
“Of course. Just as much as a Market”
“Not many markets around here, although the Eurmali were buying teeth, I heard.” Koraki cuts through a tent, going in through somebody’s meal and out the other end. “I can tell you a few things about what happened, but to be frank I’m guessing about bits.”
Irillo nods, “Anything will help.”
“Well, there’s all sorts of… I say, she’s pretty. Of politics. Did you know Lord Eril’s a Hero?” Despite the chatter, Koraki is walking quickly. Over a fire, with a hop and a skip.
“Who’s pretty?” He keeps up, “And yes. I did.”
“One of the healers…” And then you are stepping into an area where the grass is a little greener, in the shadow of a tent. “I didn’t. He…” The King peers around suspiciously. “I think we’ve lost everyone. So, Jar-eel turned into Jar-eel, and then Eril turned into Eril, but more so. I assumed that was him making a farewell to us all, although it did effectively turn her away from the Yelmalians she was about to break. And then the White Bear appeared inside his regiment. Apparently summoned by your little friend Berra.”
A little whistle. “That might have been a problem.”
“Yeees. Lord Eril hit the dirt – quite sensibly, I have to admit. Harrek …. and I hate to mention that someone that small has a larger pair than I do, but nevertheless, she does… Harrek, with Berra keeping up with him – reached Jar-eel. Most of the battle had stopped at this point, just to watch. She also hit the dirt. Humakti are terrible at ploughing, I note. And Harrek tore Jar-eel in half. I think he ate a few bits, and he picked up the Humakti – the small one, not the big one – and took her off to try to kill the Emperor, as far as reports go. From what I saw up in the air he dragged her for a bit and then she got her feet under her and her sword drawn. You see this might be more than an ordinary problem, even by the standards of Varaena’s band?”
He nods, thoughtfully, “Mythic, I think.”
Koraki sighs. “Yes. Varaena and the two Grazelanders managed to get to her. Incidentally, your grandmother owes the continued flowering of her power in the field up here to a redsmith who shielded her with his body. Serala was with me, or at least, the Alda Churi, and I’m assured she did very well. They managed to get cavalry out to where they found your little angry friend, who has been given what I understand to be a gallon of what I am told is called brandy.” He repeats that in tradetalk. <>. “About a minute later several other forces turned up to offer protection, but the Hospital was the best place for her anyway. This morning she punched me. I am pretty certain that Eril did not ask her to do that, but I don’t think he’s ever really liked me since Boldhome that year…” Koraki takes another look around the edge of a tent. “Damnit. Gallem’s there. He’s too smart for his own good – and he was one of the people who wanted to invite Berra for a talk.”
“I keep you from affairs of state, clearly.”
“Don’t you dare back away from me now. I’ve only just got you alone.” Koraki stands nonchalantly. “He’s looking the wrong way anyhow. So, other people who want to talk to her are Argrath, me – but don’t tell her that – and probably a lot of Lunars as soon as they stop running. And maybe Harrek, once he sobers up. We think we know where he’s gone, but the name escapes me just now. Alright, casually stroll this way… and so we arranged for her to be exiled. But I think she’s calmed down, now.7Koraki fumbled Insight (Human). I’m feeling a little awkward about having exiled her for that long, to be honest. Gallem does so like to talk to her – you can see it in his… damnit he’s seen us, keep smiling.” Koraki is walking around to one of the largest tents when they are finally spotted.
Irillo raises his hand cheerfully to Gallem. “Of course. Always popular.”
“Your girl’s in here, I think. Or at least, the boy was, last I heard. I’d expected Lord Eril to care more, so I kept an eye on them…” He stops at the entrance, where a lot of canvas has been rolled up. “Good luck… Gallem. I hear on the root-creep that you’ve been looking for me!”
And Irillo is ducking inside.
- 1Pass Intrigue
- 2Special on POWx5.
- 3Here, a fail on POW.
- 4A fail on POW and a fumble on Insight (Human).
- 5Failed Battle.
- 6Special on Insight (Human) here includes Eril as a human.
- 7Koraki fumbled Insight (Human).