Serala — Lunar Lunacy
????, Fire Season, Season/Stasis Week
Fire Season/Stasis Week/Freezeday/An hour or two after dawn.
At the Boldhome’s White Grape Inn
Serala, Rajar, Finarvi, Irillo, and Varanis. Plus poor Rondrik, the innkeeper.
NOTE: If you are the sensitive sort, there’s a certain amount of swearing in this.
The morning after the night before. Finarvi is in the common room of the White Grape. Varanis enters through the main door, scowling, disheveled, and still in full armour. She looks at Finarvi and invites herself to take the seat next to him. She looks like she has something to say, but is still trying to find the words when Rajar and Serala step in through the door. They seem in mid-puzzled-conversation, matching frowns on their faces. Rajar swiftly goes to get beer.1At this time in the morning? Really? Oh wait, Rajar. Rather more oddly, he orders beer for Serala too, without her even asking. The Grazelander plonks herself down at a table with Finarvi and Varanis without waiting for an invite. And the angry-puzzled look continues. Not quite looking for someone to blame. Yet. But perhaps… smoldering a little.
Finarvi is looking forlorn and regrettably sober. He looks at the new arrivals but doesn’t offer any word of greeting.
Rajar stumps back with the beer and sits down. Rajar has an expressive face and today it is set to GLOWER.
“So. Who did what?” asks Serala flatly, eventually. “Now I admit, there could be unwarranted conclusion-drawing and supposition here. But I don’t generally go to meditate and commune with my God and WAKE UP AS A THRICE DAMNED LUNAR, WHO DID IT??!?”
Finarvi glances involuntarily at Varanis, then down at the table. Varanis glances in Finarvi’s direction, looks at Rajar and Serala, and doesn’t immediately answer.
The service at the inn is regrettably slow. It seems that the innkeeper’s wife and children are away today, and Rondrik himself is just a little too stout to bustle everywhere. Rajar goes and fetches a small keg and leaves gold on the bar-top.
“I told them to make sure the women and children were gone,” he says to no one in particular.
“What a great deal of silence.” Serala murmurs, quieter than ever. Quieter and quieter, then silent as she waits for Varanis to speak.
Finally, Varanis ventures, “I’m not entirely sure. Dormal set up some kind of meeting. We went to … supervise… and then suddenly we were fucking Lunars.”
“Except for Irillo,” Finarvi adds mournfully. “He was Eril.”
Rajar pauses and looks over his drinking horns rim.2Oh of COURSE the horns are detachable and hollow.
Varanis nods. “Except for Irillo.” Guilt flashes across her face as she mutters that.
“Dormal.” Serala hisses, finally. “I might have known he’d be up to his nose in.” She breaks off as her cousin adds actually useful information. “So you shoved your faces into whatever cesspit Dormal was diving into and now we’re all covered with muck. Except possibily Irillo. Who was… hmm. Eril.” That does give her pause for through, before her cousin gets skewered by an icy blue gaze. “From the top, Finarvi. If you please.”
Varanis bristles, but sits silently.
Finarvi gives a heavy sigh. “I woke up before dawn to the sound of doors opening and closing. I saw Varanis sneaking out of the inn and decided to follow her, after last time. I lost her in the lower part of town, but she found me, and said she’d been following Dormal.”
Varanis starts to add something, but stops when met with a glance from eyes that are as cold as she has ever seen them. “If you had something to add, you had your chance already. Finarvi, I can order around. You… ? Well, I can start commanding your obedience little Saiciae. It might keep you out of trouble if you would ever listen to anyone. But surely, feel free to add snippets of useful information, if you would be so good.” Serala is beyond angry and into sarcastic. This may be a new depth of irritation from her.
Varanis glares. “I have nothing to say right now.” She rises, her expression daring anyone to stop her, and walks away, heading up the stairs to her room.
Rajar’s drinking horn is still paused having not reached his lips. He’s watching and listening
Finarvi watches her go in bemused dismay. He looks like he hasn’t slept all night.
Rajar sips his beer and reaches for the hand axe on his belt….
“Well,” Finarvi continues, uncertainly. “We were just starting to head back, when this disreputable fellow accosts Varanis and offers to sell her information on where the people he thought we were following were going to be in an hour or so. Varanis paid him ten lunars, and he told us to head to the temple of Lhankor Mhy.”
Serala opens her mouth, lip curling as she watches Varanis retreat, coming to her feet for a moment, her chair legs screeching across the flagstone floor. But for all her fingers twitch, she gets hold of herself and sits slowly back down. “Finarvi. Continue.” The cold chill to the Grazelander softens, perhaps, just a little as she looks to Finarvi. Or perhaps she knows she’s looking at her only current source of information. A nod to the commentary regarding rat-face and then she is silent, listening.
“We got back here to find everyone else was awake, and when Varanis told them what was up, we sent messengers to warn you both and Nala and tell you to meet us at the temple. Which didn’t happen, obviously.”
“Slight issue with that. No messenger until afterwards.” Serala notes.
He nods miserably. “We knew he wouldn’t reach Rajar and get back in time, but we didn’t know what was going to happen. I asked Varanis what the plan was. She said we were just going to observe, and assist her cousin if it became necessary.” He pauses. “Or she might have just said ‘assist if necessary” and not specified whose side we’d be assisting,” he reflects. “Anyway, we hid out of sight, not too close to the temple. We didn’t want to alert anyone to our presence because we didn’t know what Dormal’s plan was, or what sort of trouble it might bring down.”
“It was Dormal’s plan. Of course it was going to be nefarious,” Serala points out. “I like Dormal as much as the next person, assuming the next person isn’t Berra, and conversely hardly knows the secretive little weasel, but I know whatever he’s up to it will be underhand and primarily of benefit to Dormal. So. You got to the temple with Varanis and… loitered?”
He meets Serala’s icy gaze and shrugs. “We weren’t there for long. And then suddenly we were Lunars. And I seemed to be in charge. Boldhome was burning, we had orders to pacify the city. It looked pretty pacified to me, but then the doors of the temple to Humakt opened and someone came out. It looked like Eril, but younger. <<Same arrogant sneer of a face, though.>>” He adds that last in Pure Horse Tongue.
Serala can’t help a quirk of a smile at the linguistic shift for a moment. <<Some things will never change,>> she agrees. “It was 1602, when the Lunars invaded, and took, Boldhome. My…” she shudders, “parasite… kindly filled in some of the gaps once I’d shoved her influence as far into the back of my mind as I could.” She lifts an eyebrow to Rajar, before clarifying “Sanra-Eel. Lovely family. Charming.”
“I’ve met some of them. I didnt like their pet.” Rajar does not look pleased when he talks about the Lunars. “They are horrible creatures and their pet eats cities. They are of Chaos. Or love it.” He sounds annoyed as he adds, “I did not enjoy inhabiting one of their slave’s minds.”
Finarvi continues, “He just walked past us, and we all saw he was carrying a sword. I ordered my men to arrest him. They tried to accost him, and he ran. Fast. And we…shot him and set him on fire a bit. And then the heroquest failed and we were all facing a bleeding mad Irillo. He shouted at us. Threw an axe at me, and then a bolg.” Finarvi gives another weary shrug. “He says we need to unfuck this quest and then he got drunk. I put him to bed shortly before you got here.”
“Should we?” Serala wonders. “Why would we be involved in a Lunar heroquest, and I will play no part in helping the Lunars take this city, over and over again. Whose brilliant idea was this, and what were they meant to achieve.” She comes to her feet again, clearly considering going to wake Irillo up. “I’ll give him ‘unfuck’ this idiocy…”
Finarvi stands up and catches Serala’s arm. “Don’t. Please. The Lunars weren’t supposed to catch Eril. They weren’t supposed to win. Irillo’s right: we messed up.”
Varanis is coming down the stairs. The armour is stripped away. Her eyes are red, but her head is held high.
Serala looks to the other woman, eyes of blue blazing with a chill fire. “Fine,” she hisses.
“Then here’s another question. Who was in control of your actions, all of you? You? Or your parasites? I squashed mine. Who was in control?”
Varanis flinches. “I don’t know. It happened so quickly.” She seats herself at the table again, and eyes the beer, but decides against it.
Finarvi says nothing, which is answer enough.
Rajar nods. “I brought mine down eventually. I am not used to …being ridden. I feel for the herdmen now.”
Serala nods slowly. “So, all unprepared, we all lumber into, or are dragged into, Irillo’s heroquest that.. presumably.. he set-up with Dormal. For.. some reason. Some of us fight back. Some don’t. I took on Sanra-Eel, cleared the Temple of Yelmalio and went to look for the commanders to behead them all. I didn’t make it before the scene.. changed. To a lost memory. To Eril.” She finally sits down again, reaching out for beer – Rajar’s beer – and taking a deep swallow. “However, Irillo should know better than to be secretive. If he planned this, and needed to be alone, he needed to tell us. There is no-one innocent in this debacle. And I am still going to tell him that.” There is a pause, before she asks, almost incredulous, “You set him on fire a bit??!”
“Not me,” Finarvi adds hastily. “Though I may have bounced an arrow off you, Varanis.”
“I wish it had hit me,” Varanis mutters quietly.
Rajar pauses to unscrew the other drinking horn from his helm and fill it. “But what does this mean? What quest was it, what was being re-enacted and why? And what will this all do? I understand if the priestess fails to have Ernalda feed the tribe. The calves will be few and weak and the milk thin. But this?”
“If you would like me to throw this beer in your face to snap you out of it, Varanis, I am more than glad to oblige,” Serala notes easily. “Did you not catch the part where no-one is innocent. You will not wallow. You will not stick your head in a bucket of beer. Be angry, girl, if we are going back into that hell, you will need your anger, not your defeat.” She nods to Rajar, “I’m guessing the drunk upstairs has some answers. Who is coming with me to ask?”
Rajar replies, “Not I. I might lose my temper.”
Varanis glares balefully at Serala. But she pulls herself to her feet again. “I know where his room is.”
Finarvi stands up. “I’m going to see if I can get the innkeeper to bring us some food.” He wanders away from the table.
Serala nods to Finarvi, before suddenly reaching in and pulling him to her for a brief, fierce one-armed hug. “Don’t you dare get yourself into trouble without me there to drag you out of it, cousin.” she grumbles, before shoving him none too gently away in the direction of the bar “Feed Rajar too. His anger diminishes, as his stomach gets full. Varanis, lead on.”
Finarvi manages a brief flash of a smile at her before stumbling back towards the bar. Feeding Rajar was foremost in his mind.
As Rajar slowly starts to sharpen his great axe, Varanis leads the way up the stairs. There’s a corridor with several doors. “This one is mine, that one is Dormal, Mellia, Xenofos, and Irillo’s is here.”
Downstairs, Rondrik bows to Finarvi, looks in terror at Rajar, and blurts, “Food free for heroes today!” Rajar glowers a bit but will take the free meal.
“Make it hot and plentiful!” Finarvi tells Rondrick, with forced humour and a desperate wink. The meal comes with fragments of salted meat, and a very big spoon.
Upstairs, Dormal’s door gets a Look as she passes by, but Serala restrains herself. And even pauses to knock on the door to Irillo’s room. Because unlike some people, she wasn’t brought up in a barn. Oh wait.
“What the hell do you want? Why not just shoot and stab and burn me again, and get it over with! Someone stabbed my head in the night!”3GM asks Irillo to roll on INT. He passes and learns: From the position of Yelm, either you’ve slept all day and night or some BASTARD has woken you up after less than two hours. From the taste in your mouth? BASTARDS!
Serala opens the door, standing lean and only possibly intimidating in the doorway. “I assure you it wasn’t me. But if you’d like to be shot, I can do a better job of it than anyone who tried earlier.” Varanis is just visible behind her.
Downstairs, Rondrik keeps the amphorae flowing.
Irillo’s hand can be seen brailleing towards where his sword and throwing axe are hanging. Then it gives up. “Healer. Or herbs. Or ale. Or all three.” A beat. “And Serala. Can you step about two paces to your left?”
Serala obligingly steps to the side, “Only if you promise not to throw anything at me or Varanis,” she notes, poised, and more than ready to leap forward and pin Irillo to the bed if he tries anything. But perhaps only if he’s very lucky. Then again, he has a headache. “Water.” she says firmly, gesturing to the jug someone obligingly left for him earlier. “Trust me on this.”
“I might be able to take the edge off,” Varanis offers quietly. “I can heal somewhat. Not like Mellia, but a bit.”
The sideways movement means that Serala is blocking the sunlight from landing on the bed. Irillo sits up, and rubs his face. And then pours a goblet of water, drains it and yells for small ale or mead. “Now. It is very unexpected for two beautiful women to be in my chamber at this time of the morning, so few hours after I got to sleep.”
Rondrik, downstairs, looks up at the ceiling and nervously at Rajar and Finarvi.
“Don’t cry, I haven’t slept at all yet,” Serala retorts. “And as it seems to be your brilliant idea to turn us all into Lunars, I would really really like to ask nicely just what you were thinking.” Her smile is positively radiant, “And if nice doesn’t work, we can move on to other options. I have had a Lunar general rattling around my head, believe me, Irillo, there are so many other options.”
Varanis looks at her cousin cautiously, as she steps into the room.
“MY idea? Hell no! It’s a ridiculous idea! I just came along with the rest of you, and then they were all trying to kill me! Who in the name of Orlanth’s Cobalt Scrotum told you that it was MY idea? My ideas are PROFITABLE!”
Downstairs, Finarvi’s ears prick up at the word ‘cobalt’.4Finarvi idly wonders if it’s blasphemous to consider chipping the gonads off a god.
Watching Serala and Irillo, Varanis seems to come to some kind of decision. Pulling herself to her full height, she walks to Irillo’s bedside. “Be quiet a moment, both of you.” Belatedly, she adds, “please.” Her eyes close in concentration; she takes a slow breath, curses, and tries again. The second time seems to work and Irillo’s pain eases.
“I am led to believe that you thought repeating it and, I quote ‘unfucking it’ was the way forward.” Serala does shut up long enough for Varanis to concentrate, but no longer. “How did you get there then? Tweedledum and Tweedledee5Varstapoor and his sister Vestenbora? followed Dormal, with the help of some extremely dubious character who pointed them in the right direction, who I will find an disembowel later. Rajar and I were dragged in from our temple, but I didn’t see you. I was looking for the commanders to kill them, plain and simple. Although I’m given to understand you were, to quote Rajar now, ‘riding’ Eril, so I can understand the temptation to set you on fire. But if it’s nothing to do with you, why would we want to re-run and complete a LUNAR heroquest?”
Some of the talk drifts downstairs, although the shouted curse more gallops down in full armour and crashes into delicate eardrums.
Rajar pauses to slide his gauntlets on, pushes his helmet on and lumbers up the stairs in the hopes of a fight to wake him up. Rondrik gives Finarvi an appealing look. Finarvi gently guides Rondrick out the back door to safety, just in case. The innkeeper goes to clean the alleyway there. Finarvi leans on the doorframe and watches him, yawning.
Upstairs, Irillo gestures to Varanis, “She came back having got her directions and brought us all with her. I had no idea what was going to happen. But let me ask the question right back, Serala. Do you think having a reenactment of a Heroes actions where someone we KNOW is alive gets killed is a good thing?”
“Doesn’t that depend who was starting it off and why?” Serala points out. “Isn’t the first point of a heroquest to understand what you’re trying to achieve? If the Lunars were doing it and we got dragged in, then yes, ruin it. If Dormal … because we keep coming back to Dormal … had a master plan then we should listen. But I don’t think we should be doing anything without information. There’s been too much running around and hoping for the best from all of us of late.” Mentioning no Humakti who might have headed off alone down a road recently. “Eril and Jar-Eel have history, I think,” the Grazelander notes. “It may be relevant. But I don’t know, which is why I’m here, talking to you, rather than hunting him down and demanding answers that might get me skewered.”
Rajar arrives looking slightly disappointed that there isn’t a fight and just people shouting at each other. Varanis is startled by the noise behind her and jumps nervously. She wheels to see Rajar. “What are you doing here? This fucking room is crowded enough already.”
“If you keep swearing, I promise I’ll wash your mouth out for you,” Serala notes almost conversationally.
Rajar ignores Varanis and pushes past her to see what’s going on, and Varanis responds by attempting to trip him. He punches her in the head with his gauntleted fist and she drops in place.
“Look, is it alright if people do not litter my room?” Irillo seems to be regaining his conversational air.
Serala waits. Patiently. For an answer to her rather long question before the children started playing. Which she is pointedly ignoring.
Rajar hands Irillo a beer, picks up Varanis and carts her off to another room for a little. By chance, or even judgement, Rajar manages to get Varanis’ room.
Hearing a thump that sounded like a body falling, Finarvi wanders back inside to see Rajar exiting Varanis’ room.
Irillo takes a thoughtful swig of ale, supping it, and waiting, and then pats the bed, to offer Serala a seat. “I imagine the Lunars wanted what we” and the emphasis is a bit pointed, “gave them. A Sword Lord defeated. We know he survived. But if he was here, and the Temple fell, why did he survive? How?”
Serala takes the offered seat, trying not to wince as her own tired feet protest. She’s more used to riding than walking around on heroquests. “I got a memory back,” she notes. “The battle, when I rode in with Eril. The fury that he wore when riding for who he thought was Jar-Eel was.. too much.” Another break, “The -Eels were there. I found myself in Sanra-Eel’s head. I don’t know what she planned though, I didn’t let her run the show. Maybe he was captured? Fell into their hands? Maybe we should be asking Xenofos to read the books on the 1602 invasion of Boldhome.. that’s when she said we were, although I suspect other people already knew that fact.”
Finarvi comes to lean against the door frame in turn, listening intently.
Irillo takes another swig, “I already sent him to do that. And someone up to the Humakt Temple to ask for information. Because I’m not a complete idiot. Work first, THEN huge amounts of Clearwine.”
“You’re not?” Serala asks sweetly. “Then why are you hungover when I want to talk? That’s not a clever thing to do, Irillo.”
“Because unlike you warriors, someone killing me is not, in fact, something I’m used to. ESPECIALLY not my friends. And especially when I have been unable to talk myself out of the problem.”
“Working theory… Eril was there. Eril was not killed, but captured.” Serala is throwing out thoughts and ideas, seeing if any of them stick. “Worst case.. he was tortured and turned. And has been working for the Lunars ever since. Which may mean the entire Humakt temple is suspect. So personally I wouldn’t have just sent someone to ask around. Be careful when you pick up stones, you never know what might be lurking beneath.” She shrugs easily, “Worst case, obviously. I’m sure you did the right thing.”
“They’d have killed him, if they’d captured him,” Irillo argues. “And turning a Lord of Truth without everyone knowing it is… not really viable as a plan. He’d have been a renegade from Humakt, to Yanaril Tanafils, and I’m pretty sure that the Cult Vengeance spirits of Humakt are pretty horrible.”
“What if they didn’t succeed in turning him, but thought they did?” Finarvi offers, clearly attracted to Serala’s idea.
Serala half smiles. “Not really viable. Pretty sure. We’re speculating wildly about events from decades ago, and the only people who know for sure are mostly dead, or on the other side. You’re taking supposition and treating it as fact. My point is simply, we have no facts and we should be careful about announcing anything to the world.” She brushes down her legs, sighing before she braces to stand up. “Next stop, Dormal. Maybe he’ll have some answers as this is his party.”
“We have some facts. Humakt accepted him as a Lord of Truth. That’s a fact. He survived. That’s a fact. Letting foes live in this way is contrary to the observed behaviour of the Lunars, and surviving to be captured is outside the expected action of a Humakti. These are all facts, not supposition. What it means? That’s a different thing entirely.”
The jury is clearly staying out for Serala. The only fact she nods to is the one where Eril survived. “But you take my point,” she presses. “We should not be diving in to ‘repair’ until we know ‘why’.” She reaches out to pat Irillo on the cheek, not condescending at all, really. “I didn’t try to kill you. Next time, run to me, foolish boy.” Oh dear, another of those painfully sweet smiles, before she rises. “Get some sleep. I can’t imagine why you’re still awake after the night you’ve had.” Her cousin stands aside to let Serala pass.
Irillo’s hand is reaching for the throwing axe again… The door closes behind Serala and Finarvi with a quiet ‘thunk’ and Irillo can go back to his happy dreamworld where he’s always right. There is a thud against the door. Sounds like the axe hit haft first.
As they leave, Finarvi mutters “You know, that whole ‘truth rune’ business is irrelevant if my theory about Eril is true.”
Serala nods to Finarvi. “Irillo is always filled with his own rightness. But I take nothing for granted.”
Finarvi follows Serala out into the hallway. “<<You know, Irillo has a point. We should try to Divine Eril’s state. If he’s dead already, there’s no point trying to de-impregnate this quest.>>” He rubs his chin and adds, “<<You know, while the Lunar I was riding had his orders, he was more interested in the temple than Eril. Maybe that was the purpose of the quest? When else is Boldhome going to be undefended, open, plunderable?>>”