1627, Sea Season, Illusion Week
After the group gets underway again, and everyone is on horseback, one of Venlar’s people reaches Varanis to say, “My lord asks if you have a little time for conversation.” This is one of his bodyguard thralls.
She nods. “But he’ll need to catch up. I’m riding point today.”
The man drops back. A little later Venlar arrives on his good horse with his bad riding habits, and bows in the saddle to Varanis. “Thane Vareena.”
She gives him a return bow. “Thane Venlar.”
He smiles generously. “I wonder, could you do me a small favour? I need to know something from one of your followers.”
The Vingan’s helmet is pushed back on her head, revealing her expressive features. If her Grandmother tried to teach her to be successful in politics, this is an area where her lessons fail her. A number of emotions flit across her face. Worry and curiosity seem to be the most obvious. Curiosity wins, as she asks, “Oh?”
“No problem,” Venlar says, reassuringly. “But captain Berra has an understanding of my sister that I will never have, and I want to make Yamia comfortable.”
This earns him a snort. “You could start by recognising that she’s an adult capable of her own decisions. Mellia, may her goddess love her, is smothering Yamia.”
Venlar’s expression stays polite and attentive. “There are worries that we have about a child, and supporting a Humakti through it. The relationship could damage both, or either, and I seek an understanding so I can help my sister.”
“And you think Berra can advise on this? Berra, who has never had a child, nor likely ever will. Surely, if this is the source of your concern, you need the advice of someone with a deeper knowledge of the mysteries of Humakt?” Now Varanis looks puzzled.
“Not advise so much as explain. Yamia is shield-walling me, and I do not want to change her behaviour as much as understand her so I can anticipate it. My sister… is not a Fertile person.” Venlar looks confused and pained.
“I see. And in what way do you hope that I can assist?” The confusion remains.
“Captain Berra… is intense,” Venlar says. “But interesting to talk to. Very challenging. I was hoping you could ask her to … I suppose in the vernacular, go easy on me while I was asking about my sister and religious beliefs. Or at least, assure her my wishes are to help my sister, not demand change from her.”
Varanis nods thoughtfully. “She does hold strong opinions and isn’t hesitant to share them.”
“It is certainly a good thing to be unafraid to speak,” Venlar says in a tone of agreement.
“I can speak to her. But, I cannot make any promises as to the result. And I do think that the most important thing will be for Yamia to consult with the senior members of the temple in Boldhome.”
“That is for her to decide. So far, she has not indicated she intends to go to Boldhome.” Venlar has an amused, wry look to him. “For her, it seems what she has planned is sufficient. If I had not found out, I would have not known and I would not have changed. But, as I did, I want to help her, even if it is helping her in her own way.” Just briefly a flash of pain or resentment is on his face, where a true politician would not let it show. He is hurt by his sister’s decision.
Varanis watches him for a few heartbeats. She seems to be on the verge of saying something, but doesn’t and the moment passes. “I’ll speak to Berra.”
Venlar says, “Thank you. What I want to know is how to support Yamia. She has always looked after me.”
“You’re very close to your siblings, aren’t you?” She’s scanning the landscape as she asks it. The question could be simple curiosity or even just polite conversation, but there’s a tension in her shoulders that suggests there’s more to it.
“We grew from one cradle, lived in one room and one house. Hengrast was the most adventurous, but we are all close, yes.” Venlar is conversational, not really remembering to look for trouble.
“And you all look out for each other.”
“Yes. She is not just my bodyguard. She is a friend like no other.” He swallows, determined, chewing back any unworthy thoughts.1Insights: This conversation has begun to make Varanis uncomfortable, but she keeps at it, like someone who can’t stop themselves from prodding a bruise to see if it hurts. In turn, Venlar is worried about his sister – has he been deceiving himself? But he is determined to believe.
“You’re a good brother,” Varanis says. “Loyal and loving to your family. I admire your desire to look out for her.”
Venlar bows his head. “We are very few, in the Cinder Foxes,” he says. “I benefitted from the Clan, but never an extended household. My father was the only acceptable candidate for the clan, after his cousin failed the Lunars. It is good that Jengharl and Habela are happily married.”
Varanis nods, but her attention is no longer really on the conversation.2Varanis needs to think about what a crappy sister she is. And watch the road for trouble. Fish tries to take advantage of her distraction by going for some grass along the side of the road and his veering off the path is what puts her attention back onto it. She hauls on the reins with a Praxian curse. When she has her mount under control again, she says to Venlar, “I need to focus on my task. I’ll speak to Berra later. For the moment, I should be paying attention to the road.”
Venlar says, “You have been generous with time,” and bows again. He reins in his horse with only a little hesitation as he works out where his hands need to go, and lets Varanis get ahead.