1626, Fire Season, Stasis Week, Fireday
Varanis is riding Manasa, en route to Wilmskirk. The horse is in a churlish mood and the Vingan’s attention is mostly focused on staying seated.
Finarvi rides up on Madryn. The Grazelander’s mare is in high spirits, glad to be moving, and Finarvi rains her in a little before she can overtake Manasa, his eyes on the black mare’s laid-back ears.
“Is she snappish today?” he asks Varanis.
Varanis nods, concentrating on the horse. “To be honest, she’s snappish most days.” She looks tense, which is probably not helping. As if to illustrate the point, Manasa snakes her head at Madryn, teeth bared. The roan flicks her ears back for a moment but otherwise ignores the threat, pacing just out of reach.
“Manasa!” Varanis hauls on the reins, trying to make her mount behave. The mare glares balefully.
Finarvi chuckles. “She likes everyone to know she’s boss. Madryn just doesn’t believe her.”
“I’m the one in charge! Or at least I should be with my own cursed horse.” Varanis sounds disgruntled, but she also seems to be thinking about Serala’s lessons because she breathes slowly, releasing the tension in her shoulders and the mare begins to settle.1Yay for making a riding roll!
Finarvi nods, approving. “She’s been allowed to boss people around, before she came to you. She’s learning better manners now.” He stares at the road ahead for a long moment, clearly chewing over some thought. “This morning’s sparring,” he said at length. “I am very unhappy about what happened. I owe you an apology.”
Varanis glances at him sideways, before turning her attention back to the mare and the road. “I owe you one too,” she admits.
He cocks his head to one side questioningly. “You do?”
She looks shamefaced. “I tried to strike you in anger.”
“With reason. I let my instincts do my fighting.” He heaves a sigh. “I was expecting drills, not sparring. I was too passive in letting Berra suggest a dawn start, the morning after her rescue. I did not know how to suggest we stop, when I realised how weary she still was. I was too afraid of her censure to step back when I saw you were tiring, and so I tried to call her attention by speaking out of turn to you.” He meets her gaze and gives an apologetic grimace. “And if I had had a little less control over that oar, I’d have hit you without meaning to. And that makes me feel…” His face twists, seeking and not finding the word he’s looking for. “Like a rotting wound.”
“Oh Finarvi…” She shakes her head. “I’ve been so mad at myself. I invited myself to your training session, not really leaving either of you a chance to think about it. And then I got mad at myself and nearly took it out on you. Blunted or not, if I had connected that last shot on you, it would have likely broken ribs. And… I almost didn’t stop when you had clearly won.” She looks even more unhappy as she adds, “I’m more experienced in this than you. I should never have let my own ego get the upper hand.”
Finarvi shakes his head. “This morning you were exactly the sort of opponent I like to fight. I grew up learning to taunt an angry foe into making a mistake. Sometimes, I fall back into old habits.”
Varanis studies at her companion a moment, but turns her attention back to Manasa as the horse tries to redirect them down what might be a side trail. “I think we should try again, but perhaps reminding ourselves and each other of what we are trying to accomplish.” She smiles wryly. “I would like to get better at using a broadsword and that’s not going to happen if I don’t listen to the person teaching me.”
“I need a lot of practice before we try sparring again. And I need to trust myself to spot Berra’s hand signals no matter what’s happening. I don’t think she was quite prepared for how different we are from Humakti. “
Varanis laughs quietly. “We are definitely not Humakti. Sparring is a necessary part of training. But we need to go about it the right way. We will spar again, but we’ll do it differently next time.” This last comes from the calm assurance of someone who has done a lot of sword training.
“I hope so. I have no desire to hit you, and you don’t want to face the Wrath of Serala.” He gives her a wry grin.
“I don’t know… “ Varanis glances back at Serala speculatively. “It could be interesting.”
Finarvi grins. “It will certainly be spectacular.” It sounds like he’s speaking from personal experience.
- 1Yay for making a riding roll!