1628, Storm Season, Stasis Week
At the house in Boldhome, before Varanis goes on trial for violating the Telmori grave. She and Xenofos get a chance to catch up a bit more.
At the door of Praxian house Xenofos sees Varanis walking towards the house from direction of the Wind temple and raises his hand in salute.
She waves in reply, offering him a grin. Her hair has been tousled by the wind, her hat is nowhere in sight. She’s bundled in her heavy cloak.
Wrapped in bisonhide cloak Xenofos nods solemnly. His ears are a bit red from the wind but otherwise he does not seem to be freezing.
“Heyla, cousin! Why are you out in the cold?” Varanis calls out when she’s close enough not to have to fight with Orlanth for the sound.
“Back from the temple. I was in the library before noon, writing, and then went studying for afternoon.” Scribe looks down towards the temples.
“Warm, at least?”
Xenofos smiles at that. “At least ink did not freeze in the writing hall. But the rosebushes were still covered by snow.”
“I never thought I’d look forward to Fire Season! C’mon. Let’s go warm up by the hearth.”
“What is wrong with Fire Season?” Scribe follows the Vingan in. Lenta greets them as they walk in.
“It’s hot. And it’s when most of the fighting happens and I’m heartily sick of fighting. Maybe the Lunars will stay home this year?” Varanis waves at Lenta, then shucks her cloak and hangs it on her peg by the door.
Xenofos nods. “I kind of like the heat. The fighting. Not so much. But you do it because it is duty, not because you would like it…”
“Exactly!” She turns to Lenta, “Is there hot cider or the like? It’s been a cold day.”
Without giving the Ernaldan a chance to reply, Varanis heads to the kitchen to check. “Cider ok for you, Xenofos?”
Scribe nods. Ernaldan asks him something and then goes upstairs.
Yehna is in the kitchen and greets Varanis as she enters. “Hungry?”
“Xenofos is here too. Got anything warm but easy to serve?”
“There is the stew in the big pot. I can ladle you both a bowl of that.” She looks at the door. “Hello Xenofos. A bit of bread and cheese to round that up. With an apple and a mug of warm cider or ale. Unless you want wine.”
“Cider is good. We should try to bring in some of Blue Tree’s perry next year. I’d love to have that tucked away for the cold days.” Varanis helps with the food and before long, she and her cousin are back by the hearth with food and drink to warm their bellies.
Yehna somehow manages to top up the portions to just slightly bigger than Varanis thought of. Xenofos’ comment that he ate already at noon is also politely ignored.
Xenofos warms his hands on the bowl of stew and smiles towards the kitchen. “She is a blessing.”
“She is. I’ll be sad when she goes.”
“She’ll need to go when the sowing season starts?” Xenofos asks, taking a bite of cheese and bread.
Varanis nods as she chews.
Xenofos looks first at his bread and then long at Varanis. “Tova will have a lot to learn. What have you been up to?”1Special on insight own species
She’s remarkably calm. Tired, like she’s been pushing herself hard, but she also seems happier than she has in a very long time. Or at least, more content?
She tells him about how she’s been training with spear, and is slowly becoming more competent, though it’s clear that the sword will always be her preferred weapon. She also talks about how she’s been steeping herself in the lore of the Boldhome Air Temples and how fascinating she finds the differences between here and Nochet.
Xenofos listens nodding every now and then, making encoraging noises and asking the right questìons that lead Varanis on. “It is good to see you… content?”
“I think I am. I’d feel better if this business with the Telmori was resolved and if we knew for certain that the Lunars wouldn’t be back when the weather changes, but yes, for the moment I feel content.”
“We will see both, when the time comes.” He smiles a bit “And good you are not waiting for those things to resolve before moving on.”
“And you?” she asks. “How are you doing now that you’ve been back for a few days? Are you settling in?”
“Lots of writing to do. Some lessons at the temple.” He smiles again “a small sleepy face to see every now and then…”
She smiles at the mention of the baby. “They can be sweet.”
He nods. “A bit distraction at times… but like I said learning stuff at the temple, writing down things at the Library. I think I have the evidence Librarian requested, but I need to write it down to a coherent thesis.” He shrugs. “Just the way it is, I guess. Feels a bit superfluous after seeing things.”
“Evidence of what?”
“Evidence that Uleria is or can be the Light of Wisdom… You see, there are poems in library in Pavis that speak of this. The meaning is clear but shrouded in beautiful veils of mysticism.”
“Does that mean… could a scribe marry a Ulerian?” She looks intrigued.
Xenofos blinks. “The thought had not crossed my mind… ” He looks towards the ceiling. “It is pretty normal for scribes to marry laymembers of Lhankor Mhy, though. And bar to that is not insurmountable… ” His gaze follows the stairs. Up towards the bedrooms.
Varanis follows his gaze and her own eyes flicker with a series of emotions.2X passes Insight: She is confused, then jumps to a conclusion that surprises her. Finally, she settles on pity. “Still?” she asks softly.
“Still…” he shrugs and sighs “…even though I have hardly spoken with her since I returned… but your question before…” he strokes his beard.
She waits patiently for him to continue.
“It actually might… It is not custom. But since Uleria is Light of Wisdom…” he looks at her and smiles “although I am not sure if Uleria takes husbands or just lovers. She is not Ernalda.”
Varanis tilts her head to consider it, then shrugs. “To each their own, I suppose. I have no desire for a husband either.”
Xenofos looks at her. “A wife maybe? Certain Grazelander perhaps?”
There’s a small flash of pain, quickly masked. “Serala, when she marries, should marry for her clan. And me? If I marry, it must be for Sartar. You know that, Xenofos. Marriage for someone like me is about politics, not love.”
“I was taught that, yes. But I no longer believe it must be so. Nobody can make you do anything. And there is always another way.” He looks thoughtful “And one should not go against will of Uleria.”
“I know that no one can force me into marriage, Xenofos. That goes against everything sacred! But duty and honour can compel me to choose what is best for others over my own selfish desires.” She glowers at him for his offence. “Serala and I have this time now. It is sweet and it fills our hearts. But when duty calls me, I will act with honour.”
He looks at his cousin “You could ask the king to mediate this. What harm could it bring to either Sartar or White Hazel? And a marriage born of love could bring much good. Why deny it yourself for another match that may or may not come?” Then he shrugs. “Maybe a good thing I am not a woman. I have hard time looking past people’s love.”
“Xenofos, enough. I know my duty to Sartar. I have what I need right now. Please stop pushing me for more.” She is firm in her refusal and clearly beginning to grow irritable. “If you are so keen to see a wedding, Mellia and Venlar will have theirs soon enough. What is your gift to them? Have you decided?”
“I am keen to see it, yes. It is long overdue, if you ask me, and not of good reasons. But all is well that ends well they say. And Mellia looks radiant right now. Some jewelry, I guess. Maybe silver butterflies if I can find someone who can make what I have in mind on such short notice.”
“That would be a lovely gift for our cousin and worthy of her.”
“Gifts are insignificant in comparison to her getting Venlar. But she already has him and he her and we should celebrate this occasion when everyone around finally recognizes it as is just.” Xenofos speaks with conviction here.
“But the thesis on Uleria… I told you I am seeking admission to be her follower. The Librarian wished more written argumentation. So I have been seeking that… Now you made me wonder if Aranda could consider me as a spouse. Or if I could take responsibilities of a husband and still fulfill my other duties.” He smiles uncertainly.
“Is marriage something you wish for?”
“I used to think it would come in time, I would be married off in due time. Then, after the war I thought it is not for me… Then with Neela – part of me really wanted to stay. But I would make a rather poor husband in the bison tribe… I don’t know if I make a good husband for anyone with my heart tugged in different directions. I wish…. I wish it was simpler.”
She draws him into a hug. “I’m sorry that things are so complicated, dear one. It’s not fair.”
He returns the hug. “Maybe not. But it is way better then the dull grayness that was before.”
“Yeah… I know what you mean,” his cousin replies. “I was just… getting by, I suppose. Life at least has meaning now.”
- 1Special on insight own species
- 2X passes Insight: She is confused, then jumps to a conclusion that surprises her. Finally, she settles on pity.