1626, Sea Season, Disorder Week, Freezeday
Varanis and Berra re-enter the Grape about an hour after Yelmrise. They part ways in the common room and the Vingan manages to go up the stairs without stomping. Rather than go to her own door, she pauses, then knocks on Xenofos’ doorframe. “Xeno? You awake?” she calls softly through the door.
“Come in cousin” comes quiet reply.
Varanis slips through the door and into the room. She stops in the doorway to let her eyes adjust to the light. Although it’s early, she is fully armoured, with her helmet tucked under her arm.
Xenofos is sitting by the desk clothed in his tunic, looking at some notes.
His cousin studies him silently, searching his face for signs of… something. At last, she says, “I… I shouldn’t have bothered you.” As suddenly as she appeared, she looks like she might flee.
“You are not bothering me, Ranie.” Xenofos’ face looks smoother than before sacred time, his voice is calm and he looks happy to see her.
She turns back. “You’re… looking well. Really well, actually.”
He looks at her a bit impatiently. “Thank you. I can feel that myself too. And you did not come in here just to tell me that?”1X passes insight, failed love family, passed truth. Insight: she had a purpose when she came, but she may be chickening out.
She blinks. “Um. No, I didn’t.” Her shoulders sag. “I have to tell you something, and you’re not going to like it. You have every right to be angry.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Have you put yourself in danger heedlessly?”
She flushes. Her red face clashes with the red mop of hair that frames it. “Serala has been here since the beginning of Sacred Time.”
“Yes?…” He looks curious.
“And I’ve been slipping off to see her. Without guards. After I promised you I’d be careful. It was reckless and selfish. I’m sorry.” The words tumble off her tongue as though she’s desperate to get the confession over with.
He nods quietly, letting her come to finish on her own time and observing her while she talks.2X passes INT * 5. He was drinking last night, but not that much. She and Serala were pretending they’d just met up. And she left when Nala went to bed and came back with the Grazelanders and no explanation on how or where she found them. So, she’s been lying AND sneaking off. He nods again when the explanation is over. “Right… Was that everything?”
“I betrayed your trust!” She hesitates. Fidgets. At last, she says, “No. there’s more. She asked me to marry her. I told her that I want to, but need the Prince’s permission. Kallyr told me we can discuss it after this mission.” Oddly, she didn’t say anything about needing the Saiciae matriarch’s permission…
“You should not have done it after you gave your word. That is true. But I am not angry Varanis,” the scribe says looking at Varanis calmly. “Tell me, do you still love her?” he asks.
“Serala? Of course!” She looks offended by the question.
“Then I suppose congratulations are in order, Ranie.” He stands up to hug her.
She accepts the hug with surprise at first. Then, something in her gives and suddenly she’s holding him too tightly and sobbing. It can’t be comfortable for him, given the bronze cuirass between them. Her helmet has fallen with a clang that will likely make the people below them jump.
“There, there. I am sure Granny and your Prince get the negotiations done, like Mellia will get married to Venlar soon enough.”3X passed both loyalty Varanis and loyalty Saiciae…
“But Xenofos, it may not be as simple as that,” Varanis says when she can shape words sensibly again. “Mellia is a noblewoman marrying a chief’s son. I’m of the royal line.“ She has made space between them and is wiping at the tears that just won’t stop. “I’m a game piece on a political table and Kallyr might not be willing to sacrifice the potential that easily. And Berra said…” The tears come full force again, choking off whatever she was trying to say.
“There, there Ranie.” The scribe pats her on the shoulders. “Granny knows how to take care of such matters. She would not be Esrolian Grandmother if she did not know how. It may take time.”
“Berra said she makes me reckless,” Varanis sobs. “She said a lot of other things too, but I won’t repeat them. And Grandmother has always made it clear that she accepts my dedication to Vinga, but that any marriage decisions would be hers. I don’t care about her though.” There’s a flash of defiance amidst the tears. “I won’t let her dictate my life anymore. But Kallyr… if the prince says no, there’s no recourse.”
“She does not make you reckless, Ranie. That comes from you.” The scribe considers for a moment. “To my understanding, if you want to marry her, you can defy a Prince quite as well as your Grandmother. Both will carry a high price…” He looks at her in the eyes. “Just to be clear, Ranie, I do not counsel you to do that, quite the contrary. I am not talking of price in loss of status or land or coin.”
Varanis flinches when her cousin lays the blame for her behaviour at her own feet, but she doesn’t argue. When he finishes speaking, she says, with as much dignity as she can muster despite the streaks of tears on her face, “I won’t undermine Kallyr. I have already told Serala that I will respect the Prince’s decision, whether I like it or not.”
“Sounds like you are taking love of Sartar over your own love. Your recklessness is your own, but so is your nobility, milady.” He looks over Varanis’ shoulder. “Love is mighty – and not always easy. I hope you will find happiness in it despite hardship.”
She turns her tearful gaze to his face, searching for something. “You’re…. different. The way you talk about love… it’s changed.” She grasps his hand turning it over in hers, studying the runes now inked on both sides of it. “The Temple…” Her eyes flick up to his. “Has it brought you peace?”
He looks at his hands and the new runes. “Peace? Is there such thing…? I have rested. I did not understand how much I needed that.” He falls silent for a moment seemingly gathering his thoughts. “Aranda taught me some things. But, I struggle yet to understand. Like riding in fog at night when you see just glimpses of your surrounding. She showed me a bit which way to ride. Where the road takes is a Inner Mystery that was not revealed yet. Perhaps never, for me.”
Varanis nods slowly. “You needed that rest, and if she could share knowledge that helps you, then I am happy. I was so worried I’d asked for too much from you.”
“It… It did hurt, I would not have accepted that voluntarily, Ranie.” He looks at her in the eyes. “I do think it did me good.”
She meets his gaze, searching. Whatever she sees makes her sigh in relief. She pulls him in for a fierce hug. Still in the cuirass – his ribs might feel that bruise later. “I should go see if Serala is still there,” she says when she releases him. She takes a steadying breath. “After I wash my face. Do you have a basin and water?”
Xenofos nods towards the corner where the said items reside.
“Thank you,” she replies gratefully.
- 1X passes insight, failed love family, passed truth. Insight: she had a purpose when she came, but she may be chickening out.
- 2X passes INT * 5. He was drinking last night, but not that much. She and Serala were pretending they’d just met up. And she left when Nala went to bed and came back with the Grazelanders and no explanation on how or where she found them. So, she’s been lying AND sneaking off.
- 3X passed both loyalty Varanis and loyalty Saiciae…