1628, Storm Season, Movement Week, Wildday
At the house in Boldhome, a couple of days after Varanis became a Windlord (Initiation).
Yelm has set beyond the mountains. Praxian house is shuttered closely against the wrath of Valind and shrieking of winds of Gagarth. A weak light shines from the stables.
Varanis has invaded the kitchen in search of a hot drink, since Yehna and Lenta both seem busy. She risks opening the door to the garden to pour out waste water and spots the light. Curiosity gets the better of her. Setting the bucket into the slushy snow against the wall of the house, she dashes across to the stable door. Exercising no caution at all, she drags the door open and steps into the stable.
She scans the room for the light source. The timber structure is divided into a set of stalls with low walls to separate the mounts. It is best suited to horses, not larger creatures like bison.
Against the back wall looms ominous, dark horned figure like a man with bison head. Impression lasts only for a fleeting moment before separating to man and bison.
“Hello Varanis” she hears the familiar sound of her cousin.
Xenofos lifts his head from his work with the animal and looks sharply at Varanis. “Please close the door so the water won’t freeze in the buckets.”1X rolls a critical Scan
In the moment between spotting the shadow and recognizing Xenofos, her expression shifts from curiosity to pure terror, followed by a determined resolve. It is not until he speaks that she relaxes and as she does, she puts a hand on the wall for support. After a moment to take a shaky breath, she closes the door.
Xenofos continues to brush Curly.
“Oh. Hello,” she says, trying to cover her brief panic with some semblance of normalcy. “I didn’t expect to find you here. It’s a tight fit for the bison, though we tried to expand it as best we could.”
“I know.” He continues his work “I should really take him into the pastures. He would probably be better off there.”
The expansion seems to have involved removing some of the short walls to make double-wide stalls. Enough for a couple of bison, anyway.
“It might be a tad hard to check on him every day though.” he pats the animal “But he is getting to like the oats and hay a bit too much. Aren’t you?”
“Best make sure you can get him through the door regularly,” Varanis suggests. “I’d hate to have to make it bigger!”
Xenofos nods. “Sorry if I startled you” The single oil lamp flickering at other side of Curly leaves his face mainly in the shadows.
Varanis moves into the stables more, pausing to pat Doqeia’s nose. She glances at Manasa and decides the mare would not welcome the same greeting. Instead, she joins Xenofos by his bison. Up close, she looks exhausted, though there’s a wildness in her eyes that suggests she’s not ready to sleep any time soon. “It’s fine,” she says. “I just didn’t recognize you at first.”
The scribe looks at his cousin. “You look tired. Was there more trouble after that … trial.”
“I was called to the temple,” she says. Indeed, she was at the temple for two nights and two days and must have come home only recently. “It was the High Holy Day, but also… there were further trials. I had not yet thought it was time, but Tennebris surprised me.”
“Trials? I thought the matter with the Telmori was settled in the public one?” Scribe looks at his cousin. His face is drawn tighter by disapproval.2Failed INT roll
“No… Different trials,” she says. “I… well… they put me through the Sartarite version of the adulthood initiation, which then led into my Wind Lord trials. Xenofos… I’m a Wind Lord now.” Although she sounds as though she is still surprised, there is also a degree of pride in the words. “I’m a Wind Lord,” she repeats.
It takes a while for the words to be understood. The stern visage of Xenofos is first showing confusion before melting to a smile. His eyes glisten as he starts to speak. “Congratulations, Varanis, My Lord… That is… They recognized… Very well deserved Ranie.”
She beams at him. “You’re not unhappy that I am now dedicated to Boldhome’s Temple? I’ll never move back to Nochet. I may visit,” her tone suggests that’s not likely any time soon, “but my place is most definitely here now.” As if buying a house in Boldhome wasn’t already a clear indication of that.
“I have known for a while your place is here.” He takes her hand. “I am happy you have found a place where you belong.”
She lets him take her hand, then uses it to pull him into a hug. Manasa snorts her disapproval. When she steps back, she asks, “Do you want to hear of it? What I can share, anyway.”
“What you can and want to tell, yes please Ranie.” He looks at her and smiles “You don’t look like you would be going to take the rest you need anytime soon anyway…”
“I went for a long walk with Berra this afternoon,” she says. “I hoped it would help me sleep, but right now, sleep feels very distant.” There’s a little shudder, which she attempts to cover by complaining, “How can it be so cold even with these shaggy beasts taking up so much room?”
She takes up a second brush and looks inquiringly at Xenofos. “Want help with him?”
“You can take my cloak” Xenofos nods at the hidecloak hanging from the peg on the wall. “Or we can go inside soon. I am about done.”
She shrugs. “It’s ok. I need to get used to it.” She starts to vigorously brush the bison’s coat. “You’re remembering to collect the hair for Yehna?” she asks. “Or do you send it back to Prax?”
“Oh. I have just left it out for the birds to make their nests softer…”
She shakes her head at him. “Wrong season for that. This winter coat is good for spinning and the birds aren’t nesting anyway. Save it for Yehna.” And then, without preamble, she tells him about her trials.
She begins with describing how she’d gone to sleep in a small room set aside for her at the temple, only to be woken in the night when someone pulled a bag over her head.
She had thought someone bold enough to attempt a kidnapping within the temple itself, but later learned that it is the traditional way of beginning adulthood initiations in Sartar.
She was brought into an inner sanctum, open to the sky and the cold and just as she thought she might make an escape, she was pulled into the HeroQuest, familiar and yet subtly different from the one she’d experienced as a youth in Esrolia.
Xenofos nods as he is listening.
The story she tells is familiar – the sons of Umath cast into pits by their kin – a test of their readiness. She was Vinga and Orlanth and lost for a time, but she found her way and led others to fight there way free.
“That is what you do, Varanis…”
“We couldn’t save… well, you know the story. Not everyone makes it out of the pits whole. That hurt. I knew and I couldn’t change it. But then… I met Second Son. We talked of the Star Heart and…” she considers what she can share. “Well, I learned some things,” she says at last.
Xenofos nods. “Mysteries… They should not be shared with outsiders.” He gathers the lose hair from the brush and rolls it into a ball. “Yehna can use this?”
She nods. “But… Xenofos, there was more.”
He tilts his head.
“There was a battle against the Darkness. I was alone and it was grim, but when I came out the other side, I knew I hadn’t been.” I Fought, We Won – a classic Orlanthi tale, told to all children. “And then…” she trails off, paling. “It doesn’t matter what I saw next,” she says at last. “Not really.” It’s almost as though she turns away from the memory, her eyes closed firmly against it. She shivers and stops talking.
After a breath or two, she resumes brushing Curly instead, staring determinedly at the bison’s long coat of hair.
As she shivers, Xenofos puts his arm around her shoulder. “You came through Ranie.”
She doesn’t answer, but turns into his arm for a hug. He can feel her shaking. She allows herself the indulgence of this for only a few heartbeats, before stepping back. “Enough silliness. I am a Wind Lord. When I came to myself and cleaned up, there was a gathering, including Prince Kallyr. She is the one who proclaimed it, challenging anyone to deny my new status.”3Again that hug takes away anxiety.
Xenofos nods “That is as it should be. Good to hear Kallyr doing that…”
“Do you remember the sword I got in Tarsh? The iron rapier?”
He nods. There is flicker of shadow on his face. Maybe it is just the bad lighting.
“It is truly mine now. Enchanted and everything!” And… not on her hip.
“Awesome.” Xenofos smile is a bit forced “That will help you in fulfilling your new duties.”
“You don’t like it…”
“It is a great weapon.” He inhales. “An instrument of Death worthy of a warrior leader like you.”
She searches his face, trying to see if there is anything more in his statement. Finding nothing she can make sense of, she simply nods. “And I must be worthy of it. Come, let’s go inside where it’s warm. I was going to make apple cider. I’ve learned how to do it right now.” There’s a little grin at that last statement. “Have you heard of my previous attempt?”
- 1X rolls a critical Scan
- 2Failed INT roll
- 3Again that hug takes away anxiety.