1628, Fire Season, Stasis Week (ish)
Varanis and Xenofos have been shown to cells within the Maran Gor temple. The rooms are tiny and bare, but the doors are unlocked and it seems they are free to move about.
The Vingan slips into her cousin’s room and takes a seat on the floor. “Not quite what I’d planned,” she murmurs.
The scribe lifts his gaze from his writing and nods.
“If you’d gone back when I said, you wouldn’t be here right now. You could be safely headed to Alda Chur.”
“So could you… hmm what rhymes with gazelle?”
“Hell? They sent me away, Xeno. Berra wanted me out of her way and you heard Valseena…” The Vingan scowls fiercely. “I had to leave or I put everyone else at risk.”
“I don’t think hell is suitable in the context.” The scribe dries the quill and twirls it thoughtfully. “Berra wanted you safe. Out of reach for Onjur.”
“Smell? Bell? Pell?” Varanis offers. “Safe.” The word is spoken like a curse. “As my brothers were? As my child is? There is no safe for my family. No place to hide. The only way to protect those I love is to attack, not flee.”
“I will finish that poem later, when we are out of here.” He puts the quill away. “Sometimes charging blindly forward looks like fleeing.”
“That doesn’t make sense!” She turns a pleading look on her cousin. “Surely you can understand that I couldn’t just run back to safety when there was a chance to do something?”
“I don’t understand what you thought you could accomplish alone, dear cousin.” He smiles wistfully “I saw you were like alynx in cage after we met Onjur so I don’t blame you for running to do anything.”
She winces. “When no one would support me, I had no choice but to go alone.” Peering up at him, she adds, “but I’m not alone, am I? You’re here. And somehow I have to get both of us out alive. She chews her lip then says, “I wasn’t entirely sure what my plan was. I thought I’d figure it out once I got closer. But you being here means that the only option is information gathering and escape.”
The scribe twirls his moustache. “That might prove a tad challenging. It would be the preferable option though.”
“We aren’t prisoners. The doors aren’t locked. We could try just walking out and see what happens. Or wait for night fall…” She sighs. “We might need to leave our armour behind. Slipping out in the dark will be impossible if we gleam in firelight and rattle as we go.”
He shakes his head slowly. “I do see other, darker options too. I hope they don’t become reality, but I suppose we must be prepared for descent.”
“I have an idea to escape, but it needs nightfall. For now, perhaps it is best to pray and rest,” Varanis tells him.
Xenofos raises his eyebrow. “Idea?”
“I’m not sure if I’m strong enough. I have to pray and think.”1And work out if I will have recovered any rune points. 😛
The scribe nods and makes sign of infinity.
“Did you notice anything of value on our way in?” Varanis asks. “The camps outside seem to have a mix of warriors and peasants. I didn’t get a good count.”
“Several hundred by look of the camps. Makes sense if they are here to give support by worship and rituals, I guess.”
“I’m not certain what would bring them together in these numbers. I’m fairly the goddess’ High Holy day isn’t until Dark Season,” she replies.
“I was not thinking of Earthshaker, Varanis. Onjur said he would have people around to lend support to the ritual, I think. But while everything he said was probably true, it also hid the Truth.”
She stares at him. “You don’t think they are all his people, do you?”
He shrugs. “How many spears did you bring to Alda-Chur? He is a Scimitar and a noble of a great House…”2V: What’s your insight again? X: 49
The way she chews her lip and stares past him, suggests to Xenofos that he’s given her something to think about.
The scholar twirls his moustache. “I don’t think he can command Earthshaker priestesses though. But he may have some ways of calling for their co-operation.”
“Let’s get out of here before we find that out.”
He nods, but seems absentminded. After a silence of several minutes he speaks again. “Ranie… You seem unhappy. Is it just this mission or something else?”
She starts to say she’s fine, but stumbles over the words. There’s a sigh. “Maybe I’m not fine, if I’m being honest. But I’m not sure this is the place to discuss it.”
“Mmmh. Maybe not. But since there might not be other occasion…” He looks at his helmet. “I sometimes get the feeling you are afraid to live.”
His cousin flinches. “It’s not that, Xeno. It’s just… I can’t live knowing that I didn’t do everything possible to make things better for my daughter. I don’t want her to grow under the same shadows I did. I don’t want Neela’s child, or little Tamakt, or Rajar’s babes, or any children to grow up waiting for the next wave of Lunar armies or listening for the sound of the Bat’s wings.”
“If you put it like that… I don’t think I can say to do less. But doing the first thing is not doing the most to make the thing better.” Scribe looks at Vingan inscrutably. “Or…” He stops and makes the sign of Earth to ward off evil omens.
“Or what?” she asks with a hint of challenge, arching a brow much as she used to.
He sighs “I don’t know if I can say it fairly or well Ranie.”
“Do you want to risk going to the pyre with it unsaid?”
“I guess not… Sometimes you have to put your body and soul on the line. But not always. And if you…” Scholar fails to complete his sentence and looks away from Varanis “…Well you would not need to live up to your own judgement, but could you rest easily?”
She takes his hand and gives it a squeeze, trying to get him to look at her again. “My life has never been mine. At least now I can choose who I serve and who I sacrifice for, instead of dancing to the tune of Grandmother and grandmother Mirava.”
She gives his hand another squeeze. “If I die here, it’s because I made my own choices instead of letting others dictate them to me. And yes, I could rest knowing I’d tried. But… I’d prefer us both to get out of this alive.”
“Lured in… ” He looks at her. “I would prefer that too. Being a prisoner seemed very boring the last time.”
“I love you cousin, you know that, right?” She leans in and puts her forehead against his.
He returns the gesture and squeezes Varanis’ hand.
She whispers, “So… how do you feel about flying? We’d not get far and have to go by foot the rest of the way, but I could get us up into the hills after dark, I think.”
He raises his eyebrows. “Leaving mounts?”
“Shhhh,” she warns softly. “I don’t have the strength to fly them too and I’m not sure we could slip away with them.”
“That is… worth considering,” the scribe answers quietly.
She eases herself back, saying casually, “I wonder if the ceremony here will be anything like at home. Perhaps we can explore the temple a little. I’m sure Grandmother would love a first-hand account of such an impressive Earth Temple.”
After a moment, she says, “Xenofos, do you regret giving me your oath?”
“No?” He says. “Why do you even ask? ” He adds, after a short pause.
“Because I’m dangerous,” she whispers. “I put the people around me at risk.”
Xenofos shakes his head slowly. “You ride with and into danger, yes. But you do not put anyone at risk.”
“That’s not what Valseena said,” the Vingan argues, though she keeps her voice low.
He shrugs. “Berra thought you were Onjur’s main target and wanted to deny him the chance on reaching you… “
“He has demonstrated the ability to reach us anywhere. Sending me off alone protected everyone else. At least this way, I was being less predictable.”
“And may end up in a cage…” He looks embarrassed after saying that. ” … but we’ll try to get you out. That is the main thing.”
“You too,” she tells him. “I won’t leave without you.”
He shrugs. “If that is feasible.”
She glowers, adamant and angry. “Both or neither.”
“One of us in Lunar hands is major embarrassment to Kallyr, one just a foreign retainer of her thane.” He looks calm. “But I do rather leave hospitality of our current hosts too… If that is doable.”
“What have you got to eat with you, Xeno? Between us, we can cobble together a meal.” Though she doesn’t say it aloud, he gets the sense that she means a safe meal. “I’ll grab my packs so we can see what I have.”
“Hmmm. A smoked sausage. Some of those cornbreads. Some honeyed ginger… ” For some reason scribe blushes a bit.
She returns with her packs and begins to dig through them, making a mess of Xenofos’ small room in the process. Together they put together a reasonable meal. At the same time, she casually combines then divides their food into two piles. Much of her belongings do not get returned to her bags. “Sorry about the mess,” she mumbles over a bite of bread and hard cheese. “I’ll finish tidying later.”3INT x 5? X: Pass
One of those packs might just be holding most of her essentials now. A lot of what is lying loose is clothing and extras.4If we ditch everything to make a run for it, this is going to be damned expensive!!!
Xenofos looks at her preparations. He drums the strings of his old kithara and puts it down.
- 1And work out if I will have recovered any rune points. 😛
- 2V: What’s your insight again? X: 49
- 3INT x 5? X: Pass
- 4If we ditch everything to make a run for it, this is going to be damned expensive!!!