1628, Fire Season
The party is pausing in Jonstown briefly, before embarking on their journey beyond the Glowline. Jonstown. Xenofos has returned to the common room of the inn in his loincloth, wet and muddy. Session (Going Fourth About Midnight).
Xenofos looks at his clothes, feels his still somewhat muddy beard and instead of dressing makes a bundle of his belongings. “Time to visit the house of goddess I think. Fancy a bath Varanis?”
“That sounds like an excellent idea.” She doesn’t bother to remove her armour, but bundles up some of her own things and is ready almost as soon as Xenofos is.
Whistling an Esrolian tune scribe nods to rest of the group present and walks out.
“Xeno…” Varanis begins muttering in exasperation about idiots who traipse around in unfamiliar cities without their clothes or armour or any other sort of protection. She follows him with haste. You’re rather exposed, don’t you think, cousin?” she says as she catches up.
“My sword hilt is in this fold” Scribe shows “Or is this the chape? Well anyway the sword is right here”
Varanis grumbles something under her breath. Her eyes are scanning the streets, alleys, and rooftops, much as Berra would were she here.
“It is just on the other side of the market” He looks over square kissed by Heler. “Over there. And I did not want to get all my stuff muddy.”
“Just let me protect you then,” she tells him. “And that means you don’t go bursting through the inn door until I know the courtyard is safe.” The courtyard is behind them now. Too late for this admonishment. “Come on. Let’s get indoors.”
Xenofos stops to look at her, smiles and nods.
“Don’t stop moving out in the open like this!” She herds him towards the market. “You seem inordinately happy about being so muddy.”
Xenofos walks briskly past and through the puddles. Absentmindedly he scratches the Strawweaver scars on his chest.
“Why are you so happy?” Varanis grumbles.
“Feeling really alive just now, I guess. A bit of exertion, some excitement of wrestling, even the rain…” He looks at her from under his untidy mop of hair.
Suddenly she laughs. “I wonder what your friends in Nochet would say to see you now.” It’s not unkind. Rather, her smile and tone are affectionate, despite her apparent irritability.
“He’s gone barbarian?” He smiles. “I suppose they would be technically in the right…”
“Do you still think the Sartarites are barbarians?” she asks. “Or do you mean…” She nods at the scarification on his chest.
“Well, they both are barbarians. Even if I have joined a family in Prax. And have soft spot for some of Sartar.” He smiles at Varanis nodding towards her armrings. He shakes his head as they get under the eaves of house of Uleria. “Good evening, we have come for baths sister.” His Heortling is becoming more fluent, but you can hear he is Esrolian.
They are welcomed and guided to the bathing chamber. Before long, both Esrolians are soaking in a hot bath, mud having been rinsed off and Varanis’ wet padding taken away to be dealt with as best as possible.
“Wrestling was good. Some of the stuff I read today….” He stretches his neck. “She should have twisted my arm more when she had the grip, not tried to roll me, I think…” Some bruises tell that the wrestling was pretty brutal.
“Why did you tell her?” Varanis blurts, as if he hadn’t spoken. “Grandmother, I mean.”
“Tell her what?” Xenofos turns his head to look at his cousin.
“About the child.”
“I thought we agreed there is no need to not tell her? When you reminded me about writing to her of my adoption,” he says calmly.
“No reason not to isn’t the same as spill your guts!” Varanis protests.
Xenofos wrinkles his brow. “You would have preferred me to omit saying something you assumed she knew anyway?”
Varanis grumbles. “Yes? No. Oh, I don’t know. She chastised me because you told her before I did.”
“Oh.” Scribe looks remorseful. “I did not mean to get you in trouble.”
“Why do you suppose she sent me two letters and two sets of gifts?”
“Something personal about motherhood and official about being declared heir? Maybe.”
“I suppose. Both gifts are so… Ernaldan. I didn’t think she was like grandmother Mirava. So determined to make an Ernaldan out of me. I thought all those years ago, when she allowed me to join Vinga’s temple, that she’d accepted who I was.”
“Matronly, perhaps. You are not the first Vingan to be also an Esrolian matron. I have not really paid attention to how they manage that but I suppose Granny has…” he untangles some of his beard. “And she may suggest that showing that might be a good thing at some times? Maybe. But women understand subtle things like that better. Or maybe ask Irillo – he may be better versed in intrigue.”
“I’m not sure I’m Esrolian these days. Not enough to satisfy the Grandmothers, anyway.” She shrugs, like it doesn’t matter, then dunks herself under the water. When she emerges, her hair is plastered to her head. Unplaited as it is, it now reaches past her shoulders with the weight of the water.
“Aranda is pregnant” Xenofos tells her with a beaming smile when she opens her eyes again.
“Is this why you’ve been grinning so much lately?” Varanis asks.
“It does make me feel warm and happy, yes. She is flourishing and I am quite happy for her.” Scribe says earnestly.
She nods. “It is good to see you happy.” Something about the way she says it tells him that she means it. She is pleased because he is happy. But it hasn’t touched whatever darkness she has buried within.
“I don’t know if I would have it in me to continue, if it was not for the kids. Elara, Berra, Aranda’s child when she comes…” He shakes his head. “Seeing new life after all the Death…”
“It’s good. It truly is. I am sorry to take you from them all.”
“You are not taking me from anyone Varanis. I choose to go.” He tilts his head “And now it is not just for you, or for honour, or to be true to my word. It is also for them.” He looks at her “How are you holding up?”
She smiles at him, but the low light of the bathing room emphasises the dark circles beneath her eyes.1Let me just roll a thing… read this later if you want: Rolled on Truth. 000 “I’m fine,” she tells him. “Just a little tired.”
“I am no stranger to sleep that brings no respite, so… how is your sleep?”
She shrugs. “I’m fine. Truly. Don’t worry about me. Oh, did Berra tell you that her sister has been blessed by Ernalda again?”2Masterful deflection.
“No, she did not.” Xenofos smiles “That is great news.”