1628, Earth Season, Truth Week, Godday
The group has been travelling from the Cinder Fox clan, and stays the night in Wilmskirk. Session SA3.12.
There are a couple more letters for Varanis at the house in Wilmskirk. Berra stays elsewhere, pretending to be still in exile, but Jengharl had a message left at the gate, just in case it was needed.
Varanis glances at them, then decides she might need to read them in private. At least, away from Jengharl’s household. Of course, her friends are all welcome to join her as she puzzles through the letters.
Jengharl is good about giving them space, of course. There is plenty in the rambling two-part townhouse.
Finarvi wanders in, curious about the letters. “Do you know who they are from?”
“Venlar and Irillo,” Varanis replies, clutching them. “It seems awfully soon for Venlar to write again. I’m worried.”
Varanis opens the packet from Irillo and stares at its contents.1Papyrus, enclosing 2nd papyrus, addressed to granny, and a couple of drawings of a magnificent city. She stares more. Flipping the page, she stares again. There is some spluttering. Then she scowls in concentration as she tries to read what he’s written.
“He was in Glamour! And due back soon. But, he went to Glamour!”
The packet contains the letter with an inexpert sketch, and a rather more professional bit of painted parchment.
“He went the what?” Finarvi edges closer, craning to get a better view of the pages.
Varanis shoves the sketches in the Grazelander’s direction, holding back what appears to be a second packet contained within the first. “This one is addressed to Grandmother Saiciae. And curse it. He’s sealed it, so I can’t look.”
Finarvi takes the parchment and squints at the sketches. “What is – was- he doing in Glamour?”
The same ink as has been used for the writing has created a view of a skyline and some city buildings and a tall, pointed tower with a moon on top. The same tower is visible in the more professional, coloured image, which shows the same view of the whole city, but more competently.
The image in Irillo’s hand has… naive charm? Childish brilliance? A sense that he just could not capture the wonder but wanted to try?2The GM, an artist, trolls the other GM, a different sort of artist.
Finarvi is studying the two images closely, switching his attention between the two as if comparing the details for accuracy.
The coloured one has gold leaf accents, expensive reds, even touches of blue glass ground into pigment.
Irillo’s sketch has more important places (the tower, the great road, the market) slightly bigger than they should be, according to the artist. The moon is also lower. Larger.
… Probably a market. Unless someone really set up some very big marketplace Runes on an empty polygon…
Please find enclosed my sketch and a more professional version of the great sights and sites of the Lunar capital. We arrived yesterday and will leave the day after tomorrow, after I have worshipped (Issaries and Etyries bless my journey). Am still well. Expect my coming either just before or just after Dark Season. If not send seekers for word. Please forward enclosed to Grandmother.– Irillo
Varanis reads the letter out carefully, slowing down with some words, but managing.
Finarvi makes a disparaging noise and hands the sheets back to Varanis. “Confident, aren’t they? That looks as defensible as an open field. They’re practically asking for an army to march right up to the palace.”
Varanis stares at the Grazelander. “That army would have to get through the entire Lunar Empire first!”
The Grazelander makes a disparaging gesture. “Like I said. Confident.”
“I’ll need to write to Saiciae and get this letter to Grandmother,” Varanis mutters, setting Irillo’s packet aside to focus on Venlar’s much longer missive. Let’s see what news my advisor sends, so soon after his last letter.”
“Hmm… it seems the triplets and Thenaya are feeling the effects of Berra’s quest. He says he’s finding himself clumsy again and is concerned.” She peers more closely, concentrating hard. Her hair is apparently once again long enough to chew, as she worries at the end of a plait while she reads.
“He entreats us to protect Maalira as best we can, warning that her heart will inevitably be broken.”
Finarvi looks troubled. “I’ve been watching out for Maalira, and she did not seem overly affected to my eyes. We need to get this quest finished as soon as possible.”
Varanis sighs heavily at that. “How do you protect someone from being in love?”
She continues, “Oh, this is good. Apparently Yamia has finally accepted healing for the wounds she gained in the battle. She was insisting on sponsoring a healer to get the relevant training first.”
“Maalira can manage her own heart, I don’t think she needs our help there. I’d worry about Berra, but, well, it’s Berra.”
“I am worried about Berra,” Varanis admits. “The next part will be awful and if I think too much about it, I’ll try to stop her.”
She sucks in a breath. “Yehna has gone to Boldhome. She wanted to be there for Berra when the time comes. And she brought my daughter, though apparently Berra is staying up at the palace. At the palace? With Kallyr?” The Vingan frowns, “When I was pregnant, I tried to convince Kallyr to raise the babe, but she said no. I wonder if having her own on the way has changed things…”
A shadow passes by, bringing with it the suggestion of doom and disaster. Oh, no, it’s just Serala, bringing nothing worse than the fresh smell of horses. Freshish.
And hardly any of it inside her boots this time!
“Serala,” Varanis exclaims. “Where we’re you? Irillo has been… well, Irillo, and now I’m worried! He sent me a letter.” She snatches up the sketches and shoves them at the Grazelander.
A trace of a smile touches Serala’s face. “Glamour.” she says, with almost a trace of yearning. “What is he doing there?”
Varanis blanches. “Wait, is she still in your head?”
She lets out a string of particularly foul curses in various languages. They don’t make sense, but perhaps that’s the point. Then she snatches the letter back.
Serala comes to curl up near Varanis, unless the Esrolian moves away. “Fading.” she says simply. “Fading. Afraid. Alone. Too many ghosts, splintering apart, and losing each other.” She glances up towards the moon, “Just echoes. But everything she thought she was is…” The letter is snatched away and Serala stops, inclining her head. “Understood.” she says simply, rising to her feet once more, presumably having not managed to get near. “I will speak with you later. In a few days.”
Finarvi stares at her, dismayed.
“No, wait. I didn’t mean that. It’s just… if she can see what you can see, I don’t want her to read the letter!” Varanis pleads for understanding. “I don’t want to increase the risks he’s taking.”
A slow shoulder lift from Serala. “I said.. I understood.” she reiterates, before pausing again, a little lost for words.
After stashing the letter beneath Venlar’s, Varanis reaches for Serala’s hand. “Let me tell you what Venlar had to say, instead?” she offers. “I was just telling Finarvi.”
After a long moment, where Serala does not take Varanis’ offered hand, the Vingan lets it drop back to her side. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
Serala doesn’t move to leave, but she doesn’t draw back closer to the group again either. “You were going to tell me about Venlar?” she prompts, with perhaps a slightly less than subtle attempt to get onto less contentious matters.
“Oh, right.” Varanis blinks a few times. “Right. Yes.” She picks up that letter to peer at it again. “The triplets and Thenaya can all feel that something is happening. Sort of ripples, I guess. They wish us well and ask us to be careful. Yamia has finally been fully healed after the battle. She was living with the pain while waiting for a young healer she’d sponsored to learn the appropriate magics.”
“Living with pain deliberately is rarely wise.” the Grazelander notes, even as she pauses, retreating into herself for a moment as though to consider that. “When will we know if anything we are doing is having a positive impact? Or even any impact? It feels like a long trek to an unknown destination. With a not insignificant amount of damage along the way.”
“Soon, I think,” Varanis replies.3A look of caution enters her eyes at the question, despite herself. She may know more, but she is prevaricating.
“Oh, and apparently Yamia is trying to cook, much to Venlar’s horror.”
There is a soft puff of laughter from Serala, amused and yet resigned. “As I said. Damage.”
Varanis sighs. “Soon. That I am sure of.”
“Maybe I should ride out for a few days.” Serala muses. “Watch from afar, near enough to help if I am needed; far enough that you don’t need to be afraid of me. I worry for you, dear heart, and that suspiciously-silent cousin of mine.” She glances at the, indeed, suspiciously quiet Finarvi, who is likely either asleep, or has sneaked off to put more horse dung in her boots. “I don’t know how to tell you if you can trust me.” A muscle tightens in her cheek as she grinds her teeth slightly. “But I also… can’t leave her to die alone. She has died enough deaths already.”
“I don’t want you to leave,” Varanis protests. “We’ll have to part ways eventually and I am selfish enough to want to delay it as long as possible.”
“Not even ‘eventually’ now, dear one. Once Berra reaches the end of her quest, you will be back to the duties demanded of you, and I will return to Apple Lane and the Grazelands.” It might be difficult to read Serala sometimes, but there is no mistaking the mist of tears in her grey eyes at that statement. “I already lost too long with you. And a mean, selfish part of me resents Eril, and Berra, and everyone involved for that loss. Even though if it wasn’t for this quest, our ways would likely have parted already.”
Varanis tries reaching for Serala again. “Then can we please just have now?” Half demand, half plea.
Strong, weathered fingers wind with Varanis’s, and Serala drops down to sit nearby. “Always.” she agrees.
Varanis leans, so that her shoulder presses into Serala’s. “I’m sorry that I haven’t listened enough to you. I’ve been so focused on what we had to do that I didn’t see how much it was hurting you.” And that is so typically Varanis. She loves fiercely, but her sense of duty and her drive to do what she believes is necessary and honourable tend to override all else.
“It’s not like I could tell you.” Serala points out. “I tried but… too small. Too quiet. People like Tenebris, who are meant to pay attention… nada.” She wrinkles her nose a little, “Pag knew. And I think Finarvi recognised there was something wrong but.. well. Get a reputation for being an uppity she-hound and people will just assume you are living down to it.”
There’s a moment where Varanis looks like she’ll argue. She tenses, her eyes grow stormy, but with a slow exhalation, she lets it pass. “You’re not her. And we have right now, so let’s savour it, shall we? Want to stay here or go for a walk? While Jengharl’s cook is good, we could hunt down something sweet in the market?”
Serala grins at Varanis, “Only if you’re paying. Us Grazelanders don’t bother with those silly metal tokens, so my purse is back in my saddlebag.” That’s her excuse, and she’s sticking to it.
Laughing, the Vingan rises with a graceful unfolding of limbs and hauls Serala to her feet. Finarvi is forgotten as she starts telling her lover about the treats she’ll be hunting for. “They have loads of honey and if you’re not careful, it’ll dribble down your chin!”
Much later, Varanis reads through the letters from Venlar.
To Thane Vareena of the Colymar, From the hand of Lord Venlar Silorsson, Let respectful greetings flow.
Greetings but also worry. I know you must be in that strange state which last time restored me to the full life I have. Mama and I both felt it begin, in different ways, and this past week I have been intolerably clumsy, as if hearkening back to how I once was.
I made an attempt to extract Maalira from the situation, but it seems she has a part to play, one which may break hearts. Look after her, not just as a White Lady, but as a young woman in love with one she cannot keep. She will survive this with strength but I know it still brings anguish.
Yamia prevented me from writing too early. We hear rumour up here but even Hengrast knows he should not interfere. I would have thought that by now, you will be out of the Marsh, and this will catch you in Boldhome. It is therefore too late to send my wishes all goes well, but I do so anyhow.
In purely family news, Yamia has finally accepted healing. She sponsored Sosa to go to a temple where the required magic could be taught, and therefore learned. I do not know if you do the same thing in Esrolia. I suspect the house structure renders it unnecessary, save on a purely personal scale. Here it is quite common. It is good to see Yamia’s pain easing.
Yehna is already in Boldhome. We could not keep her here, once she knew what her sister faced. She will be a good support, if needed, but she will want to be needed. No matter what happens, let her be useful if you can. Of course she brings her family. I told her that she should take Baby Berra to the palace for a visit, and she saw the wisdom of that. It allows Yehna to be without bodyguards for a time, as well as reducing the noise where she is staying.
Do not trouble yourself to keep us informed; Yamia and I between us can find out and sort most rumours. She is currently sulking with me because my word binds her not to touch the cook pots, and she likes to think she can cook. Dear Thane, I love my sister. She cannot cook.
- 1Papyrus, enclosing 2nd papyrus, addressed to granny, and a couple of drawings of a magnificent city.
- 2The GM, an artist, trolls the other GM, a different sort of artist.
- 3A look of caution enters her eyes at the question, despite herself. She may know more, but she is prevaricating.