Need for Air

1628, Dark Season, Disorder Week, Waterday


On her way to visit Berra, Varanis has been called aside by the Blacksmith. Session SA3.13.


The warrior who came to fetch Varanis takes her to the bothy, explaining, “Our Blacksmith works here,” in tones of awe.

“Yes,” Varanis says. “I’ve met him. The bothy is an… interesting place.” Though the words are neutral, an observant person might pick up that she’s nervous and covering it as best she can.

“He’s asked for you particularly. He never does that!” This man is young, probably a lay member, still growing into his understanding of Separation.

Varanis nods, but instead of being properly awestruck, she asks, “What’s your name?”

“Larntam,” he says. “Larntam the Swift.”

“Larntam,” she says, attempting to commit it to memory. “A pleasure to meet you.” She surreptitiously checks for clan or tribal tattoos she might recognize.

He’s… probably from Sartar.

Larntam peers into the darkness of the bothy, and then pulls the hides aside a little so that Varanis can go in.

“Thank you,” she murmurs before ducking through the entry. Given the chance, she’ll linger a moment to let her eyes adjust as best they can. She’s familiar with this darkness.

There is a red glow in the place today, coming from a pile of coal on a low stone platform. Not far from it, the Blacksmith stands, half-delineated by the light. He is by his altar-log, and on it today is a wide, flat piece of iron. On that, a dagger. He does not open his eyes as Varanis comes in.

He never opens his eyes. This no longer particularly worries Varanis, but she does find it eerie.

“You summoned me, Holy One?”

“Nnnnngggghhh…” He is talkative today. “Air is required. This will need strength.”

Varanis’ brows shoot up in surprise, but simply responds with, “As you command.”

The man’s voice is hoarse, strained by the smoky atmosphere, but his stance gives no indication he is falling to old age. Perhaps it is merely a lack of use.

Varanis removes her rapier and jewellery, then strips off her fine tunic, leaving herself in a simple linen tunic and trews. The linen is fine too, but it has less embroidery than the blue tunic does. She stacks her belongings neatly by the door.

The shaman of the Temple uses his hands to pile up coal over the red glow. It is a good thing Varanis is getting used to the darkness. “There is a way of making air move,” he says. “Why, is a secret not to be revealed to those who do not have the knowledge of iron.”

“I will learn what you wish me to learn and speak of it to no one,” she tells him, stepping into what might be his line of sight.

He makes a lot noise of thought, and clicks his fingers in the darkness, so that she can hear them. “Stand there. Have you ever used bellows?”

“No,” she replies, following the sound to where she thinks he has told her to stand.

“Two handles. Lift one and push down the other, then push and lift.” There are two sort of bags, with big lids on, each with a handle, which she can just make out in the dark.

Varanis sits as close to the bags as she can, wincing slightly. These clothes will never be the same. She finds the handles and experimentally lifts one. There’s a surprising amount of resistance, but it doesn’t seem too complicated.

She pushes done with her right hand, while lifting up with the left, trying to get a feel for the movement. Suddenly, she freezes. “You didn’t tell me to start. I’m sorry.”

There is only a tiny sigh. “Keep going, until your strength leaves you.” The shaman goes back to his altar, navigating the room as if he can see everything clearly. “Steadily, unless I tell you harder. Start now.”

Varanis begins. Right up, left down. Left up, right down.

For a long time the shaman just stares at the dagger on the iron surface, and then he takes a pair of tongs and picks it up, and holds it, not in the middle of the glow that Varanis is making, but at the edge. Sparks fly off it, and off the coal near where it touches.1Fail Scan. Varanis does not see the shapes that the sparks make.

The shaman makes little curious noises now and then, like he is practicing speech but has forgotten to open his mouth. The dagger gets dropped into a bucket of water, and he puts a lid on it. “Rest.”

She does as ordered, only now realising that she is already soaked in sweat.

When the sound of hissing stops, the man opens the bucket, and uses the tongs again. This time, the bellows are harder to move, for some reason.

Varanis continues to work the bellows as ordered, not commenting on the increased labour.[/footnote]Pass on Air. Varanis can use her Rune to oppose what is in the dagger.[/footnote]

The sparks come out slower and fatter, and the coal glows red and then white. The shaman repeats the process with what seems to be a bucket of oil, during which he tells Varanis to breathe deeply, and then, one last time, says, “Move them.”

She throws herself into the work. Sweat drips down her face and back, but she ignores it. Now, it is just the up and down of the bellows. The Movement of Air.2Pass STRx3. Despite the dagger resisting so hard the Air does not want to move, Varanis can keep going.

Whatever she is fighting against, it is not just the bellows. Yellow sparks burst out from the dagger, and then without a word the blacksmith drops the dagger into something that does not hiss or bubble. It seems to be just earth, and he pours more onto it before he says, “Done.”

Varanis stutters to a halt, sucking Air through her teeth. She sort of curls forward, over the bellows for just a moment, before forcing herself upright to open her chest. Her arms shake from the unfamiliar effort.

The shaman makes a satisfied noise, and sits back on his haunches for a moment, which might be indicative of the same sort of effort.

“What. Have. We. Done?” the breathless Vingan asks, wiping sweat from her eyes and leaving a streak of grime that will be visible when she leaves the bothy.

“A secret thing,” he replies, and stands up to go to the back of his little room. There is a clink of coins.

Varanis pulls herself to her feet, wobbling as she does. “Do you require anything further, Holy One?”

He comes forward to press a coin into her hand. “Always pay the bellows boy,” he says. “Drink plenty of water.”

She looks slightly confused by the money, but doesn’t argue. Arguing with a shaman is rarely wise. Before slipping out, she looks at her clean belongings neatly piled by the door. With a wry chuckle, she uses the clean tunic to wrap everything else and just buckles her sword belt over her damp under tunic. It’s not the most respectable, but she’s worn less in public and besides, she reeks of sweat and the bothy. Who would dare judge?

He dips a cup into a bucket of water and drinks, and then pours half of the cup onto the fire, not offering to share.

Varanis shrugs. She can find herself water. “Thank you for allowing me to assist,” she says, then heads for the door flap.

Later, it turns out the coin is stamped in a language she does not know. It is a clack, of a sort – the same weight, but with eight sides instead of four.

Intrigued, she puts it away safely. It’ll be a thing to ask Irillo about.

  • 1
    Fail Scan. Varanis does not see the shapes that the sparks make.
  • 2
    Pass STRx3. Despite the dagger resisting so hard the Air does not want to move, Varanis can keep going.