1628, Early Sea Season
Varanis seeks advice from Venlar about what it means to be named Kallyr’s heir. After Session 1 (A Gunderful Life)
Not long after arriving in Blue Tree, Varanis seeks Venlar out for a private conversation.
“What does it mean that Kallyr named me and my babe as her preferred heirs?” she blurts with little preamble. There’s a troubled look hovering in her eyes. “This is a level of politics that exceeds my understanding.”
Venlar considers that, and then says, “To whom? It is a message on multiple levels.”
“To me, but also… well, Harrek had a representative there. The Luminous Stallion King, of course. And what about the tribal kings? Even those who didn’t have representatives or spies present will likely hear of it soon.”
The lord nods, thoughtfully, taking it in. “Well, for one thing, it is entirely empty, as words – and yet it is a promise and a threat. It is an instruction to her survivors to make sure a thing happens, because that is not how heirs are chosen in Sartar. Even in a very small family, it would not be, in this case.”
“Before the Lunars came, the crown passed through Sartar’s line. And digging up Temertain was part of how the Lunars convinced Kallyr and her people to surrender,” Varanis points out.
“Rulership is a matter of testing and acclamation,” Venlar counters. “The Kings of the Tribes of Sartar acclaimed Temertain. They had little choice, according to my father. Yet he never passed his test. He could not light the Flame. He did no great deeds. The crown is a special case because of how few can call on Sartar himself, but it is still done by acclamation and test. Alas, Temertain’s tests were having an army, and being used by it.”
Varanis chews her lip thoughtfully. “Given I can do little to ensure Kallyr produces an heir of her own, I should focus on making myself worthy if worst comes to worst. Civil war would be like offering hospitality to the Red Emperor.”
“Oh, you’re not expected to be able to inherit, I believe. Of course you should try, but it is my understanding that you are there to provide a little padding between Kallyr and any others. We have not yet looked at the rest of the message. It tells the Luminous Stallion King that Kallyr has options. It does the same to Argrath and the Feathered Horse Queen; higher stakes there, if she decides to swing in behind the warlord to help him stay equal to Kallyr in Boldhome. I hope she took good counsel there.” Venlar carefully examines his wine cup. Of course he has a wine cup. He is not drinking much, as he has only recently arrived in the Tula, and has a few matters to take care of. It looks like a good, deep red. He offers it over, carefully not holding it over the scroll he was reading.
She accepts, taking a polite sip before handing it back. “I wonder what my Grandmother will make of it. I didn’t exactly tell her about the child.” Varanis ponders things more. “Options… but surely they would know that it is meaningless?”
It’s good wine, although Sartarite, not Esrolian. Venlar looks over it as he speaks. “There are some who would think that Lady Aranda will permit herself a smile. If the Prince knows how your relationship is, that smile will be a tight one, and short. Still, I am not an Esrolian, and I have very little understanding of Esrolian politics here. I assume she can understand the general message, though – that should Kallyr die, her followers will continue to make the same difficulties for her enemies as she herself does now. What the Prince does is really to announce a continuance, and not to announce a particular person. You are just bearing that message for her.”
“I see,” Varanis says. “So, I get to be her messenger and bear a target on my back at the same time. Well, the target was there already, I suppose. It’s just become a little brighter.” There’s a heavy sigh. “I will strive to be worthy of the responsibility.”
“That is indeed what you must be ready for, I think,” Venlar says, after a little wine to give him time to think. “Being worthy of the message, and determined to help her advisors play up to it. I believe you are worth more than that, but for the next few seasons, it is the message that is important. Until she is married, until there are more heirs on the way, it is a burden worth bearing.”
“Do you have any advice for me? Things I should or should not do?”
Varanis holds up a hand as he readies his response. He was about to speak, and he stops.
“Perhaps that isn’t a fair question. Let me think on how to reframe it. But, as I think, may I have more of that excellent wine?”
Venlar hands over the cup. “I think I can in conscience answer anyhow,” he notes. “Although it is only the usual advice to Orlanth. Be prideful. Be yourself as much as ever you have been, and hold nothing back. Show how you are the pride and scourge. If you could help me narrow down the question, I will of course attempt to narrow down the answer.”
“I need to balance carefully. I must be worthy of my king without looking like I am poised to replace her. I want to inspire the confidence of the tribal kings, but do not know how to do so. Though I do not seek to rule, it must appear as though I am worthy if it and that Kallyr’s choice would be respected by the kings, else her ploy may not work. I am no Leika to go raiding in Snakepipe Hollow and return with treasure. Nor am I Kallyr who has quested among the stars. I have only the blood of Sartar and the deeds that I have achieved in the company of others.” Speaking in careful Heortling, her words are a bit stilted and formal.
“Now you are speaking of Stasis, and not of Movement. I am a man of balance, and I make a good advisor. Where is the rebel Orlanth, who will do new things, and bright ones? I am seeing someone who is caught by fears. Be yourself and you will appear worthy.” Venlar smiles, his hands free to make a gesture meaning ‘this is obvious and right’.
She considers and takes a swallow of wine from the cup. “So, just be myself and damn the consequences? People have been reining me in my whole life and telling me that I must be responsible… I always try. Truly I do. But it is a constant battle. You suggest that I can embrace Vinga fully?” As she hands the wine back to Venlar there is the slightest tremble in her fingers, as though she’s holding something back with effort. Excitement, perhaps?
He takes the wine. “If you ever doubt yourself, remember that Orlanth played the bagipes in the hall of Yelm, in defiance and mockery. Just think, all those harpers and cymbalists, and then that sound of free joy that Ernalda heard and loved, and the whole court in uproar.” If he notices nervousness, he says nothing. If he notices excitement, he just said everything he needs to.
Varanis grins at him suddenly. “I want to go climbing, but if the cliffs don’t kill me, Berra’s sister might. Still, I think I might need to be outside for a while.” She sets the cup down safely on the bench beside her, then lunges at Venlar for a swift hug. “Thank you, wise one. Cousin. That helped.”
“There, just like that.” Venlar looks at the wine that he had a moment before, and then bear-hugs Varanis to swing her around and leave her a little closer to the door. “Leave me to my poetry. Go be out in the Air.”
“And your excellent wine.” With a quick wave, she scoops up her cloak and vanishes through the door.
Venlar settles back down without any disasters, or any spilled wine.