Owed a Sword

1628, Fire Season, Movement Week


Context

Varanis is at their house when a messenger from Lord D’Val finds her. The day after the return to Boldhome, sometime after Session 3.20 HeroQuest 5. Continues in Coming Clean.

Events

It is entirely normal for Berra to disappear to the Temple for days with nothing more than word left of where she is.  Yesterday, after Varanis’ triumphant return, she sent a palace runner to say she was off to the Temple.  Today, a Humakti lay member, an Orlanthi with a Truth Rune on his forehead, seeks out Varanis.

Varanis greets him courteously. “How may I help you?” she asks when the rituals are out of the way.

“Lady Vareena, Sword D’Val asks you to call on him in the Temple of Humakt,” he says with a bow, adding, “You looked good in there,” with a smile.  Little Separation in him, but he is the sort of person who makes an honest messenger.

She gives him a murmured thank you, acknowledging his praise then her eyes widen as she takes in the message. “I’ll go immediately. Is it about Berra? Is she ok?” Without giving him time to reply, she calls into the house that she’s off to visit the Temple of Humakt and then she’s waving at him to join her as she strides down the little street.

“I’m not up on politics,” he replies as he walks beside her, keeping pace without needing to scurry.  He falls in on her left, not her right, not insulting her with the notion he might guard her.  “But your companion was at meditation yesterday, and she gave all the lay members a cup of wine with our morning meal.  A lot of people found time to meditate today…”

“Is it unusual for initiates to serve lay members? I know it would be up there,” she waves in the direction of the Orlanthi Temple above them,” but Humakt has strange notions sometimes.”

“As a gift?  Rare, but not unknown.  She was not there, only her gift was.”  The man smiles.  “Humakt would for the most part not drink wine, of course.”  He walks with enough swagger that he is definitely a follower of Orlanth.

The Vingan’s expression clears a little.1Berra pouring wine for lay members was a very weird thought!

The man knows when to be quiet and let Varanis move.  The Temple is soon in sight.  The gates are open, the paired guards outside more of a suggestion not to cause trouble than a way of stopping it.  Who would invade, after all?

Apparently Varanis would. She barely stops at the gate. “Where is Sword D’Val?” she demands. “He asked to see me.”

“I’ll get him,” says her companion, as much to the others as to Varanis.  “Just wait here, if you would?”

Her brows lower and her lips tighten, but then she relaxes and nods. “Fine. I’ll stay put.”

It is a couple of minutes before D’Val comes out, waddling swiftly towards her to bow his head.  “Good day.”  All business.2B: If you have Insight (Duck) please roll it. V: You know, I think I do. I need a moment to call up my character sheet. I rolled a 17 and  it’s a success.

The duck looks worried under his brisk, feathered surface.  “Berra asskedt me to deal with a matdtder for you.”  Not for her, apparently.

She greets him with the respect due a Rune Lord, but at his words courtesy vanishes into urgency again. “Is she alright?”

“She’s asleep,” he says, which is as close to not answering as he can get without answering.  The one eye stares up at her.  “You are owed a swordt.”

She shakes her head, resistance spreading rapidly from the placement of her feet to the tension in her shoulders. “I’m not worthy of it. Not yet. She promised to keep it safe until I had earned it.”

There is a brief bit of avian confusion, and then he says, “It may not have been her decision to make.”

Varanis glances around, taking in the guards. “Sword, with respect, may we please have this conversation somewhere else?”

D’Val says, “Of coursze,” but he seems to have somewhere in mind.  His determined course leads him, tail feathers waggling, towards the blacksmith’s bothy. She follows.

The guards, at a polite distance, pretend not to have been watching or trying to listen.  Some of those in the practice yard are gawping openly, however.

D’Val stops just outside the bothy, and says, “You needt to tsee thiss.”  He takes up a handful of dust and throws it on his head, a ritual humbling.

Those who gawp are treated to glares that spark and dare them to keep looking.3Rolled 6/51 on Intimidate. Some will think she’s cute, I suppose. But it might cow a few. She gives D’Val a questioning glance and reaches for the dust slowly enough that he could stop her if it isn’t right for her to copy his actions.

He lets it happen, and ducks under the low door.  He, of all people, does not need to duck far.

Inside, when she goes in, there is near darkness.  He twitches the hide the covers the door, cutting out daylight, but as her eyes adjust she can see two swords, crossed, on the blacksmith’s log.  There is something oddly familiar about both.  They touch a spike of iron, its top enchanted and polished to a near-mirror shine, that is hammered into the log.

Beyond is the bank of a fire.4B: Do me a POW x 5. V: 37 – normal success

Beyond the fire are red pin-pricks of some kind, impossible to make out.5B: And a Scan to realise that both swords are there. V: Pass scan too. The Smith sort of radiates power, right? He’s majorly impressive? B: Yep, but invisible in the darkness, if he is here.  The whole place seems holy, though.  Even more so than just the grounds.  This is a place of power. V: Hmmm. Ok.

She stares at the swords for a very long time, before saying, “But… I don’t understand.”

“Posthibbly neither does anyone,” replies D’Val.  “But it seemths that the swordt was createdt, not taken.”

“I see,” she says automatically.6Insight: Her tone suggests that she really doesn’t. She is shocked. “But it changes little. I’m not worthy of that sword. I betrayed those I hold dearest to my heart. I acted with distrust and selfishness to do what I thought best, closing my ears to those I had promised to listen to.” Her voice is thick with guilt and self-recrimination.

There is a sound from the darkness, like someone moving.  The pinpricks, and then part of the dim fire, are occluded by a human shape.  “Hand,” says an old voice, corroded with disuse.

Varanis does not flinch away from the powerful figure. Instead, she steps closer, offering her hand to him.

He takes it, examining it in the near darkness, with closed eyes.  “Altar,” is his next instruction, and he guides her hand to the spike of steel and iron, palm down. He smells of ash and iron and dwarf-made oil, and his bony hands are strong.  Someone seeing him from afar could think that his thin frame means weakness.  They would be wrong.

She follows him, placing her hand on the spike.

His left hand holds her wrist, and with his right he picks up a tool.  There’s a scrape of metal as, hammer in hand, he repositions the swords slightly, paying attention to the rapier, but keeping Varanis’s hand on the anvil.7V: Hmmm…. How do I decide if she’s afraid or if she trusts him? He once beat Berra into a wolf form… B: Air for pride/confidence vs Earth for fear/pragmatism of knowing this could be awful? V: Air 14, Earth 89. Seems decisive enough.

Varanis’ muscles tighten and she draws in a sharp breath, but she does not pull away. As she releases the breath, she lets the moment of anxiety pass. She is calm and ready for whatever he intends.8B: Do me a Speak Praxian at 50% please? V: 30

He speaks a phrase that sounds something like Praxian, maybe has a command in, as he strikes at the rapier.  It does not move, but sparks strike from it, and the natural bounce of the hammer takes it up to where he can bring it down once more, smoothly, onto the back of her hand.

There is pain.  Briefly.

By the time Varanis has had time to realise it hurts no more than a burn to the palm he is putting the hammer down.  “Show me,” he says, and releases her.

Her eyes are wide in the darkness, but she offers him her hand again, palm up.

His fingers run over it, and he says, “The iron knows.  Be worth trusting and trust the worth.”

“The iron knows, but Iron Lord,” she peers at him, trying to make out his expression, “when will I know? I was dishonourable.”

He prods at a point on her palm.  “Not far off.  You hold yourself back.  Nothing else does.”  And he puts down the hammer and goes back to his meditation.  There on the battered lump of tree that holds the anvil spike, it looks as solid as iron ever does.

D’Val says, “Initiate Berra does not want to keep this unjustly.”

There is a long ‘mmmm’ that sounds a lot like this is known to the blacksmith, who does not care.

“It is not unjust if I am not ready for it. And I did steal Death again, even if it wasn’t from her this time. But if she would prefer not to bear the burden, I can deliver it to my own temple for safe-keeping,” Varanis offers.

There is a moment’s hesitation from the duck, and then he picks up the sword with a, “By your leave, Ssword-ssmidth.”  The blacksmith makes no complaints, nor moves to stop him.

Varanis surreptitiously rubs the palm of her hand, but says nothing, seemingly waiting for a signal from one of the Humakti.

D’Val pulls the hide aside and gestures her out with a poke of the head that only a durulz could manage.

She slips through the low entrance, graceful despite the need to bend. She’s no Berra, but her limbs are fluid enough to manage it, especially when she’s unarmoured, as she is now. She blinks in the somewhat brighter light outside the forge entrance.

D’Val takes a few moments longer, and when he emerges the rapier is scabbarded.  The belt it is on is new, blue with gold Air and Movement Runes intertwined in long chains.

Varanis looks astonished and for a bare second, there is something else.9Insight: There’s a flash of her old magpie tendencies – pure desire to hold the treasure. It is swiftly smothered.

“It would be good if you took Berra to do the things she enjoys,” D’Val says, almost casually, as he offers over the sword.  His mien is respectful, mostly to the iron, but he is watching her.

Reverently, she accepts the blade. To D’Val she offers a smile of joy. “I would love to. If she’s awake and will see me, I would love to take her out to do something.”10B: Do me another Insight (Duck)?  +20 because of the last pass. And an Intrigue at +20 as well. Both rolls pass.

“She will ssee you,” he says.  “I’ll tsee if she is awake.”  His voice betrays a touch of relief, but mostly confidence.  Only… Swords of Humakt do not usually see if initiates are awake, and there is no need for him to be projecting confidence, if all is well.

The smile slips into a worried frown. “Sword D’Val, please… what’s wrong? She matters to me in ways I can’t describe. Please, let me help.”

“You will,” he says, and there is a brief pause.  “Just show her a good time.”  Some people don’t have to wink – they arrive at a sentence already one eye ahead of the game.  “Take that to your Temple.  Then you can take her out somewhere.”

Varanis bows to him.

Off he goes, a duck among swa… among humans.

Rather than buckling the sword into place, Varanis holds it tightly clasped in both hands. She nods politely to the guards at the gate and points her feet in the direction of her temple.11There will be a bruise on Varanis’ palm, pretty small, but with darker shapes in like an Air Rune just
departing from an Earth Rune.  A discoloured patch that fades when she has confidence in herself.  (And 2% more on Jump.)

  • 1
    Berra pouring wine for lay members was a very weird thought!
  • 2
    B: If you have Insight (Duck) please roll it. V: You know, I think I do. I need a moment to call up my character sheet. I rolled a 17 and  it’s a success.
  • 3
    Rolled 6/51 on Intimidate. Some will think she’s cute, I suppose. But it might cow a few.
  • 4
    B: Do me a POW x 5. V: 37 – normal success
  • 5
    B: And a Scan to realise that both swords are there. V: Pass scan too. The Smith sort of radiates power, right? He’s majorly impressive? B: Yep, but invisible in the darkness, if he is here.  The whole place seems holy, though.  Even more so than just the grounds.  This is a place of power. V: Hmmm. Ok.
  • 6
    Insight: Her tone suggests that she really doesn’t. She is shocked.
  • 7
    V: Hmmm…. How do I decide if she’s afraid or if she trusts him? He once beat Berra into a wolf form… B: Air for pride/confidence vs Earth for fear/pragmatism of knowing this could be awful? V: Air 14, Earth 89. Seems decisive enough.
  • 8
    B: Do me a Speak Praxian at 50% please? V: 30
  • 9
    Insight: There’s a flash of her old magpie tendencies – pure desire to hold the treasure. It is swiftly smothered.
  • 10
    B: Do me another Insight (Duck)?  +20 because of the last pass. And an Intrigue at +20 as well. Both rolls pass.
  • 11
    There will be a bruise on Varanis’ palm, pretty small, but with darker shapes in like an Air Rune just
    departing from an Earth Rune.  A discoloured patch that fades when she has confidence in herself.  (And 2% more on Jump.)