1626, Fire Season, Movement Week
Wildday, on the road between Wilmskirk and Cinder Fox Tula. Varanis was very ill after attempting to rescue Xenofos from the Dreamroot. After being left behind in Wilmskirk, she hurries to catch up to the others.
Takes place after The Brazier with the Hazia (Session 1.41).
It is late evening along the road. Varanis has been travelling for much of the day, and ahead of her she hears the sound of horns blowing. A palisade must be closing its gate for the night. That is the warning, but it is distant. She might be able to make it… But she as she tries to get Manasa to increase her speed, the horse throws her. As she suddenly finds herself flying, she tucks herself tightly so that she hits the ground into a roll. Ernalda slams into her hard enough to hurt, but as she lies on the ground checking for damage, she doesn’t seem to find any worthy of note. Pulling herself to her feet, she looks about for her horses, swearing. Doqeia was tied to Manasa’s saddle.1Fumbled ride roll, followed by successful jump roll.
Manasa sets off at a good clip for the open road ahead of her, either pulling Doqeia along, or racing her. The small copse of woods through which she was riding has absolutely no ghosts, spirits, stray bits of cloth, or awkward sunbeams to make Manasa panic. She just did it for the sake of doing it.
Varanis curses. A lot. And follows her horses at a run, thankful at least, for all the running in armour that she’d been doing with Berra. While she can’t hope to catch up to the horses, maybe they’ll stop. They have to stop, eventually. Right?2Successful DEX*5 roll.
The landscape rolls away behind her and as she reaches the point where she may not be able to run any further, she also reaches a bend in the road, and there they are, a pair of horses, being held by a sturdy man. Manasa is giving no trouble, and Doqiea has calmed down. He has the reins of the evil little bugger in the crook of his elbow and is ignoring her. Doqeia is getting his attention.
It’s a perfect ambush spot. He’s filled it with himself, being nice to her horses.
Varanis slows herself to a halt and sucks wind a moment. When she can speak, she calls out, “My thanks! They’ve led me on a bit of a chase this evening.”
“Funny sort of horse-thief you are,” he says. “Coming in on foot is not the way to do it. Come closer?” There is something in his voice that is amused without being openly mocking, but he then sighs as if he thinks he started off badly. “The gate will still be open, if you are heading to the Cracks-Rock steading.”
“I was hoping to make it, but Manasa there didn’t seem to be interested in the run,” Varanis admits with a hint of a blush.3Mutual successful insight rolls, with a special for Varanis: This man is massively confident, and sees no threat in Varanis, and he is living in the Orlanthi mould, laughter and generosity today. Violence tomorrow is an option, but it need not and will not fall on the innocent. And he is curious, and he is powerful, and able to indulge his curiosity. He thinks that there is no danger on the road, as night falls. For her part, Varanis is wary, but hopes she can trust him. After assessing him, she decides to take the chance.
“Oh, I think she was very interested in running.” He walks both of them closer. “Shall we ride them back together?” He is big, middle-aged, but in high quality armour. Despite the greying hair, he … no, because of the greying hair he looks a lot like Orlanth. He would have been a redhead in his youth, and he still mostly is.
Varanis decides to trust him. “I’d like that,” she says with a smile for the big warrior. “I’m Varanis, sometimes called Vareena,” she offers by way of introduction. “The one who is thinking about biting you right now is Manasa. The sweet, if skittish one, is Doqeia. They were gifts from my brother,” she adds, as if that explains everything. And if this man has siblings, perhaps it does.
“Everyone has flaws,” he says. “For example, Manasa thought I was not wearing armour under my cloak. Shall I ride her? I think we might be able to remind her that your weight, if escaped, is not the only weight in the world.” Manasa eyeballs him. From the forest a yinkin yowls, and he pays more attention to that than to the horse. He gives Varanis a smile in return.
Varanis approaches to untie Doqeia from the other mare, growling at Manasa in warning when her head swings around. “I think it would be good for her to have someone ride for a while,” the Vingan agrees. She’s noticed that she hasn’t been offered a name in return, but is too polite to demand one. Surreptitiously, she checks out his armour, admiring the craftsmanship.4GM calls for INT*3 roll – Varanis rolls 001.
She has seen that armour before, or something very like it. These patterns are identical to the tooling on the armour of young Eril, as he turned to run from Lunars. The profile of this man is Eril’s too, although he is much broader in the shoulders. He looks enough like the High Sword that they must be related. Lord Eril is taller, his hair darker and with much more curl in it, but even in the dim light it is possible to see they must be of the same family.
The big man has untied both horses, so he can hand over the reins easily. He makes an attempt to mount, and Manasa swings away. “No,” he says firmly, and there is a quick jump, and he is on and staying on. Manasa dances backwards a little, and then stops dancing and lets him pat her shoulder. “Your brother gave you valuable gifts,” is how he put it. “But I should not stay out too long. There is a feast happening.”
“It is possible that I am unworthy of his gifts,” Varanis admits wryly. “Certainly Manasa thinks so. But I have been working to improve. A feast, you say?”’ she asks, changing the subject as she mounts the horse.
“Indeed. I ordered it. It would be more than an error to fail to be there. But a traveller in trouble would also be something I could not leave alone. I am Silor Cracks-Rock. Welcome to my Clanlands.” Something about his voice is Eril’s as well, some trick of careful pronunciation, or accent, but that is faint, an echo or ghost.
“I thank you for your assistance, Thane Silor.” Doqeia appears to have settled into the ride, staying beside Manasa as the road permits. “I wonder if perhaps you have seen my companions? I am trying to catch up to them as we became separated in Wilmskirk. There would be a couple of Esrolian men, including my cousin Irillo, a trader of some renown. A pair of Praxians, one on a bison and the other on a unicorn. And a small, but not to be underestimated, Humakti.”
“I have heard they arrived safely, but not yet met them. My son greeted them in my name, and sent for me. The feast is for them, and the trade they bring. They are safe enough, and the thralls are healthy.” He rides with the assurance of someone who knows Manasa’s tricks already, and does not push the pace. “I am looking forward to seeing what your cousin has brought.”
Varanis looks confused at the mention of thralls, but doesn’t say anything contradictory. “I am relieved to have caught up with them so quickly,” she says instead. The Vingan takes in the landscape as they ride, looking about with curiosity.
Manasa tries a little dance, and gets brought up short, and does not argue. “This is all farmland,” says Silor, “But there is pasture closer to the village. The land there is too rocky for easy ploughing. Have you come far?”
There is ripening corn in the fields, and the boundary stones look well cared for, but it is impossible to tell what the harvest will be like without more light.
“Today? It wasn’t a difficult ride. I’ve been in Wilmskirk. Before that, it was Boldhome. We’ve been travelling about for a while,” she admits.
“I’ve a son up with the army. I suppose there has been no news?”
“I’m sorry, Thane. I’ve heard nothing.” The words are regretful. She would tell him if there was something to tell. Instead, as opportunity arises, she’ll turn the conversation to farming, asking him about his crops, the season, and how he thinks his people will fare in terms of supplies, should the worst happen and war come to these lands. She speaks knowledgeably on the subject, asking intelligent questions, not showing off, but because she is interested in this man and his people.5Passed a roll on farm lore and just barely passed one on battle. She is trying to build rapport, but not in any sort of sneaky way.
He answers easily enough, about farming methods and defense, and how the Clan holds up, although he smiles a bit when talking about his defenses, like the question makes him amused. He knows a lot about food, keeping people fed, keeping people armed, putting off raids, but, as he notes, “The future is a place of unknown dangers, all the worse because the place is here and almost now. The Enstalos Tribe are either going to break apart or have to make peace, and if they break apart that is bad, but if they stay together and it is because the Lunars are returning, that is far, far worse. I have led my people through war before, and I can do it again, but it is a sad thing.”
The Vingan nods. “It would be far better to avert it. I think that Prince Kallyr is hoping to bring the fight to the Lunars and end things before they come much further into Sartar.” With a sigh she adds, “It feels wrong not to be there, but I do as she commands me.”6(Truth rune!!! Stupid dice. Rolled a 13 that time.
“We… well, yes. The Sambari did not elect to follow,” he says carefully. “Too much bad blood over the years. It’s a nasty business – the Lunars picked their battles best of all when they did not take anyone to battle. Every Tribal war of the past twenty years had their fingers on it. Every Clan battle, and half of the feuds. Did you know they armed the Orlmarth and the Greydogs? They were gifting swords to the Malani, too.”
The Vingan’s expression darkens. “That sounds right,” she says. “All the better reason to kick them out of Sartar altogether.”
“Spears to the Clans of Peace, new laws to the Confederacy Towns… and so little left with which to fight them.” He shakes his head, and sighs. “But I sent my family, personally, and my boy took friends. Let anyone who wants to make something of that come and talk to me in person, and I’ll find out if I can still break rock with a blow.”
She nods thoughtfully. “We do what we can and as the gods permit. We have duties to our own as well, and that can make things complicated.” She changes the subject. “Your armour is impressive, Thane Silor. Does it have a tale to tell?” The Vingan’s frank admiration is obvious by her tone and the way she has continued to return her gaze to the detailed bronze work during their ride.
Silor rubs at his forehead and Manasa entirely fails to make a break for freedom. “It’s a family design,” he says with a slight smile. “We have a few panoplies that have stories, although my brother lost the best one. People in my family tend to the bigger side, which you might have noticed in me. The armour was made for the four founders of the Clan. One set was melted down after an argument which we have a saga about. One is with a cousin of mine, Peltarl of the Frogfall Steading. The warlord of the Clan awards them, and he deserved it. I’ll have the saga of this set sung, if you wish?”
Varanis smiles at him broadly. “I would enjoy that,” she replies with all sincerity.
“Here’s our palisade,” he says. “The gate is a little further, so we can watch people coming in and find out if they are really boring. Perhaps after the feast you can tell me about your armour, too.”
Varanis smiles innocently. “Oh, there’s not much to say about my armour. My grandmother gave it to me. She had the cuirass made especially for me after the Siege and Pennel Ford. My grandmother is very generous.”7Varanis rolled on truth and fumbled. GM requests reputation roll. Result is 82.
“It’s a magnificent piece of work,” he says freely. “I’ve got a daughter who will probably want to see it as well. She’s angry she was not allowed North. What is it your cousin brings for sale?”
“A range of things, Thane. Clearwine, spices, high quality salt…” She shrugs. “I don’t pay close attention to the details. I help to protect his goods when needed, but the trading is all him. I do know he is particularly fond of trading in exotica. There was once a rather shocking set of scrolls… he found an enthusiastic buyer in Rhigos for that one.” She gives him a teasing wink and then laughs.
“Well, I shall have to travel to Rhigos some day in my life then, as I feel you’re not going to give me any more details. Does he often travel with scrolls, or just the once?” The man is grinning wide. Smiles suit him.
“He’ll trade them when he can get them. That particular one set wasn’t something I had ever seen before.” She returns the smile.
“I should talk to him about education,” Silor says with an utterly straight face.
She can’t help it. She bursts into laughter at his expression. “Uh huh. I can’t even begin to imagine how he’d respond to that!”
“A price list, one hopes.” Silor’s look has the tiniest touch of humour in it. “He is after all a merchant.”8Insight rolls for both characters. Varanis gets 003. Insight: Much as before, the man seems to be confident, seeing no threat, and full of laughter and generosity. Powerful, perhaps a little answered in his curiosity, but certainly uncaring for any danger he might be in. He is unchallenged by Varanis, even as he enjoys her company. Silor fumbles: She is totally into him. The flirting is definitely an invitation rather than light-hearted fun.
She raises an eyebrow at him. “He is a merchant and as faithful to Issiaries as I am to Vinga.”
“Exactly. But in this case, I am thinking about scrolls for a certain person. My son should have been an initiate of Lank… no, that’s unjust. My son Venlar is a fine orator and has a good knowledge of the law, but he is for Orlanth. He could do with work to copy.” Silor’s good mood stays, even though he tones it down for a moment.
Varanis turns serious for a moment. “Well, if Irillo doesn’t have any, Xenofos likely will,” she replies. “Another cousin, a few days behind us, but who might make his way out this direction. He serves Lhankor Mhy.”
“I’ll look forward to meeting him too, then. Everyone is welcome who comes in peace.” And then there is a gate, and he shouts up to the guards, “Last two! Coming through! Not invading, but you should probably tell people I’m back!” The spearman there gives you a long-suffering look.
Varanis laughs at the spearman’s expression. “I can see that you rule with an iron fist,” she teases Silor. “Your guard is clearly terrified of you.”
“Him? He probably thinks I’m soft.” And rather louder, “Close up, lads! There could be trolls out there!”
A couple of people are walking across the slowly-darkening courtyard to see them. Varanis can see the pair clearly as they approach. A woman perhaps ten years younger than Silor, perhaps a little more, greets him with a lowered head, and then offers her hand to kiss, which he does. The man who accompanied her hangs back, grinning. Age him thirty years and that will be Silor.
“And this would be my wife, Aelna. Aelna, this is Varena, or Varanis, as you will. My dear, I have returned on a borrowed horse again…”
“My lord is welcome,” she says gently. “And your son has…” She glances back, and the young man waves to Silor. He has the look of someone with something to admit.
Aelna looks to Varanis, to ask, “Was your journey a safe one?”
Varanis nods. “Saved towards the end by your good husband,” she says. “I’m embarrassed to admit that Manasa there decided I should run. Your husband ensured she waited for me to catch up.” The Vingan has a warm smile for the lovely woman.
“He invited you to feast with us, I hope?” Up close the woman is probably forty, likely a second or third wife, once beautiful and still fine to look at. Her clothes are expensive and her jewellery plain but heavy. Manasa makes an attempt to eat the younger version of Silor, and is only stopped by her rider. “Bloody hell!” The young man announces.
“You know, I’m not sure if he explicitly invited me now that I think about it…” She turns to look at him with a raised eyebrow. “Did you? I admit, I’ve been chattering so much, I may have missed it.” She turns back to the beautiful woman. “He’s been very patient with me, Lady. I’ve enjoyed having someone to talk to this evening and I may have talked his ear off.”
Aelna’s expression carefully does not say, ‘makes a change’. “He will have been glad of the companionship. Come, let us find the stables for you, and somewhere for you to stay. Hengrast can find a groom to take your horse if you wish.”
Silor is in a quiet conversation with his son, and has a rather more serious expression than he held on the road. He does not seem to hear Varanis.
Varanis looks wistful for a moment. “I should probably care for the horses myself. Manasa will likely try to take a bite out of your groom, though Doqeia here is more peaceful.” She strokes the mare’s neck. “But, I am working to improve my relationship with these two and that means being responsible for their care too. Do I have time to groom them before the feast?”
She looks down at her clothing and then at her husband, in riding gear and armour, still on Manasa as he talks to his son. “I think so,” she says softly. “But there are trollkin in the stables… We can find them a pasture?”
“A pasture is wonderful, good lady. Thank you.” She swings a leg over Doqeia, dismounting without embarrassing herself. Then she turns to look at Silor. In a loud stage whisper to Aelna, she asks, “Do you think he’s likely to give me my horse back?” She winks at the other lady.
“Once he and Hengrast have finished talking, yes.” Aelna raises her voice enough to be heard, and Silor sighs and dismounts easily.
“I will talk to you about this later,” he says to Hengrast, who bows. “Probably after I have talked to your sister about it. And perhaps everyone involved. We’ll take some food out to them.” Hengrast gets handed the reins and is suddenly left with a loaded Manasa. He holds her well enough to convince her not to try biting again, but he gives Varanis an appealing look as Silor bows to her and makes a quick farewell.
Varanis smiles at the young man. “Lead on, Hengrast! Where shall we put them to pasture? If it’s far, perhaps we can unload them first? I’d rather not carry my bags too far if I have a choice. That’s why I have these two.” She gives a nod of thanks to Aelna.
“There is one just behind the great house,” he says. “This is an unusual layout for a village. Most of the buildings are all one building. Thrall House on the shield-side, everyone else on the sword-side. Go right. It’s a continuation of the pasture outside, because of all the rocks.” His voice is just like his father’s, his profile identical.
Aelna gives a smile and a word of thanks and walks off after her husband, a little faster than dignity indicates, but not close to a run.
Hengrast keeps holding Manasa, obediently, but he does wisely usher Varanis on first, away from the end with hooves.
Varanis follows his directions, leading Doqeia. The horse’s ears are twitching a lot, but she is reasonably steady. “Your hall is very impressive,” she says looking at the large structure.
“It got thatched over years ago,” Hengrast says. “Long before father was born. Then the walls got doors put in at the back. The thrall house is the defensible building, but the free house is much more fun to play hide and seek in. Veer left a bit and you’re heading for the gate. It’s the bit made from pale willow.”
- 1Fumbled ride roll, followed by successful jump roll.
- 2Successful DEX*5 roll.
- 3Mutual successful insight rolls, with a special for Varanis: This man is massively confident, and sees no threat in Varanis, and he is living in the Orlanthi mould, laughter and generosity today. Violence tomorrow is an option, but it need not and will not fall on the innocent. And he is curious, and he is powerful, and able to indulge his curiosity. He thinks that there is no danger on the road, as night falls. For her part, Varanis is wary, but hopes she can trust him. After assessing him, she decides to take the chance.
- 4GM calls for INT*3 roll – Varanis rolls 001.
- 5Passed a roll on farm lore and just barely passed one on battle. She is trying to build rapport, but not in any sort of sneaky way.
- 6(Truth rune!!! Stupid dice. Rolled a 13 that time.
- 7Varanis rolled on truth and fumbled. GM requests reputation roll. Result is 82.
- 8Insight rolls for both characters. Varanis gets 003. Insight: Much as before, the man seems to be confident, seeing no threat, and full of laughter and generosity. Powerful, perhaps a little answered in his curiosity, but certainly uncaring for any danger he might be in. He is unchallenged by Varanis, even as he enjoys her company. Silor fumbles: She is totally into him. The flirting is definitely an invitation rather than light-hearted fun.