The Beast in its Den

Year, Season, Week, Day (replace as relevant)


Follows on from Choose your Death. Session SA3.13.


At the Humakti Temple, Varanis is informed that his Excellency is up at the Palace. The guard who tells her gives her a sympathetic look.

The Vingan heaves a sigh and turns her feet to the palace.1“Go on, do the CON roll.” – GM

The steps are long, and there is a chill in the air, and a blustery wind that does not yet know where to settle.

Varanis trudges up the stairs. Her armour and worries conspire to weigh her down and she is forced to stop partway up to catch her breath.

The view is good, at least.

When she’s ready, she continues up.

At the top, there are four guards on duty. Two are either side of the door. One, a Vingan she knows from Temple but not by names lifts a hand. “Thane. What brings you here?”

“I need to speak to High Sword Eril,” she says between puffs of air. “I’m given to understand he’s here today.”

“We’ll ask.”

A few minutes later there is a request to wait for half an hour, delivered in a high, piping voice by a junior member of some noble family or another, pressed into service to teach them how a palace works.

Then, after the wait, she is brought through a warrenous area to a corridor she knows already. The servant who accompanies her points down it. “That door is Lord Eril’s private shrine,” he says. “He waits there.”2Insight: This fellow is having nothing of Lord Eril, the shrine, or even the corridor. Nope.

“Thank you,” she says solemnly. “Your courtesy and service are appreciated.” Then, without looking back, she goes to meet Death (or at least, his heroic representative) unflinchingly.

Eril is up by the altar, head bowed, but as Varanis comes in he turns and walks to her, nodding his head in greeting as he gets close.

This time there are two lamps burning, but they are in niches halfway down the shrine walls. They throw his expression into shadow.

“Greetings, High Sword,” she says with simple courtesy. “I’ve come to rant and rage at you because my Humakti is broken and I can’t figure out how to fix her. When I told her this, she simply told me that yelling at heroes is impolite and I shouldn’t do it.” There is no sign of ranting. No rage. Just tiredness and worry. “I have questions and perhaps some ideas, but I did not want to reach too widely yet because I don’t know if you want rumours about your Wyter priest to gain any more traction.”

“Ah, I see. Will you feel better after the storm of Air?” he asks politely. “Or is the plan now to get straight to the ideas and questions?”

“I figured we could skip the raging part and move directly into trying to find solutions. It’s more efficient and frankly, I don’t know how much time we have.”

“Plenty,” he says. “It is tolerably obvious what happened.” He waits for her to catch up.

She bristles a little at that. “You know, Lord Raven offered to pay to watch me yell at you. Or maybe he just wanted front row seats to my immediate execution,” she informs him. “Just for a moment, why don’t we pretend that I’m neither a healer nor inducted into the secrets of your Order, and you just tell me what seems obvious?”

The High Sword seems some mix of amused and justified in his own disappointment. “The first time the Heroquest was created without warning, the end result – a demon made in part or whole from what was taken from that young Lord – rose up and was challenged. The initiate Berra slew it, which rendered it incapable of being summoned without the Heroquest being repeated, and in a fashion that was deep enough to bring it back into creation. However, what was broken in the summoning has, I think, been replaced.”

“By what?”

There is a flat look, which lasts only a moment before he goes on like this is all obvious. “To create such a thing would require more than a mere dumb show of events. Some part of her, indeed some part that makes her useful to me – and beloved to you – has been given to the new creation. Otherwise it simply could not be.”

“So… this takes me to one of the ideas that I had,” Varanis says, which implies that maybe she had considered this possibility after all. “If I find and kill Ikadz, could that release the part of her that has been trapped? Make her whole again?”3 Varanis passes Insight: More amusement, this time at her expense, although he politely keeps most traces off it from his features.

“Release? Why, where do you think it is?” He looks very interested in the answer.

She bristles, but does not interrupt the question. “I thought that maybe it was being held by Ikadz. A trophy. Fuel for living. I don’t know. It’s the essence of her – her Movement rune, if you will. It was so vital to who she was that it was practically tangible. So, why wouldn’t he keep it?” She scowls. “Isn’t that what happened to you? Part of what made you human was cut away and when Berra killed that thing, you got at least a modicum of it back.” She doesn’t have a poet’s grasp of Heortling, but her vocabulary has grown in the years she’s been here and she’s managing to speak with Eril as an educated noble, even if he subtly mocks her lack of understanding in these more esoteric matters.4Insight: She’s not trying to impress him, per se, but she’s doing her best to hold her own on uncertain ground. She’s not stupid and resents him thinking she is.

“As I believe I mentioned, it was a requirement of the new creation. Does not the Wyter she has made remind you even a little of her?” He could be faintly incredulous.

“Wait… Lord Raven is the one who took her Movement? Not Ikadz? Or… did Ikadz make Raven from Berra?”

“The situation did. The original was destroyed. This new entity is a finer mix than I might like, and yet as a link from mortal to god, it is oddly satisfying. He is mostly made of those things that would have held me back, long ago. Repaired by what an initiate could offer, he is in fact a young monster of rebellion and ambition.” Eril’s expression says he is mildly offended. “He is already attempting intrigues within my Temple.”

The Vingan appears completely stunned by this revelation. “Well,” she says at last, “I suppose killing him is out of the question and finding out who played Ikadz and killing him is unlikely to help beyond making me feel better. So, what are our options? Her body is not healed enough for exertion or I’d make her move. I’d get her drilling and climbing and running… but right now, she can barely get out of bed.”

“Time will deal with that,” Eril replies. “Far be it from me to counsel patience to an Orlanthi, but you have time. I will not need her back before Storm Season at the very earliest, and by then, several things will have happened.” He does not enumerate them.

“I’m really, deeply angry right now,” Varanis tells him with remarkable calm. “I don’t suppose I can spend some time at your Temple practicing broadsword with people I am unlikely to be able to cause any real harm to?”

“As a lay member you have the right to training,” he replies. “Simply take up what is offered. Do you have any more Air to let out?”

“Probably, but I’ll let it out through training,” she admits. “Thank you for your time, High Sword. Oh, one last thing. When Sword D’Val returns to the city, will you please let him know his Dagger needs to see him? Maybe he can reach her in ways I am unable to.” She stares up at him with her stormy grey eyes and there’s something almost like a challenge just under the surface of her politely worded request.

He considers, and then smiles slightly. “There is someone more useful than the Sword of Duck Point,” he says. He hardly even has any sarcasm in how he says D’Val’s title.

She arches a brow at him, waiting for him to elaborate.

“The Iron Lord is highly versed in the understanding of spirits. Indeed any shaman might be, could one only communicate with them.” It’s like he cannot quite resist a dig, even when he is being helpful.

“Another reason for me to visit your temple then,” she says. “I’ll see if he will speak with me. Thank you. Have a good day.” She offers him a precise bow – that of noble to higher-ranking noble – and turns to leave. When her back is to him, she mutters softly, “unless you’ve made other plans, oh great and worthy Hero.” Quiet as it was, the statement is dripping with sarcasm.

He nods his head, Hero to Noble. She is worth a nod.5For the record, he fails Listen.

  • 1
    “Go on, do the CON roll.” – GM
  • 2
    Insight: This fellow is having nothing of Lord Eril, the shrine, or even the corridor. Nope.
  • 3
    Varanis passes Insight: More amusement, this time at her expense, although he politely keeps most traces off it from his features.
  • 4
    Insight: She’s not trying to impress him, per se, but she’s doing her best to hold her own on uncertain ground. She’s not stupid and resents him thinking she is.
  • 5
    For the record, he fails Listen.