Varanis — 1626 0582 We Survived
After fighting in a Krarsht-worshipping temple, below Rabbit Hat Farm, Green Fish Tula [[[s01:session-32|Session 32]]]
Shortly after the battle, Xenofos seeks out his cousin. They are both a bit shaken by the events. (No major spoilers)
Xenofos checks in on his cousin
After the battle Xenofos seeks his cousin out. He looks rather haggard, but manages a smile. “You did well cousin.”
She smiles at him, though it’s a bit weak. “So did you.” There’s a haunted look in her eyes.
“Rather horrible place I say. And those foul critters are no fun at all. Are you unhurt?”
“I’m fine,” she replies. She isn’t quite meeting his eyes. “Are you good? I lost track of you for a bit.”
“A bit shaky now when it’s over, but that usually passes in a moment. “
“Thank you,” she says after a moment. “For having my back, that is. It was good to know you were there. I’m glad that you are here.”
“I was quite far from the action. These tunnels are darn awkward to maneuver in. Most inconsiderate from our late host,” Xenofos observes dryly.
Varanis snorts in response.
“You did give me some scary moments, but I can’t honestly say you would have been taking unnecessary risks. If one accepts our common premise of descending into a pit of unknown horrors and purging it as thing that needed doing.”
“I did what was necessary, cousin, as did we all,” she says quietly.
Xenofos nods. “But some of us did meet the enemy up close and personal while others like me could mainly hang back.”
“You were rather up close and personal with that head,” Varanis says, shuddering.
“Oh that, I guess I did not have time to freeze in terror.” He brushes her words off, but then says, “You could have let someone else take your place after losing your shield. It was brave – the thing that happened to the shield was scary.”
“Losing two shields was foolish. I should have figured that out after the first one. There’s a reason Vinga doesn’t use a shield – it slows you down and makes you rely on it too much.” Varanis seems rather annoyed with herself for that.
“You could blame your civilized Esrolian upbringing…” Xenofos flashes a tired looking grin.
“I don’t know cousin… maybe it’s time I stopped blaming other things and just acknowledge my own stupidity.” She tries to grin, but it comes out more like a grimace. Self-deprecating humour might not be her strong point, especially when she’s not sure she’s joking.
“Your shields did what they are meant for. Took damage and protected their user. You have been taught their use and took advantage of it. ” All jocularity has disappeared from his voice. “It might have been costly in work or coin but it certainly was not stupid.”
“It would have been more effective to dodge than to try blocking. The first time was excusable, I didn’t know what I was facing. The second one cost Berra’s shield and I should have known.” Suddenly she looks at Xenofos and her expression is stricken. “Oh Vinga, I froze when the first one attacked. I froze.”
“Shields are made to be shattered so the warriors carrying them can fight on. It was the prudent choice.” Xenofos seems to have no doubt on this issue. “Your shield protected you when you froze and than you continued.”
Varanis takes a deep breath. “Regardless, we are alive. No one died because of me.” She refocuses her attention on her cousin. “You’re sure you’re ok?” She looks him up and down, taking in details.
“Yes, quite unharmed. Starting to unwind from combination of sheer terror and tension of fighting.” Shows his hand which is almost steady. “See. Coming together nice and steady.”
Varanis nods her acceptance. “I want to look around a little more, but I’ll head above ground soon. Thank you for checking in with me, cousin.” Her words are both polite and honest. It’s clear that she’s done talking for the moment, but also that something is still sitting badly with her. Without waiting for a reply, she walks away.
Berra also wants to check in on the Vingan. (No major spoilers, but some personal stuff for both characters.)
Berra needs to talk too
In the aftermath of the fight, while people are still checking the area for problems, Berra is sticking close to Varanis. It’s a moment when Xenofos is hovering elsewhere, perhaps struck dumb by terrible architecture, and so they get to be alone as they investigate a closed corner. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is no further problem, and Berra is starting to relax.
Varanis is stalking through the temple, tension and the aftermath of battle clearly still running high. Her eyes flick from place to place as she actively scans for trouble still. There’s a bit of wildness to her right now.
Berra says, “I can’t feel anything else. I think the smaller ones have fled. But I think we have won. I don’t know if the Priest got away.”
Varanis turns sharply in response to the words, as though startled by the noise. Registering Berra, she takes a deep breath, nostrils flaring. After a moment, she lets it go, some of the tension leaving with the exhalation.
“Hey. Well done.” Berra goes back to simple words, and her shoulders soften, and there is no challenge in her.
“We… I…” A pause. “Thank you.” The Vingan seems to be having a difficult time with finding the right words and falls back on automatic courtesy.
Sometimes, Berra has no mercy. But sometimes she finds it. This time, she offers Varanis a drink of water, and no questions.
Varanis sips absently and hands the water back. “Thank you,” she says again.
Berra gives Varanis a look, and a nod, and takes a drink of her own. “You were good enough.” There’s just a subtle emphasis on the ‘were’ like she thinks Varanis might have been worried. ‘You made it after all’ would be the inference.
“We all were,” Varanis replies. “We did surprisingly well, all things considered.” Unconsciously, her fingers are tracing the old scar on her cheek. As if suddenly becoming aware of it, she lets her hand fall.
“Uhyyyeah. Sorry about the helmet. I bounced my spear off the tunnel wall.” Berra looks suddenly wry, or irritated, or whatever that expression is that changes her face when she is… embarrassed?
“The helmet?” Varanis blinks. “Oh! That was you?”
Berra hangs her head. “Yes. I don’t think it got damaged, but it jarred my wrist a bit, so you might want to have Finarvi look it over.”
Varanis shrugs, distracted from whatever was bothering her before. “I will,” she promises. She doesn’t seem particularly worried about it though. In fact, she’s surprisingly unconcerned about her armour. “I am sorry about your shield.”
Berra does not look too bothered after that. “This is a terrible place, but we … well, we can crack it open from the top now we know what’s in here. I think the Green Fish will count it a task well started, whether or not we have finished yet.”
Varanis nods. “Have they found Rajar yet? He left an awful mess out there, as I heard it.”
“I think Farist called out something about hearing snoring. So probably. We should go see if there is beer. On Billy, probably. It might be worth you doing that. I mean, waking him, not running for a drink.”
“Me wake Rajar?” Varanis looks startled at the suggestion. “I could do that,” she says after a moment. “I think I’d like to. Will you show me what I need to do?”
“Of course. It’s easy enough. You tell him that he lives, and that he did well, and that there’s beer. I usually let him have his head in my lap, because he’s pretty bruised, but that part’s optional, and your armour’s stiffer than mine. But really, the beer and telling him the situation is what counts. No deaths. He doesn’t remember what happened, only the holy fight. So after that, tell him what he killed, and what good he did, and share his drink, or have your own. It’s a time he’ll be glad to be alive.”
She smiles weakly in response. “I’m glad to be alive,” she says. Then the smile fades and her eyes take on a haunted look. “Berra…” A slow breath. “I was afraid.” The words are quiet, tinged with shame. Her fingers have returned to the scar on her cheek.
“Yeah… So was I. What were you afraid of?” Berra is as blunt as Wind Tooth is sharp.
“I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to fail.” Those are the easy answers. A moment later she adds, “When I came over the edge of the balcony, I hesitated. I… if he’d still been there, I don’t know if I’d been ready for him. I was caught in the past for a moment. I only gave chase because you did and I couldn’t let you go alone.” She is looking down now, avoiding Berra’s eyes.
“Mhm. Once I saw the blood, my part was easy. But I was afraid in the tunnels.” Berra puts her back to the wall and checks that nobody is too close. “Would I lead people the wrong way? Would everything be bad because of me? What was the right balance between stepping forwards and …” She trails off and shrugs. “Once we got past the mouth, things got a lot easier. Serala knew what sort of light to make, and she’s a dead shot. There were not too many of the eater-things. But I had to spend time before, outside, reminding myself of how and when to die.”
“That light gave me hope again. It felt like we had a chance with the feeling of the sun on us. Serala is…” the Vingan’s eyes light up. “Well, she’s highly competent.” That’s probably not a blush. Just the weird light down here.
“She’s got good timing. I respect that a lot.” Berra lets a smile creep onto her face. “And she hit him so he could not cast more spells. A long shot. And Xenofos was hard behind me. In fact, I slowed him down on the rope. It was … a strange surface to be climbing. I’m not sure I want to know what it’s made of.” Berra flexes her hand, looking at it as if in memory.
“It was a strange surface,” Varanis agrees. “You know, I didn’t think twice about going up. It was only when I got to the top that I was suddenly so afraid again.” She refocuses her gaze on the Humakti. “We really are alive… We should find Rajar, and beer. We don’t want him waking up on his own.”
“We are, and we should.” Berra pushes herself away from the wall. “Well done.” She stays alert as she goes, and after a little while casts Detect Enemies, noting that her spell had run out. “Do you know I got lucky?” she asks as they get up towards the river. Somewhere, the sound of snoring drifts. Behind them is the remains of a Dragonsnail. It’s impressive. Berra passed it with awe, and no comment.
“You did?” Varanis raises an eyebrow in question. She had stared at the Dragonsnail as they passed.
“The crossbow. The Priest was aiming for me. I don’t particularly know why, but I had to cut out a bit of padding – the bolts were dipped in poison.” Berra sounds unimpressed.
“I can’t decide if I was lucky or unlucky. I was a little too close to three of those things today.” There’s a distinct note of distaste in the words.
“You were lucky. We all were. Thank Vinga when you next pray. I think you probably made the right call on the shields. That was a tough one.” Berra looks down corridors automatically as if not trusting her own magic or even senses when it comes to danger.
Varanis searches Berra’s face when the Humakti mentions the shields.
(Crit on insight roll.)
Insight: Berra is afraid, underneath, of what might have happened, but she seems to be telling the truth. She thinks Varanis made a close decision well, and is admitting it – maybe so that she does not argue it internally. Varanis is not the only one a little keyed up.
Varanis relaxes a little.
Berra has another drink, twirling her spear one-handed as she goes. This time, it doesn’t hit Varanis.
“It was hard for me go against you, but I knew it was the right choice in that moment. I wasn’t trying to undermine you.” Varanis looks very serious as she says this. She continues, “Today, I found a balance in myself. As though there was a place from which I could lead, but without needing to be the one who did it all. And it was my choice; I did the things I knew to be right because they were right, not because I was supposed to do them.” She sounds a little surprised by her own words.
“Oh, I know. You made the choice – you had the right to.” Berra seems surprised by the turn of conversation. “I could see you were doing well – when Xenofos is worried for you, but not to the point of panic, that’s probably good. But less… no, I don’t know a word that means less less seriously. So more seriously… you didn’t push anything but yourself. You were where you needed to be, not where you wanted to be. I wasn’t sure if I’d be in the front with Rajar, but it would have been fine for any of us to, and you didn’t back down, but you also didn’t demand to be allowed. You just did your duty. It was good to watch – I’d follow that.”
“I’m used to other people telling me what my duty is and how I should be doing it. I rather like not needing to worry about them any more.” Varanis is beginning to smile. “You and Wind Tooth were fast today,” she adds, changing the subject.
Berra thinks. “On the balcon… oh, before? Yes. The Ritual of Morale helps everyone, but that includes me.” There, she seems slightly disturbed, or thoughtful.
Insight: Berra has a thing she is thinking about, and the fact she does not know yet what she should be thinking is probably what is on her face.
As they get closer to the first branching of corridors, they encounter some of the fyrdsmen, down in the passageways now that the enemy seems to have been cleared out. Varanis asks one of them to fetch beer and meet her and Berra where the Storm Bull is sleeping. She also warns him to keep away from the milky water. There’s something not quite right about it.
Berra relaxes rather now that they are among other people. “I need to ask D’Val about delegation,” she says. “The fun part is working out which questions will give me more than just a yes or a no as an answer. Making the question is the real lesson each time.”
Varanis nods. “Knowing what questions to ask is a difficult challenge.”
“I didn’t want to be a coward, but there were plenty of good warriors there. And I was in charge of movements – but I wanted to fight. Still, I was not dishonoured by not doing so. There just wasn’t room for it all. I just never want to be able to hide behind the fact I’m in command, to … to save myself.” There is a wrinkled lip there, an expression of disgust at the notion. Berra might have identified the thing that she is sorting out in her head. Leastways, something has reached the surface.
“I’m not sure anyone could ever call you a coward, Berra,” Varanis says solemnly. “You are the bravest person I know. You take on the challenges others won’t.” Her gaze drops to where she knows the wolf’s tooth pendant hangs, before looking ahead again. Then she laughs. “But I shouldn’t tell you that, or your head will swell and next time you’ll be stuck on the wrong side of the passage, with Rajar!”
Berra seems flummoxed, and walks in silence for a bit. “I don’t know other people wouldn’t,” she says finally. “I mean, I’m good. I know I’m good. But … I nearly didn’t become me. Not like I am. It took D’Val and Tennebris and the High Sword to make me, and a lot of other people besides. If people have inspiring people, it makes them into people. If you see what I mean.” Definitely confused. “And the God, of course. Humakt is my model, and knowing I must stick to that helps.”
Varanis looks at her friend a moment. “Then I suppose you must be one of the people who is helping to make me,” she says. Although she winks mischievously at the Humakti’s embarrassment, there’s an undertone of seriousness hidden within the humour.
“Well, yes. I’m trying to. But you’re making me too.” Maybe Berra did not get the note saying there was humour there. Maybe she can’t read it.
Varanis laughs in response to the Humakti’s remark. It is a very Berra kind of remark.
Berra smiles a tiny bit. “Go wake Rajar. I’ll see how the Regiment is.” With that, she turns to go check on other people, including a word to the fyrd-members as she passes.
Varanis nervously goes to wake the sleeping Storm Bull. (No spoilers)
Varanis wakes Rajar
Berra has given Varanis instructions for dealing with the now sleeping Storm Bull. She follows the sound of his snores down the now cleared out corridor to find him curled on the floor with the remains of one of the large insect-like creatures in his arms. She stares for a moment, trying to work out a plan. As she stands there, the fyrdsman who went to fetch beer joins her with a small keg and a couple of large cups. She fills one cup right away, just in case and then shoos the man away.
Rajar snores gently….
Carefully, she tries to extract the carcass from his grip. Meeting no resistance, she shoves the thing out of the way with a grimace of distaste.
Rajar starts. His eyes open. He sits up. Blood, icor, bits of ….things slide off him.
Varanis quickly grabs the beer and puts it in his hand. “Welcome back, warrior! You live and the enemy is dead.” She’s clearly trying to remember the words Berra told her to say. In a rush, she adds, “We are all alive, and you were… amazing.”
Rajar grunts. Reaches out and downs the beer.
Varanis hastily grabs the keg and brings it within reach of the big man.
“That is …. good. When I saw that monster….” His words trail off. “What was inside the temple?”
“More of those,” she answers, nodding her chin at the corpse. “And a priest. He was trying to call up something bigger, but Serala shot him in the face and he stopped talking. Berra was the one to kill him though.”
“That is good. And as it should be.”
“May I have some of that?” she asks, indicating the keg.
“Help yourself. Has anyone seen Stormy? ” The big man looks worried.
“That’s your favourite axe, right? It was by the…. thing. One of the fyrdsmen collected it and was going to very carefully bring it to the place where we entered. It’s waiting for you there. It was a little… messy.” She hastens to add, “but it looked sound.”
Varanis pours herself some beer. She looks at it doubtfully, takes a sip and wrinkles her nose. Then she shrugs and drains the cup. She hiccoughs and laughs.
“Oh thank Urox, I’d hate to lose her.” He pours another beer.
Varanis sits down beside Rajar, armour creaking as she does so. She holds out her cup. “Yes, please.”
Rajar lifts the keg and pours. “This is a foul place. Let us go find some light and air.”
The Vingan looks at him, looks at the ground, and groans quietly, but drags herself back to her feet, careful not to spill. “This way,” she says. “You can pick up Stormy on our way up. And Rajar?” She turns to look up at the big man again. “Thank you for killing that thing and for not dying while you did so.” She hides her embarrassment in another swig of beer.
Varanis heads topside with Rajar, but then seeks out Finarvi. There was a thing she told him that she should probably ask him to be quiet about. (Spoilers here for interpersonal stuff.)
Varanis needs to talk to Finarvi
Shortly after making it out of the pit alive, Varanis spots Finarvi. She practically runs to him, catching him up in a bear hug. It’s probably not at all comfortable given her armour and she will need to apologize later for getting ick on his clothes. “We are all alive!” she says jubilantly. She smells a bit like beer and her eyes are shining.
Finarvi hugs her right back, not caring about the armour or the ooze. “I’m very glad to hear this,” he says fervently. “Is everyone whole? Does anything need mending?”
Varanis thinks for a moment. “My armour should probably get looked over. I took a few hits here and there. And Rajar’s armour too. But yes, we are all whole, barring minor hurts. Serala was glorious! When things were at their darkest and the risk to all of us was at its peak, she brought us sunlight. It was incredible. She lit every corner of an ancient temple, exposing the evil for us.” The Vingan seems to light up a little herself as she describes it.
Finarvi smiles. “She is amazing, isn’t she?” He glances towards the fyrdsmen of the Green FIsh tribe, hoping to catch the gaze of one in particular. “All has been quiet up here. No sign of broo, or hostile earthworms either.”
Varanis smiles in response. “That’s good. I think I’d rather like to sleep a little before needing to fight again.” She looks at Finarvi closely for a minute, then the words rush out, “We’re all alive, so you don’t need to talk to Serala for me. I’ll figure it out.” Her cheeks turn just a little pink.
He cocks his head quizzically. “Are you sure? I have had years of talking Serala into her better self. Ah well, if you want to set up a flanking manoeuvre in the future, just ask.”
Varanis just blushes more and shakes her head. It’s not entirely clear whether that is to turn down the offer or whether it is a denial of what the offer implies. “I… I should go talk to Farist,” she stammers. She gives Finarvi a rather flustered grin and dashes away, as quickly as she turned up in the first place.