Varanis — 1626 0590 Unwanted Advice
????, Sea Season, Stasis Week
1626, Sea Season, Stasis Week, Godday? Evening sometime. On the road to Clearwine. Varanis engages in a series of conversations. [[[s01:session-29|Session 29]]]
After the group has made camp for the evening, Varanis comes looking for Dormal to follow up on their conversation back in Boldhome.
Dormal’s unwanted advice – warning – spoilers!
“Will you tell me more about the thing you need to recover for Grandmother? You said it was in Rhigos?”
Dormal nods. “With the Demivierge.”
“You want to rob a Queen?!” Her tone is incredulous.
“I’m shocked that someone of your rank could even conceive of such impropriety. Shocked and disappointed. Go and think about what you’ve said.” Dormal shakes head sadly (or mockingly). “It’s not stealing if you’re getting a stolen item back. And to spare all involved embarrassment. If they have been sold a stolen thing, the kindest act is to take it back without anyone knowing. Wouldn’t want to cause a diplomatic incident, after all!”
“Well, if we need to get out of Sartar for a bit to let things cool off after meeting with Leika, we can discuss the possibility. But no promises. I’m still not convinced it’s not theft.” The red-haired woman’s words are grudging.
“If you can’t commit, don’t come. I don’t need half-hearted support that’s going to fade away at a crucial moment.”
“We can discuss it, Dormal. I rather wish Grandmother had spoken to me about this.” She sounds frustrated.
“If she didn’t tell you, then it was a test. For me and for you.” His words result in a glare from his cousin. “Perhaps you think you’ve been treated unfairly,” he continues. “The test may be to see whether you do this thing, or whether you face her with your complaint. The test may be to see whether you do this thing, or whether you face her with your complaint. The test may be to see if I can get this thing done. Shrugs. Only one person truly knows.”
“Sometimes, I think she can be a cruel old bitch.” Resentment clouds her expression.
“I think I know what the test is, if you’re not too proud to hear it from me,” Dormal offers.
His cousin looks thoughtful, then nods, with only a bit of reluctance.
“When the time comes, will you do what feels comfortable and easy, and fits your self-image… Or will you set aside personal distaste and do what the Clan needs done? It’s easy to be a ruler when you’re doing the glorious, bright, noble thing. But no clan… none… stays on top without doing things in the shadows too. And there is no glory, no praise, no fame and no respect for doing those things. But they need doing all the same. That’s the price of power. And not one they put in the sagas.” There’s resistance and reluctance and perhaps a certain amount of belief in her expression as she hears him out. He continues, “It’s up to you. There’s plenty of room in the clan for nobles that don’t get their hands dirty. But if you want to rise to the top… well that’s the choice.”
“I don’t like what you are saying, cousin. But I will think on it.”1Failed a roll on honour, but barely! Shocking. She sounds unhappy as she says it.
“Some day I’ll tell you what test I had to pass. And whether I think I did. But not today.” His expression is cryptic.
Varanis nods curtly and stalks away, looking disturbed.
Dormal does not smile, he just stares into the middle distance. But somehow, indefinably, just for a moment, a passerby might receive the impression of fingers being steepled.
En route to Clearwine, stopped for the evening, after passing Boldhome earlier in the day. Mellia sees Varanis turn abruptly away from a conversation with Dormal. She looks disturbed and very tense as she stalks away. She makes her way to the fringes of the group to stare off into the growing darkness.
Mellia quietly walks up to Varanis. “Varanis? Is there something I can do to help?”
Varanis stiffens slightly, then visibly forces herself to relax. Without looking at Mellia, she asks “Has Dormal spoken to you about something Grandmother told him?” She speaks very quietly.
“No,” Mellia replies, “he has not. What is it?”
Varanis hesitates, clearly torn, then sighs. “No,” she says, shaking her head. “If he hasn’t involved you, I won’t either. But…. there is something else you might help me with. Nala. I need to find a way to work with her, but she makes me so angry I could… well, I don’t know what I could do.” It’s clear that the Vingan is very frustrated.
“From what I have seen and heard,” Mellia muses, “Nala does not forgive you for getting Tiwr drunk and has no respect for you and you are horribly frustrated with her. Am I right?”
Varanis nods. “That sums it up rather well, I think. She calls me a bitch!” There is a wealth of indignation in those words.
“Unfortunately, respect not only has to be given if you want to receive it, it also has to be earned.” Mellia sighs. “So she did.”
“For us to function as a unit, if that’s what we are going to do, we cannot be at each other’s throats. But I will not grovel to her.”
“Neither will she grovel to you, I think,” Mellia replies. “Stupid question: did you apologize for getting Tiwr drunk?”
Varanis looks at Mellia blankly. “No, why would I? He made his own choice to drink the wine.”
“Nala needs to forgive Tiwr, too. Still, an apology for leading Tiwr into temptation would probably help a great deal.” Mellia is clearly thinking hard.
After a moment or two of silence, Varanis responds. “Mellia, I don’t understand who or what they are. On the one hand, I’m meant to see and treat him as a person. He clearly has a mind of his own and freely expresses his opinions. On the other hand, she treats him like a child to be coddled and protected.” Varanis’ defensive tone makes it evident that she is still justifying her actions to herself. “I made him an offer and he accepted. Why is that wrong?”
Mellia softly says, “Tiwr was guaranteed to accept it. I’ve seen him get into wine before. We’re lucky there were no mares he was remotely interested in around.”
“I’d heard he liked wine, but hadn’t seen him with it before,” Varanis admits reluctantly.
“See? All you have to do is say, ‘Nala, I had no idea how much Tiwr likes wine. I’m sorry I gave it to him.’ ” Mellia smiles a little.
Varanis tries to smile back. “You make that sound easy. I suppose I should also throw in an ‘I’m sorry I thought he was a broo’, for good measure?”
“It wouldn’t hurt,” Mellia suggests. “The path of Harmony is often straightforward and difficult to walk.”
“I will give it some thought,” Varanis replies. Then she shakes her head ruefully. “I seem to be saying that a lot these days.”
“Wise leaders think before acting,” Mellia points out.
Varanis sighs. “I… I’m just going to stand here for a while. It seems I have a lot to think about.”
Mellia nods. “Be sure to get some sleep. We may have a big day tomorrow.”
Varanis reaches out to clasp her cousin’s hand briefly. “Thank you,” she murmurs before turning back to stare into the darkness.
Mellia squeezes Varanis’ hand, then quietly leaves.
As Mellia walks away, she just catches Varanis talking to herself, “I should have taken Serala up on visiting the Grazelands…”
After Varanis was talking to Dormal and Mellia, she sort of disappears a bit into the darkness around the camp. Xenofos tries to keep her in sight, and eventually leaves the area of the fire under the pretense of checking on his horses.
Xenofos’ advice – warning – Spoilers
Varanis notices Xenofos and watches him for a bit. Finally, she approaches him in the darkness. “Good evening, cousin,” she says softly.
“You should not disappear alone, cousin,” he chastises her.
“I’m not alone, though, am I?” she replies archly. “You are here.”
“When I found you again, yes.”
“I have been wondering if I should seek you out,” she admits after a moment. “I need to ask you something, but I’m not sure how.” She considers, then asks, “Did Grandmother speak to you before we left Nochet? Did she give you any instructions?”
“My instructions are to aid you. No more.”
“And has Dormal suggested anything further to you?” Varanis asks, her voice once again very soft.
“He has talked of a mission south. And I have told him I am not leaving anytime soon. And after that I have offered you my service, which you have accepted.” His answer is matter of fact.
“Has he given you details of this mission?” she asks swiftly. There is no surprise in her voice, but even in the darkness, her expression is intense.
“Just that it would take him south of Nochet to Rhigos, but he said to me you would have the same information from Grandmother?”
“Grandmother said nothing of this to me, but Dormal tells me it is a test.” She sounds tense and worried. “He believes she is testing my loyalty to the Clan, but this thing that he says we must do…. there’s no honour in it, Xenofos.”
“That sounds rather odd, I say. With incomplete amount of data I could not be certain, but I find it unlikely that Grandmother would have left explicit orders only to care of Dormal. More-so when Dormal led me to understand that you have these orders already.” His brow is in deep furrow.
“Our Wyter asked if I was loyal to the Clan. That was all the instruction I received. But Dormal speaks of an heirloom that belongs to us and must be reclaimed. He insists that we must do this thing without anyone knowing, or we will cause a diplomatic incident. And he implies that this is a test of true leadership for me because it is a thing that must be done, but a thing without glory.” She is clearly very uncomfortable with this. “You are my advisor, Xenofos. I trust you. And I need advice. Can we trust our kinsman? Is there truth in what he says?”
There is a long pause. “Advice is dangerous, I could be wrong. But I promised my counsel and you shall have it. Dormal has talked to us separately, telling things that have subtle differences. It would be unlikely that your orders from Grandmother would come only through Dormal and not directly. He has also tried to use your sense of duty as leader against you and your honour. I don’t think there is Truth in what Dormal is saying here, or if there is, he is trying to twist it to show falsehood. As much as it pains me, I don’t think we can trust our kinsman here. You should follow Your honour here as you seemed to be doing already.”2normal success with truth – no game effect I guess
Varanis nods in response, and lets go of the breath she’d been holding. “I want to believe he has the best interests of our Clan at heart, but Berra has suggested that his interests centre on himself. Truthfully, cousin, I hope that this is Dormal seeking some kind of personal gain. But, I’m also afraid that he might be speaking the truth about Grandmother, and I don’t know how to feel about that. I can’t help but wonder how much she knew about my gran when she sent me to Sartar without warning or explanation. I still feel like I may have been little more than her pawn in a game I didn’t know we were playing.” Disquiet shades her words.
“Pawns can be raised to Queens. But I don’t see you as a pawn just going forward, more like a Knight hopping surprisingly to any direction.3Replace references with Gloranthan equivalent. And we are all just gaming pieces on the board, where number and identity and number of players is as little known as the very rules of the game. You, Granny, even Salid.” His laughter is nearly silent.
After a few moments of silence, broken by Rajar’s raucous laughter in the direction of the campfire, Varanis says “More still for me to think on. Perhaps we should get back before someone else comes looking. Sooner or later though, we need to decide what to do about Dormal and his mission. First, we have to survive our meeting with Leika in Clearwine.”