VS 027 Of boxes and betrayal

Varanis — 1626 0600 Boxes Betrayal

????, Sea Season, Movement Week


1626, Sea Season, Movement Week?, Freezeday? Breakfast-time. On the road to Clearwine. [[[s01:session-29|Session 29]]]


One morning, en route to Clearwine, Nala is cooking breakfast. Mellia brings Varanis over. Some folks are likely to notice this, because there’s been tension between the Vingan and the Praxian for weeks. There’s some kind of conversation. Varanis stalks over to her stuff, pulls out a fabric wrapped object and hands it over to Nala before storming away. No yelling, no explosions. Lots of tension.

Nala is cooking rabbit stew in the main pot, and has a pile of roots and tubers she is putting into another pot for Mellia. Occasionally Zinat races over and deposits a half-dead, tiny field mouse at Nala, and waits expectantly for Nala to throw it up so Zinat can catch it in midair.

Mellia smiles at everyone. She appears to have an Idea. “Good morning, all.”

Varanis is quietly packing her bedroll in anticipation of the day’s travel.

“Morning, Mellia,” Nala replies.

“That looks good. May I help?” Mellia asks the Praxian.

“If you recognise the tubers, sure,”

Mellia peers at the tubers. “I think I recognize them,” Mellia says. “We need to peel them, I think. Nala, I have an idea which may ruin all our breakfasts, or improve the whole day.”

Nala quirks an eyebrow. “Mmmmm?”

Mellia explains, “I would go fetch Varanis and the two of you would take turns talking. I would be present to set boundaries, call turns and generally help things along.”

Nala blinks. “If you think it is wise.”

Mellia replies, “I think it may help. Let me go get Varanis.” Mellia gets up and goes to fetch Varanis.

Varanis looks up from her tasks as Mellia approaches. “Good morning, cousin,” she says with a smile of welcome.

“Good morning! Varanis, would you like some breakfast? Also, would you talk to Nala if I mediate?”

Nala throws three mice into the air. Zinat catches them all. And thinks that life is great.

Varanis’ expression switches to one of doubt. Then she sighs. “I need to talk to her. I know I do. But I’m not looking forward to it.”

“I think it will help if I am present,” Mellia coaxes. “If nothing else, Nala will mind her language.”

Varanis snorts. “Fine, let’s do this.”

Mellia nods and says, “If Nala won’t let you have some rabbit stew, you can have some of my tubers.”

Varanis rises gracefully to her feet and follows Mellia to where Nala is cooking.

Mellia returns to Nala with Varanis in tow. “Here we are. Thank you for cooking, Nala. Is there anything left for me to help with?”

“Not really, no, unless you know how to actually cook rather than make food to keep people alive. I can brew ok, mind.”

Varanis watches the two of them silently. She is clearly uncomfortable. Finally, she takes in a deep breath. “Nala,” she begins, “I have something I need to say.”

Mellia quietly positions herself between Nala and Varanis. Everyone can still see everyone else.

Nala rocks back to a full hunker and looks at Varanis quietly.

“I didn’t know how Tiwr gets with wine. I only knew that he would like it and it was something I had to offer him.” The words are a bit rushed, but clear.

Mellia says, “Your turn, Nala.”

Nala nods. “Mellia said you hadn’t been warned. But what made you think that giving a great deal of alcohol to anyone who was standing between two potentially hostile forces was even vaguely a good idea?”

Varanis hesitates a moment. “To be honest, I didn’t really think that part through. But there wasn’t a second hostile force. And the peasants who came to intercept us weren’t anything to be concerned about. They’d have been easy to handle if they’d tried anything.” Her tone has become somewhat defensive.

Mellia says, “Nala, your turn.”

Nala is calm. “We didn’t know they were just peasants when they appeared. The aldryami are deadly with bows. We were standing between them. Even if they only kicked off with each other, we were going to be rolled by two forces that each outnumbered us. Not to mention the potential to violence at a shrine not dedicated to violence.”

“Aldrya is not as peaceful as the White Lady, but I can’t see Her smiling on a pitched battle at Her altar,” Mellia comments.

“I didn’t see any aldryami,” Varanis says mulishly. She pauses, takes a deep breath again. This time, when she speaks, her tone is calmer and more courteous. “I made a mistake and I’m sorry for it. It is in the past and I would like to move on. I will not offer Tiwr alcohol again.”

“Thank you.” Nala looks to Mellia, eyes asking a question.

Mellia smiles at everyone. “We do have a related matter to discuss.” She pauses and takes a deep breath. “Varanis, you seem to have a problem with just taking things that you want which may not be yours. I am NOT calling you a thief. I’m thinking of the box incident as an example.”

Varanis stiffens. “I’m sorry, what? That sounds very much like you are accusing me of theft, cousin.”

“I am not,” Mellia soothes. “Nala is not. She did mention the problem to me last night, though.”

Nala tosses another mouse to Zinat.

“It was one time. And I told you, I don’t know why I did that. I just…. I had to.” She sounds frustrated. While she is glaring, there is also hurt in her expression.

“Which is really disturbing,” Mellia replies. “I know you don’t want to be like that. I’m not saying this right.”

“Is it my turn?” Nala is uncertain.

Mellia nods.

“I looked at the pillar, because it occurred to me the pillar might not want Lunar stuff on it. There wasn’t anything coming off the pillar in the spirit world when I looked, and even if it were an aldryani magic it should have reflected there—but it didn’t. However, I only know very little if anything about their magics. Irillo asked me to check you out for influences, but Kalis is better at that, so she did it. However, I think the Lunars can track the box. I can’t prove it, though. But the mind magics are typical of them. Witness Serala and Dormal.” Nala Huntress is still very calm, and not moving at all.

Varanis is silent, but listening.

Nala looks to see if Mellia is taking a turn.

“I do not know if the Lunars can track the box,” Mellia says. “I do know that is a very nicely carved box, too nice to leave out in the weather. I think there is something strange about the box.”

“I already explained to Dormal, when he asked me about it. It’s just a box. There’s nothing special about it,” Varanis says stubbornly.

If it is taking effort to stay calm, it isn’t showing on Nala’s face. “Have you considered the fact that you still feel apparently compelled to keep the box is more of the same influence of what you just mentioned a minute ago, that you ‘had to’ have it?” Nala looks to Mellia to see if she has noticed the offered escape clause.

Mellia nods a little.

“Do you want me to give it up?” Varanis sounds slightly incredulous. “You’re going to confiscate it like I’m some kind of naughty child?”

Mellia uses her most soothing tones. “I think we’ve found the heart of the matter. Varanis, no one thinks you’re a child.”

Varanis’ gaze snaps to her cousin’s face. “Don’t patronize me, Mellia.” Again, she pauses. Takes a calming breath. She continues, “it’s just a stupid box.”

Mellia sighs and bows her head.

Varanis looks between the other two women disbelievingly. “Fine. If it will make peace, I’ll get the box.” She turns on a heel and strides away to where her gear is waiting. She rummages angrily through a bag until she comes up with a cloth wrapped object. Returning stiffly to the cook fire, set thrusts the wrapped box towards the others, waiting to see who will take it.

Mellia does not take the box. She seems lost in thought, or prayer.

Nala waits a bit to see if Mellia comes round. When she doesn’t, Nala reaches out, and exhale, relieved. “The fact you can do this may mean there isn’t anything enchanted mindfully—dammit, tradetalk, compelling you to keep it. If that remains the case through Clearwine we only have the potential tracking element to deal with. And of course if nobody else is compelled to take it. Similarly, if I start to go possessive, take it off me, please.”

Mellia quietly states, “I do not want the box. I think we might be wise to burn it, even though it is a thing of beauty.”

“I can do that. I would, however, do it over there, in case the fumes are…. harmful,” Nala replies.

Varanis glares sullenly at them both. Her face is flushed and her movements are stiff with anger. “Do with it as you will.” Saying nothing further, she walks away.

Berra looks over, considers, and goes back to sword practice. She is doing some sort of Greeting of the Dawn thing, although it tends to take her a while to do that. Maybe she talks slowly. The exercise will keep her there for a while.

Xenofos straps his cuirass on. Checks his weapons as he has been doing since Boldhome. Sits down crosslegged leaning to a tree and scribbles something to his journal. Reads it. Scans the campground with irritated look. Crosses over his writing and scribbles on.

And she storms past him, Varanis snaps out at Xenofos, “I’m going to practice until we are ready to leave. I will be fine.” Then she walks away and out of sight.

Interrupted of his work Xenofos cleans the quill and carefully closes the inkhorn. He lets the ink dry a little aided by some movement and fine sand he has in writing kit. Slowly he rises up and saddles the horse he calls his riding horse. He tells Berra he will have a look at surroundings and heads to the small hill nearby. Berra nods, and murmurs something to him. She does not try to stop him from going. From the hill, he seems to be scanning the surroundings without haste and perhaps making notes.

A little bit after Xenofos departs, Berra takes her sword – of course she does – and makes off the way Varanis went. Her body language does not indicate she has murder on the mind.

Nala and Mellia chat for a good long while after Varanis strops off. The conversation eventually ends in Mellia bursting into riotous laughter.

Varanis has taken herself away from everyone else for a while. She is angrily going through shieldless sword drills. In spite of her anger, her movements are fluid and practiced. Her feet are light on the ground and her sword flashes in the sunlight.

((V fails scan roll, B rolls Move quietly and hide, chained together – one special and one success))

Varanis notices nothing. She is too caught up in her anger and sword work. Finally, she seems to wind down. There’s no flourish at the end, no drama. Just a final, deadly strike and a sheathing of the sword. She stands, lightly on the balls of her feet, breathing.

At that point, Berra drops a foot onto a twig. She’s sitting against a tree with her sword across her knees, eyes only half on Varanis. She could have been there for any length of time.

Varanis spins in the direction of the sound, her hand returning to her hilt, but not drawing the sword. “Berra,” she says. Her voice gives little away.

((B fails an insight roll))

Berra smiles slightly. “That was good to watch,” she says. “Are you ready to come back?”

“Are we ready to leave?” comes the terse reply.

“No, but by now it is probably just us they are waiting on – and Xenofos who is casually patrolling a hillside that overlooks this place in case of sudden, unexpected enemies.” There is no demand in Berra’s tone, but it is more carefully controlled than usual.

Varanis looks up to see if she can spot Xenofos, but he isn’t in sight. “He’s always somewhere nearby,” she growls. “We should get back then, I suppose. I wouldn’t want to give anyone further cause for concern.” Her words are bitten off, her stance is combative, and her eyes suggest controlled fury.

“Well, I did consider giving you a target, but you’re probably not in that mood right now.” Berra stands, and buckles Wind Tooth onto her belt. “Did you eat yet?”

“No,” comes the reply, “though I think that was originally Mellia’s intention.”

Berra says, “I have jerky, a salted pear – which I have to admit always tastes better after exertion, but you still only get half – and water. You should eat. I can leave you too, if you prefer, or I can stay here. You don’t have to talk.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Varanis nods sharply. “Some food would be welcome, thank you.” Silence, then: “They either think I’m a thief or that I’m possessed,” she bursts out suddenly, her voice outraged.

Berra unbuckles her waterskin. That seems to be how her belts work – things buckle on and off to little fastenings. The pouch does not unbuckle, but it does open, and there are a couple of wrapped bundles inside. She pauses only for a moment as she unwraps one of the bundles to check on it. “Venison jerky. You can eat that, right?” She heard, but she has not replied yet.

Varanis accepts the food with a nod of thanks.

“You’re not possessed,” says Berra, “But I think you did get talked to by air spirits, or something else. You had a vision we didn’t.” She shrugs, and takes a slug of water.

“Either I took the cursed box because I am a spoiled thief who takes what isn’t hers or because I was and am possessed by some sort of spirit. Either way, I’m fucked.” The vulgar language isn’t something Berra is used to hearing pass the Vingan‘s lips. “I was just trying to apologize.” Varanis is so caught up in her own anger that she seems to have missed Berra’s words.

Berra sighs. “Well, in that case, Mellia got well and truly screwed on Kero Finn. Because when Air Spirits happened to us, that was holy.” She bites into the oozy salted pear, and then leans over forward to make sure none of the brownish juice gets on her armour. “Gamni’. Waktery onhe.” Damnit. Watery one.

Varanis blinks. “What?” Her anger gives way, at least partially, to confusion.

“We went up Kero Finn. When you get high enough, either Orlanth thins out as you climb through, or the Air Spirits start to get playful. We all saw visions. None of us saw what the others saw. Serala shot Koraki. And nobody called her anything after that, because everyone had had visions.” Berra’s expression is a little strained around the effort of talking and chewing. Unmannered peasant. Unmannered peasant who has climbed the tallest mountain in the world.

Varanis shakes her head, perhaps in disbelief, perhaps in denial. “This is different, Berra. As you say, no one called her names because everyone had visions. That wasn’t the case at the monument, was it? Just thieving Varanis, the greedy bitch.” Her voice is tight with bitterness.

“Mhm. I do think that Air Spirits are around you, in some way. Maybe you saw other things than what we saw. I don’t know. But I’m saying they … they may have forgotten how the visions took them, and how things were so real to them. Twice now, you have had a strange seeing. That’s the sort of number that comes after you’re already interested. So I think Mellia at the least should be reminded.” Berra wipes off a bit of juice from under her chin, and manages to wash her fingertips clean in the minimum of water.

Varanis chews on her jerky silently for a while. Finally, “We should get back. The others will be waiting and Xenofos should probably get down off that damned hill or wherever he is lurking now. We have a long way to go.”

Berra nods to that. “Salid. Salid would understand about visions. His was very important to him. Do you want me to talk to Mellia, and try to remind her?”
(( Now you’ve calmed down a bit, Insight Own Species? ))

Varanis shakes her head. “Right now, I don’t particularly want anything to do with my cousin.” She looks at Berra, and just for a moment, the betrayal and hurt that she is feeling is clear in her expression.
((Normal success))

Berra, in turn, looks worried. She also looks like she is holding something down inside her, not letting it out. It might be the salted pear, but it is probably an emotional thing. “Talk to Salid, then. He’s a thinker. A strange one.” She bows to her social superior, as a good warrior should when a matter is settled, and turns to lead the way, walking quietly right up until the point she trips over a root, yelps, and catches herself by a branch that breaks.
(( 00-0 on move silently! Heheh. ))

Varanis follows without speaking.
((Too self-centred right now to respond to Berra’s emotional turmoil))

Berra does have to climb back up, shake herself off, and try not to look embarrassed, but she then does lead the way out competently, like a bodyguard should.
(( Well, that is why we love you. ))

The Vingan and Humakti return eventually, looking no worse for wear.

Berra looks like she took a fall, or else was kneeling on leaf litter. She seems unworried by this, and just goes straight to her horse to get ready to go.

Varanis looks more sullen than furious, by this point. To those paying close attention, she seems to be nursing hurt feelings and wounded pride. Her stiff movements and the way that she avoids making eye contact with anyone indicates a desire to be left alone.