Varanis — 1626 0650 Baths Bruises
Context from Varanis’ perspective
After far too much wrestling, Varanis makes her escape and encounters Mellia. Mellia helps her make her way back to the White Grape.
Show conversation with Mellia
Varanis takes some time to debrief with Berra. Berra wants her to know that at least one of the risks she took could have had consequences. They also spend some time talking about nudity taboos.
Show conversation with Berra
Varanis, having bathed, dressed, and eaten one bowl of stew, heads down to the common room at the White Grape. She’s on the hunt for something sweet to eat.
Berra is just coming up the stairs, looking less bruised than Varanis was, but a little bit ragged around the edges. She stops, backs up, and steps neatly sideways at the bottom. She points to Varanis without explanation – it could be pointing her out to someone, it could be she wants a talk, it could be there is a spot on Varanis’ clothes.
Varanis raises an eyebrow in question.
Berra gives a brief, close-mouthed smile. The scar hardly pulls at her lip at all. She mimes an action of drinking.
Varanis nods and turns to Rondrik. “Beer, wine, and something sweet. Pastry if you have it.” She turns back to Berra, looks at the common room, the stairs, and back at the Humakti, a question in her eyes.
The word ‘pastry’ seems to be new to the inkeeper, but he calls for his wife to bring honey cake as well as beer and wine. Berra says, “I’ll bring it up. Onto a tray,” she tells the man.
The tray is handed to Berra and Varanis leads the way back up the stairs. First door on the right. The room is a bit of a mess. There’s a tub of cooling water, an open bag with clothing, and dirty dishes on the table. “Sorry!” Varanis pushes the dishes to one side and invites Berra to use one of the chairs.
“About what? We didn’t get to that bit yet.” Berra looks confused, but puts the train down. She lifts up her beer, empties the tray, and puts it upside-down on the dishes, revealing the crude carving work on the bottom. The wavy effect of an adze is still visible, and she runs her hand over it.
“The mess…. wait. What? What else do I need to apologize for now?” Varanis watches Berra with a mix of confusion and consternation on her face.
“I’m not going to ask for an apology, but… you should not have provoked Rajar. Not after he was starting to calm down.” Berra pours wine for Varanis. “I hadn’t realised how seriously he would take that.”
“The water?” Varanis shrugs. “He was calm enough. He didn’t kill me, after all. And he cheated!”
“No. Not really. He fought.” Berra looks serious about that, but casually cuts the lump of honey-cake in half, and holds it over her hand. It is enough for two – Rondrik interpreted the order generously.
“But he used magic. I think… well, I felt like he would have actually killed me if I hadn’t escaped, in spite of his words before we began.” She laughs then. “But no one died. And he was magnificent.”
“He was, yes. He was very good. But it’s hard for him to stop fighting, and we need to let him know when he should do so. What if next time he decides to keep going, because he thinks you might?” Berra takes a bite of the cake. “He would not have killed you on purpose. That’s what we ask of him. This is *very* sweet.”
Varanis looks vaguely mulish for a moment, then shrugs it off. “I won’t throw water on him again, unless the situation calls for it. What I should have done was dismiss the magic from the start.”
“Definitely, yes, learn from it. I will too. But he needs to be able to trust us to give him a clear ending, and a clear start. His rage does not give to reason.” She grins. “I like that. But not from in front.”
“Was there a clear start?” Varanis asks archly. “I recall being mid sentence when attacked.” She picks up a piece of the honey cake, eyes it a moment, and takes a bite. Her eyes glaze over with satisfaction.
“I think he would say there was, but I think I *know* when it was. It was when he said he wouldn’t use his axe. Still, he’s not us, and we need to remember that.” Berra does not seem overly satisfied with the cake, although she is eating it.
“Fine. I will learn from this,” the Vingan mumbles around the cake.
Berra nods. “Thank you. He’ll be better if we do. And you were amazing! I don’t think I’d have managed to hold him.”
This is met with a huge grin. “I felled him like a tree!”
“Where your feet were, it made the Beast Rune. I… well, he’s… heh. You didn’t get any strange bruises that won’t heal, did you?” She looks suddenly worried, like something has occurred to her.
Varanis looks confused. “I don’t know… I haven’t actually tried healing anything. They are just bruises and I figured they’d heal themselves soon enough. You should see the one you gave me! It’s a good handspan, centred on my thigh.” She laughs.
Berra perks up. “Oh, I love those! Showing them off. As long as I can still move. You’d have spitted us both with that last attack, and I think you might have survived better than I did.”
Varanis laughs and leaps up from where she’s sitting and says, “Look at this! It’s impressive!” She drops her trousers to show off the large bruise on her right thigh. It’s already a deep purple. Her legs are already showing a number of other, smaller bruises, but that one is really spectacular.
Berra smiles widely, the scar making a difference now. Not much of one, but it’s there. “I got off without many,” she says. “Although taking off my armour for wrestling seems strange.”
“At home, it is standard practice. If you can throw people without having easy handholds, it becomes much easier when they are wearing things to grab onto. We usually use oil too.” Varanis grins broadly. “It’s very enjoyable to watch,” she adds with a wink.
“It’s a Rite of Humakt. He taunts Eurmal who attacks him, and takes the Death from him. It’s already a Sword, although Humakt makes it into the shape of one. I can’t explain that to you in more words if you don’t know, but there is definitely armour involved. They are a long way from home.”
Varanis nods and takes another bite of honey cake. After she swallows and sighs with pleasure, she notes “Xenofos surprised me. I’d forgotten how good he was.”
“He was, definitely,” Berra says. “It was good to watch you two together. His control of his body was really good, once he got going.” More cake, washed down with beer.
“He’s subtle too. There were moments when I thought I had him, but he’d counter in just the right way.” She shakes her head in both disbelief and admiration.
“He’s well trained, and he’s practiced. I’m glad we had that time.” Berra considers her cake and then takes a big bite, and swallows it with an effort.
“You know, I lost more than I won today, but… I’m good with that. My opponents were all better than me, and I made them work for it. If Vinga can be accepted into Orlanth’s war band without winning all the competitions, then I can accept today’s outcomes with good grace.” She looks thoughtful. Then she looks at Berra. “You don’t have to eat that if you don’t like it.”
Berra looks down at it. “I … I’m … how can you eat something this sweet? It’s like choking on honey!”
Varanis just smiles and reaches for Berra’s remaining cake with a questioning look.
Berra hands it over, as she had not found herself a plate. Then she licks her hand a lot. “I might have to use your bath water,” she notes. “Or else be very sticky for a while.”
“Do you want a fresh bath? I can have hot water brought up,” Varanis offers.
“Not really. I was going to go for a run to clear my head, although I need to wait a little now, after that cake.” Berra’s dusty hair could do with cleaning, but at least her general hygiene is good.
“I should run after eating that cake, or I’ll get soft. But I’m clean right now and enjoying that.” After a pause she says “I didn’t think about how people would react to me stripping. The rules are different around here?”
“In general, we’re only naked for sacred dances, although you get a few exceptions. It’s … unexpected. Definitely Southern, daring, and modern. Also, don’t you get squashed? Have you never used a chest wrap?”
Varanis shakes her head. “You’ve seen the dresses women wear in Esrolia. A chest wrap would look rather odd with them.”
“I have. Do you want to?”
Varanis shrugs. “Does it make much of a difference?” she asks with curiosity.
“If you’re really jumping around? Yes. It’s tighter, and you have to get used to breathing with it, but there’s less bounce.” Berra looks down but has her armour on, so she just taps it. “I wouldn’t want to go without, I think.”
Varanis looks thoughtful, then agrees. “I’ll try it. But if it constricts my air, I don’t know if I’ll like it.”
“I’ll get you one, and show you how to put it on. You don’t have to like it, but it’ll cause less staring if you’re wrestling again. Or running up the Long Ramp.”
“I don’t care much about who stares,” Varanis responds with a shrug. “If it helps, I’ll use it. If it hinders, I won’t.” She keeps coming back to the day’s work. “I need to work more with a spear. It’s a traditional Vingan weapon, but Grandmother insisted I focus on rapier and the High Priestess allowed her that demand.”
“You’re already new. Give people reasons to like you, not to wonder about you.” Berra leans back. “I am pretty good with spear and shield,” she allows. “But Salid might be better. If you really want to cause a stir, invite the Trollkin along.”
“You are saying that my breasts would cause people to wonder about me? How very…. Sartarite.” Disbelief colours the words.
“Are you saying that people in Esrolia keep their breasts on display?” Berra grins a reply, smacks her lips, and has another drink of beer.
Varanis laughs. “Fair point,” she acknowledges.
With the cake gone, and the beer halfway finished, Berra pours herself another beer, and falls into silence.
“Berra… I meant to ask you earlier, but forgot. You mentioned a beast rune?”
“Uh, yes.” Berra comes up from whatever she was thinking about. “Did I tell you about the Heroquest at Whitewall? I forget.”
Varanis shakes her head. “You told me a bit about Whitewall, but not about a Heroquest.”
“Right. So. The Dead had not been laid to rest there. I’ll tell you more than you need to know, for this, so you know more about the details. The High Sword of Boldhome and one of his swords – D’Val – had rededicated the temple there, but the spirits had not been sent to the next world. So many had been slaughtered there, that there was still a drought – vampires had taken up residence in the old, defiled temples, which were all the Lunars had left atop the place. So… Tennebris wanted us to go on the quest we did ultimately follow, but I had an immediate solution, and I suggested it. The Quest of Humakt the Champion. The High Sword – who had no authority to command me in this, I have to add – took that as volunteering. And I was damned if I was backing down, because he obviously didn’t like me, and he definitely didn’t like D’Val.”
Varanis listens raptly, taking a sip of her long forgotten wine.
“He… arranged it.” Berra picks her words carefully. “I don’t know if he wanted me to fail, or to do badly, or to rise to the challenge. And I’d rather be run through than ask him. But that’s where we met Koraki. He’d arrived to help take … well, to rule the place for the moment as an Orlanthi Wind Lord. He was foreign but that didn’t matter – he was accepted. Eril …. uh, the High Sword… selected an Orlanth from the Fyrd – one who could probably not fight me like I could fight him, which is important. But he didn’t know I had friends there.” Berra’s face brightens up, losing the veneer of tiredness and picking up an overlay that is pure happiness. Her moods, like the Vingan’s, change quickly. “Rajar went to get volunteers. The fyrd. Villagers. Passers-by. He rounded them up by waving an axe and telling them it was volunter vlun…… telling them they were allowed not to. And the fyrdsman came to see Mellia, and Mellia took him, along with me, to ask the help of the Windlord. She’s a white lady – how could he refuse a favour from a Lightbringer? So he put a glove over his silver hand, and a borrowed helmet on his head, and I had a fit Orlanth to try to command me.”
“And then we started. Rajar was one of the Fyrdsmen. That was good, because for the first moment I was taken and I didn’t really expect to strike as hard as I did, but he was tough. And then it got to the fight with Orlanth, and the end of the fight. I expected the bodies to rise, or something like that, but one of the vampire women we had killed formed instead. One of those had already once brought me low, and I’d just been fighting against Koraki for… probably two hours. I genuinely could not stand up. It was going to kill me, and I was going to fail. Maybe the High Sword would have saved me – probably Koraki could have and cared enough – but I couldn’t. Then Rajar cast Berserk on me.”
Varanis sucks in a breath, but remains silent. She is listening intently.
“Yes. So anyway, when the vampire was in bits, I turned to find other enemies, saw Orlanth, and remembered I could not slay him. I came out of the holy rage, straight into the state of exhaustion, without lifting a hand against him, and Koraki finished the quest with a speech about how I had defended him and was worthy. And that got rid of most of the problem. Not all of them, but most could leave, and the vampires had been defeated there. But not by Humakt alone. But the rains could come, which means I think of it as a success. I don’t think the High Sword does, and I know what he means. I personally failed, but together we managed it, and next time I’ll know more, be more prepared. Only as I fell, I struck my head on a rock, although it would have had to be a strange one, because I had a bruise like a Beast Rune on my forehead for over a season, unhealing.”
“That is strange,” Varanis says in the silence that follows the story.
“Yes. He’d put his mark on the story, added his Rage to it. I don’t think you’ll have one, but I worried for a moment.” Berra shrugs. “I… given the Wolf as well, I personally want to avoid strengthening the Beast within me.”
Varanis smiles. “I’m far too civilized for the Beast to take root in me,” she says confidently.
“If it ever does, can I remind you of this?”
Varanis laughs. “Yes. Will I listen? Probably.”
Berra looks to the door. “I should go. But suddenly the seat got comfortable.”
“You can stay as long as you want to. I’ve said before, you can move your bedroll up here. I’ll even tidy. I’ve been meaning to pay Rondrik’s girl to do my washing for me anyway.”
“After a thing that happened in Wilmskirk, I sort of like the common room. It reminds me to behave well.” Berra gets upright without apparent effort, and runs her hands through her hair. “It’s nice not to have to comb it forwards any more,” she says on her way to the door.
The morning after a marathon of wrestling, Varanis has sat down to breakfast at the White Grape. She was waiting for Xenofos, because she wants to talk about their own [[[berra:wrestling-practice-05 |bout]]], or at least the outcome.
Show conversation with Xenofos
“You had some things to discuss milady?”
Varanis looks up from her breakfast and waves to the seat across from her. “Join me?”
Checking the peaceful environs Xenofos puts his rapier by his side on the bench, adjusts his armour more comfortably and sits down.
“Yesterday’s training…” Varanis starts, hesitates a moment, and then continues. “It was good. *You* were good. I’m sorry I over-reacted at the beginning. I thought you were commenting on me running from Rajar.”
“I gathered as much, a bit late though. But you know me, foot in the mouth Xeno as they called me at old Nochet prep school.”
Varanis nods. “That’s true, but these are challenging times and it’s good to be clear with people. Secrets, anger, or resentment between us would be dangerous, cousin. And while I would hope that you would trust me to be reasonable, I also wanted to make sure you would have no reason to doubt it.” The words are serious, lacking any levity. It’s obvious that this matters to her.
“You have promised to be a good lady. I have no reason to doubt you will hold to your word. I have promised my service and council. I will keep that. If I would think you treat me unlike good lady it would be my council and service to tell you this.”
Varanis reaches her hand out, laying it over Xenofos’ hand as it rests on the table. “Thank you. Now, I have promised service at the Temple today, so I should go. I’ll see you later.”