VS 047 Painting the town red

Varanis — 1626 0678 Lanasha

????, Fire Season


Context

Fire Season, sometime after arriving in Nochet. Something about being in this city brings out the worst in Varanis. [[[s01:session-34|After session 34]]]

Events

The Temple of Vinga is often subject to eddies of wind, pushing banners about and sometimes descending to whip the hair of and cloaks of those passing through. Today, the wind is mostly still, boiled into lifelessness by the hot sun, without even the strength to cool the practice yard. Silence rules there, although a few hardy souls are exercising alone, in fragments of shade that they have stolen from Yelm by the walls.

The long walk from gate to steps is disturbed only by the fall of the fountain, and even that is much reduced. Those foolish enough to be called hardy are moving slowly, taxing their muscles in ways that will not bring out an instant sweat.

Varanis makes her way towards the steps, leaving the guard who accompanied her standing outside the gate. She is dressed simply, at least for her. Her armour is being cleaned back at House Saiciae, so she is dressed in a light tunic suitable for the heat. Her hair is once again piled on her head in the Saiciae style, which thankfully gets much of it off the back of her neck.1Varanis tries and fails a scan roll.


The light changes to the right of Varanis, a shadow cast on the ground there, and a voice says with a giggle, “I know you.” Lanasha floats into view, walking a foot above the ground, a casual vision in informal white robes. Varanis gets given a little wave.

“Given we’ve fought beside each other more than once, the last time only last season, I should hope so, Lanasha,” Varanis replies. There’s humour in her tone, but it’s edged.

“Yes, but I had to guess from behind. Are you back for good now?” Lanasha has the happy look of a Vingan in flight, and her smile is dimpled.

Varanis shakes her head. “No,” she answers simply, smiling in return. There’s something contagious about the other woman’s happiness.

Lanasha only slumps a little bit. “Well, we’ll miss you. Again. Why are you back? Did you bring bodyguards? Are people still trying to kill you? Do you want armed company?”

Varanis laughs. “You are full of questions! Grandmother prefers I keep some protection around me, especially when I’m out on my own. So yes, I’ve got a guard waiting at the gate. And company is welcome.” She considers Lanasha a moment, then asks seriously, “Has there been any other Lunar activity in Nochet since the incident at the Tower last season?”

Lanasha glances to the gate. “Nothing that worries anyone,” she says. “The main movements were against them. It was a good excuse. We did well, huh?”

“We did. You are very effective in close quarters. It was good to have you there with us.” Her words are frank and admiring.

Lanasha blushes, and runs a hand through her hair. “How long will you be? Should I go armour up?” The flight spell lets her pirouette in the air, showing off. “I’m just coming off patrol. Can you tell?”

“I came to pray and to pay my respects to High Priestess Leika. I shouldn’t be too long. Do we patrol in robes now?” Varanis raises her eyebrow meaningfully.

Lanasha winks. “If people are trying to see up the dress, they’re not getting into trouble elsewhere. Roof patrol.” She raises her eyebrow too, in something like a challenge. “Why, do you think I should wear something more revealing?”

Varanis laughs. “No, you’re gorgeous as you are, and you know it. I’d just hate to see a Lunar assassin make holes in you.”

“Well, if we are going to be going out together, I can put my armour on, but it’s heavy and hot, and I’d hate to get sweaty for nothing. Speaking of hot – where’s Berra?”

“Last I saw her, she was making preparations to go to Prax, so she’s likely extremely hot now.”2Varanis’ player is asked to roll on insight. Roll is successful.

Lanasha looks confused. “Yes, that is very hot,” she says uncertainly. “But she’s not in Esrolia? I thought she would come back with you.” There is definitely disappointment hiding under the confusion, but she is covering it well.

“She had something she needed to take care of in Prax,” Varanis says with a shrug. “So she went there with Rajar, the big Storm Bull you met when they were here last.”

Lanasha nods. “Anyhow. You were going to go in, and I was going to get into armour. And then company and things!” Back to being chipper and up-beat. Lanasha is impossible to keep down.

“I promised to go to the market for Berra. Perhaps you could join me?” Varanis asks before the other Vingan floats away.

“Yes, yes, of course!” Lanasha comes down to land. “What does she want? Something totally unreasonable, right?” There’s a cute little eye-roll to go with that.

Varanis laughs. “No,” she says shaking her head. “Dried fruit for her Sword. He has a taste for Esrolian fruit, apparently.”

The look on Lanasha’s face is suddenly a brave one, over despondency. “I heard about him,” she says clearly. “Them. I wish them the best of luck, of course. But I do think she could have told me herself.”

Varanis blinks, looking confused. “He is her mentor and teacher,” she says. “He’s a Duck and a Humakti. He makes her meditate a lot, which she complains about, but he seems to be a good teacher for her.”

Lanasha stares. “He’s a DUCK? That’s… that’s really disgusting. How could she?”

“What?! What are you implying?” Varanis looks at Lanasha aghast.3Interjection from GM: ((Once you’ve had quack, you always come back))

“I’ve heard about them – it’s all up and down the River. And now I know why. All the news from Sartar comes in from Duck Point first.” Lanasha shudders, feet solidly on the ground.

“That’s ridiculous! There is nothing like that going on. I’ve been with Berra for a season. I would know if there was anything more than teaching going on and there is not.” Varanis’ tone is entirely dismissive.

Lanasha huffs. “I thought I knew her too. She was going to be a Vingan. I was going to ask her to marry me – and then she just upped and walked out one day!”

“She is entirely Humakt’s,” Varanis says. “She’s no Vingan. But I have the highest respect for her.”

Lanasha pouts. “Well, really. No accounting for taste, I suppose. Anyway. You’re going to go pray. I’ll go get dressed for the market, and we can both pretend that I don’t know who we’re buying treats for. How’s that?” She gives a pretty, determined smile.

Varanis nods and heads into the temple.

Varanis prays to Vinga. She also asks to speak to the High Priestess, but Leika is away from the temple for the afternoon. She decides to look for Leika again on her way back through Nochet later. She steps from the relative cool interior of the temple, back into the oppressive heat of Nochet in Fire Season.

Heat shimmer dances over the temple grounds, the practice yard, the fountain, and the vision in white and bronze who is practicing soaring over the tracks of previous practice. Lanasha is making graceful arcs in the air, twirling and twisting. She takes a few moments to spot Varanis and come in to land.

Varanis smiles appreciatively, as she watches the other woman. “Hello again,” she says by way of greeting.

Lanasha smiles her generous smile. “Survived, I see? And I’m armoured, and ready to play the part of a bodyguard, and there is… fruit… in the future. Can’t you get a servant to do that, while we do something fun?”


Varanis arches an eyebrow. “What did you have in mind, Lanasha?”

“There’s a place I think might be a Eurmali temple I want to look at, and the Gates of Life and Death have some really cute guards right now, or we could try to get Storm Bulls to chase us, or a friend owes me a drink and she’s really cute and you might like her.” Lanasha lists all those things as equal.

Varanis laughs out loud at the outlandish list. “I made a promise to Berra, and I won’t foist it off on someone else. But, we could get the errand done and then pick something from your list. I know you can fly, but if you can bear to put up with me climbing, we could go by way of the rooftops. That will give me an excuse to ditch Ostranor.” 4Water Rune roll says make stupid choices.

“You have a guard who can fly now,” Lanasha points out. “So I could climb or just wait for you at the top. Can Ostranor climb?”

“I don’t know. And I don’t intend to ask.” Varanis winks and then saunters to the gate, where the guard waits outside. “You can return to House Saiciae now. I am well-protected here. Let them know I’ll be back before too late.” She turns away again without waiting for an answer.

“No,” says Ostranor. That’s all he says.

Varanis looks back in astonishment. “No?” she says. There is a sudden chill, as though the question was posed by Inora herself.

Lanasha sighs, pouting at Ostranor.

“No,” the guard repeats. This time he adds, “That’s an order you can’t give me.”

The air around the Vingan crackles and she snarls something in Stormspeech. Then with no further discussion, she jumps, up and over the wall. And then again, up and onto the roof of the building nearest her. It seems that she is assuming Lanasha will follow.5Rolled Air twice – once for pride, score critical, and once for rune spell.

Ostranor does not try to stop Varanis, but he does go straight for Lanasha, and he does it hands up, arms out, aiming to stop her doing exactly the same thing. Lanasha rises up into the air, is caught, and stopped by his weight, but he has not managed to drag her down. “YOU BLOODY IDIOT,” he yells, and that is probably not at the woman he is grasping.

Lanasha laughs, a clear sound of joy from the struggle.

Varanis looks back over her shoulder and scowls. She leaps back, aiming herself directly at Ostranor.6Successful roll on jump, to control the landing.

Ostranor is hit, and falls, and Lanasha slides away from him and laughs, rising. The guard bounces along the road a little. Ostranor comes to a halt on his left side, groaning. Lanasha floats gently up onto the nearby roof.

Varanis leaps up to the top of the wall and looks down to see what kind of condition he is in. “You still in one piece?” she calls down, with no hint of apology.

Ostranor is definitely awake, but is not getting up. His face is drawn in pain, and as he rolls onto his back, his arm pains him and he stops moving. The angle of the hand indicates a broken wrist, and he is not enjoying his day. “WHAT IN HELL?” he shouts up. “WHAT?”

“He’ll be fine,” Lanasha calls. “Just bones.”

Varanis curses, but leaps down. “I can’t break him and leave him, Lanasha.” She cautiously steps in range of the injured guard. “Let me look at it.”

Ostranor glares up at her, and bites back what might be a curse.

Lanasha comes down to hover nearby. “Heal him and be done?” she suggests. “He’s boring.”

She crouches down beside him. “This is going to hurt.” With a deep breath, she grasps his hand and arm and pulls the hand slowly into alignment.7Thank Vinga. Rolled 1 on First Aid.

Ostranor shouts out as yes, it does indeed hurt. Lanasha winces, but says nothing. It seems she is looking out for any trouble heading that way, for she is twirling in the air a few feet above the ground.

Then she concentrates, curses, and concentrates again. Healing magic spreads from her hands to his wrist.8Took a couple of rolls to get success.

And then Ostranor grabs for her, too. “Ungrateful little bitch! I’m not here for your fun!”9Varanis rolls 17 on dodge, the guard fails his wrestling roll.

Varanis leaps out of the way easily. “You laid hands on a Vingan without her permission. You have repeatedly insulted a noble of House Saiciae. Get out of my sight.” The words are laden with fury and contempt.

Ostranor stands up, and repeats again, “No. I’ve got orders.” It is petulant and angry, but he is standing up and not backing down.

“Lanasha, let’s go.” Varanis turns her back on him dismissively and leaps to the rooftop. She takes off at a run.

Lanasha does just that, flying up and then landing to run lightly along the rooftop herself. “Wheeeeee!”

Behind them, Ostranor swears effusively. That would be the volcano sort of effusive, and not the happy, glad kind.

Varanis runs and leaps aiming for random rooftops until she runs her rage away. Finally, she stops. Her braids are disheveled and her tunic is stuck to her back. “That man….” She spits out a curse.

Lanasha giggles. “Oh, but his face when you hit him! He had no clue, and then he was going sideways!” She makes a sideways-shoved-surprise face.

“He had no right to grab you.”

“Well, no. He’s lucky there were no Babeester Gor in the crowd. But I guess he’s gone. He was trying to follow us for a bit. Do you think… he likes me?”

Varanis laughs suddenly, helplessly. When she finally catches her breath, she says, “I don’t know. All I can say is that right now, he really doesn’t like me. The market is close, let’s go find the fruit.” She shoves a lock of hair behind her ear.

Lanasha springs off the eaves of a building and floats down into a busy road. “Don’t expect me to catch you! You’re chubby!”

Varanis howls in outraged laughter and leaps from the building. She lands a little too close to a young woman carrying two overloaded baskets, causing the woman to yelp and drop one. “Sorry!” Varanis says, still laughing. She stops to pick up the vegetables that had fallen out of the basket. The woman stares in confusion, unused to long-legged Vingans falling from the sky.

There are a few flashed looks of irritation, but as Varanis is helping to tidy up, they become looks of gratitude, and soon the baskets are upright and being hauled along again. “Well. What sort of thing are we after?” Lanasha wants to know. “And how soon does she need to have it?”

“Bars of dried fruit, like apricot. Something similar with pepper. And when I see her next, I guess.” Varanis shrugs. “There’s a stall over here somewhere, I think.” Varanis takes off, striding through the crowd. “Keep up!” The words are a teasing challenge.

“I know what she likes,” Lanasha volunteers. “Anything with acacia honey in. She’s mad for it. Especially nut and seed mixes.” The armoured woman floats rather than walking in the crowd, letting Varanis do all the work. “Sure.”

“Definitely something with honey. Over here!” Varanis has found a booth laden with dried bars of fruit of various sorts. “This one, and this one, and oh… maybe some of these?” She enthusiastically picks out more than Berra asked for. “Can you pack them for travel, please?” As the vendor packs up her selections, Varanis looks to see if Lanasha has any other suggestions.

Lanasha is tasting all of the bars, with a little knife and an expression of gratitude towards the stallholder. “She likes really intense flavours. Things that carry you away. This one’s wonderful. It bites back. She’ll love it.” Lanasha picks up two and then pauses. “I should get her something too.”

Varanis spots some dried apples, piled in a basket at the corner of the stall. “Oh, some of those too!” And she nods at Lanasha’s selections too. In the end, she ends up with a rather substantial package. There’s a bit of bargaining, but Varanis leaves with a satisfied smile.1021/40 for bargain roll. “What’s next?” She turns to Lanasha with a broad grin.

Lanasha pays for several things herself, and does so with a happy smile, not paying much attention to prices, but more for what she is putting into a basket she has borrowed. “We take these to your… we take these to my house, and then we go get drunk with the guards from the Gates of Life and Death?”

“Got robes that will fit me? Mine are a little damp. And then yes, let’s go meet these guards.”

“I’ve got something loose that ties up. It’ll do. Nothing as nice as yours, of course.” With the air of someone who knows how she is walking, Lanasha prowls through the thinning crowd. “I live a little way away, but it’s a nice walk. Parks, and a lovely cemetery.”

“It’ll be fine, I’m sure.” She strides confidently along beside the other Vingan, enjoying the neighbourhood. “As long as it’s light.”

There are indeed nice parks, and the cemetery is brightly painted and well looked after, with shrines to ancestors here and mausoleums there. Lanasha cannot keep her mouth shut for long. She points out various interesting features in the miniature town of the dead, and then gets curious. “What’s it like in Sartar right now? Is that where you’re taking all this stuff? You’re going to need a mule!”

“It’s hot in Sartar too, though not as hot as here. There’s a lot of preparation for coming conflict. And yes, I’m going to take this to Sartar. It’ll be fine. I have good horses.” Varanis has been enjoying the varied views of the route Lanasha has chosen. Now she looks at Lanasha with curiosity. “You have a lot of questions, don’t you?”

“I do. I’m incurably nosy, and I talk a lot, but at least I’m generous and brave.” Lanasha smiles in her dimpled way. “And I know all the best rooftops for views, and I’ve got a great silhouette. You?”

Varanis laughs again. “Hmmmm…. I’ve been called impetuous and proud a time or two. And that’s when people are being polite.” Varanis’ grin is mischievous. “I have some favourites rooftops too, but the best view comes from the top of the Storm Gate.”

“This way.” Lanasha points to a square, almost cubic building, standing on its own in a tiny patch of grass. “We’ll go up the stairs for once. It’s only one flight.”

The building looks cozy. Varanis says nothing, looking around with curiosity as she accompanies Lanasha.

The stairs are rickety and the door at the top is a sheet of hide, and there are no guards. Lanasha presses a couple of signs on door-frame and says, “Come in. There are magical protections but you’re a Vingan, and you’re with me.” Inside is a tiny room cluttered with beautiful things, and a layer of dust on the ones least used. The floor is almost bare, but shelves have been put up and boxes pressed into service, and even the ceiling hangs things down on fine threads. There are tiny models and beaded necklaces and mounted weapons and painted plates, all around. The mat in the middle of the room is woven rushes with an air rune on, and the bed that is to one side is sized, very definitely, for one person.

Varanis looks around, taking in the details. “You have an eye for beauty,” she observes, a finger gently reaching out to stroke one tiny carved figure of a shadow cat.

“I can’t help it. I see things I like and I need to have them. It’s a flaw of mine.” Lanasha sashays over to a shelf to pull off a pile of dresses. “Anything that takes your fancy. Except the little white one with the blue trim. That’s special.” The basket gets left on her bed, as she turns her attention to the next thing.

Varanis selects a short white tunic with green and blue trim. She shucks her own sweaty tunic, exposing her Blue Tree tattoo, and leaving her in a short loin cloth and the breast wrapping she’s taken to wearing. Folding her tunic, she puts it with her wrapped bundle of dried fruit.

“You have gone native,” Lanasha says quietly. “But those are fun to unwrap.” There is a smile on her face, but the happiness has drained from it for a moment.

Varanis looks down at herself. “Oh… right. Sartarites can be rather prudish.” She slides on the garment she has selected. It’s a little short, but not shockingly so. Otherwise, the fit is acceptable.

“Berra always used to… always used to…” Lanasha throws herself onto the bed, almost displacing the basket. “Oh, what’s the use? I can’t even remember how she used to blush, I just know she did.” From her tone, the other Vingan is working herself up into a solid sulk.

Varanis turns a sympathetic gaze on Lanasha. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen her blush,” she admits. “She’s very fierce.”

Lanasha grabs at the pile of dresses to hug them. “Was it my fault? I would have given her anything! I just wanted to make her happy…”

Varanis shakes her head. “I don’t think so. Honestly, I think her feet were on the path to Humakt when her mother died.”

“So I was just a stepping stone. Great!” Lanasha heaves a sigh. “Should I have joined her clan too?”

“Joining the clan was more Kallyr’s idea than anything else, I think.” Varanis shrugs. “Come on, let’s find a drink and someone with a great smile.” The noblewoman tries to tuck more strands of hair behind her ears, with little success at making herself look less disheveled.

Lanasha manages another big sigh, and bravely sits up. “It’s not the same without her. She was so serious. You could tell her anything, and I had to work so hard not to, all the time…” Then she shrugs. “It’s fine. Her decision.” It is completely and totally not fine, but at least the Vingan gets to her feet. “I miss her.”

“I don’t know if it helps, but she seems to be entirely dedicated to Humakt and finds reward in that dedication. She is thriving. And you obviously enjoy Vinga’s blessings. You are beautiful, of course, but even more so in the air. You make it look so effortless.”

“It doesn’t help,” Lanasha replies sharply. “I wanted to help her, not just be stepped on on the way. Let’s go get drunk.” Her pretty face has the look of someone determined to see that plan through. “You go out first. I’ll race you to the gate. No flying or leaping.”

With no further discussion, Varanis bolts out the door, laughter and loose locks of hair trailing behind.

They race to the Gate and begin an evening of rabble-rousing. Within a few hours, Lanasha is drunk, and trying to kiss everyone, including Varanis, as she shows off to the one person she is not kissing, a short, dark-haired guard with a big Death Rune on her shield and an expression of bemusement.

Varanis is giggling and half-heartedly pushing Lanasha away. “Enough! I should go home. I’m supposed to be leaving for Rhigos tomorrow.”


Lanasha sighs, and then winks. “It’s fine. I can take a hint.” She eyeballs the short woman off to one side. “Besides, I think I see someone who’ll blush… wait, RHIGOS?”

Varanis nods. “I need to collect one of my cousins. It won’t take long.”

Lanasha squeal-giggles. “I should go… I …” Then she hiccoughs. “Or I should go home.” She swings over towards the short not-a-Humakti, and sits down. “So. How lucky do you want to get tonight?”

Varanis watches her fellow Vingan, apparently bewildered at being so completely abandoned. “I should definitely go home,” she murmurs. She tosses back the rest of her drink, carefully, so carefully setting the cup on the table. She rises, wobbling a bit, and looks at Lanasha one more time.

(( Insight Human? -10 because of the wobble but 25 because Lanasha is very easy to read when drunk. ))
((39/35 without doing the math, so…. 39/50 if I get the modifiers you are proposing.))

Lanasha is leaning towards the guard, who is looking towards Varanis in something like confusion. Lanasha looks that way, says, “Oh, someone else’s girlfriend. Not mine. She’s a grown-up. We can take it from here.” ([footnote]]Insight: Lanasha’s drinking away her emotions, and is about to take home someone to help her forget.[[/footnote]]

Varanis rolls her eyes. “No one’s girlfriend, but still a grown-up. Have fun and play nicely.” With a wicked grin and a wink at the pair of them, Varanis heads for the door. Before she opens it, she stops and sighs. Then she mumbles the words to check for enemies. ((Spell passes))

Nobody out there wants her harmed, which is lucky, because it is a hot evening and it would be terrible to have to fight in it. Behind her there is a giggle as Lanasha falls into the lap of her new friend. “Good catch…” Outside there is the hubbub of the road by one of the great gates of Nochet.

“Right, home.” Varanis looks around. “That way.” She draws herself upright, doing her best to appear sober. She tucks loose tendrils of hair behind her ears. “Yes. That way.” She heads in the direction of House Saiciae.

The walk is warm, but not too sweaty. It’s Nochet, and she is used to it, and for fire season, the heat is too fierce. The walk is long enough that she sobers up a little, but she’s definitely still rather tipsy on arrival. As she nears the gate, she pauses to attempt to tidy her hair and smooth her tunic.11Successful scan roll Close to the house, there are people on the roof, and a strange dip in the road – and the dip is coming closer, at a slow pace. She peers at the dip in the road, trying to make sense of what her eyes are seeing.

The cobbled surface of the road is breaking up and grinding towards her, and it is between her at the gate. Definitely, a disturbance in the earth. The road is going to need some pretty hefty repairs.12Successful Detect enemy spell. There is nothing here that wishes Varanis harm.

Varanis jumps back, trying to get out of the path and sobering a little more as she faces this possible threat. It moves towards her, slowly. It is not as fast as she is, but it is in the way. The Vingan watches it warily. She looks up to scan the nearby rooftops, to assess the nature of that threat too. That looks like a couple of house guards, up there on watch, rather further out than they usually would be. Still, nothing registers as a threat.

“Shit,” she mutters. Then she stands her ground.

And then the earth elemental reaches out to engulf her. Varanis leaps sideways, dodging the elemental.13Successful dodge roll, even with -10 for drunkenness She doesn’t draw her knife, but she watches the elemental warily.

It comes for her again, patient, with a shape that hulks female, rocky and trollish, and slow, but sure. Above, nobody calls out and nobody helps her.14Successful attack. The earth keeps opening up nearby.

“Shit,” she mutters again. “Look, I’m going back. I’m almost there. Back off.” This is directed at the elemental.15Damnit. Totally failed that dodge.

The Talosi groans, like stone creaking under pressure, and then Varanis is pulled downwards, and there are lots of sharp stones in the earth, but nothing hits her hard enough to break bones. She is just drawn down, and held.

The Vingan curses even more, but doesn’t struggle.

Only then does Serzeen show herself. She walks out of the gate, with Orstanor by her, and her axe casually in her hand.

Taking deep breaths, or as deep as she can manage under the circumstances, Varanis watches them both, glaring.

Serzeen points to Varanis and says to Orstanor, “When I say guard it, I mean guard it.” And then she walks away, leaving the road crumpled and Varanis stuck. A few bits of earth trickling down inside the prison indicates it is not complete. She could probably free herself if she really tried.

“Serzeen!” Varanis yells in outraged anger. Now she begins to struggle, determined to get free.16Varanis fails multiple attempts to get free, failing STR resistance rolls

Serzeen stops, and turns to look at the pair. The earth elemental hugs Varanis tight. “She’s in a bad mood,” Orstanor says. “Really. Don’t push her.”

“What the hell, Serzeen?” Varanis has quieted her tone is has actually phrased this as a question rather than an accusation.

“You need to learn to stay under guard,” Serzeen says, “And he needs to learn how to guard you. We’re starting small. I’ll be back when Yelm begins to climb from the underworld, to relieve him of duty.”

“I had an armed Vingan with me,” Varanis starts defensively. “I didn’t expect her to ditch me.”

Serzeen looks slightly more annoyed. “You had an armed guard with you. I SENT HIM.”

“I am not a child. I do not require minding like one.” The air is beginning to crackle around her and some of the fine hair on her head has begun to rise.17Just rolled 5 on air. Figuring pride is really kicking in now. And probably rage. Oh dear.

“I am not a child. I do not require minding like one.” The air is beginning to crackle around her and some of the fine hair on her head has begun to rise.

Serzeen taps the ground, and the ground moves upwards around Varanis. The elemental goes deeper than it seemed.

Varanis struggles wildly against the elemental.18And rolls 3 failing attempts to break free. She curses and shouts, but wisely does not call on her magic.

“You are not a child,” Serzeen says. “If you were, I would worry far less. But you are going to give your guard the chance to guard you, and he is going to apologise to you, and while that happens, the house will be repairing the street. Life is not a joke.”

With the soft earth up by her lower lip, it is going to be very hard to gesture agreement – or anything at all. The elemental is giving her room to breathe, at least.

Varanis glares helplessly.

Serzeen walks away. Ostranor breathes again.

The Vingan begins to struggle with increased rage.19Ten rolls, number 3 was a 17. Number 10 was finally a 009. No fumbles but a crap ton of failure. As Varanis starts to get free, the earth elemental and Ostranor move together at the same time. “No!” yelps the guard, and pushes down as hard as he can, while the elemental tries to swallow Varanis again.[[acting GM: Roll grapple at -10 against Ostranor, and if you get free, there will be more fun… Roll is successful.[[/footnote]]

She breaks free from both of them. “Back off. Both of you. I’m not going anywhere. I just don’t want to stay in the ground.” The rage has bled out of her and she just looks tired, bloodied, and defensive. She backs away slowly holding her hands up in front of her, trying to stay out of range of both the elemental and Ostranor.

“As long as you stay still…” Ostranor says uncertainly. Serzeen looks around, and shrugs, and keeps walking, but at least the elemental stops moving.

Varanis backs herself up to the side of a building and slides down it, her back to the wall. “I’m here. And I’ll stay here for now.”

Ostranor looks miserably towards where Serzeen is disappearing into the house, and then stands where he can intercept people heading for Varanis. He gives a long, slow sigh.

“I don’t suppose they’ll let us in, will they?” The question is asked quietly.

“No,” he agrees. “And sorry.”

She looks up at him. She’s gone well beyond disheveled, her red hair hanging in a mess around her shoulders, the borrowed tunic dirty and streaked with blood, and multiple cuts on her exposed limbs. She sighs again. “Me too,” she says at last.

The guard looks from left to right, scanning the street. The elemental begins to move once more, but this time it is backing up along its trail, the cobbles getting spat up to the surface. “I shouldn’t have called you that. It was demeaning.”

“You shouldn’t have grabbed Lanasha. That’s the part that pissed me off. You don’t grab another person to punish me.” The ice in the words suggest that not all is forgiven.

“She was the threat, not you. I wasn’t trying to punish you. How would you stop a Vingan who’s already left?” He sounds irritated, but is not letting it into his voice as much as his body language. At the very least, he is trying to be polite.

Varanis looks at him incredulously. “How was she a threat?”

“She was the one you were about to trust in.” Ostranor looks down. “If I could stop her you didn’t have the guard. How would you have stopped you?”

Varanis thinks about it silently. Finally, she answers, “I’d have followed.” Then she adds, “Lanasha said you did a good job of that, for a time.”

“I knew I couldn’t keep up. I sent a girl back with a message – she got there, but I couldn’t keep up. I knew I wouldn’t be able to. That woman was flying for fu-… she was flying. I couldn’t have.”

“I wasn’t,” Varanis points out.

“It looked a lot like it. You went up that building even faster than she did.” Ostranor stops looking down at Varanis and goes back to his posture guarding the place.

“For what it’s worth, I’m sorry I broke you.” The apology is genuine.

“Yeah, well. Serzeen had a few things to say to me too.”

“I imagine I’ll be hearing her out at Yelmrise.” Varanis looks at her hands, studying the damage. She sighs.

“When Yelm begins to climb,” Ostranor says. “Midnight, probably, or maybe when his light is seen, but he isn’t. She’ll want us out of the way by the time the streets are busy.” Broken fingernails, torn skin on the wrist, smears of bloody mud. It is not a good look.

“I’m afraid I wasn’t exactly listening to the details earlier,” Varanis admits. “That’s better, I suppose. Damn it. I need to wash before I heal this. I don’t want to trap any spirits inside me.” She reaches for her water bottle, but it’s not there. “Shit,” she curses again. “It’s at Lanasha’s. As are my clothes and my shopping.”

Ostranor pulls his bottle off, tangling the strap in his hair for a moment. “Here. Use mine. But that’s what we’ve got. She made me fill it before I came out.”

Varanis accepts it, murmuring her thanks. Uncapping the bottle, she takes a swig of water. Then she pours a tiny handful of water into one cupped hand, passing the uncapped bottle back. Carefully, she attempts to clean her wounds with that small amount of water.

Ostranor falls silent, capping the bottle and putting it back on.

After smearing the blood and dirt around, Varanis finally sighs and concentrates carefully, trying to heal her wounds. Now that she has stopped talking and fighting, she finally starts thinking.

I hate this place. Nobody understands me. They just want me to sit pretty in the gilded cage they constructed and to do what I’m told when they open the door. I’m not a child anymore!

She looks up at the exhausted man standing guard over her and flushes with shame.

I hurt him. He was wrong to lay hands on Lanasha, but… before that, he was just doing his job. He had his orders and expecting him to disobey Serzeen was… shit. What have I done? I can’t believe this… It was Lanasha’s idea… no. It was me. I made my own choices.

Varanis buries her face in her hands.

I can almost hear Berra and see her own look of contempt. She’d tell me to “act the noble, not the drunk” and she’d be right.

Varanis lifts her head from her hands and straightens her shoulders. She inhales deeply and slowly.

“I’m going to stand, Ostranor, but I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”

He watches her, uncertain and ready to act. She rises to her feet but makes no move to go anywhere. She stands with her spine straight and her head held proudly, despite the wreck of her appearance.

“I’m sorry. I was wrong to run from you. You were doing your job and you were right to try to stop me. And I’m sorry that you have to stand here now. You didn’t really have a hope of catching me and it’s not right that you are being punished for my actions.” She takes another long breath, filling her lungs with Nochet’s night air. “I have already promised not to run and I assure you that I won’t. And now I promise that I will stand with you, as long as you are required to stand here.”

She stays that way, not in Ostranor’s way, but on her feet and at attention, just as he must, waiting for Serzeen to free them both.

During that time, a couple of tired labourers work to repair the cobbled street, tamping down the pulverised earth and washing it to dampen it into place, then relaying the cobbles as fast as they can. It is still not finished when, a little after midnight, Serzeen comes out of the gates once more, axe over her shoulder, and other axes at her waist. She comes over to look at the pair of them. Ostranor stands straight, his right hand splayed on his chest.

Varanis looks at Serzeen soberly. “It’s not his fault,” she says. “I made it impossible for him to catch me. I’m sorry. It was disrespectful to him and to you.” She stands tall as she admits her guilt. There’s neither pride nor challenge in her stance, just honesty.

Serzeen reaches out and puts a hand on Ostranor’s shoulder first. “Sod off, sonny,” she says not unkindly. To the roofs she calls out, “Stand down,” and then she turns to Varanis. “Well said. Come in, get cleaned up, and if you don’t repeat it we’ll say no more.”