1626, Fire Season, Stasis Week, Windsday
After the fight at Greyrock Cave, where the Uzko Death Lord escaped. Session 1.36: Cave Crocodillem
Here follows a series of conversations had by Varanis in the aftermath of the fight in the cave. The cave is littered with bits of skeletons and zombies, but sadly no dead Death Lord.
The first person Varanis looks for as things begin to settle and she releases Berra from the hug she’d wrapped her in is Xenofos.
“Are you unhurt?” She asks him as she looks him over carefully.
“Not a scratch this time.” He gives her a long look. “Unlike you.”
“I’m fine. My shield took most of the damage.” She shrugs, but there’s a wildness in her eyes. “He got away…” She states the obvious, perhaps not fully clear-headed yet from the after-effects of the fighting.
“Shields are good that way.” Wry grin. “Yes, he did. The timid bastard.”
“Xenofos… I…” There’s a call from within the caves and everyone’s attention is drawn that direction. “I need to talk to you, but now isn’t the time.” She looks relieved for some reason as she turns and dashes away, as much racing towards whatever awaits in the caves, as fleeing from the conversation she started.
Things have begun to calm down when Varanis goes looking for Serala. She finds the Grazelander with the horses, and takes a moment to look her over to make sure she is uninjured. “We lived!” Varanis hugs Serala.
Show conversation with Serala
Serala seems a little surprised, but returns the hug warmly. “He got away though.” Ever the pessimist, our Serala. “Dormal did well, rescuing Berra. Do note, that although I don’t think he recalls, he owes me his life, so if you catch him trying to hold that over Berra, tell him from me it just cancels the life debt he already carried.”
Varanis nods, still holding on. “I was so afraid…” she admits very, very quietly.
Serala tilts her head, “You did wonderfully.” she replies. “It’s what you do – lead the charge into battle, people will follow you. Or hold the line behind you, either way!”
“You don’t understand… I’ve never felt fear like this. I nearly ran away…”
Serala half smiles. “And I have blacked out in the midst of battle and Pag had to carry me away.” A long, pregnant pause. “Twice.” She scowls for a moment, although it’s not aimed at you, “Dark forces have dark magics. And sometimes, sometimes, you can’t do anything but face the darkness. The fact is, afraid or not, you remained. You fought. No-one can ask for more than that.”
Varanis loosens her grip and finally steps back. Her eyes are glassy. “Thank you.”
“Any time, Esrolian.” she replies with a smile. “Don’t you go forgetting who you are because of one troll and his tricks. You’re better than that.”
Varanis reaches a hand out to gently touch Serala’s cheek. “What would I do without you, Grazelander?”
Serala tilts her head into your touch, closing her eyes for a moment. “Fall off your horses more often?” she suggests. You’ve seen her tone and hiding of feelings with Finarvi often enough now to hopefully be able to read the affection hiding behind the teasing.
Varanis smiles, lets her hand fall, and turns back to the cave.
The next person Varanis looks for is Mellia. The healer has been busy and is looking somewhat worn. “Mellia, are you ok?”
Show conversation with Mellia
Mellia looks exhausted. “Just tired, Varanis. I’ll be fine. I wish I could find some way to really embarrass that troll.”
“I’d rather kill him.” The words are cold and flat.
“I won’t stop you,” Mellia answers. “Berra’s hand got chewed, of all the disgusting things.”
Varanis growls, her eyes dark with rage.
Mellia doesn’t look all that happy about it either.
“Do you have what you need until we reach the village again?”
Mellia nods. “I’m just tired. We’ll have to rely on bandages for a bit. The kit is well stocked, so that shouldn’t be a problem.”
Varanis nods. “I don’t have much left in me, but if you need a hand, I can heal a bit. For now, I need to check on the others. Call me if you need me.”
Mellia nods. “I will. Thanks. “
In the process of tracking people down, the Vingan also checks in on Dormal. Having landed on him during the fighting, she’s concerned. She finds him sitting in the shade, looking over some of his armour.
Show conversation with Dormal – SPOILERS
“Are you ok?” Varanis is cautious in her approach, not as though afraid of harm, but perhaps afraid of being rebuffed.
He shrugs. “Fine I suppose.”
“I didn’t see you there. In fact, you just vanished. And I suppose it was you who made Berra vanish too. That was good thinking.” Her words are honest. “But I’m sorry I landed on you.”
He shrugs again. “These things happen in battle.”
“It was very brave of you to go after her like that. Clearly, being invisible doesn’t mean you can’t be harmed, and you ran into the worst of the danger to rescue someone you really don’t like.” She sounds both impressed and slightly puzzled.
He considers. “The thing you do next is the thing that it is most effective to do next. That is the only consideration.”
Varanis quirks an eyebrow at him. “You sound like old Barntis, one of the tutors Grandmother sent. He was always on about how to make choices.” After a moment, she adds, “Do you have any thoughts about how else we could have handled that? Was there anything we could have done differently to be more effective?”
He stops and thinks for a moment. “Yes, but I doubt you could get this group to do it… Cast light to blind the troll. Then send your stealthiest forward to rescue the hostage while distracting him. Then cast berserk on the troll and withdraw.”
Varanis blinks. “So that he kills his own? But wouldn’t they come after us anyway? Or would they defend themselves from their master?”
“Doesn’t matter, you can flee faster than the undead and it draws them away from the rescue party if they do follow. And whether or not they’re defending themselves they still get crushed.”
“Hmmmm….” Varanis considers. “I see the merit in that, but have a lot of questions too. For instance, you are our stealthiest and while you proved you could reach her, you couldn’t carry her, could you? What if she had been unconscious? I suppose we could have had Nala give you extra strength….”
“I could have dragged her out, once the undead were cleared away. The hard part would have been stopping her from attacking the troll if she recovered.”
“But it would also leave a Death Lord on the loose, though I suppose he’s on the loose anyway.” Varanis looks decidedly unhappy about that.
“If you need to you can go back and kill him once the hostage is out. Get your archers to pepper him from range. Then close and finish him.”
“And, as you say, with our group, it would be hard to get agreement to that kind of action. Rajar was barrelling in very quickly and we wouldn’t have left him on his own in there either.”
“It seems to me that berserk would be an absolutely lethal magic if the Storm Bulls only used it more strategically. Cast it on your toughest enemy from concealment and let them do your work for you.”
“It’s an interesting thought. One that relies on cunning and plays to a more diverse group of skills. Thank you.” She looks thoughtful. “Are you sure you’re ok? Can followers of…” She pauses. “Are you capable of healing your own injuries if needed?”
“No, but this will heal on its own soon enough.”
Varanis looks at him closely, assessing. “Would you tell me if it were otherwise?”
“I’m not in the habit of discomforting myself to spite anyone,” he says dismissively. “If we need to fight before Wilmskirk, heal me then. Otherwise save the magic.”
She nods. “I’ll leave you in peace then. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for saving Berra.”
He nods.1Varanis is prompted to make a scan roll, which she passes.
As she turns to leave, Dormal goes back to checking armour and clothes for damage – some of his skin shows and all of it that is visible below the neck is covered in a mesh of fine scars and welts. He didn’t have those before he left Sartar to head to Rhigos.
Varanis stops. She turns back towards him, staring at the exposed skin. “What happened to you? That’s … new.” There’s concern, but something more too.
Dormal doesn’t seem particularly concerned with either hiding or showing the marks. “Needed to talk to someone to get some information. Only way to get it was to let myself be captured. Turned out they thought they could get what they wanted out of me with torture.”
Varanis’ expression becomes stormy, even as her voice remains soft. “How badly were you hurt? Who did this to you?”
“Nothing life threatening. And… the situation turned out mostly the way I wanted. So best if no-one interferes with it further. They think they know what I want them to know. Leave it at that.”
She reaches towards him, then stops. “If that is what you wish. But I don’t like it. It’s deeply wrong, Dormal.”
He chuckles. “Hardly the worst thing they could have done to me. And while I would have preferred not to be tortured… I can’t claim I meant them well, and they’re following a course of action I need them to. Seems like a fair trade to me, if a little costly personally. It turned out to be related, yes.”
“I should say you got what you deserved or some such thing. But… I don’t like it. It makes me angry that you were hurt in such a way.” She’s struggling with this. “Torture is the work of the likes of trolls.”
“Why are you angry? I’m sure you’ve deliberately taken a blow in combat to gain advantage before.” He says, “This is the same thing.” After a moment, he adds, “If they hadn’t been so eager to use force, they wouldn’t have been so overconfident and they might have learned what they needed, instead of what I wanted. It balances.”
“It’s different. Torture is without honour. And a blow is one thing, but this… this looks like it was drawn out.” This time she does reach for him, trying to get a better look by drawing down the collar of his tunic.
He doesn’t stop her. “Most of the evening and night, I think.”
Varanis shudders. “Two of you tortured in a matter of a few weeks…” The anger hasn’t disappeared, but it’s part of a turmoil.
“Hardly the same. The troll wanted to kill and maim. Mine just wanted information and were clumsy about getting it. And I walked in with my eyes open. I knew it was a possibility.”
That doesn’t seem to make it better from the Vingan’s perspective. At least, her expression doesn’t change. “You also walked into the troll’s reach, knowing the risks… There’s more to you than you let on, cousin.”
“There’s more to me than people care to admit, because I don’t fit their view of the world. Not quite the same thing.”
Varanis sighs. “What did Grandmother say?”
“About this. The torture. You were on a mission for her. Surely you reported?” She sounds incredulous.
“She would have been more pleased with a completely successful mission, but as far as I can read her she seemed pleased enough with the information. The torture didn’t really come up, although I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she knows.”
Varanis seems at a loss for words. Finally, “why didn’t you tell her?”
“To what end? If she had cared to know she would have asked. I’m sure the house servants would have reported the scars. If she chooses not to hear it officially, probably it is politically useful for her not to.”
Varanis looks disturbed by this. “As you say,” she replies reluctantly. “Are you ok? Torture… it harms the spirit as much as the body.”
“If they had extracted from me anything I did not wish them to believe… I suppose I’d be upset. As it is they played the game and lost that round. One point to me.”
Varanis seems to be mentally struggling with this, but finally she nods her acceptance. “If you say so,” she replies. “Again, I’ll leave you in peace.” She rises.
“If you want to lead a hero quest to the underworld you’ll need to be prepared for worse than this to happen to your followers. There will be sacrifice. And you might have to be the one that decides.”
She listens to his words and nods. “You are right,” she acknowledges. “But I don’t have to like it.” She walks away, a troubled look in her eyes.
- 1Varanis is prompted to make a scan roll, which she passes.