Varanis — 1626 0702 Bread Pastries
????, Fire Season, Season/Movement Week
Fire Season/Movement Week/Freezeday/Afternoon [[[s01:session-38|Session 38]]]
After the events of the second Lunar quest, most of the group is sitting in the common room of the White Grape, drinking Rondrik’s alcohol and pondering recent events.
Varanis and Serala go looking for each other. Not really spoilery, but long and with personal discussions.
Sometime in the afternoon, Varanis goes looking for Serala at the stable. She’s thinking about maybe escaping from things by going riding. In the stables… there is no sign of Serala. Pag is in his loose box, dozing; he swishes his tail idly, but isn’t alert as he might be if his mistress was nearby. Varanis sighs in disappointment and starts talking to Pag. “Where is she, beautiful one? What have you done with your rider?” She’s brought some apples for her own horses. She snaps one in two and offers half to Pag. Doqeia, a little further down makes some noises of interest, so the Vingan gives her the other half, murmuring quietly to the horses. With a quick twist, she snaps the second apple in half, offering a piece to Manasa, who doesn’t even bite her fingers as she takes it from Varanis.
…elsewhere, Serala is knocking on a door. Varanis’s door. And there is no answer. The Grazelander pulls a face, and even cracks the door open slightly. No Varanis. Wonderful. She rolls her eyes, “Vingans, never to hand when you want them.” she grumbles. Reviewing the various other doors, she decides she isn’t in the mood for people stressing about Eril’s motivations, “Should just ask. He probably appreciates someone having the guts to do that. What’s he going to say? No? String me up by my ankles? Kill me?” Another shrug, “Whatever.” All spoken in her native tongue, in a good natured grumble, people might think she was chatting with a friend. Anyhow, in the way that is Serala, she simply settles down, leans against the door and waits. She’s good at that.
After feeding the last piece of apple to Finarvi’s mount, Varanis returns to Pag, holding her palm out to be snuffled and hoping there won’t be any teeth. “So, what do I do? Should I wait for your mistress here? She always comes back this way, sooner or later.”
And upstairs… “She’s got to be back, sooner or later, the fuss she makes about people sleeping…”
“I don’t suppose you’d let me brush you, would you?” She eyes the stallion. “Probably not. And if I’m brushing horses, it should be my own. None of you look like you need it though – someone has brushed you all recently. Is there anything else that needs doing?” She looks around, but the obvious work of the stable seems to be taken care of. “I’m going to go for a walk or something,” she tells Pag, who doesn’t seem very interested, given no more apples are forthcoming. “When she comes back, can you tell her I was here?” Varanis laughs at herself as she leaves the stables. “Maybe I should put my armour on before leaving here,” she says to herself. “It would make Xenofos happier, I suppose.” She makes her way into the inn, slipping past the common room without drawing attention to herself.
And as you come upstairs, who should you find but the elusive Grazelander herself, eyes closed, possibly dozing. Or possibly not, as at the sound of your footsteps, her eyes flicker open and her fingers twitch, just a little. Good job she recognised you. “You’ve been awhile.” she notes laconically. “Smell of horses though. That’s good, they need company.”
Varanis smiles her greeting. “I was talking to Pag. He was pretty closed-mouth. Wouldn’t tell me where you were hiding, no matter how much I tried to persuade him.”
“He’s like that.” Serala agrees with a half smile. “So. I came to talk to you. If you’ve time.” Case stated, she comes to her feet to let you into your own room, but won’t follow unless invited. She does have some semblance of courtesy. Sometimes, at least.
“I was thinking of going for a walk. Do you want to join me? Or would you prefer to talk here? I have water, but no wine or beer to offer. I think Rondrik has gone out, but if you wanted something, I’m sure we could get it ourselves.” Varanis is polite, but her expression is friendly and fairly relaxed.
Serala shakes her head, “I could do with a change of scene, to be honest. Everyone wants to talk about Eril; and I think it’s all speculation. I’d like to catch Irillo quietly later, and just talk through what he saw, but right now there’s too much talk and I could do with a clear head.” She shakes her head to wine, “Water’s fine. Prefer it anyhow, mostly.” She mooches down the stairs, lifting a hand to the group chatting at the bar, calling over “Someone fill me in later?” Rajar nods in response and the pair wander out together.
Varanis follows, failing to check for enemies and hoping Berra doesn’t notice. “Are you hungry? There’s a place near the Humakti temple that does stuffed breads.”
Serala doesn’t seem to have any particular destination in mind; she knows the city reasonably well, but not well enough to be able to follow Irillo down back alleys and shortcut around. So she just walks in any direction her feet take her, until Varanis makes her suggestion. “I can’t remember last time I ate.” she admits. “Wait… I can. I helped eat the chicken soup for breakfast. Seemed to be the least I could do for the poor bird after Rajar’s… pummelling. But yes, sounds good. Maybe I’ll be able to forget the chicken then….”
Varanis guides them through the streets of Boldhome, apparently confident in her ability to find the place again. “You wanted to talk to me?” she asks.
It doesn’t take long to find the little bakery. It normally has line-ups from the Humakti Temple, but the streets of Boldhome are a little bare and the Baker seems happy for the business. “Do you want one with meat or just vegetables,” Varanis asks Serala before placing the order.
“Finarvi has no idea when to shut up.” Serala murmurs. “He is also the only person who really gets away with telling me when I’m being unfair to people. He says I’m being too harsh to you. So I thought it might be able idea to get away from families and politics and heroquests and… well. Eat stuffed bread and pretend there’s no earth shattering events. And vegetables, please.”
Varanis doesn’t answer the first part, instead ordering for both of them. She pays the baker and then turns them back towards the streets. She seems to be gathering her thoughts. Finally, she says, “you have not been unfair to me. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, Serala. In Sartar and Esrolia, I am expected to lead. I’m born to it, trained to it, and initiated to it. None of that actually makes me a good leader, but it’s what people in these lands expect of me. Of course, that isn’t true in the Grazelands or in Prax. So, it must be strange for you to have people assume that I am the leader of our little band. I certainly don’t deserve to be.” There’s no self-pity in her summary. Rather, it’s forthright and unemotional.
“You don’t deserve to be by right of experience… yet.” Serala agrees, never one to sugarcoat. “But that doesn’t mean you won’t, in time. Finarvi pointed out some good qualities you have in that arena. And being Fin, he also had some thoughts about my lack of empathy for others at the same time.” She finds wanders along at your side, an easy loping stride that is good for following along behind horses being gently herded. “I’m not a leader… it’s my brother that’s the warchief, not me. But… I’ll admit it hurts my pride. And makes me want to slap someone when everyone makes the assumption that some of us are here because we ‘belong’ to you. As your cousin said to me the other day ‘Don’t mistake me for Vendref’. That’s how I feel when I am called part of ‘your’ band. I choose to be here, for now. But it is free choice. And that’s important to me, I’m afraid.”
“Among the Orlanthi, being part of someone’s following doesn’t take away your freedom. If that person is unworthy of you, you can always find someone else who is worthy. It’s a choice. Among your people, can women not be war chiefs?” Varanis asks curiously.
“So if you yourself admit that you’re not yet ready to lead, what does that make your perceived ‘followers’ who are choosing to stay?” counters Serala. “Extremely poor judges?” She sighs, “I’m not getting at you, Varanis. I just find it annoying that everyone seems to think you’re in charge. Maybe I am being unfair, and we need someone ‘in charge’. But people like Xenofos will take their perception of you as ‘leader’ and therefore themselves as ‘honoured followers’ and treat the rest of us as unworthy. Kallyr… I sat with her for days, guarding her. And she doesn’t even bother to learn who I am, but lumped me in as part of ‘Noble Varanis’ Group’…. but will kill me off as easily as anyone else, even as a perceived nobody, if it suits her aims. And I’m sorry, Varanis. I like you, but I’m not going to set a precedent of the Grazelands bowing to Esrolia just because Esrolia are hidebound in their blood lineage and wear prettier armour…”
“I don’t expect you to bow to me, Serala. I never have. You once told me that your bloodline is a strong as my own and I believe you. Have I ever asked you to kneel to me?” The calm mask that Varanis has been wearing cracks a little as she hears Serala out, but is carefully put back into place.
Serala laughs, “The Feathered Horse Queen might not like that claim.” she admits. “But Grandfather would have it so and who am I to argue with him?” She winks towards you, mock-serious. “You know how it goes, when one denies one’s Elders, correct? And as to why I’m not a war chief… I’m a woman, which makes it more difficult. And why would I cause family strife by challenging my brother for what he can do almost as well as I can?” Her laughter is soft, suddenly, “See, I do understand what it’s like to step aside. I’ve already done it. But that probably does make me more set in my ways and hidebound than Fin is. He always had an easier sense of freedom.”
“He’s told me stories about you and he swapping places a few times when you were younger,” Varanis says with a shy smile. “He cares for you deeply.”
The Grazelander snorts, “I got into far more trouble with Finarvi than I ever would have alone.” she admits. “But I had a lot more fun with him around as well…”
“He tells me a lot about you, but less about himself. What was he like as a youth?”
Serala shakes her head, with a fond smile. “I don’t know much about your family..” she points out, “Other than you and your brother seem to be at odds. But are there others – younger brother-types who are always underfoot and in the way, but too loveable to throw down a well and leave there.” After considering for a moment, she amends, “Well, leave them there for very long, at least…? Because if so, he was like that. If not… well, that’s what he was like anyhow.”
“I am the youngest. There are ten years between me and my closest brother, so I don’t really know what it’s like to have someone like that,” Varanis says with a hint of wistfulness.
Serala turns down another random side alley, her eyes flickering around, patently trying to learn the lay of the land. She is still not – and likely never will be – at ease in cities, but she’s doing her best to get to work in them. “Friends?” she asks. “Who did you talk to when you were a girl?”
Varanis snorts. “Myself? When we lived on the farm, it was just me, my grandparents, and the servants. When we moved to Nochet, there was no time for it. Mellia was nice to me when our paths crossed, but we had different sets of lessons. Dormal helped me sneak out from time to time. But the other children? They were usually kept away from me. I was only clan because Grandmother said so, and some of the adults questioned her wisdom when they thought neither she nor I could hear. There were always a few of the older girls who would make sure I couldn’t forget though.” Varanis has finished with her bread, and takes a swig of water from the flask she has taken to wearing. Wordlessly, she offers it to Serala.
Serala wrinkles her nose at that, clearly not liking the picture painted. “Varanis…” she murmurs. “Would you object if I observe that at least half of your family are complete …” Whatever word she was going to use was bitten off as she considers as she reaches to take the water flask, gladly sharing. “<They smell like cows>” she mutters in her own language, before modifying to Varanis. “They seem to have been unhelpful to you. How can you be expected to have the confidence to lead if you were not allowed to grow into it among your peers?”
“It doesn’t really work that way, in Esrolia. Blood, breeding, and training are key. As a Vingan and half Sartarite, I had no place to rule in Esrolia. And I’m not of the right lineage anyway. To be honest, I didn’t think I would ever lead more than a group of Vingans and when I failed at that… well, I didn’t expect to lead again.” She looks at Serala a moment. “You don’t think I chose this, do you?” There’s consternation in her tone.
“I rather did.” Serala admits directly. “The first time we met you, we were in Nochet, pursuing our own agenda, then suddenly you are leading the charge into the tower, everyone taking orders. It seemed strange, given that we were already used to Berra organising our battles; Dormal, I’m sure, was delighted, you’ll have seen how well he and Berra get on. Then everyone was deferring to you and you were coming with us and… at no point, was there a discussion. At no point did any of this get talked through like adults. On the trail, you saw a pretty box and you were so… entitled. You wanted it. No-one else’s opinion mattered. If that isn’t leadership, it is undermining whoever is leader. So I find it difficult, as on one hand you decry your willingness to lead; on the other, you act as though all right sits with you.” She is not angry, not upset, just trying to explain her perspective.
Varanis explains that the Tower wasn’t her idea at all, but rather imposed on her by three of the most powerful people in Nochet: the Queen, her General, and Grandmother Saiciae. It was also Grandmother Saiciae’s insistence that she and Xenofos accompany the party to Nochet and that at no time on that journey did Varanis attempt to assume leadership. “I wish we could forget about that damned box. I still don’t know what came over me. And I’ve tried so hard to make up for it.” There is real regret in that statement.
Serala half laughs, and tells the tale of Granny trying to pay her so she would officially be in her employ… and Serala refusing it on the basis she fights for honour, not money. “I wish I could say Granny looked like she’d swallowed a toad, but she’s far too well in control for that.” Her blue eyes sparkle for a moment, “You know you are far too overawed by people you perceive to be ‘in charge’ of you. You can tell a Queen to get lost if you want to – especially if you think they’re taking advantage.”
Varanis laughs. “I’m trying to keep my head on my shoulders, Serala! It took being in Sartar for several weeks for me to realize that I can actually make some choices for myself.”
“Have you considered just telling them all to suck it up and doing what you want for a while?” Serala asks, semi seriously. “Leave aside quests to raise Sartar from the dead… I mean relight the flame… possibly getting everyone killed… family politics… Just… Take a few weeks. Talk to people. Ride the open spaces.” Well, she is biased about good ways to think.. “It feels to me as though you.. indeed all of us.. are running to keep up with some invisible calendar that says we must do this thing now. Even to the point of RatFace pushing us around. Maybe he even sold Rajar a chicken trained to bite him on cue..” She’s joking with that last. Right? Serala can do a wonderful poker face when she chooses and right now she’s doing her best inscrutable look.
“You are a noblewoman of your own clan, so you know what duty is. Would you put off what needs to be done to just do what you want? Our birth demands our sacrifices and makes us responsible to others. My problem has been that until recently, I thought my duty was owed to Nochet and the Vingan Temple there. I’ve done a terrible job of adjusting to the rather sudden change in my life.”
Serala comes to a halt and stares at you. Just… stares. Quite likely, you keep walking for a few steps before you notice her. Her face is a beautiful mix of irritation, a trace of shame, but winning out is mirth. And she starts laughing – loudly enough that she draws looks from every side. She laughs until tears run down her face, and eventually just sits down in the middle of the alleyway, creased over, unable to speak even a word.
“Serala?” Varanis comes back to her nervously. “Are you alright? What did I say?”
“Would I…. would I… I run away…?” Serala tries to catch her breath, wrapping her arms around her ribs, the lilting strains of swearing in pure horse tongue at the pain. “Oh, my self centered little friend…1For the record, Varanis is taller than Serala. I ran away long before you knew me..!”
Varanis looks at her companion in complete consternation. “Um…. it’s a little mucky down there… do you need a hand up?” She ignores the comment about being self-centred. It’s possible it stings, but it’s true and she’s more concerned about Serala than the comment anyway.
Serala shakes her head, “I’ve avoided sitting in worse in my time.” she points out – and indeed, she appears to have some sort of superpower for sitting between any obvious piles of dirt. Maybe that’s what fighting in latrines does for you. “Oh Yelmalio…!” She pulls herself to her feet and moves to her favoured lean against the nearest wall as she studies your face for long moments. “Your bloodline, Varanis… gets you wealth, and power, and hordes of admiring.. or at least ambitious.. cousins. Mine gets me my older brother as the war chief and me choosing to leave the Grazelands behind to avoid Grandfather’s constant harrangue to pick a nice, strapping young man of good lineage and pop out some plump babies for the good of the Clan. That.. that.. Varanis, is what my lineage gets me. Good enough blood to make more warriors. And I’m damned if I’m going back until Grandfather can see me for me, rather than a Clan asset. So… would I shirk my duty and run away to do what I want? Yes. Yes, Varanis, I would and I am, and I have every intention of so continuing.”
Varanis blinks in astonishment. “Well… hmmm… I can understand…” she stammers. “I thought…” She takes a deep breath and gets her thoughts in order. “Do you think that perhaps we have both not really seen each other clearly?” she says at last. “That our perspectives have been coloured by what we assumed to be true of each other?”
The plainsrider wipes away the streaks of tears from her face. “I am being a little unfair.” she does admit. “Grandfather knows I am a good strategist, which is another reason he wants me back; neither he nor Endars would hesitate to use my brains. Pop in while I’m minding the children, maybe..?” For a moment she looks winsome, “Don’t misunderstand me.. I will do it. Eventually. But I lost all of my family bar Endars, Fin and Grandfather to the Lunars. I’m not ready to put Pag out to pasture and let others do the avenging. You have little family because they are blinded by ambition. Mine were all stolen from me.” She sighs softly, “And yes, Varanis. I think you may well have a point. Perception… and ancestors… have a lot to answer for.”
Shyly, Varanis asks, “do you think maybe we could begin anew?”
“Only if we think it will annoy the relatives…” She’s been around Finarvi too long, if she thinks that’s an appropriate moment for a joke, but there it is…
Varanis’ lips twitch up in a smile, then she introduces herself. “Hello. I’m Varanis. I talk a lot, I can be an idiot at times, and I think I really like you.”
Serala curtsies, which may look a little strange in her non-formal attire, but she’s graceful enough to pull it off. “Greetings, Varanis. I am Serala, I have little to talk about other than horses, know nothing of the world and am woefully stubborn, but I very much enjoy your company.”
Varanis grins widely. “Do you like sweets? I found a place that makes lovely pastries the last time we were here!”
- 1For the record, Varanis is taller than Serala.