Varanis — 1626 0708 Goodbyes
????, Fire Season, Season/Movement Week
Fire Season/Movement Week/Waterday/Morning [[[s01:session-39|Session 39]]]
At the stables by the White Grape, in Boldhome. Varanis and Finarvi say goodbye. A little while later, it’s Serala’s turn.
Follows the events of [http://journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/serala:saying-goodbye earlier in the morning.]
There isn’t much to pack. With the army away, the atmosphere in Boldhome has been setting Finarvi’s teeth on edge since he arrived. He’s unconsciously been ready to run from the first day here. Finarvi checks his mule’s tack one last time, and begins the familiar process of loading his redsmith’s possessions onto Redoubtable’s back. The tall mule lays her ears back in a token gesture, but her eyes are patient. She thinks it’s wise to leave.
Varanis enters the stables and glances around. When her eyes alight on the red smith, she smiles and calls out a greeting. “Hey Finarvi!”
Show conversation with Finarvi
Finarvi lays the tightly-bundled work tent back down and turns to greet Varanis. “Hello, cousin.” He greets her in Esrolian, for the courtesy and the practice.
She beams at him. “Hello, cousin,” she replies in Esrolian. “Well done.” She takes in the state of his packing, and her face falls. “This is really happening, isn’t it?”
“Unless Serala comes back from the Palace and tells us it’s all a practical joke, I’m afraid so.”
The Vingan sighs. “I’m going to miss you. Both of you.” She smiles wryly. “I’ve gotten used to you, you know.”
He cocks his head and grins up at her. “Likewise, little cousin. When I set out to find Serala, I never expected to find more family. Or to see Nochet again.”
“Little? Who are you calling little?” she demands in mock outrage. As quick as she teases, she slips into sadness again. “Oh Fin… I had hoped…” She shakes her head. “It doesn’t matter. It is what it is.” The shoulders straighten and she takes a deep breath. “You’ll watch her back? And take care of yourself too. If either of you gets hurt, I will haunt you.”
“I’ll do my best.” He regards the tall Vingan fondly. “Don’t think this is goodbye, you know. The Grazelands are not that far away. Send a message if you need to. Though you might need to use pictures, not Xenofos’s notings. We’re not scholars.”
Varanis suddenly throws herself at Finarvi and wraps her arms around him. Luckily for the Grazelander, she’s not wearing her armour. Unluckily, perhaps, she’s wearing the clothing she usually wears under the armour, and so it smells the same anyway. She hugs him fiercely.
Finarvi hugs her back, just as fiercely. “Whenever you feel sad, imagine Serala and me talking sense back into you,” he tells her. His voice is hoarse. “And remember what we taught you: never lick a toad.”
Varanis laughs, but Finarvi also feels her tears against his neck. “I promise never to lick a toad. And I’m holding you to your promise of a sweat lodge too.”
He gives a little huff of laughter. “We should all meet up at Blue Tree for Dark Season, and Rajar and I will build you the finest sweat lodge, and we’ll swap stories and tell Berra how untidy her nephew’s hair is.”
“That sounds lovely,” she murmurs. Finally, she releases him and steps back. “Fin…” she begins… “Serala doesn’t know how I feel does she?” She doesn’t wait for answer, continuing, “it’s probably better that she doesn’t know anyway. It’ll be easier.”
“Oh, that?” Finarvi scruffs a hand through his hair and manages to look like a guilty child. “I, um, made a wrong assumption when I first joined you. So I probably gave you away without realising it. I’m sorry; I didn’t realise you didn’t want her to know.” He grips her arm in a comforting gesture. “Serala can be incredibly slow, though. You might be alright.”
“Well, we sort of talked about it a little yesterday. But, we rather left a lot unsaid too.” The Vingan’s eyes are glassy and she swipes at her cheeks with a sleeve. “It’s better like this. We don’t have any holds on each other beyond friendship and the ties of the Tula.” She takes a wobbly breath. “It’s better.” She seems to be trying reassure herself, rather than Finarvi.
“Well, there are some large, difficult oaths to deal with first, I suppose. But then, sweat lodges are a great place to talk and break down barriers. And speaking of oaths, I made a promise to help you, and here I am leaving you.”
“Look after Serala, and you’ll be helping me, cousin. I will tell myself not to worry, because you and she will be together, looking out for each other as you always have.”
“You don’t need to worry about us, because that’s exactly what we’ll be doing. When she isn’t dropping me down wells or burying me in rotting fish carcasses,” He shakes his head, disappointed in himself. “I will find a way to get your new broadsword to you. And that can be my aid, too.”
Varanis takes his hand in hers. “I look forward to receiving it, Fin. These hands of your are capable of greatness, you know.” She gives it a little squeeze before letting go. “Now, I’m keeping you from your preparation. Do you need anything for the journey? Or can I help you in any way?”
He sighs. “I’m almost done. My throat’s dry. Let’s go inside and I’ll say farewell to the others.”
Varanis and Finarvi exit the stable together, both looking a little glassy-eyed, but smiling and talking. They head across the courtyard, aiming for the door to the White Grape’s common room.
Serala comes out, tucking her coin pouch away as she does so. Always claiming to be above such mundane things as coin, it would seem on this occasion she did manage to find a use for it. “Hai,” she calls over to the pair, heading towards the stables they’re exiting. “All done there. Just packing.” Short, calm sentences, on the surface Serala is completely at ease.
Varanis smiles a welcome at the Grazelander. “Hullo, Serala. We were just thinking of going in to get a drink. Fin claims to be dying of thirst. What are you up to? Need a hand with anything?” The Vingan looks hopeful.
Show conversation with Serala
Finarvi gets a smile. “More likely he wants to make farewells. I’ve left mine in the form of free beer. More than that…” For a moment Serala’s expression flickers and she looks… vulnerable? “They will know what I mean. I hope.” She inclines her head briefly, “I was going to check Pag’s tack, ensure everything is in good condition.” Like it wouldn’t be, the amount of time she spends pouring over horse and gear, but it’s something to do.
Varanis pulls Finarvi in for a quick hug. “I’m abandoning you for her,” she says with a teasing flutter of her eyelashes. “Don’t be too mournful.”
Finarvi returns the embrace. “Don’t hold back,” he whispers before he lets her go. Varanis turns back towards the stables, and he gives Serala a parting look of reproach over her shoulder.
“Can I invite myself along to help?” she asks Serala.
Serala snorts lightly. “I’m going to hear all about it from here to Tarsh,” she mutters, “seeing as it’s apparently my fault we’re hitting the road. Don’t feel sorry for him, feel sorry for me, I’m going to have to listen to his complaints all the way… ‘First Grandfather sends me to find you, now the Queen demands our return, through a possible battle zone, and don’t you remember what happened last time, Serala? If you think I’m dragging you out of another pit of corpses, looking like one yourself, you’ve another think coming’… Something like that, at least.” Serala’s impressions aren’t all that good, but she knows her cousin well enough to have a half decent attempt. “And sure. Company would be good.”
Varanis opens the little half door to the stable and holds it to allow Serala to enter first. The Vingan gives a little bow, the elegance of which is lost because she’s wearing the clothes that usually go under her armour and her hair is in a single, rather fuzzy braid. She’s not exactly looking like she’s ready for court.
Serala reaches out and puts her arm around Varanis’ shoulder, companionable, pulling the other woman into the stables with her, and kicking the door shut with a gentle ‘thud’ – nothing too loud to disturb the horses. And then she turns towards Varanis, and brushes the lightest of kisses to her lips. “Well. This is horseshite.”
Varanis blinks in complete astonishment. Then she pulls Serala closer, to return the kiss, raising one hand to rest feather-light on the Grazelander’s cheek.
Serala doesn’t seek to pull away for long moments, wrapping a hand around that long braid of hair to hold Varanis close… But she does finally step back. “Well, at least we’ve that much to remember,” she mutters, turning away, almost angry. “And the <<Giant Horse Cock>> can stick that in his pipe and smoke it.” The usually reticent Grazelander hisses, slamming her hand into the wall. It doesn’t take a genius to read the hurt almost completely bottled up there.
Varanis lets loose a string of muddled curses, somehow mingling Pure Horse Tongue, Heortling, and Esrolian. None of it makes sense, but her meaning is clear. After a long moment, she steps behind Serala, tentatively wrapping her arms around the other woman, to pull her in. She rests her cheek against the soft black hair and murmurs, “It’ll be ok. But yes, this is horseshite.”
The slender horsewoman leans back into the embrace, sighing deeply. “It’s easier to not care,” she points out. “If I didn’t care, I could go where ordered, and kill Lunars, and that would be that. But Varanis… You’d have to be blind to not see I… care… for you. We had settled our differences… we would have found new ones, worked them through together, grown together… but now we have different paths to walk. Ride. And leaving you with some drinks paid for at the bar would be… incorrect. I have nothing to gift you, save horses that might actually respond to what you ask of them!” She tries to laugh, but it breaks off halfway through into a barely repressed sob. Before running into inventive cursing. Horse dung is mentioned a lot.
Varanis takes a long, slow, shuddering breath. “You’ve given me this,” she murmurs at last. “You’ve shown me that I’m not alone. You’ve helped me learn to trust. And… it doesn’t have to be forever, does it?” She takes another breath, her chest rising and falling against Serala’s back. “Can I do anything to make this easier for you? I…” She struggles to find words.
Serala shakes her head. “It’s not meant to be easy,” she says softly. “It’s meant to be duty. It’s meant to be loyalty. No-one ever claimed those things would be easy; not for either of us.” She half smiles, back in control of herself as she turns towards other woman, wrapping her in a close embrace. “It doesn’t have to be forever. So long as neither one of us is fool enough to fall in battle.” She sighs deeply, curling against Varanis, allowing her emotions to show in a way that she would usually not; not if the circumstances hadn’t been so abrupt. “Even if Grandfather does manage to marry me off, unless you have some silly prejudice towards monogamy. Because if you do, Grandfather’s going to find me even more recalcitrant than he anticipates, I’ll wager!”
Varanis laughs quietly. “Just make sure that he knows your spouse has to be willing to let you love and live as you will. Can you imagine the political catastrophe if I had make you a widow because some man tried to lock you up?” Face to face now, the Vingan touches her forehead to Serala’s. She closes her eyes and allows herself to sigh. “Duty is a hellish thing.” She huffs, almost a laugh. “Was it only yesterday that I was so arrogantly lecturing you on duty?”
“I do believe it was,” Serala replies ruefully. “And I was cheerful because I was avoiding it so happily. I can’t imagine what has brought me to Her notice. There is something unsettling here. But until I ride the trail, I will not find the answer. I am sorry to steal Finarvi away from you as well, but I admit I am glad he will be at my side.” She closes her eyes, just leaning against the Esrolian. “I thought we had time… I’m sorry, Varanis. I am too guarded.”
“It’s not your fault, Serala. It’s been a long time since I allowed anyone close to me, and I have been rather clumsily trying to figure out how that works,” she says wryly. “I’m just glad you waited for me instead of throwing me down a well.” She adds, “I’m glad that you have Finarvi with you. It’s important to me that you have someone you trust at your side. You two will look after each other and when I make my way to the Grazelands, or when Pag carries you back to me, you’ll be safe because you had each other.”
Serala smiles, “You will always be welcome to the White Hazels.” she promises. “We are family, through Berra’s clan… and family can always count on warmth and shelter at my hearth.”
Varanis brushes her lips against the other woman’s forehead in a soft kiss. “Just family?” she whispers, a teasing note in her voice. But then she loosens her grip around Serala, reluctantly making space between them. “I suppose we should check Pag’s tack and make sure you are ready to go.”
Serala takes a deep breath, “Family has many meanings. It’s all in the context.” she clarifies. “When our paths diverge for many moons, we both need the strength from knowing our family is with friends, and not distracted by distance. When that distance is gone once more… then family has the space to become closer once more.” She lifts her chin. “Be proud, Varanis. I have your back, albeit from afar. This does not change that.” She heads to pull down the tack, producing some saddle soap from a random pocket and settles with her back to the wall to start cleaning and burnishing. A simple task, sharing the silence of companionship.
Varanis smiles, an odd mixture of joy and sadness. As Pag’s tack is already in perfect condition, she takes down Manasa‘s and sets to work, side by side with the Grazelander, waiting for the inevitable, but hopefully temporary parting.