Varanis — 1626 0724 Fear Feasting
????, Fire Season, Movement Week
Fire Season, Movement Week, Godday, Evening [[[s01:session-42|Session 42]]]
There’s a feast, an argument, and some distraction. Varanis appears to still be suffering some ill effects of the hazia.
During the feast, Varanis is seated between Silor’s son, Hengrast, and an older man called Jostan. Varanis politely divides her attention between both her dinner companions, but Hengrast is very charming and draws her gaze more than once. He has his father’s smile. It is almost uncanny how alike they are.
As the unicorn begins to make his speech you hear Hengrast mutter, “Orlanth hand me to Maran Gor now.” He looks like he wants the earth to swallow him.
“Don’t say that loudly enough for the Praxian to hear. She’ll help,” Varanis murmurs, pitched for his ears alone.
Hengrast watches in horror and then amazement as Tiwr gives a surprisingly good speech of thanks. “Maybe just Babeester Gor,” he tells Varanis under cover of his father’s reply. “A bit off the extremities. Some toes, perhaps.”
“Dare I ask why you need to sacrifice a few toes, Hengrast?” Varanis sounds amused and curious. “If it’s the unicorn, well… you get used to him. Just don’t feed him wine.”
“That and the trollkin. I thought they were thralls and treated the free like slaves. And then I could have put your horses in with them. And there’s a wolf and I didn’t warn the shadowcats. It… well, it all seems to have worked out but I could have been giving offence all afternoon and only luck kept me from it. My brother is out of voice – his breathing was out. And Yamia’s probably planning to kill me for not introducing your Humakti right. But at least father said I had done the right thing in his name. Just… I did it all arse-about-backwards.” He’s morose, but amused at himself.
Varanis laughs wryly. “I haven’t been able to do anything right since I joined up with this lot. I’d like to say you get used to it, but I haven’t yet.”
“Well, that does feel better. What brings you here in the company of a merchant?” Hengrast winces as more meat is brought for the eating contest to his left.
“He’s my cousin, as is that one,” she says, indicating Dormal with a nod of her chin. My Grandmother decided I should travel with Irillo into Sartar, and you never argue with an Esrolian Grandmother.” She doesn’t offer any other details, but spoken truth in what she has said.
“Oh, right. Sort of like having a father tell you to look after the Clan for him, he’ll be back this evening?”
“Probably,” Varanis says. “In Esrolia, the Grandmothers are like your Clan Chiefs. I met your father on the road. He’s an affable sort. Grandmother Saiciae, well…. she can be truly terrifying. Let’s just say that she would happily oblige by have the earth swallow you up.” Varanis shudders. It sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.
“Your point is taken. But I do know for a fact my father can throw a warrior through a wall. Maybe we should both learn from this, although I am unsure what. Ideas?”
Varanis laughs outloud. “Sometimes the best lessons are the simplest ones. Perhaps – never underestimate our elders?”
“And never be between Silor Cracks-Rock and a wall he has decided has offended him?” Hengrast offers to refill her cup.
Varanis smiles, but shakes her head at the offer of a refill. She aims for distraction, “Tell me about the Shadowcats? I’ve been around them before, of course, but the few I have known have usually been gifts from Vinga to her Daughters.”
“You’re from Esrolia, though, are you not? In Sartar we have rather more. I heard some people use wolves or dogs for hunting and herding, but I can’t imagine that. Do you want something that is not wine or beer?”
“I’m good, thank you. And yes, I’m from Esrolia, though one of my grandmothers was Sartarite and I have some hides in Sartar. What is this dish? I’ve not had it before?” Varanis asks as she goes for a second helping of some sort of roasted root vegetable tossed with herbs.
“I don’t know what they would call it when they cook it, but it’s a root vegetable we call parsnip, and it’s cooked slowly to get it sweet and soft and then cooked with herbs and butter, I think. Rosemary and glue-pepper and mead vinegar, which I don’t think is made with mead at all, just honey. My mother used to make this for us, just like this. Maybe she was helping in the kitchen. Sudden feast and all.”
“It’s very flavourful.” The Vingan continues to distract him with conversation, trying to keep him at ease. When he asks about her, she tells him something about her life in Esrolia and then asks something related about him. If he asks about drink, she redirects to food, praising the flavours and variety, which must reflect the bounty of his house and the skills of his people. She includes Jostan from time to time, ensuring that the older man isn’t left out. She has been raised in the courts of Esrolia and knows how to handle people at a feast.
Hengrast is polite company, Jostan is happy to eat, but it looks like Hengrast has noticed the drink thing and does not mind. He is happy to talk about his house and his people. He is the youngest of five who are almost the same age, and his younger brother is ten, his younger sister seven. Aelna is his father’s second wife. Jostan is the representative of Barntar and knows all about the food and the ploughing and the probable harvest – it looks like it will be good.
Silor never gets around to asking about the armour, but his son does ask if Varanis wants to share his bed – it’s warm and comfortable, and he’s told he looks good in it.
She smiles and shakes her head. “I need to speak with my family, but perhaps later?” He’s definitely open to leaving his door unlocked. The crazy layout of the big building means people can creep around easily.
Berra lets people know she’d like a word with everyone after the feast, and suggests the largest of the rooms they have been given, which is large enough to let in just about everyone, although Tiwr will have to stand outside. When they gather, she says, “The Heroquest. Indrodar’s first foray into the Marsh. It was a disaster. A lot of people died.”
Varanis says, “It sounds like going into the Marsh is a bad idea. What are our alternatives?” The Vingan doesn’t look very keen on the idea of the Marsh.
Irillo shrugs. “We don’t have one. Fail this Quest. He went into the Marsh. He was entangled with that Quest. So we already are. We should let the Trollkin know the risk.”
Dormal argues, “We’re not doing that quest. We’re on a different quest, replaying something that happened while other people were doing Indrodar’s quest.”
“We are doing it, though. Or at least, we should prepare for it. And we need to fail. Or we can try to play a part that comes later, where Indrodar knows more. If he knows the Marsh well enough, he might be able to get back, but I don’t know if we could do that.” Berra looks more thoughtful than scared.
“He wasn’t doing Indrodar’s quest, and we’re following his footsteps.” Dormal sounds reasonably certain. “All we’re going to see is echoes of the echoes of Indrodar’s quest.”
“And zombies,” adds Irillo.
Dormal says, “The main problem will be not drowning. And the undead.”
Varanis shudders. “There has to be another way. There is always another way.”
Dormal glances at her. “Don’t go then. Whatever role you get pulled into, you’ll be safe enough here.”
The Vingan looks sharply at Dormal. “I’m not afraid,” she snaps. She looks like she might be though. And she has a headache.
He rolls his eyes. “Deciding not to die in an undead swamp in a quest that someone else dragged you in to isn’t being afraid. It’s just sensible.” Dormal is fond of being sensible.
Ignoring their discussion, Berra adds, “He was doing Indrodar’s quest, though. He got pulled into it. So we might, too. We have to plan for that.”
After some thought, Irillo notes, “It may be that we simply have to fail it very early.”
“We could tie floating bundles of reeds to ourselves. Help stop the drowning.” Dormal looks thoughtful. “And yes, the earlier we fail the less swamp we have to retreat through.”
“He didn’t retreat,” Berra states. “He went into the swamp, and the zombies kept coming, and his band was cut to pieces, and then he had to take shelter. I don’t think we can get to the shelter until it’s bad. Humakti wouldn’t do this quest. I mean, except under really desperate circumstances, like having someone trapped in it already.”
Dormal states, “We don’t have to do exactly what he did. That’s kind of the point of quests.” Berra stares at him, her expression saying that she is trying not to speak.
Irillo says, “I think I can work out something for the reeds.”
“That will help. But we need to … I don’t know how dead ‘dead’ has to be. It might kill some of us. Or we might drop out and not be dead – if that can happen then I get a lot happier, but I don’t know it can.” Berra adds, “And we don’t know until we get there just how much of the place is Marsh, and how much is the Enstalos land.”
Varanis is beginning to look resigned.
“Dropping out might not help if there are undead swarming us,” Dormal says sardonically. “We should have a duck escort for this.”
Berra disagrees. “We should have us. We started it. And we don’t have two days to go get Ducks. We’re here now. But maybe we could be an escort, if some of us can stay outside the Heroquest.”
“Also we should be carrying short spears, swords aren’t so good in water,” says Dormal.
Berra grins very slightly. “Like Nala says, he had a cross with him. A heavy thing. He got that across wherever he was going.”
Dormal looks over at Varanis. “Feeling any better about water?”
“I’m fine,” she snaps irritably.
“That’s not an answer, though.” Unexpectedly, Berra replies to Varanis in a way that… almost supports Dormal.
Varanis turns a baleful look on the Humakti.
He shrugs. “Look I’m just saying, you were having a pretty bad waking nightmare. Are you sure you’re ready to go wading into a swamp?”
“I’m capable of doing whatever we need to do,” she insists. But… she might be wavering.
Dormal gives her an assessing stare. “Mm. Maybe you should go for a swim around here first. Make sure you are Ok, get it out of your system. Is there a lake or something?”
Berra is probably considering what she should say next, eyes narrowed.
Varanis looks at him in horror. “Swim? I’m a terrible swimmer. I’d drown for certain. Look, I just need some sleep. I’m fine and I’ll be fine tomorrow.”
“Healer. We should have a healer tell us that,” is what Berra finally comes up with.
“Not in deep water, somewhere shallow you can stand up if you need to,” suggests Dormal.
Berra makes a face. “Dormal – and I hate to admit this – is right. I want to see you get your head underwater and come up smiling.”
“Probably a good idea for us all to try it, get used to moving hip deep or chest deep in water,” he persists.
Varanis gets up and walks out.
“Doop. That didn’t go well. Someone she likes better go after her,” Dormal suggesrs.
Berra gives Dormal a look, pausing very briefly before she gets up, perhaps in case he is. And then she gets up and goes.
“Well at this rate we don’t need to worry about failing. Still going to find a pond and practice. Anyone joining me?” Dormal looks around. “No? Just me then. Guess you’re all already experts at getting in over your heads.”
Varanis, for her part, flees into the maze of interconnected structures. Her angry strides carry her to Hengrast’s door. A distraction would be welcome and his smile was warm. She hesitates, takes a deep breath and knocks.
Sometime later, they say their good nights. Although he’s invited her to stay, she wants to spend the rest of the night alone. Hengrast expresses concern that she’s leaving, not trying to make her stay, but he’s definitely worried about her.
She smiles and reassures him. She just needs sleep and she sleeps better alone. “Sweet dreams,” she murmurs. He accepts that and offers her a quick kiss as a keepsake. He doesn’t pursue.