1626, Fire Season, Movement Week
In the later afternoon of Godday, after a conversation between Varanis and Venlar, Venlar brings her to meet Thenaya. Continues on from Venlar and the Vingan, also after Marshing Orders (Session 1.42). Later referenced in Eril’s Offer.
Venlar ducks under the door with the ease of long practice, and turns left up three steps made of wood and packed earth, and then there are a couple of detours around what used to be a building here and there, and he opens the door into a room where Thenaya is seated, at a writing desk. Venlar bows and backs off, and only stumbles a little over his own feet as he turns to leave.
Thenaya looks at Varanis, and says, “My Lord has told me why you are here. Come in.”
Varanis murmurs “thank-you” to Venlar as he leaves. Then she turns her gaze on Thenaya. “You are well-tucked away, lady,” she observes.
“It was always a peaceful room,” she replies. Thenaya is outwardly peaceful, but sad beneath.1Successful insight roll. “Is he happy, still?” she asks.
Varanis looks thoughtful. “I have only interacted with him a few times, lady, and in very difficult times, at that. I am not sure that I am the best judge of his character.”
She looks down. “He was the kindest, best person I knew.” Her hand runs over the tilted surface of the desk. “He shouldn’t have been a Humakti. He should have been anything else.”
Varanis doesn’t really know how to respond to this. Finally, she says, “What led him to Humakt?”
Thenaya looks up at Varanis, and then down at the Vingan’s feet. “There was an omen. Before he was born.” She is calm, emotion gone from her, maybe years ago.
Although Varanis hasn’t been invited to sit, she looks about to find a place to settle down. There is one seat, other than the one the thrallmistess is on, which is a writing stool rather too tall for her, but fine if she does not try to use it for writing. Thenaya watches Varanis, and then says, “That’s where I would sit,” with a sudden smile. “He’d be here. I loved to just be with him – he liked to tell me things, and have someone to talk to. Someone he could tell tiny things to, not all the important matters he argued about. He would discuss court cases with his friends, and how his trained rocks were, with me.”
Varanis is curious about Eril and Thenaya. She may be on a mission of sorts, but this story seems to have caught her attention for other reasons. The respect she accords Thenaya is real. The woman may be a freed thrall and Varanis a noblewoman, but she’s intrigued.
With a glance that almost asks permission, Varanis perches herself on the available seat. “Trained rocks?”
Thenaya says, “I am sorry. Please do sit, Lady Varanis.” She stands for a moment, while Varanis does that, and then sits, and her face warms again as she smiles. “Yes. I wondered for years. Years. And eventually I asked, and he put one down in the middle of the room and told it, ‘Stay’. He’d been waiting for years to say it, but he didn’t look pleased. Just serious. Only he looked at me like he was proud of how well trained it was.”
Varanis raises an eyebrow. And then she giggles. “He did that?”
Thenaya smiles, and a dimple flashes into being for a moment. “He kept most of them in a little garden. Plants didn’t grow easily for him, and he didn’t really understand them, but he had a little area just outside, where all his favourite rocks were. They were different colours, from different places or with engravings, and I used to sneak there and look after everything he tried to grow in the crevices. He didn’t really understand Earth, but he tried. He wanted to know everything. The rest of the garden is gone now, but I kept the one he trained for me. It’s very well behaved and it’s never tried to escape.”
The Vingan is charmed by the story, at the end she sighs sadly. “He sounds like he was a different man in those days. I wonder what happened.”
“His god, his father, and his duty. The last time I saw him, he had crept into the Tula, and over the palisade. He was feverish. He needed help, and his father found out he was here, and exiled him as soon as the fever broke. I think he had killed a lot of people. He made me take the death price to the families of people he had bought, and then he was gone.”
“Was that after he’d removed his tattoos?” Varanis asks gently.
“His… oh, yes. And he hadn’t shaved. That was the bit that worried us most. He used to do it every day, and then he arrived without his armour, either. I didn’t know he removed them. I suppose he would have, if he thought he’d be exiled. He’d never have taken a thing he was not entitled to.” For the first time there are tears in Thenaya’s eyes, and she blinks, and one drops down onto her cheek.
“The armour… it was lost in Boldhome. He was desperate to keep the relics out of Lunar hands and it came at high cost to him. He had to make such difficult choices from what I can tell.” Varanis keeps her voice gentle. “For what it’s worth, my cousin says that his Honour and devotion are beyond compare.” The Vingan knows that while these things would matter to her, they may not matter to the lover left behind. But she has little else to offer.
Thenaya looks puzzled. “Relics? Is that what he had? I didn’t know.” Puzzlement over, she looks down at the desk. “My Lord has said his… that the man who used to be his brother wrote to him. I felt him cut away from me, even so far away. Did your Humakti ever tell you how it hurt?”
Varanis shakes her head sadly. “No. It is not a thing I understand, I’m afraid.”
“For politics, if not for love, Lord Silor will help. Is there anything his thrallmistress can do?” Thenaya becomes a little more businesslike, smoothing down her dress and giving Varanis a look with returning confidence in it.
Varanis gambles on honesty. “I wanted to know if we would have support here, or if my kin and I would have trouble trying to recover the relics. Your words, Silor’s, and the letter he showed me earlier lead me to believe that we will be alright. But is there anything you think we should know? Anything that might pose a threat to our efforts?”
Thenaya does think about that for a while. She looks just like Yamia did, when she was quiet at the feast. The thoughtful look is perfectly, completely, absolutely the same. “Lord Silor will know best,” she says finally. “Eril never used to tell people things unless it helped them to know. I saw him twice – buying warriors. I helped him to do that. And then when he returned, we did not really speak. He was too ill. Lord Silor could tell you more.” Lord Silor, but Eril. Her voice is kinder when talking about him.
Varanis nods thoughtfully. She says, “We will do our best. We serve Kallyr and Sartar, as does Eril. Everything that we do is for my Prince and her people and to help drive back the Lunars.” The passion in the words is echoed by the gleaming sincerity in her eyes.
“He was always going to be a great man. His father wanted an Orlanthi, and his son grew into a book learner. The soothsayer who took the omens of his birth died long ago, or I would say to ask him, but really I can’t help. I was just his little friend. I believe you when you say he serves Sartar. He always put the Clan before himself.” Thenaya looks proud. “A good thing to do.”
Varanis nods her thanks. “If I see him, is there anything you would have me say?” she offers.
“No. He died. What I feel for him is mourning, now. He’s gone.” Thenaya looks down at her hands, and back at Varanis. “Would you like to see if Lord Venlar can entertain you for a while?”
Varanis politely thanks the thrallmistress. “I can find my way out,” she says. “I know he is busy in his father’s absence.”
Thenaya stands, and bows her head in a respectful farewell.
Varanis leaves the way she came.
Over the next couple of days, she will divide her time between getting to know people and finding willing folks with broadswords to practice with. She’s working on making friends and learning as much about these people as she can. She wants to ensure that they really are allies and she’s trying to get a sense of their support for Kallyr while she’s at it.
Tomorrow morning, very early, when she’s hoping few people are awake, she’ll attempt to go wading at least. If that isn’t a terrible flop, she’ll do it again the next day, trying to go waist deep.
- 1Successful insight roll.