Varanis — 1626 0730 Xenofos Cf01
????, Fire Season, Season/Illusion Week
Fire Season/Illusion Week/Freezeday/Evening. [[[s01:session-42|Session 42]]]
Xenofos finally makes it to Cinder Fox, after the events in Wilmskirk. [http://journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/xenofos:orlanth Previous story in Xenofos’ timeline]
Xenofos arrives in the village and slides off his horse. The horse has been taken better care of than the rider.
Varanis is very pleased to see her cousin. She hugs him on arrival, probably messing with his dignity, but she is happy he is on his own feet. Then she studies him closely.
“Your pledge to the temple of Orlanth has been fulfilled.” Xenofos announces curtly, without any prior explanations. He looks pale and under-slept, and as sweaty as if he just rode here in Fire season.
“Let’s make the necessary introductions and then I’ll show you where we are sleeping. We need to talk,” she says, still looking at him intently.
Xenofos just nods to Varanis. He does not shirk from her stare but does not look too happy either. For introductions, he musters politeness honed by Esrolian tutors.
Varanis introduces Xenofos to Aelna, the lady of the steading first, as would be right in Esrolia. Aelna, a pleasant-looking woman who was once obviously beautiful, looks surprised and flattered, and offers to introduce Xenofos to Lord Venlar, who keeps the stead in his father’s absence.
Venlar… well. If you were to take Lord Eril, the High Sword of Boldhome, and somehow manage to hurt him, leaving a long scar puckering his right eye, and if somehow Voria were to restore youth to him, that would be Venlar. The height, the frame, the hairline are all the same. The pleased smile on seeing a new face and the happy introduction and the invitation to stay until his father returns are, thankfully, entirely different. The resemblance is uncanny, although Venlar is apparently Venlar Silorsson. With his noble education, Xenofos’ shudder at the resemblance is not outwardly visible.
Varanis beams at Aelna. She is friendly with Venlar too, giving Xenofos the impression that she likes the young man (though only in a friendly sort of way). The Vingan seems to be at ease around these two.
“Venlar, my cousin is a scholar and Initiate of Lhankor Mhy,” Varanis adds with a sweet smile.
Venlar’s smile is made lopsided by the scar, but there is a definite brightening of his features. “I am all the more pleased to have asked you to stay, then,” he says smoothly. The voice is… half Eril’s. Age may take it and harden it, carving off the sounds of welcome and leaving only the bones of meaning, but for now, it is real and genuine.
“My cousin is too kind. Initiate yes, but merely a scholarly amateur,” answers the Esrolian.
“Cousins are always kind but the best kindness is flattering accuracy. I have an interest in the written word, although I find that the Orlanthi way is a better guide for my spirit. Will you be seated, have food and drink? A journey should end with a meal.” Venlar indicates the way.
Varanis links her arm through her cousin’s and walks along beside him, chattering about her own ride, her enjoyable visit at the steading, and anything else that comes to mind. There’s something about the tension in her grip that suggests pulling away would be unwise.
Xenofos follows, though he is a bit dubious whether he is feeling ravenous or nauseous.
In Esrolian, his cousin murmurs, <<You will drink and at least try a little food>>.
There are two main buildings within this palisade – a neat longhouse, which apparently houses all of the thralls, and a big, sprawling, higgledy-piggledy multi-part building all under one roof. It is obviously many houses, connected by one heather thatch. Varanis points out the entrance to the house where they are staying as they pass.
Xenofos looks, making note of possible exits from the house and looking where rest of the group seems to be. The only familiar face he sees is Varanis’. He is not asking anything. Just observing and exchanging polite niceties with the hosts. He removes excess weapons and helmet at the door.
The hosts leave Xenofos alone, after a man wearing a leather collar comes to put food, drink and hot water in front of him. Varanis, on the other hand, does not leave him alone. At all.
Xenofos washes his hands and face and after making sign of Ernalda starts eating. There is time and room to speak together, quietly. Venlar retreats and nobody else bothers them. Varanis nibbles, but for the most part, she seems to be drinking a lot of water.
“I don’t see others?” comments the scholar in Esrolian.
“They have gone to the Marsh. And I could not.” The cheerfulness of earlier is gone and her words are crisp.
He strokes his beard. Silence. Xenofos is looking somewhere outside the wall. Or maybe inside his head.
“Drink more water.” She refills his cup and thumps it down in front of him.
Over on the other side of the food hall Venlar is singing. Or rather, practicing singing. A few phrases, repeated as he frowns and gets them wrong, are providing noise enough to stop anyone from listening in.
Varanis’ eyes are glaring, but her lips are smiling. “Are you going to get around to telling me what happened?” she asks abruptly.
There is a sigh. The question was not unexpected and the answer comes quietly. “I thought I was fleeing. But I just dived into my fears.”
“So this was you? Not something someone else did to you?” The smile falters as disbelief hits her.
“Who else could have put the stuff on my incense burner?” The answer is followed with a sideways glance to Varanis.
“I thought maybe someone had slipped in while you slept. I thought it was a trap.” She looks stricken. “You nearly died. How could you?”
“I suppose that could happen, but it was your stupid cousin all by himself.” Xenofos barks the confession angrily in low voice.
“I was so afraid for you.” There’s a choked sound that might almost be a laugh. “I guess I know how you felt back in Boldhome.”
Xenofos hangs his head. “It was not my intention to hurt others, yet you and others paid for my stupidity.”
She reaches out and puts her hand on his. “I know. We are more alike that I think either of us realized.”
“Will you forgive me?” he asks.
“I forgave you before I left Wilmskirk. Did you get my note?” She looks at him somberly.
Varanis blinks. And looks worried.
“Well… I left a note, telling you to find me and that we would fix this together.” She still looks worried.
“It seems you left more than a note. Jaldis told me you had pledged your name for my conduct and the Stormvoice told me you had paid my fine and vouched for my character.” Xenofos looks Varanis in the eyes. “I needed to be here as soon as possible so I admitted use and accepted the fine as judged.”
Varanis nods. “You are my sworn man. I am responsible for you.”
“Even when I have failed my duty…” Xenofos seems to have gotten something into his eyes.
“You don’t escape me that easily. You gave me your oath and I gave you mine. We are bound together.” There is no doubt in her.
“I would never try to flee this bond.”
“Good,” she says in satisfaction. “We will need to determine what happens next. You can expect that Mellia will yell at you. And Dormal… well, maybe just don’t talk to him. You can’t use it again, Xenofos,” she says quietly.
“Trust me, I have no desire. The dreams… It did not put them down like poppy seeds.”
Varanis leans into her cousin, head on his shoulder. “You will be ok. I will help you. Mellia will help you.” Varanis was all set out to yell at Xenofos, but just could not do it. Despite the risk of spoiling the nobby youth she can’t help it. He’s her connection home in a way that none of the others can be.
Out of the blue, she punches him in the thigh under the table. “But don’t you ever do that again,” she says quietly while looking at him innocently. The blow is hard enough to sting, but probably won’t bruise. The blow gets replied with steady look “It is not my intent to summon that dragon again.”
A long silence follows, interrupted by the verses Venlar manages to sing before next forgotten word.
“I am glad I found you here and could talk with you first. I did not expect to have that opportunity,” Xenofos says.
Venlar stops practicing and starts singing, and it’s beautiful, a tenor voice that fills the hall and makes some of those people working in the light of fires stop and watch him, or smile as they keep spinning. Then, damn him, he goes back to the practice after a few minutes.
Varanis nods. “It’s not over though, you understand? There will be more discussion. But not now. Drink more water,” she says filling both cups again.