Varanis — 1626 0737 Security
????, Fire Season, Season/Illusion Week
Fire Season/Illusion Week/Windsday afternoon to dusk. [[[s01:session-44|Immediately before Session 44]]]
Some of our heroes are back at the White Grape, still processing the news of Kallyr’s death and its implications.
It will take a while before Varanis comes down to the common room. She’ll be clean and in her armour. Hair tidily braided. Kallyr’s armring on her right arm. She’s only drinking water.
Xenofos is making sense of his notes, and watching the door.
Rajar returns to the White Grape after visiting the Stormbull Temple. He approaches Varanis. “We should talk.”
Varanis nods. “Here or elsewhere?”
“Here is fine. It’s no secret.” They take a seat and Rondrik places a mug of beer on the table before disappearing into the kitchen.
“How can I help, Rajar?” She sounds tired, but everyone in the party is tired.
“Here in Sartar, blood counts for much. Are you ambitious?”
She looks taken aback. “My ambition has been to serve Vinga and to be a hero worthy of being remembered. I have never aspired to rule,” she answers at last. “I want to help to defeat the Lunars, so that Sartar, Esrolia, the Grazelands, and Prax are free of their presence. But I don’t want to rule over that.”
“Good,” he replies bluntly. “I’d hate us to come to blows. Now, others may not trust that you do not. They may wish to harm you in their fear. So Xenofos, when you sleep I do not. Enough lives lost already.”
The scholar nods, clearly having been following the conversation. He puts Varanis’ words to vellum. Just in case.
Rajar sits watching the door. Gauntlets on.
Varanis bristles. “I can look after myself. I am perfectly competent with my weapons, thank you.”
“Yes. And whoever they send knows that. They will not come alone.” The Stormbull pulls no punches. “The Lunars would love to see your line die here.”
She frowns, then sighs. “Fuck. You are right.” After a moment, she adds quietly, “I have brothers and a sister.”
She breathes deeply. “I’ll need Dormal or Irillo to find a way to send that safely.”
“Yes. That is wise.” The big man agrees without taking his eyes from the door.
“Irillo,” Xenofos states adamantly.
“Indeed.” Rajar adds, “Might be best to sleep warded.”
“Irillo looked like he was in bad shape. Do we know how he is and where he is?” Her tone is full of concern.
Rajar says, “They moved him to the temple of the White Ladies.”
“Sleep warded?” she asks, finally catching up to his earlier words. “Physically or spiritually?”
Rajar shrugs. “Somewhere warded. As in sleeping there.”
“Temple of Vinga? Or Ernalda?” suggests Xenofos, thoughtfully.
“Oh.” She looks startled. “I suppose I wouldn’t want to risk bringing trouble to Rondrik’s doorstep.” She thinks. “Temple of Vinga, if they’ll have me. But neither of you would be welcomed there.”
“That would be a problem,” Xenofos says.
“No, it wouldn’t. It means you could sleep and be fresh when I need you. You and Rajar can take turns. I’ll be safe within the Temple. And I…” she takes a deep breath and forces herself into the words, “I promise not to leave the Temple without an appropriate escort.”
“Is Irillo at risk?” Rajar interjects.
“I don’t know. He isn’t related to me through my mother’s line, but it is conceivable that any of you could be used as a way to get to me.” She’s coming back to it, this way of thinking where enemies may lurk everywhere.
“Ah. Very well… we shall see how stupid people are.” It almost sounds like the big man hopes that someone is very stupid.
Xenofos points out, “Getting anyone inside house of White ladies is major sacrilege. I would not fear that.” Then he adds, “Will you be safe in temple of Vinga though? It could be Orlanthi blades that are on your path. Not necessarily Lunar scimitars.”
“No Vingan would slay a sister within the Temple walls and no man can enter those precincts.” She sounds confident.
“A fine way to sleep,” Rajar replies in a tone that makes it unclear whether he means it or not. “Very well.”
“They would need to agree to house me though. I would not force my presence and the risks I carry on anyone.” She glances regretfully at Rondrik. Rondrik, leaning glumly on his elbow with his chin on his hand, sighs. He drums his fingers on the planks that serve as a bar.
“Xenofos, can you order some food and drink for those of us here and tip him generously? If we are driving away customers, we need to be making sure he is well compensated.” She looks like she feels guilty.
“I already paid him and well,” Rajar says with a smile. Rondrik does perk up a little at that. He might be listening.
“Can you see if he has anything sweet, Xenofos?” She hesitates. Sighs. “We should talk to him about his food suppliers and figure out a plan to reduce the risk of poison. My oldest brothers may have been… removed that way.”
“Trail rations? I have months of buffalo jerky. Some zebra. I can milk a goat…” Rajar’s offer to share is enthusiastic.
Varanis shudders. “If it becomes necessary, Rajar. But I don’t want to deprive you of such carefully laid in supplies.” Her manners aren’t impeccable, but they are usually pretty good.
“Out of curiosity, when you came in Rajar, were there any unexpected people loitering?”
“Not that I saw.”
Xenofos studies the Stormbull. “Rajar, when Varanis refut… Said she is not ambitious, you sounded like otherwise there might have been blows? Is your axe pledged to someone else you expect to claim the the throne?”
“Varanis laying claim to the throne would be bad. It’s too soon for her to be khan of khans. She would lose and die. And.” The big man is silent for a moment. “Perhaps. We shall see. The White Bull will choose who he backs. And I am a sworn member of the White Bull Warrior Society. I would prefer not to have to choose.”
“I have the utmost respect for the White Bull,” Varanis says fervently.
“If you choose that road, I’d argue for you. But he listens and then makes his mind up. He listens to everyone. He was a slave.” Rajar’s admiration for the man is apparent in every word.
“I followed him in Prax last year and pledged my loyalty to him,” Varanis adds. “He’s a good man.”
Rajar glances at her. “I did not know you were one of us. Good. He will have a view to who suits the throne. Who best to lead our allies against the Lunars. Perhaps he will choose you after all.”
“I’d rather he didn’t,” she admits. “There are others with more experience and more knowledge. I have only my distant relation to Sartar himself. That is not a lot to base a rulership on.”
“You are sworn to White Bull,” Rajar replies. “Prax needs a firm ally. He will want to secure the throne. Likely you are correct.”
Xenofos argues, “Prax will not choose though, but the tribes of Sartar. But even there one would hope wishes of Varanis and wisdom would prevail.”
Varanis laughs; it’s not a happy sound. “I have really messed things up with my pledge to recover the spark. But, Sartar needs the flame relit and I’d make the same promise again.”
Rajar replies, “The chieftains will choose. But, if they have Argrath standing behind them with a full army, only Leika could choose to gainsay that. Leika is likely. I believe Argrath was born around there somewhere… But no matter.” To Varanis he says, “Perhaps don’t offer to assist personally next time?”
Before it gets dark, Varanis asks Xenofos to escort her up to the Vingan Temple so she can pray and hopefully spend the night.
On the way to temple of Vinga, Xenofos quietly warns Varanis. “Blades and spells are not only things to be wary of. Watch out for sycophants and flatterers too. The local High Sage dropped by earlier and was disappointingly unsubtle. So watch your own words, try to avoid anything that would sound like promise – or support to someone else, unless you are committed to that support.”
Varanis nods thoughtfully. “You aren’t wrong. But I pledged my loyalty to the White Bull last year and won’t be forsworn.” She falls quiet. “Things are complicated,” she mutters after a time. “Kallyr is my Prince. Argrath is the White Bull. It was clear and I knew how to serve. I don’t know what to do without her.”
Xenofos says, “Bide your time. Listen. If pressed for premature answers say you are still mourning, as indeed you are.”
“That’s good advice. Thank you. Xenofos, she can’t really be gone, can she? Mellia and the healers, they’ll find a way. She’s Kallyr. She always comes back.” The grief and fear in her voice is quiet, but very real. She’s holding on to calm because she has to, not because she has accepted any of this.
“That may be so, all the more reason not to be too rash,” he replies.
“In the morning, I will want to return to the White Grape. It’s where I told the Palace they could find me if needed. Will it be you or Rajar waiting outside the Temple for me? And how early can I expect you?” She is retreating into practicalities rather than emotions. She can’t plan long-term, but she can plan the next morning. It helps to feel like there’s some control, no matter how small it is. “And as much as I hate to say it, we should consider you having back-up. You could be used against me very easily, cousin and now you have to walk back to the inn in growing darkness, by yourself.” She scowls. “Send Rajar in the morning and tomorrow we will discuss what strategies we can use to protect everyone.”
“Will do. Do you have words for Berra if she arrives?”
“Let her know where I am. The Temple would allow her access, if she needs to seek me out. But, otherwise I would only hope that she sleep as best she can, as things may be difficult in the days and weeks to come.” Varanis brightens suddenly. “She could always come to get me in the morning, if she’s well-rested and free to do so. Unless Rajar would prefer to do it himself.”
He nods. “I will tell her.”
On arriving at the Temple, Varanis turns to her cousin and places a hand on his shoulder. “Be alert. Be safe. I will see you in the morning.” She looks like she wants to say more, but in the end, doesn’t.
“Rest well, cousin,” he replies.
She nods, then turns and enters the temple gate without looking back. The door swings shut behind her. A short time later, a Vingan guard emerges to inform Lord Xenofos that his cousin will be staying until morning.