VS 102 On the Road Again

Varanis — 1626 0764 Road

????, Earth Season, Season/Disorder Week


Context

Earth Season/Disorder Week/Godday [[[s02:session-3|Session 3]]]
On the road between Wilmskirk and Whitewall

Varanis and Xenofos ride together at the back of the party for a time.

Events

On the road to Wilmskirk. Varanis rides up next to Xenofos. He acknowledges her approach with a nod. “Good to be on the road again?”



She looks at him, then turns to look up the road. “I don’t really know, to be honest.”

There’s a raised eyebrow. A short silence. “Do you want to talk about that or would you rather let the topic rest?”

“I have mixed feelings about going back to Nochet. I don’t know what my welcome will be,” she admits.

“It is our home. As much and more than any other place,” he says.

“I know. But I don’t know how Grandmother will view the events in Boldhome.” She looks back at him. “I owe Grandmother a lot, but I can’t be what she wants me to be right now.”

He raises his eyebrow again. “Her wishes are veiled from me. What has Grandmother said to you she wishes you to be?”

Varanis purses her lips a moment before answering. “Grandmother hasn’t said much, if I am honest. The Wyter asked if I am loyal and Dormal says Grandmother wants me to rule. But Grandmother stayed her enigmatic self.”

Once again, he raises eyebrow in that infuriating way. “So what you are saying, is that you have no information on what Grandmother really wishes.”

This earns a wry look from his cousin. “Do we ever know what she really wishes?” she asks.

He shrugs. “Deep politics is a ladies’ affair. I find it enough to just worry of fulfilling wishes she makes known. Herself or through someone reliable with authority.”

Varanis glances down at her chest, covered in bronze, then back up at him. There’s laughter in her eyes. “I guess it’s my affair then.”

He nods. “Yes.” There’s a pause. “And you will not get her wishes from a former street urchin.”

“Don’t underestimate him, Xenofos. I’ve seen the rooms she gives him at House Saiciae. He has her favour and her trust on some level.” The laughter disappears. “There’s more to him that you give him credit for.”

“He is calculating, quick-witted, and slippery, and cannot be trusted o’ heir of Sartar.” He gives her an earnest look. “I sometimes wonder if you should just out him as Trickster and – if he begs, give him protection as his Orlanth.” He shakes his head. “And even such barbaric arrangement would be wrought with risk with that eel.”

“I’ve offered him my protection more than once. He’s refused it. I’ve even provided him with that protection at times anyway.” She shrugs beneath the bronze cuirass. Then she blinks. “Did you just call me heir of Sartar?” She stares at Xenofos in shock.

“Yes. Sarcastically reminding you of position your weasel tried to maneuver you into, against your specifically stated wish.” There’s a thoughtful pause. “Though technically that is true – coming from the lineage would make you heir even though they elect their princes.”

“Oh, well…” She takes a breath. “I’m not sure I’m ready for sarcasm or other humour related to that particular subject at the moment.” She stares at Doqeia’s twitching ears. “I’m very glad that they choose their princes in such a manner. It means that it’s very unlikely they will ever choose me. I don’t have the support of the Tribes.”

“I am sorry. I did not want to hurt you. No you don’t have the support of the tribes, but with your blood you are, and remain, a potential candidate.”

Varanis nods. “I know. That’s part of what I discussed with Eril before we left. I want to be ready should the prince’s mantle ever fall on my shoulders. I don’t seek the position, but one day I may be required to accept it. If that’s the case, I should prepared to do it well.” Her horse shifts uneasily, giving evidence of rider’s unhappiness. “I don’t want to be like Temertain.”

“That is wise. But you are made of much sterner stuff than that poor man, Lightbringer.”

She smiles at him fondly. “Thank you, Xenofos. I have wise counsel and that matters too.” She drops the topic suddenly to ask, “What are your thoughts on Mellia and Venlar’s intention to wed? Do you think the Clan will support it?”

He shrugs. “Again, ladies’ responsibilities – or to some extent Issarians haggling. It is very rushed. Shows lack of sense of proper decorum. But they are so sweet, so lovestruck. It would feel wrong to be cautious and keep them apart. A year marriage maybe, if this is just infatuation that passes?” Xenofos smile softens when speaking of the two doves.

“I worry that she underestimates her value to the Clan. She is so concerned about what her mother will say that she hasn’t thought about what Grandmother will decide.” Varanis frowns a little. “I’m worried about her request that Kallyr preside. That means the wedding will most likely need to take place in Boldhome and Grandmother may take issue with that.”

“My gut feeling is that no-one really thought our sweet Mellia, ever so diligent, always studying, travelling with adventurers would be much of an asset in Nochet marriage market,” he admits.

“That is possible, but she’s famous now and that might have changed things. But that is a discussion for Grandmother and her advisors.” Varanis glances over at Xenofos. “You know, I never thought to ask. Do you have a loved one you will be returning to in Nochet? Irillo has Serzeen, of course. I wonder if those two will ever make it official.” She looks up ahead where Irillo and his mules are with a speculative expression.

“With her cult and vocation official marriage is possible but kind of hard.” Xenofos lets his gaze follow Varanis’ to Irillo. “He is pretty serious about it though. But maybe not best husband material with his vagrant lifestyle.”

“I don’t know. If I had to have a husband, I think I’d rather he was away more often than not,” the Vingan says, only half joking.

“I do sometimes wonder if you are proper wife material yourself.” The scholar says deadpan.

She laughs out loud, startling Doqeia, who really ought to be used to her rider’s mood changes, but obviously isn’t. It takes but a moment to get the horse under control again. “I’d be a terrible wife,” Varanis admits at last. “Perhaps I should resign myself to growing old alone.” Her words are full of laughter, but there’s a tiniest hint of sadness in her eyes.

“With all your emotions and impulses you sound more like a husband. You just need a sensible wife with lots of patience.” Xenofos’ tone is light. “And we can talk of growing old alone or in company later – if we are still around.” There’s laughter, but it’s a bit hollow.

The Vingan laughs too. “Alas. I’m not sure we will grow old, cousin of mine. But you never know! I’ve died twice already and it didn’t stick.” Like Xenofos, the laughter isn’t completely joyful. She seems to be laughing in spite of her reality, rather than because of it. “What do you plan to do first when we get home?”

He sniffs and raises his eyebrow. “Bathe.”

This gets yet another laugh. “Given we are riding at the back of our little train and are becoming rapidly more dusty by the moment, I suspect we’ll have buckets of water dropped over our heads multiple times before we are allowed in the baths.”

“I don’t think I would mind that if the result is proper Esrolian bath.”

Xenofos coughs a bit of trail dust. With a wave, he gallops to a scouting position a bit ahead and on side of caravan – and incidentally out of the dust cloud.

A while later, the two ride together again.

On the road to Whitewall while coughing dust and guarding the wagons Xenofos mentions to Varanis: “I have been noting down everyone’s experiences from the quest. Can you tell me what happened to you after Ezkankekko noted Dormal had stolen that jewel?”

Varanis looks up at him in surprise. “Now?”

“You have something more important happening? At Boldhome you seemed too busy.” Xenofos lets his gaze pan the empty countryside, and the dust rising from the caravan.

“No, it’s fine. I can tell you what I remember.” She inhales and looks like she regrets instantly as she coughs on dust. It takes a couple of minutes for her to clear her throat and her eyes are glassy. She breathes again, more cautiously.

“After the Only Old one cast us away, I managed to keep my grip on Eurmal until we landed. We found ourselves far from the Obsidian castle. And well… we argued. Or more aptly, I yelled. And the more I yelled, the more stuck we seemed to be. I was holding us back.” She looks a little ashamed as she explains this. “I knew that Orlanth had to forgive Eurmal, but I was just so frustrated with him.”

She stares at Manasa’s ears for a while before continuing. “We found our way at last to a road leading towards the Lead Castle. But it was guarded by Uz. There was no way to get around the castle, we had to go through it.” She wrinkles her nose in thought, or perhaps because the wagon’s mules have kicked up more dust.

“We snuck closer to the castle, so we wouldn’t be observed.” There’s a long pause now as she considers her next words. “I don’t remember whose idea it was. You’ll need to ask Dormal. We came up with the idea of him using an illusion to look like a troll and bluffing our way through the gates with me as his prisoner.” She stares at the mare’s ears after casting a quick glance in Xenofos’ direction to see how he took that.

Xenofos is listening with concentration, looking at Vingan as she unfolds the tale.

“I…” She falters, then continues. “I let him shackle me. Trusting my Trickster to not betray me a second time. And he didn’t. He bluffed our way into the castle, looking and sounding like a monstrous Uz with many legs. When we were through the gate, we weren’t sure at first where to go. But we saw another that looked like Dormal within his illusion and this other carried a web-wrapped body. We followed it and that led us to you and the others. It was a place of nightmares.” The gaze she turns on the scholar is grim. “You know the rest.”

Xenofos nods. “I do. And I have heard how some of the others wound up in there. “

“How did you get there?”

He gives her an empty stare. “Through desert road of scales and gates of ivory…Passing deceased long past.”

She raises an eyebrow. “Deceased long past? Like ghosts?”

“More like corpse. Though without his armour I would not have been able to recognize him.”

“It was someone you knew, then.” She gives him a sad look. “We have all lost so many. I’m sorry you had to have that wound made fresh.”

He shrugs. “I already knew he was dead and seeing him… no. He. He helped me find the right path.”1normal success truth and loyalty Varanis

She nods. “What will you do with your notes?”

“I will need to write as complete report as possible to Lhankor Mhy temple on the quest.” He looks slightly embarrassed “And I’ve dabbled a bit with poetry.”

She raises an eyebrow at him and then grins. “Poetry? Really?? When can I have a recitation?”

Xenofos blushes and mutters something like, not before it is ready.

“Well, you can always use me as a test audience. I won’t judge you.” She smiles readily at him.

Xenofos eyes her, trying to gauge if she is jesting. Finding no mockery, he nods slowly.