Varanis — 1626 0765 Sparring
????, Earth Season, Season/Disorder Week
Earth Season/Disorder Week/Godday [[[s02:session-3|Session 3]]]
On the road between Wilmskirk and Whitewall
Followed by [http://journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/varanis:1626-0767-healers-humakti Healers or Humakti?]
At the end of the day, after camp is set up, Varanis comes looking for Berra.
Berra has been riding on the back of Yamia’s wagon all day, and then had a quick talk with Salid when the guard roster was being set. Apparently, the Trollkin was in charge of the caravan. Now, however, she is walking up and down as she eats a bowl of soaked hard-bread mashed with berries. She scarfs it down like a peasant who has learned infantry tactics.
âBerra?â The Vinganâs question heralds her approach. âDo you feel up to training tonight?â Varanis is dust-covered from being at the back of the pack most of the day. Her plaited hair is wispy around her face.
Berra, mostly free of dust, says, “Of course. It pretty much counts as prayer for me, you know?” She holds up the bowl. “Give me one moment. I’ll work out what we’re doing while I finish this.”
Varanis grunts her agreement and takes the time to loosen up muscles made stiff by the long ride.
Berra finishes off and then is quietly amazed when one of Venlar’s thralls takes her bowl and spoon. She stares for a moment, but it is too late to snatch them back, so instead she goes to find two wooden swords. When she returns to Varanis she is smiling. “So. We’ve done a lot of line changes and drills lately. You’re starting to learn the weight of it all – but we haven’t put you under stress for a while… Let’s spar.”
That gets an answering smile and a ready agreement. Varanisâ eyes glint eagerly, but her manner is respectful as she holds her hands open to receive a training sword from Berra.
Berra hands one over, and then begins to check the one Varanis will use. “I’m not going to give it any rules or any other targets, and I won’t be holding back much. Just give it your best go. We’re trying to make you remember you have a broadsword, not a rapier.” Her thumb finds a splinter and she scrapes it off with a bit of flint from a small pouch. She no longer carries the complicated belt, now her armour weighs more, but some tools always go with her.
Varanis looks over the sword Berra has handed her, giving a quick nod of agreement as her reply. When she doesnât find any splinters or other concerns, she watches Berra work with the other practice blade.
When Berra is done she offers it. “We have plenty of people on the watch roster, so feel free to go on for as long as you can, or as long as I can. Or until the Enlo make a noise we want to listen to.” She seems relaxed. Maybe watching the world go by has made her happy.
Thereâs a spot on the far side of the camp, away from the road, that Varanis points out. âItâs relatively flat and out of peopleâs way,â she says by way of explanation.
“Good good,” Berra says. Over by another flat spot, Venlar’s people are setting up a little private area with cloaks and blankets as walls, for him. Berra ignores that, and goes to take up a stance of prayer, briefly stretching into the Y position, sword in her right hand, shield at her feet. It takes her only a few seconds, and then she picks up her shield and all but dances her way into a position from which she could attack.1Berraâs player suggests: one Broadsword roll for attack, and one for Defense, for the session, to see how they do in general. Berra gets two passes, Varanis has a pass and a fail. Interpretation: Concentrating on the sword, so Varanis doesn’t always remember there is a Berra, but sheâs mostly competent.
Show Sparring practice
Varanis takes up her fighting stance, sword at the ready and shield up. She approaches Berra, not waiting for the Humakti to bring the fight to her. She starts with a flurry of light blows, alternating targets in an effort to break through the other womanâs guard. Every attack she makes is blocked or avoided easily.
Berra, Humakti to the core, approaches anyhow, not caring about Varanis’ plan, so they end up meeting halfway. She does go through a few of the movements Varanis would expect to see from previous drills, but now they are at full speed and she is working at it, they are harder to deal with. Using her shield to bounce her opponent’s out of the way for a strike to the arm… is that playing fair? She does not seem to care about such things.
Fighting is rarely about playing fair, so Varanis takes the blow to the arm with a wry grin and a launches a renewed attack. While sheâs not as good as the Humakti, she is determined, relentless, and aggressive. She presses the attack, feinting for the head with a subtle twitch of her wrist, and following with a precise attack to the same target.
Berra jerks back just a little too far when her face is threatened, an echo of the spear attack, and she steps back as she interposes her shield, clumsily but effectively. She was taken in, but her reaction was to close up and keep closed up. She takes a moment to counter furiously with a wild swipe that buys space and time, rather than making itself into a real threat, and then her feet are properly under her once more.
The Vingan grins over the edge of her shield. âAlmost.â She drives forward with a flurry of attacks, sword moving slower than her rapier, but with some competence. The drills have started to have an impact, as she seems to be using the broadsword as a broadsword, rather than a rapier.
“No prize for second,” Berra says, but she does not wait until the end of the sentence to start turning Varanis’ blows onto her shield and letting her waste the effort – that comes from the very moment they begin. She keeps moving left or right, always using the solid wood to keep her opponent’s blade away from her, and her own blade free, never quite letting the Vingan get a good position. It is something she obviously cannot keep up for too long; she is moving far more than Varanis is. Still, she snakes in a long, potentially killing slice towards the thigh as she changes direction unexpectedly.
So focussed on pressing the attack that for a moment itâs like Varanis hasnât even registered Berraâs movement. Then she frantically brings the shield down to protect her leg, the practice blade connects with flesh, proving sheâs responded too slowly. Itâs a long slice, so not impacting on muscle much. It would cut an artery if there were no armour and the blade were sharp.
Berra comes forward further, her shoulder impacting on the shield. There is a moment of closeness in which her concentration can be seen.
Varanisâ eyes widen as she feels the wooden sword slice across her thigh. She falters at the shield press, and her responding attack is a little wild.
Berra steps back, takes a moment, and then comes in again. Every decision she makes is based on what is happening, not on what happened a few seconds ago, and it shows.
And so it goes on. Berra’s defence is not perfect, and she takes a few hits on her armour, and one to the body, and smiles to acknowledge them, but when she starts to slow she goes fully on the defensive, giving herself time to cast Vigour. The spell goes off on the second attempt, but during that time she was fully alert to incoming danger, even if she was not thinking about how to land a blow.
Yelm moves in the sky as they work, and several of the warriors drift over to watch. The Enlo howl, miserably. And finally, Berra draws back and salutes. Her right wrist has a bruise on it, and her shield has a couple of chips in the paint.
Varanis is panting, having pushed herself hard. She has a few bruises already looking colourful. Her shield leg, in particular bears stripes, both on the muscle side and the inside of the thigh. In spite of this, she grins at Berra.
Berra nods. “Well done. You put in one crippling blow there, and a couple of very good ones.” Then she drops her shield, puts the sword down on it carefully, and dedicates a little time to breathing. There, at least, Varanis has the advantage.
The Vingan sets her own shield down carefully, laying the waster across it. Pushing her helm back on her head, she reaches for her water flask and offers it to Berra first.
Berra manages to chug some down, although there is a little spluttering and she spills some down her scale armour. “I needed that,” she admits.
âIâd have been dead several times over,â Varanis admits ruefully.
“Well, yes. But at least you’d have died competent.”
âI kept forgetting to block. Too eager to engage. I was like that when I first started to learn the rapier too. All attack and no defense.â She shakes her head.
“Better than the other way around. One of them gives you a chance of winning. Winning means surviving.” Berra remembers she is still holding the water bottle, takes one more mouthful, and then hands it back.
The Vingan takes a long pull of the water before returning her flask to her hip. âI wanted to ask you something. Unless you want to keep going? We can talk later if you want to keep training.â
“No, this is good. I … now I think about it, I need to not be bruised, because Yamia is not going to like it if I am. Ask away.” Berra sits down on the ground, leans back on her hands, and then flops onto the grass. “Urrrgh.”
âIâve been thinking about names.â The grey eyes stare at the grass. âSince coming to Sartar, there are times when Iâve been called VarÃ¦na and Colymar. Iâve even used it myself, when it seemed necessary.â Absently, she plucks a blade of grass and tears it slowly into strips. âWhat does it mean to be Colymar?â
“Mhm?” Berra leans on her elbow to listen, and then to think. “Well… I’m not truly the best person to ask,” she says. “But then again, it’s a question I’ve asked a lot. I did a lot of growing up outside Sartar – so I had to learn from people who were talking about home. The Colymar are old. Really old, as Clans go. Because it’s sort of like a really big Clan. Colymar’s son split the original clan into five, and gave the old name to the Tribe he made. They’ve always stood alone, always been proud, even though they joined King Sartar. They – we – didn’t always do things his way.”
âWhat do you mean?â Varanis abandons the piece of grass to study Berra instead.
“Colymar was the first person into Dragon Pass, when the Hendrikings moved there – when they fled Belintar. Pharaoh. Somewhere inside, we all know that. That he came from the same Clan as Sartar, but was there a hundred years before, and more.” Berra’s hand flexes as she works to keep the wrist supple despite the bruise. “We’re called proud, and that’s a good thing. We know ourselves. The Colymar wouldn’t make a city – because we’re already good enough. We don’t need a confederation. We could rule ourselves, but we choose to be part of Sartar – to be inside, helping. Our kin, our friends. But we’re doing it because we decide to, not because we need that protection. Because it’s better like this, not because anyone made us.”2Varanis passes insight roll: When she talks about being Colymar, Berra’s words seem to come from a place that is all confidence. As she talks about pride, she acts it unconsciously. Being Colymar is a thing that she knows without having to think about it.
Varanis listens intently, nodding her understanding. âIn some ways, Colymar is like Saiciae. Proud, independent, and a focal point for political power.â
“I suppose so?” Berra shrugs. “But I think that Saiciae is never thought of without Nochet. Colymar – all the Tribes – are more independent within Sartar. Think about how big the City is, and how big the Kingdom. So maybe, but I don’t see it, because I think the City’s different.”
Varanis considers this. âYou may be right. Being Saiciae is also about being part of the political dance of the Grandmothers. There are many undercurrents of power and we must always be aware of them within the city.â
Berra sighs, heavily, but then nods. “You have huge houses and sleep alone, but your Clans can be reached by crossing the road.”
âRemember too that we have property outside of Nochet, but itâs not like the Tula. I have 9 hides of lane,â Varanis says without boasting. âThereâs a villa on one of them, and tenants who work all of them. I stay at the villa when I visit, and technically it is my home. But when Iâm in Esrolia, I spend more time in Nochet.â
“Yes… but the centre, and the Wyters… you fit in close. The Colymar never made a city. They never federated.” Berra gives Varanis a thoughtful look.3Berra passes an insight roll. When Varanis talks about Nochet, thereâs warmth, maybe even longing in the word. But when she talks about her clan, itâs completely absent.
âThe city is the centre of our world in many ways,â Varanis acknowledges. âYou are right, they arenât comparable that way. I was thinking more of clans and tribes and the on-going dance of power.â She shrugs.
“Yes – I know what you mean about Houses and Tribes, but Colymar’s way of standing is all alone, with friends – not as a group. You make the decision yourself.”
Varanis looks perplexed by this. âThe Colymar donât protect each other?â
“That’s not what I said. Not at all. The Colymar, as a Tribe, don’t consider themselves to be part of anything that they don’t choose to be. But to BE Colymar is to know that your Tribe chooses you, and chooses to support you, because of who you are. That’s different.”
The expression of perplexity does not ease. âI am Colymar, but while Leika acknowledged me as such, the Tribe did not choose me and they clearly do not choose to support me.â
“Mmmmm….” Berra looks flatly at Varanis. “From their understanding, we chose not to support them. Give them time, for them to understand we did the right thing.”4Varanis passes insight roll: Berra is cut up about this. It is not the conversation, but the underlying situation. She is probably resigned to the matter, but it is still hurting.
âI donât know how they could think that leaving Kallyr in the Underworld could have been the right thing. We did what was right and necessary for Sartar.â Varanis looks like she wants to wave her hands in frustration, but years of training on manners in House Saiciae hold her still. The battle between movement and stillness makes her look tense, like a bowstring drawn and waiting to be released.
“If she had not come back, who should rule Sartar?” Berra flexes her hand, rubbing at the bruise to help it.
âThe tribes choose, do they not? So that is a question for the tribal council, not for this half-foreign Vingan.â
“Right. But it would have been Leika. Or could easily have been. The strongest. And a lot of the Tribes don’t like Kallyr. Her claim to the bloodline makes her the ruler, but…” Berra trails off, looking down and for a moment looking bitter. “The Colymar are not rejecting us. They are angry at what we chose to do, and at it working. They’ll have to come round.”
âIf the claim to the bloodline were enough, Dormalâs ploy would have worked. But you were the one who told me that the tribes must choose. They chose Starbrow and Leika backed her.â Varanis plucks at the grass again, letting go of some of her tension. âThis is the side of politics that has always frustrated me. The constant distraction of the play for power. We have an enemy and that should be where our attention is focussed.â
“Dormal’s ploy was selfish and stupid, so let’s not talk about that.” Berra’s jaw sets for a moment, and then she breaks her mood by reaching for her water bottle. “Being in charge is different to being Prince. There are no others who could do it – Kallyr earned it, and that’s in part because of who she was the moment she was born.” Berra is unhappy enough that it shows in the set of her shoulders as well as her face.
âIâve been considering… what would it mean if I began to use to Colymar name? I have a right to it by birth and a right to it by the land granted to me by Kallyr and affirmed by Leika. But would others recognize that right?â Calloused fingers delicately shred a blade of grass, strip by strip.
“Recognise? Yes. It’s a right. It might cause trouble, but only in people looking for trouble.” Berra looks untroubled by that.
Varanis smiles, but it doesnât reach her eyes. âI admit to being curious about how Grandmother would take it. Does it signal a triumph to her? Or a loss?â She shakes her head. âI donât know. That woman has plans buried within plans.â
“That is a thing you have to not worry about. Separation. What is important?” Berra sits up straighter, back on familiar ground.
âThe most important thing to me right now is making sure that Sartar can do what is needed to end the Lunar threat.â Varanis lets the blade of grass fall. âAnd looking after those who rely on me.â
“Then it does not matter what Grandmother thinks, only what you do. You could take her advice, but you don’t have to do… well, you could listen to her advice, but you don’t have to take it. The big matter is we must not get in the way of Sartar reuniting.” Berra picks up the blade of grass, keen eyes finding it, strong fingers homing in easily. She holds it for a moment, and then enfolds it in a fist. “Who relies on you?”
âMy kin and my tenants.â The Vingan considers. âTo some degree, my Prince. Iâd like to say, my Temple, but I donât think theyâve been much concerned with me for a while now.â Thereâs regret in that last statement.
“You’ve got a different Temple. So how can you help each? We are helping Kallyr by not making things worse. Being here instead of back home is big to her. To them. So your Kinfolk. How can you support them? Who are they?”
âMost of the ones that matter to me are here. But there is also my grandparents, my sister and her children, and I suppose my brothers too.â Varanis runs her fingers through the grass as she considers her answer. âMy sister and brothers I protect by keeping quiet about them and making sure that they know that the threat to their safety has re-emerged. Iâve sent a message to my grandmother to make sure they are warned. Other than that, I support them best by staying away. They are Saiciae to their core, in spite of our shared blood.â
“And the people you are with here, you are with. That’s a different problem – we’re here together. That’s tactics, nothing more, and our current tactic is not being where the problems are. So I suppose that’s really strategy.” Berra uncurls her hand to look at the bit of grass. “But this group is people who can support themselves, too. So if you lend them strength, they have strength to lend you. And if you can’t, they’ll still be here. That’s not a problem, really.”
âIâve been learning that,â comes the reply.
Berra grins. She offers over her water bottle. “So, tenants. But you see, most of these are different problems, even if they have the same solution.”
âMy tenants are easy, right now. The Saiciae ones have an excellent Factor who I can trust. The Blue Tree ones seem very competent. Iâm not worried about them.â She shrugs beneath the bronze of her breastplate.
“Then most of the problems are not problems. What we can do personally to aid Sartar is a difficult question, but probably the one to keep on looking at. Did Lord Eril have any advice?” Berra fiddles with the stopper of her water bottle, which seems to be cracking, much to her annoyance.
âYes, he told me to show that I know how to fight a gnat.â Her expression is wry and thereâs a hint of laughter about her lips.
“Fire,” Berra says. “Although I think I probably have to think about the possible context.” She gives a grin. “I should go get ready for my watch. Do you think it’s strange that Yamia brought weapons, but can’t bear to think of harm?” The Humakti does not leave.
âHe said I have shown I can fight a demon, now I need to show that I can fight a gnat,â Varanis explains though whether that explains anything is open to interpretation. âAnd no, I donât think itâs odd. Sheâs Humakti, even if she is wounded in some way.â
Berra nods. “Right. Helpful… oh. Smaller tasks? Did he mean making yourself useful in smaller tasks?”
âThatâs what I think he meant. Else he was trying to make me feel better about being sent away, but that seems unlike him.â
“Yeah, I don’t think so. Also maybe not about over-reaching. When you’ve done a big thing, you can look around for tasks that are that much challenge, but there have to be smaller things done too. Do you know … well, I’m sure you know how it feels when you’ve just done something hard and you’re wondering what to feel. Don’t let that feeling push you into chasing Demons if that’s not the best thing to do.” Berra sighs, looking at the bit of wood she is picking to pieces in her hands.
Varanis watches Berraâs hands pick at the wood. âHe told me to strengthen my ties with people too,â she adds. âWith my community specifically.â
Berra’s hands do not falter. “You’re Orlanthi,” she says. “Vingan. You should.”
The other woman glances at the Humakti. âI need to know who my community is first. Beyond the obvious, of course.â
Berra looks at Varanis at just that moment, pained. “Allies, or those who love you?” she asks. No mercy, maybe not even for herself.
âWell, that is the question, isnât it? I would hope that my bond with those I love and those who love me in return are strong. So who are my allies? Who belongs to my greater community?â
Berra sighs, slowly, thinking it through. “Back to who you want to be. But it’s the group of people with you, the Clans, the Wyters you know. Your Temple here, and in Boldhome. I suppose if he already knew we were leaving, then that advice wasn’t for Sartar. So that helps decide.”
âExcept that part of what we do now is support Melliaâs alliance with Venlar. And that suggests strengthening ties with the Sambari.â
“Yeah. I was about to say, but I was too busy talking to think. And there are Heortlings in Nochet too, but they don’t really live in Sartar much. Merchants, maybe. But the House, and Lord Venlar. Irillo can probably help with the things that they are likely to want, and how to approach negotiation.” Berra goes back to scowling at the bit of wood.
âThese negotiations are handled by others. Iâm unlikely to have a voice in them. But what I can do is try to help to ensure that the Sambari are happy and leave feeling like their family has grown.â She looks thoughtful. âFamily politics are not my favourite pastime,â she admits.
“Yes. I know that bit. But Irillo is still very useful. Ask him about Harmony, or travel, or how he makes sure both sides are happy when he negotiates. If he does.” Berra pulls her knees in close and hugs them, only slightly bulkier in metal than she was in leather.
She receives a nod in reply. âThis is a thing for me to learn. I spent a lot of time making sure other people were happy, but have not had to manage relations between groups. Thatâs a different thing.â
“There is a community that you know now, that you didn’t really before,” Berra says, and her voice is suddenly quiet. “Sartar. I’m not going to ask what the Wyter said, but… if it gave you direction…”
Varanis sighs. âIt gave me a sense of home though it said nothing. And now I leave that home in order to serve it. It seemed pretty clear from what we were told that after we were done in Nochet, there were plans to send us elsewhere. Perhaps to the Grazelands.â Thereâs the tiniest bit of wistfulness in her voice now.
“It would be good to travel. But … he’ll have known you went there. So that’s a Community, but it probably was only part of what he meant. The rest is mundane, and it is about making friends. The best allies are the ones who will come before you even ask, the ones who will do it because it’s right to to. And beyond that, the ones you’ll help in return, and the ones who will do it for profit. All useful, all different.” Berra has mostly pulled the wooden plug to bits.
Varanis nods. âAfter talking to Rajar a few weeks ago, I find myself wondering about the White Bull too. I need to consider how I serve that community too. I have ties in so many directions and one day it may feel like I am bound between horses pulling me apart. I would like to try to prevent that.â
“Well, I think in all cases the question has to be how you can help them while helping Sartar. If Sartar is strong, what can you offer them?” Berra looks glumly at her collection of damp splinters, and then starts cleaning out her fingernails with one.
âIt will depend on what they need, I suppose.â Again, the shrug beneath the bronze. âAnd on what Sartar needs.â
“Now we’re at the point where I should get to that watch I was preparing for,” Berra says. “But if you haven’t met Yamia, see if Venlar can introduce you. She’s really changed, and you need to be aware of it.”
Varanis nods. âI spoke with her the evening we were in Wilmskirk. The change in her is disturbing.â
Berra nods, and then stands with a sudden effort, not using her hands despite starting from a difficult position. “I don’t know what to think about her. She… isn’t thinking like a Humakti right now. She understands Separation, but… she couldn’t perform it, in case it hurt someone. Maybe she needs to meet the God again.”
âWe are taking her to Chalana Arroy – I wonder if we should be taking her to Humakt instead?â Varanis looks thoughtful.
“I don’t know. But I wonder if we should be taking her anywhere, or if we should have left her with her Clan. This is Heroquest stuff, or some holy problem.” Berra shrugs, and picks up her water bottle, without its cap.
âVenlar is the one who chose to bring her from her home, so she is with her Clan, I suppose.â Varanis looks up at Berra. âMaybe we should suggest a consultation with the High Sword in Nochet too.â
“Yeah. Good idea.” Berra grabs her shield by flipping it up with her foot, and catching it. “We have some time rostered together, if you want to talk later.” And off she goes.
Varanis plucks another blade of grass and watches Berra go. Soon after, she rises gracefully to her feet and goes looking for Mellia.