Varanis — 1626 0783 Vingatemple
????, Earth Season, Death Week
Earth Season, Death Week, Waterday, Afternoon. [[[s02:session-5|Session 5]]]
Vinga’s Temple at the Storm Hill in Nochet
After taking Venlar to the Temple of Orlanth and introducing him there, Varanis continues on to the Temple of Vinga. Her armour gleams in the sunlight, having been vigorously cleaned and polished by a servant. Her rapier is on her hip. She walks with the confident stride of someone who knows her own competence. Trailing a few feet behind her is Ostranor, a member of the Saiciae household guard. He is scowling as he moves his gaze around the streets, though the scowl is always more severe when it lands on the Vingan in front of him.
The high-gated walls of the sacred compound, with all their memories, are wide open this afternoon. The place sounds busy, full of practice and training and people.
When they arrive at the gate, Varanis waits for her guard to catch up. “You can wait here, or go home for now. I will be a couple of hours. I promise not to leave without you.” He glares in response. “I won’t do it again, I promise.”
Inside there is a minor whirlwind, and some laughter. An air spirit is at play. There is also some good-natured cursing, and a little swearing too. Not everyone loves the Air’s marriage with Earth when dust is thrown everywhere.
Ostranor grunts and takes up a position beside the gate. Varanis nods politely at him and enters the temple grounds.1Pass Battle roll
Inside there is a sight that is oddly familiar, and yet strange, for the Temple looks like it is preparing for battle. Five groups of warriors under Daughters of Vinga are checking and preparing their kit, talking over tactics, or practicing rituals of arming. There are others there also, as many as would normally be guarding or worshipping on a Waterday.
Looking around, Varanis takes in the preparations and schools her expression carefully to hide her confusion.2Failed INT x 5 There are a few familiar faces that she nods to as she passes, but she doesn’t pause, heading instead for the main temple building.
Inside, there is more evidence of preparation. Here, where spying magic would be impossible, a map of Nochet has been laid out on a great table, and a group of initiates is looking it over and discussing withdrawal tactics and charges within streets. The group pay little heed to Varanis. Her way lies further on, in more sacred spaces.
Varanis continues her progress, surreptitiously studying the preparations. She carries herself with the calm assurance of someone who knows her place in the world. Someone who knew her really well might just recognize that she is feeling lost.3Failed INT x 4, passed a roll on illusion
There are a few more people swapping sandals for boots, or checking their blades, and then she is in the calm and gently moving air that is around the inner sanctum. There are currently no ceremonies, but from here she could go to the most holy place, or continue in a search for whatever she is after. Praying at the altar, alone but never unguarded, is the Eldest Daughter of Vinga, Leika herself. Even as Varanis watches, a candle gutters out and Leika rises, her time done.
Seeing the Eldest Daughter rise, Varanis kneels to one side of the passage and bows her head. She waits to be acknowledged or passed by, as the Priestess chooses. Her position is one of deepest respect.
“Varanis, welcome,” says Leika in her battle-cracked voice. “Are you coming to offer your services this evening, or are you a passing breeze today?”
“Eldest Daughter, my Grandmother has requested my participation in family matters this evening, my apologies. But if I can be of service later, I will make it so. Who should I speak to in order to make arrangements?”
“That will not be necessary,” Leika replies. Long ago, as an Initiate, she cried out with Vinga’s spirit, and tore her throat. The wound could be healed but who would do such a thing? “Come on Windsday as usual.”
Varanis bows her head in acceptance, once again striving to cover confusion and conflicting emotions.
Leika is just moving on when she pauses, and asks, “Mm-m?” Translated: What is it?
“Eldest Daughter, a lot has happened since I was here last. Vinga’s hand has been heavy in my life. But so has Orlanth’s. I’m…” She hesitates, inhales deeply, and continues, gazing up at the Priestess’ face, “I’m confused.”
“Walk with me, then.” Leika does not waste words, but gestures back towards the table and the cluster of initiates. “I heard a lot. Confusion is likely in battle, and life is a battle.”
Varanis rises fluidly and falls into step beside and half a pace behind the older woman.
“And talk. Or use this time to think, but you’d better be getting more from that than talking.” Leika nods to the initiates at the table, taking their salutes and bows. No kneeling. This is one of those times when Vingans are equal.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I was part of a Lightbringers’ Quest in Boldhome last season,” she begins, glancing over to see if this is news.
“That’s part of what I heard,” Leika says. “And for your kin.”
“Yes,” she acknowledges. “I played the role of Orlanth.” A pause, a breath. She’s no longer making any effort to mask her emotions. “It wasn’t…” She fumbles about for the right words. “Eldest Daughter, it was almost easy,” she says at last. “Like Orlanth just cleared the way. I don’t know what it means. I’m Vinga’s, not her father’s. Aren’t I?”
“Vinga is her father,” says Leika in explanation. “And also herself. She is Orlanth, and Orlanth. But perhaps you were her more than you realised. Lost in that, it could become easy, or be remembered as such.” The light bursts on them outside, and Leika nods to a Daughter of Vinga who bows in passing.
Varanis falls silent for a few paces, then asks, “How is it that I could come through that unscathed? Mellia was sorely wounded of body, Xenofos had wounds of his spirit reopened, Irillo was lost…” Suddenly the words spill from her. She recounts her memories of the ritual to the High Priestess, hiding nothing, not even her pointless bickering with Dormal. As she finishes, she says, “I feel like nothing more than the key to opening the door. Beyond that…” She shrugs helplessly. “I didn’t do much of anything, but people call me Lightbringer. I am unworthy of such an appellation.” She falters to a stop. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say so much. I sound like a child.”
“No Trials?” Leika looks careful suddenly.
“Well, Dormal, as Eurmal, stole from our host at the Obsidian Castle. Because he was mine, we were both cast out and had to find our way back to the path. Before that, there was Zorak Zoran, but Flesh Man killed him before I could.” She considers. “I allowed Eurmal to shackle me so that we could pass through the gates of the Lead Castle in disguise. But that required only my willingness to trust my cousin.” Another breath. “I allowed Humakt to kill me twice, but that only required that I accept the deaths.” On a hopeful note, she adds finally, “I did persuade Yelm to leave the Underworld.” The look on her face suggests that she feels her catalogue of events is woefully inadequate.
“Sometimes, you can just accept the good luck that comes your way,” Leika says. “If you do not want to do that, Divination and Meditation are both good starting options, and so is rebellion from the feeling.”
Varanis nods. “And you don’t think that I am going to need to choose between Vinga and Orlanth?” she asks, a note of concern lingering in the question.
“If you choose between Vinga Adventurous and Orlanth Adventurous, you choose between two shades of blue that are the same. Orlanth Rex is a facet of blue.”
The Initiate looks like she might ask something further but then does not, merely nodding her assent. Leika does not dismiss her, but does go to do her rounds, taking time with each of the five Daughters. All report readiness, some eagerness. There is mention of trolls.
A look of dawning understanding crosses Varanis’ face as she finally pieces together all of the various activities going on around her. “Trolls,” she breathes.4Passes INT x 4
“You can ask at the map if you have tactical questions,” says the Daughter of Vinga who was reporting. Her name is something like Ellia, or Eltia. It has been a long time since they last spoke. That warning given, she reports readiness, saying nothing out here that might be overheard.
Varanis nods her understanding. She glances at the Eldest Daughter for permission to leave. Leika gives a curt nod, and leaves Varanis there, going on to the next group.5Successful insight roll reveals that Leika has already passed from one thing to the next, and is concentrating on the reports coming in to her. She seems confident, unworried even beneath the surface.
Varanis retraces her steps, returning to the room with the large map. She looks to see who might be in charge and makes a direct line to that person. There is Voroia, always cursed with the name of the child goddess and a young face, and by her Lanasha, looking as stormy as any of the Vingans waiting in the hope of battle. Voroia is in charge, and talking to the group. Lanasha is the one moving markers on the map. Right now, there are no movements to be made, so she is standing back with casual respect.
Varanis approaches but maintains a respectful distance, so as not to interrupt Daughter Voroia. She waits patiently.
Lanasha drops back to ask, “Info?” of Varanis.
Varanis smiles her greeting and nods. “Yes. Is there a roster? I’m busy until midnight on family business, but want to do my service after, if possible.”
Lanasha blinks. “No, we’re in teams already,” she says. “Sorry, I thought you were running info in. Guarding the family?”
Varanis sighs. “More like dancing to Grandmother’s political tune. So there’s no where I could help tonight?”
“You could attach yourself to a team later on, but we won’t want people travelling alone at night to where the teams are.” Lanasha points to the map. “This is our initial position. Voroia’s leading people through possibilities while we wait, but everything’s around trolltown, and if they break through… It’ll probably be nothing this season, but teams are being told not to split.”
Varanis curses quietly under her breath. “I won’t be able to slip away until midnight.”
“Up to you,” Lanasha says. “But if you hear drumming, stay away from the torches…”
Varanis raises an eyebrow.
“It means they’ve broken out from past us, and are heading to the Battalion. Our job’s to make sure they get there without doing too much damage, this time around. Probably. Eldest Daughter will call it if she has to, but there hasn’t been enough trouble from the tunnels to worry us. They don’t have real force down there right now.”
Varanis nods and shifts so she can study the map, making note of the various places where the units will be based. The whole set-up is around Trolltown, covering buildings rather than roads, and giving a good view of places where the tunnels might come up, even if they have sneakily been dug outward. Now that Varanis looks at this, the house where the party is looks suspiciously far away from Trolltown. It would be half an hour’s walk, at least. It would be a lot more if she had to go get her armour.6Successful INT x 5 roll She mutters another curse. Thanking Lanasha for the information, Varanis once again retraces her steps, this time heading back to the main altar. She passes it with a bow to her goddess, then heads in the direction of the Knowledge Keepers.
The room she enters has the air of a library about it. The walls are lined in shelves laden with tablets. One section is set aside for documents recorded on other materials, such as animal hides from the Grazelands or sheets of birch bark from more northern regions. A woman with deeply lined cheeks and sharp eyes sits at a desk, recording something on a tablet. Beyond her is the closed entrance to another room. The faint smell of electricity is in the air. There’s a loud crack and some terrified giggles come from the other side of the door. The woman glowers.
((Library for magic and some sort of training room behind it. Judging by the lack of shocks, the room has some protections to keep the magic in.))
The glower turns on Varanis, and a quick, “Yes?” follows it.
“Daughter, I came to ask if it was possible to learn the spell for Fire Blade at our Temple,” Varanis says respectfully.
“No, but it could be arranged at others,” comes the reply. “In each case they would ask a certain price. There are other teachers too, but we can help less with that.”
“I would like to arrange it, please.” There’s a pause during which there’s another loud crack followed by shrieks from behind the door. The woman at desk doesn’t even flinch. Varanis’ gaze flicks to the door and back to the brown eyes that stare at her, waiting for her continue. “Perhaps with the Temple of Orlanth, if it is possible? Or, if you have other guidance, I would happily hear it.”
“The Orlanthi would not know it either, although here or there you might Heroquest for it,” replies the Keeper. “The fires of the blade are a secret that cannot be taught by speaking in Nochet, but the Quest is a simple one. It is a matter mostly of swords, and so tomorrow would be a propitious day to ask he who sleeps tonight. And of course the Yelmites are a husband-protector of Ernalda, as Orlanth is, and the secret could be won in combat, by the slaying of one of their own, and letting the blood flame. Or there are, as I say, masters of the fire or of the sword who may teach for a fee.”
“As I have no wish to kill someone for my own gain, I think the Yelmites are out. I shall make enquiries with the Temple of Humakt in the morning. Thank you, Keeper. May the Hand of Vinga keep you today and every day.”
The Keeper bows her head. “If you wish to travel not far outside the city, the Heroquesting can be arranged,” she says as she stands tiredly. “Do not let the boys with their swords tell Vinga what she may or may not do.”7GM comment: I have decided that because Orlanth was such a blowhard, the Ernaldans won’t let Fireblade be taught in Nochet, at least by his Temple. That’s Yelm’s blood, you know? But they could teach it outside. Got to keep the husband-protectors in line…
“I’ve never let boys tell me what to do, Keeper. It’s the women in my life who cause me trouble!” She gives the woman a teasing wink.
“Ah well. We can’t help that. Speaking of which…” She turns away, towards the sealed door. “Thank you for coming.” Oddly polite, from someone whose back is already turned.
“Thank you,” Varanis says before leaving. Her final stop at the temple is at Vinga’s altar. She kneels, placing her sword in front of her, and bowing her head. She remains that way, in silence for a long time, before rising and making her way to the Temple’s gate.