VS 144 Caged Creatures

Varanis — 1626 0818 Caged

????, Earth Season, Fertility Week


Context

Earth Season, Fertility Week, late morning on Godday [[[s02:session-9|Session 9]]]

Events

It’s late morning and Varanis hasn’t left her room since [http:journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/xenofos:morning-after the morning’s training] and quick bath. [http:journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/mellia:torcs-1 Mellia and Venlar have been and gone]. Varanis is seated at her table, hunched over a thin slab of clay on which she is repeatedly incising and scraping smooth. There’s a look of intense concentration on her face and a cold cup of lumiviiva by her elbow.

There is a clap at the door, and then it opens slowly. Berra has politely given a warning as she opened it. Or, put another way, she has opened it despite not having been invited in. One’s view might vary. The Humakti bows in greeting, gives Varanis a brief smile, and goes over to where she sleeps. Berra is wearing two swords, and has left her shield in the room.

The Vingan doesn’t even look up at Berra’s entry. Either she’s too lost in what she’s doing to be vigilant or she recognized the clap and knew not to be concerned. After a moment, she shoves the tablet away from her in frustration. She picks up the cup, takes a sip and wrinkles her nose. The cup gets set down immediately. Finally, she glances over at the other woman. “Hello, Berra.”

“Bad beer?” Berra asks. She sits down on her mattress and gives Varanis a smile, and then a sudden yawn. “Unkg.”

“No. Lumiviiva. The apothecary makes it for me. It tastes better when it’s hot.” She studies Berra. “You look like you need a nap.”

“I might. It’s a hot day. But I want to be awake if Kesten calls on us. I was thinking of going over there but we’d only be getting in his way.” Berra shrugs. “Maybe I’ll run somewhere but that draws attention…”

“Mmmm.” As far as answers go, you can’t really get more non-committal, but then, there was no question asked anyway. Varanis picks up her cup and takes another drink, despite her apparent distaste for it.

“Get some hotter stuff. How are you feeling?” Berra crosses her legs as if for meditation, but does not take up the rest of the posture.

Varanis considers her answer for a beat too long, before replying. “I’m tired,” she says at last.

“You are. You could do with the nap. I’ll guard you.” In the middle of a house, Berra says this with a straight face.

Varanis smiles wryly. “I wouldn’t be able to sleep now.” She gestures at her cup. “It’s a stimulant. It helps me stay alert,” she clarifies, in case Berra doesn’t recognize the word.

Berra does not seem to, but then she nods at the explanation. “If you are tired and using it, then make sure to time your drinks so you know when to sleep. What are you working on?”

“Mellia and Venlar asked me to do their wedding torcs. I’m trying to work out the right design.”1V suggests: Maybe do an INTx something roll about the drink? Reliably, Berra fails.

“Oh! That sounds lovely.” Berra stands up to come and look. “What are you doing for them?”

“I want to twist two strands of bronze with a strand of silver. I’m trying to decide how to finish the terminals. They want runes in them. I was thinking opals, but I’m not sure anymore. There’s another stone I need to check the markets for.”

“Can you make the Runes in the end bits? In the metal itself? Or are you going to carve them?” Berra looks the clay over.

“They want them in stones, so I was thinking I’d carve the stones. Or get someone more competent than me to do so. Twisting the rods into shape would be easier, but I want to do something that fulfills their wishes, not something that is easy for me.”

“With flat sides, and the Runes on them, or sticking out and you get the stone worn away?” Berra tilts her head a bit, trying to make sense of the drawing, and not managing.

“That’s part of what I’m struggling with right now. I can’t decide what looks best or what will suit them best.” She shrugs. “Maybe I need a break.” She tosses back the rest of the drink, making a face when she finishes. “Maybe I’ll take Manasa out for a ride. I haven’t been practicing much since we got to Nochet.”

“With Venlar, you don’t want anything sticking out that can be chipped. It all needs to be set back, so I’d engrave it.” Berra grins at a new notion then. “Or else give him a torc with an enchantment that repairs things. But he may have one of those already.”

Varanis looks thoughtful. “I wonder what it would cost to have it enchanted with a repair spell… Maybe I’ll go to the market instead.” Now that she’s away from the table, she’s ready to go. There’s a nervous energy to her movements, echoed in the restlessness of the blue and red songbird.

“We could leave a message to say where we are go…” Berra trails off mid-word, maybe counting the songbirds in the cage.

“No one will care where I go. I take it you want to come with me? I half expected you to wash your hands of me yesterday.”

“We have a killing to help deal with. We should be close of contact.” Berra looks back to Varanis. “After you get giddy, you get guilty. I know that.”2Berra failed insight.

Varanis frowns, but doesn’t reply to the giddy remark. “Fine. We’ll leave a message. But I have to get out of here for a while.” There’s a loud growl from the vicinity of Varanis’ stomach. “And I suppose I should eat something,” she says ruefully.

“I can call on Yamia if you want a guard and she hasn’t gone out, or we can ask Serzeen. Does that bird copy you?” Berra is looking at the red and blue one. “It looks like you’ve been feeding it livevvla. Whatever that is. I didn’t hear you say it.”

“Lumiviiva,” Varanis says. “And maybe? They’ve both been acting strange for a couple of days. The yellow one is weirdly silent.” Varanis glances at them as she buckles her rapier into place. She’s chosen not to change, so the rapier sits oddly amongst the layers of skirt. “Do I need another guard if I have you?”

“Probably not, but like you said, we can’t really talk if I’m guarding you.” Berra looks over the yellow and black songbird. “Maybe it doesn’t like the other one?” she suggests.

“They sang together on the first day,” Varanis says. “It was Windsday that they started acting up. I’m not sure the yellow one has eaten either. Maybe I’m giving it the wrong food.”

“Apples?” Berra winces even to suggest it. “If it’s not, you should let it go.”

“Will it survive if I just open the cage and let it out? I’ve been thinking of that with both of them. I hate having caged creatures, but I don’t want to kill them in an effort to set them free.” Now she’s standing next to Berra, peering into the cages. The little red and blue bird fidgets restlessly on the wooden perch in her cage. The yellow and black bird looks listless. She sighs. “Maybe they’d be better off anyway.” Coming to a sudden decision, she picks up one of the cages and heads for her balcony. “Bring the other?”

Berra does that. “You could release them into the room first?” she suggests, but her heart is not in it, and she does bring the other.

“Just put the cage here, where there is some shelter from Yelm. We can open the doors and let the birds decide.”

Berra does that, kneeling down, and then standing back. The birds hop and flutter in their cages, but they do not step out at first. Only when the red and blue one darts for freedom and stretches its wings does the problem make itself obvious. Their wings have been clipped.

“That one looks a bit like a spirit-songstrel,” Berra says absently of the yellow and black one. “But you can’t tell easily because they come in so many different colours. And the red and blue one’s a bit like a river-whistler. But the wings are wrong.”

Varanis looks stricken. “Why would someone hurt them like this?”

“Like what?” Berra whistles to the birds, the sound of a bad bird impressionist.

“They can’t fly. There isn’t going to be freedom for them.”3V passes roll on Customs Esrolia: some families keep birds that are said to guard the spirits of the house inhabitants.

Berra looks closer. “Oh. Well, feathers regrow, right? But I think this really IS a spirit songstrel…”

“Well, now what?” Varanis stares at the little birds. “Let’s try to get them back in my room, but not the cages. Marta might quit if they crap all over the place, but they obviously can’t fly now. And we can look in the market to see if anyone can help me figure out what’s wrong with them.”

“Noooononononono,” Berra says urgently. “I know what’s wrong with it.” She is staring at the yellow and black bird. “It’s been hurt. Or its other part has. Its person.”4V says: I can’t remember if I know that the young man I’m accused of maiming is the guy who might have given me the birds. I don’t remember if I’ve heard the rumours. Acting GM replies: There are only a few possibilities. So roll INT x 5 for memory/jumping to conclusions. Result: Almost, but not quite, a special. Yeah, Vahnfar of House Yelendar got pasted recently.

“That boy… the one from Yelendar. He fancies himself a bit of a bard – he’s actually pretty good. And he was following me around for days at parties. I think I heard someone from his House was attacked.”

“If it’s what I think it is, then we should return it to his house. You can sing to them and get them to learn if you’re in danger. Like a tiny Wyter. They’re REALLY expensive. And you shouldn’t give them away.” Berra is staring at the bird. “I mean, I’ve heard of them. But I’ve never seen one. The other one I’m not sure about, but I think it’ll pick up on emotions. I think. If it’s a river-whistler then it’s something I used to watch during the Siege.”

Varanis closes the cage on the spirit songstrel reluctantly. Then she looks at the little red and blue bird. “I don’t want to cage it again, but it’s not safe here.” She crouches down and cups her hands, trying to catch the bird.

“One moment.” Berra goes into the room. “I know how to catch it. Pitcher of water.”

Meanwhile the red and blue bird hops onto Varanis’ thumb, and whistles at her. Varanis can’t help herself. She smiles at the little bird on her thumb. “And what am I to do with you, little one?” She rises carefully, making sure the bird stays well balanced. Stepping into the room she looks around, considering her options. She doesn’t want her bedding fouled. The table is too high for a bird who can’t fly. There has to be some kind of option.

Berra is pouring water into her shield, making a shallow bath for it. “They like -” she says, and the bird plummets from Varanis’ thumb with frantic wing movements, and hops and bounces into the pool she has made. “… water.” The Humakti stares, aghast, at the suicidal little thing. The shield is not going to hold the water for long, but there are other options.

Varanis laughs wryly. “You silly little creature. You could have broken your tiny neck! We need a basin for water for it. The shield will leave puddles on the floor and Marta will murder me in my sleep.” Varanis considers for a moment. “No. She won’t wait until I’m asleep.” Her trip to the market briefly forgotten, she asks Berra to bring the other cage in. Then she vanishes through her door.

“TWEEP TWEEP TWWWEEPPPP!” the bird shouts, unconcerned by Varanis’ worries.

Berra brings in the cage while Varanis is away, and puts it in a shady spot next to the bed.

She returns quickly with a servant in tow. Both of them have their arms laden with various things. Before long, a corner of Varanis’ room has been lined with linen towels and set up as a little sanctuary for the bird. A large, shallow basin holds water. A branch sits part in and part out of the water, while others provide climbing surfaces. And a few potted plants of some sort help to mark out the boundary. Nothing is going to trap the bird in place, but she’s done everything she can think of to make it want to stay there rather than wander too far. The servant manages to mostly hide his curiosity at her strange behaviour and leaves as soon as she dismisses him. No doubt he has people with whom to share this newest story of her eccentricities. Satisfied, she carefully scoops the little bird from its shield bath and deposits it in the little oasis. Then she steps back to see what it does.

“They like bricks,” Berra says as she goes to empty her shield out. “They live around the Cistern. The, uh… Haraheler Temple, I think. And make one heck of a noise sometimes. We should probably take this back too… maybe. They might be wild but they might be sacred.”

“Take it back to Yelendar? Or to the Temple?”

The water splashes over the balcony nicely. Berra leaves her shield propped up outside to dry. “The Temple. But the yellow one should go back now. To the House.”

Varanis picks up the cage with its sad little cargo, apparently in complete agreement. “Let’s go. We can leave word and collect a second guard if that makes you happy.”

“I’ll… let’s. Whoever is carrying the bird shouldn’t be fighting.”

“I’ll carry the bird. It’s my responsibility.” Varanis’ tone makes it clear that this is not open for discussion.