Varanis — 1626 08221 Recapping
????, Earth Season, Stasis Week
Earth Season, Stasis Week later on Waterday. [[[s02:session-10|Session 10]]]
It is late when Berra gets back to the room. She comes in without much joy in her step, and goes to the red and blue songbird. “I’m so sorry,” she says to it. “You didn’t deserve this.” She has failed even to look around, and probably has no idea who is in the room.
Holy Week is over. A day spent on the road getting footsore earned them nothing. Berra went to the cistern of Haraheler to ask about the birds.
The redcapped prisoner whistles a sad little trill.
Varanis is sitting on her bed, staring at the cage containing the little yellow oriole. She looks troubled. When Berra comes in, the Vingan glances up and is silent for a moment. Finally, she speaks up. “What did you learn?”
Berra pauses, her hand halfway to the bird. “If they can’t fly, they aren’t sacred any more. This one should be killed.” She looks at the bird with more regret on her features than she has shown for people Varanis has seen her kill.
“Can’t it be healed?” Varanis asks. “Don’t kill it. Please. The poor little thing doesn’t deserve this.”
Berra looks at Varanis, and back at the bird. “It’s Stasis week,” she says after a moment. “Bad time to be changing things.” Instead, she goes over to get water and pour it into the shallow bath now in the bird’s larger-than-a-cage home. “I don’t know. Maybe if we keep it. If you keep it. Until the feathers grow back. If it has a late season moult, maybe it’ll get holy again.”
Varanis looks at the sad little bird. “Do you think the oriole would be ok in the same space? I can’t decide if I should risk taking it out of the cage, but it kills me to keep it caged.”
“I don’t think it matters. It’s not a guardian of him – it won’t hurt him to hurt it, I think. But leave the cage open where it can hop around. You shouldn’t deny it freedom if it wants it.” Berra looks at the red-headed example. “I think this one will look after it, to be honest. Unless maybe Marta’s in the room and doesn’t like them.”
“Marta can deal with it. For the time being, the birds are mine and I will care for them as I choose.” Varanis carries the cage over and opens the wicker door. She redrapes the linen towel over the cage so both birds have the option of hiding inside if they choose.
“Yeeeeeeaaaah,” Berra says. “But the red-head is emotional. It mostly responds to you, but if Marta doesn’t like it and she’s the only one in here, it might get aggressive. Battalion used to watch them, during the siege, to see if the city was happy. I mean, it never was, but at least someone thought of trying that. And you learn to live with a lot, so the birds got happier even though the siege went on. They used to sing and once I cut through the cistern, but only once. Those stairs are really harsh, but we had to get down low.”
“I’ll warn Marta. But she will have to manage with the birds here for the time being. They need care and I’m not going to keep them caged. I can’t do it.” Varanis’ voice is firm. As far as she’s concerned, the matter is decided.
“Mhm.” Berra looks at the birds. “And Humakt shows compassion. That’s different from showing favour.” She backs off from the tiny feathery problems. “Mind if I lie on your bed? I’m emptied out.”
“Go ahead,” Varanis says. “I should start thinking about getting ready for tonight’s party. I don’t even remember which one I’m meant to be attending.” The Vingan drops down into the chair beside her table. On the table, there’s a little pot wrapped in towels, presumably to insulate it. She pours herself a cup of lumiviiva and takes a sip. It’s hot enough that she doesn’t make a face as she drinks it.
Berra collapses onto it, and then says, “This would be better if I took my armour off.” Her sandals are over the edge, so as not to make anything dirty. “I don’t think Kesten is going to want to see us for a while. Do you want to go climbing tomorrow?” She rolls over and looks at Varanis. “In fact… you should sleep in tomorrow. A lot.”
Varanis laughs wryly. “What day is tomorrow? I’m losing track.”
“A day without us running around in it. Clayday. Which it nearly is now.” Berra sits up without apparent effort and starts shedding her armour.
“I don’t need to be at the Temple tomorrow. Maybe I will try to sleep. But, I should train and maybe try to get in some riding before Manasa forgets who I am.”
“You should sleep, and not drink tea, and then you should train and ride, but not train too much, and see if you can get Masana to take you out of the city without throwing you off.” Berra has to stand up to wriggle out of the scale hauberk.
“The lumiviiva makes me more alert. I’ll better be able to pay attention to Manasa and to my surroundings if I drink it before I go out tomorrow.” Varanis watches Berra, then offers, “Do you want a hand?”
“You’ll better be able to sleep in if you don’t.” Berra steps clear of the bed. “If you could catch it as it comes off, that would be good. Then I can keep my hair from catching.” She grins. “And then I’ll probably end up in the right bed, but if you need to chuck me out in a hurry, I can go to the roof.”
Varanis rises and comes over to take a grip on the shoulder straps of the hauberk, helping to haul it off Berra.
“Are you alert enough to follow along as I tell you about something? Or should it wait?”
Berra bends neatly, letting Varanis take the weight, and backs away. “I’m alert,” she says. “But I should eat while you talk. I have food.”
“Don’t eat in my bed, please,” Varanis requests. “Unless it’s something that won’t leave crumbs.”
“I’m off your bed now.” Berra goes over to hers, and from the pillow she has stuffed with a couple of pouches and a few bits of padding, draws a bag full of nuts and dried bread cubes with herbs. “Talk.”
“I’ve been thinking about Garin Merelt. He was pursuing me rather closely right up until I had him introduce me to Vahnfar. Then he quit. But before that, he wrote me a few poems and it appears he planted a poem that was meant to look like it had come from Xenofos. I haven’t seen Garin in some time now. It’s like he’s vanished from the social circles he usually moves in and I’m beginning to wonder if I should be concerned about him after all.” Varanis looks troubled.
“What sort of poem?” Berra asks absently. “And who would know him, that you could ask about him?”
“Well the poems he wrote to me were rather… erotic in nature. While the one I was told came from Xenofos… hold on. Let me get it.” She goes over to the box where she’s stashed the poetry and flips through a few sheets of folded papyrus, withdrawing one at last.
Berra eats without pause while that happens, away from her bed as well as Varanis’. She seems oddly hungry.
Varanis reads the opening out loud, stumbling a little over some of the words:
“We chaste girls and boys
Are under the tutelage of Voria
Chaste boys and girls
Let us sing to Voria”
Berra listens carefully. “How did you learn that came from Xenofos?”
“Marta told me. But she was told by someone else that it came from Xenofos. I believed it until I asked Xenofos about it. He showed me how the letters look more like Garin’s writing.”
“Yaaaah. So there are two things then. One is the person who gave it to give to you. One is finding Garin. Is he the one who wrote to you in blood?”
Varanis nods solemnly. “That’s him. That poem was all about endings.”
“Kesten can sniff out blood, and we’ve helped him a lot. You could probably ask him about tracking it.” Berra yawns. “And if Marta can’t find out who then your Grandmother probably can. At least the person inside this house who met someone. He’ll have used servants or hired people.”
“I admit, it does concern me that he seemed to have access to the House, if not personally then via someone else. Perhaps I should mention it to Serzeen. And yes, Kesten may be able to help. I will consider it. For now, you should probably rest and I should find out where Marta is, so I can get ready for this evening’s party.” Varanis does not sound enthused, but she tucks the poem away again. “Still… I can’t figure out what Garin was trying to do by sending me that poem and pretending it was from Xenofos. It makes no sense.”
“Trying to change you.” Berra shrugs. “Someone who sends poems written in blood is really not a very normal person. They’re probably trying… Wait, if it came pretending to be from Xenofos he was probably trying to put off rivals. But screw that. You’re right about sleep.”
Varanis laughs and shakes her head. “While on Ernalda’s green earth, would he think Xenofos is a rival?”
“Xenofos was getting gifts. He was at parties with you. And Garin seems like the sort of person who controls people. Who likes to get a reaction.” Berra shrugs. “Didn’t say he would guess right.”
Varanis looks thoughtful. “You know, Mellia suggested that Xenofos was acting jealous. When I thought the poem came from him, I thought he might be too. But it doesn’t make any sense. He’s a better brother to me than my mother’s sons. And besides, he didn’t write the poem. But Mellia actually had the gall to suggest that Xenofos might have been the one who Vahnfar fought the duel with! When she wasn’t hinting that it was me, that is.” She sounds deeply offended by the time she reaches the end of her rambling statement.
Berra stares for a bit. “…uh.”
“He was acting more than a little distant yesterday. Every now and then, I thought he’d approach me, but… well. We were all rather busy. I’m probably imagining it.” She shrugs, though her worried expression doesn’t change.
“He’s probably still angry, or irritated. He had a big shock from you. Keep being good to him.” Berra shrugs. “But I mean… how? How would… I could see you in a duel, maybe even losing your temper, but that doesn’t look like you. And you OR Xenofos would be honest about it.”
“Exactly. I don’t know why Mellia would misjudge either of us so badly. Berra, I feel like things are falling apart somehow. Mellia thinks us capable of terrible things and Xenofos has returned to treating me with perfect courtesy, but no warmth. I just don’t understand any of this.” She pours herself another cup.
“Because she doesn’t know violence. She just knows how to heal the result of it. It’s better that she doesn’t, but it does mean she can’t really comprehend how we think. Because she’s different to us.” Berra stretches her arms out over her head, fingers interlaced, palms up.
“It still feels like a betrayal. Anyway, I need to think of how to mend things with Xenofos. I don’t like this distance and as I think it’s the result of my actions, it falls to me to fix it.” She drinks deeply of the tea, then curses. “I meant to go to the market to look for supplies for the wedding torcs. I suppose that’s tomorrow’s task now. You nap, use my bed if you want to. I need to find Marta and get ready to go out.”
“If I sleep there, I’ll still be there when you get back. I’ve got a place to sleep.” Berra nods to her pillow. “I like having a room just to store my things in. It’s like having a treasury.”
“If it makes you happy, then I’m happy.”
Marta makes an appearance shortly after that. She shakes her head as she takes in the birds’ corner, but says nothing, instead moving to the cupboards that contain Varanis’ clothes. It’s time to get ready.