Varanis — 1626 08223 Regrouping
????, Earth Season, Stasis Week
Party on Clayday Eve, Stasis Week Earth season. [[[s02:session-10|Session 19]]]
Serzeen has arranged for Saiciae to go together. There are other palanquins. When Varanis arrives to the courtyard Yahmia and Xenofos step out of the last one. “Good evening cousin,” the scholar greets Varanis.
The Vingan is finely dressed and covered in gold, as is usual for her at these affairs. She smiles cautiously at Xenofos. “Good evening, Xeno. You look good tonight. Has Karne been taking a hand in your wardrobe?”
“She did insist.” Xenofos tone and smile are – polite.
“She can be persistent.” Varanis’ smile fades a little at his cool courtesy, but she takes a deep breath and puts the smile back into place. “Shall we brave the masses, cousin of mine?” she asks cheerfully.1Xenofos passes insight: Varanis has donned her social mask now, but she’s covering a mix of emotions, which probably include guilt and hurt at the very least.
“It is not like we are passing gates of Hell – even when we have a Humakt with us, graceful and beautiful like a well balanced sword.” Xenofos nods to Yamia to bring her into conversation and to enter the hall with Varanis.
“You also look stunning tonight, Yamia. I’m glad you could join us,” Varanis says, taking her cue from Xenofos.
Yamia nods. She is wearing silks, in Sartarite style, and despite nature of occasion carries her sword in a baldrick.
She turns back to her cousin. “I’ve been thinking about what you said about Garin the other day. He’s been conspicuously absent these last few parties. If you spot him, will you tell me? Given one of my suitors was badly beaten, the other’s disappearance raises questions.”
Raised eyebrow. “Your suitor was beaten?”
Yamia walks into the hall like she is unsure whether she owns it, wants to kill it all, or is simply there for the opportunity to find out.
Xenofos tries to pay attention to Varanis, but follows Yamia seeing her rush froward.
The Humakti has her hair up, and is wearing her silks as a deadly-simple dress set off only by kohl eyeliner. And of course, she has her sword to explain just why. She pauses just inside to let Xenofos catch up and offer him her arm, giving everyone a moment to take a look at the new arrivals.
Xenofos offers his right arm, leaving maidens sword arm free, despite conventions. Before disappearing to whirl Xenofos hisses back to Varanis, “We need to talk.”
Yamia’s smile sweeps around the room, a challenge to everyone, and an announcement that Xenofos is taken.
Yamia gets introduced as “our cousin from Sartar.”
Xenofos is scanning the party trying to see Garin as Varanis requested. At the same time, he tries to keep tabs on Varanis and if possible create the opportunity for a discussion with no eavesdroppers.
Yamia is cool and polite to everyone, and a little intense in just how she speaks.
Hall of house Serumthar is filled with people. Tonight most seem to follow Yamia.
Varanis begins to circulate, stopping to smile and chat with various people around the room. From time to time, her eyes are drawn to Xenofos and the beautiful Humakti on his arm.2Yamia she was asked to come as a bodyguard and to show her clan colours. Show the Cinder Fox are not ignorant barbarians. Her father instructed her on that. Xenofos does not know that. He also fails a scan roll.
“And those stones that are absolutely on top of valves are the key to holding whole structure up.”
“You mean the keystones?” Yamia smiles slightly. “I see they must take the weight of the structure, and thus deny Ernalda.”
Varanis passes a pillar and feels urge to lean on it. Air is heavy with fragrance of violets.
From time to time, Yamia lets her eyes fall on Varanis, always with a slight smile. (Yamia does pass a scan
“Indeed Yamia. The harder that keystone wants to reach Ernalda, the more solidly the whole structure stands.”
“Who is she” asks familiar voice from behind the pillar.
“Hence, it being almost in her shape, as it presses down. How elegant.” Yamia is looking here and there under her brows, and it looks good even while she does it.
Varanis doesn’t quite jump. “Your perfume announces your presence, Lenta. She is sister to Venlar, my cousin Mellia’s suitor. She comes from Cinder Fox Tula in Sartar.”
“She is beautiful. And carries a sword. I guess all cool girls do it this season.”
Yamia takes the opportunity of passing under a flowered structure to lean in to Xenofos momentarily. “I think we may be over-shadowing Varanis. Instructions?” She has to tiptoe, but only just.
“I think she knows how to take the stage if she wants to.” Xenofos pats Yamia on the arm as he answers silently.
Varanis laughs lightly. “This season’s fashion accessory?” The Vingan has left her own rapier behind this evening. “Come on, I need some wine.”
Green eyes flash a bit and Lenta follows Varanis.
Yamia nods, and relaxes a little. “I know none of your dances, but I often keep Venlar company at home, so I have learned to listen. Is there anyone other than you I should be listening to?”
Xenofos answers to Yamia. “None special, just keep your ears open for words of lord Garin Merelt.
Yamia makes a tiny noise in her throat, like an alynx about to hunt.
Xenofos will just for security put his left hand over her arm. Smiling he whispers, “We are not on a hunt Yamia.”
“You might not be. But I’ll be polite…” Yamia gives Xenofos a reassuring smile.
From time to time, Yamia’s eyes unfocus as if she is concentrating on something she cannot fully hear. Most of the time, she does it while looking at nothing at all. Once, at the jugular of a young man who is eyeing her. It does not leave him scared, but puzzled.
Varanis collects cup of wine and offers another to Lenta. “You are well? The last I saw you, you were unhappy with me.”
Lenta hides partly behind that cup and looks upward with those green eyes. “I was. But then, I thought you stormed another noble house in arms to see me. Maybe you do care, a little.”
Varanis glances over at Xenofos and Yamia, then turns back to Lenta with a determined smile. “I’m Vingan, Lenta. I always care when I think a woman may be in trouble. But yes, I do think you are sweet and I wanted to make sure you were alright. You have to understand though, I love another and though she isn’t here, I can’t stop myself from loving her.”
“Sweet?” It is as she was tasting that word, and not quite deciding if she likes it or not. “Will she come here or will you go to her?” Lenta inquires – is that innocently or with purpose.
“You have eyes to drown in and a fighting spirit, so perhaps more than sweet. But I can’t change how I feel. And I don’t know when I will see her next. The last time I saw her she was riding off at the command of the Feathered Horse Queen. I don’t even know where she is right now.” The smile falters as Varanis says all of this, but she hides her expression behind the rim of her cup.
Lenta lets that sink in. She nods. Hall is not silent, but it appears so for the two of you “You speak beautifully of your love. Your eyes speak otherwise when you look at me.” Her eyes are very green. “But I must respect what you speak.” She sips her wine.
“Little one, there’s a big difference between what my heart desires and well…” Varanis doesn’t finish, but gives Lenta a teasing wink. Then she gets serious again. “I don’t want to be callous with your heart. I’m not celibate by any means, but from the very beginning it has seemed that you wanted more from me than I can give.”
Lenta nods to her wineglass. “Circles again. Responsibility, lust. Treating me like child and looking at like a woman.”
Varanis looks at Lenta will surprise. “You understand the limits of what I have to offer?”
Lenta looks away. “I understand you are stalling and frustrating but not because you are mean.” No green eyes for Varanis.
Varanis growls low in her throat. “You haven’t answered my question.”
Lenta puts the cup down, turns and starts to go away. Without answering.
Varanis watches her walk away. She looks like she’s considering pursuing, but takes a long swallow of her wine and stays put.
Wonder if she is putting on a show on purpose or if she just always sways that way. And those skirts do accentuate it.
Meanwhile Yamia and Xenofos make rounds in the hall. Someone mentioned that Vahnfar had been transferred from the house of healers to his home. “Rumor says it was a duel but Hofrai is not commenting affair at all.”
Someone else mentions that there are rumours of Palazzo Merelt being up for auction…
After a little while, Yamia murmurs these things to Xenofos, as if in a sweet undertone, but where her lips cannot be seen and therefore read. And, as before, she follows with, “Instructions?” Hers is a sardonic voice, mocking the very part she is playing.
Xenofos answers in same vein “You might charm the one who mentioned Hofrai and inquire of the duel” Melancholic smile “You would prefer if I asked you to draw your sword and just fight someone, would you not?”3Xenofos passes insight human.
“Charm, I’m afraid, is my brother’s purview. I do architectural admiration and bodily protection. But if you’ll let me away for a few moments, perhaps after introducing me to Hohfrai, I might ask him about… technique.” She pronounces the word double-edged. She did that entirely on purpose.
Xenofos wonders if the falcon on his arm can be let loose, and how it would treat its prey. “My honourable opponent lord Hohfrai stands over there. If I let you fly alone will you come back with dead or alive prey?”
“Perhaps later you’ll find out… But you should ask my father about property sales. He will love to have something to keep him busy while women arrive to talk on his behalf.” Yamia gives Xenofos a slightly twisted smile. “Introduce us. I hesitate to approach the poor man without you warning him.”
Xenofos nods and glides together with Yamia over the hall to say hello to his comrade in arms. He makes introductions and notices his and her lack of drink – and goes personally to rectify matter.
Yamia, having offered her right arm with her left hand on it to cut out any possible chance of anyone kissing anyone else’s hand, gives Hohfrai’s stance a frank, swift appraisal. It looks more like she is checking out a warrior than a potential mate.
Hofrai looks a bit too relaxed to be a warrior. Under scrutiny he does not get into more proper posture, but there is subtle shift in his balance. And he does notice both baldric and the sheath. “What an absolutely wonderful surprise. Sartar does grow exotic flowers.”
“Spiked ones mostly,” Yamia replies. “Although I have never yet destroyed a Blackthorn.” Straight for the throat, if only he knows she is aiming. “Why, are you an expert in perfumes?”
“Thorny ones indeed, no, just use my eyes, when given such sight to rest them on.” and he bows.
“Thorns should not be restful, my Lord.” Yamia says it in a voice closer to challenge than flirtation. “Perhaps we should talk about you.”
“Why your wish is my command, lady of the sword.”
Yamia considers, flashing a brilliant smile. “If you want to walk with me while we talk you’ll have to be on my left, of course – but I’ve heard you’re not afraid to walk out if offended, and you’re a man of honour.”
There is quick look across the room towards Xenofos. “I have indeed sometimes strayed outside the walls as they say.” He is on his guard but follows Yamia.
Varanis goes for a second glass of wine, deliberately turning away from Lenta and runs into Xenofos who has taken his time to choose just the right wine.
Yamia nods. “I heard you were very well behaved, over a matter that could have been difficult.” She gives him a look that would be over her shoulder if they were not side to side. It’s of the over-shoulder family, even if is not the name-species.
Hofhrai looks a bit perplexed. “I am afraid I do not quite follow, my lady?”
“Xenofos, you’ve misplaced Yamia?” There’s tension behind the smile of the Vingan .
“I let the falcon fly. It was not happy perching on my arm” Xenofos sounds thoughful, “But I am not at all sure I made the right decision.”
Yamia says, “Allow me to correct you, good lord. I think the fault is with me – I do not understand your culture well enough to understand duelling within it. My methods are probably considered overly direct.”
“Ah, but were you giving me a compliment or making me a question mylady?” Hofhrai inquires lightly.
“Oh… I had thought my Esrolian equal to performing both tasks. Did I stutter?” Yamia flashes one of her deadly smiles.
“A mere man could not follow your logic,” he answers with a polite nod.
“Of course not. He would have to be very special.” Yamia gifts another dazzling smile to Hohfrai. “But I did have a question about duelling if you don’t mind. It’s highly specific. Will you do your best to answer?”
“Who did you turn her loose on? And any sign of Garin?” Vingan wants to know.
“No sign of Garin. And Yahmia said hearing of duel that Vahnfar was involved in” raised eyebow ” of which Hofhrai would not speak of.”
“If it is on my honour to answer, I will” Hofhrai sounds cautious now. Like the blades have been drawn and fighters are within range of a quick attack with one step.
“Of course… What do you think about …” Yamia pauses to take a drink from a passing servant, and offer the man’s services to Hohfrai as well.
“To Earth and her blessings… about?”
“What happened with Vahnfar Yelandar.” It comes out simply, and it looks like Yamia is not paying much attention to him.
He puts the glass down very carefully. He smiles absolutely charmingly. There is a roaring thunderstorm behinds his eyes “A terrible thing as far as I know. They say he was maimed quite bad. Not what I consider in spirit of the game.”4Yamia has specialled insight and catches stuff behind Hofhrais controlled mask.
“You haven’t heard?” Varanis turns to look at Xenofos fully. “Vahnfar fought a duel in which his opponent beat him badly enough to nearly kill him. As it stands, the boy may never fully recover. Some of the rumours were that I did it, because he sang about me.” Dismay and anger war in her eyes, but the words are softly spoken and the smile remains fixed, oddly incongruous with what she’s saying.
There is sound of breaking glass as Xenofos turns towards Varanis.
Yamia nods. “So I heard of you. And so I hear of others, too. Many would consider it no longer a game, when a young man’s …” She pauses at the sound of breaking glass, and seems to listen a moment to what is far off.
Xenofos’ left hand is bleeding. “Say, what!” That was a bit too loud for a party and he is not smiling.
“Shhh. Smile. People are looking, Xeno.” Varanis murmurs urgently. “I’ll explain, but not here.”
With nothing more than a momentary touch of her hand to the corner of her mouth to indicate passing worry, Yamia turns her attention back to Hohfrai. “Is it ever a game, when one person does not make it so?”
Varanis grabs a napkin from the table to wipe away the blood. “Let me look at that.”
Xenofos starts to turn towards the room, but then looks at wall. Breathing steadily and slowly. Unwinding the tension and anger from his face, with the delicate glass crushed into pieces in his fist.
“Give me your hand,” she demands quietly. “That looks bad.”5Nothing a heal 1 or 2 would not fix. If he does not bleed on a Karne dress. But glass fragments in the wound. Don’t want to heal over that.
“If rules are followed to the letter… ” Anger is seeping to Hofhrai’s voice.
“Who should I ask about?” Yamia says softly, regardless of the proper grammar.
“You should not, for I cannot answer.” Hofhrai is looking at Yamia straight into eyes, with no guile.
“Then asking will do no harm,” Yamia says with a smile. “Not you, or I would not be talking with you.” Her features are not those of Sartar or of Esrolia. Her eyes are a gentler brown than her demeanour hints, but they contain no warmth or compassion. There is only judgement, and Hofhrai has been found not wanting.
Vingan reaches for the scholar’s hand, taking it into hers. He accepts the care meekly.
“We need to get the glass out of it before I can heal it.” She shakes her head at the servant coming their way, then changes her mind. “We need somewhere to clean this wound. Can you direct us, please?”
“We can’t leave Yamia” Xenofos protests.
“We won’t be far. She’ll understand. And she seems pretty competent. You are bleeding and we need to clean that so I can heal it.”
“It is not her I am worried for. Though she is our guest so we should be ready to get her out of any potential trouble before she makes her own way…”
Varanis looks stubborn. “Then the sooner you let me deal with your wound, the sooner we can return. Why did you break that cup anyway?”
Xenofos just glares at Varanis. Her question is apparently not considered worth an answer.
She glares back.
Blood drips from his hand onto hers and from there to the floor. She’s the one who looks away first, but only to issue a command to the waiting servant. “Take us somewhere we can deal with this.”
Xenofos looks at his hand, sighs, shakes his head and follows.
The servant supplies them with a basin and an urn and a pile of towels. Varanis gets Xenofos to hold his hand over the basin while she pours some water over it. Then she picks out glass fragments until the welling blood obscures them again. She repeats this process over and over again, meticulously hunting for shards. As she works, talks. She quietly tells him everything she knows about Vahnfar, the duel, the songbirds, Garin’s absence, everything except Mellia’s suspicions.
Xenofos listens to Varanis’ tale. His anger is pretty obvious. “Why did you not tell me?”
Meanwhile, Yamia lets Hofhrai wriggle on her thorns.
Yamia only wants to know where she should look for someone who committed such violence, and she is entirely happy to note she can look after herself, but honour calls… She does not mention who is listening to that call, but it is obvious she is offering to make room if Hofhrai wishes to join her.
Hofhrai is declining the offer. But he regrets the circumstances. Not with so many words.
When Varanis has rinsed the hand a final time and is certain no shards of glass remain, she stops talking and holds his hand between both of hers. She turns her grey-blue gaze on his as she considers her reply. “I suppose I thought you had enough to deal with.” She frowns in concentration. He feels the warmth of her breath over his wounded hand and then the cuts begin to heal.
“And, to be honest, I’ve not been sure what to do since I behaved so badly the other day.” She drops her gaze, unable to meet his eyes.
“I have sworn to follow you and protect you.” Xenofos says, “One argument is not going to change that. And I was not too proud of our yelling match either…”
“I can pro…” She stops. “You’re right. I’m sorry. How does your hand feel now?”6Passed the heal roll.
Xenofos stretches his fingers “It is fine. Thank you. Let us go and see if we find cousin Yamia.”
Varanis nods. But before she steps back, she steps closer, leaning in to rest her forehead against his. “Does this mean you forgive me for being an idiot?”
“You were not an idiot. You were afraid for me and let that out in anger. “
She steps back and raises her gaze to his again. This time her smile is genuine. “I can be both afraid and an idiot, Xeno. There are far better ways to express it than attacking you.” She threads her arm through his. “Shall we go see if anyone needs rescuing from Yamia?”
“Maybe we should. I am not hearing shrieks so I don’t think we need to hurry.” The scribe says. “On the other hand silence can be alarming.”
Varanis laughs. “Pick up the pace then. And let’s be a bit more careful with our hostess’ glassware, shall we?”
After a while, Yamia asks Hofhrai to be so kind as to get her a drink, and she moves into the air-space of another conversation, giving him nothing more than a smile and a word of thanks when he returns. The way she puts her eyes on him gives her new companion the briefest view of her neck stretched up and a jewel on her ear, and then she turns her intelligent gaze onto someone who is being questioned closely on property law.
“But of course mortgage is a foreign word to me. Would you walk me through it as if I were, say, eager to hear?” The men eagerly jostle with each other to explain. “Oh, we have a … different word for that in Sartar,” she says. “So… if I did want to buy a Palazzo, just on a whim…”
“Palazzos are never on sale. It just does not happen,” someone answers her.
“Oh, how disappointing. Then how do rumours of it start? Perhaps I should investigate that instead… But your company would be lost to me.” Yamia says with regret in her voice.
“Only great houses have palazzos and they are never so low that they would need to do that,” she is told.
“Oh, of course. Perhaps I did not hear the word right, then. It might not have been a great house…”
A young woman says in a conspiratorial voice, “Well they say Elanka Merelt is in debt so deep that if you covered her in wheels lying or standing the pile would not be big enough to pay for it.”
“But even then, selling a palazzo is absurd thought. Even with that no good brother of hers and no proper husband,” someone else points out.
Yamia makes a slightly dismissive face, as if to say she knows this and her dear, lovely, clever companion should continue to tell her more.
There are alarming looks trying to get the vocal chap to shut up. Even with the scandalous reputation Merelts have they are a great house if only in name and being so open and so loud is not wise.
“Maybe we should move on from the unfortunate situation of a woman alone. Do tell me about the… oh, the brother. Men are safe to talk about, surely?”
“Garin? He looks good, but he is no good really. Orlanthi windbag and troublemaker like they all are…” says one fellow.
“But he does get even steady matrons to lose their heads and more if you get my drift,” another replies with a wink and a nod.
There is a look of scorn from Yamia. “I heard he had met a match, though… Has he not disappeared? Surely you could assume he was…?” She trails off without saying beaten, hurt, or anything that might give her audience a clue what she wants them to say.
The audience looks a bit baffled. “Well now that you say he has not been for couple of days. But, he could be on the countryside. Time for hunts is starting and sometimes he fancies ribaldic entertainment in more rustic enviroment. Or so they say.”
“So, not fled then?” Yamia looks intrigued to have been given this new information.
“Fled? Why would he have fled?” one woman asks.
“Maybe those westerners who have lent him money have finally found out he is clackless.” The speaker smirks, apparently pleased at the thought.
“And just a man in the house.” Another grin at foreign stupidity.
“Xenofos, do you see Yamia anywhere? There’s no inconvenient cluster of bodies, is there?” Varanis casts her eyes across the hall, looking for the elegant Humakti. ((Insight?))
“There seems to be a cluster of gentles over there held enthralled.”
“Oh well. That’s probably her then, isn’t it. Shall we go find out?” Varanis sounds cheerful and she’s wearing her smile like she wears her cuirass.
Xenofos nods. He looks more serious, but tries to follow Varanis’ example.
Yamia, when found, is sipping wine in the company of half a dozen men and women. None of them are dead.
Varanis joins the group, Xenofos in tow.
Yamia’s smile is turned on Varanis. “My dear. We were discussing property law and exile. Have you need of me?”
“Not at all, Yamia. I just wanted to make sure you had everything you need.” The Vingan returns the smile.7 Yamia specials insight: Varanis is conflicted. It looks like maybe admiration is warring with jealousy. Whatever it is, she’s tired enough that her social armour is becoming brittle. Xenofos fails insight human. Why, she is indeed beautiful. Varanis passes Insight: Under the smile, Yamia is spiky and tired. Around her, people are nervous, yet the conversation is keeping them there.
“I hate to be a spoilsport and rob you from this company, but I start to feel call of own palazzo.” Xenofos flashes a smile with expression of apology.
Yamia replies, “Oh, I am at your service, Lord,” but she offers him her left hand, not her right, and the little crowd notices. “Ladies. Gentlemen.” Yamia bows.
“We should make our goodbyes and head home, cousins,” Varanis says by way of agreement. There’s a subtle emphasis on the last word.8Varanis is already linked through his other arm anyway.
The small group finds their hostess, make polite farewells, and head outside to the waiting palanquins.
Seeing that Varanis is walking Xenofos out, Yamia uses his arm only for long enough to withdraw, gracefully, from the conversation. She goes without looking back, although she is obviously scanning the party.
Varanis retreats to the isolation of her own palanquin, waving vaguely in the direction of Xenofos and Yamia as she does.
On the way back, Yamia has given Xenofos, a quick summary of what she heard, and what she extracted almost painlessly from others; Garin has probably disappeared, and is in debt. His house is said to be up for auction, but the power of the family prevents most gossip, at least to foreigners. His Grandmother’s – that is, his sister’s – reputation is not good, although better than his. Then she sits straight in the palanquin, a guard in silks.
When the palanquins arrive home, Varanis doesn’t immediately emerge from hers. There’s some murmuring from her guards before one steps forward to cautiously peek. She is sound asleep, chin tucked into her chest, breathing slow and regular.9 Xenofos: Awww
Back at the house, Yamia finally yawns, and says, “Varanis has the right idea,” to her companion.
“I hate to wake her up. But she can’t sleep there like a lost kitten.”
“That’s what thralls are for.” Yamia gives Xenofos a smile, and a wave, and on her way away, she sends a burly servant back.
With a soft touch to cheek and whispered exhortations Xenofos tries to prod Varanis to her own bed.
Varanis yawns, but wakes enough to sleepily cooperate with Xenofos.
She is led to her room and deposited to her bed. Marta is called for to get her out of stuff that could hurt her in her sleep.
Berra is asleep, on a mattress on the floor by the far side of the bed. The noise does not wake her.
Xenofos does not wake her either. He waits patiently until Marta arrives. Maybe half a sleep for he is a bit startled from his thoughts when she comes.