VS 154 Prayers and sacrifices

Varanis — 1626 0854 Prayers

????, Earth Season, Stasis Week


Context

Earth Season, Stasis Week, Godday Eve [[[s02:session-12|Session 12]]]
Temple in House Saiciae
Follows directly from [http://journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/varanis:1628-0852-witness Bearing Witness]

Events

Varanis tries to pray. She can’t stop shivering. She rolls her shoulders back, takes a slow breath.

Varanis murmurs quietly, “Ernalda, Mother of All, hear your wayward child. I know that I gave myself over to Vinga’s service and perhaps I have no right to call on you. But… if Lenta is yours, please watch over her. She did nothing to deserve this.”

The green face of Allmother smiles, inscrutable.

She turns glassy eyes towards the faces staring down at her expressionlessly. “Grandmothers, please watch over Xenofos. Keep him safe and guide him home.” She inhales slowly again. “Guide him home. We… I… need him. He is more of a brother to me than any of sons my mother bore. Bring him home.”

The Grandmothers look on mutely.

Varanis turns her gaze to the alcove containing the figure of Humakt. Leaning forward, she puts a shaking hand on the sword in front of her. “Father’s Brother. Champion. Give me the strength to go just a little further. Help me to protect those who need protecting and avenge those who are lost. I have no right to call on you, except as Vinga’s servant. But I call anyway. If I live through the coming hours, I will make a sacrifice to you. For now, I have nothing to offer by way of promise except this.” Using the rapier, she cuts off a lock of hair. Rising, she takes it to the small brazier in front of the dark figure. With shaking hands, she starts a fire and feeds the lock of hair to it.1GM says: For a moment you think you smell the smell of cadaver. Varanis’ eyes widen, but that is the only reaction to the change in scent.

…..

Varanis is standing by the shrine to Humakt. Her blade is in her hand. The smell of burnt hair is in the air. Otherwise, both Varanis and the room look the same when Berra bursts in. The Humakti pauses, and looks Varanis over. She seems to be mulling what to say. The Vingan turns to face Berra. Berra says nothing, although her eyes search up and down as if for clues.2Berra fails insight human.

Varanis is tired. The strain of the last couple of days is writ in her face for anyone to see. “I asked him for help and gave him a lock as a token of my promise to make him a proper sacrifice later. That is all.” She sheathes the sword carefully.

Berra nods. “What help did you ask?” She closes the door, with her firmly on the inside.

“I asked him for the strength to do what I must and for his aid in protecting or avenging those who need it.” Varanis glances back at the altar. “He is her Father’s Brother and his Champion. I hoped that would be enough.”

“Good things to ask, but there’s one more thing. Remember to strike only in honour. Ask for Truth in your heart, so you know what that is.” Berra walks closer to the image of her God, to bow there.

Varanis considers. She turns back to the shrine where the hair smoulders. “Lord Humakt, help me to see Truth, that I might know where to strike and when to hold my blow. Help me to see Truth that I may pass through dishonour and return to honour, as is right and necessary,” she says formally to the little figure of the god on the shrine.

Berra steps back, without making a sound or an offering.

As the hair collapses into ash, Varanis dips a finger into it. She traces out a Truth rune above each eye.

Berra watches, impassive. When that is done she says quietly, “He used to be the brother to Orlanth, but is no more. That is important to remember when you call on his help, for he cut himself away that he might act with Truth always.”

Varanis nods, then dips her finger into the ash again, retracing her Air rune. “I understand, but while he cut himself away, that does not mean Vinga did the same to him,” she says quietly. The fingers tracing the runes belong to a hand that still trembles, but there is a calm descending over Varanis now.

“There is no choice. The cut was made. Humakt is not Kin, but an outsider, and so he can protect what is important.” Perhaps Berra should not be pushing. Her voice is gentle, like she is breaking bad news to someone, but she says it despite the heavy burden of the words.3Varanis attempts Insight Humakti. She fails. Maybe she’s just dense. This isn’t the first time Berra tried to explain separation and she just doesn’t get it. It’s too alien to our Varanis.

Varanis shrugs. “I do not deny the truth of his separation. But how others understand and treat the separation is… that is not something he or you can control.”

Berra gives a slight smile. “The main matter is to find the right stroke, and use it correctly,” she says. “Do you want me to leave you in here?”

“Are we ready to act?” Varanis asks.

“No, but I could stay with you if you want. Mellia’s on her…” Berra flails briefly for the right word. “Mission?”

Varanis shrugs again. “Stay if you want to pray. That’s what I was doing when you came in. I might send for lumiviiva if the wait is long, but for now, I intend to stay here until we are ready to act.” Although she fidgets absently with her sword hilt, she seems strangely detached from her words. The frantic energy that was present before she prayed has either drained away or is being held in check.

“No more of the drink until you need it. You don’t need it until just before action. You don’t want to sleep when we’re approaching because you forced yourself awake now.” Berra steps closer to the image of Humakt once more, her eyes travelling up and down it.

Varanis gives a bitter laugh. “I won’t be sleeping any time soon, Berra. Probably not until this is done now.”

“Then you don’t need the drink. Let the battle carry you.” Her voice is calm, and she too sounds tired.

Varanis gives a little nod and steps back from the little shrine. She glances up at the forbidding faces of the Grandmothers and sighs. She straightens her clothing beneath the grimy armour, beginning to take it in at last. Her fingers lack their usual deft movement as she finger combs the tangles of her hair and twists it into a simple plait. By the time she is done, she is no cleaner, but at least she looks less wild.

Berra takes a few moments to pray, flat on her front with her sword placed on the ground before her. Her arms are out to the sides, her palms twisted upward. Her prayer is quiet, although the God’s name is audible at beginning and end. Then she is done, and stands and buckles Wind Tooth to her. She looks at Varanis, considering again.

Varanis looks back at Berra. From Berra’s side of the room, Varanis seems more like her usual self than she has since coming back from the sandbar.

Maybe this worries Berra, maybe not. She stays close to the shrine of her own god, sinking down against the North wall to rest on one foot, the other out in front of her. After a little time she looks ahead and seems relaxed.

Having tidied herself as best she can, Varanis visits each of the shrines in the family temple. She murmurs quietly to each. At last, she settles herself before the larger figure of Ernalda. The statue includes a serpent, winding itself around the Goddess’ arm, much as the Saiciae Wyter does with Grandmother. The Vingan kneels once again placing the sword on the ground in front of her knees. She prays silently, staring up at the goddess with red-rimmed eyes. And there she waits.

Berra has been blinking heavily, and well before Varanis decides which statue will have her attention, she lays herself down where she will block the door. There, on guard, she sleeps.

After kneeling before the Goddess for some time, Varanis lurches to her feet without grace. She snatches up her rapier by the hilt as she rises. Her eyes flash as she strides to the great serpent wrapped around the Goddess’ arm.

She draws her rapier’s edge against the palm of her left hand, opening the skin. Blood wells up. After sheathing the sword, she dips the finger of her right hand into the blood and uses it to paint a Truth rune and an Earth rune on the head of the stone serpent.

“Saiciae? Wyter of this House, do you hear me? Where is he? Where is Xenofos?” she demands desperately. “Can I save him and Lenta both or do the gods make me choose?”

Berra, called from sleep by the noise, raises her head to watch. She blinks muzzily, her eyes focusing on Varanis after a moment. Her look sharpens into wakefulness but she remains silent.4You will be pleased to know Berra passed Listen, and therefore you woke her up. All your fault, Varanis.

“It’s not about choosing between a cousin and a Hulta. It’s about kin and honour,” Varanis snarls at the silent snake. “I need to find them both. Please. At least tell me if he is still alive.” The anger drains from her with the last words, replaced again with desperation.

“It might not know. He might be too far away.” Berra gets to her feet via a side-plank and a twist of the body. “If it does not know for sure that could be good news.”

Varanis ignores Berra, continuing to talk to the snake, though her voice is lowered now.

Berra takes the hint, and shuts up. She stays awake now, though, in her infantry squat by the door.

Storm seems to whirl around the palace. You can feel lightning striking close and thunder right after.

Varanis reaches out with her bloody hand and places it on top of the snake’s head, smearing the runes painted only moments before. “Tell me!” she demands.

Berra watches, alert but not yet alarmed.