Varanis — 1626 0873 Muddledmail
????, Earth Season, Movement Week
Earth Season, Movement Week, Freezeday [[[s02:session-16|Session 16]]]
House Saiciae, the morning after [http:journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/varanis:1628-0870-praxianpresumption Praxian Presumption], continues on from [http:journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/varanis:1628-0872-morningmail Morning Mail]
Varanis has woken up on the wrong side of the bed and having received a confusing note from Xenofos, she demands that he be sent for. The serving girl Marta sends returns quickly, a look of trepidation on her face. “He is not in his room, mistress.”
Varanis turns her sharp gaze on the girl. “Is he elsewhere in the household?”
The girl looks confused. “I don’t know. I don’t think anyone had slept in his room.”
Varanis’ expression turns stormy, though her words remain calm. “Please arrange for someone to watch for him and to carry me word of his arrival.”
The Vingan rises from her chair and turns to her armour stand, effectively dismissing the servant. There’s a growl as she realizes her cuirass is missing, likely taken for repair.
The servant girl vanishes quickly. She comes back later after some time and tries to whisper something to Marta. By this point, Varanis is dressed and wearing her vambraces and greaves. She’s scowling fiercely. “What news?” she asks, not quite snapping.
The girl swallows and only speaks up after a stern nod from Marta. “He rode out in the middle of the night with one attendant. The servant returned with the horses in the morning and vanished again after taking some provisions from the kitchen.”
“The gatekeeper will send a word if he returns.”
“What? Did he leave word as to where he was?” At a quelling look from Marta, Varanis softens her voice. “Were there any other details?”
Marta says, “My lady, he mentioned a warehouse last night.”
The little red and blue songbird paces on a brick, agitated and alert.
At the girl’s terrified look, Varanis relents. Clearly, the servant knows nothing more. “Get me Lady Yamia, the Sartarite Humakti.”
Lady Yamia, as it happens, is in meditation in her room, and sends to say she will be only a few fragments of an hour. She is as good as her word, and within five minutes there is a double-rap on the doorframe. It sounds like it was done with something light and metallic.
Varanis doesn’t wait for Marta, but rather opens the door herself. Emotions flit across her face momentarily before being replaced with courtesy. “Please come in. I have a question I hope you might help with.”
Yamia bows. “Of course.” She steps in lightly on slippered feet, poised as if for instant service, if that service can be performed by the intelligent for the bold. Today, Yamia is in a tunic and skirt that has slits to the thigh and a layer of material beneath. Fighting clothes, no armour.
“What are Humakti rules or customs regarding duels? Are they the same for all Humakti or will Sartarites have different rules than Esrolians?” The Vingan is buckling on her rapier as she speaks.
“Oh… a moment to gather my thoughts please?” Yamia gives Varanis a polite smile. In the corner, the songbird she plucked gives a sudden chirp of panic, and runs for its nest.
The Vingan nods.
“No Temple may be said to be definitely the same as another,” Yamia begins, “But in general Humakti fight to first blood, and I have never heard of a duel where one would fight to the death over a private matter. However, the Sartarite part of this is lacking. We would not call it a duel, and it would be far less formal, or else a matter between Clans or families. Of course, there may be areas where this happens, but one does not talk of Sartarite Duels so. Is this about Lord Kesten?”
“Yes. I have a letter from my cousin that says he’s gone to try to prevent Berra from rashly challenging Kesten. He thinks she doesn’t understand Esrolian customs around these matters and will pick a fight.” The Vingan looks angry and frustrated. “They are both idiots. The Queen stated that the matter was closed and any Humakti issue should be dealt with by the battalion. Why would they go back to the warehouse for this?”
Emerging from its place of hiding, the little red capped bird bobs its head as it shifts from foot to foot.
“Perhaps because there was a miscommunication, because Lord Xenofos acted on what he knew, and not the facts?” Yamia suggests it lightly. “The word ‘duel’ is an false friend for translation, but I do not think Berra meant to fight, when she went out. She knows how it translates as well.”
“Can you help me untangle what has happened then?” Varanis makes an effort to rein in her impatience. “Would you like wine? Or water?” She nods towards the table and chairs where two documents sit amongst the remains of what was probably her breakfast. There is an amphora on the table.
“Of course,” Yamia says. “I will have wine. I am certain I can set your mind at ease.”
Marta steps forward with a clean palm cup. The glass is dark blue, matching the one Varanis was using. Both cups are filled and Varanis politely allows her guest time to taste the wine, before resuming her questions.
Yamia gives the wine the attention it is due, for exactly the polite stretch of time required, and then she smiles at the glass, and then at Varanis. “Lord Xenofos was directed to me yester-eve, possibly because I am a Sartarite Humakti. Possibly he has enough understanding of Berra Jarangsdottir’s movements to know to ask, or knows the intrigues of your house. I can hardly comment.” Except of course that she just did.
“My understanding is that he believed her to be seeking a confrontation with Kesten and that he was either going to prevent it or make sure it at least followed the appropriate rules. He has not returned. It is would be unusual for something like this to take so long.” Long fingers capped with broken nails and flaking gilding drum impatiently on the table, next to one of the letters.
Marta directs a stern look at her charge, who misses it entirely.
“He did not listen to me then, or heard something on the Air to which I was deaf. I wrote her letter, and it was a simple one. I think she would have asked him, only his feet were too big.” Yamia gives a compressed smile. “Perhaps I will get my shoes back today. I would have been out, but for the circumstance of which we speak; a satisfyingly self-contained quandary.”
“Your shoes? What do your shoes have to do with things?” The Vingan shakes her head. “Nevermind. Maybe…” She looks at Yamia consideringly.1And fails a roll on Air. “Maybe you can make more sense of this than I did. His handwriting is usually much more clear.” She shoves one of the notes towards Yamia.
“Berra’s feet are the same size as mine, if rather wider,” Yamia explains. “And we may infer from her choosing me over her perhaps favoured scribe that she was in a hurry, and wished one errand, not too.” Only then does she pay attention to the note, which she picks up with both hands, holding it by the very edges.
“Oh, how florid. Venlar would have something almost cutting to say, probably about the formation of the stave letters. And he seems to have spelled my name with an alternative character, rendering it rather more Esrolian. How charming. But I think I can read this.” Yamia puzzles for a moment, and a tiny frown grows. “Yahmia lets me know… tells me… that Berra wished to create a meeting – definitely meeting, not significant pause meeting – with Lord Kesten in the warehouse, and left in the evening,” she says. “I do not think she… what would that word be? Concentrated on violence? Had it on her mind? Oh. Esrolian idiom. I do not think she was looking for a fight.”
Varanis raises an eyebrow. “You’re certain about the last? I read it differently.”
“We could ask Venlar,” Yamia says coolly. “But I think he would agree with me. The problem is likely here, you see?” She uses her smallest finger to underline a phrase. “I would not personally write ‘I think not that’ here. I would use a word such as peace instead of the negative of war, in a short note written in a hurry. He did not have time to make it clear, I suppose.”
“I suppose. So, you think she was not seeking conflict then? Where could they be? What will have held them up?” The Vingan loses the polite smile to her growing frustration.
“We cannot affect them now. I can tell you what she wrote to Kesten Humakti, but I am partway through this.” Yamia offers to put down the half-read note.
“I’m sorry for my interruption. Please continue.” Varanis takes a sip of wine, glares at her cup, and sets it down.
“Disappointingly, he says he cannot discount the possibility, but at least he knows he plays himself for a fool. I think that is a dicing phrase, but it might be the pin-and-board game. Hmmm. Oh, second, of course. As her second it is upon me by duty to ascertain the truth. He puts it as situation, but the elide-mark over the long vowel indicates, I think, a Scribal term, and hence the Truth of the situation is implied. I could be wrong. I say so because it is familiar from Sartar, but it could be a guide to pronunciation, or a missing element for contraction. It could even be purely for looks. It balances the word to have the line there.” Yamia refreshes herself with a sip of wine. Although confident as she speaks, she is reading slowly, and might even be frustrated by that herself.
Varanis nods. On the table there’s a plate with a selection of nuts and dried fruits. She shifts it so that it is in easy reach of the dark-haired woman.
“Does he dislike Berra? He is… less than complimentary about her. Her apology was ejected? No, thrown out. Emphasis on casual, I think. Since her apology was given informally, and not accepted, they are in the same situation as when Berra… flounced? Stormed. Stormed out. That could be a continuation mark or it could be a verbless sentence. A distinction Berra does not make? Cannot make? Does not understand, I think. I am setting out late, so it is possible I will arrive out of time. Late. Oh, setting out late based on information, not on it being dark. She set off when it was still light, of course.”2Varanis passed Love Family – she stays silent instead of saying all the things currently running through her mind about her cousin.
“Oh dear. His words get longer. Something about attempting to avoid a pitfall, or avert… avert her path lest she run in hobnails… rough-shod, I suppose… over custom and etiquette. My wish-hope…. chance. Although my chance of success is slim.” Yamia looks up. “A lot to have put together. Her letter was shorter.”
“Can you share the contents of hers, or will that be a breach of privacy?”
“I have already told Lord Xenofos. She asked for no privacy and would not wish her actions thought of as secret, I am sure.” Yamia takes up her wine glass. “I have the advantage of having written it, so I do not need to puzzle out the writing. All she said was, ‘I am going to the DuQuesnay Warehouse where Lenta was held, to see if anyone comes back there or tries to burn it. I should speak with you as soon as possible, while I am still thinking calmly after action.'”
Varanis blinks in astonishment. “How did he get from there to duelling?”
Without apparent worry, Yamia replies. “I believe, by a combination of guesswork and panic. For one, he guessed about the contents. He did not ask me directly, but took the two parts as I described – and not recited – and ran them together. Adding in what he thinks of her personality, I believe having seen this letter that he feared for Kesten Humakti, and the name of the house where Berra was a guest. He is her second, and his honour is on the line. Her temper is not always even.”
Varanis mutters something too quietly for Yamia to hear.
“I note, he says that the custom here is that the two should not meet. Communication should correctly be through their seconds.” Yamia raises a brow only slightly at that notion. “I think he would have benefitted from knowing she invited rather than called. She left the decision to a native Esrolian Lord, as I read it.”
“And the custom only applies if they still had reason to fight, which doesn’t seem likely. Or perhaps it is.” The Vingan spits out a colourful Grazelander curse. “I can’t remember why they were duelling in the first place. I’m not sure Berra ever told me.”
“He believes that whether there is reason or not, there is danger. And also, that until the apology is accepted, that the custom applies. Presumably that acceptance must be in the manner demanded by the insult and its sequelae.” Yamia does not comment on the reason.
Varanis frowns. “Well, whether she sought violence or not, Xenofos has not returned. I need to go looking for them. It’s been too long. Thank you for your assistance, Yamia. It is appreciated.” The Vingan rises decisively.
The little red-capped bird chirrups its approval.
Yamia stands. “Lord Kesten would not lose his temper, and Berra would not draw on a man who did not. She was very happy the morning they argued. She had thought of a way of helping him, she said.” A last sip of wine is taken. “Then, when she was all passion, he was a model of calm. A second’s nightmare is unlikely to come true. Take guards when you ride out, lest other problems befell them, but Kesten Humakti will not lose his patience.”
Varanis nods. “You are right, of course.” She sees Yamia to the door, whilst Marta tidies away the wine and the remains of a mostly untouched breakfast.
Yamia is precise as she puts down her glass, with no movement wasted, but she does not hand it to Marta directly. She goes to the door soundlessly, save for the songbird that has noticed her and is fluttering. Her bow, of course, is efficient.
A youth, perhaps seventeen is startled to come face to face with Yamia, when she opens the door. He makes way and for a moment is left staring at her as she glides past. When he notices Varanis, he hides his flustered expression with a reverent bow.
The Vingan watches him, and for just a moment her expression lightens to something that just might be amusement, then she swiftly becomes serious again. “You have a message?” she asks.
“Lord Xenofos arrived a moment ago. The gatekeeper said you wanted to be told, milady.”
She nods her thanks, already on the move. He barely has time to step out of the way before she’s stalking past, in search of Xenofos.
Continues in [http://journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/varanis:1628-0874-cousinlyconcern Cousinly Concern]
- 1And fails a roll on Air.
- 2Varanis passed Love Family – she stays silent instead of saying all the things currently running through her mind about her cousin.