VS 170 Sacrifices

Varanis — 1626 0884 Sacrifices

????, Earth Season, Movement Week


Context

Earth Season, Movement Week, Clayday to Windsday [[[s02:session-16|Session 16]]]
When Xenofos had gone missing, [http://journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/varanis:1628-0854-prayers Varanis made an offering to Humakt] and promised a full sacrifice later. It is time to make good on that promise.


Events

Yelm has not yet begun his descent when Varanis arrives at the Temple of Humakt. She is wearing full armour, with her rapier buckled at her hip. The newly repaired cuirass gleams in the light. There are two House Saiciae guards with her, standing respectfully a few paces behind her. Both actively scan the surroundings. Varanis makes for the entrance of the Temple itself.

It is a low, wide doorway, big enough to let many people enter at once, low enough to keep light levels down even when it is open. One door has Death on it, the other Truth. Certain Humakti can be subtle, but those who designed this place are not. The building is cross-shaped, of course. She considers the doors then knocks on the one marked with the Truth rune. It is opened a moment later by a man in linothorax, short tunic, and pleated skirt. His bare arms bulge with muscle, and he looks at Varanis with immediate challenge.

She doesn’t flinch from his gaze, meeting it with calm consideration. “My name is Varanis Saiciae. I owe a debt to Humakt and wish to make good on it. May I do so?” Her plain bronze helm is pushed back on her head, so he can read the truth of her claims in her face.

He continues that look for a moment, and then holds up his hand, and clicks a finger for the attention of someone else. There is a brief conversation which on his side consists of various rapid hand signals. The woman he ‘talks’ to asks, “What is the nature of the debt?” She stands now in the gap in the doorway.

“My cousin went missing. I made an offering at my family’s altar of Humakt asking for his aid in finding him. I am Vingan and Humakt is the Champion. My cousin returned to us, and I would not leave the debt unpaid.” Varanis considers her words carefully. “I also seek to understand separation. It is not a thing for me, but I wish to understand it better. I would like to make my offering and then, if it is permitted, spend the night in prayer.”1B: Roll Orate, I think, to see how that goes over. V: Hmmm… I wonder if she recognizes either of them from her week here or if they recognize her. B: There are hundreds of people here, but you were in the main hall. POW x 1, for luck, as well. V: Yes to orate, no to luck.

“It is permitted,” she says after a moment. “Death comes to all, and so all must know Death. We will find you a companion. What is the nature of your sacrifice?”

Varanis hesitates, then says, “I bring jewellery wrought by my own hands. But also… I offered Him a symbol of my own vanity. It was all I had to offer, but my dreams tell me that it is right.” She slides her helmet off her head and tucks it under her arm. Plucking a few pins makes it easy for her to uncoil the long red plait she’d wound around her head like a crown. “The gold for the temple and the plait for the god,” she says decisively.

The woman bows. “This is appropriate,” she says. “Enter.” She steps aside and there is darkness behind her, yawning cool and eternal.

Before Varanis steps in, she turns to the guards. “I will not be home until tomorrow. Have someone meet me at the Temple of Vinga this time tomorrow.” Without waiting for a reply, she turns and strides confidently into the darkness.2Rolled Air to see her mood/reaction. It was a special.

Within, there are many altars, but the one her companion brings her towards is a plain slab of stone at the left hand side of the temple, close to the tip of the ‘blade’. “The uninitiated are permitted this far,” she says, “But should you cross further than the line of basalt, you tread in Humakt’s inner hall, and may be called to stay.” She indicates the stone line between this and the next altar. The big room fades off into dimness, although there is enough light of torches to see a series of altars, engraved with numbers, and small doors leading off the main temple.

Varanis nods. She turns to gaze at the altar to which she has been brought. “Is it customary for a person to make their offerings alone or under the guidance of an Initiate?” she asks. It is a query in search of information, rather than a request for assistance.

“You will need someone to tell you the correct forms,” comes the reply. “A companion. I can provide this service to you, if you wish.”

“Thank you. That would be very welcome.”

“Gold can wait, unless you prefer this matter completed first. It is of no import.” While talking, the woman clicks her fingers, and that gets attention in the long, echoing room. A brief hand signal to them results in a brazier being brought across to the altar, and placed by it. The man who does it is a patchwork of scars and scowl, but he makes no muttering or sign of irritation at Varanis.

“Gold can wait,” the Vingan agrees. She watches as the scarred man sets the brazier in place.

“The brazier, and the sacrifice, you must put on the altar,” her companion tells her. “You alone must do this. If you use a single blade to cut your hair, this is all that will be required of the first stage. If you require scissors, or another aids you, then I will also help you to kill what must die. After that, the brazier should be ignited, and the sacrifice placed in it as the ashes within burn. If you wish to speak, I will help the God to hear your words, so measure them carefully. When there is nothing but ash in the brazier, step back without looking back. Is there any part there you do not understand?”

Varanis listens intently, then asks, “I carry two blades – dagger and rapier. Is one more appropriate than the other for the ritual?”

“The closer a sword is to the Broadsword, the better. The Rapier, therefore. You may use the matrix in the brazier to light it, if the magic is not in you.” She looks faintly embarrassed to be adding that at a later stage.

Varanis nods. “The helmet. Does it matter where I place it?”

“If it is on the altar it will be sacrificed. Other than that, by the wall where people do not fall over it would be appropriate.” There is just a flash of humour.

“It is not mine to offer. Magasta already claimed that, so by the wall is best.” Varanis sets the helmet out of the way then returns to stand in front of the altar. “With your permission, I would like to begin,” she tells the initiate.

“Of course. Take all time you wish.” She steps back, closes her eyes, and breathes slowly and deeply, but in a strange rhythm.

The Vingan closes her eyes and the air flows in and out of her, each breath slow and deliberate. When she is ready, she opens her eyes. Within their grey depths there are flashes of blue sparks.

She draws her rapier and wraps her long plait around her left hand with a twist of the wrist. Without hesitation, she begins to saw at the hair, her sword hand brushing the death rune on her throat. The plait is thick and though her blade is sharp, it takes some time to sever it completely. When it comes free at last, the Vingan’s remaining hair hangs unevenly cut nearly to the ear on the left where it was closer to the blade.

She resheathes her sword long enough to place the plait on the altar, then darts a quick glance towards the Humakti to ensure that all is in order thus far.3Rolled on worship Vinga at half because I don’t exactly have a worship Humakt skill. Scored 001.

The Humakti’s presence there is dim, the hall cold. The walls seem further than ever they were, and yet despite the chill there is an atmosphere of dimness and distance, somehow.

Varanis steps calmly to the brazier and lifts it into place on the altar using both hands. Her movements are slow and precise. She looks at it for a moment, then draws her rapier again. Her gaze turns to the fire rune on the back of her sword hand and with a murmured word, the rapier is ablaze.

Carefully, reverently, she uses the sword to light the brazier. When the flames rise up from the bronze bowl, she looks to her hand again and her sword is extinguished, becoming simply a blade once more. She resheathes it.

The light shows, briefly, what was already obvious from sound. There are no walls now, nothing but darkness stretching out. The breathing of her companion has become a slow heartbeat.

Breathing slowly and evenly, the Vingan lifts the severed plait in both hands. She coils it so that it will fit completely into the brazier and carefully sets it into the flames. She steps back a single pace so that she can watch it burn.

The plait catches on the last of the flame, which was somehow itself catching burned ash. The heartbeat stops. The flame rises, showing nothing but the edges of the altar and utter blackness.

“Lord Humakt, Orlanth’s Champion, this child of Vinga offers her gratitude.”

Her words fall into such silence that the silence itself is loud. At the point where there could never be a reply, and it is time to say or do the next thing, there is a soft heartbeat so far away that it could not be reached save by stepping onto the altar. It is not an answer, just a thing from a different place.

For the briefest moment, it looks almost as though she will take that step, closing the distance she has placed between herself and the altar. The moment passes and she has not moved. It wasn’t hesitation or uncertainty, however. Her eyes flash with blue and her choice is made. Was made, long ago. She is Orlanthi.

No sound. No judgment in the silence. No morality is held out before her. There is just emptiness. An altar. A brazier burned out and long cold.

She steps back, turning away. She does not look back at the altar, but rather directs her gaze to the Initiate.

The first sound she hears is a slow, ragged breath from her companion, but there was a sound just before that which she did not hear, only knew about. It could have been an argument, in tongues she did not know. A discussion, among men or gods, as to… something. She cannot hold it, for it was all about breaking apart, and she is one part that is broken off, alive and sent away. The heartbeat-breathing calls her back to Air, and life, and forgetting that there were others who were sent other ways.

The woman nods to her. “It is sent,” she says, and for a moment Varanis is back in that place, sending away things that are broken and done. For just one moment, she sits between two things, body and spirit. No width, but she is both sides of the knife. When the sword strikes, it bites flesh but the Death within it… and the terrifying mystery vanishes from her mind as she realises it, and it is gone.

Varanis nods. “To whom shall I give the gold?” It is a question that seeks information only.

“The Lay Master, Lord Arniden,” comes the reply, from a parched throat. The light has moved in the windows. The smell of burned hair is faint, but noticeable on the air. Varanis’ companion bows. “I can have you accompanied there.”

“Please. I would appreciate that. And thank you for your assistance.”

There is another click, and as the scarred warrior hurries back, Varanis gets a bow. Then her companion turns to the man who approached and says, “Haslik. Varanis Saiciae will see Lord Arniden, and then return here, or to a private lay altar as she wishes. You will keep her company overnight in prayer or worship if she wishes, and answer her questions as best you may.” Haslik gives Varanis a tiny nod, to say he understands.

Varanis returns the nod with precise courtesy.