VS 174 Late Night Stroll

Varanis — 1626 0891 Latenight

????, Earth Season, Illusion Week


Context

Earth Season, Illusion Week, Waterday Eve. [[[s02:session-17|Session 17]]]

Events

Late, late, late at night, when anyone who had not been abusing their body and mind would be sleeping, is a good time to be pacing the corridors…1Varanis, POW x 3, success for luck. And a Scan, please? 005! Oooh, nice. And let’s try an Insight Human, too, for fun. Take a 20% for that special success. Passed.

A familiar figure is in the courtyard, outlined in just enough light to see her, from windows where lamps are still burning. Small, bronze-clad, short-haired. The light of shows her helmet is off and she is smoothing the feather on it, despite it never having needed such before. It is one of her habits when she is thinking of home, or D’Val.

Berra’s shoulders are slumped, her body language defeated, and everything about her says she is hiding just for a moment before she goes on. She has turned just a little towards the light, or away from the doorkeeper’s post, but it looks like she was on her way out.

Varanis considers for a moment and then bolts for the door. She’s going to try to catch Berra before she leaves.

Berra is walking slowly across the courtyard, her shoulders set solid and broad, a touch of swagger in her step, when the light from the door behind her makes her stop and turn, one eye open to look, one eye closed as she steps away from the source of brightness.

Although the door closes almost as quickly as it opens, Varanis’ lean form is recognizable in the darkness. She’s dressed in a gown, rather than armour. Her hair is a disheveled mop that keeps falling in her eyes.

Berra takes a couple of steps back. “Varanis. Can I help you?” It sounds genuine.

Varanis pulls up short. “I… I saw you from the window. Umm… are you ok?”

Berra looks down, and then up again. “I… ye…” She does not complete the word. “I need to sleep. Some bad things happened at me today, and I have to pack.”

“Oh. I shouldn’t keep you, I guess.” Varanis seems uncharacteristically uncertain. “I could walk with you,” she suggests.

Berra looks around. “You’d need guards on the way back.” It’s not a no. There is no fight in her right now, just acquiescence to fate.

The Vingan studies Berra. “Would I be intruding if I did?” she asks at last. “Do you need to be alone?”

“I… I actually really don’t care right now. I’m trying to, but there’s nothing in me. The Clan told me not to pursue the matter of the missing slave by the means I was going to. He’s won – they’ve won. I can’t do it.”

“Oh Berra. I’m sorry. I’m not bound by your Clan Ring, well not in the same way, anyway. Do you want me to help?”

“Just because they haven’t told you, doesn’t mean that you can step in where I can’t. But if you… I’d like him to know how important this is to me. I’m leaving tomorrow, and I might not see him. If he’s still alive… I asked Xenofos to call him a bastard, but tell him I was kind of smiling. So… the only help I could ask would be in finding someone, and I don’t know how to do that.” Even her habitual changes of subjects are slow, her voice drained.

“Give me a moment, please.” Varanis disappears in the direction of the gate house and returns a moment later with a guard in tow. He maintains a respectful distance when Varanis rejoins Berra.

“Walk and talk,” the Vingan suggests. “I need more information. First, you’re leaving tomorrow?” The question is carefully neutral.

Berra has Ganrel open the gate, and walks a little way before she answers. “Early. I have nothing to keep me here now, except for seeing if Kesten is alive.” Already, her voice is cheering up and she is managing to seem confident. In her case, it might be a genuine change.

“I see.” There’s a long pause. “I see. Well. I think you’ve answered my second question, which was who might be dead. And Xenofos has agreed to seek out Kesten for you?”

“Yeah. He’s probably dealing with whatever he tracked down to do with Lord Rillo, about now. If he’s back by tomorrow, I’ll see him. I need to tell him a thing anyhow, about a song. Or ask Xenofos to.”

Amazingly, Berra is forgetting to scan the streets as they walk, letting the guard and the Vingan do the work.

Varanis side-steps a suspicious looking puddle next to the wall they are following. The slippers she is wearing seem less than ideal for late-night excursions.

“Does Xenofos know how soon you are leaving?” she asks at last.

“I just told him,” Berra replies. “I said I’d be by in the morning, briefly.” They are headed south, still in what is technically the Noble district, but by expensive apartments and individual houses. Crossing the road just ahead will leave them in a respectable commoners’ quarter.

Varanis frowns. “Did he decide not to go with you then? When we spoke earlier, he was considering it. Something to do with the message from High Healer Jaldis.”

“I don’t think he is. He said goodbye, anyhow.” Berra, with an effort, keeps her shoulders back.2Varanis passes insight: Insight: Berra without the fight in her is a sad little Berra. This quiet, drained little Humakti suddenly started not talking in long flowed-together sentences when she started talking about Xenofos. Her mental energy, all she has of it, turned inward.

Varanis sighs. “I shouldn’t meddle, but… did he tell you how sorry he was for chasing you?”

“We talked. It’s fine. We’re friends. He knows.” Berra looks up and manages a smile. “Don’t worry yourself.”

Varanis laughs humourlessly. “Might as well tell Yelm not to rise… which isn’t a suggestion, by the way. I don’t really care to repeat the quest.” Absently, she runs her fingers over the rune on her right wrist. Unusually, the rune is exposed, hidden by neither vambrace nor bracelet.

Berra snorts. “Yeah, well. I can tell you that it’s not my opinion you should. You’re fretting, not worrying. You’re wearing yourself a groove to worry in.”

Varanis shrugs. “So, you leave tomorrow. Xenofos stays. He will look for Kesten for you. Tell me what you know about the slave then.”

“I don’t even know what his name was. I was going to ask Xenofos to find out, but then things got really busy. It was probably recorded in the Ulerian’s house. Then it was too late. Kesten said he’d been sold to the galleys. That’s really all I know at all.”

They come to a crossroads and step away from the shelter of the walls that surrounded them. Orlanth ruffles Varanis’ hair and raises little goosebumps on the exposed skin of her arms. She smile in spite of the shiver that runs through her.

“Earth Season is drawing to a close. I wonder if the galley is still here. Some of them winter in Nochet, but they usually buy fresh slaves after Sacred Time so they don’t have to feed them through the Dark.” She looks thoughtful as she considers the matter.

“I couldn’t find him. I think he’s gone now, because what you buy, you use… I’ve looked in my spare time, and I looked on the day, but I haven’t managed. But I don’t have access to all of them. If it was a war galley, those docks are closed to me.” Berra goes from tired through some stage where she negotiates how much hope she is allowed to have, and then presents it to Varanis. A little. More than she did have. Not much.

Varanis considers. “I might be able to access the war galleys. It would depend on whether or not someone deliberately tried to block my way. I will try this. And what do you want me to do if I find the slave and can buy his freedom?”

“He’ll probably have had his tongue cut out, to stop him from talking. Buy him, and I’ll have to owe you. I just gave my money to the Clan Ring for ransom – they might ask you for that in the morning, but you don’t have to give them what you can’t afford. If you do, you’ll get it back as soon as they can pay you. And heal him, and keep him safe from the Hulta and from your own house. Call him my property if you have to, and I’ll sort out freeing him or something when I can get back here. If I leave you some wheels and my horse, that’s not really enough, but…” Berra trails off. It sounded like that list was a set of things she had already thought about, for they came fluidly until she needed to solve a problem, and then there was nothing left.

“The Clan Ring might ask for my ransom in the morning?” Varanis seems to be a few paces behind Berra, who went from trudging up hill to swimming downstream rather suddenly.

“For money for their ransom. Then they’ll owe their Clan, not the Saiciae.” Berra takes a moment too long to find her waterskin, a new one that hangs from a strap at her waist. She offers Varanis a drink.

Varanis takes a sip of water and passes the waterskin back.

Berra manages to dampen her face, and mutters a bit. “And Yamia should know… does know… the Oath Spell. She’s likely to work out more than the Hulta would be comfortable with, so telling her everything and letting her seal his mouth – the Ulerian’s slave, I mean – would probably be a good move for Kesten. He could have her bound by it too. And that would protect the man by making sure Kesten knew he’d be silent.” Another pre-planned item, by the sound of it. Berra explains rather than enthusing.

“If I can find him, I will buy him and we can work the rest out later. Only leave Road if you won’t need him. I need no surety from you. But I will make sure Road is cared for if you need him to be.” Varanis catches up, or at least attempts to. “Wouldn’t silencing the slave run counter to your purpose? I thought the point was at least partially to have a witness?”

“I’m going to Prax. Horses would be bad,” Berra says, and then changes the subject quickly. “I don’t really care what he says or knows, just that he doesn’t get punished. Hulta already knows what they can from him, which means Lord Kesten knows, which means he’ll be able to track down the murderer or the reasons, if anyone can. I have no reason to hurt the Hulta, other than them not letting me undo my mistake.” Lord Kesten, suddenly, now that Berra is beginning to think again. Formality is rare in her, but for good or ill he rates that respect.

“Bring Road here in the morning. Regardless of what else happens, I’ll secure stabling for him while you are in Prax. And if we are going to meet in Sartar in the spring, I’ll bring him with me. Otherwise, he’ll be here for you when you return.” The words are decisive. This she is confident she can do. “I’ll try to find and free the slave and if I do, I’ll protect him from the Hulta. I can make no promises on this matter, but I will do what I can.” She runs a hand through her hair in a vain attempt to push it out of her eyes. As she walks, she looks thoughtful, like she is trying to see every possible angle.

It’s good that the guard is keeping watch, because Varanis no longer is.

The Humakti pauses to look down a passage that is almost wide enough for two to walk abreast comfortably. Finally alert again, she checks it out and nods to indicate it is clear before going down it. “Thank you,” she says with a brief smile. “We’re nearly here, though. We just take a bit of care as the road dips and then rises, up ahead. It goes under another road.” She goes first. “I’ll be looking in a lot of ports, I guess. Whenever we put in. If I find anyone, I’ll direct them to you.”

“We have something of a plan then. Unless something changes, you should be able to send word to me here… you might, just to be certain if it’s important, send word via Silor’s people. He has suggested I consider wintering with one of the clans to work towards raising Kallyr’s banner amongst them. If I steer clear of the Colymar this might be possible. And frankly, whether I find the slave or not, it might be time for me to consider leaving Nochet for a time. The matter with Garin is still unresolved and that bothers me. But I have spoken of Kallyr’s cause until I’ve had no voice left to speak and I don’t know what else I can accomplish here.”
Varanis nearly side-steps another puddle.

“Ehuh.” Berra makes a noise of agreement. “Silor’s people would understand freeing slaves, if it comes to that.” The road dips downwards into stairs, and goes under a bridge of wooden slabs and slats above. Berra peers out before she leaves its shelter. “Here, then.” She knocks on a door to the left, using her whole fist, thump-thump-thump. No negotiation, just a loud demand for attention.

“Will I see you tomorrow? Maybe when you bring Road by?” Varanis doesn’t look like she’s inclined to come in.

“I’ll be coming over early to leave my animals there, and then trying to call on Kesten,” Berra says. “After that I pick up the bison. Followed. Her name is Followed.” There are no lights here, but her voice sounds happy for that brief moment.

Varanis nods. “I will try to meet you. Do you need help packing or should I leave you in peace now? You said you had a bad day and I don’t want to impose more on you.”

The sound of someone grumbling their way to the door is audible. Berra has woken up the innkeeper and a few in the common room, from the sounds of it. It is a surprisingly swift response to the knock. “I should see you safely back under the bridge,” she replies, as a professional warrior should. “I don’t have much to pack. It mostly just needs to go from-“

The door opens. Berra squints against the light to keep her night vision. “See you in the morning.”

The innkeeper scowls out through the gap.

“I have my guard, you go pack. I’ll see you in the morning.” She gives Berra’s shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Good night.”

“It’s not far.” Berra gives a smile. “And it means I will not have to listen instead.” She pats the hand on her shoulder. “Goodnight.”

“Fair enough. Good night then.” Varanis nods and turns. She makes her way back to the guard and does not look back.

Once they are safely past the pinch point, the light changes as Berra goes through the door and it is closed behind her.