VS 175 Sad Little Songbird

Varanis — 1626 0892 Sadsongbird

????, Earth Season, Illusion Week


Context

Earth Season, Illusion Week, Waterday morning [[[s02:session-17|Session 17]]]
Nochet

Events

Early on Waterday, Varanis makes her way to House Yelendar, accompanied by a couple of household guards. Unusually, given she is not going to a party, she’s wearing a green Esrolian dress, rather than her armour. There’s little that can be done about her hair, which is an unruly mop, though Lenta has tried to temper it with oil. Gold spirals hang from her ears, simple gold cuffs wrap around each wrist, and a chain of interlocking spirals is draped around her throat. It is relatively conservative for her.

Yelandar guards bow respectfully when she is announced and the gatekeeper enquires her errand.

“I was hoping for a word with young Vahnfar. I’ve heard that he has finally been permitted to return home.” She adds, “If he is well enough, of course. I do not wish to impose and can return another time if necessary.”

Erinra, in her green armour, nods with respect but little warmth. “I will inquire if he can receive you.” Varanis is shown to same antechamber as before.

She waits. For a moment, her hand reaches towards her hair, but she stops herself from running her fingers through it. It is difficult to say if the gesture was born of self-consciousness or the novelty of it still.

After a short while she hears quiet steps approaching and lady Soialya emerges with her usual grace. “Welcome, again into our house Varanis daughter of Serzeen. You would see my son?”

Varanis rises and offers a respectful bow to Lady Soialya. “I would, Lady. There is still the matter of the songstrel to resolve. Sooner or later, I will leave Nochet again, and Vahnfar must accept that his spirit bird belongs with him.”

She raises an eyebrow. “I suppose you must try…” Her tone is serene but there might be amusement in the corner of her eye. “Please do not break him even if you find him totally unreasonable.”

Varanis gives her a dignified look. “It has never been my intention to cause him harm, Lady. But he has given me a gift that he should never have given. I cannot accept it and you know this as well as I do. Your support in helping him to see reason would be appreciated.”

“You have my permission to see him. But, you will have to argue with him yourself. “

The Vingan looks briefly like she will argue, then schools her expression into one of courtesy. “As you will, Lady. I will endeavour not to break him.”

She nods and gives a sign to a servant. After a silent while Vahnfahr enters the chamber. “Look who has come to meet us my son.” Lady Soialya rises to meet him. Vahnfahr did not really need to be told who the visitor was. His eyes were nailed to Varanis the moment he stepped in.

Varanis also takes to her feet on his arrival. Beneath the mop of red hair, her expression is polite, but offers him nothing more.

“It is thoughtful of her to do so.” Vahnfar is no longer croaking, but his voice low and hoarse. He bows to Varanis.

She returns the bow with one of her own. “Hello Vahnfar. I trust your recovery continues?”

Soialya glides out of the room. “I leave you two to your discussions.”

Vahnfar nods, eyes on Varanis. “I am almost completely healed, the healers don’t expect any major changes.”

Varanis stares after Soialya’s retreating form for a long moment, then sighs. At Vahnfar’s words, she returns her gaze to him. “I am glad to hear that you are well,” she replies carefully. “May we sit for a while?” she asks.

“Please do” he answers and motions back to the chair.

She returns to her seat. Grey eyes study the young man, waiting patiently for him to settle into place somewhere within the room.

The blond young man remains standing. “It is good to see you. What gives us this joy?”

Varanis drops the formality. “Oh please sit, Vahnfar. You’ll hurt my neck if you stay standing and the only alternative will be for me to stand again and that just becomes awkward. I need to discuss something with you and would prefer to be comfortable whilst doing so.”

He looks at her and sits on a bench at the side of the room. “If you insist, my lady.” She studies him silently.1And passes Insight Human! He is drinking in her presence. And has no idea why she is there. But he is curious, happy and a bit wary.

“I need to make arrangements to return your spirit songstrel,” she says, apparently deciding to cut directly to the matter at hand. “I will not be in Nochet forever and cannot care for it as you or he deserves. It is unfair of me to continue to keep it.” Her tone is gentle, but the words are matter-of-fact, leaving no room for him to argue.

He shakes his head. “That will not take place.”

“Would you have it suffer, Vahnfar? I did not think you would be cruel to your own spirit in such a way,” she chides. “What would you have me do when I leave Nochet?”

“You have my heart and my spirit. One can not be without the other anyway. You can take the songstrel with you, or let servants take care of it or just get rid of. I will not get it back anyway.”

Varanis’ composure cracks. “You cannot place such a burden on me!” She pauses, breathes slowly and collects herself. “Vahnfar,” she says when she is calm again, “what you offer and demand in return is too much. My heart belongs to another already. And it is highly unlikely that I will be able to marry freely. Sooner or later, I will leave this city and only the gods can say if I will return. In a few weeks’ time I may be wading through snow drifts in Sartar or hiking to the Paps. I have a target on my back as bright as Sartar’s Flame and must remain vigilant to assassination attempts wherever I go. Surely you can see that I cannot care for your spirit songstrel? It will only die on the road.”

“What I have given I have given. I do not demand anything nor do I dare to hope for much more. If the songstrel dies on the road with you it is happier than I.”

“Do you believe that you love me?” she asks him bluntly.

“Yes.” The Yelmalian looks Varanis in the eye with steady gaze.

She takes a deep breath and seems to come to a decision. “I don’t believe you do. Or if you do, it is in the selfish way of a child who makes demands without offering compromises.” She is relentless now, offering him no room to interrupt. “If your love were as selfless as you want to believe, then you would not make demands that compromise my safety or my well-being. I have told you that I cannot look after your spirit. To tell me that I can kill it? What kind of person do you think I am, Vahnfar? How dare you suggest that I murder such a beautiful creature? The only other alternative you offer is that I leave it to languish? I am not so cruel. I cannot do such a thing. If you truly love me, then you will accept the return of your gift and you will care for it on my behalf. You will look after it and yourself so that I can do what I must do without worrying about what I have left behind.” By the time she has reached the end of her speech, she is on her feet, towering over him. Her cheeks are flushed and her eyes are full of storms.

“I cannot take it back. But I can not refuse to take care of it if you order me to.”

“Then so be it, Vahnfar. You must care for this songstrel until the end of its days. See that it wants for nothing. Show it love and give it as much freedom as you can without compromising its safety. I will return with it shortly.” Without waiting for a reply, she turns on her heel and stalks to the door. She collects her guards and leaves Yelendar House with her head held high. It isn’t until she is out of sight of the building that she lets her shoulders sag.
True to her word, she returns with a covered cage a short while later. She has not permitted a servant to carry, but rather carries it herself. On arrival at the House, she asks to see Lord Vahnfar again.

Same antechamber. Again, Lady Soialya precedes her son. She is smiling. “I am impressed young lady.”

“I am sorry, Lady. I tried to be gentle with him. I am afraid that I have caused him hurt, but I hope it will not be long-lasting.”

“He is young. He will suffer for a time and recover.” Soialya smiles, but there is shadow, perhaps of a memory, in her voice. “I will get Vahnfar brought here…”

Varanis nods. “Lady Soialya, should you ever learn who stole his voice, would you consider telling me? I would see him avenged, if it is in my power to do so.”

Lady nods. “I appreciate your sentiment, but that is a childish thought Varanis. Ask him of his voice and he can tell you why.”

Varanis flinches ever so slightly at being called childish, but covers for it with a polite nod of acknowledgement. “As you wish, Lady.”

Lady Soialya vanishes and a short while later, her son appears. When Vahnfar arrives, Varanis is standing next to the cage, which she has placed on the table. She has lifted a corner of the covering and is soothing the bird with quiet words.

Vahnfar remains at the door observing her until she notices him.

She lets the cloth drop when she realises she is being watched. “Vahnfar. I’ve brought the songstrel, as promised.” She is carefully neutral.

“It would fare better under your care.” He answers with his hoarse voice.

“It would die under my care, Vahnfar. It would die of cold, or heat, or neglect. And it would wound me deeply. If the bird stays with you, at least I will know that it is safe.”

“Safe but abandoned by its mistress.” He bows, “but I said I will not refuse your order.”

“Thank you,” she replies simply. She hesitates, then adds, “Your mother said I should ask about your voice. I offered to punish the one responsible for taking it and she dismissed my offer and said to speak with you.”

Vahnfar winces. “I don’t think she can be punished, nor would I wish to.”

Varanis’ eyebrow shoots up at his cryptic reply.

He looks at her and explains. “The healers told that my voice can not come back because Allmother Ernalda will not permit Chalana Arroy to heal it.”

“I don’t understand. Why ever not?” She looks flummoxed.

“We fought inside her sacred city, on her High Holy Day.” He continues. “She permitted me my life, but refused the return of my voice, my vanity and pride.”

Varanis looks stricken. “It is a high price to pay. Perhaps a HeroQuest?”

“Error was grave.” He seems resigned. “You looked for Garin when you spoke to me at the hospital. Did you find him?”

“Yes and no. I had him briefly, but he blinded me and escaped through a window.” She watches for his reaction as she adds, “It was him, wasn’t it?”

His expression is veiled.2Varanis fails insight. “I told you we agreed on silence. And telling of others would bring harm to them too.”

She sighs and nods. “I do not like it, but I respect your decision. I will not ask again.”

“You say you found him, and lost again? Did you seek at their country estate?”

“No, the Merelt House in town. I have not yet made the trip to their country estate. Should I?”

“I could not tell, I am astonished you found him in the city.” He does sound surprised. “Blinded and escaped through window? Were you fighting? Why?”

“It’s a long story, Vahnfar. The short version is that he arranged the kidnapping of a young woman and framed me for it. She has been returned to her family, but Garin has not been found.”

Vahnfar looks at Varanis with disbelief. “Garin? Are you sure? “

“Of course I’m sure. I saw him before he blinded me. It doesn’t matter. I know what I know.” She closes the distance between them and takes his hand in hers. “Vahnfar, I cannot stay, but please, can I trust you to care for both the songbird and yourself? It is important to me. My conscience has enough weight on it as it is.”

He is shaking his head and barely notes Varanis. When he raises his head he answers with a question. “But who?”

“Who did he take?”

He nods.

“That is not for me to say. She may not wish it known and it would be cruel of me to spread the story against her will.”

He nods. “You may be right. It amazes me he has stooped so low. He has his faults but I have held him a man of honor…” Vahnfars voice is indignant.

“He has given me no indication that he has any honour,” Varanis says firmly.

“Assaulting you, kidnapping a girl… “

“He was angry at my rejection and told me that he always gets what he wants. Be wary of him should your paths cross again.”

“I do know what his temper is.” Vahnfar nods.3Insight human? V:29. That’s a pass! His face sets in a mask of determination.

“Vahnfar,” she says with a note of warning, “remember. I need to know that you are safe. Please do not take any chances with him. He does not fight with honour.” She squeezes the hand she is holding to make sure she has his attention. “Please. Promise me you will not seek him out.”

He looks at her. “I will not call him out. But I will not turn aside if he seeks me out either.”

She holds his gaze for a long moment. “That is all I ask. Do not seek him out or deliberately provoke him to attack you. But you are an honourable man. I could never demand that you turn your back on insult. Just be wary of him. If he challenges you, he will make a display of honour, but it is only an illusion.”

He nods but avoids your eyes a bit when repeating. “I will not challenge him.”

“Thank you, Vahnfar. You have said you will not seek him, nor challenge him. I trust you to hold to the spirit of those words and not just to their literal sense, because you are a man of honour. You would not dance around the truth with me.”

“I can not answer for Garin’s reactions…” He is hanging his head.

“What are you planning?” she asks with a note of warning in her voice.

“Tell the Queens Guards who I was fighting with. They have asked before and said they would return to the matter.” He is looking at Varanis a bit sideways.

She considers him again. “The right and the wrong of this has to be your decision,” she says at last. “But there is rarely dishonour in truth. The truth may not always be comfortable, but sometimes it is the most uncomfortable truths that need to be brought into the open.” She gives his hand a gentle squeeze. “I cannot promise to be here for you. But if I can help you, I will.”

“Thank you Varanis, but it was my mistake. I will pay the price.” He returns the squeeze and bows over Varanis’ hands.

She gives him a solemn nod. “I need to go. I feel like time is running away for some reason. Thank you for hearing me out, Vahnfar.”

Vahnfar nods silently. He is left in the room while the songstrel tweets a questioning note.