VS 196 Tall Tales

Varanis — 1626 0924 Talltales

????, Dark Season


Context

Mid Dark Season. [[[s02:session-21|Session 21]]]

Follows on from [http:journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/berra:great-sword-1 Greatsword]

Events

Varanis makes short work of the swords, allowing Berra to assist if she chooses. When they are done, she stares at the pieces of the broken waster. “Firewood?” Berra nods, and then looks up as a shadow flies and with her left hand blocks a snowball that was about to hit Varanis. Her gaze slides that way, and she looks slightly murderous, but that’s just her base look.1Pass Scan, and a special DEX. Alas, thought it was a critical but it wasn’t.

Varanis blinks and looks around to spot the source of the snowball.

There is a young man there, who is looking a mixture of surprised and impressed, but who pulls himself together and gives Varanis a grin.2V: Does she recognize him? B: INT x 5? V: Pass.

The fellow has been hanging around without making a move, for the past few days, egged on by friends. Now, he’s alone.

“I’d see if Nala can repair it,” Berra says. “Wood’s not for wasting.”

“Good idea, Berra,” Varanis replies, handing over the pieces. Casually, she gathers a handful of snow, packing it into a sphere, and with a quick grin, she throws it at the Praxian.356 on dex * 5. Tradetalk roll? His is 20, so you have a 40% chance of clear communication. V: Oh – 10!

He tries to do what Berra did, and gets sprayed by snow. “Pretty lady,” he says. “You cold, that you throw this away?”

Berra looks puzzled, and then looks away, not caring. She checks the waster has all of the bits, pushing a long splinter back into place.

She cocks an eyebrow at him. “Throw what away?”

“Snow. I know how to warm.” He ambles forwards.

Berra gives Varanis a questioning look, like she is after orders.

Varanis shrugs at Berra. “I’m fine. I can handle this.” She turns to the Praxian. “Bold talk from someone who has watched silently for days.”4B: And another scan, please? At 55. V: Lol. Nope. 97. B: Aaaaand another INT x 5 because I can. V: 36.

Berra nods, and picks up the bundle of neatly-organised wasters. Such a rebel, her.

As the young man steps forwards, there are a couple of thumps – he has been hit by something small and hard, and he looks angrily to his left, where they came from. There is some Praxian shouting, and then another clod of what is definitely pre-fire bison fuel hits him. It was a cold night – it’s frozen solid. The man who threw it is with a group of others, that Varanis recognises as containing a couple of her lovers, and their friends.

The Vingan arches an eyebrow at them. “Really?” she asks is a tone that conveys disbelief and disappointment simultaneously.

Lots of shouting. All in Praxian. Varanis is starting to get a feel for the rhythms of the language, and this is people telling other people off.5B: Insight (Human) at 38, please? V: Alas. 85.

“Hello? What’s going on here?” She raises her voice over the others, so that her trade talk can be heard clearly.6B: Ooooh. Do me a Sing. 39. How well can you project? V: 08. Well enough!

The young man is just scooping up one of the bison rocks when Varanis’ voice cuts over the hubbub, and they turn to her. “They think you too pretty for me,” he says, and two of the group explain “He’s no warrior,” and ‘Boy is a boy, not a man. No fight.”

Berra’s lips move a little, but she still seems not to be keeping up with the ‘conversation’.

“And?” Varanis replies. “I pick my partners as I choose and when I choose. I hadn’t gotten around to deciding if I want a partner tonight anyway.”

“Not worth it,” one of the group says. The young man shouts, “I am worth it! She likes me!” This is bound to make things better.

Berra sighs.

Varanis shakes her head. “I’m not sure if I like any of you right now. I think perhaps, I’ll sleep alone tonight. But regardless, a man’s worth to me is not measured by his swordsmanship.” Her words are mildly chiding.

There’s a moment of discussion of what swordsmanship means, and some chortling from the back of the group. Someone Varanis personally knows has a birthmark on his upper thigh gives her a smirk.

“Six of them, maybe seven. Two of us, maybe three,” says Berra. “But we’d have to give them weapons.” If she has not worked out the exact content of the conversation, she is getting the gist.

Varanis looks at the practice swords, then at Berra. “Are you suggesting we fight them all?”

She looks back at the men. “Their egos wouldn’t handle it well.”

“Heh. No, but I’m saying I would if you wanted me to.” Berra grins. “I really want to.”

There are several people looking at Varanis appraisingly, or even approvingly. Little attention is on Berra.

The Vingan looks at the men. “I might pick one of you to keep me warm this evening,” she says to them returning their looks with a frank expression of her own. “But I want to be impressed first. I will consider the man who tells me the best story.”

There is a brief pause as the translation happens for those who don’t speak tradetalk well, and then Berra asks, “What in hell’s going on, and can we do it inside? My feet are getting cold now I’m not moving.” “We all know stories,” one of the spokesmen of the group agrees. “We shall drink and wrestle and tell them.”

Varanis grins at the speaker. “I agree with the drinking and talking part. We’ll see about the wrestling. Who offers the hospitality of their fire?” To Berra, she says, “I can hold my own. You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to.”

“Some of them look like they could barely hold theirs,” Berra opines, but she smiles after that. “I’ll be off at the yurt.” With her greatsword put into the pile, she carries the wasters with two arms, steering flawlessly around snow hummocks and icy scrub plants. “Mine,” say two people at once, and then there is a face-off between them.

Varanis steps between the men. “Drink and stories,” she reminds them firmly. 7V: For the record, she has the droop spell and isn’t afraid to use it.

Both are wise enough not to take advantage of her closeness. “My felt tent has room for us all, and food for everyone,” says the man on the right. “Mine is closest, and my wife keeps water hot with stones, and there are pipes and cat-gut shells,” counters the other.8B: I elected to roll on their INT. They were smart. V: I was all set to remind them that she’s a warrior. B: You throw a mean snowball.

“Yours,” she says to the second man. “If your wife would not object to a sudden invasion.”

“She is very kind,” he says. “And very married to me, and this is good.” There is a STARE above her head at the other. “Unlike some who divorce because they want to chase pretty things again.”

There is some sniggering. Someone just landed a palpable hit.

Varanis ignores the banter and looks expectantly at the warrior. “Lead the way?”

She casts a quick glance in the direction of her first would-be suitor. Has he drifted away, or bravely stuck things out? The would-be suitor is sticking things out angrily, as much as bravely, and he is not exactly in the crowd, but he is definitely with them. She catches his eye and gives him a smile. He smiles back, and his walk is suddenly confident as he sets off. Others see that, and there is some jeering. Of course.

When they arrive at the yurt, Varanis waits for the host to enter first. He does that, calling out to his wife, who gives the new entrants a cheery smile like she knows them well. She scoots over to the fire pit and lights it with a word or two.

When the woman is done, Varanis greets her in halting Praxian. “Hello. Thank you. “

She responds with a rapid reply, fortunately similar to ritual responses Varanis already knows. The men throw themselves down in various languid poses, showing off. Even the newest suitor does that after a moment. The host indicates a place next to him. “I will tell only to be judged, not to win,” he says. “But as host I am first and last. Then as we pull long strings from a hand.”

Varanis smiles at him. “That is acceptable to me.” Before accepting the place he offers, she checks access to the door. Will she be able to make a graceful exit if required?

She would have to walk through areas filled with people, but that is how most of the yurt is. Only by sitting close to the door could she be assured of getting out elegantly, and by the door is cold. Youngest Suitor is by the door.

She chooses to sit where invited, deciding to trust her host’s hospitality.

He calls his wife to do something – probably cut some strings, to tell from how she nods and gets to finding threads. As she does that, he begins. “I talk in the trade language, but if one does not, he talks in ours, and we judge him and tell you,” he says companionably. “Then we all talk our best.”

Varanis nods. “That seems fair,” she says. “But a good story can come through in any language, so I will be judging too.” Her tone brooks no argument.

There is a little shrug. “Of course. Know, then, that all I sing is true, for I say it, and I am Karhbash, and no liar. Long ago within this very river valley lived a bird…” His voice is melodious, rising up into the bird’s song and the river’s calling, and the tale of the brave warriors whom the bird saw fighting Chaos in the early days is oddly familiar. The ending sees the bird inviting them all in to tell tales, and as he sings that part he makes sure his wife has gone around and offered everyone a thread, including Varanis – that might have been the wife’s idea. It’s hard to tell. His voice, and his framing, are really good, and the great bison warrior with his axe roars in rage just like Rajar does, and the red-headed warrior of the sun dives into a crevice a thousand cubits deep, with only a stout rope and a sword for company.9He got a special. But he’s married, and remembered in time.

Varanis enjoys the story and isn’t shy about showing it.

When the story is done, she applauds, praising him for his excellent telling of it. Grey eyes seek out the man’s wife, and when she finds the woman watching her, she gives what she hopes is a reassuring smile. Although she is seated next to him, she is careful not to touch her host in any way.10Insight Human at 38? 33 Pass.

Insight: The wife is only a little worried about Varanis, and rather more protective of a young woman in the room who is sewing hides and looking for all the world like she is not listening to the stories.

The longest thread goes to the young man by the door, and the storytelling competition begins in earnest, with his attempt. He uses tradetalk, which is probably a poor decision, if a polite one. The song is of a raid, and the listeners nod, but there is not much applause. There was too much fumbling for the correct word, too much use of hand gesture. Still, it was not a disgrace.11A fail from him.

Varanis acknowledges his attempt with a smile, though it is relatively neutral.

The host-bird calls on the next singer, and the next, and there are various tories of raids and fights and one of Tada burying Eiritha, from someone who sings in Praxian, while the host-bird translates here and there. That’s a good performance, although it it sung as much for the women in the tent as Varanis. In fact, it is probably the best performance. The rest are middling to fair – good enough to pass time with. Varanis is asked to sing just after that.12Sing is buffed with Air. Both rolls pass.

Varanis launches into the song about how Vinga got her lightning spear. Vinga seeks out Elmal at the Hill of Gold and finds him beaten and bleeding. His enemies are tormenting him and she picks up the god’s fallen spear and attacks. The enemy flee in terror of her ferocity, lightning driving them from the hill. Elmal recognizes her prowess as a warrior and later supports her right to join Orlanth’s war band as an equal to the rest of the warrior gods.

There is some translation in Praxian, of course, and some chattering about spears and bravery, and her host tells her in the voice of a bird that he saw just such a thing, and challenges anyone who is in his nest to tell him he is a liar, and nobody does, and so the stories go on. The host would be clearly the winner, if he competed. Just maybe, that is why he is not, although his wife’s pointed serving of food and drink might have a lot to do with it. After him, the next best singer is definitely the one who sang Tada and Eiritha. The host closes the songs with a competent thanks and a note that the nest is always here. He has obviously done this before.

The other fine singer is someone Varanis already knows – Dakajeel, a warrior and owner of many bison, too.13V: And does V know this singer intimately? Have they already had a night together? I’d be willing to say she’s probably had a couple of different male partners and at least one female partner after a few weeks here. B: POW x 3? There are a couple of her bed-warmers in the group, which is why the group convened on seeing the younger man, let’s face it. POW is 14. Answering whether you’d got the attention already, as it were. Past POW. V: 05. B: Yeah. That guy likes you. Lots.

She smiles appreciatively at the winner. “Your singing is impressive. Perhaps you can sing for me again later tonight after all.” She rises with her customary grace and seeks out the hostess. Thank you, for hospitality.// She stumbles a little over the last word as it contains sounds that are entirely absent from Esrolian.

There is some cheering for him, and even the young man by the door nods, and thumps his fist on his knee. “Care,” mutters the hostess, essaying tradetalk for the word. She smiles, and offers a small wrapped parcel. Bison gifts are often food to see you back to your own yurt, even if it is across the way.

Varanis nods her thanks and offers a small package of dried fruit. She’s taken to always having some on her person, as it’s handy to have something to give to the ever generous Praxians. “Will you be ok?” she asks softly in tradetalk.

The hostess smiles. “Go. Leave.” There is a tiny eye-roll, like she knows what men are like. Then, right there, she opens the package and smiles over the colours and new tastes inside. “Thank.”

Varanis returns the smile and makes for the door.

There is no trouble leaving, and the singer takes a moment to let her out before he follows, but he does follow.

Varanis allows him to catch up.

“It really was a good song,” she tells him.

“I sing well, fight well, sword well,” he says. He definitely picked up that line about swordsmanship earlier.

She laughs. “Boast well too.”

“Tongues are useless unless used.” He reaches to put an arm around her shoulder. “Women know that. Talk a lot.” As if he did not just win a singing contest.

She allows the arm. “You know I won’t be staying here, right?” She casts a glance his direction.

“Snow. Stay a while. Maybe make a baby… Go. It’s fine.” He shrugs.

“Baby is unlikely. Vinga protects me.” She settles into his arm a little more. “But I do like you. You are fun, tell a good story, and keep me warm. It’s cold here.”

“Babies slow a clan down,” he says with a nod.