Varanis — 1626 0940 Interrogation
????, Storm Season, Disorder Week
Storm Season, Disorder Week, Clay Day. After [[[s02:session-24|Session 24]]].
Straw Weaver Bison Camp, somewhere in Prax.
Varanis has a prisoner, captured after the conflict with Impala Storm Khan Rushes to Battle.
Varanis heads to where her prisoner is being held. She does not stop anyone else from coming with her.
Berra comes along, looking a little bit like she is spoiling for a fight, and a little bit like she is keeping very calm on purpose.
Varanis nods at the two handsome, well-fed bison warriors in furry cloaks watching over her prisoner. Then she stops and stares down at the small Impala rider, sitting in rain between the yurts. The prisoner is a little man and obviously frightened. “Warrior Ladies, don’t kill me,” he says in Tradetalk.
“I won’t,” Varanis replies. “I accepted your plea for ransom. But you’re going to tell me where your people are, so I can collect.”
“And how many, and who?” Berra suggests lightly.
“They have left Tada’s High Tumulus by now,“ the little raider answers.
“Will they pay? Or am I taking you to the Pimper’s Block?” The Vingan’s words are implacable.
The poor thing will tell Berra numbers and a list of names. “They will pay!”
“How do I contact them?” Varanis demands.
The prisoner looks confused by Varanis.
“Where was your clan headed? Where was your raiding band going?” Berra asks.
“I don’t know where they are going.” Impala rider blurts.
“Then it will be difficult to get your ransom from them, won’t it? I don’t have time to play games with you or them. The Pimper’s Block will be faster.”
“But my clan is at Bilos Gap.” he says
“Why was your group out? What happens if people refuse tribute?” Berra barks.
“We were slaying Chaos. Khan Rush is a great warrior.” Impala says, a bit more secure.
Varanis arches a disbelieving eyebrow at him.
“Yeah. But what happens when people refuse to give him tribute?” Berra demands.
The prisoner is still.
Varanis changes tack. “What’s your name?”
Berra bites back on something she might just have said.
“My clan will pay you 30 impalas for me.” Harjoon says.
“Harjoon, you see my big friend there?” Varanis nods at Rajar Chaoskiller . “He’s interested in buying you. That would save me a lot of time.”
Berra, silent as far as speech goes, just snorts to the offer of impalas.
“I’m not adverse. It concedes defeat. And I’d rather we kill Lunars and Chaos,” Rajar muses.
Berra looks impressed by Rajar.
>>The Vingan whispers ((Psst. Try to look intimidating, Rajar!))>>
“Just so everyone knows I’ll kill his Khan and drink from his cowardly skull,” Rajar bellows. “I mean that’s a given as he’s a coward and a traitor!”
Harjoon looks miserable.
“Would he have taken insult if the tribute was refused? The tribute of free people?” Berra pipes up again, in a friendly sort of voice.
Harjoon says, “All owe him for fighting Chaos.”
“So he’d have attacked? I want to be clear about this later.” Berra insists.
Varanis waits, oddly patient.
Harjoon is not talking…
“Rajar, what would you give me for him? I don’t have the time to break in a new slave myself.” Varanis’ words are cold.
Harjoon still isn’t talking
“Nah. Let’s look at this the other way. If he would NOT have attacked, clear his name now. Speak.” Berra smiles almost prettily.
Harjoon takes a good long look at Berra’s Truth and Death runes and remains silent.
“I think you have your answer, my Humakti friend. Unless you need us to compel him to say it aloud. Lhankor Mhy could assist with that, I’m certain.” Vingan says derisively.
“Nah. I know now. He came armed, ready to fight. The arrow was nocked. He came to take if nothing would be given. And Rajar fights Chaos for nothing but fighting Chaos. If the Khan needs to be paid for it… is he a poor fighter?” Berra prods.
“He has killed dozens of Chaos creatures!” Harjoon blurts.
“Sure he has.” Varanis rolls her eyes. “But he ran from Rajar.”
“Rajar once fought a dragon-snail, and when it died, ran alone to find other enemies.” Berra shrugs. “And he gives great gifts.”
“It’s true! My khan is mighty!” the little Storm bull protests.
“And will your khan pay your ransom?” Varanis asks.
“Ask my clan instead.” Harjoon says
“Why?” Vingan inquires.
Harjoon looks wretched. “Khan Rush won’t pay.”
“I see. I rather wish to meet your khan again. How do I arrange it?” Varanis asks.
Harjoon looks thoughtful…
“If I were planning to spend time here to meet with him, I might be willing to also spend time contacting your clan. As opposed to taking the expedient route by way of the Pimper’s Block,” Varanis notes.
“Your Khan is mighty, but that is not good. He fights people too much, Chaos not enough.” says Berra.
“I don’t know where to find the khan.” Harjoon cries out desperately. “He is probably seeking Chaos to slay. You could try the tumulus, but they are likely gone by now.”
“What if he’s seeking other groups to demand tribute? Would he be doing that?” Berra’s smile is happy again. She glances at Rajar and mouths, ‘tumulus?’
“I don’t know.” Harjoon says hanging his head.
“So he does it a lot, huh?” Berra prods him.
“He’s known for it,” Rajar says.
“I dunno the word tumulus…” Berra says.1No-one had apparently told the Humakti the true name of the mountain looming on northern horizon during the season in camp.
Rajar launches into a rant, resembling a chant. “And I will end him. And drink from his skull. And spit the wine on his family graves. And dance on his ashes.”
Berra nods. “So. Great warrior. Arsehole and thief-by-violence. Uh… bandit, we’d call that in Sartar. I’ve never seen a skull-cup…”
“And then kill all his kin. And their kin. And their kin. And their friends. And their friends’ friends. And their mounts,” he continues.
Harjoon looks unhappy.
“And the mount they ride in on”
“Rajaaaaaar!” Berra has to stand very tall to say it.
His litany continues. “And their mounts’ friends. And their mounts friends’ friends.”
Berra shakes her head, and reaches for her waterskin. “So,” she says to Harjoon. “This is what a Storm Bull should be. He doesn’t bully people. But he takes vengeance.”
Rajar asks for the rider’s name.
“He’s Harjoon,” Berra supplies helpfully. “Harjoon, this is Rajar Chaoskiller.” There are guards and rain.
Rajar disappears for a bit and returns dragging a brazier from a yurt, starts absently stoking it and drops a hand axe in it.
Harjoon looks curious.
Rajar slowly unstraps his armour and checks the axe.
“Uh… Rajar…” Berra looks surprised by this, but only takes half a step to protect the prisoner.
Rajar turns the axe checking the heat.
Berra drinks from her water skin, and turns to Harjoon again. “So. Your Khan won’t ransom you. Why?”
Rajar says, “It’s no problem. We can just kill him or sell him to the morokanth.”
“He just doesn’t do that.” Harjoon says squirming.
“Right. Selfish. He doesn’t look after you.” Berra’s voice has disdain in it.
Rajar spits on the axe. It hisses. There’s a tiny wince from the Humakti.
“Don’t kill me. My clan would give you 30 impalas.”
“You clan will. Clan should stick together. But your war-khan won’t. He cares for himself. Nobody else.” Humakti answers.
“Ask him which his best hand is,” says Rajar.
“Rajar,” Varanis warns, interrupting at last. “My prisoner. I haven’t sold him to you yet.” There’s a subtle emphasis on the word yet.
Rajar picks up the red-hot axe. “No. You haven’t”
Varanis looks at the prisoner. “Maybe you should talk more?”
Berra relaxes a little, loosening out her shoulders. To anyone who knows her, this is a sign of her readiness for action, or of thought going on deep inside.
“You must understand, impala. I owe you no ill will. You follow a coward.” Rajar smiles disconcertingly to the prisoner. “It’s not your fault.”
Varanis looks at Rajar with growing nervousness.
Harjoon starts struggling, but the nasty leg wound is impeding him.
“But I will cut your arm off, eat it, and slowly torture you to death.” Rajar smiles. “Starting small and getting a bit of smaller.”
Varanis glances at Berra.
“Noooonononono. Eating people is bad.” Berra looks ready for action now, as if she’ll throw herself into the way if necessary. Rajar throws a wink at her out of sight of the prisoner. Berra continues to look ready for action. Maybe she did not see the wink.
“You are crazier than Yellow Storm!” Harjoon blurts.
“Fetch me a chopping block!” Rajar bellows.
“Rajar,” Varanis warns again. To the Impala rider, she says, “I’m not his khan. I can ask nicely, but I can’t control him.”2V passes insight. What does she get from Rajar and anyone else around her? Insights: Rajar isn’t committed to torture. But he’s utterly serious. Towards Rajar, Berra looks calculating. Where Harjoon cannot see her, she is offering Rajar a tiny smile. It only has a little nervousness in it. Harjoon is scared to death.
“Maybe best to talk, Harjoon – trust in the red-head. He’s hard to stop.” Now Berra is entirely facing Rajar, body language tense.
Rajar draws another hand axe and adds it to the fire.
“Harjoon? Talk now. I’d much prefer to collect your ransom than not.” Varanis pleads.
“No chopping block,” Berra says. “Live men take messages better, and the message is you’re not that sort of Storm Bull. Like you said. Lunars and Chaos, not others.” Maybe, with that little smile, she’s too confident he is not going to just launch an attack.
“His eyes then?” Rajar draws a dagger.
“I told you where my clan is! I don’t know where my khan is going!” prisoner cries out.
“If I wanted to punish an archer, I’d take the fingers that pluck the bowstring. But, he’s my prisoner, and I don’t particularly wish to torture him,” Varanis observes calmly.
Berra says, “He fights Chaos too. You shouldn’t destroy a warrior…” She trails off, trying to read his face. What she sees makes her lose the little smile, although she shows no fear. “We want to know what the Khan’s plans were, who we killed, what their likely tactics and vengeance are. That’s worth a pair of eyes.”
“See, I wish I could believe the truth of your words, Harjoon. It’s just, you wouldn’t answer the Humakti’s questions with truth earlier. Tell me everything you know about your khan and his plans, answer the Humakti’s questions, and I’ll do my best to protect you from my large friend here.” Varanis sounds very reasonable, given the circumstances.
Harjoon starts babbling. “There were twelve of us. Yes, they attack if tribute is refused. Yellow Storm hates Chaos. Yellow Storm is mighty. No one asks him about his secrets because of curse he could throw at you, and he is crazy so who knows what he might do. But he is a shaman so… He has a drum he uses to summon spirits and thunder, with bronze rings on the rim, worn thin of constant use, made of dead chaos worshipping Lunar troopers skin. His red warshirt turns aside arrows of enemies. Or so they say.” The answers come one at the time as drawn with red-hot pliers. He is looking at Rajar’s axes. Mesmerized in terror.3Rajar would not actually eat his eyes. Probably.
Berra kindly does not correct his grammar into the past tense. “What magic does Khan Rushes use in battle? What does he cast before?”
“His war paint turns aside arrows. The rest of us use Speedart.” Harjoon tells.
“And he had some kind of shield. Was that protection from a god? Does he often go berserk in battle? Does he make himself strong?”
“He doesn’t go berserk, but the gods hide him from his enemies with thunder and lightning,” the Impala rider squeals.
“Hide him?” Berra looks puzzled. “Protect, or stop them from seeing him?”
“Stop them from seeing him.” He says. “Pursuers get confused.”
Berra nods. “And the winds came and blew into our faces. Blew dust at us. Did he do that?”
“No, the shaman did that. He has a drum for that.” Harjoon tells.
Varanis is keeping a close eye on Rajar.
“And things of magic? What does Rushes carry that is magical?” Berra demands.
“I don’t know.” He almost cries.
Berra looks annoyed rather than skeptical. “Hnnngg….” She makes one of her thinking noises. “Is Khan Rushes well liked in the Impala?”
“The warriors like him. The elders don’t.” Harjoon admits
“What do the women think of him?” Berra asks.
“I don’t know what the women think. “ He is looking at the ground when saying that.
“How many people has he taken in tribute?” Berra still gives Rajar much of her attention.
“Many. Warriors beg to join him.”
“Yu-huh.” Berra grins slightly. “So he attacks because he wants to. And he takes slaves if you don’t want to be attacked. And now we know that.”
Harjoon is at a loss for words.
“The khan doesn’t take slaves!” Harjoon protests.
This gets Varanis’ attention. “But he told Rajar that he was taking us,” she says directing a narrow look at the prisoner.
Harjoon looks very uncomfortable. “The khan sometimes takes women.”
“Mhmmm. And what are those women, if not slaves?” Varanis shakes her head. “You don’t have to answer that. We already know.”
“Lady, my clan will pay my ransom.” Harjoon pleads.
“Man, we wear our ransoms-worth in battle. It is her word that keeps you alive,” Berra blurts.
“I understand. But your khan, he has a bigger debt to pay.” Varanis stares down at the little man. “Look at you. Barely old enough to leave your mother’s side and now a captive. I don’t like this any more than you do. Well…. you have reason to really dislike it, whereas I find you an inconvenience. Berra, Rajar, this is done now. The boy has said everything he knows.” Her tone brooks no argument.
He looks at Vingan in horror, there is widening stain in his chaps.
“By Orlanth’s blue balls! No child. I’ll not have you killed. You’re my prisoner.” Varanis looks disgusted.
Berra holds her hand in the air at her height, and then measures herself against the Impala rider.
To one of the guards, the Esrolian says, “Can you find him something clean to wear? Then I want him bound securely and stored somewhere dry. If this falls outside what you are willing to do, tell me and I’ll deal with it myself.”
When no one moves, she swears again. “Berra? Do you have anything old? Will you help me deal with this?”
One of the guards nods and comes back with ragged pelt of a calf.
“I have. I will. I do.” She is still watching the big Bison, and when the guard leaves she relaxes not at all.
Varanis, for her part, decides to ignore Rajar. “Has anyone looked at his injuries?” she asks the guards.
Guards shake their head “He is an impala rider…”
Varanis swears colourfully in Praxian. It’s enough to make the Praxians who have been teaching her proud.4Rolled on Praxian and passed. Amazingly. “Carry him to the yurt where Rajar was kept.”
In short order,5no pun intended Varanis has her prisoner stripped, healed, dressed enough to keep him from freezing, and bound inside the yurt that was used for Rajar. She arranges for guards and will guard him herself if necessary. She also arranges for food and water, even if it has to come from her own rations. When she can, she’ll ask Rajar’s people the best way to contact the prisoner’s clan.