Varanis — 1626 0944 Inquiry
????, Storm Season, Disorder Week
Storm Season, Disorder Week, Clay Day. After [[[s02:session-24|Session 24]]].
Straw Weaver Bison Camp, somewhere in Prax.
Follows directly on from [http://journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/varanis:1626-0942-inquietude Inquietude].
There is a warrior outside the Grand yurt. That has not been the habit previously. It’s Dakajeel.
Berra raises a friendly left hand to him, and then it falls down casually to her iron sword, and she is suddenly a professional warrior, ready for action and serious.
Varanis nods a greeting. “Will he see me?” she asks quietly. “It’s urgent.”
Dakajeel announces the visitors and then nods for them to enter.
Berra takes a slow breath and stands as tall as she can, shoulders broadening. She walks in before Varanis, by dint of putting a hand up to pause the Vingan for a moment. Varanis arches an eyebrow in surprise, but quickly schools her expression to one of polite neutrality. She follows. Inside, Berra puts her hand over her heart briefly, bowing to Varanis, and then bows far deeper – but second. Varanis acknowledges Berra before turning to greet the khan with a bow of her own.
Khan nods solemnly. “Welcome again to my yurt Daughter of the Red Wind and Deathchild.”
“Great Khan, thank you for your welcome,” Varanis replies with equal solemnity.
“Has Rajar woken up already?”
Berra quickly takes up the expression of a guard – looking around casually, calmly, a little bored.
“He has, mighty Khan. I’m certain that he will wish to bring you a full report, as soon as he is able, but there is a matter of urgency I wish to speak of,” Varanis replies.
Khan nods. “After holy rage it takes time for a man to recover his wits fully. Do speak Redwind, Gallaf listens.” Alongside khan there are older, stern men: Majaro, Wahagrim, Toras and others of same age.
Berra greets none of these, although she looks at each with respectful interest. Professional.
“I have taken a prisoner and we have questioned him at length. He serves Storm-khan Rushes to Battle. Rajar can better tell you of the interactions between himself and the Impala riders, but this storm…” She glances up as thunder rumbles outside. “It may be Rushes to Battle. If you are willing, I would like you to hear the report of my Humakti kinswoman. She can give you a succinct summary of what we have learned from the prisoner.”
Elders seem to recognize the name, even if they are politely trying to show no emotion.
Berra shows only a touch of surprise – just a blink.
Khan nods towards Berra. “Please speak, Deathchild, elders listen.”
Berra begins, “It is my honour to address you all,” and then gets straight to details. “In accompanying Evranala to find the clothes of Erhehta and herself, there were four warriors, Nala and her Unicorn who is also a warrior, and the woman Valseena.” Her grammar strains at the edges of her tradetalk, but stays understandable. “We sighted dust, and Rajar and I rode to encounter a man… He had with him twelve. All were on Impalas. I did not understand the speaking but Rajar did not say his name early. The other announced what was said…. uh… yes. The other announced himself loudly. He had an arrow nocked. Then Rajar grew anger in him and charged. I charged with him. Those are things I saw and heard. Now with your wish, I shall say the things I heard later that I believe are truth.”
“So Rajar charged the stranger. What happened after that?” Gallaf asks.
“They were light cavalry. They scattered. Rajar could not reach them, nor I could. Billy was brought down. I lay Followed down as I am a Sartarite and may use a bow. The stranger or his people had speedart on their flight of arrows, it was certain. I do not know when it was cast. I tiny-shot… uh… sniped. Suuraki flanked. Billy was healed by Valseena and then Tiwr, I think, but I did not see. Suuraki was hit by many arrows, all at once. He fell. Rajar mounted Billy to try to drive the scatter towards me, I think. They were in two arcs. It seemed it was so he was driving them, but I did not ask him. Red wind-child and Valseena ran to Suuraki. Red wind-child made them faster, I think. I wounded two who tried for them. I looked away from Billy for a time and then I looked back because Rajar cried out. The great bison was down.”
If this was not what Varanis was expecting from Berra, she hides it well. Mostly.
After hearing of Rajar’s death charge, Varanis’ pursuit and taking of prisoner and the aftermath Khan asks, “And what are the thoughts you have of this?”
“That Rajar’s timing was wrong, but that the Khan would always have attacked. Rajar says that he demanded tribute – your guests, oh Gallaf. Women and goods. The prisoner says that the Khan takes insult and meant to attack if refused. He calls it being owed tribute. I call it robbery. We were lucky, but we also kept the fight away from Nala. That was most of what I was trying when I rode out to meet the stranger so I am content with how the battle went. I would have let them get a little closer and had Suuraki and Tiwr prepared for the charge, but there would never be peace. The Storm Khan insulted Argrath, and came meaning to rob your clan and guests.”
“Insulted Khan Argrath? You did not say that at first. How?”
“It was a thing I heard from Rajar afterwards,” Berra says. “He said he meant to show that the Khan should take up his contempt with the Khan of Khans. He said the Wind-Rager called the Khan of Khans a Chaos-lover.”
Khan Gallaf looks at Berra sternly. “An ill thing to say of any man, let alone khan of khans.”
“Rajar will brook no insult to Argrath and he was right to defend the Khan of khans,” Varanis adds. “But my concern now is that this Impala rider, who dares to insult Argrath and threaten your guests, may now be threatening your clan. If this storm is his doing, it may be the prelude to an attack.”
“The prisoner says that he can use thunder and lightning to hide in,” Berra says. “His shaman died and he thinks he should have what he wants. He might well raid to destroy. He will not pay the ransom, although it will be paid by the clan.”
Varanis interjects, “Khan, this Rushes to Battle lacks honour. I think he will attack your people.”
Berra shrugs. “I don’t think he’ll attack a big target. But he’ll run to his tribe or his clan if he wants to come in force, and he’ll take small targets if he can’t. All of us are happy to be a small target, if he wants to try.”
“Rushes to Battle is well known name on these plains,” the Khan answers. “I do not think he will try to attack a clan alerted. But he might attempt to lure others to follow, that is way of his people, a trap to which wise men will not fall.” The elders nod in assent.
Berra starts to almost-speak, and then looks to Varanis for permission. She receives a nod. “There are a couple of points he will know that might happen. One is that the prisoner must be ransomed, and another, that guests depart. A hearth is dear but the road is long.” She considers that for a moment and adds, “The world is big and some set out to see it. Of those two things, it is with the Khan to consider what problems might be. There is another thing to say, which is that the shaman Yellow Storm was likely the body I brought into camp. He just died, from what I saw, so I think Evranala did it, who was in a battle of the spirit, but I do not know that.”
“You brought body of a dead shaman into our camp, Deathchild?” Gallaf looks at her.1Insight human? Varanis passes. Gallaf is not showing emotions, but some of the elders look apprehensive.
“It’s at the edge, where Rajar was,” Berra replies. “I put him down by guards, and all his things with him, when I told the outer… sorry, word… the pickets what has happened. Not far from the sleep-yurt.”
“Do you wish us to remove his remains, khan?” Varanis asks.
He looks at Varanis and Berra, then his sight passes over the elders. “No… It is better no-one touches them before Grandfather Erhehta gives advice on what to do.”
The Vingan nods her assent. “One more thing, wise khan, if I may?” He nods to Varanis. “This prisoner. He wishes to be ransomed to his clan. Do you have someone who could advise me regarding the Praxian way of handling such an exchange?”
“Did he say which clan – or where they are wintering?”
“The… Gap of Bithos? Bithos Gap, I think. But it wasn’t a name I had heard before. Rajar would have recognised it. I can’t remember how it was said.” Berra has spent a moment thinking, and adds at the end, “There is a broken drum with the shaman. I picked it up, to put it with his things. The Impala riders says he use it to drive spirits of storm.”
Khan nods and looks at Berra. “It is better no one touches it until Grandfather has had his say. Deathchild, you should see to this. Do you need help of my warriors for it?”
“Forgive me. I do not understand. Tell grandfather, or guard it? I will guard it if that is what you said.” Maybe Berra has forgotten for a moment that Grandfather is not available.
“See that it is not tampered with, Deathchild,” Gallaf explains slowly.
Berra bows. Then she takes a moment to consider. “I can recite the tactics of the warriors of Rushes-to-battle, but if you allow?” She looks to Varanis for permission to leave.
Khan looks at the door of the yurt.
Berra still waits on Varanis, although now she waits on the balls of her feet, set to move.
Varanis nods, giving permission.
Berra is obviously getting ready to go at speed, but pauses most of the way out of the big felt and hide room. “No guards other than my people but please send a runner or two,” she says with a bow to the Khan. Varanis then gets a farewell bow – shallower, but last. And then Berra slips through a tiny gap where the door is, hardly touching what a larger warrior would have to shove aside.
“Bilos gap maybe?” Gallaf looks at Varanis and then at elders in the yurt. “These days maybe go to Pavis to the army and find a White Bull of Impala tribe to take the word. Or just send word through one of the caravans going towards Pavis, when they start arriving to the Plinth.”
“Pavis. I was hoping not to have to go that direction again. It’s past time to get to Sartar.”
Khan looks at Varanis for a while. “The arrangements and travel for them will take time….If the prisoner has not killed man or woman of the Straw weaver clan, and swears thus by Waha and his ancestors, I can pay you the ransom Redwind, and make the arrangements with his clan. Not a hair of his beard will fall, if they honor the agreement.”
Varanis looks thoughtful. “Rajar is in need of a war-trained bison. I would like this man’s ransom to help cover those costs. Is this something that can be done?”
Khan looks at Varanis approvingly. “You speak like a true khan, Redwind. A warrior should have a mount. You should talk to Delena, she knows best the bloodlines of our herds.”
“Thank you, Khan. I will do so.” Varanis bows to him. With another bow for the elders, Varanis takes her leave.