1627, Fire Season, Death Week
Fire Season, Death Week, Freezeday, early morning at House Saiciae. Session 42: Kin-Making
It is a couple of days since Venlar did not get married, although it is notable that he was already married at the time, so perhaps that was a good idea. Early morning never sees him up, but today as Varanis returns from a rooftop Salute of Yelm, there is the young man just on his way up the ladder.
She stops to study him with curiosity. “Ven…” She pauses, and begins again. “Good morning?”
Venlar smiles slightly. The newly-sprung beard is becoming shockingly dark. “Thane Varena. Good morrow. Have I missed Yelm?”
“He is risen once again,” she replies formally. Then, “You are well? Your wife is well?”
“Ah well. I shall catch him one day.” He backs down to floor level. “Mellia is well, yes. We’re very happy.” His eyes take on a sudden softness, and he briefly looks into space, or at least memory and imagination.
She smiles at his expression, but the smile fades quickly. “I am sorry,” she tells him. “I tried to stop her, but I was too late.”
The tall man looks confused. “Who? Mellia?”
The expression clears a bit, and then he replies, “It is of no matter. I told Mellia I would marry her if she had nothing, and I will not be without support while she supports me.”
“I will do my best by you both, of course,” Varanis informs him.1Venlar passes Insight: She is very serious as she promises to do her best by them. There’s something… almost paternalistic about it. Not condescending, but responsible.
“I must still face my father,” he says with a touch of a smile. “My grandfather stole a bride, so there is precedent, but I think that I will still lose the fox’s tail around me.” It is hard to tell if he cares.
“Are there any enemies we should know about? Those who might choose this time to take advantage?”
“For me? None I can think of. Until your band came I hardly left the tula. Would you care to come and have breakfast? Mellia has gone off to the hospital.” Behind the beard, and the poise, there might be anguished emotion. It is difficult to tell.
The Vingan nods. “I’d be honoured.”
“I have a thing that I should ask another Orlanthi, and it will be a good opportunity, but if you prefer we can talk of light things.”
“I will hear you out and answer as best I can. You are staying in Mellia’s quarters now?” Despite phrasing it as a question, she begins to walk briskly in that direction.
“I am, yes.” Venlar keeps up easily, of course. While he may never be graceful, he no longer looks like he could trip over his own feet at any point. Mellia’s room has a table laid out, with chunky cutlery and crockery, and at a nod from Venlar, the thrall… whatever her name is… puts out another set.
Varanis watches and as the woman finishes, says, “Thank you…? Forgive me, I have forgotten your name.”
There is no startlement, no alarm at being addressed. She smiles and replies, “Felgin, Thane Varena.” The woman adds a respectful bow.
“Felgin,” Varanis murmurs, committing it to memory. “Thank you, Felgin.”
Felgin goes to fetch the wrapped basket of food that is waiting. Venlar tells her, “Just leave it. We’ll manage.” She takes off the cover and folds it before departing, however. Venlar looks after her, and then gives Varanis a slight smile. “Captain Berra has created a crisis of conscience within me.”
The Vingan arches an eyebrow. “She’s good at that. I think it is one Humakt’s gifts to her.”
“She might be considered to lack subtlety, by some. Yet perhaps I needed it. Do you believe it is a lie, to pretend to be other than who I am?” Venlar pauses in his careful unloading of bowls from the basket.
“Hmmmm.” Varanis looks serious again. “That is a pointed question, isn’t it? Why are you doing so?”
“Because Mellia wanted to come back. And we will not be without each other.” Venlar looks uncomfortable, but he puts the basket down and gestures to Varanis to help herself. There is enough there to feed a small hero band.
“Remember that I haven’t had this all explained to me yet,” she points out. “You couldn’t return because you were forbidden to do so?”
“Grandmother Aranda wrote to say that Mellia was invited, but that I should grow a beard – that all Sartarites looked alike. Naturally, her house could not be seen to host someone who had stolen a wife from them, and at the time it seemed the natural thing to do – Mellia was willing to run with me, but there was no need, and it would have been cruel to tear her away. I stole her at dead of night, and for the look of things we went to the Ernaldan temple.”2Varanis passes Homeland Lore (Esrolia). The kidnappee doesn’t get to be willing. The decision is Grandmother’s.
“Grandmother told you to grow a beard? That’s simple then. You are part of Saiciae now, and at least in Esrolia, you answer to her.” Varanis turns her attention from the easy answer to survey the food. She selects a piece of dried fruit to nibble on.
“No. It is an equal marriage. I stole her – I did not marry in.” Venlar has chosen a small mountain of olives, and bread.
“But you are without clan because of it, are you not? And besides, Grandmother gave the commands.” She shrugs.
“I am – probably – without clan. My brother pronounced it, but my father will ratify it. But I am also Venlar Cracks-rock. Captain Berra did not think much of me pretending to be otherwise.” Even while he explains it, Venlar Cracks-rock is cutting bread and cheese, making sure he has enough food to make a good start on the day.
“Did you use another name for yourself?”
“Not yet. I think others are. I have been trying not to notice.” He pours small beer for them both.
“Ah, I see.” She looks thoughtful. “If you call yourself by another name, then it is a lie. If you know that others are calling you by another name and you allow it, then you are permitting others to lie.” She frowns. “But… are you certain you are not under Grandmother’s command now? It would certainly be easier if you were.”
“I am certain. I returned here of my own volition, and while I am here under her hospitality, I am not of your clan.” He eats as he talks now, as fast as a young man who has woken hungry should eat.
Varanis sips at her beer and considers. “I’m afraid you might not like my answer then.”
“I have asked for it, nevertheless.” Venlar may already not like his own answer; for a moment a wry expression flickers, held at bay by the scar over his eye.
“As I understand it then, you are here of your own will and in disguise in your host’s home. This was suggested to you, but you made the decision to do it. Out of love, for harmony… your deception maintains peace, but it is deception nonetheless.” She looks at him steadily, food forgotten. “I wish I could tell you otherwise.”
Venlar sighs. “I think you are right. To be honest, you have been right for some days.” He has not lost his appetite, however. “I will not insult my hosts by leaving in a hurry, but I will talk to Mellia. At the very least, leaving would allow me to shave, which became a thing I longed for even before I returned.” Deceptive or not, he has no problem eating Saiciae food.
She nods. “Mellia may not be best pleased with this. For that I apologise.”
Venlar shakes his head a little, dismissing worry with a gesture as if from a well trained orator. “Oh, please do not. I asked another Orlanthi for a judgement, and I have one. I still need to take her to the Blue Tree, as I said I would do.” The gesture of his hand folds into a flowing motion as he talks of going. He knows how to speak in public, and in private.3Venlar has Truth 75% on his sheet. He cannot live a lie! Especially not as he rolled a special on it. He also rolled a special on Honour, so he’s not going to slap any faces and stomp out, or do a Berra and just leave.
Added comment from regular GM: Esrolians . o O (Sartarite Barbarians. We know who you are. EVERYONE knows who you are. We’re just being polite in not forcing people to notice if they don’t want to.)
Venlar/Berra: Yep. And Venlar assumed that, but it’s not TRUE. And Berra specialled Intimidate while glaring at him. Made him think.
“You’ll live there, I assume? Have you got a house yet?” She looks thoughtful. “I should build one for when I’m there. I can’t keep relying on others to house me on my own lands.”
Venlar looks smiling, rather than thoughtful. “Not yet. I think I will probably be part of the Temple, as I will be married to Mellia, but that means bringing a clanless one in. I do not know if they will adopt me as part of the greater marriage proceedings – I am not mentioned by name in the main contract, although many of the gifts come from me or flow through me.”
“Well, if either of you need anything, let me know. I’ll do my best to provide,” Varanis says reassuringly.
“Thank you. To be honest, I have enough for the year, and by the end of it my father may have forgiven me. I was cast out from clan, not family. If Jengharl thinks that is what father will ratify, then I have hope. My mother will not let me starve, although I suspect I will be living on Chalana Arroy’s mercy for some time.” He is not in danger of starving. He has a plate large enough to feed Varanis for a day in front of him, and looks like he will fill it from other bowls he has left close by.
Varanis looks over the food and selects another piece of dried fruit. Pear, by the look of it. “It’s a poor area, but the people are good. I’ve not been a good thane, I’m afraid. Once the Lunars are dealt with and I stop having to dash madly across multiple kingdoms, I think I’ll settle there.”
“In the Cinder Fox, we…” Venlar pauses and tries again. “They have one big house, with a roof over it all, for the free people.”
“Have you visited Blue Tree yet?” Varanis asks.
Venlar nods. “Mellia resurrected a man there,” he says, obviously dazzled by the notion. “Everyone was amazed.”
“Chalana Arroy favours her. I think it’s because she gives so much of herself to others. Your wife is an amazing woman and if I didn’t know how much you love her, I’d have warned you off a long time ago. But you both obviously make each other happy and she deserves that happiness.” She gives him a warm smile. “I’m happy to call you kin, Venlar.”
Venlar smiles through a blush. “Perhaps you will come with me to the Cinder Foxes, once Mellia has been safely taken to the Blue Tree, or on the way there?”
“If I can. I need to get to Boldhome…” She looks at him thoughtfully. “I could use your advice, actually.”
“Please ask.” Venlar even puts down his knife and spoon.
She takes a small sip of her beer while she orders her thoughts, then sets the cup down. “By now, the Prince will know that I was too late to stop my sister from marrying Fazzur. Mirava has proposed an alliance of sorts, though she does not yet have Fazzur’s commitment to it. I need to take word of that to Boldhome. The Prince is bound to be angry by all of this. I am hoping to alleviate her difficulties by bringing Esrolian supplies. Some in the form of a caravan selling food cheaply, as people are struggling, but pride is still important. Some in the form of resources that the Prince can distribute where she sees the greatest need.” She leans forward as she speaks, expression earnest and intense. “I seek only to support her. But is it possible that I am overstepping in this?”
“I think that you are doing the right thing,” Venlar says after a little thought, “But you should send ahead so she knows that this is coming, and can direct you if she wishes. To appear in Boldhome as an apparent saviour is to challenge her, but to appear at the border and say honestly you have her blessing would be a fine thing.”
Varanis nods. “That’s wise, yes. I have no desire to usurp her place, even if the tribes wished it. And I’m rather certain the last thing the tribes want is another Esrolian on the throne, blood of Sartar or not.”
He picks up his spoon, but is still thinking rather than eating. “Then perhaps the caravan should have entertainers, singing her praises? They often travel together to market towns, I understand.”
Varanis lights up at that. “Yes! Excellent idea!”4Vinga save me if they decided to sing about Varanis too.
“We can have some boasts written, but they will want Heortling voices to sing them.” Venlar includes himself in the thinking.
She leaps to her feet and begins to pace. “That is perfect. They will sing her praises and in the process rally support for her cause. I wonder if there are any Heortling bards in Nochet just now.”
“Probably. Thousands of Heortlings live here. It’s the largest Heort conglomeration outside of Sartar.” Venlar looks interested in food again.
She is thinking quickly now, as she moves about the room. “There are some places in the city where musicians tend to congregate. I can send someone… no, perhaps I should go myself.”
“First, design your contract. What do you want them to do? Sing? Play? Challenge the Colymar singers? And if the mules are turned back, should they go alone?”
“Sing, for certain. The words are what will speak to people. Do they need to challenge the Colymar singers? Do Leika’s people act against their Prince so boldly?”
“I have no idea. I assume not, yet it is the task of an advisor to lay out options. As for the weight of each, I can help you judge it, but not decide. Food will help people to listen, but what they listen to may have to be made for each place. More likely to know, if you want the latest news, would be people who came from Sartar directly for the wedding, and not before as I did. Of course, Jengharl is likely to be in communication with father, so for political views you might go to him.”
Varanis nods again. “I’ll start with your brother then. I haven’t had much chance to speak with him since that night in Wilmskirk… that feels like a lifetime ago.”
“He is trusted of my father, in judgement as well as ideals.” Venlar smiles a little. “Which is why most of the warriors with him were his bodyguard, not mine.”
“I’ll seek him out then.” She finally stops pacing and drops back into her seat. Taking up her cup again, she peers at him over the brim. “You could stay, you know. I could explain to Grandmother that I need you as an advisor. Put you under my own protection.”
Venlar stills, considering that. “It is a generous offer…”
It looks like Venlar is turning over many things in his head, far more obviously than Yamia does.
“Think about it. Talk to your brother, perhaps. I am happy to do that for you, as it will help me too, but I have no desire to exert any pressure on you.” She rises again. “Thank you for your advice and for sharing your meal with me. I have some things I must do this morning, but I’ll be back in the House by midday, I think.”
Venlar bows his head, just a touch. “If truth be told, I have a few things on my conscience.” He stands to see her to the door.
Before she slips through the door, she pauses to clasp his hand in hers. “I know things are different than what you’d hoped, but regardless, welcome to the family Venlar.” She gives his hand a squeeze. “I’m so pleased to call you cousin.”
Venlar smiles. “Go. Thank you.”