1627, Fire Season, Fertility Week
After Xenofos has gone, Berra swigs down a cup of water, tries getting to her feet, winces, and after rubbing her temples with her left hand, buckles on her sword and goes to wake Varanis.
She is rewarded with some less than coherent mumbling. Eventually Varanis opens her eyes, then immediately squeezes them shut again. With her eyes still closed, she murmurs, “Yelm?”
“Not quite up, but if you want to, you can probably get there.” Berra steps back. “You’re in the Love temple.” It’s a reminder, just in case someone has forgotten where they passed out.
“I s’pose slaying Yelm from Uleria’s rooftop would be bad.”
“You can do it just in front.” Berra goes to grab her cuirass, slipping into it but leaving half the buckles undone for the moment. Even that makes her wince again, but she does her best to hide it.
Gingerly, Varanis pushes herself upright, swinging her feet over the side of the couch, so that she’s sitting. She buries her face in her hands. “Water. Please tell me there’s water.” She peers through her fingers at the table and sure enough, there are clay cups with fresh water waiting.
“There’s water,” Berra dutifully tells her. “Xenofos is gone, and he left in time to go to a temple before Yelm rose, but I wouldn’t try to wait long before racing the sun horse.” The Humakti does up one of her buckles, just enough that the cuirass will not get in the way as she bends the greaves on.
The Vingan takes one of the cups and drains it. “Shit. I’ll be back in a minute.” She pushes herself to her feet, wavers, and turns green. She bolts.
Berra considers that briefly, and decides to armour up rather than following. Outside, Yelm sends his herald to open the gates of dawn.
When Varanis returns she looks slightly more stable and slightly less green. “I think… I think I can do this without spewing all over myself. Where’s my sword?” She spies it on the floor, under her couch. “Right. I don’t remember putting that there.” She bends down to pick it up and has to put a hand on the couch to catch herself. She rises with the sword in hand.
“Mhm.” Berra begins to cast a spell as they move out. Her hand is raised to put it on Varanis.
As they make for the Temple doors, they are greeted by a priestess. “Ah, Vareena and Berra. Are you leaving us? We can supply you with breakfast before you go.”
The Vingan shakes her head frantically, then immediately looks like that was a bad decision.
“She needs to greet Yelm,” Berra explains. “Back in a few of his heartbeats.” She puts her hand on Varanis again, and this time manages the spell; renewed vigour flows through the Vingan, a gift from Ernalda, brought by Humakt.
Varanis sighs in relief. “I can do this.” She gives Berra a look of gratitude and the priestess a polite nod. “Back soon.”
Berra goes out to guard her friend, pushing through the door quickly so as to get there in time, but not without the usual spell. The moment of concentration to listen happens outside.1Critical on Sense Assassin. Nobody is trying to kill you, and Berra has a minor religious moment.
Outside, Varanis chooses her spot, angling to see the direction Yelm is emerging from. She draws her sword.2Definitive pass on CON then. Ooooooh! And a 2 on rapier.
Berra takes up a position to guard the Vingan’s back, letting her deal herself with anything in front of her.
Incredibly, despite the evening’s excesses, when Varanis begins to step through the movements of the ritual, it’s as though she’s completely fresh. She flows from step to step, the gleaming bronze of her rapier catching the early morning light as Yelm begins his journey. At moments like this, when everything comes together, she becomes fully herself. When it finishes, her cheeks are flushed with pleasure.
It is missed on Berra, but there are people watching her, pausing in their early-morning scurry and their late-night walk of pride-shame. As she finishes, a few move on, although one young woman looks on as if she suddenly had new ideas, and hurries away beneath her burden of baskets to be delivered.
“Oh, I needed that,” Varanis says to Berra. “Thank you. Shall we head back in? I should clean up a little before we return to the palazzo. I can be quick.” She presses her lips together tightly, the colour leeching out of her face again. “I think.”
“I can do that a few more times,” Berra says, and looks around, and puts her hand to her friend’s shoulder again.
“No, it’s fine for now. Let’s go in and I’ll get cleaned up. That will make me feel better.”
Berra shrugs, and then gives away her own condition by casting the spell on herself. The circles under her eyes vanish, at least for the moment. She looks no more deadly, but she looks like she is enjoying it more. “Right. Yes. That.”
Inside the Temple, they are offered the use of the baths, a breakfast suited for the morning after, and any other services they require. Varanis turns down the bath in favour of warm wash water and assistance to comb out and re-plait her hair. She accepts more water and a light breakfast, which she nibbles on, but cannot truly eat.
Berra considers the bath, and it is obvious she is, but as Varanis turns it down, so does she. “I should get to the palazzo,” she says while Varanis is trying for breakfast. “There are a few guards…”
Varanis pushes the food to the side and rises carefully. “Let’s go. I can’t really manage this anyway.”
Berra grabs for the flatbread. “Mind if I take this for later?”
When Varanis tries to settle the tab with the priestess, she learns that Xenofos has covered it. She arches a brow at this, but does not argue. He’s not there to argue with.
Berra, with no such worries, packs away the food for later, and looks ready to go. “Right. I deliver you back, and then I pretend I’m not hung over while making people drill. Or I tell them I am, which is more honest but might get them to think I’m not in control.” That amuses her.
The walk back to the palazzo is quiet, in that Varanis is not inclined to talk much. There are others in the streets, getting started on their day’s business, but the journey is short and uneventful. They are waved through the palazzo gates.
Berra salutes those present – a few guards – and says, “Right. I am hung over, short on water, short on breakfast, and in a mood that could turn snappy. How lucky you are. Let’s start with any of you who think you can take me in this state? Good. Right. Today we’re looking at the left hand, and I’ll borrow a shield for this one. We’re messing with people’s eyes by trying to draw the eyes.” Pause. “Too many eyes. Don’t care…” She is into her professional mood.
Varanis vanishes. Berra is through the first set of drills before the Vingan returns with a determined expression, full armour, her shield, and a broadsword. Her helmet is tucked under one arm.
Berra gives Varanis a look, and then a tiny nod, and gets on with demonstrating how to use a shield for feints. Even with one smaller than she is used to, she looks deadly; her movements are swift and natural, left hand matched to right. She does not pick out Varanis as an opponent, but puts pairs together and watches them.
Varanis steps into line with the others. She is more sluggish than she usually is and at one point she falls out to puke into one of the ornamental shrubs that surround the palazzo courtyard. Her expression dares anyone to comment.
Berra just ignores the moment away, and accepts Varanis back into the fold afterwards. And then she eats breakfast.