1627, Fire Season, Illusion Week, Waterday
Varanis has arrived at the Esrolian Free Company camp and is a bit worried by what she’s seen. After Session 2.44 (Queen of What Now?)
In the tent, Venlar copies out the writing he did, to make a fair version; he does not have a true scribe’s knack of writing quickly and legibly. When he is done, nobody educated would find it beautiful, but they would find it legible, at least.
Lenta had curled herself on a reed mat but rubs her eyes and stretches catlike when Varanis and the rest come in.
Venlar settles down to do his re-writing of the notes he has made.
Varanis once again removes her cuirass, and this time the rest of the armour goes too. She doesn’t speak as she unbuckles each piece methodically. She’s exhausted and worried, but trying to hide it.
Xenofos offers a drink of water to Lenta and sits down to listen to Varanis.
Finally, Varanis sinks down onto the rug. “Xenofos, Lenta… did you hear anything of interest after Venlar and I went for our walk?”
“This evening? I think the most interesting talk was happening around you, cousin. That is what people were watching at and trying to listen.” Xenofos says.
She nods. “And what did you hear?” Darting a glance in Venlar’s direction, she adds, “Please feel free to add any of your own observations too, Lord Venlar.”
Venlar nods his head, but says nothing. He is dealing with a small ink blot on his parchment, although he has managed to remember how to close the ink lest disaster happen.
He shrugs. “I am not much for intrigue, cousin. I heard talk of praise. Talk of great deeds men wished to do. Some boasting, some jests. Words of elation.”
Xenofos glances at the inkhorn and resolutely looks the other way.
Lenta looks over the tent with her green eyes, gauging if Venlar or Xenofos have anything more to say.
Venlar seems to have nothing to say, although he looks terribly polite and even charming while not saying it.
“Lenta?” Varanis prompts.
“What you said to Nersteva and Kesten was well received, I think by all those listening. Well almost all.” she looks calculating in the flicker of the oil lamp. “I don’t think that quite placated Aranda or Oralantha. They still looked bristling from the way you silenced them.”
“They’ll learn. I don’t take well to people abusing my people and given that they were the ones silencing others, they don’t have a leg to stand on.” Varanis is dismissive of their displeasure. “But, that information is useful to me. Thank you.”
“Varaneva… was just peaceful as ever” Lenta looks a bit ill. “I could not avoid looking at that hand… She did not comment on the matter that I heard. Nor did I hear anyone asking questions.”
“Yes…. the hand. That worries me. Venlar, I need to know your take on that. I feel responsible for her actions and think there’s a chance that man’s ransom, or part of it, is owed to him. But, if he attacked first…” The Vingan scowls. “Were they essentially forcing his clan to sell what they didn’t want to sell? Throwing money at someone doesn’t make it right.”
“I did put out a suggestion we should try to buy cattle since men were hungry” Lenta says with a small voice. “Did I do wrong, Varanis?”
“That might be… you go on.” Venlar cedes neatly to Lenta.
“Buying is right. But, I’m not certain that’s what happened here,” Varanis tells Lenta.
She puts her head in her hands. “I should have been there myself… Not that it would have prevented this.”
“What’s done is done,” Varanis tells her. “But I need to know what is next. Venlar?”
“It might be judged at the Clan level,” Venlar replies. “Or it might be that you are asked to judge it, depending on who the ultimate authority is decided to be. It might be Lenta, but it cannot be the people involved, even if they were in command; they cannot judge themselves.”
Xenofos looks at Lenta while commenting quietly.”She is not of the local clan. Or even tribe. Matter of judge and jurisdiction may be tricky. Something women should sort out.”
“She is in Sartar,” Venlar notes. “It does not matter where she comes from as a foreigner; the laws are the same for Esrolia as for most places. However, it does get ahead of ourselves to assume there will be any case put.”
“Do we wait for a case to be brought? Or seek to make things right?” Varanis asks.
Venlar knows that one. “If you seek to make right, that would be generous, but you must find out what the offence was. Generosity must be measured correctly, or else it may seem you are trying to be admired, not to do what you think right without recourse to law.”
“How would you proceed if this happened with your people, Venlar?”
“Often two people go to court together to have a matter decided, in which case neither or both should have a speaker, but that is not the case here. So the wounded person would come to the headman in his village – me. I would agree to speak for him if I felt he had been wronged, and we would go to my father. Father would hear me put the basis of the case, and decide on whether it WAS a valid case, and then summon whoever was named to do the same; find someone to speak for them. A noble or anyone who speaks often in court may use their own voice, of course. And then the matter would be decided.” Venlar considers a little further. “If someone was attacked and I was not asked to intervene, I would probably organise a cattle raid the next season.”
“Well… it’s not like we have cattle to raid.” Varanis sighs heavily. “Is waiting to see if anything comes of it the right thing to do?”
“It is certainly appropriate, but you could also, if you wished, send to find out.” That question held no terrors for him either.
Varanis begins to unplait her hair as she considers her options. It’s a job that needs doing, as the plaits ceased to be tidy several hours ago. As she grows frustrated and impatient with the task, she finally resorts to roughly combing through with her fingers.
“Lenta, do you have any good speakers of Heortling here?”
“Some of the Sarli lads claim they speak Heortling better then the Sartarites, but I suspect their Heortling is more of Nochet variety…” she puts a finger on her lips. “I think Hofhrai speaks decent Heortling. His father was from Hendreikiland.”
Xenofos nods in confirmation.
Venlar perks up very slightly.
“I was hoping to put your scribing skills to work here,” Varanis tells him. “Lenta, if I send Venlar and Xenofos, are there any other competent scribes here?”
She shrugs. “I don’t really know,Varanis, I am sorry. I mean, I can read and write, and I guess most of the noble youth can, but how well?”
“How well can you do it? If I asked you to make lists for me?”
She looks at Venlar’s writing “It would take way longer then by a real scribe. The clay would be quite messy and I would probably make a bunch of mistakes at first, but I guess I could do it.”
“Do you have the clay?” Venlar asks, lightly.
She looks at him with a wry smile and shakes her head “No?”
“How are your cat-scratchings?” He sighs. “I was only thinking of my wife when I packed, so I only brought wax, but fortunately Lord Xenofos provided.”
“Ink and papyrus?” she looks worried “Sweet beard of Lhankor Mhy. That could be awkward.”
Varanis shakes her head. “Never mind. Venlar, how long can I keep you away from your wife?”
Venlas sighs. “I can send home a note – she likes getting them from me… Another day?” Already he looks wistful.
“How long would it take to visit the stead where this happened, Lenta?”
“They were not gone for the whole day?” she answers. “I am not quite sure where it took place – they took the road towards Swenstown.”
Venlar admits, “I do not know the local geography.”
“Hmm… Well, I think this is a higher priority for me than my lists. So, Venlar and Xenofos, if you could ride out to visit that stead and investigate, I would appreciate it. Perhaps Lenta, you could point them to one of the less hot-headed people who were on that expedition, who could accompany them?”
She nods. “There were both Greens and Racers with her, as well as some folks on foot.”
“A Green perhaps? Someone Xenofos can count on. But someone who has a decent idea of where they need to go is most important.” Varanis glances at the menfolk. “Will you do this thing for me?”
“Of course,” Venlar says smoothly.
Xenofos nods. “So you want us to ride to the farm or village where the Axe-maiden cut someone, talk with the people and ask what happened or tell you want to settle if there is a grievance?”
“Perhaps with a certain degree of discretion?” Varanis sends a look of appeal to Venlar, before turning back to her cousin. “I want you all to come back whole and I don’t want to stir up trouble if the matter is considered settled. But, if it needs dealing with, then I should know that.”
“Perhaps,” Venlar suggests, “It would be best not to take anyone who has already been.”
“There is merit to that suggestion, but I would have someone with us who knows where exactly we are going?” Xenofos answers.
Venlar nods slightly to that, accepting the point.
“I’d avoid it if we could, but you’d lose a lot of time visiting every village between here and Swenston, trying to quietly find out if someone had a hand chopped off recently.”
Xenofos raises up. “Right. We’ll meet at Yelmrise,” He nods at Lenta” find a guide and ride out with Venlar?”
“We cannot find out quietly,” Venlar says. “Unless we wish not to ask at all. That would also take longer.” He smiles a little. “Yelmrise.”
“I bid you good night” scholar says and leaves the tent.
Venlar bows his head, saying semi-formally, “Good night, good scribe.”
“Did my belongings make it to the tent?” Varanis asks, glancing around. “Oh there. Excellent.” She busies herself with figuring out how to make herself at home in someone else’s tent, while Venlar finishes his notes.
Lenta curls herself back under a woollen riding cloak.
Venlar settles down to sleep, but after a few minutes he tells Varanis quietly, “I miss Mellia.” He is taking up a lot of the tent, but trying to be polite about it. This does not, apparently, extend to being silent.
Varanis murmurs, “I can sympathize.” She twists in her hides to face his direction. “I meant to ask you something earlier. Not about Mellia, mind…”
He stretches a little, indicating wakefulness. “Please go on?” In the darkness the scar over his eye looks like an extra patch of shadow.
“What couldn’t you tell me about the hunting?”
Venlar considers, and then says, “That I did not think you had the right to offer it.”
“All the hunting belongs to specific clans?” she asks.
Venlar is only briefly taken aback. “Of course it does. Do you hunt on the land of others in Esrolia?”
She shrugs in the darkness, realises that likely can’t be seen. “Most of the land belongs to the Temples. As long as you don’t abuse it and pay your tithes, you can hunt for need.”
“I see… here, the clan chiefs dictate who may; usually, everyone of the clan, but hunters who cross boundaries must take care. Up here we are too high for most woodland meat, but I would think it still… inappropriate… to take it without permission. Depending on whether we are in Kheldon lands, you might be speaking for your kinswoman, of course.” Venlar leaves several questions delicately unasked.
“I see. Well, it’s good I have you here then. I know you need to get back to Mellia, but you have been invaluable. Before you return to Boldhome, if there is any other way that you think I might step wrong, please don’t hesitate to tell me.”
Venlar nods, which is mostly a vague movement of his mop of dark hair, which has already come out of the plait he put it into for sleeping. “I will stay by you,” he says. “Save for tomorrow.”
Her reply is sincere and sleepy. “Thank you.”
Varanis discusses what she saw in the camp with Lenta, Venlar and Xenofos