Xenofos — From The Baths To Palaces
????, Earth Season
Boldhome, really late Earth Season [[[s02:session-55|Session 55]]]
Early one morning, Varanis appears at the Temple of Uleria. When she is greeted by an initiate who offers her access to the baths, she shakes her head. “I’m looking for my cousin, Xenofos Saiciae,” she says.
“Xenofos is at the baths right now, milady.” the initiate explains patiently.
“I see. I’ll wait for him then.”
“I will tell him you are here, lady Varanis.”
It takes some time, but Xenofos appears dressed in just his tunic and drying out his hands. “Good morning, cousin. Good to see you.”
Varanis sips at something in a pottery cup. Her long fingers are wrapped around it as if seeking warmth. “Good morning, Xenofos. You look well.”
He nods. “Did things go well at the Blue Tree?”
“Yes. Things are good there, it seems. Mellia and Venlar have settled in well. Yamia and her baby too. Irillo came to visit for a time.” Varanis chews her lower lip, then gives her head a shake. “Somehow I’d forgotten about that letter and the parentage of Yamia’s child. It’s strange. I keep forgetting things lately.”
“You have so big things to worry about.” he looks around. “Maybe you should let mistress Uleria carry some of your burdens.”1 Hmmm… careful. You’ll end up needing to be a Ulerian for Varanis… beard can hide my blushing…
For a moment, Varanis looks tempted, then murmurs, “I’m not sure I can just now. There’s…” She trails off. “When do you leave for Prax,?” she asks, changing the subject rapidly. Xenofos gets the feeling that there is something that she does not wish to talk about.
“I have most of my things packed, a zebra waiting at the White Grape and Rondrik can take care of my horses.” He looks at Varanis “But do you need me here?”
Varanis can tell that he will probably stay if she says yes, but he is also really eager to go.
“I want you to go to Prax. Meet the b…” She takes a breath. “Baby. Come back when you are ready.”
“I hope she will let me, Varanis.” He looks at the door “It is not said she wants to talk to me. But I hope she will and I will be there in time…”
“I need air. Can we walk?” she blurts out, interrupting him.
He nods. “If you want to go outside, I should dress properly. This way please.”
Looking at her more closely, Xenofos can see dark circles under her eyes. She has slept poorly or else worked herself to exhaustion in Blue Tree. She rises and follows him.
He slows down and puts an arm around her shoulders while walking. “You look pretty awful Ranie. What is the matter?”
“I’m fine. I just need to move.” The look she gives him pleads with him to hold his questions. “Let’s walk towards the North Fort,” she suggests. That is a long way from the temple, including a stretch of land between the edge of the city proper and the tribal manors.
There is a simple chamber in first floor. Xenofos dons robes of a scribe, belts his sword and tops the ensemble with his cloak and hat. “Sure, let’s walk”
Varanis bundles her own cloak tightly around herself. Unusually, she hadn’t surrendered it on arrival.
Xenofos lets Varanis set the pace. He looks a bit dreamy. Maybe he is waiting for her to speak.2 or happens to special love aranda while only passing loyalty Varanis.
She says little at first, other than to tell him bits and pieces about Blue Tree. She mentions the near screw up of the fertility ritual for Berra’s hide, the ducklings, their village… She shares what news Irillo brought from home. “Yehna came to Boldhome with us,” she mentions. “I plan to buy a house somewhere in the city.”
He nods at appropriate places and makes the listening sounds. “Leave Rondrik a note where, so I’ll know where to seek you when I return.”
She nods, falling silent. It isn’t until they pass the last of the houses and the road grows less busy that she speaks again. With no warning or preamble, she whispers, “I’m pregnant.”
Xenofos stops in his tracks, turns to look at her with an astonished smile and tries to hug her.
She lets him do it, though her own arms don’t move at first.
“That is… That is wonderful news, Ranie. Congratulations.” As so often when Xenofos is moved he seems to be moved to tears even though his voice is full of happiness. (muokattu)
She buries her face against him with a sob.
“Wonderful indeed, but how. I thought… Vinga?” Xenofos is holding his cousin tightly.
“I blame Storm Bull. Kalis thinks the baby will come by Storm Bull’s High Holy Day,” she mutters against him. She only allowed herself the one sob, and already he can hear her attempting to assert control over herself.
“You have received my tears, Ranie. Cry if you need to, do not hold back.” He holds her tighter and strokes her back.
Another sob slips past her barriers. And then another. And suddenly she is weeping brokenly in his arms, in the middle of the road.
“It is a blessing Varanis. Even if we don’t understand why or how.” He strokes her hair “Things will sort out.”
“I don’t want this child to be used by others. But I’m no mother for it either,” she sobs.
“I don’t understand. Is it not growing under your heart? Who is the mother if not you?” Xenofos asks still holding her “Hush, Varanis. It will all sort out.”
“I’m Vinga, not Ernalda,” she argues. “I have no wish to be otherwise. Growing fat with a babe at the breast?! That’s not me.”
“There are nurses.” He keeps her still in his arms. “You had no wish, but Vinga let it happen. She probably had a reason.”
Varanis — 19.11.2021
“I need to tell the Prince.”
“You do.” He is looking at her and seeing if he can dry her tears. “Do you want me to come with you for that?”
She shakes her head, swallowing back another sob. “No. I have to.” She tolerates his hand on her cheek for a moment, before catching it in hers and tugging him along the road. “We’ve stopped too long. People are looking.”
“You have to. But you do not have to do it alone?” He looks around. “Let them look”
There are people riding along the road towards Boldhome, presumably from the tribal manors, judging by clothing and horses. They glance at the two Esrolians with some curiosity, but don’t deign to stop.
Xenofos looks eastward, sighs and turns towards Varanis “I think you do need me, my liege?”
“No.” The word is growled. “I will manage. I need you to go to Prax.” Although her eyes are red and her face tear-streaked, the look she turns on him is as mulish as he’s ever seen. “You will go see her. Them.”
“I want to, Ranie. But you need me here.” the voice of the scribe is uncertain.
She stomps her foot. “I said no!”
Varanis bursts into tears again. “I’m sorry. It’s just… I need you to go to Prax. Get yourself some answers. Come back to me when you are ready. But Prax first. Please?”
Xenofos takes her hands again and kisses them. “I’ll go to her, Ranie. I already promised Aranda I will return. So I will. I don’t know when.”
She gives a shuddering sigh. “Good. That’s settled then. You’ll be back when you can and that’s enough for me.”
After wiping her face on her sleeve in a remarkably child-like gesture, she adds, “Please don’t tell anyone. I won’t be able to hide it for long, but Kallyr has to hear it from me.”
“I could come with you when you tell that and leave then?” He offers.
“No. This is one I need to do alone. Just trust me on that. Please.”
“If you say so.” He sighs “It is not long I said to Aranda that birth of a child is as scary as it is wonderful. I will pray to Ernalda everything goes well.”
“Kalis will ensure I have what protection she can offer,” Varanis says, trying to reassure him.
“I know you will be in as safe hands as can be, Varanis.” he smiles slightly teary. “Know that you have my love as well as my loyalty, cousin.”