Xenofos — Idiot Pagan City Dwelling Soft Folk With No Sense
????, Dark Season, Season/Movement Week
Dark Season/Movement Week/Clay Day/Early evening for Varanis and Berra continues from [[[Xenofos:Cruel Truths ]]] [[[s02:session-21|Session 21]]]
As Yelm sets there is no sight of Xenofos. Varanis is in the yurt, getting ready for the Clayday Feast. Berra has been out and back a few times, each time dressed slightly differently. Now, as she prepares to guard feasters, she asks, “Where’s ‘Fos? Uh, Lord Xenofos? I found a sort of frog thing and I thought he might know what it was.”
Varanis pauses, a pair of earrings in her hands. “I haven’t seen him for hours. Any other day, I might expect him to be at Black Lance’s yurt, but…”
“Uggh. I hadn’t seen he wasn’t here. Does he go to other yurts?” Berra seems unworried.
It is maybe hour or two since he went out. Day is changing.
“I’m not sure. He was spending a lot of time with the old man, but I haven’t seen him with many others.” She looks thoughtful. “I suppose it has only been a couple of hours. He’s probably fine.” There’s a hint of uncertainty in her words.
“He is.” Berra kneels carefully by her kit, and then pauses. “Mind you, if it’s after dark and Neela… what sort of woman stuff is going to be going on tonight and tomorrow?”
“I’m not sure. Not a woman of the clan.” Varanis hooks the gold earrings into place. “I’m not even sure whether I count as a woman by their standards. Sometimes I’m included in ‘women’s things’ and other times, I spend my time with the menfolk.” She shrugs. “Vingan.”
“Well, yeah.” Berra shrugs. “He should be fine. If you want me to go out and see if the warriors or their children know…” Another shrug, but she is settling down where she is. Then she admits, “I should go put the frog back anyhow.”1Passed both Loyalty Clan to consider looking for him, and Movement to assume he can take care of himself.
Kallyr’s armring is slid into place, over the sleeve of a fine blue wool tunic. “If you are out anyway, maybe ask around? It will set my mind at ease.”
“I’ll do that.” Berra reaches for an extra hide, and her mittens. “The frog bubbles.”
“It bubbles.” Berra puts a hand into a pouch and pulls out a handful of surprised-looking amphibian. “The kids gave it to me, so it’s safe.” The frog makes a weird noise, and foams a little not from its mouth, but along its back. “Bubbles!”
“Oh, that’s peculiar!”
“I know!” Berra looks pleased. “But it probably wants to go back to the river. I’ll take it, and check for him on the way, that way I can show him if I find him.”
No Xenofos walks between the yurts on the way to the river. Only people outside the yurts are couple of warriors huddled into snow-coated bison cloaks walking from the direction of the herd.
Berra wander over to the pickets to ask the warriors there, “Um. I look. Seek. Xenofos.” Her trade-talk, accented with Esrolia and Sartar, is clear to her at least.
“Xefos. Fos.” Berra grins, and touches her chin, wiggling her fingers for a plaited beard.
Other sentry nods to his comrades and makes a gesture showing a thin guy “Xefos.. Leave camp. “He waves with his hand towards direction Yelm sets.
Berra sighs. “Any guards?” She mimes sword and shield. “Friends?”
“He alone.” Gesturing with his fingers. “Walks.” The warrior shrugs.
Berra’s expression clearing says ‘FFS’. Her voice manages, “May all give you credit based on your word.” Trade-talk is good for that. She looks towards the faint glow from the dead sun. “I will be back to camp soon. Else tell Varanis and Rajar.” Then she sets off at a run, west.
Berra passes the herd. Wind is on her face but it is no longer carrying so much snow.
Berra looks out at the darkness, and swears a bit. Back to the camp to see how well she can see it.
The walls of the yurts are visible against snow and some light of the fires inside is reflected towards the snow. The cloud cover is cracking up and faraway mountains are silhouetted against the horizon by lingering memory of Yelm. The snow in front of Berra looks pristine and shows the contours of the land.
Berra mutters a bit, and draws Wind Tooth, holding the sword aloft while muttering magic. It takes a few moments – perhaps Valind objects – but a flame springs forth and now Berra has a light. She turns right, walking down the side of the herd, and the camp, at a brisk pace.
Small fire of the pickets is visible ahead and there is some rapid movement.2Passed Scan.
Berra dips the sword, and then raises and dips it again. What the signal means is hard to tell, but it’s a signal, at least. If it was a spear, it would probably be peaceful. She walks at an angle, not straight towards them.
Berra hears hoofs and can sense a mounted patrol spreading out in the dimness.
“Hail,” Berra calls out. “Me. Humakti Berra. Jarang’s Daughter!”
“Death-child? Why out.”
“My friend. Song-man with beard. Wandering. Does not know snow. Was he seen?” Berra walks that way, not breaking into a run, but going at the speed that keeps her from lagging when Rajar and Tiwr make her scurry.
There is chatter in Praxian.
Berra keeps walking, stopping at a polite distance away. “Fire sword,” she says, and holds it up, smiling. “Humakt.”
“He gone when we come, but Sing like Raven say he walk out to the plain, toward the Raven hill.” He points towards west. There is a hill on the plain with a rocky top (about 5km from camp) you have seen during these weeks.
“In snow? Clothes?” Berra grimaces, and flicks her sword, and lets the flame on it go out. Wind Tooth gets put to bed, right handed into the left sheath, with a professional lack of flourish. Even that movement leaves her ready to draw again on the instant.
The warrior just shrugs.
Berra bows. “Thank you,” she says in a calm voice.
He bows back.
Berra sets off back towards the camp, following the path others have made in the snow, stepping high to avoid kicking forwards, at a fast jog. She heads not to the yurt that most of them share, but to Mabana and Rajar’s.
Berra claps outside Rajar’s yurt, and calls, “Great fat warrior?” Her hand reaches to pull the entranceway open, although she does not do that until invited. It is, unfortunately, a local but important holy day of Eiritha. Mabana is dressed to be fertile.
Rajar emerges looking slightly flushed and holding a mug of Kumis. He’s wearing some sweat…3Rajar rolls to find out how…er…in the moment …things are
Berra looks Rajar up and down, with wry apology. “Uh, sorry. Xenofos has gone for a walk. I can ask Nala to come out with me. I think he’s gone to Raven Hill.” 5 kilometres away, with the cloud cover breaking up and the night getting colder. Right now there are a couple of inches of snow on the ground. “He left his spears behind. And he doesn’t often go out at night.”
Rajar stares at her for a while. “Do they drop them all on their heads when they are born in Esrolia?” He sighs and goes and gets dressed and armoured
“In libraries?” Berra twitches the tent door aside to call, “Sorry, Mabana!” While Rajar is dressing she goes to let Tiwr know, so Nala will know a few minutes later.
Rajar fetches Billy and his lance and shield.
Berra is already armed and getting onto Followed. She has made a bundle of a couple of spare hides. Xenofos’ javelins poke out of one end. “Just west,” she says. Varanis, heavily bundled against the cold, and her borrowed bison are with them. The Vingan is scowling and not in a conversational mood.
Rajar points Billy in the right direction. “Just going to fetch back the idiot pagan city dwelling soft folk with no sense,” he mutters to the warriors lounging toward the edge of camp.
“I got a couple of torches too,” Berra says. “What were you telling them? I heard ‘we go’.”
Rajar explains the word that means “the idiot pagan city dwelling soft folk with no sense” mjjjurkewwer.
Berra keeps her face straight. “Right. Got it.” After that she rides in silence, alert.
Billy ploughs through the weather heading directly to the hill. One by one, the stars light up. The wind has calmed. There is no moon but the fresh snow lights up the plain. Still, at sensible gait it takes about an hour to get to the foot of Raven hill. A landmark topped by some rocks. There is a pathway leading almost to the top that most bisons could go.
Berra mutters something halfway about how she wanted a quiet night. At the hill, she asks, “Should I dismount, go first, or do we just go straight up?” The question is for Rajar.
“Scouting is wise. Scream or yell or something if you need us.”
“Wait, we’re sending her up alone?” Varanis doesn’t sound excited by this idea.
“I’ll try to get a flaming sword up too.” Berra dismounts. “I’m a scout. I’ve done this before, in worse weather, and I didn’t have a sword then.” No snow is falling anymore. The wind is still. You can hear surface of snow breaking as the bisons walk forward.
“It’s not scouting if we all go. And Billy is not stealthy,” Rajar notes.
Varanis looks as though she wants to say more, but shuts up and nods instead.
Berra is a little figure in a dark cloak, against the snow. A moment or two later she steps off the path, and into rocks, and then she’s just gone. No sound of the little Humakti. No sight. Maybe here and there a rock moves, but it’s hard to tell and it’s dark.4Passed both Hide and Move Silently, plus Listen, but not Scan.
Quietly, Varanis tells Rajar, “I’m going to kill him if he’s hurt or dead.” She doesn’t seem to mind that her words don’t make a lot of sense.
Rajar nods. “If he’s got himself dead and offended my people’s hospitality I shall be…. Peeved. He is a good singer of songs and fought well against the death Lord. I would be sad to kill him.”
What Berra saw and heard.
Berra starts hearing voice sepeaking from somehwere higher, first words she can not quite hear, there is a short pause and then “Master of Truth and Death? Grant her glorious death. But please not just yet?”
Berra goes closer, so she can get onto the path and walk down it, clearing it for those about to follow.
There is low muttering, like a spell spoken quietly.
Berra steps onto the path at a point where she can see what is going on, crouched low.
A figure is between the rocks at the hilltop. He rises up waves his left hand around a bit and seems to stretch. Could be Xenofos, hard to tell in starlight and with that cloak and brimmed hat. Well he has a hat like that at least.
The figure starts descending the path.
Sure does look like Xenofos…
Berra slips down in front of Xenofos, aiming to hurry and get to a point she can hold against anyone who is not him, but not pushing too hard.
She gets downwards to a point where path meanders between two large rocks. Unhurried footsteps follow her, clear and audible in the cool night.
Berra waits between the rocks, once she has checked them.
Taller figure comes visible form behind the bend in the path and stops when noticing the hinder. “Who goes there?” comes a question in Esrolian accented Tradetalk as his hand seems to go for swordhilt.
“Berra. Come on.” The short little figure in the dark turns to walk downhill.
“Berra? What are you doing here?”
“Walking,” is all she says.
Time passes. It’s chilly. Just enough to freeze the previously wet snow. The Vingan shifts impatiently on her mount. The bison doesn’t appear to notice or care. “It’s been too long, Rajar. We should follow her.”5Special on Movement. Fail on survival.
Rajar pauses and sniffs the air.6Made sense chaos.
It smells like it could become seriously cold before morning but there does not seem to be chaos around. Rajar waits stoically. Varanis tries. She really, really tries.
“How long do we wait, Rajar?”
“At least for now.”
She peers into the darkness that swallowed Berra. “I don’t like this.”
More time passes. A cold zephyr plays momentarily in the area, and passes on. Varanis slides off her bison. There is sound of footsteps descending the path. Berra and Xenofos appear. A look of intense relief crosses the Vingan’s face. It’s swiftly replaced by a series of other emotions. Silently, she remounts her bison and turns back to camp.
“It was a bit rude to drag him from there. I was in no danger,” Xenofos comments to Berra.
“You are my responsibility.” Rajar has a good bass rumble to his voice.
“And there’s a single word in Praxian that means ‘pagan city dweller who doesn’t have sense and dies easily’.” Berra gives Xenofos a flat look.
The scholar bows to Rajar. “Thank you for coming then.” To Berra he says, “I needed to talk with gods and this place was the best I could think of.”
It’s going to be another hour to get back to camp at walking speed. Berra offers Xenofos the back of her bison to hitch on. He accepts the invitation.
Berra is not chatty on the way back, but she does keep up with Rajar, and at one point hops off Followed to climb onto Billy and ask, “Should I bring your wife something, tomorrow? Or is that not a good day for it?”
“I’m sure gifts are always good.”
There must be something in the air. Xenofos is not initiating conversation either. He responds if spoken to but most of the time lost in thoughts.
Back at the camp, the evening’s feast carries on with no real notice having been taken of the small search party. Most of the menfolk are eating and drinking in the Khan’s yurt. Few of the women are visible anywhere, but the sound of feminine voices lifted in eerie song comes from a couple of the yurts nearest the bison.
On their return, Varanis returns her bison to the herd. She then heads back to the shared yurt without waiting for the others.
Xenofos asks Berra if she needs with taking care of Followed after they return.
Berra does not say yes, but instead, “You can keep me company.”
He nods and asks, “What are you planning to do?”
“Take saddle off. Check bison. Go guard the women. You probably want to stop being with me at that point.”
Xenofos nods. He keeps Berra company for duration of the bison care and takes the opportunity to check that zebras are doing all right.
What Berra and Xenofos discussed
While she is checking Followed over, Berra is obviously distanced – different from distant. She is doing it on purpose. Here and there, now and again, frustration or exasperation well up and are pushed back down. 7 Xenofos passes insight human
After checking the zebras Xenofos turns to face Berra. “So, do you wish to say what is eating you or keep it to yourself?”
“It’s not eating me,” Berra says. “But why didn’t you take more weapons? And armour? If you’re going to be alone you should be armed and warm.”
He lifts his cloak and shows his cuirass and sword “I was armed. And not freezing too much.”
“More weapons. And a warm cloak. A spare. If the snow came down, you could have been out there for hours. If there are other clans about, you could have been hostage for years.”
She adds, “And a lot of food and a mount.”
He shrugs. “Other tribes are risk anyone being alone takes. “
“Yeah… you should have made sure we knew. I could have been on the far side of that hill for you. Prax kills. More than Sartar.” But she shrugs. “No red skin this time?”
“I don’t remember you or Varanis telling where you hang out for worship” He rubs Followed and his tone softens “But thank you for your concern. I should have told, so Rajar would have been saved that ride. No frostbite, no.”
“That’s because I don’t tell you. I tell the clan warriors so they’ll know if you need to find me.” Berra taps his shoulder with her fist. “I’m not telling you where. I’m telling you what a warrior says you should do, and what you should take with you.”
“I hear you.” He nods.
Berra finishes checking Followed’s legs for heat spots, and says, “You’re fine, you big snowy lump.” She is probably talking to the bison.
“So you are going to guard the women’s yurts?” he tilts his head towards the yurts where their song is coming from.
“Yeah. I get to be a warrior tonight, and I don’t much like singing. Not right now, anyhow.”
“Hmmmm. I may need to show my face at yurt of the khan… Thank you for coming after me. It was not really needed, but I guess you had no way of knowing it.”
“It’s the knowing, not the going.” Berra checks the hang of her weapons, and marches off.
Later, Varanis can be found among the warriors with Rajar. Dressed in a blue wool tunic and trousers, wearing Kallyr’s armring and various bits of gold, her smile is brittle. She tosses back the kumiss and joins in the story-telling and singing. Eventually the smile becomes genuine and she finally releases the tension that has run through her since Berra first returned without Xenofos.
After a while Xenofos arrives to the yurt of the khan. He is not brooding, but he is pretty quiet, nursing a single bowl of kumiss. He is still wearing armour over his woollen tunic. A napkin is wrapped over his left hand.
- 1Passed both Loyalty Clan to consider looking for him, and Movement to assume he can take care of himself.
- 2Passed Scan.
- 3Rajar rolls to find out how…er…in the moment …things are
- 4Passed both Hide and Move Silently, plus Listen, but not Scan.
- 5Special on Movement. Fail on survival.
- 6Made sense chaos.
- 7Xenofos passes insight human