Xenofos — No Mushrooms Please
????, Storm Season, Season/Harmony Week
Storm Season/Harmony Week/Clay Day/Late morning. [[[s02:session-23|Session 23]]]
Day after the restless night with weirdest of heroquests. Xenofos wakes up in deserted yurt with bad taste in his mouth.
He walks out to bright sunlight rubbing his temples.
Outside there is the tramp of loud footsteps, the clash of feet on the ground, the brightness of life going on, and despite the cold, the smell of Storm Bull having defeated Valind. This mostly smells like feisty bison, to be honest.
The snows melted away in the hot breath of Urox, although the chill returned when he was gone.
Xenofos shudders a bit but does not return for his hat. His eyes look for training ground to see if Varanis and Berra are there.
It might be he briefly checked the yelling herd of kids to see if Orgfal is running with them.
There is Orgfal, on his aunty’s hip, as Xenofos gets to the training ground. A few of the younger warriors are showing off to each other, and the boy is cheering them on.
Xenofos smiles a bit and looks for Varanis and Berra.
1 Xenofos passes scan and fails track
It is hard to spot a negative, and Berra is too short to be seen easily among crowds… but children do not wear armour, in general, and that stocky, confident-looking figure just departing the group of children is. She is just looking around, gaze about to fall on him…
Xenofos raises a hand in salute.
Berra does the same, and angles towards him. She gives him a smile and a once-over look.2(( Berra: Take an Insight roll. Or just look at her. Either’s good. Xenofos
Failed insight: What a cute smile.))
Her eyes are bright. She looks well rested. “Good morning. You looked like you needed sleep, so we left you to it.”
“That might have been kind. I was up at night, nauseous.” scholar answers. Berra might notice that although he has his sword on his hip he is not armored up for morning practice.
Berra grimaces. “Sorry ’bout that.” She steps back to let him move, or else fall into step with her as she walks. “Varanis and I played for a bit. She had some sort of really vivid dream but I wasn’t really listening. I’m trying to work out how to behave in New Pavis again. It’s almost time to be moving on.”
“I see” Xenofos is not quite looking at Orgfal. “You think weather would make it safe enough for now?”
“Not really. Not quite. But as long as we stay out of the river beds, we should be fine. And off anything that floods suddenly. We should not go without people who know the plains.” Berra shrugs, like danger goes with life.
“Do we need to go to Pavis? I would rather not give the Black Fang a new chance.”
“She wants to. And we said we’d be back. And also apparently Khan Argrath is in some sort of trouble and Nala wants to go back. Needs to. But we haven’t found her yet. I think she’s with the shaman.”
“Quite.” He shrugs. “Easier to forget other peoples promises I guess.”
“I want to be going West as well. I think we all do.” Berra steps aside as Orgfal bison-gallops between them and around Xenofos. The small boy is yelling ‘clup clup’ for the hooves.
He smiles a bit “After your little debacle of stolen Death was over I found staying here quite restful. I could get used to nobody actively trying to kill you two.”
Then he shrugs ” I know that is not to be, though.”
Berra’s smile is deeply amused. “I could. For a bit.” She dodges Orgfal’s attempt to grab her leg. “But not for long. I thought I could, but I can’t. Found out last year.”
“I know. And not Varanis either. At least not here. Maybe in Sartar, but that almost by definition means strife.”
“Home. It means home.” Berra gets grabbed, and with patience she does not show to older people, just stays still. “Of course, home’s a nice place to have and set off from.”
It is later in the morning, after they sparred. Berra is just being attacked by Orgfal, who is holding her leg still. Xenofos, armed but unarmoured, is with her. An aunt hovers nearby, but not close enough for eavesdropping.
Varanis drifts in, smiling and relaxed. She’s armoured, but in the Praxian kit. Her hair is escaping her attempts to confine it in a knot. Again.
Whatever Orgfal is shouting, he really means it.
Berra raises a hand to Varanis, in easy greeting. Being captured has not stopped her from being alert.
Varanis arches an eyebrow at Xenofos, a silent query. She returns Berra’s wave.
“Good morning Varanis!” scribes salute is cheerful but he does look a bit greenish, like he was having a hangover.
“Good morning, cousin.” Politely, she doesn’t mention his apparent illness. “What has Berra done to provoke the wrath of this fine warrior?”
Berra shrugs. Orgfal burbles something at Xenofos.
The aunt, in the background, looks faintly shocked, then amused.
Xenofos shrugs. “It might be I am reason for that outburst Berra is subjected to. That is Neela’s son.”
“Oh, hello,” Berra says to Orgfal, and gives him a wave. He tells her something, imperiously.
Given the relative sizes of a grown Bison warrior, and a grown Sartarite Humakti, he is a lot closer to hugging her waist than another child of his age would be, but he is still definitely clinging onto the thigh. Berra, other than keeping an eye out around her, is apparently unworried.
Orgfal, bison warrior – stop. Varanis doesn’t have many Praxian words, but she strings together a few of the ones she has learned in hopes of catching the child’s attention.
looks at the serious little warrior with half amused half serious expression, mainly hidden behind his beard.3 Xenofos fails Praxian roll, Varanis passes
<< I raid wife! >> Orgfal looks very proud.
Varanis smothers a giggle behind her hand. She takes a deep breath to school her features.
Berra says, “I’m pretty sure this isn’t wrath. I think he likes me?” She looks unsure, but not angry.
“I’d say so. How do you feel about getting married?” The grin is trying to break free. The sparkle in her eyes is giving her away.
“Um, pretty badly?” Berra looks up at Varanis, confused.
Xenofos raises an eyebrow at Varanis.
Varanis puts a serious expression on her face and speaks to the child. Orgfal – Berra Humakti. No good wife.
Orgfal says happily, <<I raided. Am big man. Make her fat.>>
Berra fails to follow, but shrugs to Xenofos. “Something about me and…” And trails off. “So anyhow. I’m thinking maybe Humakt could answer me about the Black Fang.” Straight from one potential disasterblurt into another.
The Vingan takes another steadying breath. You big man, yes. Berra not like woman. Berra raid. Berra fight. She keeps her expression serious, warrior to warrior.
Orgfal considers his future options and then looks up at Xenofos, suspiciously. <<True?, Xefos?>>
At the mention of the Black Fang, Varanis’ eyes dart to Berra’s face, but she returns her attention to Orgfal.
Xenofos looks at Varanis with question in his eyes.
“I told him Berra is like a man. She raids and fights. Not good wife material. At least…. that’s what I tried to say.”
“What did he ask?”
“He asked if I was telling him the truth, I think.”
She wrinkles her nose. “People in his family should really believe me more.” She doesn’t seem to be serious in her complaint.
Orgfal loosens his grip on Berra, to put one hand on his hip, standing just like Manjaro does when counting his herd or reciting deeds of warriors who are still living. A handful of Berra’s armour padding stays in his grip.
Xenofos looks at the little warrior and twirls his moustache. “Varanis is a Khan. She speaks with one voice only.” 4(failed my double Praxian skill though .)
Varanis rolls her eyes at her cousin. “Keep it simple! Just say: Varanis speaks true.“
Orgfal demands, <<True?>> in trade-talk, like a Khan should, if he is three and speaking to foreigners.
Xenofos looks at him << True.>> with a steady voice.
Orgfal lets go of Berra and looks up at her in puzzlement. << Smoll! >>
Berra just stares at him. Perplexed, maybe, or dumbfounded.
Varanis grins. <<Small, but brave and skilled. Berra is a good warrior. Orgfal will be too.>>
Orgfal nods, and turns to Xenofos. <<I got a bison calf.>> Crisis averted, it seems.
Xenofos looks at Orgfal with a politely confused look.
Orgfal offers him a hand, as the aunt sweeps in to offer him a way out.
Xenofos takes the little hand without pausing to think.
Orgfal presses a small wooden bison into it. << Is for you! >> One of his treasured toys. It has galloped all around the floor of his yurt.
Berra gives Varanis a slightly disturbed look, and brushes off her leg.
The Vingan just shrugs.
Xenofos looks at the bison.
Xenofos looks at the boy quite seriously.
Varanis looks up sharply. A large bison warrior is approaching purposefully from the part of the camp that lies behind Berra. Varanis has spent a lot of time in the company of this man in recent weeks. Right now, she doesn’t look certain she’s happy to see him though.
The aunt pauses. She’s one of the twins, probably a close blood relative of Orgfal.
“Give me a moment,” Varanis says. “It looks like my last conversation with Dakajeel might need revisiting.” She steps past Berra to meet the man who has made an appearance so suddenly.
Berra looks around, looks confused, and then settles to looking like she could wait forever, watching Xenofos and Orgfal.
<<Gift deserves a return gift. Xenofos has no herd so he gives this.>> He takes a little gold ring from his finger. <<It may help you get an axe one day, so do not lose it.>>
Varanis catches a bit of Xenofos’ exchange with the child, nods her approval, then walks away [http://journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/varanis:1626-0934-endings to meet the warrior]. She redirects him away from the others at a brisk pace.
Berra looks impressed, maybe softened, as Orgfal shows his aunt what he has, and the aunt sweeps him up and gives Xenofos a big-eyed look.
Xenofos shows the small bison “Start of my herd? But men do not have herds.”
“Don’t they? I thought they did. I mean, Rajar’s got Bison…” Berra’s confused now. “Or else maybe someone had better tell Billy he belongs to Mabana now.”
“Maybe riding and warbeasts…” Xenofos smiles at Berra “and we do not want to confuse Billy.”
“He might fall over.” Berra steps away from Orgfal, who is excitedly showing his new shiny thing to his aunt. “Can we get away before I end up caught again? Small children can be really fierce.”
“Indeed” He looks over to Varanis. “She might need help, but I am pretty sure it would not be appreciated.”
“I guess everyone’s saying goodbyes. That looked like one of the men she was hanging around with.” Berra starts walking the way they were already going. “She doesn’t need us right now, and you’re right. Not appreciated. Liked.” She tastes the longer word and decides on the shorter one.
“Have you set a date with Varanis?”
“Uhhh… for what?”
“For our departure. Travelling.”
“Oh, right, no. No, I need to ask Rajar about bison travelling for that. He should do the deciding.”
“Tell me when you know.” He looks around. “I might need to talk with someone too before we ride out.”
“Of course. But it won’t be quick to pack and stuff.” Berra hardly unpacks, which helps in migrating her belongings around the yurt.
Perhaps surprisingly (or not), Varanis’ belongings have stayed tidy and mostly packed since the day she lost her temper with Xenofos and packed it all.
Xenofos gives her a disbelieving look. “Indeed, might take a whole hour to saddle up.”
“And say goodbyes. That’s official – we’re guests. So you’ll have that much warning, anyhow. And everyone’ll know.” She gives him a nose-wrinkle in return.
“Better find something to eat – now – then. And this time not anything shared by the shaman.”
“Oh? That sounds … bad. I could cook you up some of the salt cactus and jerky, or we can go find someone who likes cooking and I’ll tell them you’re in need.”
“Cactus and jerky sounds like this morning. Is cactus not a veggie though?”
“Yeaaaaah? But I don’t have to eat. I ate a bit already today. It’s almost Yelm-rule.”
“In that case I could just bite some jerky… As long as their is salt.” His smile is a bit tired.
“I have some. And hot drinks are fine, even if they were made with vegetables, if I’m not eating them, but not even a really thin soup…” Berra wanders off with Xenofos, already digging in one of her pouches for bison jerky and with her attention already sliding off elsewhere.
Varanis intercepts them as they make their way across camp. She’s left Dakajeel somewhere else.
Xenofos is chewing on a bit of jerky and nods as his cousin appears.
Berra is cutting off tiny bits of jerky with a knife, rather than chewing all at once. She bows slightly to Varanis, halfway back to professional.
“I need to talk to you about something,” the Vingan says. “It might be urgent, but I’m not sure.”
Berra looks around. “Here? Yurt? Walk?” Then she offers food. “Jerky?”
Scribe nods, continues chewing and shows he is unable to talk at the moment.
“Walk, I think. I need to be moving.” She absently accepts the piece of jerky, but doesn’t eat it. “The night of the Eirithan feast…”
Berra falls into step, gesturing a way through the camp. “Out thatta way and we can go look at the herds and that’s just a group of us walking.”
Varanis nods. She stares into the distance, not really looking where they are going, but not looking at her companions either. “I’d been drinking too much,” she admits. “And my memory is a bit fuzzy about some of the details.”
Xenofos raises an eyebrow as he continues to chew through the leathery fare.
“Happens.” Berra shrugs, putting the dried meat away.
“I think it may be happening too often. I stopped drinking after… well. I stopped drinking a while ago and then somehow in these last few seasons, I’ve started again. But that’s not the point. I think I remember having a conversation with Nala about Argrath.”
Xenofos has finally gone through the jerky “After you quit lumiviiva?”
“No, something else. Just listen.”Berra admonishes Xenofos.
The look Varanis directs at Berra conveys silent thanks. “I think something is wrong with Argrath. And I believe Nala knows something about it but can’t or won’t tell me more.”
“Mm. Well, bother. Is this something for us to deal with?” Berra looks mostly like she is volunteering, a little cautious.
Another raised eyebrow. “Is this something we should get involved with?” asks the scribe.
“What if it’s more Lunar magics, like with Kallyr?” Varanis counters. “We have some experience with that and could offer help.”
“We should. It’s a worthy cause.” Berra shrugs. “We can always offer.”
“Is it against your commitment to Kallyr?” Xenofos asks, but then shrugs. “Whatever you choose I follow. But do not dash in blindly, please.”
“It may mean we are delayed getting back to Sartar.” She brushes a loose lock of hair behind her ear and turns her troubled gaze on her cousin. “Kallyr hasn’t given us any guidance. She only sent us away.”
“Pretty much that, yeah.” Berra nods in agreement with Xenofos.
“But she didn’t send us away. Not by telling us. Remember that.” Berra gives Varanis a stern look.
“You have accepted her as your Prince and given your fealty.” He looks at both. “But I do remember you have sworn loyalty to White Bull too.”
Varanis shrugs. “She let others do it then.” Turning to Xenofos she adds, “They act for the same cause. To drive the Lunars back. There’s no conflict of loyalty here.”
Berra bites back on what she might have said.
“Are you sure?” Xenofos asks “Wolfpirates fought Lunars. Would you aid Harrek?”
Varanis looks at Berra, “You think I’m wrong about her?” To Xenofos, she says, “No. That’s different. Harrek is a monster. Argrath is a true leader.”5 Berra does not believe in the same facts as Varanis.
“I think we were sent away because we were vulnerable. Could have hurt anyone in being hurt. Lord D’Val was probably giving us advice from Lord Eril.” Berra shrugs. “Not the same thing.”
“What I am saying is that while fighting Lunar’s is commendable it does not make a person good or even fighting for good. Just fighting the Empire.” Xenofos says, shrugging again.”But I am a simple man. I can give loyalty to one liege only.”
Varanis turns a sharp gaze on her cousin. “You think I was wrong to divide my loyalties. You weren’t there when he summoned Jaldon Goldentooth. It was…” Words fail her as she thinks back on the events of that year. She shakes her head, as if to clear it. “There’s something about him. But even so, Kallyr is my prince.” 6Checked loyalties against each other. Kallyr and Sartar won against Argrath, this time
Berra sighs, slowly. “There is, but two people can be on the same side and disagree, or both mean well and end up fighting.” She shrugs, unable to find other words, or unwilling to say them.
Xenofos raises his hand. “If you can do it. I could not. I really do not want to end in a situation where I must leave one of my vows unfilled because they conflict.”
He looks at Berra and adds after a pause “I think Berra did put it rather well.”
“What’s done is done. The matter at hand is whether or not we push Nala for the truth and what we do with the information we have.” It’s not that Varanis is dismissing Xenofos’ concerns. Rather, her tone would imply she thinks there are more important things to worry about.
He shrugs. “Once the word has been given it rarely can be taken back with honor. It binds you since it has been given.”
“We should find out as much as we can about what’s going on. No matter why, it’s always better to know than not to. Then we’ll have more information to do with.” Berra runs that over in her head for a moment. “To do things with.”
“So, how do we get Nala to talk to us? It may have been the kumiss, but I really think she was being evasive with me, if not quite dishonest.”
“Do we? Or do we ask Tiwr?” ponders Berra.
“Ask her what is happening and make it clear that honesty is required if she wants assistance?”
“If that happened to me, I’d refuse just so I could refuse, though,” Berra tells Xenofos.
“I’m not going through Tiwr. Last time I did that, everyone was mad at me for weeks.”
“Yeah, but we don’t go with alcohol… but I think you’re right. If it’s her secret, or she thinks it is…” Berra then remembers to stop looking at Xenofos, and looks back at Varanis.
Xenofos rubs his temple. “Lack of honesty is confusing. But true, I do not tell everything I know to everyone.”
“Maybe Rajar? She will always see us as outsiders, but at least Rajar is a Praxian. Maybe she will trust him,” Varanis suggests.
“He’s a White Bull too,” Berra says helpfully.
“So am I,” Varanis points out. “But that doesn’t matter. Nala will never trust me.”
The little Humakti unbuckles her water pouch to hand it to Xenofos, without looking that way. “That was what I meant by ‘too’. Sort of. I think. I said it and then it mostly vanished.”
Xenofos takes the bottle thankfully and rinses his mouth.
“She did help without been asked to when I was in trouble, but then tried dishonestly maneuver me to travel to Prax, something I had never promised to do.”
Varanis suddenly rediscovers the jerky in her hand and stares at it dubiously. She curses in Praxian. “Rajar is going to make me live off trail food again, isn’t he?”
“She didn’t know you sending her a letter wasn’t her being mocked. I don’t think she knows how that sort of things works,” Berra says. “And yeah, probably. You have to learn to be careful by habit.”
“It was a reponse to her letter” Xenofos says “But for me this is not about her but Varanis’ commitment to White Bull”
“Even when the cage is portable, it’s still a cage,” Varanis replies, resentment and frustration shading her words.
“Dead is dead, and hard to come back from,” Berra counters.
“It is something you must bear if you go to place where Black Fang is active…” Xenofos adds.
“My commitment to the White Bull is probably meaningless from Nala’s perspective.” She glances sideways at Berra. “But living in a cage isn’t really living, is it?”
“Yes, because then you can break out and make people suffer for putting you there. If you put me in a cage, twenty years later, you’d better still look out for me. A cage never lasts, but living does.” Berra looks back, direct. Back at Varanis – and up.
“Living does not. Death does.” Scholar says gloomily.
Earlier in the day, Varanis had been looking relaxed. That’s gone now. The set of her shoulders and the way her long fingers are shredding the strip of jerky are clear indications of how little she’s looking forward to living under so many restrictions again.
“I do not know if it is possible at all, but travelling to Pavis might allow to hunt down the assassins. It is not a town we know so it would be challenging.” Xenofos says looking at Varanis appraisingly.
“Suuraki introduced me to a Waha shaman who was going to send me on a vision quest to look for an answer to that question,” she replies. “For obvious reasons, that was delayed. It’s worth visiting him again though.”
“It’s not a cage, I think. It’s what we carry. What we do, makes it so others can be easier. It just feels like a cage.” Berra’s Esrolian is accompanied by a lot of gestures.
“Not different from armor. It weighs. Can be uncomfortable. But you use it because you are noble and fight.” Scholar looks at Varanis and Berra. “I am suspicious of a shaman who does not live with his tribe though.”
Varanis studies them both. “I hear what you are saying,” she replies at last. “I will think about it. And Xenofos, he lives in his temple. Suuraki trusts him, and I think Suuraki is reliable.”
Berra looks sympathetic. “With luck, we won’t be staying long, and we can go back to Boldhome afterwards. And whatever happens, we face it once we get there.”
Xenofos nods. “Hunting assassins may detract from aiding Argrath or returning to Kallyr, but attacks against you are kind of a personal matter, cousin… Mylady.”
Varanis sighs. “Once again, I’m torn in too many directions. Focusing on the assassins may get them off my back, but is it selfish to focus on that when there are more important issues at hand?”
“If your issues require your presence in Pavis it may become a priority if you want to attend to other matters at all.” Xenofos notes.
“It’s not selfish, because it’s vital to stay alive to do the other things,” Berra says.
Varanis nods thoughtfully. “Right now, we are borrowing trouble. Let’s focus. We need to find out whether or not we can help Argrath. To do that, Nala needs to talk. I think Rajar is our best bet for that. If we can’t help her to help him, then so be it. But, we don’t know what’s going on right now, so we can’t make an informed decision. If it turns out we are needed in Pavis, then we can decide what to do about the Black Fang. I should ask Suuraki if they are likely to pursue me outside of Pavis, or if they are only a risk while I’m in the city.”
Berra nods. “I should be able to ask at the Temple about them. They’ll know more by now. By when we get back.”
“That sounds logical, Varanis.” scholar admits to his cousin. 7 Varanis crits insight: Berra fails. Whereas previously Xenofos has always sounded really convinced when saying logical, he now seems a bit hesitant when he says the word.
Varanis gives her cousin a considering look and for a moment, it looks like she might say something. Her gaze flicks to Berra, then back to Xenofos and finally she simply nods her acceptance of what both have said.
“And we need to ask Rajar when we’re setting off. He knows how bison can travel. It’ll be wet and we want to stay away from the rivers, but that’s about all I know.” Berra takes a swig of her own water, and offers it over to Varanis.
Wrinkling her aristocratic nose, Varanis comments, “I hate travelling in the wet. But it’s better than snow, I suppose.”
“Sort of. I… have you … well, I … have you ever seen Storm Season in a hilly area? I think it gets like that, but without the hills. I mean, a lot of water, all at once.” Berra looks a bit unsure.
“Not really campaign season.” former cavalryman says.
“Generally speaking, I have spent Storm Season in Esrolia. It’s wet. A lot of rain. But, it’s steady, rather than all at once. All at once sounds… worrying.” Varanis stares at the herd. “The animals must be used to it, right?”
“Um… Imagine the rivers are this high.” Berra taps her knee. “And that’s if you’re a mile away from them. Or fast. The ground’s wet and it’s weird and I don’t understand it, but I know what a flooded river can do.”8Insight: She knows personally what a flooded river can do, and for a moment it clouds her mood.
Varanis looks thoughtful. “It’s good we have people who know the land then.” She falls silent as they continue their walk around the herd, lost in thoughts she doesn’t feel the need to share.