Xenofos — Parting Glass
????, Storm Season, Season/Disorder Week
Storm Season/Disorder Week/Fire Day/Morning, before the official farewells at yurt of the Khan. [[[s02:session-25|Session 25]]]
After singing a ballad of flowers accompanied by his cithara Xenofos packed his instrument away. He seemed a bit absentminded when answering to Varanis. After a short discussion he muttered something about checking the zebras and vanished.
His steps take him toward the corral where his mount and Zukko are waiting. His eyes seem more intent in scanning the camp than trying to see the mounts.
For once, his cousin’s feline curiosity does not get the better of her. She’s too busy making sure everything is cleared out of the yurt.
But other eyes watch Xenofos’ movements.
Zukko and Xenofos’ Stripey do get checked. But it looks like his heart is not in the task.
Neither zebra has injuries in their legs and Xenofos deems them well enough fed and watered for the journey.
It feels like someone is watching him, but looking around he can’t seem to spy the watcher.
Xenofos tells Zukko it better get used to walking whole days again and looks around. He wonders idly which bison might end up being Rajar’s new mount and decides to see how Orgfal’s calf is doing.
Orgfal and his mother are watching the calf work with Dalena. At least, Orgfal is. Neela is watching Xenofos.
Xenofos looks hardly battered at all. There is a new scar on his face, but he has gotten rid of all the blood and made himself as presentable as is possible without a barber and a bath, no doubt for the khan’s farewell ceremonies.
He greets Neela with a handwave and walks closer.
She acknowledges the wave with a nod. Orgfal spots the Esrolian and charges him.
Orgfal squeals with glee as he dashes past the scribe’s outstretched hands and crashes into his legs. “Prisoner!” he yells.
“You think so? But what is your calf doing now?” Xenofos tries to distract the lad, showing his subtle skills at intrigue.
He is looking at Neela. Not the boy or the calf.
Orglaf grabs Xenofos by the hand and pulls him over to where he was watching his bison calf. This puts him directly beside Neela.
“Neela” he says softly and nods to her.
She greets him softly. “You leave today.” It’s not a question. The whole camp knows they are leaving. But there’s a certain amount of wistfulness intertwined with acceptance. Goodbye was inevitable and anyway, she’d asked him for just one night and that’s what they had shared.
“Yes. For Paps and then I don’t know, but eventually for Sartar” Scholar says his voice quiet, smile wary “I hoped I would see you today.”
She arches an elegant eyebrow at him. “Why?”
“To bid farewell, Neela.” He replies. “I would not… sneak out.” He adds hesitantly.
She nods. “Farewell, X’fos. I think I am glad we met.” She truly is a beautiful woman, though her smile, usually warm and welcoming, is sad today.
“I am glad we met. And sad also.” He looks at the herd and then back at Neela bringing his palm over his heart “I will carry your memory with me.”
She reaches out to lay gentle fingers on his cheek. The touch is feather light and intimate.1 for once Xenofos failed his fertility roll in her presence so he manages to hold his composure
“I have a small parting gift… if you would accept it.” Xenofos says.
She lets her hand drop to her side. After a moment’s hesitation, she nods.
He takes one of his silver armrings and presses it into her hand holding it gently between his hands. “This carries Snake of Saiciae, my clan. I wish it can stay here when I must ride on.”
Her eyes widen at the generosity of his gift and her gaze flies to his, searching for something. For a moment, she stiffens. Whatever it is that she sees in his face eases the tension and finally she nods her acceptance. “I will keep it safe, X’fos.”
“I sworn Redwind and do not know where her ride will take her – and me. But if you need to reach me, Issarians can probably get the word to my cousin Irillo who will know where Varanis is. If you need aid and my khan does not need my sword I will try to come. If I am dead showing that ring will tell Saiciae you were my friend.”
“Friend,” she says, trying out the word. “Is that what I am? Be well, X’fos. I worry that Redwind will lead you to an early the word she uses doesn’t translate into Tradetalk, but refers to the Praxian funerary practice of exposing a body to the elements.” She studies his face intently, as though committing it to memory. Then she turns away, taking a reluctant Orgfal by the hand.
“Be well. I hope you can be happy.” Xenofos says very quietly to her back.
Orgfal yanks his hand free from his mother’s and runs for the Esrolian. He trips en route and falls face first. There’s a momentary hush as the child contemplates crying.
Xenofos kneels down and lifts the little warrior up.
Orgfal’s lip wobbles and he holds his hands out to show Xenofos the mud on them. Of course, his entire front was muddy and now the scribe is too. Neela rushes up, reaching to take him. “I’m sorry. Orgfal,” she switches into Praxian as she soothes the child.
“No blood? No hurt Orgfal.” He looks at the gray eyes of the mother again. “More than a friend I suppose. Not a sister anymore, Neela. But I hope friend, too.”
“No blood. No hurt,” the child repeats the words. “X’fos good frend. Like X’fos.” Happily, Orgfal pats the Esrolian on the cheek. Seeing the mud he smeared, Orgfal giggles and grabs for the beard.
Neela looks torn between bursting into laughter and worrying about Xenofos’ dignity.
Xenofos takes off one of the green ribbons and gives it to Neela. “Tell your mother to put that into your beard, but she can keep it now so it does not become muddy. I will miss you Orgfal. Become strong warrior like Majaro and your uncle.”
The child looks confused. Those were a lot of foreign words, but he recognizes and latches onto some of the last ones. “Orgfal strong! Orgfal warrior! Rawr!” He twists and pushes away, ready to be set down.
Xenofos puts him down and tussles his hair.
“Orgfal is not the only one I will miss, Neela” he says quietly.
“Why you make this hard?” Neela asks. “Say goodbye. Leave. You cannot love me, but you say you will miss me? Sometimes the cut must be quick to be kind.” Her eyes glisten with unshed tears. The silver armring is clutched tightly in both hands.
Orgfal ignores the adults to dash about in circles fighting imaginary foes.
Xenofos looks at her with resigned look. “Because I cannot lie even when it would be kinder. And fail to remain silent when it would be wiser. It was selfish from me. I just did not want to leave with you thinking me callous, to not care. But you are right. I am not staying and me talking or wishing it could be otherwise will not change that. Fare well Neela. I hope you will be happy.”2 fail harmony pass truth
“Fare well, X’fos. May Eiritha bring you blessings.” With that, she catches Orgal up into her arms, handing him the armring as a distraction. She does not look back as she walks away.
Xenofos watches them disappear. He remains there for long while.
In general jubilation it is not noticed that the scribe appears pretty late and with traces of mud on front of his tunic.