Reunions in Light (via chat with Veshenga’s player)
It was later in the evening when Veshenga wandered into the Commander’s office. No longer a scene of destruction, nor decorated as a lamia’s boudoir, the room was currently in a very uncluttered state. Only a desk, piled high with papers, marred the clean lines of the room. That, and what at first glance was a bearskin rug flopped out in front of the roaring fire. At the desk, light from the fire and several candles glistened on the older Varisian woman’s bent head, showing off new streaks of gray. As Veshenga crossed the threshold, the “rug” glanced up and rumbled a greeting.
Veshenga reached out to Kibb as she crossed into the room. He was given a rub behind his ears, and Veshenga glanced at the woman behind the desk. There were new lines of gray in her hair, her calm face was stooped away from the candle-light for the most part. There were still some features available to see. Just seeing her face set Veshenga at ease. She could not describe the sensation, or even why it was there. “I hope I em not disturbing you, Commander.” Veshenga spoke up softly, she did not want to be intrusive. “I wanted to see you before the night was out. We leave tomorrow.” Veshenga’s eyes wandered, the new chamber really was nice and different. She felt at home here with the Commander.
The Commander finished writing something on a paper, then looked up at Veshenga with a smile. Dark, human eyes met hers from across the room, distraction from the fact that her face was otherwise like a mirror for Veshenga’s own. Perhaps that was why she had not noticed it months ago. “Not at all. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it down. Running this place turns out to be more work than I’d expected,” she glanced at the half-elven woman’s clothing, not quite disturbed as they would be from the ride to the fort, “I was going to ask if Vale took care of you, but…” she grinned, more peace and warm emotion displayed in fewer words than Veshenga had seen during the entire previous ordeal at the fort.
Veshenga was fast to cancel any gape that could have come from the Commander’s comments, and instead beamed broadly as she released an embarrassed titter. “Well, I suppose you could say that,” she cleared her throat, and moved a little deeper into the room. She adjusted her tunic momentarily. “You appear well!” She recovered from her blush, opened her arms to the Commander. “I wish I could be at peace like you,” she shook her head, that smile faded as the gray in the Commander’s hair, “but my mind is heavy, Commander.” She barely knew this woman, why was she confiding in her?
The woman pushed the documents to the side and gestured with a practiced grace to a wooden chair placed in front of the desk. She was clearly used to having these kinds of talks with the men, or at least so she thought. “It’s a peace born of routine, dear. It’s amazing how fast the mind adjusts back to normalcy. What’s on your mind?”
Veshenga eyed the chair guardedly, glanced the Commander’s way, thought about it another second more and snagged the seat. She was not really sure – “Where to start,” Veshenga smiled nervously. “All of these farewells. I never really thought about what could happen if I never cem’ back from these… adventures. What I would be missing,” she rubbed the back of her neck, she was cringing. “Who I would be missing. I could not even bring myself to say good bye to my own father right. Well, he’s… not my father, but he’s my father,” she shook her head, dismissed the foggy tangent. “It’s a long story…”
Tessa leaned back and nodded for Veshenga to go on. Her eyes betrayed a growing experience with serving as a sounding board for young recruits, but she was warring with an inkling that it was, however, strange for the half-elf to confide in her this way.
“I,” her hands wrestled loosely with one another, they were restlessly rolling together, “lost my mother. My father was not my father, he was her friend. My mother was trying to save me, and so was he. He has raised me since.” Veshenga’s gaze was distant, her voice different. That merriment gone, instead there was a distracted imagery to her words. “I wonder how I would be missed if like her I never cem’ back. Who would be left behind. What Vale would feel. What father would feel. And more than that, I don’t want to leave them. I want to stay, but this has to be done. And for once the way for me is cloudy,” she narrowed her eyes, “and filled with so much doubt.”
She nodded, something about the tale bothered her… called to memories long buried. But the ranger rolled cleanly into the advice of a long time leader. “At some point, we all made a choice to give up the illusion of safety. Of turning our backs on the world to be with our loved ones. Everyone here has made that choice. Some because they knew that their actions had repercussions, choosing to commit crimes that led them here. Others, because they knew that the right choice was the hard choice,” she winces a little bit at this, clearly indicative of which story is her own. “You already made your choice when you started walking the path Desna and Erastil set before you. You can stop moving, but you can’t ever leave the road until you reach your destination.”
“You’re right…” Veshenga was not bright like Balehk, not even like Vale was. She could not have crafted items like Balehk, or breathed life into a ruin like Vale had. But she was a keen woman, and observant. Her smarts lay elsewhere, and such a wit had noted the Commander’s reactions. “I know you are right.” Veshenga took a steady breath, she knew her question was a personal one. “What was your choice?”
Tessa was caught out. Veshenga saw a flash of the walls trying to slam back down. To protect the still-broken core of the woman’s soul. But the question was fast enough, on the heels of doubt and memory, such that her lips were moving obviously before she could restrain them, “I gave up my last ounce of happiness trying to save it. But I failed. All I can do now is try to stop anyone from having to go through what I did.”
Veshenga was caught off-guard now, a surge of empathy, and an understanding she found difficult to place. Before she could recover, her eyes filled with tears. She shifted in her seat, no position was comfortable. Her own skin felt tight, her heart was slamming in her chest. No matter what she did, the tears eventually tumbled. She did not wipe them away, she did not want to acknowledge them.
“My father Danel gev’ me a family, Vale gev’ me a heart, my friends a home… I cannot stop until I know they are all safe. I suppose I will hev’ to find a way to not be so afraid, eh?” She stood from the chair. “In the end, I will say it was you that gev’ me this bravery,” she smiled sadly, and her eye contact faltered. “I hev’ kept your time, I do apologize.”
The woman had tried to pull back only to be baffled by the tears. On the verge of comprehension, she stood, staggering, having to brace herself against the desk, “Your father who ?”
Veshenga had turned to go, but stopped. Her head slowly turned, and those blue eyes probed the Commander’s bewildered look. “… My father? Danel.” She turned more fully to face her, instead of peering over her shoulder.
The woman was shaking, the urge to protect herself visibly at war with a hope that had burned her every time it had been allowed to shine in the past. Speech long polished to fit in with a predominantly Chelish organization began to fall away into a Varisian dialect, different from Veshenga’s but very close to her father’s. “Jour accent is Mierani. It must be. Vhere is your caravan from!?”
The change was startling to Veshenga, who retreated. She was on her guard, she was not sure what was happening with the Commander. Her emotional and vocal shift, however, set Veshenga’s heart to thundering again. She was caught up in the woman’s reaction. “Your voice,” she said, her own accent a faint echo of hers, “is changed,” she stammered, but righted her speech. “Beyond Riddleport, we camp near the Mierani Forest border.”
“But Danel is a family name from my tribe… vhy vould that be jour father’s name?”
Many Varisians were lost, in one form or a grim other, when the Korvosa patrols attacked, she remembered that part of Danel’s story. She could have been one of the many lost. Still, something was happening here in the office, something Veshenga was unprepared for. “Because Danel Tranger is my father. He rescued me from a Korvosan attack, he raised me. You,” she approached the Commander now, “you knew my father?”
The Commander fell to her elbows at her desk, weeping as she caught herself.
“Commander,” Veshenga said, unsure exactly how to proceed. She walked around her chair, and reached across the desk for her. It was an instant that passed, and in that instant, the Commander was around the desk and in Veshenga’s face. She grabbed her shoulders and shook. Tears flowed freely, “It can’t be. He is dead. Zhey are all dead. How old are you!?”
Veshenga held her, eyes pleaded with the Commander’s. “Almost thirty, uh, twenty-nine,” she answered swiftly, in the rush of the occurrence nearly forgetting her own age. “How did you know my father!? Answer me! Please!“
Tear-blurred eyes stared at the half-elven girl, finally seeing, her frantic rhythm slowing, “He vas my friend. I gave him my baby girl to protect. I thought zhey only vanted me. I thought I could save zhem, that it vas the only way. But zhey showed me things at my trial. So many pieces of proof to break me. Get me to confess to killing him. To confess to killing jour father. Zhey told me you were dead,” huge wracking sobs broke her cadence, and shook Veshenga as the woman braced herself against her shoulders, “And I, a fool, for thirty years, believed zhem.”
Veshenga was stunned and silent for only a second. Suddenly, she grabbed the Commander’s face and held it up to her. There. She could see it, too. It really was like looking in a mirror. Small differences, but those hardly mattered. Veshenga was torn between smiling and screaming. She touched the Commander’s face. She touched her mother’s face. She held her shoulders now, and burst into tears. “I’m here,” she said as her mother collapsed against her. “I’m right here,” Veshenga held her tightly, her arms braided around her shoulders, secured her close to her heart. “You are a miracle to me here,” she wept, and she bowed her face into Tessa’s dark hair. “I thought you were dead, I thought I would never see you again,” she shook with her own sobs, her embrace tightened, her voice broke. “I thought I would never see you again…”
Kibb, nodding to himself in his very ursine way, pushed to his massive feet, walked across the room to nudge the door closed. He flopped down to keep it closed, giving the two women privacy as they sat in the middle of the fire lit room.
Sobbing into her daughter’s shoulder, Tessa Andrima managed to say, “My little Quida. My own little Quida.”