Berra — A Mans World
1627, Sea Season, Disorder Week
Sea Season, Disorder Week, around Clayday maybe. [[[s02:session-30|Session 30]]]
Only a few hours have passed since Rajar finally fell asleep and the common room became still. Varanis makes her way down the stairs as quietly as she can in bronze armour, which, admittedly, isn’t very quiet.
Berra, who was dancing and singing last night, is just buckling on the last of her armour. She gives Varanis a nod, grabs her sword to buckle on, misjudges its length completely and whacks a table with it.1Incredibly, Berra fumbles DEX. “Oh, dice, I love you. I know I hoped for that exact result but a 000 is perfect.” She stares at the sword rather than the amphoras on the table itself, but by a miracle nothing is upset and there are no further crashes. There is, however, a faint groan from the Humakti. “Fr….. argh.” Quietly.
Varanis covers her mouth to stifle a laugh. When she has composed herself, she jerks her chin in the direction of the door, an invitation to Berra to take the lead.
Berra gives Varanis a long-suffering look, and then at the door both casts a spell and pauses in concentration. “Clear,” she murmurs, “As far as I can tell.” She slips out, leaving Rondrik’s daughter to close the door behind them. Outside she hitches up the sword belt a bit, and tucks it over the belt that keeps Wind Tooth close. Her expression has annoyance in it, but her eyes look over the spots where danger might lurk.
Varanis looks far too cheerful for someone with so little sleep. Despite all her worries, she is grinning in the predawn light. She walks purposefully down the street, sweeping her gaze across rooftops as she goes.
Berra goes at the fast lope of an infanteer who is much too short for the front rank, but wants to be there anyway. “I’ve got to get used to this sword,” she says. “And it’s deadly. I need to bring some wasters this long.”
“Can you find them quickly this morning? I don’t want to linger longer than necessary.”
“Yeah. I can always grab wood and shape them to a handle. I’m packed other than that.” Berra scampers a little to get ahead. “I just want you to know that it’s weird and annoying and I’ll need a while to get used to it. It’s two wide-spans too big and I hate it already.”
Varanis directs a curious glance at Berra. “Then why bring it?”
“Well…” There is a brief bit of irritated gesturing, and then Berra’s shoulders sink. “He wants me to carry it.”2Passed Loyalty (shut the hell up about the complaint, Berra) and also Truth.
Varanis nods. “They ask for strange things at times…. could be worse. Did I tell you Kallyr asked if I’d consider praying to Vinga to change me to a man?” Her ‘they’ seems to encompass any of the folks in the upper upper echelons, rather than herself.
Berra walks along for a few moments, and then asks, “Are you saying that to make me feel better about the Temple? Because it worked.”
Varanis shrugs. “Happy to help?”
“Wow. You as a man.” Berra turns to jog backwards for a moment, to look at Varanis. She even manages to keep her swords under control, and dodge a stepping stone at the roadside. “I… wow.”
“She suggested I could do it and then marry the Feathered Horse Queen by proxy, if her Majesty wasn’t interested in a Vingan for a Husband Protector.” This particular Vingan looks bemused by the idea.
“But she wasn’t going to?” Berra guesses. “Right. Of course.” She turns on a heel. “So if you’uhs a man, would you be even more flighty?”
This earns a flat stare. “What are you saying, Berra?”
“You’re emotional and Orlanthi enough already.” Berra glances over the ground as they get close to the thin staircase.
Varanis scowls, then laughs. “You’re not wrong.”
Berra attends to the view ahead. “Oh. More stairs!”
The Vingan laughs aloud at Berra’s attempted deflection. “Uh huh. Stairs. Race you?”
“Well, up to the bit where they narrow?” Berra’s gaze sweeps the area, and then she closes her eyes and listens, and then says, “Let’s.”3DEX for Berra is pass, pass, pass. CON is fail. Varanis does better: pass, pass, special, and a CON pass.
Varanis whoops and then tears off up the stairs in a clatter of bronze.
Berra follows, although she was honestly already ready to run, and is right on the bronze-clad heels of her bronze-clad friend. The half hidden steps are steep right from the start, but she does not give up her position merely because sprinting is for tall people here.
The Vingan’s feet fly, though only in a figurative sense. There’s no point abusing her gift from Vinga for the sake of ego. She charges headlong up the stairs, trying to keep ahead of Berra.
Berra sticks with her, unable to gain enough to overtake, and unwilling to ankle-tap her rival despite the obvious opportunities. Short, strong legs work at the tall, high steps.
The staircase curves as it winds its way up the steep cliff. The Vingan vanishes around a corner, but is out of sight for less than a heartbeat as her companion stays close.
Berra keeps up on that steep turn but then there is a point where the steps are just right for Varanis – or just too tall for Berra. Or maybe it is the weather. It has been raining and the Humakti might be taking care on the slippery surface.
Varanis is still running all out, careless in her break for freedom. The distance between the women begins to grow, filled with the laughter of the fleet-footed Vingan.
Berra holds up a hand to say she has had enough, but does not have the breath to call out, and all she can do is stop, breathing hard, until she can move again.
It takes Varanis a moment to realise she’s lost Berra somewhere behind her. She slows down, glances back, and finally turns around, backtracking down the stairs to where the little Humakti waits, sucking wind. “You ok?”
Berra nods. “Yeah. Out of practice.” Her words come short, but she sets her back straight and starts moving. “You?”
Varanis is barely winded. “I’ll slow down,” is her only reply.
“Thanks. Sorry. No good right now.” Berra gets up the stairs slowly.
Scanning the way forward, the Vingan assumes the role of guard, allowing Berra to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
Berra chuckles after a bit. “Are you sure you don’t want me to be in front?” She sounds better, but she is making a point of knowing what Varanis is doing.
Insight: Berra is trying not to be outwardly proud of Varanis, or overly happy.
“Nah, it’s good. You guard my rear.” She glances back to give Berra a lascivious wink.
“You’ve not got one worth guarding,” Berra says after a quick look. “So I’ll make sure we don’t get stabbed.”
Varanis protests with mock outrage. “I’ll have you know, Serala thinks it’s lovely.”
“I can’t help if she likes thin people.” Berra keeps going slowly, but at least she keeps going. “Maybe you need to sit down more, run around less.”
Varanis snorts. “I’ve been idle for weeks! And definitely eating plenty. Mind you, any time I’ve had meals up at the palace, I’ve worked them off on those damned stairs.”
“I do wonder if that’s one of the reasons Tennebris is down at the Air Temple so often – who’d want to?”
“Well…. unless something has changed, he does have personal reasons for climbing those stairs. But maybe his administrative duties have been keeping him busy.”
“I think it’s a good way of making sure the city and the palace get cared for both,” Berra replies. “I dunno how that Temple works, though, so… I’m shrugging but you can’t see it because you’re looking the wrong way. For that, I mean. The right way for guarding.”
As they climb higher, Varanis glances back at Berra from time to time, ensuring the other woman is keeping pace comfortably.
Berra is slowly recovering her colour, but she does still look like she is labouring under the climbing and the weight of her armour.
“Water break,” Varanis announces suddenly. She drops down to sit on a stair, unhooking her water flask from her hip. After taking a quick sip, she offers the flask to Berra.
“Thank you.” Berra is not thanking her for the water, although it’s a quick, clipped thanks that has no outward relief in it. She takes the flask, and says, “I left mine in that warehouse, way back. Outside Nochet. If Lord Kesten’s found it by now, he’s found some interesting people too.”
“You know, I have no idea if my letters made it through to Esrolia. I was hoping to have had word by now.”
“Probably not, then. You’d have had… well, depends on the pirates up the river. But I’d think you’d have had word of some kind. So they didn’t arrive or they didn’t get read kindly, I think.” Berra considers. “Was that one from your grandmother … I mean, it sounded like she was giving gifts, to me. So I did wonder.”
“The one about my sister? I should get Xenofos to read it to me again. I got stuck on the part about Mirava…”
Berra nods slowly, with sympathy. “Did you know… do you know her well?”
“She’s a lot older. She tried to mother me when our mother died… but our grandmother dealt with that. They share a name, you know. And a lot more. Mirava is a lot like grandmother. She has daughters – my nieces. They must be near to initiation now. But no… we aren’t close. I didn’t even visit her when we were in Nochet. They live outside the city.”
Berra nods. “It… I think I can see where your mind went.”
“And now I’m leaving her to her fate.” The Esrolian swears in Pure Horse Tongue and pushes herself off the stair abruptly. “C’mon. I’m done sitting.” She starts up the stairs at a punishing pace, but slows after only a few dozen steps. “Sorry,” she says with a quick glance backwards.
“It’s been a-” And Berra trails off. “Right. Good. Can move now. This is a reason I need to run – otherwise I can get like this.”
“But I shouldn’t let me temper come at a cost to others either,” Varanis points out. “I knew you were tired, but I didn’t care for a moment.”
“Nah. It’s fine. Sometimes you gotta run on ahead. As long as you remember. And you stopped.” She is walking faster now, getting more enthusiastic about steps.
“You’ll be relieved to know I can see the top now. Almost there.”
“I can see the top too now,” Berra says a few paces later. Maybe she is at peace with tagging behind. “Lemme go first?” Once more she pauses, and closes her eyes as if she listens.
Varanis nods, then realising Berra’s eyes are closed, says, “Sure. There’s room enough to pass me here.”
Berra opens her eyes, and steps forward. “See, I could have waited and then sprinted past.” She gives Varanis a serious look to indicate just how serious she is about being serious, and then she is scanning the area, suddenly entirely without humour.
Berra and Varanis climb to the Flame of Sartar – Varanis takes care of Berra