The morning after viewing the houses, Varanis wants to go see Berra.
Yehna is dealing with Haran and a tantrum that fills the entire common room. “You’ll be better off without me,” she says pleadingly. Her cousin has gone to take a walk.
Haran is irate because he refuses to put a coat on, as far as anyone can tell.
With a look of vague horror, Varanis heads out into the snow on her own.
The snow is now drifting softly here and there, banked up against houses and walls. The roads are clear, but icy in places. The roof of the Inviolable Dwarf Fortress is free of snow, and steaming gently. Traffic is heavier than normal, as it avoids the smaller routes that are still snowy. The people are bundled up warm, although perhaps not as warm as they would be in Esrolia. Still, in Esrolia this would be considered a heavy midwinter fall, if it came at all.
Varanis makes her way to the Humakti temple, following the most direct route she can manage.
The guards there are armoured and wrapped in cloaks, but they do have an addition that Varanis has never seen before; their armour has some sort of wrap over it as well, a sewn cloth covering that goes over the greaves and vambraces, and the padded clothes underneath. It looks warm.
The gate is open. Beyond, Varanis can see people exercising in the snow, mostly lightly dressed. A small, well-muffled figure with a helmet with a feather in it watches them, and is in turn watched by their instructor, Lord D’Val.
Varanis tells the guards that she’s there to speak to Initiate Berra and says that she is willing to wait.
The younger one nods, and goes in, directing himself to D’Val, not to Berra, but the swordsduck leans over to look around him and gesture Varanis in.
Varanis interprets the gesture as a summons and once she passes through the gate, she begins to skirt the edges of the training area to make her way to the Sword.
D’Val waddles briskly over to her. “You can have her, but don’t feedt her,” he says. “She’zs got food of her own today. She’sz allowedt to sshare.”
The Vingan gives him a respectful nod. “Thank you, Sword.”
He waves to Berra, and then quacks for her attention, which is enough to make her realise she is being summoned. The initiate comes over at a walk, looking relaxed. “Sorry, Sword,” she says. “I was-” She shuts up.
“Off you go.” He sounds almost indulgent, insofar as a Sword of Humakt can be. Forgiving, perhaps, or resigned.
Varanis turns to Berra to say, “I was hoping to talk over some houses Yehna and I visited yesterday.” Directly to the matter at hand.
Berra nods. “Good idea,” she says, a touch hoarsely. “Walk or ride?” She does not sound ill, but she sounds like she could do with being wrapped up.
“I didn’t bring Doqeia, but I don’t mind if you ride,” Varanis says. “But if you want to see the houses, I should probably go back for my horse. They’re out by the West Pocket.”
“Then how about I ride down that way, and you talk?” Berra says. “Although the West Pocket isn’t that far. Right now I have to take a resting day, so I’ll ride.” She bows to D’Val. “Thank you, Lord,” and then she’s backing away from him, turning to go to the stables. “As far as I can work out, the idea is to keep surprising my body, not to keep abusing it. So I get new things that I have to work past and through. It’s… interesting?”
“Your sister is worried about you. I’m trying to reassure her, but… anyway, I think I’d prefer to walk, to be honest. What I’d really prefer is to go via the rooftops, but Mellia would pitch a fit. So you ride and I’ll stay by your stirrup?” Varanis sounds vaguely grumpy.
“Oh. Right.” Berra looks at Varanis, and then walks out. She goes straight over the nearest road. “It’s going to be slow up here,” she says, “Because if I get too hot I can’t cool off well.” But yes, she is climbing up a wall.
Varanis’ eyes widen and before Berra has a chance to change her mind, she’s scrambling up the wall. Her cloak hampers her efforts, which leads to some grumbling. She drops back to the ground, removes the offending garment, and balls it up. The thing is huge and heavy.
Heading back to the Humakti guards, she asks if it could be kept here for an hour or so.
Berra looks down, and holds her hands up for the cloak, but by then Varanis is already heading away. It is Berra they look to for a decision, and she says, “Hang it among the tack for Followed. Please.” The last bit gets tacked onto what sounded a lot like an order.
Stuffing the ball of wool and fur into one of the guard’s arms, Varanis dashes back to and up the wall.
Berra waves to the guard, and then sets off. True to what she said, she is going slowly, but she seems to understand how to walk on new snow, and even the thick drifts. There are already a few prints up here, but they are mostly alynx. Not many humans pass on these paths, but some do… Berra looks at the pocket, and says, “I’m not going to race you, but if it wasn’t winter training, and was winter, I would.”
“I want to tell you about the houses anyway and racing isn’t conducive to that,” Varanis tells her friend. “When will all this melt?”
“Uh, about …. Truth Week? If it rains? We might get rain before then, and we probably will, but you’ll see white from now for about eight weeks.” Berra has a strange way of walking, picking up her feet and letting them drop straight down, rather than kicking through the drifts. “So tell me about the houses. One was the one where Yehna liked the courtyard, right?”
Varanis is kicking up snow with her feet and smiling at it. She grins up in Vinga’s general direction. There’s an almost child-like joy in her just now.
Berra says, “You’ll get cold feet by the end of the day if you let the snow in like that,” like she was told that a lot in her youth. Indeed, she follows it up with, “Wow, I sound just like my aunt.”
“They’re already cold,” the Vingan says with a laugh. “I’m cold! But just for the moment, I don’t care. It’s different up here. Brighter. Fresher. It’s making me happy and I’m going to enjoy that.”
“Yeah, well. Uh… don’t say I didn’t tell you, later, when you’re cold.” Berra is smiling though, pleased to be there.
As they make the crossing from one roof to the next, Varanis takes delight in the challenge of finding the right foot and hand holds. But once they are safely across, she begins to tell Berra about the other two houses.
The little bundle of clothes listens.
When she winds down from her detailed descriptions, she sums it all up. A smaller house in a good area, but with no stable. A big house that needs a lot of work, which may mean that it isn’t as affordable as it seems. A big house that is beautiful and wonderful and will cost twice what Varanis can buy on her own.
Berra nods. “So, if I wanted to move in right away, I’d say the big but mostly cheap one, but I’m going to be at the Temple, and I won’t be there to help. I guess it’s up to you to decide about if the area’s good. What you’d mostly do when you share a purchase like this is to have one of us own the land and the other, the house – that’s for who’s responsible for what. Then we can’t sell without warning the other, but we can sell it back to the Temple at any time, and it’s agreed how much we both pay. I can go in as much as you can, if you want the big one.”
“Yehna says we won’t be able to get people to do repairs until the weather is much better. And those repairs will be costly.” Varanis frowns. “Let’s do the big one and if I have to, I’ll keep a tighter rein on my resources this year. This way, I think.” She makes a running leap to a different rooftop, makes it across and then skids to land hard on her backside.
“Icy, huh?” says Berra, and makes the same leap, but manages to skid to her knees, controlled. “Yeah, icy. Which means it’ll probably be like this anywhere that’s along here. It’s melted and refrozen. Protection magic?”
The Vingan is about to shrug it off, but then glances down at her belly. “I suppose I’d better.”
She picks herself up, brushes the snow off, then concentrates.
Berra mutters a few words herself. “Then we can slide a bit more,” she says. “But we don’t have to get down yet. I guess some of this ends up as an ice river, at some points.” She sounds unsure.
On her second attempt a bright blue glow settles around Varanis, before fading. She offers Berra a wry grin. “When it works, it really works.”
Berra shrugs. “I… think I’d prefer to move forward than think about things… house. Show!”
Varanis gathers up a handful of snow and flings it at Berra. It is only barely a snowball. With a laugh, she charges across the slippery roof and leaps onto the next before checking to see the Humakti’s reaction.
Berra’s reaction comes as a flurry of snow as she lands; not much hits Varanis, but now she is trying to get past.
With pure glee, Varanis begins to race recklessly across the rooftops, leading Berra towards the West Pocket and Brass Street.1Berra: Failed Climb, failed DEX x 5. Varanis: Passed climb, special DEX.
As they dislodge snow, some of it falls, raising the occasional shout from the people below.
Berra does not show her best side, although there is a lot of laughter among the cursing and slipping. Her decision not to get too hot and sweaty is left behind her, along with several beautiful Man-Rune prints made by full-body wipe-outs. Nevertheless, she reaches Varanis at their destination with her hooded robe open and her smile wide. “Ooof…. Air. Please.” Hot and sticky.
The Vingan looks sheepish. “I got carried away. Sorry. But that was so much fun.” Her eyes sparkle and her cheeks are flushed red. Somewhere along the way, she lost her hat.
“It’s this one,” she tells Berra, pointing out the big house. “Maybe they’ll let us look around again.”
Berra says, “You’ve lost your hat. Yes, let’s.” First of all, however, she shakes herself down a little. “And I’ve still got my food. Good. They want me to eat as much as I can, and I haven’t been hungry yet.” She looks up at the house. “Yeah. I could live there. You want to be Orlanth and look after the land bit of it?” She does step that way, rather than just deciding from the outside.
Varanis gets a good look at Berra’s back and laughs. “Let’s pull ourselves together a little more first. Stay still a moment.”
Berra does just that, not even bracing against having snow dumped on her. It might at this point make little difference.
Her friend briskly brushes snow off the small woman’s back and legs. “You’re covered in it!” When she’s done, she brushes herself off too and tucks her untidy plaits behind her ears. “Right. Do I look respectable?”
Berra squints, and then walks around Varanis. There is a little more brushing there, before she says, “That’s as good as we’re getting. Do you want me to look this place over for defensibility?”
Varanis instinctively puts a hand to her belly. “I… think that’s wise. I talked to Kallyr. I’ll need a place for the child until I know what to do with it, I suppose. And that place must be secure.”
“Then I might be a bit scary to them,” Berra admits. “But I’ll try not to be.” She rolls up towards the door to clap outside, and then knock. The sound of her gloves hands is a dull thud.
Varanis takes her place beside Berra, putting a charming smile on her face.
The same man as before answers to the knock, taking a little longer this time. Berra has stepped back to give Varanis room, although her look of concentration is a near-glare.
“Gar,” Varanis smiles at the man. “Is that right? Berra, he’s been in service with his lady for twenty years. Gar, this is my friend Berra. She’s a Humakti, as you can see, and we are planning to share our home. She’d like to assess the defensibility before we commit to buying. Would your lady permit us entry?”
“Yes, Gar,” The doorman admits. “Please come in. I will ask my Lady about her readiness.” He shows her first to a seat in a small room, where it looks like things are a little less tidy and a little more used than yesterday. There is a cloak spread out with designs being drawn on it. Despite the door nearby having opened, the room is still warm. Of course, it would seem so anyhow. “Please excuse the work…”
“We came unannounced, please don’t worry about anything. A home is meant to be lived it.”
He bows and departs, and half a minute later there is a squark of alarm and the sound of something dropping.
“So… maybe?” Berra guesses.
Varanis shrugs. “We’ll see, I suppose.”
It takes a minute or two before Gar returns to say, “Would you prefer to see the downstairs first?” Berra has spent that time apparently working out how to destroy the door and the ceiling of the room.
“If that suits your lady, it will work just fine for me,” Varanis reassures him.
Berra just nods, silent.
Gar shows them once more the kitchen, the big communal room, the sewer connection, the water source, and the view over the snowy courtyard. Berra asks to step out there, and they unlock the rear door for her. She thanks Gar politely, and looks over the walls, then picks her way over the snow to look at the house from the outside.
Varanis watches and shivers a little. The sweat from their earlier exertions has made it easier for the cold to get to her.
Berra bounces her hand through the air a little, tracing out various attack paths, and even goes so far as to land a hand on the roof – at least, from her angle. Then she walks back in, hardly glancing at the door at all. “Thank you,” she tells Gar. “I’d like to see upstairs as well, but when you’re ready.”
The rest of the visit is quick and before long, the two women are headed back into the snow.
“More magic and back up? Or just stick to the streets?” Varanis asks.
“Streets,” says Berra. “I’m thinking. This way I don’t have to think about as many things.” She is alert, but she also looks slightly distant, like she is working things through in her head.
Varanis nods and hurries them back through the streets to the Humakti Temple. “I think I liked it even more today than yesterday,” she muses thoughtfully. She is, however, mostly silent, except for the chattering of her teeth, which begins when they are halfway back.
Berra takes off her big outer robe, and says, “Put that on?” She is hung about with pouches and bottles beneath, and tucks most of them into the next layer of clothes. Her under-robe is quilted and looks like wool. A moment later Berra says, “I think we should buy that place. The only question I have as well is whether we buy another one as well, because land stays where money melts away.”
Varanis attempts to wave away the robe, but stops arguing when Berra makes her suggestion. “Buy another?”
Berra shrugs. “What else will we spend our money on?” she asks.
“Jewellery, clothing, gifts, weapons, staff…” Varanis ticks things off on her shivering fingers before shoving her hands into her armpits.
“Well, you’re noble. I guess you have to.” Berra seems to agree with that. “Sorry, that’s a bit short for you. But keep walking, and when you stop, this is going to sound weird, get some air around your belly and back. It’ll help to let out the wet that’s making you cold.”
“It was worth it,” Varanis says between chatters. When they get to the Temple of Humakt, Varanis passes back the robe and unbuckles her sword belt so she can flap her tunics, whilst waiting for her cloak. “Eat something,” she orders Berra. “And I should find Venlar to work out who we need to help up make the arrangements.”
Berra remembers her food, and begins to eat. It is all high energy foods, pemmican and flaked meat and dried fruit. “You’re right,” she says. “I’m hungry.” The cloak is brought, and Berra nods approval to it, and says, “The Earth Temple or the Lhankor Mhy Temple will be the ones to record deeds. Possibly both. Venlar might know, but the people who are most likely to know are those selling.”
“Are you free for the day, or shall I make the arrangements on my own?” Having made a decision, Varanis is ready to go.
“I’m free for the day, but I could do with some sleep,” Berra admits. “Let me know how much it’s going to be. And if you can’t find me, ask at the gate and they’ll release the money. I’ll let D’Val know.” … “Lord D’Val.” Too friendly.
- 1Berra: Failed Climb, failed DEX x 5. Varanis: Passed climb, special DEX.