Age Difference

It is Sea Season at the Blue Tree. Yehna is cooking, and packing for Baby Berra, and finishing off an embroidered patch of some kind. Larger Berra is playing the buzz-flute for the entranced child. A few people, Varanis included, are hanging around; the promise of food outweighs the pain of Humakti lullabies. A young boy comes to Berra to say something, and her expression changes.

There’s the usual startlement and alarm that Berra has when told a new thing so that she has to think about it, and then the warrior rises, stretches, and rolls out her shoulders. “Hey, Varanis?”

The Vingan glances her way. “Time for a walk?”

Rising from her seat near the fire, she looks around for her cloak.

“Yeah, that.” Berra goes for her own cloak, and then takes Venlar’s instead. “Someone tell the tall lord I got this. Going to see Grandma.” She has to wear it under one arm and over the shoulder, to disguise how it is so massive on her sturdy but short frame.

Varanis looks curious. “Grandmother?”

Berra says, “She doesn’t have good days very often, but she’s asked for me, and my friend. I think she means you.”

“Oh. Well, it’s impolite to keep your Grandmother waiting.” Varanis holds the hall door open for Berra, letting in a gust of wind in the process.

Berra steps out quickly, although by now there are few forces in Glorantha that could stop her from checking the outside as she leaves. She walks Varanis over to a house that is not usually on her list of places she visits. “She can get a bit confused. Like, holy, when you don’t know what time is, but sometimes it upsets her.”

Varanis nods her understanding. “I’ve seen that before. One of my father’s relatives. It is uncomfortable for them.”

Berra opens the door, but not far, to slip in. She leaves it just open enough for Varanis. Inside is the usual large common room, although it does not smell of horse-meat frying or damp people drying out. It smells mostly of herbs and smoke.

Varanis follows, closing the door behind her and pausing to allow her eyes to adjust to the low light inside.

There is a small loom here, of course, and a hearth, and several women, all with dry clothes, all middle-aged. Weaving and sewing is going on, and someone is crushing what smells like rosemary, in a shallow stone bowl. Berra keeps her cloak on, and goes to bow to a small figure seated by one of the windows – an old, tiny woman who might once have been strong. She must be well over sixty, maybe over seventy.

Lingering by the door, Varanis waits as unobtrusively as possible for a woman of her stature.

Berra speaks quietly, and then gestures Varanis over. She kneels on the floor, close to Grandma.

Varanis crouches down beside her friend, so that she doesn’t loom over the venerable Grandmother. “You wished to see me, Grandmother,” she asks in Heortling, but using the Esrolian matriarchal honorific.

“Honoured, one, this is my friend Varanis,” Berra says. The old woman turns to the Vingan and extends her hands. “Welcome, dear,” she says. “I have a thing for you.”

Varanis takes the elder’s hands in her own. She almost manages to cover her surprise with courtesy.

The old woman smiles. “You have good hands. Strong,” she says. “Now, that thing…” She looks around, and her eyes fall on a tangle of leather and bronze beside her. “Heri says you’re having trouble with your horses, and I know she won’t mind. My husband made it.” Her husband died on the way back from Grizzly Peak.

“My thanks, Grandmother,” Varanis murmurs, flushing a little at the comment on her riding. Then, embarassment turns to a rueful chuckle and she adds, “I need all the help I can get with those two.”

“They’re always trouble if you don’t run with them,” Kymmia says with a reassuring smile. The family resemblance is suddenly clear. “Heri will tell you that. She’ll help you with the bridling if they don’t like bronze. They are used to bronze, aren’t they?”

“Yes. I confess to a certain amount of fondness for the metal myself.”

A smile, and a nod. “I think perhaps I could show you myself, later.”

Berra keeps silent.

“Your wish is my command, Grandmother,” Varanis replies. “But my horses are ill-tempered and I’d be terribly embarrassed if one of them tried to step on you. Or bite. Manasa bites when she’s in a bad mood. Which is always.”

The little Humakti relaxes a little. Kymmia looks around, and seems puzzled on seeing her. “Hello honoured one. It’s me, Berra.”

That gives the old woman enough to work with. “You haven’t been lately, little one,” she says, and Berra gets a pinch on the Truth-Runed cheek. It leaves a little smudge.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been here much. I’ve been busy. I’m in my Temple a lot.” It seems a lot harder for Berra to keep words going here than she usually finds it.

“Your granddaughter is a hard-worker and is helping Sartar, Grandmother,” Varanis adds.”She is making things better for people and I am very proud to call her my friend.”

“That’s good. I always knew she’d do big things. She was always running about when she was young. We never knew where she would be when we called.” Kymmia gives Berra a fond look.

“I once climbed the biggest tree I could find,” she says. “I couldn’t get down. I left my clothes up there in case I damaged them.”

Varanis laughs. “And risked your skin instead?”

“Well, yes. I think it went pretty badly.” Berra catches herself, and tries to smooth away any worry. “I did get fed, and I got home safely, but they had to send someone up the tree, didn’t they, honoured one?”

Her grandmother nods and chuckles. “Such a thing. All the young men thought they were the only ones strong enough, and then they realised what they were arguing about.”

Berra nods. Under the slightly smudged Rune, her expression is happy about the reminiscence, taking the moment for the value it has.