Berra — Back To The Wall
????, Earth Season, Disorder Week
Earth Season, Disorder Week, Wildday. Directly after coming back from the Temple, Berra goes to see Varanis. She meets Rajar on the way. [[[s02:session-19|Session 19]]]
Rajar was sleeping in the corridor, but is awake when Berra returns with the dawn.1Special Scan
Someone’s made a mirror image of Berra. Wind Tooth is on the wrong hip. And that sword that she’s got instead… grey metal. Too shiny for lead. It’s been hammered to make it into that shape. She also looks absolutely knackered. Her shield is gone, and the padding she has made into the basic scabbard for that… strange shiny grey metal… sword is torn, not unpicked.
“Nice Sword.” He stretches. Pauses. Gestures at the beer keg. “You look like you had a busy night.”
Berra grins slightly. “I did. The good news is that I can still drink alcohol. I’m… he wants me to concentrate more on Death and less on protection, so I’m forbidden a shield and some armour – but this is a young sword and I’ll be teaching it as part of a Hero Cult.” She looks at the beer, and says, “Got a small cup?”
“Of course.” Rajar fetches a water goblet.
Berra has a quick drink. “The sword’s name is Truth,” she says, “Although this may change as he ages. You need to teach this sort of sword. I have taught him how to separate, with Humakt’s help, but one day he will be a focus of Eril’s hero cult. But for now, if I die, he goes back to my Temple. This is a dangerous time for a young weapon.” She slugs back the beer, and takes another. “I can no longer eat vegetables. And I only had one of my ginger and pear and hot pepper bars!”
It is just after dawn. The sound of Rajar snoring not far away has been interrupted by the return of Yelm, although ‘dawn’ is a strange thing in a place where the sun seems to linger on the horizon for so long, then leap into the Sky. There is a clapping outside. Slow, measured. This guest room has a door, where some have curtains. Any moment now…
There’s a knock on the door.
“Yes?” The muffled reply sounds like Varanis, but the door does not open.
Berra leans on it, hard enough to open it should it be unbarred. “It’s me. I’m back.”
The door shifts without opening immediately. There’s a noise, as though something is being dragged. And then Varanis opens opens the door. The Vingan looks tired, but alert. Her unsheathed sword gleams in the light coming from the window.
“I can still drink beer,” Berra says with a smile. “And having an extra sense is strange. Can I come in? There’s a thing I need to tell you.”2Varanis passes Scan, and notices things that have changed.
Wind Tooth is not on Berra’s left hip. A strange sword is instead. And the Humakti’s armour padding seems ripped, and her face and left arm are blue with smeared woad. And the sword is… in a scabbard made of her leather armour? And it’s all confusing. But the sword. It’s a weird grey.
The Vingan checks the corridor, then steps back, allowing Berra space.
Berra bows slightly on coming in, rather more formal than she has been of late, but she tends to this sometimes.
“Where’s Wind Tooth?” The question is quiet, for Berra only.
Berra twists slightly, so her trusty sword can be seen on her other hip. “I need to get a proper sword ring and things,” she says. “I’ve got a thing called a young sword. A proper sword is born not knowing how to kill.” She looks down once at the grey, smooth surface of the other. “I … um, oh, a lot to tell, I guess. I don’t sense any harm meant to us out there, but I couldn’t learn it as well as I wanted to. I had to do another thing.” Her eyes are big as she stares at Varanis. “It got complicated in the desert, on the way here.”
The end of the sword is bifurcated, the sections of each part square. It makes a simple Truth Rune, if you include the grip.
Varanis blinks and waits. Suddenly, she seems to realise she’s being impolite. “I don’t have much in the way of seating, but we can sit on the floor? Or I can move the armour from my blanket and we can sit there?” Her sleeping space is below the window and does indeed seem to be full of lumpy bits beneath a blanket. It certainly does not look slept in.
Berra pulls her water skin from her shoulder, where it hangs now. “I’ve got an iron sword, but I’m not a Rune Lord,” she says, and pops the top off the skin. “And a new sense.”
The Vingan sheathes her own sword and sets about fixing her bed.
When she’s done, her armour is heaped in a pile, and she settles onto one end of the sleeping space, putting her back against the wall. “What is this new sense you speak of?”
Berra takes a drink while that happens, and says, “Have some,” and offers over the skin. “I went to the Temple of Humakt, and I can’t tell you all the details, but I asked him to awaken in me an understanding of harm, and assassins.” She sits on the floor, in her infantry hunker, down on one ankle with a leg extended, where she can reach the water skin if it lies between them.
Varanis accepts and takes a drink, passing the skin back to Berra.
“At what cost, Berra?”
The Humakti sighs, and looks down, and says, “Well, I’d have sort of had to go there anyhow. Knowing the God more isn’t bad. But in the desert, I tried to ask him a question. I wanted to know if it was appropriate to worship Lord Eril as a Hero.”
Varanis raises an eyebrow at this.
“I got an answer from the Iron Lord, who gave me this.” Berra draws the sword, and holds it up. There, in grey metal, glimmering dully, is the sign that hangs on her shield. “He’d said once that he would judge when I was worthy of Iron. It’s not enchanted, but it’s … well, it’s my sword. It’s what was made for me. What I was made for.”
“Which Iron Lord?” Varanis looks confused. “Not the one from Boldhome, obviously…”
“Yes. The one from Boldhome. He made it for me, that evening when I went off into the rocks to pray. I… he’s not an ordinary man. I think maby he decided that it was a good idea to let Eril be a Hero, to be honest. He’s, um… a lot more powerful and experienced than you’d think. But I think he sort of likes to remember that this world exists, so he stops meditating sometimes.”
“How did it get here?”
“He gave it to me.” Berra’s acceptance is simple. “My fire became his fire, and he was made of ash where I watched, but I watched him making it while I was dancing. And then I knelt and offered up my soul, and I’m… well, Eril’s definitely a Hero. And he gave me my sword. Then I fell asleep and woke up and had it, and I wasn’t surprised.”
It all seems entirely obvious to the Humakti, as if the movement of a sword through hundreds of leagues and two fires is simply to be expected.
Varanis nods thoughtfully. “Humakt seems to look on you with favour.”
“Well, he… I can’t say that. But he’s given me challenges to take on. So I’d have gone to the Temple to understand how to feel for assassins better, only… I had a sword to teach. They get born not knowing what Death is. Humakt made swords before he found Death. They just didn’t make people lie down and be cold forever.” Her right hand feels over the unfamiliar pommel, and then her left strokes Wind Tooth as if to give or take comfort.
Varanis watches silently.
“So I didn’t learn as well as I could have. I’m sorry. It was all strange and the timing was weird.” Weird is the word Berra uses when she does not know how to put over something uncomfortable, or wondrous yet terrifying, or a little bit wrong and she is wondering why and about to investigate. Her go-to for a thing she does not understand. “But it’s here. And I have a sword called Truth. He’s … well, he belongs to me but also to the Hero Cult. So I have to look after him and get him back there.”3Varanis fumbles Insight (Human).
Insight: Berra’s love for Humakt is what is pulling her forward here. The quiet, glowing look on her face indicates happiness inside. She’s strange. That often happens.
The Vingan sighs and looks away from Berra for a moment. “Do you need food?” she asks eventually.
“I’m fine. I can’t eat vegetables now, anyhow. When he gives his power, he gives his stories too.” She looks at the sword once more, and then carefully sheathes it, although that requires she stands up. “I just need to get Truth back. That’s all I need. What do you need?”
Varanis considers the question. “Truthfully? My most immediate need is a nap. But if you haven’t yet slept, then perhaps we should find someone who has? After that? I need to know who and why. Are we really certain I was the intended target and not Suuraki?”4A fail on First Aid means Varanis can pic up nothing about Berra’s health right now.
“I don’t know. The Temple couldn’t help me. They said to come back and ask when it was not Wildday at sacrifice time. Someone should know, but not anyone who was there to speak with me. Rajar slept. He’s good for that. And I didn’t really have much time passing.” Berra smiles, looking only a little tired. “And the sword knows what Death is. That’s important.”
The final statement gets a raised eyebrow again. “Did you encounter enemies on your way here?”
“No. But that’s the thing I did on the a… instead of learning more. This sword knows what it is to bite. It’s sort of big in my head to be honest.” She sits down on the bed herself, shuffling over so that she can see Varanis properly, and reaches for her water skin and a drink. The soft surface twists her scabbard around, and she decides on half lying down instead. “I was pretty sure there were no enemies, but I don’t have … it’s a distant sense, if you can understand me? Like listening to a truth that you almost can’t hear.”
Varanis nods slowly. “I think I understand. Are you ok? Harmed in any way?”
Berra shakes her head. “I have new instructions from him. I think because I have two swords important to me, I must not use my shield. And I need to trust to my skills and to him more, so I must show a target always in battle. One that is unarmoured. And other than that, no. Well, that’s not harm, but I’ll have to be ready for it. And I’m never to refuse a challenge to one to one combat. Which would have made things easier for them if someone was trying to use me to kill Kesten Hulta. So I have to be ready to show mercy too, I think that’s telling me. But never fear, or seeming to, if the combat’s with a single opponent.”
“A target that is unarmoured?” Varanis studies her friend. “And accepting all challenges of single combat… to the death or to first blood? Is there a stricture on this?”5Berra fails her own Insight roll, but already knows what Varanis will be thinking anyhow, and is spamming the GM in the background.
“It’s his word. His geas on me.” She pronounces it just like a Sartarite Northerner. Her left hand splays out, and she turns her arm so she can look at it. Even the padding has gone to make her scabbard.
“So. Perhaps it would be wise to work out a plan? I want to wait for word from Suuraki’s shaman. If a Vision Quest can help us find answers, then I want to do it. But, I’m not sure if we are putting the people here at risk by continuing to stay here.”
“I think Suuraki’s plan was to go to the Temple to find out. And I don’t know, but no more than we would be putting people at risk by leaving, and here we are all together. Look, um. I should have done this the first time, but I was afraid of letting the god down, and not being strong enough then. I’m a better warrior now. And then, I’d have been doing it more selfishly. This is right.”
“Should have done what?”
“Learned more secrets, more deeply. The sword gift is one many ask for, but I was unsure what to choose, and let Humakt guide me. This time, I’m doing it for the right reasons.” Berra’s fingers wrap around her new pommel, resting there naturally already.
Varanis nods. “It brings you closer to him.”
“And strengthens the Cult. But it does mean I have to take more care. If this had happened a week later. The sword, I mean. Then I’d have been able to hear the distant voice more clearly, instead. I… I suppose that’s something I can learn.” Berra shrugs slightly. Her left arm, Battalion tattoo clearly visible, gets her attention, and she smiles slightly.
“Why does the week make such a difference? Oh… because of holy days?” Varanis thinks a moment, trying to place the date.
“Because if I’d tried the divination a week later, I’d still have gone tonight.” Wildday. Short notice.
“I should visit my Temple. There’s a small one here.”
“Once Suuraki knows the times. And Venna wants to talk with us soon. And many things. But today all we need do it find out what Suuraki’s great shaman says.” Berra smiles slightly, irrepressible. “And I should go tell the others. It’s going to be interesting – I’m young and I look small and I’m carrying iron, and people are going to try to show I’m not worth it. It’ll make me fight hard, but I’ll try not to let it get in the way. If it does. Let me know.” There is an awkward pause as she gets to the end of that, and does not know how to say what she wants to.
Varanis nods. “Fine. Go and see if the others are awake?” The Vingan rises and nods in the direction of the door. “I’d like to change, wash my face, and try to get ready for whatever today brings.”
Berra nods, and goes to the door, concentrating briefly as she gets there, and then smiling a little. “I think it’s telling me there’s no danger,” she says, and her voice is softly happy.6Berra’s first successful Sense Assassin roll.
When Berra leaves, there’s the sound of something being placed against the door again.
- 1Special Scan
- 2Varanis passes Scan, and notices things that have changed.
- 3Varanis fumbles Insight (Human).
- 4A fail on First Aid means Varanis can pic up nothing about Berra’s health right now.
- 5Berra fails her own Insight roll, but already knows what Varanis will be thinking anyhow, and is spamming the GM in the background.
- 6Berra’s first successful Sense Assassin roll.