Berra and Berra

The morning of Windsday passes and a message is sent to the Humakti Temple for Initiate Berra. ‘Your friend has birthed a healthy child. She is well. Please don’t bring Death to the Earth Temple.’

A day passes without Berra. The next brings a written message for Varanis. Lord D’Val’s greetings to Thane Varanis. Initiate Berra is not to be disturbed until the coming of Godsday.

A return message comes to the Durulz. High Priestess Kalis sends greetings to the Sword D’Val. Thane Varanis is not to be disturbed by any of your people until Godday, no matter what relationship they have with her.

On that day, however, there is a small Humakti, looking out of breath, at their house. As she comes in, Berra calls out, “Is Varanis here?”

The new groom/doorman is taken aback by the abrupt entry. His hand drops to the hilt of the sword he wears prominently, but then he relaxes, presumably because he has recognized Berra by description or reputation.

Berra asks, “Well?” as she pauses only for a moment. “Is she?”

He jerks his head in the direction of the stairs.

Berra sets off with a grin, or rather, adds the grin to the fact she has already started moving. Two at a time, three at the top, clapping outside the door.

A young woman opens the curtain to size Berra up. The top of her head is shaved, while her chin sports more than a few coarse dark hairs. Her face is heavily marked with Death and Earth Runes. “You must be Berra?”

Berra bows just a little. “Yeah. Is she asleep? Can I come in?”

“She is not. Yes, you may.” The axe warrior shifts out of the door to allow Berra access to the room. It hasn’t changed much since Berra last saw it, except that there are two sleeping pallets now and a bedroll near the door.

Berra stands for a moment, just taking in the scene.

Varanis is not alone. There’s an Ernaldan-looking woman who is just passing a well-wrapped bundle over to the Vingan, who is sitting on one of her over-large floor cushions.

Berra goes in to peer at the bundle and put a hand on Varanis’ shoulder. She is short enough that with Varanis on the cushion she does not have to reach down.

Varanis is also peering at the bundle. Softly, she thanks the other woman, who nods. “I’ll be downstairs if either of you need me,” she says, collecting the Babeester Gor on her way out.

“Thank you,” Berra says politely, with a bow. Her eyes only move away from the bundle for a moment.

“Sit?” Varanis says to Berra, nodding at the other cushion. “Then you can hold her.”

Berra does that. “She…” Then she shuts up, and just nods, and scoots forward to be able to have the child.

Varanis passes the bundle across and the baby continues to sleep soundly. A tiny, squishy face swaddled in a soft blue blanket. There are a few tight curls of red hair visible on her forehead, escaped from where the blanket covers the top of her head.

Berra nestles the child, blanket and all, into the crook of her arm. The movement looks automatic, like she has done it a lot. “You’ve got a little Vinga. A little Varanis.”

“She was born on Orlanth’s Holy Day. She might become a Storm Voice – she’s certainly loud enough for it when she wants to be!”

“She can be a Wind Lord too, then. Do you know yet if she’s wriggly?” Berra stares. The baby fails to stare back.

“She’s been wriggly for two seasons,” Varanis points out. “She moves so much already, the wet-nurse wraps her tightly to balance her out.”

It is rare that Berra’s emotions stay put on her face, but there they are, plain for anyone who knows her to read; love, awe, contentment. After a few moments she says, “As soon as you can, let her move, I guess? We don’t really tie them up like this in the Blue Tree. I mean, except if it’s really cold.” She seems to be speaking without paying much attention to the words.

Varanis laughs a little. “It is really cold, Berra. I had to walk part of the way on Clayday. It’s supposed to help things, I guess. But there was snow on the ground and the priestesses made me walk!”

“Well. It’s the end of Storm Season. You were lucky it wasn’t cold rain, I guess.” Berra looks up at Varanis. “This room’s warm.” She looks like she has just been running.

Beneath the wrapping, the little bundle begins to shift in Berra’s arms. The baby’s head begins to turn towards Berra as if she’s searching for food.

“Oh sorry, I can’t feed you,” Berra says, but she moves the protective hand that is keeping the child on her arm to give her a finger to suck.

The baby latches onto the finger and that seems to content her. Berra gets a glimpse of eyes so dark they appear black, before the little one drifts back into sleep.

“Yeah, she’s got gums,” Berra says. “Dark eyes. Red hair.”

“I wanted to ask you something,” Varanis says so softly Berra almost misses it.

“Mhm?” Berra answers with a glance to Varanis and no more. She tilts her head a little to hear better, however.

Varanis chews her lower lip, before rushing out with it. “I want to call her Berra, for my grandmother, but also… for my friend. Would you mind terribly?”

“Um, no, not at all.” Berra smiles down, as a pink flush spreads over her. “It would be fantastic. Although you shouldn’t tell people what the name is until the ceremony where she meets the world. You can make suggestions, though.” If she could blush more, she’d be a red pepper with ears.

A pleased smile lifts the corners of Varanis’ mouth. “I will wait, but I wanted to check first anyway. Can you imagine how things might be in a few years? ‘I’m looking for Berra.’ ‘Which one?’ ‘The short one that yells often.’”

Berra considers that. “The really Airy one,” she says with a proud look, finally turning her eyes back to Varanis.

“Not the really active one?” Varanis replies as her grin broadens.

“Won’t put her sword down, even for meals,” Berra replies, after a little thought.

“The Berra with the hair that stands on end?”

“She might have good hair. But keep it short to confuse people.” Berra shifts back a little on the cushion, wriggling into it so that the baby stays mostly still, pressed against her. She is lightly dressed, with only one sword, but the Death motif is there, an embroidery that sits over the scar on her right arm – the one that has not-yet-Berra in it. “Berra that won’t eat what you give her?”

“If D’Val will spare you, will you come to her naming ceremony?”

Berra gives a tiny nod. “Just not if it’s on Clayday,” she says. “I’m starting to be mostly free to do things from now on, I think, as long as I do them properly. If it’s Windsday that’s auspicious for a wind baby. I should be able to make that.”

“It’ll be Windsday. That’s when she was born. She made me miss the High Holy Day. Already disrupting things.”

Berra looks sad yet enchanted as the tiny proto-Vingan wakes and begins to quest more earnestly for food. “She’s about to not want me any more.” Then she perks up. “Rebelling!”

Varanis laughs. “Hold her a moment longer and I’ll get Fara.” Unfolding her limbs, Varanis gets to her feet. As she moves, it’s clear that she’s still tired and her customary grace is not yet in evidence. She pokes her head out the door to call down, which pushes the infant into complete wakefulness. Her little face screws up like she’s about to wail and then she does. As Varanis had hinted at, it’s a sound that cannot be ignored.

Berra casually puts the child up vertically, blows into her face, and smiles. Her stubby little hands hold the head up in the blanket wrap. “There. Now we’ve shared air. And you’ve called me to action. We’re almost friends, as soon as you’ve got a name.” But then she hurries to hand over.