Berra — Berra Training 02
A talk, and a play-test of the chase rules. Events after [[[s01:session-26|session 26]]]
Berra listens to Varanis, making the polite faces, and obviously taking it in. A couple of times her breathing catches. Once, it’s because she drank too quickly and needs air. Once, it’s because she is following along a rooftop fight. At the end she nods slowly, and tips out the very dregs of her beer onto the finely smoothed table top. “Well. If you were me, you’d have an easy question to answer. What is the important thing about your mission?” Her finger traces the meagre puddle into a Death Rune. “You have to answer for yourself what the mission is.”
Varanis nods thoughtfully. “I’m trying to decide what that is now. After Dragonrise, I thought my purpose was to serve Grandmother, and in doing so repay my debts to her. But right now, there are other things to consider.” Varanis shifts on the bench restlessly. “I need to walk. Let’s head out.”
“Fine. But slowly, or I’ll break into a run. We’ll go right. I know where.” Berra closes her eyes and mutters the words that call her own Detect Enemies spell. “If you want to do that too, I won’t be offended.”
Varanis does. She matches her pace to Berra’s.
“You know a lot about me,” she says softly as they walk. “I know little about you.”
“I was unsure if I should offer it,” Berra says. “Because you are thinking about you.” She digs into a pouch and pulls out a handful of clacks, and some Lunars. It takes her only a moment to sort them into a column of copper, silver embedded at one end. “In my Clan, we count our history from when our parents married, but I could recite them too, or my grandparents. Where would you like me to start?”
“With your grandparents, if you want?” It’s a request, but carries no obligation.
Berra nods, and rearranges the coins, mostly to add more copper. Now there is a stack that goes partway up her arm. “My father’s father was Karg of the Blue Tree Clan,” she says, indicating the first coin. “He was born in the year that Chief Parr was killed with his own javelin. The omens at his birth were water and earth.” She runs up the coins with the details of each year, a silver coin for adulthood and another for initiation to the Cult of Barntar the Ploughman. Karg lives his life and dies about the age of forty-five, marrying Rala and having one child, a son called Jarang. The child is a silver coin as well. Three bits of silver in a copper life.
Rala’s story is much the same, although she was born a little later and died a little later. Adulthood, Ernalda, a child. Berra comes from peasant stock that owns just enough land and horses to have pride and food, not enough to have luxuries.
On her mother’s side, Berra has someone who left the village. She likes that story, and the stack of coins has more silver in it. Rathik the Redsmith married twice, had five children, and made weapons for the Prince’s army. He told stories Berra never had the chance to hear in person, about seeing Grizzly Peak and acclaiming Princes. He was at Boldhome when the Lunars came, and for some time there was no word of him. Right at the end, there is a bolg. Berra gets to that, and says, “In the year my parents married, they found out he had been killed by warriors of the Balkoth Tribe. My clan accepted the feud, for nobody offered man-price, but we never found out who, so they do not prosecute it. They took his bronze and his tools. My father was his apprentice, which is how he knew my mother.” And then, like she did not casually mention a feud, she goes on with Kymmia, her father’s mother. A blameless life, worth about six Lunars. She lived longer than most, and had two children, and died. Those are Berra’s forebears.
Varanis listens carefully to the entire story. At last, she says, “There really aren’t any lives not touched by the Lunars. We grew up in such very different places, but the same forces shaped us into who we are.”
“You haven’t spoken much of yourself though. How did Berra Jarang’s Daughter of Blue Tree Clan come to Humakt?”
“For that, I should tell you first of my mother’s life, and I will not dishonour my father’s memory by leaving him out.” Berra points the way around a last corner, and suddenly there is a road maybe a mile long ahead of them, leading up to a long, steep climb and a distant glimpse of a wall. “North Gate,” says Berra, offhand. “My father’s life and my mother’s do not take long to recite, but I knew them, so I can speak of them. Of their parents I met Kymmia.”
Varanis nods, listening. She also maintains a sharp eye around them as they walk. It’s not nervousness, rather she is alert and taking in the surroundings. She also keeps careful watch on Berra, to make sure she isn’t flagging.
“Jarang was a kind man, and peaceful. He was not like Rathik, who was proud and fast, but he was good for Rathik’s daughter. He made beautiful, useful things, and hardly cast spear-heads at all. He was an apprentice, although really he was good enough to be his own master, but Rathik had not come home. Only he was not from our clan, and he did not know our river. The Blue Tree River can change in a day, and he thought he knew it. I had lived through three Sacred Times, when they brought him in pale. I sort of remember him. My sister does not. Then my mother moved in with the uncle of a cousin, who needed a wife but did not love women, and she only loved Jarang in her life. So we stayed in the clan, and she made sure we remembered him. It’s why I say my name as I do. His name is part of it, standing alone. She made it that way.”
Berra is not yet flagging. In fact, she looks like she is considering breaking into a run. The wriggle of her shoulders, a pause to limber up her ankles by circling them one at a time, and above all her focus on the top of the ramp all point to the fact she thinks this is a reasonable thing to do. But she keeps on talking. “The thing that made me want to be a … decide to be a warrior, was how my mother died. She was a horse-herder, and the younger members of the clan don’t ride, as a point of pride. They run beside their herds, and they use horse-calling and speak with the animals, but they don’t ride them, because that says they need a horse to control horses. They … well, the point of it is, my mother could run. I can a bit, but not like I used to. She really could. One day the broo found her herd, and she outran them all, but she could not last as long as they could – they were too many. Rather than be caught, she jumped into the air from the cliff downstream of our Wyter Tree. The river wasn’t there, but she would have known that. She chose the air.”
Varanis deliberately keeps the pace moderate.
Berra keeps on pulling ahead and then pausing, like an athlete practicing starting a run. Or, possibly, like someone remembering she is walking with someone else, and not taking the challenge of a mile-long dash.
Her expression is a mix of sadness, understanding, and a touch of being … (impressed isn’t the right word) something. She clearly thinks that Berra’s mother made the best choice possible in the circumstances.
She is trying to read the young Humakti’s expression, which is difficult consider how her companion is moving, at this point.
Berra looks blank, and worn down, by this bit. She must have thought of it enough, and told it enough, that all the corners have rubbed off, and there is nothing left but the words. “I was not allowed out, but I went anyway. I was fast, and small, and nobody would catch me. I saw the mess they had made of the horses, and I understood why she ran to the cliff. And I swore I would not let that happen to other people. That I would protect them, because sometimes they couldn’t, and it shouldn’t happen to anyone.”
“The clan didn’t do well under the Lunars – a lot of the children and some of the adults moved to Esrolia, because they were displaced – over-taxed, and there was not enough food. Rathik’s first wife had children there, and I got the clan tattoo when I came of age, but I haven’t been back to the clan in seven years. We had to find someone who knew the tattoos, and an old man stayed with us for a while to tell us the stories, and my sister went back… but I got caught up in the Siege. And I saw where I could make most difference best, and it wasn’t ….” She stops, takes a deep breath, and pronounces carefully, “With Lanasha. If I had known, if I’d been stronger, I’d have looked into deeper mysteries than I did, but I went to Humakt, and although it was honour that drew me there, Death is a thing I need to learn better.”
Berra’s voice has flattened, as she got closer to the present time. Now she looks awake, but drawn. The Truth Rune on her face, freshly picked out in bright woad, is the only colourful thing about her. No roses in her cheeks; they are all gone to Voria. Her eyes, though, are focussed on the distant fortification at the top of the ramp.
“Berra,” Varanis asks in a carefully neutral voice, “do you want to run?”
“I think this time, I’m making good decisions. You might not be able to keep up, though. And you fed me.” Whatever that last bit means, it seems to have the ring of thanks to it.
(( Opposed DEX rolls should be used. This became clear only partway through the session. Different comparative levels of success and failure move adventurers relatively within a chase. A fumble generally means a fall, sometimes with damage. Runes like Movement or Water (affects DEX) are appropriate. ))
“I’m game, little legs,” Varanis says grinning mischievously. “Let’s take our minds off the past.”
“I’ll give you a head-start,” says Berra. “Up to the Duck Pond on your left, and then I’ll start.”
Varanis looks affronted at the offer of a head start.
Berra shrugs, and heads off at what seems to be a slow, easy pace, but she is wasting no effort at all and the lack of movement in her back and shoulders is deceptive. Her strides are long…
That momentary headstart is not a long enough one to keep Berra from being overhauled by someone who feels that movement is their natural element, if air is not on offer, and pretty soon, the situation is reversed, with Berra not just overhauled, but trailing. However, it’s a long way up the road, and the ramp is starting to look exactly the same size as it already did.
Dodging around people on the street, the Vingan is looking to be light on her feet. But, as she hits the ramp, she begins to slow.
That steady, wolf-loping … no, human-loping pace of Berra… pulls back some of the way, then…
The steps are BRUTAL. For one thing, there are no real steps. This is, for the most part, a semi-smoothed ramp and some storm drains, with enough steps carved into the ramp to walk up, but it’s mostly smooth and with platforms to the side to build other platforms onto – this was designed to get animals down, and goods up, and it was not built with sprinting Humakti in mind.
It’s on the Ramp that Little Legs shows her style. She just… keeps going. At exactly that same slow, ste…. no, fast steady pace, that she was at. She knows the ground, it’s clear, but she also does not slow down, and so she catches Varanis and says – wheezing a little, “How about that headstart? Not too… late.”
It’s about half way up the ramp where they pass a duck eating dried fruits thoughtfully. “Don’t Thlow down. The fight won’t wait for thluggardth!”
“APPLE?” yells Berra, hand up in the air to make a hopeful grab if one should be winged her way. She turns and she runs backwards for a few steps. It does slow her down, but it does also allow her to look back at the duck. There is an expression there.
“Who was that?” Curiosity and laughter both.
An apple is lobbed. Okay, actually flicked in a horribly fast overarm throw.
… and caught. Berra bites into a bit of dried fruit, and asks, “Who do you think?” She hands over a torn bit of apple.
Varanis is too busy running and grinning to keep talking. She just shakes her head and ploughs up the ramp.
There’s the top of the fort. There’s Berra, apple in her hand nearly – but not entirely – forgotten… and there’s Varanis just pulling ahead, as her breathing and her long legs give her a sprint that Berra just doesn’t have. It’s close, and they are a couple of swords lengths apart, but Varanis is the clear winner. It’s probably by about the length that Berra lost when she ran backwards, but it’s clear she had no more in her to give right now. She gives the guards at the top a cheery but tired wave. One comes over to ask, “Are you…”
“Yes, yes. Just really out of condition. I might do it with the rocks in a week.” Apparently Berra knows the way up here really well.
The concerned guard nods, gives Varanis a broad and only slightly appreciative wink, and goes back to propping up the wall under the big arched gate.
Varanis is laughing between gasps of air. “Oh Vinga, it’s been too long!” Her long red hair has fallen from the carefully arranged style of earlier, to hanging in a crazy mass of tiny braids and wisps. She is sweaty and red-faced, but clearly gleeful. She paces around a little, slowing her breathing, and finally says again, “No, really. Who was the duck?”
Berra’s smile is wide, and then she taps Varanis on the shoulder and points at the view behind them. A big slice of Boldhome is laid out in the afternoon sun, and from here the shapes of the temples can be seen, and the harsh shadows and soft valley. She says nothing, just shows off her city by looking.
“It’s more beautiful than I thought,” Varanis says with genuine appreciation for the sight.
“It’s pretty good at Yelmrest, too. The shadows change from rise to rule to rest, and if you get onto the fort, you can see how the ramp’s small and you’re small, and the valley’s there. Bring them something nice if you do, because it’s a bit dull being stuck up here, and it’s good to have the Fyrd happy.”