Berra — Bard From Clearwine 02
????, Sea Season
1626, Sea Season, Clearwine. Torograi the Bard comes to make the promised visit to talk about Sagas. [[[s01:session-30|Session 30]]]
Two days have passed, and it is another rainy, warm evening. Berra has been out for most of the day with her backpack. She comes in towards evening when there are few people in, trailed by a bard. He is telling her something about meter, and she is attempting to ignore him, as he sweeps in beforehand, bows to Varanis and the few commoners present, and says, “Lady of the Blue Tree Clan. I have rescued your fine guard from the vile merchants of this city.”
Berra looks somewhere between calm and very calm.
Varanis snorts and smothers it with a cough. “And who will rescue you from her, Torogai?” she asks as she rises to greet him. She is dressed in a dark green tunic of fine wool. The runes are embroidered in white silk and stand out against the dark background. She has kept her jewellery to minimum today, wearing only Kallyr‘s arm ring and a gold torc.
Her smile of welcome is genuine.
“I beg you, do not rescue me from her. I am in no danger – look – she is on her way off already, no doubt to consider some very fine advice I gave her on remembering to bargain, when going out to bargain.” Torograi stops chasing Berra with his look as soon as it is clear she is ignoring him to go put her bag down by her bedroll at the end of the room. He stands proudly, waiting for something.
“Please join me,” Varanis says, waving to a seat at the table. “I will order drinks – wine or beer?”
Torograi smiles slightly, at about the point where Berra says, “Sir Bard. Thank you for entering this house. You do it honour. The Lady Varanis of Saicaie bids you welcome.” And then he looks a lot more pleased as he slips into a chair beside Varanis. “She may not appreciate my finer points,” he murmurs, “But your Humakti has been the soul of placid honour and calm fortitude, and now she knows the words to welcome me. A treasure. I shall have wine, and we should all drink together.”
“Don’t tell her,” Varanis says in a conspiratorial whisper, “but she’s one of my favourite people. I think I’d be lost without her.” Varanis orders a very good quality wine and three cups.
Then she looks at Berra. “Would you prefer beer?” No judgement, just a sudden realization.
“Good sense of direction, I infer,” says Torograi loudly. Berra says, “Beer please, yes.”
Varanis amends the order to include the beer and waves the serving woman away, though with a smile for the young woman.
The innkeeper pours beer into a cup, and brings a small amphora of wine, and a wide cup to mix it in, and a pitcher of water, taking over easily from the young woman to wait on the illustrious table himself.
“Want me to taste that?” Berra asks.
Torograi’s mask cracks, and he looks straight at Berra. It takes a moment for him to cover it up, but only a moment. Berra manages not to notice, at least outwardly.
“It’s fine, Berra.” Varanis’ response is casual, but the look she gives the Humakti is a bit tense. With a direct look for the bard, Varanis says “I’m a foreigner and my main teacher for Heortling manners is a Humakti. If I miss any customs, please know it is not meant as an insult.” Her expression is sincere.
“No, no. It’s all a learning experience,” says Torograi, and he leans over to mix the wine and water, sipping from his side of the bowl and handing the drink on to Varanis. “And it’a a rather good Ice Wine, in fact. Someone’s reputation goes before them.”
Berra, for her part, leans back casually in her chair, tension leaving her, and gives Torograi a smile. No grudge held, apparently.
“You are well known, Sir Bard,” Varanis responds with a wink. “May I ask you about the saga we are interested in, or shall we exchange flattery and drink more wine, first?” She sips at the wine and sighs in satisfaction.
“Oh, flattery can go alongside knowledge, but if I am to drink then I should be clear-headed, and song will always cloud my mind. Let us speak of sagas, then, until I can do no more and if the wine bears us up, we shall enjoy it all the more.”
“There is a saga that speaks of Berra, Daughter of Tarkalor, we think. But embedded within it, there seems to be a second Berra. Let me see how much I remember, and our Berra can correct me, if I get it wrong.”
Torograi frowns slightly, and it’s exactly the same frown on Berra’s face. “Sister of Tarkalor,” murmurs the Bard, and Berra nods.
(( OOC note: All the GM’s fault. Definitely sister, not daughter. Definitely. ))
In a clear, but soft voice, Varanis recites as much of the saga as she can remember, which is a surprising amount, actually. She flushes a bit with pleasure at the end of it.
Both are too well trained to interrupt, and Torograi gives Varanis more than polite attention, while Berra scowls her way through the performance thoughtfully. At the end, Torograi says, “How curious… Where is this from?”
“Berra performed it for me,” Varanis replies with a smile. The smile fades as she looks at Berra’s face. “Did I get it wrong?”
“No,” says Berra. “I just don’t like it. Them. And I was listening and trying to remember more.”
“Berra thinks, and I agree, that these are different pieces that have been stuck together. And we are both keen to learn more about the Berras in the sagas.”
“I can tell you now they are pieces that have been stitched, for I know the first one well. The second, I am afraid I have not heard, so will have to think on, although I know a story, and a thing that binds them. The armour setting is an obvious glue of two things that should not go together, and I will pause only to say that it was done badly, but I know the original there, too. You see, this saga is not about anyone called Berra. It is about the Hero Berra, a different thing. She was indeed the sister of Tarkalor, or half sister, or adopted cousin. Stories vary, but undoubtedly she was a Hero, and she shared his blood. She was his sister for this tale, at least, and that is very important.” Torograi has suddenly lost the roguish layer of charm and badinage, and the thoughtfulness both suits him more, and seems entirely out of place.
Varanis unconsciously leans towards him, her blue-green eyes glittering with interest. “A Hero?”
“The Quest you are after is called The Arming of Berra. To defeat the Lunar Empire, the Hero Berra called for her many accoutrements.” And Torograi takes a sip of wine.
Berra pipes up, “He’s a bard, and he can’t offer a story for free. You have to ask him for one.”
Torograi looks faintly approving, his smile trimmed by his half-grey beard.
Realizing how much she might be giving away, Varanis sits back again and takes a sip of her wine. At Berra’s words, she smiles in understanding. “Sir Bard, may I request this story from you?”
“Oh, of course. I am geased not to refuse a request for such, which no doubt your death-dealing little friend was holding in reserve. Timing, child, timing.” He puts no bite into it, and as he speaks he is already looking into the distance, summoning up thoughts and words. “It is a setting of the Arming of Vinga, with some changes. You will know that, but as your guard might not, I might interweave both. It has been a while since I told only two tales in a day, and the day is creeping onward.”
Berra puts her cup of beer by him, and bows over it, and at that movement he seems genuinely pleased despite having wine standing by him. “Know then, that in the times before time, Vinga the Warrior armed herself for war against the Tribe that held in it the Moon,” he begins, “For in those times, She still lived, and there was war,” he tells Berra, and then he turns to Varanis, and says, “It is to be understood, by all who love war but hate the bringers of war, that King’s Sister armed herself with reluctance, and so the first thing she put on was anger.”
Varanis nods in understanding.
To Berra he says, “Vinga stood in her clothes, and called for her hair to be wound to fit under her helmet, to protect her.” The Humakti listens, lips moving slightly to echo his words.
Varanis gets the explanation, “Her determination she wound around her, as charms in her hair, which she wound to fit under her helmet, to protect her. And she had upon her woad in the shape of mastery and air and movement, and the spear of her father, who had been a great warrior, and the sword Aynn.” Berra’s part of the story is, “Vinga wore woad in her Storm Tribe’s colours, and the marks of the Thunder Brothers, the warband of her father, and she took a spear won from Humakt the Champion, and a sword with a green-blue gem in it, which had her mother’s Earth power, and a javelin made of lightning that always returned to her, and a javelin made of thunder, that would cause mountains to quake when she threw it.”
Without realizing it, Varanis has once again leaned in towards the bard. She is spell-bound by the intertwining tales. Her cup now sits forgotten by her hand.
Torograi takes an exploratory sip of beer, probably to time the pause while he turns back to Varanis. “Two javelins were at her back, and a light shield, for she had the secret of Flight, and would overlook the battlefield, and the javelins she had sworn not to throw until great need. Her shield was of wicker, some strips being of blue, and some green, for father and mother, and it was for her arm only, that she might fly faster.”
“Vinga did not take a shield, for she would not bring two things of her mothers to match two things of her father’s, lest Orlanth be insulted, and Flight was hers, but the javelins Lightning and Thunder were his gift to her in particular. Around her neck she wound a North Wind, in the form of a scarf made of snow and ice, given to her by Valind on his glacier.” Berra’s little smile is either of recognition or amusement. Impossible to say, as Torograi gives her a smile in return and then his dark blue eyed attention is back on Varanis. “She wore a cloak made of wolf skin, and had killed the white wolves herself, and dyed the cloak blue with woad she pulled and made herself, and she had on her armour.”
Berra pours a little water into her hand, and drinks from it. Torograi turns to her just as she is doing that and pretends very well not to be puzzled. “Her armour was a hauberk of iron, her amulet of strength was under it, and so she was armed and armoured.” Then he turns back to Varanis, to see her reaction.
Varanis blinks momentarily, as though emerging from a dream. She looks first at Torograi, and then at Berra. “It’s like I was there for a moment,” she says breathlessly. Then she laughs, whether at herself or Berra is unclear. She waves at the innkeeper to ask for cups for water, a refill for the bard’s beer and a new beer for the Humakti. Then she takes another sip of her own wine.
Berra winces slightly, and Torograi freezes, and Berra says, “She does not know the ritual of ending. Nor how to apologise to a bard, but I heard nothing, and if you heard nothing please go on. Only sheep in the hall.” And Torograi smoothly picks up the tale once more. “She put on greaves that would hold her in flight, even if her magic failed, for the Empire had foul magicians. She put on skirts that would clatter with her movement and terrify the foe. She wore a cuirass with Air upon it, set with red garnets and a ruby over her heart, that ruby the size of a child’s fist, and set through the armour to protect her against the magic of the enemy, in their colour and etched with their Rune, but enchanted against them.”
Varanis flushes with embarrassment at her error. Subdued into silence, she continues to listen, though her attention is a little distracted. She takes a long, slow breath, and exhales it softly. After a moment she seems to regain her calm and her focus and once again gives the bard her full attention.
“Then,” Torograi tells Berra, “Vinga went before her kinfolk, and her clanfolk, and her tribefolk, and promised them they would know her protection, and she went before her war-band, and promised them they would know success, and then she went to speak to the air, to send her challenge to her enemies, and promised they would know defeat. Then onto her head she put her dark helmet, over her bright hair, and leading the band, she set off to war.”
Refreshing himself with another sip of beer, this time slightly longer, with the cup held in his hand in what looks like a ritual way, Torograi says, “Berra went before her brother, and promised him protection. She went before her brother’s army, and promised them her support. She stood before the enemy, and taunted them from the top of the mountain, as they approached. And then she put her bright helmet over her bright, bound hair. In her blood was battle, and on her face was mercy, but her helm covered it, so that none could be shown to her brother’s enemies. And so it was she leapt into the air, to take to battle.” His hands gracefully come together around his cup and he says, in a rather different tone, “Now am I wearied of talking, and fain would drink.” He takes one more sip, and then breaks into a proud smile.
Berra bows her head almost to the table.
Glancing at Berra, Varanis imitates the bow.
“Flattering,” says Torograi, “But you outrank her, although it’s odd because she should be bowing to you… And she was not guarding you today.” He is suddenly perplexed, or doing a good job of seeming so. For a moment he shows his age more, as wrinkles gather around his eyes and the folds in his brow deepen.
“It’s fine,” says Berra. “She wasn’t bowing to me.” Torograi gives her a look.
Varanis laughs. “In spite of what my friend here believes, I am capable of looking after myself. Sometimes I can convince her of that. The story was masterful, Sir Bard. You live in the House of Queen Leika, and so it is not appropriate for me to pay you, but I wonder if you would accept this gift as a token of my thanks and my esteem?”
“A gift is always welcome,” replies Torograi, “For it symbolises the meeting of host and guest, and all that is between them. I regret I have nothing to give but my voice.”
Varanis offers him a beautifully embroidered silk pouch of Esrolian make. It is very heavy. “Your voice is a significant gift.” Her eyes are shining with admiration.
Torograi praises the gift with a quatrain about the shimmering colours and the sunlight on the waters of the Mirrorsea, and settles down to drinking. He talks of the Hero Quest of Berra, and how the armour was used for it twice. He talks of Yrun, mother of Berra of Grizzly Peak, and Yrnt, mother of Berra of Boldhome, and their striking similarities across the ages. He shares Berra’s distaste, if not her disgust, at the conflating of the two in one saga, saying that they were united in heroism, not in song. He cannot say why the armour was given to Berra the Younger, but he guesses it was in the hope that the Heroquest could be used to turn the tide at Boldhome. He has heard of Loyal Dangmar, of course, and even met him, but the man is not to his knowledge currently in Clearwine. He has not heard of Dangmar’s death, but that might have passed him by.
Then, eventually, it is time for him to go, and he asks if the guard will please make sure he gets to the door without harm.
The guard has been sitting listening to flirtation for a while now, and gets up with an expression that indicates if this is her duty, at least it will all be over soon.
Varanis rises as the others do. She flicks her gaze to Berra’s, as if to ask if she needs a hand. Her words are full of appreciation for the bard though.
Berra does not ask to be let off this, but walks Torograi to the door – all of twenty feet away. As they reach it, and she makes a show of opening it for him to check for enemies, he says something that makes her respond – there is a brief conversation.