Berra — Blanket Statement
1627, Earth Season
Late in Earth Season, just after Varanis went climbing a cliff. [[[s02:session-54|Session 54]]]
For Maalira, follows [[[maalira:spinning-yarns|Spinning Yarns]]].
The lesson is a patient one, with Yehna showing a personality almost completely unlike her sister’s. She seems to enjoy giving praise, where Berra blurts out happy things in enthusiasm. She is also good at demonstrating the same thing over and over. Maalira’s yarn lengthens, bumpily at first, and then as she gets the hang of it, in a line a little thicker than Yehna’s but perfectly serviceable. Every time it gets too long, it needs to be gathered up and wound, and soon Yehna is standing up so she can keep going efficiently. “Sometimes, for very thick yarns, you do this from a high rock to someone on the ground,” she says. “You make silk in the same way, although obviously, that costs a lot. That needs something to spin on, so you have a tiny plate on your knee and a smaller spindle.”
She has a lot of knowledge about pig and sheep wool.
Maalira is concentrating hard, trying to keep the casual conversation from distracting her from the unfamiliar motions until she has committed them to memory.
“I have seen silk, in the city – it is beautiful stuff,” she says absently.
Yehna chats away happily, on inconsequential things. Her hands work as if she does not need to keep looking. “Berra gave me some to trim my clothes, but I don’t know if I have anything fine enough. The chief wears some, of course, when he’s at his best. In Nochet I saw people who worse nothing but silk, but I was just passing through. They were priests and princes, I suppose. There was a dance in the streets.”
“That must have been a beautiful sight!”
“I fear that if I had silk on my clothes I would wind up with blood on it,” Maalira adds. “White linen is bad enough.”
“The others manage well enough,” Yehna says, thoughtfully. “I think there is magic to help with that? I mean, I supposed so. Maybe they just wash things really well at the shrine.”
“On the road it is a little harder to wash, whether with magic or water… often neither can be spared for bloodstains,” Maalira muses.
Yehna leans over to feel at Maalira’s sleeve. “You could make this a lot less absorbent,” she says. “I know you can’t smoke it and keep it white, but can you use white sheep wool? Or… there are ways of making linen so it does not take much colour, and if it’s bleached in the sun then it’s almost perfectly white.”
Maalira tilts her head, curious. “I hadn’t thought of that. The robes are usually gifted to us, our first robes anyway, so I haven’t given thought to sourcing my own.”
“Well, it’s not too much, and it looks a bit like you’ve lived in these for a while. I suppose as a Praxian you don’t judge cloth often?”
“No indeed.” Maalira laughs.
“I don’t know much about prices outside the village, and most of what we do here is help each other out, but we could see about white cloth, and if you don’t know how it should feel, someone here will. Mellia tends to wear very soft things, and Sosa – I’m sure she has lambswool in the mix. Tathia’s have a lot of linen and nettle, but I think she suffers in the winter because she doesn’t have warm under-clothes as well.” Yehna leans over to look at people – there are a couple of white clouds at the other end of the big room, both busy. “If we can’t find you any here, we can try Dangerford. Berra still hasn’t managed to tell me what she wants from me this winter.”
“I would definitely appreciate your help. I wouldn’t want to give these robes up, as the man who gifted the money that paid for them was a good man, but having an extra, particularly a warmer one for travel in the cold, would be wise.”
“Oh, if you’re going to be in Sartar in the winter, and don’t have warm clothes, that is a problem.” Yehna looks just a little worried, like she is checking if that is the case.
Maalira nods, smiling ruefully. “Sometime in the past few seasons I seem to have gone from knowing my plans in advance, to very much not knowing them at all,” she says. “I believe I will need to acquire clothing for wherever the whims of my companions may take me.” She does not seem at all upset about this.
“Oh. You met Berra,” Yehna jokes. “We didn’t find her a wife in time, and she’s never going to settle down.” The young woman glances at the door, but no sister is there. “We should get you a cloak. Can you wear woven grass with a wool lining? Hide’s no good for you of course.”
“Perhaps she will find a wife with the same tendency to roam,” Maalira suggests. “Grass and wool are allowed, yes.”
“She nearly had one,” Yehna says with a sigh. “But the Siege happened.” She checks whether Maalira knows that by going on, “When the Lunars appeared at Nochet’s horizon, she went to the Temple of Humakt.” That places the siege, at least. Some years ago. The Lunars were trying to hold on to what they were losing down there.
“Oh,” Maalira says, letting the single word convey her sympathy for Berra.
Yehna sighs. “She’s always wanted to fight things bigger than she was.”
Maalira swallows a smile, given the topic of conversation. “She, ah, won’t have lacked for targets then.”
“She can make her own, too. It’s less rainy now, and you have a cloak…” Yehna is trying not to suggest while trying to suggest, making it unclear whether she is inviting Maalira to visit her sister.
Maalira pulls her thin cloth cloak about her shoulders a bit, trying to guess at Yehna’s meaning. “Do you think she is wanting company?”
“She has people with her,” Yehna replies, which answers the question, and apparently is enough for her to make up her mind. “We can always just go check on them.”
Maalira’s face lights up a bit, and she nods. “Then I would like to see her.”
Yehna neatly stows away her spinning. “Don’t try to do that while you’re walking,” she says. She has a bag for that, slung over one shoulder, meaning she is instantly ready to go.
“I wouldn’t dare,” Maalira laughs. “No more than I’d walk with an unsheathed knife. The outcome would be much the same if I were to trip, I’d imagine.”
Yehna takes Maalira’s too. “We’ll have to dash across the middle of the village. It’s a bit better later on when there’s snow, or even when the mud has been washed down and the cinders are exposed again.”
Maalira wriggles her feet, testing the tension of her boots to ensure that she’s ready for the dash. “I’m prepared,” she says.
It is wet. Oh so wet. And the rain up here is cold and slanted. Across to something like the lee of a different building, with Yehna squealing, and then along between walls and through another door.
This is a more peaceful house with several women in, all working in various forms of fabric-making or decorating, including one at a loom. Two men are sleeping off the afternoon on raised benches on the far side, and by the main hearth is an impressive pile of blankets and cloaks that puts out a tattooed hand, small and sturdy, and waves. Somewhere under there is a Berra.
Maalira shakes herself, running hands through her curls, trying to get all of the water out of them. She is moderately drenched, and can’t help laughing a bit.
Yehna says, “Oh, good. I think she found out how to hibernate,” and then a little lower, for Maalira’s benefit only, “She was knotting them up earlier. She looks more peaceful now.”
Maalira grins at the blanket pile. “That looks warm!”
Berra says muffledly, “It is.” Her face pokes out as the small mountain heaves. “Everyone lent me one. I wanted to count how many cloaks made it heavy. I don’t know why.” She shrugs, like that was the important thing to her just now.
“And… how many did make it heavy?” Maalira asks, somewhat transfixed by the randomness of the question.
“Um, seven. But some of them were pretty big.” There are a lot more than seven cloaks there now. “And then everyone put them on, and made sure I could breathe, and left me here. So I stayed for a bit.” She is rather sweaty, but seems in good health.
Maalira indicates a patch of floor in front of the hearth, adjacent to the Berra-blanket-pile. “May I?”
“Uh, sure.” Berra brings out her other arm as well, to lodge her chin on her laced hands. “Yehna cooked, but I don’t know what. And there’s bread and stuff. And apple butter. Yehna, have you offered her food?”
“Not yet, because she hasn’t yet come in. We have stools for you…” Yehna fusses efficiently.
“Stools would mean I had to turn over to see people,” Berra points out. “I’m down pretty low and these are pretty heavy.”
“Yehna has been teaching me to spin,” Maalira says by way of explanation for not having been fed yet, taking a seat on the floor.
“Oh, nice.” Berra looks up at Maalira, and then tries to push the blanket mountain up by getting her hands to the floor and shoving, and fails at basic impossible tasks. “I can manage wool, but anything else and I just get bouncy spindles all over the floor. I’m not trapped. I could wriggle out. But this feels weird.”
“You seem to be trying to lift yourself as well as the blankets….” Maalira suggests.
“Yeaah. Normally I can lift myself, though. And a rucksack full of rocks that weighs as much as a duck, but this is different. It’s clingy.” She probably means a durulz, a duck of the intelligent type. Probably.
Maalira blinks a few times, not sure whether Berra actually wants help troubleshooting, or is simply exploring a concept in her idiosyncratic way which requires no help at all.
Berra settles down again. “What’s going on out there? Other than the rain, I mean.” Either it was exploration or she is too proud to ask for help.
“Well, there’s the rain, and some rain, and I saw some rain as well,” Maalira says. “Puddles, too.”
She rubs at her hair again, still sopping wet.
Berra says, “You need a blanket. Take one. I have plenty.”
Maalira giggles. “That you do. Thank you.” She plucks one off the outer layer and drapes it around her shoulders, then reconsiders, takes it off, removes her wet cloak, and puts the blanket back on again.
Yehna begins sorting out the cloaks and blankets, slowly reducing the pile. Many hang up, some go back on beds; it seemed that a lot of people joined in the game.
“I should probably get up soon. I’m not going to be here for long so I should take a watch tonight.” Berra finds a new subject.
“Shouldn’t you be resting after… earlier?” Maalira suggests.
Berra considers. “Maybe? But other people need to sleep too.”
To a professional eye, Berra looks mostly recovered, although her bounciness is still a little in the wrong places, like she knows she should be herself, but cannot quite remember what that means. Still, it is a great improvement on the last time Maalira saw her.1Maalira passes First Aid.
“If you’re sure,” Maalira says, largely relieved by her survey of Berra’s state. She considers. “I won’t be staying long either, I assume, if we are travelling on – should I offer to stand a watch too?”
“No, I’m a warrior. But we should get out of here now the weather’s breaking. It’ll turn to snow soon, and we want to be where we’re settling down or getting there will be hard. And cold. And annoying. And wet. And white.” Too much of a list, not quite enough bouncing from subject to subject, but the essence is Berra, at least.
Maalira shivers at the thought of travelling in snow. “Yes, it doesn’t sound nice to travel through,” she says.
“Up here, one year, it got so deep that you could go through tunnels of it. Although I was short so it got above my head most years. That year, though, we had to clean it from the walls so that wolves and raiders couldn’t come over. It took eight feet off the palisade when it drifted.” Being conscientious, Berra adds, “I heard.”
Maalira properly shudders this time. “I can’t imagine. It sounds impossible to deal with.”
“Uh… not really? But I guess we don’t have tents. And we do have boards we can put down if we have to, and usually there’s not enough to have to clear it like that. But we’re definitely happy to have sturdy houses and warm company. You’re going back to Prax, right?”
Maalira is taken aback by the sudden question. “I… not immediately…? I haven’t really made any plans.” She ducks her head shyly. “I like travelling with you… with your group.”
“I mean, for winter,” Berra clarifies. “I’m going to be in Boldhome, with my Temple.” If she read anything into Maalira travelling with her, it does not show on her face. “They’ll have most of my time, and the rest will be spent on… well, probably a lot more in the Temple to be honest. But maybe days here and there.” She looks around, sees Yehna is safely away, and says low, “I want my sister to be there so we can find her a husband, but I won’t have time to find her a husband. So I might go to the Colymar house there.”
“The Colymar house?” Maalira enquires.
“All the Tribes have a house. I’m a Colymar and I’m… well, I’m probably welcome there. It’s a bit complicated. But if they want to bring a fight I’m happy to arrive. The Blue Tree clan’s in the Colymar tribe.” That bit occurs to her too late to mention it up front.
“Ahh, I see.” Maalira considers pulling at the loose threads of that third sentence, but thinks the better of it. “I don’t think I’ll have time to make my way back to Prax for the winter, certainly not alone, so I guess I will be finding somewhere to stay in Boldhome.”
“The roads will be clear for a long time,” Berra notes. “They’re good to march on. And it’s not yet quite Dark Season. If we set off in the next few days it should be fine – we’ll ask Dogva which way the weather’s coming.” She is only wearing about half a dozen cloaks now.
Maalira nods. “I will make up my mind once we know about the weather,” she says non-committally.
Berra manages, this time, to do a press-up. “Not heavy,” she says, brings a foot up, and then gets the other under her, and is squatting in a nest of blankets. “Snow is fun, but it stays around.” For a moment it looks like she is on the tip of saying another thing, but then she does not. She just stares at the low fire. In a household of Ernaldans, fire is easy to come by, and in Sartar, wood is too. A week’s hard gathering in Prax is crumbling to ash.
Berra, still hiding from the world, is visited by Maalira