1629, Sea Season, Disorder Week?
Berra is at King’s Tower, after the death of Lenta. Session SA4.06.
Berra has spent time in Divination, prayer, and meditation, and it is late in the evening, bordering on night. While volunteering for a stretch on watch, preferably near dawn please, she asked if there were any judges of Humakti lore here, or teachers of initiates. She would like to speak to one.
The place is smaller than her home Temple by a long way, so she has not asked for a Sword’s time. There might only be one here.
She is directed to speak to Koren. Koren has taught all the initiates at the Tower for the last decade or more. Try looking by the main hearth.
Berra goes that way, wearing two swords, her padding, and an expression of polite inquiry. She has a cup of water with her, and a chunk of bread, the basic food she asked for. No vegetables.
The hearth is something akin to an overgrown bread oven. Baked clay and stone, containing the fire inside, while radiating heat. It vents through the wall.
Crouched in front, there is a person of indeterminate age and gender, deftly prodding the coals before adding another log from the nearby pile.
“Hey. Are you Koren?” Berra keeps a polite distance away.
“Ayup. And you must be Berra Jarang’s daughter.” Koren rises slowly, turning to face Berra. The stubble of hair is interrupted by a white scar that runs down to a mangled ear.
Standing, Koren is lean and a bit hunched, but still stands more than a foot taller than the warrior from Blue Tree.
“Yeah.” Berra stays where she is, although her stance says she is prepared to give a report or break into violence, which it did not when Koren was crouched down. “I need your advice. Or I need advice and people said you were good for it.”
There’s a nod, deliberate and slow. Everything about Koren seems to be like that. Returning to a nearby stool and easing into place, Koren says, “Sit. Talk.”
Berra relaxes as the other warrior loses height. She casts around for a stool as she begins. “I messed up yesterday. There was one of those days where everyone had an opinion, and I … it got away from me. Someone died.”
Koren listens, face giving nothing away.
Having failed to find a stool, Berra does the infantry thing, squatting with her weight on one heel. “We were out in the wilderness. I was with a group. We saw that army incoming and agreed that my leader Varanis would go back to Beasts Gather and make sure they knew. Then there was a discussion about it. In the end, I stayed out with two people, a White Lady, and an Ernaldan. I needed to perform a ritual and I thought they would be fine for long enough to pull me out of it if anything turned up.”
Silence, except for the pop of a coal in the hearth.
Koren’s dark eyes signal patience. Berra has not yet said everything that needs to be said.
Berra sighs. “Anyhow, she – the Ernaldan – wasn’t under my command. Just with us. And she doesn’t have much sense. The White Lady was who I was really going to rely on, but we found a place. While I was setting up for the ritual, the Ernaldan wandered off. The next thing I knew there was a scream. I think it was a broo that got her. All we could do was bring the body back. I mean, once I realised what was out there and was hostile. I wasn’t risking disappearing – the White Lady’s good, but she’s not me. She might have got hurt, too, and the thing that got Lenta – the Ernaldan – was running like hell.”
Finally there is a reaction. The warrior’s eyes narrow as Berra tells her story. “Broo, you say?”
“Probably. Something with bare feet, kinda human, kinda not. I think it was bipedal when running away. There was a dragonsnail track in the area too, but we hadn’t seen those before we settled down.”
There’s a scowl. “Not good.” After a pause, Berra gets a nod. “Continue.”
“That’s about it, reallly. I can think of a few things I could say, but I want to know what you think. There’s some other stuff afterwards too, but that’s the big bit.” Berra looks up, with a curious quirk of expression given depth by the firelight.1Passed Charm. She obviously believes in Koren.
There’s a long pause as the older Humakti mulls the story over. “Are you asking me if you bear responsibility for what happened to this woman?”
“And if I should.” Berra scowls. “She is as thick as slurry when you just lost your boot in it, and I should’ve taken that into account. I was her protector out there.”
“By choice or assignment?”
“Uh, by there not being anyone else who was doing it. I was too eager to get a thing done – but I only know that now. So I stayed out there, we split up, and she stayed with me.”
“And you knew this woman’s nature already? She is familiar to you?”
“Yeah. She’d… seemed better than she was. And we didn’t know how dangerous the area was, but I should have guessed. Or checked.”
“Was she warned to stay close?” Koren seems to be working through some kind of checklist.
“Nah. I just assumed she would. I think. I can’t remember all the stuff I said, but I didn’t tell her it was dangerous.”
Another thoughtful pause, then Koren asks, “Tell me, was it you who made the decision to split your group? Are you the commander?”
“You know how opinions are like arseholes and everyone has one? There was a lot of talking. Varanis – the Orlanthi – she’s a Wind Lord…” Berra stops and considers that. “Alright, that makes me one of the ones who was talking too much as well.”
There is no reply forthcoming. In fact, little of Koren’s expression gives anything away beyond patience.
Berra waits too, like she thinks she answered the question.
The silence is interrupted only by the sound of the fire in the hearth and the murmuring of someone else’s conversation as they pass through the hall.
Berra looks at the fire. “Um, I ran out of stuff to say,” she tells Koren finally.
“Was the decision as to who stayed and who left yours?”
“No, but I could have over-ruled it. S’less my concern than my behaviour afterwards, though.” Berra looks up at the taller warrior and goes on. “I should’ve known what was going on better. Is it bad to use an Ernaldan as an asset?”
“If she’s as slow as you say? Yes.”
“Yeah. I didn’t realise she would be, but I’ve seen her be that dumb before. I’ve seen her be smart, too – give’er the dues. But only Ernaldan smart, not danger smart.”
“If I were a judge, and I am not, I would split the blame three ways. The woman must bear responsibility for her own choices, though given she is dead, she cannot. But you and your Wind Lord… you made choices that put others at risk. Unreasonable risk, perhaps. If I were a judge, I would suggest that you and the Wind Lord must compensate the Ernaldan’s temple or kin for her death, but I am not.” This is the most Koren has spoken since the conversation began. The repetition is oddly formal.
“Yeah. She’s probably going to be resurrected anyhow.” Berra sighs. “I figured coming here for what I had to do was more important than staying to stop that.”
At the mention of resurrection, the older warrior’s eyes narrow. “The Nunnery?”
Berra nods. “That’s what they were saying.” Her own voice indicates unhappiness, or at least discontent.
“You disagree with their choice? She was Ernaldan. Ernalda does this. She goes to the Underworld and then she returns.”
“She’s come back from the dead. Yes, I disagree.” Berra scowls. “Because Death should happen properly.”
“Who are you, youngster, to say how death should happen for Ernalda? Humakt’s rules apply to us. Ernalda and her divine Aunt have their own accords.” The tone is gently chiding.
Berra stares at the taller warrior. “I’m bloody Humakt,” she says. “That’s who.”
“And did Humakt bar the Green Goddess’s way? Do we remain in Darkness in a barren world?”
“Yeah. He did, and he got over-powered. And he let out just Yelm. And a lot of other things. If it’d been done right the first time, and nobody had stolen Death from us, we wouldn’t even have to have this conversation!”
“Breathe child. If things were as you say they ought to be, then the world would be no more.”
Whatever answer they might have been expecting, it was probably not Berra falling sideways from her comfortable position, away from the fire.
She rolls up in a tiny ball, hands around her head, apparently fighting for the breath they advised she take.
Koren rises and crouches nearby, but without touching. “Slow down.” The warrior looks concerned.
That does not seem to get through. For a few long minutes, Berra stays where she is, tears dripping down to the floor.
Koren waits. Not rushing her, but looking concerned.
It is only when something else comes over her – an unnatural calm that leaves her looking peaceful – that the miniature warrior is capable of moving. With her eyes half-focused, she sits up, moving like someone half-possessed, or new to their body. “Thank you,” she says, with an effort. “I think I should go now.”
The thanks are obviously politeness. The initiate is trying to get away and what she really means is ‘we are done’.
Koren frowns but does not stop her from leaving.
Berra goes to find a quiet place to be alone.
- 1Passed Charm. She obviously believes in Koren.