Berra — Blue Tree Clan Tattoo 04
Berra brings her nephew, the newest child in the Clan, to meet Mellia. They talk about the Clan, and Sartar, and Harrek the Berserk. [[[s01:session-27|Session 27]]]
A bit before dusk on the first day in the Blue Tree village, Berra will find Mellia. She’ll look first by the shrine of Chalana Arroy, but she’ll go just about anywhere in the palisade.
She has left her armour off, and is wearing good clothes and a sling with a small child in it. The infant is obviously still new to the world, no more than a season in age, and deeply asleep. There is a slight smell of stale milk, and Berra has white marks down her kyrtle. She is almost glowing with happiness, paying about equal attention to the baby and the route she is taking.
Mellia wasn’t far from the shrine. She’s sitting underneath a tree. When she sees Berra, she blinks for a moment, then smiles. “Over here, Berra! Mind the tree root!”
Berra carefully navigates, apparently without looking down, but she does indeed mind the tree root. “May I join you?” She speaks in the even tones of someone trying not to wake a sleeping baby, and she asks for politeness, because she is kneeling to show the small, crumpled human to her friend.
Mellia nods. When next she speaks, she keeps her voice way down. “Is that your niece or nephew?”
The child, deeply asleep, has been carefully cleaned of the milk that hit Berra. He gleams. Possibly he has fat rubbed on him for warmth or to sooth his skin. He has Berra’s disreputable hair, and eyebrows that will be flat and straight once they grow in. “Sister-son,” comes the reply. “Yehna’s first. He’s called Haran. He has the tiniest fingernails!” Carefully, Berra unwraps one of his hands from their clutch around a bit of cloth, which is rather pointless, as it simply wraps around her forefinger, imprisoning her, and the tiny fingernails are still not available for examination.
Mellia peers at Haran. She sketches the runes for Fertility and Harmony in the air above his head. “White Lady bless you with health, Haran, ” she whispers.
Haran burbles in his sleep. He may have wind. “Thank you,” mutters Berra. “I suppose you see a lot of these. But none that are mine.” She has eyes only for Haran, who has apparently captured her heart as well as her finger.
Mellia near-whispers, “Not as many as I used to, but the Great Hospital has a maternity ward.”
“That must be… well, I should not think about babies. I’m here for the end of lives, really.” Berra tears her eyes away from Haran, with some effort. “I came to ask if you had any geases against tattoos or requirements for pigment.”
“Neither,” Mellia replies, “why?”
“Because there’s a Clan Tattoo. It’s pretty big, and usually goes over the naval, but it could go on any patch of skin. The Wyter will want to meet you.” Berra peers down beside Haran, looking at her own front, and for the first time seems to see the milk markings. “Oh, sister-son, you are a messy child,” she murmurs next to his ear.
“They all are,” Mellia comments. “I will gladly take the tattoo and meet the Wyter. I wonder if my scar will mess that up, though.”
“The Spirit-Priest does the tattoo, so he’ll know. Big scar?” Berra slowly exchanges her finger for a rolled bit of cloth, and stays in the kneeling position that supports the sling so the tiny boy can sleep on.
Mellia nods. She gets up, then hikes up the left side of her robes to reveal a truly horrendous scar on her left side . Perhaps someone tried to chop her in half.
Berra gapes at it, staring, and then looks up at Mellia. “By Hell!” Her voice is still quiet, but there is an awe in it that indicates it might be through surprise, and not for the sake of her burden.
“Harrek the Berserker,” Mellia says bleakly. “I was trying to get one of our own to the healers’ tents and got too close to him.”
Berra winces. “Yes,” she says faintly. “We’ve met.” Her hand comes up to Haran’s head to curl around him protectively.
Mellia puts her robe back down, then sits down. “Queen Samastina should have left him at home.”
“I fought next to him. But not close enough he thought I was an enemy. At Pennel Ford.” Berra’s voice is disturbed now, carrying odd undertones.
Mellia nods. “I was healing at Pennel Ford. I was younger and less skilled then, so I took turns on bearer duty.”
“I was on his right flank. There was a gap in the line, just downriver of him, and my captain was dead. I led my unit in there – we held it. Mainly, I held it, I suppose. I kept getting bodies floating down at me. And then he saw the … well, you saw what happened when he realised about the Western Barbarians.” It’s famous, of course, how they changed sides and that angered him, and he dealt with this by charging them. “I would be willing to swear his bear-cloak roared like he did when he began to run forward.”
Mellia nods. “I saw the results, anyway.”
“He told me how he got it, you know? Should I tell you? He… I think he likes me.” Berra looks confused by that.
Mellia looks confused by the thought that Harrek could like anyone. “Only tell me if you feel like it.”
Berra shrugs. “It’s nothing to me really. Just a story. It might be best if you don’t have to know, though. And Haran’s too young to hear such tales.”
Mellia nods vigorously. “Let us change the subject.”
“I can probably tell you all about Haran’s past adventure. We have gone to a lot of places, but mostly he was seeing me. I think he’s got someone he loves more, though.”
“Let us not discuss Harrek, please. Come to think of it, there is something we need to talk about.”
“Mhm?” Berra perks slightly. “What?”
Haran makes little damp sleepy noises. Berra pulls a loop of the sling material over his head against the chill of the falling evening.
“We owe what are now our people protection and leadership. Do you know of any threats here, Berra?”
“Here? Dragon-newts, Tusk riders, beast men and chaoslings. The Malani tribe. The usual, really. But I was thinking maybe we could put women tenants on the land, and try to find them warrior husbands from outside. The thing is, we’re a peaceful clan. You’ve not seen them when they are … well, the Lunars were bad. A lot of people took up arms or left. Mostly the people my age got sent away if they didn’t have parents, and the people a bit older … I haven’t asked about them all, but I can guess. But to change the clan is to change the Wyter. Breaking the community like that would hurt everyone.”
“Hmm. I was wondering if we could summon those who were sent away home. That would heal the community, I think.”
“They’re coming back, slowly. Yehna was another. I’m one. But there are a lot of exiles that the Lunars made, and those worry me.” She blows gently onto Haran’s brow, under the cloth. “I haven’t been back in seven years. Not since I was a child. So I’m making the most of the next few days. I’ll be borrowing this child from his mother as much as she’ll let me.”
Mellia beams at that.
“I had the tattoo done a long way from here. I don’t know how the tattooist knew it, but maybe that’s a mystery for people who do those things. She used our woad, which is the important thing. It was in Esrolia.”
“We should perhaps have the tattoos done here, for the symbolism, or in Clearwine Fort.”
“Here. The Spirit Priest will do it. This is the Clan.” Berra looks a bit surprised even to be saying it.
Mellia nods. “I want to do right by these people, Berra. Did Rajar and Serala tell you that they donated their land to me in exchange for free healing? I worry that Kallyr may be less than pleased by that.”
“They did, yes. I was there for Rajar… And… well, yes. She’s trying to give them a reason to stay here, I think. She doesn’t understand nomads don’t know land. But giving them a Temple will be the right thing to do. Don’t…” She lifts up the little hood she has made for Haran, and bites her lip for a moment then says, “Don’t get tied down,” in a broken whisper.
“Oh, Berra,” accompanied by an attempted hug, “dearest friend, all our wandering days may be over if we want to keep the land. I want Irillo and Xenofos to look over those grants and see if there is a clause about forfeiting the land if we fail in our duties.”
“Uh… no.” Berra allows the hug, but seems confused. “We can’t stop. There are things that are more important.” She keeps her hand by Haran’s face.
“What in particular?”
“Sartar.” Berra looks at Mellia, calm over worry, with that one word.
“What is wrong with Sartar?”
It takes a moment for Berra to gather her thoughts, and when she does, she says, “Remember Whitewall? Two things happened to me there. I met D’Val, and I met Tennebris. Those two things changed my life. I’d invited you back here, and I was going to come here – and then I met D’Val and had a conversation with Tennebris. He told me that Sartar was disunited. I was thinking wrong, trying to do an Initiate’s thinking, and he was thinking like a Chief Priest, he said. And I started to change my mind about what was important. He says it’s broken – disunited. That’s why we went to get the Stationary Lightbringers Quest. To help heal it. Bring together the people. Kallyr’s new and the Lunars are going to be coming back in force, and we need to be able to meet that.”
“Ah, ” Mellia says. “Yes, that is important. Which way are the Lunars expected to come?”
“Most people are expecting them to come through Alda Chur, and there might be a battle around Dangerford, but it could be anywhere. The High Sword and Tennebris are going to be vital, and Kallyr needs to lead. Keeping them away from Boldhome is probably their aim.” She shrugs. “It’s just possible they will swing South through Dragon Gap, and come from the West. I think Argrath of Pavis is going to keep the Praxian Lunar power tied down, but I don’t know. The Generals will. This place is a day out of most route marches, no matter what. It might get plundered for supplies, but it won’t get burned or fought over.”
“That’s good news for our people. Too bad we aren’t sneakier than that Lunar spymaster. If we were, we could go capture him and ask him.”
Berra shudders, and murmurs something to Haran. “If we can keep Sartar safe and strong, it protects all of the Tribes, and all of the Clans. It was when the Kingdom was conquered that things went wrong here. So I’ll come back, and then I’ll go, and like D’Val I won’t be in my home, but I’ll be outside it, doing the thing that protects it.” She builds up to some real determination as she speaks.
Mellia quietly nods.
Berra stays quiet for a while after that, her emotions having emptied out with her words. If she has anything more to say, she has no will to say it.
Mellia sits quietly for a while, then murmurs, “The Lightbringers all had to learn and grow.”
“Yes,” Berra says quietly, after a pause. “I think you still have learning to do. I want you to have learning to do, so you’re with us.” Haran, for his part, murmurs what might be the very start of a cry. He is not really awake yet, but it is starting to be an option.
Mellia nods. She whispers, “I think we’d better get Haran back to his mother.”
“We should. Would you like to come and meet her? She’s sort of like me, but not.” Berra rises gracefully, back straight, in the dimness. Going from kneeling to standing costs her no effort at all, and Haran does not even notice.
Mellia gets up, nods and will follow Berra.