Cliff Face

Berra — Cliff Face

1627, Earth Season


Context

Late in Earth Season, in the afternoon of the second day at the Blue Tree. [[[s02:session-54|Session 54]]]

Events

A short child with a shock of black hair and a worried look runs up to Berra and tugs on the warrior’s sleeve.

Berra looks down. “Sup… uh… Irfanost.” She might even have the name right.1Berra passed Loyalty Clan to remember, but could have been wrong.

He pulls harder, trying to get his head closer to hers.

Maalira turns a delighted look on the newcomer, being rather fond of children.

Berra bends down. She does not have to bend as far as other people would.

“The thane lady went over the cliff,” he whispers loudly. “I sawed her do it.”

Berra blinks. “Someone fell? Where?” Her voice is loud enough to be heard by anyone.

Maalira snaps to attention, her stomach suddenly feeling tight and cold

“Don’t think she fell. She was at the cliff there.” The child points. “Then she wasn’t. But she didn’t yell. You gotta yell when you fall.”

Berra still sets off at a run.2Berra passes Love (Family) and fails anything that might keep her calm. A moment later she calls, “THANKS!” but that’s all. From stationary to full sprint in the time it took to take a breath.3Passed DEXx5

Maalira cannot run as fast as Berra, even though she’s somewhat taller, but she sprints after her as fast as she can go.4Passed DEXx5

A head sticks out of the shrine. “What is going on?”

Maalira considers trying to answer the question over her shoulder as she runs, but thinks the better of it. Tripping will not improve matters.

Heads turn to watch, and several people follow – a warrior in sudden motion could mean trouble. Most of those running are armoured men, the Malani warriors who stay around this village but are not part of it.

Mellia decides to follow, carrying her satchel. She is very short and is probably bringing up the rear.5Failed DEXx5

Berra hits the cliff path, tries to detour up the cliff itself, and cannot find a route, so she keeps going up the way that is already cut.6Failed an initial Climb roll. No penalty, but no advance up the cliff.

Maalira follows her, dodging the scree Berra’s footsteps are kicking loose.

7Mellia remembers that one way or another, the river killed both of Berra’s parents – one by drowning, one by falling.

“Only my belt!” Maalira shouts over her shoulder, and promptly slips on a stone although she catches herself before falling.

No answer from Berra, who is just surging upward – faster on the slope than she was on the flat, by dint of running half on the walls. “Varanis?!” she yells, louder than anyone her size should be able to. There is only a little note of panic to her.8Special on Sing for projection. She’s loud.

There’s only the sound of rushing water from below the cliff and the noise of the rocks as people shift them underfoot.9Nobody in the group gets better than an ordinary pass.

Mellia rolls her eyes and mutters a bad word.

Berra speaks as well, audible to Maalira and just maybe to Mellia as well. “She’ll be fine. She’befine…”

The armoured group behind Mellia are too polite to make her move out of the way, although several are strong and fast. Still, they are not going to push aside a White Lady.10Berra and Maalira pass Climb. Mellia fails, and is behind.

One of them stays close to Mellia. “What’s going on?” he asks her.

“I don’t know, but I think my cousin Varanis went into the river.”

Berra gets close to the top of the cut path, and from the saddle Berra turns right and takes a run at the cliff, using her momentum to carry herself to where she can start flailing upwards. “Varanis!” she calls again. This time, it is quieter – the breath has been knocked out of her by her own efforts.

The warrior sticking by Mellia looks grim-faced.

Maalira scrambles after Berra, trusting the Humakti to know the right way to go

“Varanis might also have climbed something. She does that.”

Mellia’s warrior continues the climb, huffing a little with exertion. When they come to a difficult part, he diffidently offers Mellia a hand.

The Humakti powers her way up the slanted rock face to the side of the path, ungainly but always making headway, until the wall becomes footing, and she stands to shout again. “V’ranis!” Now quieter, out of Air.11Failed Sing.

Mellia takes the help and thanks him for it. Mellia is a poor climber.

Maalira catches up with Berra at the top, looking around wildly, too out of breath to say anything.

“Berra?” The faint sound comes from somewhere below the Humakti’s feet, tossed about by the wind.

“Does she often do such things, White Lady?” the warrior asks of Mellia.

Berra takes a deep breath. This one seems to be to steady herself. “You… alright?” The relief in her posture is hopeful.12Maalira passes Insight (Human).

Mellia says, “All the time, from when we were children.”

“Why … I…” The wind snatches away most of the words. Here at the top of the peak, the wind is strong. It’s as though Orlanth himself is trying to dishevel Maalira’s tidy hair and peek under her robes.

“Where is she?” Maalira looks at Berra in deep confusion.

Maalira slaps her hands down on her skirt, giving up entirely on her hair. Once the curls get away there’s no helping them.

“Down there.” Berra points over the cliff. “Can you come up please?” she calls. Unseen by anyone but Maalira, because only Maalira is there, Berra has tears in her eyes.

“Gi… a minute…” comes the reply from below.

Maalira isn’t sure she should, but she reaches out and puts a hand on Berra’s shoulder, offering silent support.

Berra sits down, either with the relief of tension, or because of the touch. Still, she sat very suddenly, like strings had been cut on a puppet show stage.13Maalira passes First Aid. Mellia, surprisingly, fails.

Behind them, the Malani steadies Mellia as she crests the rocky peak. The rest of the Malani follow, so that now the space at the top is becoming crowded.

It’s a thing warriors get often, just not this one… Berra’s had a massive shock, and it is catching up with her.

Maalira closes her eyes for a moment, mentally running through the various ways to deal with shock. “Berra, would you like some help?”

Maalira doesn’t wait for an answer before taking off her cloak and draping it over Berra’s shoulders.

Berra shakes her head, denying any problem, but not actually speaking.

The Malani who escorted Mellia leaves her side to peer over the edge. He beckons to her to join him. “That’s her, yeah?”

Maalira tries again, this time putting some White Lady authority into her voice. “Berra, I think you’re in shock. Will you accept some help?”

Berra looks up. “Uh, yes?” she replies, the voice getting through to her.

Mellia peeks where indicated.

Maalira fumbles in her belt pouch and pulls out some pastilles from a waxed pouch. Crouching down next to Berra, she presses one in to her hand. “Please, take this. It is honey and herbs, it will help.”

That does look like Varanis. Or at least the top of her head. The wisps of red hair having escaped from the plaits are a dead giveaway.

She’s still a ways down, but appears to be climbing.

Mellia says to the warrior, “That’s my cousin down there.”

Berra looks at the pastille, and then eats it. “Sure?” she says with one cheek slightly buckled out by chewing.

“Think she needs help?” the warrior asks.

“Very sure.” Maalira nods encouragingly.

Mellia moves cautiously away from the edge, so Varanis can get up.

Mellia says, “I don’t know if she wants help.”

Berra sighs, looks down, trembles a little. “Thanks, then.”

“Right.” He leaves the healer’s side to speak with his comrades. There’s much shaking of heads, but most of them turn to head back down, leaving behind the warrior who has been speaking with Mellia and one other. “I’m called Feral,” he tells the healer when he returns. “Brandt and me will just stick around until this is done.”

“Thank you both,” Mellia replies. “You may need to save Varanis from me.”

Not long after, fingers appear over the edge of the rocks, followed by the rest of Varanis. She hauls herself up the last bit easily. There is blood in her hair and a long smear of it on her face. She looks surprised to see so many people.

Maalira looks over her shoulder at the other White Lady. “You may have to queue up behind Berra.”

“Um… hello,” Varanis says.

Berra, from her position a little further up the rock, can just about be seen from below. Her expression is really only clear to Maalira. There is a moment of anger expressed as a clenching of the jaw, and then a cold, hard look that holds her back as if she just decided not to have emotions. Then it seems that peace overtakes her. The shivering that had started goes on, but does not get worse, and seems to fade. Her shoulders relax. She looks peaceful, but blank.

Maalira frowns at this parade of expressions, and considers offering her another pastille

The two Malani hang back, watching the proceedings.

Varanis looks genuinely surprised and confused to see all of you. You’ve shocked her, but now she’s trying to cover that up.

Mellia says, “Scalp cut, just great, cousin. Serve you right if I need to cut your hair.”

“Hey! I healed it already,” Varanis protests. “It was just a little thing. But it was bleeding enough that it was hard to see.”

Varanis pulls herself to her feet and sways a little as the wind suddenly buffets them all.

Berra considers something, and then freezes in that calm position. For a moment she has the poise that Yamia has. She spits out the remains of the pastille onto her palm. “Tell me… White Lady. Please. Do these contain vegetables?” She sounds curious, nothing more.

“Ah… if you count herbs as vegetables, I suppose, but one does not usually.”

Colour drains from Berra’s face. “Oh.” There is a brief pause, as she reaches for her water bottle, always in reach on her belt.

Varanis stumbles a little, which puts her directly in front of Mellia. Now Mellia can see where the wound was. There’s a fine line of a fresh scar, just at Varanis’ hairline. And disturbingly, it looks a bit like there might be hair trapped within it.14Mellia passes First Aid.

Mellia says firmly to Berra,” I am certain Humakt will understand and forgive.”

Maalira slaps her hand over her eyes. “Oh, Berra, I’m sorry. I don’t think of herbs as vegetables and it didn’t occur to me that you might.”

Mellia says to Varanis, “There is hair stuck in there. We’re going to have to get it open, clean it, then heal it.”

Berra clamps down on actually swallowing, takes a swig of water, and starts to rinse out her mouth. “If it’s leaves, it probably counts,” she says. There are no tears, no shakiness in the voice, but she does not look like she is having a good time for the moment.

When the wind blasts them yet again, the long robes of the healers flap and snap. Feral steps forward. “Perhaps it would be wise to talk more down the hill, yeah? Orlanth is busy and I think Heler is considering joining him.” Sure enough, rain is visible in the distance.

“Excellent idea.” Mellia starts back to the shrine.

Maalira offers a hand to Berra. “Can I help you up?”

Feral falls into step next to Mellia, ready to help her as needed. He leaves Brandt with the others.

“Just take my swords,” Berra says, starting to unbuckle them where she is. “I need to be sick, check if I swallowed any. I think I did.” The strange calm is gone, but at least the shock seems to have departed with it.

“Berra? What’s wrong? Are you unwell?” Varanis has finally registered that something isn’t right with Berra.

Maalira gathers up the swords in her arms, looking mortified.

Berra does not answer. She gives no indication to others of having heard Varanis.

“Come along, all of you. There’s no reason to get rained on.”

“Don’t puke into the wind,” Brandt offers helpfully. The dark-skinned warrior’s expression is unreadable. The Truth and Death runes on his face suggest that he understands Berra’s crisis.

“I can’t leave Berra, cousin!” Varanis protests. “Why aren’t either of you helping her?”

“I tried and I messed up,” says Maalira, her voice heavy with embarrassment and regret.

Mellia sighs, comes back and asks Berra, “Can I give you an herb to make you vomit?”

“So? When we makes mistakes, we fix them. That’s what Orlanth teaches us.” Varanis speaks as someone used to making mistakes. She peers around Maalira, trying to see what’s going on with Berra.

Berra says from her seat up where the slope changes, “No, Mellia. I ate it. He’s… it’s done. Thank you.” She looks worn out. “Could you give me a moment, all?”

Maalira’s eyes fill with mortified tears and she blinks hard to try to get rid of them, unable to wipe them away because her arms are full of swords

Mellia says, “Of course. Varanis, we need to get you to the shrine before disease demons go into your head.”

“Brandt, help Maalira down?” Berra suggests in a small voice. Small, like her.

“Right,” Varanis attempts to take command of the situation. “You Malani – please help the White Ladies reach their shrine.”

Varanis adds, “We’ll follow when Berra is ready.”

Maalira shivers – her cloak is still on Berra – and allows the Malani warrior to guide her back towards the path.

Berra does that thing she said she would do, crawling a little up the slope.

Mellia looks like she might shout, but leaves with Feral.

The Vingan takes a seat at the top of the path, where she can watch the others climb down, but only needs to turn to see Berra.

For the moment, she is keeping her back to the little Humakti.

The way back down is harder in some ways. Ernalda seems to pull at them while Orlanth shoves. The rocks slide about underfoot. This would be a treacherous climb in the rain. But the Malani are strong and confident. When the small group reaches the saddle, there are others waiting for news.

Mellia says, “Thanks for waiting . Varanis’s scalp cut needs cleaning. Berra needs to talk to a priest of Humakt. Otherwise everyone is fine.”

This generates a lot of murmuring and some people peer up the rocks as if looking for the other two, but they haven’t followed.

Lenta puts hand on her mouth and turns sharply away.

One of the other women sees Lenta’s actions and looks speculative. 15And there goes the rumour mill.

Up at the top of the hill, after a few uncomfortable minutes, there is the sound of Berra drawing a dagger. A sigh. “I think I just got really lucky.” She still sounds drained.

There are a few people looking like they might go up after the others, but most of those gathered are more than ready to get back to the village. The rain is coming and the air is cold.

Mellia will encourage people to leave Berra and Varanis in peace.

Reluctantly, they do. It is unwise to argue with White Ladies.

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Berra thinks Varanis may have fallen over the cliff, and has reasons to fear this