1628, Fire Season
On the road back toward Sartar, the day after the Lightbringers Quest. After session 20: HeroQuest 5.
With the pace being about as fast as the animals can keep to, Berra puts herself on the right flank for a while, leaving hoofprints in the well maintained verge of the road. As Yelm starts to climb she signals Varanis to get her attention, and drops back behind the others.
The Vingan nods at Xenofos and then falls back too.
Berra checks the road behind and lets the distance build a bit. “I’m really spiky right now. I’ll try to keep it in.”
“You have every right to be on edge,” Varanis points out.
Berra shrugs. “Now is the time to get back home. But did you see what happened last night? I think you were the only one not there.”
Varanis gives her a sharp look. “What happened? When?”
“I turned into a wolf. I dreamed of… of a bad thing that happened. And I called out to Humakt and I woke up and I was a wolf.”
Varanis’ jaw drops as she gapes at her friend.
Berra looks at her, half unsure, and sort of smiles as she turns away. Her horse’s ears get her attention. “It was weird. Maalira was there, though. She smells different to everyone else.”
“Does… does this mean you’re Telmori now?” Varanis asks.
Berra shakes her head. “I think it’s because I was Humakt so hard, at that moment where I made Jar-eel step in. He’s a wolf in that story, so I am. Was.”
“And you’re also still Durulz?”
“I’m a duck, yes. Just a duck that can turn into a wolf. It’s not easy, though. I think. I’d have to call on the god.” Berra looks at Varanis In pained confusion. “So… that’s happened.”
“The songs about you are going to get even more interesting, my friend,” Varanis says with a wry smile.
Berra sighs. “There is already one about me being a wolf. I guess being able to bite through a table if people sing it could be useful.” She looks around. “I had a point, though, in wanting to say that.”((Berra’s obviously hurt but still present in mind and heart. She did not argue over being called a friend.))
“I might be about to put this badly,” Berra adds. “But it’s that we’re here, and we’ve not just been … we haven’t lost in a way that matters, because nothing is over.”
The smile turns from wry to worried and then resigned. “I appreciate you saying that. Really, I do.” Varanis stares at the road ahead for a long time. Her left hand settles on her sword hilt. “Thank you for sharing that. There’s a thing I have to tell you too.”
Berra falls silent, and then remembers to say, “Uhuh?” An invitation to go on.
“I was too dazed and angry to notice at first. You may have been too.” Varanis frowns. “Maybe I was still too much of Vinga and Orlanth.”
“I wasn’t in a good way at the end,” Berra says.
“My sword is wrong, but it feels right… but….” She swears a little and then says, “I’m going to draw it. So you can see.”
Berra – still on the right of Varanis, and not having looked at her much – does now, observing at the right level to see more than just an expression.((Insight? Critical! Varanis is deeply afraid right now. Her comment about drawing the sword is to reassure Berra that she’s not threatening her.))
The Vingan draws the sword, twisting awkwardly so that she can offer it to Berra hilt first.
Berra takes the sword, looks at the hilt, and looks at the length of the blade. If Varanis was amazed by the news she is a wolf, the Vingan has now had her revenge. Berra is speechless.
“I didn’t… I don’t…” Varanis desperately searches for words. “I want to tell you that I’d never have taken your blade again. But I can’t remember any of it. I just don’t know. That was the blade in my hand when I attacked Jar-eel.”
Berra says, “Maybe I had better look after it until we can get it back to the blacksmith?” She gives Varanis a troubled look. “I don’t know what it means, but it’s… I don’t know.”
There’s a little nod and no argument. “Can I keep it until we can get me a replacement? I need something…”
After a moment’s thought, Berra pats the sword on her right hip, the one that Eril lent her. “It’s a bit short, but this should do. I don’t expect much regular trouble on the ride.”
“Are you sure? I don’t want to leave you a blade short… practicing with the broadsword would be good for me. We haven’t done that for a while.” Varanis is working hard at persuading herself.
“If I know a thing, it’s swords. If I have to draw this, it’s because things are strange, but I can fight with anything of this shape, if Humakt is with me. Even if he’s not.” Berra starts to unbuckle Eril’s sword with one hand, thinks better of it, and offers the Truth sword back to Varanis. “It’s slim and straight, balance is a little more forward, and it’s got a sturdier feel than Wind Tooth because there’s no narrowing. A decent parrying weapon.” Wind Tooth is leaf-shaped, in a traditional style.
Resheathing the iron blade, Varanis unbuckles her sword belt clumsily. This is not a thing she would normally do whilst riding and her hands seem a little unsteady anyway.
“I guess at some point we have to work out if you’re worthy of it,” Berra says. “I mean, what happens from now?” She has to disentangle her belt from the other things she wears.
The Vingan flinches as if struck, but does not argue. “Now, I practice with a broadsword and we find Suuraki,” she says. Her expression suggests that she believes Berra thinks she’s unworthy, but given she thinks the same, she can’t object.
Berra looks away to give Varanis a moment to recover. “I don’t know how it works to give a sword anyhow. I don’t know how to judge if it’s been earned, except how I feel.” She speaks quietly, letting tiredness creep into her voice. It brings a hint of Esrolian peasant with it.
“How long has it been since we first met? Since I first learned to apologise?” Varanis muses. “How many times can one say I’m sorry before it becomes meaningless? Because I truly am sorry. No more excuses or justifications. I was wrong and I regret that I have caused you and the others so much harm. I can’t promise not to be stupid again, but I can promise to shut up and listen.”
Berra sighs. “I think you will always have bigger challenges. Newer ones. But I don’t know what the next thing is. We get home. You explain what happened. Then we do things again.” Berra might for once be lamenting her lack of education, because she uses one hand to gesture, leaving one for the sword and none for her horse. Unlike the bison, it reacts with a change of speed, moving onward at a faster clip.
After Berra’s horse slows down a little, she and Varanis manage to juggle swords. “Does it have a name?” she asks, as she buckles on Eril’s sword.
“Uh, yeah…” Berra looks faintly embarrassed.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“It… I think you should probably know what kind of man I follow. He’s not made it easy to find out, but I’ve narrowed it down. It’s either Reuniter – sends you to meet your family, or Alum.” Berra looks almost comically annoyed. “For the dying process!”
There’s a blink. And then another. And then despite herself, Varanis begins to chuckle.
“What kind of man does that?” Berra asks the air.
“H…” Varanis tries to say something, but she can’t get it past the growing laughter. She just shakes her head helplessly.
Berra sags, and giggles. Finally she admits, “I just say it’s his sword if anyone asks.”