Berra does not get most of her armour on, although she has the helmet as if by habit. She walks out of the camp carefully, like a scout or a guard, picking the way that is quietest.
When they are a distance away she offers Maalira her hand to hold as they walk. The left, of course, not her sword hand.
Maalira takes Berra’s hand, scooting her medicine pouch around to the left so that she can still get at it.
Berra walks in silence for a few of Yelm’s great heartbeats before she says, “You look fine, and you’ll be alright.”
Maalira sighs. “I guess. It was… it wasn’t nice in there.”
“No. It won’t have been.” Being Berra she adds a thing that might be obvious. “It’s your biggest test. The most Chalana Arroy thing you can be and do.”
“I don’t feel like I passed,” Maalira admits.
There is a moment of silence, and then Berra asks, “What happened?”
“I couldn’t even dodge.” Maalira’s tone is bitter. “Whatever hit me should have killed me, I know it should have. Instead I woke up to a thing…” She shudders. “It was some sort of monster, it was disgusting and mean, and I stayed there with it for twenty years.”
Another pause, and then Berra says, “You were never supposed to dodge, friend. You are not a warrior.”
“Yes, but, it meant I wasn’t any use to anyone for the rest of the quest. Just a prisoner and then addled baggage.”
Berra stops walking. “That’s your head wound talking right now,” she says gently. “It’s hard to think with one.” It is impossible to tell from her tone if she knows that from experience. “If you can, being gentle to yourself, think through what you know of the quest.”1Pass Cult Lore: (( The Lore says that Eurmal has to become responsible and rescue the others. Everything is hopeless until he stops being purely selfish. ))
“I found Flesh Man and comforted him,” Maalira says slowly.
“And you were yourself, and the White Lady, all the way through?” Berra checks.
“Yes, I think so. I never did anything against my vows.”
“Your test wasn’t dodging. It was being the White Lady even when it was difficult. You never made it so her power was driven away. She suffered a wound too.” Berra shudders.
“I thought…” Maalira is silent for a moment as she gathers her thoughts. “I thought I would feel different when it was over. Better, like I’d be a stronger White Lady or more holy or something. Instead I just feel sore and tired.”2Heroquest Reward: On a successful casting of a CA Rune spell you may make a second fertility or harmony roll. If successful you get 1 level of Extension for free. This stacks with normal Extensions, up to Extension 6 – duration 20 years
“Yeah. That’s what happens when you get to your edges. What it mostly means is you can do more, not that it gets easier.” There is a shrug transmitted through the hand. “It’s not easy to do what we did.” Berra sounds like she knows that one far too well.
“I’m sorry.” The words come out in a rush. “I’m sorry I took Varanis’ side against you. You didn’t want any of this.”
Berra squeezes Maalira’s hand and lets it go. “You’re not a warrior and you didn’t know what I knew. I was alone when I was Humakt – that’s what I have to do.” She looks towards Boldhome, still days away. “I endang… endan… put you in danger then too.”
Maalira makes a small sound, the sort of sound someone might make if, for example, they had been biting their lip and bit it a bit too hard.
“You didn’t endanger me on purpose,” she says. “It was just how the quest went. That matters.”
More silence. “When I was trying to break you out of it, I asked Jar-well to stop it.” Berra speaks low. “That wasn’t honourable. I was trying to stop it and I had forgotten you didn’t ask to be there. That you were someone who has never hurt anyone.”
Maalira laughs nervously. “Not since I became a White Lady, anyway. Valseena and the other cousins could tell you a few stories…” She trails off. “It might not have been honourable, but it was truthful. You were doing what was right, to you, in that moment.”
The next short pause might have been filled by a shrug. “You’ll live. And they’ll not treat you badly in Boldhome, and she didn’t get everything she wanted. That’s important too. We got pulled in but we … everyone… didn’t… I don’t know. It was a fallback plan that we would do the Lightbringers’ Quest. But we need to get back and report about it.”
Maalira thinks on this for a moment. “Berra, I overheard some of what Dormal and Varanis were arguing about earlier. How much danger are we – any of us, all of us – really in? How bad will it get?”
“For you, little. Varanis is the one who took the decision, and we were following orders to try to go rescue her. So for the rest of you, it’s about how angry Kallyr will be, and I’ll make sure that she … we’ll get a message home before we arrive so it’s not going to be a surprise to her. Lord Eril sent a message to me, which is why we turned back to Lunar Tarsh again, and nobody knew that Jar-eel would be there. So we’ve failed, but it’s… they knew we were likely to try, and I got told to.”3Maalira: Pass on Insight.
There is something Berra has not said there. A ‘rest of you’ and then ‘Varanis’. Nothing about her. She did not do that by accident.
“And what about you?” Maalira probes.
“I… um.” Berra heaves a slow sigh. “I’m not sure I even want to talk about this in the glowline. But I made Jar-eel pay attention to me. I can’t go back from that. I did some things that might not have been good and I don’t know. She threw me into a Quest that I’d never heard of, and kept me there, and I was trying to break it.” Her voice speeds up. She is worried, as much about the past as the future.
“To you think J… she… is going to come after you? Or try to use you for more quests?” Maalira considers, then says quickly, “We can wait to talk about it until we’re further away if you want.”
“I’m not important. Not to her. I think I’m tiny but interesting. So I’m probably going to be a… not a weak point, and she probably won’t, but I think she could pull in people from a long way away. So maybe?” Berra gets her expression and her voice under control again. “She doesn’t need to use me, but if she decides to, my only defence is to keep fighting, and try to break other things. Be too dangerous to use. But she’ll win me eventually, if she wants to. I can’t stand against the ocean.” Then a pause, and, “Only punch it.” Berra is smiling in the dark.
Maalira smiles too. “That’s all any of us can do, in the end, I guess. The amount of power she has… you punch the ocean, I’ll get the salve ready for your knuckles, and that’s all we can do.”
Maalira considers this for a moment more. “Have you ever actually punched the ocean?”
“Kind of. I want to get home…” Berra gets close enough that Maalira can see her twisted smile. “There is a… Well, I need to report. But nothing I’ll say where the moon can hear me.” Not in the glowline. Not within Lunar Tarsh. “I have basically Magastan Runes. I should have been born next to an ocean and become a sailor. But I would totally punch an ocean god if they disrespected me.” Normally Berra would roll out her shoulders, getting ready for a fight. In the dimness of the red moon, she just looks tired. Tired and ready to fight again.
“I want to go home, too… I just need to figure out where home is now. It’s not trailing after a herd in Prax patching up stupid accidents and dying of boredom otherwise.” This is said with some emphasis.
“Home’s mostly my Temple,” Berra says, “And my clan. But home’s where I feel safe. It’s where I can take off my armour sometimes.”
Maalira nods. “I liked being in Blue Tree,” she says. “It was gentle.”
“Maybe nomads change where their home is anyhow?” Berra suggests. “You’re welcome there. They like you. There’s a shrine being built. But eventually you might get bored?”
Maalira nods again. “Yes, I don’t think I could stay there forever, it would be like Prax after a while, being just one thing all the time. But it’s a good place to go back to afterwards.”
“It is. That’s a good thing.” Berra says, “Maybe I’ll ask my sister to come to Boldhome. It depends a bit on what my Temple does.” That sounds like a very wide range.
“If all is well, perhaps she could bring baby Berra. She must be getting so big!” Maalira sounds delighted at the thought.
“And Haran. It’s a bit of a problem having all of the family of Sartar together, but yes, I want to see them.” Berra finds a comfortable rock to sit on, sits on it, and then gets up to offer Maalira a seat. “Have you got anything that’ll help me get to sleep? In the morning I need to be fresh because I think Irillo and the others… Irillo and… I want to make sure Irillo and Valseena and the others are alright, and I hate it when I’m too tired to think about that.”
Maalira doesn’t sit, but gestures for Berra to sit down again. She thinks, then starts to rummage in her belt pouch before giving up. “I do, but I can’t remember whether it’s here or in my scrip, and it’s too dark to see either way. I’ll find something once we’re back in camp and I can spread things out so I can see them a bit.”
“I don’t want to wake him. Irillo’s not normally like that. I can always sleep on the bison if I have to.” Berra does sit down. “I just don’t want to dream. I’ve never woken up casting a spell like that.”
“I won’t wake anyone, I was using my scrip as a pillow anyway so it’s just at my spot.”
Maalira pats Berra on the shoulder, very carefully. “Come on. You do need to sleep.”
The shoulder pat goes fine. “I’ll be on watch after Varanis,” Berra adds. “So I can’t sleep too deeply.”
They are, in theory, in civilised lands.
Maalira thinks again, then pulls out a lozenge. “This is made from berries, so it should be safe for you. It won’t make you sleepy exactly but it might help your thoughts not go whirling around for a while.”
“Um, like meditation?” Berra looks confused briefly, as she takes the lozenge. “That doesn’t happen to me much…” glomp Eaten.
Something like meditation should be, yes.” Maalira grins. “Not how it usually is.”
“My thoughts move all the time. Like fish. Sometimes together, sometimes not.” Berra stands, walking again. “It would be really good to talk to you once we are out of the glow line. Once it’s more safe to.”
Maalira smiles at her, looking more relaxed than she has at any other point since they ended the quest. “I would like that.”
“Let’s get me back down, then. I don’t think I will be a wolf again. Thank you for checking on me.”
- 1Pass Cult Lore: (( The Lore says that Eurmal has to become responsible and rescue the others. Everything is hopeless until he stops being purely selfish. ))
- 2Heroquest Reward: On a successful casting of a CA Rune spell you may make a second fertility or harmony roll. If successful you get 1 level of Extension for free. This stacks with normal Extensions, up to Extension 6 – duration 20 years
- 3Maalira: Pass on Insight.