1628, Fire Season, Fertility Week
During some downtime in Dunstop, Berra teaches Maalira how to mend while Varanis attempts not to tear anyone to shreds. Session 13 (Family’s Always Embarrassing)
Mirava has been visited. A pass-port has been obtained. It only remains for Irillo to declare that they will leave, and for that, at the very least, it needs to be morning.
It is late evening. Berra is attempting to meditate in the common room of the inn where they are staying. She is dressed in light clothing; a linen tunic and trousers, unembroidered. She is getting a few stares, but as she is looking particularly boring, even the sword across her lap is not cause for consternation.
Maalira has been making some small repairs to her kit, glaring in frustrated concentration at a needle and thread
Berra finally sighs, gets up, belts on the sword, and goes over to Maalira. “Let me do it?” she suggests.
“Please.” Maalira holds out a sock, needle and thread with a pleading look. “It’s clean, and it HATES me.”
Berra nods. “Alright. You need something to stretch it a bit.” She slides into place, pulls off a shoe, and pushes the back of it into Maalira’s sock, which ends up inside-out as she does it, by some miracle of dexterous fingers and Berra having done this before. “That makes it all stand away from itself the same amount.” It’s not the sturdiest of darning mushrooms, but it is good enough. “I don’t use this sort of pre-made shape, basically for this reason.”
Maalira leans over, watching intently, and her hair immediately blocks the light so she shifts until she can see.
Berra’s darning is not beautiful, or particularly fast, but it is strong. She strengthens the weft first, saying, “If you look how I’ve done it, you can see how the bindings work? Then you tend to have easier repairs.” Her expression of concentration, and the light way she speaks, says she is working hard at this, despite seeming to know what she is doing.
Maalira nods. “I see what you mean. I was just kind of pulling it about not actually catching anything.”
“You need to be able to see where it is,” Berra replies, which she has sort of said already. She entirely fails to notice the light getting blocked, or at least, does not look at why. She just bends to her work as someone pauses nearby.
Maalira moves her head, thinking that she is casting the shadow, and frowns when it becomes apparent that she is not.
They are being watched by a man in light armour who has stopped to admire the pair – or at least, to smile down at them.
Maalira looks up at the newcomer, raising her eyebrows and tilting her head quizzically.
The man smiles. “Are you alright, White Lady?” he asks, causing Berra to shift in her seat – someone looking at her would see she has looked up, scowled, and looked down. The man has the suntan of someone who wears a helmet a lot, the bearing of a soldier. Truth, Death, and Water runes make a complex painted pattern on his scabbard and sword belt.
“Yes, thank you, uh…” Maalira lets the sentence hang, hoping the stranger will introduce himself or at least explain his question.
“Your servant is making slow work of that – I wondered if you would like the address of someone who does my fixing for me.” He tilts his head. It’s sort of appealing, in a way that says he means absolutely no harm here.
Berra straightens up just a little. There’s an edge to her suddenly.
Maalira gives a burst of laughter. “Berra isn’t my servant!” she protests. “She’s my friend. She’s just better at this than me.”
Berra smiles a tiny bit, looks at Maalira, and gets back to her work.
Varanis has been pacing irritably and sending longing glances to any and all rooftops in sight. At Maalira’s words she glances over, then looks perplexed. “What are you trying to do?” It has taken her some time to notice what’s going on.
Berra says, “I’m darning her sock. It’s got a tiny hole in it.”
The soldier – probable soldier – winces. “Ah, no offence?” he guesses.
“I tried darning it myself, but Berra couldn’t stand to see me mangling it that badly.” Maalira flashes Berra a fond grin.
“Why not just get new ones?” asks the noblewoman who has probably never darned a sock in her life.
The soldier looks at Berra. “Berra of Balazar?” he asks. The answer is almost certainly no.
“I’d run out of money,” Maalira points out patiently.
“No, just call me Berra, it’s easier,” says Berra with a smirk. “Socks are expensive, Varanis.”
“But… they are just socks…” Varanis argues.
“That’s a lot of spinning and …” Berra trails off, apparently trying to work out exactly how the sock is made. “It looks woven at the top, but the bottom’s different.”
“I’m not sure, but it must take a lot of time,” Maalira agrees.
The soldier gives Maalira an encouraging look. “I’m sure that people would buy you clothes in gratitude for what you do,” he says.
Maalira’s lips give a slight, barely-noticeable twist. “Sometimes, yes, but one should be self-reliant where possible.”
“Do you have to wear white socks?” Varanis asks out of curiosity. “They wouldn’t stay white for long.”
Berra says, “White’s pretty cheap, but it does go brown.”
“There’s ways of cleaning things,” says Maalira, as if she has known this forever and wholly mastered the skill. “White socks are probably not an obligation but it’s what I’ve always done.”
Like most of her clothing, Varanis’ socks are blue. In fact, what can be seen of them suggests they are striped in different shades of blue. Because why wouldn’t she wear expensive dyes on her feet where they will hardly be seen?
The soldier is wearing short socks, probably wool, under sturdy sandals.
“When Marta gives me new socks, they sometimes turn my feet blue,” Varanis says. “She likes to pretend that’s my nature showing through.”
“My sister’s tried dyeing,” Berra says, “But she’s not good at it. She gets good green, though.”
The soldier looks a little confused. This was probably not how things were going to go when he started the conversation in his head.
Varanis eyes the soldier suddenly. “Were you looking for something in particular, mate?” she asks. She sounds remarkably like a grouchy Berra, almost, but not quite picking a fight.
Maalira recognises the tone and shifts a little in her seat. Someone who knew her well might have thought she was getting ready to duck under the table.
The man assays a brief smile. “I wanted to see if the White Lady needed a repair-woman.”
“I’m fine, thank you,” Maalira says with a White Lady smile.
“She’s fine,” Varanis reiterates in a way that suggests it’s time for him to move along.
“Are you?” he checks with a smile.
Maalira’s eyes widen slightly then narrow slightly before she gets control. “Perfectly,” she says.
He ignores Berra, and turns to nod to Varanis. Her expression makes him step back, and he just turns to go.1Varanis passes Intimidate.
Varanis looks like an alynx contemplating disemboweling its next meal.
Berra looks at the sock. “Sit down and learn how to darn?” she suggests.
When the man is out of earshot, Varanis hisses, “Call me Ranie. And I don’t want to sit.” She returns to her pacing, stalking around the enclosed space, making it feel that much smaller.
Berra frowns, thoughtfully, and then winces.
Maalira looks from Varanis to Berra to the man’s retreating back, then back to Berra. Lowering her voice, she asks “What’s up with… Ranie… and WHAT was up with that man?”
Berra shrugs. “I dunno,” she says glancing towards the soldier. “I mean, about him. She hates being here.” She looks annoyed, maybe even irritated.
“Here as in this room, this inn, or this town?” Maalira asks.
“This whole place,” Berra says. “Explain later. I just messed up calling her by name and I kind of want to concentrate on that and she’s her own person – not for me to say?”
Maalira nods. “Fair enough.”
Berra sighs. “I can’t call her the wrong thing. I’ve been trying not to use her name.”
Maalira checks that Varanis is out of general hearing range. “She’ll forgive you. She always does when one of us gets under her skin.”
“It’s not that. She’s not annoyed with me – she’s just annoyed. But I don’t know what I’ll yell if I need to get her attention. Maybe it’ll be right at the time?” Berra grimaces, and looks around. “Do you have wax?”
Maalira blinks at Berra’s non-sequitur, then nods. She fishes around in her mending bag and pulls out a blob of wax in a leather wrapper
Berra rubs the edge of the wax with her thumb for a bit and then draws a bit of thread over and through it, making a tiny mark. She rolls it back and forth a bit as well. “Helps it glide. Otherwise the thread wears when you’re pulling it through a lot. You can make a needle out of a boar’s hair, you know? I mean, Yehna can. I can’t.”
“That would be very thin. And sharp.” Maalira watches the waxed thread in fascination.
“Yeah. It’s cheap, again, but it takes time.” Berra is now cross-weaving. She starts at a different point on each row, making them longer and shorter. “That’ll help it stop feeling lumpy,” she says. “Yehna’s got different patterns she uses.” Everything about cloth seems to go back to Yehna, with the Humakti.
“Yehna has such a wealth of knowledge about weaving and sewing things,” Maalira observes.
“She really liked that sort of thing, back in Esrolia,” Berra says. “Very Ernaldan. It’s good we’re family or we wouldn’t understand each other at all.”
Maalira nods. “Families are peculiar things. People who are from the same time and place but who are so very different – I wonder how that happens.”
“Runes. I don’t know how those happen though. But if you’re a Death person, then … I think that I think of it more like that? I mean, I was born in Sea Season. Movement Week. I’m made of movement.”
Maalira nods. “Yes, I guess you’re right.” She gives Berra a grin. “No wonder meditating isn’t your favourite thing.”
Berra gives Maalira a wide-eyed nod.