1627, Storm Season, Disorder Week
Onjur has killed another village, and the group has chased him and failed to catch him, although Berra asked a troll they encountered to put a price on his head. Session 2.31.
Xenofos is sharpening his rapier.
After the troll, on the way back, Berra is still cold and professional. It might be how it is, or it might be how she is acting towards HIM. But now it’s guard time. There is no suggestion of learning how things are in the dark, or of patrols – just hunkering down, in places that have already been checked for good field of view. Still, there is time to talk.
There are no nicks in blade. Why should there be? It has not been drawn in anger.1Critical on Love Berra, fail Truth… no extra explanations.
After a while, Berra asks, “How’re you doing?”
“I do not like to retreat from this encounter, as prudent as it may be…”
Berra gives a short, abrupt sigh before answering. “We wouldn’t catch him. And if we did, it would go badly. But mostly, we have to go do the thing we were sent to do.”
“I understand that, little cousin, but that does not mean I like it.”
“He’ll be back. We only dealt with him that one time.” Berra frowns, or at least makes a little angry frustrated noise in the darkness, and hunches up like she is frowning.
“At the tower? Quite. Oddly enough, this feels more personal.”
“Yeah. I know what you mean. I mean, the last time he was around – the last time we found a place like this – it was just some PERSON. This time, knowing that he’s after splitting Sartar apart, it’s bad. Worse. I dunno.”
“Sartar? I was thinking of old man with a flintheaded javelin in his gut.”
Berra turns her attention to Xenofos, briefly, and then looks back out over the ground to reply. “He does not care who he hurts, as long as they are his enemies, and will set his enemies against each other. He went for a soft target because it would cause strife, as well as because it was easy.” Her expression stays calm, and her explanation is just that – an explanation without apparent anger.
“Newer run and let an old soldier collapse
whose legs have lost their power.
It is shocking when an old man lies
on the front line before a youth;
an old warrior whose hear is white and beard grey,
exhaling his strong soul into dust,
clutching his bloody genitals in his hands;
an abominable vision, foul to see:
his flesh naked.
But in a young man all is beautiful
when he still possesses the shining flower of lovely youth.”
He sighs. “Not that I really believe the last part anymore.”
“Alive is better than dead,” Berra says, “And when it comes, quick is better than slow. Not much else to do about it, except keep struggling.”
“But warriors make a choice, it is not nice but it has been chosen. With peasants… Old man. Kids. There is no honour.”
“No. I asked D’Val about his Runes, once. He said someone who wore the Moon with Death and Truth didn’t understand either of them. But you can bet your ar… you can bet he’ll call himself honourable.” Berra’s voice is just a touch flat, and that is all. No other hint of emotion makes it out.
“But where was his king and thane when the raiders came? How did they pay his loyalty?”
“The North’s always taken it hard. Beyond Dangerford you might as well be in Tarsh, for all the help you can get in time. The Donalf… the people up here aren’t as rich as Boldhome. But everyone’s been chucked out – it’s a good question, really. I’d been just assuming a lot of the thanes were dead, I guess?” Berra looks a little perplexed now. “I dunno.”
“Nobles should protect their tenants… That’s why they… we are nobles.”
Silence from Berra.
He looks at her. Long.
Melancholy, thoughtful, low, and possibly seething with anger. She is a warrior through and through, and so she is continuing to watch the landscape, but she looks like she might make a slow, careful decision to destroy things, and do it. She looks dangerous right now, not because she has her weapons to hand, but because she is thinking about how to use them.
He nods. “I had suspicion this would be just strategy to you. It seems it is not so.”
With only a hint of emphasis, Berra says, “Oh no. So far from that. But you have to keep it as … it has to stay distant, or else you lose. He nearly killed me using my own anger once. So no. He doesn’t get me again.”
He looks at his blade, immaculately sharp. Puts the whetstone into its pouch. Looks at Berra again. Looks away and combs his curls with his fingers. “That both brings me both delight and sadness, dear Berra.”
Berra freezes for just a moment, and then says, “Struggle while I can, then let it be quick. But the struggle isn’t just running into a fight. It’s deciding which one. He’ll get the final gift in the end.”
“I was delighted you are not still so separated as not to feel anger, when it is merited. And sadness you come to place it is required… And some embarrassment on my part for thinking you lack feelings when you do not make a show of them…”
Berra snorts. “I tend to… well, I try to be like ice. The water’s underneath. Moving, but you can’t always see it. Except when it floods. Like a couple of days ago.”
He nods. “I was so angry when coming back from that village and listening to idle prattling… or do you mean later when Varanis made us talk of it?”
“No. When I thought you were ignoring me. Because in a place like this it’s really important not to.” She sounds calm now, on her floe, or maybe solid ground.
“You can really only send cavalry out once, any thought of recalling it is futile… And it is more a question of holding it from charging before time always… ” he shrugs.
“I can expect them to … well, I need to know what to expect. That’s the important thing.” Berra shrugs. “It doesn’t matter now.”
“Expect us to charge or inspect any threats?” He smiles at her disarmingly.
“You’re scouts, for the time being. Because any threats up here are…” She looks at the smile, and chuckles. “I’m serious. Any threats out here that require cavalry require a hell of a lot more cavalry than I’ve got. And I’m not much good at commanding cavalry.”
“Still – it requires riding towards the potential enemy, quickly, to see, what is up there. Even if if we can do nothing more than yell run to the main caravan.” He smiles again. “And I am not joking. Getting the main body shot by arrows is a failure to cavalry screen.”
“I… I know that, Lord Xenofos. But I didn’t want you up there.” Berra shrugs. “Talk about something else. I can beat you at talking about swords and boards later, if you want.”
He looks at her. “And you got hit by an arrow earlier, dear cousin. When riding in the main body.”
“That talking about something else. You’re not very good at it, are you?” Only a little bit irked. At least, on the surface. Berra sounds almost like she is joking.
He shrugs. “I am decent in remaining silent on a topic, but lousy in letting go… It feels like lying.”
“You’re confusing a warrior for a commander, then. I think. We have different things to do, and putting us together as if we’re the same is wrong.”
“I am too simple a man for such distinctions Berra darling. I can remain silent or speak Truth…”
“So remain silent. But changing the subject’s also good.” Her voice stays light, but there is an edge creeping into it.
He nods. And again looks at her long. “You did ask if I saw problem following your orders, seasons ago, if I remember correctly.”
The darkness only just shows how the pulse is beating hard at her throat. Her agitation would be more obvious in the light. But then again, in the light she might hide it. Berra shrugs. “You don’t have a problem, but we’re not very good at it. Yet.”
“We? ” he shrugs “if I recall correctly I told you I saw no problem, but made no promises either. Do you recall something different?”
“Urrhhh… Yeah. We’re not good at the talking part. It’s not that we have a problem in trying, or in wanting to. But it’s that we’re bad at making sure other people know what’s needed and what’s going on.” Berra shrugs. “Probably not whatever you were thinking.”
Brown eyes bore into Berra. He nods. And shrugs. “I do not want you to get hurt. If it looks likely, I act unless forbidden. And even than that command is better be quick.”
Berra sighs. “Yeah. I get that bit, don’t worry. People will always do what they think best. But when we have time, we’ve got to…” She gives Xenofos a look, and then shrugs. “When we’ve got time, we’ve got to know what the plan is, and what the options are.”
“If we have time, beloved.”
“Alright. I’ll take ‘dear’ and I can even stomach ‘darling’ but beloved?”
“You find offence in he word?”
“It makes it sound like I care in the same way.”
“Grammatically speaking, not. But if it offends you, I will not say it.”
“Thanks. In Heortling it’s pretty clear.” Berra tears her eyes away from the landscape. “I’m seeing nothing out there. Wind’s stopping hearing. My ears are getting cold. You?”
He makes a twisted smile. “I should probably refrain from saying what is in my mind. But as for seeing enemies, I am of similar mind…”
“At least we’re hardly getting rained on. But if more comes down, we should wake someone else as well. We can sleep properly back in Dangerford.”
The drizzle, such as it is, continues to make beads on the ends of Berra’s hair, and highlight the black feather she wears.
He looks at her for a long time, opens his mouth to say something and closes it again.293 on that Truth tune he already failed…
Her attention goes back to the world around them, away from him. Her expression clears into calm and watchfulness.
- 1Critical on Love Berra, fail Truth… no extra explanations.
- 293 on that Truth tune he already failed…