1626, Storm Season, Movement Week, Water Day, during the night.
Still in Prax, but heading towards Sartar. They recently defeated a walktapus and must simply get on with things. (Session 2.28 Wedding Daze)
When they stopped for the sake of a sick bison, Berra put herself on watch with Xenofos. Now, after the fight, as morning approaches, she comes to wake him for the next stint.
Scholar opens his eyes as footsteps approach.
Berra kneels down, takes a familiar grip on his shoulder, and squeezes. If she noticed he was awake, she says nothing.
“Yeah. Nearly light.” Berra’s voice is a gasp. She stands, labouring for breath but getting there.
“Skipping Varanis? Good idea. But are you in condition to keep watch, yourself?” Scribe looks at her, worried.
“She’s going on after dawn.” Berra speaks low. “I can’t lie down, so I’m staying up anyhow. I keep having to sit up when I try. And…” She gets the breathing under control. “…I was going to anyhow, don’t worry.”
“You can not lie down? That noxious stuff hurt you so badly?”
“Uh… yeah?” Berra shrugs. “I could fight, though. And I can see, and that’s what’s important. Do you want to be looking in, or out?”
Xenofos looks at Berra for a while, before answering. “I can look out.”1Pass on Insight Human.
Berra means it. Of course she does. There is no fear in her, just an acceptance of how things are.
She leads the way to the watch point, where the mess of a chaotic corpse lies, before she glances at him to ask, “How are you?”2Xenofos fails, but does not fumble, Truth.
“Unhurt physically.” After a short pause he admits “A bit jumpy, could not sleep.”
“Yeah. You got up pretty quickly.” Berra stands where she can see both Xenofos and the remains of the walktapus. “Remember to drink enough?”3Berra fails Insight (Human) in the darkness.
“With just kumiss, I doubt we have enough, little cousin.”
Berra looks at him, and sighs. “Home soon. You can rest.” She glances around as she pulls off her waterskin, and offers it over. Despite the care she is taking of him, she still has a care for her task of guarding.
“Oh, water… Not sure if I drank any.” He accepts the bottle and lets his glance rest on her again.
All soft eyes and gentleness. Her gaze never gets less intense but right now it is for him. There is, however, a touch of coldness behind the stare, indicating patience that will see him right whether he wants it or no.
In cold predawn light Xenofos looks serious and tired. He takes a small sip, remembers his duty as sentry and scans the horizon again. His eyes sweep the plains all around, finally returning to Berra. “You sound hurt still…”
“I am. I keep coughing up chewy stuff. But it’ll pass.” Berra shrugs, and indicates the water bottle. “Keep drinking.”
He replaces the stopper. “Nah, I am good.”
“Keep drinking. You’ve been awake a while. This is Prax. And I need to check you’re alright.” She gives him a flat look, made all the more adorable by the determined set of her jaw.4Because she passed Charm.
He shrugs and takes another sip. “I was not hurt tonight. You and Varanis were. In a strange and scary way.”
“Yeah. And you serve her and you’re probably still in love with me. And sometimes you shake after battles. So you need to drink, and let the time pass, and it’ll be better.” Probably. As if she’s really unsure.
“Maybe… Eventually.” He is sweeping the horizon again.
Berra glances once more at the corpse. “You eat, you drink, you let time pass. And it carries you away like a river, and then you’re somewhere else.” She checks the horizon as well, for good measure.
“I have heard that.” He looks at Berra again. “Does not seem to work like that for everyone.”
“You’re looking back. That doesn’t help. But for me it takes about half an hour. Maybe three days, but that’s about the longest. For most people, a season or more. So it could take longer, but it does happen. Learning to look forward helps.”
He shrugs. “Just trying to stay in the present. Sometimes with success.”
Berra nods to that. “I don’t now how not to be looking to the next thing,” she admits. “I just change.”
“Different runes for different people.” He notes.
Berra puts out her hand for the water.
He hands the waterskin over.
Long, cold minutes later, Berra asks, “Do you know which way we’re going back?”
“If I remember maps of Prax correctly we are pretty far south. We need to take one of the passes through mountains to reach Sartar.” He scans westwards towards the distant peaks.
“Probably Jaldonkill, if we’re headed straight for Boldhome.” Berra kneels down as she speaks, looking at the ground for a moment to rest.
“No reason to tarry I guess.” He looks at Berra “Are you cold?”
Berra looks up, quirking a brow. “No?” she suggests. “It’s not cold weather. I’m… I’m not in trouble other than the breathing, and I could deal with that if I had to.”
“A bit chilly before dawn. And you don’t look your lively self…” He shrugs “Lending a cloak I could do. Lending Air, not so much.”
“It’s the Air. I’m not really feeling up to much, but it doesn’t matter. I’m nearly home. When I was trying not to die, before? I was thinking of falling forward and the sword getting there. So I’m happy.” She sounds wistful, almost yearning, for a moment.
“Home… ” Xenofos looks over the plains again. “Returning to Nochet did not feel like home anymore. Even with the family and the clan there. The place has changed. As have I.”
Berra inspects the dead corpse once more. “Yeah. My home’s the Temple. But sometimes I feel like it’s my bison and the way we move.”
“Temple? Not the Blue Tree Tula?” Scribe asks.
Berra’s expression does one of her elastic stretches as she thinks. “Kiiinda? But that’s too small for me. I couldn’t stop there. Home’s a place you can stop.”
Xenofos raises an eyebrow. “You actually think you could stop some place this side of The River of Underworld? Fascinating.”
“Yeah.” Berra grins. “I’ll be leaving there a lot, though. But I think it’s a place I could always come back to. If that helps.”
He nods. “It is good you have such place.”
“Maybe because you’re slower to change, it’ll take you a while to find one. I think you will, if you haven’t yet.” She is optimistic and perky and happy now, despite the rattle in her voice.
“Maybe.” he does not sound convinced. His expression does soften as he looks at Berra.
Yelm is just starting to lighten the world. Berra kneels by blood and a dismembered carcass, but that is still dark, and her face is visible. Even as Xenofos looks she starts to roll herself to her feet with her usual grace, then coughs and catches herself on her hand, and stays where she is.
He looks silently. Without a word he offers a hand to help her get up.
Berra takes a few heartbeats making sure the walktapus is not taking advantage of her inattention, and then she takes the hand that is offered, dragging herself up more than standing. Her angry look is turned away from Xenofos, as she fights for control.
Xenofos looks at the remains. “I used to think there is glory in a soldiers death. Dignity. Purpose.”
“Ye….” Berra stops speaking, still leaning on Xenofos, and splutters a bit.
He stops talking and makes sure she does not fall over.
There is a long moment when she is struggling, and then finally her breathing is fast because she is recovering, not because she is fighting to breathe at all. Her hand loosens on his arm, and she nods slowly.
“Do you need Valseena’s aid?” he looks at her “You were getting me worried again.”
There’s a head shake. “No. Thank you. Perimeter?” Berra blinks around the area. “Jus’ need to cough a lot.”
He snaps back to guard duty, but the sweep of the horizon was faster this time. He steals a glance at Berra and makes a new scan of the horizon in opposite direction and way slower.
Berra is pale, mouth open as she breathes as slowly and deeply as she can manage. The coming light is cruel, showing sweat plastering down her hair, and a dribble of saliva at the corner of her mouth. It shows her living, though. There’s that.
Xenofos resists the urge to sweep errant lock of hair off her face. Instead he looks over the plains towards the rising Yelm, the Block and the road they have travelled, his expression controlled, only corners of his eyes showing sadness.
After stepping aside to spit, Berra says in a clear voice, “Better now,” but it does not sound like an invitation to more talk.
“You could wake up Varanis and see if you can catch any sleep leaning on Followed?”
For a moment it looks like Berra will refuse, but then she walks away, to go wake the Vingan. Someone’s going to have to kill Yelm this morning, and just maybe the Humakti isn’t up to it.
- 1Pass on Insight Human.
- 2Xenofos fails, but does not fumble, Truth.
- 3Berra fails Insight (Human) in the darkness.
- 4Because she passed Charm.