1628, Sea Season, Disorder Week, Windsday Night
En route to the Nunnery, they’ve stopped for the night at Beasts Gather. Varanis tries to sleep in the Great Hall, but gets woken by her dreams. Get thee to a Nunnery (Session S4.02)
Varanis jerks awake, her hand reaching for her sword hilt. It takes a moment for her to register where she is, but even after she does, she remains tense and alert. She is breathing rapidly, eyes wide in the darkness. After several frantic heartbeats, she gets to her feet carefully, trying not to disturb those around her. The Vingan gathers up her cloak, boots, and sword, and looks for the nearest exit.
The nearest way out is past the shadow that looks like crooked fingers reaching for a support post that helps to hold up the roof, that would grasp it and bring it all down, if only it were a little more solid.
She shudders, but heads that direction, pausing long enough to put on her boots and sword belt once she’s clear of sleeping people. Hopefully, the door is not barred.
It is the one left open for warriors to slip in and out. By it, nowhere near where she was given to sleep, is Berra. She looks damp, and tired, and small – and awake as Varanis gets close. She was asleep, and now she is blinking blearily, and the water on her is the slime of underwater corpses.
Varanis shudders again, hand fumbling towards her hilt. “Berra?” she tries. It comes out as a muffled croak.
The little Humakti rolls herself to her feet. Awake. She does that – from sleeping to alert and ready for action is a matter of heartbeats to her. “Yeah?” Her voice is quiet, confidently reassuring in how she seems to think she can handle the problem, whatever it is. She is just waiting to be told.
Varanis nearly sobs with relief, moving her hand from her hilt.1B: I rolled on a theoretical Loyalty/Love Berra, and passed, so I think she is reassuring as a presence, so no, she no longer appears covered in corpse slime.
Berra looks thoughtful, maybe worried. “Wanna go outside?”
Despite the appearance and scent of having been sweating, Varanis is shivering.2Berra passes Scan, but fails insight When Berra asks about going outside, she nods and quickly throws her cloak around herself.
Her short little companion concentrates, just in case, before heading outside. She does not cast magic, for that would insult her host. She opens the door, like Second Son showing the way… and outside is just darkness and cold and damp. Berra slips out.
Varanis follows, eyes darting in all directions as if searching the darkness for danger. When nothing comes charging out, she breathes again and closes the door carefully behind them.
Berra says, “They put up with me being on the walls, but I think they moved the guard around a bit.” Beasts Gather is more of a corral than a fort, after all. A place to keep animals safe over sieges. She is underdressed for the evening, being in padding and unlaced boots, but at least she has her cloak.
Varanis nods. “Can we walk the perimeter without offense?”
“Yeah, although there’ll be people around from time to time.” She shrugs. “I knew where they were a bit ago, so we can probably avoid them.
Her companion nods and indicates that Berra should start them off in a direction.
Berra does just that. At first, she keeps silence. The stars above are dim, like clouds are in front of them. Not like they are failing. For one thing, Berra is just so solidly present, looking around like she will fight anything. For another, terror passes, and nightmares fade into memory.3Passed another roll, yay! V – hmmm. Mysterious. Oh! Maybe the Love Berra thing.
As they walk, the tension begins to ease from Varanis’ shoulders. There are no more shuddering breaths. She returns to being a Wind Lord, rather than a terrified child. “Thank you,” she says at last. “Walking is good.”
“Yeah.” Berra cuts off rather than asking anything, and manages a change of subject. “I need a new hat.”
“Maybe you could trade for something here? Irillo could probably help with negotiations,” Varanis suggests. “I’ve seen some well-crafted garments on the Orlamani warriors.”
“Good waterproof stuff. You wanna talk about it?” Berra switches back once she has agreed with Varanis over something.
“Hats?” Varanis says, not quite following the leap.
“If you want.” Berra does not push it. “I’m going to be travelling in Sea Season.” It is an acceptance that there might be no deep talk after all.
“That’s not hats… I missed s… oh. Um… dreams. Maybe in a bit. Tell me about your travel plans first?”
Berra takes a deep breath. “Just down to Nochet. I’ll be taking Lord Raven, and going by boat. It’ll give me a chance to see the people at Duck Point again.”
“Nochet. You want to talk to the Battalion there?” Varanis side-steps a puddle.
“Nah, just one person. I’ll let the Battalion know that I’ve got a Hero Wyter, but I don’t really value their advice. They’re too political and tied to the city.” Berra says it like she and Varanis are not.
Varanis flicks a glances towards Berra. “Kesten Hulta?”
“Yeah.” Berra jumps over a puddle rather than side-stepping it. “And his wife, though. I’ll need to talk to her as well.”
There’s a frown. “She’s not Humakti. Why would she care about Eril?”
“Because she’s married to Kesten. Politically, they’re a single thing. She’ll advise him.” Berra looks up at Varanis. “I met her. She cares for him, even if it’s not how I think… well, it’s Esrolian wife caring. But it’s real.”
The Vingan chews her lip. “They hate me, you know. The Hultas. As far as Lenta’s mother is concerned, I stole her daughter and several of their youth died under my banner. I want to go with you, but… I may do your cause more harm than good.”
Berra thinks for a bit. “I think that whoever set Kesten – Lord Kesten – against your house, is probably gone. He was being used to stop me and I was being used to stop him. Lady Serenalda knows that.” She works to get the accents right on the name. “I think this’s one thing I need to do, but I think I could do with your advice about a gift to her. I got an idea…”
Varanis nods and listens. It seems she’s still willing to let Berra do most of the talking.
“I can’t give her anything that’s expensive, because she’s got a lot more money than me. I mean, I could, and it’d be a way of showing respect, but I was thinking that she’s probably the sort of person that hosts parties. And she’s got no idea how to drink Clearwine.”
There’s a patch of mud in front of them. The Vingan shifts to avoid it, still listening.
“Would it be a suitable gift to teach her about the way we do it here? So that she can show off to other people what she knows? I’d get her all the stuff that she needs.”
Varanis nods thoughtfully. “Yes, I think that could work really well.”4Normal success on Homeland Lore.
“Good. I think I need to get her some cups, the little ones that get put in ice, and I’ll have to talk to that lady who owned the house where we found the River Egg. She’s got a vineyard.”
“Yes… a set of little cups. Esrolians don’t tend to share cups the way people do here.”
“For Clearwine, you often don’t anyhow because it should be in small cups so you drink it before it gets warm. But I don’t know as much as someone who lives there.” Presumably Berra means Clearwine, not Nochet. “I’ll just get two, and she can get a set if she wants, and then I can get good quality. They should be glass.”
“Blue or green?”
“Blue, probably, but that’s a thing to ask…. Oranina. What do different colours mean? What’s fashionable and why?” Berra looks down at her feet. One boot is muddy. “I am a bad scout. I just left a big trail.”
“Well… Blue is Orlanthi, but it’s also a special colour from Clearwine. It’s valuable because it’s not common. Green is Ernaldan, but it’s an easier colour to make and so easier to find if you know where to shop.” Varanis considers. “You could try to find one of each that match well? Otherwise, I’d suggest a good set of green. The best place to buy the blue is in Clearwine, but we can’t go there until the middle of Sea Season anyway, so that’s probably too late.” This is the most words Varanis has string together since waking up.
Berra listens, and nods. “I’m thinking blue because it’ll look exotic, and if she’s got the money to do that, she’ll probably want to. I don’t need to get the whole set, just one for her and one for me, to show her what’s polite.”
“You can probably get them in Boldhome,” Varanis says. “I’d suggest checking Jonstown, but I think we’ll be in too much of a hurry on our way back.”
“I’m not going to be stopping after we’ve helped Mellia. I might have to leave partway through, anyhow. And I know we can’t go to the Blue Tree yet.” Berra shrugs. “But if I go to Clearwine in Fertility Week, that’s not so bad. I’ve got seven weeks to get there and back, then. I’ll push it because Fire Season’ll be pretty hot, but a week there, a couple of weeks to talk and wait on his answer, a couple of weeks back. That’s reasonable.”
“Is it for Humakt or Lord Raven that you need to get back to Boldhome?”
“For Lord Eril, mostly. But all of them. If I don’t lead worship I get to explain myself in person, and that will not be pleasant.” Berra’s tone indicates a great depth of unpleasantness, probably too much for her to stand up in.
Now Varanis frowns again. “Berra… I can’t leave the healers. If you go early or travel faster than they do… well, it’s not so much about them travelling. What I mean is that if this takes too long, I’ll miss the ceremonies. I may worship Eril, but I have to protect Mellia and Maalira. It’s my duty.”
Berra nods. “I know. You’re not me – you’re laity. And you can do it overnight on the night, anyhow. We’ll do Wildday Eve out here, at least for long enough the Hero knows he’s not forgotten.” They are coming into sight of the longhouse once more, and while Berra does not say anything, she points to it and looks the question to Varanis. More walking, or back in?
Varanis glances at the building, then shakes her head. More walking. “What did you make of the Vingan?” Varanis asks. “And her rough little band?”
“I’m surprised they’re still hanging about in the rough,” Berra says. “Why are they still bandits now? I mean, whose power’s keeping them that way? Does the tribe not want a Wind Lord back?”
“Maybe her outlawry stems from something more than the Lunar invasion?”
Berra nods, in the dark. “Yeah,” she adds. “I… wonder too. I mean, I guess that must have been the way. I don’t like her, but that’s partly because I think I didn’t hear her properly… oh, her Eurmali. I got the idea that someone who left was the one who sold her horses, but then it turned out that she owned him? So I got to the … I got muddled up and I was trying not to be angry already. I might like her more if I met her again.”
Varanis nods thoughtfully. “That might be so. I mean… if anyone based their opinion on me because of an encounter with Devolin… well, they might not like me much either.” She considers and scowls a little. “I think they’re of the Jotoring. I don’t remember much about them, except that the clan might be struggling. Fractured? Or else emerged from a fractured clan?”
“Dunno,” Berra says. “The… Math… No, those are at the other end, and I think the Two Pines is close to us, or was close to us. Up the other way.” Perhaps she has a map in her head. She is not sharing.
“What are your thoughts on her request?”
“You listened to what she wanted you to do. The rest is tough for you – because of who’s involved. I’m glad she didn’t ask you to do it. Like, it’s a thing to bear in mind, but not something you have to do. Maybe you could get her a way of talking to Kallyr? Because that’s valuable information, probably. But not something you need to go to Tarsh for. Or should. I mean… it would mess you up to do it. To try it. Unless you find yourself with a step up over him. And Sartar knows not to trust him anyhow, so letting people know he lied about what he returned isn’t really important.”
“I admit, I kind of want to do it. To fuck Fazzur over. But, I don’t know if I could pull it off.”
“It wouldn’t fuck him over, though. I mean, he’s got a lot of treasures. Unless you can get Hoftaring back it doesn’t, and even then, it still might not. Hofstaring beat him. The way to fuck Fazzur over’s going to be political. Make him fail. Make the Inhuman King change its… his… mind.” Berra shrugs. “That man’s well protected. And your sister’s part of the protection now, too.”
Varanis growls low at that last.
“One act of theft isn’t enough. Or of taking stuff that he can’t stop. He’s got an army, and he’s got allies. Destroy those, to destroy him. I mean, I want to, but… I know Irvanessa’s got a thing to do. If my High Sword died – was imprisoned – and I thought I could get him out, that’d be my duty. But I wouldn’t think it would mess anyone up except in a very particular, narrow way.” Berra waves her hands. “Wanna hurt him? Make sure the Empire turns on him. Make sure Alda Chur turns a blind eye to his caravans getting taxed. Pay the trolls to steal all his livestock for Skyfall Lake. Stampede things from the Grazelands into his crop fields. Pay off the Dragonewts to withdraw support from him. I dunno what’s westward of him, but you could hurt him from that way too. But one person? Nah. You’d be doing it for the result elsewhere, not the result to him, and someone else can do that work.”5Varanis fumbles Insight. Insight: Berra has a lot of enthusiasm here, despite saying that one person cannot make a difference.
Varanis stares at her friend through the darkness. “You’ve thought about this a lot. We can’t go back to Alda Chur… or rather, you can’t. I suppose I could take your idea to Tennebris about the caravans. He can either send me or someone else to Koraki… The trolls… we might be able to start negotiations in Boldhome…”
“Yeah. Stop. You’re trying to take it on yourself. I mean, other people have already thought about this too – it’s about which resources go where.” Berra puts her foot down and then slides it forward at the last minute, avoiding a mud patch at the price of having to then make an undignified leap.
“But…” Varanis neatly sidesteps the same mud. “I thought you…”
“I think about a lot of these things. But they can’t all be done. Koraki’s going to be deciding for himself what the biggest threat is. S’probably not … well, hard to tell right now. With the Emperor dead it might be Fazzur. But there might be another Emperor, and it’s awkward and how can he tell?” Berra does more hand-waving. “I guess you don’t actually plot campaigns against people?”
Varanis shrugs. “I suppose not.” There’s a sigh, then she says, “Feels like we’ll have more of the same weather tomorrow.” It’s a clear and unapologetic change of subject.6Berra fails insight.
“Oh yuk.” Berra accepts the subject change. “It don’t like it when I get rain in my boots.”
- 1B: I rolled on a theoretical Loyalty/Love Berra, and passed, so I think she is reassuring as a presence, so no, she no longer appears covered in corpse slime.
- 2Berra passes Scan, but fails insight
- 3Passed another roll, yay! V – hmmm. Mysterious. Oh! Maybe the Love Berra thing.
- 4Normal success on Homeland Lore.
- 5Varanis fumbles Insight. Insight: Berra has a lot of enthusiasm here, despite saying that one person cannot make a difference.
- 6Berra fails insight.