Down in Spirit

Context: After fighting the ghost of a miser on Berra’s lands, when he objected to Berra’s offer of settlement, Nala and Berra talk.

After a bit of asking about Nala’s mushrooms, Berra will say, “Well, that saved me some Lunars.” And then there’s a wild grin.

“You bounce fast,” says Nala, hauling herself up to an elbow with an effort.

“I do. Humakt blessed me with that. But I would have been gone without you. I can’t make the most of his gift.” Berra goes through several expressions, and then stands to offer Nala a hand. “I recommend asking Mellia if you can use the magic matrix she has, to mend yourself, and then fill it for her later.” Berra has the wrong idea about how the matrix works, alas.

“I’ll be okay. He was really ornery though, in the end. Nearly dodged a really good shot. And I didn’t know I couldn’t interpose myself, and I should, I do now,” she finishes, somewhat lamely.

“Mhm.” Berra smiles. “You just fought a thing that brought down a Humakti. Think on what you could have done better, but don’t think on what you did wrong. You were there by me even when I was not.”

“I wasn’t looking forward to being stabbed by your sword. Although his lack of knowledge about how to work around female anatomy might have meant I took two whole blows.” Nala looks distant and sad. “Kind of weird how it goes. I’m almost glad this was so hard after Greyrock being so easy. Because at the end they just…pfffft….go as if they never existed, and that shouldn’t be easy.”

Berra sniggers. “My sword, but he was probably not as deadly as I am. Still, ‘sword-stabbed’ appears in some pretty filthy poems.” She does not haul Nala up if the offer of help is not needed. Instead, she sits down nearby, with a polite nod to Tiwr. “I killed my first man in a bar fight.”

Nala looks as if gravity is too much to contemplate, and Tiwr assumes a quasi armchair position around her. She lifts one fairly delicate-by-comparison shoulder. “I was born a hunter. Hunters kill things. Gran still does.” Nala is crap at masking her emotions so the homesickness shows through startlingly for a moment, till she schools herself.

“Yeah. But it was different with a person. I’d helped to slaughter animals. What I’m saying is people are different. They’re important. It’s good to care they go to the right place, for them as well as the herds.”

“Wasn’t different for me. Well, it was, in that I didn’t eat the person. But not other than that.”

“Oh.” Berra considers that. “I think it is. People get judged. Animals get reborn.”

“There are onward travels for each. Part of my job—well, kind of job, because Aragrath happened, and I never finished training—is making sure they get on the right path. Only erase them if necessary. Maybe it is different here, where there is more food and things than we’d see in a season for the tribe. Take or be taken, kill or be killed. And its best if you don’t think at all, because it slows you down.”

“It probably is. But it was strange. I killed someone and I wondered for a long time if I should feel anything. He was trying to kill me, so there was no fault… but Man-Rune is special. People should be protected. That’s what I fight for. So people here don’t have to die badly. But it’s so easy to kill someone as a solution. And then they are gone.”

Nala smiles. “Or not,” and considers. “I probably swing a lot between man and beast depending where I am. Esrolia was terrible. I hated it. I practically could feel fangs growing. Praxians don’t do well in captivity. Zinat and Tiwr liked the bed in my rooms at Grandmother’s. And Sid. I gave up and slept on the floor because it was at least rock.”

“So what is it that worries you about spirits? About your ease with killing?” ((GM, when a ghost is in this sort of combat, does that mean the spirit moves on? Is it sent away rather than killed? Or did we murder a dead man?

  • Theologists vary in their opinions. ))

“Yes. The ease with which I just erase someone. I suppose I could try a coup de grace, to lay them to rest. I bet I’d need a thing. Widget. Item. With a matrix of….something.” She widens her eyes, then covers them, clearly still under the effects of so nearly losing.

“It’s hard. I need to ask at the Temple about doing it properly. And maybe we should ask who prepared his corpse for burial. But you did well, and I didn’t falter, even if I failed. It counts as victory.”

“I can guide spirits through easily enough, human or not. It is how to incorporate it into combat. Maybe Kalis knows.”

“To force them onto the path? Yes. That’s the ideal way. I do wonder if I should have given him a better offer, but frankly, I think if he was going to attack when we tried to negotiate, we were better off fighting.” Berra twirls the grass with one finger. “This is my land now. It feels strange.”

“I’m guessing Kallyr didn’t mean to be insulting, but…nomad! But anyway, Ma got a shrine out of it,”

Berra nods, probably to the politics part. “I know. I think she thought you would be more loyal to Sartar if you had a thing to value here. But I’m glad your mother got a shrine. Can you tell me about her? We have a little time before I need to leave for the ritual.”

Nala smiles. “My mother was a strong woman. She slaughtered lunars in their hundreds, and was only defeated by a spirit in the end.

“She was powerful, too. She made the dead desert bloom and bear fruit, saving the tribes in an era of want and war.

“Her weapons were words and a fierce spirit as well as horn and sword. She is revered even now.

“Palliyarai is the reason Argrath sent for me. He expected another of her.” She blushes. “He was disappointed in that.”

Suddenly aware of the long spell of talking, she turns incredibly self-conscious and shuts up. But for those few minutes, she was inhabiting her charisma instead of wearing it, like she usually does.

Berra makes a small noise of amusement at the last bit. “Argrath is a great thinker, but not given to believing he might be wrong. You get to be you, not your mother. That’s how it