1628, Earth Season, Week 2
Greyrock Fall. Session 3.22
After Varanis does the divvying-out of tasks and Berra has meditated and had a bite to eat and gone to the walls to listen to the waterfall a bit, she goes to find Varanis.
The Vingan has been following Carasai around, getting to know people, learning more about the situation here, and generally getting under foot.
Berra drifts, a cup of small beer in her hand, and watches Varanis watching Carasai.
Berra is obviously considering whether to bother Varanis. The answer is tipping over towards no, awww, it is good she is doing that.
Spotting Berra, Varanis gives a nod of greeting. The headman appears to have also noticed the little Humakti.
Berra gives a grin and a quick bow.
He gives Berra a look.1He is attempting to say ‘please help’ with his eyebrows.
“Heya,” Berra mutters, but seems almost embarrassed to be in the conversation.
“Berra, it’s good to see you. Did you need something? I’m sure Carasai can spare me for a while.” The Esrolian gives the harried man a wry smile. “In fact, I rather suspect he’d prefer to spare me for a while. You know you can tell me to let you get on with things, right? I hadn’t realised how much of your time I was taking. Perhaps Berra and I will go for a walk and I’ll leave you in peace for the rest of the day. Summon me if you need me for anything.”
By contrast, Berra shrugs. “Was thinking of a thing I meant to ask,” she says. She is talking to Varanis.
Carasai makes all the right noises but is visibly relieved to not have to ask Varanis to go away.
“Let’s go for a walk,” the Vingan says. “You can ask as we go.”
Berra nods, turns neatly on the ball of her foot, and saunters away. She takes a sip from her cup as she goes.
Leading them down the road from the main house, Varanis aims for the village gate. Apparently she’s not talking about a stroll around the settlement, but something that involves stretching her legs more.
“So, how can I help, dear one?”
Berra downs her drink and puts down the beaker by the gate. “A thing that keeps niggling at me,” she says with a wrinkle of her nose, once they are out of the gate. “Why do you keep kneeling to Kallyr?”
Varanis looks startled. “She’s my king! I kneel to Samastina as my queen too.”
“Yeah, but you’re Sartarite now. I mean, you’re in Sartar.” Berra seems to think that explains everything.
“And a potential threat to her throne whether I wish it or not.” Varanis shrugs, “She and I both know that I’m no real threat, but the symbolism matters.”
Berra looks amazed. “So wait, is that a King thing? You don’t do it to a chief. She’s just the top chief. S’how being Orlanthi works, right?” She seems amazed.
“She’s not just the top chief, Berra. She’s Prince of Sartar and the rightful King of Dragon Pass. That’s much more than a chief.”
Expressions flow across Berra’s face. “Wait, I’ve been wrong all along?”
The Vingan shrugs again. “You’re Humakti. I just thought it was different for you. I’ve never seen Eril kneel to her. I have a hard time imagining him kneeling to anyone but Humakt.”
“I do, but that’s because it annoys him. I mean, he gets the full formal face-down sometimes. But yeah… I did not know that.”
Side-stepping a pile of horse dung on the road, Varanis continues, “Every time I kneel to Kallyr I am formally declaring my loyalty to her. It’s a public act, rather than a private one. As a foreigner, I could get away without it, but I want to be more than a foreigner in her court. I want to be someone she knows she can count on. Someone whose devotion is known.”
Berra nods, wide-eyed, taking that in.
After a moment the Humakti adds, “I am glad I don’t have to do that kinda thinking.”
“I did pay attention to some of my early lessons, despite what certain family members have claimed,” Varanis says.
Berra grins. “I did too. All sorts of stories. But not Prince stuff, apparently. Well, some, but not that.”
“Dealing with Royalty can be tricky,” Varanis instructs her friend. “They work very hard and this can place strain on them. It’s important to follow protocols and be respectful so that you don’t distract them from what they need to do. This doesn’t mean they rule without question or guidance, but that guidance has to come from the right people at the right time. People with the maturity and experience to help appropriately.” This is beginning to sound very Esrolian.
“Uh, yeah… but really? Up here it… and you have to imagine that this is my sister saying this because she’s got the curves for it – it’s stand before your god, bow before your chief, kneel before your lover.”
“Kallyr has many of those attributes. A Hero. Chief among her people, Prince of Sartar, and King of Dragon Pass. Though she may not be our lover in the usual sense of the word, she is Orlanth, husband protector of Sartar and all within it.” Varanis looks about ready to launch into another lesson, but stops herself with a slow breath. “But, perhaps there is more I need to learn and less I need to say. Tell me more?”
Berra sighs. “Alright. But I’m not going to be as airy as you about it.”
It takes her a few minutes of thinking before she shrugs. “It’s just… what I know? I mean, if you asked me about one thing in particular I could tell you, but I don’t know where to start or how to make it be… all the right things?”
“You bow to a chieftain, yes?”
“Yeah. I mean, you choose your chief from amongst yourselves. But you’re bowing because of what they do for you, not because of what they are.” Berra looks at Varanis as if to check that is reasonable.
“Ok. And then the tribal kings are the chief chiefs, so to speak?”
“Yeah. I mean, they do a lot, but they’re still just people. You don’t because they’re… they could be replaced. And they have to prove themselves, but they’re one of you.”
“Yes and no. They do more than you or I do. They are responsible for more. They serve more deeply and more profoundly. And so we give them more respect. Or so my teachers tried to impart.” Varanis winces slightly. “My ability to show respect to my Grandmothers has varied at times.”2((Insight: Varanis probably just realised that these are lessons she doesn’t really follow, and may not fully believe anymore, at least where the Esrolian Grandmothers are concerned. ))
“Yeah, no to that. They’re there because people agree.” That seems to be an instant ‘nope’ from Berra. She knew that one already.
“If you feel that way, then why bow to them at all?” Varanis asks.
“It’s respect for what they do. But kneeling? That’s different. That’s like…” Berra waves her hands. “Different!”
There’s a wry laugh. “Then who would you take a knee for?”
“Lord Eril – but that’s because he’s a living hero, and that wouldn’t be just one knee. Like I said, it’s to annoy him.” Berra considers. “Oh. And there’s a myth where Humakt helps Vinga over a wall when she’s lost the gift of flight her father gave her. And there’s Humakti briefings where you want… well, that’s not quite the same. But I don’t think anyone else.”
“Kallyr’s a living hero,” Varanis says. “Or she will be. I’m sure of it.”
“She is, I’m pretty sure. Or close to it. I mean, because of the star. I bet that you could worship her if you worked out how. But not like… I made Eril. It’s a personal relationship.” For once, Berra forgets to give him his honorific.
“You kneel for him, then. I will continue to kneel to her.” With a chuckle, Varanis adds, “I wonder how he’d react if I knelt to him? Not that I intend to, but… do you think there’d be consternation or is he too unflappable?”
“Oh, he’d not turn a hair. He’s good at being calm. You know… he said I’d done adequately? When I reported…” Berra looks down, and half smiles, and reaches to grab a stone and throw it far from the road.
“High praise from him.”
“Yeah. I don’t know he can say more. But I didn’t keep a straight face.” Berra looks back towards the gate. “I’ve got a long journey tomorrow. If we race back there, we’ll alarm them. I need to get some food, right?” Bouncing like a skipping stone over subjects.
The Vingan stops abruptly, turning to study Berra. “Where are you going to tomorrow?”
Berra stops too. “Duck Point. And to send my horse home.”
She looks innocent and casual about it… Just maybe there is a touch of guardedness about her, a moment later.
Gaze sharpening, Varanis says, “If you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine.”
Berra says, “It’s…” She considers. “…one of those things that other people will prefer I didn’t say. But a thing I should do.”
“As you wish.” Pointing her feet back in the direction of the gates, Varanis starts walking again.
Berra takes a moment to turn around, like she was concentrating on something else. “I can probably get them a lot of fish from there. Or I could send something from Wilmskirk.”
There is a moment and then she adds, “Or both.”
“Both. I’ll see what ready cash I have, but we might need to make arrangements for money to be sent from home.”
“I’ve got some on me,” Berra says. “And my name’s good there, or we can call on Lord Silor, and his is and I’ll tell him I’ll repay him.”
“I’ll repay him,” Varanis argues. “Or we, if you insist, but I… you…” Again, there’s a slow, deep breath. When she releases it, she says, “We can do it together if you want. Cover the costs, that is.”
“Yeah. We just need to get the food moved. He’ll know we’re good for it.” She looks back towards the gates. “You know who should probably be doing this? Lenta. Or an Ernaldan. But you’re here and Orlanth.”
“I’m the best we have right now,” Varanis agrees. “Speaking of which, are they going to be able to look after Valseena’s herds?”
“Yeah. They have plenty of land – they need to fill the bits that herds should be on.” Berra sounds sure there, adding, “I asked about that,” lest she be thought an expert.
“I was thinking in terms of risks from raiders,” Varanis says.
“Oh, right. Sorry. Yeah, these people have a lot of raider experience,” Berra says drily. “I know a bit about where they hide them. But you’re right about Praxians. And other raiders. But I want to set up…” Then she sighs, and in a smaller voice says, “The tower. Against Praxian raiders.” She suddenly looks tired.
“Yes,” Varanis agrees. “It seems to be a thing on the rise, doesn’t it? And when it’s not Praxians, it’s people pretending to be them.”
Berra’s voice is flat as she says, “I need to decide how Humakti the tower should be.” All the punch is gone from her. She walks with only the ordinary grace of a human.
“Can I help?”
There’s a shrug. “Maybe to listen to what I’m thinking? But not now. I think I know the answer anyhow. I just need to find out if I’m right.”
“I’ll be here when you return or leave word as to where I’ve gone if I have to leave.”
Berra nods, falls silent, walks back as if she can bear the weight on her, but for once is feeling it.
- 1He is attempting to say ‘please help’ with his eyebrows.
- 2((Insight: Varanis probably just realised that these are lessons she doesn’t really follow, and may not fully believe anymore, at least where the Esrolian Grandmothers are concerned. ))