Duty Deferred

Berra — Duty Deferred

????, Earth Season, Stasis Week


Earth Season, Stasis Week, Wildday. It is very late in the afternoon at the Temple of Humakt. Berra has been running around the city and has not slept enough. [[[s02:session-12|Session 12]]]


Berra first asks about whether Lord Kesten Hulta is in the Temple, as she gets her breath back. That failing, and with no hint as to his wherabouts, and with air now coming again, she asks who she should talk to about arranging duties while staying here.

“You are in which regiment, initiate?”

“Fifth. But attached. I’m a foreign guest too. They haven’t even asked me what I can eat yet.” Berra looks impatient to be moving, but with her hands clenched behind her she is successfully staying still.

“Swift strike. Chettoara’s regiment. Sword Heinamika is at the moment second in command and arranges shifts.”

“Where is Sword Heinamika to be found, Initiate?”

He points at blond man on training field, wearing turtle-shell cuirass and sparring with an opponent who is clearly not up to challenge.

They are using metal blades and he is not drawing blood, but those hits with the flat must sting more than pride.

Berra nods once, in both thanks and farewell.

She approaches the fight and watches critically, but does not interrupt what could arguably be called a sacred dance.

“Initiate Berra? There is a message for you from lord Irillo Saiciae?”

“Uhh?” Berra glances that way. “Yes, what is it?”

Then she brightens, having caught the name. Although she looks from Heinamika to the messenger and back, for the moment it is not the sparring that has her attention.

“‘Lady Berra, your assistance is required at House Saiciae. Lord Irillo Saiciae.’ And the woman who was with him insisted it was urgent.”

Berra nods her head. “Thank you.” She does not think to ask for a description of the woman. However, she does step forward so that she could interrupt the sparring if she were prepared to step into the range of blades. Now, at least, she is making sure she is seen.

Lesson continues for quite some time. Pupil drops his sword at point after a nasty slap on the wrist, is given another painful slap on the thigh that nearly drops him – and left to pick up the sword and raise if he is able.

Berra, at the first available point, uses her right hand to thumb up the blade in her right-hand scabbard, not caring to use Wind Tooth for this. “My lord.” She looks ready to step in, her open expression indicating she well knows this interruption might hurt.

You get a sideward glance but Sword is concentrating on the pupil trying to come up. When he does so, you hear quietly first comment of the bout “Good.”

And the dance continues.

After a brief bit of concentration and thought, Berra says, “I am Berra. I may be unable to attend an assigned duty tomorrow, as I’ll be defending another. I have not yet moved into the barracks. May I find another initiate to take my place?”

There is wrinkled brow but no vocal answer. She is ignored for about five more minutes.

Berra kicks her heels, and a couple of times looks like she might leave, but keeps her shoulders down, her expression polite if strained, and her sword firmly in its sheath.

Pupil is getting beaten. Maybe not every opening, but often enough. Sword finishes by disengaging and nods to the pupil. “Satisfactory”

Berra stays still, head now bowed in the frozen start of a greeting.

Pale blue eyes turn towards you. “Interrupting a swordlesson?” Tone is if anything, disappointed.

“Yes, Lord.” Berra admits it. “But I was prepared to be struck down for it. I knew the situation.” Her right hand makes sure of her sword’s fit in the scabbard, and of the Sartarite binding, which she now slips back over it. “I’m attempting to clear the name of a high-ranking person of honour who is in danger of harm from enemies or those who should be friends, rescue a noble who has likely been kidnapped, and do it under a severe time limit. Truth is what called me to Humakt.”

“Interrupting a sword lesson?” Now his tone is sad. The sing-song quality of mans Esrolian betrays his Grazelander background if blue eyes and blond hair were not enough.

“Humakt was honourable before he made his first sword. But I will apologise now if you wish.” Her returned gaze is frank, unafraid, and earnest.

“Apology accepted. You say you cannot fulfill your duty?” melodious voice flows like a mountain spring.

“I can’t be sure I’ll be able to. I attended worship, I’ll probably be searching through the night, and I might be needed tomorrow. If I’m not, I may be a poor guard.” Berra bows to indicate she has now presented her whole problem.

There is a smile that kind of reminds you of Finarvi. “To be sparse with words is good. But you do take this to an extreme and become unclear.”

“I said a lot more than ‘yes’, though?” Berra looks puzzled for a moment, and then says, “I’m due on duty tomorrow morning, as part of my thanks to the Temple for staying in the Barracks. Can I hire another Initiate to do it? I don’t want to fall asleep and I don’t want to be unable to support the people I’m helping.” She gives Heinamika a searching look, trying to work out if that is enough information.

She adds, “I got assigned without moving in yet.” Truth will out.

“You have two duties and you wish to pay Humakt with – money? “

“Hire someone to be a guard. Yes. Have them do the one that includes standing somewhere safe, then I can go into danger. The money is for them, not for Humakt, of course. Unless you tell me that’s inappropriate. But hiring a warrior for a day is seldom inappropriate.”

“Practical. Yes. Satisfactory. No.” there is no anger in the melodious voice.

“Have you any suggestion, Lord? I don’t have to move into the barracks, and I’m not clear on whether I would be expected to guard when I am not here. I haven’t have my orders made clear to me yet, to be honest. It wasn’t going to matter and then suddenly it does.” Words rush out and she bites down at the end of them.

A nod. “Admitting confusion is a start. “

“If I’m a guest, I could… wait, start again.” Berra gives Heinamika a swift smile that might be thanks. “What are the rules for staying here as a guest, and what happens if I need to leave in a hurry?”

“You are posted temporarily in the Fifth. You got the watch schedule in the morning showing your watchhours at midmornings?”

“Yes. But it didn’t say how long for. I mean, if I was staying overnight would I still have to stand guard before I set off? In Sartar I’d have the right to sleep, but I don’t know how it works here.”

“Are you wishing to leave?”

“No, but I might have to. I haven’t even moved in yet. But it’s still before Godsday Eve. I could stay overnight and leave in the morning. I’ve done a day’s duty anyhow. But tomorrow morning I might be helping to rescue someone who’s been kidnapped. That’s pretty urgent.”

“I am not interested where you sleep, little Sartarite. As long as you are posted in the Fifth you are on my roster.” Words are blunt but tone friendly.”But what that requires can be amended as I see fit. So give me report of the situation you are in. Using small words a Grazelander barbarian can understand.”

“Uhhh…” Berra thinks. “I asked during dark about staying here and was told yes, and duties were to be discussed. Then I got told when I was on duty. Didn’t care much. But alright, screw it. You can know names. Last night, Varanis Saiciae came home late, with others of her house, and I think she told the Babeester Gor on duty that there was a noblewoman missing. Lenta Hulta. She might have thought that Lady Lenta had been taken by Garin Merelt, who had been after Varanis and been turned down, or she might have had to fight someone off and known who it was. I don’t know exactly. This morning they had still not come back, but Lord Kesten came to the House of Saiciae to demand the return of Lenta from Varanis. Varanis would not have taken or harmed her. My honour on that. The Wyter of the House says that the Babeester Gor Rune Lady is dead. I just heard from one of the missing people, calling me to come to his house urgently, even though I was moving out. So they need me even though he is back. I was with the lady the Hulta demand was delivered to. I told her I would help.”

“And why would the Hulta make such a claim?”

“Because they were seen getting into a palanquin together, and Lenta kissed Varanis in public, barely a day before. Lenta looks like a spoiled child to me, to be honest. But Varanis didn’t kiss back, and after they left she came back to the house and called away a Babeester Gor. One who was in charge but picked up and left when there was trouble. So whatever happened, I need to find out and I need to have time to help.”

“Are you telling me everything?”

“Everything I think I know, yes. I’m not sure of it all. But Varanis didn’t have Lenta with her when she came back, and she wouldn’t have taken her by force, and probably the only thing they would have been doing would be giving her a lift home. But they went the wrong way for that. Towards the sea, or towards where the big houses are. And, uh… she wouldn’t. She’s a Lightbringer Orlanthi. Honourable behaviour is very important to her. So something went wrong. So I need to help her, and I said I would help her cousin Mellia. She paid me a bolg. Two, in fact, because I didn’t have change for a clack.”

“You are staking your honour on a thing that you don’t know but wish to be true because of your friendship and respect despite evidence to contrary?”

“No. I’d stake my life on it too. Varanis Saiciae would not have abducted Lenta Hulta. Lord Kesten is wrong. And I’d stand for him in many things too. But I know Varanis better. So honour and life. A bit more than honour, but only just.” Berra’s look is trusting, open, and guileless.

“Yet they were seen leaving together?”

“And afterwards, Varanis came back in a hurry for soldiers. So whatever happened, it was bad enough that an Iron Axe-Lady thought she was needed. If they left together, it was not with an intent of abduction, except maybe from Lenta. I can’t speak for her. She’s an idiot.”

He sighs. “You must learn to separate Truth from what you think or feel. But that is a bitter lesson. Your conviction is borne of loyalty and honor. I can not release you from your posting, nor would I wish to. Your guard duties are hereby suspended until such time that you come back to barracks and report to me or Great Sword Chettoria herself. Go with honor.”

Berra bows. “Thank you, Sword.” She stays low a moment longer and then takes a step back, heading off at a run.