Berra — Failure Of Command
????, Earth Season, Movement Week
Earth Season/Late in Movement Week. This is before the news of the capture of the Blue Tree Clan members has arrived. [[[s02:session-16|Session 16]]]
Varanis is at the gate, bright spots of colour in her cheeks. Her Saiciae escort is hanging back, looking a little ruffled. Given the speed at which she arrived, that is perhaps unsurprising. “I seek a word with Berra of Blue Tree,” she informs the Humakti standing guard.
There is a little time during which the message is sent, and Berra comes with her shining recently-bathed face. She is eating what looks like some sort of savoury pie. “Mmph?” she asks Varanis.
“Can you walk now? Or do you have duties to attend to?” The words are abrupt though not overly formal. She has not yet reached a point of icy courtesy.
“I’m free. Duties start before dawn.” Berra slips out with a nod to the guards. “Later, Sagtrees.” It seems she knows one of them.
Varanis sets out, brisk, angry strides taking her in the direction of the Storm Gate. She does not check to see if her guards follow, though of course they do. “Irillo tells me you went to see the families of Vasos and his friend.”
“Vasos,” Berra says. “I couldn’t find his friend’s people. Neither could be. The widow didn’t want to tell me where he’d lived, I think.” She keeps on eating her pie. “Why?”
“It was presumptuous, Humakti. They are my responsibility. I hired them.”
“No, Irillo did. He said they’d be well paid. And I made the decision to bring them along.” Berra continues calmly eating.
“The mission to rescue Lenta was my responsibility. She was taken because of me. You cannot tell me to act the noble at one moment then undermine me at a later one.” She is almost growling in her frustration, but she doesn’t raise her voice.
“I…” Berra gives Varanis a long look. “I can answer that. But you’d have to judge me. I fucked up. So… How do you fancy letting your friend know what she should have done?”
Varanis stares at Berra a moment. Then she sighs, all the rage draining away with the breath. “Probably not by yelling at her.”
“Nah. This is worse than that. I need to know what’s right.” But, knowing what is important as well, she engulfs the rest of the pie in a couple of big bites.
“Berra, all my life I’ve been told what to do and how to behave. I’m trying to be my own woman and trying to do what I believe to be right and every time I turn around you are there before me. Half the time you’ve just done what needs doing and the rest of the time you’re telling me what I’ve done wrong.” Varanis sighs again. “Perhaps I’m being too sensitive. But this is a thing that matters to me. Taking care of the people I am responsible for matters to me. Maybe you didn’t know that and that’s why you stepped in. But it feels like you didn’t trust me to do the right thing.”
“Nonono. Listen. I need Orlanth to tell ME what is right. I’m asking for a judgement on something I did before, which is why I went to see the families. Can you listen, and tell me what you think is right? Because I’m not asking about behaviour now. I’m asking about it a week ago.”
“You should have come to me first,” Varanis says simply.
“Listen. Please. I don’t have any pie to throw at you right now but I am not talking about what you are talking about and I need you to listen.” Berra speaks slowly and clearly.
Varanis finally stops moving and looks at Berra. “Then what, by Ernalda’s great green tits, are you talking about?” she demands in exasperation.
“Good question to start with. I was your battle captain. And I should never have taken those men along. I did it because I was angry with them, for not being what I wanted, and tired, and not making good decisions. They were unarmoured and I knew something of what we were getting into.” Berra lays it out baldly.
“If you knew something of what we were getting into, then that should have been made plain to me and to them. If you doubted their ability to help, then you should have said so. But you know this already, don’t you?” The two have stopped moving on a major walkway and have drawn irritated glares from passers by.
“Yeah.” Berra looks away. “Like I said. I fucked up. Sometimes when that happens, you get lucky, and never find out. But Irillo had said they’d be highly paid, and that sounded like a contract, and I didn’t… Alright. I didn’t have the wakefulness to tell them someone else was wrong. So then they found out.”
“Come on, the Storm Hill always clears my head.” Varanis starts moving again. “What’s done is done. We need to learn from it and move forward. But neither of us can move forward until we do what is right by the families.”
Berra traipses that way. “I can learn. I know what I have to. But then I suppose I made it worse by not… no, you were in no condition to make that decision. That was on me. But I should have checked with you. Before I visited. Sorry.”
Varanis sighs again. “So we both made mistakes. Tell me about the family.” Worded as a demand, but spoken in request, it’s something of a peace offering.
“Uh, wife, lots of children. They’ll be alright. She’s called Aflina. I didn’t catch the names of all the children but she’s going to be having another soon. She…” Berra takes a deep breath. “If it’s a boy she’ll call him for his father. She was really hospitable.”
Varanis winces. “Did you bring any compensation for them?”
“I took his life-worth. Um… ransom.” Berra shrugs off the painful memory, although it seems to settle back on her again. “I guessed, but I was right. They’ll be alright.”
“You took…” There are several deep breaths as Varanis brings her temper under control again.
“How much?” she manages finally.
“Um, yeah.” Berra risks a look at Varanis. “I know. I wasn’t thinking straight. I don’t even… I should have asked you. But it wasn’t your fault you were accused, and I think I probably wanted to solve it myself so that I felt better.” Her troubled look is aimed at the floor. “Twelve wheels, and two hands of Lunars. He was a sailor.” A hand is five fingers, as Berra would count it.
“And if I offer to compensate you?”
Berra shrugs. “I should probably pay a fine, or something?” she says miserably. “But maybe you’re not the one to judge it. I figured… I forgot you’d be there for me. For them.”
“I see. So you still don’t trust me to be Orlanth.” Varanis nods. “Fine. You have paid it and it will stay that way. I will make a donation to their Temple – they followed Dormal, yes? And I will speak to the family. How old is the oldest child, by your estimate?”
“Twelve. He’s out with the ships. The biggest one who’s still at home all the time is smaller. About eight, I think.” Berra’s voice is empty. “I’m not trying to not trust you. But if I wasn’t trying to do the right thing then I was trying to hide the wrong thing, and I think I wasn’t but I would think that, wouldn’t I?”
Varanis briefly tries following Berra’s logic and gives up. “Truth is your realm. You should be able to see the truth within yourself. Eight is young,” she says returning her thoughts to Vasos’ family, “but perhaps not too young. Right, I will visit with the widow. What is her name?”
“Aflina.” Berra pulls herself together a bit. “Did Irillo tell you how to get there?”
“Yes, though I have to admit that I might not remember it well. I was… distracted. No. I was angry and not listening well,” she corrects herself.
Berra flinches, and is not even looking at Varanis. “I’m sorry. I did take the responsibility from you and that was wrong of me.”
This gets a wordless nod.
Berra looks up only when they get outside the gate. She says nothing, but looks up towards the Temple atop the hill.
“Temple? Or just air? What do you need?” Varanis asks, following Berra’s gaze.
Berra sighs before answering. “Thinking about Lanasha, and how she was, when she saw me, and how I feel.” She tries to shrug it off, and fails. “And what I probably need is a clear judgement, but I don’t know. I need to know what I’m thinking.” She looks into the air, calmer as she tries to summon up thought. Again, she is blocking the road.
The Vingan waits.
“You’re right. I needed to think about the Truth. Get it in order. And what’s important. I didn’t try to hide things, but I should have thought more clearly. And I should have asked for help. Someone like Lord Silor, who’d know that sort of thing. He’s lived it all his life. And I should have thought of what you would think. But it was not cowardice. It was being muddled.”
Varanis nods gravely. “So be it. I accept your truth and your apology.”
Berra moves out of the way of impatient traffic. “They worshipped Dormal, yes. And you should ask Irillo what he meant by them being well paid, because if he had a payment in mind, that should go to them.”
Varanis murmurs her agreement. “I will. Serzeen is still at the Great Hospital, which means that Irillo is too. I will go there next. You may me accompany if you wish, but I do not demand it.”
“I’ll …” Berra thinks about it. “I should. In case he has questions, or doesn’t understand.”
Varanis arches an eyebrow. “You think I can’t communicate a question to my own cousin?” Then she shakes her head. “That was uncalled for. Fine. Let’s go.”
“No. I think he might wonder why I’m … well, I should be there.” Berra makes sure her mouth is free of crumbs, as she turns to go. It is.