Berra — Fear And Leaving
????, Fire Season, Stasis Week
1626, Fire Season, Stasis Week, Fireday. [[[s01:session-36|Session 36]]]
It is late evening on the start of Windsday. When Berra was last seen, she was next to D’Val, who was meditating calmly in the hubbub of the longhouse. A Sword Lord gets offered the best accomodation, but in this case ‘best’ was behind a curtain he had not yet pulled.
Berra, with him, was meditating too, and in the best of protective company, which does not explain why she is now out here on the walls, apparently standing watch. She draws attention to herself by jumping a little as Varanis gets close enough to hear, and then settles back down to watching the land before her, once she has identified the threat as not a threat, in fact.
Varanis stops abruptly at the jump, hand dropping to her hilt. As she recognizes Berra, she draws a deep breath and appears to relax. She steps into place beside the other woman, saying nothing for a few minutes. Finally, she murmurs, “It’s good to see you here, Berra.”
Berra leaves it for a moment, and then asks, “Is it because of my good looks?” She sounds serious.
Varanis snorts. “Sure.”
“Just remember that it’s dark before you tell me I’m pretty.” Berra sighs, a bit too deep. “I reported to D’Val. Over beer. He didn’t pay for it which I’ve decided is alright given that I got given it anyhow.”
Varanis nods, then remembers it’s dark. “I’m glad he’s here. I’d have been happier if he’d arrived sooner, but it is what it is. How is your arm? Mellia tells me it will heal, but that it will take time.”
“The arm’s fine. The hand… not so. For a while I thought the elbow wasn’t going to be bending but that was just because it wasn’t feeling yet. I won’t be right-handed this season, though, and maybe not next.” She holds up the limb, with a grimace that could be effort or pain, but she keeps her eyes on the landscape. “He had to have a Humakti, and I had to be able to fight, but it didn’t have to be… well, either he messed that bit up, or the sword hand wasn’t an important part.”
Varanis winces. “I’m so sorry we didn’t get to you faster.”
“It doesn’t really matter. After a while he couldn’t hurt me any more, and he didn’t know I was awake.” Berra’s voice is suddenly light, offhand, unworried. “Humakt gifted me that.”
“You want us to go to Boldhome next?” Varanis might be changing the subject with this question. Not completely, of course, but away from the pain.
“I think I need you to. The Library there should tell us how to purify me, even if the Regiment isn’t there. I’ll ask in WIlmskirk, but I think it will have to be Boldhome.” Berra’s expression is tight, and she shrugs it off. “I haven’t yet asked D’Val, but I think… well, I sort of did, but only by saying things and him saying things. I don’t know if he knows what the failure means. I’m pretty sure that if he knew of a way around it for certain, he wouldn’t wait to be asked.”
Varanis nods. “It’s good. It will allow us to answer other questions too. Xenofos did research in Nochet, but may want to corroborate some of what he learned by consulting scholars in Boldhome. And I think I want to have a conversation with Tennebris.”
Berra turns away from her watch task to give Varanis a confused look. “Well,” she says to the darkness and the Vingan, “He might be there. I hadn’t’ thought it. We’d had no news when I was last in Wilms…. when I was in Wilmskirk, so… well, I think he’s probably going to be out in the field, with Kallyr. And I think Kallyr will be out in the field.”
“I hadn’t heard that they had marched… I suppose they probably will have though. Damn.” She sounds annoyed. “I have questions.”
“Well, what questions?” Berra risks a glance away from the darkness to Varanis.
Varanis doesn’t answer immediately. “Probably unwise ones,” she says at last.
There is only a short pause from Berra. “What answers are you afraid of getting?”
“The consequences of succeeding.” Her reply is very quiet.
Berra sighs, thoughtfully. “You and I don’t matter,” is her reply, a little later.
Varanis nods. “If I have to die to save Sartar, then so be it. But I don’t want others to have to pay for my choices.”
“No, I mean, if you succeed, and you live, and you’ve done it. It’ll be a thing you’ve done. A step to the next thing. But people pay for choices, because we’re a community, not because you do things wrong. That’s easy.”
“It has also been suggested that if I succeed, I become a weapon to use against Kallyr.” The words are still quiet.
“By someone really stupid?” Berra sounds genuinely puzzled by that.
“If I succeed, Kallyr can claim it was done at her behest, but she still won’t be the one who did it. And it may not matter how much I say I do not want a throne, others may want it for me. I’m a risk for Kallyr.” The Vingan is clearly unhappy with what she’s saying, but also sounds like she believes it.
“Uhhh… or her chief weapon. Unless you think this part has not been thought about.” Berra sounds incredulous. “You’re saying you’re going to let someone else grasp your hilt, instead of her.”
“No! I will not act against Kallyr. She is my Prince. I serve at her will.” Varanis sounds almost angry. “What I’m saying is that others may try and some of her allies may find it easier to just be rid of me and any associated with me. Again, I don’t mind dying for Kallyr, but I don’t want to take my friends and kin with me.”
“I know. And you’re treating those others like children who have not made their own decisions. You’re worrying about them by worrying about the risk to Kallyr because you care about them – but that’s not the risk to Kallyr. That’s the risk to other people. So first of all, stop thinking those are the same. You have one Prince, and many friends. And then, if you please, start thinking I decided to be here, and value my decision.” Berra sounds, for those who can read her, a bit irritated.
Varanis is practically shaking with tension and frustration. “And Mellia? And Xenofos? Serala? Finarvi? I’m not worried about you, Humakti. You throw yourself at Death constantly, seeking the embrace of your god. But they all have so much to live for.”
After a moment of apparent shock at her own outburst, Varanis says in a quieter tone, “that’s not true. I worry about you too, but I am resigned to the risks you take.”
“Same. They decided. Stop trying to save them. They decided. You do your best for them. So do we all, who lead them. And they do it because it is the right thing.” Berra’s tone is dry now. Maybe she needs some water.
“Leading them means being responsible for them.” The tension hasn’t left the Vingan. “Berra, I lost my entire unit before Dragonrise. All of them dead or wounded. Yes, they chose to be there and yes, they knew the risks. But…” There is raw pain in the words she speaks next, “It was my fault.”
“Mhm. And you were drunk. And now you know the consequences. And you’re a better person and you have, I’m going to say this and you can be shocked if you want to, more sensible people around you. You’re being ruled by fear, and it’s … well, it might be fear of the wrong thing. But break it down. What is Kallyr and what is us?” That is Berra back, the merciless questioning Humakti,
Varanis doesn’t hesitate, “Kallyr is the Prince. She is Vinga and Orlanth. She is a warrior. We are her tools.”
“Yuhuh. So why does she not bear the fear – or does she? Why are you insisting on taking it yourself?”
“I….” She starts and stops a few times, before finally answering honestly, “I don’t know.”
“I do. But it’s complicated. But I can tell you that you should take care without fretting about that care. This is … we’re here with you and you don’t have to take all responsibility. And if it goes wrong it is not all your fault.” Berra reaches for her water flask, now buckled onto the other side of her belt.
Insight: Berra seems to have thought about this, and seems certain of what she is saying.
“I will consider what you have said,” Varanis says at last. She does not sound convinced, but probably also doesn’t want to argue anymore.
Berra looks out over the dark landscape, head tilted slightly as she tries to think. “Carasai is in charge here,” she says finally. “But Harvan is the one who worries about the palisade. Carasai worries about the Clan. But the best way to do that is not to worry about any part of it.”
“Are you planning to leave us in Boldhome? Or will you stay with us?” By us, Varanis probably means me. She’s also changing the topic again.
“I don’t know. I think it’s the other way around, though. Unless there’s a reason for me to leave, I’ll stay until I’m able to go again – until the failure’s wiped away. It might be quick or slow, and I don’t know yet. If you can find ways of… well, you can be doing anything, but I’ll probably be at the temple unless leaving helps me atone faster.” Berra shrugs, and then rubs her right shoulder thoughtfully.
Varanis doesn’t seem to like that answer either, but makes no reply.
“If you can find a way to cut me out of it, and take someone else, or go to Lismelder even, and find someone there, then you should think about that. Speed and the chances of success are… well, I don’t know. I’m the Humakt you started with, and that’s because I’m the one related to you, and the one with a relationship with you already. But you should look into whether it will work.” Berra does not sound happy about that, but she says it anyhow.
“You are my Humakt,” Varanis says, shaking her head. “How can anyone else be?”
“Because you’re Orlanth, and Humakt is whoever joins you as a Champion…. Or in this case, still possibly your kin if you don’t believe in his leaving. But a perfect Humakt is cut off from you anyhow. I mean, we could call this ‘people suffer in the Darkness’ which is appropriate. That’s a good idea to remember. It’s not a failure, so much as the hurt that happens because the light is gone.” Berra has just gone off her own trail and is lost in the wilderness of new thought. “Everyone suffered – Humakt must have as well. So maybe it’s not so bad if we can find a way to make that be how it happened.”
“I don’t think I can do this without you, Berra.”
Probably shocked, for a moment Berra says nothing, and then she speaks almost shakily at first. “Then that works. That’s a good enough reason. But what will you do when you walk into the underworld and I’m not there?”
“I’ll be Orlanth, I suppose. That’s the path I have to walk without you. But you are the only one I trust to put me on it right.”
Berra smiles slowly, like some deep joke has occurred to her. “Then the people suffered in the great darkness, and Humakt saw it. I… I can probably work with that.”
Varanis returns the smile. “Good.”