1628, Earth Season, Illusion Week, Wildday
Berra has a lot of emotions about having fought Varanis. Varanis has some too. Session SA3.11.
Varanis follows, leaving her food behind. She tries to avoid crowding the little Humakti, but she is within spear reach, if either of them were carrying a spear.
Berra goes out far enough to be on watch, and sits down miserably, staring out at the Upland Marsh. “He made me see myself,” she says, like it is an explanation.
Berra nods. “I’ve always been afraid of hurting people I love.”
“You did a good job with me,” Varanis says with a wry laugh. “I don’t like him,” she adds, suddenly serious. “I thought he meant to execute you.”
“I didn’t,” Berra says. “I don’t know if I turned my hand. I don’t know.” She might not have heard the bit about Geoffri.
“You nearly took my arm off immediately,” Varanis protests. “And just about spilled my guts in the soil too. I think you were able to hurt me just fine. If I hadn’t lucked out with the blow to your temple, I might have been dead before we were done.”
Berra gives Varanis a haunted look. Finally she says, “He was satisfied. I don’t like him either.” There is flat vehemence there. ‘not like’ is a pale imitation of her emotion.
“Would he have had the right to execute you? Did I overstep some temple rules when I refused to leave?”
“No, not unless I’d insulted his … I don’t think he could execute me unless I was found helping Chaos?” Berra thinks. “Only Duck Point, the city, could do that. He’s just one person here, and I’m not of Geoffri’s Temple anyhow. Sartarites doesn’t … don’t execute people really. They exile them and if they have a lot of enemies it can be bad, but execution? No.” She still seems a bit confused, maybe shocked by the whole affair.
“I wasn’t sure. I looked into his eyes and thought I saw your death and I would not leave you to that. I won’t ever leave you, Berra.” The Vingan’s eyes shine with her intensity. “I’m sorry if his questions made you feel vulnerable, but you know that neither the questions nor your answers would change how Serala and I feel about you? The respect we have. I love you too much.”
Berra swallows, eyes shining. “When he asked if I valued my quest more than my friends, and Serala answered instantly for me, I didn’t know. That’s sort of a trick question – it shouldn’t be about what you value, but what you’ll do, but she knew the right answer and I didn’t. She thinks more of me than I do.”
Then, being Berra, the little Humakti adds, “The right answer even if it was put like the question. It’s what you’ll choose, not what you value.”
“And you’ll do what is needed to see this through, no matter the risk to you. But also,” Varanis chews her lip, “I think you’ll be able to do what is needed despite the risk to us. We are with you willingly and have accepted the risks. You are capable of respecting our decisions in this.” She glances away, then back again. “In this, you are a better leader than I am. I fight to protect people from…” She frowns, then tries again, “I don’t know how to accept other people taking risks on my behalf. I interfere with their duty instead of trusting them the way you do. I’m trying to get better at that. To learn from your example. Now, you are demonstrating why and how to be a leader at an even deeper level.” After the rush of words, she takes a breath to slow herself down. “Does that make sense?”
Berra looks down, her expression shamed. “I try to be. He showed me how I fall short.” But her chin rises again and despite looking like sadness has settled on her, she has a determined set to her stance. “Fell short,” she says in a small voice. “I can do better.”
The Vingan bristles. “In what way did you fall short?!”
Berra looks back towards the ducks on guard, and the ducks at their cooking fire – a thing put together quickly and ignited by magic, and says, “Let’s walk.” She sets off, and the action seems to calm her. “When it comes to being Humakt, I should not love too much,” she says. “And I do. It’s dangerous.”
Varanis keeps pace. “And yet, despite love, you will do what is needed,” she says. “You did not hesitate to strike me.”
Berra is quiet for a moment, and then observes, “It took having you agreeing to it so instantly. Without that, I could not have broken the deadlock in my heart.”
“I think you could have. You’d have asked Humakt and known what needed doing. I just didn’t give you time,” Varanis argues.
“It’s good to know in advance,” Berra says. “To have had that experience provides one with a touchstone.” Then with a sigh she goes back to short words, a peasant accent. “I gotta lot’v thinking to do, but I’m glad you’re not dead. I was worried.”
The wry laugh is back. “So was I! When you took my sword arm before I’d even started to move it, I thought I was done.” Now it’s the Esrolian’s turn to look ashamed. “I thought I’d let Vingan down by losing before I’d even begun.”
For a moment it looks like Berra will reach out and touch Varanis, or take her hand in friendship. The movement does not fully materialise. “There are other things I’m afraid of too, but I hadn’t known how that one would affect me.”
“Well… now you know that bit, I guess.”1When Berra looks like she’ll reach out, but doesn’t, Varanis looks like she’d desperately like a hug. But she squelches it and doesn’t try.
Berra sighs. “Now I need to get to the Marsh, and there’s going to be a test. We’ll get the stories from the ducks. This is more than I thought we’d have, and they’re bringing their things with them. I get to be really the human who goes to the ducks. It’ll be weird. I might end up as a properly adopted duck. I don’t know.”
With a regretful sigh, Varanis says, “I wish there was time to worship before we went in. I called on Vinga more than I’d intended to yesterday.”
“Also, you’re a pretty good duck already. I don’t think it will be too weird.”
“I can’t think of a way to not go in now,” Berra says. “We’ll be at the Tula by Waterday Eve. Maybe we can take a day finding allies among the ducks – but that’s still Clayday, not Windsday.” She has a thoughtful frown. “They might bind me not to eat bird-meat or eggs.”
“I’ll serve you as best I can with whatever gifts Orlanth and Vinga give me. But, for now, we should return to the others. They seem to be getting ready to move out again and I don’t like the way Manasa and that warrior are eyeing each other.”
“What better way for a horse to die in battle? Or for a duck?” Berra turns towards the road once more. “It’s good to be able to relax a bit on the road, at least, and have them be as much on guard as we are.”
- 1When Berra looks like she’ll reach out, but doesn’t, Varanis looks like she’d desperately like a hug. But she squelches it and doesn’t try.