Fifth Columnist

Berra — Fifth Columnist

1627, Sea Season


Context

Sea Season, very late, after finding out the news about Mirava. [[[s02:session-40|Session 40]]]

Events
The King’s road from Boldhome westward is becoming boringly familiar. Soon the small group falls into familiar patterns, taking turns to ride point.

Berra, who once would have insisted on being up at the front, has started rotating back and trying not to be too keen. Still, she likes being up front and she rides that way eagerly as Yelm starts to fall from this high point in the Sky.

Xenofos is in the point. It seems that his attention is not in the horizon but the lushness of the blooming Sea season.

“Eyes front,” Berra says. “Or at least, somewhere useful.” She is smiling, though, in greeting of someone she has not talked to in over an hour.

Scribe looks a bit startled. “Oh, I seem to have drifted into my thoughts. Good reminder, Berra.”

“It happens. But we’re back on the road. Heortling talking, Sartarite eyes. You’re a warrior and you can be acting ilke one. Although I did have a scribe thing to ask you.”

He scans the road ahead, before returning his eyes towards Berra.

“Yes, little cousin, what is it.” he asks warmly.1Berra passes Insight (Human).

Berra is already doing the rounds of local hills with her eyeballs, but takes in Xenofos as well. “Oh scribe, what does Fifth Column mean? It sounds like it should be from a famous battle, but I don’t know.”

“I am not quite sure, but I think it refers to Queen Leika and her companions at Starbrows rebellion. The way they brought new heir of Sartar forth and helped make peace. Some people called them the fifth column of the Lunar army.” He shrugs “It was indi… alleg… said that they in effect helped the Lunars.”

Berra nods. “That would sort of make sense, I guess.” She thinks about it. “Yeah, I think that covers it. Lord Eril was… I told him about Danaril. He asked what I thought. If the people being sent back were a fifth column. I didn’t understand that bit, but I let him know and he didn’t tell me I was wrong about what else I said.”

Xenofos looks sideways at Berra. After some time he asks. “So, was he asking if they would work for Lunars?”

“Yeah.” Berra sweeps the landscape with her eyes, not looking at Xenofos, but she cannot disguise her thoughts, which are so often written on her features. This time they stay there for long enough to be pinned down. Pain, anguish, worry, determination. She searches the land ahead for a problem she can deal with, to make everything better for one moment.2Xenofos gets a critical success on Insight (Human).

He hesitates for a moment. “And do you think they, do you think he would?”

Berra looks down, and takes a slow breath that would be a sigh if it were not so big. “No,” she replies. “I don’t know if he’ll try, but I think if he does, my clan will stop him.”

“You are afraid he could?” he asks quietly.

“He’s broken.” Berra looks up, looks down again, and then remembers herself, and in the space of a few heartbeats is a professional warrior once more, seeing the way safe and clear along the road. “He could be anything. We do not know what he was made to swear to, what he was told was right. He doesn’t follow Elmal any more.” Even her voice has changed, now completely under control.3Pass on pulling herself together by following D’Val’s example, and critical on Water. Something changes inside.

Xenofos rides in silence for a bit and then nods slowly “I agree, he is a man broken. And you know him better, or you know what he used to be like. But I do not believe the man I met would willingly do anything that would harm the Blue Tree clan. “

Berra pauses, her emotions absolutely her own. “Unwillingly, he might. Sent a vision at the wrong moment, sworn to silence, or used as someone to open a gate. All of those could happen, and my clan will be aware of it. I think he just wants to see home. I think he knows he is broken apart, and mostly broken away, but he loves them yet. Still, my understanding is based on hope and guesswork.” Like this, she has better command of Heortling. She is thinking through what she says before she says it, not mid-sentence.

Again Xenofos takes his time before answering. “He knows, I think. You could be right on those other things too, I hope not.” He shrugs “I saw a man broken and was reminded of power and mercy of the Exalted. I sensed his love for his people he has been separated from and hoped it would prevail.”

Another shrug “Or more simply. I believe in love, even if it may be illogical.”

“There are people in the clan who know more than me,” Berra observes. “More than both of us. Let him see his family, and let his clan see him. I regret not sending a message with him, but I did not know what to say.”

Xenofos looks at Berra and then ahead. “For me he is Sartar born and your cousin and that is what counts. I hope his family sees that too.”

The Humakti might as well be chiselled out of wood, painted by a master. “He was well loved, which should help. Nevertheless, he may not be lucky. If not, I intend to do what I can for him.” Her language is formal, with Esrolian cadences adding to the faraway feeling.

Xenofos looks at Berra. “Is my heortling failing me Berra. I could not imagine you killing kin?”

Berra freezes, thinks about that, goes on. “Not Humakti help. Kin help. I would defend him, for I think him my cousin too. Your language does not fail, but your understanding was in error.” These are stock phrases she is pulling out now, Esrolian cliches made into Heortling, to give her the words that so often she lacks.

“I do not like making errors. But this time I am glad it was an error, little cousin.” scholar looks at the swordswoman. “It did not sound like the Berra I know. Or thought I know.”

“I should have sent to ask that he was helped. My word would have had weight. I could not think of how to say it right.” Her words are clipped and precise, shifting now to a better class of Heortling, by pronunciation if not content. “I had another question. May I ask?”

“Should I ride to Blue Tree to tell that is what you wish?” Xenofos asks.

“Not if that is not what we are set on,” Berra replies. “Attention on the task.”

“But that is your cousin… And we are riding to help cousin of mine…” He shakes his head and sighs. “What did you wish to ask, little cousin?”

“It is more important to do the thing that we’re set on.” She rides carefully. “What is the meaning of ‘deduce’?”

He peers north, towards Blue Tree. “I could ride there and catch you before you leave Sartar?” he looks back “diduus? I do not know that word in Heortling?”

“Two days there, two days back.” Berra gives the timing as her answer. “And then you would have to catch us from this point. It is not right.” Not ‘it would not be’….

“You know the lay of land better than I do.” Xenofos says after while.

“The roads are too long. Thank you for help.” From polite, Berra goes back to entirely professional, her gaze sweeping the land. It is a distant look, but it is hard to tell now if it is distanced, or if she is just looking a long way away. Her concentration seems to be on keeping the party forewarned.

The scribe looks at the swordswoman on her bison. Sighs. Stretches his neck and checks that both javelins are loose in their scabbards and rides quietly onwards.

====
Berra asks Xenofos about words she did not understand, and they talk about Danaril