1628, Earth Season, Truth Week, Wildday
Berra is recovering, slowly, from having been drained by a pair of very angry wraiths. Session SA3.12.
Wildday. There was worship, and Berra slept through it, after giving the demanded sacrifice to Humakt. At least her spirit was strong enough for that.
What Varanis heard of it, and saw, was quiet prayer, meditation, contemplation, and a dance of Orlanth and Humakt arguing and finally being friends. No Humakti secrets, or at least, none she did not already know, although the accent – both the voices and the way it was told – are different.
Now it is morning. Berra is down by the fish ponds, wrapped up in warm blankets, dozing.
Varanis drops down beside her, quietly, without the usual clink of armour.
Berra blinks awake, gives Varanis a smile, and says, “Hello.” It is quiet, but has a smile in it.
“Hello, Berra.” Varanis studies her friend, then shifts her gaze to study the fish pond. “I’m sorry to disturb your nap. You can sleep more, if you like.”
“No, it’s fine.” Berra sits up straighter. “As long as I don’t try to do too much, I think I’ll be fine. I don’t think I managed to say thanks yet.”
“For what?” Long fingers pluck at the grass absently.
“Those thing were killing me. That you destroyed.” Berra grimaces in her elastic-skinned way. “I talked about them but not to say thank you.”
Shrugging, Varanis replies, “It’s fine. You’d have done the same for me. For anyone. They were dark things that needed to be put to rest. Honestly, I think the only reason I was able to do it was because you had their undivided attention. I’m not sure I could have withstood their attacks.”
“I don’t want having people having been with me to be just about how I’m trying to make it different, though.” Berra wriggles in her blanket cocoon. “So thank you for being my friend and being there. We’re stronger together.”
The smile that breaks across the Vingan’s features at those words is near blinding. “We are,” is all she says though.
Berra grins, almost sure of herself, and looks down at the water. For a moment she has nothing more to say.
They sit in companionable silence as the wind tousles hair and a fish breaks the surface of the pond. Finally, Varanis says, “I tried to worship him. The way you showed me. But, I don’t think I did it right. At least,” she sighs, “I couldn’t feel his presence this time anyway.”
Berra gives Varanis a glance. “I’m not sure we could get to him right now. I mean, we’re in the story. We’re in his myth. Can you worship, from inside someone’s acts?”
“I don’t know. I always feel Vinga when I worship. Always.” She stops pulling up grass and slowly turns her hand over, palm up. The bruise that has marred her palm since her visit to the Iron Lord is gone. She stares down at it, solemn. “I always feel Vinga,” she says again.
Berra looks down at the hand, but does not seem to get what it means. She looks to where the surface of the pond is moving in rings, disturbed by another massive glomp from something below.
Varanis doesn’t elaborate, instead saying, “When you’re well, and the when the holy day rolls around, you’ll show me again?”
Berra nods. “Yeah. I’ll be able to show you properly, too, I hope.” Beat-pause. “I’m too hot. The sun’s still warm behind the clouds.”
“Well, Maalira isn’t currently hovering to tell you not to catch a chill,” Varanis says. “So you could let a little air into those blankets. Before you end up like one of those lovely stuffed fish rolls from that vendor on River Street. You know, the ones where those small fish are seasoned and wrapped in dough and baked until golden and crispy.”
There’s a wistful little sigh, as she watches the water.
Berra shrugs her shoulders around a bit. “We’ll get back there. They might use herbs in the fish, though. We’ll have to ask … I can’t remember the name of our cook. Her. To make me some.”
“Back to visit, yes. It’ll never be home for me again.”
“Uh?” Berra looks confused.
“Nochet. I was talking about the place by the fish market in Nochet,” Varanis says.
Berra blinks. “Oh. I thought you meant Boldhome. There are places up by Duck Pond that do good fish, if you know who to ask.” Presumably, then, duck places. “But yeah, not so much there…” Then she looks at the pond in front of them. “You know, we’ll probably still be here this evening…”
“If Maalira has anything to say about it, you’ll not be going anywhere for days yet.”
“It’ll be Dark Season in two days. We should travel before then.” Berra sounds determined, and then tilts her head to one side. “What sort of dough?”
Varanis shrugs. “The really flaky stuff. Flour, oil, water, wine or wine vinegar maybe? I don’t think there are any spirits used to raise it.” She’s definitely talking about the Esrolian style wrapped fish. Sheet upon sheet of super fine, flaky dough. Nearly a pastry.
“I don’t know if they could make it here, but maybe my sister can?” Berra subsides a little.
“Do you eat the river fish by the Tula, much?” Varanis asks. “I didn’t really pay attention when we were there.”
“It depends on the season, and the year. If the river’s given us the right channels, then yes. Or I suppose if the ducks trade it, but I asked and they hadn’t been around lately, the first time I went back. And then I didn’t ask last time.” Even Berra does not often visit home.
“If we could, if it were an option, would you want to settle on the Tula?”
Berra shakes her head. “I’m never going to settle down,” she says. “Boldhome’s home, and so’s my sister’s house, but those are places to go back to. I don’t really want to pause for long. I’ve got things to do.”
“Sometimes I dream about it. I know that Xenofos would like to stop moving. But, I think I’d get bored quickly,” Varanis admits. “I know that Serala wishes I’d come to the Grazelands. Maybe I could do that, if Sartar ever grew safe enough that I wasn’t needed. But right now, Kallyr needs every sword she can get.” She goes back to plucking the grass. “The thing is, I like the moving. And… I like being someone important to my prince. I know I’m not as important as her Ring or her friends, but I do matter and, well, I guess I like that too. I’d be nobody on the Grazelands. Nobody except Serala’s foreign lover, anyway.”
Berra nods. “You could make yourself be someone,” she says, “But you’re already someone. And you make a difference.”
“Are you afraid of what comes next?” the Vingan asks suddenly. The lurching shift of topic might throw someone else off, but Berra is used to it in herself and her friend. “Because I’m afraid for you. I’m trying not to be, but I am.”
Berra nods. “Yeah. It’s hard for me to be afraid, but I’ve had something like this happen before, so yeah. It’s going to be horrible.”
“Was he afraid? Can you tell? Did he know what he was doing and the cost it would have?”
Berra nods. “He knew. I can’t see the details of it. He’s managed to mostly keep it inside, but I can taste bile when I think of it. He put clues to what he needed to know where he’d find them – he had to become completely lost, I think? He knew that part.”
“I know that he had to remain cut off, but I’ve been thinking. You don’t have to. You only need to go far enough to persuade the spirit to be his Wyter. And then, if need be, we can heal you and if you’ve had pieces cut away, we can help you find them again. You don’t have to stay broken, like he is.”
Berra nods. “Yeah. His plan was to remake himself afterwards, he just got too hurt. But I’ll have people there. Someone else who can remember for me if it all goes wrong.”
“Don’t tell your High Sword I said this, but we’re what makes you stronger than him in some ways. You have people who love you and will be with you and will fight to keep you whole,” Varanis murmurs fiercely. “Times were different and people did what they had to. I don’t blame them for the choices they made. But, I won’t send you away alone and I won’t let you drive me off. I’ll give you the space you need for what is necessary, but then I’ll be right there for you when you need me.”
After a little time, Berra nods. “One day, I will be more than him, if I live long enough. He’s inflexible. A blade should be hard but it should have a bit of give in it.”
“My Humakti. My friend.” Varanis grins broadly enough to bare her teeth. “You know, when I call you mine, it’s not about owning you or protecting you, like it is with my feathery Eurmali. It’s about… I don’t know how to say it. Pride that you’re my friend and companion? Joy that we can yell at each other and hold each other accountable and still know that we’ll have each other’s backs no matter what? I’m yours too.” She laughs then, shaking her head. “This sounds like a proclamation of undying love. What I’m trying to say is that it’s different from that. Deeper. More profound.”
Berra nods. “Yeah. Sometimes it hurts but it’s part of me.” Varanis gets a wide smile. “I’ll… I got plans. Not like the ones he makes. I hold a grudge really well, you know? When Onjur asks me to stop, I might be done.”
“If you go to Humakt’s Hall, I’ll be visiting you,” Varanis says with a grin. “I know the way. I’ll come and yell at you and demand training. And when I’m at Vinga’s table, I’ll still come and pound on Humakt’s door. Can Berra come out to play?”
“Hey, that’s my friend who brought out six thousand spirits to be judged. And she’s known your presence. Can we have a feast?” Berra seems to be able to imagine it now. She looks suddenly sleepy, though, like she has reached the end of her endurance.
“Want to nap here? The sun is nice and we’re safe enough for a change.” Varanis suggests. “Dream of swords and feasts and all that for a while. I’ll keep watch.”
Berra nods, and closes her eyes. “Yeah. But you don’t need to watch. This is a safe place. It sort of has to be – although y’clud keep me safe from Silor.”1Insight: She is finding an excuse to have Varanis remain.
Varanis stays where she is, watching the water and the wind.
- 1Insight: She is finding an excuse to have Varanis remain.