Glorious Mud

Berra — Glorious Mud

????, Storm Season, Disorder Week


Context

Storm Season, Disorder Week. [[[s02:session-25|Session 25]]]

Events

For most of the day, Varanis has been riding up and down the line of travellers, unable to stay in place even though they are all on the move. She’s been restless for weeks and being able to finally hit the road again has infused her with energy. As the day wears on, she takes pity on Zukko at last and settles him into a walk next to Berra for a time.

Berra has been standing on her slow-pacing mount every now and then, balancing with more aplomb than riding skill. Now, half stretched out in the saddle, she turns a slow, lazy smile in the Vingan’s direction. “Hey there.” The stretch is an elegant arc that requires she hooks a foot under the saddle frame, allowing her to lean back properly. Her little stubby fists unclench from it as she folds herself back into a human shape from her alynx-inspired position.

The Rhino plods along. No sign of the dressage grace now. Just a large lumbering beast. The rider is swathed in his rhinoskin cloak again, seemingly immune to the weather, be it good or bad.

“How are you feeling today? Recovered?” The Vingan studies Berra for signs of exhaustion or after effects from the previous day. The question is asked in Heortling, accented with Esrolian.1Berra passes INTx5. Varanis normally speaks in Tradetalk.

Berra nod-nod-nods, all perky and chirpy, dropping easily into Heortling herself. “I slept in really late. Yelm had farewelled Ernalda.” She has a new scar now visible on her left temple, a dark brown smudge like a bruise was there once, mostly in the hairline. The worst of the damage is to her armour, where long scrapes over the bronze of her helmet and a set of damaged scales over resewn leather show she has been fighting.

As they exchange greetings, Varanis casts an assessing eye over the rhino rider.

Berra looks around, and with some effort steers Followed out of the line a little, away from the others. “If Venna sent him to look after us, assume he speaks Esrolian. His helmet’s Esrolian.” She at least remembers the armour.

“I noticed. He has nice armour.” From an Esrolian who loves her armour, this is praise.

Zukko eagerly keeps pace with Followed, carrying his rider away from the rhino. He seems more at ease with the now-familiar bison.

“It’s nice armour,” Berra says with a grin. Her helmet, with its plain cross and its single black feather, and its battle scars, gets a rueful-amused rub from her thumb and forefinger.

“Do you think he’s a spy?”

“Er, yes, but only because that’s part of his job. He’s also here to keep us alive. I think. And to see what we’re up to. So either we beat him back to Venna – and any messages he can send – or we make sure he reports well. Or we just decide not to care. But to be honest if we can’t get to Pavis it doesn’t matter so much. Do you think you could use carriage birds to take messages? Like, big ones, controlled by Rune magic, you could probably get across Pavis fast. Like we did before, but planned out.” In Heortling, talkative Berra is talkative.

Varanis blinks, sorting through the barrage of words. “I’m not sure what messages we need to send. She’ll likely know our path is blocked.”

“I meant him, then I meant in general.” Berra shrugs. “I was thinking about how to get messages across rivers. It gets a lot easier if people can read. How are you doing?”

“Happy to travel. Wish we traveled to Sartar, but just happy to be moving in the right direction.”

Berra nods. “Me too,” she says, voice suddenly yearning. “I miss it. My Sartar. Weird. Just the land right now – the way it looks.”

Varanis laughs. “I want a bath.” She uses the Esrolian word, which encompasses the whole of the Esrolian bathing experience.

“It hit me a while back. Sometimes Uleria does sacred baths. I’m pretty sure someone I was staying with once in Nochet – she was an initiate – prepared for baths.” Berra looks like she is trying to remember. “So it might be you can get them in Boldhome.”

This news is met with a broad smile.

“I’ve been thinking about something,” Varanis begins.

“Yuhuh?” Berra tilts her head slightly to look and listen.

“When we first met… do you remember when we shopped for fruit?”

“Yeaaaaah?” Berra thinks. “Oh. Yes. And talked and there was beer. And then D’Val threw me one of the apples later.”

“You asked me about what I wanted to be.” Varanis frowns a little as she thinks back. “I didn’t know. Pulled in many directions. I still think about that.”

“Heh.” Berra looks down at Followed’s strong neck, abashed. “I still … yeah.”

“You asked again later. In Clearwine. You talked about…” She searches for the right words. “Grand Plan? No… Strategy. I said I wanted to serve Vinga. Be her Daughter. And that I wanted to be a good leader to my people, but I didn’t know who my people are.”

“Great strategy, or High strategy, yes. It’s important to know that – gives me something to work to.” Berra makes light of the last bit with a shrug, but she is suddenly still in the saddle, listening intently, eager yet nervous.

“I understand better now.” Speaking Heortling forces Varanis to slow down, selecting words carefully. “I am not ready yet, but closer than I was. And I know where I belong. Sartar calls me home. Not Esrolia. When I sleep, it is Sartar I dream of. The Flame beckons. He calls me.” She looks thoughtful, then continues. “My anger at being sent away… that’s a child’s fear. Fear of being unwanted. But it is not right to blame my Prince. She needs me and I should return.”

Certainty threads through everything: her words, her expression, even her posture as she rides.

Berra nods slightly. “You’re right,” she says. “It’s where you are from, no matter where you grew.” She leans over and takes Varanis’ shoulder for a moment. “I’ll be your friend all through it. And I’ll help.”

Varanis smiles warmly at her. “I know.” She considers then adds, “There’s more though and this I’m less certain of. It’s why I need a temple. I need guidance.”

Berra nods. “Right. Yes. Prayer and more prayer. And people who know this sort of thing. Vinga will know.”

“I feel called to Orlanth,” Varanis blurts suddenly. “Different from Vinga’s call.”

Berra thinks about that. “Not really,” she says. “I think you’re growing up. Bigger than Vinga’s call.”

“She is still with me. I am still hers. But, I’m thinking about what it might mean if I answer his call too.”

“Um, as I understand it, it means you grow into being more of him. I think… I mean, I think I said this to you once before, or something like it, but I’m not sure about exactly what I said. But it was that I was lucky, because there’s nothing before being Humakt. But you’ve got to be young warrior Orlanth and leader Orlanth all at once. I think Vinga’s more… well, adventurous. But I think it’s the way you’ve been meant to go for a while. If I understand it right.”

Varanis nods. “Most Vingans stay Vingan. And many Orlanthi live their whole lives with young Orlanth. I didn’t expect anything different for myself. But things have changed. I have changed.”

Berra smiles, half proud. The other half is her definitely not looking like she knew that. Definitely. But the pride is real.

“I will pray at the Paps. But when we return to Boldhome… I think I already know what I need to do. I will speak to Tennebris first though.” She adds with a wry grin, “He doesn’t seem to like surprises.”

Berra nods slightly. “Anything that the Sword will need to know?” she asks. “And yeah. It’s a good idea, and I’m… it’s the best way and I hope you get clear answers.”

Varanis shrugs. “I assume he will want to know. It makes me… more… open? Not the right word.”

“He’ll be interested to know, yes. But it makes you a bigger person. More impressive in the world.”

“Hopefully ally to Kallyr, not threat. But…” She shrugs. “I know it’s right… I feel it.”

“Kallyr and Tennebris know you are. And if you are there, you should make yourself the best Lord you can be. The best Vingan. She’s that, for all she’s a Prince as well.”

“I needed to say the words. Thank you for hearing them,” Varanis says solemnly. She runs a hand down Zukko’s neck absently. “Somethings need to be said out loud.” Then she laughs. “Dormal would disagree, of course.”

Berra grins, and then laughs. “Yeah. I know what you mean. Saying them makes them real. I’m proud of you, if that means anything?” She seems oddly shy when suggesting that.

“It does,” Varanis replies with an answering smile. “It wouldn’t change my decision, but it is good to know you have my back.”

Insight: Berra is thinking about something to say, and for once is not blurting. She gives Varanis a slightly awkward smile and then a happier one as she gets control of her own thinking.

The Vingan gives her a curious look.

Berra shrugs. “I’ve got things to think about as well,” she says. “But I don’t know what they’re going to come out looking like yet.”

“I understand. If you want to talk them through, I am here. I will always listen.” The smile she gives Berra is nearly blinding. It’s rare to see Varanis so at ease and so… happy. “I’m going to scout ahead a little. Not far. I’ll stay in line of sight. Zukko got fat and needs to stretch his legs more.” The poor zebra, who does not look fat, gamely lengthens his stride at her encouragement.

Berra laughs. “Good. I’ll stretch Followed later.” She looks down slightly despondently at the mud, and then waves Varanis goodbye.