Berra — Good Enough
????, Storm Season, Disorder Week
Storm Season, Disorder Week, Wildday. Before the group meet with Mellia’s caravan. [[[s02:session-25|Session 25]]]
Contains spoilers for Berra’s thoughts.
Over Wildday night, Berra prayed. In the morning she walked beside her bison, head high, ignoring everyone. Now, as camp is set and she gets the chance to lie down and nap, she sits down by Varanis instead. “Hey. I’ve done some of that thinking. I need to talk to Xenofos about a thing but I don’t think it’s important about this. Just weird.”
Varanis arches an eyebrow. “About what?”
“You know you were talking about the future? About that, but me.” She stretches out in her damp padding. The armour got left on Followed; there is a limit to how much effort Berra wants to put into walking through ankle-deep water, in the areas where the land is lowest. Mostly, at least, the ground was dry enough she did not squelch.
“Mhmmm…” The sound is drawn out, encouraging.
“I’m going to be a Rune Lord. I mean, some time in the future. That’s what I want to be. That means a lot of dedication to the Temple.”
Varanis nods. “It does.”
“And then I won’t be able to guard you. But it’s a thing I have to do.” Berra pulls her knees close and hugs them. In her cloak, she is suddenly child-small, if the children you have seen lately are of the Bison tribe.
“Berra, I never expected to have you at my side forever. Every day you are here is a gift to me. But I know that it is necessarily temporary.”
“I’ll still be in Boldhome,” Berra says, in a small voice. She sounds tired, and even looks it. Fireday Eve was the one night she has slept, of the last three.
“I hope that I will be too, the gods willing.” Her arm snakes around Berra’s shoulder to pull the Humakti close for a quick, lopsided hug.1Having previous failed an Insight Human about general mood, Varanis gets a Special to work out Berra’s particular mood.
Berra stiffens against it, far more than she should. Caught by surprise she falls back on defensiveness, but up close there seems to be something wrong. Berra is fighting not to show what is inside, a mix of fear and helplessness that were disguised while she was able to hold herself alone. “Please don’t,” she says, and her voice is proud but there is a wobble in it that sounds like she wants a shoulder to cry on.
Varanis lets the arm fall. “Want to talk about it?” she asks softly. The question is uncharacteristically gentle. She’s neither prying nor pushing, just making an offer to a friend.
That might be the best thing to say. Berra relaxes, shoulders falling a little. “I don’t know if I’m … I don’t know if my best is good enough to get this home. And then I don’t know what’ll happen.”
Varanis nods. “I believe in you, but you know that already. Most of the time, you seem to believe in yourself. Am I right in that?”
“No. Most of the time I have no idea how to be what I should be, and I’m just … no, that’s not true. But since the desert and the river, since I got this, I don’t always know and I care a lot more.”
“Doubt can be crippling. Trust me, that is something I understand all too well.” There’s a hint of self-mockery in those words. “But doubt is a lot like fear. You can feel it and do the best that you can in spite of it. And the more you face those doubts, the more you expose them, the easier it becomes to move forward. You taught me that.”
The little Humakti nods fractionally. Staring straight ahead seems to be calming her. “I don’t mind dying, and I LIKE change. But this is… I need to get it right. It’s really important. And I think best in action, not the Temple.” Her voice is already more matter of fact, but her expression says there is a long way to go.
“Mhmmm. What makes this so important to you?” Now she might be prying, though it is with the best intentions.
“It’s a Hero’s thing. It’s going to be the centre of his cult, and house a Wyter, so everything has to be as right as possible. And then I might not have it for years, if I ever do, and I don’t even know how to feel about that. But if I make it badly, it’ll… that’s getting towards cult secrets, but this is going to be a great sword, and I’ve got to not mess up so it turns out wrong. And I’ve already started messing up. I put a long scratch on it. I’ve no idea how to deal with that, but it shouldn’t be by magic. Not Nala’s, anyhow.” The relaxation in Berra’s shoulders is managed by determination. She is keeping herself from tensing up, and it shows in the scowl on her face.
“Is this something the Iron Lord can help with when we get to Boldhome? Or should it be fixed sooner?” Varanis asks the questions carefully. “I’m not asking for secrets. Just considering options based on my own, limited understanding.”
“I think he’s the closest person who can fix it,” Berra says in that same quiet voice. “Certainly, he’s the one I can trust. He knows me. And maybe at Tourney Altar, I can find out how, directly. Or if I should. Maybe I have to make it part of the story of this sword now. It kills a thing it shouldn’t, and so it’s blunted. Or something. I don’t know. I don’t think there’s anything it shouldn’t kill.”
“Can you ask him at the Tourney Altar? Or is that a secret?”
“I might be able to ask Humakt, and that’s close enough. I don’t think I can pray to the Iron Lord – he just decided that he’d heard me and would make me my sword, as far as I could work out. He… he doesn’t even carry a sword normally. But he answered my Divination, so he was in touch with Humakt at the time.” Berra gives Varanis a genuinely confused look.
“He seems like he is in touch with Humakt more often than not,” Varanis observes, a touch of awe in her voice.
“I saw his eyes, in the vision. They were fire. I’d never seen that before – they’re always open but not to this world.” Berra looks animated for a moment, as she explains. Then, as fast as it came, the enthusiasm drains out of her, although it leaves her with the remains of a smile.
“We’ll make sure you are at the Tourney Altar in time. I’m so sorry that we couldn’t get you to Boldhome. We’ll try to get there before Sacred Time.” She pulls a lock of hair between her teeth and nibbles on it. Catching herself, she tucks the hair behind her ear instead. “A moment ago…”
It takes Berra a few heartbeats to catch that Varanis has trailed off, but then she gives a glance that has curiosity in with the other jumbled-up emotions.
Grey-blue eyes meet brown cautiously. “You said ‘please don’t’. I want to respect your needs. Don’t touch you? Don’t show sympathy when you hurt? Ever? Or just in that moment?”
“Just then. I didn’t want…” She looks down. “I wanted to not be feeling that way, but the next best thing was not letting anyone know.”
This gets a nod of understanding. “I don’t understand separation a lot of the time. But I always want to treat you with respect, Berra. You can always ask me for space when you need it. But you can also trust me not to judge you when are not at your strongest. You are heroic, but you are also human. That’s a large part of what I love about you.”
That gets a tiny nod. “I know. I trust you. I came over here to say that if I didn’t have this in front of me I’d be happy following you.” Berra examines the ground some feet in front of her.
Varanis flashes a brilliant smile at Berra. “Am I allowed to hug you now?”
“Um, alright?” Berra gives Varanis a skittish look, as it to say ‘you are insane but I shall allow this’.
This gets a laugh. The Vingan pulls Berra in for a half hug again, but mercifully lets her go quickly. “I will have you with me as long as the gods permit it and count myself lucky. And separation or no, I will always be grateful to have your friendship.”
Berra briefly rests her head on the imprisoning shoulder, and then says. “Hell with it all. I’m tired. I’m not going to take a watch tonight. There are enough of us, and I need sleep to be thinking clearly.” Then she pauses. “I’ll take the dawn watch. And I’ll get my head under my hide as soon as I’ve eaten.”
Varanis nods. “That makes sense. I’ll take the watch before yours, I think. I want Xenofos to get some uninterrupted hours too. He’s looking more wan than usual.”
“He’s used to staying still. You should hug him too. It might help.” Berra reaches a hand to her water skin out of habit, taps it with her fingers, and does not open it. Fidgetting is probably a good sign, given who is doing it.
“I’ll see if he is up to first watch.” Varanis unfolds herself from her seated position. Before she walks away, she rests a hand lightly on Berra’s shoulder. “Thank you for trusting me.”
From the way she moves, Berra was thinking about answering, but she does not do so immediately. The only thing that she manages before Varanis is out of earshot is a grunt of farewell.