Grave-digging Part 1

1629, Sea Season, Disorder Week, Godday


In the wilds of Culbrea territory, there was a Telmori den. Varanis and some people from the Nunnery have come to bury the dead. Berra and Irillo come looking for them. Part 1 of 8. Session Ill Wind.


By the Telmori den, the healers have extracted the bodies of a mother and two cubs. Having confirmed that there are no lingering disease spirits, they are busy preparing the corpses for burial.

Meanwhile, Varanis and the helpers from the Nunnery have started to dig. They’ve decided on one large grave, so that the cubs can be buried with their mother. Varanis does not really have the technique down, but no one seems inclined to tell the Wind Lord she’s doing it wrong.

Berra’s voice drifts on the wind.  “… this way…”  Surely that is Berra’s voice?  But it is late evening, and she was in the hall at Beasts Gather.

Varanis stops her digging to listen. On the other side of the grave pit, where the hole is already a good couple of hand-spans deep, the workers trade positions. They don’t seem to have heard anything.1Varanis notes: In my head, we’re digging an ovoid pit and the two experienced people are trading off digging on one side, so that they are also trading off resting. Meanwhile, the Vingan appears to be doing the other half of this all by herself. She’s falling behind.

“Wait a moment,” Varanis says. “Stop digging. I’m trying to hear something.”

The worker’s spade stops. The healers continue their prayers.

Movement, and then the gleam of bronze, and Berra dumps Irillo to skitter forwards and pause as she sees what is going on.  In the dimness of the evening, she nods, like she gets that.

“Berra?” Varanis nods at the workers. “They’re friends. Family. It’s ok. I’ll be right back.” She heads off to intercept, taking her borrowed spade with her.

Berra tells Irillo, “We’ll stay here.  You find a comfy rock or something,” and gives one more cautious look around before offering Varanis an embrace.  A genuine hug.

The spade gets set down, rather than dropped, and the Vingan throws herself into the hug, practically crushing Berra in the process.

“Are you ok? I’m sorry I messed things up last night. And before. And… you were so exhausted and I’ve been worried, but I didn’t want to tell you I was worried about you… and oh Berra, we didn’t get here fast enough. The babies died.” The words just tumble out on top of each other.

Berra rests her head on the closest bit of Varanis for a moment.  “I woke up and you’d mostly solved things,” she explains.  “But you were late so we wanted to check on you.”  She relaxes enough to start trying to untangle herself from Varanis.

Varanis lets her go. “I need to keep digging, but come with me and I’ll explain what’s happened?”

Berra does that.  “I dreamed that my toes were really important,” she says.  “That’s all of my news, really.”

Retrieving the spade, Varanis brings Berra to the grave. She introduces the Humakti to the grave diggers and if the Vingan notices that her side of the hole is a bit deeper than when she left it, she doesn’t say anything.

“Sit there, so I can see you,” Varanis suggests, pointing at a large rock. “I’ll tell you what we know while I dig.”

Berra nods to the grave diggers, and the white-clad surgeon who is cooking up a meal for everyone.  “Yeah, do that.”  She pokes at the rock with her foot and then sits on it, and looks like she is finally relaxing.

Varanis talks as she digs. She’s gotten a bit better at reporting, as the story comes out of her a bit like a report to Eril or Tennebris might. She outlines the details, including the timeline of events and key people, finally finishing by describing what they found when she returned to the den for the burials.

The whole time, she is digging. She has enthusiasm and determination, but no technique. And though she’s hit rock more than once, she’s not stopped to sharpen the spade. The other two have switched out at least twice in the telling, and each time one rests, he checks his spade edge.

“And so Mellia is staying the night at the Nunnery. But, I didn’t want to leave the bodies overnight in case there will still disease spirits or… you know, anything came by to disturb the dead.”

She straightens up and winces. “This is harder than I thought.”

“Never dug holes before?” Berra half-guesses.2Berra fails Scan but passes Insight.

Varanis is a riot of conflicting emotions and she’s trying to throw all of that into her digging. The workers who are well ahead of her in their own side of the grave pit… one of them radiates calm and peace. The other, currently resting, is annoyed.

“No. But it’s not that hard. Stab the sharp edge into the ground and…” She grunts as her actions follow her words. “…scoop.”

The worker not actively involved in digging rolls his eyes.

“If Orlanth went at Ernalda the way you’re going at that, he’d be finished before she got started,” Berra says, getting up.  “You sit down and have some water.  You’re wasting effort.”

“But, I have to do this!” Varanis protests.

Berra pauses.  “Yeaaaah.  You’re sweating.  You sit down.”

For a second, Varanis gets that familiar, mulish look, but then she sighs and steps back. She offers the spade to Berra.

Berra takes it, and says, “The best spades are pearwood with a bronze edge.”  That makes the Arroin surgeon smile, for some reason.  “But this kind, with the long edge, and a lot of bronze, slices pretty well too.  Good for soil you need to cut through, not so good for heavy clay.”  She stands by the hole, looking down.  “Yeah, this needs cutting.  You’ve been working with a blunted edge.”  Her thumb taps at a smear of dirt still on the spade’s blade.  “You ever seen Yamia fight when she really means it?  Uh, that is, you’ve seen Yamia fight.”

Varanis nods, but looks confused.

“She waits, then she goes straight towards how she’s going to kill you.  That’s how to dig.  Position, then commit.”  Berra gestures to the man currently resting, running her hand along the edge of the spade in mute show of wanting his sharpening stone.

He passes it over, not saying anything but watching carefully.

“It’s just digging,” Varanis argues. “Not a battle. Moving from here to there.”

Berra says, “Yeaaaaah,” to mean ‘nope’.  She runs the coarse stone over the edge of the spade a few times.  “You’re not doing anyone any favours by tiring yourself early.”  Now that she has a shining bit of metal exposed, she looks at the edge more critically, and uses the stone on just one spot with the strength of her hands.  “You want to make holes in the ground, you make holes right.”  She examines the edge again.

Varanis glances at the workers, then back at Berra. Guilt begins to creep into her expression. “Well shit. I played the dumb-ass noble again, didn’t I?” She gets back to her feet and steps closer to the workers. “I’m sorry. You tried to tell me and I didn’t listen. That was disrespectful of me.”

Berra looks surprised, and then looks back at the edge, letting Varanis make her apology.  She does not interrupt it by giving back the stone.

The stocky, irritable grave digger just nods his acceptance. The other one steps out of the hole and gives her his patient smile.  “Your blisters were going to tell you soon enough,” he says. “Switch sides now so we can even this out?”

Berra checks the stone over, giving Varanis a moment more.

Varanis has the grace to flush and nods her agreement. “Berra? We’re going to work on this side for a bit. We can trade off like they’re doing, if you’re good with that?”

The Humakti nods, and steps over, handing back the stone.  “We’re further down this side, but we can take that raised bit and get under it,” she points out.  “Now, I haven’t done this properly in… well, years.  But it’s easier than haymaking.”  She starts working her way around the edge of the grave, loosening the earth without clearing it at first, just getting the edge of the cut-out area lower.  “You can get the blade a bit finer than I did,” she says, “But there’s enough bite and roots here that it’ll only turn.”  She is not going fast, but even as she speaks she does not stop.

  • 1
    Varanis notes: In my head, we’re digging an ovoid pit and the two experienced people are trading off digging on one side, so that they are also trading off resting. Meanwhile, the Vingan appears to be doing the other half of this all by herself. She’s falling behind.
  • 2
    Berra fails Scan but passes Insight.