Grave-digging Part 6

1629, Sea Season, Disorder Week, Godday


In the wilds of Culbrea territory, there was a Telmori den. Berra and Varanis discuss grave-digging in the midst of grave-digging. Part 6 of 8, following on from Grave-digging Part 5, Session Ill Wind.


“You sing, I’ll dig,” Varanis tries.

“Alright, but you know I don’t do that so well.” Berra glances at what she has done, scrapes off one last bit of loosened earth, and hops out of the hole. She hands over the spade without a word, obviously thinking.

Varanis takes the spade, checks its edge, and asks the other gravediggers for their sharpening stone. She learned something after all. She sits down on the edge of the grave to sharpen the spade’s edge.

Berra takes a moment to think, and then starts with clicking her fingers, setting up a rhythm that repeats after a couple of seconds, something easy to work to. The song is a work song, repetitive but not unpleasant, half nonsense. What words there are come in snatches of rhyme, between long choruses. She has chosen something that fits within her capabilities, so it goes well enough despite her lack of training.

Varanis finishes up with the spade’s edge and jumps into the hole to start digging again.

Berra keeps up the rhythm, clicking louder now so that Varanis can catch it. The digging continues to the beat Berra has set, with both Varanis and the Nunnery’s worker matching the pace. There are occasional pauses, but Berra goes on for long enough that they can get a whole layer of earth moved, before she stops abruptly and says. “I need a drink.” She sounds dry rather than croaky.

“Irillo has good wine,” Varanis says, even as she pulls out her own flask and tosses it to Berra. “Save me some. I need it too.”

“Water. I need water.” Berra then catches up on what she has just been thrown, opens it, and takes a long drink, with a bit of a splutter involved. “No wine. Not while I’m working.”

“I figure I’ll sweat it out and it’s taken the edge off things a bit. But yeah. Water is what I need now too.”

Berra passes back the flask. “Take a break, then?” she suggests. “Most of the songs I know for work are Esrolian, or cradle songs. That one’uz for harvesting, though. Maybe marching songs?”

Varanis takes a swig and then puts her flask away. “Marching songs,” she agrees, then starts to dig again.

Berra does not argue, just starts on a familiar song about the road. This one has less of a beat, but it is popular enough among Orlanthi that most people will have heard it, at least. Her voice is not really set up for it, but she tries her best.

Varanis adds her voice to Berra’s for a time.1Special on CONx3 to do both.

Berra lets Varanis sing some of it while she has more water and a snack, and then takes it up again. At the end of the song she says, “Voice needs a rest. Lemme dig.”

There’s a moment of hesitation, then Varanis rolls her shoulders and nods. “Alright.” She tosses another spadeful of dirt out of the hole, then follows it up. “Graves are bigger than I expected. I was prepared to do this entirely by myself, but I’m grateful I don’t have to. I’d have been here for days.”

“Yeah. If you don’t get low enough animals dig in,” Berra says. “S’why a lot of people prefer to bury ashes.” Berra hops in, comically close to being lost already. “Pyres. Pyres are the way.”

“Pyres are the way for some, Berra. There’s always another way.” The Vingan looks thoughtful. “Do Sartarites in Esrolia become lay members of Ty Kora Tek too?”

“We’re warriors. My mother got burned, but she wasn’t a farmer.” Berra finishes delaying and starts digging. “Nah, not really. She’s pretty Esrolian. Not many Temples up here, and even a lot of women get pyres before they’re buried.”

“In Esrolia, we are pretty much all lay members. You learn what is needed for different groups of people, different cults, different roles, and so on. But we never talked about the Telmori.”

“Huh. I mean, I know what most of the people I know would need, but it’s the Ernaldan Temple who’d take care of it. Not for me – my cult deals with that. But you don’t usually get a Ty Kora Ke… Tek priestess around or anything.” Berra can talk while breaking up the earth.

“Oh, we don’t do the rituals. In the necropolises, the Keepers of the Dead do. But, we all learn what is expected. And when you learn to fight… well, you relearn what is expected in case there’s no one else,” Varanis says matter-of-factly. “But children…” She looks sad again. “I never expected to need to know what to do with children. And we never talked of Telmori.”

“Humakt. I mean, I’m good at…. well, yeah. Killing someone is itself a ritual act.” Berra casts something magical on the spade, and goes again at a patch she just bounced off.

“Will it be deep enough before Yelmrise?” Varanis wonders out loud.

“Yeah. We pile rocks on top, too,” Berra says. “Maybe Irillo can organise getting those?” She glances at the merchant.

He is already levering himself up and going for one of the mules.

Berra keeps digging, not wasting the remaining magic on her spade. She uses the moments while the digging is easier to make headway.

The other gravediggers swap over again. Shorter sessions after food seems to be sensible. The surgeon apparently named Dippy is tidying up and feeding the fire. The White Ladies are looking with resignation at the pile of cloth and wood that will soon be their tent.

Varanis glances at Berra and at the White Ladies. “You good for the moment?” she asks the Humakti.

“Uhuh.” Berra is slowing down as the magic fades from the digging tool. “Sit down for a bit.”

“I think the healers need a hand,” Varanis says.

Berra pauses and looks over. “Irillo is free.” There he is having gone over to his mules.

“I think he’s getting rocks?”

“In the dark?” Berra shrugs like it is not her problem what Irillo chooses to get his mules to do. “Sit. Rest. You’re moving away from one task to do another.”

“If I stop moving, I start thinking and right now? That’s bad.” Varanis looks towards Irillo. “Maybe I should help him…”

Berra sighs. “Do something light. Not moving rocks. If you’re doing to be digging, you need to be resting your body in between. If you’re not going to sing, then I guess help with the tents? But don’t do it too fast.”

“Do you need me to sing?”

“It’ll help us work. It gives us a rhythm, and it helps time pass.” Berra looks up from the hole. “We’ve got a while of digging to go, although eventually we’ll get down to where only one of us can be in here, if we go deep. We already got to be polite.”

Varanis considers, then sits down and begins to sing. She’s chosen one of the more up tempo versions of the Lightbringers in Heortling, which she manages fairly well. It’s a long piece that is widely known and very repetitive, making it easier for others to join in as they choose.

Berra sings along from time to time, but mostly she lets the singing keep her moving. Sometimes she uses magic, sometimes she helps move a big rock, but mostly she keeps to the rhythm of the music and uses it to pace herself. Time passes, and then more time.

“I’m glad I’m not doing this on my own,” Varanis admits.

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    Special on CONx3 to do both.