Berra disappears briefly to see if she is wanted by Lord Eril, and returns after about half an hour, looking thoughtful. She walks into the antechamber, looking around to see what it is like.

Berra disappears briefly to see if she is wanted by Lord Eril, and returns after about half an hour, looking thoughtful. She walks into the antechamber, looking around to see what it is like.

It is all tapestries and wall hangings, with only occasional wall paintings. With Vinga (or possibly Kallyr) doing heroic things.

Varanis is seated at a small table, a beaker of wine and plate of food in front of her. Both appear untouched.

“Hey. Yes. I was going to say we should eat.” Berra might not have realised they are still in the servant’s chamber, less magnificent even than the one that Varanis has, and with less of a view of the city below. She goes to the window to look out over the steps.

“Help yourself,” Varanis tells her, pushing the platter to the middle of the table. The Vingan has stripped down to her padding for the moment. Her armour and shield are not visible in this room.

Berra looks, thinks, and then goes over to the table. “Not before my host.”

Varanis sighs, but takes some bread and cheese for herself. “As you wish.” Dutifully, she takes a bite.

Berra looks at the wine, and chooses bread and cheese and water. “So, the good news is, I know the precedents for Sartar and I think they apply in Heortland, and you haven’t done a Crown Test.”

“And without that, no one can make me be queen?”

“Nobody can make you do anything. But without that, anyone could challenge you. You CAN become Queen without one, by enough acclamation, but anyone could challenge you. And you’d be Prince of Heortland before that – and anyone else who tried could do the test instead. Leika became Queen of the Colymar the first time just by doing the test, without the Tribal Ring meeting before she mounted the throne.”

“I see.” Varanis looks pensive. “I thought of something and if I have, Kallyr or her advisors will have too. I just offered her Heortland. She could command me to take the Crown test so that I can become queen and then bring Heortland under her rule.”

“Yeah. I don’t think she wants that, but she could. It would give her something to do with the regiment that turned up, but it would also be really really tricky, and then you might not survive, and I get the idea she… well, she would if she had to, but it doesn’t seem like her.” Berra does eat, but lightly, choosing the things that Varanis has already tasted. An anti-food-taster.

The Humakti is, definitely, waiting for Varanis to eat.1Pass Inside Human.

When the Vingan realizes what Berra is doing, she systematically works her way through one of everything. She encounters some roasted nuts that have been glazed with honey and these she eats more of.

“We should go out and meet them tomorrow,” Berra says after a couple of bites of a meat she has examined carefully. Some roasted stalks of an expensive-looking vegetable have been pushed over towards Varanis.

Dutifully, she eats the vegetables.

“You know where they are camped? I’m not sure I understood Sword D’Val’s reference.”

“Yeah. We fought Lunars together once. Up through the North Gate, and a day away. There’s grazing up there, at least for a small herd, and it keeps them off us. A day’s run down to Svenstown.” Berra begins to make more complicated piles of food on bread, as is her habit, once more options open up.

“I’ll want to secure permission, but then yes. I need to go see them.” Varanis takes a sip of her wine, then adds more water to the cup. “I need to know who is there and check on their welfare.”

“I should probably ask Lord D’Val about the numbers, and ask the High Sword about what he thinks the best plan is, so we don’t trample over what he wants. A hundred horse and maybe the same on foot is a lot of people to swing around, and there are no easy targets around here, so we’ll probably have to cross the Creek, or raid into Prax.” Berra engulfs a small slice of bread with a single one of everything neatly laid out on it.

“Their target is Lunars, not Praxians. I can’t have them dying in Prax.” The glare Berra gets is sharp.

“Where would you like them to die?” Berra raises a brow. “As far as I can tell we’ve got a new-sprout-tender Regiment, with no support, and no Wyter. They need action, and they need testing, and they need to become a Regiment.”

After a muttered string of curses, Varanis has to admit that Berra is right. “But, how do we manage this without causing conflict with potential allies? Riling up the Praxians would not bode well for Sartar. What about around Alda Chur?”

“That’s why I need to have a talk with Lord Eril. It might be you can put them at his dis-posal.” Berra navigates the word carefully. “Or that he’ll be able to tell you what not to do, so we don’t spoil his plans. It’ll probably be up to Alda Chur – maybe patrol the Donalf Flats north of the Creek, see what the Khan of Khans is up to. With luck we’ll be able to get a few small victories then send them home to tell tales of our glory.”

“Better to have that conversation with me there, or not? There will be a lot of Orlanthi there and I should talk to Tennebris about making sure they can worship.”

“The one with Lord Eril? Trust me to have that. He knows that I know you. Unless you want to ask if he wants you – you could write. But he’s really really busy, and I’ll be covering a few things.” Berra now piles things up in layers, instead of spreading them around the bread. Cheese as thin as she can. A smear of fish sauce. Very thinly sliced capers, after she has worked out what they are. Sausage that came sliced already.

“That frees me to speak with Tennebris, so yes. Unless Eril needs to see me directly, I’ll leave that with you.” Varanis rises and heads to the window, taking her wine with her. “Orlanth’s blue balls… what were they thinking? You know, now I understand better why so many of the matrons were hostile. The youths of the Houses…. fuck. I wanted experienced warriors. The ones who came through the siege and the Ford.”

“Yeah, well. I figured you’d get political help, if you got anything. If it goes badly for people, then we can send them home to feel better by sending physical support. Food, money, horses, weapons.” Berra slices up her bread and topping pile vertically, her knife hardly disturbing the food, save where it separates. “I’ll ask him about Temple support as well.”

“Political help, resources to feed Sartar, experienced troops. These would be useful. But now I have to think about how to feed two hundred people. I hope they have some people who have thought things through among them. Maybe I’m not giving them enough credit. We won’t know until we see them, I suppose, and hear Eril’s assessment of what he has seen thus far.” Varanis turns back to the table, eyes the monstrosity Berra has created, before swapping the full wine cup for a piece of dried pear.

“Lord D’Val wasn’t impressed,” Berra says. “So I’m going to go with young, enthusiastic, and they think they’ve thought about things. I’m gonna be… going to be… staying at the Temple tonight.” Her Heortling slips into her farmer accent for a moment, an indication her mind is playing on many things. She takes up a slice of her bread-pile, carefully, and eats it. It is thin enough to be bite-sized despite the height.

“Would it be bad form for me to stay here alone?” Varanis asks. “I don’t have a servant and I’m not about to treat any of you like one. I mean, if people need a place to sleep…” She’s flailing awkwardly at words. “I figured you’d all be wanting to stay at your temples… oh. Suuraki and Valseena. They don’t have temples here.” Glancing around the little ante chamber, Varanis considers. “I could make room for them.”

“No, not at all. Either hire someone, or ask for someone to be assigned? I’m not quite sure how that works but I’m pretty sure you can tell your host that you don’t have anyone. If you want someone – you probably should, to show your status. But for that, I think you’d probably ask someone who serves in the palace, not somebody important. I mean, really important. Whoever showed you here?” Berra’s expression says she is partly guessing. “And you can ask, but they might want to be down by their mounts, and they have tents. But you should ask, to be sure they know you care.”

“Tents? But…” Varanis looks around the small, but well appointed antechamber.

Berra looks around. “It’s nice, but it doesn’t have the llama in it.” She shrugs. “But you should still ask them. Tell them it’s a big honour.”

There’s a nod. “I asked everyone to meet at the White Grape for beer and a meal this evening. I’ll mention it there. We should know where to find everyone.”

“Yeah.” Berra nods. “It’s close to time I should go talk to D’Val. A lot of riding today, and I want to get my legs moving, and I want to ask him a few things.” She keeps eating, though.

Varanis nods. “Remember to ask him about being Durulz. I look forward to hearing more about that.”

Berra nods, seriously. “That’s one of the big ones. Now I know, I wonder if I should be avoiding bird-meat and egg-meat.”

“Want to meet me at the bottom of the stairs later and we can walk to the Grape together?”

Berra thinks, and nods. “Yeah. Seems like a good idea.” She picks up the rest of her food, a half cake of piled up taste and texture, and says, “A bit after Yelmset? A bit before?”

“A bit before. Take some more?” Varanis takes the last of the honeyed nuts for herself.

  • 1
    Pass Inside Human.