Guard duty

1627, Fire Season, Disorder Week


On the road between Stone-Over-Souls and Nochet. During Session 2.42: Kin-Making


Berra advised taking the group down South and then cutting across further up the Oslir, to avoid potentially hostile grazelanders; she then let others make that decision.

On the second night back out under hides, she is on the dawn watch with Varanis, pacing up and down and around the camp, on the move on foot all the time.

Varanis watches Berra, almost as much as she watches the landscape. When the little Humakti’s feet bring her near again, Varanis asks quietly, “Do you want to talk about it?”

There is a clear moment while ‘yes’ and ‘no’ fight.  Yes is a bigger animal, with teeth.  No has the benefit of knowing the ground.  Berra looks away, and takes a deep breath.  “Maybe?”

“Let’s try yes on for size. You can always change your mind.”

“Go for a walk?” Berra suggests.  She seems to mean both of them.

Varanis nods and falls in beside Berra.

Berra does a circuit of the camp, with the care due to a guard, before she peels off a little, facing towards the only bit of rough ground, and mostly looking that way.  She is being a guard, but she is also definitely stepping away from others who might hear, and who might see.  The faint starlight and the red glint of the moon show a Humakti who looks defeated.  Finally she looks down, professionalism falling away.  “I keep dreaming she loves me.”

Varanis blinks into the darkness, startled. “The…” She stops. “Oh. Oh, Berra.” The compassion in her voice is impossible to miss.

After a while, Berra raises her head, and manages to look out into the darkness, where danger is.  “It’s not the worst thing, but it’s what makes the rest worst.”  Berra grammar.

“Do you want to talk about her? Or about the rest?” Varanis asks the questions gently, an invitation, rather than a demand. “Sometimes getting things out of your head can make it easier to deal with them.” So speaks the woman with a long history of burying her troubles.

“Yeah, I know…”  Apparently Berra knows.  But maybe this time when her shoulders sag it is because she knows that could have been rude.  “Mostly you know it already, really.  But I just don’t think it a lot.”  Her voice is small, like she is.

“When did the dreams start?”

“Just yesterday.”  Berra gives Varanis a haunted look.  “But I never have the same dream twice.  Never!  And now I am…  And again tonight.  That’s… more than I remember having.  All year.  Until now.”

“I wonder if it’s something to do with the dragonewts,” Varanis muses. “And I wonder if anyone else is dreaming. I have. About the same person, even, though my dreams of her are very different.” She sighs heavily. “Very different.”

Berra nods just once, in grim agreement.  “It’s because of the HeroQuest, I think.  That’s the rest of it.  Or most of the rest of it.”

“You’re having difficulties with not winning against that guard, aren’t you?”

“Kinda, yeah.  Not her.  Just knowing there are so many people like her out there.” Berra’s words are all a little cut off.

Varanis nods.

“It’s my task to go up against them.  To be good enough to.”  Berra does not fill in any more, but she is looking down again.

“Our task, Berra. And we are growing into it. Think about where we were when we first met. Who we were. We have work to do yet, but…” Varanis trails off. She takes a deep breath. “We don’t have to be enough on our own. We are clan and we work together. Xenofos reminded me of that – he found his way into my myth on the Hero Plane! I can’t fathom how he did it, but he did. And then he overcame his fear to help me fight a dragon.”

Berra is silent for a bit, thinking that over.  Then she is silent for a bit more, not answering.

Varanis waits with Ernalda’s patience.

Finally, the answer comes, quietly.  “Iss’no’ enough.”  Sulky peasant accent.  Maybe some of that determination coming through.  Until she sniffs back tears.1Fumbled Fertility, to believe in community…

Gently, gingerly, Varanis steps into Berra’s personal space. It looks very much like she’s intending to hug the Humakti, but she’s leaving ample opportunity for her victim to escape.

Berra steps away, suddenly alarmed.  It looks like for a moment she was afraid of Varanis, and now she is wary, watchful, ready to bolt.

Varanis steps back immediately, making space.

“Being … ”  Berra trails off, and then says, “Don’t want to think about Vingans right now?” like asking if Varanis understands is as close as she can get to explaining.

“It’s ok. I shouldn’t have presumed.” And it really does sound like she understands, or at least thinks she does. There’s no hurt or sign of rejection at Berra’s rebuff.

Berra takes a little time to look around the area again, and while see seems a little distracted, she also seems fully in the moment of being a warrior. It is only when she stops that she looks vulnerable again.  She gives a slow, long sigh, with a tiny half-breath breaking it.  “It’s what I wanted.  It’s what I should be good at.  It’s just that I’ve got afraid of failing, because I care too much.  I need to deal with that, but I can’t do it by thinking about relying on people.  Not in the end.”  Another ragged sigh.

“Only Humakt in the end?” Varanis asks.

That gets a small nod, but at least Berra’s expression is schooled to control now.  “I found out a thing in the city.  Xenofos looked for you, and I did what Humakt does.  I’d been wondering when I’d make that decision, and it was now.  Then.”

“I see.” There’s a long silence. “Not my Humakt? Not your Orlanth?” Varanis is unreadable in the darkness.

“I don’t know that.”  Berra hauls herself to the present.  “But it’s a thing I have to ask Lord Eril.  He gets the choice now, or my Temple does.  I don’t get to walk away from him – from Humakt.  Not to anyone.  I ask if my service can be looking after you.”

Now that she is answering a question directly, Berra looks to Varanis, her expression wry.

Varanis simply nods at first. “As the gods will,” she says when she finds her voice.

“I hope I’ll be with you.”  Berra says it simply.

“As do I, Berra. As do I.” She sighs. “We’ve stopped moving. Let’s complete the circuit. It won’t be long until Yelm begins his ascent.”

Berra moves on, and as so often happens she slides easily into being a warrior, wearing it with more ease than she wears being a lost little person.  Professional.  Completely.  It looks like it is all that matters to her.

Varanis strides beside her, matching her pace to the warrior’s. She makes no further attempts to draw her companion into conversation or offer comfort. It seems such things are unnecessary.

Berra, on the other hand, is a bit more chatty now.  “It won’t be for a long time,” she says.  “I know what very good looks like, and I’m not there.”  Her voice is quiet, but pitched for reassurance.

“I understand,” Varanis tells her, though something about the way she says it suggests that understanding is not the same as accepting.

After that, Berra quietens down.2I think she’s no longer bouncing all over the camp, anyhow.

Varanis, for her part, is silent, other than to warn Berra when she is ready to begin her Yelmrise rituals. This allows the Humakti to wake the others as the Vingan greets the sun.

If there’s any kind of turmoil in Varanis, it’s not apparent as she begins her dance. Her feet are nimble and her sword is swift. She reminds Yelm that she both slayed him and saved him and when it is done, she is Varanis once again.3Special on the roll.

Berra, for her part, finds some kind of peace; by the time she is reminded to wake others and put aside being a guard, it seems some internal change has happened, some new understanding has been reached.  She is determined, contented, calm.4You criticalled Insight Human there, too.

  • 1
    Fumbled Fertility, to believe in community…
  • 2
    I think she’s no longer bouncing all over the camp, anyhow.
  • 3
    Special on the roll.
  • 4
    You criticalled Insight Human there, too.