Berra — Here Lies One
????, Earth Season, Movement Week
Earth Season, Movement Week, Freezeday. Follows on directly from previous scene. [[[s02:session-16|Session 16]]]
Valinos stands by awkwardly with the lantern, as the barbarian dampens expensive clothing.
Xenofos nods, takes off his helmet, drags his fingers through his disorderly hair and seems to look anywhere but Berra.
Berra, for her part, remains self-contained. She luxuriates in the feel of the warm cloak for only a moment, and then hangs it up to dry on a protruding beam end. In the near darkness, all that can be seen now is the padding of her armour moving, the gleam of metal as she becomes a warrior instead of a fish once more. Meanwhile, Xenofos has the corpse for company. The big knot of rope around the dead man’s ankles seems to have one of Berra’s greaves tied to it.
Perhaps the lantern-bearer would be better company, in fact. Although he is definitely a servant, and just perhaps the corpse was a warrior.
Xenofos furrows his brow when seeing mysteriously emigrated piece of armour. ” You did not tie your greave on him, did you?”
“No, I tied it to the rope, though. I needed a sinker. And I carved a hook-thing. I had a couple of hours, and I didn’t want to sleep.” Berra is now missing both of her lower-leg greaves, although only one lies full fathom five. She does not put her shoes back on, but does tie her foot-wraps into place, coming over to balance one-footed casually while doing each. From the knees up, she is a warrior. Under that, a peasant.
“Ah, that explains the greave. I was starting to suspect the ducks of foul play.”
“Oh, right. No. Other greave.” Berra looks at her hands in the lantern light. “Right. No longer wrinkly, so I’m not going to wear through the skin. I’m not on a battlefield, so this’ll take me a couple of hours. Do you want to try to get some sleep?”
“Putting him into rest?”
“Yeah. It’s easier when I’ve just been fighting because that already counts as a holy state.” Berra’s left hand rests on Wind Tooth, and her fingers curl lovingly around the crossguard.
“I suppose I can wake for one more dead.” Xenofos’ eyes are unusually dark, the warehouse is badly lit.
“Well, I’ll want to sleep later, so…” Berra glances at Valinos, as if to ask whether he’ll be of any use as a guard, or maybe if it is appropriate to ask.
“He can take his turn.”
Berra nods, and goes to get ready. From her pack she pulls out a rolled skin with coarse, straight fur still attached. On that, fur side down at the edge of the lantern’s light, she lays down lumps of chalk and charcoal. The upper surface is already a patchwork of Death and Truth runes, black and white, marked over so often that the background is an indeterminate grey. Her helmet is left to guard it. Then she takes her flint knife and begins to cut away carefully at the dead man’s clothes, starting at the top, and letting him stay on the rags as she exposes the body to the dark warehouse. She does not even remove the knot until it is time to get to his ankles, but goes in strict order.
Xenofos looks on without a comment. Perhaps he is remembering comrades who have passed, or perhaps enemies.
Berra makes no comment when she sees the Illusion and the Disorder Runes tattooed and cut into the man’s skin. She shows no sign of disgust when it is clear the water has only mostly cleaned the body, and she has to finish the job, which she does with strips cut from his clothing. Her first remark is when she takes the knot off the ankles. “Now you cast away the world,” she says, “And are free of things of the world you leave behind.” The makeshift rope, and all its complications, gets dropped to be dealt with later. Berra lays down the knife on her little mat, and returns to the corpse, grabbing his clothes to pull him towards the edge of the darkness. “You go on a last journey.”
Xenofos does not say anything audible, but makes square of th Earth with his hand.
Berra steps backwards over the damp trail made by dragging the body, touching the very edge of Wind Tooth to the ground, cutting the man away. Then she goes to kneel by her hide, hands held over it, eyes closed. For some time she does not move, and then she picks up the charcoal and begins to draw the Death Rune, over and over again. “You die alone,” she tells the corpse, “No matter who is with you. You are separated. Then you meet judgement, for Hell is a place where others have gone before you. Be comforted. You died in battle, free.”
Scholar follows the ceremony respectfully. He sighs when Berra says dead one is free.
It takes an hour or so, and during that time it seems that the light recedes from Berra. Her long hair is plaited and clubbed up for battle, her black eyes offer no hope and no cruelty, just pitiless blankness. The spell is broken briefly when she says, “And this is what an enemy does for you now, for you are gone,” and puts a hand onto his head. Her healing spell, repeated after a moment when it is clear more will be needed, unbreaks the broken jaw, and gives the corpse more semblence of humanity. For a moment then, she looks like Berra. After that, the black and white marks of Death provide dust for her to rub into tiny cuts she makes on the body, never on a tattoo, but often close to one. This time, she is always working upwards. “Go meet judgement with bravery, if you cannot meet it with Truth.” The last few pricks of the dagger are over the mouth and the eyes.1For the record, she failed to put him to rest properly, even with the use of ritual boosting her Prepare Corpse spell
The little Humakti’s shoulders sag a moment later, and she looks at Xenofos. “I’ve done what I can.” Her hair is burned short again, her gaze even in the lantern light that falls on her. There is a hint of colour in them again. “I showed him the way.” Then with the familiar roll of her shoulders she stops looking tired, and stands. “You sleep first. I’ll get an hour or two so I can wake around dawn.”
Xenofos nods. “He has seen the end of the fight. Wake me a bit earlier than that, will you. You’ll need sleep too.” He then recollects himself and checks another thing. “How much oil do you have, Valinos?”
There is a low snore from the lantern bearer.