Berra — History Of Eril
????, Fire Season, Movement Week
1626, Fire Season, Movement Week, Waterday. [[[s01:session-38|Session 38]]]
Berra seeks out Xenofos after some conversation has happened in the White Grape. She looks thoughtful, distant, troubled.
Xenofos is not looking too happy either. He is sitting alone in the table, nursing a drink. Before him is the cup Varanis left.
Berra flicks him on the shoulder, an overly intimate touch bordering on rude, depending on relationship. “Lord?”
Nod. “Mylady.” either Xenofos does not notice the offence or does not mind.
Berra sits down, hooking a stool out with her leg and using it more to help her kneel, than to take all of her weight. The troubled look stays with her. “He changed things in the Temple of Knowledge.”
A nod. “I suspected something like that.”
“Can you find out how? If I paid for the research, would it go faster? How… well, I don’t know about writing, but could it be found out?”
“To be honest – as is custom between us. I don’t know. The whole idea of library is to organize and preserve knowledge. Even then things get misplaced, forgotten even destroeyd and decayed by ages. Scribe who already knows how things are organized here might be able to tell there are traces of changes if he knew where to look.”
“Can you take me to look? To ask about it?” Berra’s lips are stained with red wine, which is an odd thing for her, but she does not look drunk. She is not even red-cheeked.
“I suppose I could. Not that my word carries too much weight in this temple as an travelling initiate.” Xenofos lets his eyes idly wander on Berras face.
Berra’s features are always motile, and often she frowns in concentration, and now she is twitching a little, eager to be off, but not demanding it.
Her lips have the bluish stain that comes an hour or so after red wine, her cheeks are pale.
“How is that right arm healing? ” Xenofos changes the subject erratically.
Berra holds up her hand, pulling back the sleeve that is jammed under her vambrace. The irregular scar on the back of her hand is still there, but she moves the wrist a little. “I could not do that, a week ago. It will get better. The feeling is coming back before the movement does, so I can feel it to here.” That is somewhere halfway between fingers and wrists, on the scar itself. “And I can fight left-handed as well as most people can fight, to be honest. Better, if I use magic.”
“Dangerous as ever I see.” There is a smile on Xenofos’ lips now. “Alright, I suppose we can go. You usually don’t want to wait for things to happen.”
On the way to the Temple
Berra gets up after only a brief moment of consideration. “Yes,” she says. “Although I used an entrance that was not by the Truth Stone, last time. Isn’t that part only open to guests?”
That gets a raised eyebrow. “Only part open to guests – first chamber. But with initiate guests may come in further.”
“So the part I came in through, the bottom of the Torch, he could have been in. But the door he left through was at the top of one of the wings. He would have needed to have been a guest, or else unnoticed by the Wyter, right?” Berra pauses, and then perks up and makes her way to the door. Action suits her better than thinking.
“You better show me ” Xenofos follows Berra to the deserted street.
Berra walks through the street in the heat of Yelm. “I could come in as your guest, although I am not sure I should. But whose guest was he?”
“That is a very good question”
“Right. Um. If we know where he was and how and at what time, can you see that? We know where he came out of, at least.” Berra walks quickly for someone so short, sometimes backwards so she can talk to Xenofos.
“He might have been an initiate himself. It is not unheard – though more often you hear of Issarians joining Sages ranks.”
“I… I suppose so. We know nothing of him. But Humakt is a hard god to share. He associates with nobody, for a reason.”
“It is many years ago and no register of guests is usually kept. But one should be able to figure out who lives there now and who was in that station than? “
“Yes.” Berra considers. “And if they took any large donations, maybe.” Then she says, “Left here,” and goes off on a tangent to the path.1Berra makes a special scan roll. Xenofos makes a standard one.
As Berra turns, a figure moves in the crowd behind, turning left to parallel them down a street nearby.
“I think we are being followed,” Xenofos says quietly.
“Yes. If I can get them close enough I want to use magic to see if they mean harm. But it’s not worth the Rune Spell. It might be rat-face.”
Xenofos nods in reply.
“Although… if there are more than one and they do mean us harm, then it would be interesting to know. Capture, not kill, if we have to?” Berra checks.
Xenofos’ shield remains on back, but its straps get arranged for quicker drawing to place. “If there are more than three that might be hard. With two it can be tried.”
Berra has no shield, but she does have to stop to fiddle with a sandal strap, and she invokes the strength of her spirit then. “I would prefer to let them follow us,” she says carefully. “We can always try on the way back, but I really want to know about his Excellency. Is that the wrong way around?”
“If fish are nibbling the bait it might be time to let them bite the hook. Later they may swim away…” There is certain uncharasteristic recklessness in Xenofos voice.
Berra nods. “Let’s. Go back to the last turning and flush them for me, and see what we get.” She stops in place, bouncing on her toes, ready for action.
Whether that will net the fish or not, she seems confident in her plan.
Shield in place, sword drawn Xenofos strolls back to the corner.
Berra waits until Xenofos is in place, and even signals him to go further… and the street he steps into has nobody in it.
A moment later Berra appears a little further down the same street, and her body language says she is swearing mildly.
“Slippery catch this one.”2Berra fails her scan. Xenofos passes his.
Berra seems to have lost her prey, although she is casting about for it. To Xenofos, however, the man is clear. He never came all the way down this street, but stopped well before the trap, and is now hurrying away.
Xenofos waves his rapier and gauges the distance.
Berra swears louder this time, and says, “Pursuit?” Longingly.
“Waste of time if not a countertrap?” Xenofos suggests.
“He knows now. We lost surprise.” She is walking forward.
“Right, back to business of the Temple then.”
Berra grimaces, but nods. “We did the wrong thing. Or the right thing the wrong way. Insufficient forces.” And on she goes, the worry about it left in her wake.
Show events at the Temple
At the Lhankor Mhy Temple, Berra heads towards the guest entrance, and then pauses on the path and gives Xenofos an enquiring look.
Xenofos steps in and motions Berra forward. “Be my guest.”
Within the sacred space, Berra falls into the habit of a warrior, poised for action, but not guarding Xenofos. She seems a little nervous, but then again, she is armed and has Humakti Runes so is probably making others nervous too. “Who do we ask? Is it you?”
“Old Jalban here knows how different rooms are allocated and can surely help you in your architectural studies.”
“Yes, but some of it’s secret,” says Berra with a worried look. “I know how to keep a battlefield secr-“. And then old Jalban is by her, bowing. “How can I help your honour?”
Berra pauses to take stock rather than answering while nervous. Jalban gives Xenofos a glance.
“Greetings good Jalban, I would need to know who customarily occupies the room at end of right wing, it might help clearing something i stumbled on when researching the Fall.”
“Ah, of course. Custom would keep that for visiting guests and dignitaries, young man. On what did you stumble, that we may better map this path for others?”
“I was wondering if we know the occupant just before the Fall, his identity is obscured in my sources and there is oblique refererence he might have resided here.”
“Ah, of course. Certain guest records may go back so far…” He does not go so far as to ask directly for a donation for his help, but his attentive look combined with his not yet moving gives it away. Xenofos can try on his own, or pay up.
The customary donation, plus another half, is handed over. “They are probably quite dusty records.”
Berra reaches for her pouch to chip in.
“Indeed,” Jalban says with an understanding looks. “People of your age sometimes do look to those who have been missing a while.”
Berra does not pass out in horror, but the very implication she might be looking for her father seems to be invading her mind with fire and sword. Jalban, failing to notice that, goes off to carefully file what he was working on, and dig up some of the older books of donation. He may be some time.
Xenofos waits patiently. He picks up Elementary Pelorian and once again tries to memorize foreign letters and alien words they convey.
Meanwhile Berra is doing her best to look patient, but after a couple of minutes asks, “How could you tell if someone has taken a thing away, or changed it? You have spells to tell the history of an item, don’t you? If you know the time and place it was changed? We know when he was here. If it was the only time, I mean.”
She is sitting carefully, polite on the edge of her stool, not touching anything. Perhaps she fears that words will fall out if she does.
“Maybe someone could. For me it would not work that way.”
Berra gets up to go ask people, causing something like a fuss as others assure her that words do not change. Finally she pulls a bit of parchment over to her, and holds up a sharpened flint scraper, pulled from a small pouch on her belt. It is smaller than the pouch she uses for wood carving, but has replaced it.
This is taken as a threat, and is causing some consternation.
Declination of amo ending verbs needs to be postponed for little moment. Lifted eyebrow. “Please put that text away. You would not touch other peoples swords without permission either.”
Berra winces, and says, “Sorry,” and puts the parchment back where it was. An apologetic bow follows, and a rather ruffled man sits down to write. Berra goes to ask someone else about historical Humakti records that might be left here, instead.
It seems prudent to keep eye on my visitor. If she gets assistance and reading that is ok, if she just gets records Xenofos may need to read tham to her.
After a while she is directed to Henng Tar… something or other. That man who does not know a good Esrolian beard style on seeing one, and insists on Sartarite labelling within the library being naturally superior. The bumpkin.
Oh, that impeccably polite and helpful fellow. Right.
So impeccably polite. And then money changes hands, or at least gets offered and put into a donation bag. Then Berra comes to sit down again. Shortly, Jalban returns, to say, “You are in luck, young man, although the Temple is sorely out of luck. We have found a donation from a Sambari guest who stayed while fleeing the Lunar invasion, and was caught up. No name, but there was a Sambari here. The record, alas, was filled in sloppily.”
“Well it is a pity, but I guess with the town in flames august Sages had to worry about many things, like preserving this fount of wisdom.”
“Yes, but still, it may be possible to look to other places,” says Jalban kindly to Berra who struggles to give him a smile.
“I suppose no-one in the temple would have been here already then?” Xenofos talks in what he feels is nonchalant and relaxed way, others may find it a bit arrogant and posh, but few would deem it devious.
“There are a few,” says Jalban. “Even I. But you must understand it was a terrible time. We took many of the records to caves, or out of the city. Even those who stayed had so little time. The very streets …” He shudders. “Ran with blood. Ashes settled on any lambskin left out.”
Berra’s eyes narrow a little as if she is thinking, or maybe just planning how to kill everyone present.
“I have read some of the accounts – the horror of it all defies mind of a peaceful man.”
Berra leans over to ask Xenofos a question quietly. “When you write it down, what difference is there between Sambar, and Sambari?” A true illiterate, that girl.
“Is there difference between Sambar and Sambari when spoken, little cousin?”
Berra nods her head. “Could you give us a moment?” she asks Jalban, who steps back.
“Yes. The High Sword’s name is Eril Sambar Humakti. He’s not just one of the Tribe, but one who might have been expected to make decisions for the Tribe. At the very least, he was a noble of some clan standing. He could call himself a Clan Member too, without lying, but he’s a Sambar.”
“I see. I thought he was supposed to have left his old identity behind, but I have been confused in this issue, like in a mist.”
“Well, sort of. I mean, if you don’t know who he is by writings here, you’d never find him. Eril of the Sambari isn’t much of a clue, and why would you be trying? But I’ve asked about Temple records of the time.”
Raised eyebrow. “I see, and this Hengg fellow is bringing them to you?”
“I hope so. I paid him to. We got off to a bad start so I think I probably paid him quite a lot.” Berra shrugs, like that is unimportant.
Xenofos nods, disdain of money, to him shows nobility. The arrogant youth has never had to count clacks to next bowl of soup.3Indeed, he thinks you pay clacks for soup, or might ever have enough to count.
“I might have some questions to him, some of which he might not like to answer… So I will ask those after he has shown to you what he has found for you.”
Berra grins. “Lucky we didn’t bring Rajar, then. You got the small one.” She turns to Jalban to bow. “Thank you, grey-beard.” The man bows in return, and walks away. Berra settles down to wait once more, left hand tapping on her knee.
After about half an hour, enough to show that he must have been working, Hengg comes out with a rather familiar scroll – it was the one that stopped him from giving his full lesson on the workings of the library to Xenofos, when he noticed it lying in the wrong place.
“This might take some time, is the chamber I was shown previously free? “
Berra has by now progressed from tapping on her knee to picking apart the padding on her armour. Hengg looks down at her with his superior smile, which does not shake at all as Berra stands with all the threat of a bored Humakti. Either he has no clue, or he has no imagination. “I am sure the chamber will be free, for a suitable donation,” says Hengg. “Were you talking to me, good Lord Xenofos? This young lady has my attention.” He does not even look away from Berra, who is keeping a scowl away by force of will and gritted teeth.4Berra fails intimidate. She is cute when she is angry.
“My apologies, Hongg, I just fail to remember that some of us have to work through alms, not love of wisdom alone. Here, let me correct my error. We are on same errand with lady Berra.” A slightly overlarge donation is counted out with a honest apolegetic smile. The mispronunciation of his name might be a coincidence.
“For the Temple,” he says, “And therefore, the love of wisdom. Come now… This is an interesting example of the well formed script, good Lord Xenofos. The curve-risers are a joy. Jalban in his prime.” Having established that he still absolutely and completely does not care for the good Lord Xenofos, Hengg indicates that his fellow initiate may preceed him into the reading chamber.
Berra glares at Hengg’s back, her left hand clenched, and she even shakes out her shoulders, looking like she is up for three rounds of fist to the face any time.
Xenofos takes the lead and enters the chamber. “Since young lady does not read and my heortling is not quite fluent it might be best if you give short summary of contents first, dear colleague.”
“Oh, this is the Doom,” says Hengg, and waits to be asked.
Berra translates smoothly, “That’s a list of the rolls of honour – who died and how. A history of each to be read out. They are kept outside the temple because we have different versions inside. This is… a shell of the acts.” That was definitely an unfriendly act, her eyes challenging, and Hengg genuinely splutters.
“If you know, why ask?” he says.
Berra manages not to say anything, but Hengg slams the scroll down on the work table. “Damned well read it yourself,” he snarls at her, and marches out. Berra looks halfway between surprised and coldly satisfied. It is almost, but not perfectly, like she did that on purpose.5Fumbled Charm…
A raised eyebrow from Xenofos. “That must have felt satisfactory. It did, however scare away bumpkin I felt was worth getting into an isolated place before I had time to establish the fact that there is a scary Humakti whom I don’t want to harm him in any way, should he wish to leave the chamber.”
“Or more accurately, it would make me sad if said Humakti made holes into suspect and stained the premises… So lets read what he brought, shall we.”
“Well, he left that,” says Berra, her voice cold. “Next time you are using me for such, be sure I know.” The look she gives Xenofos indicates more Darkness within her than safe. And then, almost instantly, it washes away and she nods. “Please do.”
“You are right, I should have been more specific in my wishes.”
Berra bows to Xenofos, accepting that and getting her shoulders low enough to show respect.
Berra moves out fluidly, a killer ready to pounce, and a minute later comes back with Jalban looking sympathetically at her. “Ah, yes,” he says softly on seeing the scroll. “A hero then.”
Xenofos respectfully gives way. “Quite different style to ours, mainly influenced by clay tablet usage and papyri.”
“Oh, the cat scratchings of my youth,” says Jalban. “I was highly influenced by the Alda Churi style – see that over-long loop? It is an elegant hand, to be sure, but cramped for old eyes. Now, let me see – are you after a particular name?”
“We might start from Company of Death, and see some time after and before? “
“The Household of Death,” Berra agrees with a nod. “Probably around the invasion, rather than the formation.”
“Several columns, just of the names,” says Jalban sadly. “But of course, let us see…” She he begins to search through for dates. Then he pauses. “You know, there would be no ‘After’ here. This is the Doom of the Household of Death. Perhaps you’re unfamiliar with the story, Lord Xenofos…” He hesitates to add more, and probably means it, but Berra adds to the silence, “They were all wiped out,” helpfully.
Jalban blinks. “Just so. But the invasion – there was a helpful young man, a Humakti but not of them, who helped fill in the names. Poor chap. He’d been sent to ensure they were all recorded. Of course, this is the last of it.”
Berra freezes, saying nothing.
Xenofos nods. ” Did the Humakti survive? “
“That one? I don’t know. He knew all the names of the Regiment – had them written down, fetched everything I pointed to. He was highly literate, I recall. But then a day after the walls… well, I was not here all the time, you understand? He could have had his glorious death. I didn’t see him later. But he wouldn’t be written down. Not here, anyhow. Let us see now. Do you know if you are looking for a Sword, or an Initiate?”
“Sadly no. You might know the names, Berra, but I have not heard them so we might start from the beginning of the household.”
Berra bows her head, and Jalban begins to read. “The fact of each death was put in later,” he says, and then there are names, and names, and names. Some on the walls, most in the temple. Every single one just says, “Separated,” so that it becomes punctuation after a while. The name, “High Sword Prince Harsaltar, wounded Red Emperor. Separated,” is early among them. Berra smiles proudly to that. A little later is, “Eril, Sambari. Separated.” No other details. A little later again, Jalban pauses for a sip of water.
Xenofos makes a mental note. And nods somberly.
Berra sighs, as Jalban stops. He looks at her sympathetically. “Your father?”
“No. Someone I respect. It’s… a Humakti thing. But close to me in a sense.”
He nods, and asks Xenofos, “Shall I go on?”
The names continue, a sombre tone that has Berra lowering her head and blinking from time to time, but there are no great surprises. At the end Jalban says gently, “I see Hengg has left the other Regimental Records here. Irregular, but I suppose they were left here at the same time. Much was taken, but as a favour to the Lord of Truth and Death, we hid these rather than have the names taken.”
Quick questioning look to Berra over Jalbans head. Quick look at the handwriting on new stash.
“These would be records of other regimental matters, like…?”
“Yes please,” says Berra, although she sounds tired. “Among those separated early, if you can do that. But after Harsalter the Terrible.”
As it turns out, Eril Sambari, Intiate of Wilmskirk, in good standing, appears in a list about an hour later. By then Berra’s jaw is set in what looks like determination but might be murder. The name of her Lord gets little attention from her. It gets little from Jalban either, who goes on to read the names of other Initiates who joined the Boldhome Regiment before the invasion. This is a Regimental Document, not the list of the dead, but every name in there, bar that one, is guaranteed to have died then.
“So many dead. And these just warriors who made a choice.”
Xenofos sounds surprisingly sad for barbarians quite unkown to him.
Berra takes a deep breath. “It’s what a Humakti should do,” she says, her voice distant. “You don’t just fight for those you know, but for your whole Tribe.”
“Thank you (Sage?) Jalban, we have imposed heavily on your good will. I consider to be in your debt. If you would for some reason be in need of my assistance I would hope to be able to repay the favor.”
Jalban – who is more a greybeard than a grey-robe, bows his head. “Of course,” he says, and nods in approval as Berra puts her hand into her pouch. “The Temple usually asks two Lunars for an hour of my time,” he tells her. She hands over four, which is generous, but not greatly so.
“That is so, but my debt was not paid by lady Berra, good Jalban. “
He blushes, and strokes his beard. “If I can help you further, let me know.” Berra bows deep, silent, and waits for Xenofos to escort her out.
Xenofos leads her towards bright sun and open air. It would seem the dusty smell of pergament, usually comforting and homely is now weighing on him.
Outside, Berra takes only a few steps before it really hits her. “I’m going to look at the stone,” she says abruptly, and walks that way, faster than even her usual bouncy pace.
Xenofos follows. In his footsteps he hears echoes those hopeleslly long lists of Sartarite names.
Berra kneels in front of the red stone, the Y of it reflected on her cheek. Her lips move, although she says nothing loud enough to be heard.
Xenofos lets his gaze wander from one stone to another, upwards towards the Humakti temple, for a moment the stones seem to shine red. ( Failed scan to check for ratface or other enemies.)
Berra stands after a short time that seems filled with prayer, and steps away, closing her eyes. She opens them to come into a fighting stance, and goes through a set of forms left-handed, sometimes slowly, until something like calm comes over her again. It takes about ten minutes of concentration until she looks like she does not want to use her sword in anger.
Berra gives Xenofos a nod. “Thank you. I feel better now. I had to remind myself.” With Wind Tooth safely sheathed, she gives him a smile pulled a little out of true by the scar on her lip.
“Shall we return to the inn? I think we found something, but I am not quite certain of what it was.”
“Yes. Don’t fear their deaths, Xenofos. They will serve in the next world. They have just been separated from this one.” Her eyes are shining now, proud as much as sad.
“Fear? No, I noted that I mourned them though I never knew them and though they were not kin, mourned life that ceased to be. Mourned for widows and orphans they left behind.” Xenofos looks somewhere quite far. “And for all their deeds and sacrifice Boldhome fell just the same…”
“If you could be sure of success, it would not be the same. One day, I’ll fall short of what I try, but if I only did the things I knew I could, I could not be a warrior, or have honour. It is because deeds can fall short of wishes that the effort matters. If enough people try, some will succeed.”
“There is truth in that. Maybe not the whole Truth but important part.”
“Nothing we could hold in our minds would be the whole Truth, but it can light our path, if we see right.” Berra unbuckles her water bottle and swigs from it, offering it over afterwards.
Absentminded nod, Xenofos accepts the bottle and takes a mouthfull.
The water is slightly sweetened, with apple juice or honey, and maybe slightly salted too.
Xenofos looked like he was about to say something, but just cleaned the mouth of the flask after drinking and shook his head like trying to get rid of sleepiness or weird thoughts.
He returns the bottle, checks how his his shield and rapier hang and looks towards the inn.
Berra in her aspect of Humakt the Really Impatient Youth bounces on her feet a bit, but walks at a steady pace. Her sword is already ready for battle, for it is at her side all the time. The shield is back at the Temple. She walks on the left, like an alynx prowling a roof for songbirds of Yelm to shred.