Letter From Past

Berra — Letter From Past

????, Fire Season, Illusion Week


Context

Fire Season, Illusion Week, Wildsday. In Nochet, Varanis met Lanasha, Berra’s old girlfriend, who never quite got over things, and gave her a package to take to Berra. [[[s01:session-44|Session 44]]]

Events

Yelm has begun his final descent and Rondrik is lighting the lamps in the common room when Varanis seeks out Berra.

The little Humakti has been on guard for a few minutes, but as Rondrik puts the bar onto the door she relaxes a little. “Temple time?” she asks.

“Soon. But first, I need to talk to you privately. Can you leave the guarding for a while?”

“Aheeeh. We’re closed up, so I can sit in the corner, if that will do? Or I can deliver you to the Temple and we could talk there.” Berra obviously takes being at her post seriously.

Varanis frowns. “I was hoping to head upstairs. I have something for you in my pack.” The Vingan has continued to pay for a room for her stuff and to use when she needs to at the Grape.

“Temple?” Berra suggests, torn. “The… well, um.” The door is barred, but this is her post. Bigger emotions than she can disguise wash over her features.

“I think there’s a chance this will distract you from guarding anyway,” Varanis admits solemnly. “Someone else is going to need to do it.”

Berra sighs slightly, and that gets arranged.

Then she goes upstairs. “I will be taking a lot of time to learn in the next few days,” she says. “Others should have the chance to relax.”

“I know, but this is important. And I don’t know if I will be able to do it later.” In the room, Varanis suggests that Berra sit at the table. Then she goes to her pack and rummages, coming out with a package and a document. “I don’t remember if I told you, I saw Lanasha when I was in Nochet.” She watches Berra’s face closely as she mentions the other Vingan’s name.

Insight: Berra looks faintly annoyed, probably at the past. “I don’t recall,” she says, and it sounds true. Apparently she is Over Lanasha.

“She asked me to bring you some of your things and a letter.” Varanis looks stricken. “I swear I didn’t know she was sending things she’d broken. I didn’t discover it until I was looking for something that smelled like you when we were searching for you… and then, when I saw and you were so badly hurt… I haven’t been able to bring myself to give this to you for fear of causing more hurt.” She puts the packages and letter on the table, takes a breath and rushes on. “I don’t even know if this is the right time or if there’s ever going to be a right time, but there might not be another time and…” She trails off, staring at Berra with worry.

“I didn’t know I even left anything there.” Berra pokes at the packages. “But this doesn’t feel broken.” Then she pokes at the cups. “That one does. Yeees. I suppose this is one of the reasons I left her. Would you keep broken crockery?”

“No. It’s good for the fields.”

“Can you do the knots for me? I suppose I should look.”

Deftly, the Vingan unties the knots.

Berra looks at the broken cups, the expensive food, the knife sharpening stone, and then at the blue material Varanis exposes. “Um.” It is silk, pleated, heavy. Berra self-consciously wipes her hands just looking at it.

Varanis watches silently.

Berra carefully pulls out a dress worthy of Varanis’ own wardrobe. A heavy tunic and light, diaphanous skirts and sleeves with embroidery-edged cut-outs. It is the blue dress Lanasha said was special, and not an option for Varanis to wear. It looks perfectly sized for Berra, now it is being held up instead of guarded jealously.

“She can’t afford this,” Berra says.

“Oh,” Varanis breathes. “That’s gorgeous.”

“Um?” Berra gives Varanis a look. “She can’t afford it. This is worth more than she earns in a season.” Maybe a year, although Berra would have no way of knowing.

There are tiny seed pearls on it, and the heavier silk has a subtle water Rune running through it.

Varanis knows clothes: It is on a par with what she would wear to be in a good dress, but not a knock-out item. Berra has nothing that good, except arguably her swords. Her kit is all high quality but with evidence of wear. She can afford linen, but not silk.

“It’s well made and with good materials. It will look good on you.”

“You think I should wear it?” Berra looks from the pretty thing to the other pretty thing. “I think I should send it back.”

“If I had known it wasn’t all destruction, I’d have been less afraid to give it to you.” The Vingan shrugs. “That’s your decision to make. Do you want me to see if I can read her letter to you? Maybe she says something about it.”

“It is all destruction,” says Berra. “This isn’t a gift. It’s an offer… yes. Please. I should know.”

“There’s a letter too.” Varanis nudges the papyrus on the table. “Do you want me to try to read it?”

“Uh, please, yes.” Berra is looking with a bit of annoyance at the dress. “That would be good.”

Varanis unfolds the papyrus and studies it. She turns it around in her hands and studies it again. Then she sighs. “I’m sorry. I can make out your name and a few other words, but I can’t understand it well enough.”

“It’s fine,” Berra says. The lack of worry seems real. “Maybe Xenofos? I know the sort of thing it will say anyhow. I just need to work out how to pay for this. I mean, what to do with it.”

Varanis nods and folds the papyrus again. “If you don’t mind him knowing. It feels like it may be personal.”

“Someone has to. It’s him or D’Val and I’m on duty here now.”

Varanis rises, offering the letter to Berra.

Berra looks a bit puzzled. “Not calling him?” But she gets up.

The Humakti looks around, gesturing at all the stuff. “I might want to re-wrap this. I should make a start on that.” Something stubborn inside her might be stopping her from moving now.

“We can, if you prefer. I try not to demand that others wait on me these days. I have no servants here. Only companions and kin.”

“Yes, but…” maybe she does not want to leave things unguarded.

Varanis watches Berra fuss at the packages and then says, “I’ll go invite him here.”

She walks out without waiting for Berra.

Berra’s scowl as she tries to close up a package of fruit one-handed is very very her. Murder, puzzlement, and wonder all together.

———

Varanis comes to find Xenofos. “Cousin, Berra and I need your help reading something. Do you mind coming with me to read it? It’s a private matter.”

“Sure. But you can read?”

She shrugs. “Sort of. Lanasha’s writing is a bit messy. It’ll be easier for you.”

Xenofos accepts the evaluation and follows the lady.

Berra is in Varanis’ room, trying to re-tie the binding thong on a package that has been nearly but not entirely re-wrapped. There is already frustration on her features, and it looks like this is the first that she has tried. There are a variety of packages including one heavy on blue silk.

A raised eyebrow from the scribe.

Varanis steps through the door. “You and Xenofos look at the letter. I’ll do the packages.”

Berra looks up, disgusted, and then relaxes when it is only the people she expects. “Thank you,” she mutters.

“Very nice colour, good choice I think. You got a letter?”

“I don’t want it,” Berra says. “I need to know what the letter says so I know how to get rid of it.” Oh, that old thing? It’s a small fortune.

Varanis shakes out the tunic so that she can carefully refold it. The tunic is a heavy silk, covered with pearls and water runes. It has a gauzy skirt in the same colour.

Another raised eyebrow. Apparently the scene Xenofos walked into was not comparable to his lady relatives coming home from shopping.

Varanis folds the garment gently, to avoid crushing the silk. She looks a little sad as she begins to repackage the lovely little tunic.

Berra, looking annoyed, hunts around until she finds the letter to offer to Xenofos.

As always Xenofos looks at general look of the document before starting to read.

“Stains? Ink has drifted from something wet and hand is not quite professional…”

“Berra, writer has corrected what he or she has wanted to say on several places. Do you want me to read only what writer has left untouched or also thoughts he has left uncorrected?”

“She. And just tell me what she wrote. I mean, what she would want me to read. Well, not that. But not the … scratched… parts.” She looks to Xenofos to check she has the right word.

Varanis looks at the broken pottery and scowls. There is considerably less care put into rewrapping that particular package.

“Ah, she I see. She has overlined some things. Papyrus takes scratching worse than parchment.”

Berra is out of her depth here, maybe because she is short. “It’s from an old girlfriend. And I need to know how she’s thinking so I know if I should send it back.”

Varanis shakes her head silently.

“Dear Berra. I hope you are happy.I want you to know I understand. Except I don’t. Overlined part after that.”

“We were good.”

“Oh, Humakt. One of those.” Berra puts her head down on the table, among the packages, and covers it with her arms.

“Some of your cups got knocked over. I guess they broke. Overlined part. Your new ladyfriend was here and buying fruit for the duck.”

Berra groans faintly.

Varanis looks up at that, frowning. She doesn’t interrupt but it looks like it’s a near thing.

“I thought you would like some too and I know you better than she ever will. I picked the good ones for you.”

“F.fksk,” can be heard indisinctly from Berra’s slumped form.

“They have bite… I know how much you like that.”

Berra’s head moves in a slow shake that grinds her forehead against the wooden tabletop.

Xenofos is keeping his face carefully neutral.

“The tunic. You probably want to reject it. You’ll think it is a trap. But I got it for you before you left me”

“Uuuuhhhhhhgnnnnggg….” Berra probably wants all this to stop.

“I have been waiting for you to come back so I could show you how perfect it is. Perfect – like we were. It’s made for you, and no-one else could – ever – wear it like you could.” concentrating on the reading Xenofos is unfortunately not really paying heed to his audience.

Varanis looks very much like she might be regretting something.

“How far to go?” Berra asks the table, in a muffled tone. “Is this nearly done?”

And, of course, the lessons of oratory suggest evocative pauses to stress more pathetic wordings.

“Oh, maybe last quarter left. Do you wish me to stop?”

The back of Berra’s neck is red. Maybe she has been out in the sun too much lately. “No, go on,” she says. “We started. We can finish this together.”

“I hope one day you will deign to wear it – for me. Even if nothing else can ever come of it, I deserve that much.”

“Well, back it goes to her. That makes it easier.” Berra’s tone is conversational now.

“Come to Nochet! We’ll dress you up, and go out for a night. Just that.”

Varanis looks like she wants to say something, but somehow manages to restrain herself.

“I miss you. Overlined words. Lanasha.”

Berra siiiiighs. “Well, it could have been worse,” she says, still not sitting up.

Xenofos looks a bit embarrassed.

“She has thought other things too but decided that these words should be final.”

“I … I srt f nt to know … she dnt ite,” comes the reply. Then a bit stronger, “But not.”

Varanis looks sympathetic.

Berra is still not looking at either of them. Just the table.

Xenofos is playing around with the letter. Smoothening wrinkles it has acquired on the way.

Not moving. Berra does not move. Her ears, not covered by her arms, are bright red too.

“Would you like to be alone for a while? Or would you like a drink? Or both?” Varanis’ tone is as sympathetic as the expression.

“I think I would like to crawl under your bed and hide there,” says Berra. “But maybe if you throw water on me I’ll recover.” Surely that is a joke. Surely. It just doesn’t sound like it.

Varanis pours a cup of water from the pitcher near her bed. She sets it on the table. She casts her eyes in Xenofos’ direction, trying to gauge his response to something this personal.

Berra gropes for it with her left hand, carefully not knocking anything over. “Thank you, Lord Xenofos,” she says as she sits up. “I’m… um… thank you.”

“I wish I could say it was a pleasure Berra, I would not have liked to bring embarrasing words”

Insight: chiefly, Berra is embarrassed. There might be other things behind it, but she just got her past and arguably details of her sex life read out in public, and she is probably wrestling with memories. Or in memories. Xenofos is embarrassed at getting to know such private stuff. And worried about how Berra will take the embarrasing tirade of a possessive ex-lover.

“Not your fault.” Berra looks at the water, and grimaces, and takes a sip. She is entirely the wrong colour for her Truth Rune right now – it shimmers on a bright pink cheek.

“Would you like me to throw out the pottery?” Varanis asks at last.

“I think so. Everything else, I should send back.” Berra looks at the packages, and takes another sip of water. Her hand is shaking a little, but she does not let it bother her. “Someone should be going that way after Wildsday, I suppose.”

“Even the dress? It was clearly made for you,” Varanis protests with dismay.

“Of course the dress!” Berra seems amazed. “I can’t keep that – not from her!”

“But it’s beautiful…”

A stare from the Humakti. Nothing more.

Varanis sighs sadly. “You are probably right, but what a waste…”

“She bought it. I didn’t.” Berra’s voice is oddly hard.

“And the food? You’ll waste the food too?” She looks thoughtful. “If it would stick in your throat, what about donating it?”

“Dormal said something about an orphan’s society didn’t he?”

“I can’t accept it. And if I write to her, she’ll read something into the letter. It should all get sent back. I… I could write, but I wouldn’t know what to say.”

Varanis waves a hand. “The letter is easy. Ask Xenofos to write it. ‘I regret to inform you that your gift cannot be accepted. The tunic is returned, the food donated, and the pottery discarded, as is appropriate given the circumstances. Do not seek further contact.'”

Berra just stares. “That… would not work. She’d find a reason. She’d come here to change the circumstances.”

Berra looks down at her water, and pulls herself together, her Humakti calm coming over her.

“Your call, Berra. Your decision is what matters here.” The Vingan looks at the package with the silk one last time, before putting it from her head. “I am sorry for my part in allowing her to come at you this way. I truly had no idea until I was back in Sartar and even then I only suspected.”

“She’s not coming at me. You’d be able to tell if she was. She’s a screamer.”1Berra’s best blurts come from special or critical rolls on her Truth Rune… Berra shrugs. “I’m not worried – but really the best way to deal with it is to send it all back, minus the pottery. It was fun, it’s over – and she needs to know that without my words to help her. She’d only make them into a reason to arrive, or send something else.”

Varanis blinks when Berra mentions the screaming, but controls her expression quickly.

Xenofos just gives a nod.

“Uh, too much? Sorry.” Berra winces at Varanis. “Just… um, try to forget I said that?”

“So…. do you need anything just now?”

“No.” Berra shakes her head. “Just help with packing it all, please. Thank you again, Xenofos.”

Varanis ties the last knot on the packages and scoops up the one with the broken pottery. “I’ll be right back.” She sweeps out with the package in hand, leaving Berra and Xenofos alone.

Berra sighs, and looks up at the scribe. “Should I ask what was in the overlined bits?” Her eyes are knowing, maybe sympathetic.

” I don’t know. They are her thoughts, ones she wrote. But also ones she chose to cover, though not so they could not be read”

“She meant me to. Best not, then.” Berra holds out her hand for the letter.

The letter is handed over with a nod. “Maybe wiser, little cousin.”

The letter gets crumpled into a thin roll, and Berra takes it over to an oil lamp. She feeds it to the flame carefully, blowing it out whenever the fire gets too hungry.

Varanis re-enters the room and stops abruptly at the smell of smoke.

Berra glances over. “I should get back to guard duty,” she tells Varanis. “But I wanted to be rid of this and I thought drowning it would spoil my water.”

“It’s fine,” comes the swift reply.

“I’m going outside for air. Just the courtyard. At some point, we should plan to head to the Temple.”

“I’ll follow. The door’s barred, and I should be down there. Let me clear it for you.” Berra crumples up ash in her hand. “And we can ask Rondrick to clean up, I suppose.”



Dear Berra,

I hope you are happy. I want you to know that I love you but I understand. Except I don’t. We were good together. –And now, you are with a duck?–

Some of your cups got knocked over. I guess they broke. –like my heart– Your new lady friend was here and buying fruit for the duck. I thought you might like some too and I know you better than she ever will. I picked the good ones for you. They have bite… I know how much you like that.

The tunic. You probably want to reject it. You’ll think it’s a trap. But I got it for you before you left me. And I have been waiting for you to come back so I could show you how perfect it is. Perfect like we were. It’s made for you and no one else could ever wear it like you could.

I hope one day you’ll deign to wear it for me. Even if nothing else can ever come of it again, I deserve that much. Come to Nochet and we’ll dress up and go out for a night. Just that.

I miss you. –I hate you. I will always love you.–

Lanasha