Like Old Times

Berra — Like Old Times

1627, Fire Season, Harmony Week


Context

Fire Season, Harmony Week, Godday (or thereabouts). [[[s02:session-42|Session 42]]]

Events

Running over a roof is a stupid thing to do in full clothing. Berra is therefore in a light tunic and a short skirt slit for running and climbing. She is checking out routes that she once knew, vaulting up and over, ducking under, slithering through gaps too small for most to use. Although she does not have an easy, automatic association with the air, she uses strength and agility to overcome being short and not Orlanthi. She is going over a stretch down by the axe barracks, apparently heading for the city wall.1Pass on Scan

There’s someone running parallel to her, but on the next set of roofs, a street between them.

Berra speeds up a little, putting her best efforts into keeping ahead, and then changes her mind, and just runs for the hell of it, jumping up onto a statue’s alcove to pause for a moment and look at who it is. Her hand reaches for her sword, just in case – she is only carrying one.

The tall, slender figure is one that Berra is intimately familiar with. She does not pause when the Humakti does, but takes advantage to try to get ahead.

Berra gives her a moment, and then instead, runs the other way, at an angle. Gone. Well, trying to be.2Berra passes Darkness, and does this on purpose. She does not like being followed and wants to make that clear.

It takes Lanasha a few seconds to spot the direction change.3Passes Listen

Berra does not run hard or fast, just away. It did take her a moment to make up her mind, however.

“Wait! Berra?” Lanasha wouldn’t plead, of course, but…

Berra sighs, and pulls up. It takes her a few moments to slow down, and then she stretches and turns back.4Reroll on Darkness.

As soon as Berra turns back to her, Lanasha takes flight, landing lightly on the roof on Berra’s side of the street. She waits cautiously, hands hanging at her sides, empty palms turned to the Humakti. She doesn’t present a threat.

Berra looks around for somewhere to sit. “Hi.” Nowhere. She stands there, sweaty and pink, getting her breathing under control.

“Hi. Want to keep moving?” Lanasha suggests. “I need to say something, but we don’t need to stand still to do it.”

Now that she has Berra before her, the Vingan is hesitating.

Berra nods. “I should. I was heading over to the gate, to see if I knew anyone there.” She heads, walking now, towards where there used to be a good way down.

Lanasha falls into step beside her. Lithe and graceful, the past seasons seem to have been good for her. She’s lost the pinched, angry look from the last time they saw each other.

Berra relaxes a little, one hand on her sword.

“I owe you an apology. I tried to find you before you left for Prax, but by the time I got to the docks, you were gone.”

Berra shrugs. “It happens. Thank you.”

“I was jealous and angry.” Lanasha flushes, but goes on. “Which doesn’t excuse my behaviour, I know. I should not have attacked you or Varanis. And… I would have attacked you if she hadn’t intervened.”

“I’ve swung at people for less. I’m still learning to pick my fights. I want a lot of fights, to be honest.”

Lanasha laughs. It’s not the joyful sound of their past, but it’s genuine nonetheless. “Do you think we could find our way back to friendship one day?”

Berra shrugs. “Maybe? I mean, there’s a lot of world out there.” She grins. “And you broke my cups.”

There’s a wince. “You br… Yes, I did. Would you like me to replace them?”

‘I missed them, but not really? I have to grow out of things. But we could go get something to eat, if you like? And a drink, and then I should get on.”

“Sit down food or walking?”

“Walking. I don’t want to stiffen up.” Berra looks down a sheer wall. “This used to have a ladder in it. Or I’m lost.” Beatpause. “I’m pretty sure it had a ladder, though.”

“Want to fly, instead?” Lanasha offers after giving Berra a speculative look.

“Heh. Was wondering, but saving magic is good.” Lanasha gets a glance. “We can climb down. Somewhere. I got into the habit of not knowing when the next fight would be. My Sword Lord says I shouldn’t pick all the fights.” She shrugs, moving to find a new wall to look down. “I guess I have to leave some for him. And you. If you want.”

The Vingan shrugs, as if to say she doesn’t care about the answer one way or the other. “Pick your path then,” she says.

Berra mutters a Protection spell as she heads for an edge. She considers it, and then takes another instead, hanging, dropping, and finding a lower roof to jump from down to the street. Her hands get dusty, but she does not fall, or in fact disgrace herself beyond being slow to choose the route.5Passing Climb the second time around.

Lanasha flies down casually, alighting below the Humakti.6Berra passes Scan – she is keeping an eye on Lanasha as well as other things.

When Berra glances Lanasha’s direction, it looks like the Vingan is making the effort to wait quietly. But it is an effort.

Berra dusts off her hands. Always independent. “Any idea what’s good to eat around here, or shall we take our chances at the gate?”

“The gate isn’t far and they have some good options there.”

“Yeah.” Berra heads that way, with a touch of swagger in her step. Sword. She looks small and still pink. Her glares fail to clear the way.7Intimidation is hard when you are 5’1″ and not in armour.

Lanasha glides along beside her, less than a hand-span above the ground. “Something spicy? Lots of sauce?”

Berra has to look up. “Yeah. And salty. I started off pretty close to the Temple, and went up and down a bit.” And it is Fire season.

The Vingan notices Berra looking up and drops to the ground to walk. “I know a good spot then.”

“Sweet.” Berra drops into silence, padding along like the killer that she is.

“So. Um. How was Sartar?”

“Oh boy. Lots. I went to Prax – brought back some iron – long story, ask me again if I live to be a Rune Lord – killed some scorpion people and an ogre… I can’t remember about the ogres, other than the small ones – maybe one? two? Um, oh. Apparently summoning the Eternal Battle is bad. And then I got back to Sartar. Can we stop here? I think it does drinks, and I’d like a swig of something.”

Lanasha looks astonished by Berra’s account. Silently, she waves the Humakti ahead to order a drink.

Berra gets herself a beer, and asks, “Want one?”

There’s a quick nod as Lanasha reaches for her coin purse.

Berra pays for her own, from money tucked into a belt under her tunic. String belt. How rural. She lets Lanasha pay for the other. “Then alright, I got back to Sartar. Walktapuses are also bad, by the way. Don’t breathe in the gas. Then we got sent to see the feathered horse queen.” She chugs back her beer and hands the cup back, getting another. “Varanis – Thane Varena – was to take gifts from Kallyr to her, and ask about marriage. So that happened. We had to chase her a bit, and that was pretty exciting because there were bandits, but they went away when I was loud and Sartarite at them, because they thought we were Praxians… then we found a lot of chaos things in a cave and I helped to fight an undead chariot, and then there was a fox lady and a haunted house, and one of my cousins was there.” She thinks for a moment. “I don’t like that sort of coincidence.”

“And you still found time to get to Nochet for that big Saiciae wedding?!” Lanasha has been hanging on Berra’s every word, wide-eyed and impressed despite herself.

“Yeah. It was pretty close-run, but we had reasons to want to be here. And we thought Mellia was the one getting married, anyhow. To Venlar – I think you might have met him?” Berra then pauses. “Of course, now I list it all like that, it seems like a lot.”

“There were rumours. The healer didn’t marry her Sartarite after all?”

“She did, but they ran away together. He did the Orlanth thing.” Berra waits for Lanasha to finish her beer too, stretching her legs out while she stands.

Lanasha collects both of their cups to return. “But there was a marriage. People are still talking about the celebration.” Lanasha wasn’t invited. She obviously doesn’t mind. Much.

“Yeah. As far as I can tell, the Saiciae really wanted to show off. I went as Mellia’s guest. She was there too.” Berra shrugs, like it is not important to her. “I think they spread the word properly?” She gets into motion again, heading for food.

“And now? You’ll follow Varanis back to Sartar or wherever she goes next?” Lanasha nods in the direction of the gate. “The food stand I’m thinking of is that way.”

“Probably. She’s my friend. I want to go back there, but so does she.” Berra walks fast enough to keep up, of course. “Eventually I’ll settle down at my Temple, and try to learn how to be in the same place. Maybe I’ll get lucky and my High Sword will want me to travel.”

“I heard a rumour about her…”

“Yeah?” Berra sounds interested rather than worried.

“Is she really descended from Sartar? Or is that a Saiciae power play?”

Lanasha watches Berra’s face, then adds, “She doesn’t quite look Esrolian…”

“Oh, she is. Totally. It’s complicated but she is.” Berra looks guileless, open as she so often is. “The line of descent’s a bit of guesswork, because it could be two different people, sort of – it’s got magic involved. But she is.” She’s just matter-of-fact about it.

Something about Lanasha’s expression suggests that if anyone else had said it, she’d have argued. But Berra tells the Truth. “She always was a bit haughty. Too good for those of us outside her circle. We had a bit of fun that one time though.” She looks at Berra again. “You say she’s your friend? Is that all she is to you?”

Berra briefly makes to answer, and then looks at Lanasha and says, “There’s nobody else in my life. Not like that.” She looks away, and sighs.8Pass Fertility. Ouch.

To someone who knows Berra, it is obvious that question hurt, and it becomes more obvious a moment later as she stops, takes a deep breath, and wipes away a couple of tears. There is yearning on her face – easily read by an ex-lover. She fights it down, forcing calm over the top.

Lanasha blinks. “Berra, I… What happened?” Confusion and concern fill her voice.

“Never mind. Move on,” Berra replies.

“Has someone hurt you?”

At one point, Lanasha might have been happy to see Berra so vulnerable, but now she looks protective.

Berra puts up her hand, going from addressing herself to speaking to Lanasha. “I’ll be fine. It’ll just take me a moment.” And then the mask is fixed into place, and she says calmly, “It feels lonely, sometimes, but this is the path that is best. So I do it, because someone must, and I am here.”

For a moment, it looks like the other woman will argue, but she stops herself, searches Berra’s face, then shrugs. “As you wish.” The surrender is bitter, but there’s a finality to it. “There’s the food stand. Let’s go order something.”

“Spice. Flavour. No vegetables.” Berra’s voice is light, controlled.

It’s a simple place. It sells flat bread wrapped around various fillings. There are different meats to choose from and plenty of sauces. Lanasha lets Berra order first.

Berra makes enquiries about the sauce, politely, in her half-withdrawn way, and pays for the one meal. She gets a free oyster shell to use as a spoon, after paying extra for the flavours. She needs it.

Lanasha orders something small and easy to eat quickly. She fidgets as she waits. As the food is handed over, she turns back to Berra. “Which way do you want to walk?”

Berra shrugs. “Around here? Out and back, maybe? This is where I want to end up.” She glances up to the top of the wall. “See if I know anyone from up there.”

“Fine. Lead the way then.” The questions have stopped. A couple of times, it looks like Lanasha wants to say something, but she just doesn’t get there.

Berra walks out of the gate, past the guard, and steps off down the road. As she walks, she eats delicately, using the over-stuffed flatbread to keep her chilli soup with meat in it still, while she deploys the spoon. She is very good at it.

Lanasha makes quick work of her food, silently. Methodically. When she finishes, she waits for Berra to do the same.

Berra gets to the point where it is safe to eat, rather than drink, and does that. Then she taps around her lip with a forefinger to be sure she did not splash. A curious exploration of her own chin leaves her satisfied. “Done?” she checks.

“Done.” Lanasha looks down at Berra, studying her features. “It was good to see you, Berra,” she says at last. “I should go now. You have things to do, and I guess I do as well.” Though well-masked, there are unspoken undercurrents, recognisable to her erstwhile lover. There is pain here, but also determination.

“Yeah. It… It was good to walk and stuff.” Berra gives a short attempt at a smile.

“Goodbye.” Lanasha simply turns and walks away, head held high, dignity intact.

Berra leaves it a couple of minutes, and then stretches out her shoulders and walks back to the gate.