Looking Forward

Berra — Looking Forward

????, Fire Season, Truth Week


Fire Season, Around Truth Week Freezeday. On the road. [[[s02:session-45|Session 45]]]


It has been a long few days for Berra, who nevertheless has been enjoying the challenge greatly. To someone who knows her – Varanis for example – it is clear that she is alert and ready for trouble, but thinks herself equal to the task. She has stood Varanis on watch, but does not take watch herself, instead patrolling – some are calling it prowling – at night, to check on the sentries. Now she comes to Varanis’ post, familiar footsteps just loud enough to hear even though she is creeping – perhaps because she is creeping.1Varanis passes Listen.

Varanis glances in the direction of the footsteps, but keeps her attention moving around, rather than focusing on Berra’s approach. She waits.2Berra passes Scan.

The Vingan’s feet shift subtly, into her ready stance. She looks ready to move in an instant.

Berra comes up closer, stands there quietly, asks, “Anything out there?”

Varanis relaxes a little, replying, “Not that I can sense.”

Berra says, “Not me, either,” where one of the other officers would use, “Nor I.” However, unlike anyone else, she goes on, “Whatcher thinking?”

“Truthfully? You’ll be unsurprised to know that I’m worrying.” Varanis shrugs. “It’s what I do, I suppose.”

“Yeah, well. What about?” Either that is helpful, or it is merciless. Maybe both.

“Argrath. I’m not sure how I feel about him, just now. I swore an oath to him as King of Pavis and if he’s here as King of Pavis, then I’m good. But what if he’s after Kallyr’s throne? I heard rumours and … Sartar and Dragon Pass are Kallyr’s! I will have to stop him if he means to try to take them.” The words are emphatic and urgent, though quietly spoken.

Berra nods. “He’s special. But he’s not her. She’s King of Sartar. I’ll be trying to stop him to, if he does. So best to find words. The enemy we share, that kind of thing. I mean, you know that. But it’s what’s important.”

“Indeed. I am worried about becoming an oath-breaker… but I know was it right in this.” She gains confidence as she says this. Kallyr’s claim to the throne is one thing that Varanis does not doubt.

“Yeah. You’re keeping your oath – he’s the King of Pavis. Maybe of Tarsh – but that’s a whole different thing. Don’t agree to that in her name, unless you know what he means by Tarsh. Alda Chur is a tricky place to have to argue over.”

“My sister and her husband seem to think Tarsh is theirs.” Varanis’ tone is as flat as her expression, the underlying anger still present.

“Yeah. It’s going to be a lot of trouble. That’s what I came to talk about – the being there. We could be there a while. If we have to chase him, and if there’s any fighting, we need to think about supply.” Berra rolls out her shoulders, stretches onto tiptoes for a moment. She is still short.

“I suppose looking for Lunar supply trains and taking them is likely out of the question. Fazzur and Argrath will probably be on those already.”

“We have the money, but the question is whether you want to be seen buying things. Food’s going to cost a lot.” Berra glances back to the camp. “If we find a supply train, we find what it’s supplying too, and we’re on the wrong side for finding the train before we find the trouble.” Some people would have answered that in a different order.

“I’d quite like a supply train to hit, to be honest. But..” She shrugs. “Why wouldn’t I want to be seen buying things?”

Berra answers confidently, “Because your money’s from Kallyr. I mean, seen by your troops, and having to spend that. And I can do that, but if it’s… maybe I said that wrong. What I meant is whether you want to be seen selling something to buy things.” Confidently, but jumpily.

“Ah yes. I was wondering about that… In Sartar, is this a gift I can spend? Or is it another symbol I must display?” Varanis taps the new arm ring. For a guard, she’s wearing a lot of gold.

“Uh, if you display it, you’re saying you don’t need to spend it. That’s all. She gave it to you because it’s gold – to come here with.” Berra checks for understanding.

“Well, I can’t exactly risk leaving it in my bags, can I? Safer on my body than in a pouch.”

Berra nods just a little, and says gently, “Not what I meant. She gave you the ring because she wanted you to be able … to not have to just spend your own money because people had arrived. In case you didn’t have it. And if you do, you can wear it as a boast you’re independent, but if you want to sell it, that’s fine. It’s what this kind of thing is for.”

Her friend sags, which does not make her as short as Berra. “I’m in debt. I’ll need to sell it.”

“Yeah, that’s fine. It’s basically why she gave you gold, not bronze. And she doesn’t mind, and everyone knows. it’s how it’s done.”

Varanis chews her lower lip. “I’ve never been in debt before. I mean, I’ve owed service, like anyone else, but never money.”

“But you have money. You have more than you owe. You’re fine.” Berra looks confused.

There’s soft, uncomfortable laugh. “Most of my money is wearable these days,” Varanis admits. “And what isn’t is mostly spoken for. I have little by way of coin to spend.”

“Yeah, well. I got mine. We can sort it out if you like. But we’ve got enough in the wagons to get us there and have us stay for maybe a few days, depending on how far it is. So we should be buying as we go, as well. I can handle that, but I’m not good at talking to merchants, so someone else should if there’s anyone. But you’ve got the gold, so you’re fine.” Berra might still be failing to see what the problem is – her expression is clear, her voice easy; to her this is not a problem.

“But Berra, I owe you! I can’t spend more of your money!”

Berra blinks. “But you’ll reward me, if you can. So what’s the problem?”

“You sold your gold for me… Didn’t you?”

“No…” Berra shrugs that off. “I sold it for me, and I’d decided to in Nochet. Because I owed you, but also because I was going to be spending other money. Only a bit because of what you lent me.”

“And the money that came from the Issarian?”

“That’s part of it. But I can decide what to do with the money. But you know if you succeed, Kallyr will reward you, right?”

“Assuming I live and she chooses to, yes, that’s possible. But I can’t borrow against the future to pay for now. Not when the future is uncertain.”

“But… the money is here. It’s useful now. We might not even be alive to worry about it at the end of Earth Season. So use it. I know you’ll be good to all of us if fortune is good to you.”

Varanis nods, staring into the darkness. It’s a gesture of acknowledgment, but not necessarily agreement.

“It shouldn’t be down to you to pay for this just because it arrived,” Berra observes, loyally.

“Well, I have this, so I suppose I’m not.” Varanis lifts the arm with the ring. “I’ll need to work out where to sell it. Wish Irillo was here. He’s probably off somewhere sweet-talking people into buying his wares to recoup some of his losses from this journey.”

Berra sighs. “Yes. He’d be good. But there are other options. You could give it to Argrath. But if you sell it, you should swap… alright, is the army your followers? It might be right to gift them anyhow.”

“Orlanth’s guidance wasn’t very clear. They might be my followers. They seem to follow where I lead and the Prince directed me to lead them to Alda-Chur.”

“So, if you give them gifts, you are saying they are. But if they are from Esrolia I don’t know how far that works the same. Will they expect rewards?” Berra sounds confident Varanis will know this.

Varanis thinks. “They are not a traditional army, so they are unlikely to expect wages. Certainly they came here with no promise of wages. In the unlikely event that there is loot, they should get shares of that. And if they are mine, then I am responsible for looking after them and rewarding them.”

“Yeah. So then you should give their officers tokens of that, but you’re saying it’s your army. Depends when you want to give those rewards, a bit, I think. You could wait until after any loot comes to you.” Berra narrows her eyes. “They’ll know how that works, right?”

“Any who have served as warriors should. Though… hm… there are a lot of youth from the Houses and I’m not sure all the peasants were warriors before. Perhaps not.”

“We’ll let them know when there’s a risk of battle. But we should be sure they understand not to loot from anywhere we want to stay friendly.” Berra glowers in the dim light, thinking.

She adds, “We should check what they think they know,” as her glower becomes a little lighter.

“Yeah…” Varanis agrees.

A change of expression hits the Humakti. “Oh. I wonder. Back when I was young, my Sword – she used to gather us round and have talks. About what was right. We’d all get to talk, but she’d tell us stuff. Maybe if someone’s done well in the day, you could sit with their group for a while? Um, I made up that last bit just now, but I think it’s a good idea. And then you can make sure of their thinking, but also, teach them how to be like you.”

There’s a soft chuckle. “You mean something similar to what I already do most evenings? But with more philosophy?”

Berra sags a bit, and then looks at Varanis. “Yeah. Sorry. I should have noticed more.” Then she perks up. “We’re after finding out if they know how to behave when there’s nobody to tell them what honour is.”3If Berra thinks about it, Varanis circulates among the fires every night. But, while she stops to talk to everyone and ask about their day and their needs and to learn a bit about them, her visits are a bit short.

“You’re right though. I could stay longer and let the discussion become deeper. I’ve been so keen to speak to as many as possible, perhaps it’s time to slow that down.”

“And if you say it once, you’re likely to find that a lot of people hear it the next day. I guess. That didn’t happen with us, but… well, it was pretty impressive that Sword Bryne managed to keep us from arguing some days. There were a lot of people who were looking for someone to hate.”

“They are getting a bit better though. Look how quickly camp went up tonight and you hardly had to yell at all.”

Berra snort-grins. “They need to know what my shouting’s like, though. Battle’s noisy. But it’s probably about time I tell them that. And can you assign me to shout… to SCOUT tomorrow? Call for light volunteers, and I’ll test them? The slingers and the Vingans look like our best options – depends on whether people with slings have ever hunted, and I haven’t found that out yet.” She sounds glum at the last, like she wishes she had had time.

“You’ll have to put up with Aranda’s attitude if you take any of her slingers, but it’s probably good for her. I’ll collect you some scouts as we break camp.” Varanis glances at the horizon. The light is beginning to shift there.

“I can take her, but I probably shouldn’t. If she pushes, I can’t not push back.”

“By take her, do you mean in a fight or with you scouting?”

“Er… I could beat her, most prob’ly – but I meant scouting. Thing is, if it goes badly I’ll want to be explaining to them as well as her. But I could … alright. Probably I should take her, and I should ask her opinion on it, and then if she’s wrong, explain my thinking. But I dunno how good she’ll be at commanding scouts, and I should probably get breakfast while I think about that. You hungry?”

“Not what I meant. She’ll need to stay with the unit. There’s about thirty of them and unless you plan to take them all, she’ll need to command the rest. But, we should maybe discuss with her who you train. Get her suggestions, so she doesn’t feel like we are just taking them.” Varanis considers. “Yes, but I don’t like to eat before I greet Yelm.”

“Ah, yeah. No, I probably want ten to keep an eye on, morning and afternoon. Push up with the Vingans early and the sco… slingers later. I’m use to slingers being the light scouts. This is weird.” Berra stretches up and out. Short. But broad, at least.

“The Vingans will be available just after Yelmrise.” Indeed, it seems that all of them have taken to joining Varanis for the morning ritual.

“Send them to eat with me?” Berra suggests, and then a moment, “No, get me to go eat with them.”

Varanis nods.

Berra talks about scouting, Varanis talks about worries. Both of them worry