Berra — Marrows And Honour
????, Earth Season, Death Week
Earth Season, Death Week, Clayday. After a visit to the Humakti Temple, Berra’s old girlfriend catches up with her. [[[s02:session-6|Session 6]]]
Varanis steps out of the room and glances around for Berra.
Berra is outside, a few paces away, standing easily on one leg and stretching the other up behind her. She looks a bit bored, and drops down from that pose to roll her shoulders slowly. “Any luck?”
“Yes. Soon.” She doesn’t add any more on the subject at the moment. “I want to go to my Temple. Join me?”
Berra nods. “Before Freezeday of next Death Week,” she notes, and turns by standing on tiptoe, bringing one foot up to knee height, and then using it to push her around on a wall. Her stiff sandal grinds over the wooden floor – she wears hobnails.
As they exit the building, the Saiciae household guard falls into step behind them. “Temple of Vinga next,” Varanis informs him.
“Food next?” Berra suggests. “I haven’t eaten in a while. But we can do that while we walk.”
“Do you have a place in mind?”
“Everything will have changed since I was here, but any of the markets with a decent reputation will be fine. Somewhere not too far out of the way.” Berra looks peaceful and calm, bordering on happy.
“There are places near the Gate,” Varanis says. “We can find something before we enter the Temple complex.”
“Yeah, one of those.” Berra skips a few steps, and then goes into a shuffling attack, empty-handed but still definitely dangerous even in play. She could so easily draw.
A young man clutching a stack of tablets quick side-steps with a startled yelp. Coming from the direction of the Storm Gate and having the look of a Scholar about him, the tablets he’s carrying may be of some import. The likelihood of this is underscored by the intensity of the glare he directs at Berra.
Berra glares, grins, scowls, changes from moment to moment. That the scholar got her death-stare seems not to bother her, and she smiles at someone else entirely. “It’s a feast day. I forgot I would be Questing instead of having the feast, so I’ve had some beer but nothing I’d call breakfast. Or dinner. I could get really annoyed soon. I think I’m getting giddy.”
Varanis laughs. “There’s a few food stalls up ahead. See? You could run ahead to decide which is appeals to you the most. I don’t want to strain poor Dorvan’s patience by making him run.”
“I know the sort of thing. I’ll decide what looks good when I get there. Or else I’ll just eat everyth…. oooh, I could go just eat a lot!” Berra bounces up and down for a moment, and then sets off at a very fast walk, breaking into a run as soon as she can reasonably cross a part of the plaza without too many people in, then slowing as she gets towards the gates and the food stalls and trinket sellers.
Varanis maintains her pace, casting her gaze around the plaza as she approaches. Given the proximity of the plaza to the Temple Complex, it’s not unusual to spot other Vingans about. It’s one of the few places in the city where they congregate. So, at first, she isn’t surprised to spot Lanasha in a queue by one of the most popular food vendors. As realisation dawns, she curses under her breath and strides more swiftly in Berra’s wake.
Berra, meanwhile, has looked around, spotted the queues, and gone for one of the less popular vendors. Shorter queues, less time spent stationary.1Berra has failed Scan.
Varanis notices the moment Lanasha’s eyes are drawn to the smaller woman. She curses again. Her collection of Grazelander curses are beginning to sound rather fluent.
Lanasha stays where she is, but her eyes devour Berra hungrily. When the queue advances, it takes a moment for her to notice and step up.
Varanis joins Berra, with Dorvan trailing behind. “What did you pick for us?” she asks. There’s a subtle tension underneath the cheerful question.
Berra, meantime, has bounced halfway up her shorter queue. There are few Humakti here today. Either the time is wrong for food, or the Regiments are praying. With her bronze armour and duck feather, Berra could be anyone, unless you already know her. “Oh, something that looks like it has a lot of sauces you can ask for,” she says. “I don’t know what it is, but it looks like you get some kind of scooped out root vegetable. And they have spoons, I think. I carry one, so if you don’t want to buy one you can have mine. I’ll probably just eat it as I go.”
Varanis looks like she wants to say something, but can’t find the right words. “I’ll buy the spoon,” she says at last.
Berra dances her way to the front of the queue, where she accidentally jostles someone, who tells her, “Watch it, short stuff.” It is gruff but not an overt insult given she hit him. She gives him a smile.
Behind them, Dorvan speaks up for the first time. “My lady,” he murmurs quietly to Varanis. “There’s a woman who is staring daggers at you. Is she known to you?”
Varanis glances in Lanasha’s direction and winces. Yes, that’s definitely a very pointed look. “She’s known to me. For the moment, don’t worry about it.” Varanis offers the other Vingan a little wave of greeting. It is not returned. In fact, it looks distinctly like the other woman is considering leaving her queue before she gets to the front.
“Berra,” Varanis says at last. “Have you heard anything from Lanasha since coming to town?”
“Oooh. Marrows. I didn’t know you could get them this far south. Little small marrows…. No, no I haven’t. Why?”2Berra also failed Listen, and did not hear Dorvan.
“Because I think you are about to.” Yes. Lanasha has decided to approach them. She stalks across the plaza, eyes ablaze.
“Huh?” Berra looks around, and finally sees Lanasha. “Do you reckon she’s hungry?”
Dorvan makes a noise of concern behind them. “She’s hungry for something, Berra,” Varanis says. “Stand down,” she warns the guard.
“Ex girl-friend of mine,” Berra says to him. But now she is at the front of the queue. “Two, please. And one spoon. And I’ll have a bit of every sauce that’s hot or has bite. And some of those whatever they are that’s green.” Yes, she turns her back on Lanasha.3A failure on Insight (Human) means Berra does not worry about Lanasha’s body language.
“Hello Berra. Varanis.” Lanasha includes the other Vingan as if she’s just noticed her. She impatiently waits for Berra to turn, barely acknowledging Varanis’ polite greeting.
“Hey, Lanasha.” Berra turns around with a smile. “Are you hungry?”
“I thought I was, but I seem to have lost my appetite.” The reply is made as Lanasha glares at the feather in Berra’s helmet like she might make it burst into flame. “When did you get back to the City?”
“Uh, about a … hey, are you one of the people afraid of black feathers?” Berra suddenly looks like she actively wants to talk to Lanasha.
“What?” Lanasha looks taken aback. “I’m not afraid of feathers. Why didn’t you tell me you were back?”
Quietly, Varanis pays for the food and accepts the hot marrow roots and greens. She passes one to Berra.
Berra considers, and then says, “I … oh, thanks.” She accepts the food, and starts chewing on the edge of the marrow. “Yeah. This red sauce is good. Hot.”4Berra failed Truth, so at least she didn’t just say why. Yet.
“I asked you a question, Berra. Are you too busy with her to show me even a little courtesy?” The glare Varanis gets leaves no question as to who Lanasha means. For her part, Varanis holds her ground, but remains silent. “You sent back my gift. It’s because she can buy you better, isn’t it?” Varanis closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. Lanasha continues relentlessly, “We were good, Berra. Don’t you remember?” The anger is beginning to give way to wistfulness.
“Uhhh. What?” Berra pauses in eating. “No. You were the last. I sent it back because I didn’t want you. Mostly because I’ve moved on, but partly also because you’re like this all the time and I didn’t like it and wanted to clear it away from me. And you broke my cups.”5Berra re-rolls Truth voluntarily, and gets a critical.
“You didn’t want…” Lanasha flinches. “You want me well enough. You wanted me when I had you flat on your back in my bed. You wanted me when you were here last time, or don’t you remember kissing me?” The words are harsh and angry.
Behind them, Dorvan is trying to look stoic, but has begun to blush.
“Lanasha, maybe we should move this conversation elsewhere?” Varanis suggests.
“I’m not talking to you,” the other woman snaps.
“I preferred it on the floor, to be honest,” Berra says. “And yes, you’re good looking and if you asked me to I’d say to anyone you were great between sheets, legs, and anything you want along those lines. But I’ve moved on. Not to anyone. Away. From you.”
Berra is hardly looking at Lanasha, apparently concentrating on eating. Given that her ‘everything and sauce’ order is half liquid slurry and half chilli, this is probably a good idea. At least, as far as food goes.
Red spots of anger appear on Lanasha’s cheeks.
Lanasha slaps the hand Berra is using to hold her food, apparently trying to knock it from the Humakti’s hand. “I’m talking to you!”6Lanasha passes Air and then Fist, losing her temper and trying to knock the food out of Berra’s hand to force her to pay attention. Berra fails Dodge.
“Well, I was in a good mood,” Berra says, looking at the spilled sauce and the crushed food she is holding. “But that was rude.” She finally looks at Lanasha, and sighs. “Look. I’m sorry it hurts. But you can walk away… You should. Please.”7Berra is happy to fight, but does not want to be cruel to Lanasha. Passed Air but failed Darkness.
A small crowd is beginning to gather. Lanasha starts to turn away as if to leave, then turns back. “Fine. You’re tainted now anyway. Duck-f***er.” She hurls the insult like a knife, driven by the depth of her hurt and anger.
Berra smiles, calmly, to herself. She shakes her head, and turns to ask the vendor, “May I have another, please? It’s very good.”8Special on staying-calm-through-following-D’Val’s-example.,9GM: Uh oh. We have a fumble on Honour.
There’s a sudden commotion behind Berra. Lanasha has lunged for her, but Varanis has put herself between them. The two women go down in a tangle of limbs and Dorvan looks like he’s unsure of what to do. Varanis had told him to stay out of it.
There are calls of encouragement from a couple of StormBulls in the growing crowd.
Berra turns, and it looks for a moment like she is considering stepping in, but instead she asks, “Varanis, can you let her up please?” The calm in her is almost absolute, but her voice is matter of fact. This is her killing mood, now.
Varanis releases the arm she’d been trying to wrestle into a locked position and quickly raises her arm to block the fist that comes her direction. Lanasha drags herself free of Varanis and scrambles to her feet, chest heaving in rage. Her eyes glitter dangerously as she glares at them both.
Varanis comes to her feet more cautiously, warily eyeing the other woman. In the background there are some disappointed murmurs.
Berra says flatly, “You just libelled a Sword of Humakt. He’s a long way away, but he wouldn’t care. He says the God expects Truth from us, but we can’t force it from others. But much worse. You laid your hands on my kinswoman.” It’s an accusation, the way she puts it. It’s a hair short of a full challenge.
“Dorvan,” Varanis says quietly, “can you see if you can move them along? Ignore the StormBulls. They’ll be bored soon enough, but the disperse the rest if you can.” He looks like he isn’t certain this falls within his job description, but moves to do it anyway.
“She put her hands on me first,” Lanasha counters angrily.
“Mhm…” It’s the sound Berra makes when she wants to hear more.
Varanis turns her attention back at this. “You were going for her back,” she says sharply. “You’re a disgrace to our goddess, Lanasha. And your disgrace has been witnessed. I strongly suggest you take yourself to the Temple and ask Vinga what you need to do next.” A couple of other Vingans separate themselves from the crowd that is reluctantly breaking apart at Dorvan’s request. They make their way over, with stern expressions.
Lanasha deflates suddenly, as if she finally understands what she attempted to do. “I wouldn’t have… I was so angry…”
Berra lets up her stare and turns back to the food merchant. “Well? I’m really hungry and it’s making me bad tempered and that could be bad right now.”
More food gets handed over quickly at no charge.
“Thanks. Really appreciate it.” Berra grins. “Pay you in a few heartbeats.”
Tears well up in Lanasha’s eyes, but she dashes them away before they can fall. She pivots on her heel without another word and stalks in the direction of the Temple complex, head held high. One of the other Vingans follows her while the second turns to Berra and Varanis. “Do you want to lodge a complaint with the Temple, Varanis?” she asks.
Berra digs into a small pouch, one of the very few things that hangs outside her armour now she wears bronze, and hands over a Clack to the food-seller, ignoring the fact he did not ask for it.
“Hi Bruva. I don’t need to. But, I can’t speak for Berra here. Berra, this is Bruva. Bruva, Berra. Bruva and I trained together a long time ago. She spent a lot of the siege up on the walls between the Gaffers and Harmony Gate.”
The food vendor stammers his thanks, knowing better than to argue.
“Oh, I know the stretch. Uh… let me think a bit. She’s more likely to get over me if I do, I think. But deciding to do something because it’s good for someone else like that is really awkward. Don’t like thinking that way. She didn’t reach me, so I don’t have a complaint if my kinswoman doesn’t.” Berra gives Bruva a smile, and then steps out of the queue so other people can buy.
Bruva nods. “I’ll make sure truth is spoken. Varanis, Eldest Daughter Leika may decide she wants to speak with you anyway. You can be found over at Saiciae?” The question sounds more like a statement, as though the answer is expected. Varanis Saiciae no longer lives in the Vingan dormitories.
Varanis nods. “I’ll answered if summoned. I was planning to go now, but maybe it’s best if Lanasha doesn’t see us for a bit. She’s got enough to swallow at the moment.”
With a brusque acknowledgement, Bruva turns to follow after the others.
Berra lets out a slow breath. “Thanks for that,” she says. “It could have been ugly.”
Varanis stares after Bruva. “It was ugly enough. Ummm… do you mind if we go back to the House?”
“I figured we were. But if she hadn’t got off you, the least I’d have done was kick her a lot.” She starts off across the square, heading South. “I know it’s harder for you. You saw her mess up.”10Passed Scan: It looks like one of Varanis’ knees came down in the remains of Berra’s first meal. She’s studiously ignoring it, beyond having swiped the worst of it away with a hand. Also, her own food is on the ground back there. Some of it seems to be on her cuirass though.
This time, as Berra walks, she is rather more alert. Although she has her food to eat, she slings her helmet over her arm by the strap. However, if she notices that Varanis is stained, she says little until they are level with the Sarli baths. “Want to stop off here?” she asks.
Varanis considers it for a moment. “No,” she says with a sigh. “I might as well go the whole way home. When Grandmother and Serzeen hear about it, I don’t want to look like I was trying to hide anyway. And I like our baths better. These ones have more Storm Bulls who like to jump in than ours do. We only have the one to worry about.”