My People V

Berra — My People V

1627, Fire Season, Death Week


Fire Season, Death Week, Clay Day. [[[s02:session-42|Session 42]]]


“You should take a stroll,” Sylla suggests, coming over for the baby. “Unless you want to stay.”

“It’s not horrible until they’re eating proper food,” Berra says, “But if you’re not used to it, it can be yukky.”

“I was the youngest,” Varanis explains. “My siblings are ten or more years older. And other than little Haran, I haven’t met many babies.” She hands him over with a rueful smile. “They mostly just sleep and smell, don’t they?”

“And drink.” Sylla takes the tiny baby back to his cradle. “We would have him sleeping with us, but it’s too hot in fire season, so we let him have his own little bed until it gets colder.”

Berra is on her feet. She does not get her greaves back, but she does mutter a spell at the door, checking for those who might be lurking outside, and she does close her eyes briefly to listen to Humakt.

Varanis rises and shakes her clothing out, checking for damp patches. Satisfied that all is in order, she quirks an eyebrow at Berra.

“Clear.” Berra opens the door, and steps out. The day is a little past noon, hotter out here than inside now. Sylla calls her children to stay in for a moment and give the warriors time to walk.

As they step outside, Varanis asks quietly, “Are we sent away?”

“Uhh? No, just that people who don’t know what baby poo is like shouldn’t have to find out when they’re not prepared.” Berra stretches, and looks around. Half armoured, and still half relaxed, she almost blends in here. “What was that about eating, before?”

Varanis puts a hand to her unarmoured abdomen and groans. “I have a belly full…” Her Heortling still needs work, especially slang. While it’s possible she is announcing a pregnancy to Berra, it is more likely that she simply ate too much.

“Yeah. Esba did us proud. I was thinking maybe you’d be worried you’d get asked for return favours, or something.” Berra leans against the wall of the house, sun basking. A bit of puzzlement crosses her features as she works through what Varanis said, and what she probably meant.

“I have never eaten with a family like that… I…” Varanis looks mildly embarrassed. “I didn’t know the… protocols.” She has switched to Esrolian for the last word, not knowing it in Heortling.

“Um, you’re family? So just get wrapped around it?” Berra looks a bit confused, and then starts expanding on her statement. “You arrived with me, and they’re easy around me, so they’re easy around you as well. You’re one of us, here.”

“But. Well, the children seemed to eat first, so I wasn’t sure if I should wait. And… well. It seemed complicated at the time,” Varanis admits with a laugh.

“Yeah. That’s because they didn’t have to feed each other. Those twins look like they’re pretty hard work. I think it was not expected, though. I think they just guessed what they should do, and went with it.” Berra turns her head to view the street a little, closes her eyes and lets herself relax again. “I could do with a nap. I can sleep standing up when I’m really full. But I shouldn’t.”

“There were a lot of people. You’ve been missed. But also, I think they are proud of you.”

“I hardly knew some of them, that came and went…” Berra pushes off the wall, getting vertical with a bit of effort. “Yeah. I feel happier about not being able to give them much. They got a lot out of me coming anyhow.” She does not speak of her underlying relief, but it is there anyhow. She feared this as much as wanting it.

“They are good people. And their children are bright and truly loved.” Still practicing her Heortling, Varanis has to search for words here and there, but she seems to be able to get the point across.

“Deref got quieter. But Timon – Timo – was always like that. They’re lovely children.” Berra is bouncy and happy again. “When I arrived here the boys were sharing a bed, so I had the other one, upstairs.” Up the ladder, up by the roof. “And then I went to work for a merchant, as a guard, and slept in his shop for a while.”

“Did Yehna live with them too?” Yinkini curiosity fills the grey eyes, as Varanis looks around at the houses and people that once sheltered her friend.

“No, she was still in Torfai’s house. Tamela’s house. She pretty much went straight back home from there.” Berra walks proudly, but she too is looking around. Perhaps she sees something different to Varanis.

The houses are small here, and clustered together, and this street is an oddity, because around it many of the buildings are higher and taller. The walls of the city loom over tenements built outside, and the tenements loom over this tiny slice of Sartar. Even at the far end of the street there are higher, taller places, and to tell from the finish on them, they are new, and replaced the tiny houses. What was built here has aged enough that it was probably built around the time Sartar was first invaded, maybe even before. It is painted in Sartarite style, carved by Heortling hands, and yet the sky is Esrolian and the sounds of Nochet all around are constant.

“It’s like some of these houses could be in Clearwine. I have never been here…” She glances up at the rooftops, then adds ruefully, “The roofs aren’t tall enough.”

Berra looks around, saying, “They’re just right,” and then she focuses on the apartment block at the end of the road. “Oh.”

“I meant for climbing or running. I always went for the tallest ones,” Varanis admits with a shrug.

“Oh. Right.” Berra looks around, and nods. “Yeah. This place was already here when I came to Nochet, but I couldn’t tell you where it came from before that. But more people live outside the walls than live in them. Some of it got knocked down when the Lunars came, but I know they didn’t raze everything. I think this bit didn’t need rebuilding?”

Varanis shrugs. “I missed a lot of the rebuilding work that happened around Nochet.”

“Me too.” Berra looks up at the tenement block at the end of the road. “This is new… Hey. Do you want me to send a message back about the caravan?” She glances around for in case they are overheard. Certainly, they are being watched.

“The same way you did before?” Varanis is also looking for listeners.

Berra nods. “Yeah.” She might be eyeballing the tenement for ways up it, or for faces she knows.

There are at least a dozen people watching; warriors, in particular half-armoured warriors with bronze swords, are not common here.

“Hmmm. Yes, I think that’s wise. I have the feeling that she doesn’t like surprise.” Varanis frowns. “Surprise-ez?” She checks the Heortling with Berra.

“Surprises,” Berra confirms. “Yeah. It’ll help if she’s hoping for it.” There is a nod. “I’ll get the message through. Although one day I’m going to get the answer wrong, and that’ll be a certain sort of fun. The baby should be cleaner now, if you want to go look at him without the smell?”

“You know, we didn’t have to leave… I only left because I thought they were chasing us out. I have smelled worse things than that!” Varanis says with a laugh. “Like Rajar.”

“Sylla probably thought you’d never seen it before.” Berra turns to pace back the other way. “We should probably go, though. I need to make sure of Followed, and…” She sighs, and looks up at the wall. “We’re under-armoured, and we’re known here.”

“Um. Well, I haven’t. Seen it before. The only other baby I have holded was Haran.” Varanis turns her feet back in the direction of the house. “You are right. We are under-armoured and have been here a while. If someone was watching, we are…” She shrugs and waves to indicate the sky. “Out.”

“I have held,” Berra corrects. “But yeah. Oh. On that subject – be prepared to leave me if we can’t fly. Both fly, I mean.”

Varanis immediately looks mulish.

Berra sighs. “I know. But I don’t want you dead either. And my ransom’s less than yours.”

“I’m not making you any promises on that, Berra.”

Berra grins. “Alright. Go down together?”


“Alright. I’d hate to have to report… well, anyhow. Let’s get dressed, have a farewell drink, and go.”

Berra and Varanis step back outside into Nochet