No Fuss

1629, Sea Season, Fertility Week, Wildday


Berra told the youngsters she had picked up to meet her at Wilmskirk. Session SA4.15.


It is evening, just after the end of Berra’s exile. Some would guess she is visiting her family. Other, who know her better, would assume she would be at Temple.

Walking a tired horse towards Wilmskirk would not surprise anyone who knew her, however. She is on her partbred mare, with a bison trailing behind her. They look like they have come a long way in a day.

As the city gate comes into view, there is a steady trickle of people arriving and a few on their way out. Those that are leaving are doing so with mostly empty carts. Business must have been good to keep them late or else their homes are in the nearby farms. Those that are arriving are mostly like Berra, travellers who are seeking a warm bed for the night.

Berra is peaceful and calm except for the times she gets into a discussion with her sword… one of her swords. She is wearing two, and has a third bound to her bison. Nobody seems to want to get in her way. “Look, if we’d cut across we’d still be hock deep in mud, and I don’t even know if bisons have hocks. I thought just ham did!”

Those keeping track in the spirit world might notice a wince at the improper plural, and a silent whimper at the general ignorance on display.

A lithe figure in mismatched armour appears at Berra’s side1Berra has failed Scan.. “Welcome to Wilmskirk, Lady. Can I be of assistance?”

Nayale is being very courteous, though she also seems to be just on the edge of bouncing.

Berra pauses, looking down, and swings off the horse with the care of someone wearing a lot of swords. “Not today,” she says, and gives a small smile. “Tomorrow I’m going to want a message to Clearwine, and one to Duck Point. Tonight, we’re gonna sleep under a civilised roof.”

“But… I could lead your horse, if you want. So you don’t have to.” She starts to reach for the reins, then glances at Berra, waiting for permission. She whispers, “You should be able to stride in like nobility. You’re Eril’s Wyter Priest.”

“Uh…” Berra looks up again. “Nah. I’m infantry. This is my animal to look after. So I walk, and I lead. If you want you can choose between horse and bison, but I’m leading something. I ain’t a stridy person.”

Up close, she looks bright eyed, and either jumpy or alert.

Nayale doesn’t argue, but goes for the bison’s lead instead. “Um. Hello big fella. I’m Nayale. You’ll meet my brother later.” She glances at the sky. “Maybe sooner. He due to arrive and might get here before we get through the gate. You’re… big. And… hairy. Don’t step on me and we’ll get along just fine.”

Berra keeps her hand around her horse’s reins. “He’s called Followed.” Then she walks on towards the city. “Have you already told your aunt you’re sleeping in with her tonight?”

“Not specifically. Harmakt and I have been doing shifts. He’s on watch at night and me in the day. Whoever’s not watching is helping my aunt, visiting the shrine, or sleeping.” Nayale adds, “So, my aunt will be expecting me, but I can tell her plans have changed if you want me elsewhere.”

“On watch? You’re… heh. An’ I was late. Sorry about that.” Berra considers. “Yeah, stay over there tonight. Unless she’s already spent through any gifts you brought her, feeding you.”

The Wyter Priest is of course within the week when she said she would arrive. Of course.

Nayale sounds embarrassed as she says, “We did have to use the emergency coin. I’m sorry. But there’s change for you. We only spent a little.”

“That’s fine.” Berra shrugs it off. “We’ll all stay at Silor’s, then. That way we don’t strain your aunt’s purse-strings.” She does not deign to explain who Silor is.

“I didn’t know she’d taken in some boarders and, well, one of them got unhappy about us taken up space and he left and …” The young woman tries to explain, her words rushing out of her.

“He’s an ass and no matter what Ernasa says, she’s better off without ‘im there,” Harmakt says, falling into step beside Berra. “I c’n lead yer horse, Lady.”

Berra nods. “Yeah, that’s difficult. She’ll find another, though. I’m leadin’ her, because she’s mine. One of you gets to tell your aunt you’re … in fact, Harmakt. Go tell her, and d’you know where the Cinder Fox house is?”

He looks blank. From behind them, Nayale speaks up, “Maybe me, Lady? Harmakt doesn’t do cities well and my aunt… let’s just say that blood matters to her.”

“Riiiight.” Berra nods. “Meet me back at the gate, Nayale. We’re going to go in together so he knows who he’s feeding.” These things might be occurring to her moment by moment, but she sounds confident about what she is saying.

Harmakt falls back to take Followed’s lead and Nayale takes off at a run. It seems they are well known at the gate as the guards just wave her through. There are only a handful of people between Berra and the guards now.

Although Berra’s left hand is being used for the nameless horse, she still has a hand free for her weapon. Perhaps strangely, the iron sword is hung on her right hip, and her right hand rests on it now and again.

When they reach the gates, the guards look her up and down. “What’s your business in Wilmskirk, Humakti?” one of them asks.

“Passing through,” Berra says, managing not to put any threat into it. “Staying with the Cinder Foxes and going on to Colymar lands and beyond.” She looks relaxed, maybe a little bored.

One of the other guards pales and steps back, hissing at his colleague, “That’s Berra Humakti, idiot! Harrek’s summoner. You know, the one wot serves Sword Eril and is going to take over the Boldhome regiment.” He bows nervously. Now that the other guard has been told, he too steps back. “Lady of Humakt, my apologies. Just doing our job. Cinder Fox, you say? We’ll arrange an escort.” He turns and draws in breath, preparing to bellow.2One of the guards rolled a 1 on Berra’s Reputation.

“Uh, wait, what? Nobody’s taking over the Boldhome Regiment – the High Sword would have a very quick answer to that.” She then pauses, just long enough to realise what they are saying. “No escort. I’m just passing through and nobody needs protecting.”

“An honour guard, Lady. We know you c’n protect yerself,” the guard who recognized her says. “My cousin’s friend says you an’ Harrek wiped out whole units of Lunars!”

The other guard bellows, “Clear a path!”

“Alright, but you try it and we’re going to get a drink then I’m likely to go out the back window. Or make one. I don’t want a path, and I ain’t talkin’ about protecting me.” She gives them a polite smile.

The guards reluctantly stand aside to let her pass. Everyone in the vicinity of the gate has stopped to stare. Murmurs begin here and there. At least it’s only a small crowd, given its evening?319 this time on the rep. Certainly some of them have worked out who it is.

Berra sighs. “Harmakt, your sister’s pretty fast, right?” She is already peering down the road along which, hopefully, someone will come. Maybe she does not want to make a scene, and also maybe has not realised that she already has.

“Yeah, but Ernasa’s place is on the other side of the city.”

“Uhuh.” Berra considers, and then shrugs. She leads the way just inside, and stops there, holding her horse.

As they pass, one of the guards hisses at Harmakt, “why didn’ you say who you was waiting fer?”

The Narri youth responds with all the disdain of a young man who has learned a new word and is finally getting a chance to use it. “Because some of us know the value of diskretion.” He sounds like his sister, almost.

The guard bristles, but does not reply.

Berra does not reply directly. She takes up station a little inside, and only then tells Harmakt, “Don’t make enemies you don’t have to. You’ll have plenty to go round anyhow.”

His cheeks pink, but he nods. “She’ll be coming from that way,” he uses his chin to indicate the road ahead, where it branches to the west.

“You sure?” Berra glances back at the gate. “Go make your peace with him. Say that I don’t like people making a fuss, which is true, and you can also tell him I like to travel quietly. I’m a scout, for preference.”

The young man looks like he’ll argue, then deflates and does as he’s told. There’s a brief conversation and by the time it’s done, the guard looks mollified. Harmakt returns to pick up the reins, just as someone approaches Berra. “You really Berra Humakti?” he asks. “From Blue Tree?”

He’s got what looks like a Black Spear tattoo partially visible. His expression is unreadable.

“Yeah,” Berra says. “Wanna make…” Then she remembers to set a good example. “Yes. I am.”

He’s an Orlanthi warrior, through and through. He glares down his nose at her and says, “Just because your exile has ended doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten whose side you chose.” Then he spits at her feet and deliberately turns his back on her to walk away.

Those that have overheard the commotion at the gate slowly disperse. Most others ignore the pair, though the guards still glance their way from time to time.

Eventually, Nayale returns, out of breath and red-faced from the run. She has a pack on her front and another on her back, bedrolls bound to each.

“Sorry,” she apologizes between huffs. “My aunt…” She glances at Harmakt and something passes between them. “Anyway, here’s your stuff.” Wriggling free of the front pack, she tosses it his way. If this is everything they’ve brought, they are travelling light.

Berra, who travels light but rather more expensively, says nothing in judgement. She just walks down the road. “Right. We’re going to have a good roof tonight. You know who Lord Silor is?”

They shake their heads.

“Riiight. So you know Lord Eril, and you’ve told me a lot of that story. Think again?” Berra grins widely.

They think hard.

Berra does not let them off the hook, just keeps walking.

Nayale ventures, “The High Sword was a Cinder Fox, right?” Almost before she finishes, her brother adds, “He was the High Sword’s chief, yeah?”

Bouncing off that, Nayale adds, “And kin too? Brother or cousin or something?”

Berra nods. “Brother. Older brother. He’s the man that Lord Eril leaned on when he came back here.” Her thumb taps against the sword’s hilt, comfortingly.

Their eyes widen. They really are a matched set.

Berra keeps emotions inside. “Don’t look at him like that,” she says, and then tells her sword, “No, Lord. Just let me talk.” To them again, she adds, “He’s just a person, but he’s also loyal, dependable, and – well, a chief. A good one, I think. Be polite, try not to get noticed too much, and if you volunteer for guard duty, he’ll let you, but you don’t have to.”

They nod in unison. “As you wish.” Harmakt adds, “D’you want us ta volunteer? Maybe learn somethin’ useful to you?”

Berra shakes her head. “I want you to do what you think right’s. … think’s right. Anything that you might learn there… well, what would you learn from a good ally’s guards that you couldn’t get by asking him? S’prise me.”

They consider, glance at each other, then nod.

“Nah, I mean now. Why wouldn’t I ask him? Because you’re pretty much asking if you can spy in someone else’s household, to please me.”

They blink, then both begin to talk at once. “That’s not…” “I just meant…” They pause, take a deep breath, then Harmakt nods at Nayale to continue. “Our da taught us that sometimes guards hear things their clients don’t. And those things can be useful. For example, there might be rumours about you and what you’re doing now.” Harmakt chimes in with, “‘specially after the gate.” Nayale looks at him curiously, but then finishes. “And since you wanted discretion from us, it just seemed like you might want to know if there’s any speculation about you.”

Both Eril and Lord Raven might just approve of this one’s diction.

“That’s better. But there’s a difference. I can’t always put my eye on it, but there is. It’s a thing I’ll be asking Lord… ahah. Here we are. But those are good suggestions to ask. About me, not about the host’s business.” She squares her shoulders, nudges her horse with her shoulder for luck, and then says, “Nayale, take her now please.” Her voice just became distracted – the path ahead has her attention. The road, and the gate, and the guard there, and the courtyard beyond.

Nayale takes the reins and the brother and sister straighten up. Their expressions settle into something that is a mix of neutrality and respect. They are on duty and representing Berra now.

Berra walks forward to raise her right hand peacefully, three fingers splayed. “Evening. I’m here to call on Lord Silor. His brother’s Wyter Priest.”

Berra is greeted with respect by the servant at the door, who signals for a thrall to guide the youths with the mounts. “Lord Silor is just finishing his evening meal, but I’m certain another platter can be brought out for you, Lady. No vegetables, if I recall?”

Berra nods her head. “Love to,” she says. “I’ve got two with me, and I can’t eat vegetables, nor do I eat the meat of birds or eggs. They can tell you if they’ve got anything they can’t eat – I think they said not, but I’m not going to swear to it.” She rests her right hand casually on her sword, fingers stroking it very slightly.

“Of course. We’ll make a place for them in the kitchen when they’re done seeing to your mounts and they can tell the cook if they need anything special. Come this way.”

Berra walks in, finally finding relaxation. She murmurs to her sword, “I prefer to eat there, so let ’em,” when the servant is far enough away not to overhear. “I… no, serious. Let … well, you tell him.”

The route the servant takes Berra on is one that leads to Silor’s main hall.

Not far in, then. Berra has ridden all day and her hair is a mess, but at least half of that can be said any time, and as she practically lives in her armour, she is no worse than the last time she visited. She is also, indubitably, a person of rank.

Inside, Silor sits at the head table, with Hengrast at his side. They seem to be the only family members present, but there’s another man and two women, both well dressed, sitting with them. They are unfamiliar to Berra. One of the women is younger, perhaps close in age to Hengrast. She sits between the young man and his father.

There are various household members clustered at other tables.

When Silor sees Berra enter, he rises and greets her heartily. “How fares my brother’s Wyter Priest? And that gloomy brother of mine?”4Pass Insight.

Silor looks genuinely pleased, even a bit relieved, to welcome Berra. He glances at the table and realizes he can’t put her beside him. He signals to the servant to place her on Hengrast’s far side.

“You will join us, won’t you? I am keen to hear the news from Boldhome.”

Berra looks around for someone else as well as Silor, but it is only a brief glance. “Lord. I’m well, thank you. I bring your brother’s salutations such as might be expected, an’ can inform you he’s well, and as content as… well, you know how he is. I left Boldhome probably about a day after you did, but of course I visited for Death-by-Water Day.” She keeps her hand casually touching her hilt, so that Lord Raven can hear clearly.

Food is brought out, all of it meeting Berra’s requirements. News is exchanged. The outsiders are apparently dismayed to have their meal intruded upon, but once they understand that Berra is important to Silor, they are courteous enough. Hengrast forgets about the woman between him and his father and focuses on Berra. The woman does not appear to mind, as the earnest young man pesters Berra with questions about Boldhome and the occasional one slipped in about Varanis and Mellia.

Thenaya does not make an appearance during the meal.

Berra is spot on with questions about the Regiment, and the city itself, and knows absolutely nothing about court goings-on, and will not be drawn on battle readiness. However, she speaks about Varanis and Mellia with obvious fondness – by now, Mellia may have the Wyter for the new shrine persuaded, and Varanis is going to visit her family up in the Blue Tree.

When the meal is done, Berra is invited to freshen up, check on her charges if she wishes, and told that Lord Silor will be available later should she wish to discuss private matters with him.

  • 1
    Berra has failed Scan.
  • 2
    One of the guards rolled a 1 on Berra’s Reputation.
  • 3
    19 this time on the rep. Certainly some of them have worked out who it is.
  • 4
    Pass Insight.