Oil

Berra — Oil

????, Earth Season, Stasis Week


Context

Earth Season, Stasis Week, Wildday, around dawn. [[[s02:session-11|Session 11]]]

Events

Berra leaves Yamia off at a mid distance, and after making sure there are no listeners around says, “I need to ask an important thing. I promise I will not use this against you, but I want to check a belief. Don’t get angry or… well. It’s important because murder is important, no matter what else is going on. Do you think that someone in your house ordered Lord Rillo murdered? Arranged it, maybe?” Her tone gives no indication of whether she has an opinion on that.

He considers, “It is not unlikely. However if it was Grandmother it was not murder.”

“If it was Eurmal Murderer, it was murder. Honour is the same for everyone.” That’s a snap reply that was probably unplanned.

He shakes his head, “No. Because a Matron holds the power of Life and Death. If someone else, yes, murder. Several have motives.”

Berra’s jaw tightens, but she shrugs. “Doesn’t change a thing. I’m about to cause a lot of fuss. Your house might come after me. So there might be a murderer sent. Only if you thought Grandmother was allowed to do it, then you wouldn’t be …” She gives him a hard look. “Telling someone to kill secretly is never honourable. But if you think it’s someone else who could send the murderer after me. Or if you think that dishonourable death is always dishonourable. Then I could try to make enough fuss.”

“You are Sartarite. You do not understand. A House’s Matron cannot murder one of her House. It is not secret murder, it is private execution. If however it was someone else, and he had a lot of enemies, it was dishonourable. But you lack any evidence it was my House… only a motive, which you presume. I would be displeased if you passed off your guesses as Truth.”

“If she asked you to ambush someone like that, you would? Using assassins? Would you organise it?” Berra manages to keep revulsion mostly out of her voice. “Of course she can execute. But… that? No. Would you?”

“No. Of course not. But I am a warrior and guard, not an executioner. “

“If it’s not honourable for you, it’s not honourable for Eurmal Murderer. Remember what you won’t do. You’d have killed him to order but not secretly. There’s a big difference. Someone went and found a cult you thought was just a myth. You execute in public. That’s …” Berra shakes her head. “I know you have to serve, but you don’t have to like it.”

“Is it better to dishonour your Clan publicly or deal with problems private only to those who need to know?”

“If a thing has happened, there’s no dishonour in being truthful about it. Do it in the open where people can see justice. Or do it privately, but don’t do it secretly. That’s wrong. The dishonour is in the actions of others, until you decide to cover them up.”

“Private is secret if you are not in the group. As you are not.”

“Yeah. I’m glad I’m from Sartar. And I don’t think you being displeased is going to worry me as much as it would have. You’re justifying using secret murder. But if… if you still think that’s wrong, I want to help stop the murderer.”

“You can retract that Lie, or give satisfaction. “

Berra considers for a bit. “I believe you are justifying secret murder. Because I’m Sartarite. Is that still a lie?”

“Yes.”

“Then I’ll have my second call. I was trying to do the right thing, Lord Kesten. Trying to catch a murderer. I thought they might send you after me but I didn’t think you’d do it yourself.” Berra bows. “And really, if you do want to catch a damned murderer you can still let me know.” She looks furious at him now.

“I do. It is you who is distracting with lies.”

“Yeah… no. You’re obeying someone because you can’t see it’s not right. But if it… well… in anything else.” Berra shrugs miserably. “It’s not lies. It’s… I… never mind. But let me know if you need to use me as bait. I’ll trust you in that part if you say I can.” She is mostly looking at his neck, either for where to cut it or to avoid meeting his eyes.

“I am obeying someone because it is right. But if your actions weaken my Clan it will be harder to deal with things.”

“You’re obeying someone who does things wrong. If you can’t see the difference between execution and ordering murder, then I can’t ever convince you.” She looks at him in appeal. “And then selling someone who did nothing but obey his mistress. That was cruel. And… damnit. You’re watching a scimitar swing and telling me it’s a straight sword and you’re happy for it to land.”

“No. It’s very simple, Berra. If my Grandmother ordered an execution in private, then it is both legal, and honourable. If someone else did it, it is secret murder. That is the thing. Who is the important question here. Anything you do to detract from that delays justice, and impedes truth.”

“Hell with that. What is important is the way it was done. And you’re sitting there saying it’s just and legal. That’s pretty much all of what I hate about this city. It makes good people think bad things. They think private is the same as honourable. Honour is what you are, not what people see.”

“So if a Sartarite chief sends a warrior out to kill an outlawed old woman, how is that different?”

Berra stares. “Before I answer, is the warrior a member of the cult of Eurmal Murderer? And does the chief order it to be done in secret?”

“No. But he mentions it to his circle, and nobody speaks of who did it.”

“Mhmmmm….” She stares at him. “So not using a murderer on purpose then. So there’s a big difference for one. And then if a warrior isn’t willing to say a thing, it’s a poor warrior.”

He smiles. “So, your warrior would breach the confidence of his Chief and brag of his sacred mission as midwife of death?” There’s a pause, as if that was a teachable moment. “This assumes it was Grandmother. I believe it unlikely. She would probably have told me. So, let me concentrate on finding the offender.”

“You what? Did you even f… did you hear me? We’re not even talking about the same thing here, and you think you’re somehow telling me something new? But now apparently he DID tell a man to kill in secret. I just asked you that. You said no. Think about my answer again, then.” Berra waits impatiently.

“Private is still not the same as secret.”

“You still have no idea about that, and you think an execution can look like anything your Grandmother wants. So yeah, not even talking about the same thing. How far do you think you would have got by now, without my friends and me?” Berra looks like she is going to break into open sneering, then stops. “Actually, that’s an unfair question. You wouldn’t stop, no matter how fast you followed. Sorry. But if it would help to have the offender know where I’m going to be, I’m fine with that, but I’d want to know beforehand because I want to walk away from it. That was mostly what I wanted to tell you.” Then she stops talking, although it is clear she wants to say a lot more.

“I’ll find who it was, and if it was crime or execution. I would prefer you not to make my task harder.”

“I heard that from you. You’re going to be out of luck, I think. And on that other matter, it’ll be Lord Xenofos Saiciae calling on you. Or on anyone else you say, if you have a friend you’d prefer it to be.” Berra smiles very slightly, like this is not a surprise but something familiar or expected.

“Ah. You prefer not to try and kill the investigator yourself?”

“Huh? I won’t be trying to kill you. We’re Humakti. I’m assuming we’ll organise it to first blood a few days from now, but he’ll be my second. Are you trying to think badly of me, or is it just coming easily?” Berra’s smile is back, hard to repress.

“You are making it easy. I apologise.”

“I still prefer you to the other people I met you with, even if only one of us walks away.” Berra shrugs. “I think I ran out of things to say, anyhow.” Now she just looks tired of all this shit. “Got anything more?”

“Not yet. But I hope to. It will be a question of finding a way to ask which must be answered.” He gives a wry smile, “Do try not to be an idiot, Berra.”

“I am genuinely trying not to be. Um, but if that was about me asking you that I just meant conversation. Like I said – we don’t seem to be talking in the same way.” A shrug happens, involving a lot of wry expression. “But it’s good general advice. Thank you.” She gives Yamia a glance. “That was why I was thinking you wanted bait to trail. Anything else I shouldn’t interfere in.”

“It will complicate using you as a tethered goat if you give other people motives to assassinate you.”

“Well, that does mean you’re likely to attract at least someone. Clean up the city a bit. Would that be a waste, if I got the wrong assassin?” Berra looks like she is ready to go fight anything that will come at her. Bouncy. Happy again, although she adds with a slight shudder, “Not a goat.”

He looks momentarily blank, then nods.

“Look after yourself. Don’t let the assassin get you, either.” She gives him a concerned look.

He nods, “Assuming you’re not set up to assassinate me by goading me to a duel of course.”

“Huh. Yeah, that’s not it. I’m pretty sure I can get up to that sort of thing without goading. Nobody asked me to, and I didn’t know or guess you would take offence, and I didn’t try to make you. I’ll put my hand on the altar and say that if you want.” The concern hovers, now mostly about politeness.

He shakes his head. “You’d be an awful choice as an assassin. Your face recites sagas.”

Berra pauses to consider that. “Hunter HeroQuests might bring in your prey,” she says suddenly. “Nala might know the right ones. Or Wolf, either as Humakt or on his own. They should both be able to bring you to a foe you can smell. But I can’t think of a specific story I know well enough to name.” She looks sorry about that.

—-
After a moment in which Berra is obviously trying to work out what to say next, Yamia steps up with a bow and a smile. “Berra Jarangsdottir, I think you were going to speak with the Battalion briefly. Can I meet you at the gate if Lord Kesten will be so kind as to walk me there?”

Berra’s expression changes as she works out she is being sent away. Yamia gets a questioning look and gives her a nod. “Thank you brother,” she tells Kesten, and bows.

Yamia gives Kesten a smile.

He nods and does so.

Insight: Yamia can tell Kesten is irritated, but determined

After a moment, Yamia asks, “Do you know what she intends?”

“To cause trouble.”

“I’d like to reduce it, if I can. She is young and thinks she can change all the world in person.”

“I had noticed. “

“If you want to keep her busy, she needs things that are important to her – and far away, or more important than this. So, far away. Conceptually or physically.”

“I am not her chief, or her High Priest.”

“Neither of them are here, but the Chief may be on his way, and my father and lady Varanis both have some slight influence over her. I could mention it.”

“Please do.”

Yamia bows. “If there is any indication of what sort of trouble, that you can give me?” She leaves the rest unsaid and falls to silence rather than pressing.

“Legal, perhaps.”

“Mm. Can an Orlanthi Lord make some counter? As I say, we would like to reduce trouble.”

There is no answer by the time they part.



On a wax tablet, obviously new, with a doodled, but erased, scraper top right1Yamia’s handwriting is basic, but her vocabulary is good. Here and there she has to use Heortling words.:

Lord Kesten, respectful greetings.

Berra Jarang’s Daughter Humakti writes with the aid of Yamia Cracks-Rock, having a thing she wishes to express. In speech, she indicated that you justified secret murder. Her words were swift but while she stands by the centre of them, she would have you know she did not mean that you currently justify such a thing in reality rather than as a theoretical notion, and should that have been your understanding her apology is unreserved. She finds she cannot say otherwise of any specific case, but allows me as author to clarify her thoughts. Naturally your Clan Priestess and leader is allowed private actions for the good and safety of the Clan. The details of those actions she consider abhorent, she will not abandon, but does allow the difference between secrecy and privacy. (I, the author, note that she may not wish to be questioned closely on such, but it would be possible for detente to exist in that space, were it unexamined.) She entirely insists that the hiring of Eurmal Murderer is not privacy, but shame, believing that anyone executed privately within the power of the Clan should know what is done and why.

Should this matter cover any offense she has given, she offers apologies freely. For those things she considers beyond reasonable behaviour, she offers her sword, and her insistence.

[Berra’s Truth-Death sign]

In short, if you feel you spoke of a concrete matter, she understands she has made an unconscionable accusation. If you speak of a generality, she believes in the right and truth of her position. However, I note that not all theoretical positions require blood to be shed to allow the right to hold them, although I hope you will forgive the liberty I take in using this note from her to send such a message to you. Waxen words are easily lost; why split them?

Communication with Berra will be easy to afford in the near future, as she will be at the Temple of Humakt. Should you wish me to take any note, that either of you may avoid an uncomfortable discussion that might lead to further regretable misunderstandings of position, I am at your service, as are, I am sure, many others. I believe her current plans include Heroquest research, and the removal of her belongings from the House of Saiciae, lest they be inconvenienced by her actions in living or dying.

Yamia daughter of Silor, Humakti of the Cracks-Rock Clan.