On Guard

In truth, the procession probably needs little by way of security; the group is on roads in a civilised place. Still, Berra makes sure that people are on watch and for a while as they ride she is one of them. After breakfast has been found and eaten, she rides her beautiful golden-eyed horse alongside Valseena on the borrowed bison, and takes a moment to match pace. The horse behaves beautifully, and Berra seems to be picking up the hang of riding a better mount than she could once afford. She does not speak immediately.

Valseena’s back stiffens a little, the only visible indication that she has noticed. She keeps riding, eyes focused on the horizon, mind clearly on Suuraki.

“Hey. I wanted to say I was sorry about a thing.” Berra gets straight into it.

A slight tilt of the head to one side. No other reaction.

“You never did anything to make yourself into a warrior. You never asked to be there, and I made a decision over you, when I asked … when I asked Jar-eel to stop the Heroquest.”

“Over all of us. Did Maalira ask to be there, or Dormal?”

“Maalira, no. And I’ve apologised to her. Dormal? I’m not going to. He’s a Eurmalite. He doesn’t obey my rules. But you? That’s what I’m here for.”

“You could have killed all of us and it didn’t occur to you for a second to ask any of us what we wanted.”

“She could have killed you all, Valseena. Going on could have killed you all, and you’d already…” Berra falls silent, or at least forces herself to silence.

Valseena shakes her head.1Berra fails Insight (Own Species).

Berra stays quiet for a bit, thinking.

Valseena also stays silent, focused on the horizon ahead.

After a while, Berra asks, “Do you want to know the things I think are likely with Suuraki?”

Valseena chews her lip.

“I’ve seen Heroquests before, is all,” Berra supplies.2Valseena fails Insight (Own Species).

Valseena stays silent, waiting her out.

“But if you don’t want me to I won’t,” Berra adds.

Valseena shrugs noncommitally.

Berra stays quiet for a bit, and then says, “Heroquests are different if there’s a body there or not. But he’ll have looked after you if you just fell over, or if you were moving around. You know that went alright because you’re still here. And then you’d have disappeared and he’ll have come to look for you.”

Valseena looks at Berra with a mix of emotions.3Berra fails Insight (Own Species) again.

Berra goes on, “When we figured we had to come back for Varanis, we sent a message to you two. He’s probably got it, and if not the obvious thing to do is to go to Alda Chur, and try to find out what weird things were going on. They might put him on the right road there, if he doesn’t come straight.” Her voice is quiet, almost tired.

Valseena’s brow crinkles with worry. “He might be anywhere.” Her voice sounds small and lost.

“You married him because he’s a man who impressed you,” Berra replies. There is hope in her tone. “He’s Praxian. He’s tough. Resourceful. His people – the Llamas – are used to being in small herds.”

“He’s alone. He’s worried about me. Anything might have happened to him”

“He’s a … he’s tough, and he’ll be looking for you now. How do Praxians find each other? Do we look for wet leaves to burn, or make a fire at night? Track him?”

Valseena frowns, unsure what to do.

Berra says, “The Grazelanders will probably help – they’ll want to look after us and keep us together.” For their own reasons, she does not add.

Valseena looks thoughtful. “Perhaps given there’s more plant matter here, he might try a signal fire – or we could.” Her face falls “But if he rode hard for somewhere else he wouldn’t see it…”

“We just have to get there as soon as we can.” Valseena’s jaw sets in a determined line. Her voice is somehow both older, harder and sadder than Berra’s ever heard it.

“Yep. You get to set the pace – you know the animals. But we should stop if we meet allies, and use what they can give for help as well. A thousand horse is a pretty good scouting group.” Berra manages to twist a smile.

The smile isn’t returned, it’s almost as though Valseena remembers how upset she is with Berra or perhaps she just has lost her sense of humour due to worry…

“If he gets the message he will probably be along this road or in Alda Chur.” Berra falls silent again.

“or he might wait where he was for me…” Valseena’s voice trails off, sounding a bit lost and hopeless again

“And if we don’t find him, we sweep out to there. Remember you’ve got people, and options, and we can pay for messengers and scouts. You’re not alone in this.” Berra does not smile now, but she does seem sincere.

Valseena visibly bristles “I can pay for messengers and scouts. I will find him.” she urges her bison to pick up pace as if ready to end the conversation

“‘kay. You can pay for them. But if you need help in scouting or designing a sweep, ask.” Berra keeps up for at least a moment.

Valseena nods, a little stiffly, she really isn’t at all like her normal self – clearly this experience has affected her deeply.

There’s a brief moment in which Berra might say something, and then she does not. “I’ll let you get on with yourself for a bit,” she says, mistress of the obvious, as she reins in.

Valseena’s face is set, focused on the horizon – perhaps some time after she might sneak a look backwards to the rest of the group

Berra is out on the right flank, her horse under control, her gaze off to her right. She is on guard, like the warrior she is.

  • 1
    Berra fails Insight (Own Species).
  • 2
    Valseena fails Insight (Own Species).
  • 3
    Berra fails Insight (Own Species) again