1628, Earth Season, Fertility Week, Windsday
In the Grazelands after the group has been left by its guards Session 3SA.03.
There was a brief stop for lunch, during which Varanis napped. Now she’s riding next to Berra, blearily nibbling at the food she didn’t eat earlier.
“I thought you were going to die,” she tells the Humakti after a bit.
Berra is still dismounting about every ten minutes to be sick.
The Humakti says, “I wasn’t so sure about it myself. He’s … he just happens and things have to fit in around that.”
“I’d have been tempted to try to bring you back, just so I could yell.”
“It’s… please don’t?” Berra considers. “My head hurts.”
“You didn’t die and I no longer feel like yelling anyway,” Varanis points out. “Too tired.”
“You can’t bring me back. I don’t think even a Heroquester could.” Berra shrugs.
There’s a shrug and a tired little laugh. “I’m not good at listening when people say something is impossible. But yeah, I know it’s not what you want and neither you nor your god would permit it. I didn’t say I’d go through with it. Just that I’d be tempted.”
“You could come see me in Hell. That would be allowed.” Berra grins widely. “I mean, I’d probably be a bit embarrassed.”
“D’you remember me asking you to teach me separation? We were on the road and I was angry with Mirava…”
There’s a nod. “Yeah. I could do with learning it myself.”
“I’m glad you refused. I don’t want it anymore.” Her tighten on the reins but before Manasa can object, Varanis takes a breath and releases it, visibly relaxing. “I don’t want to die and I’m sick of losing the people I love.”
Berra takes a moment to consider that. “I don’t know if I’m free of him,” is what she finally says.
“Is he a god or a hero?”
“I… I think he’s something else. I don’t know if it’s a Humakti secret, but… yeah, probably not. I think he’s a bit of Death that Humakt never recaptured.”
“We could try to recapture him for Humakt… impossible quests seem to be a thing for us.”
“Not if you don’t want to die,” Berra says, although after that she gets thoughtful.
“I came very close to it,” Varanis says. “I think, if I understand things correctly, I owe my life to Finarvi.” She lifts her chin in the direction of the Grazelander, riding ahead with his cousin. The two of them look glorious on horseback.
“Yeah. Battle’s like that. You think you can handle everything, and then some bastard comes in from the side.” Berra shrugs. “And sometimes help comes like that too.”
Varanis swears. “I owe Koraki too, now that I think about it. He had someone shield me.” There’s a little laugh. “I almost wish I’d seen you hit him. I mean, I’d have had to stop you, but… from the looks of things, it was a beautiful punch.”
“He said I couldn’t have it for free, but I could try for him. Then he didn’t move,” Berra replies. “I got told to make a fuss – I dunno what Lord Eril said to him, but it was probably something with long words in.” She waves her hand to indicate she would not know a thesaurus from a dictionary anyhow.
“Eril…” The Vingan glances back in the direction they came. “He’s exposed now. I mean, Harrek overshadowed him, but it would have been hard to miss him. I don’t know how these things work… would more worshippers give him more strength? Is that why Jar-eel became a goddess?”
“Um, I really don’t know,” Berra replies. “I mean, about Jar-eel. About Lord Eril, I could probably guess? The more I can give him, the better, but anyone who worships him’ll probably know he doesn’t have a Wyter. That’s not a problem, I think – but it’s weird, and it’ll be hard to keep any community together, because of him. I mean, it’ll be together just because of him, and not because it’s a community.” The diminutive warrior shrugs.
“I could worship him, I suppose. Not initiate, obviously. But as a lay member. He’s good for Sartar and that’s what’s important to me.”
Berra considers. “That’s something I should probably ask him,” she decides. “Maybe not just now. But laity would probably help. And he’s a Hero – not like he can stop you.”
Varanis chuckles. “I might do it just to annoy him.”
“I can guide you in that,” Berra says, “But there are probably a few Grazeland shrines to Humakt.” Her smile is amused, maybe wolfish.
… A few minutes later, Berra says, “I still don’t know how to stop fighting. If you three are around me – and I’m glad you will be – then you should know that. I feel like the world’s a… I am not joking about the aggression.”
“Is Harrek still affecting you?”
“No. The Heroquest. I had to be me, to be this, to get through it. I fought with what a goddess wanted.” Berra looks off into the distance. “I don’t know I can stop fighting now. I don’t know I want to.”
The look Varanis gives her friend is challenging. Her silence speaks volumes. She is sizing up the little Humakti and probably plotting to test her next time they stop.1It seems Berra has fumbled Insight (Human).
In return, Berra’s demeanour changes. There is a touch of hurt in there, of vulnerability betrayed and put away by great effort, and then there is an obvious willingness to shake down, maybe even anger.
“What? Berra, are you ok?” Varanis reaches a hand out toward her friend, but Manasa shifts, putting her out of reach.
Berra’s expression wavers, with hatred and rage fighting, winning out over her attempts at calm. “Don’t touch me!” she snaps, and she never snaps like that.
“Berra! What did I do? What’s wrong?” Varanis sounds on the verge of panic.
There is a stare, long and angry, and then Berra says, “You looked like you wanted to take me on. Right?” Even now her body language says that she wants the answer to be yes. Her horse dances skittishly, responding to signals she does not mean to give.
“Didn’t I just finish telling you that I don’t want to die? Why would I commit suicide by angry Humakti?” Varanis sounds hurt and frustrated. “For fuck’s sakes Berra. I love you. You’re more of a sister to me than my own. I…” She chokes back a sob. “I’d have taken on that whole fucking camp to protect you when you couldn’t protect yourself.”
Berra subsides at that. “I… I want to fight most things, most of the time,” she says. “Like… with Koraki? I punch him, I don’t end up fighting someone else. Someone who can’t stop me. But I keep needing to argue, to find things bigger than me. I used to be like this because I had to prove myself but I’ve got nothing to prove and it keeps happening.” She seems to be struggling to find the words.
“If you need me to be that for you, I will,” Varanis offers. “But Serala will probably not be pleased about it. And while I can hold my own, we both know I’m no real challenge for you. If you need me to get in the way if your timing or target is off, I can do that too.”
No. Really not.” Berra looks down. “It wouldn’t change anything. Not with you. And… yeah, I need to find what the next thing is to fight against. But look out for what I am. Don’t let me hurt people.”
“I’ll do my best.” The Vingan stares at the road ahead, then smiles at Berra brightly. “We could run now. Burn off more of the poison in your system and some of the anger too. I’ll do it with you.”
For someone who, by all rights, should probably be dozing as she rides, Varanis seems a little too eager for this.
“Maybe?” Berra suggests. “But don’t get too close to me? I won’t hit you, but I want to be alone.”
“I’ll be right back.” Varanis nudges Manasa to pick up speed and rides ahead to catch up with the Grazelanders, presumably to tell them what’s going on. She then wheels back and attempts a flying dismount. It works. Just.
Berra dismounts carefully, spending a moment getting her balance, and then ties her reins to her saddle. She takes a sip of water before she begins.
- 1It seems Berra has fumbled Insight (Human).