1628, Sacred Time, Fate Week, Godday
Berra’s footsteps are clear inside the room1Pass Listen. – a pitterpat up to the moment she is ready to come out, a stamp and scrape of her hobnails to make sure her feet are solidly on the ground, and then a measured pace. She comes out of the altar room just as Varanis straightens. Her expression on seeing the pair is surprise, and then delight. “You caught up. Lord Raven, I’ll try to get back early tomorrow morning but…”
She finds she is talking to nothing, as the Wyter fades away. “… I might not be able to,” she finishes lamely.
Varanis grins. “I think he had to listen to too much talking from me. C’mon. Let’s get out of this place. And don’t you dare return too early in the morning. I want you around for when I get home from slaying Yelm, so we can spend some time together in the light.”
“We might have to travel early,” Berra says. “Although with Venlar around Mellia seems to spend longer in bed.”
“Wait… are we meant to be leaving tomorrow?” Varanis looks taken aback. “I haven’t packed!”
“I don’t know,” Berra replies. “But I was thinking we would? Whaddyagotta pack anyhow?”
“Everything! Sufficient clothing for the journey, with enough layers that I can adjust for the weather. Everything I need to maintain both my armour and weapons. My bedroll. A range of things suitable for gifting if the need arises.” Varanis is ticking things off on her fingers. “C’mon,” she urges again. “We need to get to the house.”
Berra walks, rather than hurrying. “We should ask Mellia when we plan to leave, and let her know I have duties in Death Week. Do you not keep your kit ready to go?” The little warrior seems surprised by that, despite having known Varanis for years.
“But if I did that, then I couldn’t use the things,” Varanis points out. “I’m not so rich as to keep two of everything, you know.”
The Vingan probably could have two of everything important, if she had less stuff overall.
“You put it away every time you use it so it’s ready to go,” Berra points out, “And then it’s out of the way.”
“But…” Berra gets a look of confusion. “How’d that work? Then I’d need to dig into my packs to find things. My armour cleaning kit has a shelf next to my armour stand. Easily accessible. Clothes wrinkle in packs. They do much better in my clothing chests. And it’s easy to replace the herb sachets with fresh ones regularly.” Lately, Varanis’ clothing has been smelling of lavender and cedar, thanks to Yehna’s influence. The Esrolian citrus and sandalwood has become a distant memory.
“So you have all the packs and they’re ready to go?” Berra suggests. “I mean, I know you need clothes, but that’s what chests are for, and pack wagons. Do we have a wagon? We should get a wagon.” She nods, determined.
Varanis snorts. “A wagon?” Then she gives it more consideration. “It’d move horrifically slowly. But… it would probably be better for Mellia.”
“She already has her little cart. And we could have horses instead of oxen. We don’t need to go all that slow. Just remember we leave it behind if we have to dash off, so only maybe half of your silks?”
There’s a wince. “No. If I bring silks, they stay with the demon horse. If nothing else, she’s a good guard.”
“Mulecarts would let us travel in Prax as well.” Berra seems a little subdued suddenly. “Carts are safe on the King’s Road.” They pass into the edge-lit darkness of the lay hall.
“You know, I’ve been wondering what it would be like to go by chariot again. Seeing the wedding chariot brought back memories.”
Then she shrugs. “The other thing is that I need different things for different excursions. What I’d pack for a few weeks at Blue Tree would be very different for what I’d pack if we were passing through Alda Chur.”
“Yeah. Easier to be me,” Berra admits. “I gotta be ready to kill people and it’s a question of how good I want the armour to look.”
Varanis snickers suddenly. “Want to mess with Lord Raven? I could dress you up in some of the Esrolian silk when you head back to the temple. He’d be so confused.”
Berra asks, “Why? He… no, I think that would not confuse him. He thinks I change a lot.” She takes a deep breath in the echoing darkness of the hall. “He d…oes not see with his eyes much. And I don’t like silks.” Her voice judders as she talks, like she is finding it hard to make her way through that sentence.
“Stop.” Varanis places a hand lightly on Berra’s arm ready to withdraw it at the slightest suggestion she ought to. “Breathe out completely, then draw in a slow breath, right to your belly.”
Berra jumps at the hand, and then after a moment manages to follow instructions, relaxing almost immediately.
“If you can, always start by exhaling first. If the Air in a person gets trapped, they lose their mental balance. Get rid of that Air before drawing in new. It works better.”
Berra takes a few moments, and then says more steadily, if low, “Sorry. I remembered arguing with Xenofos. About silk. I don’t know why it messed with me.”
“Is it a memory you’d lost that has come back?” Varanis asks.
“I … no. Just that it reminds me of bad things.” Berra walks on, slowly. “Tell me about mule carts or something?”
“What do I know of mule carts?” She frowns. “I rode in a chariot at Pennel Ford, did I ever tell you that?”
“No, I didn’t know that. Tell me about it?” By the time they reach the doors, Berra seems restored in herself. For someone who was descending into panic, she has bounced back fast.2Pass First Aid. Surprisingly fast.
Varanis talks a bit about the chariot her Grandmother had arranged for her, to ensure she got into battle in one piece. There’s not much to say – she’d leapt out of it pretty quickly when it came to fighting. Better footing and more familiarity. But the chariot and its driver were there for her at the end and even drove her through the parade in Nochet later.
Berra listens, and chuckles in appreciation, and then falls silent at the end for a bit. Under the light of the stars and the glow of the Flame of Sartar, she looks happy again.
Varanis waves in the direction of her grandfather.3many times removed “He’s holding steady,” she observes. “It brings me joy.”
Her gaze falls on the palace, looming over the city. “Hey… I’ve been meaning to ask something.”
“Ehuh?” Berra walks along in her usual threatening-infantry manner.
“So… um.” Uncharacteristically, Varanis stumbles over what she’s trying to say. She glances at Berra, then back up at the palace, as if the right words will come to her from one source or the other.
Where sometimes Berra might prompt or guess, she just walks along, listening. Maybe Lord Raven has taught her patience. Then again, she is a scout; maybe she just remembered how to wait.
Finally, Varanis blurts, “How do you feel about the Prince these days?”
Berra does not reply instantly, but the question does not seem to hurt her, where once it would have. Finally she says, “I got the worst of the feeling, the most of the feeling, cut out from me. I remember but with less emotion.”
“I see. That’s good?” Varanis looks like she’s not sure it should be.
“It helps to keep me from worrying when I go up there. I don’t want to be a vulnerable point for the Temple, or for people I am with.” Berra looks up at the palace. “I couldn’t have let her out of Hell that second time without the feeling, so I… I don’t know if I was good at supporting Sartar or bad at being Humakt.”
“Why are you worrying so much? That feels… new.” Varanis considers, then adds, “or else I have been very unobservant in the past.”
“I don’t normally mention this sort of thing. I mean, it’s… it’s what Humakt gets to have happen so the world can go on. And most of the time I can put it aside anyhow. It was just when I went up to the palace it was really hard, after the first few weeks. And everyone knows that when I go there the High Sword’s gonna be there, so I just made sure to be looking at him. But I’m glad the feeling’s faded.”
“Not what I meant,” Varanis says, shaking her head. “You’re worried about a lot lately. Or else, I’m seeing what I overlooked before.”
“I’m not really worried,” Berra says. “Not most of the time. I’ve just got some things I have to deal with.” Her right hand falls onto her sword, the one lent to her by Eril, and she pats the pommel absently. “It’s how I work, I think. Either something destroys me, or I’m stronger. This one’s just harder than most.” For a brief moment, even in the semi-darkness, she looks strained by that task, and then she shrugs.
Varanis nods thoughtfully. “I’m not sure anyone else could have done what you did.”
“No. Nobody else could.” Is that anger in Berra’s voice now? It is not directed at Varanis, but it seems that somewhere under the shrug and the thoughtful replies, there was fiery determination, or just plain rage.
Varanis risks putting a hand on Berra’s arm again.4Berra fails Insight and does not realise the danger of hugging that she is in.
The Humakti does not pull away, but it is clear from how tense she is that Berra is fighting some battle over again. Her walk is, now Varanis notices the tension, that killing advance. People had better not get in her way.5Special on Accidental Intimidation.
“Breathe out,” Varanis tells her.
That, of all things, makes Berra jump. It seems to bring her back to herself. “Oh. Right, yes.” This time Berra seems to breathe in first, but then again, she is not panicking. She just slows down her breathing and deepens it.
- 1Pass Listen.
- 2Pass First Aid.
- 3many times removed
- 4Berra fails Insight and does not realise the danger of hugging that she is in.
- 5Special on Accidental Intimidation.