Popping the Question

1629, Sea Season, Stasis Week, Fireday


Berra has permission from Serenelda to ask Lord Kesten to join Eril’s Hero-band. Session SA4.16.


Later, Berra is at the door preparing to go to Temple. That means she is leaning outside the Hulta mansion, making it look messy.

And Kesten emerges, with a guard. The guard gives Berra an eyeing, and is restrained with a hand on his vambrace. “It’s Lady Berra. She’s a friend.”

Berra peels herself away from the wall, and gives Kesten a bow with far too much smile in it. “Lord. Hello. You want me to walk you to Temple?” Iron sword, no armour, bright look on seeing him..1And, if he was looking – which he was – she is pleased by being called a friend.

That gets a faint, ironic smile, “Of course. It is dangerous for someone like me to be out without supervision.”

“And you’ll be good for me as well. We can guard each other.” Anyone who is looking at Berra with the right eyes will be able to see she glances around then, and she already seems to know what the situation is like. “You got a route you want to take?” The shorter Humakti present – by a couple of inches – is already in motion. Kesten gets to move if he wants to keep going with the conversation, but Berra will let him decide where.

He strides along, “This way.” He doesn’t explain why. He’s looking a little softer around the waist, but still very alert.2Berra passes insight to spot that: he’s not doing enough exercise.

Berra does just that, alert like the very expensive bodyguard that her Temple sometimes hires out. Like him, she walks with the pace of someone small used to keeping up with tall people.

He pauses his movement, more of a break in the step than a real pause, at an intersection, glancing down it towards a large building, and then continuing on.

Berra checks out the road, the people ahead, the people behind. She does mark the large building, but not until she is sure the area is clear. She lets him set the pace, and the conversation; if he asks, then the guard is not a problem. But the guard did not know she would be there.

“You have been a stranger to us, down here.”

“I’ve been busy.” It’s a D’Val phrase. “How much d’you know?”

“About what? The not-quite battle of the Prince and King? The not-quite peace of the Kings of Tarsh? The Absolutely not peace of the Emperors? You’re going to have to be a bit more specific.”

Aaaahhhh…” Berra makes some sounds. “I actually don’t know which Prince and King you mean, which is going to tell just how busy it’s been. Two Emperors that I heard of, and… yeah. And since then there’s been a Hero, and a… well, the Hero happened before, but I didn’t say, but then there’s been a lot. You know I helped a river get born?” His wife knows, but he might know different things.

That gets a surprised look, “No, I hadn’t heard. But tell me all!”

“Alright. So last year I got exiled from the Colymar for telling the… for being there when Varanis told the queen she was wrong, and helping. So if you need to date it, that’s when.” Berra considers. “There’s a thing called a River Egg, which is apparently the product of the love of a river and a dragon? Anyhow, I didn’t know that. But there was one in Clearwine, and I ended up helping to wake it. And then it was leaking, because it’s… well, it could be a river or it could be a dragon. And I had to put it down and then walk along the course it should take. There was a lot of politics.”

“So I would imagine, especially in your land, where rivers are not as fertile as here.”

“Uhuh. Smaller, usually – the valleys are smaller and their duty means they go downwards. So we put it into the Lismelder, but some dragonewts tried to stop us. That got exciting, because if you break one of those, then a river isn’t what you get. So we had to keep it safe. And I’m already kind’v famous among ducks, but now it’s loud when I arrive in Quackford. There’s an extra river, though, and it’s doing well. Through from where it was needed to just above Quackford. Then I got exiled for a year, but I said hello to it again on my way through.” Berra continues to be efficient in checking out windows, doors, alleyways, roofs, and large roads.

That gets a considered nod, “Had you pondered the possibilities to be found in not annoying Queens?”

“Yeah, but she was wrong.” Berra pauses. “Also she was in the middle of an argument and there was nothing to lose. Like when the horse is already bolting and you can get off at speed or just laugh and go for it.” Beat-pause. “Not that I was laughing. But she annoyed me too.”

“Ah, letting emotion rule you?” Is that just very faint Humakti teasing? Surely not.

Berra snorts3Amused, and trying not to show it.. “You want to know, or are you just asking?” There’s a challenge there.

“A little of both.” Kesten gestures the guard forward, “Cover Tyval street, while we pass.”

Berra lets the guard do the work, but while he is out of earshot she fills in details. “I wasn’t the one talking. Leika – and she is my queen and I will not want to hear a word against her, right? But she was arguing with Varanis. And I wanted to support Varanis. Because she was right, and because she needed to know I had her back, and because I wanted her to know that I had it, and that I’d stand up for her. Would you stay quiet when you had the chance to speak for a friend?”

“Not if the friend was right, no.” He smiles wryly, “But that is not a survival trait around here, on the whole, or around powerful people.”

“Yeah, well. Exile’s not death, and we were there in her court by invitation. S’this the best chance I’ll have to talk to you, or should we wait for the Temple?”

“After temple is probably best. Before we leave the grounds. I won’t be watching for minor… family discussions.”

“Yeah. I was wondering about the guard. If there’s anything I can help with, let me know.” Berra leaves it at that, making it the extent of her curiosity. “I’ve got to meet the Temple as a Wyter Priest. S’gonna be fun.” It might be a change of subject against the chance that Kesten will be assassinated, or it might be information she wants to give him.

“Oh, I’m not really expecting anything. This is a mark of honour.” He sounds amused. “In general, it’s fear of retribution that keeps assassination in line. Oh, and the expectation that Humakt will warn me, I’ll capture the assassin, and THEN there will be retribution.”

Berra laughs. “Yeah. That. But I kindameant there would be an underlying situation. The world’s better with you in it.” She remains mostly silent, although her small talk consists of talk about how Dragonewt markets work, and why Lord Geoffri does not seem to like her. She has a lot of detail, none of which is allowed to get in the way of her doing her duty.

And then, if nothing else occurs, she will have time to talk to Kesten alone.


It is still before dawn. A foreign Priest who has been known to duel Lord Kesten Hulta finds him in the crowd, and draws him not into one of the private rooms, but to a section of a grand hall, now empty. “Come work off some good meals. I’ve got a thing I need to ask you.” Berra rolls out her shoulders, limbering up.

Of course, one on one practice, and sparring, are normal here. She does not even offer to face off. She just goes into simple exercises.

He does likewise. Katas is a word unknown here, but it’s what he’s doing. He’s no whirling blade of death, but he’s not exactly a slouch either. “Go on.”

Berra steps into Three Opponents No Survivors, and then switches smoothly into Full Defense. “Living Heroes need a hero band.” She lets him work out the next sentence.

“A truth, it must be said. And you think I belong there?”

“I want you there. He needs people like you.” It’s a bare truth, spoken without polish.

“You mean, more focused on Truth than Death? I’m not sure that is in keeping with what I hear of the Hero.”

“That’s part of why I’m here. He’s truthful and honourable – but he needs people like you. More than he needs people like him.”

“Alright. I’m listening.”

“You’d be the first of his band. What I want from you isn’t to make him comfortable, but to make sure he doesn’t go wrong. He’s arrogant, petty, annoying as hell – and worthy of worship. And I want his band to fill in his weaknesses. In return, most of what you get’s having a living Hero taking a personal interest in you.”

He considers this, “Would you be offended if I said I wanted to meet him first?”

“Nah, not at all. You want to travel, or you want to talk through his Wyter?” Berra seems to have expected the question. She pauses, iron sword in hand.

“Travel, I think. I want to see his eyes, judge his handshake.” A pondering moment, “Assuming he deigns to shake hands with me.”

“His eyes say he’s a politician. He’ll bow to you. I don’t know he’ll shake hands – but that ain’t personal. But yeah, I’d love to have you come to … listen. Maybe we can save you a journey.”

Next to Berra, a dark shape begins to form.

“As I say, I want it to be in person. Magic can fool a man.”

“Yeah.” Berra hands over her sword to the tall figure who takes it. “You should meet the Wyter anyhow. This is Lord Raven. You’re both important to me.”

The man made of smoke takes the sword smoothly and continues Berra’s practice, competently, but without her grace. “I infer you learn more than usual from the presence of another being,” he says.

“Or believe I do, yes.” His own moves continue. “I could be mistaken.”

“No doubt, but nevertheless, I think my Priest was in error in calling me here. I might as well have waited.”

Berra manages not to laugh too loudly in the background. That seems to tell the Wyter something. “But if she did not think so?” He is asking Kesten to fill in the gaps, or challenging him to.

“Perhaps a warning to me of what I will find, or information for your Hero as to what he will.” A slight shrug, “Or a truly awful sense of humour.”

“I think in the most part, the warning,” Lord Raven says. “I resemble him in many particulars, including that of disdaining her understanding of humour. When would you wish to travel?”

Berra draws Wind Tooth and begins a sword dance. This is not a mere form or practice – this is a demonstration that she is better than anyone else present. Lord Raven tries to ignore it, but the patter of feet and the thrown shadows indicate that of the people here, at least one is a fine killer of mock opponents.4Critical on Broadsword.

“Later this season, I think.”

“He should be free in Sea Season. You will have hospitality at the Temple, and at the house of my Priest.” Lord Raven stops briefly to admire Berra. “And she would have you know that saving a journey was simply in case you disliked me enough to decide we would be no fit.”

Berra is in the centre of a shell of murderous bronze, a single sword creating a shield that nobody could pass.

“She has a bit of ego,” the Wyter notes.

“Naturally. But in anycase, I would not judge for certain of meeting you.”

“Indeed.” Lord Raven smiles, watching his little peasant. “Write in advance of your coming, if you wish. And, if you would do me a favour, take her out for breakfast and listen to her talking.”

  • 1
    And, if he was looking – which he was – she is pleased by being called a friend.
  • 2
    Berra passes insight to spot that: he’s not doing enough exercise.
  • 3
    Amused, and trying not to show it.
  • 4
    Critical on Broadsword.