Pupilled Gaze

Berra — Pupilled Gaze

????, Fire Season, Stasis Week


1626, Fire Season, Stasis Week, Fireday. [[[s01:session-36|Session 36]]]


A few hours after the sparring, when everything is just about packed to be ready to go, and the Elders of the village have made speeches and awarded Varanis with things to give her followers, Berra gestures to Finarvi. Technically, the gesture means ‘come hither’, at least in Heortling. It’s unaccompanied by a come-hither glance, though, so it only means ‘over here’. She is a quiet area of the main space within the village, where the sunlight is strong as Yelm climbs to noon.

Finarvi heads over in her direction.

Berra bows very slightly to Finarvi. It’s different from a nod – slower and with more shoulder movement, and more formal. “Your teacher needs to tell her pupil something,” she says. She looks surprisingly forbidding, given she is short, ragged-haired, and was smiling at a pair of squabbling children a moment before.

Finarvi learned long ago not to judge things by their size, and his expression turns serious at Berra’s demeanour. “I listen,” he says, dipping his head in a more overt bow.

“You gave Varanis advice, while you were sparring with her. It was not for you to do that, but for me, if I decided to. That was not well behaved.”

He frowns, thrown by this. “Did I? I’m sorry, teacher, I do not remember offering advice.” The idea that he might have any advice to offer Varanis on swordfighting seems ludicrous.

“You reminded her to breathe,” Berra prompts. Nothing more. The look of severity has gone, and there is carefully controlled calm.

“Oh.” Realisation dawns, and indignation in its wake. “I meant it as a warning. She was winded and tiring, and that’s when mistakes happen. I was concerned.” Concerned that Berra hadn’t already called a halt to the bout as well, but he keeps that behind his teeth.

“Yes,” Berra says. “That’s… for me. If my pupil wishes to say such a thing, then he should be more advanced before he takes his mind off his own weaponry.”

Finarvi bristles a little at the rebuke. He bows again, deeper this time. “Your pupil needs to tell his teacher something.”

“Well, now we’re done, so fine.” Berra relaxes somewhat. “Go ahead.”

Finarvi speaks slowly, considering his words. “A novice pupil has no trust in his abilities to keep him safe, so he must have trust in his teacher. He must trust that his teacher is in control of the lesson, and will not allow him to harm others by his own ineptitude. My outburst this morning shows I did not have trust in my teacher, and for that, I apologise.”

Berra takes a deep breath. “I was too slow,” she says. “I … I have told Varanis this already, and you should know. I was too tired. I had been looking for too long, and when a thing went wrong I was too slow to react. I had made bad decisions.”

Finarvi offers her a relieved smile. “It was very early to be faced with my sorry swordplay. Perhaps I need many more drills before I face a living opponent again, even in training.”

Berra shakes her head. “No, not that. I didn’t realise you didn’t know the hand-signal for stop, step apart. That left you relying on my voice, and I didn’t say it, because I was surprised. But the fault wasn’t in you, it was in my expectation. Then when I saw what was happening I was standing left-handed and tried to react right-handed. But there’s another part you didn’t spot. What you said made Varanis angry. That’s part of my task as teacher, and why I need to be the one to judge what is said. When you’re better, it will matter less – but she was frustrated and did not want helping.”

Finarvi stares in dismay. “Hand signals?” He wipes a hand across his mouth, unsure whether to laugh or scream. “I cannot speak for Varanis, but I am a long way from being able to watch for hand signals when someone is trying to open my skull with a stick. I don’t think it would have helped even if we had known them. “

“Yes. Like I said. That part was bad decisions. I think you saw them, but I’m used to people knowing without thinking. You couldn’t understand. But I did get that wrong.”

Finarvi gives a small, embarrassed laugh. He hadn’t noticed any hand signals, being far too focused on Varanis and only glancing at Berra occasionally. “My previous instructors found bellowing effective,” he explains, with a helpless gesture that suggests that yelling was probably the only way they could get his attention.

“How many of you were there?” Berra sounds interested.

Finarvi looks embarrassed. “One or fifty, I don’t think it mattered.”

Berra grimaces. “Then that’s not the most effective way.” She shrugs. “But next time I get to hold a big stick.”