Quest Of Eril: Xenofos has Critique

Berra — Quest Of Eril 07

1627, Sea Season, Disorder Week


Context

Sea Season, Disorder Week, probably Fireday. A day after asking Xenofos to be in a Heroquest. [[[s02:session-32|Session 32]]]

Naturally, contains spoilers.

Events

Next morning Xenofos is pretty quiet, looking thoughtful.

Berra is business-like, efficient with apparently trying to be abrupt. She is more concerned with the group moving onward than with anything else, it seems.1Berra passes Insight (Human).

It does look like he has not slept much. Today he is not stealing glances at Berra, but he does not seem too observant. Like he was riding half asleep.

At some point after Yelm has driven out the morning mists but not yet reached zenith he closes the distance to Berra.

Berra raises a hand as he closes in, and gives him a smile, and a nod. She looks on-duty, however.2A failed Charm means her smile is not as brilliant as usual.

There is fleeting look of hurt on his face, but as he nods he smiles tiredly.

“Hello little cousin, do you have time. There are some things that would require talking. I think.”

“I think so, yes.” Berra considers the terrain, and then turns her attention to Xenofos. “What’s your thorn?”

He seems a bit surprised by Berra’s wording and answers after a pause of couple of heartbeats. “You, little cousin? Not mine, but the one that has stung…” He looks at the terrain instead of Berra “I have thought of your request.”

“Thorns hurt, and they stay dug in. They do sting.” She glances around the land to her right again, and then back to Xenofos. “There are a few ways of getting them out, but that… ain’t… isn’t what you’re saying. What have you been thinking?”

“I have been twisting the matter in my mind to see it from various angles to understand it fully so I can decide what is the right thing for me to do…” He looks at the small Humakti seriously.

Berra does not answer that directly, but instead looks away, and the expression she directs at her mount’s ears is thoughtful, and a touch distant. “Right,” she says finally, like she now gets that bit.

“There are reasons that would say to help you, and others that advice against it. And I don’t know enough to make up my mind. Not yet.”

Berra dips her head to acknowledge this, and waits to find out if there is more.

“Some of the answers I will find when we return to Boldhome. Some may require a trip to Cinder fox tula.”

Berra nods. “Yeah. I’m going to be asking around in both of those places too, probably. Anything I can help with now?”

“Can you tell me where you got the idea that Eril’s separated darkness would be suitable wyter for his cult?”

“I thought of it. I was just walking and it came into my head. That I couldn’t find a spirit that was how it should be, and then I wasn’t even by where it happened but I just suddenly thought of it and then knew that was the one. He didn’t give me much instruction – I think he thinks that if he admits not knowing stuff, he’ll look bad, so he just tells me to do things and has me work it out.” Berra’s loyalty to her lord’s image, never as loyal as to the man himself, has failed again.

“I see. Not a divine vision or answer of Humakt to a direct question.” He smiles a bit sadly. “Not that I think that will make my task any easier…”

“Yeah, no. Sorry. About the third thing I did when thinking about it was swear because I’d killed it, but I didn’t kill kill it. It’s a spirit. So I think I can get it back and that makes it maybe more likely to talk anyhow.” Berra shrugs. “I’m trying not to ask the god because if anyone knows, if people find out I’m asking, that could end up with him dead. So being alone in this is also good, probably. Even if that’s just not being able to take some paths.”

“Second is one that is quite awkward to ask, but I suppose I must, to have logical basis for decision making…” The dun horse’s ear seem to interest Xenofos quite a lot.

“Uhuh?” Berra, if anything, gets more interested in Xenofos. Her curiosity is veiled after a moment, and she manages a look of polite interest instead.

He pushes his helmet backwards and combs his hair with his fingers. “I feel you are making a logical error thinking I could be substitute for Thenaja. Unless… and what you have said makes that unlikely… you have feelings that are deep enough to be called love…” He looks at Berra ” You have clearly shown that you care, but I have your words forbidding to use word beloved lest it would sound like you feel love…” After initial blushing he seems to gain certainty and calmness from sheer logical thought process.

Berra looks back, and blinks. “Well, I thought this was going to be about whether they’d had sex, but sure… I think it’s close enough. I don’t want to sleep with you. I like having you around. I’d count you as a friend.” There is another shrug from her, as if brutal eviscerations of hope are just part and parcel of a day for her.

“I don’t think that counts as separation from someone he loved. And no I am not talking of sex.” Xenofos shakes his head, but does not seem particularly hurt at Berra’s confirmation. “That brings another question, but it may be that no one knows the answer to it today. Whether Eril ever really loved her. If not, then I would logically fit that role. I do not think you know? Probably not Eril either. And it is perhaps too cruel for me to ask Thenaya…”

Berra shrugs again. “I don’t. But Venlar really looks like him, so even if he was never a father, he’s linked to them both. Thenaya and the Thane.”

He nods at that. “Well, I must think of this. Like I said. To find out what is the right thing. I am tempted to just give you want, but I promised you once I would not do things just because you ask.”

Berra nods. “Yeah. I can’t make you do anything. Even if you’re not Orlanth.” That seems to amuse her for a moment. “Rocks as well as storms. Hard to talk around.”

“You could… ” He looks forward ” You could, but you choose not to.”

“Yeah. Persuade’s different from make.” Berra uses a wave of the hand instead of a shrug, to conquer Xenofos’ peripheral vision. “I’d be getting you to choose, not forcing you. But that would still not be right.”

He looks at her profile for a while.

That would be a good plan, but she is always moving, and soon there is no more of that stare out into the wilderness, but instead she is looking back at Xenofos.

“I am torn on what to do for various reasons…. I think you will not like what I have to say next, Berra.”

“Yehuh? But you’re going to say it, and that’s good.” She gives him a grin, but looks forward, letting him escape her gaze a moment.

“I think you should hear it. So yes, I think I have to.” It is Xenofos’ turn to shrug. “I don’t think I can make you see, but I would be negligent if I did not try.”

“Well, I’ve listened to you before.” Her shrugs are an art form. This one is one-shouldered, a touch of amused distance on her face. All movement, even when she tries to be still.

“You have been around and let my words flow past you without letting them touch you.” He pauses “If I am wrong that may be good. Because what I am saying is what I believe to be True. But unlike you I see a possibility that even strong held beliefs may be in error.”

“Yehuh. Yeah, that’s a True thing.” She nods, and settles to try to listen.

“You believe Eril is a hero. I do not deny that.” Brown eyes look intensely at Berra. “However, he is Hero despite his deeds at the Fall. Not because of them.”

He continues. “What we saw through Irillo’s visions was dishonorable. He stooped very low. For survival of Sartar, or so he says. His deeds were disgraceful and his end does not justify his means.”

Berra’s jaw tightens. “He was not dishonourable. He did his best, in a hard situation. He’s a Hero because he did new things, and great ones. And they were not dishonourable.” Her stare into the near distance is venomous.

“He succumbed to deceit and evil killings, was punished and became a lesser man for it. He is Hero despite that, not because of it… I do not think bringing his Darkness back is good for you, or good for Sartar. But I can not be absolutely certain, I may be wrong. But so can you. Remember Drzank and that journey you took westward….”

Xenofos voice is calm and slightly sad.

Berra looks down, and something blurs the fine outline of her lashes. It is not rain, but she does not try to blink it away. Then a moment later she sobs, and bursts into full-on tears.3Previously, Berra had fumbled an INT roll and been persuaded that Eril’s actions were not just necessary, but honourable. Now she passes INT when thinking about the same thing.

He looks at her with horror and rides closer, to instinctively comfort her with a hug. Bison anatomy reduces that to a gesture towards her.

He does not try to hug her though, but stops before touching.

Followed plods onwards. Berra’s presence on her back, and the way she is signalling the halt by hunching up miserably, get ignored.4A failed roll on Pride and a fumbled roll on Loyalty (D’Val) to act as well as he would result in Berra sobbing.

Under the bright bronze armour, Berra’s shoulders shudder, a short gulf away. Emotion tears through her, and she shakes her head to try to deny what she cannot.

Scholar reaches for the reins of the bison and brings it to halt. “I am sorry Berra, I knew you would not like to hear any of that. It had to be said, but I did not say it to bring you pain.” he says quietly.

There is no answer from the Humakti, unless crying counts as an answer. She does not even try to get Followed back under her own control.

He reaches over and pats her on the cold bronze scales of covering her back. “I did not want to hurt you little cousin.”

No answer. Her face is partially hidden behind her hand, as she twists her fingers into her hair, pulling the long, half-wild fringe out from under her cap. Tension runs in her like a cithara’s string, wound up to playing pitch and beyond. Every muscle under his hand is solid.

He lets his hand slide down the smooth scales and drop away. He looks at her and exhorts Followed to resume walking, holding it’s reins but looking at Berra.

A moment after the bison starts moving, she takes a deep breath, and straightens, and gives him a nod, and a shaky smile. “I could do with some water,” she says. The moment has passed, and despair cannot hold on to the Orlanth and Magasta of her personality. Change, as quick in water as it is in air, wipes over her.5And a critical on Water. Change washes over her, and she changes.

He handles over the reins and fumbles his gourd from the saddlepack, offering it to Berra without a word.

She takes a little longer to sort out the reins than she might under other circumstances, and her pallor says she has just had a shock, but she takes the gourd with a steady hand, and drinks, then hands it back by holding it out while looking forward, rather than checking he wants it.

He takes the gourd quietly, looks at it and takes a sip of water.

“You’re right. About the two people on the hill. He had the right to do what he wanted with them, and he killed them. Just because you can do a thing legally, doesn’t make it right. And then they were there for years. I… I let him persuade me it was needed. I thought he must have known things I didn’t, but… I can’t think of a thing you would know to make that alright.” It would be easy to read her face as sulky or resentful, but for the red around her eyes.

He just nods, looking at Berra and then sadly at the road ahead.

“I still have to do it. But I don’t have to like him,” she says. “I just have to not become him.”

“He would not have told people to not help if it hurts…” Scholar looks at her “You are better human then he is. May your fate be such that you may remain so.”

Berra falls silent for a few minutes, and it seems that she will stay that way, but then she pipes up, “I change to be more like the people around me. That’s one of the reasons I try to stay around D’Val.”

He nods, sadly.

Berra either has nothing more to say on that subject, or decides not to say it.
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Xenofos says what he thinks about the Heroquest that Berra proposes