Berra — Running Amok
????, Sea Season
1626, Sea Season, Wilmskirk. Xenofos and Berra have had a talk about her unexpected love letter, and then they talk about Varanis, and then they run. [[[s01:session-30|Session 30]]]
Mild spoilers for Varanis.
“Consideration from you? Well done, but not quite what I expected… Do you wish company or solitude – level of humor at the inn was not too sophisticated.”
Berra snorts. “I give it a lot. I … just don’t always shout out when I am. I was planning to run there, but I can walk if you like. Our rolls will be safe there, and the night’s warm.”
“Apologies – I was unnecessarily rude. Do you think Varanis and Mellia will be safe?”
“Entirely. And don’t worry. I know my reputation. It… I’m like the River myself. I flood suddenly, then I forgive. People remember the floods, even when I’m calm. But yes, they will be safe … But to be sure?” Berra mutters a spell, snorts, and tries it again. “Out of sorts. But nobody here wants to harm me, even the drunkards in there. Time to give them peace, I think. Varanis is going to have to have people hanging around her in Boldhome, and this might be the last chance for a while that she’s herself, by herself – or nearly so.” Berra walks backwards, completely footsure, even managing to avoid the major potholes in the floor of the mud-made courtyard, so that she can talk more easily with Xenofos.
“Well I am not worried of your enemies Berra, but those Varanis herself might have. Mellia not so much…” wry laughter.
Berra snorts a brief laugh. “I think a Humakti in the company of a Noble would usually be called in Names of Honour later, so I’d assume anyone trying for her would be including me. Not for certain, but I’m out here, and I haven’t seen any suspicious movement, and I’ve been looking around.”
“… and you are Humakti so if you say so, you believe it to be true.” Xenofos pauses momentarily. “I guess I cannot keep her under my eyes all the time anyway.”
“I’ll be asking at the Temple of Humakt about specific things I can do, or we can do, but I think she’s getting everything right already, as far as I can see.” Berra turns down the largest road in the town – a street which has wooden planks on some of the muddiest bits, to stop them from being totally impassable. “And we don’t get to choose the time and place it may happen. Just how prepared we are.”
Long pause. “If the day comes, may it not, I hope she will have you on her side.” A shrug. “Speaking of prepared I’ll get rest of my kit. I gather you spoke of roughing it.”
“I’ll be in the common room – but the messenger who brought the note probably set off back, to avoid having to answer questions. I was just going to see if she had really gone. If that’s what you mean by roughing it. If you mean the common room is, I’m afraid I can’t help you.” It might be a wry dig at Nochet concepts of comfort.
“You spoke of warm night so I thought you would avoid the inn totally. But in that case we can go right away.”
“Tempting, but I’ll not let them drive me away.”
Berra walks in silence for only a moment longer, and then says, “If the day comes, may it not… make sure she doesn’t try to protect me. My protection is having her safe, so I know I can leave.”
“She is quick both in mind and body so that might be hard. You may need to knock her down to be sure.” Xenofos grins.
“I’ll be busy.” Berra smiles very slowly. “But hopefully not for long.” That last bit’s more boast than hope. She seems to fancy her chances in a crowd.
“I did not think I would have time to hold her hand either.” Again a grin comes. “Starting to sound like great heroes of comedy, I am afraid. “
“Are we? Is there going to be a trumpet off-stage and a cheer from the crowd that knows the punchline?” Berra has watched Esrolian plays, then.
“Lunar signal horns or bagpipes maybe, wish I knew which. Or maybe not.” Xenofos seems to be lost in thoughts and is maybe speaking too much.
“Nobody here really wants her dead yet, which is good.” That’s the Humakti bright side for you, and Berra seems to believe it. “But people like Onjur are likely to use every asset they can. Thinking of him as a plan-layer, I have to hope there are not many like him, although I don’t really believe that. He’d use anyone nearby, or himself if he had to. He’ll have people in the big cities. He’ll know about her soon if he doesn’t already. I just want to give her one last night before the walls close in on her.”
There is a glance sidewards at Berra’s words. A flicker of doubt maybe. “True, she is going to have get used to lot of change in very short time. From a brilliant scion of noble house, yet a follower, to a true leader. I don’t envy her at all.”
Berra shrugs. “See how Humakti get when they show people favour? If I’m wrong, she’s in danger tonight. But I can’t bring myself to. And then, I do know the room she’s sleeping in. The windows at the back are tiny, to keep the place warm, and if there are assassin Wind Lords about, we’re probably going to die anyway.”
“So maybe we should run the rest of the way? And be back in time for glorious battle of the common room. “Xenofos breaks into steady jog. “Which direction?”
“This way, but not far. Race you up the palisade, if she’s not inside the gate? Maybe she’s outside.” Berra breaks into a jog herself, and she surges forward. “Unless you want to be steady when you return.”
Xenofos’ long legs keep a steady killing rhytm and he seems to be able to avoid major potholes.
Berra’s running style is impressively smooth, and deceptively fast. Her stride length increases and her shoulders stay steady, and it would be wonderful for any athletics coach to watch. “Straight ahead,”she calls. “Stairs are on my side, but you can take a jump I think!”
Xenofos leaps up a step and continues without as much as breaking the rhythm.
There is nobody on the inside of the gate as Berra reaches the stairs just before Xenofos and then has him jump onto them level with her, and if he is a touch ahead when they get to the top it might just because she is slowing down so as not to slam into the wood to hard, and to say to the surprised guard, “No problem. Just racing. Do you have anyone camped outside?” There is a stare and a mute shake of the head, and Xenofos finds Berra gesturing him towards the stairs first for the longer race back.
“So where to look next? “
“We could see if she’s at the other place – there is another inn here – but I was just worried about her being out in the wilderness when she could be inside the pail. So back to the common room, and I’ll try not to punch anyone.”
So walking back turns to jogging, jogging turns to sprinting, for Xenofos…
On the way down, Berra politely does not crowd Xenofos, although she comes off the fourth step sideways which puts her to his right. Then she pours on the speed, her small build hardly working against her, and her muscles giving her the chance to get up to speed. She leaves him behind, disappearing into the darkness. Surely that’s too fast to keep up?
But steps sloshing steps in the street sound closer and closer. And Xenofos pulls to side of sprinting Humakti.
By then, they are nearly back. Xenofos finds out that Berra does not have his sprint finish by halfway across the courtyard, and Berra slams into the wall beside the door rather than slowing down to find safe footing. Whether or not Xenofos pipped her to it is going to depend on whether he is prepared to hit the wall hard and win, or hit the wall softly and draw, or pull up after a good match. Berra chose hard, and bounced off.
The option of hitting the door is also there. It will be louder, but might be a softer landing…
Xenofos slows by the bit of wall where he left the tankard and congratulates his opponent.
Berra heaves for breath, and waves a hand, as she is currently choosing not to use air for talking.
Exercise seems to have done good for the melancholy mood of Xenofos.
It takes a little while for Berra to be able to inhale hard enough to say, “Well run.”