Berra — One Sword Two Swords Old Swords New Swords
????, Fire Season
Early fire season. The group is about to split to go find other members of the group. [[[s01:session-34|Session 34]]]
Time passes too quickly and plans get folded up and put away for later. Berra should have paid for her sword a week ago, but there was the Temple, and Varanis, and then the decision to follow the Divination of Tennebris, and now the Humakti appears, a leather pouch added to her swordbelt and a penitent look on her features. “Finarvi. Hello.” She looks ready to grab and run, but has managed to stick to politeness.
Finarvi gives Berra a welcoming smile. “Berra, hello.” He puts down the knife sheath he was working on and glances around his chaotic work tent. “Sit, if you wish. Do you drink tea?” He gestures at a small pot with what looks like a handful of small, well-steeped twigs in it.
“Probably. I’ve never tried it.” Berra drops fluidly into a kneeling position on the floor, and bows to the tent and Finarvi. “Thank you, my host. Your desire is my wish.” Then, wincing slightly at the breach of protocol, she adds, “I have no cup, though.”
Finarvi hunts about, finds a cup, carefully decants boiled water minus twigs, and hands it to Berra. “I’m afraid I have no food to offer you. I think Serala’s gone out to fetch supplies.” He seems uncertain on that point.
Berra takes a moment to open a pouch that is well tied up. “I have journey food,” she says, and pulls out a handful of salted something, with crushed nuts held to it by the drying process. “Do you have any geas against the meat of mules?”
“Not at all.” He settles on the floor across from her. “The blade you asked for is finished. I’ve made hilt scales based on the measurements I took from Wind Tooth, it will be a simple task to adapt them to your hand.”
Berra offers over half of the handful. “I should be in my way soon. I don’t know how long, but hours. If that is too fast I can stay a little longer and then catch Billy on foot. He’s going to go downhill very slowly, or else he’ll end up going downhill really fast, and that would upset Rajar.”
Finarvi accepts the offered food with a sign of thanks. “Oh, it won’t take that long at all. Are you and Rajar leaving today, then?”
“And D’Val. He isn’t going to be able to go with the Regiment if he needs to go to Greydog as well, so we might as well had another warrior out in Prax. It means I get to walk a lot.” Berra sips at the tea drink, and considers it thoughtfully.
Finarvi watches her with veiled humour. “The bark is to take away the taste of the water, but you may need something to take away the taste of the bark.”
“I’ve had fermented rhino’s milk. I have yet to find a thing worse than smiling through that,” Berra replies. “And this is… bitter, and strange, and could maybe do with some honey, but I think everything needs honey. Even honey could do with more honey.” Her eyes travel over the work tent, settling on things that might be swords, then moving on to other things that might be swords.
“I’ve not experienced the delicacies of Prax.” Finarvi seems cheered by the prospect of heading South instead. He twists, reaching under a batch of folded leather and a discarded work apron and bringing out a long, cloth-wrapped bundle which he offers to Berra.
“The Gods were watching when I made this,” he says, a little shyly.
He seems quietly pleased.
Berra nods her head to the bundle and then to Wind Tooth before she unwraps the sword. She does it with the care of a professional warrior, and the respect of the daughter of a redsmith. And, of course, the judgement of a customer prepared to be sure they have value for money.
Finarvi is very still, watching. Hardly daring to breathe. More so even than armour, he knows lives will hang on the quality of what he has wrought.
Berra takes up the sword in her left hand, examining the curve and testing the heft. “Can I step out for a moment?” she asks.
Finarvi gets to his feet and gestures to the doorway. “Please do.”
Berra steps out, muttering a spell as she does. From being merely athletic and notably light on her feet, she becomes something more. Her whole stance moves towards balance, as if to mock anyone who thought she should merely look human today. The swing of her hips and her shoulders are suddenly a challenge to passing acrobats. Then, as she takes up a stance to try out the sword, she murmurs another, and this time becomes no more graceful, but somehow rather more… pointed. The edge of her new blade glistens impossibly in the light of Yelm, and she begins to move through sword forms, slowly at first, sometimes stopping to check what she might do right-handed before she repeats it on the left. She does not look like she is fluid with it yet, by any means, but she does look like she would happily kill to get there.1Co-ordination and Bladesharp. Berra is a happy little killing machine.
Finarvi watches Berra with a slightly wistful expression. “It has been a long time since I witnessed a blade dancer. “
“Ueh,” says Berra after a moment. “You’re not watching one now. But it’s a good sword.” She comes to a halt, draws Wind Tooth, and begins a different exercise. The difference between left hand and right is clear, although most would say she is good with either. However, as her magic slows she casts it once more, this time concentrating on her sword hand – the right – and letting the left just balance her. Nobody should be that fast without their God helping them. Nobody has the right to be. She seems to outflank the air as she cuts it, and her strength gives way entirely to fluid, graceful, winding movements that let her dominate an area by being close to it. She draws to a halt looking drained, a sword in each hand, with sweat springing out on her face. For a poised moment she is incarnate threat, and then she is smiling a wonky, disjointed, happy smile. She holds up both weapons together, looking along them. “It’ll do. It’s a good sword.”
Finarvi beams in delight. It’s high praise indeed to him.
Berra sheathes Wind Tooth with a touch of regret, and looks over the new sword once more. “Scabbard,” she says. “And I need to work out where the buckles go.”
Finarvi retrieves the sheath he made for the new sword. The leather is dyed a rich russet and tooled with the runes of Earth and Movement, Sureness and Protection. A bronze ring has been fitted to one edge, towards the mouth of the sheath, offering a point of attachment. He presents the scabbard to Berra.
Berra looks at it and grins. “A bit brighter than I’m used to,” she admits. “But beautiful. I can put extra buckles on myself.” She takes the sheath and puts it to its intended use, then unfastens her sword belt to slip it on.
The rest of Berra’s armour, on inspection, is a dark brown leather, not much decorated, but rather scarred. The new scabbard stands out as obviously expensive, and far more beautiful than the rest.
“I can always darken it, if you wish,” offers Finarvi.
Berra looks down at it. “Right now, it could swing into the way,” she says. “I think it’s different on horseback.” She comes over to show the sturdy if rather clumsy attachment of Wind Tooth, with ties and buckles. “This keeps the scabbard at the balance point, unless I draw, and if I do, then there’s less weight for it to carry. I … well, I like the new sword a lot more than I realised, but I probably won’t be using it much. Only I like it. But it was really for times I could not have a shield.” Her right hand is back, forearm nestled protectively against the new hilt.
“I used to know a warrior who fought with two swords. He was infantry too. Said his sword was his shield.” Finarvi shakes his head, but he’s smiling ruefully at the memory. “I think I can make something that will hold the scabbard steady without impeding your draw. If it works, and you like it, I can make one for Wind Tooth’s scabbard as well.”
Berra draws Wind Tooth. “Like that? You just use your thumb to push back a bit. Here, let me…” Back the sword goes into its leather home, and she unbuckles her sword belt. It has her water bottle on as well, and she hands it over. It is far wider and stiffer than most people would use, with short stubs of leather leading to several buckles, and a few tied-off bits of thonging. “I’m a forward scout. I need to carry everything I need, and not make noise. WInd Tooth creaks against my breastplate a bit, which is a problem, but like this everything is balanced. If I’m going to be going fast, I can use the same belt to put her on my back, but that’s not so comfortable. I prefer having a dedicated harness for that.” She has overly-complicated some of the fastenings, but the basic solution – a set of buckles that can let her take things off and put them on again – is a good one. She’s just bad at sewing leather.
Finarvi inspects the arrangement with a crafter’s critical eye. “Ah yes, I see.” He hands it back to Berra. “With some small adjustments that should work. Yes. I can probably reduce the creaking too.” He gestures to his work tent. “I can work on it now and have it ready before you leave.”
Berra looks towards the gate. “I didn’t finish my tea,” she says. “I’ll keep you company a while.” And, as she now has her hands free, she pulls a pouch off the belt before Finarvi can get it away from her. “Money.”
“Money’s good,” Finarvi grins. “Money buys bronze. But wait until you are happy with everything I make for you, first. Not including the tea.” He shrugs. “Cooking is not one of my talents.”
“I can cook in big pots,” says Berra. “Family sizes of meals are the same, just smaller. Which is why my sister delivered food to me every day I was in the Tula.” She keeps hold of the pouch by biting on it’s closing thong. “I woulg prefer gko pay oo gnow.”
“As you wish. And if I remember, your sister’s a fine cook, cousin. It says nothing about someone’s skill that they would rather eat her food.”
“Oh, don’t worry. I know myself. I was practicing with a spear while she was looking after our kin, much of the time. Esrolia was… pretty bad sometimes. We lived there while there was the fighting that threw out the Lunars. Most of the time we were lucky. We never got burned out, but the village was raided a bit. She’s got a much more even temper than I have, although she doesn’t forgive very well.”
Finarvi settles down with his leatherworking tools as she talks and gets to work on the new sword harness. “I would love to hear more stories of your home, Berra.”
“Oooh. Well, I left the Tula when I was pretty young,” she replies. “But I can remember some of the stories they used to tell us. What sort of thing do you want to know?”
Finarvi thinks for a moment. “What was your favourite story when you were little?”
“How the Tula was Found,” says Berra without hesitation. “I know that one pretty well.”
“I would very much like to hear it.”
“Alright.” Berra reaches forward for her drink, now cool enough to hold without wincing. “We were not one of the original clans. Far from it. The Blue Tree Clan were called the Chani Family, and they numbered about two hundred. They were a big family from the Holy Country, and they fled for reasons that were never explained to me as a child.”
Hands around the cup, Berra stares into its well for a moment, and then looks at Finarvi. Almost conversationally she begins. “Tolor Chani was a proud man, and when he came to the first clan along the way, the fights-for-gold clan, he demanded to be allowed across their lands. They turned him aside, telling him to beg, or starve. So he led the people around, and they went hungry. At the second clan limit, he asked to be let across, and the Slope Cave People told him to pay or starve, so he led his people around, and they became weak. At the third clan markers, he fell on his knees before the oldest of the men he could see, and begged the clan to save his children and his women. They were the Enjosi, the salmon people, and they fed those he had named, and took wives and husbands of the unmarried, but said we could not stay. So Tolor Chani led his family on, smaller but with food in their bellies. And he came to Dangerford, having been pushed from place to place, and it was still better than staying in the Holy Country.”
“At Dangerford, the river was in high flood, and there was no path forwards. There was not a ford there then, and it was called Danger-river. The Chani family despaired, but the son of Tolor, Tirrul the Handsome, told his father he would go to the East, and see what was there, and Tolor’s brother Hamgran went to the West, and the people stayed by the river. Hamgran never came back, and we never heard of his death, but Tirrul walked for three days, until he found a thing of wonder.” Berra sips at the tea, and then takes a long slug of it, and leans forward to fill it up once more.
“In those days there was no path and Tirrul was forced to use the river bank to guide him. Jenath Minar was in a kind mood, or sleeping, and so Tirrul walked unharmed, until at the end of the third day he reached a strange battlefield. Men lay dead without damage to their armour, their weapons beside them. At the edge of the field was a bank made of tree roots, some damaged, some whole, but they made the river bank impassible. Tirrul resolved to sleep there for the night. Before he did, he asked permission of the tree, and shared what he had, leaving a little dried food on a root, and a drop of his blood because he had no wine. In the morning, he woke on top of the bank of roots, and he walked on.”
“After another day, he saw the Blue Tree, and approached it, knowing which roots must be there, and he bowed before it, and saw that one of its fruits was red. He took that and ate it, and thanked the tree with food and another drop of blood, and overnight he dreamed, and that dream is a clan secret, but when you are initiated you see some of it. I won’t tell you the rest outside the Clanlands, but when he work there was another red fruit, and this he took to his father. But because it was made of his blood, Tolor refused to eat it, and stood down as the head of the family, so he would not be harming a thing made by his son. So Tirrul led the family to the Blue Tree Tula, and there they settled, and there they stay.”
Berra sips at her now-hot drink, thoughtully.
Finarvi nods approval at a tale well-told. “Thank you, cousin. I don’t know where the road will take us from here, but I hope to see the Tula again.” His hands have been busy with leather and needle, and now he holds up the finished belt. “Here.”
Berra takes the belt and looks it over. “Should hold,” she admits. The money bag, balanced on her knee, gets lifted up and offered over. “The Tula will do better if we protect it by being outside the walls. I miss it, though.”
Finarvi accepts the payment without checking. “Fight well, cousin.”
Berra’s smile is wide. “While ever I can. Travel well, make peace.” She stands up, putting the cup neatly where it will not fall, by the steeping pot.