Berra — Varanis And The Box 02
????, Sea Season
A night talk about recent events. [[[s01:session-25|Session 25]]]
Berra has a warm wool cloak which she sleeps rolled up in, her scabbard clutched in her left hand. Even in a village where they are guests, she stays in her padding, although this might be because of the cold. The smile on her features was the same as when she did not get angry – apparently tonight her dreams were good. Still, as a Humakti she offered to stand guard, and so here she is, out in the dark, with the effect fading from her. The fyrd seems to be honoured by her standing there. Her cloak is on, her armour is strapped in place, and her sword girded to her. The happy smile has been folded away. Berra is a grim warrior, standing in the chill of early Sea Season.
Varanis steps briskly to Berra’s side. She is also wrapped in a cloak, though the wool is beautifully woven. It’s a rich blue colour and embroidered with air, movement, and water runes. The clink of her armour is muffled by the wool, though her greaves are visible beneath the hem. Her hair has been mostly tidied, but it’s not yet completely clean and there are still some bedraggled braids and dried mud. She stands silently beside Berra.
Berra grunts a greeting, and looks around only a few moments later, after taking a long look at the darkness outside the palisade. When she sees who it is, she lifts her chin in a nod of welcome. The dark cloak that covers her is three quarter length, but seems to have been folded double over the shoulders. It is obviously her sleeping blanket too, although her hide cover and her packed panniers are back where she was resting.
The nod, which had no rancour in it as far as eyes could make out in the darkness, is the only greeting Berra gives, and she goes back to looking over the landscape.
Varanis lets the silence stretch for a time. Finally, she sighs. “How do I fix things with the unicorn princess?”
Berra snorts, a tiny sound in the darkness. “Hello,” she says, and reaches a hand for Varanis’ shoulder. There is a flash of a smile, although she is still looking outward most of the way. Duty is duty, apparently.
Varanis is also staring into the darkness. She half smiles in response to Berra’s expression, though it is rueful. She offers a snack to Berra – some fresh fruit that she has procured from somewhere. Varanis munches on her own piece, stares at fingers made sticky with the fruit juice, then shrugs and licks them clean.
“Oh, thank you.” Berra takes whatever it is, and examines it only briefly in the darkness. “You need to ask her, really. But first you need to wash the words from your mind. You’re coming to a place now where all of your Esrolian learning will hurt. You’re nobility, but… you’re also abroad. They do things differently here. You said some things about her that, if you keep on believing – if they were true to you – were unfair. The basis of honour is Truth, after all. You’re doing the right thing by making right – but doing so from within will help you both.” And then she scrunches down on her fruit.
Berra is an infanteer, or a peasant, or one of those sorts that eats quickly. The food disappears impressively fast.
“Irillo challenged me about her too.” Varanis sounds pensive. “He said she was a shaman. She doesn’t seem much like a shaman… She’s just so… uncouth.” Her voice takes on a tone of disbelief. “Dormal was telling me that he had to explain courtesy to her. And she doesn’t seem to understand money.” Varanis shakes her head.
Berra sounds nonplussed, although she gets more confident as she goes on. “And? She’s never been in a city before. And you’re going to a place where Nochet isn’t. Money is only useful if you have things to trade – imagine, just for a moment, not growing up in the clan. In fact, imagine being just you. On your own. As far as you can see from the top of any hill you find – nobody else. How are you going to spend that money? What good does knowing how deeply to bow do? Will politeness save you from the next drought?”
It sounds a little like the Humakti is guessing, but also like she really thinks this is important.
“I can manage a farm, if I need to. I wasn’t always in the city, you know, and I have hides of land and people who depend on the success of the lands for their livelihood.” Varanis’ expression is defensive at first, but slowly shifts as she talks, becoming almost nostalgic. “I used to help in the food gardens attached to the villa, when I was wee. I fed the chickens and ducks, and I collected their eggs. I hunted for mushrooms in the woods along the property with Cook.” She smiles and there’s a wistfulness in her voice, though it’s short-lived. “There’s more to me than sword-fighting and manners.” She sounds defensive again.
“I know. And you can thrive in Nochet, where she is lost. You have great skill. You have talent. It has been raised in Esrolia. There, you are valued as you have been made, but she is not. In Prax, the heat can kill you in half a day. Neither of us could survive there. I’m not saying your learning is without value. I’m saying you don’t see her learning. You haven’t been to her land, to see how she lives. To make things right with her, you need to value her as a person, I think. Know that you both do things the other cannot. To her people, you’re… you and I are… people who need help in the desert. There, she is valued as she has been made. In Nochet, it’s like she’s a plough at sea.”
Berra pronounces Nochet the way low-educated Heortlings do. No finesse at all.
Varanis thinks about this.
Berra stares out into the darkness. She seems troubled, and after a bit she walks away. Then she walks back. She patrols a section of wall for a bit, and comes to settle into her place once more, leaning on the palisade.
Varanis turns to look at Berra, as Berra stands beside her. “The Praxian warriors… I think I understand them, at least as much as any Esrolian can.” Varanis’ voice is pensive still. “But Nala isn’t a warrior. I don’t really understand what she is.” A brief pause. “She seems like a beautiful, but savage child, sometimes.”
Berra looks like she has a few things to say, but at first none of them make it out. Finally, she decides on, “I’m Humakti.” It’s quiet, almost to the air. “Humakt cut himself from his kin, so he could be free of them, so he alone would bear the burden of Death. They do not have to bear it, but he cannot sit among the Storm Tribe as a brother, and he will not show them preference. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if a different tribe took him in. But … I always get to be the outsider. People step aside when I walk. But I don’t need to understand them to try to treat them all the same. I’ve been told, and it’s true, that the way to behave to one with no honour is as one with honour. I think the same is true of courtesy. Nala is lost. She’s looking for something and I don’t know entirely what. But she’s brave, and while I can’t get near her core, I don’t need to to be able to treat her with what courtesy I learned in my clan. And when I called Grandmother Saiciae ‘madam’ nobody complained, because I’m a Humakti, and I don’t join families.” Still staring straight ahead, she has hardly a note of yearning in her voice at all. Hardly any.
“You have a certain amount of wisdom about people, for someone who separates herself so completely from them.” Varanis’ voice is gentle and her touch on Berra’s shoulder is even more so.
Berra does not flinch away. “I had a good teacher. She died on the wall in the Siege. But I was part of the Battalion by then, and… well, I get this wrong a lot. It’s easy when it’s dark and nobody is offending me and nobody is in danger, and there isn’t anything to jump at. When you see me lose my temper, remember I said that. I don’t lose it for long but it goes really badly. I’m not separate from people. I don’t know…” She stops, and shrugs. “I’ll get there.”
“A lot of good people died in the Siege.” There’s an ache in those words. “And yes… it’s easy to be reflective whilst staring into the quiet of the night. Much harder to do so when the hands of the gods are upon us, or when the enemy is in our sight.” She heaves a sigh. “I will consider your words about Nala carefully.”
“Mhm.” Berra make very little sound, but it seems to be agreement. She shifts her weight on the wall. “Long watch. Cold. It helps if you walk up and down.”