1626, Dark Season, Stasis Week
At Jaldonkill, right before the party returns to Boldhome. Post Wedding Daze, Session 2.28.
In the evening, after beer….
Berra had had beer, in her usual moderation, a little way away. She was propped up against Followed, staring into space with a tired, content expression.
“Mind if I join you?” Varanis asks. She’s carrying a bundle that looks a lot like a pile of bronze.
“Please do.” Berra checks beside her, and with a hand sweeps the area for anything she might have left lying around. She is on the other side of Followed from the fire, and has no lamp lit, although there is one hooked on her saddle. It’s a bubble-shaped oil pot with a wick and a filling hole both on the top, designed to be robust and burn a long time. It would be a matter of moments to light it, but she has not.
Varanis hesitates, then asks, “Do you mind lighting your lamp? A little light would make my task easier. If you’d prefer not to, I could go to the fire instead.” There’s a roar of laughter from that direction. The beer has yet to run out.
“If you can… if you want, I can light it at the fire, but I packed my tinder away and I’ve never known how to do it by magic.” Berra unfolds onto her feet and hooks the lamp off the saddle.
“I’ll light it. You stay.” She sets the bundle down carefully. There’s a heavy clunk as she does so and she winces at the noise. Taking the lamp from Berra, she vanishes back towards the fire.
Berra waits patiently, sitting down and unwrapping the bundle to start laying out what might well be armour. She pulls out her cleaning kit, which is at the top of one of the bags.
When Varanis returns with the lamp, she takes in the scene with a look of chagrin. “You don’t have to do that,” she points out.
“Uh?” Berra looks confused. “Do what?”
“My armour. I can do it myself. I just wanted… I needed a bit more quiet.” There’s more laughter from over by the fire.
Setting the lamp between them, the Vingan drops to the ground gracefully. From amongst the pieces of armour, she extracts her own cleaning kit and grabs the largest piece of bronze.
“Swap you. Help me get the mud out of my bison some time.” Berra reaches for a greave. “I’m here. I’m not on watch. I wasn’t doing anything.” The peaceful look is gone and now she seems ready for action again.
A number of expressions flicker across Varanis’ face before she settles for acceptance. “As you will. I appreciate the help. I meant to do it properly at the Paps and didn’t get around to it. But…” There’s a pause as she peers at the cuirass in the lamp light. “I just didn’t get to it,” she says at last.
“Would you prefer to do the old bits?” Berra asks, pausing before she starts. “We could swap.” She has been in bronze since they hit the cooler weather of Sartar, but now she is wearing only padding and greaves, her helmet and vambraces slung on Followed, her scale armour bundled and rolled on top.
“It doesn’t matter. It all needs doing.” There’s a little frown, probably directed at a spot on the metal. “I don’t know why, but I feel like I ought to be wearing it when we get to Boldhome.” She sighs and starts polishing vigorously. “I felt naked without it in Pavis. But now… It’s a lot heavier and a lot louder than the rhino-hide.”
“Scout problem, yeah. I felt really weird in mine at first, but you’ll get used to it. It’s your armour. The other stuff’s for when you’re relaxing.” Berra gets to work with a scoop of damp slurry from a pot of her own, and a bit of rag. “I’ve got some really good polishing paste if you’ve got any bits you want to get bright. It’s for jewellery, so I use it for my sword.”
Varanis considers. “I suppose if I were trying to make a statement, I’d do the greaves and vambraces. But, I don’t know that it’s necessary. I miss my helmet.”
“You could commission a new one. Make it part of the set.” Berra works with the speed of a professional, and the mercy of a Humakti.
Varanis hums. “Perhaps. I probably should. But, I need to make sure my people have what they need first. I’ve been away a long time and I have no idea how the harvest was.”
Berra nods. “I need to see if my… sorry, if our clansfolk are back.” In the darkness, there is a little flurry of worry on Berra’s face, but it began when Varanis mentioned money, not when the Humakti spoke of her clan. She just got reminded.1Varanis passes insight.
“Uhh?” Berra looks up, and then thinks for a brief moment. “Oh. Trying to work out who’s got all my money and where. I can tithe but I have the year’s debts and I’ll need to send to the Clan for that, probably. Depends a bit on what my Temple thinks my services was worth this year.” More worry, maybe of a different sort, over just as quickly.
Varanis looks thoughtful. “I’ve tithed a little here and there, but I need to look at my tallies to determine how much more I owe. I… I think I’ll pay it to the temple in Boldhome. I don’t know how the Storm Voice in Nochet will feel about that, but I’ve been in Sartar almost as much as Esrolia this year.”
“If it’s your main Temple, you should pay it here. A bit depends on whether you earned it here or there, though.” Berra’s voice is steady as she talks about something she is confident about. “Where did the Air support you most?”
Varanis frowns thoughtfully, eyes focused on the armour in her hands. “It feels like we’ve been everywhere,” she says at last. “And Vinga and Orlanth have been riding me hard all year.”
“If you tithe in…. um, the same amount of coin for the same thing you earned. In different places. Then that’s fine. Your Esrolian hides can have theirs go to Esrolia.” Berra does not know the word ‘proportion’.
Varanis shrugs. “I’ll think on it.” Turning the conversation back to Berra, she says, “You have mentioned before that there are times when guarding me might count towards your temple service. If need be, I can vouch for your service at your temple.
“Thanks. I think … Dark Season almost certainly. Um, although I might have to explain about the Battalion. Bunch of bastards.” Berra puts down the greave, which is cleaner both outside and in, and reaches for the next bit, sorting through until she finds a vambrace.
“Just let me know what you need and I will do it.” As she bends over her work and starts to runs vigorously at a stubborn spot on the cuirass, the Vingan’s shaggy red hair falls like a curtain, obscuring her features. Here in the lamplight, dressed in Praxian hides, she looks very different from the Esrolian noblewoman Berra first met. For one thing, the only jewellery she’s wearing is Kallyr’s armring.
Berra pauses for a moment, looking at Varanis, and then grins. She says nothing for a moment, but gets on with her work. After some minutes she pipes up, “If my land doesn’t do well, and the elders are not back from Esrolia yet, I might need help borrowing money to pay the year’s debts. I’d rather not sell anything.”
“I’m sure either Xenofos or I can assist you. I need to find out how the harvest was and make sure that all my people have what they need. I will not have anyone going hungry on my lands.”
“Yeah. Same here. But I don’t think it would be kind to let Xenofos know I have a problem, if I do. He’d want to help.” Berra leaves a lot of things unsaid.
Lifting her head up to better see the Humakti, Varanis asks, “And would it be so bad to accept his help? It might give him something else to think about, instead of that damned dragon.”
“I shouldn’t, because he …” Berra shrugs, awkwardly. “I shouldn’t ask other people to make my life easier. Not like that.” Maybe she is not even convincing herself.
“Ask him for advice, not for Lunars. Advice he can give and the problem would give his mind something else to gnaw at for a time.”
“I dunno if I need it yet,” Berra says, and then she looks at Varanis, prideful. “If I need him, I’ll let him know.”
Varanis nods and turns back to her work.
“Venlar says the harvests haven’t been good, but he doesn’t know enough about the details. He wasn’t really paying attention.” Despite herself, Berra smiles fondly at that.
Holding the cuirass so that it catches the light, Varanis examines her work. She grunts wordlessly, and then gets back to polishing, moving onto a fresh part of the breastplate.
- 1Varanis passes insight.