Berra — Sister Pact
1627, Dark Season
Very late Earth or early Dark Season, just before the return to Boldhome. [[[s02:session-55|Session 55]]]
As the afternoon starts to draw in, Varanis finally comes down from the ridge above the river again. She’s been up there for hours. When she reaches the village, she goes in search of Berra and Yehna.
Berra and Yehna are up behind the Ernaldan temple, where Berra is patiently waiting while Yehna sings to the pigs. Although her voice is not a very good one in general, Yehna can do amazing pig impressions. Her oinks are replied to by the pigs, who are arranged in a row, apparently listening.1Yehna, who cannot sing well, criticals Sing.
Berra looks simply amazed.
“That is impressive,” Varanis observes. She’s come to a stop nearby, wrapped tightly in her cloak. Her cheeks and nose look red with cold. Her eyes look watery. Her hair is a wind-blown mess.
Berra is watching the pigs, but nods. “I thought it couldn’t be done. All of them, with one song. I owe Yehna a pig brooch.” She gives Varanis a glance, and then thoughtfully takes off her own cloak to offer it over. Under it she is wearing too little for the weather; Yehna has let out the shoulders on her embroidered tunic, and so Berra is in short sleeves.
Varanis shakes her head. “I’m fine. I just should have taken mine with me on my walk. Or… not meditated in the wind without a cloak.” She laughs weakly. “I am still not good at predicting the weather around here. Yelm was out for a while, but there was no warmth to him.”
“Alright. You’ve got it now.” Berra puts hers back on as Yehna bows to the pigs, turns in delight to her sister, and bows to the Humakti as well.
“Pig brooch,” Berra says, and nods.
“Yehna, I was wondering… have you given much thought to our conversation the other day?” Varanis asks.
Yehna looks to Berra then back to Varanis. “Yes,” she replies. “Is this the place for it?” She looks hopeful, rather than worried.
Berra looks hopeful too, like she’s been waiting for this conversation.
“We could go somewhere warmer,” Varanis suggests. “Where’s the little one?”
“He’s in the big hall,” Yehna replies. “He has friends there. He likes to herd with them.”
Berra says, “Women’s hall, or the redsmith’s if you don’t mind lighting us a fire?”
“I’ll bow to your wisdom in this,” Varanis tells Berra’s sister.
“Women’s hall,” says Yehna, after looking Varanis up and down. “You need to get warm.” She leads them to a hall that does indeed have women, but also a couple of warriors relaxing, and for some unknown reason, a small horse. Yehna just avoids that end of the hall, and sits down by a hearth that has glowing coals. The people grouped around the horse and looking at it pay her little heed, beyond a few greetings.
Berra sits down, folding her cloak under her to soften the hard wood of the stool.
“Um.” Varanis stares in the direction of the horse, not yet taking a seat.
“In to be examined,” Yehna says, and glances that way. “The women tend to be the ones to know the herd better, because they run with them more.” She re-ignites the coals with a few words and a gesture, and puts a few bits of wood over them, to catch fire properly.
“We once had two horses in our house, the one you stayed in,” Berra says. “I remember that. I was small and there were a lot of hooves.”
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen horses in a house before. We had an alynx when I was a child and I had songbirds in my room briefly in Nochet. But horses… hmmm.” At last, Varanis takes a stool and gets herself as close to the hearth as she can without getting into it or cutting off the others.
“Cows are pretty common,” Berra says. “Except here. They keep a house warm.”
There is room around – Berra is sitting back a little, and Yehna is reaching for a ladle and a pot and all the makings of a hot drink.
Varanis sits in silence, soaking up as much heat as she can. She has not unwrapped the cloak.
“Mellia says the she, Venlar, and the children have what they need for the cold seasons,” she says at last.
Yehna fills a single bowl with watered perry and spices, telling Berra the mix to check it. Then she drops in a hot rock from the fire, and waits a moment, scooping the ash off the top as it boils. Then there is a hot drink to hand around. She passes it left to Berra, who takes a sip and passes it to Varanis.
“That’s good,” Yehna says with a touch of relief. Berra manages to squirm but not say something.
Varanis arches a brow at the wriggling Humakti. “What?”
“I was wondering if you were going to invite her to Boldhome,” Berra says. “Or if I should, but that might be rude in front of you.”
Varanis laughs. “Patience! I was getting there.” She sips at the perry and sighs happily at its warmth. “So…” she asks, passing the cup back, “have you thought about it?”
Yehna says, “I would like to, but I would need a friend, and I would have to come back here for Sacred Time. The tree would not mind me going while it sleeps.”
Berra beams, but does not take the cup. She points to Yehna instead.
Passing the cup to Yehna, Varanis gives her a pleased smile. “I was hoping you’d say that. Who do you have in mind? And… will it be safe for you to travel just before Sacred Time?”
“I can always hire a warrior,” Yehna replies, with a glance at Berra. “The roads will be good for most of the way, and then terrible for the last part, but there’s nothing really dangerous about them.”
“I don’t have a house yet, you understand. I plan to talk to Kallyr about where to set myself up once we get back to Boldhome.”
“We can stay in an inn for a bit,” Berra tells her sister. “We’ve got one we usually use…” A wince crosses her face. “I’ll be at the Temple a lot…”
Yehna passes the drink to Berra. “You had mentioned that.”
“But this is part of why you’ll bring a companion,” Varanis points out.
“I know,” Yehna says with a smile. “A cousin of mine.”
Berra sips with an embarrassed air. “This is good,” she mumbles.
“Any cousin of yours and Berra’s is someone I’d be pleased to meet,” Varanis says. There’s a subtle emphasis on the word any.
Berra bristles slightly behind the cup, takes a slightly deeper drink, and passes it on to her left – to Varanis. Yehna’s serenity does not break. She just looks at what she had for putting the drinks together, and a few leftovers, and reaches idly for a mixing bowl. “I suppose I could be useful, if you like my cooking?”
“I do. And I enjoy learning from you. You are a patient teacher. I could learn to be a better Sartarite from you. I was also hoping you could help me understand what is needed to make a household run. I don’t know how to supply a kitchen, for example.” If Varanis noticed the reaction she caused, she masks it well.
As Varanis passes the cup to Yehna, she finally loosens the death grip she has held on her cloak.
Yehna actually blushes. “It’s really kind of you.” She takes the cup, whisking what she is making with one hand, and drinking with the other, before passing it on. “I’m going to do tiny-bit-stew,” she says. “Fry things fast then put them into the flavoured water, but the water’s thickened, so it’s a quick sort of soup. I’ve got mushrooms, and a bit of cattle-beef, and with the perry as well, it’ll taste alright.”
Berra relaxes a little herself, as she takes the cup. “Good.”
Varanis draws in a sharp breath, then grows very still. After a moment, she exhales and looks hopefully at the cup in Berra’s hand.
Berra passes the cup on after a mere sip. “Sup?” she asks Yehna. “You’re not worried about your cooking?” She missed any drama, or did not think to ask about it.
Yehna shakes her head, determined. “No, if it’s good enough for Lenta, it’s good enough for Esrolia.” She puts the pot down, drops another rock into it and skims it, and then reaches for a pan.
Varanis takes another sip, wrapping long fingers around the cup to soak up some of the warmth.
Yehna makes no attempt to reach for the cup. “So, a household needs a kitchen, and tools, and fuel – plenty of things. Cloth is expensive, so you’ll want to make friends with an Ernaldan. If you can have a weaver in the household, she can run things while she works.”
Varanis nods, making mental notes. When Yehna finishes speaking, she offers the cup back. It is running low, but there is still a generous swallow remaining.
Yehna cooks, and talks about houses and their guardians, and drinks from time to time, filling the cup once more, and then getting serious. She fries everything in a paste of spices, and puts it into a thick sauce that smells of a cold day in Esrolia, and serves it in horn bowls with some dried frybread re-cooked and crushed and sprinkled on top. After that, she does not say more, because she is eating.
Varanis digs into the food with obvious enjoyment. When she finishes, her bowl has been quite thoroughly cleaned. “Oh Yehna,” she says blissfully after finishing her meal, “With you cooking for the next couple of seasons, I’m going to end up looking very prosperous!”
Berra sighs. “I’ll have to visit as much as I can,” she says wistfully.
“If your Sword sends you out running with added weight again, we could rig up some way for you to carry Haran on your back,” Varanis suggests helpfully. “He’d enjoy having a auntie-horse, I’m sure.”
“Not dignified,” Berra says. “Or possibly that’s just if it’s Lord D’Val. But anyhow, it’s probably going to be rocks.” She took it seriously.
Berra and Yehna finally work out they both want Yehna to be in Boldhome