Sparring On The Road

Berra — Sparring On The Road

1627, Sea Season, Disorder Week


Context

Sea Season, Disorder Week, Water Day. Berra and Varanis have barely spoken since events up at the Flame, but this can happen over the course of a day anyhow. [[[s02:session-30|Session 30]]]

CONTAINS SPOILERS

Events

The first day of travel has been a short one, after all the packing, and thus no decision has yet had to be made on where they are going. Berra has appointed watches as normal – two people on at all times – and is now practicing drawing her sword.

Varanis watches from a vantage point near the animals. She has a subdued air to her.

Berra is going over the same motions again and again, trying to draw the long, straight sword with grace and then get Wind Tooth into her left hand in good time. It is not going well – Berra’s left hand is needed for the scabbard for the first draw.

“For someone with a considerable affinity for Movement and Water, you demonstrate impressive stubbornness at times.” The words are carefully neutral.

“Mm?” Berra looks to Varanis. “Yeah. It’s important to rebel against the self as well.” She arches up her shoulders, and rolls them out in her familiar way.

“I’ve been thinking…” Varanis stares at the ground for a long time before meeting Berra’s eyes. “This morning… I came very close to putting your back against a geas. For what it’s worth, I see that now and I’m sorry. Regardless of any of the rest of it, I shouldn’t have done that to you.”

Berra considers, and then shrugs. “It wouldn’t have been dishonourable to hit you, then. Although I’d have had to make it official.” She rests her left hand on her longer sword. “To be honest, I was in full flood myself. I didn’t really notice it. But I get what you mean. Thank you.”

“Are you still pissed at me?”1Varanis fails Insight (Human)

Berra sighs slightly. “Not really. Not like you think. But worried. You said… you said you were still going to…” she glances around. “You were speaking words in anger and Air. Are you committed to marriage? By promise? Or just promise if the Prince agrees?”

The Vingan stares into the sky above Berra’s head. “When Serala asked me, I told her I wanted to say yes. Hell, I think I may have said yes. But, I also told her that it is dependent on the Prince. If Kallyr says no, then that is the answer. I will not undermine her.”2Berra also fails Insight (Human)

“And you didn’t promise to marry nobody else?” Berra checks.

Varanis stares at Berra. “You do remember I’m a noblewoman from Nochet, right? I knew at a very young age that marriage is a political game. While I may not allow my grandmother a say in my life anymore, that doesn’t mean I don’t understand the politics of dynastic marriage.”

She sighs. “I made no promises I couldn’t keep.”

“Alright. Sorry. But… yeah. Do you want to grab some wasters? I need to get used to this.” Berra gestures down at her sword. “Unless there’s … I mean, if you want to say anything more?”

“I could use the training. I haven’t given the broadsword practice enough attention lately. Are they with your bison?” Seemingly happy to drop the subject, Varanis is already moving towards the animals and the gear stored with them.

“Yeah. I need a stupidly long one.” Berra sighs, and walks with Varanis rather than shouting, although she lets the Vingan do the work. “It’s a great honour and all, but I wish that someone a lot shorter had done the honour to me. Cos it’s really inconvenient.”

Varanis snorts.

“It’s a bit like a great sword for you…. I don’t suppose both of your hands fit on the hilt?”

“I was wondering if he was trying to teach me that, but I think he just thinks I’ll handle it. And no, not really.” Berra looks glum. “And I’m not that good with a greatsword either.”

“Like that would stop you, if you were determined. You’ve practiced with a greatsword before. But the hilt is an issue. Too bad there wasn’t enough time to see if Finarvi could have helped.” Spotting the wasters, Varanis selects one for herself. She glances back at Berra. “Did you find one the right length? I don’t… oh wait. This one?” She withdraws a longer waster from the bundle.

“I suppose you want a Wind Tooth-sized one too. Here,” she tosses the first one in Berra’s general direction so she can choose another.

“Yeah, I got a few.” Berra grabs the first one out of the air. “I don’t know that I can get it changed. He didn’t just … well, it’s a special sword right now. The gift of Humakt’s on it, so I don’t think I should take it apart. It would be very awkward to have the gift without a sword to attach it to.”

“Right. Here. Wood Tooth. Just like Wind Tooth, only different.” Varanis shifts over to her own kit. “If you have two swords, I definitely want my shield.” She’s all business now and if there’s any remaining emotional turmoil, she’s buried it deeply enough to get on with things.

Berra takes a shorter sword as well, and swishes both through the air. “Right. Yes. You’re gonna need it.”

It’s not long before the Vingan is tooled up and ready to go. She’s slid her helmet into place, and is armed with a wooden waster and her shield. “You set the pace.”

Berra nods, and sets off into a steady set of attacks, almost ritualised, always indicating what she is about to do with a glance.3In general competence, Varanis gets a special and Berra gets a pass.

Varanis follows the signals readily enough. She’s remembered to hold the sword like a broadsword, and is smoothly getting it into the places it needs to be.

Berra takes a little time getting used to what she is doing, and then says, “Right. Just pull the blows a bit. “Untill protective magic runs out.” And she murmurs a spell, calling on her spirit.4Berra casts Protection on herself, partly to make sparring easier, and partly to give a timing.

Varanis nods and when the next blow comes, it comes without power.

“A bit,” Berra says, and then she pours on the aggression, going from being a friendly little warrior to … not.

As they exchange a series of blows, it quickly becomes obvious that Varanis is missing something. She seems to switch her attention from sword to shield and back again, but can’t focus on both at once.5Varanis passed 2 Shield of 2, and is competent with the sword but not doing massively well. Berra had 4 passes, 2 for attack and 2 for defense.

Berra’s wildly moving style is ill suited to the long blade, but she solves it by moving back a little, and then playing with distance, always using the extra length to deceive, letting it confuse her opponent as much as it frustrates her.

Varanis battles with frustration. The extra range shouldn’t make that much of a difference. It puts Berra at about the same distance Xenofos would be. And yet, she can’t get through the Humakti’s guard to score a touch.

Berra stops after a few minutes, and salutes. She has only managed a couple of light scrapes down a vambrace, and there is nothing that would have crippled, or even drawn blood, but she seems very thoughtful, and distant, as if thinking through everything that has just happened.

Nostrils flaring, the Vingan returns the salute, then steps away. She’s not walking away, so much as giving them both space. Her breath is coming in short bursts and she slows it with visible effort.

“I think I can get this,” Berra says slowly. “You? Anything you want to work on?”

“I don’t have the same problem with my rapier as I do with this.” She glares at the offending waster. “It’s like I have to choose between the sword or the shield. Why?”

“You’re having to concentrate on one,” Berra says. “Your balance isn’t what your arms are expecting, so you have to think. Thinking means you’re doing it differently. Um. I mean, that you slow down to work out what to do differently. You can feel the difference but you’re still newer at this. More because you haven’t practiced.”

“Then let’s do it again.” She squares off against the Humakti, sword held at the ready.6Berra: Pass sword, fail parry-hand. Critical sword. Fail parry hand. Obviously Berra’s trying too hard. Varanis: Pass sword, fumble shield. Play goes to that point, then she rolls again and fails both attack and parry.

Berra steps in again, muttering that same spell, with the same ferocious speed as before.

The Vingan launches an immediate counterattack. She’s trying to get inside Berra’s range, where the longer sword is more likely to become a hindrance.

Berra lets that happen, and the Wind Tooth waster comes up and hooks and fails to engage her opponent’s sword completely, leaving her left arm exposed. However, her right hand has flipped and with the wrist upward she slices down towards the thigh, trying to take out a major artery.

When it connects, Varanis probably wishes she had used defensive magics too. Her shield is so far out of position that she might as well have left it with Zukko. For added excitement, Berra’s sword manages to bypass any armour, connecting cleanly with the inside of Varanis’ thigh with an audibly meaty thunk.

“Ow!” Varanis dances back. “Agh. That hurt!”

“More or less than a sharp one?” Berra asks innocently.

Varanis gives the other woman a dirty look.

She tries to walk it off, though she’s got an obvious limp. The lilting sound of the filthiest of Grazelander curses reaches Berra’s ears.

Berra says, “I’ll put the sword away,” and reaches for it.

Only to be met with something very like a growl. “I didn’t say I was done.”

“Oh, alright.” Berra goes back on guard. “You sliced me too, anyhow.” Her sleeve has a grey-green smear on it, from the edge of Varena’s wooden sword.

Still limping, the Vingan takes her ready stance. Glaring over the top edge of her shield, she circles closer.

Berra goes back to the forward and back movements, with her distance changing in leaps and jumps and the blade always threatening, even if the woman herself is retreating.

Scowling, Varanis tries to close the space between them, but finds her intent frustrated time and again. There’s no pattern to intercept, no opening to take.

Finally, Berra launches forward from a series of foot movements that would be impossible in heavy armour. She just goes from moving backwards to getting her feet under her differently to coming straight on, her straight blade exactly on target to open the throat, and she stops herself with her front foot, hard, as her sword tip rests just beside the artery, the blow twitched sideways at the last moment to tap into place instead of risking a direct blow to the neck.

Varanis freezes with the tip of Berra’s sword hovering near the exposed Death rune on her throat. The only movement is the rapid rise and fall of her chest, beneath the cuirass.7Berra fails at Insight, but knows a bit about Varanis.

Berra straightens, her acute concentration falling away. “It’s different,” she says, and that’s all she says about it.

Stepping back from the blade, Varanis brings her own the bear. “Again,” she snaps.

“How’s your temper?” Berra asks. “Because… well. Because.”

Within the bronze helmet, Varanis’ breaths are short, angry bursts of air. Frustration fills the eyes that glare at the smaller woman. “Gah. You’re right,” she says after a moment. “I’m no good for this right now. Give me your wasters. I’ll deal with them.” Short, abrupt sentences, bitten off at the ends.

Berra hands them over, neatly reversing both in her hands, with practiced movements. “Thank you. I have a lot to think about.”

Replying with only a curt nod, Varanis takes the swords. The limp is discernible as she strides away.

Berra does not follow, but she does not go back to draw practice either. Instead, she stands with her eyes closed, and the only sign of her paying attention to anything is that her hands sometimes twitch a little.
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Berra and Varanis spar, for the first time after their argument