Still Alive

Berra — Still Alive

????, Storm Season, Disorder Week


Context

Storm Season, Disorder Week, Windsday. On the way back from the burial of Yellow Storm. [[[s02:session-25|Session 25]]]

Events

On the ride back to the Bisons’ camp, Varanis brings her mount alongside Berra’s. “You alright?”

Berra takes a moment to sigh, and then nods. “I came the closest I ever came to my death-gasp,” she says. “I need to give something to Valseena.” She is still covered with blood, up close, enough to be visible despite the dimness of the sky.1Varanis passes First Aid. Up close, Berra is in need of sleep. Nothing more. If she really did come close to dying – and the evidence says so as well as her words – then it has not worried her.

“You did?” Berra gets a sharp glance and then a long stare as Varanis takes in the amount of blood showing. “You did. I was worried about Xenofos and didn’t even realise…” She trails off as she continues to take in Berra’s state. “I’m glad you’re still here,” she says at last.

There are a couple of major scores in Berra’s helmet, and if all the blood on her armour came from her, then she only has any left inside because of some major intervention or another. “I was back up by then. But I was the closest to the drum, because I was killing it. And I think Nala got attacked badly too, because she and Tiwr are one person but they didn’t seem like that to their targets. But I killed a couple of ghosts, at least. I mean, one early on and then one once Valseena got me up. And the… I think the rhino rider was… I think he killed my, um… well, he was there, but I was not looking. I was down.” It is not the usual clear sort of battle report Berra gives when she has had time to think things through, but it does sound a lot like her.

“You nearly died and then you got up and attacked a dragon’s animated skeleton….” The Vingan shakes her head ruefully. “You really are the stuff of legends, you know.”

Berra starts to say something, fights over it for a moment, and then says, “I was Humakti. I was there,” in a quiet voice.

“You are more Humakti than the majority I have met. Your god has his eyes on you and one day he will take you from me.” There’s an odd blend of resignation and respect threaded through the words.

“I’m doing my best to stick around, if that helps? I mean, maybe it doesn’t look like it. But I don’t head for…” Berra pauses. “Alright. I do head for danger. But I try to do it right. I mean, I was the one who could deal with the ghosts. But that means I need to get to a Temple.”

Varanis nods. “Do you know of any nearby? Do we need to go back to Pavis? I think it’s the wrong way, but if that’s what’s needed, so be it.”

Berra shakes her head. “I’m not sure where we really are, to be honest. I think we go up … well, Nala says we’re not where we thought.” Berra yawns massively, and says through it, “Where I thought. But I’ve … I won’t be able to contact him on my own.”

“Rajar helped me to reach Vinga. Can he do the same for you? Can I?” Varanis unhooks her water bottle and passes it Berra’s direction.

Berra sighs again. “I’m cut off. From the Storm Tribe. Nobody except Humakt.” She takes the bottle. “But I’ve got a couple of weeks.”

“Right. Separation.” The Vingan shakes her head.

“Yeah, I know. But it makes me into what I am.” Berra is chipper, chirpy even.

“I need to get back to Sartar. I had hoped to find something useful to do here, but it hasn’t worked out that way. I want to help you get that sword to Boldhome.” She sighs in frustration. “And then I need to be fighting Lunars somewhere.”

“If Boldhome is close enough that would be good. But I mustn’t miss Deathday.” Berra turns to look over her shoulder at Yelm’s last rays and the distant hint there might be a Sartar there.

“Say the words and we’ll ride for Boldhome.” The Vingan stares at her zebra’s ears. “I’m tired of fighting assassins and Praxians and even Urox. We’re caught up in the wrong things here.”

“We said we’d go back to Pavis.” Berra looks uncomfortable. “Although it’s been a while so maybe Venna has worked out we couldn’t make it back. But still. She said a few days and then we ended up here.”

“The rhino rider, he’s one of hers, isn’t he? We should ask if he has word from her.” After a moment, she adds, “But tell me truthfully. Did you get the sense that Venna wanted us around or cared what we did?”

“Yeah,” Berra says to the first, and then to the second she says, “I got the idea she’d use any assets she could. Most people would be glad to have us.”

“But she sent us away.”2Berra gets a special on Insight human: There’s a wealth of bitterness in those words. And it’s probably not just Venna they refer to.
“Uh, yeah… Because she didn’t want us to meet Argrath in the state he was in, probably.” Berra is using her tone of speaking the obvious again.

“And you think things will have changed?”

“I don’t know. But we didn’t check. That… well, alright. That’s a thing we should ask the rhino rider.” Berra looks over to the looming shape in the darkness. “I think he said no orders from Venna for Nala, but I was listening to a lot of things at that point, and one of them was my head ringing.”

“So, you want to go back to Pavis then? Berra, I have to go somewhere. I can’t stay here anymore. And you do too.”

“I want to go back to Boldhome. but if Venna wants us, I believe that’s the honourable way to go. Unless we can’t get there before the middle of Death Week. But then I don’t… then I should go to the Paps and then to Pavis again, if she expected us. But if you went to Boldhome and I told her you’d gone to help there, then she wouldn’t be expecting you.”

Varanis scowls. “I’m pulled in too many directions and none of them feels right. Did Nala say she was leaving for the Paps in the morning?”

“I … maybe? but in the morning we can find out where we are, and which ways we CAN go. Until then, we should sleep.” Berra sags a little, but only a little.3Varanis fails insight. Berra observes that Varanis is very on edge. Tired, but buzzing.

“Fine. We’ll get back to camp. You can sleep. And in the morning, we leave.” She stares off into the distance and begins to swear. “But Rajar may still want his vengeance.”

“Humakt is more important than that. Everything else… I don’t need to be back in Sartar until Sacred Time.” Berra shrugs. “I might just take off all my clothes and clean everything in the morning. Leave it all out for the rain to help with. You know you ran to help a wounded man on Clayday, while your Humakti hid behind a bison?”

“What?” Varanis looks taken aback by the sudden change of direction in the conversation.

“Sometimes legends miss out the part where someone draws a bow instead of a sword. And you did that and it was brave too, and you’ve probably forgotten to think about it.”

Varanis looks uncomfortable. “I just made sure Valseena got there. She did the important work. She brought him back from the brink of death. You mentioned wanting to give her a gift. Do you have any ideas on that?”

“A bison, I guess? I have the money for one of those, and I don’t think she really wants a broads…” Berra trails off. “My sword got scratched. By its teeth.” Tired Berra is distractable and changes the subject halfway through words.

Looking relieved, Varanis asks, “How badly?”

“Um, it’s hard to tell. I don’t really know iron. But I think it’s probably not bad. My helmet took a lot of it anyhow.” Berra lets her hand rest on her hilt, briefly, in a motion as close to a caress as she ever gets.

“Listen…. I know you’ve said you aren’t seeking death, but sometimes, it feels like it seeks you. If you die, do I burn Wind Tooth on your pyre? The iron sword… I’ll take it to Eril. But you need to tell me what I should tell him. And what I should tell your sister.” While Berra can talk about her death dispassionately, the words tumble from Varanis’ lips in a rush. It’s as though she worries about it enough for the both of them.

“Uh, um, that I died and how? And she’s my heir? And there’s a necklace I sometimes wear which she should have. Not the one you gave me. I haven’t showed you. But she knows. And tell him I’m sorry I couldn’t bring it in person, and if you think it’s true, that I’ve gone on to do the god’s work in the spirit world and I’m grateful to his Temple for making me better at it. And Haran needs a cuddle. I won’t care, but it’ll make her feel better.”

“You’ll show me the necklace tomorrow? Please. I need to make sure I get it right.”

“It’s gold. It’s not like anything else I’ve got. It might be worth more than everything else – it’s mostly so I can carry my ransom, to be honest.” Berra shrugs, and winces. “Ugh. Cold. I got sweaty too.”

“Take my cloak,” Varanis offers, reaching for the large pin at the shoulder. The zebra’s ears flick back at her and she freezes, watching the animal warily. When he doesn’t seem inclined to try to dislodge her, she reaches for the pin again.

“I’m warm. I’ve got mine. It’s just that my padding’s damp, and I moved in it. A yuk-ugh, not a bad-ugh.” She does seem fine. “And I’m tired so I’m saying things that I think about. I think I do that. When I’m tired, I mean.”

Varanis snorts. “You do that when you aren’t tired too.”

“Well, yeah. But more. And I think it through more when I’m awake. So. Sleep. And take my ashes back to the Tula if I die. My sister know where they’ll be buried. And I guess my other sword… well, that can go by my left hand on the pyre now. But the leather armour goes to anyone who wants it. And there’s a bunch of old hobnails and sole staples in my kit, which were my grandfather’s and he walked on them to Grizzly Peak, and the metals in my shoes as well, so make something to remember me by, and everything else that needs to be given is already labelled.”

Varanis nods. “As you wish.”

Amazingly, Berra seems to be getting more alert and looks less tired as they get towards the camp. Her powers of recovery are probably something to do with the fact they are moving, or there might be a fight ahead, or maybe something will happen.

“I don’t care how alert you look suddenly. You will sleep when we get back to camp,” Varanis warns.

“Probably, yeah,” Berra says. “But I can’t help being awake for picket lines. And someone really should stop me from talking to the Khan because I am rather irritated that nobody competent told us what the drum was although to be fair I suppose killing it wasn’t a thing that they could do but I’m still irritated.”

“If need be, I’ll talk to the Khan. You will not.” Varanis’ tone leaves little room for argument.

“Thank you. Good. And I owe whoever the rhino man is a lance and a bronze head. I have a spear, so that might work, but he said the lance was wood. Maybe we could pick it up it we’re going the right way and get it repaired. But I think I might have to give him my spear.”

“Why do you owe him a lance? I missed that.”

“When my eyes started working again, there was a rhino standing on a lot of bits of skeleton. I think he broke his lance later, but he did stamp down things that were killing me.” Berra waves at one of the bison guards off in the distance.

“Before we arrived then. You were on your feet and chasing down that dragon when we got there.” Varanis shakes her head. “You were so tiny against its enormity.”

“Oh.” Berra shrugs. “It was there?” She does look small still, but at least she is drying out.

Varanis falls silent. There is, after all, nothing more to be said.