Berra is still looking after the River Egg, waiting for the Queen to be available and make a judgement. Session 4.
Berra is wet, and cold, and standing off a little from the group, although the gaggle of Ducks in the background is providing a soundtrack of quacks and bickering. The campfire burns on. Water pools around Berra’s feet then flows downhill. She is staring out as if on watch.
Varanis approaches, putting herself into the Humakti’s line of sight before getting too close. “You ok?” she murmurs as she draws near.
“Angry with Xenofos,” Berra says in reply, shortly.
“I gathered that much.”
“He… yeah. Too angry to get it into words. He wants me to … he … he … why doesn’t he trust me?” Berra almost snarls at the darkness. There’s a good reason to keep her back to the fire.
“I can only assume it was the egg he was afraid of. Dragons and all that. I have to assume he wasn’t in his right mind at the time. Otherwise, he disobeyed a direct order from me in front of one of Leika’s people.” Outwardly calm, there’s an undercurrent of anger in Varanis’ voice, noticeable only because it speaks to Berra’s own anger.
Berra leaves that for a moment, not replying. “It wouldn’t be right to punch him. Especially not while I’ve got this to protect. But even then.”
“You’re right. It wouldn’t be right. And I’d be angry with you if you did, even if I agree with the sentiment.” Varanis looks at the puddle around Berra’s feet. “What does the egg feel like?”
“Like ice that bends a bit, only not so cold,” Berra replies. “Made of eggshell.” She is huddled inside the clothes she has borrowed, including the cavalry cloak that Xenofos lent her. Perhaps she is giving mixed signals; perhaps she just wants to be warm. “And it feels like it’s mine to look after.”
“I see. Can I touch it?” Curiosity glitters in grey eyes.
Berra hesitates, and considers. “I don’t think it’ll mind,” she says, “But you mustn’t hurt it. I said I’d defend it with my life.”
“I won’t hurt it. I won’t even hold it. I just want to feel it under my hand.”
Berra says, “Sure. But it’s awake – it might … I don’t think it would hurt you on purpose.” She does not open the satchel so much as pull aside part of the top flap. A blue-black surface inside hardly shows in the darkness.
Varanis looks at it, then reaches her hand out to touch, first a gentle prodding with her fingertip, then setting her palm against it.
It’s leathery, but smooth like ice is despite the feel of a texture. Damp, and slightly yielding, like an over-full bag of kumiss on a hot day. There is no sense of strain or danger to the skin-shell, however. It’s about as cold as one might expect from a stone in a river or a spring. Berra closes the satchel over Varanis’ hand. “Enough?” She sounds a little worried.
“Huh. I thought it might move, like baby Berra did. Or like waves inside the shell.” She withdraws her hand, looking vaguely disappointed. “Thank you for letting me feel it.”
“It does, but sometimes it stops.” Berra looks down at the egg. “I think it’s practicing for winter right now. The water’s a bit colder and it’s not moving much. But maybe later it’ll be stormy?”
“Do you think the journey to Durulz lands and establishing this river of yours will be too dangerous for the baby? I don’t want to leave her in Clearwine if Leika decides in their favour.”
“It’s not far. Quackford’s down the road a bit. It should be fine – but we could ask the ducks for guards?” Berra sounds like she has thought about this a little. “They’re a different tribe.” She drops her voice. Colymar are about.
“We’ll have Rajar’s Storm Bulls and your Humakti,” Varanis points out. “But an escort of Durulz might help ensure they know we don’t mean harm.”
“Yeah. And the news’ll go ahead no matter who an’ where,” Berra says. “The ducks are the best option, but whoever’s going to get the river should probably be putting on a show. And a set of warriors to look after Berra.”
“I find myself wondering what Kallyr will make of this.” With a wry laugh, Varanis says, “She’ll probably be grateful that we made a mess in Clearwine instead of Boldhome for a change.”
“Nah. We’re offering a way to tidy up a mess. We just found it first.” Berra looks determined, jaw setting. She means to see this through.
“Deep breaths, Berra. I won’t let anyone try to take it from you again until you are ready to set it where it belongs.”
Berra gives Varanis a look unreadable in the darkness.
Varanis sighs. “There’s going to be a fair bit of politics in the morning. I suppose that sleeping in a puddle won’t work for you?”
“I’m not going to sleep. I’ll be fine for a day, and then if I get to tomorrow we can find somewhere to give me a few hours by a fire. I don’t want to let go of it.” She uses a heleran pronoun, of course.
“Then you guard the egg and I shall guard you,” Varanis promises. “Need a hot drink? Maalira left something spicy to stay warm by the fire.”
Berra nods. “I’ll do that. And at some point pretty soon, latrine time. At least there’s a lot of water running already. But still, that…” There is a rueful grin.
Varanis laughs. “I’ll get you the hot drink and when you’re ready, I’ll escort you to the latrines. I get to be your bodyguard for a change.”
Berra sniggers. “I hope we can get this done fast, then.” She steps aside to let Varanis go, although of course there’s a puddle and a small stream to be negotiated anyhow.