Berra — Street Talk
????, Earth Season, Stasis Week
Earth Season, Stasis Week, late on Godsday. Lenta has been returned and Queen Samastina has ruled there should be no feud. [[[s02:session-16|Session 16]]]
After getting out of the Royal Justice Room, Berra takes a moment to breathe, and then says, “Warehouse should probably be checked,” casually, like that has been on her mind. “And ask Lenta which clothes the other Varanis was wearing.”
“With Garin and Elanka still on the loose, this may not be over. I am rather concerned that no mention was made of hunting down the actual kidnappers.” Varanis does not sound casual; her expression is one of frustration.
Berra replies, “We should talk to the House of Hulta – they were offended, and they’ll want to find who did it, but it’s not a thing for right now. Right now, probably, your grandmothers talk and find out if there will be public apologies. Or maybe if they can listen to evidence now. But this hour? We go home. Your place. The Temple. Sleep. And send guards to check on that place. If Garin or Elanka were there, they’ll probably be burning it down. But Agr… Lord Agri knows that’s not us.”
“Hah. Talk to Hulta. if you enjoy wasting your time.” Dormal is, perhaps, bitter.
“No, they were being pushed…. hostage?” Either Berra is rubbing it in, or she wants to know. She probably wants to know.
“There was no hostage offered. They put out that I was offered and left me in what they wanted me to assume was a poorly guarded cell.” There is a tiny pause then Dormal goes on. “Presumably they thought I’d fall for it and escape, causing Saiciae a problem.”
Berra seems to be considering. “Well, not that I care – but if you want to go make … alright, did you … do you know what happened to us today, at all?”
Berra gives Dormal her usual sort of look, but then looks ahead, and says, “Surprisingly early in the morning, Lord Kesten arrived for a duel with me. I sent back to him that he could sod off, I was busy rescuing his kinswoman. We went to the Air Te… The Temple of Orlanth, where Varanis Divined what we might be facing, then to the island where Lenta was first held. We went overland after landing when Yelm was invisible but warm. About there.” She holds up her arm and waves a splayed hand at the right angle in the sky. It’s a professional report, by a professional soldier.
Dormal absentmindedly rubs at the rope marks on his wrists.
“That island being the one that Nala told us about. We went in Duck boats. Advanced on their position – a single longhouse on stilts, with magic on to find what was enemies. Rajar and Varanis one side, me and Irillo the other. He killed one, I brought down the Sea Troll and Irillo and I moved on. Advanced into central room of three. Voice of woman, ‘oh crap’. Room began to fill with smoke. The troll made a noise – it was getting up. We returned to deal with it, and those who might have accompanie… oooh, the boat. The woman would have been in the boat. If the warehouse has not burned yet, then that is a think the Lhankor Mhy could… apologies. The three who had meant to harm us who were in that room vanished, and escaped by boat with a sack big enough to have a person in. When they said crap, they sounded worried to me. Nala in her spirit form fought the blonde woman. Two men in black armour or black clothes escaped. I wounded one at long distance with an arrow. Some time later, the Ducks arrived, sent by Nala. Pursuit led to the DeQesnaue… however you say that… warehouse. On the way we picked up the wounded Lord Agri Hulta who had failed to get to the island, led there by … probably talk from the same Ducks who brought us. The kidnappers had left barrels. And that house is fled, so we had to look. We broke the warehouse, killed a man and took another prisoner, and rescued Lenta. There was a trap meant for anyone trying, but it was not a good trap.” Berra’s hand gestures and pauses indicate she is deciding as she goes which things to say.
“Mnh. And how good would you say this Agri was?”
“I wouldn’t. But there was a lot of blood in that boat and he could not have handled it alone. It was not the enemy that took him. Details if required. So. Within the warehouse. Top floor. Lenta was there. I…” Berra pauses to think. “She asked me not to hurt her. I think she knew me, but not by name. I said she was an idiot and she was safe. She asked Varanis not to hurt her. I said Varanis had not but someone pretending to be Varanis had been. She said some things that were really idiotic and I called for Mellia because I thought we’d need to put her to sleep just to get her to move. Uh… that she was so in love and… ech. But then I had to go warn Varanis that Lenta thought it had been her. I did that, then talked to Lord Agri, who was still assuming Varanis was the kidnapper, and took him upstairs to see Lenta. Mellia was just holding her up. She was falling over. Drugged. A lot.”
She pauses only a moment to clear her mind, then goes on. “For referer… ref-er-ence, Lord Agri was the second for Lord Kesten,” Berra adds. “He’s probably a bit older than you. A kid.” Berra looks a bit younger than Dormal.
“And if we take Hulta at their word, that they thought they were going up against Saciae in force, was he a reasonable, sufficient choice?”
“He was a noble.”
“Or was he selected because he was expected to fail?” Trust Dormal to think of that.
“Ask the rest at the end of the report. I’m still in a different time. I’ll be able to remember then. Drugged, so we had to come out in a hurry. We made her vomit twice and Mellia gave her a medicine to make her breathe better. Lord Agri was there and helping. Very shocked. Thought I was mad because I had mentioned Garin Merelt. It’s a guess that Garin had intended to see Varanis dead and then be the rescuer. It fits the timing. The honey from the dose was still smelling sweet and nothing had curdled in her stomach, and a woman she thought was Varanis made her drink it.” Berra is walking with her eyes almost closed, the effort of remembering on her.
“Mellia called to get her to the city. Harst Gate was a point we’d have to pass through on foot, and I was not prepared to do that, so we went by boat. On the way, the prisoner got loose, and nearly killed me with another smoke thing, dying in the attempt. Nala landed where Tiwr was, but there were too many spears, so we went to the fish market, then in to the hospital. After that, it’s all discussions that could have been worked out from what we know. We were called to the Queen. That is my report.” She blinks, and rolls out her shoulders. “And there were other details but none I think important.”
“The Hulta have fought tooth and nail through this entire thing to avoid learning the truth. This has been a convenient excuse for them to try and stab Saiciae. I wonder if they want Lenta alive at all.”
Berra sighs, slowly. “I think there are people putting pressure on people who should be finding the truth. A detail I missed. When Lord Kesten arrived for the duel, I didn’t ask the terms. He probably heard me refusing to fight him from inside the house. I was quite a lot angry. But Xenofos told me later it was…. severe. Almost always, so much that we usually just say it’s how it’s done, Humakti fight each other to first blood. It’s a sort of boast, and also it doesn’t waste people if you don’t want to waste people. But he was asking until someone couldn’t move, and you don’t get more severe than that. And that …. and arriving early… isn’t how I thought he was. I could be wrong, but he was more controlled than that. I mean, wrong and an idiot and he has a stick up his arse that you could use to hang a banner on – but I like him. He…. it felt wrong. So he could have made a mistake or he could have been pushed, but I don’t think he wanted to turn up while it was still dark and fight someone like me. But that could have been pressure he put on himself because he knows I want to rip his House a new shit-hole. But it’s not all of Hulta. So. Agri. Not a warrior. Would have commanded warriors. If there was only one boat, then he could not have hoped to win… and Kesten probably sent him. Probably. And knew I would be there, and Rajar. So either two boats, or Rune Lords. And I think Agri loves Kesten. Or was afraid of that duel for some reason. And I just ran out of things to say, I think.”
Dormal looks less impressed with the Hulta than Berra usually looks with him. “So. A house determined not to hear the truth. A noble sent out under-supplied and unprepared for what he would face (if we accept the Hulta truly believed it was us).”
“Can’t agree. Don’t have the knowledge. Can’t say that’s truth.” Berra is either tiring, or getting suddenly frustrated.
“If they’re not out to get us personally, they’re someone else’s blade at our throats.”
“I… Could be, yes. Can’t say that’s not true either.”
“Either way they should be… blunted.”
“Don’t care. I’m moving out from the Saiciae roof. But… oh. I had a thought. I’m going to go buy some shoes while I try to remember it. It was before this. Something about women.”
Dormal raises an eyebrow.
Berra stops in the street for a moment, and there’s that habit of hers again – she moves her hands and her lips like she is trying to articulate, and then says, “Whoever killed Lord Rillo knew where he was going. It could easily have been from inside his house, but if it was from outside, that’s who. And … ” She trails off thinking and then straightens. “That’s all I can think of. Except that the blonde lady left in a hurry without clearing out offerings from her shrine. Or the statue there. Just got on a horse and went. So she probably knew he was dead. I don’t know. I only think clearly when I’m fighting.”
“Well. If you say you don’t, I’m sure you don’t. I take threats to my clan a little more personally. But perhaps the information about Rillo will be an important piece of the puzzle. if it turns out to be, thank you in advance.”
“Now I must go and report, and hopefully eat and drink too. It has been a while.” If Dormal is trying to make a point, it bounces off Berra.
“Guilty or scared. Don’t know. But she knew.” Berra looks down the closest side street. “I should walk people back. Shoes later.” And then her expression goes through tired murder, to murderous alertness, and then just alertness, and the spring is back in her step. “Not who,” she says a moment later. “There would have had to be a why. But if they did know why, then finding them’s the reason. Shouldn’t be inaccurate.” Even from her voice, the tiredness has vanished.