Berra — Sword Master
????, Storm Season, Movement Week
Storm Season, Movement Week, Late on Clayday Eve. [[[s02:session-29|Session 29]]]
CONTAINS SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL SPOILERS
And a Duck
Berra goes to see her Duck, taking the full package of food she has picked up, and then putting it down to clap outside his room to see if he is there. Torch is left with the blacksmith for tempering.
“Lord. Do you have a bit of time?”
“Enter.” He is seated in the lotuth position.
Berrra comes in and kneels in front of him, bowing down to put the parcel there. “Thank you for seeing me. None of it’s got vegetables in.” Then she forgets formality for long enough to add, “Which is lucky because I can’t eat them any more.”
He opens his eye, “Ah. You sought further guidanth from the God.” He gives a little nod, “You get uthed to it.”
“Yeah. The sword needed teaching. How much does this Temple know about it? How much do you know?”
“I know nothing of it. The Temple? I don’t know. The High Sword ith playing a complexth Tafl.” Because cards can’t be played close to the chest. “I think he’th keeping something from uth.”
Berra looks rather surprised, but gathers herself quickly. “Mhm… Well, probably, yes. But I’m going to talk anyhow, unless you’d prefer me not to. I can just report a few things that happened, and not all of them, and it might be easier.”
She definitely does not reach out to open the bundle. Instead she asks, “Can I put this anywhere for you?” It is not a thing she would do for many others.
“By my sword.”
Berra gets up to do just that. “There’s a lot I can tell you, but maybe if the High Sword doesn’t want you to know some of it, it would make your life harder for a while. But there’s a lot I can tell you anyhow, that isn’t that. A lot happened.”
And she adds, “Don’t eat the red one with the red string on it. Just sprinkle bits of it onto other things if you want to taste pain and then feel great.” She comes to kneel in front of him again. “I made that mistake. Probably worth it.” She looks him over. “How much do you want me to say?”
“What your Truth says.”
“Fair enough. Alright. So the short version: I have pissed off most of Battalion, a Sword of the Sables called Xarnis, a house of Nochet… and that’s probably it. Oh, and I fought a Storm Bull. I don’t think he cared. And then we brought a goddess back to Prax, although that mostly wasn’t me. It was Nala, I think. But I fought a crocodile which was her holy animal, and it hadn’t been in Prax, the Iron Lord made me a sword, even though he was here and I was there, and that’s why the Praxian was pissed off at me, mostly. Oh, and Queen Samastina nearly threw me out of her court. But didn’t. This is the short version.”
Duck face. Like poker face, but with fewer pokes. “I see. Go on.”
“And in Prax I was asking the question of whether Lord Eril was worthy to be worshipped as a Hero when I got given the sword, and then the High Sword in Pavis said he was worthy but I wasn’t, which seems fair. But I used it to kill a drum that summoned the eternal battle. When it died, I mean. I didn’t think that that would happen. To be honest, I don’t think anyone did. But I fought a skeleton dragon only other people did as well, and I had just been scraped off the ground. And the dragon bit down on the sword so now it’s with the Iron Lord… actually I probably pissed off Battalion twice but the second time they deserved it, and the first time it wasn’t all of them.”
The Duck pauses. Then nods. “Fair. It would exthplain what he is keeping from uth.”
“I thought that might be it. I didn’t know you could. But I did pray to him. And when the Blacksmith made the sword, I added to it. I won’t tell you what I got in return. I think he might think that was private. It was… a bit tricky getting it back here. Not just nearly dying although I did think at least twice someone else was going to be bringing it. But the Sword at Tourney Altar – I had to basically not fight him even though he called me some pretty bad things. But this was more important.” She pats Wind Tooth, and then looks briefly confused, and indicates with a lift of the chin that she means the sword now in that direction, over with the Blacksmith.
The Duck nods, once more. “That explainth a lot.”
“Um, yeah. So that’s the short version.” She looks at her nails and decides against cleaning them, or at least, does not draw a weapon on her Sword. “The long version starts with me going into Battalion to help Yamia. Lord Venlar’s sister – she’s going to be Mellia’s sister-in-law. She’d been cut off from Humakt, and needed to become him again. She was afraid, and I became Humakt’s fear, in her quest. That wasn’t very popular when people found out about it, although I think it didn’t cause a really big stir. And it healed her. But a bit after that I met a truth-finder. A Humakti who was looking for a murderer. And he was pretty spiky. We helped him a lot – he didn’t really think about things like making sure a wolf could get onto roofs with magic so we could track the killer… but we argued. And I was wrong, but by the time I realised it his House was up against the one I was staying with over something else. So then that House, Hulta, never really forgave Saiciae. But Queen Samastina was tearing the Battalion a new one because he’d arranged a duel in the street. Someone in his house was pushing to have him die, I think. He was married. Really doesn’t understand Death.”
Berra works through the bits of the story. “So I apologised, really loudly, in the court. Only apparently in Esrolia that means something different. And he knew what I meant, but basically all of Battalion was narked because they thought me saying I was wrong was all of them being shown up as cowards and I still get irritated by how stupid they were being, but I’ll get over it. He knew, and that’s what mattered. I mean, he was wrong about what he was wrong about, but I was wrong about what I said. We fought eventually but after that I Ieft because there was no way I was staying. They were trying to punish me into behaving differently already but I’d met Lord Eril, so…” She shrugs that off, like anything a mere Battalion could do cannot hold fear for her. “I liked him. A lot. But … shit. I messed up. Did a really bad thing down there, and he was the only person who would have even tried to help. I handed someone over to the wrong people.” She gives him a suddenly miserable look.
“They sold him to a slave galley. And I’d been trying to keep him safe.” Berra’s expression floats through guilty to touch on distraught.
“You are rethponthible for your honour. Not the world’s.”
“Yeah, but then after that I didn’t much care about helping that house out. Hulta can go do one, except for him. And he’s getting dragged along.” Berra shrugs, although for once it is obvious her mood is not changing as it normally does. She has not put that guilt behind her. “Anyhow, the fuss with Hulta, which isn’t something I’m going to go into, made it a good idea for Varanis to leave town, and I had no reason to stay. I was already planning to go to Prax. So we went to Prax. It wasn’t as hot as the time we were there together. Or the time I was there last. But it wasn’t as cold as Sartar can be. We went out by ship, and hiked up the banks of the Zola Fel. And while I was there, in the desert, a day and a half day before we got to Pavis, I asked that question. And the Blacksmith answered by giving me a sword.”
Berra gives D’Val a wry look. “So that made things a lot more difficult. We got to Pavis, and someone tried to kill Varanis, and it could have been assassins. I… well, the sword was a new one and needed teaching, but she needs protecting. So I was torn. I went back to the altar but right up until I was there, I didn’t know what I was going to ask. And on top of that, you remember the troll cave?”
“Nala took the goddess home. Enough of her, anyhow.”
“She brought a bit of her scale, and I think the Priest who was looking for her, back to the Zola Fel Temple. There was a durulz there who took it, but there were Newtlings who saw. And they started watching us a lot. But we’ll get back to that. That was the night I went back to the altar. I had to wake the sword, but I … I couldn’t have gone any deeper, but I wanted to. I have the inner voice of protection but I can hardly hear it some of the time. It faded pretty soon.” Berra looks down at Wind Tooth and back towards the Blacksmith’s room.
“The Senth for the dishonoured?”
“Yeah.” Berra does not say ‘aththaththinth’ or ask why D’Val does not use that word. “But I needed to tell the sword what to be as well. So he cuts really well. His name’s Torch.” She glances that way once more, and then grins. “I’ll miss him, but I won’t miss the weight. And he ate my magic once. That was a bit of a shock.”
“That doeth not happen oneth they are enchanted.”
“Oh, right.” Berra stops and seems to count on her fingers, like she is working out which points she has actually gone through. “So I did that. And then we stayed with Rajar’s clan for the coldest part of the year, and Orlanth stole my sword. That really upset me, even though it was the right myth.”
“But well. I got it back. I’d spent most of that season Divining how to worship a Hero, but at the end of the season – start of Storm – we met a Storm Bull and Rajar didn’t like what he said, so we charged, and Billy died, and we killed the man’s shaman. And when we were setting him to rest, I killed his drum with Torch, and that summoned the Eternal Battle.” For that, Berra pauses to be sure the Sword is keeping up. “Er, do you know what that is?”
He nods, gravely.
“That was a pretty close-run thing, and I had to use the last of my connection to Humakt to make my sword strike at ghosts. Uh, that would have been still pretty close to the start of Storm Season. Was he badly affected then, that you recall?” A thought, passing alone across Berra’s mind, strikes for freedom and gets said.
“Affected? He became quieter, and more thoughtful, if you mean the High Sword.”
“Yeah. I think maybe he’s vulnerable. Like a young Initiate or Rune Lord must have their own new problems. And if nobody here’s worshipping him, and… well, he does tend to put himself where he can be seen well… then he’s not… um, well. I am sort of guessing here, but if he doesn’t want it known, it’ll be because he’s not ready yet and that might be because it could hurt him.” Berra stretches her arms out as if just thinking that hard has given her cramp.
“Pothibly. Or it may be that he ith seeking to avoid the politics that go with that.” A beat. “Or not.”
“Yeah… I was going to say. I think he wants to time the politics himself. I guess. But that was the only week I missed. So it turns out that swords get damaged if you have to parry a dragon’s bite, and it scraped my helmet and my face.” Berra rubs thumb and forefinger over the faint brown scars left by Valseena’s healing. “And that was after she’d already scraped me up once. But I lived. And I made it to Tourney Altar. I spent the week there, and prayed and meditated. I’m getting better at it. And then a Sword called Xarnis decided to insult me to get me to fight him. He wanted to be carrying Iron, I think. So I walked away, but I owe him. I had a more important thing to do, is all. I’d learned that with Kesten Hulta. It doesn’t matter what people think if you’re doing right, but it is nice when they think you’ve done it.”
He nods approvingly. “Good. Pick your fighth. There’s plenty to choose from.”
Berra snorts in amusement. “Alright. So we’re nearly back now. I did fight a Storm Bull at the Block – he challenged me, and I don’t get to walk away from those any more. But he was good enough not to make politics out of it. No vegetables, only the smallest of shields, always show a target…” She prods at her left biceps with her forefinger. “And I didn’t even get to learn enough to keep Varanis safe. Finding out he’s a Hero has been really awkward. I had meant to ask his permission but I wanted to be prepared first. And then it was past permission time.” She is smiling, though, mostly at her own words. “And then the crocodile. If you haven’t seen them they’re sort of like a low, thin thunder lizard, but with a long mouth and loads of teeth.”
Then for Truth she adds, “At least, what I think a thunder lizard looks like. Someone explained them to me.”
He whistles, “In Praxth?”
“Well, yeah. And it attacked us, not anyone else. A wadi flooded. It shouldn’t have had a crocodile in. Maybe a few really surprised frogs. But not a crocodile.”
“Got a theory?”
“About? Oh, I’m pretty sure it was a crocodile. But there’s more. We ate its heart. I mean, the people who had killed it. And then we dreamed. Or at least, I did. And Suuraki. He’s one of the Praxians – you saw him earlier. Tall guy, dressed in a bit more than Kalis was.”
Berra sags a bit, then. “Sorry, this is a bit out of order. After the Block was a thing called a walktapus. The crocodile was a bit before. A lot happened and I forgot the order. Sorry. I dreamed of meeting her, and she said thanks, and blessed me. It didn’t seem right not to accept that. I mean, I’d killed her. And I knew it was her. I’m pretty sure she made me stronger, and did something to my spine. And for some reason I was waking up thinking that I knew how to swim and my tail would help me. But I’m not going to be a worshipper. But she is a goddess. She was the thing we were inside, when the troll had me.” Berra looks only faintly irritated at the memory, and not discomforted at all.
“Is that what you meant by theory? I don’t think we need one, unless it was a question about something else.”
“Yeth. Crocodileth don’t… didn’t live in Praxth.”
“They do, yes, now. I think she used to be from there and now she’s woken up again. That’s where she’s from.” Berra sighs. “So I missed the Paps, except for turning around there but apparently and I know I do stupid stuff sometimes but this takes the bay branch… the others worshipped her there. In Fertility week, I think. So I feel better about a lot of my choices now.”
The Duck is silent
“Anyhow, after that was the Block and then we started going home. We met a thing called a walktapus and it breathed horrid Air that was foul and green. I nearly died again. Still can’t run fast. And then it didn’t die and I had to call on what was in my sword. I managed to strike at its spirit… no, that’s not right. I managed to cut off its spirit, and then it stopped moving. It took a lot, though. Like I was having to saw through it, even though it was just a slice. I carved the Death Rune in the spirit world and it broke away. Hold your breath if you’re fighting one.” Berra’s expression is mostly irritation at something that did not want to die.
He nods. “Only met one onthe. Wath lucky I held my breath “
“Yeah, well. It felt like everything was burning from the inside, and it was also wet at the same time, and I couldn’t smell anything except copper for a moment and then nothing. But after that, we got back into Sartar, and then here, and I’m back. I’m going to give the sword to the Temple.” For a brief moment she struggles with what to say, and then goes on, “I think it might need to be prepared in some way, before it’s ready. Maybe that’s a thing the High Sword is waiting on. Among other things, probably.”
She then leans back on her ankles, kneeling upright and looking down at him. “I think that’s everything. Everything that counts, anyhow. Although I asked what Ty Kora Tek said to Humakt when he came to her after he’d eaten Voria. Lord Kesten wrote that to me to send it. I don’t know who would have been acting High Sword at the time.” She frames the last bit as a question.
She adds, “Anything you want to ask?”
He shakes his head, “No. No, I think on balanth, you’ve done well.”
Berra takes a deep breath. “Then I should probably go and report to Lord Eril. There’s some political stuff.”
He waves her away, and returns to meditation.