Berra — Talking Of Fighting
1627, Earth Season, Harmony Week
Earth Season, late Harmony Week or early Death Week. [[[s02:session-48|Session 48]]]
After talking with Varanis Xenofos walks outside and to the stables to check on his mount.
An unexpected Humakti drops in – literally – Berra has been up on a beam, and a wriggle brings her down, and she says, “Oh, you,” on working out who has arrived. From the dust on her, she was looking at things, not lurking.
Xenofos nods “Exploring?” and proceeds to check on how his Esrolian horse is doing.
“Yeah. Well, looking for Rajar as well.” She pauses only a moment, and then addresses the mastadon in the room. “Look… are you alright?”
“I was held captive, not hurt” scribe tells her.
“Yeah, but that wasn’t what I was asking. Go back a bit. Why did you call the charge?” She sounds concerned, not angry.
Scribe blinks couple of times. “Yes, that. Scout came in reporting an approaching cavalry force together with Rajar who said we need to stop them. I was a bit surprised and reacted like a hunter after prey, without pausing to think at all.” His expression turns from slightly absentminded to sad. “And three men died. It was rash. And wrong.”
Berra nods, sympathetic. “So. I figure that bit wasn’t wrong. We all make decisions. But did you make it because you were afraid? Like sometimes you charge ahead of me?” She looks up at him with that little curious twist of expression that means something different every time.
Scribe pauses to think. “No, not really. I saw a target, and a moment to get them flatfooted and just pounced. Like a hunter, I said.”
“Mhm. Alright. So we need to let you know more what your objectives are, because that’s the part that shouldn’t have happened.” She looks down, nodding like she is committing that to memory.
He shrugs. “I knew we were seeking to negotiate, not fight.”
“Yeah. It happens a lot. People get excited. I figured you’d get less excited than the rest, but I don’t have to be right all the time. You… know you could have asked for hospitality here, right?” Onto the next subject. Apparently she is finished with the last one.
“Yes. I requested it for my followers.” he says with a questioning look.
“Then why not for you?”
“Under the circumstances it would not have been just.”
Berra considers that. “Nah. You’re thinking justice is personal. It’s not.”
She might, of course, be wrong. She does not seem to think so.
Xenofos shakes his head. “Justice is personal. Honour is personal. I could not use my words or king Starks words as nets to bind him before he had heard what had happened. The safe – and maybe more wise – way would have been to send an Issarian to take the message and stay out of the kings way until matter was settled.”
“Yes you can. You totally can. If you’re a herald, you’re allowed to. That’s what heralds are. It’s the reason heralds are. Issaries is just known for it. But when we hold up fingers to say we want peace, we’re saying we want to be treated like heralds.” She looks almost wistful for him now. Almost.
“If I had considered that just, I would have asked for hospitality.” He sighs. “I knew the risks. I should have requested that he hear me to the end, though. I was cut short.”
“Yeah. You’re thinking your part in the world is too big. Heralds deliver bad news all the time. Yours was real – doesn’t matter if someone hates it, you should be free to deliver it, and so should anyone else who has news like that.” But she shrugs it off. “You need any … well, anything we can do for you?”
“I can’t blame the king too much. I was a bit overcome by shame when delivering it so I was not at my most eloquent.” after a while Berra’s words register to him and he answers “I spoke unjustly to you. Can you forgive that? “
Berra shrugs again, this time an indication of not having cared. “We all get hot-headed. But really, you don’t have to carry feeling bad on your own. That’s what laws are for – they’re a cloak to keep you company.” Where someone else might hug him, or offer a hand, she bows, shallowly.
He shakes his head. “More like a cloak to hide behind… Wergild restores peace, but it does not bring the dead back. ” He shrugs “Maybe it will keep him away… For a while… One can hope.”
Berra stops short, her whole look focused on Xenofos. “Oh.”
He shrugs and looks helplessly at Berra. “I could tell he would. I saw he had died in pain.”
“He’s dead. It’s over.” She still does not move towards him, although maybe the words are meant for comfort. “He didn’t feel it for long, and he’s forgotten the pain already.” Matter-of-fact, like she knows.
“I know he is dead, Berra” scholar looks at the Humakti and puts his shaking hands carefully on pommel of his sword. “He keeps reminding me of that. I was afraid it would happen again and it did.”
“There’s only one thing I know there,” Berra replies, relaxing enough to look away from him and explore a splinter on the frame of a stall with her fingertips. “And it’s that it isn’t him reminding you. It maybe doesn’t help, but he stopped caring around-about when he died.”
“It will dull with time I hope. The others did. Mostly.” Scholar has drawn his sword and picks up a sharpening stone with shaky fingers.
“It does. Time fades things. If it didn’t there wouldn’t be a … well, yeah.” She stops short of complex philosophy. “You want to be relieved of command for a bit?”
“I never wanted command, Berra. You would not listen.” he pauses to think. His hands keep on honing a razorsharp edge with no nicks “But if it needs doing… Not really.”
“I know you don’t want it. But the main thing keeping the army together is Varanis. Having her people floating over the top stops it from being an utter sh….” she considers her words briefly. “If it can’t keep con…tin…uity at the top, it’ll fragment. Then the first time there’s determined opposition, all those fragments get… well, fragged. I don’t really want to be in command either, to be honest. But them looking up to Varanis is what we’ve got to work with, and we’re the people she gives authority to. We gotta keep riding that chariot, or else it’ll crash.”
“They learn to carry responsibility by having it.” Xenofos notes. “Whom did Varanis have as cavalry commander when I was away? Barnropos? Kesten?”
“Yeaaaa….. we’re not at the stage… well, we probably are now.” Berra shrugs. “Kesten’s been doing it, but if you’re going to step aside we want to plan it. It needs to make everyone feel good, not just the Greens or just the Racers or just the Vingans. They learn what duty is by letting other people have responsibility, and that’s one of the biggest worries. They need to know one voice. Then when they’re in battle and it’s screaming, they’re in the right habit and they’ve got a chance of obeying.”
Xenofos shrugs. “I promised Varanis my sword. If she needs it with cavalry I guess there is no need to talk more of that.”
“See, now you’re determined to punish yourself. If you know you can do it, let me know. If you think you can, let me know. If you’re worried you can’t, or think it’ll break you, let me know that too. There’s always another way.” Berra looks stern at him now, one hand on her hip.
“Punish? Where do you get that idea?” Scholar sheaths his sword and feels the sharpening stone.
“Because you seem to think you deserve a lot more that makes you miserable, when you’re already miserable. It’s how it comes out.” Berra looks at the sharpening stone, like she wants to be sure of its surface, but does not reach out for it.
“Duty is duty. Deserve or like has nothing to do with it, Berra.” He traces the Truth rune on the stone with his thumb.
“Mhm. I make bad decisions … well, aggressive decisions when I’m angry. You make them when you’re trying to stand up to be what you think you should be, but you…” Then she relents, or decides she is wrong. “Lemme know. Think about who would be best, and we’ll make that happen.”
“I don’t know, Berra.” Xenofos says with a shake of his head “I don’t know if I am better or worse then Barnropos or Kesten for the post at this time. I only know I can try to do my best and trust they would do the same.”
Berra nods. “In that case, we’ll stick to you, because that gives people the idea that Varanis is there, and they don’t have to be choosing. Chosen between, I mean. We’ll have you send other people out scouting if you like. You know we left the troops a day away?”
He shakes his head. “No, I did not.”
“Kay. We came up in force, to the point where we could ask for hospitality. They’re back at… I guess you must have seen the palisade, but if you didn’t, there’s a proper palisade on the road now, and there was a road block. Sorala’s in charge.” She is bouncing on her feet, ready to go, but still talking.
He nods. “She seemed dutiful to me.”
“Yeah.” After a brief moment Berra adds, “Argrath called us all in, got Venna to shake hands with Varanis. Nobody got punched. I challenged the Storm Bull. Although he wasn’t there.”
“When is the fight? Humakti-duel or fight to death?” Xenofos inquires. There is some concern in his tone, but he is trying to sound just polite.
“Oh, the Khan doesn’t want us killing each other, so there’s going to be a fake fight, then I’ll probably challenge the bastard to his face to the real thing.”
Xenofos tilts his head. Either fake fight or prospect of Berra facing the brute in the real thing makes him grimace.
“If it’s the only way I can get to him, and I’ve warned the King I’m going to – and I did – then I don’t see a problem with that. He wants us to use blunt weapons. Like fuck.”
“What is the point? That makes no sense?” Xenofos affirms, shaking his head.
“He doesn’t want some guy following orders to die. But they were the wrong orders, so I’m not going to give a shit about his feelings.” Berra shrugs.
“Hmmm. I don’t see why you should. Does that hurt Varanis’ mission of helping Sartar though?” he asks.
“I dunno. Probably not. But that was why I froze anyhow. Gotta make good on that.”
Berra shrugs once more. “I said after Alda-Chur falls.”
“Did you tell Varanis your intention?” scribe asks.
“Well, she was there when I told Argrath, so yeah.” Berra nods. That item is covered.
“You told Argrath you would challenge the bull again after the fight?”
Berra considers that, remembering. “I said that if those were his rules, at least I’d know what the guy looked like. I think he got the idea.”
Xenofos thinks for a while. “That sounds like politics. I think I will have to mention of this to Varanis.”
“Gneh. It’ll happen after Alda Chur anyhow.” Berra has neatly cut the long splinter away with her pouch knife, the little one reserved for woodworking, and it looks like she is making it into a firelighter. A hand’s length of wood – her hand – is getting frizzed.
Berra and Xenofos talk about fear, command, and honour