Talking Talk

Berra — Talking Talk

1627, Earth Season, Disorder Week


Context

Earth Season, around the end of Disorder Week. [[[s02:session-47|Session 47]]]

Events

Berra has been a general, a training officer, a drill sergeant, and a threatening presence with the Quartermasters over the past days. She healed most of her wounds, but kept her various arm injuries for long enough to practice; working around the damage seems to have kept her busy for about an hour, and then she healed herself and pushed herself, and looked a lot less contented. Still, time has passed and she has been with the army and not pushed them too hard. And on the second day, or rather, on the eve of the third day, she asks officially for a bit of Varanis’ time.

“I was just going to check on the watches. Walk with me? Or is this a sit down sort of conversation?” the Vingan asks. She has circles under her eyes from lack of sleep.

“We can walk, but there’s some talk as well. Beyond the watches. A pause-talk.” Berra looks attentive and bright-eyed. She often does.

Varanis nods. “I’ll bring my helmet if we’re going beyond the pickets then.”

“Yeah, let’s.” Berra has her helmet under her arm, and her hair combed down – she was, after all, coming to see the one that the army is sworn to follow. The padding goes back on, the helmet goes on, and she is Berra again, the tidy hair flattened.

Varanis is ready swiftly and makes for the closest of the patrol points unerringly. Even if Berra hadn’t already known it, it would be obvious that Varanis has been visiting the guards on a regular basis.

The woman posted there is one of the near-clackless infantry, with shoes and a ragged tunic, and all the right replies about what she has seen, and the area; nothing to write home about, if Varanis were to be in that habit, but she seems to be competent to the task.

Varanis thanks her by name and wishes her well. She moves on to the next guard post and repeats the process. “Tell me when you see a direction you want to head in,” she says to Berra.

“Let’s head that way,” Berra says after a couple of posts. ‘That way’ is no way in particular, but definitely not towards where they got into their fight.

Varanis nods and veers off her usual path.1Berra passes INT, works out that Varanis has been on a regular path.

Once they have taken a few steps, Berra looks around, casts a little magic, looks satisfied, and moves on. Once they have gone a little further she says, “We’re going to have to give them short rations.”

“I know,” Varanis admits. “I’ve been trying to avoid it, but we need more supplies.” She adds, “I was hoping my cousin came with some.”

“Now’s the time. Irillo – the two Irillos – have done amazing things. But your cousin doesn’t do bulk, and sending him back for it isn’t right. The past couple of days we’ve eaten as much as we got, but the quartermasters aren’t allotting us anything for tomorrow, and that’s basically the end of the bit where they love their guests. We’re getting about what everyone else gets.” Being her, Berra then adds, “I think.”

“Fuck. We could reduce training with the reduced rations, so they keep up their strength. But boredom will bring trouble. We need to get somewhere we can buy supplies.”

“There’s a whole army trying that sort of thing. We’ve got to rely on what Irillo’s doing. Our Irillo. Did you know he’s a father?”

“What?”

Berra pauses. “He’s a father.” In the dimness of the evening she looks oddly pale. “The Eril Heroquest. Um. Magic. I guess.”

“I never imagined Serzeen as a mother… I’ll have to congratulate them!”

“What about Serzeen?” Berra looks bewildered briefly, then catches up. “He’s really scared of telling her. In case she decides she’s been wronged. He hasn’t said who the mother is, but it’s not her. He found out in Sartar, I think. Because she doesn’t know, and he didn’t know before, when we last saw him.”

The Vingan’s eyes widen. “Oh.” She says it again. “Oh. Well.”

“Yeah. I need to tell my Lord, but I haven’t had the heart. He’s… well, yeah.” Berra sighs. “And then once I let him know, I can’t let him know anything else or find a way to worship easily – that tent’s not got enough altars for me to take one up. People’d ask stuff.”

“Hmmm. Yes. And Grandmother needs to know too, but that’s for Irillo to do. Oh. I wouldn’t want to be in his sandals when he gets home. I wonder who the mother is…”

“Wasn’t for me to think about. He didn’t want to tell me – us – said it was political. And he’d answered omens. Crows and stuff. Like we saw. Not really surprising given who the hero-father is. But if I found out or worked it out, it might be bad. I might have to do something.” She is peering through the tents with her usual careful habit, but she sighs. “Or tell Lord Eril, and then he might do something. Children like that are really rare and I don’t know if he knows.”

In Esrolia, as Varanis will be aware, a child born of such a union would be raised in the charge of a Temple.

“The child belongs in a temple. And while Grandmother would want a say in which temple, the mother and her mother would make the decision. Or that’s how it would work in Esrolia, anyway.” Varanis looks thoughtful.

“Er…” Berra shakes her head. “Not if the mother doesn’t tell. I mean, if Irillo knows then he’s named as father. He’s met them, he said. At least, he said they were well. There’ve been wars fought over this. Temple of … uh… wait, I know this one. The Lightbringers in somewhere… The Orlanthi hero there had a child and the mother didn’t tell him – his priests – and they tried to take it, and the feuds lasted for years. If the mother didn’t send to let Lord Eril know that … well, any Humakti Temple I guess, but now I gotta think about what someone would know. But a Temple usually helps but they don’t just take. They can’t. I mean, usually.” Berra muddles her way through precedent and habit and geography.

“Humakt, rather than Issaries, because he was Eril at the time?”

“Yeah. But she might not even know he was a Hero. Mayb… no. Someone in love with him, secretly?” Berra considers. “Was Thenaya in love?”

Varanis nods, a little sadly. “She was. I’m sure of it.”

“Then I guess that. And she sent for Irillo. Probably.” Berra shrugs. “But I shouldn’t think about it too much.”

“She’s awfully old to be a new mother, but Ernalda can be bountiful.”

“Yeah.” Berra sighs. “Anyhow. I was just getting you out here to say that we needed the thing with the food. If we go back in the same way, but break up which pickets you visit next, that’ll be good. Then they don’t know where to expect you from.”

Varanis flushes a little beneath the helmet. “I forgot about that. I’ve been wearing a track in the soil, I’m afraid.”

“Oh. Right. Yeah. Sorry, you probably knew that. But it’s good to be reminded.” The Humakti pauses in her slow amble around tents, and looks down at the toes of her sandals. “I’m glad I got these fixed.” She looks tired.

“How’s the arm?”

“Oh, almost all better. I’ve left the bruises to flower and fade, but the bones are good. The right one was a bit hurt as well, but nothing deep. And apparently I got an imprint of a boot on my thigh. I could see the leather patterns.” Berra grins suddenly. “Good workmanship.”

Varanis laughs. “They piled on you,” she says wryly. “You know, the only injuries I took were from scraping teeth with my fist. It’s like they didn’t take me seriously enough. I’d hoped for a rematch with the wrestler, but he hasn’t come by.” The fist in question still bears the scabs from healing. She’s left it to heal naturally.

“They might not want to wrestle until things have calmed down. Although the place seems pretty calm. Our guards haven’t been tested much.” Berra grinds the balls of her feet into the dirt for a moment, and then half changes the subject. “My grandfather made hobnails for sandals. I’m basically out of that bronze, but I’ve got a few bits left. If you want one.” Alright. Completely changes the subject.

“The testing keeps the guards alert. I never seem to be there when it happens though.” There’s a hint of regret in that statement.

“Well, we can extend the signals to call for you?” Berra offers. “I haven’t got there in time, but when it looks like there’s trouble, too many people want to go to it, and not enough look the other way, so I’m working on that first.”

“Maybe I should just take some guard shifts. There’s the next picket there. Should be Jonas, I think.” She waves ahead a little. “One of the Greens.”

“Depends who you want to show off to. We probably shouldn’t be on the outside for a while, but if we are then you should have a second line behind you.”

“I’ve stayed within the camp, but I can’t for much longer. It’s killing me.” Dramatic statements like that underscore Varanis’ youth at times.

“Yeah, that’s not a problem. Staying still to be a target is a problem. But go out with Suuraki or Xenofos. Maybe take Rajar for a walk. I think he enjoys that.” Berra has been spending much of her free time – of which she has little – with the Storm Bull.

“He’s got to get better soon, right? It’s strange seeing him like this. Did you see that his clan sent him food?”

“I didn’t, no. Thanks.” Berra looks in towards the camp. “Lenta said the White Ladies reckoned most people get better in around a week, or a bit more. It depends on the person.”

Varanis nods, then greets the Esrolian standing guard. “Jonas. All quiet?”

“Nothing since Yelmset but the singing,” Jonas replies. “And a bit before, someone was explaining to his friends who we were.” Mostly quiet. Trouble likely not brewing.

Berra stays quiet, letting the conversation happen, and listening in.

As they move on to the next check point, Varanis says, “What do make of the little gifts that have been coming in?”

“Oh… Um, I think they’re probably things we should return? Offers of come-and-visit? I haven’t really been thinking about it.” Berra frowns in the darkness. “I’ve been thinking more about just in-camp stuff.”

“Like the food situation.”

“Yeah. And what they’re thinking about me being in a fight.” Berra scowls, thoughtfully.

Berra adds, “I think they’re OK with it. Like, we won, and we did well, and so that is good.”

“I feel badly,” Varanis admits. “I have been keeping them close to camp to reduce the risk of brawls and then…”

“And then we won. People need to brawl sometimes – this is a Praxian army. Keeping them close enough reduce the risk of them getting beaten up. There’s brawling, then there’s trouble.” She grins. “We were very nearly trouble.”

“We were.” Varanis almost lets herself grin. It’s just there, in the curve of her lips. “I wish you’d been able to see me. I did alright, though they’d clearly decided that you were the primary threat. You were brutal. I’m so glad you’re on my side.”

Berra gives Varanis a smile in return for the one she did not get. “I saw a bit at first. After that it got busy. Um, I think I had to pay the White Ladies, and I forgot.” She bites her lip, annoyed.

“I took care of it.”

“Thanks. But yeah, morale’s pretty good, although they’ll complain about the food, and it’s a bit more fragile if that comes from me than from you. And I’ll remember protection magic next time. I still kinda want to fight someone. If she won’t see us for long enough, we can keep on fighting, but I think we should try not to other than that.”

“I’ll speak to the troops in the morning.” Varanis pulls off her helmet, causing her plaits to fall down around her face. She pushes them out of the way impatiently. “I still need to burn this off too. I have been disappointed that no one has come asking.”

“Gotta remember – I gotta remember – that whatever our problems are, Argrath has them and more. So we can leave it a bit. But I should find that Storm Bull after Alda Chur falls, and challenge him.”

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Berra and Varanis talk about food and the current situation