1628, Fire Season, Fertility Week
Later that night, Varanis signals to Berra that she wants a quiet word.
Berra is playing a game of swords and boards against herself, on a game-board etched into one of the tables. She abandons it to drift over to Varanis.
“You called me Varanis earlier,” the Vingan murmurs. “We agreed to be a little less obvious, remember?”
Berra makes a sulky face at odds with her next words. “I know, yeah. I’m sorry.”
Varanis arches a brow. “Why does your face say something different from your words?”
“Uh, because it’s dark in here?” Berra suggests. Maybe she’s a bit tipsy. She seems to be more than usually aggressive.
“Oh really?” Berra’s belligerence is rapidly being matched by Varanis’.
Berra stares. “Yeah?” she suggests, in a way that says she is happy to take this outside, even.1I am finding myself wondering if Varanis fumbled an insight roll… 2000, baby. And Berra’s good at looking sulky, as has been established in other RP.
“Yeah,” Varanis replies.3Dice roll to determine mood/response: Air – 12/91 “Should we go outside to talk about it?”
Berra blinks. “Sure,” she says. “If you’re… yeah, let’s.” She stalks casually towards the door.
Varanis glares. “Out back. We don’t need to put on a performance for every passer-by.”
Berra glances around, rolls out her shoulders comfortably, heads that way.
She turns on her heel to stalk out the back door of the inn, brushing past the cook on the way by.
Berra ends up trailing behind, giving Varanis plenty of room.
Outside, the air is cool, with a hint of rain. The stable is behind the inn’s main building and a single torch lights the small open space between.
Berra checks out the area, even glancing at the roof. “I messed up. And you’re under a lot of stress.” There is a patronising tone in her voice.
Varanis wheels and with a single step, puts herself almost toe to toe with the smaller woman. “Then why, by Orlanth’s blue balls, are you trying to start something with me?” she growls.
“You’re a fine one to talk,” Berra says with something like scorn. “You’re the one who asked me out here!”
“You may not have said the words aloud, but the challenge was there. Am I suppose to ignore that?”
Staring up at Varanis, Berra puts her hands on her hips. “Yeah? Are you saying I wouldn’t tell you the truth?”4Success on Air.
“You rather conveniently didn’t say anything, did you? You just stared it at me while you said you were sorry. I’m sure you are sorry – you wouldn’t say it otherwise. But you are also mad about it.” The intensity of her anger falls rapidly, as Varanis speaks, as though she’s beginning to listen to herself. “Ah fuck. If you said you were sorry, you meant that. And that means that whatever I read in your face wasn’t about you challenging me.” She steps back, giving Berra room and runs a shaky hand through her mess of plaits. “Fuck,” she says again. “Berra, I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.”5Rolled on INT*4 after Berra’s statement and passed that.
The light from the torch falls on Berra’s face – it shows worry and concern, and fading anger, gone almost as soon as it can be seen. “Kay. Wanna start again?” she asks in a small voice, careful.
Varanis draws a shuddering breath. “I need to leave here. I can’t stand being this close to the two them. And we’re heading deeper into Lunar territory and somehow I have get get everyone there and then back to Boldhome alive. We’re hunting something so evil that even some of our worst enemies fear it. And we’re doing it with targets on our backs. And I have to trust her and I don’t and I just want to get away from her before I do something stupid like demand to talk to her again.” The words spew forth, lacking the clarity and organization of one of Varanis’ speeches. Her emotions have her twisted up in knots.
“We’ll let Irillo know we have to move on tomorrow,” Berra says. “In case that’s not his plan. But you don’t have to trust her. You have to trust her belief in her plans. She don’t want you dead – she wants to make peace so she can be rich and get fatter.”
“Like he matters to her. He wants to be in charge here – betraying you doesn’t make that happen, because the Bat’s still a threat, right? You’re not enough of a bribe to make them acknowledge him if they can just send it this way and be done with it.”
“Can you call me Ranie?” Varanis asks, returning to the start of things and sidestepping her other concerns.
Berra takes a deep breath. “I don’t know. I …” She trails off. “It feels wrong to me. Maybe less so since I heard Mirava say it, but it’s not what I know you as.”
“It’s still my name. Have you never heard Xenofos use it?”
Berra adds, miserably, “And I keep forgetting. I’ve tried not to call you anything, but it’s really tough and I’ll try to call you Ranie but I don’t know if I’ll always get it right. I just forget.”
Varanis runs a hand through her hair again, this time catching on the plaits and making a fist in it all. She takes slow breaths and as she releases it a third time, her hand slides free and her body visibly relaxes. “Maybe I shouldn’t have asked it of you,” she admits. “It’s likely the songs won’t have made it too deeply into Tarsh and the other provinces. Our names aren’t exactly uncommon either. We’ll be fine.” She sounds as though she is trying to convince herself.
Berra looks down, examining the ground, her hands, her sandaled feet. “There’s really only one person who cares,” she says, “And the rest, Irillo will give gifts to.” That is, bribe in ways that will not bring unwanted attention. Small bribes, of the sort he hands out as ‘taxes’.
Wryly, Varanis murmurs, “I’m going to end up owing him my first-b…” She stops. “Gah. That’s not funny anymore.”
“It’s fine. I’ll fight him for her. He has no idea how to keep a weapon inline and I don’t need money.” Berra tries a smile. “Anyhow, you’re not the sponsor of the caravan here.” She glances around, but even though nobody seems to be close, says no names.
“You think Irillo would do this for her?”
“Er, he’s been complaining about the cost all the way here. He’s going to get most of it back, and the rest is for Harmony.” Berra shrugs. “He’ll owe us all, we’ll owe him. That’s how people come together.”
“Let’s discuss the issue of names on the road with the others,” Varanis says at last. “Whatever we decide, we need to be consistent.”
“We can just keep me and you at different ends of the caravan,” Berra says. “That’ll help. I’m sorry. It’s me. It’s not even about lying, or at least Truth, I think. Just something in me knows you as I knew you when I met you, and keeps using it… you got a rank? Like, ‘soldier’?”
Varanis snorts. “And yet you can call me Vareena when it suits.” Then she shakes her head. “It’s fine. We’ll be fine, somehow. I’m sorry I tried to take my anger out on you. Something in me was certain you were trying to provoke me.”
“If I’ve called you that, it’s not often,” Berra says, and sighs. “And it’s because my Lord does. I pick up bits. Odd bits from odd people.” With two fingers she traces the angles or a rather wobbly Water Rune in the air. “But yeah. Let’s make sure we get away as soon as possible.”
“Before I do something stupid,” Varanis agrees, staring into the dark above them. Rooftops or palace, doesn’t really matter. Both choices would be bad ones. For an awkward moment, it looks like the Esrolian woman is contemplating hugging her friend, but if that’s the case, she changed her mind and the moment passes. “Let’s go back inside. I should try to rest before my guard shift.”
Berra says, “You can take it off, if you want, and sleep outside his door.” Then she face-palms. “Sorry. You’re not Humakti. Maybe you can’t. I don’t know.”
“I need to greet Yelm anyway. But, if we have enough people, then yes. I’ll sleep near my ward and be up in time for Yelm. Maybe if I poke him awake when I rise, we can get on the road sooner.”
“I’m not saying I don’t sometimes get up loudly,” Berra replies, but she is already turning to go, with some destination or other on her mind.