Berra — The Trail Of Lenta Iiii
1627, Fire Season, Movement Week
Fire Season, Movement Week, Wildday, on the road from Boldhome out towards Swenstown. [[[s02:session-44|Session 44]]]
Berra catches up after about fifteen minutes of riding. She has shed her tunic to run, and holds it balled in her left hand. After catching her breath and getting some water, she attends to finding her padding, and then goes without, putting the shirt onto Followed’s back to dry it, and walking along with her usual high step and easy grace. Her shoulders are probably going to burn if the sun gets hotter as he rises, but for now there is no problem – Yelm is simply lighting her up whenever they are out of the shadows of the Quivin range.
Xenofos nods as she arrives and gives a look at the peaks they left behind. He mutters something touching his brow and looks again.
After a while he lowers his gaze, turns around and scans the direction they will be heading to.
After what might be half an hour, Berra checks her tunic, folds it away, and pulls out the padding she will wear for the day. She examines it, deems it appropriate, and pulls it on. “We met a ghost near here,” she says, and then looks around to check if anyone heard her.
Xenofos turns to look at her from beneath his helmet. “Oh?”
“Yeah. When the Lunars came to break the quest.” Berra seats a new, shiny, torc on her neck, wincing as she wriggles it on. “They killed someone here so no message got in. And Rajar attacked it with an axe, but I pulled him away and Nala talked him down. The ghost, I mean.” She explores the fit of the jewellery, tilting her head to feel.
“You pulled Rajar away?” scholar says looking at the Praxian.
Berra nods, wide-eyed, to indicate her shock and awe at her own actions. “I know. I mean, I said I did, and I’m not going to call me a liar, but I was surprised he moved. He was sort of locked against the ghost, though, not trying to hit it then. And the ghost was bound to its body.”
He nods, looking giving her a long look.
“So, anyhow. That happened. The Lunars had killed him and then left him unburied. We went out and later we fought them. For a while it was just me and Rajar, and we thought we’d make our story there. But it would have been good.”
He looks forward on the road. “I am glad it did not end there with your unburied bodies… Lunars. Infantry? Cavalry? Light troops? Do you have any idea where they were from?” His tone changes and his hand reaches for his saddlebag for his journal.
“Yeah. He was killed by archers. So we were looking out for those as we went along. It was just me and Rajar and Nala and Serala at first, and we sent Serala back to report, so maybe the ghost was a bit further on. Half a day? It took her a while, and we got there first. And up ahead there’s a road widening. There are a couple of little houses on the way but there wasn’t anyone in them, and I think they’d all gone to the city. But at the end of the day, there’s meadow.” Berra indicates lazily ahead of her with her left hand.
His hand searches for the book for some time. Then he retrieves it. Empty. “So you did not fight by the little houses, but in the meadow?”
“Yeah, further on. There’s another house. The peaks come down to hills on our left in the afternoon, and then it all opens out at once, to rough high ground left, meadow front, and a stead on the right. They’d ki…. well, do you want me to tell you in order?”
He looks forward. “High ground on left, meadow in front, stead on the right. Road going through the meadow?”
“Mostly petering out, to be honest. The road up there’s not great, but yeah. And the meadow spreading out left and right, too. More to the right because the high ground was in the way first. A bit of room before you get to the stead – about a bowshot. Which is important later.” Berra tries to model it with her hands, left further forward than right, and both of them with their fingers pointed outwards. “So, we left Nala back a little bit so she could be a shaman, because we saw pickets, but not many, and Rajar and I started building cover over the road – something to wait behind. Then some bastard shot Rajar, around nightfall.”
“Right” He looks forward ” Maybe you should have just charged through and take them by surprise? “
“Yeah, no. There were three of us, they had archers and pickets, and no. But now I think about it, that’s where we sent Nala off, I think. She was already back guard to take the message if we died, and we sent her spirit. Exchanged arrows overnight, a bit. Hid. Waited. We couldn’t get close to each other, but the mounts were a little further back, so Billy wasn’t in danger. We could see where he had to be, but I couldn’t hit him, and of course Rajar doesn’t use a bow.” Berra shrugs, like ‘archers and pickets’ and the two of them is just a matter of fact. “One up on the roof, I think. And a couple outside. They didn’t mind being seen.”
He shrugs. “You were there, I was not. Then what?”
“Serala arrived again, towards morning, and she’d brought D’Val with her. I don’t think he ran – I think he must have ridden, but he didn’t want to talk about it. Not dignified. So then, there were five of us, so Serala made it light, and we attacked with arrows, at first. They had time to saddle up, but we couldn’t really stop that, because they did it around the back, but I sank one who was just dressed in robes, and that was probably good – Serala wounded him but I got a lob shot that hit him from on top and came out the back of the skull. I was kind of impressed later, to be honest. And they charged us, and after initial arrow lay-down we supported Rajar in a counter-charge.” That is, Rajar went ‘rawr’ and everyone followed.
“I have seen Rajar do rawr. Did someone write that down or make a song of it?” scholar asks.
“Oh, there are lots of songs about us. Someone’s doing it on purpose, Lord Eril thinks. That is, I think he thinks it. That’s why he talked to me once about hagiographers. That and he wanted me to stay humble, probably, but that’s not going to happen unless I want it to, but I’ve been being called the Sharp Dagger of Humakt lately, and he was generous enough to point that out.” Berra does not sound sarcastic. “So yeah, there’ll be songs about this if you look for them.”
“Then that was that. Four archers, the robed man… no, three archers. Four lancers. The robed man. And the dead in the farmhouse. They’d killed everyone there. It looked like they’d killed the oldest girl in some kind of magic way – a dedication to something, or a ritual. But then we send Serala back to report, settled in, and got relieved a couple of days later. Things had gone badly in Boldhome and elsewhere – Lord Eril had gone out to what was basically a rumour, and he’d won the battle there, but the Heroquest got disrupted, so he was very very angry.” Berra’s emotions play across her face too fast to really be picked out.
“So after that you came to Nochet?” he asks.
“No, after that, Lord Eril managed to annoy Nala which is why she doesn’t like him, and managed to get annoyed by Rajar, but that’s not so important. After that we came to Nochet.” Berra shrugs. “So anyhow, that’s it. Little bothies and small houses on the way – two or three I think – and then I’ve never been beyond that high vale, but it leads down to Swenstown.”
Berra still looks a little irritated, or looks a little irritated by something new, but she falls silent to think about it, and see if Xenofos has anything else to add.
“Swenstown? So towards Prax? That Lunar group was quite sneaky.” he shakes his head.
“They were just the ones set out to confuse people, I think. A small attack on the gate as a distraction. The big distraction was the one that got Lord Eril. And there were assassins in the city already – they killed Flesh Man. I’d captured him in battle – he… it’s another thing I hate them for personally.”
“Your prisoner was killed by assassins?” Xenofos looks a bit confused.
“He got ransomed, and made – persuaded – to be Flesh Man. He was a bandit I’d captured. So he died, because what was really going on was the Lunars were trying to stop the Heroquest.” Berra might have even managed to explain.
“I am sorry to hear that. But if he had been ransomed he was free to make his own decisions, was he not?” He looks thoughtful. “Not on your honor. But indeed Lunar doing.”
“Yeah. And yeah, it’s not my fault, but it’s still a thing I can be angry about. They chose someone vulnerable and hurt them. Like the kid in the farmhouse. She was dressed as an adult, but she hadn’t had time to live yet.”
“One who treads on hero’s path puts his life and soul at risk.” He looks down. “But it is ignoble to wage war on Ernalda and Voria.”
“Yep. Anyhow, I think that’s all. As soon as it was Sea Season, we got sent to Nochet by Tennebris.” Berra looks off into the distance, almost directly away from Nochet.
He rides in silence for a while. “A new torc?”
Berra puts her hand to it, and nods. “It’s the extra bronze from Lord Eril’s sword. I told him it needed to be shorter. If I was going to carry it.” She unbuckles the sword that is currently still strapped to Followed, to hold it out. The design on the hilt is echoed in what she wears. “You remember when I asked you to write ‘squeeze here’ for me?”
“So that was for that?”
“It’s on the inside. He looked a lot like he wanted to strangle me at the time, and it cost me a lot not to say anything, so I wrote it. Well, you wrote it.” Berra tries to get the bronze off, fails, and just puts her finger inside the front of the torc instead, facing out to point out where the inscription is.
“I see.” Xenofos says after a short pause.
Berra smiles just a little, at Xenofos. “He gets to feel good about thinking I’m an idiot, and I get to feel good about not having actually been genuinely stupid, because cheeking him right then would have been genuinely stupid. ‘Sup?”
He looks a bit confused. “You told him of the inscription?”
“I sent it to him to be approved. I mean, otherwise that wouldn’t have been right. And yeah, I wanted to needle him. So maybe otherwise that wouldn’t have been poking the bear.” Berra shrugs. “It’s not rebellion unless they find out.”
“I guess there is certain logic in that…” he admits.
Berra talks over the events of Sacred Time 1625 as she knows them.