Things Done Right

1629, Sea Season, Death Week, Fireday


Do Not Ask has been freed of the trollish monsters that infested her spring. She has offered the safety of her mountain top for sleep and the party settles in for the night. Between Session 4.11 (Just Don’t Ask) and 4.12 (Spirited Events).


Berra has wandered aimlessly but apparently without urgency in her, over various parts of the hilltop.  She is not currently doing much, but sits on a rock a short distance away, staring out to the North.  Somewhere that way lies her home, and her family.  It might even be the way she is facing.

Of course, it is dark enough that she cannot be looking for landmarks.  She is just looking.

Varanis has unrolled her bedroll and prepared for sleep, but instead of crawling beneath the hides, she drifts over to Berra. “You’ll remember to sleep?” she asks softly.

Berra looks up, and smiles slightly.  “Yes.  I will not wake anyone for a watch, I think.  It is just so peaceful here.”  There is a shrug as she looks down.  “I don’t feel right not being alert, though.”

There’s a thoughtful nod. “I know what you mean.” After a moment, Varanis adds, “She’s different than I expected. Gentler. Or… maybe kinder is the better word.”

Berra gives Varanis a curious look, like she is waiting for more to be said.  Everything about her is slower than it should be, like she has been affected by gentleness, if not kindness.

“Berra… are you sure you’re well?”

The Humakti takes a moment to consider that.  “The White Ladies said nothing touched me,” she replies.1Insight: She seems to think that is the right answer to the question – she is not trying to dodge it.

“It’s just…” Varanis considers, trying to find the right words. “You’re moving at half speed. Like you’re under water.”

“I’m finding it hard to think, so that takes me extra time,” Berra admits.

“That’s what I mean.” The Vingan says pointing at Berra emphatically. “It’s not like you and that’s why I keep asking if you’re alright.” As if she realizes that the gesture might be too aggressive, she closes her fingers into a fist then lets the hand drop.

Berra nods, taking it in.  “When I said you were being weaselly, you said something and I think it wasn’t true.  In thinking about that, I fell over my own thoughts.  There were so many choices.”  Berra’s expressive features show mostly puzzlement, a little worry at the edges.  “I remembered to breathe, and to calm down and keep calm.  I do not know if I want to look at choices again.”

“When I said you were right?”

Varanis considers. “You were, you know. I didn’t want to see it, but I was being an ass.”

“No, when you said I was always right,” Berra goes on gently.  “And that I was saying you were dishonourable.  This is not about that, though.  The feeling is the problem, not what you said.  It was easier when we had something to do but our task is finished.”

“The feeling is that there are too many choices?”

Berra nods, and looks away, melancholic now.  “All of them might be right, and none of them are.”

“But… I thought that for you, the only choice is Truth?” Varanis says, confused.

Berra stares back at Varanis.  “What if I was wrong, though?  I couldn’t decide!”  That, at least, is faster.  It’s a reaction, not reply taken after consideration.

“Being wrong isn’t the end of the world. Look at me. I’m wrong on a regular basis and yet, somehow, we manage. None of you have tossed me off a cliff yet, anyway.” Varanis shrugs and laughs quietly.2Insight: Underneath the self-deprecating humour there’s some discomfort, maybe to the point of pain. She hates being wrong.

Berra is breathing too fast suddenly, struggling to keep it under control.  “Forget what goes where and we might fall towards the Sky or swim through the Earth or eat emotions!  It’s got to have things… things.  Right.  Done right.”

“Slow down,” Varanis says urgently. “Take some slow breaths. Focus on Raven. Or… on D’Val. Hold D’Val in your mind and just breathe with me.”

Berra looks at Varanis, suddenly alert.  “Lord Raven.  He needs me.”  It does not seem urgent – it is a general statement.  The alertness lasts for one moment more, and then she looks down, concentrating.  “Breathing… yes.”  That seems tough for her, but she tries.

Varanis breathes slowly, modelling what she wants from Berra. Inhale. Hold. Slow exhale, emptying the lungs. Again. And again.

Berra watches, and mirrors almost too perfectly.  She even takes on Varanis’ expression for a while, until eventually peace begins to creep over her.  Her look becomes grave, then distant.  It veers through tragic for a while, but although tears fall she does not make a sound, and then her shoulders relax and she smiles slightly, distant but geniune, like she has found an image that she likes.

“Back?” Varanis asks softly. “Or, at least, calm?”

Berra tilts her head.  “I am,” she says, although she is back to gentleness again.  “It will be…yeah.  No.”  Suddenly she sounds certain.  “I am not going to let her do this to me.  I know what she means by ‘We are all us’.  It means she can’t make up her mind.  I bloody can.  I will.”  Berra glowers at Varanis.  “I can’t care if I’m lost.  I’m just going to go forward.”

“She?” the Vingan asks, looking confused. She frowns and then there’s dawning realization, coupled with horror. “Jar-eel…” she breathes, the name a curse on her lips.

“I wanna punch her,” Berra replies.  “But winning’s gonna work.  It has to.  I ain’t got any other ideas.”  She looks determined, and borderline angry.  “And that means staying alive.  Awake.  Not falling into all those questions she thinks are so deep.”

“Harrek did a number on her. Because of you,” Varanis points out.

This time the pause seems like Berra is actively thinking.  “And because of him.  But she’s left a hole, and I’m not sure she’s gone.  Not all the way.”  The Humakti does a full-body shudder just thinking about that.  “Ugh.  But yeah.  Staying alive is winning.  Winning is staying alive.  One of those.”

“It’s both,” Varanis says. “And you’re needed. Wanted, even. Especially.” Her friend is almost stammering in her urgency to get the message through. “Raven. D’Val. Yehna. Maalira. Me. We need you. Even Eril.”3Insight: Varanis has briefly forgotten her own message to breathe. She’s badly shaken.

Berra sort-of smiles at the last.  It is more a curl of the lip.  “Yeah.  He needs me to push him from time to time.”  She sighs, and now she just looks tired.  “I need to go to Nochet next, and Lord Raven’s back at Beasts Gather.  It is easier when I have a thing to do, but I don’t always need.  I don’t always have that.  So I need to remember and just go on.  I need to eat.  I didn’t eat much when it was cooked up.”

“Right. Let’s find food then,” Varanis suggests. “You need to eat. I know this because people say so all the time.” It’s an attempt at levity, anyway.

Berra says, “Yes, but if people talk to me, just now, please distract them?  I’ve got a lot going on in my mind and I’m having to balance.”  She slides off the rock, becoming slightly shorter despite how low it is.  “I think I should got to Beasts Gather first, and then when you are done in the area, you can go to say farewell to Kulharl.”  That might be a more extreme change of subject than usual, even from her.

Varanis promises to distract anyone who tries to talk to Berra. When Kulharl is mentioned, she wrinkles her nose but nods. “It’s polite. I’ll try to resist yelling at him.”

“Now is the time you are leaving, so now is the time you can try to leave well.”  Berra shrugs.  “I need to stop planning for you, but my thoughts began again.”

Varanis nods. “I’m not sure there’s much to eat beyond trail rations, just now. Maalira did fry up some mushrooms, but they’ve either been eaten or gone cold.”

“Cold is fine,” Berra points out.  “It’s still food.  She knows not to put herbs on.  I have my own belt-food, too.  I refilled my pouches in Boldhome.”  Maybe she is speaking a little too fast, a little too thoughtfully.  It is better than it was, though.

Sure enough, there are a few mushrooms set aside specifically for Berra. Just in case.

Berra scoops them onto a spoon, using her knife to push them around, and having got wrapped around them looks over to where Maalira is sleeping, or at least lying down.  It does not do to make assumptions, after all.

“I think she just stuck to salt for seasoning,” Varanis murmurs.

Berra stands straight, and looks up at Varanis.  “I know you’re not meaning more than amusement, but please don’t tell her to … suggest she binds up my ankle, and stuff?”

Varanis starts to protest, then just sighs. “As you wish.”

“You’re the second person this season to try to push us together.”  Berra points wistful-baleful at Irillo’s form.  It is slightly more clear that he is asleep, given the snoring.

“We just want to see you happy,” Varanis says. “Both of you. But… Humakt.” She sighs again. “Not all Humakti are alone, you know. And you can love someone without sex.”

“I know.  And I do – I love a lot of people.  I shouldn’t, but I do.”  The Humakti shrugs it off.  “I couldn’t be with her, in a way that matters, without letting go of my understanding that makes me good in battle.  It’s not just sexy-times.  It’s that depth of caring.  I call on Humakt as a separator.”

“And, because you’re celibate and… I suppose because it wouldn’t be fair to her emotionally either,” Varanis glances surreptitiously towards Lenta, “there’s no hope of you seeking physical comfort from each other either.” Now the Vingan looks a little sad. “Humakt seems cruel to me, at times.”

“Death is.  It takes people away.  But it’s the only way – he has to do that, because the other way’s worse.  Maybe not mention that around Ernaldans.”  Berra scratches at the back of her head, pure peasant.  “Yehna says that it’s different for her, but I don’t really get it.”

“Maybe we should try to find her someone else. We did well with Yehna…”

“I don’t want to be messing with her,” Berra says.  “But maybe we can ask Yehna to.  I mean, you can.  There’s a … you’ll be going there, right?”

“The exile is almost over. Once it is, I’d like to see my daughter, if the gods permit.” So, yes. That sounds like a qualified yes.

Berra smiles.  “She’ll be bigger again.  They do that.”  Although she glances around to get her bearings, she ends up looking fondly off towards Wolfland.

“She’s over a year now. I bet she’ll be talking,” Varanis says, a sudden smile lighting her features. “I’m told I started early and never stopped.”

“I got around quietly.”  Berra gives Varanis a happy look.  “I need to think of something else though, or I’ll slow down again.  Maybe I should just go to sleep.”

“Sleep is good, or so I’m told. Why don’t you give it a try?” There’s a wry laugh. “I started to get ready, but then we got to talking. I think I’ll sit for a while and then make an attempt to trust myself to the Sister.”

Berra nods.  “Yeah.  But I didn’t wake you for watch.  That’s important, right?”  There is a proper grin then, not a smile.

Varanis chuckles. “Can’t have woken me. I haven’t slept yet. I will try soon, I promise.”

Berra goes for the hug.  Terrible Humakti.

Varanis opens her arms and just envelops her friend in a bear hug.

Berra says after a brief moment, “‘Nuff now.”  She’s also terrible at hugs.

She is released immediately, without even a sigh of regret. Instead, Varanis’ smile is delighted. “Now. Go, sleep.”

Berra goes to obey, diving under her hide without taking off her padding, or her swords.  From beneath it come the sounds and movements of someone getting changed and getting comfortable.

  • 1
    Insight: She seems to think that is the right answer to the question – she is not trying to dodge it.
  • 2
    Insight: Underneath the self-deprecating humour there’s some discomfort, maybe to the point of pain. She hates being wrong.
  • 3
    Insight: Varanis has briefly forgotten her own message to breathe. She’s badly shaken.