Those Were The Days

Berra — Those Were The Days

????, Earth Season, Harmony Week


Context

Earth Season, Harmony Week, Freezeday Evening/Waterday Dusk. [[[s02:session-3|Session 3]]]

Events
On the first evening in Whitewall, after paying her respects at the Temple of Humakt, but before sleeping, Berra goes down into the town, zooming off towards the gate at a dead run.

Mellia tries to catch up. “Berra, wait! What is wrong?”

Berra flails a little to slow down, and then comes back far enough to talk to Mellia. “Wrong? Why would anything be wrong?”

“If you’re running like this, something’s probably wrong. What is it?”

Berra blinks. “No, that’s how I run. Do you think my form is off?” She looks genuinely confused. “I mean, I’m not an athlete, but I’m pretty good at it.”

“Your form is fine,” says Mellia. “I’m just wondering why you are running so fast.”

Berra seems to consider that sprinting in her full armour is entirely normal. “Um, because I wanted to get to the gate fast? I’m bored.”

“Oh. I thought that something seriously wrong was about to occur, like an undead invasion.”

“Oh, right. No. I was going to go to where I met D’Val and see if the place was still standing, and still sold beer.” Berra grins. “And maybe run back up here.”

Mellia smiles. “Do you want company?”

“I can walk,” Berra says, smile widening. “I was not sure if you were going to want to stay with Venlar.” She bounces on her toes a little, and then settles.

“I do, but you’re my friend. I could go get Venlar, but I think he should stay with Yamia.”

Berra looks briefly worried. “I think so too. He’s very gentle with her. I was finding it best not to talk, but he knows what to say.”

“He should,” Mellia says, “he’s her brother. Do you think it’s worth asking the local High Sword to look at Yamia?”

“Probably. I’ll be sleeping there tonight. She has the right to too, if you think it will help. I… I suppose I might be well known here. Lord Eril organised the Heroquest, but I did it.” Berra’s lips curl, just very slightly, at the memory. “I didn’t really get a good look at him when Koraki took off his glove. What was his expression like?”

The smile is mostly in the Humakti’s eyes.

Mellia blushes. “I honestly don’t remember. I was just glad we succeeded.”

“I was pretty solidly into being Humakt, by then. But I’d love to have known.” Berra shrugs it off and looks around, running forgotten. “Do the fyrdsmen you healed know you are here?” She turns to walk towards the gate.

For Varanis :The pair are just starting to move off towards the gate after, or during, their conversation.

Varanis approaches. “Is everything ok?”

Berra groans faintly. “I was just trying to get a sprint in, and from the mules to the gate was the right distance,” she says, eyes closed in a pained look.

The Vingan laughs.

Mella answers Berra first. “I think the fyrdsmen will know tomorrow. I told Jaldis I would help with the latest epidemic.”

“There’s another epidemic?” Varanis asks.

Berra was about to say something, but shuts up and looks to Mellia.

Mellia looks just a touch tired. “The conditions in the lower city breed disease demons like flies. Yes, there’s another outbreak.”

“Anything we can do?” Berra asks.

“Ask Jaldis,” Mellia advises. “I am sure there will be people who need to be carried. I don’t think there’s a worshipper of Mallia in town, but if you find one, kill her.”

Varanis winces. “I’m not asking Jaldis anything.”

“Well, yes.” Berra sighs. “But I still want to go have that drink. Varanis, I was going to go to the inn… well, shop that sold beer and something like wine and had a common room… where I met D’Val, to see how they were doing. Would you like to come? And then tomorrow someone can organise carrying people.”

“Yes, I’m happy to join you, Berra,” the Vingan replies.

“Let’s go,” Mellia suggests, “before Venlar misses me.”

“I’m not paying for a room for the two of you tonight,” Berra notes. “Just the drinks for the three of us.” She grins as they get through the gate. “This is where I met Rajar. I’d seen him on the road but not really talked to him. When I saw him going up into the middle of the city, I followed him up past the gate. Then we came back down.”

Mellia smiles at fond memories.

Varanis looks around curiously, taking in not only the places Berra points out, but acquainting herself with her surroundings in general.

The way down from the city is a road with a gate top and bottom, between multiple walls. The outer rings are growing wild grass and weeds. On the way down, Berra points out where Billy ended up on his first charge against the zombies here, where Mellia dived through the press of the second row to save someone in the front row as the fyrd fought their way up, and the position of the spike – now gone – where a head landed when D’Val decapitated the first zombie to stand up against him. “And after that I stopped worrying about someone so small being in the key position where I had put him,” she notes. “And here’s about where we were when we first saw the undead rise, but that wasn’t very many. Rajar and I killed one each, and then we decided to retreat.” And by that point, they are at the lower gate. The stink of the slum city is worse down here, but Berra is ignoring it, or has not noticed.

Mellia pinches her nose a bit. “In some ways, those were happier times.”

Varanis’ nose wrinkles at the smell, but she doesn’t comment on it, instead looking at Mellia in surprise. “Happier times? You were fighting zombies!”

“We were,” Mellia confirms. “Perhaps I should have said that our problems were smaller back then.”

“Easier times. We didn’t have to think so much. Although maybe I should have, before talking to the High Sword of Humakt.” Berra is managing not to laugh.

Varanis looks rueful. “I was still in Nochet.”

“Nobody’s perfect,” Berra commiserates.

“I remember talking Koraki into taking the part of Orlanth. That was fun,” says Mellia.

“You have to admit, your problems got more complicated when I came along. Although, I had nothing to do with Onjur,” Varanis points out. “I was still in Nochet then too, so I’m not taking any credit for him.”

“I don’t know. I think they got bigger, but they were already pretty complicated. You’re sort of like, I don’t know, an extra wall around the town. Useful, but you need the town to be there already for it to be useful for SOMETHING.” Berra nods wisely. “Along left, I think. Under that awning, there should be… yeah, that alley. Down there. It’s got wooden blocks to walk on. It’s the best way.”

Mellia nods. “I remember thinking Eril had set us up to fail the heroquest.”

Varanis laughs when Berra compares her to an extra wall.

“Eril isn’t all that bad, you know,” she tells her cousin. “I really don’t think he’d do that, unless perhaps it served Sartar in some way.”

“He wanted to challenge me with it, certainly,” Berra says. This may be a way of reserving judgement.

“Eril,” Mellia says, “has changed. I’m not quite certain what that situation challenged.”

“He would not have had me fail just for the sake of failure,” Berra says carefully. “But I do not think he cared if I succeeded.”

“Perhaps not,” Mellia agrees, “but Koraki, his friends and I did, which was a good thing for Whitewall.”

Varanis falls silent, looking thoughtful.

Berra explains, “We needed to go to Kero Finn. The Priests were concentrating on that. I was looking at a lower level.” She points down a wider road, one that does not need wooden blocks on. “There. Across under that sign with the amphora painted on it.”

“One day, I’d like to climb Kero Finn,” Varanis says, following Berra’s directions.

“It’s tall,” the Humakti advises her.

“Kero Finn is a strange place,” Mellia adds. “Do not go alone.”

The inn itself, if it can be glorified with that name, is the best in town. This makes it a little better than when Mellia and Berra first visited. There are oil lamps, and real tables, and straw spread on the floor. But, better than any of those things is the tray of roasting herbs above one of the lamps, making the air here smell far better than outside.1Reputation rolls; Mellia gets a special and Berra passes. Varanis, without the local connection, fails.

“Well, well,” says the man on a stool by the row of amphoras. “There’s a face!” He stands up to bow to Mellia, and give Berra a nod. Varanis gets only a summing-up look. “Welcome, Healer. And Humakti.”

A buzz of conversation begins, as people explain to each other who the two famous people here are.


Mellia beams at the man on the stool. “Thank you! Tell me, how’s the beer tonight?”

“It’s a trifle warm, but I brewed for that,” he says. “You’ll allow me?” And he gets up, to reach for beakers and an amphora, and pour out three measures.

Mellia nods, all smiles. “Thank you!”

Varanis looks around the place, making casual note of the overall atmosphere, while also marking potential exit routes. There is one. It is the door.

Berra relaxes enough to sit down, although she looks proud of herself, and proud of Mellia. She gives one glance at the door as she chooses a seat, and a shiver goes up her spine, like a ghost just laid a hand on her shoulder, and then she sits down to her beer.

Mellia sits down after a moment and tries the beer.

The Vingan takes a seat after the others have done so, making sure she’s in a place where she can see the door. Something about her attitude suggests that she’s decided to be the one on guard, in case Berra wants to relax for a change. She sips at her beer, but is taking it slowly.

The beer is good, slightly spicy, with a flavour that develops slowly without ever getting sour.

Varanis ends up beside Berra, who has also chosen such a position.

“This is wonderful,” Mellia announces. She seems more relaxed and happy than she’s been outside of Venlar’s presence for some time.

Berra just sighs, settling down.

The room quietens a bit, but now and again names or words drift over. The drought. The Humakti. The healer who stayed through the worst of last year, and who kept people alive when… well, Berra. Yes, yes that is Mellia!

“This is where you met D’Val?” Varanis asks.

“Mhm,” Berra says, and her smile curls back on again. “We were trying to persuade the fyrd to meet us at… well, we had persuaded them. We knew a hero was coming but we didn’t know how long they’d be. The town was waiting for someone eight feet tall with eyes of fire. And there was Rajar… So then I was telling them praise be to Humakt, and the door opened, and there was a Duck. Who replied with the same thing, and then bought a beer.” She calls out to the barman, “Hey! That Humakti hero? This is one of his feathers! It’s been to hell!” She points to the single black tail feather in her crest. People stare a lot. Nobody calls the Humakti a liar.

Insight2Passed by Varanis.: Berra is showing off, pleased to be stretching out her personality, and this is part of her relaxing. Massive tension in her is unwinding.

“We all went to Hell,” Mellia adds, “but it was worth it.”

Now there is more staring, from all over the room. “Well, now you mention it.” Berra shrugs. She cannot keep a straight face, but manages to crack only the smallest of smiles.

Varanis studies her two companions and takes a sip from her cup without saying anything.

Hubbub. Amazement. Nobody approaches, but the whole room is talking. Berra keeps her smirk to a minimum.

The barman approaches to refill cups, without being asked.

He is thanked politely by Varanis, who has consumed less than half of her own cup. “This is a very good brew,” she praises him.

Mellia thanks the nice barman and seems ready to tell all if asked.

“Thanks,” he says weakly.

“So anyway,” Berra asks Mellia, “Are we going to have to defend you against Venlar? Do Esrolian brides get hidden behind the loom? Or do we have to defend him from you?”

Mellia grins. “Venlar did offer to kidnap me away from a loom. You might need to save him from me. Honestly, if he survives meeting Mother, he’ll be fine.”

Varanis laughs. “I think Berra’s asking about Esrolian marriage rites, cousin.”

Berra adds, “It’s a Sartarite thing. Ernalda needs to go with Orlanth. You don’t even need to be able to weave, but you give him a loom to carry for you, and he puts it in his bag.”

“That must be a little loom! Just one for decorative bands?” Varanis asks, looking at Berra curiously.

“I honestly don’t remember how these things go in Esrolia,” Mellia admits. “Kallyr will be presiding, so you may have to save me from Venlar.”

“Well, the original one shrank magically, so usually just a model. But if you’re getting married by the Prince, you might not be at your home, so that’s different. It might get played out in the…” She pauses, and then says, “In the Palace.” Suddenly thoughtful.

“What is it?” Varanis asks.

Mellia drinks her beer.

“Timing could be awkward,” Berra says. Perhaps Humakti are trained in understatement. “But we can always manage a big honour guard anyhow.” She shrugs, and then asks, “What do you want as a wedding present? I’m terrible at choosing that sort of thing.”

Being Berra she then adds, “Uh, unless that’s a peasant thing. Or a Sartarite thing.” Completionist at heart. And also, talking a lot.

“I honestly don’t know,” Mellia tells Berra. “Let’s see what gets negotiated.”

“Do you think your mother and our Grandmother are going to be happy with the wedding taking place in Boldhome?”

“No, ” Mellia says happily. “They’ll want it in Nochet and want it their way. Venlar’s family should be present, though. There are so many people I want with me on that day and they all live in Sartar.”

Varanis raises an eyebrow at this.

“Ooof.” Berra’s smile is sharp, wolflike, amused.

“If I could, I’d invite all of Blue Tree Tula.”

“Maybe two ceremonies. An Esrolian one and then a Sartarite one. But maybe that’s for negotiation too.” The Humakti looks surprised that her beer is almost finished, and hails the barman, who gets the hint and leaves the amphora at the table after refilling her cup.

“That would definitely be for negotiation. I don’t see Kallyr paying for two weddings. Which reminds me, the merchant who gave me that robe I wore on the heroquest is going to do my wedding gown.”

Berra breaks out into a smile around her cup.

“A Sartarite wedding, a Sartarite gown, and a Sartarite husband…. I thought I was the black sheep of the family,” Varanis teases, her eyes alight with laughter.

“Mother will just have to suffer,” says Mellia with a grin.

“Aren’t Healers against that sort of thing? I mean, religiously should you not call the whole thing off to prevent it?” Berra sounds serious, but keeps her cup in the way of her face while speaking.

“Nonsense. We believe in love. Really,” says Mellia.

Berra tsks, caught out.

“I can just imagine poor Rondrik when our family takes over his entire inn again. Only this time, it’ll include women in the height of Esrolian fashion.”

“Poor man,” agrees Mellia.

Berra sighs, looking at her drink like an old friend, and then welcomes it all in.

Glug. Glug. That Humakti is going to be shattered. Maybe not paralytic, but she looks like she is going hard for ‘asleep’.

Casually, Varanis refills the cups in front of Berra and Mellia. Hers doesn’t need refilling yet.

“Hmm, ” says Mellia, “maybe we’d better get going after one more beaker.”

Berra looks down at her cup. “I could sleep here?” she suggests. “I haven’t really wanted to let go of everything for a while.”

Mellia asks the barman, “Are there rooms here?”

The barman indicates the floor. “Or my bed,” he says. “I could sleep in here. I don’t mind.”

Berra waves that off. “I like common rooms.” She is not slurring yet.

“Oh no,” Mellia protests, “we couldn’t do that to you. Berra, we need to get going. I can’t carry you.”

Quietly at first, but with growing confidence, Varanis begins to sing.3Special success. It’s one of the songs about her companions and the Whitewall events that she’d heard sung in Boldhome and Clearwine both. The tune is catchy and the song is well known here. She sings it well.

Berra settles down, and pauses in drinking to listen to Varanis. She does tell Mellia, “I won’t need carrying,” but then she shuts up.

By the time she hits the chorus a second time, people are joining in enthusiastically.

Mellia joins in and actually sounds good for once.

When Varanis finishes, her face is flushed with pleasure as she grins at her two companions.

Eyes closed, with a little smile, Berra listens. The whole experience – beer and song and conversation – seem to have made her relax.

When no one seems to object, Varanis launches into a second song, this one telling the tale of the heroes on Kero Finn. It seems that she’s been paying attention along the way. There’s a funny little song about Billy tipping over. Another about Berra’s eyes by an anonymous bard. Varanis sings until she runs out of breath and out of beer.

Mellia certainly looks relaxed, but not enough to keep singing.

Berra refills her cup only once during the song about Kero Finn. At one point she leans over to say, “Remember when Koraki got shot? That was … funny and strange. And when he caught you?”

Mellia nods. “That was funny.”

There’s even a song about a bison rider who tries to fly out of the palace at Boldhome, but fails to do so. Instead, it seems he bounces, much like his bison.

Mellia bursts out laughing at that one!

“He’d roll,” Berra says, unimpressed. “Straight down the steps and probably into a pile at the bottom. Not bounce.”

Finally, the Vingan stops, having exhausted her repertoire of songs about her companions and their exploits. She has notably steered clear of the handful of bawdy tunes that have also emerged.

She grins at Mellia and Berra. “Did you know you were that famous?” she asks after draining her cup.

“I had no idea,” Mellia says. “I think we’d better get back to the caravan, though.”

“Are all those about us?” Berra looks like she can’t believe it.4Having fumbled Air…

Varanis laughs and glances about to see if any of the other patrons in the inn had overheard. Judging by the grins on some and the awed expressions on others, the people here had no problems accepting it. “Yes, you goose of a Humakti. They are.” The words are teasing but soft enough not to be overheard. “Look around you. You’re famous.”

Mellia quietly finishes her beer.

Berra looks around, and then at her beer. “Wow. I am not drunk enough to find that out.”

The Vingan goes to top up Berra’s cup again, but the amphora is empty. “Do you want to stay?” she asks. “Or shall we escort Mellia back to her love?”

“I should stay, or at least, not go back yet. But can you take an amphora back to Rajar? He’ll like this stuff.” Berra looks up, eyes half hooded by alcohol.

Mellia will pay for an amphora and someone to carry it. She only wobbles a little.

No money changes hands. The barman is not having it. Volunteers to carry it are many.

Mellia graciously thanks them all and takes two volunteers, just in case she’s drunker than she thinks.

Berra calls for just one more beer for herself, while the crowd applauds Mellia, banging their cups and eating knives on the tables.

Varanis looks thoughtfully at Berra, then nods. She rises with Mellia and joins her enthusiastic escorts. The Vingan is not showing any signs of over-indulgence.

Mellia tries to make (and pay for a round for the room) a toast : “To Whitewall!”

With the further applause of the crowd, the barman does allow Mellia to donate a couple of clacks, but only as a token. The room toasts itself, and for a moment there is a danger that Mellia will be swept up and carried around, but it passes and she can get out without needing to demand to be put down.

Berra looks drunk, peaceful, and relaxed.

There is a bit of lunacy, wherein [http://journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/varanis:1626-0770-sword-dancer Yamia goes missing and is retrieved]. Everyone gets a bit more sleep.

Outside the Humakti Temple, once everything has settled down, as Berra keeps on sleeping, a little thing makes itself clear to Varanis. Berra’s hair is dark. Normally she sleeps with her leather helmet on, doing service as a pillow, but today it is over by her horse. Her bronze helmet, however, is nowhere to be seen.5Varanis passes Scan.

Varanis leans against a wall in the shadows and considers what this might mean. It seems unlikely that Berra would misplace her helmet, given how much the feather means to her.


The little Humakti sleeps in her little pile of bronze and muscle, like an armoured alynx curled around a sword.

A glimpse at the sky suggests it won’t be long until Yelm begins his ascent and Varanis begins to contemplate slipping away.

Berra stretches, maybe on the point of waking up. Maybe armoured alynxes need to stretch too.

With a nod to herself, the Vingan decides to slip away. She turns to leave catches her armour on something in the darkness. There’s a sudden loud clatter as several spears tumble to the ground. They’d been leaning against the building, and Varanis had failed to notice them when she picked her observation point.6Varanis fumbled Move Quietly.

Berra is rolling to her feet a moment later, her sword in her right hand, left hand curled around the scabbard as she draws. She takes a half-curved step as she looks about her for danger, and that brings her to the entrance of the Temple, letting her guard the doorway. A moment later she faces the noise, and says, “Good morning?” in a rather confused tone.7Passed both Scan and Broadsword.

“Good morning,” comes Varanis’ sheepish reply. “I didn’t notice the spears against the wall here. Sorry to have woken you so abruptly.”

“Someone shouldn’t have left them.” Berra looks around, then ducks into the Temple for a moment, grabbing her helmet from the other side of the wall from where she was sleeping. “Do you have any water?”

Varanis walks over to Berra, unhooking her flask. It’s not full, but there’s plenty of water still in it. She hands it over.

Berra winces slightly on getting the water. “I have drink-regret,” she says. “Uh… forget the Heortling word. Hangover.”

There is the sound of someone moving sleepily within the Humakti Temple, and over by the caravan the mules are restless, but there is nothing else astir.

“I’m sure it will pass quickly enough,” Varanis says with no hint of sympathy. “Did you sleep well enough?”

“Yes, pretty well. I needed that.” Berra drinks about half of what was in the flask before handing it back. “Thank you.” She puts her helmet on, effectively casting her features into shadow, and making it just about impossible to read her. It is probably because she wants to be wearing it, rather than any wish to hide.

“Where’s your flask?” Varanis asks. Her own helmet is pushed back on her head, so her face is visible in the dim light of pre-dawn. Her expression is neutral.

Berra taps it at her side, and it rings hollow. “I filled it with beer before I left where we were drinking. Then I filled it with water a couple of times, but that didn’t taste as good. What can I help you with?”

“I don’t need anything. I was about to head inside when I woke you. You should have some more water. I can refill my flask when I go in.” Varanis offers the flask again.

Berra takes it, and sets off towards the caravan, then pauses. “Inside… longhouse?” She waits for instruction on which way to go.

Varanis catches up and then takes the lead, heading towards the longhouse. “Drink more,” she insists.

Berra does just that. “My head feels like then Enlo are playing drums inside it,” she remarks. “This is a good hangover, and I am proud of it.”

Varanis laughs softly. “You earned it.”

“I did. I’d better go get something to eat, too, before the sun comes up and sees I’m green. I’d hate anyone to take me for Ernalda.” Berra’s voice is wry, amused, determined on her own happy suffering.

The door to the longhouse is unlocked and Varanis opens it wide enough for the two of them to slip through it. She pauses to allow her eyes the chance to adjust to the darkness within.

Berra pauses at the door, and says quietly, “I should go to the well.”

The hearth fire is burning low and provides the main source of light. Someone is tending the fire, building it up for the morning’s needs.

“There are buckets of water inside for filling flasks and cups. Our hosts apparently ensure they are filled fresh each night to ease the morning’s headaches,” Varanis says quietly. “Just there.” She’s pointing to a spot next to one of the tables that runs the length of the hall. Someone snores in the darkness.

“You’ve persuaded me,” Berra murmurs, and comes in too, pausing as the darkness blinds her.

There are a few servants moving about clearing the evidence of the previous night from the tables. They move with practiced care and hardly make a sound.

Berra jingles a bit as she goes over to the water buckets, but no spears ambush her, and nobody gets trodden on.

The servant who was working on the fire is replaced by a couple of others who set several large earthen pots into the bed of coals that has been compiled at one end of the hearth.

Berra mutters, “Maybe I’m not ready for food yet,” on seeing that. She hands Varanis back her flask, and slips out to go see to something that is not reminding her of eating.

The Vingan laughs quietly and goes to fill her flask.