[Location and whatever other notes you want here.] Session 2.38.
The Temple of Orlanth has songs and music pouring from it, for many of the lesser rites are performed there. It is part of the Temple of the Lightbringers here, but many, many ducks are Orlanth initiates. It being a minor holy day only, people are coming and going, gabbling and quacking and discussing the lastest news in lisping voices. About one in ten people are human, as far as Mellia can see.
For once, she is taller than the crowd, and so is Berra. The little Humakti is leaning against the leg of a building on stilts, eating as she watches the world go by. She is in her brown scouting armour, a single black feather in her crest.
Mellia smiles and hurries over to Berra. “Berra! Hello! How are you doing?”
Berra’s expression turns to a wide grin. “Mellia!” She holds her poise for one moment and then with her wrapped flatbread held carefully out to avoid accidents, gives Mellia a big one-armed hug, exuberance suddenly surfacing. “How are you?”
Mellia hugs back. “I am well. There’s good news! The negotiations are finally over! You’re invited to both weddings!”
“Eeeee!” Berra bounces up and down on the spot for a moment before she remembers her dignity. “Well done! When? Do you lack for gifts? What can I give? Do you need a defender? Does Venlar need any swords at his side to steal you?”
“Early Fire Season in Nochet and early Earth Season in Boldhome. Venlar needs help stealing slippers from a troll. Yamia needs to take a rest from being Venlar’s bodyguard.”
Berra considers. “Ehe, that makes some other timing easy for me, then. I need – we all need – probably – to be in Boldhome as soon as possible after you’re married. I think it has to be in probably Movement week. So we’d get there in Stasis.” Which is a stiff ask for travel, but possible. She then takes a huge bite of her flatbread, a wrap of fresh and salt fish, by the look of it.
Mellia nods. “I know this wonderful clothing merchant in Boldhome. By the way, who is the Thane of Apple Lane?”
Berra swallows hurriedly. “Serala. That’s because she fought a dragon, or something. Or fought all of the foes of the Hiording clan, to tell from the stories. But definitely the dragon.”
“Good for her,” Mellia says firmly. “Varanis should marry her.”
“Well, that’s up to Kallyr. It could be a good match to bring down tensions.” More food. Berra likely missed breakfast.
“Tenebris is willing to consider a year-marriage. Not sure if that’s long enough, but they can start negotiations during that time.”
“A year’s good,” Berra says with a grin behind her hand, because she has a cheekful of food. “Time enough to get bored of someone.”
Mellia chuckles. “I need to talk to Varanis about this. Also about her getting out of bed.”
“You’d get out of bed to go see a patient,” Berra says. “So no being a mother hen. Do you want to go get another flatbread? You can’t eat this one and I can’t eat vegetables any more.”
“Flatbread sounds good,” Mellia answers. “Why no vegetables?”
“Geas. I… well, we didn’t catch up properly in Prax, but I got an iron sword there. It was my iron all along, so it was made for me, and that’s pretty special. It doesn’t happen a lot, and the way it happened was magical. So then I had to teach it.” Berra picks her way through the crowd towards a couple of shorter houses with little ramps built in front of them for the queue to go up. When Mellia is seen, people let them cut into the front of the queue; the houses are tiny food kiosks, on stilts.
Much of the architecture around here is on long wooden legs.
Mellia thanks the nice people. Mellia asks Berra, “What do you mean, you had to teach your sword?”
“Um, it’s a young sword. That is, it’s got to go through the process of learning to be deadly. Normally it doesn’t matter so much but this one’s mythical. It’s got to be taught right so’s I can wield it right. It needs to fit the sword myth and the sword shape together.” A Humakti duck behind them quacks in what might be approval, or might be disbelief.
“I think I am confused,” Mellia says. “It’s not important. Congratulations! Do you have any idea how to get Yamia to stop wearing her armor? It is hurting her and things will only get worse.”
“Uh? Get Venlar to order her to? Get her properly fitted armour? What’s wrong with hers? One, please. Veggie-plus, no hot sauce, no fish sauce.” She makes the order smoothly, having been there before.
“Thanks. Yamia is pregnant. Somehow Venlar has not figured that out yet.”
Berra’s expression does not change as she pays a clack for the wrap and hands it over to Mellia. Hers is long gone. “You… Yamia… YAMIA? How? WHO?”
“I have no idea who. I am concentrating on taking care of Yamia.”
From unable to comprehend, Berra hits incredulous pretty quickly. “Are we sure it’s the same Yamia? Stabs people a lot? Shows no interest in men?”
“It’s her. There were lots of parties in Nochet with lots of wine. That is my guess, anyway.”
“She’s… wow. How does she feel about it?” Berra steps back, off the ramp, and lands looking up at Mellia. “You probably wanna walk down on your right.”
Mellia does that. “She is barely willing to talk about it. I suspect she’s shocked and unhappy.”
“Balls.” Berra walks around to see Mellia. “It’s best when hot.” She waves cheerily to the rest of the queue. “Thanks! Well, yeah. Get her out of the armour, or get it re-fitted to her.”
“Out of it, she’s got growing to do,” Mellia says. Between bites of the food, she says, “There’s more news. Maybe we had better sit down.”
“I like walking, but if you wanna sit, we can. Don’t worry, I’m not going to jump off anything more.” Berra casts around for somewhere to sit, and nods to a low wall around a pond.
Mellia goes to the pond. She waits until they are both seated. “I am sorry, Berra, but Yehna’s husband is dead.”
Berra looks at Mellia for a while, and then nods, looking down. “How’s Yehna taking it?” she asks. She is not so practiced a Humakti that she can brush off Death.
“Yehna is taking it very well. She and your nephew are just fine.”
Berra nods. “That’s the important thing now. What happened? When?”
Mellia frowns. “Not that long ago, I think. If Yehna said how, I have managed to forget it. I am sorry.”
Berra shrugs, but stays quiet for a bit. “I’ll send her something to help tide her over,” she says finally. “Thanks for telling me.”
“You are welcome. Gifts of food might be best. They are trying to survive on turnips.”
Berra blinks. “What? My family? Eating cow-food?” She looks worried for them now, instantly.
“The whole village,” Mellia says. “They still have other things, but that will run out.”
Berra is more affected by that than by her sister being a widow. “My clan.”
“I have seen worse. I don’t know what to do.”
“Buy them all food. And we should tell Varanis. It’s her clan too. Our clan.” Berra is a little pale, like the bad news is hitting her.
“I should tell her all sorts of things. Anyway, Finarvi is a father.”
“Oh, yes. He passed through the Grazelands recently. We met him but only for a few hours. I guess he was going to go tell people?” Berra moves on, at least on the surface, gathering herself together. “Well done him!” She is pleased, and this news helped her.
Mellia grins. “There was an awful mess at first. Finarvi did not know to return the cup. Everything got straightened out and the boy is healthy.”
“Oh. Did Yamia kill anyone in Nochet. If so, that might be who the father was.” Berra goes back to a previous subject as something strikes her.
“I don’t remember Yamia killing anyone in particular. I was thinking of a handsome Humakti.”
“Pretty Irillo?” Berra looks confused. “I mean, Humakti aren’t usually known for looks, and he’s got a massive scar on his face now.” She sounds confused too.
“I don’t know. We’re going to have to ask Yamia.”
“Does ‘we’ mean you and me? Because she’s a bit fighty so we might have to be nice to her first.”
“Then we find a way to be nice to her. “
“Riiiiight. Alright. I was going to drop by the Temple. Maybe spend a lot of time there today. Do you think she wants to?”
“I was told that she is seeing the town. I am sure she’s at the Temple. Should I go there?”
“You’d be welcome in any of the places the public are allowed into,” Berra says. “And I’d be with you. I was going to go there anyhow – I know the way.”
“Then let’s go find Yamia.”
A trip to the Temple later, they are in luck. While Mellia deals with a couple of minor practice injuries – a cracked beak and a cut to the foot webbing caused by lay members shoving in the crowd to see the practice – Berra goes into the Temple itself, and comes out with Yamia, who seems fairly pleased to see Mellia, insofar as she ever does. As she has been for most of the past month, she is in her armour.
Mellia smiles at Yamia. “I hope you have had a good morning!”
“And the same to you also,” the Humakti smiles. That is, the better-dressed Humakti. Berra looks like a slightly shabby scout here.
“Berra and I have a question for you and we need to talk. Berra, did you ask Yamia yet?”
“Uh, wait, was I supposed to? No.” Berra catches up with the conversation. Yamia curves a brow, half in thought and probably half in judgement.
Mellia looks sad. “Yamia, why are you wearing armor when it’s obviously hurting you?”
“Oh. I had not realised that was obvious.” Yamia smiles. “Because I have decided to?”
Berra narrows her eyes, like she does not believe that.
“Yamia, it’s only going to get worse. At least we’ll have to refit the armor several times. It would be better to just take it off for the duration.”
“Not yet,” she says. “My father tells me I should go home shortly, however. Will that ease your mind?” She gestures to a noisier area. “We can talk privately if you wish. There is a lot of noise here.” So, naturally, she chooses to go into it.
Mellia follows Yamia into the noise. “Your father is a wise man. If you don’t make it to the weddings, I will miss you, but I want both of you to be healthy.”
Yamia turns to take Mellia’s hands. “It is very good of you to care for me so well,” she says. “And I am grateful. But I am Death. Pain is nothing.”
Mellia squeezes Yamia’s hands. “Just remember that your baby doesn’t deserve to suffer. Speaking of nothings, who’s the father?”
Yamia smiles just very slightly, like the phrase amuses her. “Not a nothing. Almost my equal. But a political inexpedience to mention before you are safely out of Nochet once more.”
Mellia sighs. “Politics. I hate it. Fine, but I will write scolding letters if you want later.”
“Oh, no. I would hate to get one.” She releases the hands that are holding hers. “If you are done? I think that having been called from the Temple, I should leave?” She gives Berra a sharp look, which makes the scout step back a little, and suggest, “Maybe?”
Mellia says, “I am done. I was thinking of checking to see if my help is needed, then looking for everyone else.”
“Your offer is appreciated in the manner given,” Yamia says. “But I was only paying my respects. Would you like a Humakti escort back to the inn – or do you look elsewhere?”
“I was going to ask at the Lightbringers temple first. If I am not needed, I will look in the town. I will gladly take an escort. Thanks.”
Yamia bows her head, and then says, “I will arrange one,” and steps through the crowd. Berra blinks in surprise… “Um, I think she…” But Yamia is leaving.
“I just hope she doesn’t wear herself out.”
“Yeah, well. We’re warriors. I’d be wearing armour too.” Berra shrugs. “I mean, if there was anyone. Ever.” She starts picking her way through ducks who are striving to see two master warriors sparring.
“Well, I tried.” Mellia carefully follows Berra through the crowd.
“We did.” Berra accepts having failed.
At the gates a couple of Humakti fall in. “Ethcort duty,” one says. “And guideth.”
Berra looks at Mellia. “We got guides.”
“Thank you,” Mellia says to the ducks. “Where can I find a temple or shrine to the White Lady?”
“Lightbringer’th Temple,” says the taller one. “Thith way.”
“She seemed alarmed, when we asked,” Berra says. “Like someone knowing who the father was could be dangerous. I think she’s scared.”
“And she’s afraid of what I would do if I found out. Either the man is in Nochet or it’s important that I be married.”
“So that you’re kin before you find out?” Berra suggests.
Mellia nods. “I almost wonder if it is Garin. He got exiled, by the way.”
“Oh? Oh, good. What for? What was the thing that finally got pinned on him? But ew.”
Mellia says, “The public reason was dueling on Ernalda’s high holy day.”
“Do you know if Lord Kesten ever found out anything about the warehouse?” When Berra talks there is a sudden hesitation in her voice. She cares about Kesten, a lot, and what he might be able to say. A lot more rests on this than she wants to admit.1Special on Insight Human there.
“I don’t think so. I am not sure. The Queen wanted everything settled, so Kesten would be wise to keep quiet.”
“Oh, he’s smart enough for that.” Berra relaxes a bit and then chuckles as it turns out both of them are short enough to walk under one of the houses on stilts, as the guide leads them. All she has to do it take off her helmet to keep the feather from getting bent. It is still in miraculously good order, given how long it has been with her. “I’m still pissed off that those bas… those people managed to clean out my water bottle as well as the rest of their warehouse.”
Mellia snickers. “The bunch of them. I hope that little idiot has been safely married off.”
“Lenta? Yeah, they taught her the lesson anyhow. You know what they did to warn her?”
“So, Rillo’s wife was the one who ordered him killed, right? And Lord Kesten found it out.” Rillo, but Lord Kesten. Berra has always ranked her nobility by how much she likes or respects them.
Mellia nods. “As I recall, Rillo was cheating on his wife.”
“Yeah. So grandmother found out, and she got to – his wife got to – kill herself rather than being executed. And they timed it so that Lenta found her.”
Mellia says, “That would have put a scare into Lenta.”
“Mhm. I mean, presumably someone dropped her on her head a lot when she was young, but maybe she’ll hire someone sensible to follow her around and be smart for her.” Berra, truthful to a fault, continues, “Which honestly I could probably do with too, I gotta say.”
Mellia says, “You don’t need that, she does.”
“Yeah, well. I can follow up when someone brings trouble. But that’s what they did.” Up ahead the duck who is acting as the fore-guard and guide warns off a primped-up street waddler, who goes away to look for a better target.
“In spades,” Mellia agrees. “Garin can’t go to Grandmother’s House too soon.”
“Yeah, well. Hey, if he’s exiled, he’s fair game! If he’s not part of a family, he doesn’t have the law protecting him. I mean, that’s how it would be in Sartar, anyhow.” Berra eyeballs the top of a roof just in case of aggressive ducks hiding there, but no such luck.
Mellia thinks. “I don’t know if his family would avenge Garin. They are really poor now.”
“That’s not the same as doing it legally, though,” Berra says. “A family’s a family, but clan… I guess with a House it’s different. But still, nice to hear we could go for it.”
“If the House of that nice man with the exquisite voice does not beat us to it. He never recovered his voice.”
“Idiot with an exquisite voice, but yeah. He kept sending stuff to Varanis. Kept her awake. I was sleeping in her room and she was really not having a good time around then.”
“He was an idiot, but that voice was great.”
“Pity, really.” Berra looks around, and then moves in towards Mellia to ask quietly, “Is it just me, or is it really strange to be tall suddenly?”
Mellia whispers, “It’s strange. I wonder how Rajar is doing?”
“Venlar. Venlar’s taller. Although Rajar’s a lot heavier.” Berra lets Mellia go first through a thin gap. With anyone else she might be on guard, but for once she is just chatting, relaxed. The two guards keep a polite, professional distance. The one behind is humming.
Mellia goes first. “Venlar had mending to do this morning.”
“Isn’t that normal?” Berra does not even scan for enemies on the other side of the alley. It is broad daylight in a city, and she has professional guards, but still – she seldom does that.
Now they can see a big Temple ahead. A Lightbringers’… it is almost a perfect Lightbringer’s Temple, but some of the carvings look like they have been remade lately. The statues that would once have been there are no longer present.
This must have been Lunar architecture, repurposed. Probably it was to the Seven Mothers.
“He has been doing better lately since the Mighty Mother gave him a cure.”
“Good. You deserve each other. He’ll be a fine husband.” Off duty or not, Berra walks like an infanteer, casually swinging her feet along in a stride that she can keep up forever. “How long will you be inside?”
Mellia says, “Depends on how many patients they have. You don’t need to wait for me.”
“Shall I send the guards away? Yamia’s ordered them.” The Lightbringers’ Temple is about as impressive as the Humakti Temple – both are big stone buildings. This one has more colour.
“I think you should.” Mellia will thank her guards.
They thank her too, and ask if she knows how to get back to the inn. “It’s just down that way,” Berra says with a grin. “Been here before. This morning.”
“A little bit more towardth the gateth, but yess,” the guide says, his accent broad. “If you need us, jutht athk. Ifarsel and Ifgalem.”
“I shall,” Mellia replies, “thank you again.”
They waddle off, and Berra watches them with a touch of a smile. She seems wistful, amused, happy over deeper sadness that has been with her since she got the news about Dostiarag and her sister.
- 1Special on Insight Human there.