Berra — Bard From Clearwine 01
????, Sea Season
1626, Sea Season in Clearwine, before the return to Boldhome. [[[s01:session-30|Session 30]]]
At the feast in Clearwine, Varanis in her finery and Berra in her…. stoicism. After the food, at a point where people are socialising. Varanis has been drinking, but in moderation.
“Berra, we should find a bard. That one who performed at the beginning of the feast might be a good choice. The one who sang the song in praise of Starbrow.”
Berra has had a little beer, and nothing else, but she ate before she came, so she can be a bodyguard in her dusty stoicism and professionally cultivated calm-but-concentrating look. She has managed politeness, and social greeting, and even explaining to Varanis a little about how to read the positions of honour in the room, and how to address others.
“Yes.” That pulls Berra out from her current glance around the room. She is not being obtrusive about it, but she is certainly on guard, if not on edge. “The Queen will have had someone to organise it. A…” Once more Heortling is insufficient, and Esrolian suffices. “A majordomo. House-Keeper, or key-keeper, perhaps. He might be in the room, though. The bard, I mean. He needs to eat too. Or the key-keeper might be.” She begins to look around for a different sort of target.
The Vingan scans the room as well. “There,” she says, “in the far corner.” The bard is an older man, but even from this distance, he seems to be lit from within. He has a small court of people around him and is talking animatedly.
Berra checks the approaches to him, rather than the person, and mutters to herself, in thought rather than spell-magic. “Ask for a private performance,” she says. “Unless you want him to sing things now. Don’t consult with him – use his skill. Later, you don’t pay him by agreeing a cost, but by his performance. A meal, a bed if he doesn’t have one, and a few coins suffice for most, but he’s a bard … damnit. He’s Leika’s bard, I bet. So you can’t ask for a private performance, but you can ask him if he would talk with you about the details of a saga. Then you are not trying to buy his time from her.”
Varanis eyes him speculatively. “A bed?” she says with a raised eyebrow and a grin. “There is something intriguing about him, but perhaps we should get to know each other first.” She laughs at the expression on the Humakti’s face.
Polite, social blankness slips into apparent confusion. “Are you afraid of his tongue?”
Varanis laughs warmly. “A conversation and consultation on sagas, then. We can ask him about the saga with the Berras and the armour and discuss your thoughts about it being two pieces merged together.”
“Hurrah.” Berra sounds less than impressed. “Decide if you want it in public or not. You don’t pay him for this, but you should have a gift ready to give him, succeed or fail, and it should be bigger if he helps. If he can’t, he’ll spread the word and find someone, if he’s bright.”
“What is a suitable gift for a bard?”
“For something like this, a week’s wage if he were working to the coin of another. Rings are often given, but that’s a sign you want to be the generous one. In this case, a very attractive embroidered bag such that he can wear it would be good, and then add more coins to it as the answer pleases you more.”
“I’ll need to go shopping. But let’s see if he’s willing to meet in a day or so.” Varanis rises gracefully from the table. She picks up her mostly fully cup to bring with her.
Berra drifts over with her, an odd mix of light grace and stocky bullishness, passing through the crowd without need of apology or murmur, because she manages to avoid brushing against anyone at all.
Varanis stops near enough to be seen, but not quite intruding. She waits until the bard lifts his gaze to hers. His eyes are dark, dark blue. His beard is well-trimmed. His clothing gives a clear indication of his success in his profession, finely made and beautifully embroidered with runes. The long fingers of his right hand are wrapped around a large cup of beer, and two large gold rings glitter in the torchlight.
The Vingan smiles at him and raises her cup in a sort of toast. “A wonderful performance. I haven’t heard the like in a very long time.”
The Humakti does not immediately cause a riot, so that’s a plus.
“I am surprised you have heard the like at all,” the bard replies. “For you have never heard me before, I ween. I would remember if not such a face, then at least the dress that matches my eyes, and I’m vain about those, if not my voice – which is merely fit for your jewellery.”
Berra does not roll her eyes. It’s probably not even a close-run thing.
Varanis attempts to look wounded, but ruins it with a grin. “My tunic is prettier than my face, but neither are as pretty as your eyes? I’m just checking, as my Heortling isn’t fluent and I wouldn’t want to misunderstand.” There is laughter in her voice.
Berra says, “His name is Torograi, if you want to be shouting it later,” in a helpful, low tone.
“Berra!” Varanis tries to look shocked, but is openly laughing now.
“Would I ever say that clothes were prettier than what they hold? It would be a sin against Orlanth or Ernalda, depending on the point of view. No, I must apologise, your face is prettier than your clothes, and my Heortling is too fluent.” Torograi darts a look at Berra, and says, “Aaah. Jarang’s daughter. Blue Tree. A Hero Quest in Whitewall… Something about Storm Bulls, I think. And then Scorpions, Bandits, and Ducks.” He looks back at Varanis. “What is a woman like you doing with a bodyguard like this? Come sit by me and fascinate me further.”
Berra says, “Not as many Scorpions as you think, and other people killed most of them. I think at about that time you were being cheered for the Lay of Bisvar. I liked that.” Torograi looks mildly impressed, his attention torn momentarily from Varanis.
Varanis looks at the young man who is already sitting beside the bard. She cocks an eyebrow at him and he rises hurriedly. She gracefully slides into the newly vacated space.
“Your Humakti is remarkably well trained,” observes Torograi. “In that she knows both when to flatter, and when to be silent. I, of course, am only partially trained in that way. I know when to flatter, and when to sing. Have you come for flattery?”
Berra obviously gets that she is being told to shut up, and without apparent rancour, slips in to stand by the wall, watching over the room and Varanis at once.
Varanis turns her blue-green gaze on the bard, openly appraising. “We can enjoy some flattery later, perhaps. I came over to ask for your wisdom, if you’d care to share it. It’s about a saga.”
“It always is, my dear, in the end.” The bard looks Varanis up and down, and then meets her eyes. Something in them says that he is not entirely carried away with her. “But unfortunately, I do not have wisdom. It’s a folly of mine that in my youth, I looked for it, and instead all I found was talent, riches, and good looks, and I have had to make do with them all my life. Pity, really. I could have done with making the right decisions. Who knows where I would be?”
“Humakt?” Berra supplies helpfully, in a tone that probably won’t carry as far as Torograi. Probably.
Varanis puts a hand lightly on his sleeve. “You undersell yourself, surely, Torograi. You are among the famed bards of Sartar – there is no need to diminish your worth with self-mockery.”
Torograi puts his hand over Varanis’. “I am, I know. I have all of those things – but I also have a crowded hall and in case you have not noticed, I am a performer. Should I fail to do so, merely because I find a new audience? Such shame!” Behind the mocking smile is a slightly more genuine smile. Slightly.
“Perhaps you will have time to talk later. To discuss the saga and share some wine, of course. I know that knowledge has value, and I most definitely value knowledge.” She rises gracefully. “I’m sure a man of your many talents will be able to find me. For now, I should leave you to your admiring audience.”
Torograi stands, and his bow takes in both Varanis and then, deeper and more sardonically, and with an eyebrow to the lack of curves as he rises, her unimpressed bodyguard. “I shall let the light of value guide me then,” he says. “Or possibly Truth, but then… I am a singer and a flatterer, and I am never sure which to do.”
Varanis walks confidently away without a backward glance, trusting the Humakti to follow.
The Humakti does, and as they go Torograi sits again. “So, back to the tale, which I am sure you all followed…” Once they are out of earshot, Berra says, “Well done.”
Varanis spits a curse under her breath. “I couldn’t get a read on him. I’m honestly not sure if he will come find us.” Her expression remains open and calm, in spite of her words.
“I think he likes you. Not likes, likes, but really likes. That’s better. And I think he wants something from me, too.” Her voice is suddenly tighter, and she glances around. “And he knew my deeds. That always… well, they’re not my deeds. If he tries to tell me that, at least…” She trails off. Earlier the heat was making her flush, but now she has paled. Something about that disturbed her, and it was to do with Torograi, and what he wants from her. Other people might be blushing pleasurably.
Insight: Berra definitely tried to change the subject with the mention of her deeds, although it is undoubtedly true. She thinks Torograi fancies her.
“I’ll protect you from him, if you need protecting,” Varanis says with a wink. “We can keep your virtue intact. Though, he may be the sort to be drawn to the unattainable, and you, my friend, are infinitely unattainable.” This is said with warm amusement, but in spite of the teasing, Varanis’ expression is one of respect.
Berra muses, “If I cut off a hand, and then break his fingers, does that count as warning him not to touch me? I mean, I’d help him to take the hand to a Healer’s.”
“Perhaps let’s not break Leika’s bard. The queen might have strong feelings about that.” The Vingan laughs. “Do you think he’ll come looking? For either of us? I should make sure to prepare a suitable gift, just in case.”
“Yes. He wants to please you, and you’re a noble. He’ll arrive, pretending he’s only just found us, or that it’s a great honour he comes, or that he’s going to get his beard trimmed and would you like anything while he thinks about the style?” Berra shrugs. “You’ve caught him.”