Berra — Truth And Pies
1627, Fire Season, Death Week
Fire Season, Probably Death Week, Fireday. A few days after the festivities. [[[s02:session-42|Session 42]]]
Morning is pretty early when Xenofos saunters to the courtyard of the palazzo. He is wearing armour and carrying his shield and spears.
Berra’s voice drifts through the gateway – Ganrel is on duty and she is talking about – apparently – rocks. “But then they moved and they were something else instead… Hey! Xenofos! Hello!”
He nods friendly and walks through the gateway. Despite the early hours his eyes are lined with kohl and his beard seems to be freshly plaited.
“Hello, little cousin. Good morning Ganrel.”
Berra bounces backwards a little. She is in her leather armour, unpadded, with two swords buckled on.
Ganrel nods, and turns his attention to the road once more. Berra says, “Tell you more later, if you have time – and you can tell me about you, more. Xenofos, Ganrel… well, anyhow. You’re looking good.”
“Were you coming to see Varanis?” Scholar asks.
“I was coming to see who was around. Invite you out for a walk, maybe. I was about to send in. Only Ganrel was here and some people on the wall-gate said to bring their greetings to him.” She is tanned by the Esrolian sun, her hair a well-cleaned mess, and she looks happy.
“I was just leaving, as you see.” he answers “But if you and I are going to same direction I would enjoy your company.”
Berra shrugs. “Not going anywhere else.” She puts her helmet on. “Want me on your right, or am I for pleasure?”
Ganrel keeps a very straight face. Maybe he didn’t hear the Humakti joking about mistresshood.
He looks at her. “You walk where you want, like you always do? I am not expecting to run into a fight, though.”
Berra manages to stay still long enough to make a decision. Protectively, or just habitually, she falls in on the right. “‘Kay. I guess you don’t want to run, or go by the roof ways?”
He shakes his head. “Not really. With the kit that is possible, but not really comfortable. And running man in full panoply could alarm people unnecessarily.”
“Some other time?” She stays at his pace, mostly attached to the ground now, and lets him set the pace and the route.
“Maybe? Not the rooftops.” He scans the road from beneath his helmet and the green feathers sway from side to side.1Both pass Scan. Both are being warriors.
“We can start you off with maybe really high kerb stones,” Berra says soothingly.
He glances at her and smiles.
Berra gives him a wise nod, and a relatively slow change of subject, in that she has breathed in since the last sentence. “I guess you know we’re going back to Sartar soon?”
There is some commotion on the road ahead. Issarian merchant is yelling at a delivery boy who ran into him or something.
Xenofos nods. “Varanis fate is in Sartar, I think. So I guess that is where she and I should be.”
Berra glances ahead. “Not a problem, but we could go lef… uh, if you want. I’ll be joining the caravan. It’s too hot here.”
Xenofos feels the fresh breeze of sea air and coolness of the morning, but does not contradict Berra’s opinion.
“This is the road, Berra.” he looks at her “Why take detours.”
“Because that sounded a bit like trouble up there, but it’s not a big problem. No need to run into it unless it runs into us.” She looks up at him, gentle.
The delivery boy has left the merchant followed by some choice insults.
Merchant turns to walk towards Berra and Xenofos and passes them.2Berra passes Listen.
Xenofos looks ahead for the trouble.
Berra steps aside, although she keeps an eye on Xenofos as she does.
Behind them there is a frantic cry “Hey, you!?”
“YOU! Thief! Catch the thief!”
Berra steps back, turning to look at the merchant, ready to take off, just as ready to bowl Xenofos over to cover.
Merchant is yelling in shock. He has gathered the hems of his robe and is running in very undignified way back towards them.
“The thief! Catch him!”
Berra sets off at speed towards the delivery boy, the obvious target.
He is nowhere to be seen? Maybe he went into one of the houses or to one of the alleys?
There is a brief burst of speed from Berra as she tries to see down the alleyways in order, although she may or may not have her own views on wasting effort.
Xenofos follows at jogging speed.
Youth is not tarrying in two or three first ones.
Berra gives it a little further and then pulls up, looking ahead, right, even up towards the roofline. She looks annoyed.
Xenofos follows, merchant comes far behind.
Berra shakes her head as Xenofos gets closer. “No luck. I figure he used magic.” She shrugs. “Could even be here still.” Yes, she looks like she wants to fight someone.
He looks at her. “Could be… But if he is local urchin he would not need magic to disappear. And hardly a proper target for your sword.”
“I wasn’t planning to use my sword.” She tries a different sort of shrug, this time shrugging off what someone thinks of her, and then she gestures helplessness to the merchant. “Sorry. Didn’t see where he went.”
“That rascal, that accursed follower of Eurmal, that, that thief…”
There is a sigh from Berra, a sympathetic look.
Merchant looks at Berra “If you get him and my purse, I’ll reward you handsomely. Tw… a whole silver penny.”
The little warrior looks around, checking out what else is in the area. “Good of you to offer. That’s about the rate for an hour of my time – but I’m afraid I don’t know how to. I’m not a tracker, and I don’t have an alynx on me.”
It is not wealthiest of neighbourhoods, but not the poorest one either. Merchant stalls of cloth merchants. Probably apartments in upper storeys. Some private houses.
“Another silver if you beat him up good when you catch him.” he offers. “I am Dearno. I am wholeseller of fish, my shop is at side of the Fishmarket.”
Xenofos looks at the man quietly.
“What part of ‘no’ didn’t you get?” Berra smiles. “I can’t. Sorry for your loss. But you’d be ill advised to hire me for this.” She bows a little, the only evidence of annoyance a tiny bulge in the muscle of her jaw. After she finished talking, she gritted her teeth.
Xenofos turns to walk to direction they were originally going. The fishwholesalesman is left on the street to mourn his loss.
Berra traipses after Xenofos, then catches up, and after a moment it is plain she is smiling again. “I believe my price at the Boldhome Temple is five Lunars a day, depending on danger.” She carefully does not face backwards while smiling, looking entirely professional as she casts about for further potential enemies.
“What?” Maybe Berra wanted to hear something in return.3Berra fails listen, and does not hear the start of trouble behind.
“I… ” There is a shriek from behind Xenofos and Berra.
Merchant is shouting, but this time it is mixed with a scream from a youth and racket of a large bronze tray hitting the cobblestones.
Berra turns to look, feet scraping on the stones. Now she looks really ready for action.
Merchant is holding a youth by his tunic front and pushing him towards the wall.
Berra strides forwards, and as she does, breathes in, breathes out, and calls on Humakt.4Berra casts Detect Truth.
“You rascal, give it back!” despite being slow the merchant is way stronger then the youth he is pummeling to the wall.
A pouch of coins falls to the street. Littered with pies.
Berra reaches down to scoop it up, left-handed, on her way towards the fight. ‘Fight’. Potential beating.
“I did nothing wrong!” screams the youth trying to avoid being slapped around.
“You stole my purse, you criminal”
“No, I did not.”
Both seem to be believing they speak the truth…
Berra shoves her self into that argument, physically. Back to the merchant, protective around the young man. She does this, or at least tries to, by going around him to his right, and then cutting in left.
Xenofos follows to place of the loud argument.
Merchants knuckles go over Berra’s head as he pulls his hand back up for another slap. Youth is trying to huddle down to protect his face.
Berra says, “HE DIDN’T DO IT!” and stands as tall as she can, protective over the young man. Her hands are up beside her head – the left has a purse in it, which could very well be a problem.
“You did not take the job, get out of my way.” merchant yells.
“Nope. He didn’t do it. Humakt says so.” Berra stays firmly where she is.
Heads are peeking out of windows and people are looking through doorways.
“This is not Sartar, you can’t just barge in and protect thieves…”
“Not a thief. I can see lies, and he says he didn’t.” Berra stays where she is, not threatening anyone, except maybe the young man by accident.
“Let go of the boy!” shouts someone. “Beat the thief! ” another.
“Fucksake,” Berra mutters under her breath.
“Are you going to let the warriors tell you what to do!” shouts another voice.
Xenofos has appeared on the other side of the merchant.
“Have you no shame beating the baker’s boy like that you brute!” a voice from a window.
Berra says, “If I have to draw, then you run. I’ll put magic on you if I have to.” She moves a tiny bit back, ready to turn if necessary, still getting in the way of the merchant.
“I would listen to her, if I were you” Xenofos says to merchant in a conversational tone.
Berra flexes out her shoulders. Violence, always an option, looks like it is being put at #2 on the list. First, though, she casts spirit magic – a little shimmer comes over her. Protection.
Merchant is apparently feeling crowded between two armed people and lets go of the urchin, taking a step back.
Berra turns, and to someone who knows her, she looks dangerous. Someone who does not would only see a small warrior, not even dressed in bronze. To Xenofos, however, it is plain that she is working through possibilities of the battlefield. What she does, though, is ask, “Is this yours?” and hold up the purse. Her voice is flat, overly calm.
Merchant looks at the small dusty pouch holding maybe a score of coins and shakes his head.
A crowd is gathering around leaving some distance as to not be on the spear range.
“When did you last know you had it?” Berra keeps his attention now she has it.
“When I was in that shop” he points at a store close by behind the gathering crowd. “Just before this rascal bumped into me”
Berra calls out, “You there! Go get the owner.” She holds out the purse towards Xenofos. “Check how much is in there.” Only a moment is spent not looking for the merchant, as she finds someone suitable to call the merchant out.
Xenofos looks into the pouch, while youth is looking at him with distrust. “Copper, not much. Maybe two or three silverpennies worth.”
Berra look to see if the owner of the shop has come out yet, and then back to the merchant. “Humakt says he tells the truth.”
Crowd is murmuring. You hear snippets -Servers the greedy bastard right, -Urchin is guilty no doubt, why are the warriors meddling, – He can’t just beat Irgan like that, where is the proof, – And a foreigner… , – He is a good kid, – Eurmali posing as a Humakti…, – He is no good… always in trouble.
Opinions seem to be divided, there is some shoving and voices are getting louder.
Berra calls out, “Anyone who has trouble with that, and doesn’t want to find out the truth? Where’s the other person who saw the purse?” And once more she looks at the merchant. “A lot of them don’t like you right now. You can walk away, but if they start on us, you’re not in armour.”
Dearno tries to slink into the crowd, further away from all that gleaming bronze. Some jeer at him. Some look darkly at Xenofos and Berra. No one answers her directly but muttering continues.
He is given way, but also less then friendly shoves.
Berra jerks her head to the right, back the way they were going. “Irgan, was it? Time you walked away too. Careful-like.”
“Can I have my money back, lady?” he looks desolately at remains of his pies.
“Yeah, and if you need me to I’ll come tell your mistress what happened.”
Berra keeps her eyes on the crowd, not looking at Xenofos, even.
Mob is not attacking. They make way for the boy and the two warriors as he goes to retrieve his tray.
“Would you do that, lady? She will not be happy when she hears of this…”
Berra nods to a few, trying to tone down her obvious mood. “You are not guilty, as far as Humakt believes, and you were assaulted. I know who did it.” Berra looks once more to the shop. “But we should try that first, and go armed with words and armoured with truth.”
Xenofos looks at her and the door of the shop with a question in his eyes.
Berra goes that way, walking at a pace slow enough to let the crowd out of the way, and make sure her new ward follows.
A middle aged man who looks like a shopkeeper is at the doorway. There is a shutter that has been lowered to form a sales table presenting the wares of this merchant, mainly linen cloths.
“Hello.” Berra speaks calmly. “Have you been the only person on duty here lately?”
“Yes?” Comes an answer with a smile.
“A merchant has lost his purse. Do you remember talking to Dearno? Yellow robe, saffron trimmings, Water Rune all around his neck?” Berra keeps the slight smile she has, and lets Xenofos guard her back. Inwardly, she continues to listen for trouble.
A casual observer might think Berra is being polite. This is her calm mood over deep emotions, and while it is hard to imagine a veritable lake of annoyance, that is what Berra skates over now. Her body language is unmistakable to Xenofos, should he look – the last time she was this irritated, she had dropped her fish oil into her helmet.
“Dearno? Of course. He most certainly had his purse when he was here.” Merchant smiles undaunted. “Put seven pennies of silver in there, right there inside the treshold and patted on it while walking out. Payment for this months fish in our humble household.”
“Patted on it? It was on him then? He took it?” Berra just checks.
“It was on him when he walked out. ” He nods. “Before the commotion. So you got the little rapscallion?”
Berra nods as if trying to take that in. Maybe she has. “To be sure, can you step outside? There’s a place where you can stand where I can see that you’re telling the truth. It won’t take long.”
He shrugs “I am telling the truth, lady. That would not change if I stood on my head. But if it makes you happy.” even Berra’s obvious mistrust is not making the man lose his polite and friendly demeanor.
“It’s mostly because other people will ask, and I’m going to have to tell the baker what happened to her pies, and it’s good to be able to say Humakt knows it was not to do you with you. It’s mostly for you later, to be honest. I mean, a bit for me – I want to know the truth. But it looks like Dearno struck someone innocent, in haste.” Berra stands back, looks over the crowd.
Cloth merchant steps outside looks at Berra, almost says something but just shrugs.5 For some reason he did not say out loud that he is doing it for her cute nose. Premonition? Wisdom?
“Yeah, I know. But I like to leave things tidy.” If the crowd is making Berra nervous, she gives no sign of it. “I think probably, there was a cut-string in the crowd, and someone innocent got the blame, but it’s good to be able to swear it was looked into. Then I can go back to the baker, then I can get on with my day.”
Crowd look at Berra, murmuring is getting more displeased.
“It is all right” the clothsmerchant says waving his hand. “So where do you want me to stand?”
Berra gives him a smile. “Thanks. Just over here. Say you saw him leave with it. S’all we need.”
“I saw Dearno leave my shop with his purse. I saw him collide with that boy. I did not see the boy taking Dearno’s purse.” he says.
“Thanks. Have a good day.” Berra then turns to the crowd, cups her hands, and calls out, “Looks like an unknown cut-stringer! Nobody is lying here!”
” Now when that is sorted, can I interest you in some of my wares? A fine linen shift is just the thing to wick the sweat when worn under armour, and some of my linens would be just the cloth for such garments.” Crowd starts to disperse. There is some muttering about foreigners and nobs. Humaktis just throwing the weight of their swords is mentioned, but source can not be pinpointed.
Berra grins. “You know what, I could do with some more. I’m a bit short of cash, though. What’s it cost for something lightweight in pale blue, about my armspan in length?”
“Now these ones are not usually dyed. They are too thin for colour to look good on them you see. Two pennies for this linen. And three if you wish hemp of the same thickness and softness.” sample of cloth is pushed to Berra’s hands so she can feel the quality.
Berra does not take it, but does look at the cloth. “Way too thin for what I have in mind, and I think you’re probably beyond my purse for the weight I want. But I’ll try to send a friend. I know someone who would like this kind of thing.” Berra bows her head, regretful, and looks back to the baker’s boy. “Right. Your mistress.”
Merchant looks at Xenofos who shrugs and says “She found that too lightweight as fine as it may be.”
Berra is on to scanning the dispersing crowd and giving attention to Irgan.
“She will throw an awful fit, lady.” Irgan says desolately. “That way and right…”
“It’s fine. You want to let me do the first bit?”
Youth nods with sagged shoulders.
Berra finally remembers Xenofos, having not looked that way for some time. “You can get on if you don’t mind walking alone?” she suggests. “I’ve got to go do this.”
He looks at the sky. “There is still time. I want to be at the temple at noon.”
“Oh, right. That’s a lot of time then.” Berra follows Irgan’s directions.
Xenofos looks around and follows the two.
Bakery is located on a small alley and marked with a sign of sheaf of wheat.
Berra looks inside, warrior-casual now. Her irritation looks like it has mostly ebbed away.
A smell of freshly baked bread, onions and garlic drifts from the shop. A large Esrolian woman is lifting a basket of small loaves to the counter in the front of the shop. A window with shutter lowered as a counter again.
“Hey. I’m afraid I got bad news for you – your boy Irgan just got assaulted.”
“What are you saying, young woman? Irgan?” mistress of this establishement is loud.
Irgan tries to hide behind Xenofos.
“Yeah.” Berra stands more square. “He just got accused falsely of theft. Humakt says he didn’t do it, but a merchant he’d just crashed into thought he did. I’ll stand by that.”
“You stand by that?” she asks “And just who are you if I may ask?”
“Berra, Jarang’s Daughter. Humakti.” Berra stands proud, despite being aware she has probably never been heard of here.
She glares at Berra and past her “Irgan? What have you to say?”
Berra moves aside, politely.
“It wasn’t my fault” comes answer in snivelling voice from behind Xenofos.
“He’s a bit shocked. And it really wasn’t his fault. He could do with a good Ernaldan meal. You know Dearno the fish-seller?” Berra takes over from someone who can’t talk easily.
“Of course it was not his fault! It never is! Things just happen!” she is gathering momentum. “What would your departed mother say, if she heard you snivelling like that? Thanks Ernalda she is spared that!”
Berra crosses her arms in the doorway6We assumed we could find it; it was likely where Irgan was going in. now, looking unimpressed at the baker. “That part where you’re going to look after him, shall we skip to that? You can do the shouting at me if you want.”
She raises her eyebrows astonished at Berra’s audacity “You have quite the nerve to try and tell me how to talk to my people under my own roof, girl! I heard who you said you are, but just who do you think you are?
“I think I’m someone who told you that your boy just got hurt, and heard you starting to shout at him.” Berra could perhaps have looked a little less helpful when she said that. A touch less eager to answer truthfully.
“If that offends you girl, I suggest you step outside for I aim to continue! This is not the first time he gets into trouble and that has got to stop!” She is not actually shouting, she is just one of those people with a shrill loud voice that hurts your ears.
“Yeah. But I want you to think about your behaviour in future. You’re the one making the choice to do this, and you can choose not to as well. Love is easy.”
“Irgan, get in and give me the payment you got! You girl, why are you still here?”
“Because I wanted you to be angry at me, not him,” Berra replies happily. “And because Dearno’s the one who hit him, and I wanted you to know who was to blame.”
“You are at least three pennies short, Irgan?!” she carries on ignoring Berra’s answer. “How is that?!”
“Because he got hit in the face repeatedly by someone who falsely accused him of theft. You want your money, go to Dearno. Side of the fish market.”
“Irgan! Go sweep the oven and ashes! You little missus and your shiny, mute decoration! Gather your bronzejunk and get lost!”
Berra bows, politely, and steps back. It is not until she is a short distance away that she looks around for Xenofos.
Xenofos is following.
“Love is easy?”
“Yeah. It’s the separation which is hard. Might have mentioned it before.” Berra keeps her expression politely neutral.
He nods. “I don’t know if it is easy. It is good. Sometimes just happens. But it would have been better for her to show that. It was good you reminded her of that.”
Berra nods. “Right. Did I mention lately I really fu… really don’t like a lot about cities? That boy has no idea about his rights.”
“You walked pretty rudely over the clothier’s rights, demanding him to swear innocence of theft like that…” he notes.
Berra grimaces. “Yeah, but he didn’t have to. I asked. Din’t demand.” She shrugs. “I’d have cast the spell again to get to the truth, and I wish I’d known more, but I wasn’t going to force him anywhere.”
“Not accepting his word? Accusation in front of his neighbours. Good thing he was more harmonious then Dearno.” he looks at her sideways “I think you did not mean it that way.”
“Yeah. I didn’t. I just wanted to find out. He had good eyes, too. Didn’t see what didn’t happen.”
“He told you.” Xenofos shrugs. “But you wanted to be sure…”
“Yeah. Someone had had their money stolen. It doesn’t matter that I don’t like him. I wanted to find out what had happened.”
“So did he.” Xenofos says “… and did not accept the boys word when he said it was not him. His way was worse because he used violence, did not just present it like we did, carrying weapons.”
“Yeah. But if a Humakti said a thing was truth, that should mean something.” Berra shrugs. “Still, I’m in a good mood. No need to spoil it.”
He looks at her and nods. “You did not look like your mood was good, but we can leave that topic. Any particular reason for you to be in good mood? Plans to leave Nochet?”
“Well, someone was beating up someone who wasn’t able to defend themselves, probably because of a thief who had already fled. Yeah, pissed off for a moment. But no, it’s because a weight got lifted from me. Something I did. It’s better now.” She looks genuinely happy again, the bounce already back in her step, and an easy smile on her face.
“Oh?” He looks at her “You do look happy.”
“You remember the Ulerian, that Lord Rillo Hulta was writing sex-odes to?” It sounds like it belongs in the same conversation, but it could be one of her swerves.
He looks at her sideways “The one we never saw?”
“Yeah. Her slave – I sent him to the Hulta household?” That creases her brow, just for a moment.
“Yes?” Xenofos looks at her politely. “The one sent to galleys?”
“He’s safe. Lord Kesten saw to it.” Her eyes shine again, and from creased brow to relief takes in joy and admiration. It makes her smile like she did when she was back in the Blue Tree, meeting Haran.
Xenofos tilts his head. “I remember how upset you were about his fate. That is good news.”
Berra nods, and looks around, for a moment just taking in the day and the place and the company. “I met his wife as well. Lady Serenelda, I mean. Not a slave’s wife.”
“I am not sure if I have ever met her.” Xenofos answers.
“Curvy. I think she really cares about him but has no idea how to understand him. But then again, I only see him when he’s being a warrior, so I don’t either. Weird, thinking of a Humakti as a husband. Like that.”
He tilts his head again and blushes slightly. “It is pretty common actually, you know. Not like it is unknown.”
Berra seems unimpressed. “Yeaaaah…. So I’m going to go back to that time you asked me if I’m a better Humakti than a lot of the people who wear silk in Temple. I’ll say I understand Death better than a lot of them.”
“For some reason topic of marriage and Humakti has crossed my mind…” then he shrugs. “I think my example of silk wearing Humakti was Lord Eril…” After a short pause he continues “But Death is not something I even wish to understand too well. If you feel you need to discard comfort to achieve that , I suppose that is your path.”
“Yeah, but I think you pointed out the Battalion as well.” Berra half-smiles. “Which Temple are we going to?” She might be a little lost.
“The temple Irillo and the Noble brothers. I wish to pray at shrine of Nolerianmar.”
Berra nods, and says, “I don’t know the name, and I probably should. I was in a hundred, for a bit. Wanna tell me the story?”
“You of course heard the story how Irillo promised to protect Nochet and Imarja against attackers with his companions, who were the Noble brothers.” Xenofos says. “Nolerianmar is patrongod of the horsemen and the Greens. A son of Yelmalio they say.”
“Gotcha. Cavalry isn’t really me.” Berra looks around. “I joined up, people saw I was small, and a lot of them wanted to make me into a leader, instead of a warrior. Kept giving me helpful advice.”
He nods. “For us it has been a family tradition. Got my firetattoo at that time. Some good times. Some bad times. Many friends.”
Berra nods, falls silent, walks alongside.
“Lost quite many of them…” he adds after a while.
Berra fails to find a thief, but is happy anyhow