Two Tales

1628, late Earth Season


On the road to Wilmskirk, Berra and Varanis catch up on what the other missed. Session 3SA.10.


Time traveling to the period after meeting with Berra but before getting to Wilmskirk.

“It was a good time to get out of town for a while,” Varanis comments to Berra, as they travel.

“Oh?” Berra asks. She may have her own set of stories to tell, but sets herself to listen. Her expression gleams with Not Saying Everything.

“Well, Tennebris very definitely wants to talk to you. To the point where he set a watch on me and kept it there despite me asking him not to. I managed to convince him that it was not a good use of his resources, eventually, but it took some effort. I’m not sure who he wants to yell at more, you, me, or Lord Eril.”

Berra thinks about that as a slow wince drifts across her face. “That does not sound like an ideal situation,” she says. “Um, has anyone told him about Lord Eril, and being shouted at?”

“By now? Probably. He sent me to your High Sword to demand an immediate audience,” Varanis says. There’s a glint in her eyes. “I’m a bit surprised that Eril didn’t blast the Air Temple from where he stood. It was very impressive.”

“He doesn’t think people have the right to shout at him. Um, wow. That’s impressively loud, or it’s going to be.” Berra looks back towards Boldhome. “Or impressively polite and quiet.”

“I might have…” Varanis blushes a little, even as she grins, “been less than politic with both of them. Tennebris can’t say I failed in my duty on it – he asked me to deliver his message quickly and I did. Ran the entire way. But it’s possible I enjoyed it a little too much.”

Berra has a lot of Expression for a while. “You know he holds grudges, right?”

The Vingan shrugs. “I don’t like being used, manipulated, or watched. Tennebris set guards on me. I got irritable about it. Besides, I think Eril almost likes me, despite himself.”

Berra gives Varanis a careful look. “I don’t think he can like anyone,” she says carefully. “I think he can only be… it’s hard to explain. But never take him for granted. He’s got a big idea of himself.”

“He is a Hero,” Varanis replies. “He’s right to have a big idea of himself. But I’m a child of Sartar, no matter how distant, and cousin to Kallyr, and I’m doing my best for the kingdom. I’m tired of being treated like … well … like they’ve been treating me. Orlanth’s balls! To send me as a messenger after spying on me for days! And then for him to be cross with me about it?! I’ve always been courteous with him until now. I’ve even agreed to do something he asked of me!” As her temper bubbles to the surface, words start to pour out. Someone less familiar with the situation might have difficulty sorting one him from the other.

Berra said, “He’s really angry right now. I can feel it. But he doesn’t get angry like you do. Be… careful?”

“You think he’ll kill me again?”

“No, that was needed. I think… he uses people as tools. And if he doesn’t like you, he makes sure he uses you in ways that are good for him and not for you.” Berra shrugs off the description with, “He’s a man of honour. That doesn’t mean he’s on anyone’s side but his own and Sartar’s.”

Eventually Varanis sighs. “I’ll try. But, I was very angry and it was going to be insolence or rage.

Berra nods. “Yeah. I know that one. Shouting or fighting.” She bends to pick up a pebble on the road and throw it, a smooth motion that hardly slows her down. “Sorry… it’s hard not to be thinking a bit like him now, or at least, thinking about how he thinks. I don’t… I don’t not mean well done.”

“How did you get in and out of the temple grounds?” Varanis asks, changing the subject slightly.

“Uh? Oh, I walked in pretty late on the night it all started, and spent the night in the blacksmith’s bothy,” Berra says. “He didn’t mind me sleeping under a table. Or at least, he didn’t say he minded. And then I climbed down the South Wall. I paid an initiate to put some magic on me for protection just in case I fell – I didn’t want to call on Humakt if I didn’t have to – and that’s a wall that’s pretty hard to climb so nobody would think I was. You can’t see any of the doors from there, and I didn’t go over the roof. You have to be pretty small to fit out under the eaves, but it’s possible.”

“Did you end up carrying something out or only pretending to? The original relics would not have been easy to extract that way!”

“Um, I’ve got some things. The main one’s… well, I couldn’t take the Cross. But nobody should touch that. And don’t ask about the banner that’s sewn into my bag lining. But if you have to get my belongings, make sure the pack gets to the Temple.” What she has hung over her shoulder is a tough, stiff canvas haversack, not like her usual leather backpack. “And then the bundle over my shoulder…” … which she has attached carefully to a horse… “That’s got the rest. The iron sword, because it needs to be part of this, and some other things. And more money than I have ever seen in one place in my life, which is making things easier but it’s hard to get change for an emerald. That took a bit of doing.”

As Berra directs her attention to things, Varanis’ eyes follow, making note. “It better not come to me needing to deal with it, but I will if I have to,” she says. Then, her mind flitting from one topic to another, she asks, “Did I tell you about the chickens?”

“What?” No, apparently not. Berra looks pleased to be asked.

“Tennebris was having us followed,” Varanis says. “I hate being followed. And spied on. It feels like a cage if a different sort. I was angry about it and it seems tag-alongs weren’t best pleased anyway. I spent a couple of days making them question their life choices for it and may need to mend some fences in the temples. But, the day you staged your temple raid, I decided to keep them busy elsewhere.”

Berra grins. “Wanna know how I did that?”

“Yes! Could be useful one day.”

“I put on a cloak and walked in. Nobody stopped me. If I started thinking I was my Lord, that would be a warning. And I’m small and I can – if I try – walk without looking like I am about to fight you.” The grin turns to a look of pleased pride. She adds, “I did it while there were lay members going in. Didn’t greet them, or try to belong, just walked.”

“Hmmm. Maybe that’s not so useful for me,” Varanis says with a laugh. “I’d rather stand out at the Temple of Humakt.”

“Lay membership. And then I went to the blacksmith and asked if I could stay under his table, and I sent you a letter, and got one of the laity to look out for the answer for some Lunars. I didn’t want to go out once it got light. But once I had the answer I picked stuff up, and then I went into the Temple – couldn’t ask for help there but nobody stopped me – and went down the South wall. That was the bit that worried me, but it was over in about a minute and nobody tried to pick me up by magic.” Berra may not actually mean the South wall. That is particularly impossible from the lowest window.

“How’d you manage that bit?”

“It turns out that there’s a sort of crack staircase that ends about ten feet off the ground, fro…” Berra pauses for a moment, shrugs, and goes on. “From an upper window. I thought I might have to jump a couple of times, and once I went past an arrow slit, but it’s possible. I think it might have happened in 1602.” Berra thinks. “But I reckon I climbed down in the Middle World.”

“Might want to mention it to Eril one day,” Varanis says. “Can’t see him liking there being an unknown sally port.”

“If he does not know by now, I’d be pretty surprised,” Berra notes. “But tell me about the chicken. Chickens?”

“Well, I didn’t know if Tennebris knew about Rajar and the chicken, but I figured that if I was wandering around and making noise, it might keep more of his people on me. So, I went to the market to buy a chicken. Took my time about it, but eventually bought one. Serala’s signal to me that things were about to kick off was meant to be Mouse stealing the chicken from me. I’d planned to make a bit of a scene. But, there were three Vingans following me and even though that was the plan, I was annoyed that they were doing such a crap job of it. Anyway, I bought the chicken and then decided to have a bit of fun. So I gave it to the highest ranking one and watched Mouse steal it from her. She was completely blind-sided by it and the look on her face…. It was priceless.” Varanis laughs. “I lost them after that, so I had to circle back to let them find me again while I bought another chicken. They kept their distance but followed me back to the house, so we had chicken stew for dinner that night. In Rajar’s honour, of course.”

She’s still laughing when she finishes her story.

Berra manages to mostly keep a straight face, but she reaches out a friendly hand to hold Varanis’ forearm for a moment. It is a gesture entirely unlike her, and oddly natural.

Something passes over Varanis’ face as the laughter fades, but she shakes it off. “The stew was good, but it made me miss the big guy. I hope they are all ok.”

“Rajar will be happy to be back home,” Berra opines. “He’s got … well, a lot of them. And Xenofos will get to see his nephew.” She looks happy for them all. She even does the thing where she gestures with her hands to indicate lots of things she cannot enumerate because she does not know the word ‘enumerate’ anyhow. It is a very Berra gesture.

“You know, it’s a bit eerie how you shift back and forth between Berra and Eril,” Varanis notes. “Not a problem, just periodically… disconcerting.” She ends up using an Esrolian word after failing to find what she’s looking for in TradeTalk or Heortling.

“Shift back and forth?” Berra looks confused, in her native manner; that is, her motile features show puzzlement in a way that comes and goes briefly, leaving a wide-eyed stare behind. Very Berra.

“Sometimes you sound or act enough like him or how I think he was before that it surprises me.” Varanis shrugs. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have said anything. Don’t worry about it.”

Berra looks down, and then ahead. Then around, as if wondering which eavesdroppers are around on the road. “I thought I was noticing all of those moments,” she says. “But you’re probably right. It’s easy to be like that right now. And I like him, even. I’d follow someone like that to battle because I wanted to. Or wanted to walk alongside him.”

“I understand that he did what he believed he had to, but more and more, I feel like something of true value was lost in the process,” Varanis says, glancing at her companion. “It worries me.”

Berra looks at Varanis at the same moment, and her expression is plainly worried. “I have to do this, but I…” The Humakti trails off. “It’s the … I don’t want to lose what people value about me? But I don’t know how hard it will be. How much I am making my own path or walking his.”

“I think you’re managing it. But… that last test… the demon…” Varanis shudders.

“Yeah. If I get it right, I’ll be fine. But he thought that too.” Berra shrugs. “It’s one of the reasons I want people around me. I don’t have to be him.”

“I think that changing the way we go into the marsh is big. Not having those deaths on your hands. I’m glad you thought of it.”

“Hey. I got out of Boldhome a new way too.” Berra gives a proud smile.

Varanis returns the grin. “How did you get out, anyway?”

“You remember the strangest market I have ever taken you to?” Berra’s smile grows.

Varanis nods. “By the ice wall.”

“Yes. The way was open. I was going to turn back if the dragonewts saw me, but as I got to the top where the market is I saw the path went on. Either we didn’t notice it before or it had opened more. There’s a sheep-way that goes past the dragonewt city there, but high up.” Berra smiles. “It reminded me of Stone over Souls, looking down on something like that. It seemed big and small at the same time.”

“Maybe the gods opened the way for you,” Varanis says. “It seems to me that they want this to happen.”

“Yeah. I know coincidences happen more in the Hero Wars, but I dunno about the gods. Maybe it was just what needed to happen?” Berra looks puzzled again. It drifts over her features, making her wrinkle her nose and scowl in thought. “But yeah, it beat the plan of turning into a wolf and going out the upper gate. That one would have needed a lot of magic and I want to keep that for later.”

Varanis blinks. “I hadn’t thought of the wolf. How many people know you can do that?”

“Probably not anyone who was trying to stop me,” Berra says thoughtfully. “And almost certainly not the guards. I started off with a different backpack – one with wood on it. I got rid of the outer at Jonstown. And I traded getting confused and shouting at a Dragonewt for three Lunars. I treated myself to a nice room.”

Varanis gives her friend an admiring glance. “Clever.”

“I was trying to avoid the market and one of them just kept barking at me. It was weird. But then I got to spend a day just relaxing and thinking. That’s when I decided the path I should walk – I think it’ll help. He made his own way. I will too. And Irillo didn’t. That sort of makes sense.” Berra shrugs. “And sometimes Dragonewts like being shouted at, apparently.”