1628, Fire Season, Movement Week
Having taken Berra to the cleaners (Ulerian baths), Varanis and Berra head to the Redsmiths, continuing their conversation. Follows on from Coming Clean.
The day after the return to Boldhome, sometime after Session 3.20 HeroQuest 5.
Before long, they are stepping back out into the streets of Boldhome, where Yelm glares down from above.
Berra is calmer, meaning in her case that she is less subdued. “Alright. That is my High Sword’s orders … suggestion… managed. I need to go down to talk to the Redsmiths, about my torc. It’ll have to be remade unless I can find a way to get it off once I’m a wolf.”
“Did you know that I saw your Iron Lord?” Varanis asks, orienting them in the direction of where the Redsmiths work.
“D’Val said that you took the sword, but that was all.” Berra ploughs on, “I think he’s trying to look after me right now. I needed to sleep this morning. Oh heck. I asked him to get me food in front of the High Sword. That’s not dignified.”
“He marked me with his hammer and…” The Vingan lowers her voice to just over a whisper. “I was afraid. Only for a moment. But I remembered you being hammered into the form of the wolf and I wasn’t sure.”
Berra asks, “Wasn’t sure about being hammered, or wasn’t sure about being afraid?” like that is a natural question.
“About letting him hit me.”
“He’s… well, the few times he’s done anything like that I just haven’t understood it, but he’s the most knowledgeable Sword in the Temple.” Berra hesitates almost delicately. “Not many people understand much that he does at all.”
Varanis shows Berra the palm of her sword hand. “It feels like a burn, but it’s not too bad. It very rapidly became like a burn that’s mostly healed, I suppose.”
Berra looks at the scar there. “That’s… good hammer work?” She gives Varanis a perplexed look. “I respect him greatly and he is a sword but sometimes I’m not sure what it is that he’s cutting, when he hammers.”
Varanis shrugs then examines her own palm. “He said my sword would know me and that I needed to be worth trusting. So perhaps the hilt will feel right in my hand when it’s time.”
“Yeah, that does sound like the sort of thing that he’d do. Although he won’t tell you anything. He just helps you or doesn’t.” Berra gestures off-left, her way-finding good in Boldhome. “I’m not going over any walls right now. But if you wanna we could get a meal after I talk to Irene. I think I’ll use her if she’s about.”1B: I wonder if the scar will burn if you try to hold the sword. Probably not, but maybe it would bruise if you used it. V: Or even just feel wrong.
“Sure. I wish Finarvi was here. I like his work. Lead the way to Irene’s forge though. It’s good to go with people you know and trust.”
“She sold me my bronze scale,” Berra reminds Varanis. “Remember how the greaves fell off me?” Her muscles and short legs made that happen – there is so little to grip onto.
Varanis grins. “Yeah. You’re all lean muscle.”
The Humakti falls silent for a bit. “You know I’m not …. Xenofos and I have fallen out.”
“Yes, though I haven’t pried. I know he tried to force you into submission and you both got injured.” The taller woman glances at her companion, but then looks back to the way in front of them.2Insight: She’s troubled by the conflict, but trying to let Berra take the lead.
“I wasn’t injured. I was trying to… I was trying to get free.” Berra sighs. “I need to keep distance from him. Probably forever.” Then she unhorses herself to add, “Not physical distance.”
There’s a heavy sigh, but no protest is forthcoming. “I must have misunderstood. I thought your shoulder was injured in the struggle.”
Berra considers. “Not really? Maybe he thought so? I mean, I don’t remember, but I don’t think he did that to me?” She seems calm about it. “But I have to be more Humakt to him.”
“He will grieve and … I think I will too. But you must do what is right for you, Berra. That matters. Truly.”
“I need to follow a better path,” Berra says. “I…” Then she trails off. “Huh. Lord Eril asked me what it was I wanted, too.”
“Did you have an answer for him?” Varanis asks.
Berra stops in the middle of the street to think. “Do I do that a lot? Where… it was about the hides and if I could get something useful for the Temple.”
“Do what, Berra?”
“Be useful instead of… I mean, I don’t need much.” Berra is circling around some realisation without landing.
“You don’t like to take care of you,” Varanis comments carefully. She too is circling, though with more deliberation. “Or so it seems. You focus on what you perceive as your responsibilities. Those you serve or those you believe are in your care.”
Berra nods. “So anyhow. What I want is to have land next to my sister’s, or just maybe next to the Temple’s so they can assign me something that works as a Rune Lord. But the Temple might have wanted something close to Salt and Teeth. And I hadn’t even realised until he asked me that I wanted a different thing.”
“It’s good to know that you do that. It’s not a character flaw. You’re putting duty ahead of wants and I respect that. But it can be good to know that’s what you do.”
Berra nods. “Yes. I need to… I need to be more like Humakt. I was told that. But sometimes I don’t know what he’d do. Was he ever in a situation where someone else was the really good political mind and he just… giving the problem to Lord Eril makes it easier and means he gets something that’s good for Sartar. And I don’t know what to do in that kind of case.”3V: Hmmm…. Orlanth as the good political mind…. 👀 B: Yeah, I know! V: Maybe Rex. Ernalda… from an Esrolian perspective…
“What was Humakt’s relationship with Ernalda like?” This doesn’t sound like a leading question, but rather one of true curiosity.
Berra considers. “I think like anyone’s. Polite, and you protect people who can’t fight. But you never marry them. Although there’s the sort of myth you hear pretty seldom that says they do, it’s not the kind you really can tell. Like telling the kind where Eurmal’s honourable. Married to the man who’s normally Humakt’s Lord, if anyone is. The god, rather. Wise, but also cunning. She feeds him, but he’s not part of her hearth.”
“There are Humakti who marry Ernaldans though. Hm. Interesting.”
“Yeahhhh. I … I wouldn’t say they are not Humakti, but they don’t understand Death. Not like I do. Should.” Ouch. That last word hurts Berra.
“The reason I raised it is that Ernalda is wise and politically-minded. At least, we know it to be so in Esrolia. And I wonder if Humakt learns from her there.”
“I’m not ever going to be political,” Berra says, without managing to trip over recent facts and break her Truth Rune. “But maybe my sister, or Lenta?” There is a shrug, casual-like.4V: Let’s totally ignore Varanis’ attempts to train in Intrigue. Yehna definitely has a higher Intrigue score.
“It’s worth talking to Yehna about. I sent word asking if she might visit.”
Berra brightens up. “You did say about the bath and the children.” But she rolls out her shoulders. “There is a right answer, though. I think. I need to do my duty. And that’s either the richest reward I can get so I can learn more, or it’s the land that’s most useful for Lord Eril to have access to.”
The noblewoman shrugs. “I’m not the right person for that question,” she replies. “I know my answer, but it’s an Orlanthi one.”
“That’s the answer…. no, that’s an answer. Go on?”
“I take the land offered. I have an obligation to take care of others and I can’t do so without the income. Often, the land I get has people already connected to it in some way, so they become my responsibility too. Or else, I hire new people to care for the land and thus again increase my responsibilities. It is my duty to shelter as many as I can. It’s also part of how I grow into who I am, I suppose.” There’s no obvious conceit in what she’s saying. This just is what it is.
Berra nods. “So, for me, it’s not about whether I get what I want. It’s about whether it’s right to get what I want. Sartar had peace, then we’ve just done something I could take a reward for. But because we don’t, I need to make my actions work for that. I …. I have to be the war-god, in a time of war, not in a time of peace.”
“So you think they’ll come, despite the emperor’s oath?”
Berra says, “Not what I said – but…” she looks around. “There are ways around that. And the wrong Emperor might win – for us, the right one. But … well, five years from now, I need to be ready. So tomorrow I should also try to be ready, even if there’s peace. It’s not going to last.”
“I was hoping that maybe I’d bought it for the duration of my life, anyway.” Varanis sighs heavily. “I was thinking and had the realization that this means returning to being very careful with my life. He doesn’t have to send assassins personally. He doesn’t even have to know.”5B: You told Kallyr the exact words he used, right? V: Yes.
“Or he might get forced to invade. Or… probably Onjur…. someone like that… decides the time is right and pays Sartarites to invade and frees the Emperor. But I can’t act like it’s over. I want it to be, but that’s not what Humakt should do.”
“Then do what is needed to make yourself stronger? So that you can better serve him and your temple.”
“I need to live more like him. You don’t see a lot of the times I doubt myself, I guess?” Berra stops walking to lean on a stub of wall, relic of an older building, not far from the Street of the Redmiths.
Varanis comes to a sudden halt, staring at Berra. “Maybe because I feel the same way most of the time? The Iron Lord said that I’m the one holding myself back. Are you the same?”
“I think so. I was never going to be a Humakti, you know? I mean, you do.” Berra looks all the way up at Varanis. “And it’s right to me, but you’ve known Vinga and Honour in your heart, no matter …. maybe you haven’t. But it seems like you always have.”
“I’ve known I was Vinga’s even before I knew her name. My grandmother tried to fight it, but I knew. But knowing it doesn’t always make me worthy of it.” She gives Berra a thoughtful look. “But… I can see how you might struggle in Humakt’s hands. Yours is a heart meant to love and instead you force it towards separation. You are in constant rebellion and much of that is against yourself.”
Berra looks down, saying nothing. Emotion works her over for a while.6V: Aw. Sometimes the Truth sucks.
Varanis gives her time.
Berra looked up. “That’s how I faced Jar-eel,” she says. “But now I’ve got nothing left to fight, and I want to … I’m still swinging.”
Varanis twitches at the mention of Jar-eel. “I tried to kill her and she just waved it away like I was not worth her attention.” She refocuses on Berra. “Your rebellion gave you strength then.”
Berra nods, tiredly, and gets up. “I found it’s best to just take each day as it comes. I never swore off love. I just decided not to. I mean… relationships. But why take an oath? That makes it easy, right?”
“You know… I was wondering if swearing an oath not to take the throne from Kallyr or her child would set her mind at ease,” Varanis muses. “She worries about it. Not that I would succeed, I don’t think. But just that I might try or that someone else might try on my behalf. An oath would remove me from the table, so to speak.”
Berra rolls out her shoulders slowly, and considers. “Alright,” she says finally. “You need to ask about that kind of thing. If it’s to be done, don’t let it be a surprise. Make sure she wants it and make sure of how. And it might be that you being an heir is what defines where safety is right now, anyhow. They’ll have thought of that.”
“True enough. Besides, I’m trying to rein in the impulsive decisions made for other people’s benefit.” She laughs. Sort of. “Trying.”
Berra thinks about that, too, and then she smiles. “Let’s go talk to Irene, then eat. Food is always good.”
There’s a nod of agreement. “Food, yes.”
- 1B: I wonder if the scar will burn if you try to hold the sword. Probably not, but maybe it would bruise if you used it. V: Or even just feel wrong.
- 2Insight: She’s troubled by the conflict, but trying to let Berra take the lead.
- 3V: Hmmm…. Orlanth as the good political mind…. 👀 B: Yeah, I know! V: Maybe Rex. Ernalda… from an Esrolian perspective…
- 4V: Let’s totally ignore Varanis’ attempts to train in Intrigue. Yehna definitely has a higher Intrigue score.
- 5B: You told Kallyr the exact words he used, right? V: Yes.
- 6V: Aw. Sometimes the Truth sucks.