Fragment 2.8 – The Cottage of Corpses

Diaries The Saga Of Berra — Fragment 2 8

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Unto the Cottage of Ty Kora-Tek then
Berra went boldly as Humakt in harness
Feeling the weight of the wolf-hide upon her
Feeling the hunger for Voria tender

There at the gate stood the guards of the deathly
Berra asked softly to speak with the goddess
Asking a question of Grandmother Skull-corpse
She came from Boldhome in seeking her answer.1“On behalf of your Temple?”
“I have come from Boldhome, with permission to ask this.”

Into the House of the mother of mothers
Humakt came tired from his long journey hither
He came to ask of the guards he had lent her
Knowing their fate yet he asked as their lord must

What of my warriors brave sent to guard you
Shall I rejoice in return or lament them
Ty Kora Tek on her throne said to Humakt
All men must die and he nodded to hear it

What of the other he asked of the Deathwitch
Seeking to know what of the thing that his guide saw
Grandmother answered as Death must to Death-God
She in her time and he knew himself answered

Then as he rose and presented a guest-gift
Grandmother stood and adjusted his cloak pin
And you in yours said the woman to Humakt
Grim-visaged Death-God who brought wreaths as flowers

Berra went to the Temple of Ty Kora Tek to ask what Humakt had been told about the disappearance of some of his war band. The room at the top of the ziggurat-form temple was dark, with a brazier burning bitter herbs. Grandmother there was a corpse, or something very like, with a spirit called into it by the High Priestess. She was informed that Ty Kora Tek informed him all men must die. On asking about the guard, hoping to find out what she had experienced, Humakt was just told, “In her time. And you in yours.” Berra gave the High Priestess a guest gift of flowers, like Voria had given, and the Priestess thanked her, smelled them, and put them on the brazier.

After a brief visit home for breakfast, Berra went out with Varanis to check on a young woman Varanis was worried about. They were crossing the Hulta plaza when a blood-stained Mellia, heroquesting as Chalana Arroy, made for them. Berra stepped into the way and Mellia demanded to speak with Orlanth, because Yelm was dead. After Humakt reassured her that this was what it must be, and he would make Orlanth sorry, Chalana Arroy insisted on seeing him, so Humakt stepped aside. For one thing, there were guards coming into the square. Berra put herself between them and the Questors, which was a good thing as they accused Varanis of killing their Lord. She told them there was a Heroquest in progress and to keep at a distance until they wouldn’t be in danger any more. They insisted on getting to Orlanth. Berra asked them to please bring a fight to her, and swords were drawn on the Hulta side but nobody attacked. With Xenofos obviously wanting a fight and Berra looking happy to take on a group of five warriors, there was a tense moment. Then one of the warriors, wearing a helmet with a long straight nose-piece that allowed him to be wearing a Truth Rune on him sniffed around, and declared that while the blood on Mellia’s robes was his lord’s, Varanis did not smell of it. Berra decided, but did not mention explicitly, that he had some kind of spell that would allow him to Detect (Individual’s Blood). Not a spell she had heard of before.

The man asked questions of Varanis, who answered him in an annoyed, distracted fashion, and she was trying to persuade Mellia back to the Great Hospital. Berra helped by suggesting questions, as the man was announcing the Truth of what Varanis believed. After he had revealed there had been an ambush and a dishonourable killing, Berra made big eyes at Varanis, who was obviously no longer going to the Hulta house, and Varanis told her to go along with the Hulta warriors. Berra offered her service in tracking down an assassin, and fell in with the Hulta crowd. Four of them – two aristocrats and two guards – gave her the cold shoulder, but the one with the Truth Rune helmet walked beside her, and went over what he knew. Crossbow bolts, probably poisoned, had killed Lord Hulta’s guards, and likely driven him forward to a waiting killer. There was a lot of blood, but Hulta himself had not been found there. The warrior’s name was Kesten. Berra thought he was either a martial Lhankor Mhy initiate or – more likely from his bearing a broadsword – a Humakti from a subcult that would find out Truths.

At the hospital, while the aristo guards were arguing they should be let in, Berra and Kesten stayed back a little and watched. Berra offered Kesten some nuts, and after a quick discussion on whether they were ground or tree nuts, offered him dried apricots instead. As the argument was not getting anywhere, she asked Kesten if they could claim the body on behalf of the house, maybe by going through an entrance to the room of emergencies that was not being filled by arguing nobility. Kesten was surprised that Berra was trying to use subterfuge, and Berra was surprised he thought that – she just wanted to go around the problem and find other people. However, Kesten pointed out that there was an available Initiate at a desk in the entrance hallway, and they could ask her. While they were putting that plan into action, the Priestess at the centre of the argument sent three of the four people arguing with her to sleep, which was heard from down the corridor as a lot of clanging.

After managing to talk to the very caring but also very dim girl for some time, they were taken through to a private room where the body of Lord Hulta was. He had been killed, probably not instantly, but quickly, by a single broad-bladed weapon. It could have been a broasdword, a spear, or an unusually wide rapier.

Berra suggested that she knew someone with a wolf, who could track the killers. Kesten pointed out they could just ask him directly who had killed him, rather surprising Berra, who said she could not aid in a resurrection. She did point out that the Praxian Nala could talk to spirits and might be able to see a ghost.

Nala arrived, some time after Varanis and Xenofos, and she could indeed see the ghost of Lord Hulta, who was rather offensive about insisting on being brought back from the dead before revealing who the murderer was. Nala complained about this and said he was an arsehole. Kesten remonstrated, and Berra asked him which part was untrue. He said that the House was being attacked by that very question, and Berra was possibly about to say something unwise when Varanis pointed out they could be dealing with the problem instead. They went out to chase trails, with Varanis noting on the way out that Venlar, coming to see Mellia in a hurry, had had his horse stolen, and she was not entirely sure it was his horse.

Lord Hulta had been attacked in an alleyway where someone of his status had no call to be, but his guards had been with him. They had been killed from behind, by crossbows likely coated in poison, and he had gone forward to where someone had been deliberately waiting. Given that nobody of high status would use the alleyway, the group decided it most likely Hulta had been lured there. They followed the trail of the killer over rooftops, through the meat market and the spice market, and into the slums.

“I’m going up the steps like Death incarnate.” – Berra
“Yeah. You’re in a Temple of Death, going to see a Priestess of Death, being escorted by an Axe Maiden of Death…” – GM
“I’m not doing it to try to impress. I’m doing it to be Humakt.” – Berra


“What did she say to him?” – Berra
“…. All men must die.” – Ty Kora Tek

“And the guide?” – Berra
“In her time.” – Grandmother
( Not quite what I was asking, but it’s a good answer. ) o . Berra
beatpause
“And you in yours.” – Grandmother
“I look forward to it.” – Berra
“Not you, little follower. That is what I said to him.” – Grandmother

“So, did you get what you came for?” – Babeester Gor
“Hard to tell until the day I die. You?” – Berra
“She just shows you out.” – GM

“I get myself neatly in the way between that and everyone else, and then assess the situation.” – Berra

“We have a hero.” – Berra

“That’s his blood on the White Lady, and you heard her accuse the Orlanthi!” – Guard
“Excuse me, HEROQUEST GOING ON HERE. Can you just stay out the way until you’re not in danger?” – Berra

“You heard the White Lady.” – Guard
“Yeah, but the White Lady is currently hopping out of her head and thinks that is really Orlanth.” – Berra

“Did you see Lord Hulta within the last hour?” – Kesten
“No.” – Varanis
“Did you see Lord Hulta within the last day?” – Kesten
“No!” – Varanis
sigh “When did you last see him?” – Berra
“Two day ago!” – Varanis
“True? Can we go on now?” – Berra
“When did you last see Lord Hulta?” – Kesten

“So, this is going about as well as it could be going… Snack?” – Berra
“Are these ground nuts or tree nuts?” – Kesten
“Tree nuts, but I’ve got some dried apricots in another pouch if you like.” – Berra

“So… do you have the right to claim the body?” – Berra

“Multi-spell Sleep.” – Priestess
“Ooh, it’s going about that well again.” – Berra

“Grief can be assuaged in many ways, and we are with you in your sorrow…” – Hanky Initiate
“The body. Where’s the body?” – Berra

“We could just ask…” – Humakti
“I’m not used to doing that…” – Berra

“He’s dead. He shouldn’t be brought back.” – Berra
“He’ll go to Humakt in his own good time.” – Kesten
( Like now? ) o . Berra

“Free handkerchiefs!” – Berra to Xenofos

“What an arsehole!” – Nala
“Ahem.” – Keston
“And this would be his nephew.” – Berra

“You are maligning my uncle.” – Kesten
“Are you sure that’s not just strict accuracy?” – Berra

“So, I get the idea this guy’s going to be a bit hard to handle when he wakes up, but I said I would, so I should, but if anyone else doesn’t want to, that’s fine.” – Berra
“Because he’s a bit of a dickhead.” – Berra whispering with actions

“I was trying to heal someone who was dying…” – Mellia
“Yeah… bad news about that.” – Berra

“Did Venlar get his horse stolen?” – Berra
“Looks like. He left it with a street urchin.” Varanis shrugs. “Might have been one of Grandmother’s.” – Varanis
“Oh dear… Are there any horse-giving occasions coming up soon?” – Berra

“We might want to make sure that we replace it. Was it a war horse?” – Berra
“It had four legs…. Serala would be disgusted with me, I know.” – Varanis
“Sounds like a horse to me.” – Berra