Finarvi — Debrief Happy
????, Sea Season
Sea Season, 1626, on the ride down from the Blue Tree Clanlands to Clearwine. [[[s01:session-29|Session 29]]]
Pretty soon after the party, on the way along the road, Berra draws up alongside Finarvi, to bow to him clumsily from horseback. “Hello.” Her tradetalk is accented from Sartar, but easily understood. “I think we should speak. You have met me. I am most of the time the battle commander, and… you are in my clan now, and I want to know what you can do and how to protect you.”
In her clan, she was all smiles and chuckles and laughter. Out here she is just as intense, but it all seems to be alertness and watchfulness. When her eyes are turned on Finarvi, she means it. He has her full attention.
Finarvi has seen enough bad commanders and indifferent commanders to appreciate one who takes time to understand those under her command. An alcohol-fuddled memory of a smiling Berra holding a baby floats to the surface of his mind. He returns her bow. “Thank you,” he says solemnly in tradetalk. “You’ve seen that I’m a redsmith; I can make arrows and armour and repair most things. I am not as brave as Serala, but when we parted I could still out-ride and outshoot her on horseback. Don’t tell her I said that,” he adds hastily. “She might stab me.”
Berra grins. “I might at some point coax you both into a race, but I have no need to get you stabbed. Serala is… a warrior in the sense of setting out alone. I get the idea you don’t have to be, but you are valuable. As a skirmisher I like having horse-gallopers. I ride about as well as a skirmisher should, and I am geased to ride no animals one day a week.” She is sitting on her placid horse like she does not fully understand it is a living animal. “You are an archer, too. We like that. Rajar and Varanis and I are the striking troops. Watch for Rajar if he enters his holy rage. You may need a horse to get away.”
Finarvi strokes the neck of his red roan mare. “I’ll wager my Madryn’s more nimble than that lumbering brute Serala is riding.” He straightens. “I trust you to use me where I’ll do the most good. So, Rajar is a berserker?” He leaves the question hanging, hoping to tease out more information.
“Rajar is an Uroxi – a follower of Storm Bull. I don’t know which names you use, but Storm Bull is the god who struck down the Devil, and pinned him down in Prax. Fighting Chaos is holy to him and the rage of Storm Bull helps. He’s good to be behind. One day he might kill me, if he runs out of other enemies and I run out of luck.”
Finarvi smiles. “I had the feeling both you and Rajar are good people to be behind. What of the others? Anything I should be careful of? Where do their strengths lie? “
Berra considers, making a slow, “Mmmmmmm….” noise. “We are two groups of people, those of the clan of Varanis in Nochet, and others. Xenofos, Mellia, Dormal and Varanis are of that Clan. So is Irillo the Merchant. It has lead to tension lately, but I think that Varanis living up to being a Colymar will deal with that, eventually. Dormal is…” she seeks to the word, and then just spits. “The rest, I like. Varanis is an Orlanthi Noble. Vinga is Orlanth in a female form. So she is born to rule, but she is not yet practiced at it. Getting her there and helping her is important, I think. Nala of the Unicorns and Tiwr are powerful and fast, but not warriors like I am. Nala saved me from my ghost, though.”
Finarvi is intrigued to learn how such a motley assemblage came together. His gaze wanders briefly to the Trollkin this strange group seems to have adopted, or possibly abducted. He’s noticed how tense his cousin gets around Nala, too. He decides to start there. “Nobles gathering fighters to travel with, I understand. Where do Nala and Tiwr fit? What is their…” he gropes around for the right word. Function? Agenda? There must be a word in tradetalk, but he can’t think of the right one. “Purpose?” he tries uncertainly.
“Oh, and Sid. Shameful of me – that is Irillo’s guard, but he is a warrior too. We freed him by killing his master, and then later we saw him, and he was free. I should not have forgotten him – he and Tiwr both earn shares for the danger they are in. But to talk about purpose is long and strange. Nala is seeking to do honour to her mother, who was a Hero, and was sent here originally by one of the …. damnit, no word. Army-servant. Of Argrath White-Bull. And then there was much to do, and so we were pressed together, and now I think she does not want to leave yet, but she is unsure what she is doing.”
Other than giving his cousin something to grind her teeth about. Finarvi grins. This group seems rich with potential. Serala had said she would explain everything to him but between the perry and the chaos-slaying it seems to have slipped her mind. He can get her views later, he decides. Right now, Berra seems willing to share information and he needs that other viewpoint. He and Serala don’t view the world the same way. “And what of Dormal?” he asks, with as much innocence as he can feign.
“Fortunately he is not of my Clan,” says Berra. “So I do not need to defend him any more than any other person. He does not understand or value Truth or Honour. He is not a coward, but he will not fight me, despite having called me a liar – so I will not trust him with anything but a blade.”
There’s a lot not being said there, FInarvi decides, making a mental note to ask Serala about it in private. “So what does he value?” he probes.
“How in hell should I know? I try to avoid talking to him.” Berra manages to pull back from the high point of anger but it looks like she could vault up there without much effort.
Finarvi gets the impression that when Berra says she trusts Dormal with a blade, what she means is she would trust Dormal if he was stuck on the pointy end of her own blade.
Berra shuts up then, still riding alongside Finarvi, but obviously thinking about something. It seems to be a part of her personality that she devotes herself to each task with the same ferocious intensity.
Finarvi doesn’t press any further. He waits patiently to see if Berra will find anything else to say.
After a while, she says, “Let me tell you the story of how we all met, if you do not mind a tale long enough I need water while talking.” Now the intensity seems turned inward.
Finarvi makes an encouraging noise, not daring to interrupt.
“I met Mellia first,” Berra says with some care. “I was signed up with the army that took Pavis, and on the way back Mellia was in a village, and I had been sent with a guide, Skafflock, to bring back some stolen cattle, to keep the army in the field. Mellia was not sent, but she followed us – into battle. She saved me and Scafflock and I killed all of the ogres.” She says that like a group of cannibals capable of stealing an entire herd of cattle is not a big deal. “I owed her my life, but she is a White Lady, so she would never hold me in that. She would have saved the ogres too, if they had renounced Chaos.”
“So after that, we wandered North together. This was last year. I invited her to winter with me, at my Clan lands. We never got there. Whitewall happened. I … well, we had met Rajar and Serala on the road, among many others. You may laugh… but I thought Rajar knew where he was going. I walked up the hill with him.” Berra’s lips twist in a smile at her own expense.
“The dead there never got buried. I realised that pretty quickly and was setting it to rights as I could when they started moving. We killed one each, saw how many more there were, and decided not to go further. When we went back down the guards were a cross between relieved and terrified. They had not thought anyone would go up there, so they had been slack. And although we had spoken on the road, that is really how I met Rajar. By accident. Invading a place full of undead. A perfect meeting of Storm Bull and Humakti.”
Finarvi’s eyes widen, but he says nothing.
Berra does take a drink then, unslinging her water bottle from her belt. Despite being on horseback she has most of her equipment lashed to herself. She offers the skin over as she goes on. “Whitewall had sent for help, and a Humakti Hero was on the way, but it is my responsibility to deal with Undeath, so we planned that. There was a port there, Qidane. He helped a lot. He got the crowd behind the idea of going up the hill and we took the names of volunteers. Then as we agreed to meet in the dawn light, the Hero arrived. He was D’Val, now my Sword in Boldhome.”
“For completeness I should point out he is not eight feet tall with eyes of fire, in case you ever meet him. He’s a Durulz.”
Finarvi opens his mouth to say something about not underestimating Durulz, but the mental image of an eight foot tall duck with flaming eyes stifles his voice. He takes a swig from the offered water bottle and hands it back, nodding at Berra to continue.
Berra takes another swig of water. “That was when I first saw Serala fight. Rajar was in his bison. She was on horseback, with a bow. I led us through a ritual to bind together the warriors, and we cut our way uphill. D’Val was amazing. Mellia, even more so. She threw herself through the back line into the fore once, to save someone’s life. We got up there under my command with no losses at all. I’m still amazed, to tell the truth.”
“At the top, there were very few buildings left. Only despoiled temples. They were home to a form of vampire and there we needed each other. A sage of the Saiciae, Vestra, saved me from one. D’Val burned the Temples, knowing they could not be saved, and apparently Rajar hacked one to pieces, but I was unconscious for that part. The vampire, you see.”
“So….” Berra might be casting around for a way to frame this. “We needed to rededicate the Temple. All of them, but there was one to Humakt there. D’Val kept watch, in case more vampires came, and he sent us to Boldhome to get help. We brought back the various High Priests and Chief Priests – Kallyr herself did not come, but Tennebris, her Chief, did. And Eril, High Sword of Humakt, and Kalis the Earth Lover, and Beneva of Chalana Arroy. I think her name is Beneva. I was occupied in attending to Eril, mostly. He doesn’t need it, but he should have a guard of honour, if only to warn people not to bother trying for him. Something to slow them down while he notices and draws on his power. And we came back to Whitewall.”
Berra takes another sip from her water, and keeps it hooked over a saddle horn. “It turns out that the High Sword and D’Val do not really get on well. They try to keep it ‘fraternal’. And … well, it got a bit awkward. And to heal the place, I suggested the Heroquest of Humakt the Champion. And the High Sword said well done, and arranged for me to do it. That was a little bit unexpected. I could have said no – he was not my High Sword then, but I was damned, frankly, if I was going to flee him.”
“So anyhow. He… he is a hard, cold man. He’s a great Hero, but he gives little help, only instruction and expectation. I am not complaining, but you should know that about him. He set me up for the Quest, but he found an Orlanth who was not experienced enough. I think he expected failure and did not want to risk anyone, but I genuinely don’t know. He’d have expected me to cover for the deficiencies of my opponent to really succeed in his eyes. But Mellia was there, and she is a White Lady, and she appealed to the local Wind Lord, using Lightbringer words.”
“So the ceremony started. Koraki and Eril got to be very polite to each other, and I got to play Humakt in a Heroquest. I… I did well, but I was not strong enough. I just didn’t have the strength to complete the fight. But Rajar cast berserk on me when another Vampire formed, and after that, there was quite a lot of hacking the Undead to pieces, just like the Quest says. And I managed not to also try to kill Orlanth, which was good. I fell to the spell, not the vampire, as I pulled myself out of it, and Koraki finished the quest with some declamation, I’m told. Most of the ghosts and spirits there left, pulled through the doorway to the next world. It made Whitewall safe, but it was… it was a messy Quest, not fully complete. And there Tennebris was, with a load of people who had nothing to do, but could go look for help.”
“So we got sent to Kero Finn, to meditate – we brought back a copy of the Lightbringers Quest that had more details. It was on that trip we met Irillo and Salid – Sid. And just before that, I forgot to say, we met Nala. She had a message for Kallyr, and she came back with us to Whitewall, and she has been with us since. She and Tiwr together. Irillo was employing Dormal and Salid and some baboons and a couple of spearmen. We marched a long way and came back successful. Kallyr Starbrow did the Heroquest in Sacred Time. That was not successful.” Berra grimaces, wry.
Finarvi makes a confused face and can’t help interrupting. “I’m sorry, did you say baboons?”
“Yes. From Prax, I think. They are ancestor worshippers.” Berra waves off Eastward. “But they didn’t come up the mountain. Salid did, though.”
“Anyway. It’s … you saw Kallyr. Tennebris sent us to Nochet to ask for help, at the temples of Chalana Arroy and Laknhor Mhy. That’s where we picked up Varanis and Xenofos, and recently we picked up you. I did another Hero Quest with Mellia to help Kallyr, and we’ve been rewarded. I.. think that’s all that matters about us.”
“So it sounds as though this group has only been travelling together for a relatively short time,” Finarvi muses, thinking Berra and her companions have managed a formidable amount of adventuring in the past year. No wonder Serala hasn’t yet found the right moment to tell him all this.
“Mellia and I met in Fire season. It’s been less than a year. We went on a long, long walk, which took up Earth Season. Dark and Storm – well, you don’t get out much then, unless you’re wild for raiding.” Berra shrugs it off, like that is entirely normal, but then she grins. “It’s been intense. I thought I was going to go back home, and then I didn’t. And now I’ve come back and I own land there, but Sartar still needs help.”
Finarvi thinks about that. “I think it always will,” he muses. He wonders whether Berra might take this as a warning or a comfort.
“Heh. Yes, possibly. But right now, Sartar will need me in Fire Season. You may or may not have noticed the Lunars fled recently. I want to be fighting that.” Berra taps her fingers on her thigh as she rides, either in impatience, or practice of some kind of beat. It seems like she knows the pattern well.