Losing Heart

Maalira — Losing Heart

1627, Dark Season


Context

The very start of Dark Season. [[[s02:session-55|Session 55]]]

Events
Berra has left her sister, her nephew, and her cousin at the White Grape, the now-familiar Boldhome in where the group sometimes stays. She has also left a lot of other people, and a horse.

On her bison, she rides up towards the Temple of Humakt, one of the huge buildings uphill in the same valley as the inn.

Maalira has left her bison behind at the inn, not wanting to ride it through unfamiliar streets, and trails behind Berra on foot as quickly as she can.

Despite her eagerness for the Temple, Berra rides like a warrior. That is, she is constantly looking for trouble. So, perhaps she merely rides like herself.

They are not long up through the city before the warriors pulls her bison to a halt, and turns in the saddle to let Maalira catch up.

Maalira could be red from the exertion, but she goes redder when she realises that Berra has noticed her

Berra grins. “What did I forget?”

“N… nothing,” Maalira says. “I, uh” she swallows, apparently lost for words

“Are you lost?” Berra looks set to turn the bison around right now.

Maalira shakes her head emphatically, and squares her shoulders. “No, I was following you. I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye properly at the inn.”

“Oh, right. Yeah. It was pretty noisy.” Berra dismounts, hooking her reins around her arm like an amateur who wants to be dragged away by an angry bison.

Maalira’s cheeks are flaming now, and she holds out a small package towards Berra. “I wanted to give you this.”

Berra blinks. “Oh! Thank you! Uh, you know I’m about to have to go and try to put away worldly things, right?” She looks a mix of delighted, dismayed, and confused.

“It’s not too worldly!” Maalira says hurriedly. “It’s… Yehna taught me to spin, and I knew how to weave a little, so I made this. It’s to keep your ears warm, when you are running up and down the stairs,” she explains.

Berra laughs, pulling open the wrapping to look.

“It’s just a little thing, but I wanted you to have something,” Maalira adds.

Berra gives Maalira a delighted look. “It’s lovely of you,” she says, carefully folding up the wrapper to give it back, as she shakes out the ear-warmer.

Maalira lowers her eyes, smiling, some of the tension going out of her shoulders.

Naturally, it needs to be tried on right now, which means taking off the helmet and padding.

Maalira watches expectantly.

It is plain, as Maalira didn’t have time to dye the yarn, but it’s woven in a pattern of wavy ridges and dips, and has ties at the ends to adjust the size.

Berra has no problem tying the thing to size, so the wavy pattern of ridges sits over her forehead, at the hairline, and then over the tattoos she has on the sides of her head. “There you go.” She looks proud of it already.

Maalira beams. “Do you like it?”

“I love that you made it for me,” Berra replies. “I don’t know how much I like it yet because I haven’t run in the rain in it, but I think I like it a lot too.” A tiny pause, and then she adds, “I should probably talk to my Sword Lord about whether that’s appropriate, though. But right now I do.”

Maalira is grinning now. “You can wear it any time your ears are cold, of course. To keep you from catching a chill.”

“Or from getting colder ears, yes. Have you eaten? There’s a place up there that does for Humakti.” Berra nods her head up the city.

“I haven’t eaten – that would be nice,” Maalira says.

Berra jerks a thumb to Followed. “Want to ride?” She makes no attempt to get back on.

Maalira glances at the bison. “Will she be able to carry both of us?” 1Maalira fails Herd. Bison are strong, but this one is small.

Berra says, “Bison,” like that’s either an explanation, or her guess.

She adds, “But usually when someone else is on, I lead them. I’ve ridden on the back of Rajar’s while he’s on it, and us both armoured, though.” Bison are pretty strong, after all.

Maalira considers, then shakes her head. “I’ll walk alongside you.”

Berra has no problem with that. She just pauses a moment to tie her helmet to her saddle, making sure the black feather in it will not rub against the furry coat that Followed is putting on for Dark season. “So you’re going back to see your kin?”

Maalira nods. “It will be good to see them, those who do not travel with us, anyway.”

“I will also be able to replenish my supplies, for when we head out again,” she adds.

“Yeah, we are pretty heavy on the Bisons sometimes,” Berra says happily. “I met Rajar something like three years ago now. Did I tell you about that? Or did he?”

“I don’t think I have heard the story,” Maalira says.

“Oooooh. Right. So, the crops were in the fields still – not yet harvest time – and I came into town a bit behind this big guy on a bison, right? We’d not talked much on the road because he was obviously Praxian, but I’d got nothing against him. Just didn’t speak Praxian, and I was busy thinking of home. Only he looked up at the middle of town, and the gate up to it, and there was a slum at the bottom. It was horrible – it stank. So he opened the gate, and I followed him. Because people live at the top of town, right?”

Maalira nods, encouraging Berra to continue.

Berra looks wryly at Maalira. “I should have known something was wrong. There were bodies there. I mean, it had been a major battlefield. The town was Whitewall – King Broyan had holed up there for TWO YEARS fighting the Lunars off. But the bodies were too new. They looked… well, at that point I bent down and set one to rest, because I’m a Humakti, and the big guy – I knew his name, but that was about it – set off to move a bit further in. He was on his bison. And as he did, some of them started moving.”

“The bodies?” Maalira sounds horrified.

“Yeah. Three of them got up. Not the one I’d just dealt with – I think it would have otherwise. But the other ones that were closest.” Berra grimaces. “Humakt does not like Death going wrong.”

“I don’t think anyone does,” Maalira says faintly.

“Yeah. But this is my duty. So we killed them, laid them out properly, looked up the slope that had a couple of dozen more dead, and decided that we couldn’t fight them all alone.” Berra grins wide. “We’re sensible. Just aggressive.”

Maalira laughs. “There’s a fine line.”

“Well, warriors who hang back….” Berra has a lot of facial expressions, and this one has no name in tradetalk. Praxian would call it ‘when you trod behind the bison that was ill’. “That’s not me.”

Perhaps in trade-talk, disgust is ‘when you bought glass and paid diamonds and then the glass melted’.

“Of course. There would be no point to being a warrior if you did not want to do something about the situation.”

“Right. Anyhow, that’s how we met Lord D’Val. The people of Whitewall had heard there was a Prince again in Boldhome, and appealed to her, and the Temple there sent a Rune Lord. We called out the fyrd and I gave them the holy meal, like before, and we fought our way up to the top, and cleaned it. There were vampires. One nearly caught me but one of the Esrolians – Vestra, you haven’t met her – gave it the gift of her axe to the face.”

Maalira blinks rapidly. “I must have been away from home when my cousin returned after that battle – he could hardly have not boasted about it!”

“He didn’t come back for a while,” Berra says, suddenly sober. “So you would have heard his other deeds. We went on from there.”

“Ahh. They are not happy memories?”

“Big memories,” Berra says. “I was three days away from home. But we had to go tell the Prince about what we’d found. I can’t say, but the Sword Lord had to stay there to guard it, and we brought three holy people back to deal with it. The heads of their Temples. Um, then one of them persuaded me I needed to think a lot bigger and I told another one I had a better idea than he did, so he made me prove it. He wasn’t even my High Sword then.”

“I’m glad you did – I have seen your ideas, they are always unexpected but usually work.”

“Sometimes they are pretty terrible and I can’t help saying them but I usually manage to kill those ones pretty young.” Berra detours down a street to the right. “You get a good view of the river from here.”

Maalira looks, a smile spreading over her face. “It’s beautiful.”

Lower in the city, some roofs have coloured tiles making patterns, and uphill to the left is the great Sun Dome Temple, easily twice the size of the one in New Pavis. The golden dome on it glows gently despite Yelm’s light being behind the cliffs. The river is surprisingly clean for one in a big city. Expensive riverside houses have been painted to show off money to the people on the other side.

“I like it,” Berra says. “This is my city. My place.”

Maalira looks around at the sights, wide-eyed. She has been to cities, but this one is particularly beautiful. She breathes deeply. “Thank you for showing me this. I can see why you love it here.”

“Nochet’s too big,” Berra says with determination. “This is where most things are that matter to me, anyhow. Because this place looks after my clan. And up in the palace there’s…” She stops, suddenly wrestling with emotion, and goes to sit on the cold grassy edge of the river. Her mood just shattered, and now she is looking towards a big, angular temple just visible over rooflines. Or maybe she is not – she sat down, and there are a lot of things that way.

Maalira sits down carefully next to her, risking a gentle hand on Berra’s arm. “What is it?”

Berra takes a few minutes to wrestle with emotion, and mostly manages not to cry. “It’ll get better with food,” she says finally, in a small voice. “It’s a Humakti thing. Sometimes I find it hard.”

“Come, then,” Maalira says softly, giving Berra’s arm a gentle squeeze. “Let’s go and eat, and you can talk to me about it if you want to.”

====
Maalira gives Berra something to keep her ears warm in Storm season.