Ransom Demands

Maalira — Ransom Demands

1627, Earth Season, Stasis Week


Context

Earth Season, Stasis Week, Clayday. Berra comes to take some details from what she thinks are her prisoners, only to find they might not be. [[[s02:session-54|Session 54]]]

Events

A day has passed. Most of the screaming has stopped, and while there is shouting and the sounds of destruction, there has been time for sleep, and it is morning, and Berra approaches the area where Maalira has been keeping court, and where the injured are. The blood has been cleaned off her armour, although it is damaged around the abdomen. She looks alert and well, thanks to probably having had some sleep.

Maalira is still in the midst of the injured, bits of her white gown now a filthy red-brown, and she looks exhausted but smiles when she sees Berra approaching.

Berra bows her head. “White Lady,” she says. “I’m here to talk to my prisoners.” Maalira does get a wide smile, though. “Well done. And all that.”

Maalira glances over at the cluster of patients. “Thank you. You may talk to them, but please don’t mess them up again?”

“Er….” Berra looks confused. “You know they surrendered, right?” There is some rapid-style blinking. “And you’re looking after them. I need to pay you for that, I think. Well, donate.” The confusion gives way to perky eagerness, which is one of her many, many intense expressions.

Maalira quirks her lip. “I know they surrendered, but I have also met you.”

“The temple will gladly receive any donations, of course.”

Berra looks a little upset, the eagerness fading. “I wouldn’t,” she says. “The minute they stopped fighting, they … you haven’t met many Humaktis, right?”

Maalira waves her hands frantically. “No, no! I meant your enthusiasm… you bounce… oh [insert Praxian swear here]”

More confusion. “Oh. You mean when I stop being able to think of the words and do stuff like screaming?” Comprehension dawns like Yelm rising back into the sky.

Maalira laughs, still sounding worried. “Yes, like that. This lot-” she waves a hand at her patients- “are feeling very sorry for themselves right now, and I’m incredibly bored of healing headaches and panic attacks.” She smiles to show there’s no sting intended in the words.

“Wanna walk with me?” Berra looks around. “I’m… yeah, I do get carried away. A lot. But I just need to sort out who’s paying their ransoms. Part of the way things go. They’ll expect it.”

Maalira nods, quietly breathing a sigh of relief that she has extracted her foot from her mouth. “I will walk with you. Indeed, I believe I may need to have the same conversation with one of them.”

“Oh?” Berra steps that way, heading for a pair sitting not far from each other. Spearmen, without weapons here, and without shields. And, because they are not professional warriors, without armour either. Just two men, in bloodied clothes, who freeze and flinch on seeing Berra.

This is not entirely their fault, if it is at all. Berra has fallen into her glare of concentration, and is approaching at her normal swift clip. 1Berra rolled Intimidate to see how she was presenting herself, and if the memory of her was scary, and got a 01. And she’s not even trying!

Maalira smiles at the prisoners, shaking her head slightly to show that they don’t need to be frightened.

Looking sidelong at Berra, she says “yes, it seems I ended up to with a prisoner myself”.

“Oh, nice” Berra has approached the prisoner that Maalira has, as well as another man. Her next words are, “Right, you two. I need to know who’s ransoming you.” Her voice, at least, carries little threat. It does not seem to be helping much.

“Ah…” Maalira trails off, looking nervously from her prisoner to Berra.

Berra is of course speaking in Trade-Talk.

“Our families,” says the younger man, Maalira’s prisoner. He is no more than a few years older than they are. “Well, our clans really. Damaki doesn’t trade-talk too good.”

Berra nods. “Right. Which clan? We’ll…” she breaks off for a moment to think.

“My pardon”, Maalira says awkwardly, “but I believe one of these two is mine to ransom?”

Berra stops short, in the middle of going through something in her head. “Uh… is he? Where’s my other one then?”

And, being her, she adds, “Not one with the arm. The other leg guy.” There’s a wince from the ‘leg guys’.

Maalira makes an awkward noise.

Berra stares for a moment, and then looks down at ‘her’ prisoners. “But I took them!” From one to another, amazed.

“I fear my healing superseded that claim…” Maalira takes a tiny step backwards, eyeing Berra warily.

“No, you’d be healing them on my behalf,” Berra replies. “They’re my prisoners.” She looks down at them, and Maalira’s prisoner looks back up, and points nervously – wordlessly – to Maalira.

“He asked for my protection,” Maalira says, more confidently. “I heard the other one surrender to you, but that one, no, he turned to me.”

“Yeah, but that was when you got there. I told him he was my prisoner and he… argh. He didn’t say no!” Berra looks still more confused than angry, although there is some gesticulation. She does not look like she is ready to explode.2Berra fails Insight (Human) when asked to roll by GM.

“They have to say the words, do they not?” Maalira tries to make this sound non-confrontational, resisting the urge to take a second step backwards.

Berra says, “Depends a bit on the situation. Because sometimes staying down’s enough.” She has not yet worked out that she had removed that option – and indeed the ability to use a leg.

“Does it count as staying down if they can’t actually get up?” Maalira bites her lip as soon as the words are out of her mouth, not at all sure they were a good idea.

Berra actually considers that. “Look, I didn’t kill him. Because I told him he was mine instead. Right?” Perhaps unbelievably, she looks down to the younger of the prisoners to check that.

The reply comes, “You didn’t…” It’s tremulous, but there.

“It’s easy to lose track, in the middle of things.” Maalira spreads her hands in a helpless gesture.

“I don’t lose…” Berra starts to growl and then says, “Seriously, I don’t need to keep track. Someone’s a prisoner or they’re dead. Except Gallem, of course. But he won.” Her annoyance now seems to be directed at the world for not being right.

“Well, yes, but not being dead doesn’t mean they’re all your prisoners.” Maalira’s tone has the merest hint of an edge to it. After all, the facts have been established, haven’t they?

“If they fought me? Usually it does, unless someone like Rajar was in there too.” Berra pauses in her confusion to explain. “Listen, I think I maybe need to go ask Lord Gallem about what the situation is here. Because I haven’t had this happen before.”

“That sounds fair,” Maalira says cautiously, hoping the Humakti lord will defuse things rather than make them worse.

Berra turns to go, pauses in mid step, stares at her foot as she fails to put it down anywhere, and then steps backwards and turns again. <<Y’understand me when I say this?>> she asks the prisoner in Heortling. She looks pre-prepared to wince.

<<A leetle beet.>>3Maalira fails Speak (Heortling) and Insight (Human) to work out what Berra is saying and what she is thinking.

Berra half-glares. <<Did you understand me when I told you to surrender?>> It is rapid-fire Heortling, not pitched for a casual speaker.

<<Yehs. But I did not tru…. I chose to surrender to the heater.>>

<< You little fucker. >> Berra turns to stare at Maalira. “He’s yours, and if I ever see him again out of ransom, I’m going to be challenging him over my honour, which the little bastard’s just wounded.”

Little is a relative term; the man is six inches taller than Berra, and broader as well.

He looks a bit scared, but shrugs a bit, <<You are not… uh… Storm Bull?>>4Berra passes Intimidate again, just checking how she is presenting.

Maalira nods at Berra’s words, trying to catch her gaze and hold it. “You understand I did not take a prisoner you thought was yours on purpose?”

Berra looks down, at the man, and the glare is there in her eyes, and then back up at Maalira, and there is no threat at all. “What? Oh, of course!” A bit more confusion. “And to be honest if you had said that he was mine and you were taking him for your own reasons I’d probably believe that was a thing. But he just said he didn’t trust a Humakti.” At that she turns the glare – rather sulky, yet still menacing – on the prisoner.

<<Proxiams No have Humakti. You ride cow. Uroxi?>>

<< Humakt is a God of Prax. Tourney Altar is a god-place for Humakt. I ride BADLY. So I came in…>> Berra sighs and goes back to her own accented trade-talk. “The Healer trade-talks. I’m a Humakti. I look like a Praxian to you?” She points to her cheek, pale for Sartar, even; a delicate light olive colour.

<<All cows black in dark>>

Maalira caught the meaning of that, and turns away to hide a smile.

“Fucksake.” Or, it being tradetalk, ‘this deal went sideways like a cow on ice’. Berra sighs. “Yeah, next time I see you, sonny, you’re toast.” (a bad debt written off the ledger)

He winces, but adds, slightly hopefully, in tradetalk, ‘Humakti not kill farmer ‘like a Noble haggling in the Marketplace”. That is, helpless.

Berra gives Maalira a ‘well, this is exasperating’ look, but it is clear she now knows what to think, at least.

Maalira tilts her head at the hapless prisoner. “You may wish to try stopping talking,” she suggests lightly.

Berra looks down at him. “No, but I’d fight a free man who insulted me.” She glances at Maalira and back down to the prisoner that is definitely not hers. “Do you want to apologise?”

“YES! Not insult Humakt. Humakt Great God. Not know Praxians have Humakt. Humakt Tarsh God! Praxians follow Urox! Urox no take prisoners! Would have surrendered to Humakt! Can give Grain Beer to Humakt? A barrel?”

Maalira covers her eyes with her hand.

“To the White Lady. Give extra to her, from me.” Berra steps back, takes a deep breath, and faces Maalira. “Um… you can look now.”

Maalira drops her hand, the corner of her mouth twitching as she tries to repress laughter at the prisoner’s babbled promises.

He nods again. “Good beer for White Lady. Will see you through Winter!” Okay, it seems giving Chalana Arroy Beer in order to NOT be murdered by passing Humakti is worth it.

Berra ignores the man, at least for the moment. “Do you know how to sort out a Ransom in these lands? And as part of the army? Are you part of the army – I mean, under Varanis and with her band? Or are you on your own?”

“Uh.” Maalira frowns. “I’m not sure… I just kind of came along.” She shrugs. “I would be grateful for your help, either way.”

“Right. So, you probably count as the army because you had that meal with us, back when I was making the magic. It made us better soldiers but that was by binding us together. So even if you’re not the … if you’re not a soldier, I think you’re part of the Regiment. But I’ll ask about that. Over in Sartar we pay in cash, not cattle – it’s easier to take coins than it is a herd, and everyone uses them. You can demand cattle, but it’s a lot harder. And if you’re going to accept it in Prax you might want to say you want it given at a market city, so you can have cows bought. But tell him where, and he’ll pay it, then he’s allowed to go. Five-hundred Lunars for a free man, but because some of that’s going to the army, some has to be sent to Nochet, or else I can lend it to you if you want to pay that now, but you shouldn’t have to pay the cost.” It is a lot of words.

Maalira blinks a few times.

Berra looks hopeful.

Maalira blinks a few more times as she finishes replaying what Berra just said. Finally, she says “Yes, please, if you could lend me that which needs to be sent on immediately, and I will return it once the ransom is paid.”

“The other option’s to have it sent on, but it’s easiest this way to know you don’t have debts.” Berra shrugs. “And those poor bastards that came from Esrolia think they’ve succeeded.” There is a little sigh from the Humakti. “Where do you want it sent?”

“Where do I want which sent? I thought you said Nochet?” Maalira sounds hopelessly confused.

“The rest of it. How does it get to you?” Berra knows that one. “The army bit’s shared out. You’ll get some from other people too. Then there’s what you earn. Usually it goes to your Temple until you can pick it up. But it could go to anyone you trust, only it’s hard to find a clan in Prax, so you might have a prisoner for a while if you say your clan.”

“Oh, I see.” Maalira purses her lips, thinking.

Helpfully, Berra adds, “You would generally leave this man at your Temple instead of making the Temple come and give you the news.” Maybe she does not know about Pimper’s Block.

“My temple is a long way away,” Maalira says thoughtfully. “And I might have need of it before that. Though, I have no clear idea of where I am going next.”

Berra considers. “Um, I could buy him from you? Or you … well, we know your clan. You could ask Rajar to pick it up in Boldhome? Or … if you need money we’ll lend it to you, if that’s what you mean. But Boldhome and Rajar’s a good idea and gets this guy home faster. Or the Humakti Temple here, and they’ll send it on to me if… sorry, I’m trying to solve everything for you and you’ve got cousins here.”

Maalira flashes her a quick smile. “I’ve heard that in the cities some folk pay people to solve problems with the money they used to pay them with. Perhaps if you get tired of fighting one day you could try that – you seem to have a talent!”

Berra freeze-winces. “I’m really better in action than I am in thinking. But if you ever want to tell my Sword Lord you think I’m smart, that’d be good. He likes to hear it. I’m going to get the money sent down from here unless my prisoners want to end up in Boldhome for a bit, and avoid this place. I mean, I haven’t got anything against them. It costs about what a courier costs, but if Irillo’s passing through here, then he’ll bring it for love, and usually the … well, sometimes the Temples pay the couriers anyhow.” Something crosses her mind, and therefore her face. “I think Lord Gallem wants to impress my High Sword.”

Maalira nods as if she has understood every word, which she hasn’t. “Having mine sent to Boldhome also sounds sensible.” She is pretty sure she understood that bit, anyway.

Berra nods. “Temple of Chalana Arroy, Boldhome. I’ll sort it.”

====
Maalira and Berra sort out a muddle with prisoners, where Maalira is right and Berra is confused