Berra is not a wolf

Serala — St2 Berra



After Session 26


The Heroquest happened. But from Serala’s perspective, the rifts between the people are still a gaping chasm. So she went off immediately afterwards to work with both her own horses, Mincey and the Herd. And, when no-one’s looking, Varanis’s pair of horses. Whether to be helpful, or prove a point, is anyone’s guess. But of all the people she has been travelling with, she notices Berra’s absence; and so, on her rare incursions back to the palace, her excursions to the Temples of Elmal and Yelmalio, the stables, keeping an eye on Road, she watches for her friend. Not to the point of actively seeking her out, if Berra is doing Berra things, it’s not Serala’s place to interfere. But watching, waiting for her reappearance.

It takes a week or so from when Serala started looking out for her, but then one day, there is the little Humakti – a high-speed running Humakti, dressed in armour, training in a backpack, running up the wide western arm of the valley, in a cross-country lope that is impressively efficient given she is on foot. She has a wide, almost wild, smile on her face, and the look of someone who has been running a while and will keep going onward. Were it not for Mincey, Serala might not be in the right place at the right time, but there she is, and there she is. Berra is out for a Humakti Walk.

There is an expression of relief on Serala’s face as she turns the high stepping horse in Berra’s direction, nudging it to an easy canter. She knows that Mincey is not the right horse for her lifestyle, but that doesn’t stop her sheer joy of riding with him, the stallion responding almost to her thought, let alone her body. And so the pair move alongside Berra, at a distance far enough to not impede, but near enough to communicate. “Hei…” The call reaches Berra’s ears, and if she looks, she will see a fond smile gracing the rider’s features.

Berra glanced around on hearing hooves, and again as they got a little closer, but given how fast she is running and the time she could spare for looking, she probably failed to see Serala clearly. She definitely hears, however, for she stops veering towards the rougher ground and gets back to the path she was following. This time she parallels it, slowing down gently rather than coming to a full stop instantly. It takes her half a mile to really pull up, and the process includes stretching as she does. “Hello,” she says finally, her breath coming short and hard. She looks thinner, and worn, and very happy.

“I was beginning to fear you had left us.” Serala notes. “I am glad to see I was wrong.” She lets Mincey sidestep, toss his head, and generally behave badly for a few prancing steps before she quiets him. She doesn’t seem to have anything else immediate to comment, just walking the horse near you, studying you, taking in the subtle changes in you. “Busy?”

“I was at the temple. I’ve been studying.” And she’s a Humakti, so Berra adds, “And recovering. That quest is… not good for Humakti.” Definitely thinner. Without the padding, the armour might not fit. Berra looks like she has lost muscle tone just within a week.

There is a long pause while Serala takes this in. “It is the tale you told me.” she finally notes. “Which you said involved the tricking of Humakt. I can understand why that would be a difficult path to walk, I think. At least … not as deeply as you would know it, but some. Perhaps.” A nod of her head, and then an offer, “I am not Humakti, I suspect there is little I can do to aid you. But if there is anything, then I am here.”

“Well, it also involves Humakt allowing a return from Death – so normally Humakti can’t do it. I don’t know anyone else who has.” Berra has her water bottle belted on, rather than slung, and she unbelts it to take a sip. “Feeding me is good. I forgot how to be hungry. Wolf got … can I tell you that? Yes. Wolf got separated from his hunger, before this time.”

“Oats?” Serala suggests, in the closest she comes to joking. “Perhaps I could warm them into a nice mash for you…” It may not be a time for levity, but she isn’t wonderful at the deeper mysteries of the gods. She does sober herself up, however, “Heroquests always seem to drain those who take part. Sometimes more deeply than others. This was a hard path for you; it took, and takes, courage to have walked it and to continue to move forward. But I believe it will also bring you closer to your god?”

“It did. I…” Berra looks away, picking a path to an easy rock to step onto, and walking that way slowly. “I saw things I didn’t know. Most of them, I told to the temple. Some I was permitted not to say. How are you? I heard you were part of it.”

Serala shakes her head, “Not in any important way.” she assures you. “I..” A pause. A shrug. “I don’t think.. or know… It doesn’t matter.” A confused shake of her head, “It doesn’t matter.” she repeats, changing the subject abruptly. “I am more concerned about whether or not I remain with this group of people. Kallyr is awake. I can fight the Lunars anywhere. We have completed our task as far as need be. I will, of course, return the herd to you, to sell, or do what seems best.”

Berra whistles, low. “Why?” she asks after a while.

“I should see my family. There are duties.” A simple, logical reason. But.. “Also… it was hard enough, with Dormal straining the cohesion of us, as a travelling group. And yes, my friend, I know we established you don’t see him as part of the group, but he is still with us. But now, Varanis, acting the child over a box. A box.” Serala actually spits at the ground. “I had liked her. But this? This? Plus the unicorn and his rider, they hate all I stand for. I left the Grazelands to do battle against the Lunars. I do not have to put up with this.”

“Well… You don’t. But I think you’re seeing us as a clan, or a family, not a group of individual people. When you’re all on a rope together, pulling up a barn side or a all pole, you’re not one person, and you don’t have to be one person – you just all pull together, because that’s the way you’re going.” Berra seems oddly unworried.

Serala shakes her head, “But we’re not pulling together.” she points out. “We are tearing apart.”

“Not really. Only if you think of us as one already. When we have to, we pull, and then we go do things, and then we come together if we have to, but… I think you’re thinking of a group structure that’s official. Why is there a ‘we’ at all? Why can’t proud people walk alongside each other?”

“Because when one is poisoning another – which is Nala’s view, is exactly what Varanis did to Tiwr, that is not walking alongside each other. When we end up turning back to hurl insults at one another about whether a group decision to leave something should be overruled, it is not pulling together. When we insult the White Lady by desecrating an altar – for a good outcome or not – that is far beyond pride and into insults.” Serala points out.

“And look at what we managed. We did an amazing thing, and we can deal with insult separately. We should – but it is not for you to deal with my anger, or that of Nala. If we asked, maybe. What do you want dealing with?”

The rider snorts. “I want to stop being insulted at every turn. I want Varanis to stop behaving like someone put her in charge. I want Nala and Tiwr to either tell me to my face that they consider me unclean and then stop with the snide comments, or to rise above it. You walk alone, perhaps, and are happy that way. I do not. I am used to pulling in harness, with the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. But when you are not at ease with gods or men, where does that leave a person, Berra? An outcast?” For a moment, a muscle tics in Serala’s face, before she closes it down, looking up and towards the horizon. “I cannot let this continue.”

“Mhm.” Berra walks on slowly, picking her way so Mincer can have the path. “I think, then, we should tackle that bit by bit. It’s a short list, but a hard one. I’m not going to answer your question on outcasts, because I don’t know how, but we should ask those questions of people. More, we should ask what is important within each question.”

“I am tired, Berra. I knew who I was, and what I was doing. Avenging those who went before. Simple.” A shake of her head, “Now.. a scout, who Nala gives commands to, in spite of having more battle experience than her. A messenger, sent away from the battles as though my skiill is not required. There is none in this party, save you, that I can talk to. I am.. not good.. with easy socialising. Beer with Rajar should be easy, but isn’t. I had begun, I thought, a fragile meeting of minds with Varanis, but the look in her eyes when I tried to turn her aside. As though I had tried to harm her.” A curl of her lip, “Had Pag and I tried to harm her, she would have known about it. Of no moment to the group, and in that lack, I lose myself. How can I walk proudly by anyone when I am… not required?”

“And you can tell me I am wrong. It doesn’t change how I feel. Which is why I should go back to my people. Speak to Grandfather. Remind myself who I am.”

Berra looks up,and finally scowls. “Sent away from battle as if you were not needed? I recall sending the best messenger we had to keep a line of communication, while I prepared to delay the enemy. Would you prefer me to be riding while you fight? I’ll list other things, but not that. And I’ll add Irillo sent you as a scout – and I’ve told him not to. By all means be free – but be right, too.”

“I can scout. But I am done with taking orders from Nala.” Serala retorts. “I will speak to her directly, but she and Tiwr treat me as though I roll in dung daily. “

“I don’t find anything in me to say you should take orders from her.” Berra offers up the water bottle, still threaded on its extra belt. “It’s got some salt in. I’ve been sweating.”

Serala shakes her head, but offers a half smile. “I appreciate your words, but I think these are my burdens to bear. And my decision to make.”

“As for Varanis… it’s hard to decide what I should say. Can you count? Do you know how old you are, since you became an adult?” Berra might be floating some notion through her own mind, even as she speaks.

Serala half shrugs, “Something over two decades.” is as close as she can be bothered to count. “It is why I am being ‘encouraged’ by my people to bear children to the tribe, before I am into my third decade. But there is plenty of time before that!” Definitely a mix of defiance and acceptance that sooner or later she will need to go and do her duty to the clan.

“I meant, as an adult. I think you have been grown for far longer than she has, even if you are the same age. Not only that in Esrolia the initiation comes later, but also, she has not been taught to be anything other than generous and kind. She does not know how to be wrong, and finding she might be, hurts her.”

“There is little time for being a child when your parents are slaughtered by the Lunars.” Serala agrees. “She is been pampered and sheltered, I suspect. I was training as a warrior from a young age. And ‘training’ meant being on the back of a horse and charging into battle, rather than the finest tutors being paid for…”

“Yes. How often do you think she was taught to make an apology that was not official? That was not made with well dressed people, and others around her?”

Serala snorts, “She’s about to learn.”

“Mhm. If you saw that scared look in the eyes of a horse, what would you teach it?”

“There’s a different question there though.” Serala points out. “A horse has to learn. Anyone in Varanis’ position would need to learn to accept the fact that if she wishes to lead, she cannot always be right. We all have to eat toad on occasion.”

“Well, yes. But … we have time. Nobody learns to abide toad pie quickly. Her position is unclear, and I’m pretty sure it’s unclear to her, too. She knows she was added to us. She knows she’s Orlanth-noble, and Orlanth leads, but she also sees warriors like us, who… frankly, know more than her, and are devastating on the field. I will not lie, even to be humble. We’re good. She… how does she know she didn’t get lucky? She wants to be a leader, and doesn’t yet know how, and I think she’s five years too young. She’s youth-Orlanth, not Storm Tribe Orlanth. But she’s always been told she should lead, and now she is given no followers.” Berra grins suddenly, and even bursts out in a laugh. She glances around and then adds, “Sorry. Different face just came to my mind.”

Serala tilts her head to one side, “Face?” Obviously intrigued. Not ready to comment on Varanis just yet though.

“… The High Sword.” Berra looks rueful. “I… I don’t even know why. I’d follow him. I just suddenly had him surprised at the idea of not having a Regiment.”