Guarding the Guards

Valseena — 1626 05 170

????, Storm Season


Context

Storm Season, after the return. [[[s02:session-29|Session 29]]]

Events

Valseena gets back from shopping with Varanis looking somewhat thoughtful. She goes looking for Berra.

Berra, when run to ground, is practicing alone with her sword outside the White Grape. There is no front courtyard, this being a city, and she has ignored the back way. She is practicing in the street, scaring people into crossing to the other side to keep out of her way.

Valseena makes sure Berra has seen her before approaching – she has no wish to get any scars by being careless around a practicing swordsperson

The Humakti does not stop immediately, but speeds up to finish the last of a set of movements with impressive speed. She looks good and flashy, although it is hard for Valseena to tell whether she would hold up against a serious warrior. Then she salutes up the hill, and with her bronze sword casually in her right hand says, “Valseena. Hail and welcome.”

Valseena smiles. ‘Good day Berra. May I get you some refreshment after your…exercise?’

Berra looks a bit surprised. “Um, sure? You don’t have to ask that, though. Not if you can serve me. Just ask if I want something.” The sword is reversed in her hand with a flick, and she sheathes it without looking. She has to do that, because the empty sheath is on her right hip, and her iron sword went undrawn.1Berra fails insight: she is a warrior.

Valseena grabs a pitcher of beer and two mugs and finds a spot for the two of you to sit. ‘So I went to the market with Varanis.’

Berra, for her part, takes off her helmet, with its single black feather, and glares at anyone who might approach. Having followed Valseena in, she is therefore undisputed ruler of a table by the time beer is brought.

“Uhuh?” Laconic, the Humakti, sometimes.

Valseena sips her beer thoughtfully.

Almost as if working out which direction to approach a topic from. ‘She doesn’t seem particularly concerned for her safety… Perhaps the danger is not so very great?’

Berra raises a brow. “Uh… Right now? No. A lot less than we feared. But… when a shield wall breaks, it breaks in one place first. Then it shatters. And you don’t know where it will break. You can’t tell where the … where the trouble will come from, or how much there will be.”

Again Valseena looks thoughtful. She sips her beer. ‘So how do we keep her safe?’

“Luck. Pretty much. And not doing things in a regular way. And knowing what things to look for. Close your eyes for me a moment?”

Valseena looks a little uncertain but closes her eyes.2Passes Scan.

“Right. And without opening them. How many people in this room?” Berra might be looking around to count herself, although it does not sound like she is twisting in her chair.

‘Eleven, excluding you and me.’

“Yeah,” says Berra. “How many warriors? And how many can’t you tell with?”

Valseena cocks her head to one side as if listening or concentrating.

‘3 including you. 2 I’m not sure.’

“Mhm. Open them. That’s not bad. Why am I alone at this table? Other than you?” She glances around. “And why am I sitting here?”

‘You picked this table so you could watch the room and the stairway to the bedrooms upstairs… You’re alone to avoid distractions.’ Valseena shrugs – ‘Sorry if I’m being one.’

“Other end of what I was thinking, sure. I’m alone because I told the man drinking here to fob off, I was on guard here now. And not so much distractions, as… um, I don’t know the trade-talk word. Uh… sight-line would be… uh… clear path of view Yes. I have a clear path of view because I told other people to go away.”

‘And have you seen anything or anyone that concerns you?’

“If I had, I’d probably have mentioned it. But there are a couple of people here who might have come because they’ve heard Varanis is here. The pair down at the end?” Rather than bother with subtlety, Berra turns to nod to them. “They’re Issarians. They have their own places over by the market. It’s… to be honest each person here is probably here for themselves but in a whole room you can’t tell which one isn’t. And Varanis is famous, and generous, and if you can help her, that’s good for you.”

‘Varanis is a good person. I want to help her for that reason only.’

“I meant them, not you. You in general, not you as Valseena.”3Berra passes Insight: Valseena is a bit offended.

Valseena sips her beer and watches the room, trying to emulate Berra’s subtle but sweeping glances.

“What I mean is, you can’t… no, what I mean is that a lot of people will be around her, trying to help her, and be raised by her rising. People will just drift towards her. And then, she’s an Orlanthi and good at talking and she’s done great things, so they’ll want to be around her for that as well. So the people I can’t identify… I can’t just call them outside. I’ve got … I’ve got Humakt’s help on this. But I’m young and I don’t know enough about listening to him. Sometimes I get warnings.”

Valseena appears to consider this a minute then nods. ‘She won’t be careful, so we will need to keep watch for her.’

“She… sort of. She’s born of the Air. To be careful would crush her. She’s a lot better than she was, because she’s a leader and knows she should look after us, but we need to not make her feel she’s behind a door she can’t get through.” In a society that had prison cells, Berra might say ‘behind bars’.

Valseena nods sagely. ‘She should not be a bird in a cage.’4Short discussion of idiom and concept. Possibly ‘a chicken in a market pen’

“And also, she’d hate us if we forced her to it, and if we could that would still be wrong to do, not just for her, but for anyone. And we need to do our things too. We can’t live forever as guards.” Berra shrugs, one-shouldered. Today she is in her boiled leather armour, lighter than the bronze by far. She taps her breastplate. “I’m relaxing today. I’ll… my Lord Eril thinks we have at least a little time to rest.”

Again Valseena nods, looking thoughtful. ‘Yes we have our own lives to lead.’ Berra can see her eyes stray to the staircase to the rooms.

“Right. And … well. It’s a question not of guarding her all the time, but of finding the times when she is most vulnerable, the times when it’s easiest for us to make a difference.”

‘And when do you think that will be?’

“People will hear that she’s around. And she’ll need to do things to show she’s useful. That takes her away from Boldhome. This place? It’s got wardings on, so if someone comes in meaning to hurt her, they’ll set off. But we’ll be wandering into the world, and someone’s going to mention where we are. So… Suuraki’s got that task he was set, right? And we’re going to do that, maybe, and some other things. Times when we’re in a place for a while, concentrating on something else? Or when we think we’ve just won? Those are the times you get hopeful. Hope is not a plan.”

‘We need to keep our guard up then and keep moving… Hope can be beautiful but also dangerous.’

“But if we keep moving, we’re running away.” Berra shrugs. “I like moving – but that’s a Praxian thing mostly. We need to be here to serve the Prince.” She looks off into the distance and says with a sigh, “And our Lords.” Emotion got pushed down there. “The most dangerous thing is probably people from my Tribe. There was an idiot went for me, in Wilmskirk – that’s a day away from here, and a half day from the Colymar – because of who I was.”

Valseena looks concerned. ‘Are they people I should be looking out for?’

“No more than anyone else. They’re not popular in this city right now. Remember what I said about Leika?” Berra gives the room a glance and then drains her cup.

Valseena nods, sips her beer. Her eyes stray to the staircase once more.

“The way to the goddess’s cave is through Wilmskirk.” Berra seems unworried by that herself. “Look, just go up and see him.”

Valseena starts guiltily, realising where she had been looking. ‘If you don’t mind…?’

“Do I look like I do?” Berra raises a brow. “I’d have mentioned if I did.”

Valseena blushes and excuses herself and goes in search of Suuraki.

Berra chuckles as Valseena leaves, and then settles to outstare the rest of the room.