Valseena — 1626 05 150
????, Storm Season
Storm Season, Clayday, the return to Boldhome. [[[s02:session-29|Session 29]]]
There has been a quick move to a place called the White Grape Inn, where the inkeeper, Rondrik, seems to know the group. There are already clusters of lights drifting up the tall stairway to the distant palace, but in this place, there are walls. Entire walls made of wood and stone. They are burning wood in a fireplace, as if they have enough to casually use. Maybe that is why all the trees were growing outside the city. Maybe they put the city here to use the wood.
Berra sits in what is known as the common room, on a stool by a table – a literal bit of furniture just standing around waiting to have things put on it – and pulls out her armour polish from her bag. She has ordered a beer, but nothing to eat please, and just leave the beer by her when it comes she’ll be concentrating.
Valseena wanders over, looking a little uncharacterisically unsure of herself, bringing a beer of her own. She pulls up a chair and sits down by Berra.
She sips her beer as if working up the nerve to ask something. She bites her lower lip uncertainly.
After a few moments the warrior looks up and asks, “What?”1Berra makes an Insight Human and apparently today is a good day for it.
“You did say that a city was something different than I had ever seen, but…” she trails off for a second as if searching the words “…the sheer scale of it is…” again a pause where she searches for a word you guess she doesn’t use very often “…humbling.”
“I feel like a child at my first tribe celebration. Unsure how to behave, how to fit in.” She sips her beer.
“Yeah. You should see it in the clear of day. Sometimes it’s not even raining. I’ll take you up to the North Gate if I can – good view from there. Unless you climb.” The Humakti’s hands work fast, despite her relaxed demeanour. “But mostly, stick by us and do what we do. If we get into a fight, things probably went wrong. And if we say something and you don’t understand, just stay silent.” Her shrug is an indication that she at least is unworried.
Insight: under the relaxation there is tension that can only be seen up close. It is in how she is shining her already bright armour, and in how she has forgotten her beer. It’s a good act, but the Humakti is nervous too.
Valseena takes another sip from her beer. “For example, the feast tonight…” she looks faintly embarrassed at having to ask. “…are there particular modes of dress that I should adopt? I would not wish to embarrass you all.” Definitely discomfited and comfortable enough with Berra that she’s not trying to hide it.
“Um…” Berra considers. “Not really, but wear all your jewellery, and try to use your best Tradetalk. Varanis is meeting her kin – the Prince. So there’s going to be a lot of formality there but we’re just part of her group. If we get invited up to the top table, try to take me with you when you run and panic. But we won’t.”
Valseena looks faintly horrified when Berra mentions being invited up to the top table. But rebounds at the ‘but we won’t’ “Do you not like your beer Berra? I could get you something else…”
“Huh? Uh, no. Just forgot to drink it. So. There’s a lot less boasting than you’ll be used to, but there are bards. You’ll be given a seat on a bench, which is shared. Plates and stuff to eat from. Don’t eat from someone else’s unless you’re invited.” Berra thinks, and from how her hands move, she is running through eating rule in her head. “You can take food from the big dishes in the middle, but try not to lean over the plate of someone you don’t know. Ask them to push the dish your way if you want something. And that goes onto your plate, which is a sort of flat bowl but sometimes they make it out of bread. Either way, knife and spoon or fingers, like you’re used to. And don’t shout at the bards even if you don’t like their music.”
Valseena pauses to consider all that. “Is it considered good or bad manners to join in with the bards? Music in the tribe is always so…” she struggles for an appropriate word “…communal…” There is a beat-pause. “I do love to sing and have not had an opportunity for many moons”. She looks a little wistful and possibly homesick.
“If you want to join in, at something like this, if the harp goes around you can. Even if you’re calling on someone else to play. And if everyone else is singing then do, but usually that’s for songs everyone knows, and we’re a lot more drunk than we should be getting.” She remembers her task and gets back to armour polishing. “I play the drums really badly,” she says with a grin. “Salid, that trollkin, and his people – they like drums.”
Berra, finally back at home, might not have picked up on that.
“I guess that we would not know many of the same songs.” Then more brightly “I can play the harp a little though… But normally someone better would play. My instrument is here.” she pats her throat.2Valseena is not prone to talking about her skills – a cynic could guess she might actually be quite decent.
Berra pauses in reaching for her beer, and seems to consider something, and then takes the beer, and holds it in her stubby, strong fingers. “Oh. If anyone asks you about the Colymar, or about travelling with them, either tell them to talk to me direct, or say you met us in Prax and don’t know politics. My. Um. My tribe is… and Vareena’s in fact – Varanis’…. it’s difficult.”
“I met you in Prax and don’t understand politics”. Valseena nods sagely. “Yes indeed… Excellent advice.” She smiles.
Berra looks into her beer, and says, “Yeah. Healer travelling with us.” Her mood swings are always rapid, but this has gone straight to glum from instructional.
Valseena looks a little concerned. “Berra…is everything alright?”
“Uh? Yeah. A lot better now we’re back and we haven’t been warned off. So, you know how you don’t know politics? Would you like me to tell you some?” Berra drinks now, and grimaces at the taste.
Valseena considers this for a moment thoughtfully. “That would probably be advisable. So that I don’t step on…” – she uses the bison tribe word for llama dung. One might guess this is a euphemism of sorts for ‘faux pas’
“Shiggy,” says Berra. “In Heortling. So. I’m from the Colymar Tribe. Under Queen Leika.” Now she is talking about it her expression changes again, like water runs deep in her personality.
It may well be impossible for any mere human to keep up with the short warrior’s rapid mood changes. She looks mostly interested in Valseena now, as if to make sure the Praxian is following the trade-talk tale.3This time, a failed Insight Human, for an entirely new set of emotions in Berra.
“So” Valseena prompts “what about the others – what are their allegiances?”
“Nah. Let me tell this one. I’m the Sartarite. You know that Xenofos and Varana… Varanis – different up here to down there – are from Esrolia. But we did a thing for Kallyr so we were given lands. In my clan. Not all of them are sworn to it, but Varanis, who’s our leader, took them and went to swear herself to Queen Leika. Who was serving the Prince of Sartar, which is above a Queen or King, but not quite King of all of Sartar. So we’re all linked, right?”
Valseena looks a little confused but probably doesn’t want to a) look foolish or b) break the flow so nods.
“Then everyone thought Kallyr was dead. Except a few people, who were working to get her back. We went to Hell. Did the Lightbringers’ quest.” The big one. That one. Everyone has heard of it, and Berra says it casually. “Brought her back. She wasn’t dead – that’s very important. I wouldn’t help with a resurrection. But… Leika had burned what looked like her body. So people would think she was dead.”
Okay now Valseena looks confused. Like really really confused. “You went to hell?”
“Leika thought she was dead. And wanted to unite Sartar – but people wouldn’t unless they … yeah. I mean, it’s mostly just a place, and we didn’t do the WHOLE thing. But enough.”
“Why was she in hell if she wasn’t dead?”
“A bit complicated. And I haven’t asked. There’s only one person I could ask and he might be about to be very angry with me, and … well, she’s a Hero. That sort of thing happens. You can get there without being dead, although being dead helps a lot.” The Humakti ignores the difficulty parts, lightly.
Valseena looks wistful, perhaps even fainly envious. “You have all lived such…exciting lives”
“Yeah, I guess so. I mean, I figure I want to do more, but I’ve nearly managed an important thing I set out to do, and we have… well, we were in politics. And then… we’re Colymar. And so’s Leika. But the Colymar were not pleased with us either because we brought Kallyr back – after Leika had already lit her pyre. But at least it’s not war between them.” Berra slugs back her beer and lifts the amphora from its stand to pour another.
Again a little frowning from Valseena as she puzzles through this. “So if you and Leika are Colymar – what is Kallyr?”
“She’s of the Kheldon tribe, but she’s descended from Sartar himself. There are a lot of tribes in Sartar and they all have their own lands. Not like herd-ranges, but actual lands that they can put stones around.” Berra drinks about half the new cup of beer and then gets back on with getting more shine onto her armour.
Again Valseena looks puzzled. “Why would they put stones around it?”
She genuinely seems flummoxed by the concept.
“To mark where it starts and ends. You can plant there, and what you grow is yours. It belongs to the Earth but it’s yours as well. Our land’s really fertile.” Berra checks the shine and spreads a very thin layer of oil onto her armour plate.
Valseena still looks perplexed. “But you don’t move your settlements? Ever?”
“No. Well, only if one fails. We don’t have to. I mean, can you imagine Boldhome moving? The Tribe has its own land. Which is handy because then everyone knows mostly where their enemies are and who’s likely to be raiding.”
Valseena falls silent apparently processing this concept.
“You can tell a Praxian that, but I don’t think you could really understand it until you see it.” Berra shrugs. “But it’s true. Hopefully I can introduce you to my land, and my family.” She smiles broadly, another instant change. “My sister can really cook. Although she’ll be disappointed I can’t eat her garlic-rye any more. Vegetables. So. Um. Yeah, that’s the politics. And we’re going to get fed, which is the important bit.”
Valseena looks puzzled once more. “Why can’t you eat vegetables?”
“My god says so. I needed his help. He doesn’t give it – he makes me strong enough to help myself. But there’s always something that goes with it, or usually.” Berra buckles the vambrace back on.
Valseena looks a bit awestruck. Her expression shows plainly she impressed that Berra speaks directly with her god and gets a response.
Berra seems hardly worried by this at all. “So… Yeah. That’s pretty much it. But that’s why the Colymar are … um, well, there won’t be many at this feast. But Kallyr will be generous, so Varanis will be greeted well and that should deal with much of the problem. And it’ll be a feast. But later, if you get any trouble, tell them I’m up at the Humakti Temple if they want to argue with me direct.”
Valseena looks reassured.
“The Humakti temple. I’ll tell them.”
“So, anyhow. There are going to be a thousand steps to walk up. Don’t wear armour.” She sits back on her stool, leg cocked around a table leg for balance, as she wipes her fingers clean. “Unless you’re a warrior.”
Berra has neatly avoided the fact that Valseena is not a warrior and a healer can live with no armour at all.
Valseena nods and smiles. “No armour…Besides if I owned any that seems like a most uncomfortable outfit for a feast.”
Berra’s smile is wide. “I’m not going there to be comfortable,” she says. “If I was doing that, I’d be a Vingan.” A stretch, fully armoured, shows off her strength and then she brings herself back to a seated position rather than lounge on thin air. “If I disappear, watch out for the others, and guard Varanis. It’ll mean my Temple called me.”
Valseena nods seriously. “I will do my best to keep them safe.”