1628, Earth Season, Fertility Week, Wildday?
After Berra has snarled at people and been angry, on the plains of the Grazelands Session SA3.04.
Rapid hoofbeats announce Finarvi and his mount have had enough of the sedate pace and are riding back, a polite distance off the path the others are taking. He waves to Maalira and Berra as he rides past to let them know nothing’s wrong. Once his horse has stretched the ants out of its legs, he lets it drop back into a walk and falls in beside Manasa.
“The outriders are fine,” Varanis tells him by way of greeting. “At least, as far we could understand each other. I think I need you to teach me more than swear words and flirtations. My limited vocabulary has become painfully obvious to me.”
Finarvi nods. “Your vocabulary is already better than Minik’s. We can start this evening when we stop to make camp, if you like.” He shakes his head. “I would like to ask you something, though. I feel like I blundered blindly back there between Berra and Maalira. Do you know what that was?”
- “I don’t know, but I feel the same,” the Vingan admits. “You were there when Berra became drunkenly flirtatious with Maalira? I was tired enough that I’m not sure what I imagined and what I saw.”
“I’ve never seen Berra quite that drunk before, but yes, I saw the drunken flirt. And Maalira dealing with it professionally, and not embarrassed that I noticed. I was tired, though.”
He rubs his chin thoughtfully. “Berra didn’t seem concerned about you teasing her about the sword-love. But when Maalira got flustered, she got angry. And I don’t know why Maalira blushed at what you said.”
“What part of it was the matter, do you think? That you teased Berra, or that you asked Maalira what her tastes were?”
Varanis shrugs as if it isn’t of great concern, but her underlying unhappiness is coming through to Manasa, who reacts with her usual irritation. The mare’s ears pin back and she shakes her head. “She’s said she’s fighting with anger since Harrek,” Varanis mutters. “Maybe it’s that? But it felt like I’d done something wrong and I have no idea what it is.”
“Likewise. I just wanted to reassure Maalira there was nothing to feel embarrassed about, but Berra snapped at me like I’d said something unwelcome. Did she not like that I was talking to Maalira?” He shakes his head. “No, that doesn’t seem right. She was protective, and angry, but she didn’t strike me as jealous.”
“Is it bad that I’m sort of grateful it isn’t just me?” She gives him a wobbly, apologetic smile. “She’s been angry with me for a while now. Sometimes she forgets for a bit, but it always comes back.”
Finarvi looks back up the trail. “Are you just a convenient target? Is she simply angry? I thought maybe she snapped at me so she didn’t lose her temper with you, but she has not been herself for any of this. Sometimes people are just angry that the world isn’t the way they think it should be.”
“She’s not forgiven me for my betrayal in Tarsh. Maybe that makes me a safer or easier target whenever her anger bubbles over.”
“She’s fighting a battle with her anger. If it is hers.” He looks doubtful, considering her words about Harrek the Berserk and Berra’s constant need to refer to him. “Either way, we’re not her enemy. And we can’t go into Lunar territory constantly eyeing her to see if she’s about to turn bearish and maul us for being in reach.”
“Do you have any suggestions?”
He gives her a helpless look. “Braid the bear in its den? Confront her about it? Or would that be the worst thing to do?”
Varanis laughs, though it lacks the merriment from earlier. “I will try. She’ll either maul me to death or not, I suppose. No reason to put you and the others at risk. Maybe you can keep them distracted?”
He looks doubtful. “Won’t it be better if both of us intervene? Or all of us – maybe you should talk to Maalira and I could talk to Serala. I think she’d listen to Maalira, as the person she’s least likely to maul.”
((Fumbled insight: Finarvi thinks Berra will eat you. And not in a good way.))
His companion flinches. “You think I’m incompetent. That I’ll just fuck this up like I’ve done everything else and Berra will just take me out.” She sighs then. “You might be right, though. I couldn’t stand against her if she decided she wanted to kill me. And she won’t hurt Maalira.”
He looks unhappy. “I just don’t understand Berra and she scares me. And that was before she made Harrek the Berserk appear from nowhere. There have been times where it looked like she was barely keeping hold of her anger. And if it slips loose, I think all of us might not be enough.”
“I thought she was my closest friend. The sister I wanted, rather than the one I have,” Varanis admits, staring at the space between Manasa’s ears. She adds, “Maybe taking her to Grizzly Peak is a bad idea? Making things worse…”
“It might sound odd, but I think it might be necessary. What better place to send stray bears?”
“I suppose. You know… I thought she was a wolf. Now she’s a bear… it’s… well, it would be interesting if it hurt less.”
Finarvi nods in sympathy. “Let us hope this journey makes her less bearish.” He rolls his shoulders to relieve some of the tension built up in the course of that hard conversation. “You know, she always struck me as more like a badger. Either still or running; a nightmare in a fight; quite um, close to the ground.”
Varanis tries for a laugh. “Serala’s a hawk. Xenofos is determined that I am an alynx. Berra is a bear, wolf, and badger rolled into one. What are you, Finarvi?”
“Oh, something small and easily overlooked. A mouse or a grass snake, maybe. Mostly harmless, mostly useless.” He looks amused, and welcoming the distraction.
“Useless? Don’t sell yourself short, my friend. You are valuable to all of us and an important part of our lives.”
“It’s good you think so.” He gives her a wry smile. “So, shall we recruit an army to face the terrifying Berra?”
“I suppose we must.”
“Don’t worry. Serala and Maalira will be all sensible at her. She won’t be able to withstand them both.”