1628, Early Fire Season
Varanis forgot to tell Berra that her old servant had arrived. During Session 9 (Going Batty)
The morning after Kallyr’s summons finds Varanis in the main room of the house, sitting down to some food and staring at a scroll. She’s dressed in the Sartarite style she’s adopted, though her hair is piled in the plaits typical of the Saiciae women.
Berra traipses in, looking like she has not had much sleep, and yawns a greeting. “Ung.”
“Good morning, Berra!” The greeting is as bright as Yelm’s light on this cheery morning. “You look a little wrung out.”
“I… yeah. On duty for every call. I’ve told a lot of people sorry, and I’m going to have to tell a lot of people that when I get their friends drunk, they stay on duty.” The Humakti looks at Varanis, points her finger to her own head, and waggles it in question. Hair.
The Vingan looks sheepish. “I couldn’t disappoint the old dear,” she replies. “She came so far and it’s a small enough thing to make her happy.”
“What?” Berra looks confused. “Who wait what?”
“Marta,” Varanis says, beaming. “She came yesterday. No… the day before. Surely I told you?”
Berra says, “Uh, no. No, I didn’t know that. Why is she here?”
“She’s come to serve me again.”
The Humakti is still confused. “Uh… spy?”
Varanis shakes her head. “No… I think she really is loyal to me. And away from Grandmother and in my employ, she has no reason to. Besides, given the letter she brought from Grandmother, it’s clear the old woman has plenty of sources of her own.”
“Um. Can you start slowly and maybe I can grab on as it goes by?”
With a chuckle, Varanis backs up to the beginning. “The other morning, I was sitting here, much as I was today. I was trying to make something and it wasn’t working, but that’s beside the point. Xenofos came in and I asked him to help me with my breakfast. Speaking of which, there’s more here than I need – want some?”
The platter still has meats and bits of cheese, alongside pieces of crispy flatbread. The fruit has all been consumed, from the look of things.
Berra nods, and reaches for food. “Yeah, thanks. But you eat too. Maybe we’ll both end up swimming like ducks.” The facts force her to add, “But probably not.”
“I’ve been eating,” Varanis protests. “Anyway, a servant came in to tell me there was someone to see me, and who should it be but Marta? She looked a little travel weary, but otherwise, very much herself.”
“Mhm, but you’re not eating now. Alright, the letter?”
“Right. So Marta told me that Grandmother had mentioned the baby and offered her a chance to come here. She could stay or return to Saiciae as she wished. Grandmother also sent a gift and a tablet for me. The gift… a silk scarf, Ernaldan green.” The Vingan wrinkles her nose at that. “Also, my mother’s pin.”
She takes up a piece of cheese, chewing it slowly, before continuing on to describe the letter. “The tablet chided me for not being the one to tell her of the child. Apparently, Xenofos did that, though I suspect she already knew. She says the pin is for Berra.”
“Oh, regift the scarf. It’s a Sartarite thing to do. Kalis will like it, maybe?” Berra sighs, and kneels to deal with breakfast properly. “And what’s the pin like?”
“It’s about this long.” Her thumb and forefinger measure a length suitable for a veil pin. “Silver, with a carnelian, I think. There’s a snake wrapped around the stone. I remember my mother wearing it.”
“Melt it down. Make it into a sword with a gem, or a spear.” Berra grins at her food, briefly. “Make it yours as well as hers.”
Varanis looks shocked. “But I don’t know its story! What if my mother got it from her mother, instead of from the Saiciaes? Or what if it was a gift from my father to his beloved? I can’t just remake it!”
Berra shrugs, and nods, and then pauses. “You have a scribe. Who in my opinion should have…” She stops herself, stops another yawn. “Get Xenofos to tell you. Because if it has got a story, that’s good. Sorry.”
“I was rather angry with him for telling Grandmother, but in retrospect, I think when we talked about it last, I acknowledged that she’d probably already heard. But still…” Varanis shakes her head before popping another bit of cheese into her mouth. “Anyway, Marta is here. I was thinking of sending her to your sister while we are away. I’m sure Yehna could use the extra hands.”
“I think if you asked him not to, he wouldn’t.” Berra considers. “No….” Then considers more. “Maybe. But while I don’t like her and I don’t like grandmother putting people here, I don’t know she… she’d do badly with the mud.”
“She’s a caring woman. But… perhaps Yehna will bring Berra here to see Marta instead.” Varanis shrugs. “We likely have a few days to consider it, anyway. And I’m keeping Marta if she chooses to stay. She deserves someone who will care for her as she ages. I have warned her about the cold, mind you. I’m not sure how well she’ll do next Dark Season.”
Picking up the scroll she’d set down on Berra’s arrival, Varanis says, “Anyway, I’m looking at this list of building supplies for Blue Tree. What is this word?” She sounds out the letters for a Heortling word to do with wood types, inviting the Humakti to move on to other subjects.
“Is that other house still available?” Berra asks with a grin. “The word is <<year-dried>>. It says the wood’s seasoned and hard to cut, but tough.” It is obvious, under the surface, that Berra is not happy with the idea of a new person staying, and is fighting herself about it, and winning.
“You distrust her that much?”
Berra thinks. “It’s that I don’t like her. Because she’s part of that house. Or was. Or something. It’s complicated. But it’s not a problem – you trust her, right?”
Berra gives a tiny nod. “Then I’m fine too.” She sighs, deep and slow. “I’ll work on liking her.”
“Thank you, Berra. I appreciate that.” Varanis smiles at her friend. “Now, say that other word for me again. I think I’m pronouncing it incorrectly.”
<<year-dried>>, Berra repeats. “Heavy on the second bit.” Because she doesn’t know what a syllable is.
This time it comes out sounding more rural Sartar and less Esrolian high court.
Berra, rural Sartarite, nods.
“I learned some new songs to help me practice. Want to hear?” Without waiting for a reply, Varanis launches into some Heortling songs. It’s a mix of traditional and new and if one or two of them features a small Humakti hero with a feather in her helm, the Esrolian manages to perform them with a straight face.
Berra listens patiently, leans against the wall to listen, and falls asleep there.