Cracking Skulls

1627, Storm Season, Harmony Week


Context

Storm Season, Harmony Week, after the events at the village and a day and half of tracking and frigid courtesy between the scholar and the Humakti (after Yelm sets and Waterday begins) TrollLOLOL

Events

Cracking Skulls

When they’ve stopped for the night and have set up a very minimalist camp, Varanis seeks out Berra and Xenofos. If necessary, she will drag them by their ears. She takes them just far enough away to be out of eavesdropping range.

Berra goes without complaint, silent. She does look around the area before she nods, and then stands so her back is to the camp and she can half keep watch while she talks.

Xenofos comes when Varanis asks.

“What in the name of Ty Kora Tek’s empty orbs was that all about? We’re in unfriendly territory and suddenly, the two of you can’t work together?” It sounds like the Vingan has been stewing over this for hours.

Berra looks at Xenofos, and waits.

He looks defensive. “There was call to scout and when I come back she throws a tantrum? I have honestly no idea why.”

“I told you to stay with Irillo. And then you rode off.” Berra does not sound angry, although her voice is a little more Northern Sartar than normal.

“Did you? I had no idea.”

“Yeah. That’s why I shouted. And apparently you didn’t hear that either.” Berra scowls.

“So, you didn’t hear her the first time. But what happened after? When you so suddenly dumped command on me?” And now Varanis is staring at her friend.

“I couldn’t get him back,” Berra replies, “And I need to know that when I give an order it’ll be obeyed, or I need to not be giving that order.” The little Humakti glances out at the darkness, eyes sweeping even as she talks.

“If you are shouting to cavalry that is riding out you need to be quite loud.” Xenofos replies. “I did not hear you.”

“You said something… I thought you said something, about me just being a scout. But if you didn’t, then sorry. I was pissed off about that – I thought you’d just ignored me to leave.” She still sounds oddly northern, oddly controlled.

“I went out to scout when ordered, that is what I do.” He looks at her. “And when I come back you throw a tantrum and start stalling and asking who is calling the shots when we should be looking for survivors and hunting the killers…”

“You rushed into…” Berra takes a deep breath, and holds her words back.

Varanis snaps. “Xenofos, it is not productive to accuse her of throwing a tantrum.”

He ignores his cousin, directing his reply to the Humakti. “To a burning village Berra… I have seen them before and I don’t want to see them again.”

“You rushed. You don’t do that. You NEVER do that. If I can’t tell people what to do, and how, then someone needs to be in charge. Because you need someone to be looking at the battle all the time.”

Xenofos argues, “You all do it all the time Berra. It is dishonest to pretend otherwise.”

When he suggests Berra is being dishonest, Varanis glares at Xenofos again. “Are you trying to be provoking?” she demands.

“No, he’s pissed off. Has been for a while I think. Can I have one quick word, Varanis?” Berra’s jaw tightens even as she speaks politely, gives Varanis a quick smile.

Varanis looks torn. “But…”

“Yeah. I wanna remind you of a thing. Won’t take long.” So casual, but her body language is jumpy.

“Go ahead Varanis, it is ok.” Xenofos is smiling, but the smile has a sharp edge.

Varanis turns to Xenofos. “We aren’t done. Stay here?” She follows Berra a short distance away.

Berra checks the area before she takes Varanis only a few dozen steps away. “You told me what you saw. What you thought you saw. That’s why I was trying to keep him back, and he … you then took him into that. So … did you not hear me either? Because you warned me and then you let him ride off.” She looks half confused, half jumpy still.

”He was too far ahead for me to stop him, and if I’d chased him down and sent him back, I’d have shamed him in front of the others. But, it’s why I went. I’d intended to stay with Irillo and Xenofos, and send you with the Praxians. You know the region better. You were the smart choice. But he hared off and I couldn’t let him go alone.” Varanis sounds defensive.

Berra shakes her head. “He left without thinking. That means nobody was commanding him. That’s got to st… no.” A tiny pause in the drift of Berra’s speech, and then a little louder, “That’s not for talking about alone. Sorry.” She goes back towards Xenofos.

He is hopeless, the way he gazes at her with soft adoration even now…

Berra stays quiet, letting Varanis speak first, or maybe just letting Varanis speak.

Varanis looks at him and just shakes her head. “Look, Xenofos, you worried her. I think Berra’s only got enough patience for one Varanis in her life. She needs to trust you not to rush heedlessly into trouble. And sorry Berra, for all your experience, you’re still just human. You were worried and reacted badly to it. Let it go.” She sighs and the exhaustion of the day seems to be weighing heavily on her. “It looks like we’re headed back into war. Berra, you’re twice the commander I am. I need you to issue the orders when we’re fighting. I count on your experience for that. And when something goes wrong, we deal with it and move on. Together. So we are dealing with this now, and then we will move on. Agreed?” She watches them both carefully.1Insight? X passes, B fails. Insight: Varanis is tired, worried, and just really needs them to work things out. She’s trying to sound confident and in control, but she’s very unhappy.

“In that case, I need people to not rush off. And then yes.” Berra looks annoyed, but not angry.

He shrugs. “I will not promise to stay put. I may at times rush. But if I hear commands I will try to obey.”

Varanis looks to Berra. “It’s about as good as you get from me,” she points out.

“Yeaaaaah. No. I can’t command that. If you see the enemy, sure. But not like you just did.” Berra looks at them both as she goes on. “We’re not heading back into war. We are IN war. Next time that could be the ambush. Out of sight is…” She trails off, frustrated.

“Risks of light cavalry…. It rushes out so it is the thing that gets ambushed, not the main body, like earlier…” Xenofos explains.

“We’re Orlanthi,” Varanis can’t help but add. “You haven’t gotten used to it yet? Though, Xenofos, that was a little more Orlanth and a little less Lhankor Mhy… it was unexpected.”

Berra gives Xenofos a flat look. “Yeah. Under the orders of someone else. Not when it wants to.” Every word is carefully spoken now.

Varanis looks to Xenofos, “You can’t argue that. She’s right.”

Xenofos replies stubbornly, “You did call the cavalry to ride out. And it did.”

Berra says, “No, it left. That’s different.”2X: you did say out loud right, cavalry will ride to investigate.
B: Yeah, but there was also Varanis telling me about the dragon, which compressed time a bit. So the way that fits, you rode off while Varanis was telling me, and then I shouted and you didn’t hear. I thought I was telling you to stay when you were still in the caravan, but shouting is good.
X: there was initial call and rehash of plans… and quite a lot of compression of time.
B: Yeah. Not hearing while I thought you were hearing can happen in various ways.
X: And yes I could tell you thought I was still around… at the time.
B: Obviously the clash of hooves and stuff.

“Enough!” Varanis snaps. “Mistakes were made. They’ve been acknowledged. Can we move on?”

“Sure,” Berra says quietly, and sighs. Then she shrugs, and her face takes on a placid look, insofar as can be seen in the darkness.

“Yes, Varanis.” He looks at the Humakti. “Berra, I am sorry if I brought you distress.”

Berra nods, and puts out her hand to clasp. “I misheard, too. But… yeah.”

He grasps her hand carefully.

Varanis sighs in relief. “I don’t know if either of you truly understand how much I rely on you,” she murmurs under her breath. More loudly, she adds, “Right. Good. Now I’m going to eat something and then try to sleep. We have a hard ride tomorrow and I want to be on the move the moment there’s sufficient light.” Varanis turns on her heel and retreats back to camp.

Berra lets go of Xenofos. “You’re… well done. A bit dumb, but brave and right.” He blushes a little, but does not say anything. Back to the camp she goes.