1627, Fire Season, Death Week
Fire Season, Death Week, in Nochet. Session 42: Kin-Making
Varanis sends word to Berra, inviting her to go for a rooftop run. The options for climbing in Nochet are rather limited and the Vingan doesn’t want to push her luck by climbing the best buildings (temples and the royal palace).
Berra is there about half an hour later, wearing only the leather armour, without padding, and with her boots laced tight. She has even left one of her swords behind. As light as she gets. She may still melt.
Varanis is waiting for her, dressed in the rhino-hide armour that she has been hauling around since Pavis. “That was quick!” she says by way of greeting. At the palazzo gate, she politely informs the guards that she has a Humakti and therefore needs no other support.
Berra says, “I was a bit bored, to be honest.” She looks like she is calmly waiting to head off at speed, but she nods to the guards and gives them a smile.
Outside the palazzo, Varanis picks a wall and begins climbing. Quick and confident, she’s hauling herself up over the edge before the guards below have time to argue.
Berra, for her own part, hauls herself up with the same sort of confidence. This, at least, she has done before. Strong stubby fingers and a happily determined expression get her to the top.
“Ready to run?” Varanis asks.
“Anywhere in particular?” Berra seems ready, bouncing on her toes now. “Or just run?”
“Just run. Between the palazzo and the temple, I’ve been trapped. I need to move.” The Vingan points out a direction and then takes off at speed.
Berra does that, setting off only a moment after the taller woman. With the habits she learned years ago, and her own instincts, she can keep up a good pace. “Forward and right?” she suggests, gesturing to a long row of nearly-identical places with roofs about the same height.
Varanis signals her agreement by veering to follow the path Berra recommends. She runs for several minutes, glancing back to ensure that the Humakti is keeping up.1Uh oh…. rolled a DEX * 5, just to make sure things were going well. I need to check to see if that’s a fumble. Not a fumble. Close. But not.
Berra is keeping up. A couple of times, she casts a Protection spell, in particular when about to make a leap at a taller-than-usual obstacle that will make her hands sore of she gets it wrong, and anyhow, having magical shielding is good when one is a bodyguard. On the less jumpy parts, she lets her legs do the work while she concentrates on whether anything is trying to kill them, asking for Humakt’s voice.2Berra passed her first DEX*5 for keeping up. And her second, for not tripping over when hurdling that washing line, because I could.
Finally, Varanis slows down. Jogging, then dropping into a walk. She’s sweating under Yelm’s gaze and breathing rapidly. “Sorry. I didn’t know how much I needed that,” she says eventually.
Berra looks rather less tired, possibly because her armour is lighter. She takes her water bottle from her back – it was slung over her shoulder, and is only half full – and pulls the top off, taking a delicate swig before handing it over. “Was good.” Not sweaty, but tired enough to have to use short sentences.
“I need to leave Nochet. I’m going back to Sartar.” Varanis takes a sip of the water, wrinkling her nose at it. “I admit, I prefer my water from glass or clay.” She takes another sip anyway and then passes it back.
Berra nods. “Good. My stuff’s packed.” She takes back the skin. “I’ll probably get a new bottle soon, with wax inside.” Now she takes a long squirt of water, and then rubs a little onto her face.
“We’re bringing supplies into Sartar. If things go as I hope, there’ll be a merchant to sell food supplies cheaply and a caravan of supplies for the Prince to distribute as she chooses. I just need to work out how soon Irillo can move and how much Grandmother is willing to commit.”
Berra nods. “Fair enough. I owe Irillo a free trip, if he wants to employ me. Or I can just travel. It’s not like I wouldn’t go that way.” The water gets put away, the little Humakti gives the surrounding rooftops a glare like she is daring them to grow assassins.
Varanis looks at her companion assessingly. “You wouldn’t just come because I was going?” she asks. Then she shakes her head. “No. You’re not mine. We’ve established this.”
“I’m waiting for you to head off,” Berra says, “That’s why I’d be going that way. You’re my friend.”
“Ugh. I’m sorry. Nochet really does bring out the worst in me.”
“I think it brings out the worries, and that brings out the worst. There’s a reason I don’t sleep in your House, and it’s not you. Irillo’s going to need more mules. Or wagons.”
“Grandmother said she’d make arrangements. I think she is keen to bind the Prince closer to us.” Varanis looks vaguely worried. “I hope this doesn’t go badly… my goal is to show that Kallyr has support. And to relieve some of the strain that Boldhome and Sartar are experiencing. One House can’t provide enough, but maybe a little will help.”
“Yeah. Plus …” Berra sighs. “The Colymar. If Kallyr won’t help… Queen Leika… will.” It took her a bit of effort to say it. “So she’ll probably want to.” That might have taken more.
“I’m still not certain Leika won’t just have me killed given the chance. She was not best pleased with us and I’m a complication for her.” Varanis scowls up at Yelm, then down at the street below. She begins to pace, realises what she’s doing, and stops. She glances over at Berra. “More running?”
Berra shrugs to the part about Leika, a small movement to say she is not addressing that, rather than not caring. “More running.” She looks about. “An’ did you ever ask Dormal to look into that slave who was sent to the galleys?” The reason that Berra was upset with the Hultas.
“I did ask. I saw him today and forgot to ask him about it though. I’ll look for him when we get back to the palazzo.” Varanis points in the direction that will take them towards Orlanth’s Hill and the Storm Temple complex. “That way? Or the warehouses along the waterfront?” Either option will require dropping to ground level first.
“Nah. I should talk to him. Lord Kesten sorted it.” Berra looks, and says, “Waterfront. You go to the Temple a lot.”
Varanis heads for the eastern side of the roof to peer over. She nods, then swings herself over the edge and begins a rapid descent. She’s on the move again, but remembering to make sure Berra keeps up. The rate at which she runs and climbs and
Berra runs hard, occasionally stopping to gasp, or breathe, or mutter. “I met Serenelda. She was at the party. And I think I scared Venlar.” Social things to say occur to her from time to time.
“Serenelda?” Varanis manages.
“His wife. I mean, Kesten’s.” Berra is in top running form, able to hold a conversation now she has settled in. “Lot of curve on that woman. I was well behaved.”3Critical CON. Damn that Humakti. 07 on CON for Varanis. She’s holding up well too. Damnit. Trying to exhaust her.
“How did she react to meeting you? The gossip wasn’t kind when we were last here.” Varanis eyeballs a jump from this rooftop to the next, glances at Berra’s short legs, and decides it’s fine.
“Pretty well? You know when a cat thinks it’s in charge because it’s on a roof?” Berra surges ahead to speed up for the jump, makes it, does a secondary jump to slow down, and keeps going. “She’s his wife. Once she knew I knew that, she could let him be.”
The Vingan follows with an effortless leap. “Good. It’s not like he’s your type anyway.”4Rolled DEX again, just to make sure things are still going fine. It’s fine. It’s all fine. Actually, it really is. Rolled a 39.
“Hah! Yes. Sorry, your husband’s too married and too male for me!” Berra flips down onto a lower level roof for better footing. “But I do need to talk to him again. If I can. About what the hell actually happened last time we… oops. Sorry, cat thinking it was in charge. About what happened last time we were here.”5Berra’s doing well. Specials and passes all over the place. If only Lanasha could see.
Varanis follows Berra’s path. “Speaking of which, have you seen Lanasha at all?”
“Eh? No, haven’t been over that way.” Berra strong-arms her way up a wall. “I mean, except for Temple, and I didn’t stop to get food. No reason.” It sounds like she means ‘no reason to’. No reason to stop by where Lanasha had an outburst, but also maybe no reason to care. Hard to tell.
“Maybe she’s moved on then. Given her mood last time I saw her… I’d have expected her to seek you out… if she knew you were here.” She’s speaking in shorter bits now, breathing more rapidly. The edge of the roof is coming up and she doesn’t even hesitate. She sails across the gap, over a narrow alley.
Berra does much the same, with a bit more arm flailing. “Probably hasn’t found out I’m around, to be honest. I’m not at your house much, only us lot know we’re here, and everyone was coming into the House for the wedding. Has she seen you at Temple?” The Humakti seems unworried, taking to a wall with a long drop on one side, to avoid a mandala painted on a roof.
“Probably? I’ve been there most days. Hasn’t spoken to me though and I haven’t seen her. Maybe she’s out of town.” She begins to slow the pace. “Buildings run out soon. Water ahead. Need to turn south to follow the water. Then a dozen more and then the market and onto the ground.” She grins. “Have to walk there. They don’t like it when you run through the market.” This is the voice of experience.
Berra sniggers. “Not the tops of the stalls, then?” She slows too. “We could pick up food. It would be good. And water. Drinks.”
“There are baths there,” Varanis says pointing out a large building across the road. “Drop down here, then up Ernalda and it’s mostly shrines all the way to the market.” She points out a short tower. “About there.”
“Uhuh…” Berra is walking now, but it is a very bouncy walk; she is keeping her muscles from freezing now they are no longer being worked.
“Harbour Master doesn’t like people climbing his tower,” Varanis notes absently.
“Well, most people don’t. Find us the way down? Bath is a good idea.”
Varanis looks aghast. “Bathe here? By the docks! But those are public baths!”6Bathing by the docks! With sailors and other common folks! Like Berra does! Although it’s seldom she actually uses baths. She’s a dry clean only sort.
Berra looks confused. “Oh. I thought you wanted to.” She shakes that idea out of her head. “Hop down, anyhow. I want a drink and I want to get down there while I’m still feeling I can move well.”
Varanis peers over the edge of the building. “Easy climb. Just watch the windows.”
Berra does cast her spirit magic before she goes down, but does not ask if Varanis wants it. She also takes a moment to look around and listen to the air, eyes closed.
The Vingan drops to the ground, startling a priestess just as she steps out of the temple. “Sorry!” Varanis says with a smile and a laugh. The woman returns the smile in bemusement.
Berra has come down a little slower, having managed to mess up around the windows, but she gets down safely. “Right. Any wish to commit violence in the market?” She grins at Varanis, the sort of smile that shows pure happiness.
“Nope. No violence. I feel better now.” She rolls her shoulders and pushes her hair back behind her ears. Marta’s meticulous little plaits have come loose and Varanis looks dishevelled. Combined with the flushed cheeks and sweat-damp skin, if the Vingan weren’t in armour right now, it would look like she’d been up to a rather different sort of exertions.
Berra turns on the balls of her feet and scoots into the market.7And prompts Varanis for a Scan roll, which she passes. In the market, the little Humakti relaxes rather, and then sips at her water and scoots from place to place, looking at things.
Varanis watches for a while, keeping pace, then catches up so that she’s beside her friend. “Shopping for D’Val?”
Berra pauses, and then chuckles. “I should. Well, I probably will. But I’m also shopping for me, I think. Food. And water. I was going to re-fill this.”
“Or replace it!”
“Oooh. Yes. I need to start looking now I know what happened to the other one.” Berra tilts her head to one side. “I’m probably going to be weirdly fussy about it, though.”
Varanis laughs. “Let’s look then. And food and water. Marta was rather unhappy about my eating habits. She thinks I’m starving myself.”
“You forget to eat,” Berra says, chipping in on Marta’s side. “Find things you like.”
Varanis shrugs. “It takes up time I can’t afford to waste. I eat when I need to.”
“Warriors should stay fit. We could be called on any time.”
“Find us some food then, warrior.”
Berra sniffs the air, walks a little to the side, looks around, and then makes for a chunk of the crowd that has more people in with food in than other chunks of the crowd; smelling has not worked and seeking has not worked, so she uses the wisdom of others. It takes a few minutes to find a place selling meat wrapped in flatbread, and to ask if the food uses vegetables or eggs before she joins the queue. This is her sort of food, with plenty of sauces to add.
Varanis joins her, looking at the people around them. “How can something so familiar not feel like home anymore?” she asks, more to herself than her companion.
“Do you want spices on it?” Berra has an answer to everything, if the answer is ‘put spices on it’, but now she asks Varanis the question.
She receives a nod in reply as Varanis digs into her pouch for some coins.
Berra is just starting to do the same, and then lets Varanis pay. A tiny flash or pride was replaced by an understanding, probably, of just how thin her purse has become.8Curse you and your insight score. Fire Season and we’re both running low. Mind you, Varanis’ idea of being tight on funds is probably different from Berra’s.
Varanis lets Berra do the ordering for them both and hands the coins over to the vendor. “Drinks too?” she asks Berra.
“Yeah. There’s beer just up there, and nobody’s threatening anyone, so it’s probably drinkable.” She has chosen two different wraps – the one for Varanis has not just meat, but also sliced vegetables, baked slowly to soften them, and then mashed onto the bread as a filler.
Varanis nibbles on the food delicately, then with more enthusiasm. “Oh. This is good. And suddenly I’m hungry – I hadn’t realised I was.”
Berra pays for two cups of beer, and a refill once she works out she has drunk one as the other is being handed over, and then settles in to walk the market up and down, looking at things. She lets Varanis eat in peace.