1627, Fire Season, Fertility Week
When Berra turns up in the morning, she is waved through the palazzo gates by one of the guards. She has become a familiar sight. As she passes, he murmurs, “the Lady is on the roof again.”
Berra is peachy-pink faced, under her tan. She probably ran here, when the gates opened. Berra gives a nod to the guard, and walks in, looking upwards for Varanis. There does appear to be movement on the roof, though it’s not clear what she’s up to. Berra looks at Yelm – up a little by the time she got here, but not a lot – and then at her hopes of climbing the wall. Very little, as it turns out. This is a working courtyard, not a decorative one. She calls out, “V’ranis?”
After a moment, the Vingan peers over the edge of the roof. “Berra? I’ll be down as quick as I can. Need to get my armour. Want water or anything?”
“Water would be good, yes.” Berra looks up, boldly staring into the sky where Yelm has not taken his throne. From what Berra can tell,1After getting a special on scan Varanis looks surprisingly dishevelled for a night spent at home. It’s hard to be certain from this distance, but it looks as though she has black eyes. Her hair is standing every which way. And she definitely does not appear to be in armour. If Berra is surprised, there is no hint that Varanis can see; if she even sees, she does not look curious.
Varanis disappears from the roof and after a few minutes, someone comes out with water for Berra. Varanis follows several minutes later. She’s in her bronze, her hair pulled back with a simple tie on the top of her head. Her face looks freshly, albeit it not perfectly, scrubbed. There are still smudges of kohl around her eyes.
Berra is no longer out of breath. The water carrier has been thanked in perfect Esrolian, and the hospitality of the house has been praised. Then Berra drank, and drank again, and now she stands with the jug and cup on the group beside her, on a tray. She is looking down at them, but when Varanis comes out she looks up, and asks, “Rough night, huh?”
The Vingan scowls. “You could say that, yes. Merelt was there.”
“Wait, what? Garin Merelt?” Berra draws herself up.
“No,” Varanis says, shaking her head. “The Grandmother. Garin’s sister.”
“The… was she the one in the rowboat?” Full blurt mode.
“She denies any knowledge of it, but I’m certain it was her.” The anger is there again, roiling just under the surface.
Berra thinks for a moment, and then reaches down to the jug. “Right. Have some water that doesn’t taste of a skin. Because we won.”
“They both walk free, Berra,” Varanis growls.
Berra counters, “So does Lenta.” Of course, it’s Berra. A moment later she catches up with herself and makes the truth come out. “At least, last we knew.”
“Lenta has vanished.”
Berra tilts her head. “Vanished?” she repeats. She obviously knows the word, though.
“Lady Serenelda was there. She asked me to tell you that she was sorry you were turned away and that she would be certain Kesten got your message. She also told me that Lenta and some other youths vanished from Nochet early in Sea Season.” The Vingan looks worried and angry and unsure. “Lenta was trying to rouse people to the Prince’s aid.”
“Any evidence of … well… it sounds like she might have tried to put together a band. So either she got silenced, or she’s gone to help?” Berra shrugs. “And Lady Restina didn’t try to kill you, so probably, Lenta vanished. I mean, on her own? I’ve been thinking about her and freedom a lot, to be honest.”
“But we didn’t hear anything before we came here. Surely we’d have heard something if a group of Esrolians were in Sartar looking to back Kallyr?”
“Sea Season. We were all over the place in the Grazelands, and then we came down here. And there’s nothing to say they’d have been important in Sartar. But they could easily have tried.” Berra hands over water. “If you try to be free, and you do a thing and it’s a disaster, you were still free. Lenta knew that – she’d had it happen. If she walked into it boldly, I’m proud of her. Egg-brained creature with no thoughts in her head but you, maybe, but I’m still proud.”
“I need to bring Kallyr experienced warriors, not a band of youths who’ll be more of a liability than aid.”
“Yeah, but you’re not Lenta. You’re not responsible for her, but maybe she’ll grow into something.” Berra shrugs. “This won’t refle… alright, if it reflects on you, then you can say you’re proud that Kallyr inspires such loyalty from abroad, right?”
“I suppose. And if they all die, I just won’t go back to Esrolia,” Varanis says, but it’s obvious that she doesn’t mean it.
“If they do, they still tried. Better than a lot of people did.” Berra seems to feel this strongly.
There’s a heavy sigh. “You’re right, I suppose. But I’ll be responsible. It is what it is. I was asking people to be willing to risk their lives to drive the Lunars back. I had just hoped it would be people with more experience.”
“Yeah. Well, now….” Berra pauses, and goes on cautiously. “If they’re in Boldhome, you’ll probably get to set up a household there. But if there are any, if they find us, we should guide them. And we should find Lenta a girlfriend.”
Varanis arches an eyebrow and can’t help but snort with laughter. “A Humakti matchmaker?”
The matchmaker considers things. “Well. How much worse could I make it?” But the answer seems to flit across her features. “Alright. Very a lot worse.”
“I can’t afford a household,” Varanis says after thinking about the rest of what Berra said. “How will I staff it? How will I feed them?”
“Well, dunno yet. Maybe you don’t be able to. But we’ll be able to work out more when we get back home. Maybe Lenta will turn out to be really good at handling a house, I don’t know?” Berra shrugs. “If you’re really low on money, my clan owes me some. I can do more than just paying you back.”
Her companion looks a little cagey. “I’ll be fine. I just have to be careful.”
Berra nods, and leaves the subject. “So, awake all night? We should do the muscle things again, then let you sleep. I don’t have much that’s new for you, but a bit.”
“I slept some. It was cooler on the roof anyway.”
- 1After getting a special on scan