Slap Happy

1627, Fire Season


Fire Season, Week. On the road to Whitewall, the evening after Devolin’s attempt to rob them. (Session 2.43: In the Darkness Blind Them)


The evening after their talk about initiation1My People VI – still the day that they met Devolin – Berra drops down beside Varanis, with a bowl of issue stew (no vegetables version) and a spoon. “So. About today.” No preamble.

Varanis looks up from her own bowl, from which she has been dutifully eating. “Mmmm?”

“You hit two people you shouldn’t have hit, and tried for one who was open to it.” Berra gets extra barley in her stew, rumour says, but it does not look like it has been bulked out. It just looks much the same, without the vegetables.

Varanis shrugs. “You were all under some kind of spell or illusion. I had to snap you out of it quickly.”

“Yeah, but you shouldn’t have hit those two. And we need to work out how to talk about the two… I mean, about what happens when we think someone’s under a spell.”

“I didn’t hit them that hard. It was open-handed, controlled, not in anger.” Varanis looks genuinely confused. “Xenofos was on me about this earlier too.2Words of Chastisement What else should I have done?”

Berra sighs. “I don’t know. And I know what you were doing. But I think there has to be a better way. Remember that time back, when we were visiting the Alynxfish clan, and some vision or something made you think Tiwr was a broo?”

Varanis’ nose twitches at that. “Yes?”

Berra goes on, “And sometimes, some of us see illusions or visions. It can’t be done by hitting someone, but we do need a way of telling. Maybe like your – like your family signal. But striking someone who can’t hit back is wrong. Even though I know why you did it.”

“So… Xenofos believes he shouldn’t hit me because of his oath to me,” Varanis looks pensive. “And Irillo?”

“Not a warrior,” Berra replies. “So he can’t be expected to defend himself either.”

“He carries a sword.”

“Mhmmmm…mmmm. His instinct is to talk, not to fight. He didn’t grow up to armour.” Berra, who grew up just enough to fit small armour, did take some time to think that one through, but seems to have stuck with her conclusion.

“And just so I’m clear, you also think it was wrong of me to try to hit you?” Varanis says with an arched brow.

“No, I can defend myself,” Berra replies. “That was… well, I don’t like it, but it’s not wrong in the same way. Because I’ve got a sword, and I’m free to use it if anyone – not just you – does that. I think it was risking that I’d hit you back.”

“I see. So that was no different to you attacking me a few seasons back then.”3Snowfight

“Yeah, I think that was… well, I … yeah. I think that’s how it goes. I’d want to ask someone like Sword D’Val about when it’s in a vision, but I could have raised my hand, or my fist, or whatever. And so could you, at me. So I guess that’s the same?” Berra looks like she is at the edge of her knowledge, but thinks she agrees.

“Right. I’ll talk to Irillo then.” Varanis says it like she means it. “But you’re right. We need some way to signal when we think something is wrong.”

“Maybe just say it, and trust each other to say it? We don’t know which of us is right, when we do. It could have been that there was a disguised broo, or it could be that some day one of us will be the single one that falls for a trick like that. So even then, we need to take it as a time to stop and think and look around and…” Berra shrugs. “Too many things to list. But a subtle one could be good, if we can teach Xenofos that subtle doesn’t mean he’s lying.”

“Well, he didn’t object to learning the sign for within my family,” Varanis points out.

“Yeah. And mostly, just saying things should be enough. But try to think of something that’s a different habit. Maybe even different for each of us, because not all of us have the same manners. And if we have that sort of thing we should remind each other of it, every now and then.” Berra sighs. “I’d wish that illusion wasn’t in the world, but I’m sure it’s here for a reason. I just don’t understand it.”

“I was saying things and it wasn’t enough.” Varanis stabs at her food with her spoon. “Does that mean people don’t trust me? Did you assume I was the one seeing things again?”

“It seemed like I already believed,” Berra replies. “And… it’s hard to put. But like, there was a comfort, sort of, in just getting on with what I was doing. Like going home to bed, at the end of a long day, or setting off down the road at the start of a long journey. You were saying things, but it didn’t really… you just didn’t understand that we needed to get home. Or set off. I think I…” She struggles to remember. “I think I was sorry because you were going to be coming along with us and you’d feel bad.”

“And you only paid attention to what I was saying after I slapped people and tried to slap you.” Varanis frowns at her food. “So, I’m still not convinced I was wrong.”

“Yeah, but next time? Don’t hit them. Hit the warriors.” That seems to be Berra’s conclusion.

This gets a small grin. “Alright. Just remember you said that. Try not to kill me for it.”

Berra laughs. “Yeah. I know. And Rajar’s big. And Suuraki’s probably worth it but you’ll need someone to stand on.” She thinks. “I meant something. That came out weird.”

“Alright. Got enough food there?” The Vingan peers into Berra’s bowl.

Berra looks. “Yeah, I’m fine.” The bowl is mostly empty, but it has a tide line – it was full when she started. No extra spices, but at least there was a meal. “You?” the Humakti adds, like something just occurred to her.

“I was going to offer you the rest of mine, but I have vegetables, so I suppose not.” Varanis sighs. “What’s the guard rotation tonight?” she asks, before taking another spoonful of the stew.

“Trollkin on early and mid, us all through at the end with the troll food in it, including Venlar, and most of the not-trollkin at mid and near dawn. You’re just before Yelmrise, taking over from whoever wakes you; probably Rajar.” Berra scrapes up the rest of what she was eating, and draws a knife to guide it delicately onto her spoon. Today she is being polite.