A Four Letter Word

Xenofos — A Four Letter Word

????, Earth Season, Illusion Week


Context

Earth Season, Illusion Week, Waterday Eve For Xenofos continus from [[[varanis:1628-0890-LateNight|Late Night at Saiciae]]] [[[s02:session-17|Session 17]]]
Events

Spoilers, some fluff.

Two hours or so after dark, Berra comes to the mansion of the Saiciae to ask for her Clan Ring. She waits a little time outside the gate, rather than entering the courtyard, and chats with Ganrel, lightly, about their time on the wall and what they did in the latter part of the Siege. One of the guards has gone in as soon as Berra arrived.

This seems to matter nothing to Berra. She hangs around outside, leaning on the wall with a foot against it, watching the street, and offering Ganrel snacks from time to time. This is easy to do, because she has two swords with her, and no shield. Her harness has been arranged so that she can draw with both hands. Finally, footsteps approach from within, and she hauls herself upright and waits for the gatekeeper to do his job.

Xenofos arrives. It would seem he has just woken up and dressed up hastily. “Why are you keeping our guest waiting outside, Ganrel? “

Ganrel says, “My Lord can escort you within, Berra,” and stands at something like attention.

“Xenofos.” Berra gives a tired smile. “I’m here to see my Clan, but I’ve not forgotten you. I just…” She shrugs, and steps in. “Because it’s his job, and I wanted to talk to him.”

Xenofos nods to gatekeeper. “Thank you Ganrel.”

Inside the courtyard, Berra looks around with a disinterested attitude. She makes no move to go any further, beyond being sure Xenofos has room to step away from the gate.

Xenofos gestures towards the general direction Blue Tula people were lodged. “I am sure the word has been taken to them by now too. Are you all right?”

Ganrel steps inside as well, back to his post, and Berra moves a little further away. “I know where they are,” she says. “But I want to give them time to send a message to say they’re awake. They’ve been through a lot.” She lifts a hand to Ganrel in farewell, and mooches towards the middle of the courtyard, kicking at uneven parts of the ground.

“Quite. They were probably not expecting a call at this hour. Must say I did not expect you before morning either,” answers the scholar looking at the Humakti.

“I couldn’t find him. He’s left a Testament but it’s not to be revealed unless and until Battalion knows he’s dead. And… well, I…” And then a messenger comes. “I’ll explain more later,” Berra tells Xenofos. “Clan.” The smile she gives him is genuine, if fragile.

“Drop by any time. I’ll wait in my rooms. Awake.” Look Xenofos gives is concerned.

Berra sighs. “Sure. Afterwards. I won’t be long.” She is pulling at a thong around her neck as she goes, getting something out from under her armour and her scarf.

Xenofos nods and watches Berra vanish.



A small part of an hour later, there is a soft knock and a slow clap at the door. It’s like Berra, but low key, tired…

“Enter?”

Berra does that, and if she looked fragile before, now she looks like even her anger is gone from her. “I should warn you I’m in a bad sort of mood,” she says. “But I said I would get back to you, didn’t I?” She does not look at him, but at the door as she closes it, the floor, the shutters, the feet of his writing desk.

“You did not quite say that. But thank you for coming and thank you for the warning.” Xenofos nods towards the wine pitcher and goblets “Have a seat.”

Berra does that, although she does not take a drink. “I don’t want to stay for long. I have to get some sleep. I’ll check the Temple one more time, but I’ll be leaving in the morning.”

“You looked for Kesten in the temple or their palazzo?” the scribe inquires

“Both. He’s left a Testament. Whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it about now. Can you tell him, when you see him, that I would have stayed if I could?” She gives a tiny grin, too. “And tell him from me, personally, ‘you bastard’. But tell him I was smiling. Sort of.”

Xenofos nods. “I will pass the message if I see him.” His tone is very formal, very polite and quite cold. 1Berra passes insight human; Xenofos is rather less warm then when inquiring how she was, and much more formal.

“He asked for us to, so…” Berra trails off, perking up a little as something in her head moves and a calculation is made, or an understanding formed. “It’s the right thing to do,” is what she says after thinking through whatever occurred to her.

“Hmmm. If you leave, will the temple let me read his testament. Is that not a internal cult matter?”

“Yamia will be allowed to hear it, if you are not. If you say you were told to ask about it, that should be good enough, but if not, she can.” Berra looks like she is getting ready to go, shifting in her seat a little to move her weight forwards. That is in itself surprising, as she is normally coiled and ready for action.

Xenofos looks a bit uncertain as if trying to decide something.

“He wanted you to know. That should be enough for them.” Berra stands.

“There were some things I wanted to say to you.”

She sighs, and looks at the seat, and then sits down on the floor looking up. “I’ve got a little time.”2Insight human from Xenofos fails. Obviously she is settling comfortably to listen to an oratorial display.

“I don’t know how wise this is… and this might be a bad time but since you are leaving early tomorrow.” The scribe is still sounding uncertain, but forcing his words through vacillation.

“I’m here. But I can’t promise you a sensible answer to any questions. That might be a lie. Bad decision time for me, if I don’t get to sleep soon.” Something about her eyes or her smile says that any challenge that leads to a fight might be accepted.

“Well maybe start from the part that does not require answering. I should not have chased you when you ran. I was worried seeing you distressed and did not understand how much you needed to be alone. Still. I botched. My apologies.”

It takes a while for Berra to say anything, but she holds up her hand for silence as she takes that in. “You don’t know what…” She closes her eyes, struggling for words. “What freedom means to me.” She is concentrating on speech, even though the words are simple. When she opens her eyes she does not look at him, but at the floor in front of her, and a savage, angry note creeps into her voice. “I hate having it taken away.”

He studies at her with concentration weighing carefully what to say next.

She looks angry, and troubled, and the calm that sustained her into the room is breaking down.

“Hmmm. And I did not try to take your freedom, but still you felt hunted. ” Xenofos shakes his head.

“It’s not just you. But you did push me.” Berra is on stronger ground there, and looks up at him again. The anger is already draining away, into whatever sump holds it. Her look is sad instead.

“I try to watch out for it in the future. Cannot promise I always succeed though.” Xenofos says, holding his left hand up in resignation.

Berra shrugs a bit, one-shouldered. Then she just looks at him, waiting for the next thing to be said.

“If you are in trouble – or I think you might be – it seems I am not prone to think and stay.”

Berra smiles slightly, tiredly. “It’s good to protect your friends. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I just take time to get there sometimes.”

“Well, that is as you say. But not quite. Now don’t take this as a net of words. I am not out to bind you.” He is gaining certainty.

“It’s fine. I understand that. You’re not used to Sartarites – you’re… civilised.” She pronounces the word like she wants to make sure it has left her completely.

“No, I think I love you. And hence act rashly.”

Berra considers that for a few moments. She does not seem too amazed to speak; she is trying to assimilate it. She looks down, thoughtful.

Xenofos pours some wine, looks at his cup and takes a sip.

Berra’s ears and neck are pink. “I’m sorry,” she says quietly. “That must be difficult.” Still not looking up.

“Not your fault. In any way. You warned me quite early on there is no place for love in your vocation.” He waves the notion away.

“Not if I want to be a good Humakti, no.” Berra examines her hands, drawing a knife to clean out a grubby fingernail. The process seems to calm her, but only for a moment.

“I have been quite confused lately when I have been trying to understand this. Makes no logical sense.” he looks at the wall.

“Love doesn’t. Lhankor Mhy loved his wife enough to leave off looking for… for…” The effort of the day is too much, and she trails off, taking time to breathe.

“Light of Wisdom… ” there is warmth in Xenofos’ voice when completing sentence.

Berra puts her knife away, with a professional efficiency, and reaches for her helmet, neatly placed beside her when she sat down. She strokes the feather on it, and says, “Is there anything else?” She just sounds tired.

“Yes, but I think that covers most of it. I wanted to tell you now, when we have time. No guarantee there will be other time. I hope it will not be a burden to you Berra.”

“No, not really.” Berra gets up easily. “It doesn’t mean much to me, to be honest. But stand up.”

He nods, sets the cup on table and stands up.

Without fanfare, quietly, Berra hugs him.

Hug is returned. “Safe travels, Berra.”

“Don’t get in any deeper. Love doesn’t hurt. Separation hurts, when it’s incomplete.” She rests her head on his chest, nestling there for a moment. If she were not in armour, it would be a softer experience.

“I don’t think there is much choice. And you put light in my heart when you are there.”

“Torch’s eternal,” she says, and looks up, and steps away. “I’ll be back in the morning, but not for long, on my way to see if Kesten’s alive. If he’s not, and … well, I need to go. I told Nala.” She gives him a glum twitch of the lips.

Xenofos nods seriously. “Then we’ll see in the morning. Maybe you should use your room here for the night to catch as much sleep as there is left before Yelm rises again.”

“I’m on my way there now. I’m not sleeping under this roof.” Berra might not have heard Xenofos clearly, for she seems to be speaking about a different room. She gets her helmet on and wrestles with the buckle as she turns away. “Before dawn, probably. I’m going to go grab Nala or Tiwr on the way out, though, and tell them. Or a trollkin.”

“Good night, Berra.”

“Night.” And off she goes, the door closing quietly behind her.

“Clearly, it is incomplete” sage comments absentmindedly to himself.