Xenofos — A Song And Sparring
On the march to Alda-chur at midday break [[[s02:session-49|Session 49]]]
It is a little after noon. The walls of Alda Chur are visible in the distance. Scouts have reported a clear run in. The army continues winding its way along the road, but Berra has finally started to relax out of her unnatural calm. She calls for a break for lunch, and sends some unlucky riders onwards to report who is approaching the nomad camp. Then she watches the little army get into positions, and break out food, and she goes to look around the little groups.
Varanis is dutifully eating with Lenta. A little bit away from them Xenofos sits with his kithara and sings. His voice carries nicely among the troops, the strings build vines of sound around his song.1 crit on cithara, normal passa on singing
Berra drops in beside Xenofos to listen, without asking or saying anything. She folds elegantly, looks up at the sky.
Xenofos nods with lit eyes and continues his praise of Uleria and her manifold gifts.2 oh a special on love Berra and normal on Truth
Berra listens with a smile that is different to the un-Ernaldan peace she had on her features in the early part of the day. After a couple of minutes, she begins with a wordless harmony, all long vowels and drawn out breath. It goes well with his voice, and does not break across the cithara’s tendrils any more than his does. She is not a great singer, but this is within her capabilities.3 also passed sing
After the song is finished Xenofos closes his eyes and bows his head for a moment. And offers that moment to Uleria as Aranda taught.
“Hey, you want to come and help me practice with a great-sword?” Berra is ready to go as soon as his attention returns to the outside world.
He looks at Berra and then Varanis before answering “If you wish, sure. Good change from the riding.”
“Yeah, get our feet moving.” Berra glances at Varanis, and adds, “Unless you just want to walk around?”
He packs his cithara to its cover, shakes the already emptied cup of food and takes a mouthful of water. “Did you bring wasters?”
“I’ve got one on Followed, and I’m hoping for someone with a sword and shield and something like competence. I want to go through the drills – I’m … well, you’ve seen what I’m like.” Berra looks happy about her catastrophic efforts.
“Well if they are drills it does not matter I only have a sharp?” Xenofos looks a bit concerned.
“I got other blunts, but if you want to take lumps out of my sword, feel free.” Berra looks, if anything, even less concerned than a moment ago.
“You have blunts? I would feel safer with those, little cousin.” Xenofos answers.
“Yeah.” Berra jinks right unexpectedly, going towards her bison, patiently cropping the half trampled grass. She does not have a shield, of course, but she does have wooden weapons, including her much-repaired rattan greatsword, now probably entirely replaced, piecemeal, since she first put it together. That and a wooden broadsword are easy to unhook from the gear that Followed carries.
Xenofos tries the balance of the wooden sword and clicks his tongue. “It is what it is. Preferences are a weakness.”4 rapier 87 skill bonus 20 so that would be effective skill of 54
“Yeah, well. You should see me try to use this one.” Berra does not move far, just releases one of her swords and her right vambrace onto a patch of bare ground, hooking the sword over the leather so it does not ground out completely. Then she steps aside and takes up a determined but rather amateur guard, left hand high, like the sword is a two-handed spear, or a pole to vault on.
The weird balance does not hamper him too much when he starts a series of thrusts coming variedly towards four corners of the body. (Both pass skill check with their strange weapon)
Berra does not mind the guard that faces her, but she does manage to block the majority of the dangerous blows, and even threaten Xenofos herself. She is hampered by her sword, rather than part of it, but the furious determination she uses instead of talent sees her safe, at least at first. The outside of her right arm is going to be a splendid colour later.
After a while Xenofos gets familiar with the balance of the waster and his movements start to flow together with the sword on combination of slashes and thrusts at same time as his footwork keeps him outside Berra’s reach until it is time to come way inside greatswords sweep and threaten her from close distance. 5 Xenofos rolls 3 a crit on the sword Berra fails? Something akin to Bolognese when it is flowing nicely I suppose.
Berra, meanwhile, gets tangled up in trying to reposition her hands, and spends most of the next few minutes going backwards, and the rest unable to retreat because she has been pushed back against a brake of thorns. Xenofos’ easy repositioning of self, sword, and sandals leaves her completely beaten, and she has to raise a hand. “Yes, completely. Give me a bit of room?” Beaten, smiling, happy.
Xenofos nods and slightly out of breath retreats out of reach with a smile.
It is possible he is looking too much at Berra and too little of her sword, for now his timing starts to be off. It does not particularly matter, for Berra is apparently looking at things other than Xenofos, at least, with an eye to stabbing. She gets the ground a few times, scores a few threats but no serious wounds, and takes a mostly-controlled thwack to the left shoulder, which makes her wince, and look at it thoughtfully, and nod slowly. Her stamina finally lets her down, and she drops the guard, to sag over the sword. “Urrrgggg.”6 Both fail skill checks
“Enough for today?” Xenofos asks looking at her shoulder. “That one hit was a bit uncontrolled I am afraid.”
“Yeah. I need to get something to drink anyhow.” She looks at her shoulder too, where a huge bruise is blossoming. “Sometimes I forget how … how that might kill me one day.” It seems to make her determined, rather than afraid.
“We all die one day. Might be water, might be arrows.” He looks at the bruise “Can I heal that one for you?”
Berra considers for a bit, and then says, “I should wear it. It will help me think about things I should learn. But you could help me buckle this back onto my gear, if you like?” She may mean that her arm hurts and she does not want to lift it.
He nods. “As you wish. ” He looks at the sky. “Beautiful day”
“In Sartar, this means the weather’s going to start cooling soon. Up here, I don’t know. It might be different.” Berra looks to the sky as well, kneeling to pick up her vambrace and her sword. She must have taken a fair few hits to stop her from simply bouncing them both into the air with her feet like she normally does.
He nods. “She ate breakfast and now lunch. I promised her to try not fuss too much.”
“Good. Once she’s settled in that habit, she’ll start to learn it.” Berra takes the change of subject as if it is entirely natural, and indeed normal.
“I did not notice myself she was not eating.” Scribe tells. “Lenta pointed it out to me.”
“She’s done something like that before, I think. But… only when she’s excited or worried. So if she was worried maybe she wouldn’t feel hungry?” Berra suggests.
“Maybe not. But it is like feeding your horse. You simply have to do it.” Xenofos says. “You know that of course.”
“Mhm. But she’s all Air. Bold, and forward. And about that point I don’t know much about horses really and horses tend to remember they’re hungry anyhow.”
“Not always. And when they don’t you know there is something wrong with them.”
“Yeah. She’s worried. About negotiating with Argrath, about Alda Chur and leading us all. That’s what was the problem last time she didn’t eat, I think. Worry. She needs to be kept busy.”
“And fed. Otherwise she can’t even think properly.” Scholar says.
Berra replies instantly, “Nonono. Keep her busy, and give her the chance for food while she’s not thinking about it. Then she won’t hate it. I used to take her down to the food huts in Boldhome when I was really worried about her.”
“That is a way of keeping her fed, Berra.” Xenofos points out.
“Yeah, but… making sure that she feeds herself is the way.” Berra glares at the ties on Followed. “We gotta get moving again… Can you do the bits where your hands move?”
“Sure. But if you cannot rise your arms for that can you use them for fighting if we run into trouble, little cousin?”
“If I’m fighting, something’s gone wrong. And then I heal myself.” Berra lifts her right hand, with the wooden sword in it. “Or I forget it hurts, but then things are REALLY bad.”
“We are in land Argrath tries to conquer, probably with Lunar troops around. Fight is quite within possibility.” Xenofos smiles at Berra “But you do as you wish. You always do.”
“No. I really don’t. But I get what you mean.”
Xenofos secures the wasters on top of the patient bison.
“I suppose I need get packed too.”
“Thanks.” Berra rubs her shoulder as it stiffens. “I could go do things that are close to the floor for you?”
He shakes his head. “Just don’t be there if someone takes a swing at your left arm. Or in worst case, parry.”
Berra looks briefly confused, and then laughs. “Yeah. I’m more the kill them first sort, if I can, but the great thing about surviving the first pass is you’re allowed another try.”
“Quite.” He looks at her stroking his beard. “May you be succesful in both for a long time.”
Berra perks up. “Maybe we’ll go in over the walls at Alda Chur. They might need a distraction.”
He shrugs. “It is a possibility. Argrath seemed to lack infantry and siege engines. But maybe he has access to some magic to effect a breach.”
Berra pauses for a moment in staring at the things tied to Followed. “Were you at Pavis, when it fell? I can’t remember who was where, any more.”
“No. I was in Nochet when it did not. So I know what trying with ladders can be on a bad day.”
“Yeah. The first day, I wasn’t up there. Anyone who walked away from that had blood up to the thighs. But the second day, they were exhausted, and then there were holes in the walls. These things called rock nibblers – I never found out what they were – but then we had dozens of breaches. I went in that day, although I didn’t see much action. It was mostly over, although I helped clean up the last of it.”
“Hmmm. I did not see any preparations for storming last time we were in the camp. But if they are preparing to use magic…” Scholar says. “I’ll guess we find out soon enough.”
“Probably not. Otherwise they’d have done it already. Why let your enemy eat what you could be eating?” But Berra shrugs. “I mean, it’s just a hope. I want to see action, and I’m thinking of ways it could happen, but…” She shrugs. “It’s not going to be a massive-big problem if it doesn’t, but I want to prove we’re … oh, yeah. If we get what we want out of these talks we might get infantry fighting. That’s the sort of time when we could make a difference, if they open the gates. We might need to clear it bit by bit. But prob’ly not. Depends how much damage Argath cares about.”
“Damage to our unit? I would not expect him to care about that. Damage to town. Maybe more.”
“He won’t throw people away needlessly,” Berra says. “He’s a good general, and he often surprises his enemies. He… he would look after us because we didn’t have to come, but we came anyway. We’re not of his warrior society, but we still came, so we’re guests of his, in a way. He cares.”
“May it be so. I am not convinced. But that is politics. For me it is enough to try follow Varanis.”
“You never want more?” Berra asks, with perhaps less than her usual tact and timing.
“I do.” He looks at Berra. “But I can’t leave her side now and who knows if anyone of us lives through this season. So I try to remain on now.”
Berra nods, like she understands that. “We’ll have Dark Season in the snow. I’m hoping to spend it in Boldhome, and then Storm Season too, if the roads are too wet to march. I can’t think of a place we’d be raiding, but that could change.”
“I wish I would have time to visit Prax. But I am not counting on it.” He smiles “Never thought I would say I wish to travel to Prax. Now it has happened twice.”
“Better not ever decide you don’t want to go to Pent,” Berra tells him. “Maybe you’ll be a hero among the Straw Weavers by the time you get back.”
“I don’t wish to be a hero, Berra.” Xenofos says.
“Not a lot of people do,” Berra says, “Except kids, and people who haven’t seen battle. But it would be…” She shrugs. “Yeah, you don’t gotta.”
“Many do. I just want to keep the oaths I have sworn. But if she is expecting my child I wish I will live to see her… Or him.”
“It’s better to be alive to look after them, than to be a famous name and helpless,” Berra says.
“If I am in Tarsh and she is in Prax that makes little difference, little cousin.” Xenofos smiles wistfully. “But Uleria is capricious in her gifts. May she be praised for them all.”
“Kaaaaay, but there’ll be a time when you’re not.” As Berra says that, something strikes her, and just for a moment she looks wistful. “You got a good thing. I hope you get to meet them.”
“There may be a time.” He shrugs. “But thank you. I hope that too.”
At that, Berra nods a farewell. “Thanks for bouncing me around. Talk to you again at the other end.” Just like that, instantly, she is ready to go.
Xenofos nods and goes to fetch his pack.