1626, Storm Season, Season/Harmony Week
After the big croc that killed his horse was slain and Xenofos had spent a miserable night of nightmares. Session 2.26.
The day after the dream, Berra is going out of her way to be kind to Xenofos. From the offer of her bison to the way she looks up at him as she keeps him company, from the Esrolian snacks she digs out to the way she offers them over, everything points to her caring how he is.1She did pass Charm.
Scribe is pretty quiet and grumpy in the morning. As day proceeds he starts to notice what is happening and starts to melt.
The rain slants down, for a blessed relief coming from behind for once. Berra sticks by Xenofos, urging him to eat and drink as Rajar suggests, but not nagging. She gives him the space to be grumpy.
Xenofos does drink, but since it is kumiss, modestly.
Around the time Yelm peers weakly through the clouds from overhead, Berra says, “You were swimming well, brother,” with a look that is careful yet admiring.
“Pity Stripey failed to follow suit. It was a decent replacement for proper Esrolian cavalry horse.” Scholar answers.
“Yeah. Your Lord should probably buy you a new one,” Berra says. “Want me to suggest it to her? Check if she’s decided?” She is walking close enough to put a hand to his knee as she looks up at him.
“Nah, I was not riding to war.” he shrugs.
“You were in a caravan, and we were up there because I volunteered you. You were supporting your Lord?” It is a long shot, but Berra tries it anyhow.
“Supporting my Lady?” He shakes his head. “Travelling with her, but this is not war. At war I’d expect recompense.”
“We’re here because that released the other guards to go be messengers. But I agree it isn’t war.” Berra looks ahead for a moment. “Why did you have a bad dream when other people had good ones, do you think?”
The small smile he had when he discussing compensating lost mounts vanishes in instant and he sighs heavily. “I don’t really know.” 2 Berra passes insight human and sees that he was slowly relaxing, getting comfy and now he looks like he is ready to bolt immediately.
“What do you suspect then?” She asks, voice gentle.
“It is not something I wish to say aloud, little cousin.” He answers quietly, and takes a swig of kumiss.
Berra’s hand stays close to where it was, twined into the half-felted shaggy hide of the bison. She keeps pace silently for a moment, and then nods. “Change of subject?” She suggests.
“What do you think they will make of Venlar at the Paps?” As changes go it is a big one.
Xenofos looks forward as if to trying to see to their destination. And maybe orient himself to the sudden change. “I don’t know. Priestesses of Allmother have their ways and mysteries, but I have no idea if they can do more than love of Mellia does.”
“He’s stumbling less, I think. A bit hard to tell because he always seems to think I’m a problem to be solved, or… I dunno. There’s something about him I can’t get to.”
“It is easy for me to understand that someone finds you intriguing.” Scribe says looking down at Berra.
There’s a blink, and then a laugh from her. As she picks her way across the mud that Followed ploughs through, there is a blush on her neck that is not put there by Yelm or Orlanth.3 Xenofos passes insight: Mostly Berra is amused, probably at being caught out with a line she does not have a response to. There is something else there too – purpose in her that keeps her close.
“I meant… you keep me on my toes so to say, with the way you dart from topic to topic.” Xenofos sounds and looks awkward.” Otherwise too, but that was not what I meant now.” To not dig himself any deeper and maybe to hide he takes a swig of kumiss.
“Well, I have a lot of water in me. I change a lot.” Berra avoids any further addition of water by departing from the bison for a moment while she skirts some flat, shiny mud that makes Followed pause and then detour around. Once reunited with her hand-hold, Berra holds on, perhaps predictably, in an entirely different way. Now her thumb rests against a greave strap, providing the slightest bit of pressure. “But go on, this is funny.”
There is almost imperceptible flinch, but he does not move away. “Funny is perhaps not the word the first comes into my mind.”4 Xenofos passed both Truth and Fertility.
“Sorry. But … not completely.” She keeps on walking. Maybe she has not noticed they are now connected, and brings in a new change of subject. “So. Loooong time ago I asked you what hagiographers means. There are way more songs about Varanis and us than I’d have thought there would be. Even about the ones of us who aren’t from Esrolia. But do you think the Saiciae house pays for them? We knew a Saiciae bard early on, I think. When we were travelling with just Mellia. And if not, how’s it happening?”
He looks down at her. “I don’t know if house employs others for same purpose, but I have done one or two. Not for pay but to have the story told as it was.”
Berra considers that. “Was that one of the reasons you were sent?” She seems genuinely curious as she looks up at him. A flurry of rain fails to make her take shelter in her cloak.
Scribe’s brow furrows as he thinks. “I don’t know. It could be. Granny never gave any really specific instructions, but she would probably know I dabble in poetry too. ” There is a short pause. “And that we were close with Varanis already as kids. She has tendency to know things and arrange them to benefit of all.”
Berra nods. “Makes sense.” A few minutes pass as she says nothing more, but concentrates on her path or on what has already been said.
Xenofos does not seem to feel any need to break the silence.
Lunch is cold zebra. Berra waves away the offer of other meat, and has her ration of of Stripey in one of the many flatbreads that Venlar’s thrall made the day before. Her spare attention is on Xenofos, not on herself. There is part of her that continues to check the horizon, but he is getting the rest of her.
During the afternoon Xenofos’ seems to unwind though it happens slowly.
Throughout the afternoon, she just stays with him and makes sure he drinks and sometimes snacks.
That evening though, Berra sits down beside him, when everything is away, and food is a memory. She is mostly clean of the day’s mud, although her shoes are going to need more care. Her helmet on her knee, she smooths the feather in it with her thumb and finger.
He looks at bag where he has kept kithara, then at the the slight but steady drizzle and just wraps himself under his riding cloak and sits quietly watching the minute fire and how it’s flicker reflects from Berra’s helmet.
“There’s something in you that’s hurting,” Berra says quietly.
“I’d rather not talk about it” he answers but does not look as panicky as he was in the day.
“I know. I don’t think you’re ready to. But it helps if you get ready to, even if you never do. It puts your thoughts in order you can control. Don’t explain, but think how you would.”
He just shakes his head.
Berra’s quiet for a while watching the fire crackle down, and watching Xenofos.
He rubs his eyes with his thumb and forefinger and looks at her “I’ll think about it. Thank you.”
Berra nods, and slowly the tension drains from her, then she looks at him and puts her fingers to her own eyes, puzzled, and looks back to him. Then she just raises a brow. Is that admonition? Confusion?5 fumbled scan: Xenofos is obviously crying and trying to hide it
Berra just nods and gets up, heading away to leave Xenofos with his emotions.
- 1She did pass Charm.
- 2Berra passes insight human and sees that he was slowly relaxing, getting comfy and now he looks like he is ready to bolt immediately.
- 3Xenofos passes insight: Mostly Berra is amused, probably at being caught out with a line she does not have a response to. There is something else there too – purpose in her that keeps her close.
- 4Xenofos passed both Truth and Fertility.
- 5fumbled scan: Xenofos is obviously crying and trying to hide it