The Morning After

Xenofos — Morning After

????, Earth Season, Fertility Week


Context

Earth Season, Fertility Week, Godsday. [[[s02:session-9|Session 9]]]

Events

Just before Yelmrise. Xenofos walks to the sparring ground. A sight not often seen.

Berra arrives a moment later, with her swords, her shield, and a few wasters. One of them is a wooden spear with a padded leather top. She has rapiers and broadswords in wood as well. She puts down the wooden weapons by letting Ernalda love them out of her arms. “Morning,” she says, bright and cheery.

A nod. “Good morning.” By contrast Xenofos does not seem cheery.

“Are you any good with a spear?” The Humakti sets to examining the weapons one by one.

“Have I used one? Yes. Good with one? No.” Xenofos answers rubbing his temple.1A failed Insight Human: Xenofos has no idea why Berra is being bright and cheery to him.

“In that case, let us concentrate on what you are best at. What would you like to face?” Berra indicates wooden rapiers, broadswords, and the spear.

“I prefer to face rapier. That pairing has beauty of motion in it. But as my teacher at arms said, I don’t have the luxury of choosing when n battle…. Broadsword? “

“Indeed.” Berra stands, and hands Xenofos the broadsword to check. “You were angry yesterday, I think. Remember that this is for learning.” She gives him a cautious smile. “And let me know if you’re not feeling good about it.”

The sour smell of yesterday’s wine lingers in his breath. He nods at instruction. “You don’t want power in the strikes? “

“Not like yesterday. We’re not after breaking the weapons. If that’s the way you always spar, I’ll do it, but I want to see the colour of my skin afterwards, not bruises underneath.” Berra shrugs. “Don’t pull it so there’s no touch, but if you wake people with how hard you’re hitting a helmet, you’re going too far.”

“Use of wood and trust the armour has been what I was taught, but that is sometimes indeed painful…I try to work it your way.”

“We’re after getting past the armour, in general. But we’ll do it your way tomorrow.” Berra offers over the rapier that will be hitting her. “With a rapier I’d expect more movements towards joints. Relying on armour tends to lead people to hit armour, I think.” She shrugs. “Could be wrong. I’d have to try out what you’re doing from the inside.”

((Xenofos fails con5 )) When sparring has been happening for some time, Xenofos disengages, mutters an excuse and rushes to the edge of the area to throw up2… having failed CON x 5 while hung over..

Berra, who has been moving back and forth with only a single pause to salute the rising of the sun, takes a longer pause now. “Well, that was good right up until you … you know what, take all the time you need.” She is nearly laughing.

Xenofos gets some water to rinse his mouth and continues. Badly.3Xenofos rolled a pass, a fail, and a pass for various stages of the sparring, rather than going by rounds.

Berra’s reaction to Xenofos coming back is to keep still, not moving from her position and defending it. Either it will give Xenofos the chance to exercise without exhausting himself – and emptying himself again – or it will demonstrate that she can hold her ground against someone bigger or taller. Either way, she keeps her guard solid.

Stumbling through, Xenofos manages to up his game towards the end.

In the end, with a few more marks on Xenofos than on her, Berra puts up her blade, and nods. “You’re better than I thought,” she admits. “I was wrong about you, a long time back. I did not think you would stand to battle so well.”

“It may feel like long time, but it is less than a year since we met.”

“I know. But in terms of fighting, it’s been a lot. All sorts of places. And a Heroquest.” Berra does not stand on her compliment, but puts the waster down and starts drilling with Wind Tooth. “I think that I know the difference between how I trained and how you did.”

Raised eyebrow. “Please, explain?”

“I think you probably had more healers available. I think. As well as the better armour. You’ve got the reflexes of someone who knows they can go in. I like that. I… I found for a long time that there was a difference between blunted weapons and real ones. Eventually I left it behind, but it stuck with me for a while.”

Shrug. “Always problem with sparring. You want it as rough as possible, but you don.t want to maim your sparring companions.”

“Yes. If you want to go again, and rely on the armour, I’m up for that.” Berra pauses, Wind Tooth stopping dead. “But no magic.”

“Sure… So now trying to power the strikes.”

“Yep.” Berra takes off one of her swords, and keeps Wind Tooth to hand. “There is a wooden sword that is a Humakti artefact. It was a training weapon, I think. A greatsword.” She takes up a basic guard, with a shield, and now she looks rather more serious than she did during the first bout.4Berra gets a pass, a special, and a pass. Xenofos has a pass and then two specials, so is notable better towards the end.

Xenofos closes the lines and leaves fancy high guards for now.

Varanis enters…

Berra and Xenofos are at practice, going hard and fast in a sparring bout. Berra’s usual style is one of movement and fluidity, no matter what weapon she is using, and now she is using a wooden broadsword and has an expression of furious concentration. She seems equally matched with Xenofos, who has a wooden rapier.

The Vingan watches silently for a moment, before beginning a a dance of her own. With a fluid motion she draws her rapier and falls gracefully into one of the drill sets familiar to those in Vinga’s halls. It’s part training, part worship, and all Varanis.5Special on the Rapier skill.

Xenofos concentrates on keeping the centreline closed and point toward Berra. To a large extent succesfully, in the end managing to sneak around Berra’s broadsword couple of times.

To anyone watching – and a few of the guards creep in to do so – Berra ups her game to match Xenofos. In the end, though, the tall man’s speed and power overmatch even her, and she ends up in a desparate scurry backwards as she tries to fend off the last blows. Finally, her hand goes up and she says, “Hit. Again. Lots. Dead.”

“Maybe, if I would get past armour”

“That’s about precision. Some of those would. Some wouldn’t.” Berra stands with feet apart, looking up to the brightening sky. She is breathing hard. “Rapiers are not suited for killing people. Not like broadswords are.” She looks a glance at Varanis, and gives a nod in that direction.

“Oh, she is here.” Xenofos sighs slightly.6Berra specials Insight (Human)

Insight: Xenofos sighed on noticing Varanis. And showed very mixed feelings. Jumble of resentment, embarrasment and hope. To Berra he is maybe a bit too controlled and polite.

Varanis continues smoothly through the course of her drill, ignoring the world around her. Her attention is focused on each step, each cut.

Berra nods. “Courtyard’s open to all,” she says. “Now, back to talking about weapons. That’s another place where magic could help. Making a blade sharper does more damage.”

Step, cut, step, parry, step, step, thrust. Faster and faster Varanis dances, the blade catching the early morning light.

Berra gives Varanis some attention, but mostly she is talking to Xenofos.

When the Vingan finally stops, it’s with a salute to Yelm, that is an odd mix of defiance and respect. Or perhaps it’s not so very odd, given who it is.

Xenofos tries to focus on what Berra is teaching of broadsword and magic. He does claim that rapier is ideal for killing, whereas it not so suited to maiming.7Berra is being kind to Xenofos. He has not realised this, or does not know why. Failed Insight.

“Not got the weight you need,” says Berra, halfway to dismissive. “But here…” She holds up Wind Tooth, and says, “Watch the edge,” then takes a moment to breathe. The sword tattoo on the back of her hand glows blue, and so do the Truth Runes painted on the blade, and then the edge begins to shine. “That’s what I’d advise you to do with a rapier. It makes it closer to the blade that is Humakt’s.”

“That is exactly the point. When aimed true you don’t need the weight so much. Not that I am there yet, not consistently. And yes sharpness would no doubt help.”

Varanis moves into a second drill. She might as well be alone for all the notice she gives to anyone else.

“When aimed true, the sword carries itself.” Berra turns to the Vingan and calls, “Varanis?”

The Vingan freezes mid-strike. Grey-blue eyes turn to Berra.

“Can you show us what you can do with your sword now?” Berra gives Varanis a friendly look.

Varanis turns her gaze to her right hand and concentrates. It takes a moment, but soon fire licks up the edges of her blade. She returns to the steps of the drill, this time with her sword in flames. Her eyes glint in the firelight.

A raised eyebrow. “Impressive.”

Berra watches for a moment. “Also useful for setting fire to thatched temples with Delecti’s handmaidens in. It’s a thing that Humakt teaches. It does mean, if I use it, that I’m less … I’m not going to be able to concentrate on other things. But it’s what cut the Darkness Demon in half.”

Varanis continues her forms, once again oblivious to anything beyond the sword in her hand and the pace of her steps and attacks.

“Not solutions a Scribe gets. And forbidden to cult of my father. Yes, very useful. But I would almost need to offer devotion to your god for these spells.”

“It’s mostly magic of the spirit, but you could get enchantments for any of it, I think. If you looked right. If I could get one that brought fire, I’d be happy to use it, and fill my spirit with other things. I need to learn more about protection that is not just the Shield.” Berra watches Varanis and the flaming sword with a critical eye.

“Far be it from me to underestimate the value of gods’ aid. But is it not a step away from pure skill?” Xenofos asks.

Varanis only stops as the flames die out on her blade. She is breathing quickly, her cheeks are flushed, and a fine sheen of sweat covers her skin. She deliberately slows the movement of air through her with a few deep breaths.

“I don’t think that’s a valid question. It’s .. the use of the broadsword is essentially a prayer. If I can use such magic to make that better, I should. I mean, I’m skillful already, but I’m heading towards perfection, not away from it, because perfection is the person and the sword, not just the knowledge in my arm. So alright, a valid question, but with the wrong thing being important.” Berra nods as the flames die out, as if she is satisfied with what she has seen.

A raised eyebrow. “I hear what you are saying. I have to think about it.”

“It would be expensive, but probably worth it. If a scribe wants to rely on skill, I can respect that as a choice, though.” Berra takes a few steps to go get herself water, from a bottle dropped by the pile of wasters.

Xenofos is looking at Varanis slowing down.

Varanis takes a sip of water from the flask at her hip. Replacing it, she looks like she is considering saying something. Instead, she steps back into the movements of another form.

After drinking, Berra offers the water to Xenofos. Hers is a slightly battered leather bottle, with a wooden bung that is obviously not the original, and probably not the first or second replacement either. The wax inside is still a good layer, however, and there are no slow leaks.

Xenofos looks at the bottle and Berra, and takes a moderate sip. “Thank you.”

“Not a problem. You need more, and you need food. Drink half of that.” Her eyes drift to where Xenofos had his earlier, unscheduled pause.

Xenofos manages not to follow Berra’s gaze. Instead he looks at Varanis, starts to open his mouth but closes it and shakes his head, turning towards Berra.

“Breakfast. She can join us later.” It is loud enough to be heard by anyone practicing.

Xenofos nods.

Berra raises a hand in farewell, and turns to go. Her left hand strokes Wind Tooth as she walks.

Xenofos just gathers his kit and goes.

It’s a long time before Varanis finishes. When she does, she disappears to bathe and then retreats to her room. She never does make it down to breakfast, but instead orders more of the apothecary’s lumiviiva.