Xenofos — Morning Meal
????, Earth Season, Fertility Week
Earth Season, Fertility Week, Godday. Follows directly from the previous scene. [[[s02:session-9|Session 9]]]
Out of sight of the practice ground, Berra glances back. “She’s in a bad way. She doesn’t know how to come back from what she did.”
“We had an argument, she just plain hates me. You saw how aloof she was.”
“No, you had an argument and she’s hurt and knows she was in the wrong. That’s not hatred.” Berra walks on. “Where are we eating? Kitchen? Do lords do that?”
“Upper hall, or my room usually, upper hall is just fine.”
“Upper hall. Then I don’t have to find out if you’ve left amphoras around.” Berra pauses to work out which way to go next, making it a good time to take the lead.
Even guests don’t get into kitchen and most of the servants eat in the lower hall. The upper hall has trestle tables, long benches and high table for highest dignitaries. Varanis would have a place there, any matrons of the house, Serzeen… Since Xenofos usually does not eat here he sets himself in the upper end of one of the common tables.
Berra settles in easily, giving the place a slow look for her own reasons. “Varanis is too tired, and too young,” she says. “She doesn’t know how to deal with her feelings.” Berra is probably a couple of years younger.
There is bread and beer on table. Onions, eggs and cheese are brought to the table together with some olives and figs.
Berra settles in to eat with the habit of an infanteer, putting away food fast. It hardly seems it could be touching the sides on the way down.
Xenofos looks at her appetite approvingly. He nibbles on his fare but downs his pint quickly.
“I don’t know if she understood how much she scared me when I saw her at pointy end of my sword.”
Berra drinks half pints, in general. She looks into her cup. “I did not think she would try for you, but accidents happen. She knows she messed up, and she’s hating herself, but I don’t think it’s right to tell her everything is alright. She needs to find her own way out of it, even if it’s a way we made.”
“I was not scared of possibility of getting cut. I was afraid of hurting her.”
“That’s her responsibility, if she steps into danger like that. But I think you’re good enough not to. If it had been me, I’d have stood down, but I’ve got nothing to prove. Everyone knows what I can do. It was hard luck on you.”
“I may or may not be good enough, if I get warning that we are sparring, not jumped on…”
“And then she has gall to yell me of taking risks…”
“Yes. Surprise… heh. Yes. She has that part of her which can’t help but do a thing she thinks of sometimes…” Berra may be struggling for how to put that kindly. “A lot of Movement.”
“You can say that” Xenofos affirms “She is my cousin and I love her dearly, but sometimes she drives me mad.”
Berra sighs. “No harm done,” she says carefully. “Although I was tempted. Especially when she told me about always being ready for an attack.” She gives Xenofos a surprisingly evil grin. “I had a lot of ideas.”
Raised eyebrow. “Two stupid acts don’t make one wise one.”
“I know. But they do make me laugh more.” Berra breaks a boiled egg into two bits, and hooks out the yolk, mashing it with one of the sauces designed for dipping delicate breads. “It would be. … um… counter-productive? I think. But it’s tempting.”
Xenofos dips his bread to garum. Looks at it suspicously and takes a bite. “Counter-productive would be a proper, erudite word for purpose… But truth is she could not get into shouting match alone.1Xenofos has a special on Truth.“
“Long words. I don’t do well with them. Loud words, maybe. I’m used to shouting over problems.” Berra pushes the yellow gunk back into the egg with her eating knife. “It’s easiest not to shout… But not at the time. Never at the time. Lord Rillo nearly made me lose what I was thinking. But it was good to not bother with what he was thinking. Only… she was in the wrong. Why shouldn’t you shout?”
“I have given her reasons to be scared too.”
Berra thinks about that for a bit. “How?” she finally asks, after the egg has been entirely conquered.
“The duel. Hazia at Wilmskirk. “
“Balls to that. If you’re telling someone not to duel, what will you tell them next?” Berra toasts Xenofos in beer.
“Well obviously, I had proper reason and was in no greater risk than she has been in our various roadside encounters. But she said she was scared for me. “
“A lot of people were. But so what? That’s your decision, not theirs. Being scared for someone doesn’t mean you get to tell them what to do, or how to do it. As long as you are acting with honour, people get to put up with being scared. They can ask you not to do that thing, but that’s all. Nobody can make you do anything.” Berra seems to take that so much for granted that she says it absently, while tearing apart a new chunk of bread and loading the crust with a couple of slices of onion and some cheese.
“You are right. Still – I feel bad for shouting at her.”
“I can’t stop you from doing that, either. Your feelings are yours to have.” After the cheese comes a layer of figs squashed down with the flat of her eating knife, and then a tiny dribble of garum, and Berra puts the top crust back on, and squashes the bread to a size she can chew on.
Xenofos is just crumbling his bread. He nods. “I know.” He looks at Berra eating.
Berra pours various sauces over the softer inside of the bread, to soak in while she eats the crust and its stuffing. “This would be better with something more,” she says. “Those hot red peppers, maybe.”
The Humakti is obviously enjoying her food, although she is pretty neat about it, as well as efficient.
Xenofos is falling into silence. Just watching Berra and answering shortly. It might be the evil hammerspirits of wine have reached him despite sweating most of them out to the sand of the courtyard.
“You’ve had a cup of beer,” she says, “But you really should have water too. Otherwise you’ll just end up drunk again. Or drunk. I don’t know. But you look like you were drinking. And you need a bath.”
“I did look quite deeply into amphora yesterday,” the Scribe admits. He looks at the beer jug but pours a cup of water.
“My cousin used to say it was singing his song, and he didn’t like the song, so he had to change it by emptying the vessel.” Berra looks at the food, and reaches for some olives.
Xenofos downs some water and pours another beer. The stuff at morning table is quite mild. “Goes down easier than water…”
Berra takes bits of the flavoured bread, and wraps them around an olive, but that is too sticky, and it ends up with a stone in anyhow. She eats a few olives while she muses on the problem, and with her knife divides up the bread and sauce into bitesized bits. “So. What now? After my Clan arrives, and there’s a negotiation, are you intending to stay in Esrolia? Will Varanis be travelling, do you know?”
“I will follow Varanis obviously. But with Leika irritated I don’t know when she will return to Sartar. I think she will return though she has not said that aloud.”
“I might go back with my Clan. I’m… well, mostly angry about having to leave, to be honest. There are a lot of things outside Sartar I want to see, but I have a bison to send to D’Val and I’ve been thinking about taking it there. That’s my Movement Rune pushing me, I think.” Berra looks approvingly at Xenofos taking on fluid.
“Is it worth the potential hassle. If you have to fight and maybe kill more obnoxious Colymari that could be costly and result in a feud, maybe outlawry.”
Xenofos is looking worried.
“If they want to risk themselves, who am I to stop them? It’s not sensible, but it would … it might be a challenge. And that’s why I want to do it. I don’t think there will be any organised problems. But it might make things more difficult for my High Sword…” Berra thinks briefly. “Whoever that is now. So I shouldn’t. But I really really want to.”
“It might also complicate our return to Sartar. “
“Varanis and rest of us”
“That’s sort of under making things more difficult, but yes. I should have said that as a thing on its own.” Explicitly. Only she might not know the word.
The Humakti finishes off the scoops of bread, lifting each one carefully so it does not drip, and then looks at what she has done. There is more bread, so she takes that, and this gets a touch of beer poured into it through a hole in the side she makes with her thumb. With a touch of garum, another crumbled egg, and some minced onion, she has the next bit of the meal.2Again, Xenofos fails at Insight Human. Berra is being unaccountably well behaved.
He is just gazing at her while she eats. Totally casually. It’s just the empty, dreamy look people with hangover have.3Berra fails to notice the casually dreamy gaze.
Berra, who usually eats lightly, puts away a surprising amount of food. She does this sometimes, drifting from eating little to binging for several days, and it never seems to do her harm. Over the course of a breakfast that will later make the kitchen staff proud to have served two people so well, she is polite and makes an effort at small talk, and asks Xenofos polite questions about how the Library was lately, and the state of spells for learning about Truth. Nobody gets threatened, and she seems to be trying to keep the conversation light, after the hefty weight of it as they sat down.
She is getting polite answers, maybe a tad absent minded.
At the end of the meal, Berra looks at the wreckage she has wrought, and smiles at the ruin. “That was good. Thank you. I’ve told Yamia that if I don’t have to wait on Kesten this morning, I’ll patrol… uhh, walk with her. But show her where we’re going to be, or might be. That way she’ll know if Venlar needs Mellia, maybe.”
“I suppose I need to take that bath, again.”
“It’ll help,” Berra says as she stands, although she does not say who will be helped most. She sketches Xenofos the briefest of nods, not even a bow, as she turns to go.
Again Xenofos follows her disappearing back, looking a bit lost.
Berra, an alien in the big building, looks by contrast as if she knows exactly where she belongs. Then she’s gone.