A Screem

1629, Sea Season, Probably Death Week, Fireday


Maalira catches up with the group atop Don’t Ask. Session SA4.11.


There has been herbage and a bit of reaching and a bit of gathering, and… and now there’s a little more distance between the group and Maalira than she thought – and the sound of distant… is that screaming?

“Oh for the love of…” Maalira mutters, picking up the pace.

The scree is particularly helpful, as long as one wants to go downhill.1Maalira fails Climb

The screaming – loud, probably not any of the group – rises and then falls to silence, as Maalira toils onward. It is not far, but it is still a long time…

Yes, they ran into trouble again.

“Berra?” Maalira calls hopefully.

There is a brief pause, and then from the top of the more solid trail just above, a small Humakti skids into view, stopping so she can look down. “Hey. Go a bit to the right. There’s a rock there.”2Berra specials Listen!

Varanis appears beside her and stares down. “Are you alright? You didn’t see any flaming skeletons or anything?”

Berra adds, “We did.”

“There’s rocks EVERYWHERE,” Maalira grumbles loudly, sliding a bit on the scree.

“Yes, but that one’s a big one, and you can walk up it more easily, onto this path.” Berra looks around and then makes her way down, to show the way3May have rolled on Love Mellia.. Apparently the screaming – by now some minutes old – did not leave anything behind to worry her.

“You did pick the harder route,” Varanis observes from her lofty vantage point.

Maalira mutters something which couldn’t possibly have been about what she would do to certain Vingans if not for her oath.

Berra ends up going a bit past Maalira, after getting onto the scree, but points the way up to the rock ridge that leads up. “There. Are you alright?”

“I could lower a rope to provide extra handholds,” Varanis calls down.

“Yes, thank you.” Maalira is a little out of breath.

A voice from somewhere at the top of the proposed climb says, “Ropes are always a good idea.” Mellia.

Berra slithers and scrabbles over onto the rocky bit, and gestures for rope.

One end of the rope falls to within reach of Berra and Maalira. Varanis is out of sight.4Having failed Climb, she has nothing to tie it to.

At the top of the hill, if you can hear from down there, she says something to Irillo. ||”Ive tied it around me. Help anchor me, please?”||

Berra reaches out and grabs. “Yeah?” she calls to Varanis, making sure that everything is ready. It looks like she has a toe-hold on the friendly rock.5Passed Climb this time.

Mellia tells Varanis, “I will try,” and grabs hold of Varanis.

Lenta looks up from washing her green paint. ||”Should you not be tied into something solid?”||6Lenta, unlike Varanis, has passed Climb.

Varanis glances at Mellia. “You let go if you need to. It’s not that steep a drop, but I don’t want you going over the edge!”

“As you wish,” Mellia replies.

Berra is not yet pulling, fortunately.

“One at a time with the rope,” Varanis calls down. “Maybe, just leave it to Maalira…” To Lenta, she hisses, “It’s too short to reach anything secure enough.”

Maalira manages to make her way to the rope too, grabs it, lets go, and grabs it again.

“I’m fine,” Berra calls up. To Maalira, she says, “Put your right foot on that darker bit? If you fall over, fall uphill. That part ain’t sliding.” She gives a reassuring smile.

“And don’t you suggest tying it around me,” adds Mellia.

Lenta raises up and takes a secure hold of Mellia “Watch out Lady Mellia, that does not look safe…”

Maalira takes a firmer hold on the rope, steps onto the darker bit, pauses, and asks “What do you mean, fall uphill? Do you usually get a choice?”

“If you’re starting to wobble, you can throw your weight that way,” Berra says. It would be ungainly, but that darker section is just a sprinkling of gravel over a blessedly solid bone of Ernalda.

“I should give you all climbing lessons,” Varanis mutters, grunting as there’s a tug on the rope. She braces herself, leaning into Mellia a little.

“Berra gave me a lesson in running up walls once,” Maalira says, stepping cautiously.

Mellia heard that mutter and replies, “Should I teach you how to get your broken bones straight?”

“That would be useful, yes,” says Varanis.

“Worked, right?” Berra does not bother with the rope, but keeps Maalira company up towards the top. She stays parallel, where she will not be knocked down by a falling White Lady, nor be in the way.

“I have not failed to run up any walls since,” Maalira says helpfully.

“We can try more. Nearly there.” Berra smiles. “We found the problem and dealt with it. Lenta dug it out and we fought it.”

“Ernalda’s great belly, Mellia!” Varanis yelps. “That baby of yours kicks hard. Right in my back too. Maybe… how about you let me go and just offer them encouragement?”

“I’m sure,” Maalira says, “that if you want to fight things that much there’s plenty above ground without all this digging them up and going into caves where you accidentally leave people for twenty years and stuff.”

“Choose your fights,” Berra says, and then Maalira is on the path proper, and the rest is about walking up. “You choose all the ones above ground, you miss some of the ones you need.”

“Like roots,” Maalira says, standing still on the path for a moment and shaking herself.

Mellia snickers at Varanis. “Fine.” She picks the safest spot with a view of Maalira and Berra and watches them climb.

||”Well done,”|| Berra says, very quietly.

Feeling the rope go slack, Varanis calls down, “Safe or want it handy still?”

Lenta changes her grip to belt of Varanis.

“We’re … um, Maalira can answer.” Berra lets the White Lady take that one.

“I’m fine,” Maalira calls back. “On the path now.”

The rope slithers back up as Varanis begins to coil it. “I’m good, Lenta. You can let go now,” she says quietly.

Maalira turns to Berra and says quietly “Thank you.”

Berra gives Maalira a look with a smile in, and gestures up.

Lenta lets go and unclenches her fist slowly.

||Berra is proud for the White Lady, but nobody is looking.||

Mellia smiles.

Maalira smiles back and continues on up the path.

At the top, the ground is fairly flat. Nearby is a tall stone, carved into the shape of a woman with a face that has some kindness in it, and perhaps some judgement too. Below that is a dip in the earth.

Around that dip are four large skeletons, and the burned, crispy remains of one that must once have had flesh on are strewn here and there for about fifty feet, as if people gave chase when it fled, or desperately defended the area as it ran at them.

Lenta is behind Varanis massaging her hand. She is naked from waist up – mostly green- and one of her trouser legs is really bloody.

Mellia is still near Varanis, looking tired.

All of the skeletons have broken skulls. Then, beyond them in the dip is a little rocky humanoid – a being made out of the rocks of the area is standing pebble-deep in the hole.

Bits of the once-flaming thing are everywhere, like even when it was just hands, it still clawed itself forwards.

“We found Don’t Ask,” Berra says, “And she’s awake. We… got the thing that was buried here – she’d struck it down but nobody cleaned her pool out, or maybe seemed to give a damn. So when we did, she woke proper.”

“That sounds encouraging,” Maalira says.

Berra nods, in agreement.

“Don’t Ask said she is fine now,” Mellia comments.

“Come sit, Mellia.” Varanis takes her cousin’s hand and leads her to the edge of the stone pool. “Rest. Have some water.”

Berra does not offer Maalira a hand, but does say, “Yeah. We found water. She’s flowing again. Her spring is. I mean, we got water, not we found it. But we did also find it, I guess.”

Maalira wanders over to the pool and looks into it.

Mellia obediently follows Varanis, sits down and drinks some water.

Lenta wanders over to the stony being and talks to it with weird guttural sounds that seem to rumble from somewhere very deep.

There is a grassy area within, and a small spring welling up that is making a pool. The small rock being moves towards Lenta a little, either coming out of the pool by request, or by coincidence.

Berra offers Maalira a water bottle. “We got enough to drink, and maybe you can help Lenta wash off the blood once it’s a bit more full? She got a troll mace to about half of everything below the waist.”

Maalira takes the bottle gratefully and swigs several big gulps. The last one ends in a bit of a sputter. “Lenta got what?!”

“We’ll stay the night and you can have a good sleep,” Varanis tells Mellia. “At least, hopefully.” She sniffs at the air. “I only smell the distant storm, not anything close to us.”

Mellia asks, “Would you mind taking a look at Lady Lenta’s leg, Maalira? She was very mangled.”

“Of course. Lenta, come here.”

Lenta continues her rumbling talking and the rocky thing grasps her into a fearsome looking hold.

“It all happened very quickly,” Berra says. “An’ … well. We shou… I should’ve kept people back, but I wasn’t thinking.” She shrugs. “I’ll do better.” She takes a deep breath, apparently finding peace and calm.

Mellia says to Varanis, “We both need at least one good night’s sleep. What are we going to do with the trash?”

The rocky thing starts to sink into earth.

Lenta looks up “Sorry Maalira, You were saying?”

“The skeletons?” Varanis asks.

“Would you like me to take a look at your leg?” Maalira asks Lenta, somewhat less bossily.

Mellia nods. “We can’t bury them here. It may not be safe to bury them anywhere.”

“We can put them anywhere,” Berra says, “But they’re dead. They’re gone enough.”

“Thanks, Berra,” says Mellia.

Lenta walks to Maalira with a slight limp. “Please do, Maalira. I think Mellia healed most of it. But now that it is over I am afraid even to take a proper look.”

After peering over the edge in a couple of places, Varanis says, “I’ll take care of them, Mellia. I can toss them over that way. No path that I can see, so people are unlikely to stumble on them.”

Maalira seats herself on a flattish bit of ground and pats the bit next to her. “Let’s take a look,” she says reassuringly.

“Thanks, Varanis. Want me to try to make a broom? They aren’t diseased, but they are still disgusting.”

“They are mostly just bone. It’s fine. But maybe for the little bits,” she concedes.

Berra goes over to, apparently, talk to some ghosts. Various shapes, glowing slightly under the evening sun, are talking to the two surviving Humakti from King’s Tower. It seems they are having the same sort of funeral process as Bleujen had, for one of the ghostly shapes is lying down, although they are also gesticulating like talking is going on.

“Please make sure they do not get into Earth again.” Lenta says. She smiles to Maalia and unties her trousers not looking at her leg. Both leg and trouser leg are covered in blood. “It was just bone under those rocks there Varanis and it was not fine.” There is a bit of sharpess in Lentas voice.

“Berra says the spirits are gone enough,” Varanis protests.

Maalira makes some quiet “hmm”ing noises over Lenta’s leg.7Special on Ffrst Aid.

Berra is, of course, over where the spirits are. She waves a hand at the mention of her name, but seems to be taking her part as an observer of the funeral seriously.

“Why take any risks, Varanis?” Lenta grimaces a bit and looks at Maalira, not her leg. “How does it look?”

The Vingan starts by collecting up larger bone fragments. She heads over to the edge of one of the steep sections and looks set to start throwing things.

“Do you have a better idea?” she asks the Ernaldan.

“I’ve seen worse,” Maalira says. “Shall I go ahead and work on it?”

“Please do, Maalira.” She looks at the Vingan. “Fire. I don’t know if that is enough for the one that was burning… But fire.”

“It takes a lot of fire to destroy bones,” Mellia points out. “It may still help.”

The dragonewt-shaped ghost is meditating, balanced on one leg. It seems to be ignoring the others, and it begins to fade away.

Maalira bends over Lenta’s leg and murmurs quietly to it.

Varanis shakes her head. “We don’t have the fuel to get the fires hot enough to destroy the bone. I suppose it could maybe purify it. But we still lack a good supply of dry firewood.”

She sighs then. “If you’re really worried, I guess we could try to carry it down and we could burn it later.”

“I don’t know, Varanis. But just scattering them here her surface does not seem prudent. Or like we care… What Berra and her cultbrethren do may be enough. But do you know that, Varanis?” Ernaldan looks at Maalira “It feels like the pain is going away. Can… Can I dance after this.”

“You will be dancing again in no time,” Maalira says gently. “It’s all done now.”

The Vingan swears under her breath, then sets the bones down in a pile. Continuing to mutter curse words to herself, she sets about collecting as many bits as she can gather with her bare hands.

Ernaldan squeezes healers hand. Her own hand is shaking a bit. “Thank you Varanis” She says quietly.

“You’re welcome,” Varanis grumbles between curses.

Over by the ghost funeral, the Humakti are starting to get things ready for the feast and the storytelling. It looks like Berra is going to be running this.

“Varanis, I have not heard those before. Can I trade you some Lunar swear words?” Mellia asks.

“Where did you learn Lunar curses, Mellia?” Her cousin is scandalized.

“I am a battle healer and we heal all,” Mellia points out. “I learned a few more from those Lunars we captured when we defeated Onjur-Eel.”

“Do you know any good insults?”

“In the Lunar tongue? A few.”

Now Varanis looks intrigued. “Tonight then. I’ll trade you Praxian for Lunar insults. But I want good ones for Mirava and her husband.”

“I still need to get a gift for Mirava,” grumbles Mellia.

“No. You really don’t.”

“Do too, did you see that white silk?”

“She’s got plenty. Fuck her. She married Fazzur.”

“Which is why she should get a magnificent counter gift. Cousin Dormal could explain it.”

“She did it to embarrass you. Because she knows there’s no way you could afford to reciprocate as a healer,” Varanis argues.

“Which is why I need to embarrass her back.”

Varanis turns to stare at Mellia, nearly dropping her handful of bones. “Why Mellia! I thought you were above the games of the Esrolian nobility!”

“I am afraid Mother taught me something after all. However, I cannot think of anything she can’t get in either Nochet or Tarsh.”

“I could never outplay my sister,” Varanis admits, adding to her growing bone pile. She looks around at the remaining mess and grimaces. “Maybe Lenta can help you come up with a good idea.”

“I hope so.” Mellia yawns and appears ready to nap.

“Have a nap. You’re safe up here and we’ll be staying the night anyway. We’ll wake you for food.”

Berra stays out with the spirits, keeping them company until it is time for their tales.

  • 1
    Maalira fails Climb
  • 2
    Berra specials Listen!
  • 3
    May have rolled on Love Mellia.
  • 4
    Having failed Climb, she has nothing to tie it to.
  • 5
    Passed Climb this time.
  • 6
    Lenta, unlike Varanis, has passed Climb.
  • 7
    Special on Ffrst Aid.