Burial By Air

Berra — Burial By Air

????, Storm Season, Disorder Week


Storm Season, Disorder Week, Windsday. Berra sets out to send away the spirit of a Storm Bull Shaman. [[[s02:session-25|Session 25]]]


Berra comes to Raven Hill with a disparate group; Nala and Tiwr, Xenofos, Toras the Rhino rider, and Valseena, Rajar’s sister-in-law. She has the Shaman’s body on the back of Followed the Bison, and all of his things tied on. In addition, she has brought her spears and her rattan greatsword, as well as some spare foot-bindings and a pot of woad.

At the top of the hill, she gets the help of the others to part-bury the spear-shafts and the greatsword. That goes blade up, hilt completely buried, and once it is in position she sets fire to it with an incantation. “Everywhere the fire heats, that is Death,” she says to the others. “Stay out of the way. Make yourselves comfortable. Eat and tell stories. If you know nothing of the dead man, say nothing ill of him. If you know his deeds, boast them. Mind my mount, for that is a living thing and I am a Death thing. When I tell you to look away, be sure you do.” The body lies between the sticks now, and she tumbled it down there without apparent care.

Then, while the spell still flames, she takes off her shoes and walks around the area, scraping with her toes at the ground to make a circle around where she can feel the heat. By the time the flame has gone and left the practice sword’s blade unburned, there is a boundary that she steps off, inwards. After that, scuffs up several positions, making them carefully with her feet. One is used to take her armour and padding, leaving her in a chest wrap and loin cloth and the wraps that would keep her feet warm inside her shoes. Her shoulders square for a moment as she looks away from the body, and then she turns towards it, and dances that way. The motions she uses are very basic, simple gestures of greeting and welcome, and some are very familiar. She is welcoming a guest across her threshold.

Over the course of the next hours, she dances for him at a feast of dried foods and plain water, eating with the corpse and filling a bowl for him. She prepares a bed, rattan scrounged from the camp with bison-hide thongs on it, and then with far more respect than she was showing earlier, strips the corpse. When she washes it, she breaks her silence again.

“You were many things in this life,” she tells it, “But now you are dead and that is a new thing. Death has many paths but I set you on one now. Go strong, and go wise, and go without looking back. Life is joyful, Death is a new place. Go to the place.”

After the bath, everyone who knows stories of hospitality knows it is time for sleep. First, though, Berra goes over many of his tattoos with woad, painting it on carefully. “You should look your best in the new place,” she says. “And a good host will welcome you.” When that is done, she tells the others to leave until they hear her call, and then they must take the place of servants, but in silence.

Alone, she helps the corpse onto the platform, face up. She takes a knife with a blade of flint, the same one she used to slice their food, and cuts at her hair, and her clothes, making token mourning. Then she tells it, “There is one more dance that I will do now, which will bind you to the next place. This is a secret, but you are my guest so I know you will not tell it.”

By the time she calls for her friends, the corpse is tied onto the platform with the remains of the foot bindings she was wearing, which look worn and stained and tattered now. They have been cut in places where they were fraying. Footprints show where she has danced, mostly but not all in the shape of a cross around the body, its platform pulled into position to be raised.

She does not look much like herself. Her dark hair is too long, her stance too tall, her features sharpened. She is Humakt, as the Sartarites see him. “My servants. Our guest is ready to sleep. Show him where he may rest, while I arm myself to guard him. Be silent, so that you do not wake him.”

There are still ties left, to secure the platform to the three sticks. Humakt makes a mark in the circle to let them in, and the rest of the task is easy. When they are done, he … she… gestures them out again. Yellow Storm the Shaman is left on a tilted platform, where the birds can see him. He faces the Block, his head raised by Death itself – the Greatsword.

It is Humakt who remakes the circle behind the servants, and steps into a guard position there, and then her shoulders relax and it is Berra again, wincing as she arches up a foot to ease the ache of an hour’s secret dancing. She looks around, and croaks, “Thank you. Feel free to eat his food. He’s going on and would not want us to go hungry.”

She looks tired, and the glint in her hair that looked like gold is only dust and sweat, but there was no denying that for a moment, gold beads glinted there. The Shaman stares at the Block, uncaring.

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