Erhehta Attacked

Maalira — Erhehta Attacked

1626, Earth Season


Context

1626, Earth Season, shortly before the PCs are sent for. [[[s02:session-20|Session 20]]]

Events

It is late in Earth Season. The hot temperatures of Fire Season have given way to the cooler days of Earth Season, and it has started to rain from time to time. The Straw Weaver Clan are not far from their usual seasonal grounds, but they have stopped for no apparent reason. This is seldom a problem…1Maalira passes Intrigue to find out the rumours in the camp.

Naturally, rumour flies in the camp, and the thing that Maalira hears consistently is a name. Erhehta. The shaman. The great magical support of the clan. Erhehta. He fell into the dust for no reason. He’s ill.

Maalira wants to find someone who knows more than just rumours.

The right person to talk to, most probably, would be a woman of some rank. The chief’s wife, Jala, is usually available for a White Lady to talk to. So are several of the most honoured group around the chief, many of whom are related to Maalira by blood.

Maalira makes her way through the clan looking for a useful member of the chief’s inner circle.2Fumbled Insight (Human) means that Maalira gets the wrong idea about how worrying this is, from the woman she meets.

It is not Jala she sees first, but Marnulai, second wife to the chief, and one of those who helps makes decisions. The woman looks breezily unworried, and approaches Maalira with a bright smile. “My dear! How are you?” She even offers an arm.

Maalira takes Marnulai’s offered arm, and makes the expected polite response to her question.

Marnulai walks her casually towards the important tents, making small talk and chattering, and then says, when they are away from prying eyes and ears, “We have need of Chalana Arroy, young one. The Shaman has a sickness.”

Maalira stiffens, anxious. “I should speak to the Shaman at once.”

“… Yes. Come this way.” Marnulai leads the way towards the strange tent that the shaman uses when he is travelling. It is of bison felt, and sewn into half of it are tiny bones, like the many bones that Erhehta wears. Marnulai pulls aside the flap that makes the door, and bitter smoke billows out. “Go in,” she says. “I may not.”

Maalira ducks past the tent flap, blinking as the smoke makes her eyes water, trying to see what is going on inside.

There are two people here. The Shaman is curled up on the ground, shivering. Sitting over him, shaking a bundle of burning herbs, is his assistant. Memory provides the name ‘Affada’. She is a youngish woman who is approaching the time she could become a shaman in her own rite.

Erhehta never wears clothes. He is geased against it. Despite the cold earth beneath him, and the fact he is dressed only in bone piercings and rattles, he is sweating and looks far too hot.

Maalira approaches a little way, but not too close as she doesn’t want to offend. She clears her throat and murmurs, “Affada?”

Affada looks up, and says, “He has had his power stolen. His body is dying. His spirit is … it is a shaman secret. But his body!”

Maalira takes several more steps towards Affada. “How? What happened?”

“I don’t know,” the young woman says desperately. “Just that… his power is stolen. If his body dies when he is like this he will stay dead, and he is sick!”

Shamans, notably, are said to be able to cheat Death.

The Shaman is obviously feverish, and while a fever can be good, this looks so hot it is dangerous. He needs cooling, and he needs to have the base problem – whatever it is – dealt with.3Maalira passes First Aid and Treat Disease.

There are several ways of bringing the fever down – all of them rare herbs, flowers, or roots.

Maalira steps a little closer still. “I have some kararr root, but it works best with the flowers of the kitja boorn. Do you have any?”

Affada stands, leaving the burning herb bunch by Erhehta. “I have everything here, if I want,” she says. “Or I will get it if I do not have it.” She can reach the back of the tent from where she is, and she plucks a bunch of flowers, unerringly, from a hook that has been sown and felted into the wall, rather than attached to the wooden supports that keep it up. “Kitja boorn, forgive me that I gathered you and give you away,” she says, and then offers over the whole bunch.

The smell of the burning herbs finally becomes clear to Maalira.4Passed Plant Lore. Juniper berries are in a brazier, and half-bark sticks, hard to find and harder not to poison yourself with, are being used to keep spirits at bay from Erhehta.

Maalira takes the bunch reverently. “Kitja boorn, thank you for what you may bring forth.” She sits next to Affada and brings a bowl and the kararr root out of her carrying-bag. The root crushes easily under her fingers and she begins carefully picking the best of the kitja boorn flowers to press into it.

Affada spreads out rounded stones without offering any of them. Each is ideal to crush stems or fine petals or soggy roots. Laying them out is a sign of respect that is usually kept to shamans alone, saying that they are there if they need to be used, but Affada is not going to destroy anyone’s concentration by asking.

Maalira catches Affada’s eye and nods, acknowledging the stones and the gesture, and chooses one. The bowl’s contents quickly become a paste. “See if you can get him to swallow some of this.”

“He is the worst patient,” Affada groans, but she takes a little of the paste on her forefinger, and paints it onto Erhehta’s tongue. There is some spluttering, and the great man speaks. “Trying to poison me while I am down?” As he speaks, Maalira can hear a sound like bones cracking.5Passed Listen but failed Scan. Maalira does not see which bones are making the noise.

Affada gives her master a look of mingled annoyance and respect. Mostly annoyance.

Maalira has never heard anything like that sound before. “How long has he been sounding like bones when he speaks?”

“Never?” Affada says, but the shaman himself replies, amid cracking sounds, “Since some bastard tore out my magic about a… ” Then he chokes on what he is being made to swallow.

“He says about half a day,” Affada tells Maalira. “And he’s bringing down his fever, but he shouldn’t.”

Maalira frowns. “Why not? The fever is dangerous.”

“He should rest his spirit. Hide his spirit.” Affada looks worried once more. “Only another shaman could have attacked him like this. It is an attack.”

Erhehta mutters, “Bastards.” He is not a very polite person.

Maalira leans in closer, not wanting to miss anything. “Bone-Master, do you know who would attack you so?”

Up close he smells of hazia and dreamroot and fever sweat and the paste on his tongue. “So many women I’ve rejected,” he says, but he has to swallow to chuckle, and then he splutters again when Affada pushes more of the root paste into his mouth.

Maalira mutters a bad word under her breath. “I am serious, Bone-Master!”

Erhehta, tiny and wizened, chuckles, and then coughs, and then finally lies back to eat the medicine paste. That is when Affada winces, and points. Half the bones on the necklace around his neck have broken, and the pectoral piercings are nothing more than dust.

Maalira grits her teeth. “Alright. How far away would another Shaman need to be to attack like this?” she asks Affada.6Maalira fails First Aid so does not get an insight into Affada’s physical condition.

“The spirit world is a moment away,” Affada says. “And they could leave their body anywhere. They will be a long way away.”

Erhehta adds, “If they are wise.” He already sounds a little stronger.

Maalira hugs her knees to her chest, trying to think. “No disrespect, Bone-Master, but who have you annoyed most recently?”

“Oh good, because I thought you were coming here to mock me.” Erhehta is sweating less now, and there are fewer cracking noises. “I have hardly rubbed anyone against the hair. I tried but I have been with the clan for the whole season.” He still looks pained, but either the root paste is working surprisingly fast, or he has other magic on his side. Still, Affada is not looking relaxed yet.

Maalira glances at Affada, raising an eyebrow. “And the season before…?”

“I don’t get out much,” he replies. “But give me time and I will tell you. It has not killed me. So I will find out. Once I stop thinking I fought the underside of a bison.”

Affada nods, to say he is not lying. “He is not like you,” she tells Maalira. “He does not go among the other people any more, although he goes into the wild.”

“Into the wild? There are many old and cursed things there.”

“Like me,” Erhehta says. Incredibly, he starts trying to get up. He should not be able to yet – the medicine has hardly had time to go down.

Maalira starts to reach for the Shaman to encourage him to stay down, nearly colliding with Affada. “Bone-Master, please rest. I haven’t got many more kararr roots if you get worse again.”

Affada says, “I can’t push him down, but you can. He’s not your master.” Erhehta glares, but subsides. “Then Affada. Go make the place safe. Cast the spells, make the dances. And someone must call Sanar. He is out with the herds and does not know.” Sanar is not a name Maalira has heard.

“I do not know Sanar, but I can send someone? Who should I ask, who will know him?”

“Nobody who can see him,” Affada says, which stops Erhehta from being able to speak. “That is the spirit part of him. The bison spirit part.”

“Tricky, him not being here.” Erhehta speaks anyhow. “So I think maybe a spirit-fighter should bring him in.”

Maalira catches Erhehta’s eye briefly, and inclines her head. “In that case, with your permission, I will go.”

“Seeing as you volunteer,” he says, although Affada says sharply, “What?”

====
Erhehta, shaman of the clan, is suffering a magical attack. Maalira helps ease his symptoms.