Maalira — Giving Witness
1627, Earth Season
Earth Season, directly after the last scene. [[[s02:session-54|Session 54]]]
There he is – not more than a few paces away, looking nervously at Berra and Maalira.
Maalira gives him an encouraging smile.
Berra gives him a nod, and says, “Hey. Thank you for looking after Varanis. That was well done.”
He gives them both a relieved look. “I was thinking maybe she din’t fall but you have to tell people right?”
“Definitely,” Maalira agrees.
“Was she hurt? My friend Angrast said she was bleeding, but I was telling people.”
“A little, but she is better now,” Maalira reassures him.
Irfanost nods. “You have to be careful around the cliffs,” he says gravely. “But the tree tries to look out for you. It doesn’t have a lot of roots -“
“Enough, Iranfost,” Berra says. “You’re guessing.” To Maalira she explains, “He’ll meet the tree when he grows, but… there are a lot of ways of saying where it protects. Where the roots go is one of them. It’s our spirit, but there are secrets it likes to protect.”
Maalira nods her understanding. To Irfanost, she says “It’s best to wait until you know more, to speak of such things.”
Irfanost mutters, “Sorry,” to Berra, and gives a nod to Maalira. The happiness has gone out of him.
“Don’t be sad,” Maalira says gently. “You have learnt something, that is all. All learning is good, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.”
Berra blinks. “Uh, that’s really well put. I just learned how to think better.” Then she shuts up, as if aware that was not meant for her.
Irfanost looks at Maalira for a long moment and then nods and smiles. “Thank you then,” he tells her. His gaze shows worried determination instead of worry.
Maalira smiles sidelong at Berra, both amused and delighted that her words were taken up by both parties.
Berra says, “That explains part of why my Sword Lord lets me ask questions.”
Maalira nods understanding.
Berra says to Irfanost, “The other part’s so I’ll learn. But the way he answers them is … he… it’s complicated. He’s a great duck, but hard to explain.”
Maalira’s lips move slightly, as though she is quietly mouthing the word “duck?” to herself, but she says nothing.
Duck is, presumably, the colloquial term for durulz here. Semi-human ducks are not unknown in New Pavis, although the word is different. Still, they are followers of the river god, cowardly, and often pacifistic. A Sword Lord who is a duck is a strange thing.
Irfanost nods. “D’Val. He’s eight feet tall, and he’s got a dagger that can fly anywhere and do his killing for him.”
Berra groans. “Uhhh,” she says weakly. “That’s how the story goes, is it?”
“I take it that’s a little bit of a variation on the truth?” Maalira is amused.
“He’s shorter than that,” Berra says. “Listen, Irfanost, can you run along? I just … I need some perry. No, I’ll get it.”
Maalira covers a snicker of amusement with her hand.
Irfanost gives Maalira a smile, and then he’s gone into the crowd – it’s now a full place, and people are starting to find seats and eat, and lamps are flaring into life under the touch of Ernaldans.
“The Dagger of D’Val?” says Berra with an amused-yet-defeated look. “That’s one of the titles I get sometimes.”
Maalira bursts into a peal of laughter. It attracts curious looks from around the room, but she pays them no mind.
Berra shakes her head. “He’s about up to my chest, and he’s built like a duck except for the arms, and being upright – well, you know. A Duck. So it’s more impressive that a lot of the stories are right. He can cut the head off a horse with a single blow. I’ve seen that.”
“He sounds… effective,” Maalira says.
“He’s amazing. I mean, I don’t like staying still, but for him I do. And he once meditated awake for about three days, to keep a passage against undead. He met some, and he was still there when we got back with help. Maybe when we get back to Boldhome you can meet him. If he’s free. I mean, he’s a Sword of Humakt so he’s pretty busy.”
“I would be honoured to meet him,” Maalira says, glad that Berra is not currently suggesting that she should go back to Prax instead of continuing to Boldhome.
“He’s probably going to make me run up and down a lot of steps in Storm Season. If I’m lucky, it won’t be while the hailstones are coming down.” Berra is perhaps a little too happy about that.
“Why?” Maalira blurts the question without thinking.
The Humakti has been looking out for a jug going around, and signals it over, liberating a cup at the same time. “Toughen me up. I’m good at swordsmanship – swordsduckship – whatever. But I’m weak in a lot of the places that count.” Berra shrugs. “Hey, did you know I’m a duck?” She just throws that in casually as she pours perry.
The middle-aged man who used to own the now-liberated beaker just rolls his eyes and finds a cup for Maalira too. It seems White Ladies may get special privileges.
“Thank you,” Maalira tells the man before turning back to Berra. “You, uh, don’t look like a duck.”
“I know. Although I’m short and I shout a lot and I’m violent and a Humakti, so those are pretty close. Hey, Dannerb, can we have some water too? This is Dannerb, my mother’s brother. Yeah, so. My Sword Lord thinks I won’t let ducks down. They had a really hard time after the Rebellion here. So he’s… basically he gave me a thing that means I’m sponsored by him as an honerarry duck.” She cannot pronounce ‘honorary’, but at least she got ‘sponsored’ right.
“That’s quite the honour,” Maalira says, thinking of the ‘ducks’ she knew in Prax.
“Yeah. Sits pretty heavy on me. Thanks Dannerb.” Berra takes the water jug by handing back the perry jug, and fills Maalira’s cup then her own. “I’m going to be horrid-busy for a bit. And I need to learn how to swim.”
Maalira has started to sip but sputters at this change of topic. “Learn to swim?” she coughs.
“Duck.” Berra is glum.
The Humakti takes a long sip of her perry. As she drinks her eyes flick around the room, or at least as much of it as can be seen beyond the people gathered.
On other side of the hall a toddler with unruly hair has for some reason decided to fall asleep on Lenta.
“Oh… is that Haran?” Berra leans over to peer Lenta’s way.
The Esrolian looks a bit confused but has covered the child with part of her cloak.
Berra eyes Maalira. “Maybe we should go offer her help.”
“She does look as though she could use rescuing,” Maalira agrees.
“He might be sticky,” Berra says, and looks at the water jug. “You got a cloth on you? He’s not a drooler, at least.”
“My cloak is still damp from the rain, it will serve,” Maalira says. “It’s had worse on it.”
Berra ambles over that way. “You ask?” she suggests. “I’m not sure she’ll… I don’t want to make it awkward. But he is mine, so I will if you want.” So, maybe.
“It’s okay, I’ll ask,” Maalira says. She approaches Lenta. “Would you like us to take the child? You look as though you are a little stuck there.”
Berra stays a little behind.
Lenta looks up, her left hand on the boys shoulder. “He is sleeping and I am not going anywhere anyway. But thanks for offering.”
“He might sleep for a while,” Berra pipes up. She manages to keep any other comments quiet.
Lenta nods. “Of course you can take him if you need to move him, but if there is no hurry just let him sleep?”
“Oh, he’s out, it’s fine. If he gets heavy.” Berra shrugs. “Want us to get you anything?”
Lenta shakes her head and strokes the lads back.
Berra grins down at Haran. “I’ll leave you to it, then.” She steps back, sighs into her perry, and says, “Oh hell. I just remembered why I feel like getting drunk.”
“If you forget, you could ask another child what they know of your Sword-Lord, and see what other tales are out there?” Maalira suggests.
“I see how it is. You can’t use violence, but you can kick people when they’re down.” Berra sniggers. “Alright. So, he is eight feet tall, with eyes of burning fire. Right?”
Maalira giggles. “His beak is so broad that he carries his warriors upon it,” she adds.
“Oh, I’ll tell him that one. But when I told him the other ones, he fell over quacking. He’s only got one eye.” Berra thinks briefly. “That I’ve seen. I mean, it’s just possible that there’s an eye patch with an eye underneath. But you should maybe be the one to tell him your one. And most of the stories don’t know he’s a duck. So he *can* walk barefoot in Prax in the hot seasons. I’ve seen that.”
“That’s quite the skill,” Maalira sounds impressed. “I have done it by necessity, a few times, but regretted it mightily.”
“Yep. And yeah, he can swim in a raging flood, and track zombies as they walk up rivers underwater. I mean… ducks can swim.” Berra drinks about a quarter of her perry at once, a big glug for her.
“They’re known for it, yes.” Maalira gulps some of her own perry.
“It’s… just that my Sword – my *High* Sword gets annoyed about the stories.” The perry gets the benefit of another sigh. “He’s a great man, but he’s got a stick u… he doesn’t like ducks, and he’s hard to please.”
“It’s difficult to please more than one master,” Maalira observes.
There’s a shrug. “Fortunately, I don’t have to please Lord Eril. I just have to do what he says.”
“It’s nice when those aren’t always the same thing.”
Berra chuckles. “He’s a truly great warrior, but he’s… he uses long words basically because he knows I don’t know them. So I ask him what they mean. Every time. He’s learning.” More perry, to hide the smirk.
Maalira snorts. “I bet he enjoys that.”
“No, no he doesn’t. I…” Berra points to the Truth Rune on her cheek. The jug of water has found a table to sit on. “I should probably have shut up a while back, to be honest. But he’s an honourable man – I behave as an initiate should in his opinion, so I can’t honestly call him happy, but he’s satisfied with me, and that’s enough.”
As a lamp is ignited in front of her, Berra looks around the hall. “It’s dark enough,” she says. “I should go get into armour.” With that, and finishing the perry as she goes, she slips into the crowd.
Maalira has time in the Great Hall with Berra, Lenta, and Irfanost