Maalira — Public Ducking
1628, Sea Season, Fertility Week
Sea Season, Fertility Week, Waterday, after planting the River Egg and successfully drawing out a river.. [[[s03:session-5|Session 5]]]
Quackford. Late in the evening. The Shrine of the River insisted on putting the heroes up once more, but Berra wanted food, and went out, and now… a small mob of ducklings is approaching the Temple, carrying her.1Maalira passes Scan. She looks a mixture of mortified, horrified, and terrified she will crush someone. On seeing that she has been noticed by the White Lady she makes a frantic ‘help me’ face.
Maalira leaps to her feet, lips twitching.
“Berra, uh… are you alright?”
The ducklings have found a hammock and are straining to lift it. Some are no larger than domestic chickens. Some are almost up to Berra’s waist. “Um. Yes, we’re here now, children! Time to let me down. CAREFULLY!” To their credit, the ducklings do. Well over a dozen helped, and as she sits down on the floor they crowd around her and demand, “Story time!” Berra looks up at Maalira, beseeching.
Maalira claps her hands, gaining the ducklings’ attention to mixed degrees. “All right, children, who wants sweets?” She produces a small packet from her belt pouch and waves it enticingly.2Maalira passes Charm at 30% because sweets are an automatic with these people, GM rules.
Several flock – literally – to her, leaving only a couple of the older ducklings as guard for Berra. One of them looks duck-like. The other does also. It’s really hard to tell if they are tempted, given the beaks. The small ones crowd around Maalira with outstretched or upstretched hands, and sounds ranging from, “Please miss, me!” to a half-developed toddler chirp-quack.
Maalira takes several steps back, grinning. “Now, make a nice tidy line so I can make sure everyone gets one.”
Berra looks at Maalira in what might be amazement, and quietly gets up, folding up the hammock and rolling it under one arm. It’s mostly made of strong twine, easily packed, and thus also easily gripped by small fingers. How it came to be outside the shrine may be a complicated story.
The ducklings quickly boss themselves into order. Berra ushers her two forward – one refuses to go.
The smallest of the ducklings whistles for food and holds its beak up. A tiny child’s voice says, “You’re out of the nest, show some manners!” and it subsides and gets into line too.
Maalira hands out the sweets rapidly, gently nudging each little one out of the way until they are all off to the side and she is between them and Berra.
Berra has only one guard now, either every one of the others suborned.
She glances at them, glances at Berra, then holds up her arms in a questioning gesture.
Berra points into the Shrine. “They wanted to give me a victory ride,” she whispers. The excited peeping and quacking says they are safe from a repeat ride for the moment.
“A victory ride.” Maalira’s voice wobbles and almost breaks into a giggle.
Berra holds herself up to her full height – a bit shorter than Maalira. Still, taller than the ducks. Her guard looks from one to another, and puts his hand on his wooden sword, proudly.
“Yes,” is all the Humakti says.
Maalira can’t help it, she starts to laugh. “Would you care to fill in the gaps in that story?”
Small quacking sounds still. Berra’s jaw sets. “Fine. But not here.”
Maalira gestures at the Temple. “In there? Or should we go for a walk?”
“In. We can find somewhere there are no dragonewts. Everyone knows me out here right now.” Berra starts forward, takes a moment to remember herself, and bows to her young guard before stepping past the ducklings and into the river shrine.
Maalira follows, still giggling
The shrine is full of worshippers, but at least the have the decency to stay away. Berra finds a place to drop the rolled hammock, and squats by it, like infantry through the ages, back against the wall. “They think I’m a hero. Or at least, a great warrior. And because I’m a duck, they want to find out about me being human shaped. And one of the little bastards got my hammock.” Finally she sees the funny side, grinning.
“You’re going to end up with your own little flock, following you around the countryside,” Maalira sits crosslegged on the floor next to Berra.
“They do that. Duck nature. They’re proud and gregeriuss.” She looks confused over whether she has the word right. She does now. “But we’ll get away when they are busy, if nothing else. They have parents… yeah. These ones are young enough to have parents.” Berra looks bleak for a moment.
Maalira gulps. “It’s a hard world.”
The Humakti is quick to find a change of subject. “What you did with the sweets was really amazing.”
Maalira shrugs, grinning widely. “Children are children, even when they’re ducks. They can always be steered with sweeties.”
“I am not going to carry them. I’ll just have to stick close to you.” Berra does look impressed. “You made them all line up.”
“Oh, they made themselves do that. They didn’t want to miss out, and kids always have their own, er… pecking order.”
“Yeah, I think that is chickens. Ducks would maybe have… I dunno. But you’re right. You didn’t make them do anything. You persuaded.” Beat-pause. “Thank you!”
“You’re very welcome. Also you owe me one get-out-of-ducks-free card.” Maalira winks.
Berra works that over in her head, via Tradetalk. “I am unsure if I will ever be able to pay, but yes.”
Maalira laughs. “If I ever find myself surrounded by ducks I can’t escape, I’ll shout for you.”
Maalira saves Berra from ducklings.