Maalira — Venlar In The Village
1627, Earth Season
Late in Earth Season, in the Blue Tree Village. [[[s02:session-54|Session 54]]]
The evening mostly contained eating and sleeping, but now it is morning and the tall, dark-haired, scarred man approaches with breakfast for Maalira. The great hall is full of people babbling away in Heortling, getting ready for the day, and even as Venlar gets close with a bowl of porridge, they are starting to empty out. “Hello,” he says. “Mellia is not back yet, and I don’t feel I have started the morning unless I have fed a White Lady.”
Maalira grins, eyeing the bowl appreciatively. “My thanks. I’m glad to be of service!” She winks to make it clear that she hasn’t taken offence.
“It’s good of you.” He seems slightly unsure how to go on, having put the bowl down on the edge of the big low shelf by the wall that serves as a bed. “I’m sure she’ll be back today, but you might have to help me by having lunch as well.”
Maalira giggles in the act of blowing on a spoonful of porridge. “I’m sure I can manage that.”
She eats the first spoonful. “Thank you again, this is perfect.” She looks around at the rapidly emptying space. “What will everyone be doing today?”
“The last of the harvests, mostly,” he says. “The cereals are in but some of what remains in the ground has to be pulled up. Perhaps they will fire the stubble, but I have not heard anything but arguments on that yet. I think that varies a lot by year. And everything the horses need. I am rather superfluous right now, to be honest.”
“Perhaps, then, if it wouldn’t be a trouble to you – would you show me around the village?”
“I’d be delighted to. I know the names of most of the people, but I should warn you I know *all* of the names of the pigs. You may regret asking. I’m learning their lineages.”
Trade-talk has a word that means lineage. Such a thing can increase value.
“Well, of course. People are people, but get the pig breeding wrong and you mess up the bacon,” Maalira says with another wink.
Venlar nods wisely. “A White Lady who understands bacon – and pig temperament – is a valuable thing. I’ll go get a cloak while you eat. Do you have one?”
“It’s in my saddle bag,” Maalira says.
“It’s still warm in the afternoons, but perhaps chillier in the morning than you are used to.” Venlar departs to go get into suitable clothing for walking around, as opposed to the clothing he has for waking people up with breakfast. By the time he returns there are few people in the great hall, and they mostly have very young children. One man is sleeping in late, and a couple of women are tidying up what was used for cooking.
Maalira takes her cloak with a nod of gratitude, and fastens it over her gown. “Lead on, then!”
Venlar does just that. The village is small compared to the others they passed through recently, and nothing compared to Alda Chur, but he looks proud nevertheless. “The chief’s hall can sleep a hundred, if it has to,” he starts off, and that *is* impressive as far as chiefs go. Most large tents can’t do that, even the ones with wooden platforms underneath. “Over winter, most of the clan will be here, with some in the steads. The shrine to Chalana Arroy will be busy with winter sorrows.” Diseases, mostly, spread by cramped living.
Maalira makes a mental note of this, wondering what she might have in her bags that could be left to help the people through the winter. Out loud, she says “I would love to see the shrine.”
“We can go there first.” Venlar walks Maalira over hardened earth with cinders in. “The path here does not usually get muddy, but when the sheep come in it will be bad for a few days. They are very Orlanthi, and refuse to queue up, one behind another.” The village is small enough that they can already see an Ernaldan cube-temple ahead.
Maalira snorts at the joke. “Are sheep elsewhere better behaved?”
“Sheep are fallen clouds,” he explains. “The storm ram was father to them all once, and so even the ewes, while they are sweet, will never be well ordered. However, the tup here – the strongest of the rams – is not sweet. Avoid the ones with horns.” A little short of the other temples is a small shrine, probably big enough to be two small rooms, with a whitewashed outside, and a thatched roof that is newly laid. “Here we are. The shrine. As it is now.”
With a smile and a nod at Venlar, Maalira steps in to the shrine. The public altar is just inside the door, and she makes a deep reverence before it, as deep as any she would make at a grand city altar. Straightening, she looks over the tidy set of herbal preparation instruments on the altar, and the collection of vessels and baskets on the shelves around it.
Venlar darkens the door behind her, having to duck to get in. The room is small, although large enough to have a bed in it as well, for someone to be on call here. A stool the shelves and the altar itself make up the rest of the furniture. Everything is well kept, and someone has woven covers for each of the baskets out of some kind of long leaves, knotting Harmony Runes into them. The place smells right, at least.
There is a second room, where private worship can happen, and the holiest items are stored, but it looks like that is very small, given this room. A white hanging of linen, expensive stuff, bars that room from casual looks.
“Sosa arrived here early last year, because the last healer had died,” Venlar says. “She usually sleeps here. And Tathia is a disease expert from the South. She might settle down but I think she’s not sure. And then there’s Mellia. I can show you where the land’s being cleared for expansion.”1Maalira fails Plant Lore. She does not recognise a lot of what is there. Some things are almost universal.
Maalira runs her eyes along the shelves again, making note of the things that are unfamiliar. Perhaps there will be an opportunity to exchange herbs and recipes before they move on.
“It will be lovely to see the space that is being made,” she says.
Venlar backs out carefully, with a hand to keep his hair from catching on the door frame. “Something taller, one hopes.” Even in trade-talk, he speaks like nobility.
The space is unprepossessing; a mostly-cleared area of grass and earth, with thin slats of wood to mark where walls will go. However, it is twice the size of the shrine as it now is, as well as connecting to it to make the area even larger. “The plan is that what is already holy will become private,” Venlar tells Maalira. “The door can be moved by the lay membership, if everything we can’t see is screened off. We wrote to ask about that.”
Maalira nods approvingly. “It is always a challenge to keep sacred places protected whilst we work around them. That sounds like an excellent solution.”
From not far away there is the sound of practice weapons clunking against each other. Venlar looks that way, slightly worried2He is of course worried for one person in particular, but while Maalira sees the worry she does not see all the details., but with his usual polite mien gestures the other way. “The Orlanth Temple – Barntar as well – and Ernaldan are up here.”
Maalira looks towards the sound of practice weapons too, wondering whether she should go and wait for the inevitable error requiring a healer’s intervention. However, she doesn’t want to be rude to Venlar either. “Please, I’d love to see them.”
The Orlanthi Temple is half protected by a woven screen that allows for open-air gathering. “The Temple’s lintel is made with wood from the sacred tree here,” Venlar says. “I have not met it, but Mellia joined the clan.” That would make the tree into the Wyter, the holiest spirit here, and the one that binds the clan together. Hence, presumably, the clan’s name. “Occasionally it drops branches. The roots go a long way.” Venlar has to reach up only a little to indicate the carved beam, painted and even gilded. It is far more intricate than the vertical parts, which are painted a shimmering blue, and shows a storm god calling clouds.
“It’s beautiful,” Maalira murmurs. She feels a small pang for the little Chalana Arroy shrine compared to this one, but reminds herself that it’s going to be improved soon.
The shrine to Ernalda is a fine green, with a subtle shimmer to it that indicates the same blue. Venlar walks around that at a respectful distance, and then, as threatened, introduces Maalira to the pigs. Many are in a pen behind the Temple, and he scratches sows on the head and compliments them on their fine mud coverings. These are Oinker, Trouble, Blotchy, Less Trouble, Sleeper, Big-Fat-Pork-Chop, and Pig-va. Venlar seems to like Pig-va most. “She is the oldest, and they mostly do what she wants.”
Maalira nods politely. As a vegetarian, her understanding of pigs and their uses is largely abstract, although she is familiar with the idea that they will eat almost any leftovers.
The tour includes a lot of horses – Venlar knows most of their names, and points out the big ones, one of which is Lenta’s and one of which is Berra’s,3Manasa is missing here, possibly because she has kicked someone and run away, but more likely because the GM forgot about Varanis having a horse. and the bison that have been put in with the herd. The others are no higher than chest-tall at the shoulders, and look rough and shaggy. “There is a lot of snow he,” he explains. “Some of them never quite lose their winter coats, and I suppose by now some must be growing it in.” That explains his rough, shaggy cloak over his fine clothing. Horse-hide.
“It looks like a prosperous herd,” Maalira says, noting that the horses all seem well-fed under their coats.
“The whole clan does not keep cows. That amazed me when I first came.” Venlar looks down at Maalira with a smile and then beyond her with an expression of joy. “Tamakt! You have not met my nephew yet!”
Maalira turns to face the newcomer, placing her feet carefully to avoid slipping on the still-cold ground.
There is a woman almost at the other side of the village, who veers over towards Venlar and Maalira, carefully. Tied to her is a small bundle. “She will have rescued him from Yamia and the warriors,” Venlar says in a rush. “He is going to be a warrior but nobody can tell her not to fight with him. He is intelligent already.”
The small bundle is far too small to be intelligent. It is probably no more than a few weeks old, although babies from outside the Bison clan are usually small, so the boy might be a little more than that.
The ground is not frozen, although dew made it slippery and has not entirely left yet. Venlar takes a step towards the approaching nurse and child, stops, and moves a hand to take hold of the fence and be certain he himself does not fall. “Go make sure Ranaga has seen us.”
Ranaga has obviously, totally, completely seen them. Nobody else is by the horses.
Maalira blinks rapidly, adjusting. Her interaction with Yamia the previous day had left her thinking that she had lost the baby, and Maalira is now completely confused.
The way that Venlar is holding on, it looks like it was more than a moment of clumsiness. He is taking an unusually long time to be sure he does not slip.4Maalira passes Scan.
Ranaga comes within hailing range, and calls out, “Good morning, White Lady!” The bundle is still small enough to be fully bound up against the morning, and facing towards her in the sling.
“Good morning!” Maalira calls, smiling at the woman but casting an anxious glance towards Venlar.
Venlar sorts out his feet, makes sure they are under him, and walks forward to look at his nephew. “How is he this morning? Ranaga, this is Maalira. Maalira, Ranaga has the very difficult task of helping to feed Tamakt, and keeping him away from swords. My sister doesn’t really understand children are not for combat, I think.” He has a happy smile for the boy.
Ranaga gives a nod of welcome, crests the rise of Orlanthi enthusiasm, and says, “He is happy and probably about to wake up.”
Maalira tilts her head a little, hoping to see around the wrappings to catch sight of the little face tucked against Ranaga’s chest.
Ranaga pulls aside the top of the wrap. The baby has dark, curled hair, already like a little Bison there, but pallor like Venlar and Yamia on the skin. Despite coming from the south of Sartar, both of them have paler skin than the farmers and warriors here. The boy opens dark eyes and manages to focus on Maalira without much interest. “A fire season birth,” Venlar says. So, probably eight or nine weeks old. Tiny for a Bison rider. Big for one of the people here.
“Hello little one,” Maalira coos, opening her eyes wide and smiling brightly. “Aren’t you a cutie?”
Tamakt smiles. Or, rather, his lips move. He probably has wind. Maybe he knows what a smile is, however. “He is. We’ll get him back inside where he can stretch soon,” Ranaga says. “His mother will probably be in a bad mood, though. She and Berra were fighting when I left.” Venlar gets a warning look.
Maalira grimaces. “How much medical attention are they going to need?”
Ranaga laughs. “Oh, they can heal themselves. They like to keep the training scars, I think. Someone had had his nose broken already. Yamia did that.”
Venlar sighs. “We could go make sure nothing gets out of hand?” he suggests to Maalira.
“That would be… wise,” Maalira says. “I have seen Berra fight.”
“It’s just sparring,” Ranaga says.
“Take Tamakt in?” Venlar suggests. “We’ll make sure. After all, I’ve seen my sister fight.”
Ranaga says, “I’ll stay with the horses for a bit. Call me if you need a baby for someone to hold. I’ll listen out.”
Venlar chuckles, offers Maalira his hand in a formal fashion, and says, “Sweet White Lady, I go on a mission of peace. Will you join with me in this?”
“With pleasure.” Maalira accepts the gesture and places her hand on top of his.
Venlar walks confidently now, like the Storm God he follows. Ahead, there is the sudden sound of Berra. It would be Berra. “What in hell?”
Venlar makes a little wince noise, and confides, “Small women have always been trouble in my life.” He speeds up.
“Small women are trouble, but often the good sort,” Maalira mumbles, half to herself.
“Yes, and then there is Yamia,” Venlar murmurs.
Around the corner of one of the buildings on the north side of the village is a clearing large enough for swordplay, spear practice, and arguing in. The tableau as they arrive tells a story. Berra and Yamia are close together, with Berra holding a hand to her cheek and jaw. Blood is oozing between her fingers. A wooden sword is on the ground close by, although Berra still holds her practice weapon. Three men, all amoured, are just beyond the pair of women. They look like they might have been part of some kind of combat. Off beyond them, others are just getting back to whatever they were doing – mostly spear and shield practice.
“By the Goddess…” Maalira is both amused and horrified. “I’ve seen her get less injured in an actual battle.”
“You’re supposed to be my left-shoulder, not their ally,” Berra grumbles.
Yamia steps in closer. “Let me look.” She moves Berra’s hand aside with more gentleness than she has shown so for at anyone, and Berra lets her, but leans over so that she will not get blood on her clothes. The women are without armour, and Berra is in good clothes, not her padding.
“She’s going to be very upset with herself if she spoils those clothes,” Maalira says. “What was she thinking?”
“Yes, long slit but nothing in it.” Yamia inspects the wound – it already has a bruise forming around a long, ragged cut. It is not dangerous, but it is bleeding in the way that cuts to the cheek do. A long dribble of blood is already splattering to the ground.5Maalira passes First Aid.
Maalira takes her hand from Venlar’s with a nod of thanks, grabs her gown to stop it from getting in her way, and hurries over to Berra’s side. “May I help?”
Berra looks over. “Yeah, can you close this up?” Yamia moves out of the way, bows, and then bends to pick up the wooden sword and inspect it.
Maalira places a gentle hand over the wound, trying to ignore the sticky feeling of blood beneath her fingers, and murmurs a short request to the spirits. The flesh knits back together, leaving only blood behind.
Berra grins. “Thank you. What happened there, Yamia?”
Yamia says, “The fault was mine. I broke this on the last exchange and could not pull the blow fast enough. The stroke I meant for Varast hit you. See, the tip is missing?”
She shows it to Maalira and Berra together, as if that will be as interesting to the White Lady as to the warrior.
Maalira winces. “Tell me I haven’t just sealed the tip of that into Berra’s nose?”
“No, I examined it and found nothing,” Yamia says, like that seals the deal.
Berra pokes at her nose, and flicks blood away onto the ground. “It’s still as soft as it was before.” An impartial observer might say she had a cute nose. Right now, the profile is wrinkled in interest as she prods at her cheek as if to find where the wound was.
Venlar meets Maalira properly, feeds her, shows her the village, and then has his sister hurt Berra to give her something to do