1628, Earth Season, Movement Week, Probably Clayday
Maalira is leaving town to avoid trouble. Session SA3.09.
Later, on the road, Venlar relaxes a little. For one, the cat is nowhere to be seen. “I went to the Temple and someone thought I was my uncle, or Berra Humakti embodying my uncle, at least. They wanted to talk to me thinking I was her.”
“That would be awkward.”
“Rather, yes. I had a few words for them once I’d finished spluttering. I think I did not come out well. And then halfway to the house I realised I was being followed, and by then the cat had found me. I really did think she only ate vegetables, until Yamia gave her jerky one day. She likes to eviscerate cabbages and present people with the corpses of parsnips. My father says she suits us. She comes and goes of course, but we had missed her.”
“Who was following you?” Maalira asks, trying to hold the thread of the conversation.
“A Vingan. I think Berra is being hunted. I do hope she does not kill anyone.” Venlar pauses to consider, letting his horse carry him along – he borrowed one from the Sambari tribal representative, as befitting his nobility. “I felt it would be awkward to lead them to anywhere she might be, so I came to follow the cat, and I asked a few people where her friends might be, and finally I came to the hospital, because the scar was still hurting. I suspect it is because the Heroquest is happening again?” He is less sure on the last part than on the rest.
Maalira chews her lip in thought. “Yes, the scar might hurt because the Heroquest is nearby. Best to be away from it.”
“I’m always going to be near it,” he says. “I was born from it. But I take it you are not happy about its happening?”
Maalira considers Venlar thoughtfully, then appears to reach a decision. “I am… fond of Berra. Fonder… fonder than she can return.” The words come out in a rush, more embarrassed than upset. “I know she is going to get hurt and I wish she wouldn’t.”
He gives her a sorrowful look. “That must hurt,” he says. “I know that Yamia does not talk about Irillo much. She wanted to understand my mother better, and so she accepted being an Ernaldan, when the call came. I do not think she is happier now, but I think… it helped us all. It helped us, but she was the one most caught up in it. I found… I am sorry. It is not a thing you can affect except to be there for her afterwards.” His expression says he knows the price of love.
“This time she asked me in advance to care for her afterwards, at least.” Maalira’s lips quirk upwards. “Eventually, anyway. You know what Berra is like when she tries to explain something.”
“Nerve-wracking,” Venlar replies. “I always get the idea that, like my sister, she is actively plotting how to kill me. Unlike my sister, she is merely doing so because in case she gets annoyed.”
Maalira laughs. “Complicated women, your kin.”
“Yamia never would, but it comforts her to know that she is Humakti. Berra? Every word she says to me is some kind of challenge. I find I cannot answer what she wants, or sometimes even work it out in time to counter it.”
“I’m not sure she always knows what she wants,” Maalira said. “Her thoughts run fast.”
“Yes. She challenges me. However, I am remiss here. I had meant to ask what help you needed, and whether I could help my uncle.” Venlar is much more polite and indeed coherent than Berra, when changing the subject.
Maalira thinks for a minute. “For now I may need help making salves and so on – replenishing my supplies. When Berra returns I will need a safe and comfortable place to look after her.”
“I should probably pass you on to my mother for that,” Venlar admits. “I am still clumsy from time to time, but she is a good herbalist.”
Maalira laughs. “I am clumsy too.” She considers. “Your uncle is a busy man – I am sure he will request your help if it is needed.”
“I am very bad at listening,” Venlar says. “And you only desire being safely out of the way, and then returning to help?”
“Yes, I think that is all,” Maalira says. “I am not much use until it’s all over.”
“I think White Ladies are always in demand,” he says gallantly. “As well as one being specifically very attractive.”
Maalira blinks several times. “Um?”
“My wife,” he says, and then has a short moment of struggling with his expression, until he conquers it. “The White Lady who healed me.”
“Ahh.” Maalira might sound relieved. “I look forward to seeing her.”