Maalira has come to the hospital for some of her seasonal service. Sea Season, Session 6.
Yesterday had a rooftop walk with a Humakti, and a picnic, and scudding clouds, and light rain, and some feeding and care of bisons, human and otherwise. Today has the promised visit to the Hospital. Maalira is on head-bump duty, doing minor injuries and seeing to keeping children happy. It’s a busy, noisy day.
Maalira is enjoying herself, despite the chaos. This part of the hospital is full of minor problems, rather than meetings with kings and epic battles. It’s pleasantly simple.
The morning gives her that greatest of gifts, one that people never believe really happens. A child with a pot stuck on her head. She declares through the clay that she is a warrior.
“I’m sure you are, honey bee,” Maalira coos. “And as a warrior you’re going to have to be brave while we get this off.”
“I’ma Vingan,” her voice wavers. “Brave.”
“All the Vingans I know are brave,” Maalira confirms. She looks at the adult accompanying the child. “Why didn’t you just break the pot?”
“We can’t afford its repair,” says the old woman. “I know it’s just a spell but we don’t know anyone…” and if they are not able to buy a replacement pot, that explains why they are both thin and small.
“Brave.” Small voice.
“Ah.” Maalira starts gathering together some supplies, leaves that can be ground into slippery lather.
There are soapnuts for personal hand-washing, but those are wrong. A passing Priestess suggests, “Just oil her, dear,” like the Temple is rich enough to waste it. “We’ll have a few drunkards soon.”
The small child is singing to keep herself brave.
Maalira fills a mortar with juicy leaves and just a splash of water and oil, and grinds until the paste begins to foam. Then she regards the child and her parent thoughtfully.
“I think we’re going to have to lean her backwards, perhaps over your knee, so I can get this in to the pot.”
The parent might be a young grandparent, an aunt, an old mother… probably a mother. It’s hard to tell if they have the same features without calling for a second pot.
She nods, says, “Come on, Vinga,” and lifts the small child easily.
Maalira kneels down beside them and whispers under the rim of the pot. “Now, this isn’t going to be very nice, I’m sorry,” she says. “I have a yucky mixture here, a bit like soap. I need to get it right down to where the pot is stuck so that we can slide it off. It might get in your mouth and nose a bit, but it won’t hurt you. Keep your eyes closed.”
There is evidence of gruel in the bowl already. It smells of boiled vegetables.
“Alright,” says the vingan, and then sadly, “I am flying.”
“You’re… flying?” Maalira pauses as she’s about to start dripping the mixture off the pestle.
“Woosh.” Tiny voice.
“I’m holding you safe,” says the harried parent.
“I see. Yes, imagine you’re flying! Good idea.” Maalira carefully dribbles foam into the pot, letting it run right around the inside until it’s coated every bit of clay and child visible within
There is a foamy, small child, and bits of foam everywhere. Green. Oily. Foamy.
Gently, Maalira twists the pot, pulling ever so slightly as she does so.
“Almost there,” she coos encouragingly.
pop – off it comes. Foam splatters. The child turns out to have brownish hair, brownish eyes, olive skin. Needs feeding up, no great underlying problems. Just a lot of foam and oil.
Maalira sits down on the floor as the force of the release carries her over. Green foam splashes on her white gown, and she suppresses a sigh. “There you are!” she says cheerfully instead.
The designated adult makes sure that the foam is not going to get into eyes, but she does glance at the pot to be sure it is unharmed.
Maalira places the pot down carefully on a spare bit of cloth, tucking the cloth around it to both dry and protect it. Grabbing another cloth, she wipes at the foam then hands the cloth to the adult to continue the process. “All sorted. Can you look at me?” This is clearly aimed at child, not parent.
The child does that, blinkingly and damp. “Thank you, White Lady,” she says formally, and bows.
Maalira smiles. “You are most welcome. Now, no more putting pots on your head. Otherwise, Mamma…” she glances at the adult, looking for confirmation of identity.
“Aunty,” says aunty. Child Vinga looks brave again.
“… otherwise, Aunty can’t make you good food so that you can grow up and be a good warrior.”
Nods. Aunty takes the pot, and says, “Thank you so much, White Lady.”
And then they are gone, and the Priestess is looking at Maalira. “Oh dear…”
Maalira looks down at her dress. It is liberally splashed with green. She sighs. “Believe it or not, Lady, this is a GOOD day,” she says.
“Time to purify, maybe?” the Priestess suggests.
Maalira bows to indicate a mixture of agreement and obedience.
The woman looks expectant.
“… Lady?” Maalira goes for uncertain prompting.
“You’re going to purify your robe?” says the Priestess, like that is a prompt too.
“Is, ah, there a wash room?” Maalira is feeling a bit flummoxed.
“Well, can’t you do it here?” There is also flummoxedness facing her now.
Maalira blinks rapidly, feeling her cheeks starting to go dark and hot. “I don’t understand,” she confesses.
“Just… wipe it off, and then … purify it.” There is a long blink. “Why, how do you do it in New Pavis?”
“With hot water,” Maalira says, feeling ridiculous.
The Priestess leans forward with a, “By your leave,” and touches Maalira’s robe, murmuring a spell. It’s not a perfect clean, but the greenish stains fade, and so do some of the grubbier stains on the cuffs. “Not a spell you’ve been taught?”
“No, Priestess!” Maalira stares at her robe then at the woman. “That’s… incredibly useful.”
“Well, yes. Although this is really just a side effect. It gives diseases nothing to attract them.” The Priestess smiles. “Of course, we can teach you.” Of course, there’s going to be a price for that.
“I would be honoured to learn,” Maalira says, mentally calculating what it is likely to cost.
“We tend to ask a small donation,” she says, which fixes it at something Maalira can afford.
“Of course. Will 50L suffice?” Maalira hopes this will be about right.
“It will take a week,” the Priestess says. That’s normal. And it’s not an offer to have the altar put to her use, meaning it is spirit and not Rune magic.
Maalira bows her head. “I am grateful,” she says.
“We shall see what is available. Meanwhile…” She casts it again. The robe doesn’t glimmer pure white, but at least it is passably pale now.
“Thank you.” Maalira is smiling now. “I have a friend who despairs of my ability to stay clean. I think she will be really impressed with me if I can learn this.”
“We all have a friend who walks with us,” the Priestess replies, and makes the sign of Harmony in the air.