A Cunning Plan

Mellia — Healing Tale 2

????, Sea Season, 1626/Stasis Week


Sea Season 1626/Stasis Week/Windsday/midmorning, at the Vingan shrine. Continues from A Healing Tale. After Session 27.


Mellia approaches the shrine to Vinga. Her white robes are carefully held out of the mud. Mellia chooses paths so easy that pregnant cows would be embarrassed to get caught taking them.

Varanis is working side by side with an older woman. They are kneeling by one of the shrine’s walls. The two Vingans have found a lot of mud, and some sticks. They are making a repair to the internal part of the wall of the shrine, which is open enough to the air that they can plainly be seen. The older woman is stripping down sticks and shaving them on one side, leaving plenty for mud to grip onto, then leaving them in a pile for Varanis to weave. Somehow, Arianatha has stayed mostly clean, whilst Varanis has become coated in mud once again.

Mellia stops at the threshold of the shrine, looking to make sure Insterla is not within earshot. The small child is nowhere to be seen, although some badly shaved sticks and a pile of earth nearby indicate she has been there recently.

Mellia, reassured that the child won’t hear what she says, calls over, “Brave and cunning warriors, may I speak with you about Insterla? She and I need your help.”

Varanis looks up at her cousin and smiles in welcome. “You will always have my aid, Mellia,” she says warmly. “And if it helps Insterla, then doubly so.”

“You be cunning, I’ll be brave,” says the older Vingan to Varanis, “And we’ll see how that goes for us.”

Mellia smiles and fights back a laugh. “Thank you both. Insterla is silent from both fear and guilt over the Tusk Riders attack on the village. I do not know if she thinks she led them here, or let them in. I do know she thinks her silence is keeping us all safe. To heal her, we must be subtle. Elder, are there many stories about Vinga speaking up and saving people?”

“Vinga? Speak up? Probably, if I think about it.” The old lady offers a hand, palm up. “Forgive me not getting up. I may have taken root here. We are fixing the wall.” Nothing helpful there, yet…

Mellia helps the elder to her feet. “We must slowly convince Insterla that speaking and telling people things is helpful and good. This we can do by telling her such stories. Perhaps one story every day.”

The old lady kisses the edge of Mellia’s sleeve, and then says, “Thank you, child. Getting down is easy. Up feels wrong, as the river said to Magasta.” She takes advantage of the offered hand for more than mere greeting, getting up slowly. “I am Arianatha.”

“Honored Elder, I am Mellia. You are more than welcome.”

Arianatha bows, but then turns to give Varanis the sort of smile that a Vingan gives a young Vingan – wide, bright, and with a hint of challenge. Maybe it’s just her. Maybe other Vingans are not like that.

Mellia bows to Arianatha, then looks at Varanis. “Indeed, part of the plan is for you, cousin, to dress up in your armor for storytime.”

Varanis rises with the grace and ease of the young. “I have a story or two I could tell,” she says smiling. “And I certainly don’t object to wearing my armour for the telling.”

“They will be best coming from you,” says Arianatha. “She knows me too well. Do you think it best, White-robe, to have time for all the children, or time just for her? She’s a canny one and she’s thinking all the time, in her head.”

“Hmm,” says Mellia, “that’s a good question. Will she get too suspicious if it’s just for her? Perhaps we had better hold story time for the village right before nap time in the afternoon. The stories won’t harm the other children.”

“She’s too alert,” Arianatha replies. “But she’s also too old to nap. Sleep at dusk, for her. Or at least, into her house at dusk. She lives with her uncle and his wife.”

Mellia nods. “Bedtime it is, then. Just before dusk. I had best speak to her uncle and his wife. Sosa had an interesting idea, but I don’t think I can quite manage it.” Mellia clearly wants to be asked about Sosa’s idea.

Varanis looks inquiringly at Mellia. “What is Sosa’s idea?” she asks.

“Sosa, bless her, thought of holding a child’s version of a heroquest. We wouldn’t go to the Hero Plane. We’d just re-enact a myth. Sosa has volunteered to be rescued. Insterla would play Vinga.”

Distant horse hooves clatter, as the Clan goes about the business of the day. Apparently the business includes running with horses over one of the smaller rock protrusions, and there is shouting and jostling as the young men and women doing it leave the path to give the four-legged creatures room. Arianatha ignores that, like it happens all the time.

“Hm.” The old lady frowns. “We can teach them, and let them practice.”

“I think that’s a very good idea,” Mellia says. “Do you know a good myth for the purpose, Revered Elder?”

“Still, a few. There is one that has Chalana Arroy captured. Do you know that, little sister?” Arianatha asks Varanis, carefully.

“Yes Sister, it was a myth much repeated to those of us who had a tendency to try to do everything by ourselves,” Varanis replies with a wry grin. “For some reason, I was expected to learn it and recite it often.” She tries to look innocent, but fails.

Mellia says nothing. She just smiles.

“We would need children to play Barntar, Eurmal, Orlanth, and his warband too, and some to be monsters.” Varanis says thoughtfully.

“We might need every child in the village,” says Mellia.

“We can ask Insterla to help us recruit them,” Varanis adds.

After thinking about it a while, Varanis says “what if we start with me telling the story to the children this evening? I might even have another story or two up my sleeves for them. And later we can ask them if they would be interested in performing the first one? That way, I become less of a stranger to them and their parents first and hopefully the idea of the story excites them.”