Mellia — Away With Venlar Xiii
1627, Sea Season, Death Week
Sea Season, Death Week, Waterday or Clayday. [[[s02:session-33|Session 33]]]
There is another day. Venlar has plenty of extra clothes, and over the bright shirt he chooses, he wears the warm horse-hide cloak. After consultation with the chief, Yamia leaves behind her chariot – with the road out, it is impossible to tell if she will be able to drive it through. Instead, she rides a horse, and has two led. The road is wet despite the sun, for it goes under trees and in the shadow of mountains.
“What was the washed-out area like?” Venlar asks Finarvi, as they wind through a pleasant valley.
“Passable on foot, but treacherous going. You would not get a wheeled conveyance through without ropes and a lot of effort.”
“Yamia does like to arrive in style,” Venlar says. “I think she is putting a brave face on not being able to bring the chariot.”
Meanwhile, a little further back, Yamia is telling Mellia about the disadvantages of a chariot in closed country, and how you can use them best on open plains.
Finarvi splits his attention between scanning the terrain for threats and watching the ears of Redoubtable, who is walking ahead. The Issarian mule knows the route home well and has taken a great liking to the comfortable stables in Apple Lane. With a lighter load, she is also surer-footed than the horses who follow.
Venlar sometimes manages to remember to scan for threats, but often leaves it to the others of his party – half a dozen followers seems about his natural minimum, and with Yamia keeping watch over his back, he sounds perfectly unworried.
Mellia is unworried, but she’s in her white robe. She is listening to Yamia and keeping an eye on the road.
Yamia is not really enjoying the ride, but Venlar seems to have recovered from his run, and while he is no great horseman, he is doing well enough.
Yamia asks Mellia, “If there is more of the same Mallian influence in Dangerford, will we send back here for a healer, while you stay?”
Mellia replies, “I would like another healer’s help if that happens. The disease spirit I fought isn’t common in the area or this season.”
Mellia adds, “Get Tathia if you can.”
“It would be Finarvi we sent, if possible, or a pair of thralls, but Venlar might volunteer to let me fly a while. It depends on whether he has spoken with Orlanth lately.” From Yamia ‘might volunteer’ has a certain ring to it, like she has picked up an Esrolian phrase.
“We shall see what happens. I hope everyone in Dangerford is well, but the place is overcrowded and short of food.”
“They will be coming into the rest of Sartar soon, then.” Yamia’s consideration of this seems more strategic than empathic.
“I am sure they will.”
“I will need to tell my father, in writing or person, what I see.” Again, strategy, and not fear. “He will be interested.”
The sound of an alynx calling splits the air. Yamia just blinks and considers that too.
Mellia comments, “I hope that alynx isn’t hungry enough to attack.”
“A band this size?” Yamia says mildly.
The yowl is repeated, behind them. She tilts her head, like she is amused to have found herself wrong.
There is an alynx on the path. It has politely let everyone else pass, and stepped on after the rearguard.
“If it was really hungry, maybe. I am glad that hunting is not that bad.”
It yowls again, making the horses nervous. The path ahead is blocked by others. Mellia’s horse is spooked, although Yamia manages to keep hers under control. Mellia’s is staid and slow enough to dance only a few feet forward.
Yamia slips off her own horse to be on foot. Her face is a beautiful blank.
Mellia tries to stay on her horse. She does not care where the horse goes.
Mellia, if she can, will check her saddle bags. Is there any meat in there?
In a White Lady’s saddle bag? No.
The others horses are fretting on the thin path, although the presence of Finarvi up at the front is keeping everyone in check. Staying on is easy enough, although Mellia’s horse ends up a little way above the others, on the slope of the hill they are riding along.
“This is a hunting alynx,” Yamia says. She stays stock still, not drawing a weapon. “Venlar? Fly her up if you have to. I used no shield.”
Venlar is already trying to make his way back on foot, clinging to the trees below the path to keep out of the way of the horses. He looks like he might have got stuck.
“Do we have spare meat we can throw to them?”
“I have some. In my pack.” Venlar now cannot get back or forth. Yamia is staring at the cat. The cat is, thank Eurmal, still yowling.
Finarvi has his hands full dealing with horses, although that danger is getting further away, as the alynx has not gone past Yamia towards them.
Mellia tells the yowling cat, “I wish I knew what you wanted.”
“It wants something?” Yamia asks.
Venlar manages to get along the slope and back onto the road. “Do you want me to help you off?” he asks Mellia.
Yamia watches the alynx. “Not wounded. Not gravid. I do not see a problem.”
“Maybe you should. Thanks,” Mellia says to Venlar. “I think they want food, but why haven’t they attacked?”
“Because there are a lot of us,” he says. “But if it’s a hunting alynx, it would not be after people.” Effortlessly he steps up to lift Mellia down from her horse and the ledge it is on, forgetting clumsiness for love.
“It has not changed what it is doing,” Yamia notes.
Mellia says to the cat, “If you want help, you must be clearer.”
“Maybe if you move back,” Venlar says, just at the moment when Yamia moves forwards. The cat stays where it is for a moment then starts to walk off.
“Oh,” they both say. Venlar explains to Mellia, “Vegetarian Cat would do this. She would shout at you to follow her, and make you sit down.”
Yamia is already following the dangerous animal up onto the slope.
Mellia runs after Yamia. “Don’t kill it! It wants help!”
“I am not going to kill it,” she says, looking surprised. “I am finding out what it wants.”
As soon as she pauses on the slope, it looks back at her and yowls.
Mellia tells the cat, “We are coming!”
Venlar tries gamely to get up the hill, but where even Mellia can see a way, he is soon resorting to asking his sister for help. Yamia offers him an arm with no comment, although she winces a little at either his weight or his clumsiness.
Mellia hurries after the alynx.
Yamia stays with her brother, but does call out, “You do not have to get ahead – he will worry. And I will.”
Up at the front, Finarvi and the thralls get to hear that, but while they look worried, they do not give chase. Venlar said something about staying here, and they obey.
Meanwhile Mellia is wondering what could possibly convince the cats to seek help.
After a while, Venlar can be left to his own feet once more, but Yamia is still a way behind when the cat pauses by a scree-covered rockfall, and yowls. It scratches in the dirt there, trying to dig.
“Oh,” says Mellia. She begins to shift the scree, trying to uncover what is underneath.
Venlar kneels to do the same thing. Yamia considers and then finds a flat rock nearby to use as a scoop.
“I wish Nala was here. Venlar, I think someone is under all this rock.”
“Seems the case….” He is already breathing hard from the work.
It takes half an hour to find them, with the cat scrabbling. A dusty, cold hand. An old hunter’s tattoo. Venlar digs more slowly now. Yamia has had to slow down already.
Mellia tries to take the hunter’s pulse.
There is no pulse to take. The cat does not stop digging, however. Venlar helps it, sitting above it on the slope and using his feet to push scree away.
Yamia tells the cat, quite seriously, “You will get over this.”
Mellia tells the cat, “I am sorry. We’re too late. All we can do now is send him to the gods.”
“Yamia, go tell the caravan we will be a while,” Venlar says.
Mellia tries to remember the local burial customs.
She knows the right things to say and do – she is pretty sure about that. Sending the spirit on here would work. But there must be people who knew him, and they should be informed.
Mellia sighs and checks the corpse for more tattoos. In particular, was he Alynxfish or Blue Tree?
The tattoos say he was from… nowhere she knows. “Praxian?” Yamia asks, as she gets up to go.
Venlar gives her an odd look. “No. Northern clan, but I don’t know which one. Donalf or north of that.”
“Let’s take the body with us,” Mellia suggests. “Maybe Finarvi will know.”
“I’m not sure I can get the body. Still, we can send Yamia for someone to lift it.” As soon as Yamia is gone, Venlar reaches for the cat to stroke it, and it bats his hand out of the way, claws open.
“Oh,” Venlar says, looking at his clawed, dusty hand. “I think it’s upset.”
“I can help with him,” Mellia volunteers.
Venlar looks suddenly protective.
“Oh. Right. I thought you meant the cat.” Venlar stands up, and looks at the cat. “We need to take him down to the road,” he explains.
Mellia suddenly remembered that she knows how to resurrect him, but that’s better done at the shrine.
The cat lets Mellia touch its dead friend, but not Venlar. It seems that in making the attempt to stroke it, he also made an enemy.
The corpse is not badly injured. He probably died of suffocation, although he was likely unconscious, having fallen.
Mellia says, “There’s hope still, but we need to return to Blue Tree with him.”
Venlar blinks, and then nods. “Yes.” He takes off the tough cloak he has been riding in, and puts it on the ground, inside down. “Onto here. We’ll pull him.”
Mellia does her best to get the hunter onto the cloak.
As they get him to the slope, Yamia clambers up to help, but then they have a dead body and an alynx.
Mellia tells the cat, “You can come, but you must walk.”
The cat follows, occasionally hissing at Venlar.