Seeking Ernalda’s Aid, Part II

Mellia — Seeking Ernalda2

????, Storm Season, Harmony Week


Context

Storm Season, Harmony Week, at the Paps [[[s02:session-27|Session 27]]]
Continues from [http:journeyoftheheroes.wikidot.com/mellia:seeking-ernalda1 Part I]

Events

Later, a young thrall from the Ernaldan Temple comes seeking the White Lady. No, the Orlanthi isn’t to come. Just the Healer.

Mellia thanks the thrall and goes to the Ernaldan temple. Glaraneep waits for her, deep in the Ernaldan portion of the temple. Mellia bows to the Priestess.

“Tell me, White Lady. What is it you seek from Ernalda?” The priestess’ eyes bore into Mellia’s, glittering green despite the low light of the cavern that serves as Ernalda’s temple.1Pass Insight Human. Insight: The way she’s asked her question – it sounds like the opening of a ritual, not casual conversation. This is a time to be formal.

“Green Woman, I ask help for Venlar’s growth in spirit, mind and body.”

“What are you prepared risk for this aid?” The green gaze intensifies, as though peeling away the layers of the Healer, to expose the core that is Mellia.

Mellia answers, “My life.”

The Priestess’ stern expression flickers for just a moment. “I don’t think that will be necessary, young woman.” She gestures. “Come with me then.”

Mellia follows the priestess.

The Temple is a natural cavern that human hands and tools have given extra shape to, making it roughly cuboid. It is one of the largest caverns off the main chamber, which serves as the Temple to Eirithia.
The priestess leads Mellia to the furthest corner of the Temple, where a small altar awaits. A clay cup sits on the altar. One the floor in front there is a large animal hide laid out. “Sit,” she instructs.

Mellia sits down on the large hide.

“Drink.”

Mellia drinks the cup in one long swallow.2Passes Plant Lore. That was dreamweed, mixed with something else that you can’t identify. Given the probable dose, you estimate you have 10-15 minutes before the dreams kick in. “Pray now, Healer,” comes the soft command.

Mellia begins to chant the prayers she said to Ernalda when she was a child. Mellia tries to visualize Ernalda.

The cavern is cool and dark. Her skin begins to itch. Mellia sternly ignores the itch and keeps praying. Sweat breaks out across her body. Before long, she can feel it beading on her forehead, trickling down between her breasts. She hates the feeling but keeps praying.3Pass CON*5

The edges of her vision go fuzzy, so that soon, all she sees is the stone altar directly in front of her, with its empty clay cup. Tiny specks of light glitter in the stone. Miniature constellations. Mellia keeps chanting but looks at the constellations. Are they a map? The more she tries to focus on them, the brighter they become. They are beautiful. Dazzling. The grey of the stone begins to shift into silver, shimmering before her.

She has stopped sweating and now begins to shiver.4Fail CON * 5 Her belly begins to cramp. The lights are making her dizzy, nauseous. Mellia stops focusing on the lights and tries to keep praying. The nausea abates, but doesn’t go away. The shivering increases. Mellia begins to recognize these symptoms as the effects of the dreamroot. What she is feeling is not unexpected. She feels better, now that she knows what to expect. If she throws up, she will try to hit the floor, not the hide.

The stone starts to shift from grey to green. Rich moss green. Vibrant fern. The brilliant greens of fresh grass. Mellia smiles and prays harder.

She is standing in a lush valley, bordered by woodland. A river runs the length of the valley, disappearing in both directions. She feels drawn to follow the river, downstream. The pull comes from deeply within her.5Critical on Earth Rune She follows the river downstream. The walk is long. As she follows the river, the valley narrows and trees begin to close in. There are fish leaping in the water, swimming against the current. A rabbit darts out of the trees, dashing past Mellia, back the way she came. She smiles and keeps going downriver.

As the White Lady steps beyond the first few trees, the forest swallows her. Darkness grows around her. The earth smells damp. As the healer walks through the forest, following the river, things grow quiet. At first, there was the usual chirping of birds, but the deeper she goes, the deeper the silence grows until all she can hear is the murmuring of the river.6Pass listen At last, the trees open just enough to reveal the mouth of a cave, from which the river flows.

Cautiously, she enters the cave, hoping that it is not completely dark in there. The air in the cave is cooler even than under the tree canopy. It is heavy with moisture. And it is very dark.

By the entrance, just outside, there were some materials Mellia might be able to turn into a torch. She would need a way to ignite it.7Pass INT She backs up, fashions a torch and looks for two pieces of flint. Rubbing dry sticks together might work also.

There’s flint along the river bank, though she’ll need to get close to gather it. Mellia does not mind getting close to the water.8Pass scan. As she nears the water’s edge, the healer spots dozens of silver fish, desperately struggling to swim upstream, away from the mouth of the river. She wonders why the fish are swimming upstream. It’s almost like they are trying to escape. Maybe they just don’t want to swim in the darker waters of the cave. Mellia hopes that is all. She gathers the flint, soaking her sleeves in the process. Pushing them out of her way, she returns to the cave entrance to light her torch. It takes a bit of time, but eventually she gets it lit.

Mellia enters the cave, cautiously walking forward. Inside the cave, the torch’s light creates a small pool around Mellia. She can see several feet in front of her, but beyond that it is still darkness. The river fills much of the cave, but if she stays to the left, it looks like she should have stable footing. Mellia bears left and goes farther into the cave. She comes to a point where the passage diverges. She can continue to stay to the left, leaving the water behind, or take the right-hand path and follow the water. Mellia thinks Ernalda is probably not near the river at this point. The footing is also drier and better on the left. She goes left.

The passage becomes narrower, reaching a point where Mellia can squeeze through, if she turns sideways. The healer mutters, “Mighty Mother, I hope this is the way to you.” It’s tight. The rock walls claw at her skin. There’s a particularly tight spot where she thinks she can go forward, but it might cost a bit of blood to do so. Mellia goes forward. Ouch. She feels the robe tear at the shoulder, and there’s a burning sensation where the rock walls demand her sacrifice, but she makes it through. A little more wriggling and she’s free, stepping into a large, cavernous space. At least, it feels large. Her torch lights the walls closest to her, but is not enough to fill the entire space with light.

Mellia looks at the cave walls before going forward. As she examines the walls she starts to spot markings here and there. Clusters of Earth and Fertility runes, painted in ochre and charcoal. A little further along the wall there are images of snakes. As she follows the paintings, the images of snakes become more frequent. Some of them appear to be wrapped around animals, in the way Mellia knows some use to strangle the Air and Life from their prey. There’s even one that coils around a man, whose staring face is shown in the stark black of charcoal.

Mellia thanks Ernalda for letting her find the way. She follows the wall on her left, so that she won’t get lost. She is careful not to harm any of the paintings on the wall. As she reaches the point that might be just about opposite the passage she came through, she sees a new image appearing on the wall. This one is painted in green. At first it’s hard to make sense of, but as she studies it begins to coalesce. Though it is impossible to see all of it, this appears to be a massive representation of a goddess. If it is Ernalda, it’s an ancient depiction of her.

Mellia kneels before the image of Ernalda. “Thank You, Green Mother, for seeing me.” As she kneels before the image on the wall, the healer spots another passageway. It is low to the ground, and perhaps only 3 feet in diameter. Mellia wonders if she can get down the new passage. She tries crawling down it. Crawling works at first, but the passage narrows. While she could continue, she’s going to need to do so on her belly. And that will make the torch a problem. Mellia sighs and leaves the torch behind. Belly crawling is not much fun.

The fit gets very tight. Again, she thinks she can make it, but she will likely leave some her blood on the walls to do so. Mellia keeps going, praying that she won’t get stuck. It feels like forever, but at last the passage begins to widen again. She can lift herself off her belly and begin to crawl. Her knees are raw. The palms of her hands ache. She is covered in tiny cuts and scrapes. But she is through. And then finally, she’s in a chamber that feels vast. Mellia cautiously feels her way forward, standing up. “Green Mother?”

“This is the point where you pray, child.” The voice is painfully familiar. That tone of disapproval and disappointment. Her mother. Kirse Saiciae.

Mellia kneels and silently prays to Ernalda. It has to be Ernalda, her mother can’t be here.

“Straighten your spine. Bow your head more. You must do this correctly, Mellia.” Jaldis instructs, her tone impatient, “If you are to be a true White Lady, you have to follow the correct path. You have to make the right decisions.”

Mellia straightens her spine and bows her head more. “Have I erred?”

“Are you afraid, girl?” The growled words are Harrek’s. “You should be.”

Mellia shakes but stays here.

She hears something moving in the darkness. It draws closer. She can feel it filling the space in front of her. “What is it you sssseek, child?” This is an ancient voice. It fills her head. Her bones ache with it.

Mellia answers,”I seek help for the one I love.”

“Be more explicccit. Or shall I sssseek the ansssswersss insssside you myssssself?”9INT * 5 pass. That would probably be uncomfortable.

“Venlar never grew properly in spirit. His connection to Life is weak. I ask You to strengthen it. Only You can, Queen of Life.”

“Have you no fear of me, child?” This is not the Ernalda of Nochet. This is something far older. It’s voice is as hollow as the cavern around them.

“It doesn’t matter if I fear You. You are Venlar’s only hope. “

“Your love of him issss more powerful than your fear of me?”

“Yes. If this offends You, I apologize.”

“Would you be willing to risssse and turn your back to me? To let me come closssse to where you sssstand?”

“Yes.” Mellia gets up and turns around.

“Your love of him issss more powerful than your fear of me?” the voice repeats. “Would you let me coil about you, as I might if you were prey?” The image of the strangled man painted on the walls of the previous chamber surfaces in Mellia’s memory.

Mellia says, “Yes,” holding very still.

The great snake winds itself about her, coil upon coil. The skin is cool against her injured flesh. As each new loop of serpent winds round her, Mellia feels the immense weight of it. Finally, only her legs, hands, and head are left free. She sighs in relief. That feels good.

The serpent instructs her to carry them both from the cavern, back to the forest. Mellia agrees to try to do that, although the tight spots are going to be a problem.

As she approaches the first of these, the passage seems larger than it was the first time. It may be possible, even with the serpent wrapped around her, to crawl the whole way through. The way is slick with Mellia’s own blood. While it is difficult, it is passable. She crawls from the wall below the looming figure of the Earth goddess. This is the cavern covered in paintings. She bears right, seeking the next passage.

The great muscles of the serpent’s body shift and tighten. The Air is squeezed from her body. Mellia obligingly chokes. The moment passes and the crushing grip eases. She can breathe again. The healer takes a little bit to breathe, then goes down the way to the cave mouth.

Her torch is here, sputtering and dying in the ever-increasing darkness. Mellia grabs it, taking care not to harm the snake. As before, the passage seems wider. While twisting and turning is needed, it’s possible for Mellia to pass, without scraping the serpent’s body against the rock walls.

The immense snake weighs heavily on her. It is becoming difficult to walk. She’s so very tired. Mellia pushes on. Or tries to. That is a big snake. Though each step is becoming a battle of its own, eventually, she finds the river again. She can see the first glimmers of outside light. Mellia considers healing her scrapes. She decides not to, praying silently to the White Lady for strength. The coils shift around her, but do not tighten. She staggers onward. And then, at last, she is free of the caves and in the low light of the dense forest. The river tumbles beside her. The wind rustles through the leaves. The air is rich with life.

Mellia takes a little bit to enjoy it and rest. “Where now, great Goddess?”

She is directed deeper into the forest, beyond the mouth of the cave. They come at last to clearing. At the heart of the clearing there is a small shrub, a little more than a foot tall. It is covered in tiny scarlet flowers.

The serpent directs her to the plant. The leaves are oval in shape, and a vibrant, glossy green. The flowers have five petals, bright red, with a dark red core. It’s like nothing Mellia has ever seen.

Mellia asks, “What parts do we need and how must I use them?”

“Take a part of the root, but only a sssssmall piecccce or you will kill it. It musssst be no bigger than the tip of your ssssmallessst finger.” The instructions thrum through her.

Mellia thanks the serpent and takes a tiny bit of the root.

“You musssst make a tea with it, sssstarting at Yelm’ssss death on the firsssst Clayday of Ssssssacred Time. It must cook until Yelm’sssss birth.“ Mellia’s teeth begin to ache as the voice fills her head.

Mellia says, “Yes, Goddess.”

Mellia is kneeling on the ground beside the shrub. The snake is so very heavy. Each breath has become an effort.

“It mussssst not be drunk until the sssssecond Clayday. Only a ssssspoonful. The resssssst should be returned to me. Pour it into the Earth at any shrine to me and I will know.” It is a struggle to keep her eyes open. The Earth beckons. The grass looks soft and cool.

Mellia gasps, “Yes, Goddess. Thank You, Goddess.” She is so tempted to collapse.

“Only a sssspoonful. Or the blessssssing will sssssend him to Ty Kora Tek inssssstead.” There’s a twisting and a tightening and then the grass is cool on Mellia’s cheek.

Mellia whispers, “Only a spoonful.” Mellia passes out at long last.

When Mellia awakes, she is on the hide in the Temple of Ernalda. The altar is there, with its empty cup. She aches all over, but most especially her head.

Mellia groans. “Oh my aching head.”

Her right hand is clenched tightly, fingernails digging into her palm. Mellia opens her hand, expecting to see a little bit of root. It’s there. And so are dozens of cuts and scrapes. They are shallow, but as she takes an inventory of them, it’s a startling amount. Her robe is shredded.

Mellia thanks Ernalda, closes her hand again and decides to lie still for a while. She lies in peace until her stomach rebels and she finds herself puking on the floor. Shaking and exhausted, there is little she can do but lie back down. Dimly, she is aware of someone gently washing her face just as she drifts into sleep.10Parts of this quest were borrowed from the myth [https:sites.google.com/site/mythswebsitea/home/original-quest-myth Mella]