Public — At Blue Tree Again
Season/Week/Day/Time and Notable Context. [[[s02:session-54|Session 54]]]
It is late in Earth Season; the harvests are mostly done. If there were lakes, the sedge would be withering, or some such poetic thing. Instead, a wind blows clusters of leaves on a party of riders approaching a palisaded village, a couple of days’ ride from Boldhome. Berra finally gets impatient, jumps off her bison, and runs ahead. This is her village, Blue Tree, and she has not been home in some time.
Varanis approaches on horseback, taking over Berra’s lead of the small party after the Humakti abandons them.
Maalira turns to Varanis, raising an eyebrow. “Does she usually do… that?”
The gate guards – one a man in a warm cloak and spear, the other more professional-looking in armour and with a spear that is almost identical, look at the riders, the runner, and the bison that has just meandered to a halt. The professional tries to step into Berra’s way, and she slips past with a cry of what might be delight.
Lenta looks at the village – and rushing Berra – with a impression that is hard to read.
“Yes,” Varanis comments, unconcerned.
There is no sound from within like anyone is alarmed or being killed, so possibly Berra is not invading unsupported.
Berra’s bison, Followed, just plods along. The guards ask, “Business?” of Varanis as the group approach. The man without armour, who is presumably standing less stiffly, bows to Maalira.
Varanis blinks. “I need specific business to visit my hides?”
“She’s one of us,” warm-clothes-guy says. “Thane. Go on in.”
The armoured man catches up. “Welcome home, thane.”
Maalira nods to the man who bowed, and then to the other one for good measure.
The other one, good measured at, bows in return. He seems rather confused now.1 People who know the clan may be able to place one warrior; the other is probably a Humakti from the Malani.
Mollified, the Vingan greets them and rides past. “Maalira, Lenta, let me see if the chief is available. I’d like to introduce you.”
Berra is inside the palisade, standing leaning against the door post of a big, ornate house in a cluster of them. She has not gone in, she is just leaning against the door frame, facing it.
“Oh. Lenta, you’ve met him before, haven’t you? Still. We should greet Dogva before anything else.” Varanis dismounts and walks Manasa through the village, rather than attempting to ride the demon hiding in a horse’s skin.
The village is small enough not to need much crossing, but still, smallish children come out boldly to offer to take Manasa and Lenta’s horse, and to stare at the two bison.
Varanis smiles at the children warmly and hands over her reins to the tallest of the lot. “Careful. Remember that this one likes to bite,” she warns.
“Thank you,” the mite replies, and takes Manasa away with only a little struggle. A man comes out of the house, skirting Berra carefully, and greets the group. “Thane, lady Lenta. Welcome back. I see you bring a White Lady?” He looks like a chief, in that he is well dressed and seems slightly harried.
“Dogva, how wonderful to see you looking so well. May I introduce you to Maalira of the Straw Weaver Bison clan? She joined our company in Alda-Chur and when Berra wanted to visit her sister, Maalira agreed to keep us company along the way.”
Maalira puts on her best meeting-people smile. “Pleased to meet you.”
Dogva bows his head, a low enough degree to show respect to the healer. “You are welcome here as the thane’s guests and mine.” He sticks to Trade-talk, to be certain everyone can hear and understand. A safe language when there are obvious Praxians about. “Please, come under my roof.”
Several of the children, two huddled in cloaks that look like they were cut from the same identical piece of cloth, or an adult’s larger cloak, form up around Maalira to stare at her. Lenta only gets one big-eyed child. There are not many adults around.
“I would be delighted to,” Maalira says to the chief, while wondering whether she should try to find something sweet in her bags for the children
“Herd them in if they like. Their mothers will want to know what they look like.” In Trade-talk it is ‘examine their own goods’, but some colloquialisms travel.
Maalira laughs and shoos the children towards the door.
Berra has not moved yet, which Dogva finds out when he turns to go back in and comes up short on finding a Humakti hugging his door post. He pats her on the shoulder and then ignores the problem, walking into the dark but warm space inside.2 Varanis: ((I read that as him patting her on the head for a second))
Varanis ducks through the door to the chief’s hall, stepping to one side to allow others passage while her eyes adjust to the limited light.
Inside are many people she knows, including Yehna, holding a struggling boy who is not yet two years old. “No, your aunt is just hugging the door and she will love you when she comes in but she needs time to… hug the door.” Further in are more, and Dogva says, “Maalira, do you know Venlar and Yamia? Venlar’s the husband of Mellia, our most senior White Lady.” A man dressed in rather more colourful clothes than anyone else raises a hand in greeting to Maalira, from his stool by a fire. The small woman beside him stares at Maalira, and for a moment it is a Berra stare, with a promise of Death, and then she breaks into an instant smile of pleasure, as if that moment never happened.
The children move backwards away from Maalira, in synchonicity, and then turn to walk in neatly.
Maalira squints in the darkness, smiling politely. “No, I don’t believe we have met. Hello.”
Varanis greets Yamia politely, but gives Venlar a hug. “Good to see you,” she tells him. Then she leaves him to Maalira to go speak with Dogva quietly. 3Varanis likely chided Dogva about the evils of kinslaying and duty to clan and suchlike during their conversation. He basically answered, Yes Thane.
He stands up – he is tall and well built, and he manages to bow before Yamia murmurs, “You spilled your perry, brother.” He gives Maalira a wince and a ‘sorry’ look. “I’m only a little wet, and anyway, I have another shoe,” he tells her. He does not stand clumsily, but somehow has managed to act that way.
Dogva takes the hint from Varanis, stepping off with her.
Maalira laughs, a little nervously, feeling the sudden vacuum of her known companions around her. “As long as you don’t spill it on me, these robes are terrible to keep clean,” she quips.
“In that case I should never act as a scribe for you. Ink is awkward like that. Will you sit down? If you do not then you may be pounced on by someone else.” Venlar gestures to a stool. “There will be others home soon, but I have no part in the current work, and so I am keeping my sister company.”
“Gladly.” Maalira takes the stool, stretching her feet which are still cramped from riding.
Yamia asks, “Would you like a drink?” She smiles precisely in a way that just about reaches her eyes.
“I would appreciate a drink, thank you.” Maalira tries to make her voice warm enough to break through Yamia’s strange reserve.
Yamia looks around, smiles slightly, and stands. “My brother needs some more.” There is a cupboard not far away and she brings over a cup and a couple of jugs, walking with the sway of someone who would far prefer to be out killing people than in here. “Yamia is my bodyguard,” Venlar says. “But recovering from an injury for a few days. She has been ordered not to carry a sword.”
Maalira raises her eyebrows. “Anything I might help with?” she offers. “I have some skill in healing.”
“Yes,” he says quietly. “You can help by telling her not to fight more.” He finds it tough to wink – his life has left him with a long scar over his right eye. Nevertheless, he tries. Yamia gives him a glare as she sits down. “I am not fully recovered from childbirth,” she says casually. She has a Death Rune tattooed on her forehead, just above her nose, and there is no child in evidence.
Maalira blinks rapidly several times. “Oh.”
The look that Yamia gives to Maalira is very calm, with a slight, fixed smile. Then she switches to pouring drinks. “The local custom is to mix perry with water,” she says. “Like this.” Maalira is offered a cloudy liquid that smells of fruit, in a sturdy cup without a handle. “How was your ride?”
“It was fair, thank you.” Maalira takes the cup and inspects the liquid in order to avoid looking at Yamia.
“We’ve been here a few weeks, settling in,” Venlar says, covering the conversational void with casual ease. “Mellia was always going to be the one who settled, and I go where she goes. We have plans – she mostly for the temple here, and I for our house.”
There is a mostly-human noise from up by the door where Berra has discovered the woman who was waiting for her, and the wriggly boy, and is waving her hands with enthusiasm. The small boy has stopped wriggling just to stare.
“There’s a temple here?” Maalira is surprised, given the size of the place.
The liquid is definitely alcoholic, but probably not strong, watered as it is.
“There will be when she is done,” Venlar says, warming instantly to the thought. “It is but a shrine now, but with three initiates when last year there was only one. Mellia is close to being a God-talker.” That is, a Priestess without a Temple position. “But we need to make it bigger, make it famous. The clan next door are sworn to protect it, too.”
Venlar is obviously happy and in love. That is easy. And underneath whatever Yamia is, there is a tiny smile at the edge of her lips when her brother talks. It *seems* genuine. She is amused-but-happy for him.
Maalira starts to relax. “That sounds like a great undertaking – your wife must be a woman of strength.”
“She’s a Lightbringer,” he replies. “She was… well, you probably know this.” But even the understanding that Maalira has travelled with Varanis is not enough to stop him. “She was the Chalana Arroy in the telling that brought back Kallyr Starbrow, when she was so badly hurt.” It looks like, with any excuse at all, he will launch into telling that tale.
“I have heard of that work,” Maalira says, but without any real intent to stop him.
“Would you like me to sing it to you?” At least he has the self-control to offer.
“A tale well-sung is always welcome.”
“Of course.” He checks something with Yamia, who nods a little – whatever communication it is, that part might be just between brother and sister. Then he sings, and his voice is good. First, each passage is in Heortling, and then there is a trade-talk translation, with a slightly different meter and tune, so that one is the background to another. Kallyr was attacked by Lunar assassins, and all thought she was dead, until the wise Mellia asked just why the body resisted healing, and suggested removing magic from it – and Kallyr disappeared!
The listeners obviously know this tale, but several gather round anyhow. Venlar’s voice is good, and some even sing along. Mostly it is women in here, and thus he can be heard easily.
With Kallyr gone, the great and terrifying power of Death itself sends Orlanth – Varanis – to the underworld. There she and her companions meet many trials, and Mellia heals a village that has never before known mercy, and is betrayed by trolls. Still, even wounded, she tries to help others, and in doing so, finds a way to help overcome Death itself. There is more about Mellia than about most of the other lightbringers, but nevertheless, Kallyr is brought back to life and shows gratitude to all concerned.
Venlar could probably make a living as a singer if he had to, but he gets to the end of the song, sighs, and nearly knocks over his perry again. Only his sister putting her hand in the way stops him. He seems a little blank and confused once the song has faded.
Maalira wraps her arms around herself, trying to brush away the goosebumps brought on by the song. “Thank you,” she says softly.
Venlar bows his head, and picks up his drink. “She is so brave,” he says. He has tears in his eyes, overcome by emotion as a good Orlanthi often is.
“I would be honoured to meet her,” Maalira says.
“She’s out at the edge of the tula, but due back soon.” He smiles. “It depends on how things are out there. I understand it is likely to be just sniffles and hangovers. That is the reputation of the family.” He has the same sort of tattoos as his sister, although in his case they go over his scar. “But you are newly arrived – have you eaten?”
“No – that is, we have not been hungry on the road, but we have not eaten since we arrived.” Maalira glances around her, looking for the others she rode in with.
Varanis is either hiding from the Lightbringers’ Ballad, or has been talking with Dogva for a long time. Berra is… wearing a toddler as a hat. That is, he is gripping onto her, on top of her head, and she is not taking him off. She has not managed to shed her armour or sit down yet, but it looks like her sister is holding her helmet.
Lenta has her arms crossed and is looking alternately at Berra with the toddler and Yamia and Maalira.
Maalira tilts her head towards the child-Berra conglomeration. “Berra’s family?” she enquires of Venlar.
“Her sister,” Venlar replies. “She could not return last year, and was worried – we have had more food here because of her and Varanis, and others who sent aid, but I do not know that she did not worry. She could not know. The boy is Haran, and her sister is Yehna. The cousins are out with the horses, and others – including a grandmother – live in a further stead.” That means at least one of Berra’s family has lived to be very old.
Varanis must have slipped out, as she comes back into the hall after things have returned to normal conversation. She stops by Yehna to greet her and then makes silly faces at Haran.
Yehna takes a moment off looking at Haran and Berra to give Varanis a smile, gesture to Yamia and Venlar, point out where there is food, and then glance back at Haran, who is trying his best to pull Berra around by the ears, from his vantage point. “She’s going to wear out before he does,” the Ernaldan guesses out loud.
“Possibly,” Varanis agrees before going to join the others for a bite to eat. She joins Maalira on the bench. “How have things been here?”
Maalira, Varanis, Berra and Lenta ride to Blue Tree village and Maalira learns to know Venlar.
- 1People who know the clan may be able to place one warrior; the other is probably a Humakti from the Malani.
- 2Varanis: ((I read that as him patting her on the head for a second))
- 3Varanis likely chided Dogva about the evils of kinslaying and duty to clan and suchlike during their conversation. He basically answered, Yes Thane.