Hein (fub) wrote,

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Marehuizen, session 10

[Wherein the Easter fires are lit]Damatis Personae:
- Senex, most senior magician of Marehuizen;
- Matilda, his young apprentice;
- Kaspra, a huntress/poacher from Marehuizen;
- Landru, Senex' cat-like familiar;
- Rudbert von Soest, the priest of Grunloh parish;
- Dieter, the horseman;
- Salle, a widow and Dieter's girlfriend in Grunloh.

The next day, the Saturday before Easter, Senex and Matilda walk around in Grunloh, making notes of all the various preparations for the lighting of the Easter fires that evening. Boys of a certain age seem to gather into small groups and loiter around, trying to get beer from the innkeeper, sometimes succeeding. The stack of wood behind the church is supplemented with even more firewood, and towards the end of the afternoon, the scaffolding that has been built next to the stack to get the wood more easily on top, is dismantled. Ribbons are tied around the open space. The whole village is filled with an upbeat, festive atmosphere. Pastor Rudbert is noticably absent, he is quite busy in the church. Baruch has Sabbat, but does receive various merchants -- no money changes hands, but he will discuss commerce and plans. He is a bit more relaxed about it than Rafael, who doesn't do anything at all (which Matilda sees when she spies through the windows of the Baruch house...).
Towards the start of the evening, the atmosphere subtly changes. Along the streets, a large number of rabbits and hares appear, and Senex thinks he sees from the corner of his eye, a hare standing on its hind legs conversing with somebody -- but when he looks again, the scene is gone. Nobody seems too bothered by the large numbers of small game, and everyone simply ignores them. Meanwhile, the two magicians sense that the Dominion aura is weakening more and more. Rudbert has been holed up in the church, feverishly praying his rosary and anxiously looking through the windows to the open space behind the church.
Kaspra is on one of her rambles across the countryside, having succesfully escaped any chores that might be waiting for her that day at Marehuizen. She makes a point of checking out the Easter pyres in the neighbourhood -- they interest Senex, and she might be able to justify not being available for work by giving him a report of what she saw. After quite some time, she notices that all the rabbits and hares are on the move. She decides to follow, and their destination seems to be Grunloh. Some of them stick around the Easter fires at the outlying farms, but most move towards the city. By 18:30, it's getting dark and Kaspra has not eaten anything. She does not dare shoot one of the animals for food, because there is clearly something special going on. She decides to move on towards Grunloh, and seek out Senex and Matilda -- they might have something to eat for her, and she can always say she was looking for them to report her findings. She enters Grunloh and finds the two magicians sitting on a bench in the clearing, with a good view on the pile of wood. She is offered a piece of brioche by the pair, and takes up a spot standing behind the bench.
Salle and Dieter have taken Hardger to Salle's parents. Salle is getting nervous, and wants to make sure everyone is dressed on their Easter best. When it is nearly an hour after sun-down, they go to the woodpile, taking a basket of eggs with them. The women carry the eggs towards the large stone and put their baskets on there -- women from richer households bring more eggs than those of a poorer household. At one spot stands a group of boys aged 12 to 15, with a group of girls around the same age at the other end of the woodpile. The adults stand around them, at a greater distance of the wood. The tree seems to have more unseasonal green leaves than before. Rudbert has closed the doors of the church and his prayers have intensified. There are rabbits and hares everywhere in the city, but the locals simply ignore them, as if it is nothing unusual. Senex and Matilda are taking notes and staring at things that can not be seen, and Landru complains that one of the rabbits made him an indecent proposal...

Then the woodpile is set on fire. Several people are standing too close: it's too hot, so there is an initial scramble for everybody to find a safe and comfortable distance from the fire. And then the figure of a woman appears near the tree, with long hair and wearing a robe of an old-fashioned design. When the crowd sees her, a murmur rises from the crowd: the inhabitants of Grunloh (Salle included) are pleased and relieved that the woman has appeared. Senex points out to Matilda that this is the ancient godess Ostra, and she nods and takes notes.
The woman walks to the large stone and picks up a basket of eggs. She then moves towards the group of girls. She gives some of the girls (8 out of the 12 present) an egg and speaks with them. It is impossible to hear what is said above the roar of the fire and the murmur of the crowd. Then she turns around and walks up to the bench where Senex and Matilda are sitting. The crowd makes surprised noises: this is not something that usually happens... Ostra has exactly one egg left, and presents this to a surprised Matilda, with the words "Blessed is your womb". Matilda is not sure how to respond, and stammers a polite and demure "Thank you...?" Senex makes notes of the atypicality of the tree that seems to be part of the fertility ritual, while Matilda stares at the egg in her hands, blushing furiously.
Then the woman walks back to the stone, and one by one the women of the town go up to her. She gives them a basket of eggs, and this distribution is based on household wealth: poorer households get more eggs than richer ones. Salle gets a few more eggs than she has donated, with the words "Blessed be your house and your estate". The women of the city make a bow and return to their places around the fire.
Then the woman walks back to the tree and spreads her arms before it. All of the 'extra' leaves fall to the ground immediately, leaving the tree with foliage that is normal for the time of year. The woman takes an armful of leaves, walks up to the fire and throws the leaves onto the fire. Even though the leaves are green, they burn immediately with a fierce flame. With that, she dissapears.

Ostra's dissapearance signals the start of the festivities: music starts, and the dancing begins. The group of boys mingles with the group of girls: this dance is a good occasion to get closer... The dancing is very informal, and there are no uniform dance steps. Dancers and the rabbits do not pay eachother attention: sometimes a rabbit gets a kick from a dancer, but nobody minds. Salle and Dieter dance intently too, as do most of the other participants.
Senex turns towards Kaspra, who has been standing behind them all this time, and whispers to her that he would like her to have The Talk about birds and bees, with a sideways nod towards Matilda. Kaspra tells him she will take care of it, and just then a boy approaches their bench. He is either stupid or very brave, dressed at his Easter best, about Matilda's age but about a head smaller than she is. Stuttering, he asks her to dance, and Matilda accepts his invitation. Her upbringing has given her graceful dancing skills, and she makes quite a few heads turn. Senex plans his monograph about the occurrences of this evening, and Landru sits in Hardgers lap.

The side door of the church opens, and Rudbert emerges. Senex beckons him over and invites him to take Matilda's place on the bench. Rudbert sighs and wonders if the Good Lord would approve of everything that happened here this evening... Kaspra considers asking Rudbert to dance, just to play with him, but the elderly French servant that accompanied Senex and Matilda defuses that situation by asking Kaspra to dance. She can't refuse, and so the two dance for a bit, leaving Senex and Rudbert to discuss the evening undisturbed. Rudbert complains about the festivities, and tells Senex he has tries to forbid it. Senex gives him the analysis of the Faery playing the role of Ostra, and how this affects the community. Rudbert tells Senex that his predecessor had proposed to take an axe to the tree, but he lost half of his flock for this! It really runs deep... Rudbert is worried that it looks like the people of Grunloh are worshipping the tree, and he can't tolerate that: he is God's man! Senex points out that stories and rituals are the lifeblood to the Faery, and that a powerful Faery like this one might give him problems if he would try something rash... Senex advises to keep things as they are: until a bolt of lightning destroys the tree, God doesn't seem to mind too much. Perhaps it is better to expand the church and its influence instead? Rudbert realises that the churchyard would extend to include the tree too -- which might be a good way to neutralise the tree: to surround it with hallowed ground! Praying, he returns to the church.
Meanwhile, the fire is shrinking, and it's getting colder. Salle's parents return home and they take Hardger with them, while Dieter goes is search for something to drink before returning to the dance with Salle. Landru, who had been sitting in Hardger's lap, walks along with the family to their home, but when they arrive they want to keep him out. They call him a mongrel and wave their hands to chase him off, but Landru takes exception to being called a mongrel and tells them so! Faced with a speaking cat, Salle's mother grabs a broom to chase him off, and father fetches a pitchfork. Landru takes a few steps back and then uses his magic power to create a flash of fire that's higher than the house. Then he turns and runs away, to the cottage outside of the city, leaving Salle's parents behind in a panic.
The boy who asked Matilda for a dance then escorts her back to the bench. He then asks her if he can see her again, and Matilda replies, confused, that she didn't plan on becoming invisible... She tells him that she lives at Marehuizen, and tells him he can come visit her, if Senex agrees. Senex launches into a confusing story, and the boy quickly takes his leave of them...

The fire now burns even lower and more and more dancers return home, including Salle and Dieter. A few men stay behind to care for the fire and to make sure it burns up completely. The remnants of the fire are shoved together, and a few jugs of beer are procured to while the night away -- it will take a few hours before the fire has died down. Senex and Matilda also leave and walk towards the cottage outside of town.
A few desperate men are making eyes at Kaspra, but she does not fancy such entanglements with the menfolk of the city. But she also does not fancy spending the night with Senex and Matilda in their cottage... She decides to travel back to Marehuizen, but then stops and considers the leaves: there is something about them. She fills her pack with the leaves, to let one of the mages at Marehuizen take a look at it -- it will also give a nice excuse for her nightly excursion! But after a trek of two hours, she arrives at Marehuizen and finds the gate closed. Not wanting to draw too much attention to herself, she uses her cloak to turn herself into a bird and flies over the wall to land in the courtyard. The landing is a bit uncoordinated and she knocks something over. This alerts a French guard who comes running to check what is wrong. Kaspra saves the situation by mumbling something about an Art she learned from Lady Dorkas, and the guard is satisfied and lets her pass. Kaspra returns to her room and goes to sleep.

Early the next morning, the church bells ring to call the people to the early Easter mass. Salle and Dieter need to be woken by Salle's parents, and they have to hurry to get dressed at their Easter best to go to mass. Senex and Matilda go to mass as well, in their magician cloaks (blue, decorated with yellow stars, like befits a magician!) The church is filled to capacity, and then there is only standing room, and then people assemble outside of the church doors! Senex and Matilda were early enough to secure seating, towards the back of the church. Their bench stays empty for a long time, until the boy that danced with Matilda sits down next to them, with his family in tow. Matilda is happy to see him, and urges him to introduce his family to her master, but the boy does not seem to find this prospect appealing... After a while, Pastor Rudbert appears, and he celebrates the early Easter mass. Senex and Matilda join the celebration like everybody else, and afterwards the church empties again. Baruch, who has not attended mass in the church, is walking around the market square and makes smalltalk with the people who just returned from church.
Meanwhile, at Marehuizen, the people are starting to stir and prepare to attend the later mass. Kaspra manages to catch Dorkas and hands her the leaves. Dorkas takes the leaves to her lab and experiments on it -- it turns out that this is Ignem Vis! With Dorkas' fear of fire, she does not want to deal with this Vis and instructs Kaspra to take it to Damiaan. He takes a look at it, and instructs her to hand it over to Senex, because it has a Faery aura. Then he praises her for noticing this -- it's obvious Senex instructed him to be more open to the other people at Marehuizen, and that he practiced his words. It does not improve Kaspra's opinion of him: she still thinks he's a creep...
When it is time to depart, Johannes and Dorkas ride their horses. Carts decorated with flowers are pulled by horses, with the servants seated in them. There is some space left for people they meet on the road, and perhaps more of the leaves on the way back...
Tags: marehuizen

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