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Wilma reminds you of last Sea Season...

"Now, I'll begin this business. There we were, this time last year, happy as anything. The western sky was glowing all sorts of colours, more than we have words for, and in all sorts of beautiful shapes we'd never seen. We got them girls from the Tresdarni married, Brenessa, Derekessa, couldn't remember which was which, Saroosa and then there was Darna, lovely girl, and of course Kierston. Well, that was to calm things down with the Tresdarni.

We got ready, waiting for Heler to come a-courting, to bring Voria dancing to life. Do you remember the cloud ewes though? Pale, weak things, coats all raggedy and bloody. The ground wouldn't to take a seed, too dry it was, and we had only the springs to keep us going. And then the voices came that night. Many of us heard the words, and was struck down with the scarlet skins. Our eyes dried up, our waters stopped to flow, or mine did when I got it, and that hurts. We puffed up hard and red, our throats was ripped raw just by breathing, and we were walking over coals. Old Kartyrus the Bowlegged, the old berserk who lived on the hill, he was the first to go. Puffed up red, hard as a stone, all swollen and pained. Then the flux broke and it was as if his insides was all mushed up with a stick, and out they all came. Then those little bubbles in his blood. Each one that popped, that was one of the voices, and that's how it spread. In me ear, and out me backside. And that was all we could do, anyone who went all ruby hard, we dug them a big hole, said our goodbyes, and we buried them.

That was the Ruby Flux, and I've not known a worse time. Those of us as could work, well we were too busy looking after the sick or digging them holes to try to get the crops going or look after the animals. And that damned sky, well it kept on glowing all beautiful but now it was as if it was mocking us."


Vizz stands to speak, he is eloquent and at home talking to a crowd, happy to be the center of attention.

"Wilma, sit down, have a drink, your voice is dry and rasping."

"I remember Sea Season alright, and I'll tell you that I *could* tell the difference between Brenessa and Derekessa, both lovely girls. It all started when they expressed some interest in my beautiful cloak, being that they were keen on embroidery and such like. Well, not being one to be impolite, I was most accommodating to those girls wanting to get a feel of this fine silk, and they was most accommodating of me wanting to get someone to tug on my fine mustachios. I'm not one to boast out of turn but I'll tell you that I am a pious man and by the gods if Orlanth did it with those mountain nymphs then it stands to reason that it's holy and sacred and deal with the consequences later. "Kot's Balls!" I cried, and as they whispered that there was "always another way" I thanked our wise ancestors for our custom of sacrificing to loyal and steadfast Heler. Praise be to his constant and unrelenting rains that keep on all night, drenching everything in his moist embrace, leaving everything damp!

Sensing a change in the weather, yes I think it was those raggedy cloud sheep that I sensed, I shrewdly realised that I must embark before daylight on a new adventure. With my trusty mule and all the feats of movement that Orlanth would grant me, I made swift plans for a trade expedition to Alda Chur, surely there would be profit to be made there that would help the clan when the rains would not come. I surmised that my night had been a omen of some sort, to send me on my mission for the good of the clan.

And that was how I ended up in Alda Chur for Sea Season avoiding, for the most part, the Tresdarnii and also the terrible Flux. I just wish that perhaps Darna, or Saroosa and of course, Kierston, had been such embroidery enthusiasts."


Garnatha sits by the fire, head down, her fingers turning a scrap of kindling over and over. Such subdual is unlike her. "Sea Season is not something I would choose to recall," she says softly. "But if I must, then. I might as well have spent Sea Season in Alda Chur, for all the good I did at home. We nursed the sick, yes, but we could do nothing to save them or even to ease their pain. They lived, or they died, and nothing we did made any difference. There was no enemy to fight, no way to flee, and no attack to defend against. It struck the weak as well as the strong, and we could do nothing, nothing.... little Asri was only five, she didn't understand what was happening, why it hurt so much, and she died in my arms, and there was nothing I could do to protect her."

At the time, Garnatha had been strong, confident, keeping others going, but now she seems broken, defeated.

"There was nothing we could do," she repeats softly. "And if it comes again, there will still be nothing we can do."


"The Ruby Flux." Darvor says slowly. He is sitting cross-legged on the floor with his three year old Angor on his lap. The boy fidgets and squirms and as his father stands up to speak, makes his escape to Aunt Garnatha who has just said her piece.

She hugs him, burying her face in the sweet child-scent of his hair. At least this one is healthy, and safe.

He squirms some more, almost knocking her nose bloody with his head, but doesn't protest as he settles down. His yellow gaze sweeps around the room before it settles on Garnatha's face. He sighs dramatically. "I want a honey-cake"

"Later. For now, sit still and listen."

"No! Now..."

The inevitable protest is firmly cut short.

"You'll never be a hunter if you can't sit still and be quiet. Go on, show us all how well you can do it. And listen to your dad."

He grumbles but decides this is not the time cross Auntie. Besides he's fairly comfortable in her arms and dozes off after a while. Darvor continues.

"The sickness was bad, as bad as anything out of Giniji but this thing I couldn't hunt and kill. I didn't know how to help, but I didn't catch it, nor did Angor. All I could do was set traps and bring rabbits to the stew it seemed.

Everyone remembers how it was; the few healthy adults were too busy tending to the sick to pay much attention to the children who ran wild.

But then old Anya mentioned the healer among the Tresdarni and that I should ask him for help. I did. He showed me how pick some leaves, to boil some roots, pulp some stems. I came back and helped some. We owe the Tresdarni a favour."


Silverquill steps forward. "Aye, I wemember visiting here last Sea Season... I was certain that you had all angered Malia or that the Lunars had sent a curse on you. I stayed to help for a while as it is well known that duwulz do not fall sick easily. Then I went back to my studies in Alda-Chur, to detewmine what was the cause of the illness. I found mention of a youfish witual in an obscure text - a witual that could help cure disease. Bwaving many dangers with my fwiend here, I found the ancient wuins deep in the fowest. Alas, I could find no twace of the witual anywhere, so I had to ask a healer fwiend of mine in Alone to accompany me back here. I'm glad she could help out somewhat, and I will of couwse continue to investigate the cause of your curse".

On mention of 'my fwiend here' Silverquill indicates his bodyguard, a muscular Storm Bull Warrior from Ginunga's Gap, towering over the small duck and indeed most other people. Bullthrash hawks and spits at the mention of Lunars, glaring at anyone who would dare reproach him.


There is a crack as Entislar crushes a wooden cup he was holding when he heard the name of Malia, he glances at the fragments in his hand and chucks them onto the fire with a shrug.


Smiling warmly as the duck speaks, and only wincing occasionally, Wilma appraises the big brute who has stepped into her lean to and reproaches him, "It's fine standing there with your rippling muscles and all, my love, but mind that roof. I used to be partial to a bit of bull meat myself, but, with the way your lot carried on last year, I'm surprised you choose to spit near my fire" She lifts her large bulk almost painfully off the floor and, dwarfed by the warrior, ushers him out into the rain. "Go on, shoo, why don't you go and do something useful like chop some wood with that big axe of yours?" Returning, she envelops Silverquill in her overly ample bosom so he almost disappears, and looks him right in the face. "Don't mind me, darling, but those bullmen, they put it right up me" Her smile turns grim and all seem to see a brief flash of pointed teeth but then she smiles warmly again. "Oh sorry my dear, your beard has gone all out of kilter, and it was looking so nice." Straightening the sage's beard, she uses him as a support as she lowers herself back to the ground. "Now, where were we?"


Silverquill struggles hard to maintain his dignity as Wilma straightens his fake beard and uses him as a support. He fumbles for his big box of dwead cigars. Lighting up, he is soon enveloped in a thick cloud of foul-smelling smoke. People near him can hear him squawking under his breath and scribbling in his notebook.

Outside, in the rain, the sounds of cursing and wood-chopping can be heard...


Entislar looks round ruefully, gazes sombrely at Wilma as she settles down again with the "aid" of Silverquill and starts, "Aye, I heard about Ruby Flux when I got back from Karse at the end of last Sea Season, it took my father and two of my brothers. I have tried to research it but so far without success." He sighs deeply, "Wish I'd been here, might have been able to help but I just can't seem to stay in one place for long."

Entislar smiles crookedly at the sight of Angor squirming on his aunt Garnatha's lap, draws a deep breath and coughs violently as he breaths in some of the noxious smoke enveloping Silverquill. "By Orlanth's lightning bedecked beard Silverquill, how can you breath that stuff?"

Silverquill sticks his head out of the noxious smoke and smiles broadly. "A good question, my fwiend. Of course it is only us duwulz that can smoke these dwead cigars - even the gweat twolls I've offered one to have been sick. We are well known for our stwong lungs, not to mention being a damned handsome and clever wace as well... kwak!"

Looking very pleased with himself, Silverquill withdraws his head into the cloud of smoke and puffs happily on his cigar.


Gyffun rises slowly to his feet, his eyes downcast. He is still a comparative stranger to many of the younger clansfolk, but the older women have fond memories of a wildling child and the haunting melody of his flute, while the older hunters humourlessly recall countless acts of sabotage. When he speaks, his tones are as soft as the gentle babbling of a brook, but his words are clear to all present, and the lazy meanderings of his voice hint at murmuring eddies and strong currents lurking beneath its surface.

"When tales reached me of this terrible flux, I was travelling in the far south, where our kin are scarce and hospitality scarcer still. At first, thinking that the horrors had been magnified in the telling, I was minded to dismiss the news as mere epicaricacy. Then I chanced upon a patch of firm ground in this quagmire of ill tidings: my friend and erstwhile mentor, Orvan Truevoice. The harrowing account that he delivered immediately convinced me of the affliction's genuine gravity, for he is not prone to the twin vices of circumlocution and exaggeration, which are the sorry resort of lesser men."

The skald glances briefly in the direction of Vizz, then continues.

"The journey back was hard, made harder still by the heavy dread that I carried with me. At length I found myself treading paths familiar from my errant youth, and caught the delicate aroma of perfume-making on the air. The characteristic signature of this scent gave me a rush of hope, and I knew then that at least one of those I held dear had not yet succumbed to the flux."

Smiling fondly at his foster mother, Lismelda, Gyffun pauses for a moment. Then his face falls back into a familiar mask of muted grief as he concludes his narrative.

"This was to prove a brief moment of happiness in a long year of unrelenting woe."


Aren lets go his wife's hand and gestures to stiffen the breeze that is keeping the smoke round Silverquill from spreading anyway but up. Then, leaning on his spear, he rises stiffly to his feet and limps near the fire.

"Yes, it is well that we are Farwalkers for that way no calamity will claim all of us. But for those of us who were here it was small comfort. You say the Gods did not warn us," he says, nodding at Wilma. "But remember the gods don't know what festers in the heart of evil men. And these days there are no shortage of evil men in these lands. Perhaps Malia's breath was sent to us by Broo but no broo's voice has sounded like the one I heard that day."

"But I can be glad that Heler chose to spare the rest of my family." Aren smiles fondly at his cloud-clad wife. "My own memories of that time are hazy and the only scars the flux left me are a few toes lost. For that I consider myself let off lightly."

Aren draws himself to his full height and his voice steadily strengthens.

"But we must be ready to fight those who cast this evil sending. We must strengthen ourselves so when we find our tormenters we will burn them to ash."

By the time he has finished sparks are crackling off his fingertips and his hair is a halo round his head. Having said his piece he turns and walks back to his place by his wife.


A skin-clad shadow detaches itself from the darkness that surrounds the ring of fire and the scarred features of Vurth can now be made out. Little children suddenly become quiet. Vurth glowers at those directly about him who back away somewhat self-consciously. In a gravely voice that seems as scarred as the rest of him:

"Twas no breath or minion of Malia that struck us though I suspected such at first. Not a smell of her or any of her rotten broos was about then. I know, I looked with Entislar and once 'cleaver arrived [points to the Duck's bodyguard] he found the same. Even went off to the Gap and got Karli (one of the main Jarls at the Gap) to show me his sniffing trick but not a nasty spirit or a pre-dark abomination to be sniffed. No, twas some rottenness of our own this time and that's always harder to clean away than any pre-dark taint."

As he speaks, people watch with horrid fascination as Vurth idly slices into his forearm and scribes a circle with the point of his eating knife. Blood drips and few seem inclined to argue with Vurth, his thoughts or his klanth.