Sunday, 20 November 2011

Mikelmerck - the Wise Woman of Heret

In the centre of Mikelmerck sits the serene village of Heret.  Fallen on harder times, it was once the centre of the lead mining industry.  As the voice of the Owd Man called more and more miners to their doom and pulled  the precious lead further out of reach, so Heret's importance has faded.  The houses here are more elaborate than elsewhere in Mikelmerck, but the people are poor now.  What they have, they cherish.  Among the cherishable things is the Wise Woman.

The name is a title.  Every Wise Woman must seek and find her successor to pass on the duties she holds.  For some the search comes easily.  A daughter or cousin may be the natural follower.  For others, the search may take them all over Mikelmerck.  Only the Wise Woman knows what she seeks.  In this pursuit, a Wise Woman must be ruthless.  The duty is stronger than any human tie and she must be prepared to leave family, friends, hearth, home and love itself if needs be.  Not all go willingly to their calling, but none once called has ever refused.  Or so it is said.

It is the Wise Woman's calling to watch the boundaries of Mikelmerck.  Although most have forgotten this, Heret started as nothing more than a simple shelter housing the first Wise Woman.  How she performs her duty is uncertain, but it is closely linked to the annual Progress.  She knows many secrets and will part with them for a price. 

For the locals, the Wise Woman is a source of pride and some fear.  She is the first port of call for ailments large and small and may settle minor disputes as well.  Land issues, family problems and other personal difficulties may technically be for the church and local authorities to deal with, but the Wise Woman is a more immediate resource in times of trouble.  Neither church nor local authority are particularly happy about this state of affairs, but so far they have been prepared to live and let live.  As long as the Wise Woman doesn't openly tamper with their jurisdiction, they can accept it.

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