Intercultural risk-taking

I’m glad Raisse is so voluble because I (Irina/Athal) have no notes of most of this. Also, it turns out that Raisse’s experience is so different from Athal’s that I couldn’t have expressed it properly anyway, even with notes.

(Athal informs me that the next time the Khas leader offers him his life, he will go ahead and take it. Hmm.)

When I woke up, some kind or ritual was going on with a lot of noise. It woke me up and I almost never sleep this late. It seems to be a ritual farewell to the village they are going to leave behind. It is also picking up the story of the village/people/tribe and moving it with them. Of course these really are the same thing. Mikhanan sang it. I don’t think they write things down here so the song is their history.

Afterwards we held a sort of audience over breakfast, which seemed important, and discussed what we could do with the semti here, but didn’t come to any conclusion, other than that the Guilds should probably stay in the background here.

Then Dushtan asked me to join her on her rounds again. We started out looking after the wounded Khas. Some of them were dying. She showed me one who looked all right but was infected and burning up inside both physically and mentally. It made me shudder a moment and I don’t even want to think about that happening to Athal. He wanted wine and to enjoy the rest of his life, which was a day at most. So I went to see what I could and got Mikhanan to give me a cask of the stuff with two guards and a ladle. We gave the wounded wine. Poured it into their mouth in one case. I wanted to say something appropriate, still looking for a way to approach the gifted Khas. I remembered one of the songs Selmet had taught me that seemed appropriate and started to sing it, stumbling along, but after two or three verses I got into the flow of it and soon I was singing words I’m sure I didn’t even know. The spirit that we later found out was with the Khas priest must have been with me, for when it was finished and I tried to go I just couldn’t leave the room. I was still hoping this wasn’t something bad. My mistake. They were keeping me there and trying to pass this spirit onto me whether I wanted it or not.

Dushtan was there fighting them off, but she didn’t know how, and I was keeping a firm grip on myself trying to muster the will to leave the room now, without much success. So I called out to Athal and he ran over and put up a seal that kept the priest out but not the spirit. It was probably this spirit that was so strong. I called Rikhi too and that also brought the priestess of death who, for lack of a name, I will call Marabu, because that is the black bird she dresses up as. Athal got really mad and he called out to Anshen, hard. And a pillar of fire appeared between me and the Khas. Then Athal attacked and the priest just folded. I was still half possessed by this spirit. It felt like a sticky oily goo covering me. I was so angry at having this spirit forced onto me that I stepped right into the flame of Anshen, and that burned it away and purified me again.

I am angry at his attempt. I was still trying to get him on our side. Now I don’t think the spirit would have let him. Maybe I’m angry at me for being gullible. Certainly at the Khas who swore loyalty to Athal, for they were definitely helping this priest. Their leader later came crawling out on his belly begging forgiveness and offering his life, but what good is that?

I was pretty stunned with what happened. Marabu was molesting the unconscious sorcerer. I think he’s dead now and the spirit disconnected, because a nasty local ritual started a little later and I just wanted to get away.

It feels like I left the village then, but apparently we spent the whole night singing sealed inside our room with most of the village while the ritual lasted. I do remember seeing Senthi with Vurian and Rovan across the room.

In the morning I left the village with Athal, some guards and a big knife and cut down three of the local trees to build an octagon. Athal wanted to help but he couldn’t. I put something that was just barely a seal on the octagon, chopped up the remaining bit of tree and tried to let the anger subside. Then I lit the wood with my anie and it went up whoosh and I was in a temple I built for Anshen and for my need of him.

Anshen was not the same, not as refined, but wild. Still it was Anshen and I still belonged to him. No one will take that from me without a fight. The fire-pot was good. But maybe the symbolic temple was a bit too much for here. It felt good to vent on those trees anyway.

When we returned to the village Rikhi and Marabu were doing their ritual farewell again and it seemed it progressed further than last time, but maybe that was just me. Anyway Marabu stumbled and fell. Rikhi looked shocked, but no one from the village would go anywhere near her. To them that would probably invite death or sickness or bad luck. I had no such qualms and I saw that she was alive but exhausted, spent and thoroughly dirty. Inside she was stretched and as thin as she was skinny physically. I gave her a little strength so she could stop fighting to stay alive and rest. I didn’t try to wash her, because it might be part of her role and I figured that if she had been living like this for the past year, one more day wouldn’t matter that much. I carried her to the hole in the wall where she lived, put her there and left her to rest so I could wash. Now that my anger was drained I was exhausted.

When I woke up something was going on. I found Athal near the hole Marabu was in, while our soldiers were barring his way and generally being insubordinate because they thought that she deserved to be treated better. She does, of course. They wanted to wash her and clean her up, but we wanted to wait until she was able to realize what was going on and protest if she felt the need. So I went to see if she had recovered some. They tried to stop me, to but when I told them I just wanted to make sure she was all right they let me through. She was a little better, but so filled with fear. I lent her some more strength and she started to become more aware of what was going on and took some food offered. I think the way she was treated is more out of fear of what happened to her and what she represents than an integral part of her religion. Which is good, because now it can change.

Initiative in soldiers is good, but going against a direct order from the king is a bad habit to get into. We should do something to get that message across loud and clear. The ringleader himself seemed to expect being punished for it. I considered that we could make him something like an ethics advisor to Athal as a punishment. Athal is troubled over this, but I don’t think it would get the message across. Another idea would be to make him or them responsible for her care. They feel responsible anyway. We could make them pay for some of it out of their own pocket.

When that had settled down we went to see Mikhanan about what was going on with her. I think he’s ashamed of how they treat her like most of the village and that speaks for his moral character, but he was using their gods and religion as an excuse for it. I don’t think any god would have minded if they washed her and cleaned her and let her live among them in a house. I find using religion as an excuse especially offensive.

The last thing I did before finally taking that bath was “talk” to Rikhi. We couldn’t use words but he could see what I wanted to know in my mind. He explained that Marabu takes on suffering for the village in the hope that others don’t have to. They could be a bit more grateful, though. I also tried to communicate with his wife, but apparently that is not like her. I did get from Rikhi that she was proud, maybe felt vindicated by the recognition Rikhi got from Athal.