Raisse had the harder part this time. I had to keep Athal from putting his comments in the text in parentheses; it was all things like “oh, so that’s what happened!” anyway.
That night, when we were winding down, the doctor came and told us that Marabu needed help or she wouldn’t make it though the next morning’s ceremony. I was hoping it could wait, but I guess it could not. We talked about it and Athal decided that I was best suited to try and reach her and see what was wrong. Probably because I had touched her that way before.
First, though, Athal decided to call all the semti together to create the safest environment we could. Some follower of the Nameless had some useful suggestions. Clearly they had some kind of experience there that we did not. He suggested a smithy, for the warmth the fire and the sturdy doors and comforting sounds and smells of animals. The plans got modified a bit for local colour, but they erected the spirit of a smithy with Athal doing the floor and they the walls. It seemed to work all right, though it had its weak spots.
Athal had also instructed them to come with lights and they were lit when we went towards the small house. It was quite bright in the quickly falling dusk. After explaining what we were about to do to some of the people who had taken her under their wings, we went inside and filled up the room. I sat down next to her and they recreated the safe environment, now more like a hut than before. She wasn’t awake. First I gently brushed her face to see if she would wake up and let her get used to my presence. She didn’t react, so I closed my eyes and started to investigate. Her spirit was packed in this hard shell. I felt my way around it, but there was no opening. After a while I did start to feel a rhythm to it like a heartbeat or breathing. I tuned into it and let myself float down with it into the opaque shell.
Inside was a scary place, more of the fear I had sensed in her before. But in here it was a forest swamp. My feet were in slimy water and all the plants were bloated, forming a wall around a narrow path. So I followed the path. After a while I noticed a strange whitish fleece covering the walls. It was thin and decaying. So thin in some places that I could almost look through it. Behind it I think was even more fear and horror.
After studying the fleece for a while I went even deeper inside and came upon what was probably the centre of her being. There was a small earthen cave and an older woman standing in front of it, barring my way. She looked at me suspiciously, so I sat down so as not to appear a threat. I introduced myself and an guarded conversation started. Her name was Varin and she was Hinla’s grandmother. She asked me what I was doing here and I told her I came to help. Then she accused me of being someone out to trick her and asked me to prove myself, but I did not see any way. Then she asked if the ritual had started and I told her it had, and she deflated. It seemed she knew Hinla would not survive it and she stepped aside.
Inside the small cave I found Hinla’s core self. She sat inside the cave and could not move, but I could take her hand, touch it and in this way give her strength. Not the spirit of her grandmother, not the hard shell that was around her, but her very essence. That seemed to help a little so I kept it up and as I helped her she came loose and reverted back to an infant. Still holding her I took her outside and as I fed her strength she stared to mature a little, so I fed her from my breast like I do little Vurian and Rovan and that felt even better, until she returned to an age around six. I suspect the age she was when her mother died. She asked me if I was her mother. I had to tell her no. She had had a mother and it wasn’t me, but I said I would take care of her. I asked her her name, but she didn’t know. So I called her Hinla, since Marabu seemed to evoke bad luck in some people’s minds and she had had enough of that.
Meanwhile the whole place started breaking down. When we went outside there was no sign of Varin. I am sure she was responsible somehow for holding back all the fear outside and that defense was breaking down. I felt Athal’s arms around me, impossibly warm and safe. Holding me like I was holding Hinla. Suddenly the fleece was ripped away, the fear and horror rushed through and over us. It was terrifying even with Athal holding me and it was probably worse for Hinla. I was glad I was holding her, shielding her from the filth. When it had rushed past I saw I had closed her ears and mouth.
When it was over I just wanted to get out of there so we went back out or were pulled or guided until I was back in the chair with Athal holding me and Hinla was fast asleep. I really didn’t want to leave her at that point, but she was asleep and I was drained. We all left to let her have some peace and quiet after they promised to wake me when she awoke.
We talked with Mernath, the man from the other Guild, but I was dozing off and didn’t pay attention until we went to bed.