Banner of the Hawk 7

Hea moved her hands in a peculiar gesture, and Baralia asked, “What are you doing?”

“I am binding you.”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

“I need you to do a task for me. Only one like you can do it.”

“What can I do? I am dead. I can’t touch or move material things, or make myself heard. In a few hours the priests will enreith me and I won’t even remember you. Let me alone!”

“You will not be enreithed.”

“What do you mean? What are you? Who are you?”

“I am Hea Santala.”

There was a moment of incomprehension, and then a moment of pure panic as Baralia realized that she was face to face with the Goddess she had worshipped all her life. And then she screamed, as she became aware of what Hea intended.

“What are you doing to me?”

“I am siphoning a little ai from the menhir and binding it to you. You will not attenuate. You will not fade into nothingness as other abaharas do. You will live.”

“This is not living. This is not living and this is not death; this is obscene. Why are you doing this to me?”

The still singular individual that had been, in life, Baralia, cried out, “Release me. Let me go to my fellows. Let me merge into the menhir. Please!”

“Merge with the menhir and you will cease to be yourself,” Hea pointed out, but the soul of Baralia only became more frantic. Hea sighed, still unable to understand. “Baralia,” she said, “I will grant your release, but first you must serve me. Will you do this?”

“Let me go now! Please!” The voice that rang in Hea Santala’s head was like the crying of a heartbroken child, although Baralia was a woman grown. “Why are you doing this to me? I never mocked you. I always brought you tribute. Why?”

The abahara’s face was contorted with an agony of loneliness, as she cried, “Why do you torment me?”

Hea closed her heart to pity and said, “I am sorry, Baralia, but I am not omnipotent. I need you for a task that only you can do.”

“I will not!”

“Then I will never release you.”

Hea’s siphoning of ai from the menhir was like a pinprick into a sleeping beast. The menhir roused itself, but only slightly. Baralia faded, torn by the winds of ai that rose from the menhir and the surge of life around her. Caught between the living and the dead; torn apart by both and claimed by neither. Finally she cried out, “What must I do?” more tomorrow


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