While the deities silently conferred, keeping the mortals out of whatever they were Speaking to each other, the High Priestess and Lore Keeper carefully inspected the Finman under Mara’s Hand. The gesture was not lost on her. This same gesture had been used with each of them at times, and she could remember the first time of feeling that hand on her own shoulder. How had he been able to penetrate so far though? He had been quite far in before Ven’thrith had collected the lad. Certain lines evoked the girl currently beneath the Moon’s spell, others reminded her of Etain, or the less often seen but always working for their good Finnol. Was he of the Blood? Was that how he won into the Labyrinth?
Could he be the beginning of a cure for one of the plagues they fought?
Too many questions, and several other eyes that glared with distrust and envy. Was the Taint spreading?
The eyes of both Deities fell on her, captured her own eyes. She fought not to look Ven’thrith in the eye and failed. Galaxies spun and shook her core. The shifting waves of Mara’s were far less alien to her. What would they want when they spoke?
Time passed. Mara broke the spell that held her attendants and their hearts still. “I hope this crazy plan of yours works, leanbh.”
“It may be our only opportunity to try.”
Justin looked up. Ven’thrith looked down at the boy, observing the play in his eyes and the way he still cautiously hovered over his younger sister. He smiled in what he hoped was a soothing fashion, since whenever he smiled others never really reacted the way he intended. Justin smiled back dimly before his eyes flicked back to Mara.
“Try what, my Lady, my Lord?” The High Priestess ventured quietly, careful not to cut in to give offense and yet to demonstrate she was ready for their bidding. “What would you have us do?”
Mara looked at her High Priestess and smiled sadly. “Prepare the Veiled Chamber and the Stone of Souls in the same room. We will then need not only access to your energy but those of the acolytes as well. I want the city’s matrix activated to facilitate the flow. Someone will retrieve my Spear from Raechel with all swiftness.”
“Your Will be done, Lady.” The High Priestess bowed, robes flowing, then led the way herself to ready the chamber. Her companions followed after in rank, save for one that went to follow the guards.
Mara crouched down after they had left and she was alone with the Moon Lord, the unconscious Kirsty, and Justin. Her fingers brushed Kirsty’s cheek gently as she moved a lock of hair back into place. “You’ve never been able to take the easy route, Kirsty. Maybe it is just as well. I hope that you can hear me. We need you to find your mother from this side of the Veil, soon.”
Kirsty’s face darkened, and she bit her lip slightly. Other than that she still seemed asleep.
“I am glad that it is unlikely you will remember this.” Mara pressed a kiss her her forehead fondly, smiling gently before standing back up. She then leveled a finger at Justin’s nose, and his eyes crossed watching where it went though he did not flinch. Her smile widened. “You are not to tell anyone I have a soft side without my approval.”
“Yes Lady.” Justin’s eyes uncrossed as he looked at her instead. He tried not to flinch at the pulsing warmth emanating from that digit and spreading into his bones.
“Good. You’re not to tell her any of this nor to help her to remember either, should at some point you get to be on speaking terms with her, unless I or Ven’thrith in any of his forms has instructed you that it is safe.
“Yes Lady.” Justin nodded, skin and scale prickling at the ice in her voice.
Mara loomed over him, froth now coloring the edges of her skirts in wind whipped laces despite her surface placidity. “Good lad. Now before we go in I will warn you. Once we begin our undertaking there will be no leaving. You will be holding onto Kirsty’s shell. Ven’thrith will be taking her soul through with him. We do not really have time to wait for her trials to finish, and it will be easier to carry her soul before she gains her skin anyway.” She noted the flickers in his eyes. “No, you don’t have a choice, Acolyte.”
Justin nodded, curled his toes and tried to think of when exactly he gained feet again instead of tail.
The deity’s tone softened. “All you have to do is hold the shell and mind the cord. You share her blood, so the path written will be more likely to be unbroken.”
“I feel like this is something that music would help with, for some reason.” He frowned, making sure that he had a good grip on his sister when she gave the signal to pick her up.
Mara nodded. “It would help if you used your Voice, yes. You won’t be able to use your flute though while holding her. I would use your music by humming instead.”
His face wrinkled and furrowed in reply.
The deity shook her head.
One of her robed priestesses emerged from the seaweed curtain and beckoned with a bow. At last the room was ready. Mara nodded and rose while another priestess emerged. They held the curtain open as Justin rose and gathered Kirsty up. Mara opened her senses and cast her nets wide as the men followed her into the chamber. The veil she passed into in the room felt thin and silk sheer, transparent as water sheets over ice. The smell of her seas mingled with the seas of other planes and worlds. Here, incense from burners of spiraled shells now drifted their own veils of smoke to meet the Mists. Her High Priestess waited by the Stone of Souls, placed nearby the archway that held the Veil itself.
Whispers drifted from the arch and behind that billowing curtain. They always did, yet they were easier to hear tonight. It was as if several Samhains and Beltaines all coincided at once or if this world was once more new and yet undifferentiated from all the others. Mara nodded, but her High Priestess and attendants did not relax. How could they when both her stone box and that arch called to them? Her eyes fell on the empty space where another item at some other time would have been placed for her and Ven’thrith to Ascend a worthy soul to the stars.
“It is good.”
Her pronouncement rippled the room, pulling a tired smile from her face as peace settled over her. Trust was necessary.
At her gesture Justin laid Kirsty out on her side before the arch with the billowing curtains and laid next to her, securing her in his arms from behind. Ven’thrith and Mara stood to either side between Kirsty and the gate. Justin could not make out any meaning to the words they spoke, but after a bit he found a rhythm. Somewhere in the room the clergy chanted, their words too making no sense. There was only the ebb and flow and the pull from the archway and strange stone box beside it.
The room faded. Soon he saw through the arch, the veil open to him. The moon laid a silver path over the trackless sea that heaved and danced beneath the fingers of the wind that always searched. Slowly he felts like the arch was pulling him and the weight of the girl in his arms grew heavier. She too began to glow as the waves sang and the priests at the edge of his hearing echoed the words woven beyond time.
There was a bark and a transparent white seal pup, somewhere between the worlds of teen and adult scooted and humped her way along the silver path that bled from stone to water trailing glowing cords behind her back to the very human body he held. A figure that flickered between seal and shark yet walked on two feet with a spear in one hand and a small silver cauldron in the other followed the tiny shape into the waves. A darkness passed before him and slipped between the pillars to that other world, causing the priestesses to momentarily lose the counterbalance to the song of the priests. Justin reached out with his voice and grabbed it up before the spellsong’s webbing could rip on the smooth floor. As he watched the darkness passed from a horned man with a great cloak, to the lope of a wolf, and then a fin cutting the night just to one side of the path. He sighed when the priestesses assumed more of the weight, letting himself slide more into the center. He wrapped the gossamer around her form as best he could with only his voice and reached out to her mind, surprised at how familiar and similar this felt to bringing children down to the shores.