Sora, the High Chieftess from the Black Falcon Nation, has been plagued with blackouts and fits since her seventh winter. As her world went dark, two gleaming eyes burned to life inside her. She named these occurrences the Midnight Fox, and remembered nothing after them. Now accusations are being made against her by rival clans. She has been accused of seven murders, including the murder of her friend and Loon People War Chief, Skinner. With villages rallying against her, and plagued with this terrible spirit illness, she looks for healing of her soul and mind, the strength to lead her people, and the courage to save her own life.
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It Wakes in Me
A SHIMMERING DUST OF RADIANCE, FAINT VOICES, A FLOATING sensation ... but that's all.
I can't feel my heart beating. My lungs don't seem to be moving air.
Where is my body?
For a time, I allow myself to ride the waves of light while I search for my hands, my legs ... my face.
I am gone. The world has vanished, and along with it, everyone and everything I have ever loved.
An ugly, high-pitched voice whispers, "You killed my father ... . I hate you ... . Mother hates you ... . You deserve to die ... ."
Grief shivers the brilliance, and it turns white-hot, blinding. Who is that? I don't recognize the voice.
I must be dreaming.
The dazzling ocean washes around and through me, but it has no warmth, no feel on my skin.
Maybe I am dead.
Is this what it feels like when the reflection-soul, the soul that travelsto the afterlife, slips out with the last breath and hangs in the air around the body?
Somewhere deep inside me, a silent scream rises.
How did I die?
Was I sick? Was Blackbird Town attacked?
I remember being afraid that we were going to be attacked, that war was about to break out.
But with whom?
Words again. Very soft. The deep voice comforts me. It ... it sounds like Flint. But that can't be. I have a vague memory that he, too, is dead. Blessed gods, maybe he's come to lead me along the treacherous trail that leads to the afterlife.
According to the tradition of the Black Falcon People, each person has three souls: the eye-soul stays with the body forever, but at death the shadow-soul and the reflection-soul slip out together. All the evil leaches into the shadow-soul, leaving the reflection-soul pure and clean, fit to live among the Blessed Ancestors in the Land of the Dead. Usually the evil shadow-soul dissipates into the air, but on rare occasions it sneaks into a passerby and uses the body of the living person to commit hideous crimes.
... Perhaps I am dead and this is my eye-soul?
Is this all I am now? A nothingness that dwells in rotting bones forever?
Why didn't anyone tell me it would be like thisthis strange disembodied floating sensation?
What am I supposed to do now?
Old Priest Teal once told me that at death the reflection-soul has to make a decision. It can either go directly to the Land of the Dead, or spend ten days speaking with loved ones, saying the last things that need to be said.
Perhaps that's where I am? Suspended between decisions? Blessed gods, I hope so.
As if in answer, the radiance shifts, twisting into a shining path that seems to lead upward.
I climb, or think I do.
The path becomes clearer, crystallizing into a vast spiraling blanket of stars.
... The voices are louder.
Confusion fills me, rapidly followed by fear.
If Flint has come to lead me to the afterlife, I know I can fight the monsters that inhabit the dark underworld forests, but what if my reflection-soul is entering the living world again?
Perhaps this is my last chance to tell people how much I love them.
It takes every bit of my strength, but I manage to open my eyes for a single heartbeat.
... Log roof beams ... flame shadows on the walls ...
As the hazy council chamber comes into focus, terror floods my veins.
He stands three paces away, with his long black cape swaying around him like midnight wings. His face is darkness.
From somewhere far away, I hear a great voice like raging water whisper, "Seven. She has killed seven people, and Chief Blue Bow's murder may start the worst war the Black Falcon Nation has ever known. We must do something ... ."
Copyright © 2006 by Kathleen O'Neal Gear