An explosion of energy and emotion rushed through Kanna’s awareness. At first, Kanna didn’t realize that it was her body, that it was her limbs that were whipping all around her, and that the sound that throbbed deep in her ears was her beating heart.
It all happened so quickly. It was beyond Kanna’s control, as if all of her snakes had hissed a breath of life into her all at once. She launched herself towards the slack of her leash, and she thrust herself over the divide, and she reached for the steering lever that was firmly within Goda’s grasp.
Everything was a blur of arms and legs and loud shouting after that. She didn’t know what she was doing. Her eyes squeezed shut at some point. Her jaw radiated with pain. The truck swerved back and forth and knocked her to the side, and she felt four tentacles wrapping around her soon after, dragging her back to the flatbed as the rig narrowly missed hitting a boulder on the side of the road.
When Kanna’s head hit the metal floor with a thud, she heaved a loud gasp. She awoke from the dream. She looked up to see that Noa and Leina were holding her down, staring at her with shocked expressions, their own chests heaving from effort.
Kanna tilted her head back and saw that Goda had not moved. The giant was sitting stiffly in the driver’s seat as before, letting the wind whip against her without any posture of resistance. She had corrected the direction of the truck without a word; it was pointing true again.
What happened? Kanna thought. She blinked. She smacked her lips and found that they tasted like iron.
Then a barrage of sensations and images from just the instant before caught up with her.
She had bitten Goda’s hand.
She had sunk her teeth into Goda’s knuckles like a dog.
Leina was holding down Kanna’s legs—and Kanna only realized then that she was still kicking, the energy of her resistance running like an electric river through her very marrow without her consent. The tears had started to come, too. She was screaming; she was calling out towards the fading sky:
“Goda! Goda, please! I’m begging you! Turn around! Turn around! Please!”
But there was no answer from the giant. The truck rolled on—faster, even. Noa pressed down hard on Kanna’s shoulders to keep her from flailing.
Because there was nowhere else for the energy to go—because the only channel for the river was the well-trodden path of resistance—Kanna kept struggling. She knew it was futile; she knew it did nothing; the twins were stronger. Still, she banged her joined fists against the truck floor as hard as she could manage, and she gnashed her teeth, and she growled in frustration.
“Now I know why the porter tied you up,” Noa grunted, her look one of astonishment. “You’re absolutely insane.”
Leina was shaking her head slowly, all the while trying to subdue Kanna as best she could. “Were you trying to run us off the road and kill us all?”
Kanna didn’t reply. She turned her head. She felt a wave of sobs rushing through her. She felt the emptiness of death ringing inside of her, and it made all of the snakes dance furiously up and down her spine.
She writhed with them as the light from the yellow sun began to disappear—and instead, it was replaced with the blinding radiance of Suda.
* * *
For awhile, the familiar trees and boulders whipped by the the side of the road. Kanna watched some branches shivering in the wind above her, and she allowed this to delude her that the forests were endless and they would never reach Suda. But these were quickly replaced by signs of human life, by the stone and steel and glass that sprouted from the ground and rose much higher than the trees.
At first, the buildings were sparse. They flashed by so quickly that Kanna could flick her gaze away and pretend that she hadn’t seen. Over time, though, the landscape grew thicker and thicker with the bones of a human city. The lights grew brighter. Small towers started to appear on either side, then they sprouted taller. They seemed like they were teetering over her, like they would fall on top of her at any moment, like she would be crushed under the weight of every unfamiliar thing that she had noticed appearing at the edges of the sky.
Kanna had never felt more helpless. Eventually, the force had dissipated from her muscles and she lay back and looked up at the haze in the sky—the smoke of industry, a smoke she could feel ever thicker in her nostrils—and she told herself that she had fallen into yet another dream, that she would wake up somewhere in a forest with her face pressed against Goda Brahm’s chest.
When they slowed down, the whistling of the wind was replaced with a dull roar. It was the din of a thousand voices murmuring. She could not see any people from her perspective, but she could feel them. There were countless souls milling around, countless trucks rumbling. The smell of the trees was gone and instead she inhaled a mix of sweat, and motor exhaust, and street food.
Her newfound handlers seemed to notice that she had grown weak by then, so they finally loosened their grip on her, and they helped her sit up. Noa allowed Kanna to lean against her; Kanna felt those long arms coming around to embrace her, but she didn’t feel comforted by them. She could barely hold her head up in her exhaustion when she glanced over the side of the truck.
All at once, all around her, the world unfolded without her effort or permission. It became solid. There were a sea of people in every direction, between every truck that had come to a standstill in traffic along with their own. She could see large streets and tiny alleys, and narrow trails criss-crossing in dozens of directions. She could feel the stares of a few people nearby—again, almost all of them women—though most of them had not noticed her and instead stared down the wide main street, all transfixed with something up the road.
It seemed that they were stuck in the outskirts of the city. There was still a melding of both steel and natural brush on either corner of Kanna’s vision, and it was only further ahead that the blocks seemed to grow dense with purely human presence. She lifted her gaze as best she could, and she noticed towers that grew ever larger in the distance, that were so big she could not tell for certain how far they were situated. They looked like mountains made of glass to her eyes. They were more massive than any she had seen in Karo and their angles looked so sharp it was uncomfortable to even look at them.
Much closer though, at what seemed to be the entrance of the city, there were soldiers lining up across the way, keeping the people back.
Kanna’s heart leapt into her throat, and for a second she worried that her morbid fantasy from before would come true, that the authorities would mount the truck and offer all four of them some draconian punishment.
But the roadblock didn’t seem like it was moving. The soldiers had merely stopped all the trucks without so much as glancing into them, had waved away all the pedestrians, were looking down a nearby path with expectation. After darting her eyes between the row of boots, Kanna finally saw the steel tracks underneath.
“Damn,” Noa said, “it looks like the express train will be crossing the main street. Who knows how long that’ll take? We’ll have to go another route, then.”
“Yeah, we can’t linger with all these soldiers around,” Leina mumbled. She had pulled the two bags of Samma Flower between her legs and had wrapped her arms around them, as if she could shield them from any prying eyes that way.
Indeed, there were many eyes, Kanna thought.
Noa seemed to notice the same thing. “It’s weird that there are so many people here. They could just find some other way around, but it’s like they’re all waiting for something. What do you think they want with the express train, Giant? Do you know if someone important is showing up tonight?”
Goda did not reply. In fact, she had not said a word since the earlier incident, and instead she jerked the truck straight into the crowd and towards a side-street. To Kanna’s surprise, the multitude parted without any shouts or complaints, as if this were the usual protocol. She noticed some other trucks were following suit in their own respective directions.
Once they had rolled into a steady pace, the giant turned her head slightly. “Where do I leave you?”
Both the twins seemed taken off guard at the same time.
“Uh, well, about that,” Leina began. She was rubbing the back of her head, even as her eyes darted around the now relatively deserted street with paranoia. “We’re going to have to rethink our plan. We lost all our money gambling in Karo, which is why we were stealing from the North-bound train in the first place, so we had planned to hitchhike to Suda, sell the product quickly, and find some lodging with what we earned.”
“But we didn’t expect all the boots,” Noa piped up. “If the express train full of bureaucrats is showing up tonight, Suda is going to be crawling with soldiers escorting all those fancy-pants everywhere. We’re going to have to wait a couple of days at least or it’ll be too risky to scope out a buyer. Even just hanging out in the truck with all this product is a risk.” Still holding Kanna in her embrace, Noa looked over towards Leina. “Aunt Misha lives right outside of town still, right? Do you think she’d mind if we stayed with her?”
Leina made a face. “Oh, she’d be thrilled—but that’s the whole problem, remember? She hasn’t seen us in forever, and she’s bound to ask about every little thing, try to look inside our bags, tell us to model our uniforms for her. There’s only so many lies we can get away with before this whole web collapses.”
Even though Kanna didn’t ask, Noa turned to her and explained anyway, “Our entire family thinks we joined the military two years ago, you see. Only our sister knows what we’re actually up to, and if our nosy aunt finds out, it’ll trickle back to our mothers for sure. Besides, if our aunt saw that we have Flower, she’d try to turn us in for the reward money.”
Kanna raised an eyebrow, but she was too dazed and confused by all the sudden stimulation to offer any thoughts in reply. She slumped against Noa’s thin frame and pressed her face to the woman’s chest. There was a faint smell beyond the sweat. Though Kanna found it mildly pleasing, it didn’t offer her any energy, any fury.
She told herself that she wanted to fight, but the snakes had gone to sleep. The waning silence as the truck sped through the narrow road had lulled them. The further the truck pulled away from the huge towers in the distance, the more relieved Kanna felt, and the less rage there was to fuel her.
“Can we leave the Flower with you?” Leina blurted out after exchanging another glance with Noa. Her gaze fell over the divide, towards the back of the giant’s head. “If we just walk around with two bags nearly bursting with Flower, it’ll be too risky, but you can hide it in some crevice in the truck until we find someone who wants to buy. It’ll be a risk for you, too, but at least your life is already ruined, right? Your parents probably disowned you after…that whole thing, so it’s not like you have much to lose; but if our mothers ever found out what we were doing, we could never look either of them in the eyes again—if we even survived the beating.”
Kanna found the strength to tilt her head. She stared at them like they were both crazy.
“We’ll make it worth your while!” Noa said. “Flower sells for a lot in Suda and we’ll give you ten percent of the profits!”
Kanna wasn’t sure if Noa was offering it just to Goda or to the both of them, but either way Kanna couldn’t fathom what she would do with any money. Now that she thought about it, she had spent weeks surviving just fine without it, and in all the chaos, she had nearly forgotten that it even existed. Everything that Kanna wanted in the world at that point didn’t cost money, anyway; her freedom was far too expensive to be bought with coins, even if her slavery had been bought with Flower.
But Goda answered the twins nonetheless, to Kanna’s astonishment: “Thirty percent,” she said. The voice was expressionless; Kanna couldn’t see the giant’s face from her angle, either.
“What?” Noa shouted. “Now you’re just trying to take advantage of us! Twenty percent. Twenty percent at the most or you’re robbing us blind.” She glanced again at Leina to silently confirm, and her sister—who seemed to have become similarly annoyed—offered a curt nod. “We won’t go any higher, so don’t ask. Do we have a deal or what?”
The wind blew down through the alley that was flanked with short buildings on either side. It rushed towards them like a wind tunnel and numbed Kanna’s ears. She could hear the shouting of voices, the crackle of fires in the distance.
The giant turned her head again. The side of her eye fell on Noa’s face. “Deal.”
* * *
As the twins unmounted, the truck bounced a few times and it agitated a feeling deep inside Kanna’s gut, and it made Kanna suddenly wonder if she was going to be sick. Without taking any cargo besides their outer robes, they abandoned Kanna where she was, and they walked by the outside of driver’s door.
“Just to be on the safe side, we’ll meet you by the river near the old shrine the night after tomorrow,” Leina whispered to Goda. “Two days. That should give us plenty of time to find a legitimate buyer.”
Noa had lingered a little, though, half-turned in the direction of the truck bed, staring at Kanna with an unreadable look. After a moment, she leaned into the back of the truck again, and she whispered, “I hate to leave you alone with her because, in the morning, as soon as the administrator’s office is open, she’ll probably take you up the tower to meet your new slave-driver. But that’s just how the world works, I guess. I’m just one person. I can’t make any of it stop.” She touched Kanna’s face lightly with her hand. “So in case we don’t see you again, good luck. I hope you get what you’re looking for.” With that, she pressed a quick kiss to Kanna’s cheek, and it faintly brushed against the side of Kanna’s lips.
Kanna’s face burned with surprise as Noa pulled away, but Noa didn’t seem to wait for any reaction. The woman turned and started walking with Leina towards a little shack that was hidden just beyond an unkempt and overgrown garden. Kanna could barely make out the outline of the door between the bushes, but it was glowing from behind with orange light.
The truck rumbled forward again not long after; they were scraping along the edges of the city limits, and Kanna couldn’t be certain of where they were going anymore. Her perspective alternated between light and dark, between the roaring fire of warm street lamps and the cool dimness of alleyways and abandoned groves.
Kanna stretched herself again and she laid her chin on the back of Goda’s seat. “You can untie me,” she muttered, after a moment of hesitation. “It’s over now. We’re basically in Suda, and the snakes seem to have given up. I’m too weak to fight you.”
The lights flashed by faster and faster. Kanna pushed herself up to stare out the windshield, but as soon as she could make sense of the mix of buildings and trees and empty clearings around her, the image would slide from her grasp to be replaced with another. It was like she was watching the outskirts of the city quickly evolving before her eyes and she couldn’t keep up.
“Don’t think it’s that easy,” Goda said. Her head was slightly turned and some of her hair whipped against Kanna’s face. Through that veil, Kanna could see a faint smile of amusement. “The snakes are dormant for now. Remember that they’re parasites and they feed off your consciousness. They go through phases. You gave them some energy earlier, so they’re resting after having a huge meal. Besides, we’re not in the city proper yet—we were unexpectedly delayed by that roadblock—and so for now the snakes are satisfied that things have gone your way and we can’t go into inner Suda. They will come back when we approach the assignment office. You will resist me then.”
Kanna pressed the side of her joined hands to her eyes as the glare of the lights seemed to grow brighter. “Why do these emotions swing back and forth so much, like some wild double pendulum?” she complained. Now that she could see them more clearly, as if they were separate from her and she was merely watching, she noticed how fickle every thought, every feeling was. “Why is everything so unstable? Why am I like this? I want to resist you all the time, but the passion to fight comes and goes, and so do the snakes.”
“They’re like the rest of reality. They’re groundless. Always changing. That’s why unraveling snakes is tricky. It’s like trying to navigate a labyrinth that shifts before your eyes every second.”
Kanna took in a deep sigh. She looked up at the rush of lights for a moment, but quickly closed her eyes against it. Through her eyelids, some of it still played in her vision, and she could see swirling visuals and sparks. “Why do they even exist in the first place?”
“Same reason anything else exists: no reason at all. They are part of nature. Snakes naturally happen when you become aware enough. You come into this world, you grow, and eventually you notice that you exist, and in that exact moment the first snake is born—the one called Self—and from that one comes all the others.”
“I don’t like the way they seem to control me. I didn’t realize what they were doing before, but now that the shrine pointed them out, I can feel them more and more. They do pretend to be me. When I believe that they’re me, I can’t stop them at all. I forget that they’re even there, like I’m lost inside a dream.” She let herself slump against the side of the truck. “If they came into this world because of my awareness, then how do I get rid of them?”
“With more awareness.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. You said they use my awareness and my conscious attention as food, didn’t you? That they’re parasites?”
“Yes—and too much food is poison. Whenever you notice that you have become a snake, let yourself be the snake, then look at yourself. Apply your awareness to yourself as the snake. The snake will then have no choice but to use itself as food. It will eat itself. If it eats enough of itself, it will die. It’s easier to do this in the shrines where you can see them clearly, but you can also do it outside with practice.”
Kanna groaned into her hands. “Even if any of this made sense, it all sounds so morbid, like it’s some kind of death ritual.”
“It is. You are a snake right now, afraid of death—but this too has an end. Your true self doesn’t have awareness, it is awareness, and this is eternal, but the snakes thrive only within a certain phase. They live in the space where you’re aware enough to make up stories about yourself, but not aware enough to realize that the stories are not who you are. All the living things on Earth will eventually have to pass through this phase if they reach it, but it is temporary.”
Kanna dropped her hands. She opened her eyes again and saw the flashes of green between the small buildings around them. “You mean even the trees and plants have awareness, too?” When Kanna glanced in Goda’s direction with bewilderment, she thought she could see the image of the giant’s smile in the reflection of the windshield.
“Yes.” After a brief pause, Goda turned to look over her shoulder, and though the smile was still as cryptic as it always was, it held an edge of joy—which Kanna immediately thought was ridiculous in the face of the smoky, filthy world that surrounded them from one corner of the continent to the other. “That’s why I’m a gardener.”
* * *
It was true what Goda had said: Because they had circled around Suda and avoided going further towards the imposing buildings that had scared Kanna earlier, the snakes were docile and Kanna felt less agitated. Still, there was a trickle of dread growing in her gut second by second.
As their ride fell into silence, the snakes began to ruminate again, enough that she found it startling when the truck came to a jerking stop and a tree branch sharply tapped her face. Kanna looked up, blinking her eyes, coming back to the present moment.
She had been dreaming again.
They had stopped in an empty lot next to the mouth of an alley, where Goda had driven into some brush that seemed to hide the back of the truck from the view of the street. The giant unraveled the other side of Kanna’s rope and jumped out of the truck before tugging Kanna towards the tailgate.
“Where are we going?” Kanna asked nervously, looking around. Because she hadn’t been paying attention, she had no idea where they were, even relative to where they had been. Her instinct was to resist this, but she didn’t have the energy, so she let Goda pull her half-limply out of the flatbed.
Kanna managed a shaky landing into the solid dirt that was nothing like the sand of the desert or the gravel of Karo. When she looked up into Goda’s face, she fought the reflex to cower. She had forgotten how tall the woman was somehow.
“We have a short errand to run before it gets too late,” Goda told her. In her typically stingy fashion, she offered nothing else, and she pulled Kanna along by the rope into the nearby alley.
There were a few dimly lit shops there, but one of them immediately caught Kanna’s eye. It had a little window with flashing electric lights behind the glass. There were some words etched there as well, but because they were written in a funny calligraphy that Kanna had not seen before, she did not have time to decipher them before Goda whisked her through the door.
A little bell rang overhead as they passed the threshold, which made a man behind the counter turn up his head. He was wearing robes similar to Kanna’s—closed on the front with a compact hood flipped on the back—and his frame seemed too small to match the lines of age on his face.
He instantly threw Goda a glance of suspicion. “Go away, Brahm,” he said automatically, as if he had said it many times.
Kanna couldn’t help but let out another sigh, because it seemed that no matter where the giant went, there were always people telling her to leave. When Kanna breathed back in, though, her nose was filled with a pleasing scent; it was overwhelmingly sweet, and it seemed familiar, but she couldn’t place exactly where she had smelled it before.
She heard the click of the deadbolt all of a sudden, and she realized that Goda had locked the door behind her as they stepped further inside.
Kanna was distracted quickly, though. She looked around and saw an array of tables with dozens of wooden bowls that reminded her of the incense dish—or the ashtray—that she had seen near Jaya Hadd’s altar. Instead of ashes, they were filled with round balls of many different bright colors.
Goda seemed to be looking around, too. She had ignored the man’s words. “Do you have any sweets made from bohm fruit?” she asked.
“Keep your hands out in the open, Porter. I don’t want to see you stuffing anything into your pockets.” He had a sour look on his face that didn’t match the smell of the shop. He tilted his head up to give Goda a more thorough glance. “What, are you looking to steal a gift for some boy again?”
As usual, Goda didn’t seem bothered by the accusation. “No, I’ll pay this time.”
“With what money?”
Kanna had a similar question, but she didn’t say anything. She stared into a nearby bowl and marveled at how the sweets shined in the light like marbles. Goda reached over to pick up a bag of sweets from the same table, which caused the man to lean further over the counter with irritation.
“I hear there’s a shortage of Flower in Suda,” Goda said.
The man’s face lost a little of its color just then. “If you’re asking for special candy, then we don’t have those anymore, all right? And if this town keeps getting infested with more and more soldiers, that’s not going to change anytime soon. Either way, it’s not like we sell under-the-counter stuff during normal hours, and I don’t appreciate you being so indiscreet when anyone could come by the window and see—.”
“Just a bag of regulars will be fine.” Goda had made her way over to the counter and tossed the sweets between them.
But the man made no move to open any cash drawer that Kanna could see. He crossed his arms. “Well, you know these are expensive, and I’m not giving you any discounts, since you’ve already robbed me plenty. On top of that, you barge in here dressed like that, with the audacity to bring some foreign slave as your tag-along. What do you take me for, a fool?” Still, he looked nervously past Goda and towards the entrance. “Why did you lock the door?”
Goda reached deep into her pocket and pulled out a fistful of something. The man recoiled in spite of his curious look, but as soon as Goda opened her hand, some light petals fluttered onto the counter-top, like a sprinkling of confetti.
The stranger’s eyes widened. He glanced at the window, as if to make sure no one from the outside had been peering into the shop, then he reached for the Flower and quickly brushed it into his lap. “Fine, fine!” he said. “But don’t think this is enough to cover all the inconvenience you’ve caused me over the years.”
“That’s unfortunate,” Goda said with a weird smirk. “I’ve been looking to settle debts lately.” She opened the bag of sweets while she walked back towards the door, and she reached inside to grab a tiny morsel. As she passed by, she pressed the piece of candy to Kanna’s lips. Without thinking—still confused by the whole exchange—Kanna opened her mouth and let Goda slip it inside.
It tasted faintly like the green fruit Kanna had eaten, but it was overwhelmed with the kick of mok sugar. It made the back of her mouth burn a little from the sweetness. When Goda put her arm back down, Kanna caught sight of the outline of the bite mark on the back of the giant’s hand for the first time. It was still marked with dried blood and it was obvious in the bright lights of the candy shop. Kanna felt some shame, even as Goda smiled at her with that insufferable serenity.
A memory flashed through Kanna’s mind like a quick spurt of lighting just then—a memory from the first night she and Goda had slept side by side in Jaya’s storage shed.
“You can taste,” Goda had told her in a tone that Kanna had taken to be more flirtatious than literal at the time, “just don’t bite.”
But Kanna did bite.
For some reason, Kanna knew that she would bite again, too—but that it would be for a different reason altogether.
* * *
Goda allowed Kanna to sit in the front seat, though this didn’t offer any better sense of freedom. The giant had tied her up with even less slack, so that Kanna could barely scoot half a pace in any direction. Recognizing the futility, instead of fighting the restraints, she sat back in the seat and let the wind blow against her face. She pretended that she was riding off towards some distant land where human problems didn’t exist.
Instead, they were riding back towards the tracks near the main street of Suda. Kanna tried to suppress the anxiety by closing her eyes. Goda had given her the bag of sweets to hold, so she clutched those and comforted herself with the childish memories that they triggered in her.
“Why did you buy these?” she asked. “Certainly it wasn’t just to annoy the shopkeeper.”
“You don’t remember? I have a favor to repay. Jaya asked me to bring a gift to her wife and to say that it was from her.”
Kanna opened her eyes to give Goda an incredulous glance. “We’re going out of our way just to butter up the innkeeper’s wife?”
“No, we won’t have to go out of our way. She’ll appear soon enough on her own.”
At this, Kanna raised an eyebrow again, but it was far from the weirdest thing that Goda had said to her, so she didn’t press it too much. She looked up through the windshield and at the line of soldiers and crowds of agitated onlookers.
“They’re still waiting for the train to come,” Kanna murmured. She tried to stay neutral in thought, but the fact that they were rushing closer to the city was making her stomach churn again, especially as she caught sight of the huge towers that looked like stretched-out versions of the government offices she had seen in Karo.
“Yes, they are waiting. The express train has priority over everything. It’s not always clear exactly when it’s coming, especially when there’s some kind of emergency, but if they get word that one is on the way, they have to make a path for it. Every other train pulls over. They also have to keep people from crowding the station because the express train often carries priestesses, and with such a multitude, it would be hard to avoid an accidental touch.”
“You people and your superstitions that hold up traffic.” Kanna’s mouth was complaining almost automatically, but they were just words. The truth was that she was glad, for once, that the Middlelanders were irrationally religious. Knowing that there was a delay getting into the center of Suda was her only source of relief.
However, as they approached the edge of the crowd of pedestrians and growling trucks, a much louder cry sounded over the cacophony.
It was the scream of a train horn in the distance.
When the rush of all the dozens of clacking wheels reached them, it came as a vibration that shuddered through the rails, and then the earth, and then the ground right beneath Goda’s truck. It seemed like some massive giant was barreling uncontrollably down from the hills that sat in the East. When the train finally came into view, the blinding light at its front made Kanna throw her arm over her face.
Still, she squinted through the beams and she watched the train as best she could while the air around her grew thick with a blast of noise. It was then that she noticed the small station platform near a tower not far from where they were sitting. It was surrounded by huge military trucks that seemed to be trying to block off the crowd, but a few people were working to squeeze between them.
The roar of the sprinting train grew more deafening, but Kanna could still hear some of the soldiers shouting over it, “Get back! Get back!”
Screeching metal made Kanna duck her ears against her shoulders soon after. Thankfully, the sound only lasted as long as it took for the train to brake down the hillside, skid through the path that was broken between the crowds, and then come to a stop in the station nearby.
This only appeared to make the sea of people more excited, though. They pressed harder against the soldiers, against the trucks that seemed meant to whisk away whatever important bureaucrat was about to appear from behind the train doors.
But when those doors slid open, it was not a uniformed official who emerged. Instead, a small group of women dressed in pure white robes stepped out into the artificial light. They were walking backwards. They were holding up a canvas stretcher as they maneuvered carefully onto the platform, and at first Kanna wondered if they were temple assistants carrying a litter with an idol of the Goddess Mahara on top.
As Kanna looked closely, though, she noticed that the statue was reclined, lying on her back, faint convulsions pulsing through her frame second by second. When Kanna’s eyes ran more closely along the idol’s features, she sucked in a sharp breath.
Even from where she was sitting, she could recognize the face of Taga Murau—of Priestess Rem.