Every breath I breath in seems to be mostly moisture, as I pace along the lake shores, heat seeping into my clothes and dampening my hair.

I have lived here all my life, but the humidity is something you find hard to get used to. The lake looks ominously cool and inviting; its gentle waves lapping at my bare feet, tickling my leathery soles as they crunch through sand and shingle.

If I squint, I can make out the town, nestled in the trees a little way up from the sloping shores of the lake. I break into a run as I draw closer: I see that everyone has already gathered at the shore.

'Clean yourself up a little,' my brother hisses to me as I skid to a stop beside him. I flatten my short hair with one hand and hastily lower my head.

As Benoit, the Sage, clasps his hands and begins to chant, I sneak a look at the body by the water.

It is wreathed in white and blue flowers and wearing the ceremonial shell necklace that eases the path to the Noyau, the center of all humanity, the essence of the Spirit.

Pity swells in my chest as I look at it. Traditionally, we are to banish thoughts of the dead, in case Daemons come searching for other Souls to claim.

I shiver at the thought of the fiery hand of death clutching at my own Soul. My fingers itch to etch out Spirit signs to secure the Soul and nurture safety, but it may jeopardize my Father's chances of freedom.

Instead I focus on the lake. Cool, blue, safe. Familiar and comforting, two emotions that warm my Soul. It flows round me, fills every inch of me, guides and teaches me. Souls are, naturally the greatest scholars, as they have seen so many lifetimes, so much knowledge.

Benoit is silent now, and the Souls of all the town reach together. Fingers and tongues form Spirit signs for safe journeys and they knit together and fill the body, sending it into the lake.

My Father is gone. His body claimed by the waters, his Soul by the sky. No Daemon of evil came to drag him downwards as he was not sinful and had no quarrel with the Dead.

The crowd begins to disperse, and my brother strides off, eyes blank but Soul triumphant. I narrow my eyes after him. My brother's Soul was particularly ambitious, and head of the house seemed like a lofty station for such a big headed boy.

 I turn away, and watch the ripples fading on the lake's surface, the only memory of my father, sinking away.




The End

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