We didn’t linger in the village. They had been through enough drama, so we thought it best to just leave them to their lives. I tucked the doll Timothy into an inside pocket of my cloak and we set off, back to the camp where the dead lay. The way back was much faster this time. Knowing where you are going, treading ground we had already traversed, seemed to take less time than making one’s way along new trails. I know it’s all a figment of my imagination. We really can’t alter our perceptions. Since we’d left the village no more than two hours after sunup, we managed to get back to the camp an hour passed the sun’s zenith.
The two dead women there remained unmolested. We spent the next several hours building cairns over them, each of us saying prayers over the finished burial mounds in hopes that their spirits found their way onward to the Far Shore. Liz cast a spell I had never seen before, and flowers grew all around the cairns. It was a lovely touch.
We moved into the wood once more, making our way to where the raven’s wives had fallen. Here again we found no evidence of anything, flora or fauna, that had begun to feed on the hideous remains. I can’t say that I blame them. I cannot imagine even a rat being desperate enough to gnaw on these foul creatures.
You may recall I had invented a very useful spell where I could collect firewood from the surrounding country. This shortened the time it took to gather the wood. As Liz and Sparkle moved on to collect the raven’s wives I used my spell to stack a huge bonfire along with as much spare fire wood as the spell could find, and I was surprised just how big the extra pile was. There was no way we’d use all of it to burn the six raven’s wives, so someone was going to come along and find a nice stack of cord wood for their winter stores.
Using a bit of magic and good old fashion hard work, we had a nice bonfire roaring and the raven’s wives tossed onto the flames in no time. Oh, by all the gods, but the sound of the fire taking them was horrendous. I expected the pop and crackle of burning flesh, and something more quiet and smoky with the burning of those great black wings. Instead we were assaulted with a chorus of discordant music. It was like nothing I had ever heard, as if someone had dropped a basket of bells down a flight of stairs, over and over. Each time one of their bones cracked in the flames, a fresh explosion of sound would wash over the clearing.
The racket was so loud, that Liz passed out some of the clay she had in her pouch to deaden the percussive sounds. And the colors were nearly as terrifying. The smoke rose black and gray as you would expect, but mixed in were great wafts of the yellow of infection, and the blackish red of tainted blood.
And the smell, by those that are holy, the stink rolling off their burning flesh was both putrid and befouled. The first waft dropped me to my knees retching, and it took Liz and Sparkle to drag me away before I succumbed to the noxious fumes. My head swam for an hour afterward.
While I wanted to be away for the ship, we needed to insure the raven’s wives were consumed by the fire so that no other part of the local ecology would be tainted by their corruption. As it stood, we discussed the possibility that the putrid smoke could contaminate other creatures in the area. We were particularly worried about other birds, as none of us knew from where these repugnant creatures came. For all we knew it was a disease spread from one winged creature to another. We couldn’t be too careful.
Liz conjured a wind, blowing the smoke out to sea, and I cast a blessing over the area, paying special attention to the blazing fire. I could not live with myself if these monsters spread due to our carelessness.
This also drove home the point that the Hand of the One True God had no care for the local communities under their jurisdiction. They only got involved if it suited their political aims, or fed their baser appetites.
And know that I am no fool, despite the various prophecies, stories, legends, and dreams. I know others are corrupt. It is the great sin of mankind to prey upon their own kind, and subjugate any who stood between them and the fulfillment of their voracious lusts.
Hours later we stirred the embers, burning the bones to a fine grey dust which mingled with the ash until no one would be able to tell them apart. Liz declared that the area of this bonfire would remain barren for longer than she could reckon, but imagined that Maggie’s children would not find anything growing on this spot.
Then we made our way back toward the ship. We trudged through the black of the night with my green sight to allow us adequate light to find our way. I can’t tell you how disappointing it was when we reached the cliff above the cove to see that the Rasa had gone on.
We were exhausted and fouled with the residue of the cremation, so we made our way down to the beach and built a camp. Then, one by one, we went into the clear, cold water to cleanse ourselves. While Sparkle and I kept watch, for you never knew when the next attack would come, Liz swam about for a long while, saying that it felt as if the taint had seeped into her scales. After midnight, she had returned and sat by the fire, contemplating things only she knew of and I took my turn in the sea. When I finished, Sparkle took her turn, and I used my mending magic to cleanse and repair our gear. I finally lay my head down to sleep as the moon was finding its way across the sky, and the night had begun to wane.