Kahrim emitted a choking noise as he leaned over the crib.
“This is the crucible,” Hailmon spread his arms. “We elders sprang forth from this woman fully formed. First Karen, then Danesha and Delaine, then Alya and lastly, yours truly.”
Kaleigha thought of the five modern buildings surrounding the mansion and nodded. The old and the new. Magic and science.
“That’s her!” Kahrim was wild eyed. “That’s Ilma!”
“Shh!” the elders said in unison, except Danesha who stood silently in the shadows of the room. “You must never jar her awake.”
“Why?” Kaleigha asked.
“That was mother’s wish,” Hailmon said. “She warned of great peril should she be woken the wrong way. We have honored her wishes and watch over her.”
“As she watched over us,” the woman named Delaine smiled.
“But she warned us of you, Fadian,” Karen’s voice was cold. “She did not want you in the village.”
“I imagine she doesn’t want to look at her children’s faces as they are being wiped off the face of the earth,” Kaleigha quipped.
“She wanted to be here when you came,” Hailmon said, smoothly. “If this is the ghost you saw in the woods, then we must guide her back here.”
“Yes,” Kahrim agreed. “We will bring her back to the crucible, back to her body.”
“Kasim’s life depends on it,” Karen said suddenly. The other elders looked her, confused.
“To make up for your crimes,” Karen continued. You, Kahrim, have murdered numbers untold and your sister killed my grand daughter. Kasim ran away with a fugitive. These are all crimes punishable by true death.”
“Every murder committed was in defense of this village,” Kahrim said. “Many of them at the council’s command.
The elders looked at one another then nodded at Hailmon.
“Take a cloak and bring back our mother,” Hailmon said. “Or all three of you will join the lights in the trees.”