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westcorphotels > Dead Rivers - Freedom\'s Gate > Part 23

Part 23

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Tamar looked only moderately rea.s.sured.

"Go get your vests and put them on."

We'd both had them off to embroider new designs. I was working on a horse; I'd borrowed Saken's old vest to copy the horse she'd embroidered on hers, since it looked so real. Tamar was embroidering a bird clutching a flower in its claw. We both knotted the thread, trimmed off the needle we were using, stuck it in another cloth for safekeeping, and put our vests on.

Meanwhile, Zhanna fetched a carved box from the other side of the yurt and opened it. Inside were ritual items much like the things Jaran had used to banish Aislan's djinn back in the harem: an incense burner, a bundle of feathers knotted together with thread, and a small clay jar. In Sophos's harem, the small jar had held river water, drawn from the Syr Darya when water flowed there during the spring rains; here, to my surprise, it held a mixture of dirt and ash.

On Zhanna's instructions, we each plucked a hair from our heads and placed it in the palm of Maydan's hand. Then Zhanna took the feathers, dipped the tips into the clay pot, and brushed the gray ash onto Maydan's forehead, hands, and heart. "Maydan, daughter of Aiday, daughter of Alina, you are a child of the river, the steppe, and the djinni." Jaran had asked each of us in turn if we claimed her, but that didn't seem to be part of the ritual here. Zhanna set down the feathers and turned to us. "To banish the djinn, you draw it into yourself and then tell it to go away. Put your hand on her forehead and think of yourself drawing the djinn out like you would pull a bucket from a well, or like you'd draw a thorn from your foot.

To banish a djinn, we say, 'Return to the Silent Lands, lost one of your kind, and trouble us no more.' "

Jaran had said that, I remembered. Tamar was nodding.

"It's difficult to describe it. Why don't you each give it a try. Who wants to go first?"

"I do," Tamar said, and Zhanna nodded to her.

Tamar stood up and began to dance. She hadn't asked either of us to play a drum for her so it seemed like it would be intrusive to start; she whirled herself in circles until I was dizzy looking at her, then dropped to her knees beside Maydan and placed her small hand on Maydan's forehead. She closed her eyes and clenched her jaw. I watched her curiously, wondering if she felt open and what, exactly, this meant to her. Time pa.s.sed; her nostrils were white from tension. Finally she sat back, looking exhausted.

"I think I can-kind of feel it there," she said. "But I couldn't pull it out."

"That's fine," Zhanna said. "And not surprising. You're doing well to be able to touch it at all. Lauria, you try."

I refused to dance in front of Tamar and Zhanna, especially as I knew it wouldn't help, so I took my drum and beat it for a little while. I was faking, and I knew I was faking, but I didn't know what else to do. After a while, my feet started to go to sleep, and my mind also almost felt a

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