“That really is the sincerest apology from Jack I’ve ever heard,” Nat said. “What about you, Anna-Maria?”
She tapped a finger to her lips. “He does not do contrition well. More like a child saying what a parent wants to hear so he can be rewarded with a cookie.”
“I could use a cookie,” I said.
“You people are really strange,” Melissa said. “But, yeah, I can see his ego is wildly out of control, but that’s fine. True sincerity would have been best because apparently what you do is really important, but if you won’t restrain yourselves from blowing up the planet as you save it, well, I guess a threat will work. This is your warning. I don’t speak for her or any of the other spirits, but I can guarantee you that you pull this shit again, Whirlwind Woman will be back. Or maybe Thunderbird or someone else. And good luck convincing us to get rid of the curse again.”
Jack opened his mouth, but Anna Maria slapped him with some wind-walking.
“Speaking of,” I jumped in, “how is that going to happen? Are we forgiven or. . . ?”
“Follow me,” Melissa climbed down from the rock and began walking north. After about ten minutes of ignoring Jack’s grumbling, we broke from the trees to see what looked like a hand-built dome tent, if it was ten feet across and only four feet tall. It was covered with thick cloth so that I couldn’t even see what the frame was made of, but I suspected wood.
Outside of the dome’s door was a large firepit with wood neatly stacked, ready to light. And old woman in blue jeans sat on a log round, a walking stick resting on her knees. The long braid of dark hair going gray was pulled over her shoulder. She was looking at her phone, but put it away as we broke from the trees.
“Welcome to the inipi,” Melissa said. “You’re going to go through a purification ceremony.”
“You’re going to need a lot more firewood to purify Jack Dailey,” Kate said.
“We don’t want to burn down the forest,” Nat said.
“Har har. Hilarious,” Jack mocked. “Like the rest of you lot are fucking saints?”
He’s got a point, there.