Each night during those months of trial I would slip away into a deep sleep, as if something were calling me away from this world. my dreams took me to a sacred place where the souls of the living flickered at the heads of a thousand thousand incense sticks, each with a unique aroma.
I would occasionally encounter a spirit named Barumnabi, who was the caretaker of this place. Upon the turning of each moon, an idol in the likeness of Ashka, the raven-god of mortality, would awaken and speak the names of the newly born and dead. Barumnabi was charged by the divine to light a stick of incense for each of the new souls, and snuff out those who’s time had come.
Barumnabi told me that to smell the incense was to breath the essence of a soul. Some were sharp and biting in my nostrils, while others were soft and flowery. Some hit me like the snap of a branch in the forest, and others were so subtle, I could barely smell a scent. On occasion I would come across a flame which smelled of such a putrid odor, I could not help but retch uncontrollably in response. I wondered if these were the flames of the Kahns and their plunderers. Other times I would happen upon an aroma so nuanced and beautiful, it made me want to cry out in joy. I wondered if these were the souls of the most devoted lovers and the most selfless artists.