Setting Space

“That altar’s new,” Mari said as she surveyed the shrine room. Most of the room was exactly as their Aunt Macy had left it before she died, with statues and icons and prayer cards arranged among tables and shelves, tokens and symbols and boxes and artifacts scattered among them. She felt bad for breathing a sigh of relief that everything was swept and dusted, with fresh fruit and flowers, incense and candles. It wasn’t that Robin wasn’t capable of keeping them up, but she’d worried a bit that he would get distracted.

Robin shrugged. “It felt weird to have mine set up somewhere else in the house. Is it a problem? I can move it if I need to.”

“No, I think it’s okay.” She closed her eyes and listened, but there were no complaints from the spirits and gods she’d spent so many hours tending as Macy’s apprentice. “I didn’t know you had your own. You don’t… I guess I never asked.”

There were several figures scattered across the small table, including a shiny brass peacock-looking bird and a dragon that looked like it was carved out of a single blue bloodstone. She thought she’d seen that last one before among the house’s antiques, but she couldn’t remember if she should object to its use.

There was one figure that she didn’t recognize offhand. It looked like it was carved from wood, with a plain face and a simple body holding sheaves of wheat in her arms. It wasn’t Anglo and it definitely wasn’t from Shenzhou or Wa. “Okay, you stumped me, Robin. Where’s that statue from?”

“Ariana, I think? I found it in an import shop years ago.”

Mari snickered. “Runs in the family, doesn’t it?”

He laughed. “It’s… well, they call her Mara, or Mariamman.”

“Oh, is she a Mariam?”

“Well, no, it’s complicated, but she… um, she didn’t want to be near the Mariams at all.”

Mari shrugged at that. “Well, that’s spirits. How’d you end up with her?”

“Well things were pretty tight before you let me stay here and so I went through all the spirits I could find who were supposed to bring wealth. You know, to see if anything helped.”

“Pfft. Scientist.”

“Hey, it only makes sense to see what gets the best results, doesn’t it? The problem with building things is you have to be able to get materials or you run out of the ability to work really fast. So cash flow matters. She wants offerings and she wants work but she always comes through for me, so she’s… kind of stuck around, I guess. She’s supposed to be in charge of a lot of stuff like earth and death and all kinds of things, I should probably actually find out more about her at some point. But she helps when I need help.”

“You don’t have to justify it,” Mari told him. “It’s your place now too, and it’d feel hollow if you didn’t have whatever you wanted to have in here if you’re keeping the shrines.”

Robin blushed. “Sorry, I just… you know how Dad was, so I never go to talk about…”

“It’s fine. Yours are as important as anyone else here.” She picked up a cone of incense. “I think I’ll welcome them formally.”

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