As far as the tribe of Nerla was concerned, the world ended where the sea met the shore. Man could float a little ways out, upon the seas of the afterlife, but rest too long on the waves and their souls were ensnared the Mother who waited in the depths below.
So it had been since the beginning of time, when Father formed the handful of islands from the teeth and the bones of the First Born, Amuk, who had died at the teeth of the Shark Who Eats the Moon. Man could live on the islands because the Mother, sightless, mistook them for her own child asleep on the waves.
So when the boat washed to shore on Melia’s ninth birthday, they burnt the storm-battered shell and threw the seven soulless men back into the sea.
For three days her brothers guarded the shores, keeping the ghosts at bay. The air was rent with the language of the dead, as the ghosts cried out for the gift of life. And on the eve of the third day there came a sign from the Father, a massive tear of fire that fell to the eastern horizon, and they stood aside.
Two of the ghosts made it back to shore, and the Speaker for the Gods married them on the spot, binding them to the world of the living with the shared souls of their wives.
Melia was a little disappointed to chosen, but the Speaker assured her that her soul would grow to fill them both, and that the magic she lost would be regained with time. Still, she would never have the two-fold power of a proper bond, and it stung to know her sister would surpass her so easily.
But done was done, and she had work to do. No one had tried to teach the dead to live before, and she was determined not to fail.