She wept for a long time, but at last could weep no more. She rose to her feet and trudged wearily back into the wood-dwarf’s chambers. She searched for some sustenance, carefully avoiding any meat, then ate and drank without enthusiasm. About half-way through she rose and took up the dead sewer-gob, throwing it into the tombs, then closed the secret door. She went into the pool chamber and stripped away her jerkin and tunic and bathed mechanically. To her surprise the blisters on her hand were healed by the cool water, and angry welts, bruises and scrapes vanished before her eyes, as did the cuts on her thigh. Even her sunburn faded away. The healing waters could not heal her heart, however, and she felt just as empty as before.

The clothes that lay on the shelf were too small for her, so she used them to dry herself and walked naked back into Shayhulmi’s horrible chamber. There she found a fine cotton tunic that was better than knee-length, and put over it a padded silk gambeson that was a little too big for her. Among the treasures she found a light mail shirt, made from the coppery silver metal that wood-dwarfs loved, and she slipped it on over the gambeson, finding it a bit tight in the chest but not uncomfortably so. Next came a thin mantle that went over the armor, which would hopefully keep it from becoming too hot. She found a double-wrap belt small enough that she could wear it as a normal belt, and from this she suspended a fine short-sword of the wood-dwarf metal. She put a few gold coins in a little velvet bag and tucked it inside her armor. She rummaged through the jewelry and other treasures and chose out a fine bracelet that bore a running horse similar to the token of her clan, and then tears started again as she saw her husband’s silver and chalcedony torc in the midst of the rest. She put it on, to guard it till it could be given to the new clan chief, and decided she needed no more. She found a few pairs of boots but none to fit her, so she must be content with her sandals.

She cleaned her shield as best she could, tied her damp hair into a pony-tail, and turned her back on the rest of the dead wood-dwarf’s treasure. She had what she needed, and would take nothing more, lest it be cursed.

She filled her water-skin in the pool room, drank her fill, and put what few eatables she could find into a bag. Slinging this over her shoulder with her shield, she decided she might as well go home. She didn’t know what else to do.

She opened the secret door and stepped once more into the long gallery where lay so many little skeletons. Tears streaked her face before she could stop them, and she turned away, back towards the low tunnels beneath the large building above. To her surprise and horror the way was blocked. A huge stone had fallen into the hallway. For nearly an hour she searched for some way to move the stone, but found none. She returned to the kitchen and fashioned a few torches from what she found there. Lighting one from the candles, she started down the long gallery, her sandaled feet echoing off the stony floor. It took her nearly ten minutes to reach the end of the gallery, and she wept at the horror of so many innocent deaths. Towards the end of the gallery she saw that the bodies were relatively fresh, some only weeks or months old, no longer skeletons, and then just as she had hoped and feared, she saw her daughter’s own little body lying in a niche. As she knelt beside the niche she could hardly recognize the beloved face, so gaunt it was in death, but she stroked the golden hair and crooned a song almost against her will. She saw a little copper bracelet around her daughter’s wrist, and wept again, but was glad that there was at least that much to bury with her. She stood, and stooped to take up her daughter’s body, when a cold little hand touched her arm.

"Don’t take me from here, little mamma," said a whispery voice. Estrith turned and saw the pale ghost of her daughter standing there with a mournful smile. "Take my bracelet, to remember me with always."

"I can’t leave you here, lovey," said Estrith, "I want to take you home."

"This tomb will be a holy place, mamma," said Kally, "the Albinics are coming already. Soon it will be a shrine. Someday others will come and see it, and they will see that it is holy. You made it holy, mamma. Don’t take me away."

"You’ll be in heaven with your father," said Estrith, "you won’t be here."

"Leave the shell, mamma," said Kally, "I’m not in that shell. You can’t carry it away. You’ll die if you try to take it home. You have to be strong, or my little brother might be hurt."

"I’m healed," said Estrith, "that water healed me."

"It wasn’t the water, little mamma," said Kally, "it was Ithos. He wants you to live, and had to heal you or you would’ve died. But he said that only I can take you out of here. You’ll die in these caves unless I can lead you safe and make you hope again. So I won’t leave you till you’re safe."

"I don’t have any hope, Kally," said Estrith, "all my feelings seem dead except sorrow."

"That’ll change, mamma," said the ghost, "you’ll see. Just leave my shell, take my bracelet, and follow me. Please, mamma. You’re too good to make me beg."

That had been Kally’s favorite means of manipulation. Estrith actually smiled and nodded. She slipped the bracelet off of the boney wrist and wrapped it around her belt. The pale little ghost then skipped away, for all the world like a child skipping across a meadow. She followed, her tears nearly blinding her, but even in the torchlight she could see that luminous figure ahead of her. She saw many more niches in the gallery, but they lay empty, and soon they reached a narrow opening that appeared to lead upward. There was a cabinet leaning against the wall, and before it Kally’s ghost stopped.

"Get a cloak, mamma," she said, "and sleep here. You need sleep. You have to think about my baby brother. You’re too tired to go on tonight."

"Is it night?" Estrith asked wanly.

"Yes," said Kally, "I’ll keep watch, little mamma. You and the baby will be safe."

Estrith opened the cabinet and found several leather cloaks within, two of them large enough for her. She spread one out on the ground. Then she took out the rest and made something resembling a bed, with the largest as a blanket. She took off her sword-belt and lay her shield and torches beside her and lay down, . For a moment she considered taking off her armor, but before the thought finished she slept

She woke comfortable and refreshed. She didn’t know how but the armor had done her no harm, but felt grateful for it. She rose and smiled sadly at the ghost of her little girl, and was surprised to see another ghost sitting beside.

"Who is that?" she asked as she wrapped her swordbelt around her waist.

"It’s me, litte mamma," said the other ghost. Estrith looked closely and saw that the two ghosts were as like as twins, but one was suffused with a golden light that looked still faint but seemed to pulse with life.

"What’s happening, lovey?" Estrith asked. She pulled a piece of sweet-root out of her bag and ate it slowly.

"You’ll see," said both of the ghosts together.

Estrith finished her breakfast, drank a little water, and slung her shield and sack. She lit a torch with the sparker she had somehow remembered to bring, and looked through the cloaks until she found one of doeskin that was the right color for the desert. It was a little short on her, reaching only a few inches below her knees, but it would do. She donned the cloak and lifted the torch over her head.

"Lead on, lovey," she said.

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