Bored Ghosts
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The trees march like sentinels in the snow. This place is cold, silent, empty. It's not a sad emptiness - it's good, really. At peace.

Plink. Plink. Plink.

Water drips solemnly from prone icicles on soggy trunks. Kubileya smiles, her brown hands carefully tightening the straps of her stickpack. Goat-sounds behind her.

To go forward…

Level 808. The tree'd halls of memory. All the others always talked of how much the whispers here bite at you; how the place is a shrine to the things left unfinished and rotting in the dusty annals of past actions, bubbling up from snowmelt underneath grey firs.

Respect the snows, one traveler told her, voice laden with fear and love alike. The place can show much, but take so much also. Best to avoid it, if I were you. Best to turn around.

For any other, it is sound advice. She'd treated it as such at the time, after all. Smiling, nodding. Not speaking - she doesn't speak. But the other things.

She wouldn't take it. She had no need. Those were the words of an incomplete person, an incomplete man with their foot half in the door and half out it. Yes - for others, it was sound advice. But not her.

The thought-stones on her walking-stick clink softly in the still air. Silence. There are no whispers in the trees for her, no ghosts bubbling up from her past - after all, how could they? She is at peace with her life, and all the things in it and out of it.

An old wanderer's code flits through her head - perhaps it's part of a song, perhaps it isn't. She's lived enough in the Rooms to know better than to bother with niggling details.

Ghosts don't hang long around souls untroubled. Even they can grow bored, after a time.

She smiles content. No, there will be no ghosts here. Forward indeed.


No ghosts does not mean nothing. It's a few hours past when she finds the death-moth.

Sad it looks, sitting there all spitting as it bleeds out onto the white earth, thrashing this way and that. Its wings are shot, its eyes angry. Female. A ring of bleeding acid in the snow.

Kubileya's heart breaks for it. Such a thing should never have to go through death all lonely. Though it is but a natural cycle, for something to be so far from its Hive, alone and lost - it's not fair.

Is she meant to be here?

Her seven goats peer down at the thing, standing back as if in waiting. The thought-stones tinkle- music of heavenly spheres.

To go forward…

Yes, Kubileya decides. She will stay.


Incensed candles burn, her sweetherbs catching the wood-air. Thought-stones rub smooth in her fingers as she meditates. Yes. This is good.

The beast is calm, scared no longer. It watches her now, watches her with a strange curiosity - a knowing curiosity, so different to the dumb beast most paint as its kind. That is good too - better to be curious than angry at the doorstep of the Beyond. Better to have wonder than fear.

She cannot speak, but that doesn't matter - the spheres sing for her, clinking in their own way. The beast shudders again, but it's different now. A different kind of longing. It whispers along with the stonesong in strange melody, slow and sad.

Kubileya's eyes sparkle brighter than the snows.

Stay calm, sweet beast. The stones seem to whisper. The incense burns strong now, sweetherb lulling the clearing away. Do not leave in fear or loss. Go forth gently, and be fulfilled.

Mistcloud drifts through the trees. One final jerk of those ruined wings - and go it does.


The snow is falling now. It's not the snowstorms the people told her about here, harsh and unforgiving, entire trees being torn from their very roots from the wind. It's just a little snow, bright and fluffy from distant clouds. Content clouds - clouds like her.

She buries the moth after it leaves the Path. Gives it a funeral worth a traveller. All creatures deserve peace in the end, after all.

She often does not know where the Spheres will take her next, only that they will. Her goats drink from melting snow. They do not need much water - but she gives them enough anyway.

This moment, she has a goal. Her heart lies in the mountains. And she has cheese for a feast curdling in eight-thirteen.

Door's ahead. Moldering house, green paint splattered just so down the wall.

She licks her lips, standing tall as she clenches down on her walking stick.

Forward.

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