For a moment, the spirit and Maafil just started at each other. Then she lifted a translucent arm and brushed a stray leaf from his hair.
“You could have left her.” It wasn’t quite a question, but he could hear the honest bewilderment in the whisper of a voice.
“Na, I couldn’t.” The image of the tiny pile of bones hung in his mind, overlapped with the memories of the ghostly child who had been his companion for the past few turnings. “She,” he suddenly couldn’t find the words he needed and nervously shrugged. “I couldn’t just leave her, alone like that and all.”
She gave him another long look, then smiled. “Then I give you this.” She held out her closed hand and the trader obediently reached out. Two small bones, bound through their hollows with a leather thong fell silently into his palm. Without looking, he knew. They were tailbones, the last tiny links that bound man to the animal spirits and the traditional gifts from the spirits to a Listener.
As he closed his fingers over them, he felt the tiny sparks of emotion. Warm amusement from Orril, the smaller spark of bright laughter from Pali. He opened his mouth to thank her, to say he was afraid, to give them back, he wasn’t sure which. With the whisper of a laugh she lay a finger on his lips.
“It’s a gift, nothing more.” But it wasn’t, and they both knew it.