The roads aren’t safe to travel alone anymore, so he walks behind a caravan. They like having him around, as a priest, even if he’s something of a strange one. At night, he goes away from the fire into the forest, beyond sound’s reach of the fire, and he digs five holes with his hands.
From the white canvas bag at his hip he takes a stone bottle, empty save a last few mouthfuls of a thick liquid.
“Karen. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you, and I wish the only one who could is far from this world. For all it’s what you seem to have wanted, your new peace falls badly with me, and your voice will never leave my side or my heart. The last of the peppermint vodka is yours, there will be no more. I’ll look after them as best I can. Builder bless.”
He places the bottle in the hole, and fills it.
“Carol. Your smile in the darkness, your wit in the night, your comfort when the blackest depths of the sea were drowning me. You are worth more than you ever realised, and your lack is a hole in the world. I have nothing of yours to return to you, and your soul is beyond any reach I have. This is the ribbon of the festival of the lover I was given five years ago. You will never know it is yours, but it is. Spider watch you.”
The hole is covered over again, hidden as if it had never been.
“Sethet. What a time to switch sides, just so you can stand on the walls instead of in front of the gate. I’m glad I knew you, if not so well, and I hope you get what you want. I made this myself. The steel isn’t good, but the blade is sharp for now. Solider keep you.”
The glint of a dagger, then the packed earth remains.
“Patrick. To survive the blight of Malathia only to die at your own hand. I’m sorry for what we lost, but I’m glad that I met you. Some ky, for your journey, and may the Weaver bless your path”
There is only one hole remaining, now.
“My lady. So many have died that I do not name, and after so long these little memorials must line every road I’ve travelled on. Gifts for the future, perhaps, if there is one. This last one isn’t for the dead, though. This one is for me. Her memorial is in the lives she touched, and the site she died. And to the latter I won’t return, and the former seem to be moving on. I think it may be time to let go of my own failure for a bit, see how that goes.”
The priest unties a green and white woven string from the hooks of his jacket, lays it in the hole, and covers it with the wet earth.
“In the name of the fool, I throw away things that are of value to me. In the name of the pathfinder, I hope that one day someone finds them, and makes use. In the name of the builder, I recognise and build on these foundations towards a better life. In the name of the Weaver, I lay these memories to rest.”
He goes back to the fire, and later to sleep in his small tent. When he wakes, the world is brighter, and he can’t even remember which direction from the fire circle he walked last night, and doesn’t try too hard. He trails behind the caravan as it leaves, lost in his own reflections, until one of the off-duty guards drops back to talk to him.
“Speaker Marshall? You mentioned last night how the first protection from the undead is devotion?”
“Sounds like something I’d say, yes”.
“Could you tell me about the Weaver?”
“Well, Faith is like this hat…