Chapter 20.3


She had only ever seen a ghost one other time in her life, and she didn’t really care to speak with it to anyone as it was a rather unsavory part of her life to begin with–what with fending off the rough and salty hands of sailors day in and day out, the constant threat of death from both the pirates and pirate hunters alike, and the way the treacherous straits of the Southwestern Seas seized their ship in all of Atargatis’ fury.  It had been on deck aboard that ship, the Kijani Farasi, which translated to the Green Horse, that Quincy laid eyes on a spirit of a young sailor who had perished upon its breast, having taken the wicked punch of a cannon ball.  Or so he had said.

All in attendance were stunned to silence as he merrily rolled the heavy cannon balls along the deck.  Tulki came tearing out of his cabin, his saber drawn, looking about with murder in his eyes.  Quincy and those on duty at the time were nearly flogged, for the rolling of cannonballs was a sign of mutiny, but the ghost, whether out of mischief or mercy, made his presence known by making a cannonball levitate toward the captain, and with a Fanaean curse, dropped it at his feet.  To his credit, Tulki did not show an ounce of fear, but his anger was quelled and he ordered that the damned spirit be ignored.  Spared Tulki’s fury, the crew endured the spirit’s presence, though it never again made itself visible even as it pressed on with its scares and inconveniences.  The first port they came to, a shaman was called, and the ghost was banished for good. Though life returned to normal on the Kijani Farasi, Quincy had been thoroughly impressed by the whole experience.  The ghost, delighted at her foreign nature, targeted her.  For the month spent in that damned spirit’s company, she had been a pariah.

And now there was practically an army of ghosts before her, all staring, all radiating coldness and death.  She’d faced down demi-gods, sea beasts, and mad fae.  But somehow…

Quincy placed a hand on her sword, trembling, and damn it all, Elmiryn reached out to her, and her hand was over hers, and there–there–there was that damned knowing look.  That tilt of the lips.  The warrior knew.  “Easy, wizard,” she snickered out.

“You were the one who was jumpy before, twitching and looking over your shoulder, yet now–!” And the brunette snapped the words down, with a snarl on her lips.

“I didn’t know it was ghosts then,” was all the other woman said.  She turned an appraising eye on the dwarf spirits.  “But now that I know the situation better, I sense we have nothing to fear.  After all, if they had wanted to, couldn’t they have done away with us when we first came?  Besides what can a ghost do to us?”

Quincy shook her head.  “They cannot harm us physically, but they can harm us, Elmiryn.  Count on it.  Ever hear of spiritual possession?  They can also manipulate anything not living–like throwing chairs across rooms.  Do you want to find yourself under a hail of rocks?”

“Nay, missus, we would’na do that.” said the dwarf that had first appeared.  He grasped his hat in both hands and looked into each of their faces.  Quincy swallowed as he locked eyes with her, and she saw the macabre skull flicker into view, soulless sockets piercing their black-hole gaze into her head, before the sight shifted away into smoke.  “In truth, we did not know what to make of ye, and so we were vigilant.  But in seeing your dedication to your comrade, even given the dangers…”

“We could’na sit back an’ jus’ watch,” said another dwarf, a tall one for her race, who had long light hair braided back much like Elmiryn liked to have it.  Unlike some of the women, she was dressed in warrior’s gear and fitted with an axe, which she gripped in one thick fist.  “We can help lay your comrade to rest, equip you with what spoils we have left, and grant you safe passage to the Way you seek so ardently.”

“…For something in return.” Sedwick finished, frowning.

The blacksmith dwarf bowed while the woman just tilted her head back and thrust her jaw forward.  “Tis the way of things, sir,” she said, not in the least bit cowed.

The man sighed and looked to Quincy and Elmiryn.  The wizard glanced at the redhead next to her and she bit back a growl to see her smirking, yet again.

“I don’t like it,” she said lowly.  She leaned in close to speak privately, but she wondered if there was any point to the action.  How good was a ghost’s hearing, anyway…? “I have a feeling their payment will not be easy, and we’ve enough troubles on our own!”

“But didn’t you hear her?” Elmiryn murmured back, leaning in as well.  “They’ll give us the last of their treasures!  Dwarves are clever.  Their most precious of artifacts would have been hidden away from Belcliff’s militia!”

Quincy faltered, her eyes lighting up at the thought of possibly acquiring arcane weaponry.  “It could be just some third-rate armor left and spat on by the pillagers…” she said, trying to quell her own streak of avarice.  For all her tremors, it wasn’t working.

“If riches do not do it for you, what about the promise of our Gate?” Sedwick said.  He gestured vaguely to the North.  “I can sense the Gate, but our way to it may be barred.  Somehow, I doubt these souls would have allowed strange and foreign spirits to run amok in their final resting place.”

“Then how did we get here to begin with?” Quincy muttered.

“It was our forced path, remember?” Sedwick said, looking grim.  “This quest of ours may not be as straightforward as we’d like to make it, ladies.  Someone is orchestrating our journey.”

“Let’s just ask them, for Halward’s sake.  They’re ghosts, what could they possibly want?” Elmiryn said, already straightening.

Quincy opened her mouth, about to hiss, “That’s just what I’m worried about,” when the warrior boomed, “And what would you have from us?”

The blacksmith dwarf took a step forward, and clearing his translucent throat, he said loudly.  “For our services, sir and madames, we would ask for rest.”

“Rest?” Elmiryn returned critically.

She looked to Quincy and Sedwick, but the wizard was already staring, agog.  Her eyes swept over their audience, their vast and numerous audience.  The dwarven spirits filled their little square, surrounding them quite effectively (“They could slay us if they so wished it!”) and they filled the roads as far as her eye could see.  The brunette’s mind quickly did the work in her head.  “Gods…there must be at least a thousand of them.  And there’s likely more!”  She looked to Sedwick, whose brow was also furrowed.  “That’s far too much!”

“But what do they mean?” Elmiryn snapped.  “What do they want from us?”

“Rest,” said the tall woman dwarf.  Her eyes narrowed at Quincy, perhaps weighing her mettle.  The wizard raised her head and squared her shoulders.  “What we want is rest.  As you are giving your friend here.”  She gestured at Graziano.

Elmiryn finally got it, by the lengthening look on her face.  Her eyes went wide and her mouth made a small, “Oh.”

“Yeah,” Quincy grumbled.  “Oh.


Death is a weight, I find.  Both real and imagined.  It has pressed on me, in the past.  And there, knelt in the gore, it pressed on me still.

I had shoved, gasping out from underneath the deformed monstrosity I had just slain.  Its heart had slithered from my quivering hands and onto the soil where it lay bleeding and glistening purple and blue.  As I came away from it, the beast began to break apart, skin cracking along its misshapen surface as the individual bodies of the nymphs that it had taken to make it–or what was left of them–came free.  They were like fetuses, robbed of their usual shape and semblance of life.  I had seen a stillbirth once, the winter before my exile, when a neighbor had called on the aid of myself and my mother as midwives.  It horrified me then.  Surrounded by such a sight hundreds of times over…well…it was far worse.

I think I slipped into another state of shock, the gore about me stilling me–even by way of thought–so that all I could do was kneel and gaze with glassy eyes.  Dark blood was in my hair, on my arms, my legs, my hands, my feet, everywhere.  The smell filled my lungs.  Limbs, drained of their life, lay in disarray about me like broken parts, snapped off of toys.  Intestines and hearts and lungs and things came tumbling…almost slithering from the hunk of flesh that was once the monster.  The sound…gods…that awful sound.  The black magic was broken.  The spell that had bound the nymphs together in their hate now saw them undone.  Their vile color shaded me…perhaps in more ways than one.

I was a darker person now.

In my haze, I saw clawed feet step unburdened through the mess.  “Knave, you have done well!” Lacertli’s voice.

Slowly I raised my gaze and stared straight into his slitted, yellow eyes, which were squinted in their mirth. Then I swallowed and stood to my feet.  The desire to weep was a strong one, but with Lacertli’s sobering presence I was able to bring my thoughts out of their squalor and saw that such behavior would be wasted.  There was still more to be done.  This time I did not dwell on things.  Just lifted my head and with lidded eyes said,  “Yes, sir.”  My voice sounded thin.

“Nyx you keep calling me brave.  But here, Koen is going to tell you a secret…are you listening kitten?  The truth of it is…I’m always afraid.”  Her brother smiled, and swept back his long and curly hair.  The autumn wind was making a mess of it.  She could understand why the other girls in the village fawned over him.  Even Taila.

“But how can you stand all those terrible things?  All that blood and…”  She thought back to that time…that terrible day when she saw a battlefield for the first time.  The young girl shivered and hugged herself.

Thaddeus’ hand came to rest on her hair.  “You…don’t,” he said quietly.  “You just don’t think about it, Koah.”

“Aye,” Lacertli went on.  “This god is proud of thee.  But the trials are not yet over.”

“The pretas,” I said with the faintest of nods.  I swallowed but knitted my brows in resolution.  I did not look forward to more violence, but I did look forward to leaving this place and finding Elmiryn.

Elle, just hold on.  I’m coming.

The god nodded.  He held out a hand, gesturing to the shadow of the nearest tree.  “Come, let us return to the shard, where your companion awaits.”

“Is Argos okay, sir?” I asked as I lurched to my feet.  There was something wrong with my stomach, and I put a hand over it to quell the feeling, but it started to push up my throat…

“Aye.” Lacertli said.  “The fool dog was about to leap into battle with thee, but I whisked him away before he could.”  That explained the god’s sudden absence from my shoulder, when all this started.  “He would have been slain in the effort, for sure.  In this next task, however, methinks he will be of great assistance.”

I nodded, the action automatic and lacking the usual undercurrent of understanding.  I opened my mouth to say something, but instead of words, I burped, all of my chest and throat muscles heaving.  Alarmed, I stumbled to the side, feet squelching through the guts and bloodied limbs beneath me.  I wretched again and what little was in my stomach came gushing from my mouth.  I kept retching.  I nearly fell over from the discomfort and nausea that came over my head, but I leaned on my knees and after closing my eyes and breathing shallow breaths I was right again.  Still green, I imagine, but I felt like I could fight off any lingering sickness.

“Art thou finished?” Lacertli said, indifferent to my hunched figure.

Some part of me wanted to curl away from his unforgiving nature, but…it was like the lack of sympathy left me no place to hide.  And without a place to hide, I knew I had to keep on.  Turning, I faced the god and tried to will some color back into my sickly skin.  “Aye, sir,” was all I said.  I didn’t bother to wipe at my mouth as both my arms were covered in blood, so some sick still dripped from my quivering lips.

We moved to the shadows to enter the Umbralands.  I felt a little loopy, for I blurted out, “It is funny, sir.  When I think on it, that battle did not take long.”

Lacertli chuckled, his reptilian grin once again in place.  “‘Twas short, for certain.  It had to be.  If it had been any longer, your luck and guile would not have spared you the fate of having your brains ground ‘tween the beast’s rotted molars.”  I shuddered at the thought as I slipped into the shadow.


“Well…how bad could that be?” Elmiryn asked with a shrug.  They had once again convened, heads pressed together as they spoke quietly on the matter. “I mean…yes I know there’s a lot of them, but we can figure something out.  Right?  Besides don’t we need this?  Never mind Graziano.  Not that he doesn’t matter, but what if the way to the Gate is blocked?  And what about those treasures?  Quincy still needs something proper for herself.”

Quincy rubbed at her face. “Elmiryn, think.  You are being far too blasé about this and it irks me, because I know you cannot be this much of a dullard.”  She thumbed over her shoulder.  “That’s over a thousand dwarven spirits.  They want rest.  Proper rest, something the Belcliff militia denied them.  Their bodies were likely thrown into an open ditch.  Not even considering the possibility that they may each have their own individual requests as to burial, there is the trouble of sorting out their remains, then finding a new and appropriate resting place for them all.  Think on all that time it would take.  We’d be here for an eternity.”

“Well hold on,” Sedwick said, holding up a hand.  “They came to us as a group, and they seem to have their leaders.  As such, they must have agreed on some communal burial.  They aren’t fools.  They know our limitations, and for us to even consider this bargain, they must know of our time constraints.  I’m certain they can be worked down from whatever lofty wish they have for rest.”

“And they keep saying it like that,” Quincy said, biting her thumb–her thumbnails had been torn off in Belcliff when she was in the dark influences.  “They want rest.  They don’t say burial, they don’t say ceremony.  They say rest…what does that mean to a ghost?  And don’t say ‘peace for the soul’, because that’s equally vague as to the achievement of that end!”

Sedwick frowned at this and thought as well.  Elmiryn, finally, seemed to cool her ardor enough to think a bit too.  None said anything.  There was a cough from behind them, and together the three turned and saw the tall woman dwarf, her arms crossed high on her chest.  “Begging your pardon, but as you have your time, so have we.  A decision must be made.”

“Don’t ghosts have all the time in the world?” Elmiryn said, smirking.

The dwarf looked at her sharply.  “Woman, you would not speak so flippantly if you knew the suffering we bear.”  She looked at Sedwick, then let her eyes rest on Quincy.  She let them sit there a long while.  “We will have your decision now, or we vanish.  For your sincerity, we shall leave thee undisturbed.  We believe thee to be good souls doing honest things.  But trust that things will go hard for you then, with or without our hands in the mess!”

Quincy’s mouth turned down at the corners.  She looked to the others.  The decision was on their faces.  She still wasn’t keen on this.  Her hands were still trembling and she had to stare upwards just to spare herself the sight of all those spirits watching her.  But in the end, she was still in the minority…and it wasn’t without its benefits, surely.  The woman was trying her hardest to gaze away from the dwarven children, still clutching to the stout legs of their parents.  Belcliff had much to answer for.

The wizard let out a long exhale and nodded to the others.  Glances were exchanged as to who would give the final word, and finally Sedwick stepped forward.  Quincy thought it strange that Elmiryn passed on the chance, being the braggart that she was, but perhaps it was for the best, what with the warrior’s last comment souring her in the eyes of their chilling audience.  Sedwick was the spiritual authority in company, anyway.

“Your offer is well met and humbly received.  We accept your terms and request aid in committing our poor soul to his final rest,” He said this with a slight bow.  Quincy took the cue, and gave a small curtsy.  She gave Elmiryn a pointed look and the warrior gave not a curtsy but a bow.  Well, at least she didn’t behave as a complete buffoon.

The two dwarven leaders, for that was clearly what they were, turned and regarded their fellows behind them.  The female dwarf pumped her axe and bellowed as her male colleague next to her did the same.  “Alright you sods, all together now!” she roared as her partner bellowed, “Quickly, as one!”

Then with a strong gale, they all vanished, faces and limbs scattering like startled mist.  All was quiet around them.  Quincy wondered if the dwarves had actually vanished for good, but in the next instant, she felt all her body turn cold and the hairs on her arms and neck raise.  She couldn’t resist the shiver that blasted through her, and to her astonishment a fog appeared before her face.  “Lo, lo!” she exclaimed in Fanean, Good grief!–but she resisted the urge to rub warmth into her arms because Elmiryn wasn’t doing it and she didn’t want the woman to smirk at her like that again.

But the warrior, virtually topless, was having a hard time clenching her muscles tight enough to keep them from shivering.  Every bit of her was bunched, and for all her efforts to appear stoic she still shivered.  She bared her teeth, hissing out fog as she gazed across at Quincy…probably thinking the same way, as her hands turned to fists at her sides in her attempt to keep them there.  Sedwick didn’t seem quite as affected as they, though he did let out a small shake and a, “Brrr…”

Then they all gave a start as they saw Graziano’s body at their side rising, seemingly without aid.  As he floated, body straight and the cloak beneath him fluttering, Quincy thought she could see a flicker beneath him, but she couldn’t be sure.  He drifted peacefully over the grave, then slowly, the ghosts lowered him down.  Elmiryn, Sedwick, and Quincy stood around the edges to watch him as he descended.  The wizard swallowed hard when she saw the dwarven spirits, in their kindness, take her cloak and wrap it about the Moretti’s body, like a full shroud.  Finally, he lay quiet and still at the bottom of the grave.

Within time, the spirits appeared once more about them all, and they doffed their hats, with heads bowed.  Quincy frowned and gazed around at them.  “What are they doing?” she breathed.  But Elmiryn and Sedwick were looking at her expectantly.  “What?” she asked.

Sedwick bowed his head like the ghosts and rubbed at the side of his face.  Elmiryn, with her cerulean eyes gazing sharp over the mouth of their fresh grave, said,  “We’re waiting for you, Quincy.”

“Me?” Now the woman’s shoulders bunched.  “What for?”

“You knew him best,” Elmiryn said simply.  “Can’t you say a few words?”

But Quincy was already shaking her head, her russet brown hair swaying about her face.  “No,” she bit out.  “I can’t.”

The warrior sucked at her teeth as her gaze turned lidded.  There was something heavy in her eyes…was that disappointment?  Then Elmiryn straightened, her hands going behind her back as she placed her feet beneath her shoulders.  “Fine then,” she said, without looking at Quincy.  There was steel in her voice.  “I will speak.”

The warrior’s expression softened and she looked down into the grave.  She started to speak, and it was with a slow and careful speed, like she were trying to word everything just right.  “I met Graziano on a road less traveled, and looking back, I think it appropriate.  That was less than a week ago, but it seemed like so much longer…and I think, with my particular condition, that such individuals who are capable of remaining in my heart and in my mind are all the more valuable to me.  That was this man.”  She paused here, her brow wrinkling.  Then she went on.  “On that day, Nyx, my ward and close companion, had become wary of the way the road cut through the mountains.  Lethia, our new friend and escort, begged us to move forward.  It was Graziano that changed our fate, forcing us forward.  He was a bounty hunter, hired to apprehend Lethia and return her to Belcliff–” there was an increase in the chill in the air, but Elmiryn went on without missing a beat, “But while his work was unpleasant, the young man was anything but.”  And here the woman smirked.  “Of his three brothers, I believe he was the heart and soul that kept them in good spirits.  Through a surprising twist in circumstance, Graziano and his young brother Paulo became our allies, and together we traveled for a time.  He cared for his brother, and it was one night in the dance of a fire’s glow that he related to me the reason for his care.  He had promised his dying father to protect his youngest sibling, and he carried this vow unto death.”

The warrior, turning her eyes to gaze ahead at nothing, drew the pistol from the seat of her pants and held it aloft with bent arm.  She still kept one hand behind her back.  “Yes.  The day I first met him, Graziano was eager to show me his gun, which aside from his brothers, he treasured greatly.  I will take this gun to his brother Paulo, for I believe him to be alive, and the boy will know the extent of his brother’s love.  This I so swear!”

Though they were quiet and subdued, there were, “Hear, hears!” from the dwarves attending.

Elmiryn brought her feet together, one fist over her heart and bowed deeply.  When she straightened again, she was smiling broadly, her eyes on the form down below…and were they a little misty? “Graz, you were damn good for a laugh and braver than most men I’ve met.  Tell Halward he owes me a harem when I get up to heaven, as I’m certain he most surely has one waiting for you!”  She then turned and grabbed a handful of soil, preparing to sprinkle it down onto his form.

Quincy, shaking, couldn’t take it anymore. “Wait!  Gods damn it all, wait!

The woman paused, as though not surprised to hear this sudden outburst, and Elmiryn turned to gaze at her coolly.

“I will speak…” The wizard breathed, perspiration chilling on her nose and forehead.  She gave a glance over her shoulder at the dwarves, all looking at her with equally reserved expressions.  “I will speak.  I must.  I…said I’d do this properly.  So…I…must speak.”

Quincy rubbed at her face and let her hand remain there for a moment.  Then with a shudder, she raised her head high and gazed up at the craggy ceiling of the underground city.  “I met Graziano ten years ago, when I had just turned twenty-years-old.  He was just…a boy then.  Barely twelve…” and here she allowed for a small grin.  “…And he was already trying to flirt with me, the little lahasho…that means horny devil in Fanaean.  I used to call him that all the time.  Lahasho,” she added as an afterthought.  She let herself cross her arms and closed her eyes.  “It was my first time in the Santian Kingdom, and having been in the bounty hunting life for only two years, I was still getting the hang of it.  My husband and I were looking for work when Arduino, Graziano’s older brother, offered to guide us through the Erminian jungles in pursuit of a bounty.  His family worked with monsters, but they had fallen on hard times.  That is how the Morettis began their careers as bounty hunters, and this is how I came to be in young Graziano’s company.

“The two years I lived in Santos, I was good friends with the Morettis, and an even better partner.  I was there that very day that Graziano vowed to look out for Paulo, and later attended their parents funeral.  He was fourteen at the time.  It was that sad year that my own ambitions overcame me, and I betrayed him and his brothers.”  Quincy could feel the hot stares all around her, none worse than those of Elmiryn, who snorted softly.  The wizard tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and let her fingers stay there, rested lightly at the hinge of her jaw.  “You would be right in cursing me.  I was frustrated by the Morettis lack of focus following their parents death, being of an independent and hardened mind myself then.  I was used to being an orphan.  I didn’t understand. All I could think of was gold and precious artifacts.  It was when Graziano failed to back me up in a venture with the local Aikandi that I, in petty fury, cut them out of the very riches that could have seen their family business restored.  What I could not see then, and what I would not let myself see later, was that Graziano, along with his family, were still grieving.  Arduino, though hard working and as crafty as I, did not know how to play the role of father.  He could not bring his brothers together…but I believe Graziano could.  Later, when the boy was approaching manhood, I could see how he kept Arduino from falling into darkness, and how they both worked together to raise Paulo.  My relationship with the Morettis was complicated, to say the least, and Graziano made it clear that he still had not forgiven me for my betrayal all those years ago…but he wasn’t an evil person, and I don’t know if he knew any true amount of hate until the day he died.”

Quincy couldn’t help it.  A small sob came up her throat and she clapped a hand over her mouth and stared down into the grave where she imagined Grazino’s marred face twisting in fury.

Ah, lia…you have done me wrong, you have…

She shook these thoughts from her head, and with small gasp for air, the woman managed to keep from breaking down.  Hot tears spilled from her eyes and she trembled fiercely, and it wasn’t for the cold.  “It is true!  I was a bitch, wasn’t I Graziano?  And the worst of it is, all your family’s misfortune was my doing.  Even unto your death, it was my doing…”  The woman squeezed her eyes shut, for Elmiryn’s face was hardening and her eyes seemed to hold a promise of violence.  Even coming from this warrior, this rival, this uncouth knave, the wizard found her usual defensiveness and arrogance petering out in the gales of her new found sentimentality.  She wished, with not a little shame, that Tonatiuh could make her numb once more.

“You see, Graziano,” Quincy blinked and stared balefully down into the grave.  “I had an idea of the danger that was to come, that night at Holzoff’s.  I even thought to use you and your brother to smoke out Syria, who I suspected of foul play.  I hid safe in the shadows, out of the mind witch’s reach while you and Paulo suffered, and, and–” and finally she gave.  Her knees came out from under her and she bawled and keened, rocking a bit as she covered her burning face in all her shame.  “It’s my fault!” she wailed.  “I was a wily coward.  None of this would’ve happened if–”

“Oh shut it!” Elmiryn barked, and Quincy stared up at her in shock, her sobs quieted to hiccups.  The warrior sneered at her, her eyes cutting.  “Yeah, we get it.  You were a worthless human being.  But this isn’t about you,” Elmiryn gestured over Graziano’s grave.  “You spit things out of your mouth Quincy, but damned if I’ve seen you back up anything you’ve said so far!  You wanted Graz to have a proper burial.  So make your peace with him and let the poor man rest.”

There were murmurs of agreement, and Quincy stared at her, stunned.  Then she wiped at her eyes and bowed her head.  She let it hang there for a time, before she lifted her face and gave a jerk of a nod.  “You’re right.”  She stood to her feet.  “You’re right, Elmiryn.”  The wizard curtsied low, and as she rose, she said, “Graziano, please forgive me for all that I’ve ever done.  I’m…not very good at this.  I don’t know how to make it up to you and your brothers, but I’ll figure out a way.  I will.”

Quincy sought out Elmiryn’s eyes and found them.  The warrior nodded to her, and she held out her fist, which still gripped her handful of soil.  “Go in peace, Graziano Moretti.”  She sprinkled the dirt and it pattered down into the grave.  Then the warrior turned and with shovel in hand proceeded to throw in dirt.  She didn’t do this for a long.  Some of the dwarven spirits in attendance vanished once more and with their ghostly suggestion, the grave was filled in no time.  There was a chipping sound and Elmiryn, Quincy, and Sedwick turned with surprise to find that in the base of the stone statue, those same spirits chiseled in Graziano’s full name, his birth year, 3547, and the current year, 3569.

To this, the wizard’s eyes fluttered.  “How…did they know all those things for certain?  Graziano was twenty-two, it’s true, but he could’ve been born either the year of ’46 or ’48!”

The dwarven warrior woman, with her axe still in hand, gazed up at her with hard eyes.  “We’re ghosts, miss.  Jus’ because we’re stuck here, don’t mean we don’t see those in passin’!”

Quincy’s heart stilled.  “You…spoke to him?”

The ghost nodded her head, and her lips quirked up at the ends.  “Aye, miss.  He came up as soon as he was in the grave.  Seems he was stuck in that body there.  Lemme tell you, he could’na hardly believe you were weepin’ over his poor form!”

“You’re teasing me!” The wizard snapped, seeing the grin expand on the dwarven woman’s face.

“Tis the truth, damn you!  He’s still angry with ye, and I don’ blame him…but he appreciated your sincere apology, and a’fore he left he had one last thing to say.”

Quincy thought she was about to start crying again, and Sedwick moved near, as though prepared to catch her in case her legs grew weak again.  “…What did he say?”

The dwarven woman scrunched up her face as she struggled with her mouth to imitate the bounty hunter’s voice.  Though her accent made this an awkward affair, the tone was unmistakably inspired by Graziano.  “‘Dry up your alligator tears, lia!  You always were too self-involved.  If you want to make things right so bad, then you do what I couldn’t.  You take care of Paulo.  Arduino is a grown man and I don’t think there’s anything to be done with him…but tell him I love him.  Tell them both that.  And tell Ard the picture is in the back of the vanity dresser, back home in Santos.  I’m sorry I hid it from him.‘  And that was it, miss.  He was on.”

Quincy nodded, her head ducking as tears dripped from the end of her ruddy nose.

“Hey.” She looked warily at Elmiryn, who had come to her side, arms crossed and brow furrowed.  The redhead punched her in the arm.  Hard.  “So now you know what you can do,” she said simply.

The wizard gazed at her, quiet.  Then she smiled weakly.  “Yes.  Now I know what I can do.”  She looked at the ghosts about them.  “Thank you, spirits!  Now lead on!  We have much to do!” And there was a cheer.

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