“Welcome, friend. I have long seen you wander through this place,” I said, “yet this is the first time you have ever suffered my approach. I hope you don’t think it imprudent of me to ask who you are, and what business brings you to my family’s gardens?”

A solid white sheet hid the content’s of the woman’s face from view, tucked cleanly into her shawl. But I could see a jaw moving beneath, the outline of brows.

“It is always a pleasure to be approached so politely.” The thing’s voice was like paired pipes, one high and soft, one deep and desert-cracked. “Pleasantries are meaningless but they do ease the burdens of weary travelers.”

“May I fetch you anything from the house?” I added.

“To answer your second question: no thank you. There is naught there which would nourish me. To answer your first, I am a seamstress of the human soul. But I am not a wealthy one, and I must make do with the scraps.”

“I am afraid,” I said, “I do not catch your meaning.”

“When a soul passes, it furnishes material from which new souls might be fashioned. It is the nature of my kind to do so. But without means, the poorest of my kind must take the barest soul-scraps and fashion from them quilts.”

I sucked in a breath. “And what, pray, is a soul-scrap?” I whispered.

“Ask your sister,” the thing replied. “She has just lost the life she has carried for six months, and that tiny scrap is what I have come to collect as an act of charity.”

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