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Xenolith, Page 86

A. Sparrow


  Pari had accepted the stone’s crushing as a matter of course. But Vul boiled over when he saw the xenolith’s pulverized remains. When his lid finally settled back down, he diverted his frustrations to digging a tomb for Ren, deep into the side of a well-drained esker.

  Ara and the others cushioned the floor of Ren’s tomb with long-cut grasses and the pale tips of new growth spruce. Alone, Vul carried Ren from the lean-to, wrapped in a beach towel salvaged from the car. Gently, he laid her down, while Pari sprinkled handfuls of little, white bellflowers over her. Vul walked away weeping, unable to participate any further. Blood mingled with dried clay on his fingers. He stood and stared down the mountainside.

  They sealed Ren’s tomb with a wall of stone and clay.

  “Is it done?” Vul asked without looking, when they had only filled the gap halfway.

  “We’ll tell you when,” said Canu, softly.

  Once the wall was complete, they packed it with earth and sod. Pari had saved the most distinctive stone from those unearthed: shaped like a melon - milky quartz with streaks of transparent rose. She hefted it over and dropped it at the base of the tomb.

  “Done, Vul,” said Pari, panting.

  Vul plodded over and studied Ren’s tomb, adjusting lumps of sod to better seal and conceal it. He pried the tire iron from Canu’s grip, and nestled its tapered, flat tip against a protuberance on the grave marker. Using a lesser stone to hammer, he chiseled off a chunk and tucked it in his pocket. Ara recognized his act as a sensible Giep’o custom. If they couldn’t bring Ren home, they could at least provide her family a memento that was also a key to help find her.