There was nothing they could do, nowhere else to send their prayers. She let his strong arms guide her steps home, heard them echoing against the wall of the domain. She thought briefly of the daughter of the big house and of the physicians from the town they had brought in to try to save her. It hadn’t helped, either way, she thought. The bairn had been born dead and the daughter lost too.
Their steps echoed against the stones, clomp, clomp, clomp, and the leaves rustled like the dry voices of the old ones telling their beads. The night sky was bright with stars and the air was cold. A hunting owl shrieked and she caught back the sob in her throat. He clutched her arm tight and she felt his distress through the wool of her coat. It was over.
Moonlight fell soft over the path. Big house, small cottage, death came just the same. They would leave the son-in-law to his grieving, and they would take their grief home with them. Again, the owl called, and his grip tightened on her arm. Moonlight filled his eyes with glitter and her own eyes were a blur of tears. Death had come to the big house, in a hushed rustle of purples drapes around the door, with black-plumed horses and the sickly odour of lilies. They would not give their daughter and granddaughter to that death. They would send them through the gentle earth to the otherworld where there was no more pain, no sickness, no ugliness, only peace and beauty. And one day, they would join them there.