Woven sandals slap against the intricate stonework pathway. He stood at the edge of the City of Dead, his heart full of sorrow and hope. The oracle told him to bring an offering, something of significance. Of immaterial value. He’d brought a strip of cloth. Worth less than a handful of rice, but not something he would trade for a chest of gold. It was a piece of his mother’s wedding dress. After the fire it was the only thing of hers he had left.
Cliff walls vanish into clouds. Curtains of grey mist part. The spirit of his family rose from the valley floor. His father’s sword slung across its back, his brother helm on its head, his mother’s cup in its hand.
He lifted the cloth towards the spirit with trembling hand, “I-I…Are you well?” A gust of wind surges through the valley. Blasted by an ice dragon’s sneeze. Goosebumps ripple over his skin.
“Why have you come?” His father asked. Each word navigated a maze to reach here and lost some of itself along the way.
“To bring…I wanted,” he swallowed, “the oracle told me to bring”—he held the bit of cloth up. “I brought this.”
The spirit flicked. Now gone, now here. “Being here is difficult, son. Answer my question: why have you come?”
“I thought…I don’t know. I thought speaking with you would help.” As the words left his mouth, said aloud, he saw his mistake. Saw what the oracle had done. He understood the stories of people needing closure, going on a journey, only to find it within. “I was wrong. This isn’t all I have of you,” his hand opened, “this is just…It’s nothing. I have what I always had, my memories of you.” Mist rolled from the cliff tops filling the valley. The spirit no longer there, a wind caught the cloth, it trailed through the air.