Lyssa stumbled through the door of her own home near sundown, the wooden box from Brother Amos’ hut clutched tight to her chest.
“Lyssa!” Addie ran to her. Lyssa could tell she’d been crying.
Gradually, Lyssa unwrapped a frozen arm from around the wooden box and put it around Addie instead. She let Addie tow her into the tiny bedroom where mother slept. From Addie’s tears, Lyssa was afraid that she was too late, that it had taken her too long to cross the snow-covered hills, fighting the wind all the way, and Mother had lost her own battle while she was gone.
Lyssa watched the still form on the bed until the covers rose and fell, just once. A breath. Mother was still alive, though the day seemed to have aged her twenty years.
“You brought medicine!” Addy seemed to notice the box for the first time.
Maybe, Lyssa thought. Without a word, she set the box down on the shelf by Mother’s bed, then opened the diary.
“Dona eis domine. Dona Eis requiem. Requiem aeternam,” Brother Amos chanted in a low, pained voice. Lyssa didn’t know the words, but they frightened her. “Requiem!” it became a plea, “Requiem!”
Lyssa wanted to slam the book shut to silence it. A wild thought of throwing it into the fire, putting an end to the ghost voice forever, came into her mind. No, she needed him. She needed Brother Amos to tell her one more thing.
Holding the diary open in one hand, she lifted the lid of the box with the other. The clean smell of fresh herbs filled the air, cleared her head.
“Ah,” Brother Amos said,“There it is. It was here all along.”
“Which one should I use?” Lyssa asked, deciding not to try and explain to Brother Amos that she’d spent all day trudging through a snowstorm to get it. If he had already forgotten the journey, then there was probably no way to make him understand. She opened the packets one by one, laying them out carefully on the shelf beside the box.
“That’s the one,” Brother Amos said when she opened one that contained a gnarled white ball of woody roots. “Make a strong infusion, and give her a spoonful every hour.”
“Thank you,” Lyssa said.
“I must be returning home, I’m afraid it’s getting dark out,” Brother Amos said, his voice fading until it was no louder than the wind.
“Will you be coming back?” Lyssa asked.
“I’ll come and check on you in the morning.”
Lyssa closed the book.