Only the mice knew the way. They would scuttle about the courtyard, peering over their shoulders and then, when no one was looking, they would dart into a certain crack at the end of the stables and run all the way through the long-forgotten passage and down into the fens, at last coming to the sad, rattling cottages that stood in a cluster by the willow wood. When the town had at last discarded the last fragments of grief The Wild Fire gave, they rebuilt their walls and abandoned the cottages to the wilds. But they still held their old secrets. The pearl gatherers had left inside them a bounty of broken shells and flecks of moon pearls flowered over the floors. Inside the fireplaces, the charcoal that had once brought the pearls to life, still cracked whenever the wind blew, awaiting their return.