The party did not see another living creature on their way to the mine, nor did they encounter any living dead ones. But the skeletons grew ever more numerous, until they threatened to become another layer of the road. Here and there they encountered corpses not as far along in their decay, but not many. Seen or not, the scavengers had been busy.

Two things became clear as they traveled: none of the corpses wore a stitch of clothing, and they all died fleeing the mine. Or at least, the corpses that still had sodden flesh on their bones were all aligned in the same direction. Jimmy knelt over one of them, his neckerchief over his mouth to ward away the smell. “This poor bugger looks like he was crawling when he died.”

Witherby joined him, carefully poking at the decaying mess with a branch (Carlotta could still remember the days when such disregard for a corpse’s dignity would have repelled her, but it took effort). “Hullo,” he said. “This one’s had a broken rib or two.”