Two days pass and there is talk of sending a search party. Nobody lost in the wood has ever been found, but Mally’s family are well liked in the town and they cannot bring themselves to give up hope. Then, even as preparations are being made, the girl returns. She is muddy from the rainstorm, but wears about her neck a garland of small wildflowers and carries cupped in her hands a small, bright gem.
Her cousins and her aunt pester her with questions, but Mally weaves around them and into her house and to her mother’s bedside. There she opens her hands and lets the gem fall into her mother’s mouth. Her aunt cries out in alarm, but at once Mally’s mother wakes, smiles, then draws Mally into an embrace. Within a day they are setting the house to rights and within a week they are working hard in the fields, preparing for winter.
Of the gem and her mother’s recovery, Mally says nothing except “the wood returned what was taken from her”. And none pressed her further, so great was their joy at all that had come to pass.
Soul prisons are small, bright gems, usually transparent crystals. They were originally made by the great powers during the mythic epoch to preserve the souls of their favourite mortals when their bodies were destroyed and in some cases to reincarnate them. Since then, many more have been made for other purposes by a variety of beings both immortal and mortal.
Empty soul prisons are indistinguishable from semi-precious stones, except by those who wield the secret required to use them. Occupied soul prisons glow with a faint inner light and are therefore visible in darkness. If one is destroyed, the soul within it is freed, and although this is not easily done it is not necessary to employ secrets to accomplish it.
To trap the soul of a dying mortal in a soul prison is relatively easy to accomplish, but there are those who can steal the soul of a living being in this way. A person having their soul removed in this way is not fatal, but it gives the bearer of the soul prison potentially great power to control them.
Rarer still are those with the power to craft souls to store within the prisons, for later use in animating beings of their own making or the bodies of the dead.
By means of the soul prisons it is not impossible to arrive at a situation in which one being has two souls. What strange consequences this might have remains an unexplored question.