She came to a mound, a square pyramidal structure with nothing more than a small, one-room hut at the top, decorated with prayer strips and pinned money, the base of the mound scattered with ashes and broken flatware and food scorched into black char. She stomped up the slope, which rose only about seven feet into the air, hoping they were north enough that the door would actually function and south enough that this was a good place to stay the night. She threw the wooden latch open and slipped inside, ducking down almost to crawl due to its size, and was instantly in a room about as square and large as a suburban parlor.
There was simple furniture inside, and the lights were on in the corners, lamps that shone steady, a radio set in the corner, with crystal candlesticks and a corn blanket over the top, showcasing a ring of sculptures that would be more at home in an upper-class dwelling. She heard the gentle hum of music as she entered, some stereotypical drivel borne on strings after a trumpeted opening.
“Oh, well, good afternoon!” someone belted out, his voice distorted as from a speaker.
Her head jerked up to the stairs, eying the man descending the stairs with a critical gaze; his shirt had no symbol on the right shoulder, a blank family guide, but deeds surrounded the empty space, trailing down his sleeve and part of the way toward his neck. He wore suspenders, with loose slacks like a city man. He was some kind of house spirit. His deeds strictly remained confined to homes, protecting them from intrusion, earning money, and fixing broken things. Wondering how to trick it, she pressed her lips together. Taking in a deep breath, she shifted to a cheery voice.
“Hi, honey!” she said, and he cracked a smile.
“Oh, well, hello, Maude!” he replied, and she waved Rules up to the door.
“You're not going to believe this!” she shouted, “I found the boy out wandering with his friends, and he's still on that whole human thing.”
He glowered at Rules as he entered the building, and she fixed a glare on him.
“You're probably going to have to give the boy a good talking-to,” she nodded, approaching the spirit, one hand reaching into her pocket, the other held up to point at him.
He nodded in response, crossing his arms.
“Well, you know how Zachary is," the spirit laughed, "the more I try to talk some sense into him, the further apart we drift. I think we should cut the boy a little slack.”
Ten-Ghost nodded and shoved a handful of dried nettle into the spirit's face, who immediately began to scream and cough. She dumped out her moccasins, spilling sand on the floor, and ordered Rules to do the same, shouting and banging on the walls as she did. The man stumbled back further, screeching and howling, and she pushed the sculptures off the radio top and told Rules to pull off the corn mat and sit on it; she kicked over a coffee table, and shook her pack, rattling the pots and belting out forest songs in a rough voice. He shivered and fell apart into a small crab-thing that resembled a high chair with human arms and a preponderance of rusted feet, the carapace scrawled over with those same deeds, etched in gold.
“Why did you do that?” he howled, opening one large eye with his mandibles.
“I had to assert my dominance,” she said, “I need to sleep here for tonight, and I didn't want to ask you when you have the possibility to say no.”