A Ghost Storey

By Ja’Deir

death-01Ja’Deir woke with a start. He had been dreaming, drifting passively around the Astral Plane, and thought he felt a tug on his projection. It took a few seconds for his heart to stop pounding. When his mind caught up with the world he realized he was no longer sitting, but he had large tufts of grass cushioning his face.

One thing that most people don’t realize, is the sheer disorientation you feel when you wake up in a position you’re not supposed to be in. Imagine it; you are tired, you go to your bed, you pull the covers over yourself, and you curl into the indentation of your mattress like a hug.

Blackness.

Several hours later, when your brain is coming back down from the astral plane where your dreams carried your spirit, your body has a pull on it that isn’t right. Your forehead is being dragged down and forward; your shoulders have a balanced weight, and propped by your torso, different from the support of your mattress under them. The pull of the earth on you is just wrong and not at all what it should be. You’re laying down, right? Then you open your eyes and see you’re sitting up, and you get a brand of vertigo that is reserved for head wounds and drug-induced disorientation. How did you get that way? Who moved you? Did you move yourself? Why did you sit up?

For a split second, Ja’Deir had another panic attack. He’s a practiced Mind Mage that was in an advanced trance state. He doesn’t ‘accidentally’ move. Out of reflex, he stretched his senses out to see if there were any alien presences in his temporary sanctum. He only calmed down when his cursory patrol came back empty. His mind rationalized the scene. He must have been leaning forward more than usual, and a gust of wind pushed him forward. His body sent messages to his Astral form, which came in as a threat, a pulling on his form. Right? Sure. That’s definitely what happened…

Ja’Deir put his hands down, to push himself up off the ground, and he noticed his right hand had an object in it. Well past over reacting, he calmly put the scroll down, got up, and dusted himself off. He went through his mudras and mantras, centering himself and calming his spirit. Nothing good ever came from being harried and unbalanced, and he wanted to take this situation on with his whole self.

The scroll, made from a nondescript parchment, was written in a red substance that smelled a bit like discarded coins to Ja’Deir. The message was the most curious part. It read, ‘’The wraith’s call shall claim another at dusk. Silence it, or you’ll be next.’’ Following that was a list of directions to a village in the Grasslands, nothing more, nothing less.

Ja’Deir focused on the scroll; every curl of the letters, every crease of paper. He committed it to memory. He started building it in his mind’s eye. Light blue parchment, average feel; a hand span tall and wide. In his mind, the ink flowed with the sure precision of a writer; either a scholar or a clerk. The ink, in his mind’s eye, it glowed with a primal crimson, like embers in the heart of a wild fire. He drew a doorway into the heart of the note, an elongated rectangle made from the parchment itself. He pulled the door open, and was flooded with hate, fear, despair, and maniacal glee.

After the emotions passed, he got a glimpse of an image past the doorway. He saw an apparition, a skeleton dressed in flowing black robes whose fabric changed from the silk hood to the hem which seemed to be made of smoke. In its outstretched arms was a wicked blade, which seemed to make the world bend around it in a spiral of darkness. Something primal, deep and innate, wanted to die by that blade, as if he were being called to it. He had to feed the white steel with his deep red blood! He reached out his hand to it and caressed its edge, so honest and naked. This was truth; life and death, execution or redemption by the master of all – the sword. No vacillating kings or magistrates, no blinded priests or biased opinions; straight forward; exacting.

His fingers lovingly massaged the cold contours of his master, and he felt gentle tugging as the hardened skin on his fingertips pulled apart, sliced as if in afterthought. His nerves parted like adoring worshipers in a congregation making way for their god. He thought to himself of the perfection of this blade; there were no popping sounds, or jolting stops, that a dull blade with nicks would have against the skin. Its sharpness made sure there was no resistance, even if Ja’Deir thought to. Finally, his blood played down the etched designs on the flat of the blade; thorns, bones, skulls. From his core a wave of joy washed over every inch of himself. He writhed in the pure ecstasy of it.

No!

It wasn’t joy, it was revulsion! This was WRONG. This was not him. Ja’Deir pulled himself out of his psychometric trance, and had to gulp down breaths of fresh, morning air to steady the adrenaline pushing his heart faster. His soul shook with the memory, and with the fear of what he just experienced. He long ago learned how to stop his outer self from showing what his inner self felt. It was nearly out of control, though. He tucked the note into a pocket in his pack, and ran through a calming round of mudras and mantras. By the end, not even his soul trembled.

As he calmed his fears and revulsion, his mind reviewed the strange, awe-some meeting late the previous night. He still could not believe that he was chosen to be a champion of her Grace, Apis. It made his heart swell with thanksgiving and joy. He felt he could burst, and wanted to share this exquisite pleasure with everyone! No one should be excluded from the embrace of the Aspect of Love.

Ja’Deir set off for the village; he couldn’t let poor, unsuspecting innocents be harmed by this thing. It was on a level of power that gave even him pause. Ja’Deir is a Mind Mage. Not a fortunetelling charlatan, or a street performer, he is the real deal – pyro-, hydro-, and electro-kinesis, healing, psychic warfare, force fields, astral projection, you name it. Regularly, he pits his mind against the nasties that tend to prey upon the weak willed, and weak minded. Normally, he doesn’t do much more than a quick empathetic check on a place, maybe a séance, and a few prayers to Apis with a psionic dispelling of spirits to calm the residents in an area. Every once in a while, he got a big job – a master psionic trying to set up a zombie army, or a coven of demonspawn molesting villagers, or things of that sort.

As his furred feet carried his heavy, highly polished boots along the road, he couldn’t help but think that this was going to be one of the big ones. It takes a lot of power to affect something the way the note was, on a psionic level, and send it through space into someone’s hand. The way it pulled to him, he also couldn’t help but fear it was his own blood traced into the words.

He walked from sun up well into the afternoon, singing hymns and folk tunes along the way. The instructions written told him to do weird things, like ‘turn twice at said fork and set off on the right path with your left foot first,’ and things of the like, but he followed them as best he could.

The sun was sinking into its bed in the hills when he finally saw in the dusky light a quaint little village, smoke in a faint haze above it being fed by chimneys on the brick houses. It looked at once normal and abnormal, though Ja’Deir couldn’t quite put his finger on why. He started to pass farms – instincts nagging at him – and an hour after catching sight of it he reached the outermost houses of the village.

It wasn’t until he was surrounded by the humble shacks that he realized it – there weren’t any sounds of life coming from any of the yards, open windows or doors. There were clothes hung up on lines to dry; wooden toy horses here or there where a child might have forgotten them; there were fires burning in the smithy and the fireplaces that he could see from the street through windows and doors; there were pies in windows to cool, some still steaming; but no sound from anvil or child’s cry or gossiping barmaid. It was as if the town were working itself, and living out lives of its inhabitants with no inhabitants to live the lives out.

He walked along the main road, heading to the town hall in the center. As he worked his way down the street, a feeling of apprehension growing with every step, the sun finally disappeared beyond the horizon. As if all of the houses, sheds and shops took a long, deep breath, a relief from the heat and scrutiny of the sun’s rays, a gust of wind crossed the town, whipping clothes on lines, bending lines of smoke, and threatened to take Ja’Deir’s cloak off his shoulders.

Seconds passed and the shallow tink-tink-tink-tack came from the abandoned smithy. One by one, the houses around him filled with life. Children started running across the streets, housewives milled about setting their tables, or washing clothes, or patching clothes while they watched their pups. Carters, Tailors, Cobblers and Tanners went about their trade in the larger buildings closer to the village square. Ja’Deir passed by, shocked at the strange resurgence of life in the town.

Ja’Deir sent out his senses to a boy that ran past him, the leader in a game of chase. He felt the emotions bubbling over in him; joy, excitement, triumph for being the fastest, hunger for the pie cooling on his momma’s window. Even the Aura seemed to be normal. Ja’Deir couldn’t help but be stymied.

Finally, he reached the central square. His psionic senses dragged his eyes to the town hall. It looked like a normal town hall out of the corner of his eye; it had white walls, an open front door, and benches inside. It also doubled as the church, with a bell in a steeple at the front of the building. When his eyes fell on it and focused, a floor of the single storey building he hadn’t seen was there, smushed under the first floor. His mortal eyes had a hard time focusing on it, wanting to slide off of it like butter in a skillet. It had an odd quality to it, as if it were two or three of the same floor, placed in the same spot, but the walls jumped backward and forward, unable to occupy the same exact spot. They were translucent, and the whitewash wasn’t quite the same shade as the rest of the building, having the slightly clear green hue of a marshy stream. It made Ja’Deir’s stomach lurch, not entirely because of the oddness of it – it felt wrong, but it called to him, and reminded him of visions of his own blood running down a cold sword.

Ja’Deir looked around the square, at the couples picnicking on the lawn, at the men working their trade in the shops, at the children at play. None of them seemed to even notice him, or the strangeness with the town hall. Ja’Deir started to walk toward the strange building. Before he passed the gates, he took stock of himself. He reached out with his psionic senses to the world around him, and the people in it. They weren’t ghosts – they were living, breathing people. That shocked Ja’Deir more than the town hall, and more than them appearing out of the dusk’s mist. “’The wraith’s call shall claim another…” Ja’Deir said to himself, passing through the wrought steel gateway.

Ja’Deir walked up the path to the double doors in the city hall. His head started to pound with the psionic pressure surging outward from the building. He grabbed for the door’s knob, but his hand closed around the physical handle, while the ghostly one shifted around him. Scrunching his face in concentration, he tried to grab it. Feeling foolish after the third or fourth try, he centered himself, and reached out psychically. He created an astral limb, and it had no trouble finding the door handle. With a decisive wrench, he thrust the door open, and stepped across the threshold.

The room was black as pitch before he entered, but hundreds of candles sprang to life when his foot touched the oscillating floorboards. The flames were blue, and gave off an eerie, otherworldly light. Ja’Deir walked down the center aisle, taking in the whole room. It looked like a chapel to the Lord of Inner Bonds, Kai, with blackwood benches, black candles, and red velvet carpets turned black by the lack of light. By the time he passed the third row of pews, he could make out the back of the room. There was a sword stuck into the floor, the light from the candles glinting evilly off of the fine metalwork. When he first caught sight of it, he tried to continue looking on, but his eyes were stuck fast on it. Deep within him a desire to reach for it stirred…

No.

He already fought this foe, and wouldn’t succumb again! He did not look directly at it after he wrenched his eyes away. He walked to the first row of pews, still twenty feet away from the sword in front of the podium, and stopped. Tentatively he reached out for any beings in the room, and he gasped.

Inside the sword… Hundreds of souls were screaming, wailing, cackling, and singing praises. So many presences, all trapped inside the smooth contours and jagged edges of it. Ja’Deir’s soul turned to ice. Such power comes from only one source: The deceiver; the binder; he who Ja’Deir shalt not name, other than the name of his Mudra – Kai.

In that moment it was decided. Ja’Deir must fix this. He turned to leave, and hadn’t taken a step before the doors blew open and a poor soul flew in, legs first, and screaming in terror and pain. As it got closer to the front of the room, a fiendish song rose in pitch. Despite the words, it was as if from a mother’s lips to a child in a crib. Ja’Deir remembers hearing this,


Rip, crush, devour and take
So claims the Wraith thy fate
Cry, claw, run and hide
You’ll be caught; in th’ sword abide

You who sees the poor soul die
Will be next, don’t even try
To run and escape his grasp
For he’s won; y’r soul he hast.
Rip, crush, devour and take
So claims the Wraith thy fate
Cry, claw, run and hide
You’ll be caught; in th’ sword abide

You’ll be caught; You’ll be caught.
He will win, your struggles for naught.
You’ll be caught; You’ll be caught.
He will win, your struggles for naught.

Rip, crush, devour and take
So claims the Wraith thy fate
Cry, claw, run and hide
You’ll be caught; in th’ sword abide

You who plans to fight this fate
Remember this, it is too late.
E’n though you walked in the light,
You’ll be taken, hence one night.

Rip, crush, devour and take
So claims the Wraith thy fate
Cry, claw, run and hide
You’ll be caught; in th’ sword abide

Rip, crush, devour and take
So claims the Wraith thy fate
Cry, claw, run and hide…

The soul’s screams died down to mix with the others’ in the sword. As they warred for dominance of Ja’Deir’s attention, he picked out thirteen that seemed to be singing praises to the wraith, a descant harmony to the wraith’s song.


Glory to the Dark!
His strength abides!
Let all receive their God!

We cursed this blade!
And sacrificed our lives,
That all might live in pain,
That all might live in pain,
That ALL, yes ALL might live in pain.

Ja’Deir ran from the room. He did not fear death, or even the power of the Dark. He simply could not hear such hate and malice sung so joyfully! Sorrow gripped his heart, and he knelt in the soft grass in the town square. He proffered thanksgiving to Apis for all that she hath done for the sons of men and beast. He thanked her for her loving embrace, open to all. He asked her for guidance, and for the strength to vanquish the hate corrupting the poor people of the village on the plains. His mind cleared, and he had a clear picture of what he needed to do. He had to send word to a Priest of Light, to consecrate the ground, so this wouldn’t happen again; but first needed to take the sword, dispel its spirits, and bury it deep in the earth, so the Lord of the Underworld can take it to his bosom.

Just then, a game ball hit him in the face. Out of surprise more than anything, he toppled backward. The first word that passed through his mind was: I thought they were cursed to another plane! The following thought made him uneasy: I could be on their plane, now…

Ja’Deir looked behind him, and the bottom floor of the Town Hall was solid, still, and full of people. There was a second building above it, but Ja’Deir could barely make out any detail of it, though he knew it by memory. He changed planes, and would have to cure this town if he ever wanted to leave.

The child that hit him came to him, and said, “Thorry mithter! Could I have my ball back? You look funny, what happened? My daddy hath hair on his chetht, but you have it all over. The mayor hath a big beard – but yours goes up to your eyes! What’th the matter? Don’tcha talk? Mithter? I didn’t hit you that hard, did I?

Ja’Deir gathered his wits, and said “I’m fine. I am called Ja’Deir, and I am an Ashada. What’s your name?”

“Billy.” Replied the boy, grabbing for the ball.

“Well, here you go. Maybe later you can teach me how to play?” Ja’Deir said, handing over the leather toy.

“Of Courthe, mithter… er… Judeer!” Billy called over his shoulder as he joined the other kids. Ja’Deir looked around him, and the life around him had slowed, and people were staring at him. He was strange to them, and they probably hadn’t seen a single visitor since the curse was cast over them. He stood and walked back into the Town Hall with purpose. Horus and his Righteous Retribution filled each one of Ja’Deir’s steps, indignation for the victims, and a thirst for Osiris’ Justice to be met filled his body.

Ja’Deir walked through the open doors, and didn’t falter, despite the gruesome scene before him. The specter he saw in his Psychometric trance stood behind the pulpit, eyes following Ja’Deir. The sword burned with black flames in front of him. The black candles gave off their blue light, but they illuminated white blood-spray patterns all around the room, as if a slaughter had taken place here, and the victims’ blood were white as the driven snow. Altars with human hearts swimming in blood lined the walls. The pews were filled with parishioners, all dressed in muted tones, and faces twisted in looks of agony and fear. Their eyes were wider than naturally possible, and their jaws were dislocated or broken to odd angles, making the visage even more gruesome.

The front row had thirteen black-clad figures sitting just as still as their white-clad counterparts behind them, heads twisted to face back, and faces wrenched in maniacal glee. Though they didn’t move, the descant Ja’Deir heard before seemed to come from them, resonating from their chests.

Ja’Deir walked down the aisle once again, and as he did a blue ethereal blade appeared in his hand. On his arm an ethereal shield popped into existence. His invisible armor, Apis’ Embrace, started to glow faintly. Ja’Deir, Arbiter of the Aspect of Love, Ashada Mind Mage, was going to war. He sang the Ashadan War Hymn as he marched to the front lines, beating his sword on his shield to the beat, sending a haunting drum beat to fill the room.

The War Hymn is translated as:


Open the gates, and Smite the Foe!
Fear Thou Not, and Hasten the Chase!
No one shall vanquish!
No, not the Foe’s Conquest!
Open the gates, and Smite them Down!

None shall stand against us,
For in the light we stand.
None shall escape,
The Ashada’s Hand!

Open the gates, and Smite the Foe!
Fear Thou Not, and Hasten the Chase!
No one shall vanquish!
No, ne’er the Foe’s Conquest!
Open the gates, and Smite them Down!

The Wraith’s song rang in a dissonant harmony, and before Ja’Deir reached the front, their songs were waging war. The wraith moved in front of the podium, reaching for the sword. On the final “Smite them down!” Ja’Deir leapt forward, swinging fiercely at the cloaked fiend; then started the fight for the lives of not only the Village and Ja’Deir, but possibly for all of Palladium.

Anyone that thinks that fights are dances should get into one once. It is only a dance when both fighters have more time to spend on flowery posturing than sense. Now, I do not wish to say that practicing sword forms is pointless, far from it. But it is definitely not a dance. It is as much of a dance as a lion ripping a gazelle to pieces is a dance. It is brutal; it is cold; it is devoid of anything resembling good.

Such was Ja’Deir’s fight with Death. Every thrust, swing, riposte and parry was violent and filled with raw need. The wraith moved with deadly grace and skill, and Ja’Deir was hard pressed to defend himself. Time seemed to pass slower than ever and at the same time faster than Ja’Deir could handle. They crossed the room, in the hopes of gaining some advantage. From around the pulpit to the tops of the pews to lunging from window sills, up and down the aisles. Ja’Deir threw an altar at his foe once, the heart smashing to the ground and bursting, after which a piercing scream erupted from one of the people in the haunting congregation that did not stop. A pang of remorse hit him for a split second before the next wave of strikes came at him.

Ja’Deir didn’t just use his sword, but everything he had. He tried every trick and skill he had with his psionic abilities, but nothing seemed to slow his undead attacker. Ja’Deir was about to retreat when the God’s favor shone over him. The wraith lifted his sword to swing down on Ja’Deir, when he moved inside the wraith’s swing and shoved the sword under where the ribs should be, and thrust upward. The unholy mouth shrieked in surprise and pain in Ja’Deir’s ear. For good measure, Ja’Deir took his sword out and thrust it in again, and again, each time forcing a shriek from the unnaturally skeletal mouth. Ja’deir realized he was covered in blood, both his and the wraith’s, and he didn’t care. This monster was terrorizing innocent people. It had had a grip over their hearts and souls for far too long! It would end here. The ungodly sword thrust into Ja’Deir’s back in its master’s death throes. Ja’Deir sank to the ground, and all went black.

Ja’Deir woke up in the center of the village, to sunlight and a pack of dogs cleaning the blood from him. He felt a wave of power wash over him from somewhere. He stood, and saw that the town hall had light, beautiful and overwhelming, shining from every wall, pillar, and window. Above it a pillar of light and white fire shot into the sky, disappearing in the distant heavens. He felt something hard under his foot, so he looked down to see what it was. The sword lay there, dark and ominous, in the grass beneath him.

He grabbed it, and ran from town before anyone could see him with it. He reached a secluded part of the plain, behind a hill and next to a stream. He started to dig a hole with his telekinesis, and didn’t stop till the hole was so deep he could have stood two of him on his shoulders to see over the edge. As he dug, he heard the song again, trying to lullaby him to a dreamless sleep. He went to the bottom and thrust it into the ground as hard as he could. He covered the hole, and as he walked away he could still hear it calling to him,


“Rip, crush, devour and take; so claims the Wraith thy fate…”

>>Adapted from memory, on the 9th of Kym-Nark-Mar, in the 3rd year of CrIsis. events spanning several days after the events otherwise described on the 4th, in a forest in the Northern Hinterlands. Entry by Ja’Deir, Ashada Mind Mage, disciple of Apis.<< >Picture Credit: eofdreams.com
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