Chapter 29: Ghosts of the Past
Cold, dark, death embraces me--
Into death it pulls me.
~ Miyara Miwa
Early in the morning, we readied ourselves to finally go to the mansion. I was certain there was nothing left to interrupt us, and I was determined to press on no matter what we might stumble across this time. Perhaps Martin was there, but the doctor and his rude experiments with lightning and dead bodies were the primary concern.
Caramela, Ravena, Jeisan, and Res Li reminded us all that the local druidess had forbidden them entry to the ghost wood, due to a fire that occured during their last visit. Ash said he was willing to ask the druidess to allow their entry for this important errand, so we travelled under a leaden sky to the very edge of the ghost wood. As Ash entered the woods, the rain started falling.
Hosei found a little paper umbrella in a pouch, placed it on his head, said a few words I could not understand, and the rain began to fall around him without touching him. Sadly, he said he was unable to cast that particular spell on anyone aside from himself. I was intrigued by the small paper umbrella, though, and promised to fold him a few more whenever he wished.
We waited in the rain, as it began to fall harder and a chill wind started to blow. We heard distant and then not-so-distant thunder. Ash returned after what I am sure was merely an hour, but seemed longer. He motioned for us all to follow him into the woods and stammered a single directive: "No fire." Ravena shot a look at her sister that clearly said "and he means it."
Although the thick woods shielded us from much of the rain, the storm worsened as we approached the mansion. We stepped out of the protection of the trees into a strong, cold wind driving needle-like rain into our faces and soaking us almost instantly. I silently promised Kita and his shorter brother that I would clean and oil them properly when the day was done. Leaves swirled around our feet and lightning constantly lit the sky, filling our ears with the sharp crack of thunder. We all jumped as a bolt hit a nearby tree, splitting it. Sparks flew, but no fire could withstand the rain's attack.
In front of us, the jagged remains of the mansion reached only a few feet above the ground in most places. Tangled vines covered the stone, whipping around in the wind. There were a couple of tall metal rods reaching into the sky, and lightning hit them regularly with cracks, buzzes, and sparks. Over the din, we heard a door banging against its frame, propelled by the wind.
We staggered into the driving rain towards the door, which looked to be a recent addition. Behind it were stairs leading down into darkness. Hosei handed the White Faerie a glowing rock, who attached it to his helmet. He said his people often did that when going underground.
Caramela took out her red crystal and gazed into it for a moment. Small, dancing lights circled around her head, and her eyes glowed redly. A good omen, I thought. Red for luck.
Kyosuke led us down the stairs, followed by Ash, me, Hosei, Res Li, Ravena, Caramela, the White Faerie, and Jeisan. The first three of us walked down quietly, as we preferred not to alert anyone at the bottom. The rest clanked down as though at a party.
Kyosuke stopped at the bottom, where a door closed off the passage, and motioned for Res Li to come ahead. We allowed him to the front, who asked that a light be held up to illuminate the door. Hosei obliged, and Res Li looked through the door, taking his time to see everything he could.
On the other side was a hall, perpendicular to the stairs and about 15 feet long, with oil lamps burning on its walls: clear proof we were headed in the right direction. Our door was not centered on it: the right was shorter than the left. Directly across from us was the remnants of a wine cellar. On the right was the jail and torture chamber of the Raiken Bakus.
On the left was one room with another opening from it. He could only see portions of those two room and said they contained the remains of furniture and shelving, but it was hard to tell what all the trash was.
This door was also obviously new, and it was locked magically so that Res Li could not open it.
The White Faerie prepared to bash it open, but Hosei stopped him, asking what we should do. I said to let the White Faerie knock loudly with his maul and open the door. The faster the better: with all the din coming down the stairs, they knew we were here already.
With two blows, he wrecked the door, and two more cleared the frame so we could easily pass through. Res Li pointed to the hinges on the outside of the door: it was made to keep things in, not out. Just another confirmation of what was likely in store for us: one or more animated dead bodies. They paused and asked which way, and I said left: we could look at empty rooms later.
The door at the end of the hall was locked, and Res Li looked through it. As he said what he saw, the White Faerie spoke at the same time: he saw in his vision what Res Li saw with his eyes. They described a large man sitting up from a large slab.
Res Li said the first room was full of the remains of many pieces of furniture, and a large mound had been built up in front of the door so that it would come crashing down upon us in a flood once we opened the door. The other room off to the side was a working but disorganized laboratory with many weird electrical items and wires and chemicals and magical looking equipment that he could not decipher, nor did I truly understand what he meant until I saw it with my own eyes later. In that room were three beings: our missing doctor from the village in a white lab coat waving his arms around in the air; on a large table was a very large patchwork-looking man; and a hunchbacked man throwing switches. From Res Li's description, I could not tell what or who he was throwing switches at.
Res Li opened the door and we set up the White Faerie to open the door for us, jumping to the side so he could control the fall of the debris safely. Then we could all enter.
As he took his place, he had another vision: a terrifying ghostly face screaming at him. He did not pause in his task, though. Res Li stepped out of the way and the White Faerie held the door shut until he was safely out of the way. Then he jumped aside and opened the door carefully, controlling the flow of the trash, as planned.
As I watched an impatient Kyosuke leap over the streaming debris into the room, I heard a loud clatter behind us. Although I glanced backward, I could not see anything past those who stood behind me. As soon as I could, I climbed over the trash into the room, just behind the White Faerie.
Kyosuke kicked at the closed door on the other side of the room, but accomplished nothing. The White Faerie struck the door with his maul, creating a large hole. Glancing around the room, I saw there was no one else in here: just trash covering the floor and a narrow, clear path between the doors. A bolt of lightning blasted through the door, striking both my cousin and the White Faerie, leaving puffs of smoke in its wake. Neither fell, though.
Kyosuke and the White Faerie cleared the door enough to enter through it: on the other side was the horror we had feared. A large man with greyish skin and vacant eyes stood on the other side. He appeared to have been stitched together from several different men.
Killing an already dead man might be difficult, so I shouted to the two in front to stand back and allow it to come into the room. It might be able to strike at us more easily, but many more of us would be able to strike it. However, my impetuous cousin had leapt into the next room before I even finished. One of Ash's axes whizzed by me and hit the creature, so I knew he had entered behind me. The White Faerie stepped back, and the creature stepped into the room towards us.
The White Faerie looked about to take another step back, so I told him to attack, and he did. I stepped off the path to bypass the creature, leaving it to Ash and the White Faerie, who should be well able to handle it. I assumed Jeisan was close behind, and perhapd Hosei could do something magical against it. Ashe again hit the monster with an axe.
I took a step towards the door, but clumsily tripped over the trash in my way. As I struggled for far too long to regain my feet, Ashe and the White Faerie continued to do considerable damage to the creature, and Hosei had also entered the room and was maneuvering towards the door. At last, I was able to stumble into the other room.
Inside, I saw the doctor standing before me, mumbling and waving his hands around in the air. My cousin, to my horror, was sitting on the ground, gibbering and drooling. Knowing the doctor was trying to cast another spell, I applied both weapons to him with vigor. It took only a few windmill slices to fell him, then I sliced off his head to be certain he was truly dead. The other man Res Li had seen was dead on the floor, by Kyosuke's hands and feet apparently. Before I could move to his aid, I felt a cold chill slice through me, and a terrifying specter materialized before my eyes: surely a yuurei, the tortured soul of someone who had died in the fire. I remember nothing else for several hours.
I awoke back in the village. Ashe and the White Faerie had destroyed the walking dead man. The yuurei had wreaked havoc through our ranks, though, and many of us had to be carried out by the rest. I am completely ashamed of myself, failing our group in that way. I must be stronger and lead these barbarians in a manner worthy of my people.
The yuurei has stolen away part of the White Faerie's hearing, and he complains (loudly) that nothing tastes right anymore. Ravena cannot stand being in the dark anymore, and my sleeping will be made lighter by the candle she keeps burning in the room (and by which I am currently writing). She says in the dark that she can feel the yuurei's presence again. Kyosuke is recovered, as is Jeisan, who was the loud clatter I heard but could not see, and the others whom the yuurei had affected.
We never found the elusive Martin, nor Sutami, Gerig's faerie. The village leader sent to Nulun for someone to take the three in the jail for justice. The San Jiovisis left, promising to send back a manager for the inn, which we left closed for now. Next, we must at last follow the Blue Faerie's instructions. We leave for Iri in the morning.