The problem with being a ghost isn’t that you’re dead. It’s that no one will listen to you! I swear that ninety percent of the angry poltergeists out there exist for no other reason than no will pay attention to them if they’re not breaking windows and making blood run down the walls.
After I blew up one of the Shadow Breaker airships I found myself short one physical body. Ghosts are real in Vale Septem, so I wasn’t entirely out of luck, but there were all sorts of rules on how and when they could affect the physical world. Mostly it boiled down to ‘you can’t’. Also, except for especially gifted people, or on certain holy days and in certain spots, no one could see or hear me.
“Points to the Holy Throne there. This is going to be a pain to work around.” I grumbled.
It was perhaps petty to be complaining about the restrictions I had to labor under. Most people who’d been fatally stabbed by a Holy Blade had to content themselves with getting first hand experience of the afterlife. Things left unfinished, promises that were made, friends that were in danger, these were all left behind. That’s not even a bad thing really. For other people.
I might have mentioned I’m occasionally a hypocrite? Intellectually I could understand the need to be able to move on. The need to respect that ‘finality’ can exist and sometimes, often even, doesn’t work in our favor. Rationally I knew all that, but I’m not a creature of pure reason. There were people in Dawns Harbor that I didn’t want to see hurt. Also, there was a guy sitting on the Holy Throne whom I was more than a little annoyed with. So I chose to linger a bit longer.
By default, my ghostly form had stayed in the same spot as my body had occupied. That meant I was floating gently below the oncoming storm clouds and had a beautiful view of the two remaining sky galleons as they crashed into the town below. My retributive strike hadn’t vaporized them like it had Avernicus’ airship but neither was even close to being flightworthy anymore either.
Since it was the more intact of the two, I followed the one that crashed into the ocean beyond the harbor. Part of me hoped that the crew would be as badly damaged as the ship but unfortunately bodies that were transformed by an Eternity Cauldron were more resilient than wood or metal.
The ship hit the waves and shattered into flotsam. Here and there, Eternal Reborn, the cauldron’s creation, popped back to the surface of the water and then dove back under. Without a signal, they began swimming to shore with inhuman speed, driven by the Emissary’s will.
As a spirit, I could fly naturally and wasn’t slowed by wind resistance, so I beat them to the beach by a wide margin. The townsfolk had repaired and improved their fortifications as best they could in the short time they’d had available. I could see Colten marshalling the fishers and guards under his command. He cut an imposing figure in his dark armor. In his hands, he held a scythe that was longer than he was tall. The aura it radiating was terrifying and powerful enough that I could feel its force even in my ghostly state.
There’s a funny thing about terrifying stuff though: when you’re faced with a terrifying foe, having something terrifying on your side can make you feel a whole lot better.
“The Reborn will be here in a minute. They’re going to hit you all at once. If you can cripple some of them and fall back, you can gang up on the ones who pursue the quickest.” I told Colten. Who keep scanning the ocean since he couldn’t hear a word I was saying.
I tried lifting a spear that laying against a rack of weapons and my hand went right through it.
“Being dead sucks!” I complained to no one in particular.
The Eternal Reborn struck a moment later, exploding from the surface of the ocean in leaps that carried them thirty feet into the air and over a hundred feet up the beach. They landed behind the first line of fortifications, in and among the townsfolk and proceeded to attack everyone within reach of their blades.
The townsfolk hadn’t been expecting an assault like that and couldn’t have prepared for one if they’d know it was coming. The best they could do was try to flee to the second line of fortifications but even that was impossible in many cases. The Eternal Reborn cut off avenues of escape and cut down any who opposed them. Even fighting purely defensively, an individual townsfolk was no match for one of the cauldron-created warriors.
A tremendously bad idea occurred to me and I tried to take advantage of my ghostly state by leaping into the body of one of the attackers. As a ghost in Vale Septem, possessing someone should have been well within my capabilities. That was in theory. In practice the moment I touched the nearest Reborn I burst into flames, which wasn’t pleasant at all.
I cast the flames away and restored my ghostly body, kicking myself as I did so. The Reborn were powered by the light of the Holy Throne. Among the many other benefits it provided, the light burned any shadows, shades or other creatures of the dark that touched it. As a ghost I qualified as a ‘creature of the dark’, hence the fiery backlash.
It was tempting to dream magic the reborn into oblivion but that path led to both destabilizing the world and losing my grip on it. Granted the grip of a ghost was fairly tenuous at best, but it was better than losing my hold on reality entirely.
With the Reborn off limits, I turned my attention to the defenders instead. Many of them were wounded. The Reborn weren’t finishing them off, and I could see why all too easily. The Emissary of the Holy Throne wanted more cauldron troops and who better to use than a town he’d written off already?
While the Reborn weren’t focusing on fatal blows, I could see that Colten was. The retreat was a failure but the old warrior wasn’t giving up the fight. His scythe whirled with a speed and grace that was amazing to watch. For as tough as the Reborn were, when he clipped them with his scythe, it was like their armor was made of tissue paper. Unfortunately hitting them was difficult at best.
The mere fact that he was able to drive back a trio of the Reborn and keep them engaged was enough to serve as a rallying point for the defenders. They moved towards him, fighting in twos and threes against the Reborn. It wasn’t enough to let them overcome the attackers, but it did give the townsfolk enough of an edge to slow the assault.
Slowing the assault wasn’t the same as stopping it though. I saw one of the women who was fighting nearest to Colten catch an attacker’s sword in a lucky parry bind. For her effort, she also caught an elbow strike to the temple from the Reborn warrior beside her. The force of it knocked her off her feet and drop her senseless to the sand. The Reborn thrust forward to disable her more completely but was parried by another woman who stood beside the fallen one.
Where the Reborn were protected against possession, the townsfolk were not. That gave me the opening I needed and I hopped into the fallen woman’s body, rolling her out of the path of the next sword blow.
Springing back to “my” feet was a little different since I was piloting an unfamiliar body but in the end legs are legs and arms are arms so it wasn’t too hard to adjust.
I joined the fighting and called on meta-awareness to guide my strikes and blocks. I’d have loved to use magic instead, but ghosts don’t have access to the magic of the Dominions in Vale Septem. I couldn’t even afford to use my dream magics to ‘improve’ on my current body unless I wanted to leave the original owner feeling like they were in someone else’s body for the rest of their life.
All that said, having meta-awareness guide me in a fight left me nice advantage. The Reborn were stronger and faster. They were impossibly well coordinated too since the Holy Throne was puppeting them all. That level of control had an overhead cost associated with it though. No normal mortal could have handled it. The Holy Throne had magic to burn to cover that gap but even so, the Emissary lacked the real experience with combat that people like Colten had. He was able to fight them because he was barely thinking at all.
Observation became action became reaction in a brutal dance that he’d walked the steps of thousands of times. That was what meta-awareness gave me. I didn’t tell my borrowed body to do anything, it just moved as meta-awareness told it that it must. There wasn’t doubt or fear or even planning in my mind. Just silence and the desire to win.
Sadly, all the skill in the world isn’t enough sometimes.
With meta-awareness I could fight a single Reborn to a draw. Against two of them I could at least defend myself. The problem was, they could see that.
Colten and I each went down under a pile of a five of the Reborn. They were smart enough to leave nothing to chance. Try as we might, neither of us could stand our ground against that many foes who were that superior in speed and a strength.
As we fell, I heard a great horrified shout go up from the defenders who had formed up on Colten. Then I heard screaming. I expected sharp pain to follow but instead I was thrown up off the ground by a titanic impact.
I landed a few feet from the pile of Reborn that had dragged me down and looked up to see an enormous black dragon towering over us. It had several of the Reborn clutched in its claws and teeth. Or, to be more accurate, pieces of several of the Reborn. It roared like a hurricane, crimson fire lancing from its mouth like a laser beam that incinerated two of the Reborn who’d leapt out of its reach.
Despire its ferocity and rage, something about the dragon seemed familiar and for a moment I lost track of the battle as I stared in wonder at the enormous beast.
“Kari?” I asked.
It turned to me and roared. I couldn’t tell if it was recognition or rage. In either case I was glad I wasn’t in the body of any of the Reborn with the way the dragon tore into them.
The magically analytical part of me, the ‘Priestess Jin’ who remained, wondered why the light that sustained the Reborn didn’t burn the dragon as it tore them to pieces. Dreamlord Jin noticed that the dragon was burning, but it carried enough power and anger that any damage that was done vanished in seconds.
For as insanely frightening as the dragon was, once the townsfolk realized that it was targeting the Eternal Reborn exclusively they rallied behind it. What had started as a deadly rout shifted quickly to a merciless offensive.
The arrival of an unexpected force like the dragon sent the Reborn scurrying back to the water at the Emissary’s command. It didn’t make sense to expend troops in a fruitless battle, the smart move was to recall them and strike again when the opportunity presented itself.
The townsfolks didn’t give him that option. Spear and nets joined the rampaging dragon to annihilate the attackers before even one of them could the water’s edge.
The remainder of the battle took but a few minutes and when the fighting past I released my hold on the woman I was possessing. Without access to the Sixth Dominion I didn’t have any healing spells I could repair her with, but I was at least able to leave her resting in a comfortable spot, rather than sprawled on the beach.
My lack of healing made me think of Kari. The Holy Throne had excommunicated the town. That meant Kari was the only healer available. If she was in a situation where she was summoning giant black dragons though that didn’t bode well for her availability to fix up the fallen.
I took flight again, turning to meta-awareness for a sense of where to look for her.
I found her in the basement of the church. I noticed that she’d apparently plowed a hole straight to it. I also noticed the body of Prelate Ralls and Helena holding a pair of Rune Daggers that made Colten’s scythe look like a can opener.
A little bit of meta-awareness showed me the fight that Kari had waged against Prelate Ralls and the stakes they’d been fighting over.
A new sanctuary crystal! There was hope for Dawns Harbor once more!
“Wow! For a girl who didn’t think she was, and I quote, ‘anything special’, that was amazing!” I said, and like the amazing girl she was, she turned to face me, surprise written all over her face.