The transparent form of a young man lies on the floor before me. I was not sure what I expected. I knew there was some sort of illusion spell in here, but I expected it to break and reveal something wrong with the room. But then, my guess on the spirit was right. It was not a ghost. So what is it?
“Why ain’t he all there?” Con’s curiosity never ceases to instill both a sense of joy and a certain exasperation in having to explain every little thing.
At least, that is what I tell myself. It is more that I have no clue what is going on here and he’s looking to me to explain it. How does this happen? I can only assume that what lies in front of us is a spirit, but what kind and what it can do are all speculation at this point.
Oh dear. It seems the young man is coming around. He pushes himself off the ground and climbs to his feet. Standing up, he looks to be even taller than I am. His hair is neatly combed into a part on top of his head. The resemblance to Lance is uncanny, though. It really could be his brother. Or potentially some kind of shape shifter. Too many options. We’ll just have to wait and see.
“Where am I?” He puts his hand to his head, looking like he has a spell of vertigo. Not sure how a spirit could have vertigo, but I can’t think about it. I ready the gem on my arm, in case he decides he doesn’t want to be in the thrall of me and my esteemed assistant and tries to escape.
“You are currently being held within a wall of light, designed to keep something such as yourself contained. I would suggest against touching it. I’ve heard it hurts.” I could not come up with a better lie to save my life. Which this just might.
“I, uh… I guess that answers my question. But who are you? And what is going on?” He squints, like he can’t quite see me. Though I suppose he can not. The curtain of light is a bit obtrusive.
“My name is Archibald Branner. This is my young cohort, Con. We are investigators, of sorts.” Con stood up proud at the mention of his name.
“Investigators? I’m sorry, I just- I’m not quite sure what’s going on. The last I remember… Wait…” He stepped back and looked down. “Wait, I remember…” He snaps up and looks right at me, eyes wide with fear. “I remember! I died!”
“Well, this is odd. Tell me, how did you die?” I refuse to relax my hand. I signal for Con, to head around the back of the spirit. I can’t take the chance that this is the demon, using some form of magic I’m not familiar with.
“I was in the master’s study. The arrangement of the furniture was frustrating him. Then the sounds started. There had been some incidents of howls and whispers. I thought it might have been some unseen hole in the wall, or maybe an unwanted rodent. But I remember the clanging. The fear in my workers’ eyes. After that, it gets hazy, but I distinctly recall seeing the blade protruding from my torso. Blood ran down my stomach. And each second, the terror in my mind overwhelmed more of my senses…” He drifts off, lost in the horrifying memory. I don’t know what to say. If he’s telling falsehoods, he’s rather fantastic at it.
“Tell me, what is your name?” I had a feeling it would be the same as before, but just to check.
“My name is Marcellus. Marcellus Welling. I am the lead footman for Doctor Maladar. Or rather… I was the lead footman.” He seems so depressed. Though I suppose it’s only natural for someone who knows they are deceased.
“Before I broke the alteration illusion placed upon you, the form you had resembled more of a normal ghost. A whispy, smoke-like appearance. Do have any clue why that is? Do you know who cast a spell on you?”
His fear and sadness did not fade, but rather grew at my question.
“Yes. After I was killed, my mind was filled with fog and memories didn’t come easy. But I found I could see new things. My soul could wander the halls, but it was the new way I perceived this place that astounded me. I could see trails of light, leading from object to object. And over time, I came to understand, that these were the remnants of something spiritual. Something magic.”
“And from there you could know what made you so different?”
“He knew I knew. The sword didn’t pierce me because of the spirits haunting this place. He cast the spell. Made it move. I was getting stronger. I could have told someone soon…”
“Who was it!?” I was getting anxious. His terror, and sorrow pointed to someone he knew. Someone he trusted.
“It was my own brother. Lance.”
No. That can’t be right.
“Lance was the one to change my form. My own brother was practicing such dark methods. I had confronted him in one of the side rooms. I knew there had to be an explanation for everything I found.”
“Lance was hording various odd items and I only knew what he was doing because I finally witnessed it with my own eyes. I told him that I saw him talking to the spirit haunting this house. Giving it orders. He threatened it with a small stone before the spirit went on its way. He tried to tell me otherwise. That he was only trying to help. That is when I would hear no more.”
The boy fell to his knees from the thought.
“I decided to notify the doctor… and Lance decided to stop me the only way he could.”
“So you had known since your death that your brother was your killer.” The fact I was talking to a ghost paled in comparison to the news I had just learned.
Lance was the culprit. He killed his own brother to cover up his demonic summoning. But why? To what end would he do such a dangerous thing? I don’t believe he’s the type to seek power, but as I’ve just been shown several times over, I can be fooled. Actually, this could still be a deception on behalf of the spirit considering I’ve never heard of a ghost able to have a conversation before.
“Tell me, Marcellus, how did you come across this form? Do you remember the process after you died.”
“I- I am not sure. I remember hearing Lance say something. Something about how I don’t have to leave. After that, my memories jump to wandering around the halls, unable to be seen or heard. It had felt like I had been in this form all my life.”
Interesting. Is it possible Lance saved his brother’s soul? Or potentially damned it?
“I got stronger. I could feel myself closer to the material world. And the strands of magic helped my memory. Soon, I would be able to speak to someone and expose his actions. But then he found me, and cast a new spell. And my world became dark once again.”
“Mr. Welling, I am unsure what to do with you, or your information, for, you see, you aren’t a ghost. Or at least not a typical ghost. Because I can’t be certain of what you are just yet, your information just leads me to more questions. So for me to figure out whether or not I should go confront your brother, I have to verify your information. Do you understand?”
The spirit looked confused. He likely understood my message but was just confused as I spelled out my thoughts as I did.
“I do, but what do you mean by all this?”
“Well, I’ll need to cast a few spells on you and make sure some runes I have will actually affect whatever you are. And in order to test their ability to function on you, we’ll need to make sure that the… side-effects of these spells actually do what they need to do when you do something wrong.”
Very long and round about way of saying it, but I think that should do it.
“It’s going to hurt, isn’t it?”
The spirit’s face turned to fear.
“I would ask why you can not just take my word as my bond and do what needs to be done, but you have already made it abundantly clear.”
Con was getting angry. I can only assume he was angry at me.
He turned his head away from me in a huff.
“This ain’t right.”
I took the chalk out of my pocket and began drawing some symbols on the ground.
“I’m sorry you feel that way, my friend. But it is necessary. If this is some sort of trick or illusion being played upon us by the demonic creatures or even the one who summoned them himself, we could at the very least, be wasting precious time and at worst, condemning an innocent man. As we get closer to providing a solution to this enigma, the more precautions we’re going to have to take.”
I stand up and inspect the runes I inscribed around the room. Con sits, cross-legged, just outside the circle.
“Don’t mean I have to like it…”
“It’s necessary. Now move over to the other side of the circle. I will require assistance with this endeavor.”