EDIT: Chapter 2 is finally up!
And, here we go, my complete rewrite of Life/Finale.
When alive, the scathing, witty,
and hot-tempered Skylar Parish was
a rising star, a Sensitive capable
of seeing ghosts, and a girl with
endless potential. At only sixteen,
she was an Agent for the Library of
Anax and one of the most accomplished
magicians of the 21st century. Her
death, however, was another story . . .
Bored by the monotone of death and
reduced to scaring away bystanders, the
dull existence of Skylar's ghost is
explosively kicked up by the arrival of
a young Sensitive named Isaac Renfield
and the horrible monstrosity that has
been pursuing him. Now fleeing across
the country with a wild ensemble of
friends and foes, Skylar and Isaac are
pulled into a complex net of deception
and machinations, sending themselves
ever deeper into the web of plotting
surrounding a pursuit for vengeance
Chapter 1: Into the Inferno
The first thing I heard was the footsteps. Soft, rhythmic clapping that echoed across the halls of the burnt mansion. "Showtime." I grinned. I clapped my hands together, letting myself fade into nothingness. The next moment, the room was empty, with only the musty and singed chandelier rocking overhead, it's rather mournful candles spluttering pathetically. Finally, the figure stepped into the room. I pegged the boy at about 15, with dark, tattered clothing and a lanky, thin frame. Ah well, it's more fun to scare people a bit closer to my age. Snapping my fingers, the chandelier immediately stopped rocking as each candle was snuffed out one by one. The boy looked around with mild curiosity, but didn't seem overly fazed. Well that's no fun. Time to spice things up a bit.
The darkness began to swirl and writhe like some horrid snake, as whispering purple fires bubbled to life in midair, slowly dancing around the kid. Beneath each fire, I threw in a bit of frost, which started to spread across the ground like a spider web, eerily out of place next to the indigo flames. Then, for good measure, I added in a few sound effects, children whispering and laughing maliciously, chains being dragged across the floor, people moaning in pain. You know, just your every day sort of cacophony. Did I say 'spice things up'? Maybe that was an understatement. 'Completely overboard' probably would have been better, especially since I was on the verge of setting the chandelier on fire for a bit of extra effect. What can I say? I'm a drama type of girl. I won't apologize for that. Slowly, I put on a bit of a dramatic voice and sighed in the dark, 'What.... do you want?.....'
To my eternal frustration, the boy in front of me remained unfazed. "You know very well what I want. And cut it with the theatrics."
Ooh, the nerve of some people! Burying my indignation for a moment, I took the time to rustle up my most sinister voice as I said, "You presume too much, boy." Slowly, the purple fires went out and we were plunged into an ink-black darkness. But just as I was raising my hand to nail him with a Hex of some variety of nastiness, a smoky blue fire bubbled to life in the boys hand.
"Emet," he called out, muttering another quick command under his breath. A low rumbling slowly filled the room, as a shifting figure emerged from the shadows. It was vaguely man shaped, but the Presence the brat summoned was also translucent, as if woven from watery rays of light, with disproportionally triangular shoulders and a heavy, neck-lacking head. "Give our friend here a well deserved drubbing," the boy said smartly.
"All right, fine!" I threw up my hands in frustration before the Presence had a chance to act, the darkness slowly receding. Voice considerably higher, I noted irritably, "No need to resort to such churlish methods." I folded my arms in an annoyed sort of way, hovering slightly in midair as my form shimmered into visibility. A girl now floated in front of the boy, somewhat short with an angled face, a black bomber jacket, brown hair, and slashes of blond highlights. There was a moment of electrically charged silence as we glared at each other, until out of irritation I finally decided to say, "What? Am I so beautiful you can't think of anything to say?"
He instantly turned red with embarrassment as I floated up behind him. "Aren't you going to say something? Taunts are no fun if they don't get a reaction beyond making someone blush like an idiot." Flipping upside down, I commented. "So, you want to try and make a pact? Well what the hell do you need me for? You've got that bloody thing already." I drifted back to about a foot away from the boy, still upside down as I gestured at the menacing creature I guessed was Emet.
The boy looked a bit sheepish, replying awkwardly. "Er, that's a bit besides the-"
Something clicked in my head and I cut him off, pointing at him with a ghostly transparent finger. "Aha! You're nothing but a novice. You're not strong enough to control that Emet thing for very long, so you need a ghost that doesn't knock you unconscious every time you summon it!"
The boy looked a bit defensive, saying "I-"
"-'am a big headed idiot who shouldn't have tried to go up against someone as wonderful as Skylar Parish?'" I finished his sentence for him, leaning back and propping my legs up in the air. "Glad you're finally seeing the light." I continued lazily, still drifting around the room as if being carried by some gentle sea current.
The boy looked like he was about to start spitting fireballs. I leaned closer until our faces were inches apart, grinning at his blushing face as I vanished from sight. "Alright then," I said, my voice echoing hauntingly off the crumbling, melancholy walls. "Since you've got next to no control over that Emet thing, give me one reason why I shouldn't smash your adolescent head to the ground?"
Then, taking me by surprise, the boy managed to stutter out the Materialization Command. Emet stalked forward, the floorboards creaking and moaning as he became more visible with each step. On another hastily muttered phrase from the boy, Emet raised his hand and made a curious gesture. Before I had time to react, I doubled over, gasping as a heavy force washed over me. I stumbled backwards in midair, forced back into visibility and cart-wheeling backwards, feeling as though someone deflated my lungs with a wrecking ball.
Clumsily floating upright, I heard him say, frustration clinging to his every syllable, "Here's a reason; I've got enough control over Emet to make you very uncomfortable before I have to release him." Despite the altogether unpleasant situation I was in, it gave me a bit of satisfaction to know I was really pushing the kids buttons.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much else I could do beyond sending him into a frothing rage. To operate any kind of spell, or for a ghost to Cause something to happen, it requires the aspects of life and death. By mixing life and death, you're forcing together two things that can't normally mix, allowing the casting of spells. Thus, you'd need at least one ghost, and at least one living person. Presences take this process to a whole different level. They're ghosts that have shed all vestiges of humanity to achieve vast amounts of power. Furthermore, if a Presence were to form a Pact with a living person, they would have their powers more than tripled, at the expense of not being able to act unless Materialized. Emet appeared to have formed a pact with boy, so any sort of spell I sent at him would have had as much effect as a tepid water balloon. Without any water.
I let the indigo fires around us die, staring at the boy with annoyance. "Fine. Just tell me what you want then."
The boy crossed his hands in a business-like manner. "So." I would have dearly liked to say "So what" but felt it would have been a bit more prudent to stay quiet. He continued. "Is this what the great Skylar Parish has been reduced to? Lurking in an old manner and scaring passersby to occupy the boredom of death and ghosthood?"
I frowned, as unfortunately, he was right. There's really not a whole lot to do when you're dead, other than stew in self pity and haunt people you don't like. "All right, I guess you may have a point. But seriously, enough with the theatrics, you're almost as bad as me. What do you really want?"
The boy looked uncomfortable, and I thought I caught a trace of sadness behind his eyes. Finally, he said. "I need your help."
I responded sarcastically. "Gee old friend, I'd love to help! What wouldn't I do for you?"
The boy made an exasperated sound, saying, "Skylar, please, I -"
I kicked my legs in a fluttering motion, like a swimmer, sliding up right next to the boy. "Can I get a 'pretty please'?"
The boy glared at me and I sighed theatrically, "Or you could just say 'please' again. I wouldn't say no to a bit of flattery either."
This actually got the boy strangling the air, as I chided, "If you want to kill me, you're a bit too late for that."
The boy gave a heavy sigh, running a hand through his hair. I suppose he would have been cute if he wasn't so pale and angry looking. He finally said. "Fine. 'Pretty please', Skylar, I really do need your help."
Wow, I actually got him to say it. That was a first. I drifted backwards, waiting for him to continue, the kid having stayed silent until he finally realized I wasn't going to subject him to any more of my charming wit (i.e. sarcasm and insults). He hastily continued, "I- All right, so you may have been right earlier. I'm a novice, and I can't materialize Emet for more than five minutes. And I need him hell of a lot longer than five minutes."
Ooh, sounds intriguing. I could just smell the adventure. Well, idiot he may have been, but at least he wasn't a boring idiot. "Why?" I asked, settling into a sitting position.
"I've been running for months. They've been chasing me non-stop, no rest, no moment to stay in an area for longer than a few days." He ran a hand though his hair once more, and for the first time I noticed dark lines under his eyes.
"The first ones were men. Somber-looking, quiet, they knew something about my ability-"
"Sensitivity." I cut in absentmindedly.
"What?" The boy said in a distracted manner.
"It's called Sensitivity. If you don't want to embarrass yourself in front of the ladies, call it right." I grinned flirtatiously, flipping upside down again. With a kick of my legs, I drifted right next to him.
He turned an amusing mix of red and purple, embarrassment and annoyance bundled into a single hue. He continued wearily as if he didn't hear me, "The first time the men came, they offered money to my parents in exchange to take me in. Of course, Mom and Dad were only too happy to accept." He paused uncomfortably before continuing bitterly, "After all, who wants the shame of having a defective product for a son?"
The grin on my face slid off like grease. I righted myself, looking into the boy's face. It was framed by a messy, windswept mop of black hair, hiding deep blue eyes that looked down in sadness. For the first time, I saw a bit of myself reflected in him and his past. Seeing lights and shapes, people no one else can see. Strange figures telling you the secrets of everyone around you. Sensitivity can lead to a lonely and loveless life. I knew friends who turned brittle and sour pretty quickly from it.
I didn't want to continue listening. I wanted the dark nostalgia the story was bringing to leave, but the boy continued.
"A ghost who was with me at the time warned me about the men who were marching up the stairs to my bedroom, told me about my parents marveling at the money they had been given without a second thought for their son. I escaped. The next time they found me, I had Emet on my side."
His tone became even darker as he said softly, "They didn't stand a chance."
He looked horrible in the pale light of the room, weary and cold beyond his age. I'd had my own fair share of pains in my past, so believe me when I say I could understand the guy. He continued, "But even more came. The third time they confronted me, I wasn't able to keep Emet materialized long enough, and ran for it. Through pure luck, I ran into a ghost on the sidewalk, used him to fire off a hex, and in the chaos I escaped."
I pursed my lips, on the verge of saying something to comfort him, when another thought struck my head. "Wait, you said the first ones were men. What were the others?"
Just as the boy opened his mouth to speak, the wall erupted in a heavy crash of cinderblock and wallpaper. The force sent me cart wheeling through the air and passing unpleasantly through a moldy book shelf, with much swearing on my part.
"What the hell was that?" I shouted. The bruised boy stumbled out of a shredded arm chair. He tried to summon Emet, but tripped over the materialization signs. "That would be the others."
An unnatural silence fell over the room as I gazed at the hole blown into the side of the mansion. Dappled moonlight fell into the burnt and cluttered ballroom. Then, the grotesque thing lumbered into the room. It had a sort of silent grace to it, moving without a single sound. The creature was a hulking mesh of watery mist and shimmering lights. It was vaguely transparent, but much, much more solid than any ghost. It's body was like a bulky skeleton, with huge, rapier-like claws, and crowning it's head was a twisted jumbled of multiple pairs of horns, each one cruelly curled upward toward the moon. Below were a chilling pair of baleful indigo eyes, their gaze locked directly on the boy.
It pointed a bony finger at Isaac, making a grating, high pitched sound. A white light bubbled to lie at its finger tip, as it began to cast some sort of spell. Without thinking I blew Isaac sideways with a Percussion just as an arc of poisonous white light burst from the creatures finger tip. The spell crashed into the spot Isaac had occupied seconds ago, blasting the misshapen armchair into a pile of bone white slivers of wood.
The creature gave a piercing cry, like ten different people wailing at different octaves. It turned its sights on me and hurled itself forward, lashing out with its claws. It missed by about a mile as I floated unhappily to the ceiling. Something was off, I noted, as it sent an old table bursting into a cloud of splinters. It was causing direct damage to the things around it with its body, yet its heavy spiritual pressure meant it had to be some form of ghost.
I turned with surprise as the boy yelled, "You have to watch out! That thing can-"
With a shuddering cry, the creature reared up backwards, raising its arms. It was becoming more substantial now, twisting veins of heavy gray winding up its body, mutilated armor of bone erupting from the translucent skin. Suddenly, a plated arm shot forward, grasping and ripping me out of the air. I was aghast. Ghosts can't be touched by anything, not even other ghosts. A heavy breeze can toss you around, and there are a few spells that can indirectly affect us, but you can't directly touch a ghost. It's impossible. But somehow this twisted monstrosity was doing it. What was this thing? I felt jabbing streaks of pain running up my body as I glared at the creature. I tried to raise my arm to nail it with a spell, but the creature gave a huge intake of breath, letting out a sound like paper crumpling. My concentration broke as I felt a heavy tugging in my gut. My form was fraying at the edges, streaks of light drawn from my body towards the creature. I was actually panicking now. I didn't like to think what would happen if the thing did whatever the hell it was trying to do. I managed to send out a heavy Concussor, but the creature deflected it, drawing me closer with extended tendrils of spiraling mist. Well, I thought blearily through my biting pain, as the world fogged up around me. At least I'm going out in style.
Suddenly, with a loud eruption, the creature was thrown aside, it's form flickering, and I fell down with gasp of breath, sudden clarity returning to my head. The boy was huddled in the corner, ashen-faced, his hand outstretched, and the pale spectral image of Emet lurked behind him. The boy yelled out, "Vipadyate! Restrain!" and Emet fired off a Vise of Mourning, pale blue bands constricting around the creature. It thrashed around, misty tendrils slowly grappling and fraying at the bands.
"Skylar!" the boy had stood, very pale and feeble looking, but more defiant than afraid. "We have to go!"
"No shit, Sherlock!" I yelled back, snapping my fingers and muttering "Vyavadhana". A pitch black, shimmering barrier rippled to life between us and the writhing creature. As the creature howled in anger, we raced for the hole, Emet and I drifting out easily, Isaac leaping ungracefully to the ground. Without a second thought, we took off, racing away from the rubble.