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It was a cold summer morning on all accounts. Of course, when you live in northern England, almost every summer morning is a cold one. I suppose I should explain myself. Forgive me if I’m not very good at this, but it pays to be quiet in my line of work.
I am a ghost hunter. Not ghostbuster-esque, complete with backpack and vacuum cleaner, but a sort of minor necromancer. I use magic to help the dead sleep. However, my work can often be quite dangerous, and can involve dealing with highly treacherous spirits, and such I have decided to keep a journal of sorts, that if any people come across a spirit and cannot do away with it, they may consult my notes, and learn from my life. Which brings us back to that cold summer morning, in a small town on the north Yorkshire moors. I stood on a hillside overlooking the town, on a small footpath. I had felt the call from my car as I drove down a narrow country lane on my way to a job down in Birmingham.
It was not like when I usually feel a spirit. If a spirit is within a few metres you can usually feel it. Reaching into you, trying to take your Essence, to balance its absence with your presence. But this was more. This spectre reached beyond that mark, thousands of metres. It called to me. It spoke my name, reached into my mind and heart, pulling up my darkest memories.
I was jarred from these visions, only by the sound of my car smashing into a fence. I had slowed down to attempt to find the ghost, but had still been travelling at around 50 MPH when I crashed. I was lucky to be alive. As I clambered out of the car, I felt it again, calling, and I realised this was not an average ghost. It was not simply powerful, but malevolent. It sought to harm me, or at least to drive me away, for it had not yet the strength to withstand me. I looked where the call had come from, and saw a tiny hamlet, nestled in the valley beneath me. I spotted a footpath and began my descent.
When I reached the town all was quiet. I needed to find the spectre and quickly, but first I needed to find something of great power. Ghosts, like fires need three things to survive. Will, as it is not. Or at least not in all cases, a matter of a soul seeking vengeance. Sometimes, a ghost lingers simply because the individual does not want to die, or has a job still to do. If a person is strong willed, then anyone can become a ghost. Essence is the second thing. Being a soul is all very good, but without essence, you cannot manifest at all ever. I once met a ghost out in Kent, whom I shall not name for fear of reprisals. He was reasonable enough at the time, but that was because I acted like I had not seen what he was. He was a ghost who had gathered enough essence to reconstitute himself as a physical form. He was, to all intents and purposes, human. I lacked the power to banish him, and he was causing little harm so I left him be.
But thirdly (and arguably most importantly) a ghost needs faith. The old gods, according to the books I have read, were originally ghosts that gained enough essence to reconstitute themselves, had enough will to maintain a form and wield such a great power, and had the belief of millions. I once met a remnant of Cernuous (the Celtic horned God of the hunt), and he confirmed, before I banished him to the next world, that he had once been human. This spirit, I felt sat upon the threshold of God-hood. And the fact it had attacked me for simply entering its sphere of influence marked it as an enemy. A powerful enemy, but an enemy all the same.
What I needed was an item with a large amount of faith attached to it. However, it cannot be a religious relic. They are tied to one of the new gods, who are (please don’t hate me) simply the ghosts of ‘Prophets’. The Christian God, for example is literally Jesus, and they are both literally a Holy Ghost. The Islamic God, is simply the spirit of Mohammed (Peace be upon him). It had to be a superstition. The best place to find out about local myths is generally the pub. So I set off there.
The pub was empty (hardly surprising at 9:00 AM) but the barman stood, shaking behind the bar. I approached him, and with all my conviction demanded to know all of the town’s superstitions. He turned to me and whispered, in the voice of a man who was beyond frightened. A man who had not slept for fright for several days, he mumbled something about the clock tower lady. Now, as a practitioner of magic, I had a few tricks up my sleeve. This man clearly had the sight, and not just a touch of it, but sight by the bucket load.
I reached into his mind, this spell is one that I would only ever use in the direst circumstances. I saw so much, that I should not have seen. I saw him, through his own eyes say his first word. I felt the euphoria of his first kiss, the pain of his first heartbreak. I saw the day his father beat his mother to within an inch of her life, then drove off into the night, never to return. All this and more crossed my mind in a handful of seconds. Then I learned the tale of The Chime Lady. She was the daughter of a Pastor, who had supposedly been in the clock tower with her lover, when her father had discovered her in the act of intercourse with her boyfriend. In his fury, he threw the boy down the tower, and after beating his daughter senseless, hung her using the rope that was used to ring bells in the tower. She did not stay dead though. She had haunted the town for over 800 years, growing in power. Exorcisms had been attempted, and she had rebuffed them all. Eventually the town abandoned it, and left the ghost to her business. This man had seen her, and he had no doubt used this to help tourism.
No lack of faith then. The church had been in use since then, and collecting essence would have been no problem because of this, and her will was evidently in the extreme. Her ghostly form had apparently driven the father to hang himself from the same rope.
Then I came to the Love stone. His mind was hazy about this, but it was apparently a stone under the bridge that if you sat upon it, you would meet your true love within a year. At the time I had no way of knowing what it was, I had simply seen it in his mind, and only for a handful of seconds before being thrown out violently by a will that was not his own. The Chime Lady was within him.
She screamed using him, and every bottle, every glass, every window shattered. But it was too late. I had my weapon, and it was within touching distance. I ran, as fast as I could. The sky had clouded over, and a storm had begun, the clouds falling up above the church. Falling up, is the only way to describe it. They were being pulled upwards, and energy was gathering in that gap, making the spirit more powerful. To finish gathering the essence it needed, I realised then and there that it intended to devour the entire town. The Chime Lady, by my reckoning had been a sorcerer before her death. And a powerful one at that. I managed to get to the bridge without further incident. The ritual was taking up the majority of her attention, but we were both rushing to get what we needed. As such, I took a chip of the rock, as the whole thing was too large to carry.
I fear for the ghost hunters of tomorrow, as people become less superstitious by the day. I had the stone (or at least a part of it) and could feel the saturation of an eternity of faith. It would serve as a powerful focus. The ghost most likely had used a blood sacrifice to power its ritual. That would mean that it had either possessed a victim (dangerous, but not as bad as the alternative) or that it had manifested, meaning it would not be as easy to defeat as a simple incantation in the forgotten language of the Fey Folk. I ran back through the streets, and came under attack from a swarm of birds. Ravens that shrieked, and ran their claws at me, cutting and shrieking. One managed to rip a chunk of my ear off, and flew into the night. One took the end of my left pinkie. After that I screamed a curse at them, a Fey Folk spell that created a barrier that drove the souls of all things within a small radius out of their bodies. The birds fell, their souls escaping into the sky, their physical essence being absorbed into the eye of the storm, that gaping maw that had opened above the church. I realised that if I killed anything it would ultimately feed the spirit within and with that thought I rushed at the church.
I had expected the altar to be splattered with the blood of the sacrifice. But it was not. In fact, the entire ground floor was still… the pews were silent, and the candles were unburned, I pulled out my tome of spells, and as I did so, the spirit struck. It invaded my mind, trying to force me to break.
"BEND YOUR KNEE!" It screamed in my mind over and over again. In my mind, I was outside of my body, and I watched as a strikingly beautiful young woman held my forehead, and pushed, pushed me towards the floor. Pushing me to my knees, where she would break me, obliterate my mind, rip me into a thousand pieces, and use my magical essence to complete her ritual. I would not allow it. I could not. I would like to say that it was the weight of the lives in my hands that empowered me. But it was the weight of my own mortality that kept me alive. I watched in my mind’s eye as I stood up, and forced the ghost from my mind.
It was her scream that let me know where she was. I ran towards the clock tower, where the bell had begun to chime. I ran to the foot of the stairs, and saw the puddle of blood. If I was quick, I would be able to stop the birth of a God. I climbed the stairs, and as the rope of the bell rose and fell, I could see the form of a young woman hanging from the rope. Her throat had been cut, and the blood had been pooling on the ground floor. Again, a shooting pain flew through me, but I was too close now. "Ach Min Vaion," ("I shan’t stop," in Fey) I cried. As I reached the top floor, the spirit became desperate, attempting to throw me down the stairs. Exploiting old fears. Calling up the departed that I had known while they breathed. But I would not stop, not for the world at this point.
When I reached the ritual site, I claimed it as my own first, using my own blood, on the candles the spirit had already placed there. The Elder Forces (my name for whatever it is that truly created our world) will only engage if you speak in the tongue of a magical people, for me fey, for Arabic ghost hunters, it is commonly djinn. You must also make a blood offering, generally your own, but any will do. And finally, faith must be there again. You must believe it will work, and you must have something else other people believe in. The spirit could no longer harm me. I was beyond all known magic, beyond life, beyond death, and beyond the reach of the gods, old or new. You never speak to the forces, but will them, or it, to act in the way you would have them act, and if all has been done well, then they will do as you bid them. If not, then you must simply hope you have not offended them, or they will not just kill you, but destroy you.
I woke up on the floor of the church a few hours later. The presence was not gone, but confined to the rock I now held in my hand. It was over.
As I sit here typing this account now, I cannot help but wonder what happens to those who cross. And what happens to the ghosts that just vanish. These are questions I doubt I will ever answer. I hope one day to find out for myself. As for the chime lady, she lives on, in all her glory within the rock that sits on my desk, as a paperweight. If only I could convince her to speak to me I could learn so much…
Written by Interceptor98