Shadows Rising: Charnel Bells

Nightfall in Brahmir: Shadows Rising

Chapter Two – Charnel Bells

Part Two, Chapter One: Shadows Rising: The Seals

Thirteen obelisks hummed beneath the sound of a crescendo coming from the lips of phantoms. Hovering above their pillars each distinct, carved with the names and titles of the deceased according to Harmon Orda’s grand design.

Evangeline watched in a conflicted pull between fear and amazement as Jona Amgrange stood, brushing himself off and approached the center of the circle.

“Ladies, a new age is dawning in Brahmir and this is merely the beginning.”

He lifted his hands to the conclave of spirits and closed his eyes, taking in their exaltation. 

Orri reached for her arm.

“We need to leave.”

She was right, and on another day, Eva might have argued for some greater duty to which they had both been called to serve.

Given the circumstances, however, she’d considered Vyse might forgive her desire to escape.

The walls of the Orda House had rotated and converged, creating a glass shell of painted runes around the Obelisks, but behind each of them was a door. The room in which they’d been trapped contained fourteen walls, a door behind each of the thirteen obelisks with similar markings painted upon it.

The floor began to shift as the chorus sang above them, floating further up and away from the obelisks. Where their feet were planted rotated quickly, whirling toward the wall as a final altar rose from the ground beneath them, carried by rotating steel gears and long leather belts.

 Atop the altar rested another strange sphere, similar to that of the plinth standing in the center of the room, the altar was covered with runes from many languages, and was forged out of hard, grey iron.

Jona stepped toward the alter and plucked the second sphere from its resting place, gently cradling t as if it were a newborn.

“Ammon’s Reach will be the first to see the coming of the Black Dawn.” He called into the room.

He raised the sphere above his head and closed his eyes as all around them, the spirits fell silent.

Eva took a moment to look into the faces of each of the thirteen spirits, all of them varied and all of them disfigured as they had been in life.

“What are you doing this for?” She called, materializing her golden weapon into her hand. Behind her, Orri investigated for a way out.

“We have long been put down by the people of this city, for doubting the Powers present in my wife. What we have given up to be accepted, to be recognized for who we truly are.

Eva shook her head, the rapier shedding golden flakes of light from its mass, illuminating the room.

“You don’t understand what you’re saying.” She looked up once more to the spirits, all of whom looked down upon Jona with malice, except for his wife.

“Do you understand what’s happening here?”

She glanced down at the nearest Obelisk, named “The Twins” the name of the spirits contained at the top read “Sybil Sisters.” Beneath their title, on the front side of the Obelisk, Harmon had scratched notes as to their purpose. Eva repeated what she’d read aloud.

“The Sybil Sisters were killed by Adamin Franc, in a violent scene undisclosed from the public of Ammon’s Reach. They will feed the Orda Choir with their longing for acceptance, that the chorus will respond to the commands of its master.” She turned back to Jona, who continued the tune of the song which was no longer sung. “This isn’t what you think it is.”

Jona stopped humming and eyed her, his eyes filled with fury. “It is exactly what Harmon Orda created! What he’s discovered here is brilliant, to be recognized and known by worlds away, that we are able to harness the very essence of spirits!” He started to laugh before Eva cut him off with another reading, that on the obelisk of “The Buwark”

“Simon Reed, grafted to become The Bulwark, was killed during an accident at Silman Farms, fireworks lit by another ranch sent their horses into a frenzy, trampling him in the midst of his own stables, but the horses did not kill him. It wasn’t until later, he was brought to Tatuyve’s Mercy hospital where he was put down by a nurse, who had been tainted by a wretched spirit. The large boy will supply his strength, among other things, to The Chorus.”

Jona fired back as the sphere in his hands began to float.

“I am not going to listen to a Lamplighter who never once believed in my dear Felicity!” He stared up at the sphere as it began to spin in the air, slowly at first but picked up speed with each second. 

Eva watched in awe as the whirling device began to crackle with energy, sending arcs of lightning out from around it which plucked at the tips of the obelisks.

“These spirits have been trapped, for who knows how long, Jona! They aren’t going to give you whatever it is you want!”

He ignored her, and she took matters into her own hands, reeling her arm back she launched her golden rapier into the air toward the sphere as more arcs of lightning reached out from it.

The rapier collided with the sphere and sparks flew, flashing violently inside the glass room as Orri approached from behind. 

“Found our way out.” She spoke low, to keep Jona from hearing.

Eva nodded as the golden light of the rapier vanished and the sphere fell from the center of the circle, crashing to the ground and shattering into its components. Gears and levers scattered across the floor as the room went dim.

Jona didn’t take a second look at the device before he whipped around and charged the women, and Orri stepped in front, her hands ablaze with flame.

“Think twice about this, Jona.” She locked eyes with him as he came to a wary halt. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

He scowled, spitting onto the floor as the visages of the spirits vanished above them.

“You can’t.”

All around them, the doors which lined the room unlocked and swung open to reveal empty rooms, padded with more runes and entrapment sigils, basic enough a first year Lamplighter could have made better.

“Jona, we need to leave.” Orri spoke carefully, her eyes darted around to each of the doors. Evangeline summoned her weapon back to her hand and backed away, to where Orri had come from to tell her about their way out.

There, she found a small access tunnel barely large enough for them to crawl through, but on the other side of the glass panels, she could see a ladder leading up to the study. No doubt a failsafe for them in the event Harmon Orda found himself in the same position in which they had.

“I’m not going anywhere!” Jona screamed, shoving orris backward and turning on his heel to retrieve the shattered sphere.

“I think you might want to…” Orri mumbled, backing up to Eva.

She turned to watch as from the door labeled “The Bulwark” came a massive man. Eight feet tall or more and all muscle emerged from within the cell, his face horribly scarred by hoof prints. The crooks of his arms red and bleeding from missed needle injections.

He stepped quickly from his side of the room and clutched Jona in his hands, lifting the weak man from the ground. Without a word, he threw Jona across the room and sent him crashing into the tempered glass pane and bouncing to the floor.

“We need to go.” Orri whispered, crouching into the access tunnel.

As Eva moved to follow her, she took another look back as The Twins emerged from another room, full formed and bloody as their visage had been, they approached Jona lying helplessly on the ground and rolled him onto his back.

“We are here to cure you.” They said in unison as they raised their hands above their heads, adorned with razor sharp nails.

Eva didn’t watch, but heard Jona’s screams through the tears in his cloak and flesh as the Sybil Sisters clamored over his body.

The access tunnel was a short crawl, and as they arrived at the short ladder, she looked back once more to find all of the spirits had emerged from their prisons, searching for a way out of the room. All of them, except for Felicity, who knelt beside the remains of her husband and wept.

The Lamplighters emerged from Orda house somewhat unscathed, only to hear from within a crashing of glass and the groaning of iron beams being bent and thrown.

“We should get going.” Orri motioned down the road to a side street whose Mana Wards were still full.

Eva followed, checking over her back not only for the Chorus of Orda’s emergence from the house, but as well for Linde, who had historically made it a point to hide and jump from dark corners before her. 

“What can we even do? If the Lamplighters are down, and another new threat walks the city, what can we do to stop this from getting out of control? I don’t understand. This is too much.”

Orri nodded as they passed into the glowing aura of the Wards. “I don’t think there is much we can do. Without more of us. The Sealing Ritual is too much for the two of us to consider, unfortunately.”

Eva sighed and sat on the porch of one of the houses as spirits meandered toward them slowly.

“How did this happen?”

“That’s what I intend to find out.” Orri ignited a flame into her hand and threw it at the approaching pack of geists, who scattered at the sudden impact. “We need to find Dhurri. Or another Bishop. There isn’t anything else we can do right now, besides warn the town to hide.”

“Two of us going through the town to tell them the rest of us are doomed doesn’t sound helpful.”

“It isn’t.” Orri laughed.

“What happened to Veinar and Olem? Are they safe?” She asked.

The older woman paced around the aura with her hands to her temples.

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen them. I’m sure Veinar at least is relatively unaffected. Talking to him, he’s seen far worse than this. Where he is from, the things who threaten his people are flesh and blood, and most of the time, it’s more blood than flesh. As for Olem, I don’t doubt he made it out of the undercroft, but I wouldn’t know.”

Eva nodded. “It’s your call. You are my superior.”

Orri laughed again, an exasperated, frightened laugh.

“Dear, I don’t think there is a hierarchy anymore.” She sucked in a tight breath. “So, Archbishop Dhurri is missing. Veinar and Olem are also missing. Most of the Lamplighters are dead in the Moonside Chapel. Where does that leave us?”

Eva let the silence grow between them as she paced through her mind searching for anyone who might be able to assist them.

“I have two ideas.” She eventually said.

“I hate that you came up with two.”

“First,” Eva stood. “We can reach out to—“

Orri interrupted. “If you suggest Dr. Lachmann, I’m going to set my own hair on fire.”

Eva paused.

“Dr. Lachman…” 

Orri threw her hands into the air and let them fall, defeated. “Lachmann is a lunatic. This was far before your time, but we had to seal one of her creations! If she helps, she’s liable to get it into even more trouble.”

Eva shrugged. “You won’t like option two, then, either.”

Orri met her gaze. “What’s option two?”

“We call the Bellringers.”

The elder Lamplighter looked around the empty street as if there were someone else she could reply to, then back to Eva.

“The Bellringers? They’re just kids.”

“They’ve got the Powers, and they aren’t always kids. Sometimes they’re adults.”

Orri wanted to argue, but Eva knew between Dr. Lachmann and the Bellringers, she would choose the kids every single time.

“Fine. We go find the kids and tell them everything has gone to hell.”

Eva let herself laugh despite the circumstance. “Everything’s been hell in Ammon’s Reach since I was born, what do you mean?”

Orri waved her comment off and stepped out of the aura, into the danger of the night.

“Let’s be fast, it’s past their bedtime.”

The street leading to Orda House when they’d entered had still shown flickers of life, as the families settled down for another long night in a series of endless long nights, they turned out their oil lamps one by one as the Mana Wards flickered to life.

Still, most of the Wards hadn’t been refueled in some time. What was supposed to have been a nightly occurrence had been neglected by a number of the Lamplighters. Eva’s corps were never one of the lazy ones, however. If they’d missed a single ward, Eomin and Orri would have punished them severely. Two Lamplighters who shared arguably the worst history in Ammon’s Reach, they took their job seriously even if their companions hadn’t.

Eva wasn’t sure how long the Wards had been neglected, or in what order. On a single street it seemed as though some had been refilled while others hadn’t, with no pattern. Each one ignited on its own after the fifth moon rose and extinguished when it had set, but when nothing remained in its stockpile, it wouldn’t ignite. She’d noticed it before they had fallen into the ever expanding days of chaos spurned by the disappearance of Mayeli Kane and she’d not had time to confront Eomin about it.

As they passed out of High-rise and into Moonside District, the extinguished Mana Wards only grew in number. Something Orri noticed immediately but evidently didn’t deem worth it to mention. After all, what could they do? Their own ether reserves on hand were necessary to draw upon their Power. After the fifth moon rose, something cut through the Ether they drew during the day. 

The people of Ammon’s Reach feared the night, but it wasn’t truly the night they feared. It was the fifth moon. Nothing was active, at least, nothing dangerous until the fifth moon rose. Before then they had no agency, no form. The fifth moon also spoiled the Lamplighters ability to navigate their Power, something the Bellringers didn’t have to worry about.

The group of outcast school children had developed their Power early and intensely. Each of them manifested a similar function, and were able to manifest their consciousness into a single entity which then behaved similarly to a spirit or Geist.

However, the Lamplighters had discovered the Bellringers Power to come at a steep cost. They were trapped in the bodies of their childhood selves, and growing any amount required them to drink heavily of the Ether Channel which, unfortunately for all of them, didn’t run through Ammon’s Reach.

A few of them had harnessed a mastery over their abilities, some more than others. Eva hadn’t seen the rascals in seven years or more, and Orri hadn’t made it a point to check on them in nearly thirty. She always cited that the kids use of their power was linked with another of the things they couldn’t contain waking back up.

There were only a few cases as such, The Witch of Blythe Woods was active at all hours, mores during the spring and autumn, but whatever she really was never left the deep, gnarled parts of the woods. She remained where she was and the city folk remained where they were and there were few casualties.

The Breaking Sun, after it’s formation, made it a point to instruct the citizens about the proper educate and rituals when they must go into the forest, and most of them obeyed. Those that didn’t, well, Eva didn’t want to find out what really happened to them out in the dark.

After the Witch, was the Dancer With No Name, it had been called a great many things, The Spider, the Wolf Beast, the Crone of Charnel Ways but no one she’d ever spoken to knew much about it. It was discovered long before the Night of Knives, or even the Silman Drought. Back a few decades, a bunch of kids went missing in Ammon’s Reach and their parents fought to find them. When they never did, they were marked up to having been taken by the Witch. 

Years later, a bunch of kids were discovered having manifested The Powers. It wasn’t unusual, most of the Lamplighters displayed their prowess in their youth, Eva included. As if she’d had a second sight that kept her from danger. Her own touch of the pool where the Powers came from left her blessed and alive each time Linde reappeared in her life. It wasn’t until she entered the Lamplighter corps she discovered she’d been blessed. These kids were similar, but different. They knew deep down they had The Power, and when theirs awoke, the Dancer With No Name woke with them and came to fill its belly.

They fought it off, unifying their Powers into one and beat the thing back to whatever hole it crawled from, but every time they’d been asked to use their Powers for anything, it came back recharged and bloodthirsty.

Eva was not lost on the probability that, in their effort to subdue the ramping danger from the Sealed haunts getting free, they could release a bigger, nastier thing onto the people of the Reach but she wasn’t in a bargaining mood and wasn’t worried about what else might go wrong. Everything else already had.

“Say, Eva, you keeping an eye out.” Orri asked suddenly as they moved from Moonside into Flourmill.

“As best I can, why?”

Orri pointed over the row of houses which half obstructed the skyline. “You see that?”

She followed her mentor’s point to Lantz Ironworks, the ever-looming building in the distance that stood out at night, a constant reminder of the need for the Breaking Sun. Most nights, the smokestacks stretched into the night like long knives threatening to tear the sky open and reveal to them something meant to remain unknown. As she looked upon the Ironworks on that particular night she noticed the smokestacks were not simply tall ever present reminders of their purpose, they were actively, as she watched, billowing smoke.

Lights all over the factory had been turned on, the faint flicker of lanterns and lamps shone into the darkness as they made their way through the district.

“Lantz has been abandoned for years, what is that? Everyone in town knows to keep their distance, unless…” Her words fell silent as the realization struck her, sneaking up from the depths of her mind.

“Korrigan is free, and he is sending a message.” Orri said flatly.

“What do you think that message is?” She asked, pretending to be light hearted.

“I think it’s that we’re doomed.” Her mentor said, and continued walking.

The other side of Flourmill held the Whitewall district, named as such thanks to years of white paint recoating their cobbled stone wall to keep the Fleawild down. Ammon’s Reach, back in its infancy, was little more than a circle of wagons and packed tents that didn’t fit enough people, and back then, before the necessary precautions existed, they lived in fear every night.

As far as Eva knew, that’s where Fleawild came into existence, some mix of deaths from the people at Ammon’s Colony and the haunts of the night evolved into a fungus that spread like wildfire and left the people dead, if they were lucky.

However many centuries had passed and they were still ultimately unable to get rid of the Fleawild, and the Whitewall District was the epicenter. Barely a place livable by anyone it was home to a motley assortment of individuals, but in her experience, tended to be the place to go when one didn’t have anywhere else to go. 

The Breaking Sun established a number of remedies to Fleawild and complications from those remedies resulted in a commune of folks dependent on Ether infused medicine and a horrible physical ailment. In the years since Eva had been a Lamplighter, she’d only had to go in a handful of times, and the last was seven years prior to meet with the Bellringers.

The kids, thanks to their fluent use of the Powers, were unaffected by the spores ejected by the Fleawild which made them the perfect candidates for building up the community, a duty they took seriously, more seriously than any twelve year olds she’d ever met before and certainly more than she’d wanted at their age, but then again, they had been in their teens for over twenty years.

Orri slipped a cloth mask over her face as she stepped through the barrier gate, a large linen tapestry with cautionary words painted across the front. Eva followed her lead and wrapped her scarf around her face.

Inside Whitewall was the same as it had always been, rows upon rows of buildings painted and repainted in the same opaque white paint to dampen the efficacy of the spores, where Whitewall got its name. This time, however, Eva immediately noticed that every single Mana Ward in the Main Street had burned out.

“Orri,” She gestured.

Her mentor nodded. “We don’t have a choice, so be prepared.”

She summoned her weapon and marched forward, the golden light sure to draw the attention of wayward spirits as they navigated the sparse, sprawling streets.

After a short march, the realization came that despite the burned out Mana Wards, the streets were empty of spirits. She checked the sky to find the fifth moon hanging directly above them, and returned to watch the shadows for movement.

Orri didn’t speak, and if Eva knew her half as well as she thought she did, the woman likely had pursed her lips tight to eliminate any possibility of the spores getting into her system. Eva could hardly blame her. Fleawild wasn’t something she’d wished on anyone, even Veinar.

As they passed a Ward, Eva paused to inspect it. Kneeling down she got close, searching for the vial in the dark through the dirty, cracked glass window. It was then that she realized, the Mana Wards in Whitewall weren’t out.

They were being covered.

Inside the Lantern shell, behind the panes of glass, she saw a carpet of black and brown spores writing against the glass vials contained within, and occasionally, the blueish pink light of the ether peeked out beneath the writhing mass. 

As if they sensed her presence, the spores rotated backward and spread around the ward, covering the glass and preventing her from seeing within.

She stood. “Orri, this isn’t right.”

Her mentor leaned down to inspect the ward herself and recoiled when the spores within moved, crawling over one another to reach her.

“Let’s go. I can’t do this much longer.”

Eva stood and watched as the spores returned to the vials inside.

“Why do we call them spores?” She asked, poking at Orri’s agitation. “They’re more like bugs.”

“They burn the same either way. I’m not concerned.”

“No, you’re freaked out.” She laughed.

Orri did not.

“Quiet, child.” The elder Lamplighter raised a finger.

In the distance, a woman’s scream echoed down the street.

The women wasted no time, running toward the sound. The reached a cross in the streets and heard the woman more clearly.

“Help me!” She screamed.

They turned to the sound and bolted further into Whitewall toward the screaming woman.

Ahead of them, lying in the center of the street was the woman they’d been searching for. Lying on her back she kicked and prodded at a pulsating mound of spores that had pinned her to the ground. In the shape of a human, it’s “head” if Eva could call it that, opened wide and lurched a heap of opaque green liquid onto the girls face. Judging by the amount surrounding them, it was not the first.

Orri didn’t wait to engage and stepped forward, flames so intense in her hands the end of the fire licked the back of her head as she ran and collided with the writhing mass. 

For a moment, she disappeared into it as the spores swallowed her whole. She rolled, enveloped by the thing a few feet as Eva rushed to the woman’s side.

“Are you alight?”

She coughed a mouthful of green sludge and shook her head. “This has never happened”

Eva cradled her head and slipped a towel from her hip bag. “What are you doing out this late? Especially with no lit wards.”

The woman allowed her to wipe the sludge away from her face before she replied. “I was going home, I kept hearing this sound, like a child crying. When I left and followed the sound down the street I was caught by that… thing.” She began laughing again as Eva slung the slimy mess from her hand and down onto the street with a sick plop.

“You should know better, girl.” She mumbled. “Where do you live?”

The girl pointed at the house closest to hers, their oil lamp still lit.

“How long have you lived in Ammon’s Reach?” She asked, helping the girl to her feet.

“Fleawild doesn’t do that. It’s dangerous, but it’s mold. It’s not… this.”

Eva shook her head. “The first rule of this city is to trust nothing. You can’t even guarnatee I’m real right now. Let’s get you inside.”

The girl nodded, still coughing out sludge as Eva hoisted her to the porch of her home.

“What are you doing here?”

Behind them, Orri released a scream field by hatred and flames erupted from where she stood, still covered in mold.

A brilliant flash of white hot fire erupted in a pillar from her body, stretching twenty feet into the night sky, at least. When the fire extinguished, Orri remained standing, free of spores and breathing heavily.

“That.” Eva gestured. “We’re doing that.”

“Well, thanks, if it weren’t for you two I don’t know what would have happened.”

The girl stood and entered her home, locking the door behind her before she extinguished the indoor lamp.

“You would have died.” Eva shook her head, moving to meet her mentor.

“Don’t ever let me do that again.” She gasped for breath.

“They get inside your mouth?” Eva joked.

Orri launched a ball of flame at her that splashed into her chest and vanished harmlessly.

“Watch yourself, I’m still your commander.”

Eva couldn’t help but giggle as they continued on their way through the district.

The Bellringer’s villa was what one would expect from a band of kids shacking up together. While it was counted among the largest and most lavish places in Whitewall, it was, just as everywhere else covered in too many layers of white paint and poorly cared for.

Inside was decorated with random fixtures, paintings one of them liked, furniture another dragged through their doorway and refused to give up, not because he wanted to keep it, but because he didn’t want to move it again. Their dining room and kitchen were always cluttered and messy, and their sources of food appeared to be sweets, in the vast majority.

The oldest, and only girl of the group, opened the door before they knocked.

“I saw the pillar of fire,” She joked. “There’s only one person in all of Ammon’s Reach that could put on a show like that. What do you need?” She gestured for them to enter and they did, finding a place to sit amid the cluttered scrolls and empty bowls.

“Can’t say I blame you, Tink.” Eva offered a slight bow and took a seat beside a pile of sending spheres that one of them, likely Lionus, had thrown onto the chair.

Twillinka, or Tink, was the eldest of the Bellringers and took charge in the group beside Lionus. She unclipped her overalls and rolled them tight around her waist before she took a seat on the fireplace ledge across from Eva.

“So, what brings two Lamplighters all the way out here in the dead of night? Can’t imagine it’s to help me clean the house.” She laughed.

Orri cleared her throat, and despite no sign of Fleawild anywhere within the house, refused to remove her mask.

“We have a favor to ask, and it’s going to be a big one.”

Tink cocked an eyebrow.

“We need help, and we don’t know who else to go to. Hundreds of Lamplighters are dead or missing, and the Sealed are returning. Their seals are being broken. We don’t know how, or by who.”

Eva’s jaw hung open, it was a dire circumstance but for Orri to just jump in with the foundational issues shocked her a bit.

“Wow, definitely not to help me clean the house.” She reclined against the outcropping of the fireplace. “Break this down for me more, what can we help you do?”

Orri cleared her throat a second time, quickly rubbing it before she spoke.

“We need you, and whoever else among you to send for Archbishop Dhurri, but you can’t tell him we are the reason you are calling.”

Tink crossed her legs. “Why can’t you call him? There’s a reason you don’t want him to be aware it’s you, but why is that? Isn’t he the one with all the power and the answers?”

Eva interjected. “We believe Dhurri is related to what is happening in the other districts. Not to pile on, but there has also been a new event. Thirteen powerful spirits were released with corporeal form in High-rise.”

The girl started giggling as if Eva hadn’t delivered more bad news.

“Why is High-rise always the one with the worst garbage coming out of it? You’d think it’d be us.” She looked at Orri. “Hey, grandma, you can take off the mask. The spores don’t get in here.”

Orri shook her head uncomfortably.

“So, Dhurri has gone south for the winter, your greatest hits are coming back to the top of the list and a bunch of your friends are dead?” She repeated the information, processing it. “So you came to us, because you know we can find what you need, but you didn’t do so lightly because you know what we will do if we reunite and attune with the Channels.”

Eva nodded. “Yeah, that’s about it.”

“Great, just wanted to make sure we knew what we were walking in to here.” She clapped her hands. “Big problem, though. I’m the only one home. I ca get the rest back here, but it’ll take time. I don’t know how urgent this is, but we might need to look into some kind of stint to keep us going. If you are dying or dead, and we have to face off alone, we’re going to get run through. Lionus has been off his game lately. Silde is back in that place where he’s too afraid to leave his parent’s house, and I haven’t heard from Malkom.”

“I can’t really explain how important this is,” Eva began. Tink cut her off.

“Oh you don’t have to, I’ll call them. I just wanted you to know there’s going to be a hitch getting us together. Then there will be another, bigger one with gnashing teeth after we do get everyone together.”

Orri nodded. “We understand, and we will do everything we can to aid you.”

Tink started laughing hysterically.

“I’m sorry, grandma but I don’t think you guys have the juice. I’m not trying to be a pain, but last time the Lamplighters went against our uninvited guest, you were massacred.”

Orri paused, closing her eyes. Tunk above anyone else knew how to presents her buttons, especially when she called the woman “grandma.”

Eva fought a giggle and made eye contact with Tink, who winked.

“Give me a second, I’ll ring the bell.”

She hopped from the fireplace and climbed up to the second floor of the house while Orri began pacing.

“I don’t know, Eva.”

Eva took a deep breath, calming her nerves. If it was their only option, calling on the Bellringers would have been her first choice, but they still had Dr. Lachmann, and she hated involving the kids.

“I don’t think this is a necessary measure yet, Orri. We can still call Fei.”

“So she can take a week to build a machine that won’t work? Her automatons haven’t been much help lately.”

She nodded. “Well, they were built to keep normal spirits away. Not Linde or Sinder, hell not even the stronger puzzle spirits fall for their tricks. They’re the first line of defense, not the best one.”

“Don’t you think,” Orri began. “The first line of defense should be the best?”

“Yes, but I’m looking for alternatives. Bringing some child eating abomination back from wherever it goes to sleep doesn’t seem like the best idea. Especially when we have other options.”

Orri started a reply when a scream tore through the air from upstairs.

The Lamplighters charged up to find Tink curled in a ball in front of the bathroom sink, staring at the ceiling.

Eva stepped inside, her rapier at the ready, searching for a doorway trapper or some kind of haunt who had managed to get through the warding the Bellringers kept on the house, but found nothing.

“The blood…” Tink whimpered. “It’s everywhere.”

Eva looked all over the room and only saw the fading wallpaper and the wooden toilet that came standard in every nicer home across the city.

“Tink, I don’t see anything.”

She whined, pointing at the faucet mounted above the drain channel.

“It’s pouring from there, like a waterfall.” She crawled out of the room and wrapped her arms around her legs as Orri made her way to comfort the girl.

Eva scanned the room once more and paused only when she heard the door open from downstairs.

“Tink?” The warbling voice of a boy mid puberty called into the house. “Tink we gotta talk.”

His footsteps ascended untiil he reached the landing where Eva waited for him, his medium length sandy brown hair draped down, barely covering his eyebrows.

“Oh, Lamplighters…” He paused. “I’ll help in a moment, this is more important.”

He passed by them and knelt before Tink, who still wept into her knees.

“What happened?” He asked, pushing her curly red hair over her ear.

“The blood in the bathroom.” She choked through tears.

Lionus stood and entered the bathroom, his face immediately warping with disgust. “Oh, oh this is awful.”

Orri waved her hand. “What’s happening?”

Lionus acknowledged her. “We should go downstairs and talk, give Tink some time.”

Eva nodded and descended the stairs with the other two behind her.

Once more in the living room, Lionus tossed a handful of scrolls from the couch onto the floor and took a seat, gesturing for them to do the same.

“I have bad news, and usually, we’d handle this ourselves, but, something has happened.”

“Go on.” Orri motioned to him.

“Yuri, uh…” The words caught in his throat.

“Yuri killed himself. I found him in the baths with his wrists uh…”

Eva put a hand on the boy’s shoulder.

“Don’t.” She wrapped her arms around him as the boy broke out in tears.

“I don’t know what is happening, but I think…” He stuttered, something he hadn’t done for a long, long time.

“I think it’s back.” He finally forced the words out.

Eva’s heart sank, and then, from outside in a tower connected to their villa, the same one built in every important building across Ammon’s Reach, the bells sounded.

Lionus continued weeping into Eva’s chest as Tink stumbled downstairs. Through tears, she mumbled.

“The bells are ringing, it must mean…”

She sat on the steps.

“We will do whatever we need to do, there’s no use trying to prevent it now.”

The four of them remained silent as the bells echoed through Ammon’s Reach, a signal that Eva knew all too well.

When the bells rang, it meant the Bellringers were to unite, and as the group sat in silence for a while, a knock came to the door.

Mean for the Holidays is an annual writing project where I post new writing every day for the 13 days leading up to Christmas, this year the theme is “The Night Alone” — Telling you stories about things that go bump in the night. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you come back to see how this story ends. If you enjoyed it, I’d be honored if you sent this to a friend.

Nightfall in Brahmir is an episodic fantasy fiction story taking place in the world of Brahmir, where the lines between dead and alive are not simply blurred, they are almost nonexistent. In this place, all manner of horrors plague the denizens from returned corpses, trickster spirits, to killers stalking the daylight. Part One will be four Chapters, each of which follow one of the main characters as they try to work out what happened to Mayeli, and rescue her from the grasp of the strange powers that be within the merchant city, Ammon’s Reach.

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One Reply to “Shadows Rising: Charnel Bells”

  1. […] Part Two, Chapter Two: Shadows Rising: Charnel Bells […]


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