The camp went up quickly, faster than Lilavati had ever seen. A large canopy was set up in the center of it and everyone gathered beneath in. Manas took her hand and the two of them moved to stand in front of the gathered company.
“Great Lord, what evil struck us as we entered this place?” someone asked.
“They were ghosts of a dark past, condemned to relive their terrible deeds on the cursed land at the entrance to this clearing,” Manas said.
“What monsters were cursed to stand here, and why did they attack us?” Dieter asked.
“They were the spirits of soldiers that served my parents, taking pleasure in slaughtering Vengari at my parents’ order,” Manas said. “We suspect we’d have passed unmolested had I not been with the company.” He shuddered. “To my parents and their dead servants, I am a traitor. I betrayed them, giving their enemies the key to ending their reign of tyranny.”
“Great Lord, your parents sacrificed my wife and sons to their dark sorcerer’s god,” a man older than any Lilavati knew said as he made his way to the front of the company. “I would have joined them in death, but the dark sorcerer bound me and forbade me to commit suicide.” The old man shuddered, and then smiled. “It was your telling Lord Emrys and Lord Reinhard about the evil deeds and cursed magic happening in Phiri Hu that truly set me free and released my family’s souls.”
“Get to the point, old man,” someone yelled.
The old man looked over his shoulder and glared at the speaker. The young man shifted uncomfortably where he stood. The old man turned back to face Manas and Lilavati. “Great Lord, their evil deeds carry repercussions that will span decades if not centuries into the future. You can’t let that hold you back. You must continue on as you have been, and you’ll have the life you seek.”
“How does this resolve our current dilemma?” Dieter asked.
The old man smiled again. “There are stories, Great Lord. Stories of what that dark sorcerer did. He might have pretended to be all powerful – and he had some strong magic, it’s true – but there was one weakness to his magic.”
“What was that?” Manas asked.
“Common folk magic could counter some of his spells,” the old man said.
Ludger moved through the crowd and came up beside the old man. “What kind of folk magic do you mean, Micha?” he asked.
“That demon in human form thought he could trap us in our homes by sending the spirits of the dead to harass us,” Micha said. “We were terrified. No one could get out to get more supplies. We were starving. Our local witch, a bright young woman named Sybille, came up with an idea. She walked around the perimeter sprinkling salt and dried pipevine flowers. She said nothing, made no strange gestures. The next time the ghosts arrived they couldn’t pass the barrier she made with those. A short while later, she added ground quartz crystal and saltpeter to the mixture on the ground. The ghosts were destroyed as soon as they tried to cross the barrier again.”
“I have everything but the pipevine flowers,” Ludger said. “I could put them all together.”
“I think I have the flowers,” Ariane said. “The Temple uses them as a soporific, when acolytes and preesters can’t sleep.”
“Go check,” Ludger said. He patted the old man on the shoulder. “Thank you, Micha. I think I’ll get with you later this evening and pick your brain for other examples of the folk magic you grew up with.”
“I’m happy to talk about it,” Micha said. “Not many people seem to be interested in the old ways anymore.”
“May I join you for that conversation?” Dieter asked. “I feel the histories and folklore of all our people should be preserved.”
“You’re quite welcome to do so, young scribe,” Ludger said.
“So there’s a way to kill them?” someone else asked.
“That is a possibility,” Manas said.
“Great Lord, do you think they’ll come after us?” Odilie asked, her voice full of fear.
“I wish I knew, Odilie,” Manas said. “I want to take every precaution, in case they do. I’ve been told spirits prefer to fully attack at night. We must be ready for them.”
“Can’t Ludger’s magic protect us?” Ariane asked.
“You are a servant of the Twelve,” Lilavati said. “Should your powers not be used in the defense of this encampment?”
“Had I the ability to banish the dead, I’d do it,” Ariane said, glaring at her. “My gifts lay in healing and the translation of dead languages.”
“You are a scholar then?” Dieter asked.
“Not really,” Ariane said. “When I see a language no longer spoken, it is as if one of the Twelve whispers in my ear and tells me what is written. I’ve learned quite a bit in the archives.”
“Ariane, see if you have the pipevine flowers. Ludger, check your supplies to be certain we have enough to walk the perimeter of the camp,” Manas said. He paused. “Ariane, a prayer to the Twelve would be welcome as well.”
“I’ll make sure to offer one before I start my search,” Ariane said. She wore a solemn look on her young face.
“Everyone else, if you are asked to do something to aid in the protection of the camp by Ludger, do it. Don’t argue, don’t ask why. Just do it. He’ll explain it to you later, when we’re not as bound by the necessity of keeping away the ghosts of ancient enemies,” Manas said. There was a low rumble of thunder. Lilavati shuddered and only a soft whimper escaped. It was enough for Manas to hear. “We have one final announcement to make, and it isn’t as full of gloom as the rest.” Everyone looked at them expectantly. “My beautiful Lilavati and I were married by Ariane this morning.”
There were several gasps. “Great Lord, why didn’t you wait until we got back to Phiri Hu?” someone asked.
“The Halls of the Damned,” Manas said.
to be continued…