Chapter 25: THE WAVES OF DEAD
It was not hard to defeat the bony enemies, as Jimmy could attest. He had just watched two guardsmen, two that he would not deem anywhere near the best guards of the land, easily vanquish over ten of the skeletons themselves. Granted, the skeletons had fallen from a great height, and most of them were immobile when attempting to attack the guards. At the base of the boat was a collection of pieces-parts that went forgotten as the group of black death descended ruinously upon the men.
The knights held their own brilliantly. Despite skeletons hobbling and hopping toward them, they still tore through them with their swords. Spine vertebrae were shorn right through, ribs were broken, skulls were chopped off their bases. The guards used both the sharp edge of the blades, and the broad sides to chop and swipe, and beat at their enemies, sending every last one of them to the ground and to the waves. If the skeleton continued to move, despite only being a ribcage and head, the guards continued to make short work of them, and use their feet to stamp out any “life” the skeleton had.
What was fueling these bones? Jimmy thought. Not a spirit.
None that Jimmy could see, at least, and he had to admit to himself he was slightly hopeful that this was the case, that somehow spirits had found a way to control the skeletons to their favor so that they could interact with the physical world. Jimmy wished that he was able to move something in his surroundings. To be able to tap his friend Brynn on the shoulder to let her know he was there, or to even skip rocks on the water again, which was one of his favorite things to do on a lazy Sunday, would almost make it all worth it. But, no matter how hard he tried, every time he grasped for a rock, the rock wouldn’t move and his ghostly hands would pass right through it. Every time he tried to tap Brynn, she’d shiver and ask him to stop. The world stayed as it was, and Jimmy wondered just what his purpose could possibly be.
And what was the purpose of these skeletons? Where were they coming from? If they had no spirits controlling them, were they ever alive? But, if they were never alive, then how did they come to be? What was producing skeletons in the world that one could find gaggles of them in the hull of the boats?
The storm. They had come from the storm. Evil spirits in the storm took physical shape once Thomas put the ring on, and the physical shape was these skeletons. That would mean the skeletons were everywhere, no? A dozen or so in a boat was just the beginning, was it not? Why, he might face several on the way back with these two guards. And if the present hard fought battle was any indication against crippled skeletons, it was going to be a hard road back for these two fellas.
Once again, Jimmy wished he could wield a sword and help.
But, then, there was the woman on the ship, the one watching the dots on the horizon. She seemed to have more control than Jimmy did. She seemed to be able to manipulate the world. She stood there like a statue, but, and perhaps it was just because Jimmy had a man’s hair cut when he passed, short enough hair where he didn’t notice such things, this woman’s hair was blowing in the wind. The wind could effect her? Why, even her clothes were caught in the breeze, and whipping about her. Her transparent ghost clothes were showing the effects of the wind, and if the wind was hitting her, that meant she was effecting the breeze. The wisps were going around her and not through her, or so Jimmy thought to himself.
Who was she? He had to know.
“Hey! Lady!” He shouted, noticing the guards did not react to him at all. They simply sifted through the bones, looking for any movers. Pretty soon, he believed, they would collect his bones, and he would be forced to leave the beach with them. He had limited time to converse with this dead woman.
“Dead lady! I see you! Look here! I’m dead, too!” Jimmy continued to yell, thinking that if the wind was whipping her hood, quite possibly it was also getting inside her ears. He remembered such a physical occurrence of the wind getting inside the ear canal, making it hard to hear. He had not felt anything like that for months. “Look down here.”
Once again, Jimmy wished he could pick up a rock and throw it. He wished there were ghost rocks that he could pick up with his ghost hands and throw it at this ghost lady’s head to get her attention. He could climb up quickly to her, but she was still a ghost, and he was still a man who didn’t like to get too close to spirits for fear they could be evil. He had no idea whether one ghost could touch another, but he did not want to get so close to this woman, have her turn around with some beastly face, and lash out at him with evil claws.
Jimmy had an active imagination.
“Please!? Just acknowledge you hear me!”
“What?!” The woman shouted back, turning, clearly annoyed.
Her sudden awareness of him shocked him, and he stumbled back. She gave him a couple more seconds of a cold, hard, dead stare and then turned back to the sea to watch the dots get closer. Jimmy could see how beautiful she was, despite how filled with rage she was. Her solid eyes, while expressing for him to be quiet, betrayed the fact that they appeared to be rather soft. Jimmy didn’t feel like this woman was evil, despite their first conversation going horribly.
He looked over at the guards, and just as he feared, the one guard was going into the shallow water where the bag of his bones was. Their time was coming to an end, and now that he knew she could hear him, he had so many questions for her.
“What are you looking at?” Jimmy started with, hoping that she would be much more willing to talk with him if he found a subject she was exceptionally interested in. Obviously, whatever was on the horizon was at the forefront of her mind. “Huh? What is that? What are those dots? Huh? Can you hear me over this wind?”
“Are you always this annoying?” The woman said.
Jimmy thought about the first thing Brynn said to him, and this was remarkably similar. Why, it did seem like his first interactions with people that could hear him, which, counting this woman who suddenly appeared on the boat, was two. This was how Jimmy approached people. He badgered them into talking with him. But, he had been so starved for conversation, what was the harm in that? Surely, this woman had to understand his wish for human contact, be it dead or alive. This woman had to be lonely as well.
“I like to think of annoying as a personal emotion. I can’t be annoying, unless you let yourself get annoyed.”
“What’s the difference?” The woman asked, and Jimmy gave himself a point, for it was an official conversation. Despite how alone this woman wanted to be with her thoughts, he had attracted her to talk.
“If you don’t get annoyed, I’m just a guy saying hi. If you get annoyed, I’m annoying.”
The woman, showing no signs of hearing him, went back to watching the horizon. The guards, feeling like they had all of the bones, remarked how heavy the bag was. So, having two bags, one for each of them, they began to divide Jimmy between the two. He watched them trying to figure out whether it should be a rather tit-for-tat exchange, or if they should lay out all of his bones, and go femur-for-femur.
“Sorry, buddy!” The floppy haired one said. Jimmy ignored them, much like this woman was doing to him.
“Are your bones around here? Are you stuck here at the beach? I was up in Quakenfalls for months because my bones were down here, but these kind gentleman came to get the bones, and now I will be going back to the castle. We’re tied to our bones, are we not? So, I will have to leave soon, and you’ll be rid of me. Are your bones around here?”
The woman ignored him.
“What’s that you’re looking at? On the horizon?”
She didn’t even turn to see him anymore. Perhaps she was doing as Jimmy suggested and was trying not to be annoyed with him. But, if that was the case, he believed, she should try talking with him, and getting to know him, and therefore they could be friends, and being annoyed by friends was a much warmer feeling than being annoyed by strangers. That was what he believed, at least.
“I’m sorry I’m annoying you.”
“You’re not annoying me. I’m not allowing you to annoy me.”
“Well, that’s good. There’s just so few people to talk to in death, and I haven’t seen you before.”
She turned to him, those brilliant grey eyes finding his face, and he couldn’t help but smile. “You see many dead people? Many ghosts? Spirits?”
“Well, no. Not many actually. I’ve seen the Queen. A couple spirits this morning in Springborough when we left. But, you’re the first dead person I’ve seen at Quakenfalls. And I’ve been here awhile.” Jimmy looked down at the horizon, at the beach, at the skeletons. “Well, I guess these guys count. Or girls. They’re from the storm, aren’t they? There were spirits in the wind and the clouds yesterday as well. But, I wouldn’t talk to any of them. Not like I’m talking to you.”
Once again, the lady seemed not to hear him.
“Are you like these dead things? These things in the storm?”
The guards, having properly distributed the weight of Jimmy’s sea soaked bones, tied the ends of the bag shut and slung the sacks over their shoulders. Making sure none of the skeletons were moving, and making sure they had not dropped anything themselves, be it coins or weapons or any pieces of Jimmy, they began to call it a day, and carefully step amongst the rocks going back toward the outcropping of Cornwall. Pretty soon, Jimmy’s spirit would have to follow. And while he was excited to see Brynn again, he felt he had so much to learn from this woman.
Or maybe nothing at all. Maybe she just died, and she was in shock, and maybe she could learn from Jimmy. Maybe that is why she was being so quiet.
“Don’t worry,” Jimmy said.
That did get her attention, and the woman looked at him. Her brow was creased and she looked down from the boat at Jimmy who was keeping one eye on the guards walking away with his bones.
“Being dead isn’t that bad,” he continued, her attention fully locked on him. She was not turning away. “Why, I just heard in Springborough that there is a way to carry on to the Heavens. You just have to figure out what business you have left here on Earth, and then you get to go on. I don’t know if there is any truth to it, but it springs eternal hope, and what is better than that?”
“What do you have left to do on this Earth, Sir-….?” The woman whispered, and her whisper caught on the wind, and it was delivered right to Jimmy.
“Jimmy. James. Edwin. You can call me Jimmy. And, I don’t know what I have left to do, but I mean to find out. We have nothing but time to figure it out. I just wish we weren’t tied to our bones, you know? Where are yours?”
“In the forest,” she replied, noticing the guards taking away Jimmy’s bones, and noticing that Jimmy was, without consciously thinking of it, floating down over the rocks toward the guards, his being already forced to follow.
“The forest? How are you here?”
The woman looked at Jimmy, tears in her eyes, a smile on her lips. He couldn’t tell whether her emotions were for her, or a showing for him.
“I’m here for them,” she motioned out to the sea, at the black dots on the horizon.
“Them? Who are they?”
“Ships. From Baku. I am working with the warlock.”
“The warlock?!” Jimmy exclaimed. He could see himself getting farther from her, and he wished the guards would slip, or take a break, because the conversation was just starting, but it was being forcefully ended, and he felt he had so much more to learn from her. But, the warlock was bad, which, if she was working for the warlock, that could only mean she was bad as well. And she said she was there for the ships from Baku? It all could mean so much.
“Yes, the warlock. Aes. He took my life so I could watch for the ships.”
“He took your life?! “
“Everyone in Baku is dead.”
“But, the ships-“
Jimmy was getting farther away. He could barely hear her. Just short spurts. He wanted to yell at her to speak up, or yell at the guards to slow down, but he knew neither would listen to him, so he kept silent so he could hear everything.
“-fight death with death-… -nobody alive will know-… -have to protect them-…”
“I know someone who can hear and see us. A girl. Brynn. She’s a necromancer. She lived on Quakenfalls. She’s alive.”
At that, the woman turned around and stared at Jimmy. She faded from the boat, and in the next breath, was right in front of Jimmy’s face, her grey eyes peering into his. She had crossed fifty wagon lengths in a heart beat, and Jimmy could see the power behind her now. She was not a spirit like him. She was not lost, or scared. She was a witch. Jimmy knew without asking, without ever having met her, but just from hearing the stories of the Witch of Springborough, and her beauty, and her powers, that this had to be Leila.
She was dead. The Warlock had killed her.
“She can see spirits?” The woman asked.
“Yes,” Jimmy responded, trying not to let his fear be noticed in his voice. “Leila.”
He tested the waters with her name, just to see what she would do. She smiled.
“She can see you, Sir Edwin?”
“Yes. She’ll be able to see you.”
“I can’t go with you. On the waters are the dead of Baku, and they are coming to Springborough. Tell her this. Tell her to tell the royal children. Thomas. I will remain here and see what I can do.”
“But, what is it?” Jimmy asked, looking back at the Waters of Cornwall and seeing only black dots, although now, it seemed the black dots took over the entire horizon. There were hundreds of them.
“It is death, Jimmy.” Leila the Dead Witch of Springborough said. “Tell this Brynn of Quakenfalls that death is coming.”