“Pain! Yes! That was painful!” Scott grimaced as he tried to shake some feeling back into his limbs that wasn’t white-hot agony. He’d drawn as much necrotic power as he’d dared, and let it overflow all at once. While she’d have to be in the next state to miss that, it made his wounds ache and burn. But it seems it worked; a yellow light was headed straight for him through the trees, a pale blue one following at a distance. Scott frowned as he saw it, though. Something was wrong.
“Sco…tt.” Amber gasped, crashing in front of him. His eyes went wide in horror. Her legs were wispy, indistinct. Her body’s form was fuzzy. And worst of all her yellow aura, normally a healthy sunset gold, was pale and dimming. “I…made…it…”
She was fading into oblivion.
“Holy hell! Amber! What happened?” He picked her up, only a torso with smoke pouring from her waist.
“She…” She pointed to the blue ghost behind her, screeching like a banshee. Scott looked up to glare at her, his eyes glowing green.
“Aᴢᴍᴇᴛʜ Zᴇɴᴋᴇᴛ.” he said and waved his hand, his words as heavy as coffin lids slamming together at midnight. She didn’t even have time to scream before she was blown away.
“Sc…ott…” Amber croaked, her form becoming fuzzier and fuzzier.
“Shhhh, it’s okay,” he said, holding her head. “You did good.” She tried to smile, but her right arm dissolved into light and vapor. Scott gulped. “Listen. I didn’t want to do it, but we have no choice. I can save you. Do you want to live, no matter the cost?” he asked quietly.
“Dun…wanna…die…” she managed, growing paler by the minute.
“Got it.” He turned and limped to the clearing next to the grave, so as not to interfere with the binding sigils.
He gently laid her on the ground, then drew a circle around her with a stick. Muttering incantations, he marked four sigils in the cardinal directions, then drew a line to a circle at his own feet. Grabbing a rock, he used its pointed edge to rip open a wound from his earlier fall, letting it bleed. Dabbing his fingers in the blood, he painted a sigil on her heart, and pulled down his shirt to make the same mark on his own chest. Clapping his hands together, he began reciting the final incantation of the ritual.
“Orinous…orinous. Kalhoom fleigh z’nasth. Aum. Aum. Col’hastavaugh. Enteth…c’ma fagoonist!” Scott slammed his palms on the ground. A metal chain sprouted from his chest, snaking through the air to attach itself to Amber’s heart, making her gasp. His eyes glowed, and a green light filled the circle around him, spilling over to the circle around what was left of Amber and illuminating her from below. She rose into the air, the brilliant green light shooting up through the trees. Scott grunted as the green light seeped around the chain, crawling up and pouring into her. Amber shuddered; for the first time in too long, she felt her heart beating.
The green light continued to fill her. It felt…tangy, for lack of a better word, like raspberry lemonade. She held her hand up and saw her fading yellow aura turn toxic emerald and much, much brighter.
“Waaah!” With a fwoomph her arm and legs sprouted again, along with a surge of energy that made her feel alive in every sense of the word. “Ooooooooh yeah! Whoa! Good mornin’, sunshine!” She turned to Scott, sparks bursting from her skin. “What did you do?” He gave her a weak grin.
“Glad to see you back.” He slumped to the ground, exhausted.
“Hey! Hey! Scott! Hey!” She floated over and shook his body. “Don’t you die too! Hey!”
Scott groaned and rolled over on his back.
“Jeez, give a guy a minute. I just reversed ectoplasmic entropy at the last minute. Let me catch my breath.” She sighed in relief.
“Glad to see you’re okay too. You big dummy.” she giggled.
“Yeah yeah. Our problems aren’t over yet.”
“Huh?” He pointed up to the tree line, where a small blue spark was growing larger and larger. “Yikes! Please tell me you can deal with her!”
“Nope.” Scott sat up and held his head. “I’m tapped out. Not to mention, I have a splitting headache. You go pull her into the trap.”
“What!?” Amber screeched. Edith had handed her ass not ten minutes ago. Scott gave her a wry grin.
“Don’t worry. You can take her. I have faith.”
“Wha? R-Really?” she stammered.
“You aren’t running on your piddly little reserves anymore. I switched your gas over to premium. Now go smack that bitch down into the trap, and I’ll close it on her.”
“I-If you say so.” she said nervously. She could hear the screaming getting louder. She crouched, and jumped to float up and meet her. At least, she intended to. Instead, she took off like a rocket, green sparks trailing behind her like a comet. “Waaaahhhhh!”
Speeding forward much faster than intended, Amber found herself unable to turn in time. Edith was leaping at her, her mouth stretched open a foot wide to sink into her ectoplasm. She barely had time to cross her arms in front of her face and close her eyes when-
Her arm tickled. Amber opened her eyes to see Edit’s jaws on her arm, gnawing on it like a hamster with a steel bar.
“Hey. That’s creepy. Stop that.” she deadpanned, unable to properly comprehend what she was seeing.
“I mean it, get off!” Plucking her up like a misbehaving puppy, Amber gave her what she thought was a moderate shake that in actuality whipped her head and arms around with enough force to break bones, had she a physical body. Edith stared at her, incredulous.
“How? How are you so strong now? You haven’t devoured the others like me. How could your strength eclipse mine!” Snarling, she swiped her hands at Amber’s face, nails twisted into claws.
Amber had once been batted at by a declawed cat. The sensation was similar.
“Look, this has gone on long enough. You aren’t going to be eating anyone else’s soul, ever again!” Still holding her, Amber reared back and punched Edith in the chest. Edith doubled over, spewing ectoplasm. “Ew!” Amber brushed herself off. Edith glared at her, trembling in rage.
“You…you! I’ll tear you to pieces!” she shouted, shrugging off Amber’s supernatural grip with ease as she burned even brighter than Amber, a nova casting away the night.
“Uh-oh.” Amber meeped. With one hand, Edith grabbed her head and threw her back down to the ground. Before Amber could recover, Edith was on her again, raining clumsy but powerful blows on her. Amber could only cover her head and try to withstand the barrage, all the while getting pushed back.
‘Not good.’ she thought, trying to fight down her mounting panic. Eventually the hits ceased, both of their auras significantly dimmer.
“Little wretch, I don’t know how you acquired so much power, but I have devoured hundreds over the years. My true strength dwarfs yours!”
“Crap!” Amber cried, flinching. Blue aura flaring up again, Edith slowly stalked forward, completely intent on Amber, who was giving ground inch by inch.
“Get clear, now!” Amber jumped away, and Edith turned to Scott, the other source of irritation.
“Maggot, you…” She broke off when she saw he was grinning and kneeling. With her spectral body so bright, it was easy to make out all the strange runes carved in a circle on the ground. A circle centered around her tombstone, and which perimeter she was currently in. “What-”
“Say bye-bye! Angelogsten nckellath holm!” The sigils all lit up at the same time, causing a ripple like a translucent whirlpool to emanate from the tombstone.
“What have you done!?” she screeched. Against her will, her body was being dragged inexorably toward it, sucking her in.
“It’s your final resting place. I hear old people need their sleep.” Scott said, grinning.
“You! Die!” She launched herself at him, breaking through the suction enough to take a fatal swipe at him. If it weren’t for Amber. Tackling her with her shoulder, Amber slammed her back into the center of the vortex, howling and spitting curses at them as her body twirled and whirled around like water in a drain. With a final pop, her head was sucked into the stone. The lights faded, and both Amber and Scott let out a heavy sigh of relief.
“We did it.” Amber said. Scott gave her a tired thumbs up.
“Yeah, we did. Things should be a lot better in the cemetery from now on.” He frowned and bowed his head. “Listen, Amber…I’m sorry.”
“Huh?” She tilted her head quizzically. “For what? You mean this?” She grabbed the air in front of her, and the glowing chain reappeared in her hand.
“That ritual. I never wanted to use it. Do you know what it does?” he said despondently.
“Besides keep me from disappearing? And a huge energy boost? I feel great!” She grinned and stretched happily. Scott chuckled ruefully.
“Amber, do a backflip.” Without hesitation, without even thinking about it, Amber’s feet left the ground, circled above her head and stuck the landing, a bewildered look on her face.
“The Chain of Spectral Binding. That’s what the spell is called. A necromancer can link his soul to a ghosts’. The upside is, the ghost doesn’t fade away. The spirit draws power from the caster, becoming like a familiar. A necromancer is a living necrotic energy generator, so it’s not strain on them at all. The downside is, since the lifeforce is linked, that means the necromancer has total control of the ghost.” he explained, screwing his eyes together in pain.
“It means you’re feeding off my energy, my power making up your ectoplasm. As such, I can move your body like an extra limb if I wanted. Less…scrupulous necromancers have used this method to enslave ghosts for centuries. But it was the only way to anchor your soul to this world. I can promise you I will never use that power. But…I have still done something despicable.” He gulped, on the verge of sobbing. He lurched over to her, and fell to his knees at her feet. “I-I’m sorry. Can you ever forgive me?”
Amber stared at him in shock, trying to process everything that was going on. She tugged at her ponytail nervously, glancing from one side of the clearing to the other, desperate to look anywhere else than at the boy in front of her.
“It’s…well, um…uh…argh!” she cried and stamped her foot. “Look! This is…stupid! You’re being stupid! Stop being stupid!”
“H-Huh? Stupid?” he said, taken aback.
“Y-Yeah! Look, this, um, isn’t what I had in mind when I asked you to help me. But it was the only way to keep me around, right?” she said, looking down at her hand, fingering the chain to avoid eye contact. Eye contact was bad.
“R-Right.” Scott said bashfully. “Unless you started eating other ghosts.”
“Ew. So not going to happen.” She shook her head. “So… I figure, as long as you don’t, y’know, start making like the Emperor to Darth Vader, you were just trying to uphold your end of the deal to bring me back. So…why don’t we just forget about this stupid chain thing, and go back to how things were before? Just don’t order me around, and it’ll be fine. It’s not, you know, an ideal situation, but as long as I don’t bite it I’m not going to complain. Stupid.” Hearing that, Scott broke out into a relieved smile. All the tension in his body drained out all at once, and he fell back onto the ground, laughing softly.
“I thought you said you weren’t a fantasy nerd.” he said, holding a palm to his forehead.
“Idiot. Shut up. I’ve seen Star Wars. Everybody’s seen Star Wars.” she huffed. Scott just chuckled again. For a moment, they just stayed there, the pale stars competing with the moon, the last of the crickets chirping before autumn’s final call.
“You know, I really do need to get to bed. You…wanna go home?” Scott said eventually.
“Yeah. It’s been a loooong night.” Amber said, helping him up. He put weight on his foot, and winced. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh, nothing. I just fell earlier, did something to my leg. I’ll be alright, it’s nothing serious.” Scott said, limping along. Amber rolled her eyes and slung his arm around her shoulder, supporting him. “W-What are you doing?”
“Helping you, duh. The sooner we get home, the sooner you can get cracking on getting me back all the way. Sound like a plan?” She smiled up at him, and he grinned back.
“Indeed it does.”
As they marched through the woods and cemetery, Amber realized it wasn’t her heart she felt beating again. It was the necromancer’s beside her.