The sun was starting to set while Iricah and the others were getting ready to depart. The island made it’s own darkness she knew, but they’d take any protection they could get. The sulfuric plume from the caldera rose higher and higher behind the ever present bombardment of Celn and Sasser forces. Like a fog it fanned out covering every part of the land, choking the island.
Just as they had been briefed on any information regarding Thrak and his “team”, a body was found floating towards them in the current. Drifting from the battle ahead, the bloated figure lay face down, and it’s arms and legs were spread out Other bodies had similarly floated by, such was the business of sea battles, but for some reason, this one caught the eye of Murdak, and Murdak called to his officers to inspect it. The sailors and soldiers aboard were wary, for the Sasser forces were alien to them, and there seemed no shortage of surprises in the enemy’s arsenal. When spells were cast and the identity was confirmed, the body was pulled upwards and onto the deck where it lay in a puddle of salt water face down. Murdak, the commanding officer turned the corpse over and they saw the face of Otis Malor, bloated in death, pale but blue. His bitter blue eyes stared into the night sky above, his brow wrinkled with stern angst, even in death. The rear ship, that which they now based themselves aboard was also Canton’s. It had been appropriated voluntarily in a fashion (not he elvish fashion as Canton would go on to tell them) and had been used as a reserve, a lookout for any possible flanking, and also a sick bay. They needed every fighting Shield they could, and Malor was a Captain with enough experience to lead a dozen or more fighting Shields back into the fight.
“He’s to be returned to the Light,” Genoran commanded and Otis’ body was taken up on a stretcher and shuffled into the captain’s quarters. Here the ritual of resurrection would be performed. It was a costly move. The Flame’s mighty glow was not all powerful. As any flame, it required fuel. Fuel in the form of the worshipping souls that fed it. This time, that fuel was to be harnessed in abundance. For the ritual of resurrection, the spell that would bring a man back to the Light was neither easy, nor cheap of divine might.
“Go!” Spat Genoran when Frank offered his help. “We have all we need here. Your friend, Master Thrak needs you. As do many of mine. I pray to the mighty Flame that our intelligence reports are right. Go now, while we hold the inlet. Free our people, and join the fight!”
With nothing more to add, and no time to waste, the others mounted their griffon steeds and rose off into the night on powerful wings. Genoran watched them go in the briefest of moments. Cannon exploded over the ships on the battle line. Men called and cheered or roared with rage at each bombardment. Through it all, somehow, the stars shone overhead as if oblivious to it all.
The words of Tiresias came to him then. Something the old man had told him once. “A Light always shines Genoran. Even in the darkest of nights.”
The prince swept his cloak aside, and followed the others carrying Otis’ body down into his briefing room, what the other’s called the captain’s galley. “Bring him in. Set him on my war table. We will make it our new Lighted Bay!”
The others moved Otis in, awkwardly maneuvering his body on the stretcher.
“My Lord,” answered Murdak, “Your maps will be….”
“I have no need of maps anymore tonight Murdak. Only men. And women. Fighting men and women of Cellinor. If more survive than those bastard Sassers, then we will live on to help our comrades in the Circle. If less do, we will all perish.” As if to emphasize his statement even more dramatically, he swept his ship models aside like trash. “Place him here! Tell Realis to bring his clerics. Now!”
“I have no time for games Realis, Otis is to be returned to the light.”
“M’Lord.” The cardinal’s brow was sweaty so he dabbed it with his cotton handkerchief. It was silver embroidered thread, in the shape of a mighty dragon on fine white linen. He spoke in a monotone, barely above a whisper. Genoran stood tapping his foot. As if the thought had suddenly just occurred to him, Realis continued in his Cillandrial drawl. “I understand you are sensitive to this man m’Lord, but we must save our resources so far from the….”
“Blast you, Cardinal. This is not a request.”
Realis looked up sheepishly into the prince’s face. He was quite short and the effect of the positioning of his stance made him look like a scolded child, who wasn’t accustomed to being scolded. “Aye, m’Lord, of course.”
Realis grinned and nodded solemnly to the other clerics standing around the body of Otis. The captain’s body lay tattered and shredded upon the table. The entire table was now soaked with sea water which dripped off the sides and onto the deck floor drip by drip. “Let us begin the ritual of Light then, and return this goodly man to the flame.”
In prayer, Realis moved to stand next to the body, laying a hand upon the pale white shoulder. Above him, the chandelier swayed with a single candle lit in the center. Shadows scattered behind those who stood around the dead man. Otis’ body was slashed and torn, like meat would be after a butcher had it’s way with a cleaver. Each of the wounds would have finished the man. He must have been a mighty foe to withstand so many of them for as long as he did. If his wounds were at all evidence of his fortitude, then it was now obvious to all why Genoran would want him returned to the fight.
The other clerics moved closer to the corpse, and they too laid their hands upon his wounds. Chanting from the sacred texts, the hands of each began to glow with a powerful light. Feint at first, the light grew. Steadily, until the entire galley was flooded with brilliant and pulsing white light. It blinded all.
No words were spoken. There was just a feint humming of the lips of the clerics, the creaking of the shipboards, and the fighting sounds of men and women outside. The smell of death hung like a veil over each of them. It mixed with the salt of the sea water.
Genoran, although he had seen the ritual performed so many times before, (and only once had performed it himself at the bequest of a friend) was never more in awe of the flame’s mighty power. To think that the worship of the goodly folk of the realm could be harnessed so, far beyond the binding of wounds, far beyond the cleansing of poisons, but to restore a man to his former life, to give him back everything he was, before everything was taken from him: Genoran’s eyes began to well.
“The body stirs Brothers,” Realis said. “Prepare to receive him.” Realis placed his hands on the table, and the others followed suit. Genoran, from behind them, grabbed a structural beam.
There was a great crack and then another as a seam appeared in the wooden cabinets hung behind them. A chair was shattered, it’s pieces flew backwards and struck the wall. The clerics stood, feet shoulder width apart, bracing themselves. Over head the candle flickered and then grew into a roaring flame. And in a wink, with a great thunder clap from the very center of the table, the flame blew out. The galley was in utter darkness.
There was a gasp and a cough, and then the sound of a breath being taken. It was long and drawn out, as if it were the first breath ever taken. Genoran found himself breathing with the person, as if he too needed that breath. It was the breath he had heard before. It was the breath of life.
“Otis?” Called Realis in his silky smooth voice. It felt out of place in this damp and dark place. “Otis Malor?”
A rough voice answered. It sputtered and garbled at first, seeking words, breathing in between the syllables. Then, with a full and deep inhale, it found them.
“It is dark in this place, my good friend. Please, I wish to see you.”
“Brothers, bring a light to our fellow.”
“Please, friend. The light. I am in the dark.”
“Otis?” called Realis. “Otis Malor? Is that you?”
“Yes, yes, it is I. Otis. Please, friend. I wish to see you. I am so alone here.” The voice was shallow, feint. But there was something else in it. A sadness perhaps. No, thought Genoran, it wasn’t a sadness. It was more primal. More agitated. It felt like..
“Please friend. The light. I wish to see you.”
“The Light fellows. Bring me a light for the returned.”
“Wait!” called Genoran. “Wait!” But it was too late. For at just that moment, one of the clerics had called forth a small light, upon a gem he held in his hands. It gleamed over the body which still lay upon the table.
And that’s when they saw that the wounds were not yet healed. From where Genoran stood, he could not see the face of Otis, but he saw the chest heave in and out. The air had returned to his lungs. But, the voice!
Realis leaned over the body, “Brother Otis. Welcome back, welcome back to the…..” he tried to say, but the cardinal’s voice was cut off by a gurgling sound. Genoran watched as a hand, Otis’s hand reached out and clawed around his throat. The bones shone through the flesh which hung in strips. It was no longer an ordinary hand, the nails were now like claws, and the arm itself had elongated, as if it had grown! Genoran, in horror, realized that the gurgling sound was Realis himself. The claw gripping his throat tore it out of his neck and bright red blood sprayed outward, covering the body and the table.
And then the body’s torso shot up, and Genoran knew that Otis had not been brought back. Something was here, but it wasn’t Otis.
Genoran reached for his sword and found it’s gem encrusted hilt quickly. In one pull, he slashed out at a face that was no longer Otis’s. He watched the red eyes search around and heard the villianous, savage cry, “I see you Celns! I see you all!!!!!!”
And then his sword found it’s mark, and in it’s path, the candle was whisked out.
“Iricah!“ Said the Prince softly, “What in the Light I have sent you to?”
All was darkness once more.