By EM Malachi
The hallway held a macabre mockery of various holidays. An indoor garden of gourds and nightshade grew pumpkins already carved with sinister glowing runes. Brightly colored eggs filled with bees twitched in a basket guarded by a rabid rabbit. A mounted reindeer skull decorated with pine garland tried to bite the ranger as he walked past. Shamino tightened his grip on his sword and stepped around the various horrors.
When his initial search for the Serpent Amulet had come to a dead end, Shamino tracked a powerful source of necromancy here. He believed it was responsible for upsetting the spirits across Britannia.
At the end of the hall, a man wearing a pumpkin on his head sat on a throne of glass candy canes. “Welcome, Shamino. You may call me Jack.”
Shamino asked, “Have we met before?”
“The twins told me about you. Twins… so lucky to have someone who understands you and who can donate blood should the need arise. You don’t have a twin, do you?”
Shamino shook his head and raised his sword.
“A pity. I would have liked a matched set. I suppose conversations about kith and kin shall have to wait.”
“What are you planning?”
“The twins helped me hear my inner voice. That voice has told me so much.” Jack poured a pouch of grave dust into his hand.
Shamino swung his sword down on the necromancer. Jack disappeared and the strike shattered the glass throne. Jack appeared on the other side of Shamino. His skeletal fingers sank into the ranger’s flesh. Shamino had never felt anything so painful. He tried to raise his sword again, but felt nothing. Shamino looked down and saw his body crumpled on the ground.
Jack laughed at the disembodied ranger. “What shall I sew your soul into? My screaming ship could use more crew.”
Shamino knew he had one chance to avoid becoming another of Jack’s abominations. He focused on escape, sacrificing a fragment of his soul to wrench free from the deranged necromancer’s grip. Shamino desperately fled into the grey between life and death. He saw a great glowing beacon, and willed his spirit toward it. Getting closer, the light kept pulling on his mana and memories, and Shamino fought, grasping at whatever he could hold.
The ranger’s spirit clung to the side of the Well of Souls, waiting to be found.