Mother’s Ghost*

I worry about Sophia. I had not seen her in some days, but then, it was so back in Jasper Cove too. I know she is not comfortable in some social situations, so I can understand her not coming out much, but I don’t know where it is she hides.  Last night, however, we discovered something. Her dream may not have been a dream.

I had gone over to the tavern with Gwyn, determined not to let the Rachel demon prevent us from enjoying ourselves.  Said demon was there, annoying Paash by dancing on the table-tops.  She seemed to be largely convinced that she was dead, which was fine by me, but had come back as a ghost of some sort.  I don’t know quite what sort, but it appeared to involve some sort of crystal she was waving around, while complaining about being dead and not having a funeral.  I gathered later that Padishar could not call her back without breaking the bond they have.  Not that I cared much, she can stay dead for all I cared.  Sophia joined us in the corner of the tavern, watching the proceedings with a confused expression.  I tried to explain what was going on, relating how Rachel had died and how Gwyn and I had escaped the Captain of the Ravens.  It was while I was describing the scene that she suddenly got very serious and asked if we could speak privately.  When I tried to tell Gwyn I would only be a minute, Sophia included her in the discussion.  We went over to my hut to talk, out of earshot of the tavern and any passing chickens.

When we got there, Sophia asked if the Captain of the Ravens was real. Gwyn assured her he was, showing her scars.  This was not good news for Sophia, and I remembered how she had described a dream.

“It wasn’t a dream,” she said, explaining further. “If he’s real, then – then he may be looking for me and not happy about it. A few weeks ago I got lost in some caves nearby and this creature – a very large raven wearing some sort of armour found me. He took me prisoner and when I asked his name he said only to call him ‘Captain’. He locked me in a cage and said I’d make a nice pet for his master. Then… well, then I woke up in the church and thought I’d dreamed it all.”  I explained what the Captain of Ravens was, and his function in respect of the fae queen. I suggested that her ‘dream’ maybe have been something to do with Tory.  She frowned some more, explaining how the Raven had  posted guards and cast some spell on the cage, so how did she get out.

I explained how she had been acting oddly a few times recently, talking formally to me, calling me Mr Ballard, being unable to eat solid food and such like, in fact, behaving much more like Tory than herself.  I posited the theory that maybe Tory had found some way to haunt her, and that maybe, when in the cage, had used her Sabbat magic to escape the cage somehow. She considered that for a moment, and, to my surprise, seemed to agree, saying that it could be so. She related the strange things that Tory had gotten up to in the months before her death and the strange smells that had come from the forbidden room. Gwyn looked somewhat confused by the discussion, so I briefly explained about the Sabbat being the vampire bad guys and how they used ritual magic to achieve their aims.  I asked Sophia if it could have anything to do with the amulet or ring, since both seemed to have some residue of magic about them. I added that the possession was partly a good thing, since it allowed her to escape the Raven.

Sophia conceded it could be, but she had not touched or even looked at either item for weeks. She then graciously explained to Gwyn that she didn’t want to keep secrets from her, as my friend, and that sometimes she felt she put too much burden on me. What she could not understand was what purpose Tory had with her.

“I just wish I understood what she was trying to do or is trying to do now. If she had unfinished business, why put it on me to do? I’m nothing but a common street whore she happened to rescue for the gutter and very much human,” she said. That I could not answer.  While I was thinking, Gwyn chimed in, saying that Rachel had told her something of the Sabbat, mentioning the city of Leeds.  I keep forgetting that Rachel was once kindred.  She then explained much better than I could that it was not a burden.

“Sophia,” she said. “I think Nathaniel has very good taste most of the time. Anybody he thinks of as highly as he thinks of you, I think of them highly as well. If he didn’t want your problems, he probably would find a way to avoid them.” Sophia started to cry, softly.

“I thought, from her letter and what I had left of her papers that she was fond of Nathaniel,” she said.”She didn’t seem to blame him for – for anything. Her grudge was against William and he’s gone, too. What could she want of me?”  I reassured her, just as Gwyn had done.

“It is no burden,” I told her. “The circumstances of my relationship with Tory would oblige me to help you, but I would anyway, as a friend. We spoke of unfinished business before. You delivered her final message to me, so that is done. I don’t know the final fate of McToerag, but I doubt she would send you against him, so I can’t think what else.  She did offer to teach me to play the piano, but that seems a rather odd reason to come back as a ghost.”  That made her roll her eyes.

“If only it were as simple as a ghost,” she said. “But if what you speculate is true, Nathaniel, what she’s done goes beyond a simple haunting. No, there must be more to it.” She sighed again looking towards the church. “I think I need to rest. I’m sorry to burden you – you both – with this. I have no one else to turn to.” I assured her again that it was no burden. She explained to Gwyn how she felt safer sleeping in the church.  I promised I would try to look into things, thinking I would see if Cristof had any books, or indeed knowledge, obviously as discreetly as I could.  I also told her that if she wanted to go outside the castle again, to go with me, or Gwyn, since we had protection from the Raven.  She thanked me and headed for the church.

I figured Gwyn deserved more explanation, so told her the potted story of Tory in London, how we had been friends despite being from opposite factions, how Tory had left, never to be seen again.  I told her how she had commanded Sophia to find me and deliver a final message, and how Sophia had only found me by chance in Jasper Cove.  I think she understood better after that, especially about how Sophia and I had been in Jasper Cove.  We talked then for a while about the travails of dating, both of us being unused to it and then parted, she to her cabin by the gate, and me to mine.

 

* Stone Sour?  I don’t know them, but it seems a good song

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