Monday, January 16, 2017

Ghosts (Part 3)

Three nights of waiting had produced nothing. Nothing but people asking where she had been. With each passing day they were buying her 'I'm just not feeling well' excuse less and less. Which meant that if nothing happened tonight, she was going to have to abandon the whole experiment, lest she get reported and picked up by some Imperial patrol. If that were to happen, she likely was going to spend the rest of her days out in a spot like this.

That is, a rather abandoned spot of the desert, that was a solid kilometer from town. Sat next to a rather large rock, she had built herself a small fire, and was now waiting for the fourth night in a row. Waiting, in the middle of the desert, with a sack of canned food. Canned food being the best that she could come up with in terms of an 'offering'. Why she had decided to dedicate so much time to an urban legend, even she wasn't entirely sure.

When she began to doubt the possibility, she ran over the entire tale again in her head. Once it was fresh in her mind, it was hard to not jump at every gust of wind, lest they be a vengeful spirit who had come to answer her call. At one point she had caught a glimpse of some white sheet flying off into the setting sun, but the next day had revealed it to be something that had escaped from someone's clothesline.

After an hour or two, her head was leaned back against the rock, staring up at the dark night sky. Clouds must have passed overhead as the sun set, as she could see neither stars nor moons. Just an empty black abyss. Like staring into a mine shaft. Another hour passed and she found herself in that realm between consciousness and sleep. Tossing and turning by her lonesome. Or at least, she had been alone.

The slightest shift of the sands, and light tinkling of cans was enough to bring her back to waking. Blinking and rubbing her eyes, at first she still considered herself alone. Once she determined that she had not in fact dreamed up the noises, she was forced to deal with the possibility that someone or something had crept out here and was now raiding through her potential offering.

Standing, she paced around the area. A frown found its way onto her face as she found nothing in the general vicinity of her little camp. Not on the rock, not near the rock, not off in the distance. She paced about the rock, not finding anything there either. It was once she circled back around the rock was when she finally found her quarry.

There, hovering near the fire, was a figure, clad in black. Black cloth covered her body, as opposed to the foretold white, and it was more pulled to her flesh, like something between a tunic or armor. It was not, as she had expected, some flowing robe or cloak. Stretched across her back was a long staff, of a silvery metal that had been polished to a shine. Most of her head was covered in a black hood of the same material, attached to the back of her coat, which framed her pale face into something she could only describe as menacing.

It was the face that made her ran cold. That pale, motionless face. A splotch of white against a black background, which had a pair of distant yellow eyes set within it. Small gray marks, scars as best as she could tell, marked her face here and there. Vague purple lines were layered into her skin, giving the impression that she was staring at a painting more than she was staring at a person. Not that she believed entirely that she was staring at a person.

To keep with her ominous appearance, the figure's arm rose in one slow, fluid motion, her fingers twisting to beckon Iroe forward. With an audible gulp, Iroe did as instructed, stopping in front of the fire. A shorter distance made her feel even less safe now than she had before, not least because now the rock was at her back.

"You called," the woman finally said, after they had stood there in silence. Her voice was a flat, cold tone. She spoke as though stating fact, without any room for question.

Taking in a breath, Iroe nodded slowly. With shaking hands, she bent down, picking up the sack full of cans and awkwardly holding it out, "I did."

Those yellow eyes stared down at the bag for a moment, before the head they were attached to gave a short nod. A pale hand motioned for the bag to be set down again, and that same cold tone spoke, though there might have been an edge of sympathy to it, "You wish the Imperials on your world punished."

Again she stated it as fact. A fact that Iroe certainly couldn't deny. While she had heard of far worse stories of Imperial occupation of worlds, that didn't mean she wanted the damned things to stay on her own world. "I do," she managed to say, steadying her voice, "I want them gone."

The figure gave another nod, closing her eyes to consider Iroe's words. After enough contemplation, she opened her eyes, "Return to your town. Leave your offering. Do not think of this encounter again." With that, she turned, making off past Iroe, until she was out of sight beyond the rock.

Seconds past, long enough for her to gain the courage to move from the spot she had been directed to. When she did, Iroe slowly peered around the rock, looking out into the night, finding only the lights of the settlement in the distance. Her stomach churned, wondering what exactly such a bargain she had just bought her way into.

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