It's better to die on your feet than live on your knees
We Encounter Monsters
A Search for Magical Items
Adventurers in Orange
The Magical Land Grows Stranger
Danger and Battles Increase
The Court of Mirrors
We Lose a Friend
Cry of the Banshee
Our "girl power" party was the first to arrive back at the tavern. This surprised me, because it seemed as though we had been gone for many hours, maybe days. Surely the other three parties would have had quicker success! Bella, the duchess who had sent us on our quest, was relieved to see us return with the amulet. But her relief turned to sorrow when she saw how many women had been lost in the effort.
Our party, both living and ghosts, drifted about the tavern. Still filled with tension and excitement from the battle, women breathlessly exchanged stories with one another and told Bella everything that had happened. I discovered that we ghosts could talk to one another, but no matter how loudly I spoke, the living could not hear me. At least they could see us, just as I had been able to partially make out Jonah when he'd been a ghost.
Once everybody settled down a bit, the living talked among themselves and found two clerics that still had "raise from the dead" spells available. Everyone agreed that the Slayer should be resurrected first of all, since she had played such a key role. The Ghost-Slayer drifted over, and one of the clerics began her spell immediately. The other cleric looked around, unsure of who else to choose... but the other cleric was Sunflower, from Keer. My cleric.
When she saw that I was one of the ghosts, she immediately said she would use her spell on me. I was embarrassed but at the same time relieved to be chosen. I didn't want to die -- well, I didn't want to stay dead. I still had a lot of living left to do.
The "raise from the dead" spell is a very difficult and taxing one. It requires so much energy to cast that the cleric falls unconscious for five minutes afterward! Fortunately Sunflower warned me of this ahead of time, so I didn't worry. We found a safe corner of the tavern and a wall for her to lean against. She chanted in cleric-speak, then rang a little bell. The bell sounded far-away at first, then the sound become clearer. As though it had come into focus. I went from feeling nothing at all, to feeling numb, then I felt "pins and needles" throughout my whole body.
My body...I had one again! I didn't even mind the pain. I reached out and touched Sunflower's hand, delighting in the fact that my own hand didn't go right through her. I could feel again. She half-smiled at me, briefly squeezed my fingers in return, then she slumped over unconscious, completely drained from her spell.
The pins and needles I felt were sharp, like my whole body had fallen asleep at once, but they went away quickly. I looked at my hands -- they were whole and uneaten again. The pain from those awful sword wounds had also vanished completely -- I didn't even have a scar to remind me. I was alive and uninjured! Thrilled to be among the living again, I stood guard over Sunflower while she slept off the aftereffect of her spell.
One by one, the other three parties returned. They had also suffered some casualties, but each group had been successful. In one group, every member had died! But even they had found the talismans they sought, for each ghost mutely held one aloft in its misty white hand. Jonah was one of them, ghosted for a second time, and I was sorry that Sunflower had already used up her spell on me.
The other three men from Keer -- Lauren, Cedric, and Rutger -- were in a party that had literally challenged Death himself. (Interestingly enough, the paladin challenged him with riddles, the mage challenged him with song, and the bard challenged him with strength. Our group's skills were diverse.) They each had won and were okay, if shaken. But when they first returned and saw me, they all looked shocked and relieved. "We thought you were dead," Lauren told me, his eyes wide with emotion.
"I did die! Sunflower healed me," I told them excitedly. I started to describe the horror of the zombies, my words spilling out fast and somewhat incoherently, then I stopped. "But -- how did you know?"
All three answered at once. "We were in a crypt... competition with Death.... said he saw a female warrior from Keer... stabbed in the stomach.... we thought it had to be you...."
They grew quiet, staring at me as though I were still a ghost. Suddenly overwhelmed by the memory, I looked at my feet and tried to make a joke of it. "I got better."
When all of the items necessary for the spell had been assembled, the mage Cinder came out to cast it. Cinder had also Turned that evening, but in her case it actually made her a better person. Previously she had been an angry and bitter young woman, rude and sarcastic to everyone she encountered. Thus we all were pretty startled to see her hurrying up to give the duchess a worried hug and a smile.
We were led to an outdoor ampitheather-type place, with many rows of benches. We consisted of eight groups, each from a different part of the country. To reverse the curse, a plea needed to come from everyone, calling upon the four seasons for help. At least one person from each group needed to speak, asking the seasons to come.
Rutger was the one with the clever ideas and flowery words, so we deferred to him. He composed a great speech. Then he suggested that to show unity we should all confirm together what he'd said. Cedric suggested we say something along the lines of, "We the warriors from the island of Keer agree and do hereby call upon the seasons!" Or maybe it was even longer, I don't remember.
Rutger started nodding, but I just stared at them both. That was way too wordy. "You want us to say what? I won't remember all that. Can't we just say Aye!, or hoopa-hoppa or something?"
In the end, much to my relief, just Rutger spoke for Keer. It worked great, and the spell was cast. In an unexpected end to the spell, Cinder actually offered herself in exchange. She had heard about the sad and bitter person she had been before Turning, and she didn't want to become that woman again. When the spell was completed, Cinder's robes collapsed, and she had vanished. I guess the seasons found her sacrifice acceptable.
The mirror-world shattered. The evil mirror-mage converted back to his good self, and he handed out potions to cure anyone who was dead or wounded. When we returned to the tavern, it was well-lit and cheery again. All of the townspeople were back their old selves, and they didn't remember any of the curse. They didn't even know anything had been amiss!
It was midnight on the Day of Mirrors, the most important festival of the year, and the whole town was in a celebratory mood. Carefree anders were happily serving apple crisp to anyone who was hungry -- which was all of us, by that time. There was laughter and drinking and merriment. A few people went outside to spar and joust. Jonah felt that "love was in the air", so he convinced me to flirt with Murphy for awhile. (His goal was to make Nix jealous, because Jonah was determined to get her together with Murphy, but I don't think we were very successful. Oh well, I tried.)
Even when a very frightened Tinkerbell approached our group with something terrible he had found in Esmeralda's tent while looking for medicine, our mood could not be dampened. We promised Tinkerbell that he did not need to worry, that Esmeralda would be okay, that we would take care of things. A Wolven general's mask and collar, concealed in the gypsy's belongings? Wow. But Cedric put it away, to be dealt with tomorrow. Today had been long enough.