Iron Ink and Sinister Visions

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Callum left the heaping plate before him untouched. His brow knit above his eyes, and he leaned in at the behest of the tone in Georgiana’s voice. Written upon her face, thinly masked by trained and practiced will, the traces of fear and anxiety could be seen. It made the hair upon Callum’s neck bristle at the sight of it; a woman of stature and poise barely holding on to her composure as she explained the details of her torments.

He had of course heard of the ghastly murders that had plagued London for weeks now. Callum kept himself well appraised of such things, and he felt he was well informed on the matter. His knowledge moved even beyond the official stories and speculations found in the papers—moving in the unique circles that Callum did afforded him such advantage. Yet, even with the aid of the esoteric community, facts were woefully difficult to come by. The fact that he was sitting in a room with a person that could somehow, someway, be connected to it all was almost too much to even comprehend.

My God… The implications of it all thundered within his mind, almost drowning out the rush of blood that pounded within his own ears. In the back of his mind, Callum told himself that he should be keeping his emotions less conspicuous in front of his client. He tried to do so, to keep his face merely thoughtful, and devoid of shock. It was a fool’s errand.

“I…” Callum began at last. “…I feel my latter assessment is the most likely place to begin to answer your question, Lady Westmoore. Though I cannot say with any certainty as of yet, it sounds to me as if a psychic link between you and…”

The killer, He thought.

“…someone with intimate knowledge of these crimes, is a likely explanation.”

It was then, just as he had spoken, that a cold chill puckered the flesh of his arm. The sensation was as known to him as the feeling of the sun upon his face, and Callum had no need to look to know Constance now sat beside him. For a brief time, so torn was his attention, he didn’t even notice the weight of the small object that had materialized within his left hand. It was only when he started to move his hand that he felt the object, and his fingers barely managed to close around the tiny thing before it slipped from his palm.

Callum hazarded a quick glance downward, just as Constance’s voice sounded within his ear. He saw that he now held a tin toy soldier, though he had no chance to study it as he was forced to look up to meet Georgiana’s gaze. His face was enduring as he listened to his ghostly confidant. Her words made the hair upon his neck bristle anew.
 

Adelaide

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Georgiana was a practiced hand at maintaining her composure and poise, even in difficult situations. So it was with a practiced eyes that she spotted the cracks in Mr. Vaughn’s. He was giving it a solid try—she would grant him that— but between the tightening of his jaw, the full plate before him and then the pause in his words as he self-edited, she saw through to his worry. This sight of his concern made her stomach drop and rebel against the small nourishment she’d taken. She paled, but did not turn green. She simply sat up straighter in her chair and fought harder to remain calm. It would do nothing to panic and weep as she so wished to do. Foolishness to indulge such a whim. What good would tears do anyone?

This was her first foray into seeking his sort of assistance and she’d never expected it to yield what it had. She could only hope that his connection with her brother would prove advantageous in his solving of this case. She was out of options. This was an aspect of herself she’d long ignored and now was without resources. Not that she regretted the decision.

She dropped her gaze to her plate, looking past the mounds of hopeful food she wasn’t going to touch and let his words fill her. This was a twofold problem, she realized. One was to protect herself and keep whoever it was away from her and out of her head. But the other part was to stop the killings. She was no hero, she was not brave nor was she bold. She was a society lady who lived as she should, rarely stepping out of line lest people look too long at her and remember her savage roots. But she was a human being and a decent one with morality and the terrifying fact that she might be the key to stopping this person (or perhaps their ultimate goal) had factored into her motivations to seek help.

“So, Mr. Vaughn, you have heard my tale and not scoffed at it, so I am taking that to mean you believe me, which is a great relief. Sometimes I hardly believe myself.”

She laughed a little, lifted the wine glass and wetted her lips with it, staining the dusty rose a deeper crimson before it was delicately blotted away by a nervous flash of a tongue.

“So now I wonder, knowing nothing of this sort of thing, what is our next step? How will you treat this ailment of mine?”

Visions of crystals and circles drawn in sand came to mind, hypnosis and trance. As she mused she could imagine that circle ringed with words in a scroll like script that seemed so familiar. She could just picture it alongside colorful paintings of people with blue faces and broad red mouths and tongues of obscene length flickered across her mind like memories from the depths of her mind stirred to the surface the way fall storms sometimes coughed up fish onto the beach where they gaped and flopped and then died. Georgiana blinked and sipped her wine again, fighting for something safer to hold onto while being tossed in the storm.

Soldiers.

She thought inexplicably of soldiers. Not the sort Basil had become but static little soldiers laid out in lines while their generals in folded newspaper hats argued over the casualties caused by a rock throw and whether it was out of bounds or not.

Basil.

She blinked. She swallowed the lump in her throat and lifted her glittering eyes to her guest, awaiting an answer.
 
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Muirgen

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Constance had no answer for Georgiana’s plea – or at least not one the young mortal lady would have been prepared to hear as yet. Were such a thing possible, Lady Westmoore seemed to pale further still as those sharp, bird-like eyes studied Callum’s every last word and least expression. Somehow, some way, the young woman’s sensitivity seemed as exquisitely tuned as any medium’s – so much so, Constance half-expected for those large, anxious midnight eyes to fall upon her spectral form, right where she sat beside her dear friend.

And yet she did not, no matter the ghost could not shake the feeling she was somehow sensed by more than Callum’s pale grey eyes. Constance frowned softly when she heard Georgiana’s desperate words, and her spectral body undulated slowly from the seat.

“Bless her sweet soul Callum – does she think you a physician, you should have the cure for what ails her?” Her voice would have been little but a breathy whisper, even to Callum’s preternaturally attuned hearing. The ghost remained weakened, taxed very nearly to her limits when she apparated from the sea caves below Westmoore Manor with her small prize, and her news of what lie beneath them. Constance did not even have the will to hover over the table as she moved from Callum’s side to Georgiana’s, her ectoplasmic form so spent she simply drifted through the wood of the table – a rather disturbing image in truth, as if she’d been cut cleanly in half.

But Constance was too weary, far too exhausted by her efforts to worry on such minutiae. The ghost stood silently behind Georgiana, her eerily blue eyes glowing softly as her fingers gently brushed the air at the woman’s neck, an unnaturally cooled breeze gently whispering along through the soft tendrils of black hair at the nape of her neck that had escaped from her beautifully coiffed hair. The essence of deep green and rich peat wrapped the ghost once more, the subtle hint of some exotic spice teasing her senses all over again.

“Give her the soldier, my friend.” Constance closed her eyes as she tried to concentrate on that strangely familiar sensation. “Show her the old tin toy, and see if she knows it. I suspect she will… “

Her eyes opened once more, her gaze fallen again on Callum. “And while we are alone, perhaps you should introduce me. She is obviously willing to believe most anything at all if it might relieve her of this awful burden. Maybe she would find reassurance in my presence, that even if you are not a physician, you most certainly are who and what you say you are.”


A soft and wistful smile graced the ghost’s face then. “And reassurance as well, that you have the compassion and experience to find the answers she needs, even if you cannot hand it to her this very moment. If you had the skills to find and bind and heal the rage of a mad poltergeist? Oh, assuredly your brilliance and bravery can find a way to the bottom of this as well. Introduce me Callum, while she is still credulous and desperate enough to believe and to see.”

Constance shook her ethereal head sadly in a most mortal manner, no matter only Callum might see her there. The poor woman’s plate remained as untouched as her friend’s, and she tsk tsked as earnestly as she ever did over the children she had come to love in Five Foxes. “It is not as if she is likely to eat another bite anyway, the poor, dear child… ”
 
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Callum sat back in his chair. His lips pursed and his brow knit. For a moment he fixed his eyes upon his plate, still filled with the half-eaten dinner. He took in Georgiana’s reaction to his assessment, and her posited question.

How will I treat this ailment, indeed?

His mind calmed and focused, if only fractionally. Taking a deep breath through his nose, and exhaling it with practiced focus, Callum bade his mind to ease further. The crescendoing ingress of this case had thrown his analytical mind into tumult, derailing his usual methodical approach to the more routine matters of the ethereal. Constance’s scouting had only added to the pregnancy of the conundrum; Westmoore Manor was apparently a veritable hub of supernatural power. A possible explanation for the connection with London’s string of murders?

Callum’s silvery eyes flitted upward, looking from beneath the furrowed rim of his brow to where Constance now floated beside Georgiana. He didn’t try to hide the direction of his gaze, and it would be apparent to the lady that his attention was not upon her. Constance was proposing a drastic step with revealing herself to Georgiana—a step he had never once even considered before in all the years Constance had been his companion. However, a case such as this, with a strong connection to an unending massacre of innocents, had never met Callum either.

The air was heavy with an eerie sensation of impending tragedy, at least to Callum’s senses. Sitting as he was, he felt it like the calm before a storm. As his mind worked on how to proceed, no option that came to him gave him even a modicum of solace, and the sense of coming misfortune failed to abate. His gaze left Constance, and fell to the tin soldier in his hand. By now, several minutes of silence had marched on within the confines of the dining room.

Looking into the featureless, worn face of the soldier, Callum found no answers. The little idol, complete with his rifle served only to amplify his angst. In the back of his mind’s eye, well shrouded memories tried to break free of their wrappings.

Flashes of jungle.

The blaze of rifle fire.

Cries of dying men.

A commander’s fruitless orders.

Glowing, unworldly red eyes.

A shudder ran down Callum’s neck. Shaking him back to the present, he looked up to Georgiana. There, with the ghosts of his past grasping at his heels for the first time in many years, Callum made up his mind.

Standing, he moved to stand on the opposite side of Georgiana as Constance.

“Georgiana, I cannot as yet answer your question with any confidence. This is not a matter that can simply be reversed with some spell, or conjured potion.” He said, quietly, simply, and without condescension. Callum placed the tin soldier on the table.

“Though I am unable to rid you of your troubles in an immediate way, I hope you will be open to, and take solace in, the fact that I am not alone in my mission to solve this puzzle.”

Callum tried a comforting smile on his face, and his eyes flit upwards to where Constance yet floated before he returned to look upon Georgiana. He knelt beside the lady.

“Please, take hold of the trinket before you. Take a moment to feel it, to focus upon its essence.”

Gingerly, Callum reached out and clasped his fingers around one of Georgiana’s petite hands. He looked deeply into her eyes.

"Once you do, I ask you to look about, and I suspect you will recognize what I mean when I say I am not alone.—more questions will surely arise, but in so doing, answers to the core of this case’s machinations may yet reveal themselves as well.”
 
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Adelaide

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She watched him come, her dark eyes acting like mirrors catching his approach. Only the reflection of him in her eyes wasn’t so much a vision of the moment, but of her hopes for him. In her eyes he was huge, big enough to fight the fear that filled her and wore down her defenses and reserve. She could feel the thing out there, trying to get in and with each dream it got a little harder to hold it at bay.

He was her hope. So his words, meant kindly and reassuringly made her eyes close briefly, banishing the reflection only to have it restored when she opened her eyes, only this time he appeared as a man only, her hopes no longer on display, simply tucked away for safekeeping.

“I understand.” She said, and she almost did. She’d so carefully hid herself from this aspect of the world, denying its existence that she couldn’t really understand, not yet. Not until she’d fully woken up. And that was the rub, to wake up was to be open and to be open was to let whatever it was, in.

She watched his hand as he took hers, biting her lip at how much larger his hand was than hers. It was a capable hand, strong and scarred here and there as was appropriate for a soldier and on his finger was a ring, a small ring that seemed out of place, feminine. She shivered, a light touch of air across her neck causing the reaction. She looked around but the curtains blotting out the grey and chill of the of lowering night did not stir in the least.

Georgiana looked back to Callum and then the object he’d place in her palm. Her eyes filled, there was no helping it.

“Colonel MacTavish MacWilliams Swimmsey-Nodd.” She said in a choked voice as her thumb ran lovingly over the featureless face of the hero of a thousand tales. He’d been lost for so long, only now to come home.

How many times had she and Basil spent the better part of a day setting up an army and playing out the battle in careful rows until some mishap knocked over some platoons causing arguments and bickering only to have one of them take up with very soldier whose unconventional behavior always found a way to a solution that was against regulations but well within the delight of the twins. Each one fought to out-do the others with his exploits and he switched sides as needed, supporting whoever was the most clever or creative that day. She could feel the metal of him warming against her skin as if the soldier were waking up. She blinked, a tear falling from her thick fan of lashes only to shatter against the chest of the soldier.

She looked up as commanded, obedient to the man whom she had hired to help her. For a second there was no change in her expression as she looked up, her thumb idly running over the Colonel in her palm. Then her eyes fluttered, her brow lowered in confusion and for a second she seemed to fix on something just to her side. Her breath hitched and though there was something soft and blue to her side, her attention was pulled to just across the room, where almost faded against the thick panel of the curtains there was something dim with a hint of red to it.

She gasped and stood, the legs of her chair scraping against the floor.

“Basil.” She said and the air stirred by the window as well as from the servant’s door that led to the kitchen.

There was the softest hint of a voice that thrummed through the air towards Georgiana like a wire in a piano struck softly with a key.

“Georgie…”

Her eyes rolled as she felt her consciousness fleeing from her with the same swiftness as the bit of shadow and red across the room. Before Georgiana had fully crumpled to the ground the door to the kitchens burst open revealing an elderly, grim faced Indian woman in a Sari who moved with a speedy, hobbling gait. She waved her hands as she moved, her age-spotted hands moving in precise configurations that to any spectral eyes would leave ghostly images in the air, like the way a candle leaves light trails in the dark, images that faded in moments. From those motions would also come a faint force, enough to be a deliberate thing against ectoplasm but not enough to actually do anything other than be felt. As the old woman hustled to her mistress’ side she made soft garbling sounds that were not formed enough to be language and when she said them she was looking just past Constance, as if she almost saw her, almost.
 
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Muirgen

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"Sweet heavens!" If she could have, Constance would have gasped with genuine surprise as her ephemeral body floated back what would have been a mortal step, the soft tendrils of her ectoplasmic aura undulating with a sudden frigid disturbance in the air about Georgiana Westmoore.

It had seemed such a good idea - however unorthodox - for the ghost to suggest to her dear companion that he introduce her to the client, and to this client in particular. Constance hadn't the least idea why such a notion should occur to her, that Georgiana Westmoore would be capable of seeing her and might - just might - be comforted by the fact she was not alone in sensing the uncanny and the supernatural.

There seemed precious little evidence the young woman did not take Callum at his word - or at the very least, her desperation was such that she was willing to give most anything he said a genuine and heartfelt try. Constance could feel her non-existent heart still in sympathy as Georgiana gave name to that stalwart tin soldier, long lost on a black shoreline, only wishing she could wipe those tears from her eyes without freezing them to the tender skin of the mortal woman's face.

And it was in that singular moment she felt that uncanny presence from the library all over again, but right here in the dining room: the manifestation of rich earth and peat, a deep green-ness so thick and heavy it was near palpable, and that sweetly piquant under-note of a rich and exotic spice. Constance could sense nothing ominous in this odd manifestation though, nothing even remotely akin to the dire portents that drove Lady Westmoore to desperately seek the help of someone who knew the supernatural world as her dear friend did. Her uncannily brilliant blue eyes darted to Callum, a wordless question deep within: did he sense that presence as well? Did he note the arrival of this unexpected apparition just as she had, now and in the library?

Yet there was not the least moment to speak a word of question, much less for Callum to conjure up an answer for her. For a split-second, Constance thought Georgiana might have sensed her ethereal presence, but then realized her attentions were pulled somewhere else in the room entirely. The ghost could not have missed the name that passed Lady Westmoore's lovely lips, her attentions turned instantly about, everywhere, anywhere about the dining room to see if she were not the only specter in this place!

But if Basil was here, or if there were some cruel demonic doppleganger left to torture Georgiana, Constance hadn't a second to discover! Lady Westmoore was falling into a faint, and the ghost did not have the strength in her left after her subterranean excursion to keep her slight body aloft. She could only pray Callum was far faster than she, because at that very same moment the strangest little woman emerged into the dining room with them, as if she'd been lurking about all along, waiting for something or someone very like Constance to make herself known -

- Or at least, that was all the impression the ghost had a chance to form before her supernatural vision was filled with the ectoplasmic version of sparklers and light trails following those gnarled fingers. The language the woman uttered seemed strangely familiar to Constance, though she could not make honest heads or tails of its sense. Those intent dark eyes did not actually focus on the lady ghost, so much as seem to sense her general proximity. Constance could feel the strangest tug at the undulating ends or her spectral gown, as if a particularly insistent little child were pestering for her attentions, to harry her from one room to another to show her some finger painting or building of wooden blocks. Such an odd sensation! And that was when Constance realized she might actually be... No, that couldn't be! And yet... Was she truly...

Was this dark little woman actually trying to banish her!? How rude!


"Shoo! Go on, shoo now!" Constance frowned mightily, waving her hands at the strange little exotic woman, those oddly sparkling lights irritating her otherworldly sight and, were such a thing truly possible, giving her a bit of a headache!
 
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Callum smiled a hopeful and bated smile as he saw the light of a thousand memories shine in Georgiana’s eyes with the recognition of the tin soldier. When she spoke the trinket’s name, he almost laughed with joy. Such coincidences, Callum had learned, never existed. There were too many otherworldly forces that pushed the lives of all men and women to allow for such random chance. It often was nothing more strenuous than the current of a stream; so constant and gentle it could hardly be perceived. Yet, there were times when the force increased, and the waters of fate made clear their intentions.

This little tin soldier had wanted to be found. Or, more aptly, the spirits that had woven themselves into it had. The cumulative energies of countless memories had assigned a purpose to the trinket, and Constance had been the vehicle to bring about the long awaited rendezvous. It was a sign that the strange powers at play in Georgiana’s life were indeed close and determined. Just how close, Callum had not long to witness.

As Georgiana stood, Callum instinctively rose with her. She had glanced for a split-moment in the direction of Constance, but her focus had quickly shifted to a point near the servant’s entrance. Callum followed Georgiana’s gaze, and heard the name that escaped her lips.

“Oh my…” Callum mouthed, and his own eyes widened. The vestigial aura of a spirit stirred the air, its energy diminishing like smoke to the wind, just as Callum’s gaze fixed upon it. He distinctly heard the name “Georgie” float upon the air.

Callum had little time to discern any further details of the apparition, however, as Lady Westmoore crumpled beside him. Spinning about, Callum reached out an arm to cradle the now unconscious Georgiana as she descended towards the floor. Shifting awkwardly, and half-falling with the effort, Callum just managed to catch the petite woman, and save her from dashing her head upon the oaken floor.

In near the same instance, another figure rushed into the dining room like a whirlwind. The ghostly specter that had brought on Lady Westmoore’s slip into catalepsy was instantly forgotten, as Callum recognized the figure as an elderly Indian woman, dressed traditionally in a brightly dyed Sari, and waving her arms with a rhythmic, purposeful determination. The words that joined her motions made Callum’s eyes go white with horror. He had heard much the same incantations years before by the monks that had saved his life, and he knew their import.

“Constance!” Callum yelled to his friend, pulling Georgiana to his chest, while at the same time trying to arrest the elderly protector’s hands. The little dark woman shrugged off his efforts with a black-eyed look of resolve.

“Rukēṁ!”Stop! Callum cried out to the woman in Hindi. “That spirit is here for your lady’s interests. She’s my assistant!”

The woman’s movements didn’t abate.

Scooping up Georgiana in a powerful arm, her skirts draping over his arm in dramatic fashion, Callum used his free hand to grip the Hindi woman forcefully by an elbow. Keeping his fingers clasped firmly, he began to march all three of them out of the dining hall, and towards the sitting room. Still, the woman did not cease her uttered spells.

“Dādī,” he said, still in perfect Hindi, “stop this at once! Your lady needs your attentions more than that ghost! She is a friend I tell you.”

Shouldering his way through the entrance into the sitting room, Callum heard the servant’s door to the kitchen burst open just as he made the threshold. A little harrumph of surprise, and a hasty shuffle of aged feet marked the addition of Barnsworth to the fray.

“What is the meaning of this!” The old butler bellowed.

Callum didn’t answer, instead he focused upon laying Georgiana safely onto the nearest couch, and shoving the Hindi grandmother into an accompanying chair. He was about to turn and address the butler, when an unmistakable ‘snick’ of metal made Callum freeze.

With an ancient double-barreled long rifle clutched expertly in his hands, Barnsworth pressed the barrel between Callum’s shoulder blades. The elderly woman at last stopped her magical prattling.

Callum’s jaw clenched, and he shut his eyes. He raised his hands slowly above his head.

“What have you done to the Lady?” Barnsworth inquired. All the genial, gentrified quality had been stripped of the elderly man’s voice, and all that remained was something hard and determined.
 

Adelaide

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The distant sound of water caught her ears, not unexpected this deep beneath the house. She strained to hear it and to hear past it to catch some hint of who she was after. She hated hide and seek, hated it with a passion and yet she’d acquiesced to a game of it out of sheer boredom. Papa was gone to town for a few weeks to fetch some acquisitions sent to him from a colleague who’d recently made a trip to Bali. He’d promised the twins treats from London but distant treats were not much help against the immediacy of boredom. It was that dreary time before the holidays in which the days stretched interminably in anticipation of gifts and celebration and their Tutor’s annual holiday trip to his parents’ home in Belfast meant that there wasn’t even the distraction of lessons to break up their day. So they had shrugged off the Maid who’d been pressed into service keeping them occupied, and slipped down into the basements and then through a not-so-well-hidden doorway into the caverns and catacombs from which they were forbidden and so, naturally were well acquainted with.

She’d wanted to play soldiers and set up a battle like the one in Papa’s latest history but Basil hadn’t been interested no matter her pestering. They’d played pirates for a little but his heart wasn’t into it. Distracted and filled with an impish air he’d begged her to play Hide and seek. She hadn’t wanted to and had refused but when no other fun was forthcoming and he remained adamant she began to negotiate. Hide and seek now and Soldiers later? After some negotiating of the terms involving lengths of time and pinky-swears to do their best seeking and soldiering when the time came they began. He’s been gentleman enough and let her hide first and subsequently found her with little trouble leaving her to this point when it was her turn to seek.

She was trying, she really was, but Basil was ever so much better at this and even better at holding back his giggles when she was near. She almost always gave herself away. It was as if all the ladylike behavior drilled into her fell away in the private presence of her twin. Or rather that she allowed herself to relax and behave like the child she was when it was just Basil about. That meant laughs and smiles were frequent from the otherwise grave and serious little girl.

“A hint?” she called out, her voice skittering down the rough-hewn hallway. There was no answer but the drip, drip, drip of water up ahead.

“Basil?” she called into the blackness that swallowed up the meagre light of her small candle. She hated hide and seek.

A new sound joined the drip, a soft rustling, like of wings flapping. They were too deep for birds, though some had made nests in the caves that opened to the ocean far down the beach. She hadn’t gone that far, just straight down. That meant Bats. She frowned. She wasn’t fond of bats though she did not detect the acrid stench of bat guano from where she stood and it was much too late in the season for them to be stirring. She stepped a little back, deciding that she was done. She would concede and tell Basil he was the winner. She’d give him her pudding after dinner. She’d let him have her best rock. She’d return to him that strange oriental coin with the square cut out of the middle Papa had given Basil once that often played a part in the twin’s wagers.

The fluttering happened again. She took another step backwards, eyes wide to catch any distant movement in the pressing dark. Her candle went out and her hand flew to the side, touching the wall of the tunnel she was in so she wasn’t completely disoriented. Only the moment she touched the wall her ears filled with a humming, a roaring, buzzing sound that she only belatedly understood to be language.

PI ADAGITA APILA PAID PI ADAGITA BOLAPE DARILAPA

Gasping she pulled her hand away and turned, running into the dark, her fingers lightly touching the wall as the ran so that she wouldn’t run into something only she did run into something.

She fell, blood roaring in her ears, drowning out the scratching, crawling voice. There was a flicker of light and then over her stood Ayushmati her eyes ablaze with fury. She shook her head, her truncated tongue doing its best to tsk her in disapproval. Her nursemaid’s free hand drew shapes in the air over Georgina’s head and slowly the clicking, rasping voices vanished until all that Georgiana could hear was the drip, drip, drip of water.

They were given a switching that night, delivered by a tight-faced Ayushmati in the quiet of the nursery. Basil howled and protested, Georgiana took it stoically and even so, her beating was the worst. It was as if their silent nursemaid was trying to beat something out of her.

“What have you done to the Lady?”

Georgiana blinked, a soft discomfited murmur slipped from her pale rose lips. She felt weighed down by hundreds of down comforters, the softness holding unmistakable weight to it. She struggled and fought against it, understanding something was wrong, something was about to teeter out of control. She forced her eyes open, blinking confusedly at Barnsworth Senior.

“ s’all right,” she said, struggling to sit up with the aid of her nursemaid whose expression was as pinched as ever Georgiana had seen it. “Wasn’t him.” She managed as she sat up and reached her hand towards Mr. Vaughn.

“Please, Barnsworth, put the gun down.”

The elderly butler looked at her briefly and then towards the man he clearly wanted to shoot and then back to his mistress. There was a long moment before he lowered the gun and took a step back.

Ayushmati was looking around the room, her hands up and ready as if looking for something ready to attack them though her eyes kept drifting back to Mr. Vaughn before fliting away.

“Will someone please explain to me what the devil is going on here?” the butler said, an exasperated question enough of out character to let Georgiana know just how unsettled the man was.

“I fainted.” She said simply and it was true. The rest of the truth couldn’t be shared because she didn’t understand it fully herself. The dream, memory or whatever it had been was overlaid over the last few moments before she’d fainted in such a way that she was having problems separating the two. She’d been in the dining room, holding the good Colonel when Mr. Vaughn had instructed her to look…

She gasped, stood and swayed even as her hands reached for the man she’d sent for. “Basil! Did you see him? Did you hear him? Was he… is he?” She pressed her lips together, clearly trying to maintain some control. “Please tell me what happened!”

After all she’d been following his instructions.
 
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Muirgen

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The Westmoore Manor escaped the fate of Five Foxes by mere seconds. No matter she was weakened beyond the point of telling by her apparition with the toy soldier, a mysterious message no doubt, from whatever tangled threads woven to trap and torment the haunted Georgiana. No matter the soft green earth scent that led her there to those dark black shores in the first place. No matter the strange little woman with her irritatingly flashy ghost-lights and odd, almost mumblings, and no matter the obvious distress - and even seeming kindness - of Lady Westmoore herself: Constance would have torn this place down to the foundations had Barnsworth fired that rifle into Callum, her savior and her only friend in all these long, lonely years.

But the ghost had been too-long distracted by those odd lights from the wizened creature's fingers, leaving trails in her supernatural sight similar to the a sudden flame in the darkness might have to her once-mortal eyes. Callum tried to call her off from pestering his spectral friend in what Constance could only imagine was her native language (no matter it sounded nothing like the muffled murmurs that came from her throat), but to no real effect until the ghost simply lost her patience. She had whirled straight through her, the chill of the dead be damned, and after her friend who'd made a most masterful catch of poor Georgiana before she struck the ground.

There had been a mere mortal's heartbeat by the time Constance arrived at Callum's side, and Lady Westmoore ordered some sense into Barnsworth (never once knowing of course, she'd just saved the physical integrity of her own estate in the process - the rage of a poltergeist was no small thing). The poor dear creature seemed confused for a moment, befuddled nonetheless, and the ghost raised her own arms to catch the poor dear before she seemed ready to drop to the ground all over again! But the words Georgiana spoke took even the ghost back for a moment.

"Basil?" Constance's brow furrowed in a sweetly mortal gesture of confusion, all the pieces of this odd puzzle beginning to tumble together in that still-formidable intellect.

"Oh heavens Callum!" The long tendrils of her ectoplasmic gown wavered in a sudden agitation, a strange and otherworldly flower that only her dear friend - and perhaps the foreign woman who accosted her poor spectral eyeballs - could have seen or sensed.

"That has to have been him! It has to!" The excitement of her realization saw her lift some feet from the floor, as if the elation of pulling together all these disjointed pieces into something like sense was enough to lift the spirits of a spirit!

"I followed a scent, just the faintest, most curious impression of peat and earth and green, growing things - and a spice! A spice I have never known, all through the corridors, down to the sea caverns. It had to have been him, Basil Westmoore, who led me to Colonel Tavish... Swimsey-Nodds... Oh, whatever! The soldier! The tin soldier he played with as a child, with Lady Westmoore. It could be no other!"

The words that fled her ethereal lips pulled her up short though, as familiar as she was with the occasionally and deliberately devious ways of the supernatural. Was she sure of all she said, truly? Constance thought for a moment longer, frowning thoughtfully as she searched all her impressions, all her memory for anything even remotely ominous or unkind in that faint apparition.

"No, I'm as certain as I can be. There was no malice in that spirit, no matter the ugliness that haunts Lady Westmoore's dreams. How all this might be connected, I've not the least idea, but... Did you sense that spirit too, Callum?" she echoed Georgiana's own question.
 
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Omicron

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Original poster
Callum’s gaze drifted first to Constance. He let a long, relieved breath pass between his lips as Barnsworth slowly pulled the rifle from his spine, and eased the rifle’s hammers into the safe position. The look on his face was not merely relief for his own well-being, but for all those souls that resided in Westmoore Manor, for Callum was all too aware of the spectral power that Constance could wield when given the impetus.

“Mighty decent of you, Mr. Barnsworth,” Callum uttered with genuine thanks, as his hands fell from beside his ears.

“Let me endeavor to explain…” he began, intending to address all those gathered, including the much perturbed butler. His words were cut off however as Georgiana rose quickly, exclaiming about her brother’s appearance. Georgiana’s eyes were alight, and her face hopeful despite her having just regained consciousness.

Callum reached out to steady the woman, clutching her firmly by the hands. He looked into her face, his brow knitting over his grey eyes. Beside Georgiana, Constance added her own voice to the excitement. Had it been Basil?

He thought upon this, trying to fix a discernable feature to the apparition that had filled the dining room with its presence only moments before. So much had occurred in such a short span of time that Callum could not with confidence say it had been. Basil had been a dear friend, and Callum would have recognized his face anywhere. A part of him wanted to believe that’s who had appeared. The logical precursors to such a visitation existed. Yet, Callum was weary to place the seed of false hope into Georgiana. He had seen the manifestation of such completely consume an individual before, and it was a terrible thing to witness.

“I saw the apparition, yes.” He said. “But, I did not see what you saw, Georgiana. Not as clearly, in any case.”

Callum’s lips formed a thin line for a moment as he considered his next words. Behind him, Barnsworth looked completely nonplussed.

“My intention with you holding Colonel…err…the tin soldier, was to facilitate a means for you to see my dear friend, and partner, Lady Constance Anne Brigham.”

Callum indicated where Constance floated beside Georgiana. With his other hand, he continued to steady the woman.

“To not put too fine a point on it, Constance is a ghost, and she’s right beside you.” He smiled, almost apologetically. “She was the target of your nursemaid’s ire in the dining room.”

Looking over to Constance, he said. “Can you give me a little help here, my friend?”

Barnsworth made a halfway effort to raise the rifle again, though his bewilderment seemed to falter his will. “You’re madder than a Spring hare…”

Callum ignored the man, and continued.

“What I did not expect was the supernatural trigger that would trip when you touched the tin soldier. Another spirit was connected to the totem, and it appeared suddenly. If it was your brother, I cannot say. Though, it would be totally plausible that it was.”
 

Adelaide

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Mr. Vaughn’s hands were warm where they touched hers. The encasing warmth, as much as his words helped to settle Georgiana, whose head was still spinning from her embarrassing fainting spell and subsequent and premature rise from the couch. She was embarrassed at her display but could see no way to have avoided it. The loss of Basil had been a pain so deep, so pervasive that there were not words to express the loss. She’d ceased trying to explain it, even to herself. All she’d been able to manage was a simple shoring up of the wound in her heart that would not heal. And now, this hope, be it false or true had ripped away any of the progress she’d made. How was she to deal with it?

With dignity and composure, foolish girl, she chided herself as she squared her shoulders and lifted her chin. Yes she was dizzy, yes her knees were weak and shaking but she was a Westmoore and she would not be so weak again.

He had seen the apparition, there was some comfort in that, even if he wouldn’t go so far as to name it. It had been Basil, she was as certain as she could be when she was questioning her own sanity. Callum left the possibility open that it was Basil and for now she would have to hold onto that. Beside her Ayushmati gasped and swatted at the air as if at a buzzing fly. Georgiana shot her a concerned look and then pulled her attention back to Callum who was speaking, his words careful and calm despite Barnsworth’s outburst and the way the butler’s liver-spotted hands tightened on the gun. She shot the man a warning look that was filled with as much gratitude as it was caution. She knew that the man had her best interests at heart, he simple did not have all the information. She loved him for his intentions, but she could not allow him to proceed.

She nodded and listened to Mr. Vaughn’s explanation. Her brows rose and her lips parted in shock. A Ghost? Beside her? Had that been what she’d seen? That flash of blue before the red had called to her? Georgiana found she had the hardest time turning her head to gaze in the direction Mr. Vaughn had indicated. To see was to know and to hope and to bleed more. But she was not a coward and so she turned to look, hope blazing like an ember in her eyes.

She watched Callum intently as he continued. Her brows rose and her lips parted in shock. A Ghost? Beside her? Had that been what she’d seen? That flash of blue before the red had called to her? She found she had the hardest time turning her head to gaze in the direction Mr. Vaughn had indicated. To see was to know and to hope and to bleed more. But she was not a coward and so she turned to look, hope blazing like an ember in her eyes.

Ayushmati thrust her hand before Georgiana’s face, hanging from it was a strand of beads with a flat, glass medallion that looked like an eye, handing from the nadir of the strand. The woman looked furious and determined in a way that made Georgiana’s hair stand on end. Her nursemaid was recalcitrant, stubborn and did things her own way, but she’d never been quite so demonstratively willful.

“Ayushmati!” Georgiana cried in exasperation as she lifted her hand to snatch the medallion away from the elderly woman only to snatch her hand back, crying out in pain as the tips of her fingers flared with pain as if burned. She dropped the beads onto the floor where the glass eye shattered and the beads scattered, skipping all over the floor in a sound like rain. Georgiana stood frozen in place, singed fingers popped into her mouth like a small child who snatched at a hot biscuit right from the oven, staring directly at Constance.

“Oh.” She said around her singed fingers which she unconsciously pulled from her mouth. Eyes wide, unblinking as if she feared doing so would wash away this apparition too she spoke as if only just remembering her manners, “How do you do?”
 
M

Muirgen

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"I am doing very well Lady Westmoore, and I do pray you are feeling much better as well." Constance could only hope the genuine delight in her voice translated through the supernatural channels only certain, exquisitely attuned sensitives and mediums like Callum could so readily tap. And there was also a new, small hope too for Constance, a chance she had not expected or hoped for in more than a half century: the opportunity to speak with another mortal all of her own, without the intervention of her dear friend.

"My name is Dame Constance Brigham, and I am our dear Master Vaughn's companion." She nodded amiably, suddenly quite sure Lady Westmoore truly did see her now. The cracking of the strange, one-eyed amulet seemed to have undone whatever binds might have kept Georgiana from seeing Constance beside her, like a rock thrown through one of those trick reflection glasses, as if a one way mirror was hung before the young mortal woman's eyes. The denizens of the supernatural world could see her, connect with her naturally sensitivity and give her such nightmares - yet until this moment, it seemed Lady Westmoore could see nothing beyond the mostly mundane world of men.

"I realize I am not your invited guest," Constance continued gently, "But I am here to help you and Callum nonetheless. May I ask your indulgence, and request you ask your... Your lady servant here, Ayush... Mati? Is that her name?" Those eerily blue eyes were wide and expectant, and Constance wondered what exactly the young woman saw appearing before her now. The ethereal, gauzy drapes of her dress -undulated about the ghost's form as if she the air about her were truly water, and she alone floating in its tides. Georgiana might have recognized the cut and style of her garments and appearance from portraits of grandparents, or even great grandparents, wherever they might be hung about Manor: the Regency-style gown that seemed to flow with the ghost's own unlife, her hair pulled back and up into an elegant chignon, long, golden brown curls framing her face with prettily twisted ribbons wrapped about her head.

And if she were still capable of an anxious tic anymore? The ghost might have nibbled a little nervously at the skin along her the edge of one fingernail, a habit her governess rid of her quick enough as a very little girl with a little pepper juice mixed with lemon. But since she could not, Constance did not, and merely folded her elegantly gloved hands before the roiling lengths of her gown.

"Ask her if she would please stop accosting me with her ghost lights and uncanny gestures? I do not believe she sees me entirely, but your woman surely does sense my presence at the least - and, it would seem, is none too happy about that fact at all." The ghost winced.

"It is quite... Well, distracting, to say the least." Constance frowned, and tried shooing the little foreign woman away once more, with little apparent success. "And we have far more important things to discuss with you, and to share. I found your toy soldier in the caves below the house - and so much more. I was led there by... Well, perhaps it was your brother Basil. Did you not feel his touch Lady Westmoore, when you held that poppy?"

The ghost smiled gently, though she knew her conversation was about to take a far darker turn. "Perhaps Callum might find us some chairs, so we may all sit and speak of the interconnections? You can ask all your questions... Surely there can be no coincidences here."

Did Constance need a chair? Of course not! But surely the Lady Westmoore would be more at ease speaking with a dead woman and the compassionate, sincere medium and precious friend, who had saved both her sanity and her un-life.
 
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Omicron

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“London Wraith strikes again! Death in Parliament! Read all about it!” Called out the paper boy, waving a copy of The Daily Telegraph in his outstretched arm.

The thick throng of pedestrian’s along Fleet Street, mostly businessmen in suits, barely broke stride as the maneuvered around the paper boy. They dropped their pennies into the waiting can next to the stack of newspapers, and were off with their copy of the latest sensational bulletin. The talk among the bankers, solicitors, barristers, and engineers of Fleet Street, in fact all of the town, would be on the topic of the most recent victim of the London Wraith. A lord of Parliament had been murdered, and apparently cannibalized.

Over the cobblestones of Fleet Street itself, the usual clot of cabs jostled for position in the dreary fall morning. Several of the cabbies could be seen carrying an extra passenger in addition to their normal fare: grim looking men in thick coats, clutching revolvers and short guns in gloved hands. Things were becoming extreme in London, and many of the daily commuters would pay extra for the security provided by a rough bloke armed with a barker at his side. Many of those who could afford it had ceased leaving their homes altogether, or had retreated to estates well tucked into the countryside.

Against the tide of frock coats and brimmed hats, a vibrant figure moved along the sidewalk of the busy street. Where the men that broke around her swishing skirts wore dire and serious faces, her expression was light and nonchalant. Her light-green eyes shone with a brilliance that defied the gray morning, and the rosiness of her high cheekbones was only outdone by the shapely curve of pouty lips. Obsidian locks were trussed up impeccably beneath a feminine silver hat, adorned with a large, vibrantly red poppy flower.

The woman drew the gaze of many, as her lush figure was clenched in impeccable folds of fabric and ribbon which moved with a hypnotic fluidity with each dip of her hips. When she reached the paper boy, she abruptly stopped. Her emerald gaze drifted down to the cover page held aloft by the now transfixed boy.

“The Wraith of London?” She said to the boy, her voice a siren call of mirth and sensuality. A smile pulled at her porcelain skin. “Oh how wonderfully fitting. Don’t you agree?”

An unintelligible whisper of affirmation was all the boy could muster. His wide eyes could not be forced to leave the sight of her face, no matter how hard he tried to resume his work. The passersby dutifully went about their morning, now seemingly oblivious to the newspaper stand, and the singular woman who stood before it.

The woman laughed lightly. Leaning down, she lifted his chin with a thin finger tipped with a sharp nail. It was so sharp in fact that a trickle of blood escaped the flesh of the boy’s jaw as the woman withdrew her finger. To the boy’s stunned silence, the woman regarded her bloody nail for a bare moment before sucking the finger clean.

Delectable
 
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For a man that had seen some strange things in his time, and had witnessed interactions between mortals and the otherworldly on a routine basis, Callum thought Georgiana was handling herself in a sterling manner. Confronted with a very real, and very tangible body of evidence into the existence of the ethereal—that being the ghostly soul of one Dame Constance Brigham sitting right beside her—most would have taken leave of their consciousness.

“Well this is...” Callum breathed in wonder, shaking his head. “A brilliant step to meeting our ends.”

“God in heaven,” Barnsworth uttered from just off Callum’s shoulder. The elderly man’s voice was not frightened, or even strained. Instead his expression was one of awe; like the face one might’ve made when viewing an exotic animal for the very first time.

Glancing to the butler, Callum thought for the umpteenth time that the man was truly a consummate professional.

Callum returned his attentions to the women before him—living and otherwise. He smiled, his dark eyes moving between Constance and Georgiana.

“Yes, the act of trying to banish my dear friend is quite the inconvenience.” His gaze hardened as he looked to the woman, Ayushmati. Looking into the Hindi’s inky and determined eyes, Callum tempered his irritation somewhat.

“I’m sure, however, that she merely had your best interest at heart, Georgiana.”

Snapping his fingers, Callum. “Ah yes, chairs. Let me go…”

Callum’s intended efforts were unnecessary. He turned to see Barnsworth placing a tray of food and tea on a small table beside a ring of intentionally oriented chairs. There was a twinkle in the man’s eyes that Callum easily recognized: the glow of a small personal victory. The butler was going to get food into the Lady Westmoore if he had to spoon feed her, it would seem.

Chuckling, with his moustache tickling the bottoms of his smiling cheeks, Callum looked to Georgiana and Constance.

“Shall we?”
 

Adelaide

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It was the oddest thing really, listening to the apparition beside her speak. Once, many, many summers ago she and Basil had gone swimming along the shores. They were brave little things then, both flat and young and wild. They’d found a particularly deep tide pool, almost enough to submerge in and had spent a blissful few hours there before the tide returned and stole from them their pool. They had swum in the pool and sat criss-cross on the bottom, competing to see who could hold their breath longer. Georgiana had won. That had morphed into sitting across from each other making faces until their giggles stole their breath and they had to surface, Basil won this one. Then was the game in which they would shout to each other, the bubbles of their words obscuring their mouths, the sound strange and warbled, almost impossible to catch. Neither proved to be very adept at it and Georgiana had put a stop to it when Basil had begun using bad words.

The sound of the ghost speaking was very much like that, strange and warbled, one word in three or thereabouts reaching Georgiana’s ears. She nodded though, ever polite, catching onto the understanding that politeness and greetings were being offered. It was clear Callum could hear her well enough and the lack in communication lie with herself.

“Yes, quite.” She said at a hopefully appropriate time. It was clear from the direction the specter’s gaze took as well as the words Callum offered that some of it was about the strange behavior of Ayushmati.

“Please do cease.” Georgiana spoke towards the woman in a lowered voice. The old Indian nursemaid had been with Georgiana her whole life and she would not insult her dignity by speaking harshly with her in front of others.

Ayushmati face was ashen and her expression grave. The look she leveled at Georgiana was filled with a deep weight of words unsaid and information not conveyed. The air around her simmered with frustration and then, resignation. She dipped a little in a bow and turned, leaving with great dignity. She did not, however, nod in agreement to anything.

Georgiana sighed and returned to the conversation at hand, looking to the chairs where they all might sit and discuss things.

“By all means.” She said and swept over to the chairs with a little smile towards the apparition whose name she recalled Callum saying was Lady Brigham. Smoothing her skirts she sat and turned to the ghost while she cradled the singed and throbbing hand in the other.

“Lady, Brigham. I’m afraid you must speak slowly or wait for Mr. Vaughn to translate, I’m afraid I am not catching all that you are saying.”
 
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