I was dead.I knew I was dead as soon as I felt the hot caress of that foul creature’s claw on my neck. Intense pain and then nothing. The council woman and the two guards who I hoped to defend were now on their own. My body fell to the floor and my spirit kept going through the Astral plane to the path of Pharasma, Lady of the Graves.
I was standing in a graveyard with mounds of fresh earth stretching off in all directions. Aborez. The one graveyard where everyone who ever died or will ever die has a mound.Not their bones though. This is more like the place where their body fell in time. Or at least that is what Pharasma scholars believe. A bookmark in time. As I looked around I saw other people moving about. Merchants, peasants, soldiers. People from all walks of life and from all parts of the world. They all come here to be judged and sent to their final rest, but without a guide they can wonder the mounds for years.
I felt a weight on my hip and pulled out my dagger. Her dagger. I un-clipped the end of the leather thong and let the weight of the dagger fall, trailing out about two feet of leather cord. The dagger swung freely at the end of the thong. The other end held firmly in my hand.The thong was a fixed to the dagger in such a way that when it was held this way the blade and handle balanced and would end up parallel to the ground slowly spinning like a lodestone pointing north. This however pointed the way to the start of the spiral path to the boneyard and Pharasma’s seat of Judgement.
All true followers of Pharasma carried her talisman just for this moment. We were guides in life and now we had to be guides in death. The blade glowed pale white of old bone and stopped spinning pointing the way. Moving carefully not do step on the mounds I moved over to nearest other person and beckoned them to follow. He was dressed in the armor and colors of Taldan with a device pained on his shield proclaiming he had participated in the Shinning Crusade against the Whispering Tyrant some seven hundred years before. Scholars claim time passes normally in this realm but is unimportant to the shades who are residing here, but that soldier took one look at my dagger and followed me gratefully.
I moved down a row of mounds to a young girl who had a small bundle cradled in her thin arms. From her appearance I would said her baby and she died of starvation. Her clothes and lack of shoes proclaimed her a peasant from Ustalov. Reaching out I touched her and got her attention. There was not so much a sense of touch than a sense of pressure when my had got close to her arm. She looked at me blankly and then looked at the dagger and nodded and turned to follow me.
This continued for several hours as I moved about picking up people and working our way toward the spiral path. My mind could sense the passage of time but it had no concern. I did not breath, I had no heartbeat. I did not feel tired or hungry, happy or sad. I just felt the passage of time. I realized that time also flowed toward the spiral. That it was just as mortal as I and would eventually end in Pharasma’s boneyard too.Such a thought was humbling. Pharasma was the end of all things even existence itself.If this was the case then why did she worry about a few souls who avoided her accounting for awhile?
I was pondered this and other things as i moved across the endless mounds toward my Lady’s Spiral when I spied a most curious scene. A flock of whippoorwills were diving and darting at someone on one of the mounds. This person seemed different than others I had seen, more substantial. He was also damaging one of the mounds. Noe else I had seen had even touched one of the mounds but this person was digging into the mound as fast as possible while snarling and snapping at the birds.
As I moved closer I could see he was a man of some means. His Jacket and trousers were made of velvet sown with seed pearls and small gemstones. His boots were of the finest calfskin and of excellent make. He was obviously a nobleman from Caliphas but why was he digging in a mound I did not know.The birds had caused quite a bit of damage to him but he continued to furiously dig. I saw a cut through his neck so I knew he had been beheaded and then I saw his forehead clearly when he raised up his head trying to drive off the whippoorwills from his back and neck. He had the symbol of Pharasma cut into his flesh and the mark smoked and bubbled.This was one of the more powerful undead that preyed upon our world. A lich or vampire and it was fighting to return.
As I walked up to him he sensed me and lifted his head and hissed, his fangs dripped with blood and saliva. In the real world I would have never stood a chance against such a powerful creature, but here, in this realm I was the more powerful. reached out with my hand and chains rushed out of my palm wrapping the creature up so it could not attack or continue to dig. I then turned and continued to walk toward the spiral way my flock following me and the last being pulled along behind still attached to my hand by the mystic chains.
We walked thus for two more days accumulating lost souls and guiding them to the stair. Sometime on the third day I noticed a change to the landscape. We were several feel higher than the surrounding terrain. We were finally on the Spiral. I looked around but could not see a difference but as I continued to advance the mounds slowly fell away below us and ahead I could just make out the spiral, winding upward also ahead I could see two clerics of Pharama standing on the spiral as if awaiting for us. When I reached them the one on the left held up his hand to stop me and the one on the right reached out and took the chains from my hand and dragged the creature forward while beckoning the others of my temporary flock to follow him. He then lead them on up the path while the other kept me from following. Once they were gone he pointed at my dagger and I could see it was just slowly spinning and the glow had faded from its surface. I looked back up to him for guidance when he suddenly pushed me and I fell off the spiral to plummet into the mounds below. The ground rushed up and swallowed me and then with a shock I woke up back in my own body with the old cart-worn face of Father Grimburrow and a beautiful older woman I did not know.
Since my return I feel different. My fear of water is gone. I still remember my dear sweet Elinor being pulled in to the well by that monster and then seeing its baleful eye looking at me from the depths when I rushed up to cry out her name, but now that nameless dread of the black mire is no more. Water is just water and that monster just got away and all I can do is to try and prevent other Elinor’s from dying.
One thing that bothers me about the whole ordeal is that during the time I was in the realm of Pharasma the only people I saw were either Ustavian or had something to do with the Whispering way. Was this some sort of message that The Lady of the Graves was passing to me, and why do I feel that just before I reached back to my body that some nameless dread had reached out of the void between the stars and tried to snare me with a loathsome tentacle.