We’re no longer posting here, but the story is still up for everyone to read, so if you want to start at the beginning, the first letter can be found here: https://guardianghost.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/letter-1-from-delphina/
In case we have any faithful followers out there, Courtney and I want to let you know that we won’t be posting anymore G.G. letters on this page because we’re looking into turning this story into a novel and possibly getting it officially published somewhere.
So we’ll be breaking our vow of not planning things out so we can get the ending right and save ourselves time in revising later. If for some reason you’re dying to know how it ends, feel free to leave a comment and we can personally email you the last letters when we write them. But for now, we won’t be updating this page anymore.
As always, if you’re new, feel free to read letter #1 here: https://guardianghost.wordpress.com/2009/06/29/letter-1-from-delphina/
–Tahlia + Courtney
This was the song I kept listening to while I wrote Cassandra’s most recent letter. It has ghosts and plants, her two favorite things!
“Plant Life” by Owl City Lyrics:
I saw a ghost on the stairs,
And sheets on the tables and chairs.
The silverware swam with the sharks in the sink.
Even so, I don’t know, what to think.
I’ve been longing for
Daisies to push through the floor.
And I wish that plant life would grow all around me
So I won’t feel dead anymore.
I saw a bear in the den,
Reading my textbooks again.
That bats flowed like traffic as they poured from the attic,
Heaven knows, I could really use a friend.
I’d rather waltz than just walk through the forest.
The trees keep the tempo and they sway in time.
Quartet of crickets chime in for the chorus.
If I were to pluck on their heartstrings, would you strum on mine?
Your spirit is sweet, so pull off your sheet,
And give me a ghost of a smile,
Show me your teeth, ’cause you’re teddy beneath,
So just grin and bear it a while.
Today I’m busting out
Of this old haunted house.
‘Cause I’m sick of waiting for
All the spider webs to grow all around me
‘Cause I don’t feel dead anymore.
And I’m not afraid anymore.
Dearest Delphina, April 13
Neither of us have managed to stay in one location for any length of time, have we? I am preparing to leave Anchiasu sometime in the next few days, although I cannot say exactly when. I ought to return to Cellen, but I delay because I must be completely confident there is nothing remaining in Anchiasu that will require my attention. It would be impossible for me to make this long journey twice in one month! A mistake made in haste could be unimaginably costly, even considering how critical speed is to us. Eerily little has happened since I sent my last letter, which makes me uneasy. It has given me the leisure to send separate letters to you and Liam for the first time since I left Cellen. Delphina, I fear I have not been quite candid in relating my experiences here. Certain details were omitted in my previous letters. I wrote only about events pertaining to our mutual crisis, but now I can explain everything without upsetting Liam with the details.
As you already know, Augustofe and I once had quite a passionate romance, but in spite of your coaxing, I never cared to disclose the details. At the time, I believed he was a closed chapter in my story and had no wish to dwell on the past. I would never go so far as to call him as a beau of mine. Such terms are not exactly applicable in Anchiasu and anything resembling a typical courtship is not exactly applicable for Augustofe. His broad shoulders and bronzed skin remind me of a tiger—both fully aware of their power and fearing nothing. There is no telling a tiger what to do. You don’t chase him; he hunts you—and there are no white gloves and fluttering fans involved. This was the impression I had the very first time I met him. To me, even though he wasn’t a native of Anchiasu, he embodied everything about it. The bold colored fabrics, nomadic lifestyle, and particularly devilish spirits were all as exciting as the feeling of Augustofe’s eyes watching me even when his back was turned. I made so many mistakes on that trip, not only new to my craft, but taken so off guard by the foreign nature of the spirits. They were so capricious, the djinn especially, and didn’t hesitate to do me a mischief even when they knew I was only trying to help them. On one such botched occasion, Augustofe followed me out of the cave and drawled, “Miss LeClaire, while I don’t particularly give a care, you are aware that thing in there almost succeeded in killing us?
I adjusted my headscarf to shield my eyes from the blinding sunlight and smiled. “They are just so fascinating—“
Without any warning, he spun me around and pressed his lips against mine, stealing my breath away. My pulse intensified under his grip on my wrist. I didn’t immediately struggle, so he didn’t let go. I had a moment of hesitation where a part of me crossed its arms and huffed at his presumption—did he really think he could take such liberties without any prior permission? Then the image of the tiger flashed into my mind. Brazen, self-assured, and dangerous, but also fiercely protective if you’d let him. So I closed my eyes and tilted my head back into the kiss. I was a woman mysterious as the devils she danced with, strong enough to hold my own against this scorching sun of a man and not be eclipsed. But I was also seventeen, far from home, and this was his game, not mine, so when he finally slackened his hold on me, I asked softly, “What was that for?”
“You’ve got spunk, Cassie.” He chuckled. And with that, he swung onto his horse and trotted off, singing one of his favorite sea shanties at the top of his lungs. And that was the end of calling me “Miss LeClaire”. These brief moments between us continued for my entire visit until the night before my departure. I had spent the whole day teaching the tribe how to create their own wards, but inwardly waiting for Augustofe to appear so we could say our goodbye. When I didn’t see him all day, I returned to my tent and packed my things as slowly as possible, still waiting for him to throw open the canvas flap and either declare I couldn’t go or declare that he would come with me. We had never discussed a future together and I didn’t have an answer ready even if he had proposed. I was a girl who knew who she was, but didn’t know who she wanted to be. At midnight, I sneaked to his tent, which glowed with lamplight and we quarreled.
“Say goodbye?” he scoffed when I voiced my complaint. “What for? I know you, Cassie, and you aren’t going anywhere. You love it here and there’s no point denying it.”
“You aren’t even going to ask me to stay?” I squeaked, furious at myself for sounding so vulnerable.
“You cannot seriously expect me to believe that you need such romantic frippery? Weeping at your feet and swearing I’ll die without you, is that what you want? E’gad girl, I thought you were stronger.”
“Alright,” I retorted, lifting my chin. “Let’s put that to the test. ” And with that, I turned on my heel and left. I boarded my train the next morning without a single tear. When my anger finally dissipated off I was surprised to find it had burned away all regret. The part of the tragic heroine was not for me—there were enough of those on my client list.
When I arrived back at the tribe, it did not surprise me that after all these years, Augustofe would greet me like I’d never been gone. He lifted me off my feet with his embrace and I couldn’t hide the truth—I was happy to see him. Oh, how different he is from Liam, though, Delphina! I could not help spend many hours at night comparing the two. Augustofe has been such a source of comfort to me here—he does not understand my work, but he is always by my side and I never worry about him.
“Cassie,” he said to me during the long hours we waited behind the ridge. “Don’t you wish we could have more of these adventures together?”
I laughed. “Come back to Cellen with me and we can run around the countryside and nearly die of dehydration everyday!”
“What’s so special about Cellen?” he huffed.
“Absolutely nothing, which is why I travel so much. You know, for all your talk of adventure, I’m surprised you don’t roam the lands as much as I do.”
“Well, what can I say? I love Anchiasu, even more than I loved the sea. You love it too, Cassie, you just forget when you’re back home.”
I didn’t respond, keeping my tempest of thoughts inside.
You are the only person I can confide to. For the short hour I gave myself to write this letter, I set aside clues and investigations and selfishly focused on my personal troubles. I expect to receive a letter from Liam tomorrow, with answers regarding Rasmus’ exhumation. Then I will know better when I must leave here. So watch for another letter from me shortly.
12th of April
Lieutenant Sullivan and Cassandra,
Your warning came just in time. I’m not entirely sure what it is that they want from me, but I feel as if I am some kind of pawn in a terrible game. Whatever those people want, I’m not entirely sure that it involves me being alive. Especially given the alarming news about spirits and bodies and the way they are being mashed together. I do not like the idea of someone trying to do that with me, nor that somehow I can assist with this process. Given the death of my brother, I am of the opinion that this may have to do with my bloodline. Given that I am the last, I feel it must be so.
I must urge you (and hope this letter gets to you before you embark) not to come to Hillsfar. Yesterday afternoon we were at the market when Arrin arrived. He is something of a butler but mostly a friend to Viatele and when he found us he looked to be out of breath and had clearly run all the way from the house. He mentioned there was a small group of people who had arrived and were waiting outside for us to return. They would not tell him why they were there, but he had noted a letter from you and thought it best to slip it out when he left to find us. When I read your words, as well as having remembered your more frantic letter, I alerted Viatele that there was more danger and we should leave.
We did not return to Hillsfar but instead fled to the safety of the farm that we had hidden in before. The farmer’s family was once more welcoming and kind. When we woke up this morning, the smell of smoke was fresh and I thought perhaps that it was something cooking save for the fact that everyone was outside. When I arrived outside, the fire on the horizon almost looked like the sunrise, but it was before dawn. The entirety of Hillsfar was destroyed, and I can only surmise that it has to do with those men. I fear that they are getting more desperate.
We left the farm then, purchasing a pair of horses from the farmers and apologizing for the inconvenience it might cause them in their farming. They would have none of that, but were grateful for the coin. I only hope they will show kindness to whomever might be left as a survivor from Hillsfar… the people there were always kind to us and treated us like family and it digs at my very soul that they were harmed because of me or Viatele. He tries to assure me that it would not be my fault, that if these were indeed the men they thought, they would have burned Hillsfar to the ground anyways. They are not to be trusted, he says, and he has become even more closed-mouthed about what is going on and even as to where we are going.
I wish that I could give you more news, but I feel a little trapped. I am doing my best to get Viatele to tell me what he knows, but he will not, and I can only hope he takes me somewhere that his associates are so I can instead interrogate them. On the plus side, my guardian has taken to teaching me more in the way of swordplay. He says I take to it well and I don’t have the heart to tell me that Rasmus taught me a little. I like to pretend I’m a natural.
Did you find anything in the coffin with Rasmus? I only ask because there was a pendant that was mine that he gave me when I was young and I left it with him in his coffin. If he was, indeed, exhumed before our own investigations, that may give a clue as to who exactly has a direct hand in what is going on. You see, when I was young, Rasmus had a time trying to find me because I’d run off to play and not tell him. So he gave me a necklace that I loved dearly, and I didn’t know until later that he had a charm made so he could locate me. I’m not entirely sure how the charm works, but someone with more information into that sort of thing should be able to help you track it down. Perhaps they might be willing to talk? It is the only help I can offer to you.
Dearest Liam and Delphina, 27th of March
First, I owe an explanation, although not an apology, to Delphina for yesterday’s alarming message. Delphina, there is someone hunting you and every minute I wasted on explaining could have been a chance for them to lure you out of hiding. If they have not already made an attempt to draw you or Viatele back to Cellen or Resonia, watch for one in the next few days. I have no knowledge how, but they discovered you are in Hillsfar–information they have very recently acquired from what I overheard. Their plans seem to rely on you being in Cellen or Resonia, although I do not know why.
I learned all of this after I received Liam’s last letter. Liam, I debated coming back to Cellen for the exhumation or telling you to wait until I returned, but in the end, you made the right choice. What you said about the disturbing condition of the coffin fits the theory I’ve been forming as does the doctor’s comments about the body only showing minor signs of decay.
During my time here in Anchiasu, I have become increasingly convinced there is a person or group tampering with the natural process of death, particularly with the spirit’s departure from the body to the higher plane. Originally, my failure in contacting Rasmus’ spirit was a matter of patience, but I now see it as a troubling piece of a much larger picture. As soon as I read your letter I started conducting experiments on the Walkers, trying to locate their spirits. The spirit-tracking ritual is probably the nearest I ever come to performing a spell with classical magic. It requires three hours for setup and I spent an extra two hours of trial-and-error until I executed the process correctly.
My first subject was a middle-aged man who continually muttered, “Good morning, would you like to stay for dinner?”. The ritual at last produced a thread of essence drawn from the spirit to my runic circle. It was simple enough to trace for it led straight to another Walker in the camp–a young girl whimpering, “Three goats are surely enough for one cow.”
“Agustofe!” I called, unable to take my eyes off the girl. I had charged him with guarding my circle so no one disturbed it, but this was not a sight I was prepared to face alone. He rushed to my side and I choked out my explanation. “It is too cruel for words. They are killing these people and trapping their spirits into other bodies! The suffering…oh, the suffering!”
“So are they alive or not?” Agustofe asked. It was a question worn threadbare from repetition by everyone I’d met in Anchasiu. Because the Walkers weren’t decaying, had pulses, and breathed, many people hoped they were merely mad, not dead. I searched for words.
“I think they are the definition of ‘undead’.” I tried to keep my tone professional. “Don’t they understand? Once the bond between spirit and body is broken, there isn’t a magical paste or putty that can re-fuse them together. Whoever is doing this has come as close as you can get–they’ve managed to stuff the spirit back into the body, which must restart the biological functions of the body, but a complete reconnection of the pieces will never…” I swallowed hard against the bile rising up in my throat and croaked out the last part. “Especially when they are swapping spirits into different bodies.”
Augustofe squeezed my hand. “Can you free them?”
My soul trembled, but I set my jaw, returning with determined steps to my circle. No, I did not know the alchemy to loosen the bonds. I erased the strand of spirit from the sky by kicking sand over a symbol. “Augustofe! We perform this ritual until we find a clue accounting for everyone. Someone will lead us to them–whoever they are–and then we will stop them.”
We worked through the night, despite the wind kicking up around midnight and forcing us to start over again and again. Augustofe took canvas and pegged it down around our work area to ward off the wind, but we only managed to perform the ritual twice before morning. That second time, though, the strand stretched far into the dessert, over the horizon. The spell starts to weaken after two hours and we might not even have that long the unpredictable winds, so we hastily grabbed water skins and horses and galloped in the direction of the strand. We rode for such a long time, slower once the sun rose because the strand was less distinct, even slower when its trace started to fade. Neither of us spoke until we crested a large dune and found ourselves looking down into a sandless valley of hard orange rock and a massive dome-like structure.
“Don’t even consider trying to sneak down there, Cassie,” Augustofe warned me. “They will spot us the moment we’re over the ridge. We will wait until nightfall.”
I saw the sense in this, although I worried about our water supply. I was not hungry, even though I hadn’t eaten in almost a day. Once the sky grew dark, we approached the dome as stealthily as we could. The dome was made of the same strong material used in the inflated part of an airship, with now windows and only a few flaps opening to the outside. We were lucky there was no one outside because we had very little cover to hide behind. This letter grows long, so I will simply tell you that we found an entrance and discovered a jumble of lab equipment mixed with tools for performing magic rituals. There weren’t many people around considering how large the place was. We had a close call once, but it led us to eavesdropping on a meeting between nearly everyone in the facility.
“We must overcome his betrayal,” said one woman, addressing the entire group, “we have focused on it for too long already, now it’s time to act.”
“Agreed,” said another. “Now that we know the girl is in Hillsfar, she must be dealt with immediately. Delphina Redgrave is too important to this project to let slip through our fingers. We find a way to get her to Resonia or Cellen before we lose track of her again. Any last questions before we end?”
We fled after that, but now you understand my anxiety? I am not sure who is the betrayer they referred to, but I suspect they meant either your brother or your guardian. If your guardian is somehow mixed up in this, recommend me to him as a resource. If you trust him, please share our letters with him and perhaps he can fill in the pieces. I am sorry for having no personal words for either of you, though you are both in my thoughts during every moment. My travel plans are uncertain–I waver between remaining in Anchaisu, returning home, or joining you in Hillsfar. Delphina, shall I come? If we are together, we might find answers more quickly and if Viatele proves reluctant to provide explanations, it is possible I will have more success in prying the answers from him.
Forgive me if this letter Normally I would let Liam forward Let me begin by saying that I do not wish to alarm you
I pen this warning in haste in hope of closing coincidence’s window of opportunity to perform morbid mischief. Delphina, stay close to Viatele, but do not let him go to Cellen or Resonia. It is not safe for either of you. Explanation will follow as soon as I am
out of danger at liberty to write it.
18th of March
I am grateful for your continued efforts as a friend and a messenger to both Cassandra and myself. Have you tried singing to the plants? As strange as it sounds, I’ve been told that they help plants grow and cheer up their spirits, if you can believe it. Cassandra’s got the most fantastic singing voice, so I don’t believe you could possibly compete, but since you are there alone with the animals, I am sure no one will mind whatever your voice may sound like.
I appreciate your offer of assistance, but there is a lot in my life that complicates things and I am not sure I could have even told you about my woes had I wanted to. The rest of this letter, I’m afraid, is mostly for Cassandra. However, since you are so gracious to help, perhaps between the three of us, we can find as much as we can about this catastrophe. Please, do read on as I think, from what I have seen and heard, Cassandra and I will need as much help as we can both get.
Cassandra, I am afraid that my guardian is in over his head and I am unsure that there is much we can do to get out of it. While I am usually the most upstanding of citizens, I am afraid that I have committed a very grave offense against Viatele. I had returned from the party that I told you about, only to find that a letter had come for my dear guardian. While ordinarily this would not have bothered me, I was a little frustrated at the fact that he has been gone for some time now and his continued refusal to be forthcoming with information caused me to open his letter.
Inside, I found that he has indeed been hiding a lot from me. My guardian is communicating with someone by the name of Robert Maneuia. In this letter, Mr. Maneuia implores him to return back to what he refers to as “the homeland”. There is a great deal to me that seems like a code, and I am working to decipher it. It will take me some time to copy it fully down, as there is something distinct about his handwriting that makes me think that there are multiple layers of codes. I cannot send the original for fear of Viatele’s return and discovery of my deceit.
Mr. Maneuia also mentions how my guardian is needed at this “homeland” to deal with the problem that he claims is part of Viatele’s own making. He mentions the anger of the royal court, and makes a vague reference that I can’t quite understand about darkness or sunset or something along those lines, if I am interpreting his literary quote correctly. Whomever this Robert Maneuia is, he is a clearly intelligent man, knows quite a bit of what is going on, and he is paranoid enough to use what is likely several codes to disguise what he truly wishes to say to Viatele.
I am afraid I cannot be of more help, but my fear grows, day by day. I am unsure if I am safer staying with my guardian or if I shall attempt to head off on my own to try and get away. While I have a tentative trust of this man, he keeps much from me, and I have no idea where this will all land me. I will, however, ask one thing from you, Lieutenant Sullivan… as much as it hurts me to ask, if there is any way you can arrange the exhumation of my brother? I do not wish to disturb the dead, but I have a horrible, sinking feeling that someone may have either stolen his body for nefarious purposes or, far worse, that Viatele may have actually hidden something in the coffin with him. My thoughts are with both of you, and I certainly hope this letter will find you both well and safe.
January 25 (Received February 18)
I arrived yesterday in Anchasiu and although the railcar ticket was unimaginably expensive for such a distance, my instincts urged me to choose speed over economy. Now I am here, I see my instincts were correct. While the horrific incidents have been scattered in the Northern provinces, here they are occurring at the rate of an epidemic. The manifestation is so different from what we have seen in Cellen that it is difficult to believe there is a connection at all. But the timing is too perfectly aligned to be otherwise, of that I am certain.
I originally planned to track the Saharan clan through dogged interrogation of the locals until I found a general direction in which to travel, but I was quite concerned as to whether I would lose precious days in such a pursuit. However, on sinking my boot in the sand, I learned my presence had been anticipated because a young boy immediately approached me as I gathered up my luggage.
“Are you Cassie Leclaire?”
On replying in the affirmative and inquiring how long he had been waiting for me, he replied, “I’ve been a’waiting here for three days. The Dhangar sent me when he received your letter and knew you would come as soon as you read the one he had already sent. He gave me enough money to buy food for two weeks.” He patted the waist of his trousers, which corroborated the statement with a merry jingle. “We’re to get camels and head out immediately s’long as it suits you.” The flinty black eyes assessed my attire and his features settled into an approving expression. At that moment, I was quite pleased with myself for dressing in my Anchasiu garb that morning.
Since it did indeed suit me, we were out of the Anchasiu hub within the hour, despite the mobs of merchants distracting us with offerings of brined fish and the like. I was surprised when the boy told me the Saharans were only a night’s travel from the hub. “Things are real bad, you see. It’s in the hub too—you would’ve seen it if we’d stayed longer.”
After some consideration, I suggested, for reasons of expediency and safety, that we forego making camp in favor of riding all night long. We intercepted the Saharans just as the sun was rising. I heard Augustofe’s before I saw him. His robust voice sang: “Heave ho! Hoist those sails. You’re one pull closer than you were a’fore!”
I should mention that although Augustofe was born in Anchasiu, he wanted so mightily to be a pirate when he was younger and was so bitterly disappointed that his nation had no navy (as tends to happen to landlocked countries), that he left home at age fourteen to cross the border into Iab where he stowed away on a North Forth vessel. Somehow or other, I don’t recall the details, he won himself an apprenticeship and thereby acquired many tales of encounters with pirates before returning home six years later. He has remained with his clan ever since.
I had no intention of announcing my presence, but the boy counteracted any hope I had of an inconspicuous entrance and before I knew it, Augustofe was greeting me as warmly as if I had only been gone a week. He halted the clan’s efforts to break camp, since my appearance removed any need for travel.
And then he showed them to me. The Saharans are a medium-sized clan—a little over a hundred members, most of who are related by blood or marriage to the clan head, Mordechi. Out of those hundred, twenty-five have fallen to the waking-dead disease, although only twenty-two were still with the clan since three so far had wandered off and never returned. To prevent more casualties of this type, the current sufferers are kept in a fenced area with a rather nervous guard to watch them. There was no pattern in which victims were struck. A fever seemed to seize them quite suddenly and drained their strength within two to three days. They would lie dead for several hours and then a fit of convulsions seized their body before they miraculously regained consciousness. When I saw them, my suspicions were immediately strengthened. Every face showed some battle between pain, listlessness, and confusion concentration. They generally babbled sentences like those you hear in sleep talkers, but with a startling clarity in their speech. “I’ll be late, I just know it,” said one man to another, tugging frantically at his robes. “Do you have the time? No wait, perhaps it would be better…A toast! To our host…”
“Time?” said the second man (Note that he did acknowledge the first man’s presence and even comprehended the words). “I don’t know anything about—Oh, this is awful!” And he pawed his face with his fingers. I noticed patches of his hair were gone, his scalp even being a tad bloody in spots. All seemed to have rather a rather unpredictable grasp of their physical movements, sometimes turning in the appropriate direction for discussions, but other times they would clearly move in an unintended direction.
Since this first encounter, I have had many occasions to observe the Walkers. From the start my current theory has been that some sort of extraction of their essences is being attempted by an outside party. The more I watch them, the more I believe that the extractions have not only been successful, but that the outside party has managed to implant the essences back into the victims, but left them mentally crippled for life. This does not account for certain details of their existence, however, such as why so many of them claw at their clothes and skin. I know I do not have a completed picture yet. It is very hard to focus here sometimes, because of the heat and other things.
I eagerly await a letter from you. You are often in my thoughts, even though I do not have any flowers to send you that would say as much. How is the menagerie? How are you surviving my mother? You need not pass this correspondence to her since she finds my work generally horrifying and for your sake, I would not like to upset her. Please pass this onto Delphina, for she will need every possible clue to assist her in deciphering her own half of this puzzle.
Thought I’d draw your attention to the shiny new subscribe button over on your right. Since our letters are often ~cough~ rather infrequent, you might want to sign up for emails to update you whenever we post something new. That will save you the frustration of checking all the time and being disappointed when there is nothing new.
-Tahlia and Courtney
P.S. (From Tahlia): I have already started the letter from Cassandra that goes with Liam’s letter sooooo hopefully I’ll be able to finish and post that soon. Soon meaning, sooner than usual.
P.P.S. Do you like the special “Liam Header” I came up with for the top? What? You didn’t notice the header changes depending on whose letter we’re on? Oh, fine…