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.
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.
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…
To Miss Delphina Redgrave, March 6
I am writing on behalf and with permission from Miss Leclaire who is at present continuing her investigations in Anchasiu. She left the morning of January the 12th and requested that I remain in Cellen to answer her mail and attend to Mrs. Leclaire who was staying at the house at the time. Sometime in early February, Mrs. Leclaire saw it fit to take her leave of her daughter’s residence and return home because Cassandra’s menagerie ill suited her. I get along with them splendidly, except for the bat whose name I can’t recall—he has escaped his cage at least once a week since I have been here and led me on a merry chase every time. The greenhouse is giving me the most trouble because, despite pouring over her instructions and books, several plants have become sickly and much to my chagrin the African violet withered completely. While I am relieved it is one of the easily replaceable plants, African violets are allegedly the hardiest of plants!
But I shall not bore you any longer. Rest assured I will forward your letter to Miss Leclaire who I anticipate within the month. She wrote to me a few weeks ago, updating me on her progress and I enclose that letter so you may know of her doings.
I must confess, Miss Redgrave, your present danger distresses me and I wish I had known of your troubles when I first met you so I might have been of assistance at that time. While your guardian seems most capable, if ever you are in need of my help, do not hesitate to send word. I will do my best to research the meaning in your last letter, but I fear I will not find the answer soon enough. I am terribly sorry that Cassandra is not here, for I am certain she would understand it in an instant.
Your devoted servant,
–Lieutenant Liam Sullivan
Dearest Delphina, January the 6th
I’m not sure where to begin. I promised you a letter with plenty of romance, but events have progressed so rapidly that it seems frivolous for me to write about such matters when I have so much critical information to relay. It will be brief, but I will attempt to make it interesting even though I am so very distracted at the moment. I will be sending all of my letters through Hermes now, but I am in the process of training another pigeon (her name is Iris) because it is too long a journey for one bird to make two or three times a month. Please give him something tasty to eat when he arrives—he has earned it.
But regarding Liam—he often will ride the four hour stretch to visit me, usually arriving in the afternoon and leaving after dinner. I am not accustomed to cooking real meals and regularly keeping the house tidy for guests! With either him or Thea (or both) making such frequent visits, I assure you I am getting my practice. He insists on helping me with whatever he can and a few evenings ago we were with my flowers in the attic. While I tended to the plants he found my book on their meanings and studied it intently. He marveled over how many types of roses there are, remarking on their absence in my garden. I explained how they don’t grow very well indoors and how I look after the rose garden in the town center during spring so Mayor Roland allows me to take what I like. We spend so much time talking about the murders that I found myself rather thirsty for a more pleasant and simple topic. That evening when I was saying goodbye to him at his carriage, I complained about how the thick clouds that night completely obscured both the sky. He laughed out loud and said, “Well, I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect opening than that!” He reached into his coat and said very sincerely to me, “Cassandra darling, I am afraid that you can’t blame the clouds.” From his pocket he pulled out a single flower. My mind jumped to remember the meaning. I said, blushing, “A lily stargazer…‘I see heaven in your eyes’.”
A roguish smile tugged at his mouth. “It was very wrong of you to steal the stars and even the moonlight, but since they suit you so well, I will forgive you.” And with a swift kiss to my cheek, he swung into his carriage and rode off. I was so taken aback that I stared at the flower in my hand for at least fifteen minutes—long after the carriage was out of sight—replaying the scene in my mind. It was so strange, like a dream. I’ve had my share of romance in the past, but none of it has ever been quite so…romantic. For some reason, I have always fallen in with older men who are rough around the edges, but take a shine to me. They’ve always liked me because I don’t flinch when they curse or ask them to polish their shoes. I always admired them because I found them natural and unaffected. There was something exciting about a man who had the confidence to grab me around the waist and kiss me—no words necessary. But Liam goes to great lengths to be around me. He treats me with such care, even in simple things like asking how I slept because he knows I often have nightmares. He wants to know about my animals, my family, and my work. I have always bonded with men by taking interest in their work and it never occurred to me that anyone would ever find me worth paying attention to.
I must stop myself there because there are important things for me to discuss. You will be amazed when I tell you that I have simply had no time to feel shock at the identity of your guardian. My mind immediately started trying to understand where to place him in this complicated puzzle. Honestly, I fear we much more menacing foes against us than even a master thief and I do not have space inside my head for worrying. You must find out more details on his royal assignment and whether he is continuing it from the estate, or if he will need to travel again in order to complete it. Offer my services to him, although I hardly have the same skills that Rasmus did.
The greatest news I have for you is that I received a message from Anchasiu yesterday, before my own letter could possibly have reached it. It was from Augustofe, who you have heard me mention with great bitterness and I would rather not focus on what my experience has been with him. I have not seen him in three years and have no desire to see him again, but unfortunately, that may not be avoidable. His message asked me to forgive the past and come to Anchasiu immediately because he believes I am the only person who can make sense of what is going on there. He said people are dying suddenly only to come back to life completely mad. Their bodies are found in the most random of places and are unquestionably dead until the moment when the last rites are performed. Then their eyes flash open and they begin to babble nonsense, wandering out into the sand and nearly off cliffs if they are not watched carefully. I feel instinctively that Cellen’s troubles and Anchsiu’s are connected, but I do not know how yet. I do not wish to go, and yet I have fresh motivation.
For you see, my philandering mother is coming to live with me tomorrow. Both our wagers failed and neither of us win any money. She did not find a new lover before the New Year, nor on it. I personally believe this shows a great deal of restraint on my mother’s part or perhaps just a shortage of men (possibly wine as well) at our Christmas party. Either way, an old flame of hers from before she was married came into town three days ago and has been giving her trouble. I get the impression he wanted her to leave Father and go back to his home. Father usually rages when he hears about her affairs, but this time, he snapped. He apparently made a New Year’s resolution not to endure my mother’s adultery any longer and so he ordered her out of the house! For some reason that I cannot fathom, she does not want to live with this other man and so she has decided, quite without my permission, to move into my house! Despite all the death and disturbing events occurring in Cellen, nothing makes me feel like the end of the world is near like this does! I cannot imagine living with her again, but even more, I dread what would happen to my house if she was left alone in it! Thea is leaving soon and has been working with me to find a solution, but I can barely concentrate on anything anymore. I have made over a dozen lists of things I need to remember to do, but I am too overwhelmed to do any of them! Writing to you was even an effort.
I hope you fare better,