As I walked into the dining hall, I had a thought. Barnaby seemed the more stable of the two. His emotions had been more logical, whereas Gracie had thrown a meat cleaver at my head. Perhaps I’d start with Barnaby.
I repeated the process of examining him with the green sight, and finding that silver thread that connected his spirit to this mortal coil. Either I was just better, this second time around, or Barnaby had more inclination to come back.
His thread pulsed when I touched it with the spectral right hand, and almost instantly, Barnaby’s spirit hove into view before me. The others began to crowd into the dining room to watch, though I wasn’t sure if anyone but me could see him. After all, I was the one holding his spirit thread.
“I can restore your life, if that is something you desire.”
He didn’t hesitate. I stepped back as his spirit flew forward and reunited with his body like a happy child jumping into a comfortable bed after a long day.
Okay, the metaphor may not be the greatest, but this was a first for me. Part of the ritual consumed the ruby. I held it against his forehead and it crumbled to powder and was absorbed into his flesh. His spirit wiggled around inside the body like a person trying on a new set of clothing, and the ruby dust suffused throughout his flesh, repairing wounds and returning him to life with a rosy flush to his pale and cold skin.
When I pulled my spectral hand away from his life thread his physical form sat bolt upright and he gasped. Everyone in the room cheered.
Bob and Angelo helped Barnaby off the table and into one of the chairs where he breathed in awkward gasps.
“Just breathe, slowly,” Bob suggested, and Barnaby nodded.
Old One Eye appeared at his side after a moment and handed the startled halfling a mug of ale. I glanced into the kitchen. The foaming pitcher sat on the table, sweat glistening off the crockery. It was nicely chilled.
“You have work to do,” he said to me, winking. “But maybe afterward, you can have a wee sip.”
I smiled and nodded. Then I turned my attention back to Barnaby who had just drained off the last of the mug of ale. He let out a great roaring belch, and fell back against the chair, spent. He was alive and all the parts seemed to work so far.
I turned back to the table and looked down at Gracie again. If she woke and Barnaby was alive, perhaps she’d be less confused and angry.
I repeated the ritual as I had before, only this time with the ruby. Finding her life thread was not as easy as Barnaby’s which made me question whether or not she was interested in returning from beyond.
The thread throbbed when I touched it with my spirit hand, and she did not appear. I called down the line and waited. Slowly, reluctantly, her spirit appeared at the far edge of my perception.
“Why do you call me?” she asked.
“I have it within my power to restore you to the life you once lead. Barnaby lives, as does Phineas.”
She moved closer at these words, but stood off, skittish.
“Phineas lives?” she asked.
I nodded. “And Audrey has returned.”
This drove her back a step. Was she afraid of Audrey?
“Does this news startle you?”
“She has been gone so long,” she whispered, edging closer to me. “Phineas loved her with all his heart. Her disappearing broke his mind.”
I’d figured most of this out already. Nothing was fun and happy around here.
“There has been a curse on this island for a long time. It is gone now.”
She edged slightly closer.
“What of Barnaby?” she asked, and this time instead of fear I saw worry and anxiety in her face. Does she love him and fear to lose him, or is she tired of him?
“Barnaby has been revived just moments ago. He is very glad to be alive, and wants you to come back as well. Do you want to be with him?”
She nodded ever so slightly, a furtive movement that surprised me. She was normally so brash and spirited.
“He is a kind man. Gentle with my moods, and…” she paused, gliding closer. “He makes me laugh.”
“There is definitely not enough laughter in the world,” I replied.
She looked back over her shoulder, a debate raging in her head. Finally, she turned to me and sighed, “Do you think he would marry me, if I came back?”
That wasn’t exactly what I thought she’d ask, but I had a strong recollection of her desire to have children.
“You are both healed of whatever malady that had afflicted you. I believe Barnaby would very much like to marry you, maybe have some children.”
That appeared to be the magic word. She turned back to face me, eschewing whatever was drawing her beyond. Her life thread grew thicker, more robust.
When she gasped back to life, I stepped aside, allowing Barnaby to help her down from the table. They held on another for a long time, sobbing into each other’s arms and making all sorts of promises that I wasn’t sure either of them could fulfill. It was an emotional time, but people are who they are. They may change over time, but no one becomes a new person overnight.
Old One Eye pulled me aside and put a frothing mug of ale in my hand. “You’ve earned this, lad. That was some fancy work you did there.”
I drank deeply and watched as my latest charges rejoiced at their new-found lives.
Phineas came down from the tower and they had a celebration worthy of these old halls. Old One Eye provided the ale to get things started, but before long She Who Rules the Waves came in with Thunder Jack at her side.
She produced a basket of crabs and fish the likes I’d never seen. Soon the kitchen was a madhouse of cooking and drinking that chased away the last of the hidden horrors, the half-remembered time anomalies, and the desperate fear that had permeated this place for so long.
My heart understood the joy, and was glad of it, but there was no song in me just yet. Liz was days away, even if we had a ship. Lilith was off on some tom-fool adventure of her own, and my quest seemed so far from over.
I walked out of the kitchen and into the yard. Scrabble leapt down from the roof of the stable and nattered away as I walked out of the castle grounds.