I awoke. It was dark outside, but Decimata stood near my feet. A semblance of a candle flame hovered over her left shoulder. There was another spell also: I could see the curve of its circumference on the floor. I knew it: it is called The Aid to the Resurrectionist’s Shovel. It is used to prevent light and conversation carrying when the caster and allies are engaged in questionable activities.
“Mirarius, are you aware you died in the night?” she asked.
“No!” I sat up swiftly.
“I am sorry to inform you that you have passed from life.” she looked solemn, but that was not unusual.
“I find that very difficult to believe.” I could feel my breath, but then again, some ghosts did think they were breathing. I could feel my pulse speeding up.
“Ghosts often cannot believe they are dead. It is not unusual to have difficulty crossing over. You are an exception, of course, but our families have helped people to cross for generations.”
“I can feel my pulse.”
“I’m sorry, you really are dead. Please look at your leg.”
I looked down, surprised she had said “Please.” and my leg was intact. It looked kind of dark and smoky, but it was certainly there. I flexed my knee.
“You know we don’t have any spare vis. Your spiritual form is intact, because you think of yourself as having two legs. I’m sorry, but you really are dead. This leads to a difficult question.”
“Do you consent for your body’s vis to be harvested for the war effort?”
“I have already. I offered to commit suicide.”
“Were you in earnest? Not merely discussing an option?”
“I was in earnest.”
“Thank you for your service and sacrifice, cousin.” she intoned.
“Decimata?” I asked.
“What’s brown and sticky?”
“A stick!” I laughed. I’d always loved that joke.
“I don’t understand.”
“Ghosts are obsessed with their final business. They can’t really think about anything else. They can’t enjoy jokes, because their minds can’t suddenly shift direction. If I was dead, puns wouldn’t be funny. Right now, I think the expression on your face is hilarious.”
She smiled. “Well played. The leg won’t turn to ash at dawn.”
“Where did you get the vis?”
“You father has has spirits haunting the battlefields, and bringing in the corpses of the fallen. We have harvested them. We are all ghouls now, feasting on our dead. The Diedne will not do it, you know. More fool them. They have a great sepulcher filled with vis that they must eventually use, and that will break their morale. It is always best to dispense with one’s morals at the beginning of a war.”
“We found so much vis we can cure illusionists?”
“I cured you on a personal whim. I shall have to discuss it with our commanders tomorrow.”
“Why?” I felt a sense of disgust welling up.
“Achlys’s spirit was quite clear concerning its disposition.”
“I don’t know what to say. Thank you.”
“No lecture on my wastefulness?”
“Goodnight cousin. Long life and glorious foes for you.’
I didn’t sleep.