There’s a lot of misinformation bandied about regarding phantoms. They look a lot like ghosts, except you never see indication of the wounds that killed them or their corpse’s state of rot when it began its haunt. Phantoms are whole, healthy, and mean, and, unlike a ghost, they can pick up a rock and brain you with it.
They also don’t think like human beings. Even if Garbol figured out the third part of their riddle, he wouldn’t know how to satisfy them. Honor, Justice, and Truth had drawn them out—that’s what the phantom captain had said.
Garbol had discovered the dishonor and the falsehood. The current denizens dishonored the phantoms when they dissolved the ancient alliances of the league, and they falsely took credit for bringing the islands to peace. But what injustice had they done?
From his vantage point in the clock tower, the rain gave Garbol a slight edge against the marauding phantoms as they stormed Bodder’s Town, but it wasn’t enough against sixty of them. They bellowed and laughed, clapped and chanted. The smell of rotting seaweed and oil overpowered the air.
Three seamen lit fire to a rose garden in front of a beach cottage, several of them tore down the beach cabins, and one took an axe to a beach chair. About fifty more streamed between houses, shattering windows and smashing doors.
“Stenton!” Garbol startled the merchants’ delegate out of his horrified stupor. “They’re getting ahead of me. Is everyone in their homes?”
“Only a few. The Jennisons in that purple house to the right. The Quiddles right behind us. Most are in the church, plus the men on the street.” The top of the church steeple with a crucifix was just above eye level a few buildings down.
“Great.” Concentrating the smothering power in his pool stick and jabbing it towards his targets, Garbol put the fire out in the rose garden, then went back to work on the phantoms’ torches. “Keep an eye on any place with people in it.
Garbol threw strengthening spells on doors, windows, walls, and pig-shaped topiary wherever he could manage, but several houses had already been sacked, and some he couldn’t see. Plus, they never stayed long, so he had to keep moving his protections.
A few seamen found a rock garden, picking up heavy boulders and smashing them on parked cars. Garbol spread a spell over the stones making them impossible to pick up.
A horde of a dozen moved toward the church.
A cluster of houses to his left on the edge of town had no phantoms. There were plenty in the lane next to it, so Garbol realized the phantoms deliberately avoided them.
“What are those—”
“The Heppisons! They’re attacking the Heppisons.”
Garbol followed Stenton’s finger to a yellow house. Phantoms poked a man and woman with kitchen utensils to prod them out the door, two young girls followed screaming. The wizard whipped his cue stick toward them, a beam of soft white light hitting the utensils, which fell through the phantom’s hands.
Garbol curled his fingers to raise an invisible lane of blue light leading to the church. “Follow it,” he said, his voice echoing through the streets.
The father looked up at him and nodded. He said something to his wife and pulled the girls along with him. The phantoms around them held their hands up and gazed around like blind men.
Garbol gripped the railing, heavy, quick breaths.
Stenton grabbed his arm. “Sir. Are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine,” snapped Garbol. “What are those houses over there.” He pointed his staff to the cluster, still with no phantom sailors about.
“Those are the Jargolants’ houses. Most are gone now.”
“When we retired the old merchants league, they no longer received free rent. We gave them a year to move out.”
“Out of the entire island chain?”
“Injustice,” said Garbol through his teeth.
“I’ll talk to the consortium. We’ll let them stay,” said Stenton.
“Too late for that, though they probably have better claim to this island than you do,” said Garbol. “The injustice won’t manifest here as it does in their world. You can’t just fix it, but at least I know where to focus my attention.”
Heavy pounding reverberated up the street. About a dozen phantoms had reached the main street, led by the captain, and they took axes to the church door.
“Dammit,” said Garbol. “Have you rejected the greatest power of all?” He forced himself to breathe evenly and raised his arms, staff in hand, propelling his deepest strength toward the church door, giving it strength far beyond real wood.
Several phantoms kept pounding, but some went to the windows and side door.
Garbol swept the town with his eyes. Flames popped up all over.
“Let’s go!” Garbol took the ladder down and tumbled out the access door, then sprinted out of the lecture hall, down the stairs and into the street. He smacked a shovel out of the hands of a phantom with his pool stick. He arrived at the church and roared at the phantoms.
“Begone you devils!” He ran back and forth around the outside, fighting staff to axe with some, hardening the targets of others. He couldn’t repel them with any force, but anything they utilized in the physical world, he could effect. Metals and plastics he could make impossible to hold. Wood and stone he could make strong or immovable—or meet with wood and stone of his own. Garbol fought his way around, looking for the captain. A window shattered and a couple phantoms climbed through.
Stenton came up beside him, swinging a fireplace poker and doing a good job disarming a few of them.
“Bring me a Jargolant. Their leader, if possible. Hurry!”
Stenton ran off as Garbol turned the corner of the church to confront the captain, chipping away with three others at the church’s brick wall with sledge hammers and pick axes.
Garbol swung his staff up and around down and through, slicing at their tools and flipping them out of their grips, all but the captain. They went back and forth, pushing and swatting, sledge handle to stick, never able to grapple, but the captain with the advantage since a hit would not wound him.
They went at it for several minutes before Stenton arrived, an old lady in clothing sewn together from many pieces.
“I’ve got her,” said Stenton.
Garbol pushed the captain away and stepped back.
“By the authority of the Order of Fretz and the overwizards of Mooten, I grant you ownership of the land provided under the pacts of the Mooten League of Merchants, free of taxation or obligation to the Archipelago of Mooten, Klopp Island, and Bodder’s Town.”
The rasp of the captain’s voice reverberated around them. “This does nothing.” He hit the church’s brick wall with the sledge.
Garbol glared at him, then raised his staff high with two hands. Lightning struck, and he bellowed. “I call upon the Mooten land; the leagues of ancient yore. Bring to me the Jargolant sails; surround the island shore.”
The captain dropped his sledge and gaped. “Back to the ships! Make haste! Back to the ships!”
Several phantom’s squirmed out of the church windows.
“That’s right,” said Garbol. “I may not be able to get to your world, but I can call upon those who exist there.”
The captain sneered and fled.
Garbol and Stenton ran behind them to the shore and watched them fight for spots on the launches, shoving off to their ships and rowing like the devil chased them. Points of white appeared in the distance, sales of oncoming vessels. An armada of phantom Jargolants.
If they didn’t get out of the Mooten territories before the Jargolants landed, they would be guilty of not honoring the pacts of old. They would be guilty of injustice, having broken their pact by engaging in a raid while the ancients of Jargolant possessed the soil. The punishment in the phantom plane would be devastating and eternal.
Or something like that. Garbol wasn’t really sure, but his gamble clearly paid off.
“You did it,” said Stenton.
“Yeah.” Garbol dug his pool stick into the sand. “I guess I did. Let’s just hope the Jargolant phantoms are a little less peeved.”