It was late afternoon in Dargon; the sun sank swiftly through scattered clouds toward the horizon, and people hurried to get home to the safety behind locked doors. The Night of Souls was soon to begin. It was a night when ghosts and lost souls wandered the streets. People without family gathered in the inns to drink and tell stories. Some families even gathered in the inns; more people meant more safety.
A crowded inn meant long, hard working hours for the staff. This eve, Eileen was one of the serving girls working at the Inn of the Golden Lion. Even though she had started working early in the morning, she would continue working well into the night, possibly until the sun rose. In the brief periods of rest, she wondered about her son, Matthew. Her friend and roommate, Rachel, was at home watching Matthew, and his friend Ben. The two boys were spending the Night of Souls together.
“We should get home,” Ben said as he walked down Traders Avenue beside his best friend, Matthew. “It’s almost dark.”
“Are you afraid?” Matthew teased.
“No!” Ben replied emphatically. “Are you?”
“No. I’d like to see a wandering spirit. What do you think they look like?”
“I don’t know,” Ben said while dragging a stick along the ground. “Rachel said that they are all different. Some are good and some are bad.”
“Think there’ll be dragon spirits wandering around?” Matthew stopped and asked.
“Are there dragon spirits?” Ben asked, stopping also. “I hope so! That would be great to see a dragon. Well, as long as he couldn’t hurt us, that is.”
“Can you see a dragon trying to bite us and his jaws just going through us?” Matthew said, giggling.
“His great big old sharp teeth snapping shut around us,” Ben giggled. “Can you imagine the look on his face when he finds out he can’t eat us?”
“Yeah,” Matthew said starting to laugh, “and his eyes as he looks down to see us still here?” Ben crossed his eyes focusing on the end of his nose, and Matthew broke out in laughter. The two boys continued on down the street crossing their eyes and laughing.
As they turned onto Thockmarr Street, they noticed that it was getting dark quickly now, and they hurried to reach home before Rachel got mad at them for being out late.
“Race you home!” Matthew said as he started running.
“Not fair!” Ben said, running to catch up. Both boys were running as fast as they could when a man yelled at them.
“Stop!” the man yelled. Matthew and Ben stopped and looked. “What are you two running –?” Suddenly, a light blinded all three and cut off the rest of his question. Blinded, the three didn’t see the light coalesce on Ben. Ben jerked as if struck by something, and the light disappeared.
“What was that?” the man asked, rubbing his eyes. When his vision started to return, he noticed the sun shining in his face. “Must have been the sun coming out from behind the clouds,” he thought. Looking around, he saw the blurred outline of a child in front of him. “Who are you?”
“A light,” Matthew said as he, too, saw spots and blurs. “And my name is Matthew.” His vision cleared somewhat, and he turned to point to Ben, but saw his friend lying on the ground. “Ben?”
The man looked at Ben and quickly kneeled next to him. He checked for signs of breathing and saw that Ben’s chest rose and fell slightly. “Where do you live?”
“Just up the street,” Matthew pointed.
“Show me the way,” the man said as he picked Ben up. Matthew led the man to his home.
“Rachel!” he yelled as he opened the door. “Ben got hurt!”
“What?” Rachel yelled. “Where –” she started to say, but stopped as she saw Ben in the man’s arms. “What happened?”
“I don’t know,” the man said. “The lads here were running down the street and I thought maybe they were shadow boys up to no good. I yelled for them to stop and when they did a light blinded me. I think it was the last light of the sun before it disappeared behind the buildings. When I could see again, the boy here was on the ground.”
“Is he alright?” Matthew asked.
“I believe the boy just fainted,” the man said.
“Put him on the bed,” Rachel told him, pointing to a bed in another room. “And who are you?”
“My name is Jerid Taishent, and I was on my way to Dargon Keep when the boys ran past me. The rest you know.”
“Their names are Matthew and Ben,” she said. “Taishent? Are you related to Dyann Taishent, the mage?”
“That’s my father,” Jerid replied.
“Is he going to be alright?” Matthew asked again, interrupting.
“He isn’t bleeding and he doesn’t have any bruises that I can see,” Rachel said as she looked Ben over. “He’s breathing slowly, but steadily. Maybe he did just faint.”
It was dark all around the figure. This darkness pervaded Gitoth’s sight and he raged against it. For an uncountable, black time, he had raged against this darkness with all his might. While his body had died long ago, his spirit had lived on.
It was his spirit that raged against this black prison. He fought against the blackness and felt it weaken. And then, suddenly, he was free.
Yet he soon found that he wasn’t truly free. He was powerless without a body.
He could feel other souls. Where there were other souls, there were other bodies. He could almost taste the power. Not caring whom he possessed, he asserted his strength of will to find the closest body. The blackness gave way and he spotted someone in an isolated coastal town.
He saw a man walking along a street. Gitoth’s sprang to attack but collided with something. It was a soul, but not the one he wanted.
“No!” he screamed silently, and the body he inhabited fainted from his spiritual assault. He raged against the blackness again, until he realized that this time it was only temporary. The boy, and it was a boy’s soul he inhabited, would wake soon. Settling into the body, he probed mind and soul. Ben, the boy’s name was Ben.
Reaching out to Ben’s mind and soul, he slowly began to place restraints. It wouldn’t do to have Ben take control again at some inopportune time. Although the process was tedious, he eventually gained control.
“Ben?” Rachel asked when she saw Ben stir.
“I am not Ben,” Ben mumbled as he woke.
“Are you okay?” Rachel asked. “Ben?”
“I am not Ben,” Ben said sitting up. “I am Gitoth!”
“Ben,” Rachel warned, “quit joking around.”
“I told you I am not Ben!” Gitoth screamed in a high pitched boy’s voice. He cursed silently that he was stuck in a boy’s body. “I am Gitoth and if you do not show the proper respect, I will give you pain like you have never felt before!”
“Quit fooling around, Ben,” Matthew said. “She won’t let us stay up all night if you make her mad.”
“Make her mad?” Gitoth screamed. “Make *her* mad? You should fear *me*!” Gitoth jumped up from the bed to land on the floor beside Rachel. He pointed a finger at her while his brows crinkled.
“You look funny,” Matthew giggled.
“And what? I’m supposed to be in pain, now?” Rachel asked. “Although you do look funny,” she added, giggling too.
“Stop it!” Gitoth shouted.
“Now listen! You stop yelling!” Rachel scolded. “Either keep your voice down, or I’ll make you sit on the bed.” She turned back to Jerid. “Thank you for bringing Ben here. Most people wouldn’t have bothered. Would you like some tea?”
“Don’t ignore me!” Gitoth yelled. Rachel whirled around and slapped Gitoth in the mouth.
“I told you not to yell again!” she yelled. “Get back on that bed and stay there until I tell you otherwise!”
“How *dare* you speak to me that way!” Gitoth said in a lower voice. He cursed silently again at the ingrained behavior of the boy. The boy’s behavior was so intertwined with the body that the body obeyed this woman’s commands. A slight ripple of fear ran through Ben and Gitoth, as Ben’s soul cringed at being punished. Gitoth crawled up on the bed. “I will have you flayed alive –”
“Enough!” Rachel barked. “I don’t want to hear another sound out of you.” Turning, she left Gitoth to sit on the bed in silence. Gitoth cursed internally at the predicament he found himself in. He couldn’t stop the boy’s behavior, he couldn’t just kill the boy’s soul, and this situation wasn’t much better than the prison he had just left.
Gathering his strength, Gitoth concentrated on moving his body to the edge of the bed. Slowly he inched across the bed and put one leg over the side.
“Put that leg back on the bed!” she ordered. His leg moved quickly back up onto the bed.
“But I’m –” he began to whine.
“And no sound!” she said.
“– Gitoth,” he finished silently. He threw his hands up in the air in frustration and plopped backwards onto the bed. His fists beat the bed beside him, and he kicked his feet up and down. “I am Gitoth!” he screamed silently. After a moment, he realized just how childish his actions were, and it made him kick the bed again in frustration. “I’m in a child’s body, so why not use that to my advantage?” he thought suddenly.
“Can I get up if I promise not to yell and be good?” Gitoth asked.
“I’ll think about it,” she replied.
“I *said* I’d be good!” Gitoth said loudly.
“I said no yelling!” Rachel shouted back. “Now be quiet and stay on that bed!” Gitoth threw another fit on the bed before he remembered that his earlier spell had not worked. She should have been writhing in pain when he cast that spell, but instead she had punished *him*. He decided that it was worth another look at this Ben’s soul to see what exactly was there.
He probed Ben’s soul as it tried to get away from him. Being connected to the body, it did not have anywhere to run to. Gitoth’s skill and power made it easy for him to find the answers he searched for.
“This boy is magically inept,” Gitoth fumed. “And his behavior is so ingrained in body and soul that he fears retribution should he disobey that damned woman. Will my cursed luck never end?” It took a few moments before he realized someone was whispering Ben’s name.
“Ben,” Matthew whispered. “She says you’ve been on the bed long enough. You can get up now if you’ll be good.”
“I’m allowed to get up?” Gitoth asked in disgust. In all his long life, he had never needed permission to do anything. “This is going to take some getting used to.”
“What are you talking about Ben? What needs to get used to?”
“Never mind,” Gitoth said, thinking about his situation. “Let’s go outside.”
“We aren’t allowed,” Ben told him. Gitoth silently cursed — in three languages.
“I’m going outside anyway!” he replied.
“No, you are not,” Rachel said, overhearing his words. “You will stay inside and play with Matthew, or you can sit on that bed all night.”
“I can do whatever I want!” Gitoth fumed. He knew it was the wrong thing to say as her expression changed and she stomped towards him. Fear from Ben’s soul spread and reached Gitoth. He ignored it and tried to think of some way out of this situation, but it was too late. Rachel grabbed his arm, spun him around and proceeded to whack his back and rear with her hand. Pain lanced through his body, and he spasmed. Tears started to run down his cheek.
“You can’t do this!” he cried. “I’m Gitoth!”
“Well, whoever you want to be, you’re going back on the bed and staying there,” she said as she tossed him on the bed.
Gitoth lay on the bed quietly as he raged internally at being powerless.
He had never been in a position such as this, and he didn’t like it one bit.
“Magic,” he thought. “I need magic to get me out of here. The boy’s soul may be magically inept, but I’m not. I’ll find a way to use my magic.” Gitoth turned again to Ben’s soul as he prodded, probed, altered, and twisted it to suit his needs. Ben’s soul fought back as much as it could, but Gitoth was a master at what he did.
Bells passed as Gitoth worked. Rachel, Jerid, and Matthew sat in the other room and talked the time away. Matthew would occasionally look at Ben on the bed to see if he had moved, but he never did.
“He’s never been like this,” Matthew sighed.
“All boys go through periods of rebellious nature,” Jerid said. “I know my own daughter, Aimee, has been rebellious at times.”
“Stevene help me if that’s so,” Rachel said. “I don’t think I could watch him for long if he’s like that all the time. You don’t think he really could have gotten …”
“Gotten what?” Jerid asked.
“You know … gotten possessed,” she whispered. Rachel looked Jerid in the eyes, looked at Ben on the bed, and looked back at him.
“You really don’t think …” he started to say.
“No,” they both said together. They looked at each other and laughed. Another bell passed as the two of them talked. Jerid finally decided to take his leave, and Rachel asked him to stay.
“It’s not a night to wander around in,” she told him.
“I’ve heard all the tales,” he replied. “And I’ve not seen any spirits or ghosts yet. It is a night just like any other.”
“You’re welcome to visit again,” Rachel said, knowing he wouldn’t stay.
“I would like that,” he told her. She walked him to the door and watched him until he turned a corner out of sight. She shut and bolted the door before going to the bed where Ben lay.
“Wake up,” she said, shaking Ben.
“What?” Gitoth replied.
“If you promise to be good, I’ll let you up to play with Matthew.”
Gitoth studied her. His attempts at magic had all been failures. He might as well play along with her until he thought of something.
“I promise,” he said.
“Good,” she said and went back into the other room to settle into a chair with a cup of tea. She pulled a blanket over her legs and sipped her tea as Ben got up off the bed.
Matthew brought over two sticks that were well worn and wanted him to play war. Gitoth mentally sighed as he was forced to play a child’s game while he tried to think of a way out of this mess. After war, Matthew wanted to play a game where he was a dragon and Ben was the duchy’s champion. As he played along with Matthew, he noticed that Rachel was falling asleep.
If she went to sleep, he *could* sneak out the door. After all, she didn’t *say* anything about him not leaving the house. Matthew was the one who said they couldn’t, but Matthew wasn’t in charge. He knew that if he tried to leave while she was awake, she would stop him. But asleep, she couldn’t say anything. It was a technicality, Gitoth knew, but one that would gain him his freedom. So he played the child’s games while he watched her fall asleep.
Finally, she was in the chair asleep. Now was his chance to escape, and he moved to the door. Unlatching it, he threw it wide.
“Hey look!” Matthew said. “The sun’s up! The Night of Souls is over!”
“Night of Souls?” Gitoth thought as he stopped in the doorway. “That is the reason I was able to free myself from prison?” Disgusted with being in what he thought of as a second prison, he decided to leave Ben’s body and find another. He separated himself from the body and surged upward into the sky.
As he broke completely away from Ben, he felt the tug of his prison. Screaming, he searched for someone else to possess. Just then, a great clanging and banging sounded as the residents of Dargon heralded the end of the Night of Souls. Pots were thumped together, or against doorways, to signify night was over and day had begun.
Gitoth could not concentrate with the clattering noise and gave up, letting the pull of prison bring him back there. “There will be another time,” he thought.
“Huh,” Ben said as his eyes focused on the morning sun. His blurry vision quickly cleared, and he had to look away from the bright sun. “What happened?”
“The Night of Souls is over, Ben,” Matthew replied. “And you almost ruined the whole night. I didn’t think we were going to be able to stay up or play at all with you acting bad.”
“Acting bad?” Ben muttered. “I thought that was a dream. That really happened?”
“Are you alright?”
“I don’t know,” Ben said, looking down into his hand. His palm tingled, and he lifted it to look at it. A small ball of light formed in his palm and glowed softly. He closed his hand over it, and it went away. “I don’t know …”