5 September, south side of Old Market near the river
The night was dark and overcast, with both moons merely hazy shapes barely discernible through the clouds. Still, the rain was holding off, which meant that Rhydin's streets were busy yet, between late evening shoppers and night folk. The streets were abuzz with discussion of the upcoming election, the weekend festivities for Citizens Day, and the recent book burnings and missing people. In some ways, the activity across the city was going on in spite of the disappearances.
Not all the passages throughout Rhydin were bustling, though. Some were quiet, even peaceful, while others lay in resless silence, disturbed only by the furtive noises of those who preferred to go unseen. Dark cloth rustled softly as three figures slipped down a backstreet alley, on the hunt and intent on their prey.
The young couple ahead of them was oblivious to their danger, focused solely on each other, their thoughts romantic, even erotic, and an aura of glamour surrounded them. The three dark-clad hunters edged closer, one of them clearly directing the others with swift gestures. Still heedless of the threat, their prey kissed and then one gestured to conjure a flower for the other, getting a brilliant smile in return. Seeing that, the leader of the hunting party sneered, and raised a hand, ready to signal.
"Good evening!" The voice rang out, bright and clear, from the other end of the alleyway. A young man stood there, silhouetted against the street lights. "You may all go now!"
Startled, the couple looked down the alley at the speaker, and then in the dim light they spied the three who had been set to take them, and gasped in shock. The interruption had left their stalkers frozen for a moment, and the pair took the opportunity to rush out into the safety of better-lite and more populated avenues.
Deprived of their targets, the hunters rounded on the intruder, two of them gazing at him with stone-faced expressions while the third, their leader, narrowed her eyes. Unperturbed, the youth approached them, his face as unreadable as a master gambler in a high-stakes poker game. As he drew closer, a faint sapphire-blue glow could be seen in his eyes, and the woman smirked, seeing that perhaps their efforts would not go wasted tonight. "You interfere with our righteous crusade, boy. Sinners must be punished... as you will be! Name yourself, that we may know whose wicked soul we will be purging."
One of the young man's eyebrows arched elegantly as he stepped into the circle of light from a lamp high above. "That's not a very polite introduction," he mused, lips twitching into a grin. "Doran Ilnaren, at your service. And you... you're some of those book-burning nuns, aren't you?"
"We serve Our Lord faithfully, unlike your ilk who have dragged this city into sin and wickedness." As she spoke, the other two moved to either side, ready to come at Doran like pincers of a lobster's claw. "You're a fool, boy, to face us alone."
"Do tell." Then something flashed in Doran's eyes, and a wave of pain washed over the nuns.
Caught unaware, the leader of the trio doubled over as searing agony flooded her senses. "Aaaah! Get him!" The other two, seemingly unaffected by the empathic assault, blinked once and then rushed at him from both sides.
It had been Doran's turn to be caught by surprise when only one of the nuns fell to his psionic attack. Their instant of confusion, however, gave him time to recover, and he quickly withdrew a small cylinder from his belt. With a quick shake, the cylinder sprang out to form a Minbari fighting pike, and he struck left, then right, catching one nun in the gut and then smashing the other across her jaw, which broke with an audible crack. Disconcertingly, neither of them seemed to be adversely affected by the blows, and Doran was forced to backpedal when they rounded on him and kept coming. Then he stumbled, and the one to his left grabbed his pike, jerking it free from that hand. Snarling, the two of them struggled for control of the weapon, but the other nuns were soon upon him.
The pike was torn from Doran's grip and then jabbed hard into his chest. He dropped his head, straining to catch his breath, while the lead nun turned as whistles sounded in the distance. "The Watch, roused at last, but too late. You will burn for your sins, foolish boy, burn forever. I told you, you should not have faced us alone."
"Alone?" There was an odd echo in the lad's voice, and when he looked up at her, the blue glow in his eyes fairly gleamed. "Who said he was alone?" With that, a ghostly form burst from Doran's body, and then another and another, unsettled spirits now circling around them all. "Foul woman, you and yours have defiled the peace of this city, and we say enough! You are the ones who deserve to burn... and you SHALL!"
As Doran slumped back, the alley walls echoed with the screams of the robed women as the raging ghosts enacted their own justice.
* * *
Someone shook Doran and he roused to consciousness, his nostrils greeted with the gut-wrenching scent of burnt hair and scorched flesh. "What hap-?"
"That's what I was going to ask you, kid." The Watch officer crouching beside him turned to look over his shoulder, where three charred bodies in well-singed robes lay. "I came into the alley to see a bunch of glowing folks swarming all over, and those three sisters going up like torches. Looks like they were some of those whacked-out nuns we've been trying to round up, which makes dying like that more than a little ironic."
"It seems that you're not the only one that thinks so," replied Doran as the officer helped him to his feet. "There are more than a few ghosts in this city, and I'd say that they aren't too happy with those ladies right now. Ironic justice, indeed."
[size=9]((cross-posted from here