A/N: Another for URPG. Still just kinda random irrelevant structureless writing crap. Enjoy.


-pater noster qui es in caelis-
{our Father, who art in Heaven}

The stench of the living corpses is disease, borne far by the air but inhaled by few—for the land is nearly devoid of all but those who should be dead. From the eastern sun to the distant moon, rotting monsters roam, descending upon anything with a heart that beats, their jagged claws barely clinging to practically flesh-less bone as they rend skin from skeleton. Blood spills, only to be lapped up by the beasts' shriveled tongues.

Somewhere far in the west, nestled in the stone heart of a long-untouched sanctuary, an ancient silence is fractured. Ancient doors collide with the walls—once open, twice shut. Blackened feathers, pooled in the aisle, swirl across the stones. The aching thud of half-rotted wood against crumbling stone thunders through the cathedral, knocking loose and upsetting those that dwell within. In its wake flies the howls of a thousand disease-eaten creatures, slavering monsters of the dusk.

The boy flees. Hitching sobs rip from his throat as he stumbles down the holy aisle, through the light cast by a weather-worn hole. Blood, like creeping ivy, tangles down his sides, dripping from the uncoordinated gnarl of limbs onto the grimy flagstones. The tendrils of sticky warmth trail from between his fingers and he can feel them slipping, falling—he can feel the life pooling away in a trickle of crimson as he collapses to his knees before the altar, gasping in shuddering, heaving breaths of stale air.

"Sanctuary," he rasps in a voice husky with pain. "Sanctuary…."

One hand pulls away from the gaping wound with a squelch, defiling the altar with human blood as it grasps onto its surface, curling nails into hard stone. His eyes, bluer than the sky once was, slide shut amidst smears of red.

And he prays.

-sanctificetur nomen tuum-
{hallowed be Your name}

They call her Scarecrow, for the Murkrow that perches on her shoulder and the ragged rainbow-wheel patches that adorn her clothing.

They bury themselves amongst immaculate folded robes of holy white; she proudly bears the color spectrum, bold and bright, on her use-torn layers of ragdoll cloaks and lace-less boots. Their hair is hidden beneath dowdy cowls; hers, poorly-trimmed and always uncombed, tangles wildly in the open air. They lurk in their sanctuary, their sprawling castle of arching stone and every-colored light; she abandons them for days on end to frolic in the wind and the rain and the flowers.

It has been so long since they have emerged into the sunlight, they know only what she tells them in the voice that—no matter how often she speaks—always soothes with the honeyed rasp of recent silence. And perhaps because of that voice, when she talks, single violet eye wide, sincere, and single kaleidoscope monocle whirling with fractured rainbows... they listen.

She, a multi-colored specter, haunts their hallways, trailing along corridors rimmed with ancient portraits marred unrecognizably with dust and glimmering candelabras that flicker with the barest hints of flame against their cobweb-clothed branches. She brings life to their cage of stone. She appeared out of nowhere, and now she is theirs. She is the needle in their haystack—the anomaly, the one thing that conflicts just ever so slightly with those that surround it but is still enmeshed so thoroughly in their midst, not even the most dedicated could dig it out.

It is good.

She entrances them.

In their cathedral, their stained-glass sanctuary, their own little nook at the corner of the earth, nothing changes, save for the girl with the ragdoll dress and the witch-hat-wearing feathered shoulder-piece that never seems to move. They exist side by side, yes, but with a certain margin of caution—neither wishes to infringe upon the other. She is content to keep her place, as the untouchable statue that lingers ever-so-slightly out of reach, while they are content to remain stationary in theirs.

The rest of the world is not so satisfied.

They watch as it all falls apart around them. The fire and smoke of pyres and burnt human flesh engulfs the sky. Flood buries the lands. Plants wither and animals waste away. The virus spreads.

One by one, they begin to rot away—flesh falls from their bones and sickness devours their lungs. They become little more than violent, rabid mongrels unable to stand the sight of holiness or light, but still the afflicted do not die.

At first, the broken remnants band together and care for the ailing—but the sickness only spreads faster amongst them. Soon, she and the ever-changing monocle work alone with the diseased. Some, she saves. Others die with her hands on their neck.

No matter how often she touches their wasted bones, no matter how much of their sickly breath she breathes, the disease does not dare claim her.

The healthy work to fortify their home against the pestilence, against the virus that is devouring them from inside out, starting with their emotions and ending with their flesh, but not even their god, with his countless ephemeral forms, can ward off the plague. When the fumes grow so strong that they must don masks to breathe the air, even within their holy palace, her face remains bare for a time—it is, perhaps, the one thing that does not change.

Then there comes a day when even she can not live with the stench.

-adveniat regnum tuum-
{Your kingdom come}

Gastly emerges from the darkness first.

He himself is little more than a shadow—with both eyes fastened shut, only his crystalline fangs stand out from the black, glittering amidst a ghostly orb of swirling coal-and-purple gasses. Just behind him floats Misdreavus, a spectral green wraith dangling the rainbow monocle from her blood-drop necklace.

He got blood all over the aisle.

Misdreavus' answer has nothing to do with his unvoiced question. He's terrified. She cackles softly, and the sound of a child's sob spills from her deceptively smiley lips. The gleam of her eyes drops to trace the curve of her beads; a tendril of her hair reaches out, palming the crimson globule. Can we keep him? Just for a little while? There's hardly any fear left in these stones…. Pink-tipped tangles writhe about her, tracing the dust-dimmed face of a golden idol with thoughtless irreverence.

…I suppose we need something to clean up the blood.

The colored glass glitters as it passes over Misdreavus' eyes, borne by her chaos-bred hair. As she peers through, her eyes tighten and the ever-sweet smile changes shape, somehow becoming tight—angry—and retaining its upturned corners all at once. His aura is very pretty. And one of the tendrils, tangled in the glimmering golden chain, dangles the monocle before Gastly's ever-shuttered eyes.

They don't flutter. I refuse to look at that disgusting stained-glass window.

His aura is very pretty, Misdreavus repeats with an air of petulance, slapping the eyepiece against Gastly's fangs; the glass clatters in protest, swirling faster, harder—it is a whirlwind of color, of the anger of repressed… something….

The poison-dark cloud turns away, fanged mouth twisting into an irritated sneer. Gastly doesn't like light—never has, really. It's so cold, so cruel; it highlights everything, makes him fade. He doesn't like to be less than he is, and light tears away his shroud of night—turns it from comforting, embracing darkness to harsh, indifferent brilliance. He doesn't like to stand in it, doesn't like to look in it; that's why he likes the hallways, the rafters of the dining room, the boarded windows and shattered glass.

Down the barren hallways, through the mossy stone and drossy ornaments—safe, haven. To it he intends to return, heedless of the light streaming through colored glass, until Misdreavus' next words jolt through him.

It's nonexistent.

A simple word. Sunlight at the center of a shadow; sorrowed tears in the eyes of a ghost—absence, impossibility. Missing, but without the capacity to be found.

An aura, when subjected to these terms, means something to her that holds little importance to him—and so he chuckles at her, a noise that is a twisted hybrid of a laugh and a sneer. And you suppose this is another of Asteria's cast-off bastard children? Another with immunity? Another who can rally our kind into a forsaken herd of brainless beasts, use our untouchable not-flesh to beat back the disgusting children of mankind's endeavors? He remembers the multi-colored one who had brought the men in white, who had come to them so long ago, who had woven a spell with her words and her voice, imprisoned them in a dreamland of her own creation.

They, them.

The detested ones who dwell in the shadows, the repulsive creatures of darkness, the bane of humanity—the ones who she, with her bewitching words, gave the hope that they might one day be borne aloft on the wings of history as heroes, saviors.


You always have been a liar.

And he leaves.

-fiat voluntas tua sicut-
{Your will be done}

With her motley vibrance, she has always attracted the dark. No matter how vivid her garb—no matter how long she prays on the altar, head between her knees as the windows bathe her in crystalline hues and no matter how many candles flicker by her sides—shadows still cling beneath her eyes and smother her shoulders, drown her feet in blackness.

On the day that the vile air finally becomes too much to bear, she is sitting on the altar. She takes her carved walking stick from the ground and just stands there, defiling the engraved stone with dirty bare feet and her patch-work dress. Now the dark that never leaves her seems to solidify; shadows unfurl, caressing the air as the flame-tainted rainbow light of the stained glass pours over her, catching the gnarled locks of her hair and painting it with colors. She grasps the staff between both hands, looking out over the long-abandoned pews and the cobwebs that cloy the corners.

She smiles at nothing.

To her, the room is dead. Even the twisted gargoyles—decorated with a slew of colors rivaling those of her clothing—seem drained of life. The parades of frozen Garchomp stand with jagged teeth bared in their disapproving torpedo heads and gangly arms crossed at the elbows. Their yellowed eyes gleam with a diseased fever. The triangular blades that fall from their forearms, once sharpened to a razor-keen edge and stronger than the mythrile of lore, appear brittle to the touch because the stone cathedral is crumbling with the land its foundations stand upon.

"You are dying. Where is this God of yours? Where is Arceus? Has he too left his diseased wasteland you call your home? Or has he begun to rot like the corpses beneath your feet?" The voice of reason is husky and low, rebounding across stone and wood, fading as it echoes in the rafters.

The monocle whirls as she speaks, a vortex of fragmented color and knowing. "The sky is dark with ashes; I can no longer see your sun behind the blood-red clouds. There is nothing for you here, in your decaying Holy Land." The girl's words bite into them, pointing a jagged-nailed finger.

The bird blinks his scarlet eyes in a leisurely motion, catching the light—and they are drowning in their blood, suffocating as it closes over their throats. They see their wasted bodies as she described them—strewn across the grounds, broken and weeping. Terror closes over them. Horror, panic—they can't breathe, can't breathe or see or think and oh, Arceus, oh, gods, they're going to—but—but….

And then, in a rustling flutter of umber, he hops from her shoulder to perch on the staff's knobbled end. His eyes break away.

The spell is broken.

"This blessed ground has long ago been infected with the plague of your kinsmen's sin—you reap what you sow. No god can change that."

Folding one clawed talon away in its sable feathers and digging the other into the dark wood, his hooked beak nuzzles into her hair, adding one more color to the light's glimmers. He hunches, broom-brush tail in the air, the silent guardian over their heretic of a savior.

"However near you may linger to his supposed earthly presence, your salvation comes not at the hands of the gods—for even they do not have the power to recreate the living."

They, the once-priests who don the color of bone, should be shocked, outraged, but they are not, for they must believe that it is true. They have nothing left but theirselves, their common identity in the crowd of clustered white robes. If one agrees, so must they all. And she, despite all her color, is one of them; they must heed her words, must embrace them. They have no choice.

They look at her and they see hope in the face concealed by the brim of an otherworldly crow's witch hat. She changes so dependably that she is their only constant in a world that is shattering to pieces in a flaming furnace. Her every word slanders their beliefs and condemns their souls, but she is right and she is true, and in a world where nothing lasts anymore, that is all that matters.

For these reasons, they follow as she leads them away.

She takes them far from their beloved sanctuary—across rivers laden with the burden of bloated corpses and over mountains whose cliff-faces are strewn with bones and into valleys where the ashes of nations are piled to the heavens and through forests with more rotting bodies than trees—to a land where the air no longer reeks with poison. The virus reaches even there, but the earth is wholesome; no smoke curls in the sky. Only a few die.

And for a time, they are safe.

They are safe because she knows where to take them, because she nursed them as their minds crumbled and their bodies degraded and never once grew sick herself. She is their lifeline, and they cling to her so, so tightly, but never drag her down. No matter how heavily they lean on her, how mercilessly they dominate her, she is always there, strong and upright as she walks before them, the rainbow figure at the head of their monochrome procession.

For these reasons, Scarecrow is their savior.

-in caelo et in terra-
{in heaven and on earth}

Misdreavus doesn't believe in salvation. She believes in fire, in death, in the rotting stench of Pokémon eaten away by the disease humanity set upon them. She believes in empty hallways and covered windows and fragmented glass strewn across ground so dusty even footprints leave no mark; she believes in human skeletons and their lonely ghosts.

Salvation holds no levity in Misdreavus' mind; nor do whatever beings provide it. She has watched countless who have, and she cannot help but think that they were wasted. The greatest folly of humans is their inability to savor the shortness of their lives.

She lives amongst their only triumphs—extravagant wall hangings and golden statues, ostentatiously wrought and displayed; altars carved with thousands of letters telling tales, marred, furrowed, and unreadable beneath clotted layers of grime. Hours of feverish praying and fervent, lying speeches recited again and again to enraptured churchgoers—their products made this, this desolate building dressed in precious metals and jewels and glaring colors and powdered bone.

When they died, all that remained was their useless wealth. More came, journeyers from a holy land. They used the wealth, lived amongst it, nourished it; they too rotted in the corridors.

With the humans' arrivals, the ghosts hid; and with their deaths, they emerged once more. Their home was invaded again and again, but they could not leave; although impervious to the virus, outside brought only death—even to the dead.

The ghosts believed the people to be dead, until a woman came, bringing in her wake hundreds of men. Her voice wove sirens' songs through all of them—the humans, the ghosts.

The wealth did not increase, perhaps, but there was prayer.

Their hope, remaining even in death, taunts Misdreavus, dares her to unsettle their skeletal remains, destroy their precious after-life. Perhaps if they're watching from somewhere, they might weep, knowing that their eternal souls will be lost in the void because of what their cheap excuse for faith has driven her to do.

She doesn't do it, though—doesn't touch their bones, doesn't desecrate their graves. As much as the hypocrisy of their claims and subsequent actions grates against her, she doesn't take the action that, according to their traditions, will stain their souls with permanent shame and make them unfit for heaven.

The world doesn't need any more angry ghosts.

Just as it has no savior.

But this boy—this child whose blood calls the virus-devoured demons to her darkened sanctuary, who shattered her silence with his ignorance—might just be… a promise. Not so much a verbal pact made from one person to another as a sign, an indication from… somewhere… that means that… something… wants the earth to live.

Perhaps there will be one last pilgrim.

-panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie-
{give us this day our daily bread}

She is their savior, that is, until one day, she goes away.

She brings them to a new land. She finds them a new home long-untouched by human hands. She ensures that they will be able to eat, be able to live. She consorts with the demons that abide in the dankest corners of their new home.

And then she deserts them.

In a storm of ash and fire, she abandons them. When they are afraid, uncertain, she abandons them. When they've given her all that they are, allowed her to save them because they can not save themselves and she is the only one that can, she abandons them.

Only the forked staff of inscrutable wood and the swirling glass monocle linger with the final numbing echoes of her honeyed voice.

The Murkrow, which is, perhaps, as much hers as it is theirs—that is to say, not at all—remains also, nestled on the East Tower's tallest stone. He is no longer the silent guardian of the rainbow girl, but a motionless specter against the never-clean stones of their new home.

They pray to their god.

Oh yes.

They pray in jumbled streams of inarticulate ramblings, more fevered madmen's mutterings than the litanies of holy men. They plead on the dusty stone aisles, dignity-less and humbler than the dirt that stains their garments. They fall to their knees and tear their robes with quaking fingers. They shave their heads with trembling hands, not even possessing the presence of mind to flinch as unforgiving metal bites into their flesh, painting it with crimson. They beat the ground with their fists until their flesh is little more than bloody pulp. They scream until their throats are hoarse and their voices are gone, and then they scream harder.

In the end, they can only weep.

Where is their God? Who heeds their voices?

Nowhere. No one.

Nowhere is the house in which their god abides. No one is the person whose ears hear their cries.

She has forsaken them, just like their god.

One by one, they die.

-et dimitte nobis debita nostra-
{and forgive us our debts}

Her home is under siege.

The monsters tear at the wood of the door; it shudders beneath the onslaught of their claws and teeth, but remains firm. Shadows pass before the stained glass, breaking the pattern of light cast upon the floor with savage maws and twisted bodies. They dance before her, darkened voids in the cheery color, and Misdreavus sneers—they fit her accursed home far more appropriately than the windows do. Soon, she knows, the gnarled creatures will find the hole in the roof and pour through it as once-angels fell to the earth. They will shatter the glass, rend the tapestries and carpets, and rip the furniture joint from joint. Then, perhaps, the décor will be more fitting of the ghost-ridden cathedral.

She now stands on the altar, smiling before the sobbing boy. He clutches the Murkrow's sooty feathers between his fingers, hissing out pain and fear—something in her wants to whisper soothing words, comfort him, but this is impossible. No human can speak the language of beasts.

Instead, a wispy tendril of her hair reaches out to brush his shoulder.

His response is violent—traumatized eyes wide, he is pushing himself into a falling motion, flailing his arms behind him to catch his weight, simultaneously scrambling away on hands and knees. Air shifts around him, and the feathers scatter across the floor, rearranging themselves haphazardly. Wracking sobs intensify and his face, blotchy with tears, contorts into despair.

"Arceus, God, oh, God…" he mutters, blue eyes rolling towards the ground, searching for anything but her and snagging on the fraying hem of his tunic. He's going to die, he thinks, and is strangely elated. No waiting, no avoiding—the strange Pokémon will deliver his death before the things waiting for him.

Never seen a ghost before, she comments dryly, and then immediately wishes she hadn't—he can't comprehend a word, just like all of the humans over all of the endless years, and his terror and that dreadful happiness only compounds.

She stills. Bobbing before him, a gauzy green drape with bright eyes and a sickeningly sweet smile, she manages to look almost serene, almost harmless—but he knows better. She will kill him.

Force of habit allows his hand to stray to his belt, where round impressions indicate the place in which his Pokémon should be sitting; but there are no Pokéballs there, and no prisoners and no friends. There have not been for years, he reflects, closing his eyes in anticipation of blissful unawareness.

He cannot find it in himself to be surprised by his acceptance.

And then the apparition is turning away from him, floating over the altar.

His sigh is weary, worn—dirtied by repetitive use. That seems to be the whole of him, really—his hair is far too long and uneven to look presentable; his clothing, which has degraded so far beyond 'threadbare' that the only efficient patch would be brand new articles, reeks with unwashed body; his skin color is indiscernible beneath uneven coats of grime. Even his body seems overused, broken down; the individual bones can be counted through his flesh.

He watches tangled mess of clumped vines that is her hair; it reaches down, around, over the altar. And when the weaving tendrils rise again, they are grasped around a staff, whose contorted surface is pockmarked with age. Inscriptions, once elegant and clear, fade against time-worn wood; dust settles in their grooves.

He doesn't want to touch it. Arceus—the thing is disgusting. It jolts nausea into his stomach, and he cannot understand why, because it is just a staff, just a shoddily-cut piece of wood covered in engravings that had once been more beautiful than the sky.

There's something in it, though. Something alive—no, something dead that had once been alive, and was now a deformed husk of… life, trapped in an ancient prison, screaming, shrieking, crying and sobbing for release. He wishes he is aware of how he knows this.

Misdreavus pushes the wretched thing towards him, eyes wide, smile still a perfect curve.

All he can do is take it.

Inside his mind, it howls in agony.

-sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris-
{as we have forgiven our debtors}

Year by year, the virus spreads. The flames and decay inundate even their foreign land. The ground devours the dust of their death-eaten bodies little by little, and soon, nearly none remain.

Six feeble men are hardly intimidating enough to keep the ghosts at bay.

They have never liked their new home—it is no holy place. The very stones are unclean, clotted with the blood of innocents. These few that survive live in fear of their new cathedral (but it is not theirs—not really, not truly), for its desolate halls are wreathed with haunts and rustled by otherwordly winds, flooded with wealth too unclean for any mortal's possession. With her, it was bearable—without, hell.

The rainbow stained glass slowly fades to dust as even the priests' remnants sink into the grave.

Soon, but one remains. He is gray. His face is wizened with solitude, dimmed with the fog of an age-dulled mind; white washes the wisps of his hair and a shapeless robe the pallid shade of dirty ash hangs from his frail limbs, draped haphazardly over the bones which protrude jaggedly from sagging flesh.

This one dies on the ground.

Dirt clings to his fingers as life slips away. He scratches at the pews that are collapsed across the stone and drowned with termites as he twists on the ground. Benches rot into the floor, stinking up the air with the scent of corroding wood. He rolls in it, the scent, the stench. The odor rises, a grotesque compost-heap of a dying forest scattered with decaying life and flesh. And then it is curling into his nose, drowning him.

In that instant, his silent grave becomes a screaming madhouse. Horror sobs in his mind as ancient blood, dried and flaking, becomes sticky between the flagstones, coats his tongue, rises from the floor to pool in his throat. Shrieks, tearing and ripping, burst from the throats of the dying as cold steel coaxes the blood from human veins. Funeral bells ring. His head is exploding, pounding, as the peals and the screams stretch and unfold in his head. He convulses once more—creased face twisting, arms twitching—his body collapsing in a perverted parody of a broken puppet's waltz.

Then he stills, head lolling as the puppetmaster severs the cord.

And so the many-colored apparition and the skeletal holy men leave the cathedral once again desolate, untarnished by human breath and human thoughts. Only the ghosts remain.

-et ne nos inducas in tentationem-
{and lead us not into temptation}

He has absolutely no idea what is happening.

The moment the wood brushes his hand, his mind is invaded with the anguished screeches of whatever malevolent being is locked in its heartwood.

He can't breath.

Everything freezes around him as the haunted shrieks shatter his mind. They ring with sorrow and hate and anger and plead, beg, scream again for his mercy and he cannot take it because they're everywhere, all around him, yelling and pulling from inside and out—he is falling apart at the seams as their jagged fingers pick, pluck away at his flesh, and everything begins to fall away.

A moment of clarity breaks through, and he tears away a strip of cloth from his clothing—not that there was much cloth in the first place, or that it was terribly difficult to rip—to wrap around his fingers. It dampens the noise; he can see again—he was never blind, though, was he? He can't remember. The staff is wrong in his hand; it's crying on him….

He breaths.

Not real, not real.

Still the voices—voice, singular, he now realizes—scream at him; the sound is grating, disgusting, like the crunch of broken bone, and he wants to shudder. A cringe works its way down his spine.

The ghost shifts, uttering a noise that seems directed at the staff, and the clamor stops.

[He can help us.] It is all those mutters uttered from all those throats at once, conglomerated into a massive single voice that speaks not to him. His eyes slip shut and his limbs jerk in an uncontrollable contortion at its sound.

The corners of Misdreavus' perfect semi-circle smile lift higher.

And then she is gone.

-sed libera nos a malo-
{but deliver us from evil}

An age passes.

The Murkrow stains the grimy stones with black. Day by day, one by one, the wind loosens its feathers. Rain and hail beats the roof; in a cascade of wood and stone, a hole crumbles away. One feather falls, and then another, drifting slowly—some to the ground, some to the rooftops; some are eaten by the jagged maw of the roof's gap. Its eyes are blood in the dimming sunlight.

The blackness of its feathers stains the aisle.

-quia tuum est regnum et potential et gloria-
{for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory}

The Murkrow shrieks, and there is a flutter of wings, then a swarming cloud of black feathers falling through the hole, glimmering darkly as they catch the light. The demons have found it.

All Misdreavus can do is laugh her sobbing laugh as she screams for help and hope that the others don't pretend not to hear because she can't let the boy die—he, weak and bleeding and frail as he is, is her only chance at something other than this, which is what she wants, what she really, really wants.

And the Murkrow continues to release its shrill squawks, its dying cries reverberating in the sanctuary's very stones. A thump resounds and a shadow flies across the ground, then retreats; something has just slammed itself against the stained glass window. Misdreavus finds that she has wandered into a hallway; she is so overwhelmed that she cannot remember how she got there.

When the first ghost—a hunched Sableye who clasps one of his jeweled eyes between two sagging, freakishly humanoid limbs—appears, she laughs harder. For once in her life, her giggles sound as miserable as she feels. Her euphoria is fading now that she is realizing that the boy she hopes to save leads murder—her murder—in his wake, because he is composed of the ever-more-rare meat and blood—and the disease-ravaged Pokémon are so very hungry. Ghosts may be immune to disease, but they can not fight off Death.

Her laughter consumes her. The horrible, sobbing excuse for laughter is so hysterical she cannot even see the apparitions that materialize from the shadows—hundreds and hundreds of them, more than she ever knew existed in the darkness of her home. Gastly and Haunter and Gengar cluster together, floating gasses conglomerated into a ball, or a face with hands, or a fat, spiked body; mammoth purple balloons topped with white and painted with a yellow 'X' are the Drifloon and Drifblim at her back; and countless others, besides.

Her laughter dies—they came, they care, she thinks. The boy will live. Everything is a haze.

When rotting flesh begins to fall from they sky, they rush. Then everything is hell.

Some of the beasts are stupid—they leap from the hole in the roof and plummet to the cold stone with a sickly crunch. Others fly, or levitate or teleport or hitchhike; as they stream down, the stained glass is once again bombarded, and it shudders beneath the onslaught of a dead creature. The ghosts are already lashing out. Not because they wish to save the human—oh, no, not that, for he is cowering against a wall, unprotected—but to preserve their own lives. They will not help the boy, will not save the boy, Misdreavus realizes with sinking finality.

The silence that once plagued the cathedral is broken—perhaps for good. The hunting screams of the undead are like nothing she has heard before, a savage mixture of living anguish and relentless, detached anger, like the crying voice of a human whose ear hears only the scream of jagged nail dragged against rock.

She ducks and weaves through the fray, narrowly avoiding the empty black void hurtling away from a Duskull who was killed halfway through forming its attack—Misdreavus only sees its eyes, set deep in its skeleton face and suddenly devoid of the hellfire burning within, before she whirls herself away in a swirl of dull, ghostly green.

The boy is lost, though—somewhere else, through hordes of roiling creatures, and she can't see. The clamor of death and battle rings through her ears, and it is suddenly hard to concentrate; fire devours a nearby tapestry, crackling as it does so. It seems to be laughing at her, snickering as it snaps and she wants to put it out but she really has to find the boy because she knows he's going to die and—and….

It's too much, too much for her to take, and then an Arcanine is coming at her in a steady prowl of orange and black and cream fur that's ragged and clumped and falling away from its flesh, its doggish maw turned up into a snarl that is all tooth and fang. She can't do anything because she is transfixed by the fire it makes, by the fevered gleam in its once-soft puppy eyes.

Its mouth opens in a wide gape full of jagged teeth and—oh, good anything, good anyone, it doesn't have a tongue anymore and she can see its spine through its throat, gleaming and white except for a single patch where it is charred black with soot. Fire builds and she begins moving away, but she was frozen in the face of fire for far too long and it's too late—

Gastly is out of the shadows, his eyes still closed in the face of the light as his darkness forms into a fist that catches the four-legged dog-creature. Its mouth snaps shut in surprise. Lip pulls away from tooth and gum to form a growl deep in its throat. Gastly is moving away hesitantly, peeping his eyes open ever so slightly and directing his next attack towards the Arcanine. He doesn't even bother telling Misdreavus to move because he thinks she will, now that she realizes she must and she can.

She doesn't.

She can't.

The beast looms so far above her—it reaches taller than the prayer altar, higher than the human child on his feet, a comparison which she can make because the boy is now on his feet, lashing out wildly with the staff and grasping his bleeding wounds with one hand. Skeleton peeps out savagely from angry red flesh, eaten away by whatever it is that consumes the Arcanine.

And Misdreavus knows how to get to the human, because that's what she must do—she is dodging away from them, under limbs and through flames. When she abandons Gastly, she does not see his glare.

A flashing pulse of darkness pours from Gaslty, but the prowling dog leaps away in a scuffle of bare bone against stone, striking back with flaming claws that glimmer jaggedly in paws devoid of flesh and fur. The snow-white bone drags through Gastly's face, ripping through one eyelid and slashing through the whiteness of eye beneath.

His cry is bitten off as he lashes another Sucker Punch into the great dog's fur-patched gut; it yelps, and Gastly sends a Shadow Ball straight at it, but he is in pain and he can hardly see (one eye is open now, wild and white against his body's lusterless surface) and it flies away, shattering against a wall and decimating a candelabra. Wax spins into the air and scatters across the ground.

With a growling roar, the Arcanine clamps his jaws down on Gastly's head in a gaping Bite—somewhere during the fray, one of his fangs had been dislodged, and it now buries itself in Gastly's round head, ripping completely free of gum. The cloudy dull gas of Gastly's body rises, curling around the Arcanine's nose as he struggles fruitlessly, slamming Night Shade after Night Shade into his opponent.

The dog's grip does not loosen. Fire uncoils in its belly and erupts, singing the air and pouring around Gastly in a roaring storm of flame. Gastly screams.

The stained glass shatters.

The rainbow thunders down around her as a great metal bird tears through, rusted wings screeching with every movement and long neck stretching to the heavens and jagged beak cracked open in a discordant ululation. Ghosts and monsters are dropping, falling with glass protruding from their guts. Scarlet blood merges with flame and ice and leaf and every-colored rain in a carnival of sights.

Misdreavus does not even see as her savior sinks to the ground; does not even see as her friends die before her, their corpses littered carelessly amongst those of the finally-resting beasts.

She is too caught up in staring thoughtlessly at the boy, her hope, as he collapses bit by bit. Blue eyes wide, blonde hair disheveled and clotted with his own blood, he folds in on himself, clawing at the shard of glass that protrudes through his stomach, dripping with his blood.

In a hollow clatter, Asteria's staff falls to the ground, rolling away from the boy's still-reaching hands; one last shard of glass explodes across the carnage as the monocle impacts against the ground. The Murkrow screams again, this time for the last.

Silence stretches between the survivors, shocked and colder than ice.

She turns and sees her friend amongst the fallen, blackened by fire and torn by claw; he looks back at her with his single, once-white eye that no longer sees through the veil of soot and burn. Her eyes are wide (and Gastly remembers that their colors are like the fire that has just as good as killed him).

A murder of crows, he rasps. A smirk is in his voice.

-in secula-

The ground drinks up the blood, soaks it in, embraces it as one would a son. Glass parades across the crimson ground, glittering in the light.

Not even the ghosts remain.