The mound of bricks was a haphazard scatter of broken masonry columns mixed with single terra-cotta bars, still a vibrant burnt orange. Tuffs of green poked up through cracks along the outer perimeter, but the weeds and field grass were remarkably tame considering the decades of opportunity to overwhelm the pile.
The equally haphazard group of living and dead Gramberly Cemetery representatives moved in concentric circles around the bricks. A spirit, one of many banished from Gramberly for their part in a hostile invasion of Pepperidge Township, approached Goodwood Duxford, caretaker and current ghost wrangler for Gramberly. The spirit led Goody and his team to an abandoned area of the cemetery where the spirits had been trapped since their defeat.
The pile of bricks was a makeshift cairn, an unsanctified mass grave that all but ensured the spirits could not return to Gramberly on their own, nor crossover to their next celestial sphere. The spirit that led the group to the banished burial ground wanted redemption or revenge. Goody wasn’t sure which it was, and until he did, he wasn’t bringing any wandering ghosts into Gramberly.
“I can feel the unrest in the air,” said Frankie Harp, aside from Goody the only other living member of the group. “It’s like that electrical tingling you feel after a close lightning strike.”
“Can you hear that?” Lilith Trotter, the newest Gramberly resident of the group, and Goody’s best friend, bent down towards the pile. “I can’t tell if it’s humming or keening.”
“Marcel, did you recognize the wraith, the one who spoke to us at the bridge?” said Zebediah Arien, the longest residing spirit at Gramberly. “Was he part of the horde?”
“I’m not sure, my memory of the siege is sketchy,” said Marcel, Goody’s deceased grandfather. “I couldn’t even tell from the manner of his clothes.”
“What would his sartorial choices tell you?” Lilith picked up a brick, turning it over in her hands.
“Most of the horde was from the same section of Gramberly, all from the same time,” Marcel said. “There was traveling circus that came through here every year. Back when I was around 10 or 11, there was a fire in the big tent. Most of the audience escaped, but many of the performers perished. They were buried in their carnival costumes.”
“Why would it matter if the horde was from that calamity?” Jonny said.
“It would explain how Egbert was able to control them so easily,” Goody said. “They weren’t from Pepperidge, they had no real connection with the town or Gramberly.”
“It would also explain why the townspeople didn’t want them back in Gramberly,” Zeb said. “They would have been considered outsiders, and not entitled to a final resting place there.”
“That doesn’t seem quite fair,” said Frankie. “It wasn’t their fault Egbert turned them against Pepperidge.”
“If they had been townspeople, Egbert may not have been able to raise them,” Goody said. “I imagine there was a fear the same thing could happen again and that’s why the bodies were moved here.”
“Still doesn’t seem right,” Frankie said.
“Superstitions can make regular folk do strange things,” Jonny said. “Fear is powerful too.”
Siblings Theo and Justin Chamber had been strangely silent as their companions ruminated about the spirit and its intentions. While the rest of the group inspected the brick pile, the brothers wandered around the scrubland field.
Brambles and low-growing catbriar tore at their pants legs, tripping them as they moved through the pasture. They were almost out of sight when they stumbled upon a second stack of bricks, only this one was more structured. The remnants of walls were evident, as was the violence that wrecked them.
“Goody, over here!” Theo yelled across the field. “You gotta see this.”
Goody ran to the brother, closing the distance between them in seconds, leaving the others far behind.
“This is not good,” he said as the rest of the group gathered around the broken vault. Hands on his head, Goody paced in short, erratic steps, muttering binding spells and incantations for authority over the Banished spirits.
Bricks from the broken vault began tumbling and shaking, rebuilding the walls and arches until it was whole again. Goody kept casting his charms, spinning his words into an angry maelstrom of magic and conjuring.
“That’s a very unpleasant talent you have,” said Lilith. “I hope I never get on your bad side.”
Frankie matched her paces with Goody’s, shooting Lilith a look of reproach that only elicited a shrug from the deceased woman.
“What does this mean?” Frankie said, bringing Goody to a standstill.
“It means that thing over there isn’t where the townspeople buried the Banished. They put them in a proper resting place here,” Goody said, running his hand over the restored vault. “I can only guess, but I think this means the Banished escaped from their vault and sealed in that cairn over there those who didn’t fit into their plan. It’s not redemption they are looking for, it’s revenge.”