I've actually had this first bit written since New Years but apparently never got around to posting it. Still waiting to hear back from Monzel so in the meantime you guys can enjoy the first couple pages of Nightmare Hill
Terrible screams rose from the castle amid flashes of white light. Amid this chaos a trio of figures appeared from one of the towers, running along the battlements as they searched for an escape route. Finally finding a weak point in the wards the first two leapt, meeting a brief resistance before they broke free. Unfortunatly the third was a moment too slow and was hit by one of the flying beams of light.
As the beam snared him the figure began shouting something that sounded like a curse from the tone but was unintelligible as he was yanked backwards and vanished down into the castle courtyard.
The remaining pair turned and floated off toward the lights of town in the distance. “That was everyone you had left you fool.” One of the figures said with contempt. “The Committee trusted you and you led us into a trap!”
“Quiet! You have no right to question my decisions. I am Ghost Master here, not you.” The second figure shouted in reply.
“Much to everyone’s misfortune it would seem. I don’t understand how you ever got assigned a city to haunt. You’re completely blind to the obvious and it has continually cost us haunters.” The first continued, ignoring the Ghost Master’s reply. “I for one am not going to be trapped…or worse, captured by Ghostbreakers. I quit.” With that the figure broke away, flying quickly off in the opposite direction and leaving the Ghost Master to rant alone…
“I’m afraid I am bringing bad news to the table.” Balam said as his gaze traveled over the members of the Haunter Committee. “We’ve lost Nightmare Hill.”
“What do you mean lost Balam?” Drycha asked.
“According to the report the entire team was either captured by the Ghostbreaker’s or trapped in the mortal realm.” Balam replied, already raising a hand to halt the flood of questions he knew was coming.
“If we know this then someone obviously got away!” Shouted an apparition from the far end of the table.
“You’re right, the scout assigned by the Bureau of Astral Affairs is the one who turned in the report. He only made it out of the city because he doesn’t haunt so the mortals never had a chance to capture him.” Balam said with a nod to the ghost.
“What about the Ghost Master?” Rakarth questioned.
“I’m afraid that the Ghost Master is the cause of the whole problem.” Balam replied slowly. “The scout reported that Ghost Master Baugh proved completely inept in the field. He lost three haunters to a group of witches just securing his headquarters. After that he went through a series of bad plans which cost him dearly. Finally he attracted the attention of the Ghostbreakers and made his final stand at the castle. The only ghosts to get out of Nightmare Hill were Baugh and his scout.” Balam continued before he could be interrupted.
“What happened to Baugh?” Drycha asked curiously.
“He disappeared. The scout said he was still trying to assert his authority as a Ghost Master when he left. We aren’t sure where he went or whether he’s avoided being captured himself.” Balam answered.
“I should have suspected something would go wrong.” Rakarth whispered to himself before raising his voice. “Baugh did well in training, passed his field training well enough to earn his place as a Ghost Master. I never expected it would go to his head. This is as much my fault as Baugh’s”
“No Rakarth. He made the decision to ignore your teaching and haunt how he felt best. That is what caused this. You can teach a student everything about how to haunt but if they ignore it then they are the only ones to blame. Baugh made his choice and now he’s paid the price.” Drycha said.
“What we need to do now though is decide on a way to fix this mess. Drycha, who do we have near there?” Balam said, all thoughts of Baugh vanishing from his mind.
“Last I heard from the Department of Clairvoyance we had three Ghost Masters deployed near Nightmare Hill. Soulscreech, The Nightmare Chef and Azrael.” The Elemental representative replied immediately.
“Can any of them be spared from their campaigns?” A poltergeist asked, floating lazily over his seat.
“…No.” Drycha replied as she looked over a sheet of paper she had conjured from her office. “The Chef and Azrael are already stretched to the limit and Soulscreech has been fighting off a stubborn and well-protected shaman who keeps banishing her ghosts.”
“Then what do we do! There is nobody left who isn’t already in the field!” Growled a large white cat who served as a gremlin representative.
“What about Gravenville?” Drycha asked warily, knowing she was about to suggest something unusual.
“What about it!” The cat growled again. “Gravenville is not the town we’re discussing, Nightmare Hill is!”
“Quiet.” Balam said, before the cat could continue. “What are you thinking Drycha?”
“Well…The last report from Zulban said that Gravenville has been rather quiet since the Ghostbreakers fled and the witches left to avoid the bombs.” Drycha said after a quick glance around the table. “If that is true then could we not reassign Gravenville’s Ghost Master and send her to fix the damage done in Nightmare Hill?”
“A decent proposition.” Balam said slowly after taking a minute to think. “Rakarth, what do you think?”
“It’s a brilliant plan. I believe I said it before we sent her to Gravenville but Monzel is one of my top students. Plus she made an amazing showing in Gravenville.”
“Alright then.” Balam said, happy to have a plan. “Is anyone opposed to Drycha’s plan?” When no one spoke up the head of the Haunter Committee continued. “Then that is what we will do.”
“Rakarth, go and tell Monzel the news…”
Monzel walked quietly along the carpeted hall, nodding a greeting at a well-dressed woman gazing out from a wall mirror as she passed. Pushing open a pair of double doors the young woman moved over to the large table in the center of the room, being careful not to disturb the owl that was perched on the back of a chair.
As she approached, the map laid out on the table began to change as buildings rose up, showing areas that had been of interest to the Committee. Now though, each building was circled by a miniature flock of bats, showing at a glance that whatever had to be done there was done.
Turning away from the table, she glanced briefly around the room, remembering what it had looked like after the Ghostbreakers had been driven out. Her teacher, Rakarth had called in an old favor he was owed by one of the Temporal Clerks and gotten the destroyed room restored to its old look. The spacious room had proved useful as both a planning room and personal quarters for the Ghost Master and her companions.
“Monzel?” A voice said from behind the doors, followed quickly by a knock.
“Come in!” Monzel said loudly, a smile on her face as Rakarth came through the doors.
Rakarth was an ancient spirit, having been around for several hundred years. He had found death to be similar to life, having served as a teacher of great minds before his death. The Committee had appointed as the Ghost Master trainer long ago and he had settled into the role. In his own opinion he was doing something even greater. To him the art of haunting was a far more complicated thing to teach then anything mortals learned. He had had great success too, mentoring some of the finest Ghost Masters, among them the headless biker Azrael and the strange but talented Nightmare Chef. Despite the reputation of such illustrious Masters he had found his greatest student in Monzel, who had shown herself to be a master of strategy and tactics before her training even began.
It had been Rakarth’s own suggestion that the talented young woman be assigned to Gravenville when Balam and the others needed someone to restore the mortal’s belief in the supernatural. With the aid of a growing team she had succeeded and had even sent the Ghostbreakers running in terror not once but three separate times.
“I have news from the Committee.” Rakarth said once he and Monzel were seated. With a nudge Monzel woke the owl who rose into the air to stretch her wings before settling on the Ghost Master’s shoulder.
“Cuare, lovely to see you my dear.” Rakarth said, smiling at the small owl who served as Monzel’s advisor.
“What’s the news?” Monzel asked, curiosity getting the better of her patience.
“Alright, I’ll cut to the chase then. You’re being reassigned.” Rakarth replied. “Things went very wrong in the town of Nightmare Hill and the Committee is in need of someone to fix the problems.”
“So you suggested me?” Monzel asked.
“Actually, I only seconded the proposal. Drycha is the one who thought of you this time.” Rakarth answered.
“You said there were problems, what do you mean?” She asked after a quick word with Cuare.
“The Ghost Master we assigned proved incompetent. He got his entire team either trapped or captured and then fled. We still don’t know what became of him. His scout is the one who reported everything.” Rakarth explained.
“Would it be someone I know?” Monzel asked curiously.
“I doubt it.” Rakarth replied. “Baugh was named a Master around the time you started your training. He had promise but apparently my teachings didn’t stick.”
“It’s worse then that though. The scout reported witches, shaman and Ghostbreakers operating within the city.” He continued.
“It’ll be tricky but I have faith in my team.” Monzel said confidently. “Though it will take a few days to get everyone ready to go…”
“I’m afraid you can’t take your haunters…At least not all of them.” Rakarth interrupted.
“What?” That one word was all she could get out as she sat confused.
“You have a huge team Monzel, taking them all…or even a large portion of them, would attract far too much attention. You’ll need time to set up your new headquarters and get the lay of the land before making too many waves.” Rakarth explained.
“You’ll start better then you did here though. The Committee discussed it for quite some time and it was decided that ten haunters would be enough to get you started without being big enough to alarm anyone.” He continued explaining as the confusion on Monzel’s face faded.
“So, really only eight since I’ll need Christie and Cuare.” Monzel said after a moments thought.
“No, I meant ten. Christie, Cuare and Zulban aren’t counted among that. Your second in command, advisor and scout. There is no way we would send you without them. We’re not completely crazy.” Rakarth reassured her with a grin.
“It will probably take us a few days to choose who to take.” Monzel said as she returned the grin. “Plus I’ll have to explain all this to Christie and Zulban.”
“Whenever you’re ready let us know.” Rakarth said before turning the conversation to other topics…