Ron Ward's vision was beginning to blur. The stranger in front of him, this Adam who claimed to be a War Spirit, swam in front of his eyes. He opened his mouth to ask what was going on, but his chest heaved convulsively and he vomited blood. He didn't have all that long left, he could feel it. If the stranger was right, then there was only-
"One minute thirty seconds. Yes or no?"
Ron fought to sit up, but the effort was far too much and he coughed up another gush of blood. Aristomache rolled her eyes.
"For heaven's sake Adam, this guy's going to waste his last few seconds and never give you an answer-what's that?"
Her nostrils flared, and she shook her red-haired head like a dog coming out of water.
"Wraiths. Should have known."
Adam's head jerked up and his hand went to his katana. From where Ron lay, his life still ebbing away, it looked like the shadows had suddenly sprouted more shadows, and these shadows came towards them, reaching out filmy insubstantial fingers.
"This guy's mine," Adam growled, suddenly looking a lot less out-of-place and odd in his antique armour. "You better get outta here, right now."
The Wraiths halted, and the one in front put its insubstantial head on one side and spoke. Its voice was little more than a whisper, but somehow reached even Ron's dying hearing without trouble.
"He is not yet yours."
"He will be!"
"He is not yet yours."
"Stupid ghouls," Aristomache snarled, bringing her little-girl's fists up like a boxer. "Get outta it!"
The Wraiths did not seem fazed. They stood like cowled monks, waiting patiently. Adam spun round and snatched up Ron by his collar. The abrupt movement caused another gush of blood from the dying soldier's mouth; it splattered over Adam's breastplate, but the War Spirit ignored it completely, having had much worse.
"Choose, you idiot! You can come with me, or you can go with those lot over there with their chilly fingers and their nothingness. Choose!"
Though darkness was rapidly creeping over his vision, and his mind seemed filled with cottage cheese instead of brains, Ron had enough mental faculties left to realise that, however odd he was, Adam was a lot more welcoming, even when calling him an idiot, than the cold, dark figures that were his other choice. He spat up another gobbet of dark congealing blood and managed to rasp out one word.
The Wraiths let out a high, keening wail in frustration. Aristomache punched the air and yelled in triumph, despite the new and incredibly annoying knowledge that she'd now have to sing at her birthday.
And the life finally went out of PFC Ron Ward.
Adam hefted his body and slung it inelegantly over his shoulder, smirking at the Wraiths.
"Looks like we beat you this time," he told the Wraiths, almost purring. "Got another addition to the militia, once we wake him up again. And you...have nothing."
He flipped a mocking salute at the insubstantial figures, while Aristomache, in a sudden outburst of childishness, stuck out her tongue and thumbed her nose at them.
"C'mon, baby cousin, we gotta get this guy up to HQ before he starts to smell," Adam reminded her, as he contemptuously turned his back on the Wraiths behind them. "Comin' along?"
Aristomache considered her options, then shrugged.
"Sure. Why not."