Soft murmurs and the clinking of forks and knives receded in the candle lit passage. Eleanor withdrew on silent feet into the shadows of the Hall. Amber illumination glowed as she tip toed through plush carpeted passageways.
I shouldn’t be doing this, father will be furious when he finds out. She thought to herself, guilt creeping into her mind. But what’s a little exploration going to do to anyone? There’s no harm in being curious.
The invitation had arrived on Tuesday. They had been entertaining a late breakfast, father and her. It had been a dreary start to the day, rain pounding down up on each dark window. That is until Manson, their butler, had entered the room. His brisk exterior was somewhat subdued by something held tight in his gloved hands.
Eleanor all but dropped her spoonful of porridge at the sight of the black velvet letter. A lingering scent of jasmine and anise had drifted towards her as her father had opened the note.
“To the most Honourable Sir Carrington, and his daughter, the Lady Eleanor. Your presence is here by requested at Bowood Hall on Sunday, October the 22nd. In celebration of his Lordship’s Eldest son Fredrick III. Guess will be seated for evening festivities by no later than 9 o’clock sharp.” Her father had been most impressed by the lavishness of the invitation. He had made all haste to prepare them both, a whole week in advanced.
Eleanor had hidden her interest well. Burying her excitement, fear, and, exhilaration deep within herself. Not a soul was to know, not a sign was given. But it would be her chance, once and for all. It would be her responsibility to uncover the secret of Bowood Hall.
Eleanor’s smile flashed in the flickering flames as she glanced all around the passageway. Her draped satin dress whispering across rich carpet. And now here I am, plain ol’ Eleanor in the likes of Bowood Hall. Plain boring Eleanor uncovering the truth of this old ruin.
No one knew the darkness contained within its walls. No one but her . . . and the Society.
They had trusted only but the most stalwart member of The Society. It had been Eleanor the Young who was chosen. It would be her who brought one of the most noblest families of England to their knees.
Bowood held an ancient secret, an ancient terror. And it had to be stopped before it was unleashed up the world she loved so dearly.
“I must.” She whispered, the air close upon her brow. “I must.”
Motifs of intricate vines and fruit criss-crossed the ceilings and walls. Exquisite murals depicting the gods of Greece and Rome watched the glowing youth. She continued, delving deeper into the heart of the house. Richness was the essence of this house. A thousand years of lust and power built upon the back of a sleeping beast.
Eleanor kept careful track of her steps as she felt the house close in around her. She opened her mind to the symphony of silence all around her. It was too quiet.
Careful Eleanor, careful. It mustn’t know your purpose. Slowing her breath she cleared her mind. Focusing her thoughts on the party and her father she continued on. Opening up a paneled door Eleanor paused in the opening, listening.
There was a clatter of metal upon wood as something in the room beyond fell. Eleanor froze, heart thundering in her ears.
Think of the food, the costumes. Think of father, of Fredrick.
Looking into the semi darkness the young woman saw nothing. Furnishings of a plush sitting room lay beyond. Counting three more beats of her heart she continued on.
Relax. Relax. You are calm. Her heart slowed as she crossed the room. She had reached the opposite door when dazzling light blinded her from one side. A fireplace roared to life, flames licking out over the edge of the mantle. Heat roiled from the grate now burning white hot. Wood blackened in moments as flames reached out for her.
Eleanor stifled a shriek as her gloved hand closed on a gold doorknob. It knows. It knows I’m here. Somehow it’s divined my purpose.
With frantic twists she forced the door open. Her glove sizzled and blackened as she flung herself into a narrow hallway. The door slammed shut behind her, cutting of the roaring heat.
Hand stinging with heat, she ripped off her glove and tossed it onto the floor. Jet black reflections illustrated her young and terrified face. Her chest heaved with the efforts of the other room. Her hair had slipped from its delicate styling, curling around her moon shaped face.
Breath, you must remain calm. Calm. Eleanor arranged her thoughts, closing her eyes and listening. Silence once again pressed upon her.
“I am calm.” She said as her eyes scanned up and down the black marble passage. It knew she was there. It knew she meant more than going on an innocent stroll. Her time was growing short, and there was no room for failure.
“I am calm-” Something breathed in the dark. A long whistling breath that drew in the air all around the youth’s body. Her hair swished against her neck, rippling the fabric of her dress.
From behind her a crackling of stone sounded, within the dark passage. Eleanor watched in growing horror as minuscule fissures opened in the walls to either side of her. Dust and small chips of stone rained onto the ground at her feet. The something breathed in causing the walls around her to buckled inward. As if a constricting throat enclosed her.
“Run!” She screamed to herself as rock rained down upon her head. Air buffeted her body as the unseen giant exhaled. Dust choked off her throat as she ran. Rational thought gave way to instinctual fear in Eleanor’s mind and she ran for her life. Crackling stone continued to fall all about her. She slipped and nearly collided with the bubbling wall as more breaths continued. Flinging her hands and arms over her head she pushed forward. The walls continued to press inward, crumbling to dust.
With no end in sight, Eleanor’s hope and courage began to fade. She could barely breathe, let alone fend off the bits of granite that all but consumed her. And just like that she was tripping on a threshold and falling. Falling, falling down onto thick luscious carpet.
Carpet. Carpet! I’m out! I made it! Glancing back to the door Eleanor found herself looking at gold leafed door shut tight. Lingering coils of dust curled from around its edges.
“I made it. I’m alive!” Picking herself up from the floor she brushed at her dress, now a drab gray color. “I’m alive! I made it!”
Her enthusiasm ebbed as light grew around her. A great glinting of light shone around her as above her luminescence grew. Gilded walls reached up above her, growing from the receding dark.
“Where am I?” She said, trying to make sense of it all. Around her light illuminated the raised entry to a behemoth staircase. Steps stretch downwards ending in the largest hall she had ever seen. Ornate iron railings enclosed the stairs and reached all the way to the wall where she stood. Above her titanic crystal chandeliers hung suspended by flaxen threads.
The hall continued to expand, infinite in size.
And then realization struck Eleanor. “This is it. This is the center, its heart.”
It was what she was looking for, what The Society had charged her to find. It was the heart of the Monster of Bowood. She took a few tentative steps forward, waiting for the essence to react to her presence. All was still. She continued forward, her confidence growing.
Reaching, with care, for a concealed pocket in her dress, Eleanor drew out a sliver vial. no bigger than the span of her hand from wrist to finger tip. With purpose she walked towards the top most step of the great stair and raised the vile into the air.
Vibrations issued from the walls around her. Faint as a tap-tap tapping from a raven’s beak on stone. But then the vibrations grew.
Knowing her time had now passed, Eleanor stepped onto the staircase. Her body resonated with the floor beneath her. She tipped her head upwards, ready to speak the Words of Cleansing. A howling grew within the golden hall, a keening of something unnatural and unsubstantial. Malice grew palpable in her mouth, stinging her nose.
And then it was there, voice screaming in her ears, tearing at her body. Eleanor struggled as she held the silver vial before her. She twisted around, looking for her assailant.
“NO! Stay back fiend!” She cried to the vast specter. But the voice only grew louder. Her body shook, and Eleanor knew she couldn’t lose hope, “Desist! I send you to the abyss!”
And with that all sound ceased. The hall grew still all around her. A slight tinkling came from the vast chandeliers above the stair. Eleanor moved to throw the vial, triumphant written upon her face. But a sudden grasping hand caught her shoulder. Screaming she whirled around only to stare in amazement as her own hand and arm held her fast. Eleanor held onto Eleanor, both suspended over the yawning stair.
She looked into golden eyes that resembled her own. As if a dark mirror had been placed before her, the apparition mimicked her solid form. But instead of opening its mouth in terror, its lip curled into a sneer.
Opening its mouth wide it issued one word, “No.”
And with that it pushed Eleanor down the stairs.
“Noooo!!!” She cried as her body tumbled and tossed its way down, down, down. Into the deep she rolled. Into oblivion.
When her broken body finally did stop Eleanor found herself on the bottom most stair. Looking up into the glimmering light of the chandelier her vision began to fade. It swayed ever so gently, side to side.
It was then that Eleanor realized the truth about Bowood hall. It wasn’t a specter or poltergeist that imbued its walls in living evil. No, it was the house, the house itself was the haunting. And it was alive, alive and furious.
With a loud crack the chandelier above her fell.