By: Dan Kline
It’s quiet; no sounds permeate the air, not the footsteps of my soldiers making their rounds upon the parapet walls, not the echo of their booted feet walking the halls of the manor house. I cannot even hear the whispered breathing of my wife as I lay here in my bed, eyes shut trying in vain to hear anything, anything at all.
It’s wrong all wrong to hear nothing in a house that earlier this evening was roaring with the sounds of merry making, drunkards telling tales of past glory, serving women giggling as the soldiers of my guard pinch them on their bottoms, the endless drone of conversation. But now not even the sounds of insects stirs this dark night, no rats scurrying from hiding place to hiding place with their ill-gotten gains from the night’s festivities. I know I should get up, I know that this unnatural silence is keeping me right where I am. Is this but a dream? Should I yell for my guards, or should I just stay where I am and hope this is all just a dream. But for the silence I know I have to do something.
I lay there taking stock of my body, testing my limbs, my toes, fingers and neck. Small movements to see if a spell has been laid upon me. Each part moves, small, slow even moves, trying my best not to disturb the covers that lay upon me. I try to remember where I have laid my sword; I know it is not far it never is. There beside the red velvet chair by the window, is the window open, is that a breeze I feel coming in from the dark outside? No, just the imagination of a half scared fool woken in the night by who knows what.
Glas (Grey) Scath (Shadow) you need to move, you need to investigate this silence, if it is a dream then the mages tell me that is a foretelling of events to come, and yes even in your dreams you can and will die, just as in real life. It needs to be done, but not in my night clothes. Slowly as a mouse sneaking past a cat I move first my right leg, slowly from beneath the covers, I move my whole body in the same way hoping, praying to the Gods that I make not a sound. Finally I raise my entire bod to my feet and for the time I open my eyes and slowly look at my surroundings. I stifle a gasp I am alone in my bed chamber, my wife not in her usual place in the bed beside me, it looks as if she never even made it to bed. I walk in my bare feet to the red velvet chair and pick my sword up, thank the Gods my clothes from the night before are in the same place. But that finery is no good for moving around an empty manor house in the dark, especially if it has been invaded or ensorcelled by a spell of some sort. I do pull on my breeches and walk towards my armoire knowing that more suitable clothing is inside. Slowly I open the chest, hoping against hope that the hinges don’t squeal. Inside lay the clothing I use to scout when I hunt, dark green leather pants, tan shirt of a home spun quality, dark green long vest and black knee high boots and to my pleasant surprise my short word and hunting knife, almost a short sword itself.
I fasten my bastard sword across my back the hilt reaching just above my left shoulder for easy access, my short sword upon my right hip and the hunting knife on my left. Before shutting the door to the armoire I notice one more thing, my leather bracers that hide in each four slender throwing knives tapered to a point sharp enough to pierce steel with round finger holes on the other end, I lean inside and grab both and cinch the ties that hold them to my wrists. This is not my plate armor, but much better for stealth, honestly clanking around in this silent tomb of a home in plate would only get me killed. This way I can move silently, swiftly and come to the bottom of this mystery. I glance again at the bed wondering where my beloved Catalanach (Carrie) is and if she is unharmed and safe. God’s help any who may have done my love harm. Tearing my gaze from the bed I make my way across the bedchamber to the door pausing I put my ear to the door, silence there is nothing to hear but silence.
Knowing what I must do no matter the consequences I turn the door knob slowly, knowing that as many times as I have kicked this door in to take my beloved Cat to bed and make love to her, it squeaks, groans and generally complains every damn time you open it. Finally the knob turns the full way I crack the door slightly listening so intently that I could hear a mouse fart two floors down. But nothing is to be heard in the hall outside, open the door slowly, if you remember it is extremely cantankerous and borderline obnoxious as well. I open the door only part of the way turning my head in the direction it opens and look down the hall, hells the lamps and candles are all out, not one of them with flame, total darkness. This smells of sorcery, magic the bane of our world, some use for good, most use it for evil foul deeds.
I step into the hall easing my sword from the sheath on my back, yes I should have done it while was in my bed chamber but with all the strangeness of the night and the fact I am scared witless I forgot. I make my way down the hall using the left hand side running my left hand along the wall, one would think that I would know my own home but this no longer feels like my home and I am taking no chances. I can only see about five feet in front of me and I don’t know the situation so caution is advised. I am on the upper level of the manor house and only my personal guards and servants live up here, but I hear no other noise as I creep through my own house, or is it my house still? I come upon my wife’s chamber maid’s room, I stop put my ear to the door and listen, nothing. I grip the door know easing it slowly to the right, pushing as I turn it opens a short distance. I pause and listen again, nothing, no breathing, no rustling of the bed clothes. Slowly I push the door open and step inside. I walk slowly towards the bed in case the woman is actually in bed sleeping, all I need right now is to wake her and set her to screaming bloody murder in the dark. The closer I get to the bed I see the same as with my wife it looks as if she never made it to bed, the bed clothes are not mussed in any as a matter of fact the bed looks freshly made. Odd though I catch a whiff of anise and thorn apple with what little I know of magic is used for protection, curious. But another clue as to what is happening in my home. Perhaps they have all been turned invisible the ingredients grow wild around the manor house, probably wishful thinking on my part. Time to move on, I walk back to the door which I left open and again I look down the hall this time getting a look both ways. Curious the hall only smells of dust, not the same smell as in the chamber maid’s room. I step into the hall going left again knowing in my mind that the stairs leading to the lower level are this way and also my personal guards room, laid out in a small garrison type area which has a main room and four sleeping rooms so that four guards are on patrol day and night. Men I handpicked from over one thousand men from my soldiers. Again making my way down the left side of the hall keeping my sword hand free, passing many rooms I only pause to listen I don’t enter each room. I am making my way to my guard’s room to see what, if anything I find there. Issue, it is on the right hand side of the hall. I reach the guards room passing door after door and hearing nothing but the sound of silence. I stand across the hall from the door listening but hearing nothing, I fear for these men, if something bad has happened and so far that is my thinking I know they would die to the last man to protect me and my wife. Gathering my courage I cross the hall, damn why does the hall have to be so wide, I can’t even see the other side of the hall or the door. Finally after what seemed and eternity I reach the door, this door I know makes no noise so I turn the handle and ease the door open listening the whole time and hearing nothing. I enter the room and find it in much the same condition as the others, empty but there are half empty mugs of ale on the common room table along with plates of half eaten food. It’s as if they just got up and left the manor house. Knowing I must check each sleeping room I move to the first door, easing it open the smell hits me as soon as the door is cracked, death, blood and decay assaults my senses like a blow to the head. I open the door fully trying in vain not to retch at the smell and find that the men who were sleeping had been butchered in their sleep, both men’s throats have been cut almost completely through, both men have been disemboweled the contents of their stomachs, lungs and innards ripped from their bodies and slung about as if a child were at play. My hand tightens upon my sword as I approach the first man, Daibhidh (David) I have known this man since I was a child. He was the man who was my swordsmanship teacher and one of the first men I picked for my personal guard, no one in the whole country could have bested this man with a sword. But here he lays in apparent slumber his body ripped open from breast to navel his innards scattered about the room. I approach the bed of the man who was my mentor. I stop two steps towards the body, the hair on the back of my neck standing straight up, bringing my sword to bear as a mist rises from the man I called friend. The mist coalesces into the form of the once live man. Glas, the disembodied voice says this is not a dream, you are alive and foul deeds have been done to the good people of this house. You must reach the lowest level, screeching, crying out in pain the mist vanishes before my eyes only to leave the lifeless corpse still laying in its bed. Fighting my revulsion I lean over to place a goodbye kiss upon this brave man’s forehead, my lips brushing his brow in a silent goodbye. Rising up I notice something odd, his heart is missing and in its place a type of crystal in the same shape as his real heart. I walk over to the man in the next bed and see the same, yet every other room on this level thus far has been empty. Except the guards room, that and these men’s missing hearts that have been replaced by a crystal of some sort leaves me as clueless as when I first awoke in this nightmare. No it is a clue and I will find out what happened, I will go from room to room, level to level and get to the bottom of this mystery.
I turn to leave these men in peace, I hope, promising that their deaths will not be in vain. What was done to these men, why was it done and who was he evil person that did it. I will tell you I did not smell anything other than death in those rooms, I did not check the other rooms knowing that if I did I would find the same in each room, death.