Chapter 1: A Darkness Reveals Itself

Chapter 1: A Darkness Reveals Itself

A Chapter by Kayla
"

A deserter gets more than he bargained for while trying to make his way home to his expectant wife, and new arrivals to the town he passed through are about to reap the consequences, as well.

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Chapter 1: A Darkness Reveals Itself

The gusts of snow drove unremittingly across the land, sweeping away all signs of life. Not even the mountains that loomed in the near distance, towering over the sheltered valley like hardened guards, cast a shadow into the pure, blinding white of the blizzard’s wrath. The storm was centered over the valley as if God had sensed the impurities ingrained into the very earth, cast there by the evil that resided within, and was wiping out the valley to begin anew with the tears of sentinel angels who had long stood watching as the corruption crept in.

Through the storm trudged one solitary man who had avoided the hand of God, a huddled gray mass against the punishing blows of the howling wind and biting cold. He had been on his way to Galaway, just west of Loughrea, and had settled on taking a shortcut through the mountains rather than attempt the long, grueling trip around them. He gritted his chattering teeth as he wondered if that choice would be his death. If he had made a mistake as foolish as the Donner party by yielding to the persuasive yet apparently injudicious desire to sooner end his journey rather than do as common sense demanded and follow the beaten path. No, he didn’t need to wonder, already knowing the answer. He was trapped in a hellhole with seemingly no way out except one, the way all humans take in the end. His one and only consolation now was barely a reality in his mind, more a glimpse, a flash that had come and gone so quickly it was as if he were asleep and it had all been a part of a dream. But the hope that he had not been hallucinating from lack of sleep is all he had to desperately cling to now. And oh, what a fragile hope it was and how desperately he clung. Before he had breached the trees of the valley, before the gentle, almost calming snowfall had turned into a full tempest with winds that seemed to want to rip the very soul from his body, he had thought he had glimpsed a light off in the distance through a gap in the trees. The sight was gone as quickly as he’d seen it and had never returned, and he told himself then he’d imagined it. But now, with shelter being his only hope for survival, he vigorously rubbed his arms to contain the last dredges of warmth the freeze had yet to drive from him and trudged ever onward through the growing piles of snow, telling himself all the while that safety was ahead.

He almost wanted to give up. In this storm even if there was a shelter up ahead and even if it was close enough to reach he could not know if he was heading towards it. The blizzard that drove unremittingly at him was so thick he could not see his hand when he held it aloft. He could be walking in circles and have no way of knowing. But he had come this far from the battle of the Diamonds and he would not surrender to the product of heaven’s wrath yet. He had deserted the army for his baby. His pregnant wife was due, and with impossible odds and no morale left in the army he fought for, he knew he would not survive another battle. He had refused in that moment when death and newfound life loomed upon him on divided sides of one path, in the form of orders and a babe, to die. He had chosen his way and it was one shielded by old weeping willows sending their tears and piercing shadows down onto him, filling him with their mournful mark. Yes, it was a path cast with shame, but it was now his to stick to, and it was far more lively than the dead shambles that lined the road at the other end. He had decided the army that forcibly enlisted him could go join the devil- he would not let his child enter the world fatherless. His child is what brought him to the valley and what forced him on even now when he wanted to relent to the fury of the storm.

By what he believed a miracle, he arrived at what he saw was a grand castle. Not even the storm could hide the heaven-reaching towers and massive parapets that forced their mark of black into its raging reaches. He rushed at the castle with a cry of relief, pushing through the snow that came to above his knees. His frost-bitten lips opened to issue a parched cry of relief as his numb hands reached out towards the huge wooden doors that stood like the most lovely song of heaven before him.

He slowly struggled to open the heavy barriers, his strength now all but leached from his body, but they were unrelenting in the face of his feeble shoves. He knew nobody would hear his knock above the overwhelming howl of the wind which had filled his head with a persistent scream since it had first begun. Desperate, he began walking along the castle, searching despairingly for a window. Reaching one, he lifted his pack that had been strapped securely to his front in an attempt to shield himself from the snow and used his remaining strength to launch through the stain glass window in front of him. The glass shattered, tinkling down like stardust onto the earth, tiny pieces of cool yet somehow hellish fire mixing bitterly with the tears of the angels.

He clambered into the safe and warm confines of the magnificent mansion with unconstrained relief and collapsed onto the floor a hopeless mess yet, for the first time that day, comforted.  Arms outstretched, he lay among the shattered glass breathing heavily with eyes closed. He knew he needed to get up and find a place to hide, but for the moment, at least, he wanted to absorb the feeling of absolute relief and life. He could only hope nobody found the shattered window for a while to come.

A croaking voice, which sounded to him like the chorus of heaven itself after the endless shrieking of the wind, met his ears. He had never been more relieved, or more terrified.

“We’ve been waiting for you.”

He was filled with adrenaline at the sound. His eyes flew open as he jolted upright and whipped his head from side to side to find the source of the voice.

“Follow me. Leave your pack.” the lady who stood before him commanded with the same creaky tone before he could say anything. He was taken aback when he saw she had been right in front of him- he had never heard her approach, and he was certain there was nobody there when he had lunged through the window moments before. Could he have fallen asleep without realizing it? But then why would she say they had been expecting him?

He looked up at the woman soundlessly as he sat unmoving. He was completely clueless about everything- how she was standing before him, what she meant by her cryptic statement, but most especially the sight of her. The vision before him could not have been older than twenty-five, yet her voice had led him to the conclusion she was archaic. He had expected to be met with salt and cracks sinking into a hardened surface, the very image of time itself, aged just like earth exposed too long to the sun so all vitality had been drained and nothing except for a barren foundation remained as a shadow of what once was. Yet he was met with the image of a darkened beauty- her skin glowed with the unrestrained privilege of youth, her hair was a clear and shiny black that would not see the regrettable touch of gray for many years to come, and inside of her was a fire so strong that the man felt sure it was the heat of it that warmed the very room he lay in. She suffered none from her darkness, for she seemed to shine into the dark interior of the parlor he had landed in, only glowing brighter as her surroundings grew dimmer, as if she sucked the very life from them.

As he sat stunned on the floor, taking all of her in, the darkened beauty he had been appraising was walking slowly and gracefully away, treading lightly over the cushioned rug that he had landed on.

“You may follow me into the unknown or embrace the early death you only just avoided by entering the throes of this furious blizzard once more.” she issued the ultimatum with no inflection to reveal any hint of emotion, as if offering him his death were as casual a thing as sipping tea.

He remained sitting, still terrified of what would happen. He had broken the window of the castle- whatever the lord’s intent was, it could not be pleasant, and he was neither ready to die by the blizzard, be punished at the Lord’s hand, nor to be sent back off into the war he had narrowly escaped from.

“Choose.” she commanded with just as steady a tone as she had said everything else.

That last command was all he needed. Rising, he followed her, somewhat pacified. He was a soldier, after all. If need arose, he could kill her and any other nuisances.

She led him down a dimly lit hallway lined with flickering candles in gothic-era holders that were placed between stoney-faced and empty-eyed visages of people long past. Surrounded by darkened wood frames as grim as the paintings themselves, they were the only things in the castle not teeming with energy. The subjects of the paintings were long gone, their bodies returned to be nothing more than dirt in the earth, leaving only the sad and meaningless rendering of their image behind in a vain attempt to be remembered.

“This mansion has seen many lives.” he commented as he appraised each hauntingly dull piece in turn.

“More than can be discerned from these depictions.” came the strange reply.

“So this mansion has been the site of many battles?”

“Of a sort. It has not seen any grand wars, but many fights have been won,” drifted back the cryptic answer, which told him little but filled him with an unexplainable sense of dread. The man quickly gathered himself enough to continue on, having paused to stare at the retreating woman’s form to try and get a better sense of her. Something about her shook him to his core. It wasn’t just her, though, it was also the mansion, where every panel moaned with unreleased pain and every spire and corner seemed to conceal a sordid secret. It was a mansion bulging with barely-concealed secrets that had been carefully gathered and contained over eons, and it seemed to the man about to rupture. In front of him, the woman began singing as if to hide the pained voices that called out to him from the darkened corners.

He searched for something to say, anything to end the thoughts that were racing through his head and to silence that eerie song.

“Who is the current lord of this land?”

“You needn’t worry about that.”

“But if I am to be meeting him…”

“Oh, you will not be meeting him. You shall only be meeting one other person tonight,” she informed him before once more resuming her song. He looked around nervously as rustling, this time very real, began. Nobody was in sight.

“Who is that, pray tell?”

“Be our guest, be our guest…” she began to sing in a clear voice, so unlike her usual one as she ignored his query.

“It must be earlier than I expected, for so many people to be awake,” the man commented in a way that he hoped didn’t show how truly nervous he was. As he looked about him and listened, that feeling only began to grow, and he found he couldn’t stop the cold sweat that broke out across his skin.

“Whatever do you mean?” the lady asked so calmly it could not have been a deception.

“The- voices…” the man said uncertainly as the mumbled words grew louder.

“I am afraid I do not know what you mean. There are no people here.”

“But...”

“We’re almost there.” she interrupted him blithely before singing once more.

She moved to the side of the hall, trailing her fingers along the black and red wall. When she moved aside, a painting was revealed. It covered the wall from top to bottom, its golden, intricate frame only serving to make the dangerous promise that lurked within all the more apparent. In it a man kneeled with his face upturned, hands lovingly caressing either side of his face as welcoming lips edged closer to his. It was almost the image of lovers stealing a moment away, yet it was much more depraved of a scene than that. Between the two people who were the focus of the painting fleeted something so inescapable even lovers could not truly share it: the kneeling man, eyes wide, yielded his soul to the devil that had him ensnared in its vile grasp as it hovered above the man with an immeasurable glee in its eyes. Around them was a macabre scene of corpses that had already surrendered that integral part of themselves, lying emptily on the ground, gazing out on the world as if they were already dead. Demons, cherub skeletons and mutated creatures danced around the two in the center, completing the twisted scene before him.

The man felt a wave of nausea as they reached the painting and it took everything within him to control himself. As he stood there before the painting the jumbled whispers grew more insistent, coming at him faster and louder from all directions, as if there were a swarm of people around him; he had to control the overwhelming urge to sprint with everything he had back into the now quite welcoming blizzard. As the talking continued, each voice vying to be heard over the other, he began to register one repeated phrase, “Get out, get out, get out.”

He stood fixated in place, suddenly colder than the blizzard that awaited him outside. Cold sweat began to pour out of him. He tried to speak but couldn’t, his tongue as immobile as the rest of him.

The woman continued on past the portrait without sparing it another glance, coming to rest at the door beside it, her fingers still on the wall, one hand resting gracefully on the door. “These walls hum with vitality, do they not?” she whispered almost lovingly as she trailed her hand down the door to the knob. With a final push, the door opened with a creak…

“Be our guest, be our guest…” sang The Butcher as he brought his cleaver down onto a leg. Slicing off a piece of the meat, he dropped it down to the tattered cat beside him. The cat leaned its rotted nose down to give the meat a cursory sniff before hissing disdainfully.

“Donnae be so callous. We treat our guests wif respect.” The Butcher brought down his cleaver once more as the cat wrapped itself about his leg with a cursory huff in reply. All was normal at the castle. Yet, in the town that rested ten miles past the valley, a carriage would soon roll in. It would bring with it a dream of happiness in the form of gleaming, golden turrets and an optimistic, if loud and volatile, family of three, but what lurked on the horizon was a promise of a raining fire that would burn everything once glorious to a hellish crisp.



~ Four days later ~


The man in the carriage hopped down as a footman rushed to assist the Lady Mother and Lady Mihaela.

“Well, after an arduous journey, we have arrived.” the earl proclaimed grandly as he gazed around the village loftily.

The passerby’s gave him furtive glances as they hurried by, each with their head hung low. In the distance the sound of rushing water from a fall could be heard, but in the village not even a babe cried out. It was as quiet as the most uninhabited and isolated corner of the world so that if the family did not see it was a village with their own eyes they would not have believed it.

“I say, it is a rather grim place, is it not?” he observed huffily. Most of what the earl did was done huffily.

“Husband, let’s find the inn. It has been a tedious journey for all of us and I think we all could do with some rest.”

“Where do you think the castle is?” he continued, ignoring his wife, who he considered to be quite a nag, as usual.

“Does it matter at this moment?” the countess countered peevishly as only a lady could- her voice never raised, her tone never yielding any indication of her boiling disdain, but her haughty eyes imparting a world of seething criticism. Mihaela raised her head towards the sky as her parents parried words of sugar sharpened into daggers back and forth. The wind brushed past her hair softly, carrying with it the delicious smell of freshly baked bread from a nearby bakery. Mihaela could not help but think that the one moment she had experienced of warmth and soft winds was the only gentle thing the land around her had to offer, for it seemed to have a cruel shadow over it that touched every fortified heart, every guarded blade of grass, every unseen corner of the land, dragging out all the purity and kindness that had surely once managed to survive there. The life was drained from the land, of that there was no doubt. Not only was there an absence of any noise that was usually so normal for a village- dogs barking, children laughing- but there was also no color in the entire land. Everything was dull, lackluster, as if someone had come and paint over it with thick layers of gray until every blade of grass and every hidden soul dropped from the oppressiveness of it. The artist had been effective- nothing was left untarnished.

Mihaela came to from her dark musings as her mother approached.

“Mihaela, darling, your handkerchief. You mustn’t breathe in this miasma.”

“Yes, Lady Mother.” Mihaela replied demurely as she gently raised the handkerchief she kept on her to her gracefully upturned nose.

“The air these poor put off is much too dangerous for ones such as ourselves to breathe.”

“I do think the land is much more toxic.” Mihaela rejoined softly, not appreciating her mother’s words, but her mother had already turned away, her attention drawn by what she considered to be a much more pressing matter.

“Whatever do you mean there is no inn?” Mihaela’s mother demanded as she marched towards the unfortunate footman who had been forced to give the family the upsetting news.

“I say, how is that possible?” the earl huffed.

“I’m sorry, my lord and lady,” the footman said quickly as he bowed his head, as if he were somehow to blame for the minor inconvenience.

“We shall have to continue onto the castle tonight. It is a grievous rudeness, to appear unannounced in such a fashion, but I am afraid circumstances render it unavoidable.” the countess sighed as she tugged her silky, tea green gloves that were decorated with tiny, white flowers into place.

“I am sorry, my lady, but I already requested a guide to the castle. Apparently there was a blizzard a few short days ago. The road to the castle is impassable.”

“Do you really mean to tell me we are stuck in this village for the night?” the countess demanded shrilly in a voice she had never before used, the horror of residing in one of the village cottages for even a second too much for her delicate sensibilities. One of the maids that had accompanied the family on the long journey quickly placed an arm around the countess to support her as she swooned.

“I’m sorry to say it could be for more than a night, my lady.”

“This is unacceptable!” the count insisted stubbornly as a look of panic overcame the face of the countess.

“Wherever will we sleep? In one of these shacks?” the countess moaned bitterly as she placed her face into her hands despairingly, like if she blocked out everything it would all become untrue.

“I have secured lodging in what the villagers assure me is the most comfortable cottage.”

“Oh, good heavens!” the countess cried out weakly.

“You are absolutely certain that there is no way to the castle?” the count persisted.

“Quite, my lord.”

The count sighed hopelessly as he gazed off into the distance like he could spot a path to the castle nobody yet knew of.

“Very well, then. We shall take it. But I want it properly cleaned first!”

“As you wish, my lord. I’ll see to it.” the footman replied, and Mihaela was impressed at how he retained his composure. Her mother, on the other hand, was anything but calm, still too distracted by what, to her, was the worst nightmare come true.

“You cannot seriously think that I will spend even one second in one of these decrepit buildings that are a grievance enough to simply behold!” the countess stiffly protested, suddenly able to collect herself enough to object to what was happening.

The count bestowed his wife with a doting smile as he grasped her hand in his, leaning down to place a tender yet mocking kiss on a silken back.

“Come now, dear, you are finally receiving all that you deserve. Why do you spurn it?”

Leaving his wife momentarily speechless, though with sputter aplenty, the count spun on his heel and strode off to see what there was in way of entertainment in the town, his portly belly jiggling along the way.


Two hours later (and many dusty attendants) the cottage was cleaned from top to bottom and made as comfortable as possible for the count’s occupancy. It wasn’t bad, as far as lodging went- it was a two story affair with light juniper wood walls and darker wood paneling. Inside was a stone fireplace where a fire crackled, sending warmth seeping throughout the well furnished house. There was a parlor which contained a threadbare tapestry, remnant of times long past when knights and God roamed the lands freely. Wide windows lined one side of the wall- at one time they would have let in the beautiful yellow rays of the sun to dance as fire does across the honey wood of the floor, but now they just let in the gloom of the gray clouds that loomed like a curse over the village. Beside the parlor was a study with a desk. There was a chip in the corner, testament to the toothing years of a son that was never coming back. In the corner of the room was a scribbled drawing on the wall that no amount of scrubbing could remove from the time when a girl, now all grown up, had been allowed in the study. On the second floor were the bedrooms whose walls held the cherished memories of life; they had seen love, birth, stolen kisses, sacred bonds, moments of true weakness, and exposures of deepest strength. Each moment had left its mark on the very fabric of the house so they were forever etched and would remain in eternity. Like the chip in the table and the drawing on the wall, they would remain for as long as the house stood, and when the house fell those moments would still be carried on in the dust from the bones of it. The memories would go into eternity, and there were many memories the house had to hold. Throughout its life the house had seen so much felicity, yet each moment was touched by a tangible darkness that lent a bitter taste to it because, in the end, nothing escapes the darkness. Even the whitest of lights are corrupted by that intruding force.





© 2017 Kayla



Author's Note

Kayla
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Featured Review

Your description of things was very good. I am so jealous . The first half was so creepy and terrifying. It felt like I was walking in his shoes. It was scary good.

The second half wasn't as dark and had a bit of humor when the count said,

“Come now, dear, you are finally receiving all that you deserve. Why do you spurn it?"



Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kayla

2 Weeks Ago

Thanks so much! And don't be jelly, peanut butter! You have your own way of looking at things and ex.. read more



Reviews

Your description of things was very good. I am so jealous . The first half was so creepy and terrifying. It felt like I was walking in his shoes. It was scary good.

The second half wasn't as dark and had a bit of humor when the count said,

“Come now, dear, you are finally receiving all that you deserve. Why do you spurn it?"



Posted 2 Weeks Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Kayla

2 Weeks Ago

Thanks so much! And don't be jelly, peanut butter! You have your own way of looking at things and ex.. read more

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Added on November 1, 2017
Last Updated on November 4, 2017
Tags: Darkness, corruption, butcher, murder, storm, blizzard, war, soldier, supernatural, supernatural forces


Author

Kayla
Kayla

NJ



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Just a 20 year old college girl with... a plan? What plan? more..

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A Chapter by Kayla