Chapter 2: Husband and Wife
Out of a 1-10 scale, this abandoned and rundown mansion rates 11 on my creepiness level. It is everything people imagines about haunted mansions, and then some.
Master and I made it in through the back door, which led into the kitchen, and from there we got to the main hall.
"Kitchen's not raided, everything is still there. No looters made it out, yeah."
"If they ran into that thing, then chances of their survival are close to none, yes."
Looking around the main hall, even though the roof caved in and there was light coming in through it, I can't help but shiver lightly. The main door and windows are all barricaded shut, the chandelier had fallen down on to the stairs long ago, cobwebs everywhere, and…there's the sound of the floor creaking above us, making the dusty and chilly air even more creepy and unnerving…
"Nothing here… Let's check the wine cellar."-Sometimes, I envy Master's nerves of steel.
"The basement? I…"
"We have to check all the mansion, so yeah. I don't like it too, but we have to."-Jack took a torch out of the torch stand and light it up.
I wanted to protests, but there's no reasonable way to. There's no way I'm waiting up here by myself while Jack clears the basement. As such, I can only follow him as he opens the door to the cellar and heads down.
The cellar was about what we expected. Cold, damp, and…filled with creepy crawlies.
Bugs and centipedes crawled alongside the walls and on the floor, and I let out a yelp as a centipede fell down from the ceiling right between me and Master, the creature almost had a chance at latching on one of us.
"Maybe you should wait upstairs. You are bad with bugs, aren't you?"-Jack voiced as he calmly killed the pest.
"H-how are you so calm?! We're surrounded by…by!"-I can't even finish my sentence as I shivered and felt my hair stands.
"They hate fire, so as long as I don't go frantic and drop the torch, they'll stay away."-I saw a few rats running away from us and shivered.
"I…I don't feel anything unusual about this place. No magic or anything."
"Mn."-Jack knocked a couple barrels of wine-"Empty. Empty. This one's rotten and spoiled…ugh, this stench…"
"What-What's that over there?"-I pointed to a table in the cellar.
Around the table was a pile of wine bottles.
"Opened, emptied. Somebody drank these all. No body to be seen…"-Jack crouched down to have a look.
As he did, he moved the torch forward a bit, shadowing me and a great part of the cellar.
"There's nothing more about it. Someone did some heavy drinking here. Probably the owner."
As he moved the torch back into view…
"AHHHHHHHH!"-I screamed loudly, jerking back and almost falling down the dirty and infested floor.
Master immediately turned around, gun at the ready.
"What?! Wha…Freya? Are you okay?"-He came to my side immediately.-"Freya?"
Thank Aura he didn't shoot. The flash would've blinded us all and the noise would ring our ears like crazy. Being disorient down a cellar full of rats and bugs is something I'd love to have not happen to us.
"I…I…there was a shadow…of…something…someone."-I did not hesitate to cling to him like a child, frantic and afraid.
"…"-Jack immediately look around and scanned the cellar.
"It…was…weird. Twisted…or something."-I can't control my shivering at all as I shook in his arms-"Please…let's get out of here."
"Yeah. Yeah. Let's do that."-Master nodded immediately, understanding of my fears.
And so we quickly made our way out of the cellar, and after Master shutting the door in, do I felt safe enough to breathe properly again.
"Well…"-Jack puts out the torch.-"There's still the dining hall and the second floor…"
"Let's go for the-"-As I was contemplating where to go next, a sound sent shiver down both of our spines.
And to scare Jack is quite a feat.
An eerily lullaby rang out, a woman's voice softly caresses the air, yet the lyrics and the tone is as creepy and fear-inducing as seeing a little girl in those horror movies.
"It came from upstairs. Bedroom maybe."-Jack got up and gave me a hand.-"If we are dealing with spirits then…"-He presses release on his gun, empty the chamber and loaded magic bullets into them.
As we walked up the creaky stair up to the second floor, it was clear that the lullaby voice came from the bedroom, but the voice stopped then.
With his gun at the ready, Jack turned the knobs on the door.
"Locked…"-He even tried kicking the door, but even with the building being run down, the door still held.
"Judging from the mechanism, a very secure door, yes."-I supplied. Perhaps a little excessive for a bedroom, but not by much.
"Let's look for the key then. Should be in either the study or the living room."
"It is most likely to be in the study, Master. Let's have a look there first."
"Right."-Jack agreed easily as we turn for the study.
This door opens rather easily, and it seems nothing too crazy is inside, so Jack stepped in and lit the candles.
"Anything?"-He asked as he looked around the books while I searched the desk and drawers.
"Nothing, Master…There's no key here."
"Nothing here too…"-Jack seems to be searching for something like a secret button or lever, but that didn't work as well.
Exasperated, he turned to the desk and read what was on the table.
"What in Aura's name…"-He murmured.
"What is it Master?"-I went to his side to read.
"This is…research on Dark magic. What were the owners doing?"
"Necromancy."-I recognize the pattern.
"Explains quite a bit. But why?"
"Master…we don't have time to sit through all of this."
"Right. Just…reading their letters."-Jack rummaged through all the letters-"Mostly usual correspondence…oh, they were expecting a baby."
"This one's at a later date. It's…something about letting go…and cheer up."
At that, Jack took the letter from my hands, his demeanor visibly stiffened.
"I see…that's how it is…"
"Master? Did you figure something out?"
Jack looked over to me, wearing an expression I rarely see him make.
"It's…for you it might be a tough story…It's still a guess, but…"
"It's alright Master. You can tell me."-I encouraged, still not seeing the dots connect.
"…"-With a weary sigh, Jack spoke-"I think…the lady had a miscarriage. That or the baby was stillborn."
"Eh…?"-It suddenly hit me like an ox.
For me, Freya, being the goddess of beauty and fertility, hearing a story of a failed attempt at giving life…
I hear Jack speaking, but they were all a blur in my ears. My vision started to wobble, I felt disoriented and a need to be…outside. Somewhere, anywhere but here.
"…eya. Freya!"-Master's voice snapped me back into reality.-"You looked like you were about to faint."
If I were to be honest, that wasn't too far off…I just wanted to close my eyes and let all of this be over.
"I…I am okay Master. Thank you for worrying."-I tried to sound convincing, but it was clear from Jack's expression that I wasn't fooling anyone, let alone him. Still, he didn't press further.
"I believe the father turned to necromancy to try and…bring back the child. Probably lost his mind in the process."
"…"-My stomach was churning and twisting, but I braved through.-"And the mother?"
"…How would you feel if your child died in your hands and your husband went crazy?"
I am a God. No, not just that. I am THE god that is responsible for this.
I closed my eyes and imagined…if Merrilee died and Jack went nut job trying to save her. Just a few seconds of that and I already couldn't take it. This woman…endured…suffered…all of it for years…for the rest of her entire life. And even after that.
I remembered what happen to my brother…
All the pain and heartbreak.
"Freya…"-Jack spoke, softly. He rarely speaks softly.-"Don't put this on yourself. It's not your fault."
"No, Jack. It is my fault. There's no other people to blame but me."
"…It is not. You can't answer every mother's prayer. Sometimes…tragedy happens."
"Doesn't make it any less terrible for me, Master, I…"
"It's not the first, nor will it be the last. Blessing doesn't come to everybody. Not every blessing is received either."
"But we are here. And we are going to fix this."-Jack reassured. He may not be someone who knows all the right thing to say, but in return, he always seems to know what to do.
"…Yeah."-I nodded as suddenly, for the first time ever, a sudden warmth surrounds me as Jack embraced my form.
"Even an Envoy of Gaia like me is still flesh and bone. There's little I can do. What I, what we could give…is a peaceful rest for them."
"Mhm."-Tears were rolling down my cheeks, and my breath was breaking into sobs, but here, in this haunted mansion, in his arms, I've never felt so safe and so comforting.
Master held me for a good few more seconds before letting go, making sure that I was okay now.
"Still, I don't like this situation. Imagine a wraith that was born out of pain and sorrow of losing a child meeting the Goddess of beauty and fertility."-Jack, as always, making sure to keep in mind every detail.
"Yes…I don't think I'll be taken kindly…"
"It depends. Let's have a look at the living room. Perhaps we'll find the key there."
"Yes, let's get back on track."
With a reassuring nod, Jack walked out to the hall way again.
I followed, but suddenly ran into his back.
Jack stopped in his track.
Peeking over his shoulder, I froze as well.
...There, hovering where the fallen chandelier should be, daylight from the hole on the roof shining on her, the wraith stared at us, her ragged dress floating in the air.
It is a sickening image, as if a dried up mummy can fly. She had no eyes, only her black eye sockets returning our gaze, her lower jaw is missing, her tongue is as long as a ruler, and she overall looked like a horrifyingly exaggerated image of a mad woman.
Jack slowly raises his left arm, shielding me from the wraith, his other hand grabbing on to the revolver in his holster.
Then, without warning, the wraith let out an ear-ringing screech as it dives towards us.
Thankfully, Jack's reaction weren't impeded as he quick draws and fires a magic bullet that hurt and deflected the wraith away.
Landing near us, the wraith let out a warning scream before it retreated, going through the locked door and into the bedroom once more.
"Freya, are you alright?"-Master turned around to face me, making sure I was okay.
"Y-yes Master, I wasn't hurt. Thank you for protecting me there."
"…Ughh."-With a small grunt, Jack looked around to make sure there are no more surprises before pulling me towards the living room door.
The door easily opens, this room had a bit of natural light coming from outside through the boarded off windows.
"Guhhh…"-An unnerving growl came from inside the room.
Looking inside, I gasped. From the shadow of the room, a disjointed, twisted figure steps out. A man wearing rags with a sabre stabbed through his chest, body filled with wounds head to toe, blood seeping out, yet somehow still alive. His limbs are twisted in an unnatural position, each joints makes a cringe-worthy noise has he moves. Even his head twisted in a 360 degree arc as he stumble step by step like a broken robot towards them.
"That's…what I saw back at the cellar…"-I almost stumbled back a step.
"Tch."-Jack activates one of his katars and pulled out his tachi again.
The twisted man pulls out the sabre that was going through his chest, and uses it as crutch as he approaches us, laughing in a weird, animal like sound.
"He has the key."-Master pointed out calmly as he shields me, both of us still stood in the doorway.
Around him, black smoke formed into different versions of him, all twisted up and looking at Jack with white, pupil-less eyes.
As the twisted creatures jumped for us, Jack quickly push me out of the way, I fell out of the room while he fully enters the room now, surrounded by twisted clones of a mad man.
Getting up to a sitting position, I caught a glimpse of the fight that was ensuing.
Despite twisted and disjointed, the demon like clones swing their swords very much with style, a form of fencing as they pushes Jack back with fast and circular crisscross swings.
Finding an opening, Jack thrust his katar in, aiming for the neck of one clone, stabbing it in the neck and also, pull out the key that was hanging there on the way out.
The twisted clones didn't seem to be fazed by his attacks, they still attack despite any wound they sustain, in fact, they fought even more ferociously.
In that moment, I suddenly remembered the wounds Jack took when fighting the faceless grave digger outside, and right at that moment, my blood ran cool and my pupils shrunk as one of the clones struck Jack's katar arm, his injured arm, and the pained sound that Jack made. He staggered back, almost fell over, but he had to raise that same injured arm again to block another attack, further pushing him down, his tachi was being used for support.
Master's eyes met mine, and it widens. He looked slightly up, at the door that was shaking, and quickly spoke.
"Freya! Go! I'll be fine!"-He got back upright, and dodged an attack doing a combat roll to the side, wincing at his arm.-"Argh!"
"Master!"-I was about to join in on the fight, but instead, Jack tossed me the key and his revolver.
"Go! Get out of here! I'll deal with this, you go deal with that wraith!"
One of the clone leapt towards me, sabre ready to crash down.
I was frozen in a mix of fear and surprise, but to my rescue, Jack shoulder barged the twisted demon away, before the shaking door slammed itself shut and I find myself in absolute horror as we were separated.
"Master! Master!"-I frantically tried the door knob, but it wouldn't move. Even a couple blast of magic wouldn't force it open.-"Jack! JACK!"
Hopelessly, I tried banging on the door, my shaking legs gave out as I slid down the side of the door, my hand pummeling the slab of wood as I went into a sob, only to realize how quiet it has gotten. There were no sound. No sound in there. Not of a scuffle, not a single voice, no sounds of blades clashing. It was once again, eerily quiet, as if nothing happened just now.
I panicked, banging on the sturdy door harder, but I know a magic seal has been set by the wraith there, so I'll have to deal with that wraith if I want to open this door.
"I haven't been phased back by Gaia yet, so…!"-I murmured to myself, finding the courage to get up.
If I'm still here, that means Jack is still alive in there. I can still get him out.
Picking up the key and gun, I clumsily fumble with the firearm. It's loaded with specialized magic bullets for wraiths and spirits, so it should be more effective than just my plain magic attacks. I managed to find the chamber release pin, and checked the bullets inside. Jack used one earlier, so I still have 5.
Snapping the gun back into firing mode, I got up and made my way towards the bedroom.
From the door, I can hear the lullaby song again, a sad, almost desperate tune. I thought I heard sobbing between the lyrics, and shivers ran down my spine. However, right now I do not have the time to tremble like a scaredy-cat. My master, my Envoy, my…put faith in me. He's waiting for me, betting on me. Depending on me.
Like hell I can just be scared!