Chapter 3: Moving In!
The next day came and went without much event. Everyone who saw Conker couldn't understand why he seemed so giddy (though many guessed he had snuck a few drinks). For Conker, anticipation was building. He was considering what he'd do when he saw his beloved Berri again. The thought of proposing to her came to mind, and he heavily considered it.
As the sun began to dip beyond the horizon, the red woodland creature headed off to where he remembered the cemetery was. By the time he arrived at the all-to-familiar spot, the last bits of twilight were then vanishing. Conker sat down in front of one of the imposing gate doors, resting his back against it. The sound of the water running down the hill below creeped him out slightly. It wasn't that long ago he'd fought his way through bands of zombie squirrels. This whole area still made him tense, and Conker hoped Gregg would show up soon.
An hour passed. Then two. Then three. The full moon had just appeared in the clear sky, causing distant howls from far away. Conker shivered. He was getting really nervous, and all sorts of bad premonitions were creeping into his conscience at that point. Perhaps he had shown up too early.
"Ah! There you are!"
The squirrel nearly wet himself in surprise. Gregg was making his way up the wooden walkway that lead to the gates, looking as annoyed as ever. One hand held the trusty scythe as usual, while the other carried a purple carpetbag.
"Took me longer then I thought to pack," the small reaper said. "Do you know how bloody much stuff I have? It's bloody unbelievable!"
Conker eyed the single carpetbag. "That's all?"
"That's all?" Gregg shouted, and Conker cringed slightly. "I'll have you know this bag contains all of my items!"
The squirrel decided to drop the conversation there. He looked up at past the gate toward the house on the hill, now silhouetted by the moon. "Well," Conker said. "Let's get going."
The reaper nodded, and the two started through the quiet graveyard. The only sounds were the wind and the distant howling. Conker kept imagining that something was going to jump out any moment, but the tombstones stood silent as ever.
As they went, Gregg spoke up. "I found your lady's soul record while I was packing up. As it turns out, she had one extra life, which means it'll be perfectly legal and dandy to get her back. In the meantime, you'll have to help me get things set."
Conker nodded. Up ahead, the path became a narrow road that wound up toward the dark manor on the hilltop, looking rather sinister in the moonlight.
After climbing the road up, they entered the grand hall of the house. Gregg paused in the doorway, taking in his new home. "Well, waddaya think?" Conker asked.
Gregg had a hand on his bony chin. "It's nice," he whispered. "Could use maybe some curtains there, and I'll have to take that painting down." The skeleton was referring to the gigantic portrait of a vampiric squirrel at the top of the dusty stairs. "Other then that, I bloody love the place!"
With that, Gregg snapped his fingers, and the carpetbag snapped open. A small blast of fire issued from the mouth of the bag, dissipating into foul smoke that smelled of brimstone. "Right right," the hooded creature muttered, rummaging around until he produced an ancient looking scroll. "Ok. To seal the deal, sign here." A feather quill appeared in the air in front of Conker with a puff of smoke.
Conker studied it, realizing it was the deed to the house, written some three-hundred-years ago by Batula. Taking the quill, the rodent wrote his name on the dotted line, and the deed vanished into thin air. "There we go," Gregg said. "So, now you give me a hand with this bloody stuff. I want his place looking nice!"
"Really. Well, ok then," Conker said. How bad could the contents of one small bag be?
As he thought this, Gregg let go of his scythe (which stood upright and still somehow) and dug both arms into the bag. With a grunt, the reaper pulled a wide-screen television out of the tiny space, defying all laws of physics.
Seeing the squirrel's expression, Gregg chuckled. "And there's more where that came from, mate."
For the remainder of the early eavning hours, Conker helped set up the quantities of bizarre articles (some of which he would never speak of afterward) Mr. Death owned. And all the while, the miniature creep directed him on where to put things, constantly pulling something from his tiny bag. This went on for each new room they came to as they wandered the eerie house. Conker only remembered too well what scary things had happened here, ranging from vampires to walking corpses.
At some point, shortly after midnight, they came to the library. Shelf-after-shelf, wall-after-wall of cobweb covered books surrounded the squirrel on all sides. It was a little intimidating, all of that reading material...He couldn't think why.
Gregg shuffled about, pausing here and there to decide where he wanted a wall fixture or a comfy chair. He seemed interested in the many novels that lined the shelves.
"Well, I won't be bored for a while," said Gregg, as he examined a book titled The Rainy Day Book for Bloody Torture Methods.
Conker, who was also exploring the vast rows of vampiric volumes, replied "This stuff was definantly written with you in mind."
"Well, let's get started with this room," the skeleton said, and he opened his bag once again, pulling out a ornate fish tank, complete with skeletal fish swimming inside.
Distractedly, Conker randomly pulled intriguing titles from the shelves and thumbed through them. Batula had oddly diverse tastes for a vampire, with books on various sciences, philosophies, art, and even the occasional gourmet cookbook. It must have taken years to amass all this stuff, the squirrel thought. The count must have inherited them from previous owners of the manor.
"Oy! Quite pissing around and get decorating," Gregg bellowed, tapping his bony foot impatiently. "We still have loads more rooms to go!"
Grumbling, Conker put the thick book he was holding back into its shelf space, accidentally knocking an ancient, wood-bound volume loose as he did so. It landed with a dull thud on the stone floor, sending a bit of dust fluttering up from between its pages. Curious, Conker picked it up (it was surprisingly light), and read the title: Tales of The Desert. Below the weathered yellow print, a relief of a desert scene, pyramid and all, was carved into the mahogany cover.
"Fancy," said Conker to himself. He wasn't the best judge on value, but he imagined some book collector somewhere would pay quite a bit for something like this. He made a mental note to remember this particular book before sliding the tome back into the empty space it had fallen from.
The rodent heard, as well as felt, the book press into something. A slight grinding noise came, and Conker stepped back cautiously, just as the shelf swung forward like a door, revealing a small, rough stoned space behind, about the size of a broom closet. A set of stairs led downward into the floor, under the wall and out of sight.
Aha! A secret passage, thought Conker. No haunted house is complete without one. Peering down the stairway, Conker saw nothing but gloomy darkness. Curious, he glanced over his shoulder to make sure Gregg wasn't watching him, then tip-toed down the wet stones and into the dark.
The squirrel had to hold his hands out in front of him as he descended. It was pitch dark, and the air felt damp and slimy. It occurred to Conker that he should probably have grabbed some source of illumination before coming down. As he fumbled about, his tail brushed against something that didn't feel like cold stone. He turned around and felt along the wall until he found the unusual protrusion. It was long and wooden, and poked out of a metallic square in the stone. A switch, he deduced.
Without thinking of what dire consequences could be triggered, Conker pulled the lever down, which came surprisingly easy. Around him, previously unseen torch sconces flared to life, revealing that he had reached the bottom of the stairs.
The now-lit chamber before him looked like a haphazard mix of storage room, wine cellar, and museum rolled in one. Two rows of three granite pillars ran across the room, supporting the dripping ceiling. Dusty barrels stood stacked against the walls, each with a name and year written across them in pitch. Around them were random arrangements of crates and boxes, apparently left unopened for ages. Some of these had bizarre artifacts and antiques stacked on and around them. Jars, pendants, bowls, statues, books and many other articles. From the look of them, Conker guessed they had come from Egypt. How odd, he thought. Who knew the old vampire was into this sort of thing.
Conker slowly meandered through the area, grabbing a few of the golden objects and putting in his jacket. Gregg would never miss them.
Suddenly, the king's eyes were drawn to an amazing display at the far end of the room. Unlike everything else, which came off as a random mishmash of objects, this looked lovingly set up. Set into a small space in the wall, flanked by two statuesque torches each depicting a cat holding the basin on its back, was a golden sarcophagus. It appeared to have been untouched by time, and was beautifully shaped into a cat's face. The eyes on the cat flickered eerily in the torchlight. The rest of the coffin was covered in hieroglyphics.
"Wow," Conker said aloud, looking the thing over. It had to be centuries old. The craftsmanship on it was better then anything he'd seen in this shoddy kingdom. Mesmerized by it, the squirrel reached out slowly to touch the lid, the surface reflecting his own awed face back at him.
No sooner had his fingers made contact with the sarcophagus that a muffled, feral growl issued from inside.
Gregg had finally found a lovely place for his torture rack near the back of the library. The skeleton suddenly realized it had grown rather quiet. Where was that smart-mouthed squirrel? He was supposed to be helping.
"Conker! What the f#$! are you doing?" he called, raising a bony hand to his chin. "Get over here now, or no deal!"
A startled yelp and the sound of hurried footsteps answered this. Setting his carpetbag down, Gregg leaned around an obscuring bookshelf just in time to see Conker slamming what appeared to be a secret panel closed. The rodent pressed his back against the panel, which had been disguised by shelves built onto it. Behind him, the panel shook violently, as some force from within slammed against the other side.
Impatiently, the little reaper said "Where the hell have you been?"
"Um, can we talk about this later?" Conker stuttered. "We have a bit of a problem."
Again, the panel was shoved from behind. It opened just enough for a massive paw, covered with dusty bandages, to poke through, swiping madly at the air, trying to open the door. A wailing screech could be heard right behind it.
Oh my goodness! It's a chapter!
Seriously, guys. Sorry about the delay. Real life can do that, y'know? Anyway, thank you all for your positive reviews. I'm surprised the story is as popular as it is.
Anyway, I can't seem to find a way to add those little symbols to show when I change a scene. Every time I add them and edit, they keep disappearing. Until I figure out why, it's gonna look a little broken.
I apologize for leaving you all at a cliffhanger, but that's how it goes. Keep your eyes open for the next chapter…The Cat Came Back!