First I would like to thank everyone for their condolences on the loss of my Grandmother. You are all very kind and I am happy to report that my family is doing well. I've been piecing together the next few parts of the story rather slowly because I really want to work on a sequel to 'Under the Harvest Moon'. But I love this story as well and it's time to update it. So I hope you all enjoy it!
Her ear drums were exploding under the magnitude of the unbearable screams. Severed limbs crawling and grabbing at her feet as she fled the screams, bloody hands tore at the hem of her ruined gown, threatening to pull her down. She could hear the heavy thud of something or someone who followed her at a break neck speed. Sweat blossomed across her body as she sprinted through the dark woods that seemed endless. There was no place to hide and she could hear the growl behind her, only a few paces back. The hot breath was on her nape and she dared to not look over her shoulder because then the terror would be real. And all the while the screams would not stop, just would not stop.
"Violet! Violet!" The beast growled and when she looked back she saw the yellow eyes blazing, the teeth bared.
"Violet! Wake up! Violet, wake up!"
Still she continued to run and the beast vocalized her name, causing a fresh spring of fear to burst in her stomach. And then just when she thought she had placed some distance between herself and the blood-thirsty monster its jaws clamped down on her shoulder, wrenching her back and shaking her with such vigor that she realized that they were all her own.
With a sharp intake of breath Violet sat up, her arms and legs flailing until two strong hands gripped her shoulders and forced her down onto something soft but she could not catch her breath, could not comprehend where she was or where the beast was. Her eyes darted about and there was a haze in front of her eyes but even in her panic she quickly recognized her tutor and her governess. If they were here then she was no longer in the woods and if they showed no anxiety then all was well. Indeed she was in her bedroom, sitting on her plush mattress and clad in another night gown. The only expression either employee presented was deep concern. But she had been asleep and she was alive—so was it all a nightmare?
"Violet, darling, it's all right now, you're safe sweetheart." Mary said soothingly.
Mr. Harris brought a tea cup to her lips and at first she resisted until he pressed her and this time she took a few sips until he was satisfied. Behind Mary she saw a timid Sally wringing out a damp cloth in a basin and stepped forward to wipe the perspiration from Violet's neck, cheeks and brow. All three had held vigil over her for some time hoping she would rouse herself and then the trauma encompassed her and yet she was awake, much to their relief. Now they had to reorient her and keep her calm until the doctor could be summoned again. The elderly country doctor had sent word to three neighboring hamlets begging assistance to help tend to the wounded, furthermore the local constable was overwhelmed. The only survivors were unable to speak, struck dumb by what they had seen. Violet had been discovered unconscious by the water, suffering only minor scratches and bruises and a lump on her head. Her robe and gown were in tatters but she was otherwise untouched.
Sally had been nearly inconsolable when her companion was brought in from the woods pale and perhaps dead. The housekeeper called for the doctor and the authorities and once alerted in London within a few hours a frantic Mary and an enraged Mr. Harris were practically breaking down the doors in order to get to their charge. Neither had said anything about Mr. Pierce and Sally decided that was a matter for a different time. Violet's well-being was paramount and her true guardians were at her side and that was all that was required. In the meantime she wanted to help Violet by making her comfortable, plucked twigs and grass from her hair, cloth-washed the mud and debris from her feet and legs, and trying to maintain level breathing as she cringed at the reddish brown color that filled the basin. Another servant had needed to bring a fresh one with clean water twice and but now that Violet was awake the paranoid maid could breathe a sigh of relief.
"T-the monster…is…is it d-dead?" Violet croaked, her eyes moist and her threat constricted and burning.
"The constable has said that he would conduct interviews but he told us that whatever creature did this was still on the loose." Mr. Harris informed before refilling her tea cup.
Sally had added plenty of honey to the chamomile and Violet was thankful for it.
"Are any of our men injured or—"
"No, all are well and accounted for. They found you and brought you here but while they heard a howl they didn't find anything. With two search parties they did a thorough sweep but found only evidence of something large having been there. The men also helped retrieve victims and carried them into town. You've been unconscious but breathing for an entire day. The doctor said that it's common for people to lapse into a deep sleep, just the body's way of recovering from some major shock…"
Violet was trying to process all that had occurred but she was glad none of her employees had been hurt and she herself was alive. But this was not a bad dream and her friends were confirming that something still lurked and prowled and others had seen the brutality. She had only hoped to protect her family's land and prevent burglars from pillaging the mausoleum only to fail. She was almost raped and killed and as far as she was concerned she had had enough adventure to last a lifetime. The risk was too frightening and too great and now she understood why so many residents of Blackmoor lived in constant fear of anything unfamiliar; because it could mean uncontrollable, unstoppable death and destruction.
"What did you think you were doing out there in the dead of the night?" Mary exclaimed, causing Violet to wince at the older woman's word choice.
Violet opened her mouth and then closed it; there was no sense in explaining. Instead she turned her face away and the tears began to brim in her eyes. Mr. Harris gave the governess a deep scowl, silently warning her to not give the girl grief. He produced a handkerchief and dabbed her face and gave her an assuring smile. But it was lost on her because if she were to explain nothing would make a difference. Parts of what she'd experienced simply did not make any sense and she feared that if she shared it would disturb her loved ones further.
"The poor child could have died but God preserved her and for that we should be abundantly thankful. Though I wished Violet had not gone out last night, should have sent for the men of the household to investigate, but I commend her bravery for there are some who would have done less. We raised her thusly Mrs. Tillingham."
More tears fell from her eyes and she gladly allowed him to envelop her in the reassuring warmth and familiarity of his arms, cradled there as when she was a child. Mary's face grew sour and long, thoroughly chastised and yet it was done out of love. They were a true family unit that was not forged by employment and contract but through a deep connection. So when the messenger brought word to London and the governess and tutor learned that a great accident had befallen their charge a maternal and paternal instinct sparked to life and they hurried back to Talbot Hall. At Mr. Harris' behest they took turns sitting at Violet's bedside and promised to alert the household should her condition change. As Violet clung to her tutor she never thought to ask of her father's whereabouts and she was sure the man partially responsible for her conception could not comfort her like the man holding her could.
"I'll tell the cook to prepare some broth, something to restore your strength." Mrs. Tillingham muttered and rose to slip from the room.
Violet cuddled closer to her mentor and buried her face into his crisp white shirt and inhaled his unique scent. He smelled of old paper and autumn even during the summer months. She could not recall such closeness from her father.
"I'm proud of you that you stood your ground and tried to depend your father's interest and attempted to protect the dead, but promise me you won't do anything so risky again."
"You asked me that same thing the day we traveled to the sea shore and it was low tide. You claimed that that was far 'too risky' as well," Violet retorted with a sniffle.
"Yes that is true but this time I really mean it. Now I want you to remain inside unless if you have two armed men with you. Not until the authorities can make sense of all of this and until that beast is either captured or killed and especially not until the fervor in Blackmoor dies down."
"Fervor?" Sally squeaked.
Mr. Harris settled Violet back over the pillows and Sally, with a nod of approval took a chair and dried her hands on her apron. He took another handkerchief to blot his moist upper lip and brow before explaining cautiously that Blackmoor was in an uproar over the scourge that was unleashed the previous night. The town had suffered an almost exact trauma nearly twenty years prior and a mass hysteria had already settled in. The reports from the men returning after the rescue mission stated that many of the townspeople had started taking measures to defend themselves, some of which they considered 'bizarre' and 'sacrilegious'.
"How so?" Sally interjected.
Mr. Harris fiddled with one of his shirt sleeves before describing accounts of men and women melting any and all silver materials, even silver crucifixes in order to create blades and bullets. Some of the poor fools, as he called them, had learned some of their prized possessions were more nickel and therefore could not secure the necessary element for their protection. The two girls exchanged puzzled expressions and again the genteel scholar fidgeted nervously.
"Violet these people are a superstitious folk, who have never known the world beyond their established borders. Anything they don't understand, anything foreign is treated like a plague. You've seen how they reacted to our arrival that first evening—they were cold and stand offish to a disrespectful degree. Now a real threat has come to their doorstep and they believe it's the equivalent of the Angel of Death of the Old Testament."
"I saw the beast responsible and it was definitely not an angel," Violet muttered, "and I don't see how silver bullets could stop this creature when regular bullets didn't."
"Are you certain the creature was shot? Perhaps the men missed." Sally asked with her knuckles white from clutching her apron.
"Oh they shot it alright but it didn't faze it at all. Even the most inebriated amongst them could have easily grazed it to potentially slow it down but instead it made the beast angrier and it never stopped."
Sally and Mr. Harris shuddered visibly while Violet appeared lost in her own thoughts. The beast had stared into her eyes and looked into her and yet when she fainted it did not tear her to pieces. Perhaps because she was unarmed and therefore was not perceived as a threat or maybe its appetite was sate by that point.
"How many men survived?"
Sally's question drew Violet out of her head and she looked for her tutor's answer.
"Only eight are alive out of the alleged fourteen that we know of who came here. Only five are well…whole shall we say."
"Whole?" the girls said in unison.
"Physically whole I mean," Mr. Harris continued. "The five I'm referring to did not lose any arms, legs or heads. Only three are able to openly speak about what occurred and that's a very recent development. The constable who arrived this afternoon was able to convey that much."
"Constable?" Violet asked and Sally explained that the authorities had wanted to take down her mistress' statement but she was still unconscious at the time.
"Mrs. Tillingham had been adamant that you be left to rest and while the man did leave he was of a stubborn sort and he will definitely be back again."
Violet wasn't sure what to make of these circumstances but she felt more at ease when they reassured her that she was in no trouble. Apparently none of the men had made claims that she had committed any criminal acts, but at the same time she wondered what had these men admitted to; did they explain the reasons why they were near Talbot Hall? She was positive that when this constable returned he would demand answers and she would do likewise.
"Violet I'm sorry I didn't come after you when you went out, I—"
"No, no don't apologize. I'm glad you didn't Sally. Those men were intoxicated and out of their wits before the beast even appeared. I'd be lost if something happened to you…"
Her voice trailed off and soon the two were in each other's arms, sobbing and the color in Mr. Harris' face rose.
"Violet did any of those men try to manhandle you?"
At first she couldn't speak or even make eye contact but reluctantly she managed to nod and when pressed she explained that they had failed, ultimately because the beast materialized. The irony of how it had not only spared her life but also thwarted her would be rapists hung in the air. Mr. Harris instructed her to mention this to the constable but to not dwell on it considering the frantic ambiance surrounding Blackmoor. Violet understood and the three swore to keep it a secret from Mrs. Tillingham for the time being.
"Lord knows she's on pins and needles already," Mr. Harris mumbled under his breath.
"Who are the men who were able to speak? The ones who have not gone insane?" Violet asked after a long pause.
"That we don't know, or rather the constable did not say openly because there is a budding investigation but I'm sure the names will surface soon due to the small size of Blackmoor. Everyone will want to know and secrets are impossible to keep when people live in such a place." Mr. Harris surmised, hinting at his own curiosity.
"I understand that," Sally began in a sheepish tone. "My hometown is located further south of here and people always know each other's business. But it must have been some sort of wild animal or maybe it escaped from a zoo or circus."
"Maybe, it wasn't a lion because it was all black and it didn't look like a bear really either. As far as I'm concerned it could have been a—"
"It was a werewolf!"
The cold creek water was refreshing and sweet just what he longed for. Without thinking and acting on the natural impulse to quench a burning thirst, he dunked his head into the swirling clear water. The soreness of his throat and the dryness of his tongue vanished with each long slurp he inhaled. Breathing was an afterthought but his body told him to withdraw long enough to fill his lungs with the crisp cool air before submerging his face again.
Earlier that morning the twinkling light through the trees had awakened him and suddenly an insatiable hunger tore through his stomach and paralyzed him. It rose up to punch him squarely in the gut, holding on with an iron force and urged him to end the torment immediately. Soaking wet he pulled away from the water's edge and watched the area for prey—any prey to devour and make the pain end. With nostrils flared and drawing in any available scent, whatever potential meal came wafting by. In seconds he detected something fresh and bleeding and with a suppressed growl he darted in the direction of his would be target. Dead leaves disintegrated into damp dust under the power of his feet. Twigs, decomposing logs all crunched and whined as he passed, moving faster than the breeze that swept along.
And then he came upon the object of his desire and sniffed the unmistakable scent of decaying flesh. His eyes were blurred by the haze that clouded around him, but his other senses lead him and soon he was gnawing on the bruised flesh, the sinews and viscera filling his mouth so quickly that he groaned inwardly when he'd stripped the bone. However he sensed there was more and followed the incessant buzz of flies and soon he was gorging again and tasted the slime and maggots without a care. The ravenous hunger was alleviated and the haze began to depart from his eyes. It was midday and the trees were mostly bald and swaying lazily. Last night they had seen the carnage and yet nature seemed unaffected and until now they had concealed the horrid scene in a thick shade but now anyone unfortunate enough would find the remains of this tragedy.
His eyes adjusted to the point where he was able to truly see the scene around him, the rotting entrails in his mouth nearly choked him as he swallowed. The man had already been in pieces and now he was almost entirely obliterated after fingernails and canine teeth tore through him. Scraps of fabric of what used to be the dead man's clothes littered the ground, dyed a dark brown from all of dried blood. His face told anyone who gazed upon it that his final moments had been nothing less than sheer terror. His stomach cavity was torn apart with a ferocious slash that cut the skin to ribbons. Apparently something had begun to eat the soft tissue. But not just any typical animal like a vulture but something larger. Undoubtedly the very same animal that had killed the man and left him to suffer until the pain and blood loss forced him to succumb. And out of nowhere he felt a rude stab of reality, of hard truth resounding through him.
Looking down at his hands, that appeared initially normal yet coated in blood. He was stark naked and as a wave of bile rose up in his throat, he understood now he had come to be there, how all of this had happened. Disregarding the half eaten corpse, he turned back toward the creek. Hesitation only slowed him when he fell to his hands and knees and stared at his reflection, taunting him with a sobering realization.
I hope you all enjoyed this latest installment. I want to dedicate this chapter to nightchildx. I am deeply sorry for your loss and my prayers are with you and your family. Again thank you all who have sent me messages and favored this story I hope I didn't let you down. But I need your help…How should I introduce Violet to man inside the beast? What should I do to Mason? Let me hear your thoughts!
'Til next time!