Author's Note: Ironically, I play more with a fairytale in this one than I do a religious story… oh well. I like it, and that's all that matters. XD
Warnings: Blah, blah, blah~
On the outskirts of London, there stood a decrepit manor.
Charred from flame, chafed from wind, and tangled within the tendrils of an ivy web, the crumbling mansion loomed: a once-proud castle reduced to shell and cinders, casting misshapen shadows upon the overgrown landscape. That same sprawling territory was nearly as desolate as the building itself: marked by undulating weeds, skeletal oaks, and rosebushes that strained outward and upward, their eager thorns enveloping the home in a possessive embrace.
A beauty slumbered there.
Or so the villagers whispered. But whether Aurora had been asleep for one hundred years or one thousand, no one could rightly say, for the mansion had been deserted for as long as anyone could remember. And yet, its presence weighted constantly upon the minds of those in the city: fathers spoke of childhood dares, of tremulous adventures upon the midnight grounds; grandmothers told tales of fairy lights and beastly screams, of ethereal faces that glowed in the cracked windows of the second floor. Only the very, very eldest recalled the days of progressiveness and modernization, when urban bureaucrats had tried to clear away the worn bricks of marble. But their innovate desires soon vanished, as fleeting as the morning dew, when the officials of the project suddenly disappeared…
"T'isn't any beauty in that house," those ancients mumbled to themselves, their suspicious eyes ever-cocked in the direction of that floral briar. "Tis only black magic . Tis only evil bein's. Tis only the devil and his wicked companions."
But the children found such prattle far too simplistic for their cultivated tastes, and instead chose to while away their idle hours crafting stories of pleasure and fantasy. One boy decided that magical elves had made the manor their dwelling, and were slowly trying to put it back together; a little girl insisted that it was the den of werewolves, drawing upon archaic folklore, the occasional howl, and her grandfather's youthful discovery of gigantic, decomposing dog bones. A small band of teenagers, on the other hand, vocally debased this poppycock, claiming to have one-day ventured past the rusted gates themselves. Now, they would tell anyone who would listen how they had been chased away by a swarm of red-eyed crows. "The feathers," they'd breathe, as if the mundane word held great significance. "The feathers."
But they would elaborate no more than that.
Of course, it hardly mattered; no one knew quite what to believe, and that was half the fun. In this way, the legends grew and combined and spawned new stories, each more unbelievable than the last. It became a game, and little ones yearned to top the tales of their seniors, going so far as to ask the opinions of the tourists and travelers that were patient enough to listen to their rambles.
"That old place? Why, I don't believe it exists at all!" one biddy exclaimed, chuckling to herself as she offered the brood some sweeties from her purse. "I think it's an illusion made by the leprechauns. Just a bit of fun. A practical joke, I suppose?"
Her response evoked a nod or two of agreement.
"Me? Why, my parents once told me that the manor house was the home of a pagan goddess," a weathered gentleman admitted, readjusting his tie as he crawled into his jalopy. Even as he spoke, he signaled for his chauffer to start driving; he yelled the last bit through the lowered window. "And to be honest, children, I've given it no thought since then."
No one listened to him.
"The mansion outside of town? Why, yes, I do know of it," another male—albeit fifty years younger— acknowledged, smiling faintly at his audience. "But I must admit, I do not find the house in itself entirely interesting."
"We don't, either," a ten-year-old returned, looking (much like his companions) faintly annoyed by the man's patronizing tone. "After all, even a haunted house is nothin' without the beast what haunts it, right? We wanna know what you think is inside."
To the frustration of (nearly) all involved, the boy's irritation only served to further whet his elder's amusement; the dark-haired stranger chuckled as he plucked a ruby apple from the produce stand, and placed it tenderly within his woven basket. "Inside?" he then echoed, bringing a second scarlet fruit up to his curving lips. The glossy garnet skin, polished to a mirror-smooth shine, reflected the whites of his silvery teeth; his smile was like the farmer's scythe, and it made the children wary. "Little ones, I am sorry to disappoint you, but I have been within those moldering walls, and there is nothing to be found there but dust and decay."
He flipped the grocer a golden coin, handed his spare apple to the (still irate) 10-year-old, and—after giving the grumbling child a condescending pat on the head— made his way down the cobbled street.
Needless to say, no one listened to him, either.
But in his wake, the teenagers seemed unusually jumpy… and for some time following the encounter, their murmurs of red-eyed crows grew more pronounced.
"Young master, it is time for tea."
It was difficult to knock on a non-existent door, and by this point Sebastian assumed that Ciel no longer cared for such courtesy. There was no work to be done, nor criminals to chase, nor guests to prepare for, and so it was impossible to interrupt the boy one way or another; the butler felt no need or reason to hesitate, and instead cheerily pushed his cart across the gray, rotting floorboards.
"For today's dessert, I have prepared a Danish apple tart, decorated with vanilla glaze."
The master's study was, perhaps, the best-kept of the remaining rooms. The corners were dark with fungus, and the ground carpeted in rubble, but his little lord's writing table remained in spectacular condition, even after enduring four centuries of snow and rain. Thankfully, there was no snow or rain to contend with, today; the watery autumn sunshine was the only thing to pour through the creaks and cracks and glaring holes in the ceiling. The ceiling itself, however, was responsible for some strange form of precipitation, as attested by the growing pile of shingles that lay beside an overturned chair frame... And while there was no ice to cope with (as of yet), there was the illusion of such: shards of broken glass glittered and gleamed and threw angled rainbows, their colors splintering as the demon trod upon the crystalline debris, making his way over to Ciel's desk.
"As always, I worried about brining further liquid into this room, young master. I pray you forgive me, but we shall be having tea time without tea, again."
He set the delicate pastry upon the mold-peppered table, directly before an antique chessboard. Placed lovingly atop the warped plank of checkered squares was a large pile of pallid ash, crowned with a weather-worn token of dark, distorted wood.
"Please enjoy your treat, my lord."
And the King slept.
"By the sweat of your face
You shall eat bread
Until you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
You are dust,
And to dust you shall return."