“We are not alone,” said Raven, eyes clouding over, pensive, brooding.
“I sense something . . . do you feel it?” He raised his right hand up and motioned . . . “something . . . an unquiet, an unsettling force . . .”
I closed my eyes and thought I heard a wind, a cold wind, and I shivered.
Leon now too seemed struck by fear and he took a sip of liquor.
“Where do we go now?” He asked.
“Well, I know that that face in the window was not Lynoria’s,” replied Raven, “so we are dealing with more than one of her kind; those eyes in the window . . .”
“The eyes . . .” murmured Leon.
“But who?” I questioned, shaking my head.
“Do we even know who or what we are dealing with?”
Raven answered yes with his head.
“We know it is evil, whatever it may be, and we know it is connected to Lynoria and your exotic relations. It may well be the very progenitor of your race . . .”
I wondered silently, then spoke.
“Then shall we proceed? To be truthful, I am extremely frightened . . . I felt a cold fear run through me now.”
Raven took my hand.
“Do not worry. There are three of us against this. I will protect you.”
And so he led us down the dark corridor, to the left – running into another rotted corridor that was haunted by various doors, some bolted shut and some crisscrossed with boards of oak – as if to keep something in . . . or out.
“The entrance to the main floor is here,” I said, remembering the days when I was privy to illustrious years of music, gaiety, and a semblance of life that was long gone.”
Once inside, Raven directed us up the still lofty staircase, embellished with rotting red velvet.
“To the left, or right?” He asked, motioning to either wing.
“I believe I saw our apparition in a window on the right wing.”
With that, we cautiously came nearer the right wing, notwithstanding that at first we thought “she” might be hiding in the lower rooms (as we still did not know exactly what “she” might be).
Torches in hand and newly lit by Raven’s magic, we glided across the floor to the various rooms of the wing, not knowing what we would find.
And so we searched each room, but nothing, no one could be found! The rooms were empty.
Was she gone?
We visited the Madame again, once more after this, hoping for an answer . . .
* * *
The seer reached to us, took our hands, and looked at me directly now.
“First, burn the dead, by the sea – lay them out by sunrise, their ashes must scatter, never to be reborn again . . .”
I inquired regarding the phantom-woman we had seen in the window.
The seer gripped my hand, held it tight, and nodded.
“There is an old story, a legend I read as a child,” said said, “it was a collection of tales, more like a journal, and it came to mind when I saw in your eyes the vision of this woman.”
“But, she is no woman, to be sure. Come!”
She led us to her collection of books, tomes, grimaces . . . came across an ancient-looking book bound in mahogany tinted leather, barely a book, more like a thousand pieces of moldy, mottled, and crackled pages, some falling out, some pieces falling off outright.
“A long time ago, before you were born, a certain old family lived here, in your house . . .
They were your ancestors, and the people feared them, because it was said they dabbled in witchery and the calling of demons.
This book was written by my great-great-grandfather. He wrote that he once witnessed one of your kith and kin conjugating with the demons in the gardens that once bloomed with rich red roses of the most exotic and sensuous perfumes.
This book is filled with these stories, these details, that you must now know. Take it, and read it. It will teach you what you need to find out, and tell you where you need to go.”
And so we did what she said.
The remnants of the evil dead were laid out in ancient fashion by the sea, and every one turned to ash.
We three stood around the dying embers, quiet, only the sea moving. The sun was dim and setting low.
I had the grave feeling that out troubles were far from over, but tried not to show it.
As we stood there, I bowed my head and watched the sea stir in small rivulets beneath me. The sand a map of small rivers and borders, and the future then seemed uncertain, for I did not know what I would find in that book or if I wanted to know . . .
And far above, the gulls flew, and the trees stirred. The day had yet to end as we stood there, but it already seemed to hasten . . .