Daniel enters what was probably the least treaded room in the manor. The small space was used to store Mary's mother, Elenor's, gardening supplies. The rusty and weathered tools were hung on the left wall over a desk that was cluttered with clay pots and weathered plants.
He was quite shocked at its condition, Mary never really had a reason to come into this room after her mother passed, after all, it was just her mother's workspace. Nothing here was expected to be of too much personal value. Even then he was only expecting a thick layer of dust and a few cobwebs, not weathered down, the paint had faded with water stains covering the walls and floors.
Daniel moves towards the tools listening to the crunch of dry leaves and the shifting of dirt under his feet as he approaches.
Shears, knives, scissors, axes, all far too dull for Daniel to use as a weapon unless he wanted to use them as clubs. Daniel sighed as he yet again remembered, he didn't have the slightest plan.
Even if he did have a functional weapon, what would he do with it? Point it at the twins and yell at them to leave. No, they both have knowledge of the magical arts and could probably turn him to ash with a thought. If Daniel wanted to do anything he'd have to be quiet, step lightly up behind them, and... kill them.
He immediately waved the idea out of his mind. He's not a killer, there's no way he would or even could murder another human being. But then again, there's already at least one spirit haunting his manor, might as well give them company.
He began to place himself in his enemy's view. If they saw him as a threat, they wouldn't hesitate to end his life, so Daniel should have a weapon to at least defend himself with, or that's how he was justifying it to himself.
But where would he find one? The bordering forest had no real threats to the manor and it was far from any civilization, there was no need for weaponry here until now. Daniel visualizes himself moving through the manor to remember what was in each room. He went through door after door, up and down the stairs but drew to a blank.
Then it hit him, the upstairs reading room, one of his most cherished spaces in the manor, had a sword that belonged to Mary's grandfather placed above the fireplace mantle.
Daniel moved through several rooms, returning to the entry hall. The doors were wide open with the furniture pushed in front of them to keep it that way. The room was clean of sickles and swords, and noticeably of paintings and trophies as well. The twins had been productive.
He begins to push the stairway door open when he stopped to look at the only remaining painting. The Shandor's faces were cut out of it, Daniel couldn't help but be thankful their soul-sucking eyes weren't staring into him anymore. He continues his movement into the stairway, the steps climb up to the second floor, and then the third. He does his best to tread lightly on the creaky steps, attempting not to alert the twins, nor Mary.
He had thought the darkness in the floor below was dreadful, but entering the hallway off of the stairs was endlessly more so. It was placed in the center of the second floor where no light from the outside could enter. He manages to shimmy his way to the reading room without knocking anything over or tripping, releasing a relieved sigh when he openes the door. The reading room had a fireplace attached to the wall opposite of the door, with two large windows beside it letting in the beautiful moonlight.
Daniel moves around the red-leather couch to the fireplace. On its mantle was the long sword he had been after. Its hilt was smooth and plain with a moon-shaped pommel, the weight surprising him but he's quickly getting used to it, as pushes his thumb across the slightly tilted surface of the blade. It was nothing like the rusty tools downstairs, no, it was smooth, metallic, and polished enough for him to see his reflection. Though now that he's focusing on it, the reflection didn't seem right. The face that stared back at him was beautiful and kind, her messy hair covering her face.
He drops the blade on the floor, causing a loud metallic bang that moved across the manor. Daniel, trying to process what just happened, was interrupted by a light suddenly flooding the neighboring hallway. He quickly picks up the sword and moves behind the fireplace, using the nearby curtain to cover his body.
A small, yellow ball of radiant light shoots into the room, illuminating its entirety. Clair follows through the doorway, gently pushing it open more and placing a chair against the knob. While she looked behind bookshelves and couches, Daniel felt the cold sword pommel poke his face and an even worse stinging sensation erupting up his right leg. He had been too fast and far too careless, while he threw himself behind the fireplace, he also through the sword's incredibly sharp edge into his leg side. He peered out of the curtain to see Clair now inspecting a shelf filled with small trinkets and family heirlooms out on display for anyone interested in the family's history to see. She then takes a sack tied to her side and begins to slide her arm across each shelf, pushing all the trinkets inside.
Rage begins to fill Daniel, his grip tightening around the sword's leather handle. How could he be letting this happen? How could he live with himself when everything you have left of her is shoved into a dirty bag?
He paused. That wasn't his thought, as true as it may have been.
But what could he do? He doesn't know how to use a sword, he's no knight. But it was easy, all he had to do was swing.
But she was across the room, he could never reach her in time before she ran. Though she is looking the other way.
No. He got this blade to use in his defense, he'll just stay here and hide until she leaves like a coward.
Daniel's body begins to tense up and shake.
He's useless.What did she ever see in him? He was a useless, ugly human being who deserved none of her love. That's why he's in this hell, for failing her, for bringing these parasites into her home. And there he is, cowarding there. Doing nothing.
Rage now began to pour out of Daniel, slaming his eyes shut. When they snapped open, his anger washed away into confusion. Had the adrenaline gotten to him, did it make him forget what he was doing? One moment he was hiding and the next he was behind Clair, the sword above his head, swinging downward. He gaspes as he begins to reangle the sword's strike in regret. Clair snapped her head back and swiftly dodged out of the way. The sword lands in the wooden floor, the force bringing Daniel down with it. Casuing him to collapse onto the floor.
Daylight floods from every window in the office, revealing dust dancing in its beams. It was dead quiet other than the scribbling of a very stressful individual. She sat at her desk, ink quill in hand, writing down her frustration onto the paper. Her cheeks were rosy and stained with tears shrouded by golden hair that has such a great volume that it would tangle down onto the desk if she leaned forward. Her writing gets interrupted when a knock comes from the door.
"Come in," she respondes.
The door pushes open and a man dressed in a fancy outfit, not one fit for a noble but for a lawman. She examines his thick square chin and somehow ignores the rather terrified expression on his face. "Daniel Ferret I presume? Take a seat, I won't be long knowing what little we need to speak about," the tear-stained lady askes.
Daniel tries to say anything but failes.
"Yes it is a beautiful estate, one worthy of a home for generations, wouldn't you and the Lumber Guild agree?"
He could only think of her name, and eventually blurts it out.
"And that's precisely why I'm keeping it," she continues "the forest is beautiful and void of wolves, not to mention it's far away from those ghastly towns packed with people like arrows in an archer's quiver."
Daniel has never been more confused. What's been playing out in front of him has been the day he and Mary first met, Mary even looked the same, but why does it feel so different?
"Yes, the manor's rather unique architecture makes it quite cozy, doesn't it? My grandfather loved how the northerners built their shelters," she elaborated.
Daniel begins to babble to her, "Mary, p-please tell me why you're dragging me through this hell?"
Mary giggles as Daniel jumpes at the sudden change of time, the sky was now pitch black and empty.
"Don't be embarrassed by your family name, you're lucky to have a new one after the slumber, unlike mine. Shandor has no meaning anymore. If it had any in the first place."
Daniel moves closer to the desk, "What did I do? Was it something about today? Something I said?"
Mary's expression becomes one of query, "But there is no living flora in the forest?"
"They don't need to know that," it had slipped out of Daniel's mouth so effortlessly, so naturally that it stunned him. This was all so familiar, why couldn't he shake the feeling that something was off?
Mary stands up to reveal her flowery-yellow dress, "I don't know how to begin to thank you," she begins to rifle through her drawers.
"No, please you don't-"
"It's all the coin I have," she interrupts, "I know it's not much." Daniel's eyes goes wide as she places a wooden doll on the desk. She starts to count under her breath, "twenty-three copper pieces, I beg you to take it, you should return later so I can give you more, I'll even prepare a meal for you."
"This isn't right" was all that Daniel could think of.
"I beg you to take it," she repeats.
"If I do, will you stop this madness?" he stammers.
"I beg you to take it," she repeats again.
Daniel's posture stiffens. This was it, the solution to his problems. If he takes the doll from her, she'll be appeased and finally rest. He begins to reach out to the doll but his arm snapps to his face. It felt wet, even though there were no tears in his eyes. It got colder and colder, and Daniel trying to wipe this invisible wetness off begins to stumble around. Whenever he tries to open his eyes they'd flicker shut. It was getting hard for him to breathe, it felt like he was suffocating on fire. Daniel finally dropps to his knees in surrender, letting himself drown in the fire.
Daniel gasps as a semi-clear liquid drips from his face and mouth. He found himself on the reading room floor, next to his blade. His eyes and throat burned, taking him a little bit to readjust himself to reality. When he rubbed the wine off his eyes he saw Clair sitting next to him holding a bottle.
Daniel quickly crawls away from her, grabbing his sword on the way, "you tried to drown me! While I was knocked out cold? You're sick."
Clair, emotionlessly as ever, stood up and started for the door.
"W-wait" Daniel cries, "please tell me what's going on, I feel like I'm trapped in a cycle of confusion and pleading." Daniel begins to stand up but immediately falls back down. He places his hand on his now sticky black pant leg.
Clair stood in the doorway shivering, trying to spit out an answer, which she eventually gained the courage to do so:
Daniel moans in pain and cognitive suffering when he hears her whispering to herself. He couldn't quite comprehend it, but it sounds like arguing. A sigh of unwilling acceptance flys out of Clair as she turns around. "I-I-I'm s-sorry for what happening to y-you," she spits out.
He sits in silence, now giving up trying to stand. He just sat there, miserably confused and scared. He wanted nothing more than for this nightmare to be over. At that moment the moon was the highest in the sky, the clocks in the house screaming at its peak. The door behind Clair slammed shut, shooting the chair under it across the hall. Clair turns back around in confusion as the light orb behind her fades into nothing. The room returned to darkness broken up by rays of moonlight. Daniel, being the lowest to the ground, was the first to see the creature step out of the black.