A dark-brown carriage pulled by two draft horses slightly bounces up and down a path of stone slabs. The path had been mostly straight so far, only taking occasional turns away from ponds and trees that were too difficult to cut down. The forest was bright with the spring flowers blooming in beautiful colors as the carriage passed. A man dressed in noble clothing had been staring out the carriage window, his thick square chin resting gently in his palm. The stress of the past month had finally disappeared from his face as he watched the forest scenery pass by.
He closed his eyes to get some rest but immediately stopped when he heard the whispering of the other two passengers. As he turned to look at them, the Calsmir twins had finished their disclosed discussion. The twins, though belonging to different sexes, looked almost identical. Both had short curly black hair, stood at five-foot-six, and had a frail stature, they even wore the same attires. The real difference between them was the emotion on their faces; the brother Orion always had a slight smirk, one that would expand into a tooth-filled grin when speaking to others. His sister Clair was the complete opposite, tapped of emotion, and would begin to tighten up when speaking to others, she was clearly only comfortable speaking with her brother.
Orion looks at Daniel apologetically, "Sorry, not including you in our conversation was rude, but believe me when I tell you that it wasn't of any importance." Orion clears his throat. "Now anyway Mr. Shandor-"
"Ferret" Daniel interrupted.
Orion pauses for a moment in confusion, "Pardon?"
"My name is Daniel Berton Ferret."
"Like the animal?" Orion asked, still confused.
Daniel sighs in embarrassment of his family name, "my father and his father before him sold livestock, patrons gave them the title of ferret trader because of their odd addition of ferrets, which eventually shortened and became our family name."
Orion paused for a moment and continued, "Okay well you've hired us but you've yet to tell us anything about the haunting." He turns to his sister and whispers, "we should really stop taking up jobs only described as 'deeply disturbing haunting in my manor.'"
Daniel's recent experiences with his in-laws' manor had been deeply disturbing, paintings turned upside-down, furniture rearranging into bizarre patterns, constant unworldly sounds during the evening, and unintelligible whispers spooking Daniel in the daylight. Daniel explained all of this to the twins and included how he has recently been having dreams of his fiance, who had sadly passed a season prior to the job posting.
Orion takes a moment to digest the information. "I'm sorry for your loss and I apologize if this comes off as rude but... do you believe the ghost belongs to your fiance?"
"I don't think so..." he responded, "it's true Mary passed in the house, but so did her parents a decade before to the same disease. I wouldn't be surprised if their souls would stir knowing that their beloved estate was in the hands of a man not of the Shandor name."
Clair whispers in her brother's ear, he then echos her thoughts: "my sister is right, it's unlikely for her parents to be the source of the haunting, spirits travel to an afterlife not long after their funeral, their souls should no longer reside in the manor."
Daniel slumped in his seat. He was hoping that it wasn't his Mary, his head spun as he tried to put together how he managed to anger her so greatly that she refused to reunite with her parents in the afterlife and instead torture him.
"I once again apologize if I sound rude but all of this is important to the investigation. Was Mary cremated?" Orion asked.
Daniel fixed his posture "I did as the priests requested and cremated both her and her most precious personal belongings."
"Then you clearly missed something," Clair muttered to herself.
The carriage thumped as they moved over a large boulder, prompting Daniel to warn the two of their near arrival at the manor, recognizing the annoying landmark. The carriage stopped at the forest's clearing midway through sundown, the sky creating rings of purple, yellow, and orange as it set.
Daniel is the first to step outside, he holds the door open to let the twins out. Orion hangs out of the doorway, "Go ahead without us, my sister has prayers to accomplish during the hour of twilight. We'll meet with you soon." Orion informed him. Daniel nods in understanding, he knows that members of clergies are supposed to prove their faith anywhere they go, especially in the hours of dawn and twilight for those who worship the Dawnbringer such as Clair. Orion closes the door and Daniel begins walking up to the manor.
The clearing was a perfect circle with the manor placed in its center, the area between the manor and the forest has a garden, family cemetery, stables, coach house, and trails designed for horseback riding. The manor was tall, standing three stories high, not including the attic, with over a hundred rooms. It was constructed in 26 A.G. by Peter Shandor, he had an interest in northern architecture and stylized the manor after it, creating a warm log cabin mansion hybrid that would eventually be passed down to his granddaughter, Mary Shandor. When she passed, the estate was given to her husband-to-be, Daniel B. Ferret who has now reached the manor's entrance.
He prepares himself before opening the doors, the last time he was here was three weeks ago, he had left in a panic to search for help, leaving the manor to be subjected to the haunting. He takes a deep breath and releases it, turning the key as he does. Daniel gently opens one of the double doors and slides inside the dark room, curtains hung over the windows only allowing some of the soft glow of twilight to leak in. He pushed the door fully open to let more light in, revealing the Shandor family painting hanging across the room, next to the door leading to the stairway.
The painting was of Mary and her parents, Maria and Johnathan Shandor showing infectious smiles which would pass on to whoever gazed upon it. However, Daniel was not smiling, his face and stomach filled with dread staring at it. During his time away, something had turned the painting upside down, and the family's image had changed as if it was subjected to gravity, their hair reaching up into the sky from their perspective.
As Daniel moved closer, he noticed the eyes of Maria and Johnathan had been filled in with ink. Their void-filled stare and now unnerving smiles had sent a chill down Daniel's spine. He moved his gaze to Mary, she was always beautiful to him, even when she was upset. In fact, the first time Daniel laid eyes on Mary was when the manor was put in danger of being sold to a wood-cutting guild.
Daniel had been sent to the manor to convince Mary into selling it. Their conversation slowly shifted from business to the manor's construction, to each other's families, and to each other. By the end of the evening, Daniel no longer had the heart to rip the mansion away from her and instead told the guild about the living trees that fought back against any living creature that approached them making it unsafe and not favorable.
Daniel jumped when a hand was placed on his shoulder, quickly swerving around to meet Orion. "Oops, didn't mean to spook you, you weren't responding to me," he spoke.
Daniel told him that it was alright, as he shifted his sight over Orion's shoulder. Clair had just entered carrying a doctor's bag, a sheathed short sword, and a sickle. She drops the bag in the center of the room and places the weapon and tool gently beside it.
"We're ready to start now if you don't mind," Orion said with a smile.
Daniel nodded as he watched Clair unpack the bag, laying blank parchment paper on the floor and placing a golden bracelet around her hand. She finally pulled out a jar and opened it, beginning to whisper, "Sickle and sword, farmer to warrior, peasant to god, I pray to borrow the Dawnbringer's power of sight to inspect the ethereal boundaries of this estate," pouring tiny wooden beads onto the parchment.
"She's mapping out the manor," Orion explained, "it'll show us where the spirit has been entering and exiting the material and ethereal planes as well as its current position." Daniel tried to understand but failed to, simply nodding to be polite.
Once Clair was finished, the beads were placed in such a manner that they perfectly depicted the estate's layout. She looked at Orion, "There's an entity in the west side of the manor, but no tears into the veil" she told him.
Orion's face turned grim, "then how did it enter the mansion?" he asked. He looked at her challenging glare and turned to Daniel, "have you seen the spirit at all?" he interrogated panicking.
Daniel became spooked after the sudden and major shift in Orion's tone, "o- only in my dreams."
"But never in your waking life?" he interrogated louder.
Clair moved behind her brother and placed her hand on his shoulder, an effective move to calm him. He takes a breath and continues, "don't worry about it, we can fix this tonight but we need to have no distractions while we do so, understand?"
Daniel's worries had shifted to annoyance, "are you suggesting that I leave my manor? And go where? The stables?"
"That would work nicely," Orion responded.
Daniel's face grew in anger as he began to give the twins a piece of his mind.
"Alright, alright, calm down, I just need you to follow these simple directions okay?" Orion interrupted, "hand me the key, leave the manor, and let me shut the door and lock it behind you."
Without a moment's hesitation, Daniel reached into his pocket angrily and handed it to him. He then stepped outside into the night, Orion closing the doors behind him as he leaves. Daniel stood there motionlessly until he heard the doors' locks turn. He had finally realized what he had done and began banging on the door, calling out the twins' names.
Daniel stopped to wonder how all of this happened, was Orion really that convincing, or did he cast a spell on him? It didn't matter much now, he was stuck outside without a way in, intrusting the manor to the twin's mercy. Trust. What a strange thing to do in this circumstance, two strangers eagerly accept a job at a manor, which they then kick the owner out and lock the doors behind him. Daniel realized his error now, the fool he was for letting thieves into his home. He pressed his back against the door and slid down onto the ground, his hands covering the shame on the man's face.
What was he going to do? He couldn't leave the manor to get help, by the time he returned they'd be long gone with everything he had precious to him gone. All of his belongings and... what was left of Mary's.
No, he wouldn't let them win, Daniel jumped back on his feet and ran away from the door, to get a better view of the manor. He had been living there for over a decade, there must be some way to get in without a key. He began to march around the estate in thought. It took him a minute to reach the gardens, at which point he paused in realization. The lock on one of the doors that led into the garden had been broken for over two seasons!
Daniel began to sprint towards the garden gate, vaulting over its fence and landing in a patch of tulips. He leaves the patch, carefully placing his feet down as he did to not ruin anything else. He rushed down the garden path and stopped at the manor door. He hesitated for a moment before continuing. He realized he only found a way in but had yet to come up with an actual plan. In all honesty, he had no idea what he was going to do against two magic-wielding thieves. But he had to do something, anything for the home of his love and her family. He prepared himself before entering the manor once more, now with the demeanor of a man with a mission, he had to defend the manor, the only thing he had left of his Mary.