The Manor

Nightfall in Brahmir: City of Night

The Manor


This is a side story from the “Nightfall in Brahmir” series Part One: City of Night! To read the main story in all its parts, you can begin by clicking the link below!

City of Night, Chapter One: City of Night: Ammon’s Reach


There were few things more beautiful to Anjie than the Livinglark that burst forth from their winter shells every springtime. Preening themselves in the early morning dew while the remnants of the winter’s harsh chill still blanketed the peaks, the Livinglark brought with them a peace which they chose to lay at her doorstep each year when the flowers bloomed.

Most folks from the city, her husband included, hated the look of the Larkbuds scattered around the riverside and at the base of the willow trunks who waved and yawned and lined the outer perimiter of Ammon’s Reach. She’d never complained about their smell, it was reminiscent of the beachside, but right when they first pecked their way out of their buds, they did smell a bit like old meat, mixed of course with the sweet smell of salty seawater.

She’d grown up in Barrathie, a three or four day’s trip from Ammon’s Reach, which rested comfortably on the coast. Ever since she was a child, she would wake and run to the seaside, behind the safe wall, of course, and take in the scent of the crashing waves. She’d made the trip to Ammon’s Reach when she was still a child barely in the midst of her primary education. Since arriving in the city, her recollection of their move was fraught with missing memories. Something her father had made a point to take care of. The travel roads, even those well maintained, were dangerous. Whatever had come and gone in the dark of the journey she didn’t remember.

She liked it as such, it gave her more room to remember the joys of her life.

Chiefly among those joys was her husband, Vellis, who took few things seriously beside his work, his home, and his love of their two children. Their son Finn took after her, a bit aloof at times but he was a kind boy all things considered. Entering his seventh year he was preparing to move from primary school to early education. His grades had been passable and he was blossoming into a fine young man.

Their daughter, Marquela, wrapped her husband around her fingertip. When she called, he answered, it didn’t matter the hour, the urgency or the purpose. Villis was her hero and approaching the comfortable age of eleven, she’d begun to think about her future in the whimsical fashion that children always do. She’d begun dragging her father’s axe around and pretending she worked with him out in the woods.

Of course, the woods were not suitable for a child, they were barely suitable for Villis and his crew, but the city demanded lumber at all hours.

It was on this particular morning as Anjie watched the Livinglark flutter around the riverside that ran beneath the dividing wall that she found herself, for the first time, alone in their new home. It was far from modest and though she’d never have admitted it aloud, she was in love with it. An estate sale, thanks to the untimely death of the previous owners, led to the Manor being put up to auction. Villis and a few of his friends from work on a drunken whim bid on the house and somehow, beyond her understanding, won.

The move was over nearly as soon as it had begun. They packed their belongings from their quint one story home in the Flourmill District and over to the High-rise, which had been reserved for those who earned more than they could keep and spent like every point would slip from their fingertips before the second moon rose. 

On this day, her first alone in the house, both of their children were adjusting to their new schools and Villis had departed onto a job that he suspected would keep him gone for the remainder of the weekend. 

Even with the comfort of the lark blossoming, she couldn’t shake the feeling of a growing loneliness in this new home with too many bedrooms and not enough people. It was well built, resilient against the elements unlike their home before, and was spacious enough for a family triple their size, which was particularly noticeable as she strolled from the kitchen on the first floor through the numerous rooms that populated the foundation. All alone she wandered through, taking stock of their possessions and ensuring they’d gotten everything they’d needed from the old house. Finn’s books and toys were there, piled in wooden crates in the living room.

In the den they’d piled their various kitchen supplies, dishes and plates and cutlery they’d been gifted from their wedding. Each of the boxes was stacked beneath a massive mirror, which had been welded to the steel beams in the wall and made itself a staying piece of the home, and also the most unappealing to look at. 

Connected to the Den was a sunroom, almost larger than their old living room and complete with exotic flowers and a small collection of trees which bore fruit. What kind, she didn’t know, but the property handler had made promise upon promise that they would flower eventually.

None of them bore particularly green thumbs, but with so much to do she fancied the idea of the sunroom becoming her own place to seek time away from the babes when they fussed beyond her patience, or perhaps when Villis was out with his friends for the evenings or weekends.

On the opposite side of the den, furthest from the sunroom, sat the dining hall. A room fit for a nobleman, it took twice the time to walk from an edge to the center than it had to cross her entire living room before. Many fixtures from the home came with their purchase, she didn’t know how many thousands of points Villis had spent on the home and she dared not ask, instead taking comfort in the size and the security it would provide for their futures.

Outside of the dining hall was they foyer, with a large spiral staircase leading to the second story which she’d barely seen in its entirety. Among the collection of rooms above were their bedroom, one for each of the kids and at least four more she’d counted. The Manor came as well with its own private bathrooms, three of them, which meant they’d no longer need to make brisk walks in the winter to the public bath house and for that, she would have spent who knows how many thousands of points more.

She ascended the staircase and waltzed through each of the rooms, imagining what fashion she might decorate them in, as they were short on furniture and supplies to fill each of the empty spaces despite how much had been left over. Marq’s room was the smallest of the bunch, but she’d selected it herself, claiming it felt “more comfortable” than the others. Finn’s was small, and came with a short closet tucked into a corner which had evidently at one time stored paints, judging by the strange brown stains that decorated it.

Somewhere in the second story, Villis had mentioned a hanging trapdoor which concealed a ladder into the attic, but she’d not been able to find it and if she were honest with herself, she wasn’t concerned with the attic in the first place. They wouldn’t need it to store anything for some time. 

However, the second story housed her favorite feature of the house. At the end of the hall which connected each of the bedrooms stood a pair of double doors, with hand engraved glass panes installed. The doors opened to an overhanging balcony which looked out over the hill where their house stood, the large arched windows of the master room, and Finn’s room on either side of the balcony. In a whirlwind of excitement from the move, she’d taken her potted plants which had been before, crammed into nooks and crannies where she could find places for them and displayed them on the balcony.

She pushed the doors open gently and leaned against the railing, sipping on her lukewarm tea as she watched the Livinglark flocks flutter into the springtime sky and she felt, for the first time, like she was home.

It had been a number of weeks since they’d moved in, and Villis had finally found a balance between his overtime and his life at home. Anjie had spent much of her free time pulling decorations from boxes and piling them into the appropriate rooms while the kids marched their way to school each morning under the supervision of the Lamplighters assigned to their neighborhood. A service which they didn’t know existed, but in High-rise, it evidently came included in their ownership of the property.

Among the boxes of clutter and stored family paintings, she found a small birch chest which housed some of her most valued possessions. A cacophony of symbols given to her by her mother and father on her wedding day, to celebrate the Five Goddesses. The birch chest itself had been burned with a hot iron and blessed by a Chaplain of the Breaking Sun, then filled with various symbols to display in her home which would bring her blessings from the goddesses.

A crystal scythe, fashioned back home and cooled in the coastline of Barrathie, to invoke the blessings of Tatyuve, the Traveller. It hung above their front door on a plaque of stained oak and laid blessings upon them with each swing of the entryway door. 

Also in the box, was the Mark of Illunier, the Protector. The patron saint of the Breaking Sun and the protector of Brahmir. Her visage carved into a circular ten pointed star made of willow wood. Anjie hung the mark above their bed, that Illunier might guard them through the night.

She slipped three more small talismans from the box, one for each of the other three goddesses; Vyse, the Flame, Heriol, the Gatherer and Fulma, the Mist. She carried each of them carefully to the Mana Ward stationed outside of their home, and draped them around the hook that reached from the bottom.

Vellis was set to return in the evening from a long weekend of work, and when the children made it home from classes she intended to have the house decorated and prepared for them to finally feel comfortable in the space.

She whispered a short prayer to the goddesses before the Mana Ward and returned to her task at hand, organizing her and her husbands clothes and hanging them in their closet, a walk in quite larger than she’d ever expected a closet to be.

As she separated his cloaks from hers and bundled their winter clothes in a wicker basket at the end of the bed, her nose caught an unwelcome scent. She scrunched her nose as the aroma of rotten meat wafted through the bedroom and filled the air around her. She glanced out the arched three pane window down to the porch, searching for the source fo the smell.

Finding nothing dragging a corpse across her stoop, she dropped her husband’s linen cloak on the bed and stepped into the hallway. As soon as she had, she heard a faint buzzing coming from Finn’s room.

She stepped into the neighboring bedroom, the stench of meat growing stronger as she approached the window where she found a small pack of flies buzzing mercilessly at the seam of the first and second pane. 

“Poor things.” She whispered, unlatching the window for them to make their way out, but as soon as she pulled the window open, hundreds more rose from out of sight beneath the sill and rushed into the room. They surrounded her and flew into her face, tangling into her hair. She screamed and swatted at the air, which served only to fluster the swarm into aggression. Thankfully none of them bore stingers or fangs, and merely continued to buzz at her.

She quickly closed the window and backed away from it, shuffling over strewn toys Finn had left from the previous evening before bed. Her heel caught a wooden rocking horse which he’d laid on it’s side. She felt the pop of her ankle roll and dropped to the floor, a handful of flies crushed as she banged her head against the hardwood and yelped.

Her vision spinning, she held a hand to her head and felt a wet spot. Pulling her hand back revealed she had begun bleeding. 

Flies still swirling around her face and neck, she stumbled to her feet, out of the room and braced herself on the guard rail. She peered over it with double vision and the fuzziness grew worse until she pushed away from the railing and back to her own room. As she passed through the frame, the flies left untangled in her hair flew away and returned to Finn’s window, now a chorus of confused, irritating drones.

She took a seat on the side of the bed and plucked flies from her hair, each of which who could still fly, left the room and went to the window.

When she’d found all of the bugs she could, she reclined on the bed, holding the quickly forming knob on the back of her head with her hand until the blood dried. She fell asleep quickly in that position, feet still planted firmly on the floor.

Anjie awoke with a start, her head throbbing. A strange tensity around the crown of her skull. She shot up and found she’d been righted in the bed, her head wrapped in linen and placed on a pillow, her shoes removed and placed carefully beside the bed.

She sat up and swung her feet to the floor, the hardwood cold to the touch. She stood and looked around the room, the sun had set, and she put a hand to her head, realizing the house wasn’t finished.

She looked around the room for her robe and found it hung on the back of the door. She swung it over her shoulders and pulled the door open, casting a gentle light onto the bed, and she realized the Mark of Illunier was hanging crooked. She paused, pulling it from the wall. The goddess’ head was upside down. She let a giggle escape, realizing she must have hung it upside down.

She left the room and descended the stairs to find her husband and children sitting at the dinner table before a collection of vegetables and a small turkey.

“Welcome to dinner, my love.” Vellis laughed. “You were working hard today, I see.”

She pulled a chair from the table and sat while he dished her portion of dinner.

“Did you, fix the window in Finn’s room?” She plucked a wooden fork from the table and poked at a piece of broccoli.

“What do you mean?” He replied, carving a slice of turkey breast for her and laying it on her plate.

“There were bugs there this morning. A whole bunch of flies gathering around the windowsill.”

He shrugged as she popped the broccoli into her mouth, the flex of her jaw sent a throbbing pain into her skull.

“I didn’t notice, I found you asleep and holding your head on the bed, I was worried you’d given yourself a concussion.”

She smiled to him, the sound of the swarm of flies still echoed in her head. “Well, thank you. I think I’m fine.” She absently touched the bump, swollen to a decent size beneath the bandage as she stabbed a carrot and carried it to her lips.

“Oh yeah,” Finn interrupted. “I saw some last night.” He pinched a head of broccoli between his fingers and popped it into his mouth, smacking his lips as he chewed it.

“You did?” She asked, peeling the skin from the turkey breast and tossing it aside on her plate.

“Yeah.” He nodded, the half chewed broccoli peeking out of his mouth between wide bites. “They’re not too bad.”

She shrugged. “Vellis, have you noticed any strange smells?”

He nodded. “Yeah, the meat you’d been preparing was well rotten. It was covered in mold, and kind of slimy. I’m surprised you didn’t get rid of it.”

She paused. “I didn’t pull any meat out to prepare, I hit my head in the morning.”

He laughed. “Sure, so you set up the whole house in a few hours?” He met her eyes. “Are you alright dear?”

She took a bite of turkey and smelled the rotten meat a second time.

“I think so, I’m just tired. This is a big house. A lot to do.”

Vellis put a hand on her knee and squeezed. “Ill be home after tomorrow, I can help.”

She nodded and quietly finished her dinner.

Without saying anything else, she plucked her dishes and set them in the washing sink before she climbed the stairs and returned to bed.

As she stripped down and found her nightgown, she noticed the Mark of Illunier once more was upside down.

“I know I flipped it.” She mumbled, pulling the silken nightgown over her body. Deciding she should sleep off the headache, she climbed into bed and closed her eyes.

Sher remained there for some time before Vellis came upstairs with the kids, he brought Finn to his room and bid him goodnight with a kiss on the forehead. Then, he closed the neighboring door and walked Marq down the hall to her room, two doors away. He mumbled to her quietly and she shouted that she loved him shortly before he closed the door and made his way to their room stripping to his sleeping clothes and climbing into bed. 

“Is everything okay, Anjie?” He asked, sliding into the covers. “You sound like you had a difficult day.”

“It was the bugs.” She confessed. “I saw them, and tried to get them out of Finn’s room, but they swarmed me and attacked me and I tripped over one of his toys.

Vellis paused for a moment and giggled to himself.

“I suppose we should have him clean his room tomorrow morning then.”

She frowned in the darkness.

“It’s more than that, I was hanging the goddess’ marks, and Illunier’s kept flipping over. Twice it happened. Its probably upside down right now.”

She glanced up, and he followed. To her mixed comfort and dismay, the Mark of Illunier hung right side up above their bed still, undisturbed.

“I think you should take a break. You’ve been working hard on this project, love. Maybe it’s time to enjoy your weekend for a bit.

She pulled the covers closer to her cheeks and buried herself in the warmth.

“Maybe you’re right.”

“Sleep well, dear.” He whispered, wrapping his arms around her. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” She replied.

Her husband rolled over after a while, but something gnawed at her, like a shape in the corner of the room almost human was watching her, waiting for her to move.

She stared into the darkness until the shadows of the house warped around her imagination and the shape took a step. The prickle of her skin tore a shiver from her and she sat up. Vellis didn’t stir as she climbed out of bed and slipped out of their bedroom. With one eye checking behind her she went to Finn’s room, careful to open the creaking door slowly as to not wake her boy.

Once inside, she crouched and stared at this window where the flies had gathered, not knowing why she wanted so badly to investigate it, but knowing that something about that corner, the corner mirrored in her room where she imagined the shadow, that drew her to it.

The unexplainable hadn’t halted after that night. While she was used to the odd misplaced item, or the occasional eerie event, the goings on within Styne Manor were not ordinary.

She’d noticed quickly that the Mark of Illunier would regularly be tampered with, hours, or sometimes minutes after she corrected it, it would be reversed again. On more than one occasion, she or Vellis would realize they’d misplaced something, so she took care to keep frequently used belongings in the same place. Going so far as to keep her kitchen knives and a her favorite crochet hooks in the exact same spots, every time. Still, they would wind up moved to a new location even when no one was home.

Not noticing the occurrences, Vellis had become absorbed in his work. The debt they’d collected to afford the lavish house began to weigh on him quickly. His three to four day trips to the Woods grew to five, and then seven, until he was regularly on jobs twelve or more days in a row with few days in between.

Thankfully, his days off would align with her brother’s wedding coming up at the end of the summer. Though he’d grown weary from work, he promised he would attend, they had yet to discuss a gift for her brother, but she was sure that would come in time. 

As the hot months came to a close, and the wedding day approached, Anjie grew comfortable with the house despite the strange occurrences. If anything, they’d provoked her to delve deeper into her faith. So much so that she summoned a Bishop of the Breaking Sun to cleanse the house. What should be a standard ritual, she waited patiently by the door while the kids were at school and Vellis was somewhere in Blythe Woods with his crew.

It didn’t take long for the Bishop to arrive. A knock came from the the door at the hand of Dhurri Charmagne, a recent convert to the faith and a man steadfast in his worship of the goddesses. Dressed in his blessing robes with long violet tassels and an intricate headpiece her stepped into her home with a smile.

“Ma’am, it is good to see you today.” He set his handbag on the ground beside the entryway and extended his hand for her to shake.

“I’m so glad you were able to come, Dhurri.” She clasped his hand and shook. “I’m sorry to bother the church about something likely so menial.

The Bishop was at least fifteen years her junior, with finely trimmed black hair and a thin mustache that tickled the top of his lip. He shook his head.

“Nothing is too small for the congregation, ma’am. We are happy to serve. What seems to be the issue? Speaking with the Archbishop this morning he suggested it could be a phantom, or perhaps another malfeasant spirit leftover from the previous tenants.”

She nodded and turned back, leading him to the second floor.  He took his things and followed closely behind her.

“I’m not sure. We’ve seen a few strange things, but I couldn’t tell you what it was, or even describe how to understand what has been happening. When we first moved in, in our room,” She pushed her bedroom door open and allowed him through. “Our Mark of Illunier was repeatedly being flipped upside down. Vellis, my husband, suggested that the plaque was weighted incorrectly, or the nail was hung at an odd angle but I don’t think either of those are true. It hung fine at our old house and I hammered this nail in the same as I always do.”

The Bishop placed his bag on the bed and frowned. “There is indeed a downward feeling about the house. As for the nail, how might one hammer a nail crooked?” He joked, lifting the Mark from the wall and inspecting it. He rotated it in his hands and slipped his finger through the hook. The attached chain grew taught with the weight of the wood and hung, perfectly straight.

“It looks fine to me.” He displayed it, letting the hanging symbol rotate on his finger, then cocked an eyebrow. “Except for this.” Bishop Dhurri flipped it onto the flat backside of the mark to reveal a message scratched into the back of the wood. A message Anjie had never put there.

“Get out of my house.”

She snatched the piece from him and stared at the words.

“Sometimes,” Dhurri began. “Restless spirits find themselves believing a place is theirs, and theirs alone. When new occupants, especially living ones, take up residence they can become… aggressive.” He popped the latch on his handbag and reached inside, producing a vial of clear bronze liquid. With his thumb he popped the cork from the vial and motioned for her to return the mark.

“What do you mean, aggressive?” She handed it back to him as he dumped the thimble’s worth of oil onto the mark and began working it in with his hand. “I know it’s dangerous here, but, only at night.”

The Bishop whispered a short prayer over the mark and made certain to clean the excess oil from the surface before he returned it to where it hung.

“Yes, and when have these effects been occurring?”

“Mostly in the day time.”

He nodded, furrowing his brow. “Besides this, what else has gone on?”

She motioned to the corner of the room, then decided to save revealing the information about the figure until later.

“We often find things misplaced in our home. I will leave a crochet hook in one place and when I return, it will be elsewhere. Before you suggest it to be my children, or my husband, I’ve tested this theory when I am the only one home. I will put things where they belong and go to the shops to pick up dinner and when I return, my belongings will be scattered about the house.”

“Hm.” Dhurri scratched his chin absentmindedly. “Does this only happen to you?”

“No.” She shook her head, turning to leave the bedroom, realizing the Bishop had been occupying his hands, wringing them back and forth and scratching his chin. It was against Breaking Sun doctrine to be left alone with another’s partner without their consent. Especially within the confines of a bedroom.

She moved to Finn’s room and gestured to the window as he followed.

“Then, there was this. Shortly after we moved in, there were flies gathered at the corner of the window. I thought they’d been trapped and were trying to escape, but I don’t think that is the case. When I opened the window to let them out, a thousand more flew into the room and started flying at me. I know it’s silly, but it was like they were angry I opened the window.”

Dhurri smirked, and then straightened his face quickly, returning to a look of calm collection. “I do believe old houses have bug problems, I don’t see that as suspicious.”

Anjie slapped her hand against the wall. “Then, Bishop, please explain the meaning of the figure I see at night, watching me from the corner of the bedroom.”

The Bishop met her eyes. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, since we arrived here, after the event with the flies and my continued attempts to right the holy symbol in our bedroom, when I go to sleep I will at times see a shape in the corner of the room. A shape who does not seem friendly, or provocative, or playful. It watches me, when I am awake, it has tried to approach me.”

He whispered, low enough she could barely hear. “Illunier, guide us.” 

Dhurri made his way back to the bedroom and gathered his things, setting them down in the hall.

“I will perform a blessing upon the house, but I also recommend you try and get some rest. You seem burdened by the move and it appears as though you have been spending too much time in the house. I have no doubt there could be a vagrant spirit within these walls, but spending all of your time here will do damage to your mental state. Stir craziness is not to be scoffed at, it can cause, in extreme cases, hallucinations.”

She rolled her eyes. “I doubt I am simply stir crazy.”

The Bishop raised his hands defensively. “I am only suggesting you take a day or two out of the house, spend an afternoon with friends. Do something for yourself. This place is large, and for a single person to occupy all of this space can be daunting.”

She nodded.

“Besides, Vellis might enjoy time at home with the kids, I know he’s been working an awful lot lately.”

Despite the size of Ammon’s Reach, the largest city in the central continent, it still felt as small as Barrathie had. Rumors and gossip abounded everywhere she’d lived. Not to mention the size of the Breaking Sun’s congregation, they would all know Vellis’ schedule.

“I will take that into consideration, Bishop. Thank you.” She nodded with a soft smile as the Bishop reached into his bag and withdrew a collection of rings, as well as a small book. He nodded politely and stepped into Finn’s room, closing the door behind him.

With nothing else to do, she descended the stairs and relocated to her living room where she took a seat and reached for her crochet supplies.

Of course, they were missing.

With a groan, she reclined into her couch an closed her eyes, intent on heeding the Bishop’s advice, first with a nap while he was still in the house, should anything happen while she was out.

Her eyes had only been closed a few short moment when she heard the faint whimpering of an animal coming from the front of the house. She leaned toward the window and pulled the curtains aside to reveal a dog limping across her porch, fresh blood dripping from one of its front paws.

Without hesitation she launched from the sofa and ran to the porch, bursting through the entryway of the manor to the pup, who jumped at the noise. He tried to run, but as soon as he touched his wounded paw to the ground he howled and crumbled, kicking his back feet in fear.

“It’s okay boy, it’s okay.” She knelt beside the pup who eyed her. She slowly reached down and placed a hand on his side, stroking his matted, muddy fur.

“Where’d you come from?” She whispered, looking over the dog’s foot without touching it.

The dog whimpered and craned its neck to lick sticky blood from its wound. It’s tongue wrapped around the pad, which had been split upon by something viciously sharp.

“Stay here.” She whispered, patting it once more for good measure before she went back inside and to the kitchen to find something to offer the poor thing to raise his spirits. She settled on a bundle of peppered jerky she’d been saving for the coming solstice, and tore a handful of bite sized chunks before returning to the pup who had, surprisingly, not moved from the porch.

She knelt, offering the dried meat to the dog who pulled the first bite from her fingers hesitantly, and swallowed it whole.

“What’s your name, boy?” She reached with her free hand to his collar to find it vacant of tags, whoever owned the pup didn’t care about him enough to leave him a tag, let alone tend to his wounds. She fed him another piece of jerky and her perked up, inhaling it as he did the first. 

After the sixth bite, he’d begun wagging his tail and licking her hand when she offered him more. As much as she wanted to find the owners and return the pup to them, she realized judging by the matted fur and his ribs showing on his sides that he was lost, or wild, and if he did have an owner they didn’t deserve to have him back.

“Can I see your paw?” She asked, holding out her free hand. The dog didn’t offer its wounded foot, but it didn’t try to escape her either. She began petting him again and remained there, watching over the poor thing until he was comfortable enough to stand. When he did, she ushered him into the house with a piece of jerky and he followed, his tail wagging excitedly behind him.

Once inside, she rummaged through their storage closet on the first floor to find a washtub they’d kept from when the children were babies. She dragged it out and began the long process of filling it with water to give the pup a bath. Considering the mess he might make, she made sure to fill the tub in the sunroom where the floor wouldn’t be damaged by the water. The whole time she prepared the bath, the unsuspecting pup laid in the living room before the fireplace calmly tending to his wound.

As she hoisted the last bucket of water from their well into the tub, she heard a thud from the upstairs hall. She sprinted from the sunroom to the stairwell to hear Dhurri hurriedly packing his handbag with sweat pouring from his forehead. He coughed, and though she knew her eyes could have devised her, she swore a pair of flies flew from within.

The Bishop didn’t stop to say goodbye, or make mention of the new housepet. He hurriedly brushed past her and down the stairs, without so much as a word before he threw open the front door and marched down the lane.

Anjie followed him downstairs and called out.

“Bishop, s everything okay?” 

He didn’t answer, and by the time she’d reached the door he’d already made it down the lane and back to the main road. So, she closed the door and turned her attention to the dog, whose wagging tail popped against the floor, unsuspecting of his coming bath.

The days since the Bishop’s visit and the pup’s arrival had moved quickly, so quickly that Anjie had barely noticed. In just a mere fortnight they would be set to attend her brother’s wedding and congratulate the youngest of her family on what might be a happily ever after.

Though she expected him to protest, Vellis had accepted the adoption of the dog, especially after he’d seen what joy it brought to Finn and Marquela. They’d gone back and forth about his name, but settled on Prism, named after the Holy Prism, the symbol of the five goddesses united. She was surprised Vellis had gone for that name, too, given his recent conversion and general lack of trust in the Breaking Sun. To him, a church was not a place of worship if it was also a place that asked for their money. 

In the time since they’d arrived at Styne Manor, she’d noticed Vellis’ growing fear of their finances. Afraid they would lose the house had he taken a break from work, unwilling to set aside a few points for them to pick up gifts for themselves or even one another. The only extra money they were allowed to spend was for the children, and now Prism. 

Since the Bishop’s blessing, something she’d intentionally neglected to tell Vellis about, the happenings in the house had decreased. Despite his hurried leaving, whatever he’d done upstairs had worked. The night terrors had tamed and there were no more strange happenings. She’d gone on ten days in a row that her crochet hooks had been right where she left them. It was during this time that she finally had a chance to be a part of the family again.

It didn’t occur to her while it was happening, that she had wrapped herself up so completely in the goings on of the manor and had all but forgotten that she was first and foremost, a mother, and a wife. Besides, she’d lived in Ammon’s Reach long enough that a few suspicious happenings shouldn’t bother her.

Still, new eccentricities about the house began to manifest. Nothing overtly malicious, as far as she could parse. Marq had begun re-inviting her imaginary friends to dinner, a habit she’d had as long as she’d been able to speak. At the old place, she’d had so many of the made up companions it was near impossible to keep up with them all. It seemed, at Styne Manor, she’d grown out of the necessity for hundreds of them and replaced them with a favorable few. Notably, her favorite of the bunch was a girl she called Dinge.

Dinge was most often described as a fair skinned girl, roughly Marq’s age who enjoyed tea hot enough it could, in her words, “boil your skin” and who often kept Marq up into the late hours of the night telling jokes and tickling her, sending her into fits of laughter so obnoxious Anjie or Vellis had been forced to put both of them to bed at once, instead of letting Dinge have the run of the house that Marquela seemed to want.

Finn, on the other hand, had become more reclusive. Since adopting Prism, he’d been swallowed up by the dog. His attention enraptured by the friendly canine, he had made himself the primary caretaker, feeding him, walking him and taking him outside to do his business. The sudden growth of Finn charmed Vellis a great deal, having spent much of his own adulthood worried he could not be an example to his son. Vellis had taken to Prism like kindling, and the dog had become his closet companion. Even with his busy schedule he would make time for Prism to get long runs through the city each morning her husband had off, and he spared no expense on the best toys, bones and treats their money could buy.

For the first time since moving in, things seemed as though they were getting back to normal. As normal as they could be, at least. The strange nature of Bishop Dhurri’s exit weeks prior had remained tucked away in her mind, but she’d taken his advice and made it a point to take some time alone. She didn’t necessarily spend that time alone, however, and called up friends from church who would be willing to share a cup of tea ever few days. Lindrella, her best friend and local gossip, was none too worried about their decision to move into “a murder house” as she so eloquently put it.

Evidently, the previous owners who had left their furniture and belongings and abandoned the home to foreclosure, had not abandoned it at all. Not in a willing sense. She learned, after a long morning catching up with Lindrella, that the prior owners were killed in the house. Which explained the cover story they were told and the rock pit price they’d been able to collect the Manor for. With a bit of her own research at the local library, and a kind librarian who assisted her with her confouding research, she was able to dig up the original case file from the Styne Manor killings. 

Fourteen years before, another family lived there. A husband and wife who shared three kids, lived in the Manor and were by all accounts stand up citizens. She was a founding member of the Breaking Sun, following the Night of Knives and the outcry of the town. He worked in construction, assisting the townsfolk with building projects and was planning on opening up a contracting business to continue his work on his terms. One night, for no apparent reason, he killed his wife and all of their children, shortly before he killed himself. The detective’s report was harrowing and after Anjie had read through the information, she couldn’t settle on whether it made her feel better, or worse.

The Bishop had mentioned aggressive spirits, and if there were five people killed in her new home, she assumed that aggression would be the best way to describe them. Still, she hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary besides Marq’s new imaginary friend, and a peculiar habit Prism had adopted. 

On the first floor of their home, at the end of their main hall, there was a large wooden door which led to the basement. On the other side of the door a set of hand built stairs, poorly constructed, descended into darkness which they’d used for storage. Vellis had suggested putting a lock on the handle as to prevent their children from stumbling into the basement and hurting themselves in the dark. Most of their seasonal maintenance equipment was stored there, shovels, rakes, hoes and the like, but Vellis’ tools had made it their home as well as a grand collection of odds and ends they no longer felt the need to keep, or had no idea what they wanted to do with.

Prism had taken a liking to this door, so much so that he thought it would be best if he were to given free access to travel to and fro the basement as he pleased. This came out in fits of scratches at the base of the door which had stripped the polish and left it looking like it had been mauled by a badger. They’d tried everything they could, hoping to get Prism to forget about the basement but he refused and would spend hours upon hours scratching and whining at the door, hoping to get inside as if there were a mountain of Anjie’s jerky waiting at the bottom.

On one particular day, she’d needed into the basement and made her way down while Vellis and Prism were out on a run. While she was searching through the boxes for their holiday decorations, her boys had returned home and Prism, realizing his treasure trove of potential treats was open, bolted for the door. He slammed into the open door and chipped paint of the wall as he scrambled into the basement and began searching for something. Anjie watched the hound snuffle around the dirt room until he found a brick wall which supported the staircase out, and as soon as he approached it, began to bark ferociously.

It took her thirty minutes to get him to give it up, and he’d begun scratching at the bricks to boot. Fearing for his still healing paw, she hefted him up and carried him back upstairs with the help of Vellis before she locked him out once again.

Despite not finding what she assumed he was looking for, every day, Prism returned to the same place.

She noted it as suspicious, but didn’t want to rile feelings about the house given what she’d learned of it, so she decided not to tell her husband, not yet, at least. When he was more relaxed, and less worried about their finances, she would bring it up. Until then she would continue on as she had and wouldn’t let her imagination run wild.

As if the house heard her decision, it began to test her. First, came the awful chills. For hours at a time the temperature within the house fell. She would ignite the fireplace and yet, it would still bring her to trembling. Vellis felt it worse, and on his last weekend before the wedding, he complained of it being far too cold and had committed to keeping the fireplace burning the whole time. Anjie felt the chill, but not to the extent of Vellis who had amassed every blanket in their house and had stationed himself before the fireplace, sweating profusely but still complaining of the cold. At first, she’d wondered if he’d gotten a bug, but when he left for his shifts, he told her he felt fine. Even so much as to take Prism on a run that morning.

After Vellis had gone for the week, she once again returned to assuming the entirety of the household duties, which included putting Marq and Dinge to bed, along with whatever other imaginary companions demanded their own bedtime story. 

On night where the chill had grown particularly intense, Anjie didn’t feel like going through the show of putting a series of pretend children to sleep as she walked Marq to her room. She tucked her daughter in and sat at the bedside for a while, reading from a book they loved, about a girl who is mistreated by her parents and crawls through a tunnel to another world suited specifically to her where everyone has black buttons instead of eyes, Marq drifted off to sleep and she set the book down. As soon as she did, her daughter turned over in bed, still asleep, and spoke.

“You aren’t going to tuck in Dinge tonight, mommy?”

Anjie stopped herself from sighing and rubbed her temples.

“No dear, Dinge knows how to tuck herself in.”

Marquela smiled in her sleep, her eyes still clamped shut. “Dinge says it’s the least you can do, for living in her house.”

Anjie froze.

“What did you say, sweetheart?”

“I said,” the voice that emerged from her daughter, was not her daughter’s. “You are living in my house!”

It boomed, the force of the words themselves sent a shock through her and knocked her to the ground.

Then, as if nothing happened, Marquela rolled back over and began softly snoring while Anjie wept on the bedroom floor.

“This is not her house.” Anjie repeated to herself quietly, fitfully scrubbing a wooden plate with a torn dishrag.

It had been ten days since that night, and it hadn’t stopped. Marquela grew more and more infatuated with Dinge, who she’d begun describing as her “pig-friend” and using as an excuse to skip meals, hide in her room and play pranks on her brother, none of which did Finn enjoy.

Vellis was returning that afternoon, and they were expected at her brother’s wedding. As soon as the festivities were over, she promised herself, she would talk to him about the house. About the voice, about the strange goings on. All of it. During the week she reached out to Lindrella, hoping her friend could provide someone to assist her, besides the Bishop who had since ignored her letter and had even gone so far as to pretend he wasn’t in the church when she’d come to question him.

Lindrella had come back with a couple who had been making waves around the town, a Felicity and Jona Amgrange, one of them a self proclaimed psychic and the other a first year professor for Barrenthal Academy.

Though Anjie hadn’t given her permission Lindrella invited both of the Amgranges to her home to “investigate” it.

“It is so wonderful to meet you!” Felicity’s screeching voice raked at her ears as the woman reached her hand out to shake, and then pulled it back. “Oh.” Came the next words, somber.

“What is it, Liss?” The man, who Anjie assumed to be Jona, stepped into the home and began to survey her decorative work. Lindrella gave her a thumbs up and closed herself out of the conversation.

“There is a presence inside of this house.” Felicity spoke as if instructing students how to start a fire, cautious and particular about her words.

“And?” Jona spoke before Anjie could reply.

“It is… warning you.” The psychic held hard arms up as if the air itself could tell her what infested the foundation of the Manor. 

“Warning me?” She scoffed. It was doing more than that, judging by the way it had spoke to her.

“Come with me.” Felicity took her hand and led her down the hall to the basement door where Prism had been all morning, scratching and whining to be let in.

“It is here, a presence.” She placed her fingertips on the wood and clenched her eyes, and Anjie rolled her own.

“I appreciate the sentiment, really, but this is not necessary.”

Jona shrugged. “Less knows what she’s doing, trust her. She is more than capable.”

Anjie dropped her tensed shoulders and fetched the basement key from a nearby shelf.

“Don’t let the dog down there, he won’t come back up.”

She hefted the padlock from the door and gripped Prism’s collar as the pair stepped into the room. Quickly, she slid Prism away from the door and jumped through, landing on the top step and slamming the door behind her, barely missing Jona’s feet as she landed.

“He’s excitable.”

“You know,” Felicity began as she descended the steps. “Animals can sense the ethereal on a much more granular level than we can.” She stopped at the base of the stairs and looked around the room in the darkness. “But this, this is like a series of gunshots, over and over.”

Anjie wanted to argue, but despite her claim of psychic powers, the look on her face was genuine. She was afraid of something in the basement, and Anjie didn’t want to know what just as bad as she did.

“Can you tell me anything about it?” She asked, looking around the room, searching for anything out of place. Then, she saw it. The figure, tucked into the corner of the room. It’s form completely featureless as it stood, watching her.

“It is angry, terribly angry. This is its method, the walls are weak here, between our world and theirs. It is traveling between the veil.” She heard Felicity’s teeth chatter from the cold.

“Is there anything you own of the old tenants? Those who lived here before you? That died?”

Anjie struck a match and lit the oil lamp that rested on the table at the foot of the stairs. The shadowy figure flickered as light burst into the room. 

“Anything here, really.” She shrugged. Despite how much of their basement had been clogged by old decorations and gardening tools, much of the junk don there belonged to the previous owners.

Felicity wandered around the room, briefly touching things and pausing with her eyes closed. Jona watched her, an awe struck admiration sparkled in his eyes.

The psychic moved through the basement, picking up old crates of books  which had been buried under heaps of dust, Rifling through old curtains and towels stained will mold and mildew. She moved from shelf to shelf until she settled on a specific item. An axe. Vellis’ axe.

She lifted it from the mount as soon as she placed her fingers on it and gasped. “This, this is connected to the entity.”

Anjie laughed. Surely the woman was mad.

“That is my husband’s, he’s had it since before we knew one another. He used to take it to the field with him.”

“And now,” Felicity responded, grasping the head of the axe with feverish movements. “It belongs to someone else, someone older.”

Anjie turned back and began ascending the stares while the pair coddled their ideas in her basement, and before she’d made it halfway Felicity called out.

“Anjie, do you happen to know anything about a pig?”

She froze on the stairs.

“Why do you ask?”

“This entity,” the psychic replied. “It takes the form of a pig. It is bound to this axe, and other things in your home too. My dear, you should take your family and leave.” Felicity hung the axe on the wall and opened her eyes, which had turned a pitch dark shade of black. The voice which emerged from her was not that of the flightly, expressive psychic.

It was hateful, screaming with such force spittle flew from her lips.

“This is my house, mine! Get out!” 

Jona rushed to his wife’s side as Anjie stepped back, searching the basement for a weapon.

“We should be leaving, I think.” He remarked as the black scales fell from Felicity’s eyes and she collapsed into his arms. Anjie could only nod.

She helped him carry her up the stairs, taking hold of Prism as the exited the basement. The pup fought harder than usual to get downstairs, and she gave up trying to help her visitors to collect him and lock the basement door.

They made their way to the entryway and before they left, Jona turned back.

“Felicity, I know you don’t believe her. I know most of us don’t, but she does have a power, one that runs deep within her veins. She’s not been wrong yet.”

He closed the door behind him.

Anjie released Prism and met the pup at the bay window which overlooked their front yard, watching the man carry his wife down their lane and back toward the center of Ammon’s Reach. Above the door, she noticed, the crystal scythe she’d hung in honor of Tatyuve was cracked clean in half.

Vellis made it home just before sunset, covered in mud and dirt, his cheeks flush from the long walk to the Manor from their drop off point. He came into the house in a flurry, immediately complaining about the cold.

Anjie caught him before he’d made his way upstairs, despite his sour mood.

“Vellis, we had some guests today. I think we should talk about some things.”

He rolled his eyes and put a hand on her shoulder.

“Of course, dear, but not right now.” He started up the steps and she caught his elbow with her hand.

“No, my love. Right now.”

He grunted and yanked his arm away from her, continuing up the stairs.

“We have a wedding to get to, there’s no reason this can’t wait.”

She followed him, chewing on the inside of her cheek as she thought of a way to tell him shat she’d discovered without upsetting him. He wasn’t a fan of all the talk around town about “The Powers” and what they might mean for the people of Brahmir before he’d converted, let alone afterward. If he discovered she’d let a psychic in… she considered the possibility of a fight.

She stopped on the stairs, gripping the bannister.

“He was never like this.” She reminded herself.

The Vellis she’d married was a gruff man. Independent but never condescending. She’d loved that about him, his passion for his work and for their family had always been what stood out about him. Ever since they’d moved in to the Manor, that had slowly changed. He grew easily frustrated, first, it was the money. She’d been anxious about their situation too, what with her not working to take care of the children. But he’d requested that of her when they were first married. He made it a point that he wanted to be the breadwinner, and shot down her suggestions of getting a job of her own, even when they were on the verge of moving to Styne.

Then, the chill of the house. What she’d first assumed to have been faulty insulation was quickly debunked by the astounding number of unexplainable happenings, the cold being the most noticeable past the movement of their holy symbols. Vellis had grown so angry about the cold. It wasn’t like him, not on the worst of days.

She looked up to watch her husband stomp up the stairs, pausing when he reached the landing and realized she’d quit following him.

“Well? Anjie? What is the matter?”

He stripped off his worn coat, marked by years of hard labor by the multitude of small quilted patches that covered it.

She sucked in a breath.

“I think we should leave the Manor. All of us and Prism. We should take vacation, go to a neighboring city. We have enough money for a guarded trolly if we sell a few things.” She stammered. “I don’t know, I don’t like being in this house anymore, Vellis.”

“Well that’s a shame.” He spat, slipping his shirt over his head and tossing it across the hall into their bedroom. “We are going to be here until we die.”

She swallowed hard. “No, Vellis. We are going to die in this house.”

He didn’t answer, instead turning to the bedroom as he slipped his belt off and tossed it onto the bed. She followed him up the stairs, the silence booming around them, accented by the sound of Prism’s constant whining.

“Damned dog won’t ever shut up.” He muttered, slamming open the wardrobe doors and rooting through their hanging clothes for his finewear.

“Vellis, you haven’t been yourself and I really thing it’s because,” 

He interrupted her, whipping around with a flushed face and began screaming.

“Because of what? Anjie? Because I’ve been working eleven days straight on sixteen hour days? Because my crew won’t stop talking about wanting to come see the house, and I have to keep coming up with excuses because my good for nothing wife refuses to clean? Do I seem on edge? That damned dog won’t stop whining at all hours of the day, when I get to sleep I can’t stay asleep because he won’t leave the confounded basement alone!” Spittle flew from his mouth as he continued to raise his voice, taking steps closer and closer to her with each statement until he stood inches from her, sweating and shivering. His eyes wide, staring down at her and screaming.

Anjie stood her ground, waiting for him to finish.

“Or do I seem unlike myself because you have been constantly bothering me about that goddess forsaken mark above our bed, or the bugs in Finn’s room, or the way Marquela talks to invisible people! Anjie don’t you get that I am exhausted, every day, and you refuse to do anything to help! Instead of getting a job, or cleaning up around the house, you sit around all day chatting with your friends and taking in stray mutts off of the street!”

Below them, Prism had stopped whining.

“So excuse me, if I don’t seem all that excited to talk to you about what you think is right for our family when you’ve done nothing since we moved here to contribute to it!”

His hot breath curled around her cheeks as the words left his mouth. She didn’t realize she’d balled her fists as he screamed. For a brief moment, she summoned back the memory of everything he’d ever done to her, every time he’d hurt her and she had forgiven him. Every time he lied about their spending, or where he was when he was out drinking with friends and she was alone with Marquela, who was still just a baby. She pulled all of it into her mind, ready to fire it back, but noticed out of the corner of her eye, the Mark of Illunier hanging above their bed. It had cracked, completely. The two halves of the mark hung, split open and still attached to their chains.

Below them, Prism no longer barked, his silence not a comfort to her. She closed her eyes, forcing herself to back down from her husband and to put away the memories of his setbacks if only for long enough to get them out of the house. Whoever he was, he was not himself.

As calmly and plainly as she could muster, she replied. “Vellis, we are leaving the house tonight. I am taking Finn, Marquela and Prism and we are going. If you want to stay here so badly, then fine. Do so. I will not be here any more.”

At her words, Vellis’ face flushed. He caught her on the shoulder with one of his hands and shoved her back, onto the bed. Shirtless and covered in sweat that had begun to soak through his trousers, he screamed.

“This is my house, and I will not leave!”

She scrambled to her feet and spun, leaving the room in silence.

In the hall, she saw Finn and Marquela both crouched at the end of the hall, staring down at them, half hidden behind their doorframe. A crash of lightning illuminated the house, and for a brief second all around them she could see the same shadowy figures which had taunted her upon their first months there, gathered in the doorways just like her own children, crouched and hiding from something in the hall.

She approached her own children, who she realized as she’d gotten closer, had been crying. She knelt down while Vellis caused a ruckus in the bedroom, slamming things around and grunting.

“Darlings, please pack a bag. Only take your favorite things and a few pairs of clothing. Mother is taking you on a trip. Your father needs some time alone.”

The children nodded and went to their respective rooms. Finn ducked as he passed by the master bedroom, where Vellis was still thrashing around.

Anjie made her way downstairs and gathered some of her things. The clothes on her back would have to suffice, she would not be returning to her bedroom if she could help it. She grabbed her crocheting supplies, strewn along the couch and not left where she’d left them. A handful of her hooks were lost to the house but she didn’t bother searching for them. From the kitchen, she took a large butcher’s knife owned by her mother and passed down to her. She took a small linen bag she’d filled with fresh baked treats for Prism, as well as a large bundle of jerky. Blankets for the kids and a quilt her grandmother made for her. She stuffed all of them into a large leather bag and set it on the sofa. 

As she calmed herself, preparing to return upstairs and fetch the kids, she noticed that the padlock barring the basement door had been unlocked. Not broken, or snapped, it had been unlocked and placed safely on the kitchen table. In the spot on the floor where Prism had spent most of his time, he was not, and the basement door was wide open.

She jumped from the sofa and ran to the door, knowing that Prism was down there, certainly antagonizing the brick wall beneath the stairs. She marched into what she expected would be the darkness of the basement and found that it was not dark at all. Instead, the whole of the room was bathed in a bright red light, and Prism was nowhere to be found.

Anjie sprinted to the bottom of the steps and turned to face the source of the light. Beneath the staircase, the brick wall had crumbled, as if it had been bashed in by something. Chipped rock and chunks of broken brick had been scattered all around the basement, as if the force that broke it had come from within, where she saw a glowing pool of red liquid, and Prism, struggling to stay afloat within it.

The dog’s panicked whining echoed in the basement as he struggled to stay afloat against the churning mass of thick red liquid. From within, Anjie watched in horror as hands reached up from the depths and wrapped around her beloved Prism, trying to drag him under.

The poor boy didn’t know wether to fight back or to keep swimming, and each time he chose to do one he lost ground on another, biting at the hands he could reach, he started to sink, when he fought to escape, more hands reached up and threatened to drag him under.

“No,” Angie whispered, reaching for a brick beside the broken wall. She knelt and wrapped an arm around Prism who tried at first to bite her, before realizing who she was. She took the brick and started swinging it down, crashing it into the mound of reaching hands, careful not to hit her boy. 

Once she’d managed a tight grip around Prism, she yanked, smashing against the reaching hands of the pool and sending them back into the muck. It was difficult, but as soon as the pup realized what was happening, he tried to help her, stretching himself out and kicking off of the back wall, until eventually, he was free.

She tugged as hard as she could one final time, kicking one of the hands off of her boy’s leg and fell back, she and Prism landed hard on the basement floor as chips of stone and chunks of brick wedged themselves into her back.

But he was free.

“Come on, boy. Let’s go.”

He yipped cheerfully, limping out of the basement as quickly as he could, leaving a trail of what she could only assume to be blood behind him as he went. The sopping dog marched out of the basement far more quickly than she, and as she came to the top of the stairs she ran into Vellis, who stood still sweaty and half dressed.

“Where do you think you’re going?” He asked, his pupils dilated. He shoved her quickly, the force of the hit sending her stumbling back onto her weak ankle. Pain shot through her and she crumpled, losing her balance and fell down the stairs.

Her head smacked a large brick and she felt the trickle of blood immediately.

Vellis descended the stairs one at a time until he reached her, and gently he plucked the axe from the wall. Spinning it over and over in his hands a grim look overcame him.

Anjie had doubted it, prayed it wasn’t true, but she knew then as the man she’d once loved gazed at his axe with desire, that he was no longer the man she loved.

He stopped spinning the axe and raised it above his head, swinging it down.

She rolled and heard the metal head of the axe slam into the brick stained with her blood. She shuffled to her feet and kicked him quickly in the leg. A faint pop echoed into the basement and she charged upstairs were Prism waited for her. Beside him stood her children, with a bag packed for each of them, waiting.

Anjie bolted up the stairs as Vellis screamed from below. His stomping feet came racing up the steps after her, and she reached for the lock on the kitchen table, slamming it into the latch as she closed the door. Vellis crashed into it and shook the entire frame.

“You won’t be free of me that easily, little Anjie!” He screamed. 

A short pause came as she snapped the bolt on the lock and stepped away just before the axe head burst through the door sending splinters flying across the kitchen. He yanked it out and through the crack, she could see his eyes, gleaming red in the dim light.

She didn’t give him time to break the door further, and turned to collect her children.

The three of them, with Prism, who had made a point to stand out in the pouring rain and shake most of the blood from his fur, made their way to the front while Vellis’s axe worked its way through the door, over and over again.

“What’s going to happen to him, momma?” Finn asked, following her dutifully as she collected her leather bag and slipped the butcher knife into her belt.

She wanted to answer, to tell her darling son that it would all be okay. That her husband would wake up tomorrow and not be the thing that he had become, but she knew it would be a lie and she would not lie to her children.

“We will see tomorrow. For now, we are going to stay with your uncle. When we leave, you need to make sure you stay as close to me as possible, okay kids?” She asked, glancing out into the stormy night. Thunder boomed overhead.

Prism had taken a seat by the front door, as excited to leave as she was, and when she put her hadn’t on the knob the gentle voice of her daughter came over the roar of the storm.

“Momma, Dinge doesn’t want me to go.”

She held the door at a crack as Prism tried to nudge his way out.

“We have to go, dear. We don’t have time.”

“Momma,” she began. “Dinge can’t come if we leave.”

She wanted to tell her baby that Dinge wasn’t real, but she knew otherwise by now. Whatever imaginary friend she’d developed since moving to Styne was not imaginary after all.

“Baby, we can’t stay.”

Her daughter didn’t move from the living room as Villis screamed with rage from the basement. Another crack from the basement door echoed through the house.

“Dinge won’t let me leave, momma.”

She grunted and swung the door open wide, reaching out to her daughter with her spare arm and hoisting her up.

“You might have my husband,” She called out to the house shouting to it’s very foundation. “But you will not have my daughter!”

She hoisted Marquela into her arms as the child began to shout, not wanting to leave her friend. 

Then, she marched out into the rain and closed the door behind her. Prism circled them, keeping watch in the night, being the protector he’d always been as they paused beside the Mana Ward stationed outside the house. She realized then, it had long burned out. The vials of Ether contained with in, set to be ignited by the Lamplighters at each sunset had been empty for who knows how long. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d left the house at night, or at all if not to have tea with Lindrella. 

She hoisted the necklaces she’d hung there when they moved in. One for each of them. She draped Vyse’s around Finn. Heriol’s around herself, and Fulma’s around Marquela and took a deep breath as the sound of the basement door splintering into oblivion rocked the inside of the house.

Without hesitation, she hoisted her daughter into her arms and ran down the lane, looking back once she’d reached the end of their drive which connected to the main road in the High-rise District. There, standing on the porch, she could see her husband still brandishing the axe. She thought, for just a moment, that the arched windows of her own room and Finn’s which each had begun glowing a deep shade of red, looked suspicious in the rainy night. The rounded balcony with it’s overhang still held the plants she’d been so proud of months before, and the first floor windows lined a reflecting white light with each crash of lightning.

For a moment, just the smallest fraction of time as she looked back, Styne Manor took the shape of a large, pot bellied pig.


Thanks for reading Mean for the Holidays! This work was inspired by the Amityville Horror, with some slight tweaks, obviously much of the story threads are the same as I wanted to pay homage to the original. I hope you enjoyed!

Nightfall in Brahmir is an episodic fantasy fiction story taking place in the world of Brahmir, where the lines between dead and alive are not simply blurred, they are almost nonexistent. In this place, all manner of horrors plague the denizens from returned corpses, trickster spirits, to killers stalking the daylight. Part One will be four Chapters, each of which follow one of the main characters as they try to work out what happened to Mayeli, and rescue her from the grasp of the strange powers that be within the merchant city, Ammon’s Reach.


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