The Guests of Drake Manor

SESSION 2, part 2

The maidservant, Claudette, pushed open one of the two large entrance doors of Drake Manor and accompanied Dr. Kenneth Lokar and Jenny Barnes into the broad foyer.  Their footsteps echoed on the rich red-brown tiles as they passed mosaics on either side depicting the hillside vineyards of Tuscany.  Claudette, the sole remaining maid of the manor since the disappearance of Marianne Silvers, worked herself to exhaustion keeping the interior clean and liveable.  Age and neglect were evidenced high up the walls beyond her reach and ground too deeply into the recesses of the complex ornamentation to completely render them to their original conditions.  But fresh linens and flower were always available in the many bedrooms, except for Jonathan’s, which remained as he left it on the infrequent occasions he appeared at home to sleep off a night of heavy drinking and smoking.

(no more freshman creative writing, I can’t keep up.  The situation in the second half of session 2, continuing into session 3, becomes very complicated and confusing)

The Study

Dr. Kenneth Lokar and Jenny Barnes began their search of the manor in Dr. Drake’s study.  The heavy ebony desk was covered in a clutter of astronomical manuscripts–including Astronomia nova aitiologetos : sev physica coelestis, tradita commentariis de otibvs stellae Martis (On the Motion of the Star, Mars) by Johann Kepler and Tycho Brahe, written in Latin and published in 1609 and Percival Lowell’s 1895 English language release simply entitled Mars–and calculations of the orbits of the known planets.  A stack of texts concerned studies on Mars and speculation on the existence of Martian life.  Bookshelves lined the walls containing copies of most extant books on astronomy and astrology.  Curiously missing from an otherwise complete series were volumes addressing astronomical observations from Italy and the Americas.  Across the study from the desk, a mantle above the fireplace held diplomas, certificates, awards, and framed photographs of notable events in the lives of Dr. Drake, his late son, Jonathan, and previous generations of Drakes.

In the midst of the collected memorabilia stood a small statue composed of an unknown, semi-translucent material.  Jenny reached out a hand to pick up the item and felt intense cold which emanated from it.  Eschewing caution, she grasped the statue and was immediately overcome by an intense and varied buzzing which seemed to come from all around her, and her hand was stung by the coldness of the thing.  She came to her senses quickly and the strange phenomenon passed, but both investigators noticed a low scraping sound from the corner of the study where a length of bookcase appeared to have pivoted out of the wall.  The statue was apparently connected to a mechanism of some sort.  They tugged on the protruding end of the bookcase and pulled it far enough out of the wall to expose a passageway with steps leading down into the darkness.  Dr. Lokar and Jenny grabbed candles from the mantle, lit them and haltingly descended the stairs.

The Cellar

The air became progressively colder as they climbed down into what appeared to be a wine cellar.  Candlelight illuminated a rack covering the wall on their left, every nook filled with wax-sealed bottles of the red wine that Il Dragone–the Drake family winery in Tuscany, whose crest was the dragon clutching the world they had seen before–was known for.  Directly opposite the wine stood a rusted iron door, padlocked, with a small sheet metal box mounted on the wall near the door handle, the lid secured with a simple combination lock.  The stench of mould, decay and filth permeated the cellar.  Jenny drew her small Derringer pistol from her handbag and proceeded to strike the combination look that secured the metal box.  Several blows succeeded in breaking the mechanism and Jenny opened the lid to find a solitary key, the key for the padlock on the iron door.  Lokar and Barnes rapped on the door and were answered by several harsh, muffled gasps that sounded human but were not recognizable speech.  Inserting the key in the hole and turning with a loud click, Jenny removed the padlock and Lokar slowly pulled the heavy door open.

The Guests

Peering inside by the dim candlelight, the scene that met their gazes was at once pitiable and horrifying.  A lone figure lie face-up on the floor, emaciated, caked with layers of dirt, blood and filth and hung with scraps of tattered and rent cloth.  Roaches crawled over the body and spiders nested on walls and ceiling.  But the figure was alive, and it was a human woman.   Two white eyes, unblinking and wide with terror and madness, glared up at them as cracked lips attempted to form words–an effort they knew was futile when they glimpsed the ragged stump of the tongue that had been torn from the mouth, allowing only hoarse mumbles and grunts.

And then it came.

Lokar was standing in the doorway when it lunged at him from a corner of the cell where it had somehow remained cloaked by darkness.  The creature, and only the gods know what it was, snapped at Lokar with canine fangs dripping with saliva, breathing a hot stench into his face, biting through jacket and shirt and into the flesh of the chest.  Lokar staggered backward across the cellar and against the wine rack, crying in pain and terror.  Grabbing a wine bottle, he hurled it at the thing and missed, a shower of wine and glass exploding against the far wall.  Feral, yellow eyes, saucer-like with fear, bulged out of its elongated and misshapen skull as the thing crouched then sprang forward on inhuman hind legs coated with stiff, black fur.  The smell coming from it was nigh unbearable.  Fingers, longer than any human’s, tapered to dagger-sharp claws with which the creature grasped for the edge of the open doorway, pulling itself through.  It emitted an unnatural, growling lisp that Lokar would have sworn said, “No more!  No more!”

Darting past Lokar, it came next upon Jenny Barnes barring its path.  Dagger fingers slashed out across her arm and only a supreme effort of will kept her from the brink of madness.  She fumbled in her bag for the Derringer as the thing shoved her aside and loped toward and then up the stone steps leading out of the cellar–indeed, as they feared, out of the manor, and beyond.  Jenny darted to the bottom of the stairs and leveled the pistol.  A single shot rang out and echoed loudly in the chamber.  Already nearing the top of the steps and freedom, the creature jolted to a halt as flesh and black ichor explode out of the back of its skull.  Emitting a horrible gurgling cry, it slumped in a heap and slid down several stairs as the life–if that is what it possessed–left it.  A pool of black, viscous fluid coated the staircase.

Dr. Kenneth Lokar and Jenny Barnes carried a frail and broken woman up into the study of Drake Manor.  Claudette was summoned to care for the woman, who was indeed the maid, Marianne, who had disappeared.   Startled and deeply disturbed by this turn of events, Claudette mustered her wits and carried Marianne back to her old quarters, and then rang up a local doctor.  It was a Sunday and therefore procuring a doctor on such short notice would be problematical.   The two investigators broke open many bottles of the fine wine and used it to clean the filth from the cellar, and especially the stairs.  The cellar was now stained with Il Dragone, but what of it?  A body–no one knows of what–was dragged inside the cell from whence it came.  An iron door slammed shut, its padlock was put back in place to secure it, and its key was slipped into an inside pocket of Dr. Lokar’s bloody tweed jacket.   Kenneth and Jenny vowed never to speak of the thing again.

Next:  The Old Man & The Trunk

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