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[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/5f/82/36/5f82364665b10db0ee4b027f60a2a6c7.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 The skin was tight and hot with healing, making her neck a bit stiff on the one side, but closed and drying off, the scabs tightening.
The interior of the house was dry, the wood doing little more than creaking underfoot. The age of the things showed in their styling and solid layer of dust, softening their silhouettes. The dust made the house seem even quieter, as if muffling everything else that didn't feel like it was empty, devoid of life for so long.
Most of the paperwork was letters, tucked into little haphazard piles of cut wax seals and bundles of rolled parchment, all tied together in ribbon. Most of it had to do with land, supplies and shipping in some far away town or city...
Searching through the contents showed that the family was the Fletcher branch of the family Hackett that had, at least at some point, been living at this estate. Most of the letters were addressed to a Thomas M. Fletcher, at what Etroian was finding was called Bounbrook, perhaps, judging by the addresses as well.
One such letter, in a different hand, notably because it was a shimmery blue ink was a personal letter that look like it had torn while trying to crack the wax seal on it. Opened a bit too enthusiastically. It was from an Anna Hackett, asking after the health of this Thomas. She had noticed he hadn't responded to her last letter regarding his attendance to the yearly gathering of the families, regarding an important dinner.
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[tab ] Etroian winced slightly feeling over the wound on her neck, the barest graze of her fingertips feeling the tender scabs that had formed there, careful not to accidentally pierce any with a fingernail at the risk of reopening the wound and undoubtedly causing it to bleed again. The thought of [i not enough blood] came to the forefront of her mind again, and she tried to remember the tales of the creatures that had been rumored to live within these woods, and wondered if- perhaps- they did drink blood.
[tab ] The stairs were not as difficult to traverse as she had previously worried, though with each step she was wary of the potential that the wood here had rotten, but as she reached the top and took in the view of the corridor, her steps became more certain as she decided that the structure of the floors were safe. Her eyes traced down the corridor, pausing briefly at each of the portraits there, getting used to walking on her own as she headed down, before eventually reaching the study, marveling at the bookshelves and furnishings in the room. She felt quite certain that she hadn't seen so many books in one place in her life.
[tab ] Walking to the desk, she looked through the papers there, searching for anything that might detail who had once lived here, who still remained living here... It seemed so strange to see the checks and balances of a house that had been forgotten in the overgrowth, to see depictions upon the walls of those who she knew must be long gone. An overwhelming realization of the shelter that her small settlement had provided for her all throughout her life was gone rushed through her, bringing that understanding that the world was terribly uncertain and she had no idea what to do next-- there was no comforting hearth for her to tend, no garden to care for, no cottage to return to.
[tab ] Trying to refocus her mind to the present moment, she gently sifted through a few of the papers cluttering the desks, looking for anything to grasp onto.]]
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/5f/82/36/5f82364665b10db0ee4b027f60a2a6c7.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 The wound she discovered was a ragged, nearly amorphous thing of a series of tears and holes in her skin all in the relative shape of a half moon. Teeth. Teeth had been here, biting into the skin of her neck and piercing what lay beneath. And yet, curiously, it had sort of healed somewhat, the thick, gloppy scabs showing it was at least sealed for the time being, but the muscles were tight, angry, and the scabs felt delicate and like a turn too quick would break them open again. Her skin was swollen and upset, and she could only imagine the bruising that she had accrued now with how deeply her flesh ached.
The dark wooden stairs creaked underneath her feet as she ascended, and slowly, holding onto the banister beside herself for balance as she went.
At the top of the stairs was the main landing, that opened into the upper hallways on both sides, lined with doors, some of them open, letting light into the corridor. The windows on the far side of the left hallway suggested it wrapped around, bathing the interior and its rich, if dulled with dust, red carpets on the floors. The hall was filled with art- portraiture and landscapes, and empty or dead flower filled vases in little alcoves in the walls.
With more doors open on that side, and thus more light, Etroian decided to take that route first and walked down towards it. It was a study, it seemed. Bookshelves on every wall, a large, ornate mantle and many couches, chairs, a daybed in front of a large bank of windows where the curtains had been parted, and a cushioned window box.
A heavy desk was tucked onto one wall, with a large set of portraits of gallant looking individuals on horses, or depicted in hunting parties. The tables around it, the desk, and the available spaces were covered in papers, ledgers and such things.
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[tab ] [i But you must understand how desperately thirsty I am.] Thirst..... what kind of thirst would cause this?
[tab ] Troi didn't find herself with much time to ponder that statement, her mind being swiftly overtaken by nothing but an aching pain, slipping away from herself. When she refocused once more on the light casting itself into the room from the front windows, she found herself uncertain of what to think.
[tab ] [i I am alive? Yes?] She tried to take inventory of herself; toes were still there yes, and feet and legs along with them. Her fingers were there as well, hands, arms-- her torso-- her back-- god, her back and her neck. [i Pain. Pain is good... it means that I am feeling...] She didn't dare move for the moment-- it felt that she could afford that, in the very least, a moment. But that didn't mean that she could afford to not decide what was going to happen next, determine if she were going to allow herself to understand why she was not currently murdered by.... who [i or what] that... was, from? How long ago?
[tab ] Getting out of this house, off of this estate seemed like a good starting point but- she wasn't certain where she was going, if the forests truly held those monstrous things that the one she had spoken to had described, if she would be able to get past them as she seemingly had the night before. And beyond that, what? It was day, what if they had continued looking for her? What if they had spread that she was a witch on the run to the nearby settlements? Where was she supposed to go if she could not risk going there?
[tab] Even without answers to those questions, Troi's focus turned to the pain in her neck, her head and back. Why was she still alive? Why had they asked those questions, and ... waited for her to respond? It was so foolish to desire, but she had about a million questions that she wanted the answers to from the one she had spoken to.
[tab ] As carefully as she could, Troi attempted to sit up from her position on the floor, trying to ignore the crying of her body to stop, to rest. She wasn't near a wall she could lean herself against for support, and the prospect of moving close enough to one... it wasn't an exciting one. [b [#144661 “And just how... was I supposed to survive for this long..."]] She whispered aloud to herself, giving up for a brief moment, gathering her will, and pushing herself off the floor into a sitting position, her head nearly causing her to plummet once more. She tried to rustle through her cloak, to see if she had been able to hold on any of the little supplies she had grabbed, and was relieved to find the bit of bread she had wrapped up, carefully unwrapping it and taking a bite, cautious to not eat too much of it. Who knew how long it would need to last her.
[tab ] It was like she didn't have enough in her to keep her head up straight...like she didn't have enough [i blood.]
[tab ] Troi's hand raised instinctively to her neck, the main source of her pain, and she winced as she touched the area of a wound, the place where the one she'd spoken to had.... She dropped her hand again, casting her eyes towards the staircases leading up to the second floor, the same staircase that they had descended with such a strange swiftness not too long ago.
[tab ] Finishing off another bit of bread and gathering all of the strength and willpower she could muster, Troi rose shakily to her feet, and then slowly- painfully slowly, to the wall to lean on, trying to balance herself until she got a the hang of walking by herself again, and headed in the direction of the staircase.
[tab ] She wanted answers, and damn it, she was going to get them.
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/5f/82/36/5f82364665b10db0ee4b027f60a2a6c7.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 The creature seemed to draw back at that, looking over the woman. His arm loosened, fingers all but one falling away to keep her head turned towards him so he could see her.
Those eyes, dark sclera and those glimmering irises looked over her. "[B Your efforts to negotiate with me are admirable.]" It said, voice sounding much more, in this closeness, the quiet, like a man's than whatever was standing over her. "[B But you must understand how desperately thirsty I am,]" it said.
Everything from that moment happened it seemed in the blink of an eye, a single breath. A hot, piercing pain bloomed immediately in the side of Troi's neck, seeming to swell, running down over her shoulder and press into her spine. His fingers were strong, holding her there. Her eyes sparked, covering over with fuzzy, scattering colors and stars before things began to get dim, dark. Hard to see, think, stand on her own, feeling herself sagging against him despite her efforts.
When she came to again, her head throbbed, the muscles in her neck, shoulders and back screaming in complaint.
She was in that listening, pendulous silence again, in the house, laid out on her left side on that immense carpet in the entrance way. The barest touches of gray, early morning light touched the stones just beyond her, lancing up the stairs from the opening in the drapes over the front windows.
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[tab ] How [i had] she made it through those woods? Troi struggled to remember how she had gotten through, gotten to this clearing in the forest after running for her life... It had been her only choice, or at least that had been the way it seemed, the only way she would ever have even the slimmest chance of escape from the ones on horses who would be able to run faster and longer than she could ever hope to.
[tab ] [i Out of the frying pan...] She shuddered against this... she wasn't sure... their touch against her jaw, their breath on her skin. [i Why haven't they killed me yet? Why bother asking for information.... 'A struggle only makes it more engaging'...]
[tab ] [b [#144661 “I must be terribly disappointing to you."]] Troi spoke, trying desperately to keep her voice level. [b [#144661 “Too weak to be able to put up a proper fight, an interesting fight..."]] Was that [i really] the angle she was working with?
[tab ] [b [#144661 “The forest let me run through, maybe I simply didn't notice the dangers... I was too focused on the dangers I was running from.."]]
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/5f/82/36/5f82364665b10db0ee4b027f60a2a6c7.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 He didn't need to tighten his hold, she wasn't going anywhere. The tendrils around her legs were very real, and his hands, spidery, and cool, held her body with ease.
"[B Temper, temper,]" the creature said, "[B A struggle only makes it more engaging.]"
He pulled himself up short, carefully. Right, the forest.
"[B That's right...]" the creature breathed, cold against her neck. "[B How [i did] you make it through those woods, with the things that live in it.]"
In the town, it was known that those woods were haunted. A creature dwelt there, but so did the creatures that didn't venture as far toward the town limits. The larger, darker, more dangerous things.
"[B The bodies, the things in the earth, the plants that try and bury you... the predators.]" That cool thumb stroked up along her jaw.
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[tab ] [i Leave now leave now leave now leave now leave now leave now leave now you stupid, stupid girl, what ever made you think you could ignore the stories?] The thoughts filled her head, and combined with that dark feeling keeping her trapped in place as this... whatever this was came closer and overwhelmed her. [i Stupid girl, can't keep away from trouble...]
[tab ] Etroian could feel her breath trapped in her lungs, as though she couldn't breathe, becoming so aware of the images of those eyes, those teeth from the darkness, her eyes barely beginning to adjust to the dim of the hall and she could feel as they were behind her now, tilting her head, clasping at her jaw, her heart beating wildly as she tried desperately to take a step away, tried to pull herself from all of the darkness holding her in place. [i Alive. You seem alive. But not for long, not with your habits of running straight from one problem and into the next one... get out now, while you still can, if you still can...]
[tab ] She turned her head as best she could, trying to pull out of their grasp. [i Don't be foolish Etroian,] [b [#144661 “You're right; I shouldn't have come here..."]] she practically gasped out, trying to reclaim her own breath, calm herself so she could thing, think of a way out from this. She could feel time running away from her. [i Don't you dare cry, not after you've escaped your death trial once already...] [b [#144661 “I never intended to intrude on your home, though I doubt you, whatever you are, intend to let my blinded intentions get in the way-"]] She said darkly, her voice harsh with the understanding she was likely speaking with a creature that would most likely kill her without a second thought. [i Fool.] [b [#144661 “-if you dislike intruders though, I wouldn't be surprised if my pursuers aren't in your forest at this very moment."]]
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/5f/82/36/5f82364665b10db0ee4b027f60a2a6c7.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 The creature moved down the stairs. So fluidly did it move that she had not realized it until he was so much closer, partway down now, hand slipping down that railing.
The closer he got, the more he had to force himself to keep still, keep getting answers. No one should have been able to find the house with those woods around it, with what he did to them.
"[B A witch,]" came the low, husky rasp of his voice. "[B Hardly. You're just a scared little girl.]" It was almost disdainful as those eyes took her in, a tawny crimson color that held that same, glimmering quality that indeed low embers did in a fire. Rolling with heat, just slightly, alive with it, with the sheer heat of it, but no visible flame.
A slow breath was drawn in from the creature, "[B Oh,]" it whispered, soft, honeyed. "[B You shouldn't have come here.]"
The closer it got, mere steps from the same floor that she was on, the more she could feel its presence within her. Etroian could feel its presence reach into her and wind down her limbs, as if she could feel those long-fingered hands sliding their palms along the back of her arm, out of her flesh, and onto her hands to guide them as if in a dance. As comfortably as she would direct her own self. That spreading, living darkness all down from beneath where his body, swathed in black, disappeared into whatever mass whispered to her was reaching out.
She smelled alive. Her salt skin, peppered with sweat gave it a salted, savory quality that made him want to rip it off of her and devour it. She could see the creature's teeth. Human, perhaps. Sharp, long.
With that, in a blur of motion, nay, more a blur of sound before he suddenly appeared before her, one arm around behind her, and the other sliding up over her jaw, and tilting her head to the side.
Etroian could feel that darkness like hands, long, soft, cool, boneless limbs snaking all around her skirts and trapping her legs, holding her in place. The creature held her, and his face was so close now, breath cold on her skin, heated from running so far and so desperately.
"[B You smell alive,]" he breathed.
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[tab ] Etroian could feel her heart beat heavily in her chest, confusion muddling her entire being as she sat stock-still, her eyes trying desperately to adjust from just having woken in the darkness of the house, grasping at the edges of the figure from the corner of her eye and trying to comprehend what was happening.
[tab ] Their voice had surprised her, seeming so strangely human despite everything about this screaming to her [i get away, get out, leave this damned place, this is what they warn you of you foolish girl], and she found herself struggling for words as she had when she had first entered this house.
[tab ] [b [#144661 “I-- I am Etroian."]] She said softly, her voice still heavy with exhaustion. [i Why was she here?] Troi cleared her throat, trying to speak with a bit more power, [b [#144661 “I'm sorry, I-- I was running from them. They've... they.."]] She found herself trailing off, uncertain of what, if any, effect the word 'witch' might have here.
[tab ] [b [#144661 “They've accused me of witchcraft, they want my land and my home and have decided that's the way to get it. I ran until I couldn't anymore and I found this place... I don't know what I was thinking coming in here..."]] she admitted in defeat. [i Is this worth avoiding that marriage?]
[tab ] She wasn't certain any longer.
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/5f/82/36/5f82364665b10db0ee4b027f60a2a6c7.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 The house was silent, generally, completely. He was not used to it being anything but, unless it was storming outside. The wind groaning through the house, or by the windows, creaking against this or that...
The sound of the groan of the doors was jarring, even in such a large place their sound being the only sound groaned through the floors and empty halls. He had them latched, he had thought, and locked. How strange, and alarming. He felt his back tighten, head turning round to listen for more. Shouting voices, hellos, whatever other voice the occasional trespasser often provided...
The thing rose, turning, and slipped silently through the halls on immaterial feet and towards the entrance hall. A long, spidery hand alighted on the upper hall's rail, looking down to the tiny, huddled form in the corner. Hunger immediately tore through him at the pale flesh of the hands, tucked against the body. The head, leaned against the wall displaying a peek of neck over the folds of the cloak, just inside the hood.
It was a hot, empty feeling that made his shoulders hunch to look at this living body in front of him. The ravenous starvation he had put himself through, seemingly unknowingly, boiled in him. It boiled in a way that felt like it had hands, scraping at his insides, raw, in a reminder of [i how] long it had been since he had made the journey to the town and had fed.
His vision seemed to blur, and at the same time sharpen, focusing on the mortal woman down in the entrance.
To Etroian, a presence had leaked down the stairs, slipping down the cold walls, to lap at her feet at first, barely aware of it, unconscious. It roused her, bringing her back out of the dark waters of sleep and erect, looking up to the crest of the stairs, upon which she saw a dark, impossibly tall figure from her position. Little but a shadow, with the glimmer of eyes, unnatural in the darkness, like embers in the back of a grate. It called to her, it spoke in wordless whispers in her mind, a swirl of immaterial voices she could not hear, but sounded all at once familiar, distant, strange, and tempting.
At the very moment she bent to hear, they had her. The creature felt her fall into his figurative hand as if laying her head in it. In doing so, he could feel her muscles, her spine. For Etroian, if felt as if the creature's presence reached out, coming up behind her, and laid its hands over hers, its very being an overlay of herself, a mere facet, that directed her as naturally, as comfortably as she would herself.
Hunger drew it to move, to straighten, and she caught that movement from the corner of her gaze. It did so with a fluidity that seemed impossible. It was a humanoid figure, almost. She recognized a head, shoulders, torso and more... the body fell into more, impossibly more, too many eyes, not that she could see them, but she could [i feel] them. There were limbs and things that as the thing approached the mouth of the top of the stairs, a long, pale hand slipping along the banister.
It had the angular face of a man. Skull-like, hairless, but with arched brows she could see, and long lashes. Sallow, scarred, and too many teeth. There were too many teeth. It spoke, that mouth, inside of her. At her. There at the top of the stairs.
"[B Who are you?]" The eyes reflected light that was not there. The voice was dry, cracking, and unused, but a man's. "[B What are you doing here?]" He- it- growled.
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[tab ] Etroian nearly jumped in alarm when the great doors creaked open against her push, the long and low noise carrying her careful footsteps through into the entrance hall, and despite her apprehension she felt a great deal of relief that she wouldn't find herself breaking in some other way.
[tab ] Troi took a long, deep breath in, peering cautiously but not daring to move any further inside. The house was gorgeous despite its overgrown state-- hell, it was beautiful and she couldn't quite imagine what it must've looked like before being presumably abandoned, lit by the light of the hundreds of candles she could see all around and glowing with life.
[tab ] Some small part of her felt the urge to call out to the house itself, announce her presence there, but at the same time her voice felt strangled in her own throat as she carefully closed the door behind her, her eyes trying to readjust to the darkness. [i Only for tonight... I'm sorry to disturb you...] she thought in apology to the house, knowing full well she shouldn't be here. She could already feel her exhaustion settling in, despite years of taking care of her property with her father, she had never had to run for her life as she had this night, and as much as she wanted to explore the house, seek what was held beyond the doors at either side and up the stairs, she didn't want to get any more lost than she already was.
[tab ] Deciding to attempt to not disturb the house any more than necessary, Troi moved carefully out from directly in front of the doors, off to one of the corners of the large entrance hall next to it and practically collapsed, her legs complaining of the journey she had undertaken so suddenly, trying her best to sit down carefully and lean against the wall, to rest her eyes.
[tab ] [i Only to rest her eyes....]
[tab ] It was no surprise that sleep swiftly overcame her, her adrenaline causing all of her collected energy to crash in the shadow of the precarious safety of the house's tall walls.
[right [pic https://i.pinimg.com/564x/5f/82/36/5f82364665b10db0ee4b027f60a2a6c7.jpg]] [font "Times" [size15 The house lay at a distance from where the trees broke. The lines of an estate suddenly, sharply came into mind as she viewed a wide pond, with a silent, imperious statue in its center, covered in lilies and other water plants. Overgrown shrubberies dotted what once was a long, meandering drive up to the property's house. The grasses now were tall, waving in the nighttime breeze. And beyond it, sat the immense home and its swaying trees, grown old and large, vaulted above the drive like a cathedral ceiling, obscuring the light from where they lined what would have been avenues to walk down, now hidden with vine and limb.
It was this space that Etroian ran away from the obvious avenue, and instead waded through the foliage, the grasses catching at her feet and legs and skirts, until she made it to the weed dotted pathway and continued there to the house.
The silence was broken by startled animals that fled, unseen, in sudden noise from her running up to the doors of the house. She leapt up the steps to the entrance and pressed on the door there. Great, wooden things with heavy, metal casings. They resisted at first, the doors old, ill-used, swollen in their place and malformed now with disrepair. They pressed together, one giving finally and creaking, with a loud complaint.
If there was anything that lived here, it certainly knew now that it had a visitor.
Inside was a large entrance hall, with two sets of curving stairs reaching up to an upper hall, that was over another entrance way that led deeper in the the black center of the house on the ground floor. At each side, where the staircases began, there were statues with long, trailing kerchiefs of candle wax that had formed, dripping from their hands, from years of use. Other, impressive standing candelabras, taller than Etroian stood with similar lacing of years of candles. All unlit.
At each side of the entrance hall was another set of double doors, to the left, and to the right. Both were closed.
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[tab ] It was some time past midnight when it had begun.
[tab ] Even in her wildest imagination, Etroian had never thought that the town would truly come to this, come to turn against her in so strong a way, all because of the convincing words of a man who had decided that things just weren’t going his way. She had tried to sleep, despite her apprehension, which she found herself regretting now, as she scrambled to dress again, pulling her boots from their place at the door and tucking her feet into them by the low light of the dwindling fire in her stove, not daring to make a sound or give any hint to the mob she could hear gathering just outside her property that she was awake, preparing to run…
[tab ] She hated that running seemed to be her only choice, her only chance. Troi had watched it happen before, to women just like herself…. Women just a little bit too good at self-sustaining, whose property held a little bit too much potential, who had angered the wrong person. Women torn from their homes in the middle of the night, subjected to horrible trials, searched over for any hint of a devil’s mark, women hung for witchcraft. It was an ordeal that Troi would much rather avoid, even if that meant leaving the land that had been held by her family for generations, which she had taken care of so tenderly with her father until he had gotten sick last winter.
[tab ] Pulling on her cloak and searching the small house for anything that might help her, a small amount of money she had tucked away, her mother's locket and some food that she knew wouldn’t last for long. [i If only he had let her travel to the city, fetch a doctor with medicine… perhaps this wouldn’t be her present situation.] If only rich men would accept the fact that she held no interest in selling her family home, or taking their hand in marriage…
[tab ] She checked through the front window one more time, and she could hear the yelling now, he was rallying them…. [i [b “We must rid our community of this danger, of this witchcraft! Her beguiling ways must be stopped before she corrupts us all!”]]
[tab ] Slipping out the back door, she could feel her breath catch at every step she took, every time her skirt or her cloak brushed against the bushes, everytime she stepped upon a branch. One step. Then another. And another and another, until she was running, not daring to look back, not prepared to see if anyone had spotted her in the pale light of the moon, desperately trying to bridge the gap between her property and the forest.
[tab ] [i [b “I really think that you should consider my offer.”] His voice was low, with an almost distinctive growl. It was the third time that he had called upon her home, and the third time she had begrudgingly allowed him to take a seat inside as he rested his horse, offered him some tea. She had been told before that it would be best if she considered him, she was in no position to take care of such a lucrative property by herself. But she was unable to drive the image of a wolf from her mind, each time her pale blue eyes met his dark brown ones. She knew that he considered her nothing more than a sheep, someone he could terrify into submission, or keep penned in his own home until he decided that he was ready for the feast.]
[tab ] [i But she refused to be a sheep. Her father had raised her to be stronger than that.]
[tab ] [i [b [#144661 “I’m sorry. But I’ve already made my decision.”]] Troi had said, a defiance in her voice that even surprised herself. [b [#144661 “Now, if you don’t mind… I have chores here I must attend to and I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave.”]]
[tab ] [i And he had stood, saying those words that would echo through her mind for the next several days. [b “I’m sorry to hear that. Though, perhaps not as sorry as you’ll be, considering that which you’ve just unleashed.”]] he said, chuckling darkly and intentionally walking too close to her, causing her to take a step back despite wanting to keep up her appearance of bravery, and with that he left in an unceremonious slam of her front door.]
[tab ] Thinking it over now, she should’ve known better. She hadn’t been keeping up with all who were on the side of these so called ‘witch hunters’, she should’ve paid more attention to the way that people stared at her in town, but that was all too little too late now.
[tab ] The sound of horse hooves resonated heavily against the forest path behind her, causing her eyes to go wide as she dove off the path and into the brush, hoping that the more difficult terrain would keep her safe, that they wouldn’t pursue her here, and she pushed forward until she became terribly, hopelessly lost, and continued her pursuit, praying silently that she might come upon a different path, a break in the tree cover so that she might be able to have some small sliver of moonlight to guide her way, to give her the comfort she needed to feel as though she could catch her breath.
[tab ] And almost as though her prayers had been answered, she came upon a clearing, and in the dark of the early morning she could see the palest outline of an estate. [i Is this the haunted manor from those stories… tales of the mansion of the marsh.] She pushed warnings of the dangers that lurked within those stories, casting a furtive glance behind her even though she hadn’t heard hooves behind her for some time now, making her way to the seemingly abandoned manor that stood so beautifully here.
[tab ] Even if it were only for the remainder of the night, Troi hoped she might find some sanctuary here, and tentatively approached the entrance to the manor, pressing a pale and shaky hand against the door to test if it had been locked...
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