The Witching Hour

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“My lady!” Frederic gasped.

Frederic had been a servant for the Tormount family for many years. He had seen many Tormount children grow and become adults, slowly before his eyes. And never in his years of service had he felt as afraid for one of them as he felt that night.
Lady Gemma was dripping wet, her golden hair seemed almost grey, and something behind her clever eyes seemed broken. She had been gone for three days, disappeared without a trace, during the night. Nobody knew what happened. Until this night, when just after the clock struck three times, he had heard the knocking on the door. Weak, silent knocking that someone less attentive would probably not hear. He had shuddered as he opened the door. Three o’clock, the witching hour, never brings anything good, he had thought to himself. But sometimes, even Frederic could be wrong. The night brought his dear lady back.

“Where have you been?” Frederic cried out, but he knew he would not get an answer.

Lady Gemma almost fell to the ground, but he caught her with the swiftness of a young man. He took her in his arms, as if she were a child again, and stepped inside the mansion to carry her to her bed.
The household had already awakened. Master Edmund and his wife were standing on top of the stairs in their night robes, their eyes heavy and their minds not yet aware of what was going on. The mistress was the first to run down the stairs.

“Gemma! Oh, my, Gemma is home!” she screamed.

“What’s happened?” the master stood motionless, unable to follow his wife downstairs.

“I don’t know. I heard the knocking and went to open the door…” Frederic started.

“Did she say anything?” the mistress’ hands trembled as she removed the wet hair from her daughter’s face.

“No,” Frederic replied. “We must take her to her room. Warm her up.”

The mistress nodded. Frederic carried Gemma to her room and she followed him. The master soon joined them, together with the two servant girls.
Everyone was silent, doing the best they knew to get the lady dry and warm. The girls bathed her in warm water, dressed her and put her in bed, while the others waited. The mistress then approached her daughter and covered her in warm white sheets.

“She doesn’t have a fever. That’s a good sign,” said one of the girls.

“Yes, yes…” the mistress had retained her strength for days, but now she started to cry.

“We must look after her through the night. Not leave her sight,” the master said.

“Of course. The girls can stay here until the morning,” Frederic said and looked at the girls who nodded in agreement.

“I’ll stay as well!” the mistress said. “I can’t leave her.”

The master approached his wife and patted her shoulder.

“If anything changes call me immediately. I don’t think I will be sleeping anyway,” he told her.

“I hope nothing horrible happened to her… She doesn’t seem harmed,” the mistress mumbled, as if she didn’t want to say it out loud.

“We’ll know more tomorrow. Now it’s important to let her rest. She’s obviously exhausted.”

The master left the room and Frederic followed him. In silence, they went each to his own room. They both knew they would wait for morning with eyes wide open. Frederic watched as the pale light of his master’s candle disappeared down the hallway. The mansion always looked different in the dark. It seemed less luxurious and felt less like home.
The door screaked as Frederic closed them. His room was small, but tidy. Tidiness always gave him comfort, made him feel like all is good with the world. Everything can be arranged and all broken things could be fixed. This time, it only reminded him how little his room resembled the real world. He had seen many injustices, many evils. All he could hope for was that none of those horrible things would touch those he cared about.
And then, he heard a scream. Piercing, loud, short. Everything was silent in the very next moment. Without really knowing what he was doing, Frederic ran to lady Gemma’s room. He opened the door, without knocking, something he would ordinarily never do. And then he realized what had happened.
The window was open, and the bed empty. The once white sheets were soaked in crimson, the floor covered in red. Three women lied, their bodies contorted, their eyes opened but blank. Just dead meat left of what used to be the mistress and two young servant girls. Their throats have been cut. A massacre.
They were back. Frederic didn’t think it would happen, but it has. He had to find them, end them. He had to catch his lady as well, his little girl, Gemma of the golden hair. And he had to hurry. No time to think. The master must’ve heard the scream and is coming towards the room.
Frederic growled, in anger and in pain, and his pointed, ivory teeth showed. The witching hour had passed, but it wasn’t witches he had to deal with anyway.
He followed the trace of moonlight and flew through the window.


Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

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