Free Fiction: The Curse of Splintermoon Manor

It’s been a while since I treated you to some free fiction, so I decided it was time I rectified this oversight. This came from a flash fiction prompt I set my writing group, Writebulb, which was the proverb, ‘Never judge a book by its cover’. I hope you enjoy my take on it.

The Curse of Splintermoon Manor

splintermoon

The long, wide hallway was resplendent with ornate mirrors, oil paintings of previous occupants and intricately carved wood and plaster. As Beth paused to gaze at a particularly severe-looking woman, she realised just how much she enjoyed the research aspect of writing.

Splintermoon Manor, a 16th century mansion, lay deep in the Essex countryside. It was reputedly one of the most haunted houses in Britain, and as such, was the perfect setting for the novel Beth was planning. She wasn’t one to just surf the internet for research, Beth preferred to visit places, take photographs to refer back to and soak up the ambiance; there was a strong atmosphere in the manor to absorb.

She continued slowly along the polished wood floor, taking a few shots as she meandered then halted as she came to a strangely carved wood panel. This was so different from the rest; taking a photo she then moved closer.

The panel’s carvings of runes started at the centre then worked in an ever-growing spiral towards the edges. Around the frame were strange symbols; some she had come across in earlier research, but others were entirely new and they fascinated her.

Beth placed her index finger on the centre rune and traced it along the spiral until she heard a soft click. She looked around, but was alone. As she turned her attention back to the panel, she noticed a thin bead of light from one edge that hadn’t been there before. She pushed gently at the edge and was surprised when the panel swung inwards on well-oiled hinges, revealing a brightly-lit passageway.

Beth’s eyes grew wide and her mouth gaped; most old mansions reputedly had secret passages, but she never thought she would find one. After a brief hesitation she stepped over the lintel and gazed around. There was a dead end behind the panel, but the long passage turned a corner ahead so she couldn’t see how far it went. Taking a deep breath she began to walk forwards.

Moments later, Beth heard a soft click behind her. She whirled around and saw the panel had closed. No-one was there. Trepidation coursed through her, but she continued on her path.

The passage seemed so long with its many twists and turns; although still lit, the passage gave Beth chills, especially as the eyes in the paintings seemed to follow her. These portraits had a sinister edge – all the frames had the strange symbols carved into them.

Beth turned another corner and was met by a huge door with the exact same carving as the hall panel. She paused, pondering whether to continue on, her curiosity warring with her practical side, when the door swung open. Curiosity won and Beth moved cautiously over the threshold.

Entering the large room, she heard a reedy voice, “Welcome, Beth.” Sitting in an armchair by an open fire was an old man. Dressed in clothes from the Victorian era, his papery skin resembled parchment yet his eyes sparkled with youth. It was strange seeing this ancient man with such eyes.

“How do you know my name? Who are you?” Beth blurted out.

The old man chuckled. “Allow me to introduce myself – I am Edwin Splintermoon and your great, great uncle. I’ve been expecting you, my dear.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Beth replied automatically. “Sorry, but what do you mean you’ve been expecting me?” An uneasy inquisitiveness scorched her eyes and voice.

Edwin skirted the question, “You look so much like her, you know,” his voice wistful.

“Who?”

“Amelia,” he replied pointing to a portrait on the far wall. Beth’s eyes followed his finger and gasped as she caught sight of the woman. Apart from the hairstyle and clothes, she could have been gazing at her own reflection.

“Will you tell me about her?”

Edwin nodded and gestured for her to sit opposite him. Beth complied and waited for his account.

“Amelia was my eldest sister, your great, great aunt, and mistress of this manor. Five years after she inherited the house she met a man and became smitten. I didn’t like or trust him – he had shifty eyes – and tried to persuade her to send him away. She wouldn’t hear of it and we had a terrible fight. Two nights later, there was an awful commotion coming from her room. Fearing for her safety I rushed in, but there was no sign of her. Her room was in disarray and on her bed I found a lock of her hair and a drip of blood. She has never been seen or heard from since that night,” Edwin’s voice became sadder in the telling.

“I’m so sorry,” Beth wasn’t sure what else to say. She looked down at her hands and failed to see a strange glint in the old man’s eyes.

“You are the last descendant of our family and will soon inherit this magnificent home. As such, will you do me the honour of signing our family book?” Beth raised her head and saw a pleading in Edwin’s sad eyes. She nodded and he rose, shuffling across the room to an old writing desk.

On the desk was a huge tome. The outer covering looked like animal skin and the pages inside like parchment. He flicked through until he found what he sought – part of a family tree. He pointed at the elaborate diagram, “See?”

Beth stared at the page; there was her name and above that those of her parents and grandparents. Edwin passed her an old-fashioned quill and pointed just below her name. “Sign it there, please.”

As Beth signed her name, she was surprised to observe red ink on the page. As she watched, it altered to black. Strange, she thought. She moved towards Edwin. “I really must go now. It’s been lovely to meet you – perhaps I can visit you again.” She extended her hand.

Edwin grabbed her hand in his papery ones; a sadistic grin marred his features and a sizzle of fear trickled down her spine. She pulled her hand away and moved towards the door, but it had vanished. Beth gasped and she heard a wicked chuckle behind her.

“Sorry, Beth, you’re not going anywhere. You see, in signing the book you have bound yourself to this house forever. You can never leave and you can’t destroy the book either, it’s protected by the curse.”

“Curse? What curse?”

“Legend has it that one of our ancestors was a witch hunter in the seventeenth century and he tricked a witch into falling in love with him just so he could destroy her. When she realised what he had done, she cursed him and his bloodline for all time. Within a couple of days of her death, this book appeared in the house. Every descendant of the witch hunter who writes in it has been bound to the house and isn’t released until the next relative does so. Now it’s your turn and I can leave . . . at last.” As she watched Edwin began to grow younger and at the same time, lose substance until he was little more than an outline.

“Will you help me, please?” she begged, tears forming.

“Sorry my dear, there’s nothing I can do. Perhaps you should be careful what you sign – after all, you can’t judge a book by its cover!”

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A Flash of Inspiration – Or Is It?

The next post to appear for the Heart Search Blog Tour was written for C M Skiera. He gave me the topic of inspiration to write about and I decided I was going to do something a little different for this one. Here is the end result.

Inspiration – what does that word mean to you? In the dictionary it’s defined as:            1. Stimulation to do creative work; stimulation for the human mind to creative thought or to the making of art [found inspiration in the landscape around her]. 2. Somebody or something that inspires; somebody or something that inspires somebody to creative thought or to the making of art [His book is an inspiration to all would-be travellers]. 3. Creativeness; the quality of being stimulated to create thought or activity, or the manifestation of this [a moment of inspiration].

As writers we all need inspiration to put pen to paper or our fingers on the keyboard. Yet there’s a missing ingredient here – imagination. To me, inspiration and imagination go hand in hand, like eggs and bacon or toast and marmalade. Yes you can have eggs without the bacon or toast without the marmalade, but will it taste as good?

So let’s explore imagination for a minute. As children we had truckloads of it; we would do drawing and paintings, play with dolls or toy soldiers making things up as we went along yet as we grow into adulthood our imagination seems to get stifled by life. Yeah, sometimes it’s hard to let our imagination run riot when we’re worried about paying bills, work, and maybe we’ve got kids and a spouse. But to be a writer we need to allow our imagination out of its box and go wild.

The dictionary defines imagination as: 1. Ability to visualise; the ability to form images and ideas in the mind, especially of things never seen or experienced directly. 2. Creative part of mind; the part of the mind where ideas, thoughts and images are formed.

Do you see the link between the two definitions?

Okay, so let’s put the two together and see what we get. Your scenario is – you’re out for a drive in the countryside and you come across a little church tucked away behind some trees or bushes. You’re intrigued so you stop for a closer look. It’s just a small abandoned church with weeds and overgrown grass in the yard. Or is it? Now let your imagination soar . . .

Why is the church abandoned? Perhaps it was used for pagan or satanic worship and a posse of god-fearing folk drove them out. Maybe there was a small town around the church at one time – what happened to the people and houses? Did a plague wipe out the town and the homes razed to the ground to eradicate the disease? Was there something supernatural which drove the people away, like a poltergeist? Perhaps a serial killer methodically wiped out the town, one family at a time. Did extra-terrestrials have something to do with it?

Going back to the church itself, is something hidden in the crypt, something magical? Is someone or something evil buried beneath the church? Is the crypt now used as a vampire’s resting place? And what about the churchyard – have the grass and weeds been allowed to grow wild to hide something? If so, what could it be? Do some of the gravestones hide clues to a secret treasure or symbols to summon demonic forces.

Now you’ve let your imagination picture all these possibilities for a simple abandoned church, you have created the inspiration to work some magic with it. Now you can grab your keyboard or pad and pen and begin to sketch out a story. Once you’ve decided which scenario you’re going to write about you can then start thinking about characters and building your plot.

Anything you see, no matter how ordinary can be made extraordinary just by using your imagination. This also applies to people. A man walking down the street looking shabby could be a millionaire, a celebrity in disguise, a spy, a witch hunter, a wizard or a homeless ex-soldier.

If you struggle to find inspiration for your writing it’s probably because you’re not allowing your imagination to feed it. So as you travel to work, walk down the shops or out in the countryside, or drive somewhere in your car, really open your eyes, let your imagination take flight and allow yourself to be inspired.

The lesson from this is that inspiration is all around us – we’ve just got to open our eyes and see!