A Wonderful Nightmare

What was her name? It had been so long that she had carried on in this world apart from the one she'd known for so long that she seemed to be losing herself, the one thing Mr. Andrews told her to never do, lest she be lost in the annex of her mind forever. Though, as she examined her journal she had come to wonder why anyone should ever want to awaken from such a wonderful nightmare?

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4. Life as Usual

   It was dawn now as I awoke in that bed in my new room in the manor. I sat up stretching, thinking that what had occurred perhaps the evening before was perhaps an illusion, a hallucination perhaps brought on by my reading up on such things; like I said I wasn't exactly a "normal" girl. However I soon realized it couldn't have been... for there it lay on the desk; the codex he had showed me and on my finger with a faint and eerie glow lay the Amethyst ring.

   "Well that was certainly interesting," I spoke in quiet chill to myself as I examined the ring. "My dreams have never been so fraught and terrible." I watched as the glow steadily faded from the ring, a quiet whisper creeping into my ears.

   "We've only just begun, Miss" it called with with even tone and whimsy, it was rather creepy in it's aforementioned message. To think that perhaps I was actually involved in something that was quickly becoming that of the supernatural it seemed. It was terrifying but strangely thrilling at the same time to think my dreams and this place could have some connection.

   "Miss Carrie?" a feminine voice called; Hannah. "Are you roused?"

   "Aye, I am, come in, Hannah," I yawned as I hid the ring in my bedside drawer. Quietly she entered the room and moved about to my bedside. "My dear mistress, I am here to advise you that should you move about outside today you should dress warmly."

   "Is it that chilled today?"

   "Indeed it is," she replied in an even tone as she moved to the dresser and began putting together a set of clothes for the day. A simple mid-tone purple Shirt with frills to over my white corset (How I hated those bloody things). A fine pair of grey sports trouser like what jockeys would wear on a race day and mid-length brown boots; I looked fit for expedition, to which I knew Vincent wouldn't mind as we weren't entertaining a soul and he knew I'd explore whether he bid me yea or nay.

   After about twenty minutes of readying myself, courtesy of fighting with Hannah and that corset now pressing my frame thin, I headed down meekly to the dining room on the far end of the house. It was dim in the dinning room and much of the furniture still lay coated in either dust that had settled over the years or covered by cloth. The colors that were once of rich color seemed muted now, almost to announce the bygone age of joy that must have once warmed this home. 

   "Lady Carrie," called the meek voice of the chef as he stepped out from the kitchen, "Ah it is early, what brings you down to me at this hour of only ten past six?"

   "Explorers start early and rest late," I smiled as I showed off my dress attire for the day, "Fitting, no?"

   "Very becoming of your womanly features," he smiled while teasingly adding, "however, it does make you seem boyish, if not for your hair, I'd have mistaken ye for a knavish lad."

   "I beg your pardon," I grinned as he laughed knowing it was all in good sport. "Now then you crude old man, how's about making us some eggs for our venture?"

   "Aye, Miss," he smiled as he meandered back to whence he came. Will scrambled do?"

   "They will," I smiled as I watched him. I have to admit that cooking was perhaps one of the womanly virtues I didn't mind, moreover I kind of had an affinity for and spark for it. Soon afterwards I headed out to explore the mansion in it's entirety. What a strange discovery would I find in this place.

********************

   Pain, pain was all I felt from that wound that she had given me while I dreamed. Carrie has grown into quiet the young woman, quite a fighter too. I held onto my torso over the bandaged wound as I adjusted myself in my bed. Alister had recommended I lay without a shirt so I wouldn't become discomforted or risk yanking the shirt's stitching against the bandages.

   "I'll make her pay," I whispered under my breath. "Her and that damned freak with bat wings...Mr. Andrews, you'll not find Mason, I won't let you."

   "You are awake enough to plot still?" he came into my room with a fresh bowl of sterilization liquid and bandage. "Young master, let I do my job as caretaker and carry out your will, lest you be wounded as such as you are now." He sat beside me on the bed with the bowl on his lap, watching as I stared with disdain at the bowl; pain is all I felt.

   "Must you?" I asked without breaking eye-contact with that damned liquid within. "It stings enough and besides, I feel as though the wound has healed. As I went to sit up though I felt minor pain and discomfort, whimpering slightly as Alister stopped me and forced me gently down as he pointed out the growing spot of crimson tainting the purity of the white bandage.

   "Stubborn, and prideful young master, this is what you are," he smiled meekly as he began to unwind the bandages letting me breathe deeply. I laid back and inhaled slowly, taking the scent of lavender and thyme in the room; Alister had recently bathed and used that herbal soap he crafted again. It smelled nice.

   "Alister," I whispered as he lay me flat having undone my bandages, discarding them off to the side as he readied the bowl and washcloth. "Why are you so gentle with me?"

   "Because, you are my young master and I care for your safety and comfort," he answered as he pressed the cloth to the wound causing me to groan in pain and writhe a bit; a grin, a grin ever so subtle and small played faintly and quickly on his face before returning to normal in no more than a second. Did he just get a kick out of my pain? That's new or...maybe I just never noticed before that Alister was maybe a sadist deep inside.

   Pain...it's all I can feel.

********************

   I had been wandering the mansion for a few hours now and I had come across a few things of interest. Mainly a small passage in the back side of the manor that led out to the back courtyard. Faded and cracked stone lay embedded in the ground in a pattern that must've once been a very masterfully crafted circular stone sitting area or patio. Wild flowers sprouted in the grass around with seemingly no sense of pattern. Beautiful, colorful and hypnotizing were those flowers I just watched them for a while swaying in the cold seasonal air.

   "Come to me..." a whisper called me to attention from nowhere it seemed. Looking away I wandered the small hedged area until I noticed it; well overgrown by vines and thorns stood twin Iron gates into the area behind the immense hedgerows which as I looked, I noted it was a maze behind them, a seemingly peaceful but foreboding labyrinth of hedge and stone.

   "I wonder..." I whispered as I began to search for a latch to the gates. I searched until I found the lock and the small iron latch and ketch bound up in a bundle of thick vines and thorns. No matter though as I had stolen a knife from the Chef when he was not attending. I began to hack away at the vines, careful not to stick myself on those pesky thorns until I had cleared away the lock and ketch.

   "Now then, let's see if you'll budge," I grunted as I pushed hard on the gate until to my amazement it screeched open begrudgingly, the remaining vines and thorns tearing away and ripping harshly as the gateway became opened before me. Walking into the passage beyond a cold gust blew up the passage and seemingly through me as if warning me to return to whence I came. With excitement blooming inside of my bosom I did not pay mind to the icy gust as I headed off into the labyrinth.

   "It's easy to get lost in here," I whispered to myself as I wandered around the maze. Every now and then I'd come to an intersection in the labyrinth where there would be usually three pathways along with the one I came on and in the center of this opening stood a rather imposing small stone tower with a wrapping stair to the platform above which upon climbing I noticed that there were four towers like this in total with a seemingly strange stone gazebo standing firm in what appeared to be the center point .

   "I wonder what's out there?" I quickly stepped down off the tower and headed what seemed to be west. After another perhaps twenty minutes of wandering, I came to another small open area but there were iron fence and a set of iron gates like at was at the entrance. What really caught my attention though was that as a gust blew a few rose petals ascended over the hedges and vines and descended into my face, gently caressing my cheeks as they glided by.

   My curiosity pushed me to explore, searching to see if I could get a look inside the grated iron fence but to no avail as the thorns and brambles of the roses that acted as a beautiful but deadly hedgerows. Eventually though I managed to work one of what turned out to be two gates (One on either end) open enough where I could scoot into it. What I found was beautiful.

   A large stone fountain with two tiers and a small statue topping it. Trickles of water streamed out from the top on the second tier down gracefully to the larger reflecting pool bottom half. All around me were roses, mostly long wilted and frozen by the cold but strangely enough some still seemed to be in bloom. As I walked around I found a few small benches and a small stone gazebo. What finally stopped me though was a small stone memorial and plaque on the opposite side of the fountain from where I approached.

   "Here lies the the remains of the mistress of the manor. Loving wife, mother and friend. Taken from the world far too soon to be called home to Heaven."

   The name and dates of this apparent dead woman were covered in snow but, as I went to clear it off I felt a gentle grip on my shoulder.

   "Mistress Crawford was a wonderful woman, gentle and soft but firm and determined," Mr. Andrew's voice called as he stood me up and turned me around to face him. "Miss Carrie I ask that while you are here you not disturb the site. It was important to the master before and as such he asked the tomb be left undisturbed by anyone."

   "I was only brushing off the stone!"

   "Yes but I am following my orders and besides, we must return to our duty of cracking that enigma the young master left behind," he answered with calm indifference. He handed me a faded blue key and smiled. "You may come here whenever you please but please, observe her wishes and that of the young master."

   "Very well.." I sighed as I snatched the key. I looked up into his eyes and sighed again before smiling softly. "So, where does that leave us now, well Mr. Andrews?"

   "We have the first clue I believe, come with me, please," He smiled as he seemed to glide to the nearest gate. I soon followed after him but I couldn't match his stealth as I made quiet crunching of the leaves beneath me and the hardened soil, I had to wonder how he was so quiet but for now I would focus on my promise and goal.

   Once back inside we made little time back to the bedroom where I closed the door and sat beside Mr. Andrews as he began to scribble down a few notes on parchment paper. I watched as he skillfully and quickly wrote in fine penmanship with seemingly no effort.

   "You are seemingly quite skilled at penmanship, almost like you've done it for a while," I smiled as he seemed to grin meekly without looking up at me.

   " I did do much writing for the master and mistress in my time in direct servitude to them," he answered as he put down the quill. "I thank you for your kindness Miss but it is negligible in a skill." He stood up at the desk and clicked on the lamp, ushering me over to him. "You my dear, ably discovered an important clue for the enigma. Your natural sense of truth and justice seems to have solved part of the clue. Monochrome was infant a key."

   "The boy? How?" I queried as I looked at his notes. That's when I noticed something. "Did you filch this off him?" I picked up a journal entry and examined it. Carefully I began to pick up on certain key words and phrases that all had one commonality; the letter M was always capitalized in in a slightly different script than the others.

   "M is the key dear, it's one of the letters," He smiled as he looked at the enigma. "However it seems we have still some work to do."

   "So essentially, this will be our work? Scouring the manor and my dreams for clues?"

   "Indeed, just a usual day I guess."

   "Life as usual for me," I sighed as I put the ring back on, "however, this is the life I chose..."

 

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