Lyn gasped. She felt a small shock zap through her head and dissipate. The spirit bond she shared with Drake vanished suddenly. Her wine glass slipped and shattered on the floor. Dark wine oozed onto the carpet with bits of broken glass sparkling. And she fell to the floor and shivered, though the fireplace in the master bedroom burned brightly. The pearl necklace on her neck pulsated in a flustered pattern.
She continued shaking and tears fell from one eye, then the other. Her face contorted into a miserable appearance with red eyes and ruined mascara. It stained her nightgown as it bled down her face and past her neck. The open window blew a fierce gale that rocked the shutters and then there was silence. A single maple leaf floated into the bedroom, brown and withered.
Lyn could no longer bear the taciturnity. She exploded. Her wail was deep but hollow, as if a Banshee foretold a person’s death. Godfrey and Kalen burst through the door with their weapons drawn. Kalen sneered and shouldered his shotgun, a bottle of whisky in his other hand like usual. Godfrey made a face and snatched the bottle from him.
“Drinking on the job again?”
The butler scoffed demurely and rushed to Lyn’s side. He took a knee. “Lady Lyn, what’s wrong?”
Kalen shrugged. “Guess I’m not needed here. I’ll make my rounds…”
He left the room.
The broken glass crunched beneath Godfrey’s soles. “I just cleaned the carpets today…”
Lyn’s cries became nothing but soft whimpers. She couldn’t form her words, expelling only sharp gasps that left her breathless. Godfrey made a circling motion with his hands and demanded Lyn’s attention.
“Deep breaths,” he said, sharply inhaling through his nose.
Her breaths steadied as she followed his lead and somewhat composed herself. Her racing heart slowed, but the pain within it ached without relent. But broken was probably a better word.
“Lady Lyn, what happened?”
Lyn caught her breath only long enough to tell him, “Drake’s gone…”
Her words struck Godfrey like a freight train.
Godfrey was settling down when he caught the whiff of smoke. He hadn’t even untied his shoes yet and instead stood from his bed. He sniffed again and walked to his door where fumes of black smoke crept under the crack.
He swung open the door as a screen of smoke suffocated him and blinded his eyes. Godfrey took a handkerchief from his pocket and tied it around his face. Then he ducked, keeping as low to the ground as possible. The other servants screamed and hollered below as they raced to safety. Kalen stood at the lobby’s main entrance, directing the flow of traffic. At least it was a controlled frenzy.
The entire west and east gallery became a violent inferno of fire and smoke. Wooden beams crashed from the ceiling and the Atlas statue in the main lobby collapsed into broken slabs of stone. The fire clung to the curtains of every window and every tapestry, spreading its madness. Glass shattered and melted from the heat. Godfrey knew in his heart the estate would not survive the unquenchable fire that consumed everything in its path.
He rolled his sleeves, buttoned his vest and tucked his shirt. Godfrey prepared to die as a gentleman. Everywhere he looked there was nothing but walls of fire. And there he was, trapped on the second floor. Sweat glazed on his forehead and he felt like he was slowly melting away. Godfrey reached for the golden pocket watch in his vest.
Its hands remained idle, stuck in the same position as always. A small smile tugged the old butler’s lips. He shut the watch with a flick of the wrist. And just as he thought he would soon see Drake in the afterlife along with his wife and children-
Kalen leapt through the fire, tearing a gap through it that closed just as fast. Black powder covered Kalen’s face and his white rat tail was scorched from his head. Kalen growled and lifted Godfrey onto his back one handed.
“No one said you could die yet old man!”
Godfrey chuckled. Kalen took a deep squat and jumped, landing at the main entrance. Perhaps the drunken werewolf wasn’t as useless as he thought. Godfrey and Kalen pushed the heavy wooden doors shut just as the ceiling collapsed and an implosion of fire consumed the remaining lobby. They found themselves at the courtyard where the servants gathered.
“Kalen, take accountability and look for any survivors will you?”
Godfrey turned and disappeared around a corner of the mansion.
Godfrey hated running as much as he did serving tea to the women’s table. He circled to the back of the mansion to the gardens, not yet kissed by fire. The burning mansion illuminated the night behind him with plumes of smoke rising to the sky. Embers and ash floated in every direction. He checked the observatory with no sign of Lyn.
He ran as fast as he could, taking a path through the gardens that led to the cemetery. Smoke floated downwind, reaching over the small hill to the mausoleums. To his terror, the fire doused the tops of the mausoleums and crept its way into the cemetery. He heard singing.
“Aux armes, citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!
Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé
L’étendard sanglant est levé
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!”
He knew that voice and that song. La Marseillaise. And only one person in that entire estate spoke French…
Lyn danced and twirled on her toes around the forbidden tree. She held a bottle of wine in one hand and her bow in the other. She continued singing and slurring her words. Her nightgown was torn at the knees with a strap hanging loosely off her shoulder. Godfrey sauntered to her and for the first time… He feared for his life from her.
Lyn’s bare feet treaded against the soft blades of grass. Her hair wasn’t in its usual pony tail and sank down her back in a messy scramble. She turned and smiled upon realizing Godfrey’s presence.
“Oh, hey Godfrey!”
“Have you lost your mind!” the butler gritted.
A single apple from the forbidden tree rested near her feet. Behind her stood the demon tree. Set ablaze with its branches falling and turning into ash. Lyn guffawed. He could hear the madness in her voice. The wideness of her eyes. She continued to dance and spin, ignoring his voice of reason.
Godfrey looked back to the burning mansion again. He fell to his knees, defeated, and cried.