The moon hung low and heavy over the trees of the Armstrong mansion. The mansion had been abandoned for years and the grass had become overgrown except for a well-worn path that led from the street to the back of the property. Several cars lined the road leading up to the once impressive house. Transients now used the mansion as a shelter during the colder Illinois months and during rainstorms. The crisp autumn air meant that they would soon return until there were complaints and the police came to scare them off for a night or two. A figure wearing a hooded cloak hurried along the path and ducked through a boarded-up window. The boards on this window were actually set with a hinge to make entry easier. As the person entered through the window, they pulled the hood down to show a pale, pretty face of a young woman. She had long auburn hair that was pulled back with a white ribbon, tied into a bow on top of her head. She took the cloak off and hung it on a peg near the window and looked around. Seeing that no one was there she began walking with more confidence to a door set into the wall opposite the window.
“A little late, aren’t you?” A female voice asked from behind her. The girl let out a quiet gasp and spun to look into the face of her mother.
“Mom, you startled me.” The girl said and held a hand over her heart as if trying to keep it from jumping from her chest. The girl wore a long white dress that was tied at the waist with a scarlet sash, just the same as her mother. The mothers auburn hair was in a more stylized cut to match the times.
“Where were you?” The mother asked as she crossed her arms over her stomach and began to tap her left foot. The girl looked about quickly and jumped when the window’s boards banged open and a body fell through.
“Shit. If that didn’t wake the neighbors, I don’t know what will.” A male voice came from the body. The girl’s normal warm and cheerful hazel eyes were now wide with terror as they darted from the body to that of her mother quickly.
“Jessica Boyle! Please tell me that this is not the reason that you are late.” Mrs. Boyle said loudly as she held a hand out to indicate the body on the floor. The boy looked up in shock when he heard Mrs. Boyle speak. He had handsome features that would in another time land him in movies and TV in an instant. He had close cut black hair and piercing blue eyes with a strong jawline. He quickly got to his feet and brushed the dirt off of his clothes, black slacks and a gray button-down shirt. Jessica had buried her face in her hands and was shaking her head.
“No mother, I swear. It’s not what you are thinking.” Jessica said from behind her hands trying to plead with her mother. Instead of responding to Jessica, Mrs. Boyle moved directly in front of the boy. Despite him being six feet four inches in height and her being only five feet five inches, he seemed to cower under her intense gaze. Her storm gray eyes seemed to bore into him and go directly to his soul.
“I’ve heard from my untrustworthy daughter now I expect to hear the truth from you, Wayne Bennett.” Mrs. Boyle said and stared at him harder. Wayne shuffled from foot to foot as he looked over Mrs. Boyle’s head at her daughter and shrugged.
“Yes ma’am. I am the reason that we are late. I told Jessica that I would pick her up after football practice and I wanted to get something to eat. We lost track of time. I am sorry.” Wayne said, still refusing to meet the gaze of Mrs. Boyle. Mrs. Boyle looked from him to her daughter and back.
“Is this true?” She asked, as she walked up to Jessica and forced her to look her in the face. Jessica nodded her head quickly.
“I don’t trust either of you. Get down to the chamber now.” Mrs. Boyle said and stomped her way to the door. Once the door was opened there was the flickering of candles to cast jumping shadows and the sound of chanting that drifted up.
“Yes, mother.” Jessica said and hurried to the top of the stairs, shrugging her head down onto her shoulders as she passed her mother. Wayne took a little more of a leisurely pace and stretched his back as he passed the older woman. Mrs. Boyle followed them down the old stone stairs to the chamber below. There were close to fifty people down there in all manners of outfits. Five people on the outskirts of the chamber all wore hooded robes with the hoods pulled up hiding their features. At the bottom of the stairs, Wayne and Jessica began making their way around the assembled people, greeting them all. Mrs. Boyle walked immediately over to the center of the chamber where a low walled well stood. Several other ladies were there and began to speak in whispered voices.
“Sorry I got you in trouble with your mom.” Wayne whispered to Jessica when he lowered his head. Jessica looked up at him with watering eyes.
“No, I should apologize that I got you in trouble with my mother.” Jessica whispered back. Wayne gave her a dazzling smile and a kind wink before he moved on. Jessica stood in an empty pocket of the room and watched as people began to form into small groups. Whispered words rose up around her like a whirlwind, Jessica closed her eyes and slowly lifted her head until her face was parallel with the ceiling. Her brows furrowed in confusion as she felt a wind begin to whip itself around the chamber. She lowered her head and looked in amazement as six robed figures stood around the well with their hands clasped.
Was the chant that came from the group at the well. Mrs. Boyle quickly raised her hand demanding that they stop but she was ignored. One of the six threw an arm out pointing to a small group.
“Ignis!" The member shouted and two of the people in the smaller group were thrown to the ground screaming as their clothes and body burst into flames. The rest of the assembled people began to scream and run around as the chamber began to fill with the black greasy smoke of their friends burning alive.
“Hold your places, please. Together we can stop this.” Mrs. Boyle shouted as her hair began to lift and swirl in an impossible wind. Some of the people were on the floor writhing in pain, others were cowering on the floor rocking back and forth with their hands pressed firmly to the sides of their heads.
The group of six said loudly in unison, they repeated this over and over.
“No! You don’t know what it is that you are doing. You will doom us all!” Mrs. Boyle shouted. She tried to move towards the group but for every step that she took the wind pushed her back three feet.
"Ignis!" Someone in the group shouted and pointed a hand at her. She slammed against the wall behind her and screamed as smoke began to rise off of her body. Her hair burst into flame, followed soon by her dress and the rest of her body. As her screams died out, one more rose to take its place. The six turned to look at a lone woman standing by the stairs leading to the chamber.
“Mother!” Jessica screamed as she watched in horror as her mother was reduced to ashes. She turned and fled up the stairs before any of the members could stop her. One of the members attempted to break the circle that they formed but was held tightly by the members that held hands with him.
“She must be stopped.” Wayne shouted as he tried in vain to break free from the grasp of the six. His hood fell down as he struggled revealing his look of pain and revulsion at the scene unfolding before him.
“She will be in time. We have all the power that is needed to find and silence her. Now do not break the circle or else the same fate that befell her mother will fall upon you as well.” The member directly across from the young man said. He was an older version of the young man. His black hair had streaks of silver running through it and had even more intense burning blue eyes.
“Yes father.” The young man said and lowered his head. The older man nodded once and looked to the other members who also nodded.
“Very good Wayne, now let’s ensure that our will has taken hold on the Shadow Pool.” The man said as they all looked into the depths of the well. The inky depths of the well stared back at Wayne’s father.
“Stare into the abyss long enough and something will stare back at you.” Mr. Bennett said with a chuckle as a shadow seemed to crawl over his features.
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