When the carriage pulled up out front of Nicholas's townhouse they waited for it to come to a complete halt before Nicholas climbed out first. Then he held his hand up for Elizabeth who stepped down next. Nadia started to climb down herself but wasn't sure what to do when Nicholas took her by the hand and helped her down as well. She had never had any man or any person for that matter ever help her step out of a carriage before. And the more she thought about it she had never ridden in a carriage before in her entire life. Her cheeks became bright red as she felt so embarrassed by this man actually holding her hand for a moment as she stepped down onto the ground. By this time Henry, his footman had already opened the front door for them as each one of them entered the townhouse.
Nicholas turned at once to his footman as soon as he stepped into the hall. "We will be leaving London and returning to Hillcrest Manor, immediately."
"But, but your lordship, you all just got here." He replied in total disbelief. He just shook his head not understanding why on earth they would be leaving so soon. They had just arrived late last night and now they want to leave, again? He then noticed the gypsy girl that was standing next to them. Like Nicholas the footman had never met one before and now there was one actually standing right here in the hallway? Maybe this was just a bad nightmare he couldn't wake up from or maybe he was just imagining it all. But it wasn't his place to question anything his lordship did or said. He was to do his duty and say nothing at all.
"Henry!" Nicholas said in a much louder voice, getting his attention back. "Have the groomsman saddle up three horses for us. We won't be in need of the carriage any longer." He now turned his attention to his housekeeper, who was standing next to Henry in total bewilderment, wringing her hands together in front of her. "Have the cook make us a food basket to take with us. It's a long journey out to Hillcrest Manor and we will need nourishment along the way." He now turned to Elizabeth. "Let us go upstairs and change into fresh riding attire." Was all he had to say to Elizabeth as she flew up the stairs with Nicholas close behind her, leaving poor Nadia staring up at them not sure of what to do. She was now standing in the hallway completely alone. She had never been in a home as fine as this with its beautiful furnishings and servants to do their master's bidding. She had lived in a gypsy encampment her whole life where the wagon was the only home she ever knew. She had no idea that this was how the townspeople, as they would call them lived.
It wasn't long before Nicholas and Elizabeth were hurrying back down the stairs, their bags in hand. Now very impatient to leave. "Nadia, is there anything you require before we leave here?" He asked, looking at the younger woman.
"No. I do not require anything else. I have brought all my necessary needs with me for our journey, your lordship."
"Good." He now saw the housekeeper enter the hallway with a basket of food. Taking it out of her hands he led the two women outside where the horses were already waiting for them. Turning back toward his servants he told them that he had no idea when they would return to London. The women had already mounted their horses and were waiting patiently for Nicholas to mount his so they could embark on this first leg of this most dangerous journey that laid ahead of them. "Nadia, from this point forward please refer to me by my name and not your lordship." Nicholas said to her.
"But sir, I do not know your Christian name." She replied back to him.
"It's Nicholas. And do not call me sir anymore, either." With that said they turned their horses around and headed in the same direction they had come from the day before. Once they had reached the outskirts of London Nicholas turned and looked at Nadia. He was very curious about the gypsies and would really like to get more information from her about them. "Well Nadia," Nicholas said. It's going to be a long ride out to my estate. It’s in Moors which is quite a ways from here. Why don't you tell us a little about yourself since we're all going to be traveling companions?"
Nadia wasn't accustomed to speaking with the townspeople. They were as foreign to her as the gypsies were to them. No gypsy ever told them anything about themselves, ever. They only spoke when they had to. She had never been asked anything like that before by anyone. So she wasn't really sure of what exactly to tell this man. "What do you require to know?" She replied, hesitantly.
He just looked at her for a moment. "I don't require to know anything, but I would like to get to know you better as a person since we're all going to be traveling companions for quite some time."
"Oh. I understand now. I've just never been asked that before." She said and then there was total silence again.
Nicholas just shook his head in exasperation. He's never really spoken with gypsies before. He did know they were a strange lot. Everything from their attire to their ways of living. They had no permanent place of residence. Never staying in one place for very long at a time. He thought he would try a different approach with her and see if that works. He would just ask more precise questions and maybe that would get her to open up to them. "Nadia, do you have any brothers or sisters?"
"No. My parents both died when I was very young so I have lived with my grandmother ever since. Actually, I don't even remember anything about my mother or my father for that matter."
"I'm very sorry to hear that Nadia. My condolences, I didn't mean to cause you any grief." He said, now wishing he hadn't even brought up the subject of family with her. He had no idea that her parents were both dead.
"You haven't. Like I said, they died many years ago, I have grown accustomed to not having any relations except for my grandmother. She is the only one I have left in this world."
Again there was silence. Nicholas decided it might be best if he didn't ask her anymore questions right now and concentrated on the long journey ahead of them. They all rode in silence again for quite some time before they all decided to stop to rest the horses and get a bite to eat themselves from the basket his cook had packed for them before going any further.
"Nicholas, do you think we'll reach Hillcrest Manor before nightfall?" Elizabeth asked as she was looking up at the sky overhead.
"I doubt it. We had a pretty late start today so I think we can ride another hour or two and then we had better start looking for a place to sleep tonight."
"I don't recall any inns along the way," she said, trying to remember if she had noticed any on her last trip to from London.
"That's because there aren't any. This road is quite desolate to say the least."
Elizabeth looked back at him in horror. "Then pray tell Nicholas, where are we going to stay tonight if there aren't any inns along this road?"
"In the woods, of course." He replied lightly, knowing she was a city girl born and raised and wasn't accustomed to spending the night out in the woods.
Memories came flooding back to her when months ago she had spent the night out in the forest near Hillcrest Manor alone, during a horrific thunderstorm. She wasn't alone out there for very long when the forest itself suddenly came 'alive'. It was probably the scariest night she had ever had in her entire life.
"Don't worry yourself now, Elizabeth. It will be fine. I've spent many a night along this road. We'll be perfectly safe so stop your worrying, okay?"
They rode for a few more hours when they decided it was finally time to stop for the night. It was just too difficult to try and travel this road in the dark. So they pulled off the road and then dismounted their horses and walked farther into the woods so anyone traveling along the road wouldn't see them. The only people who did travel this road at night were highway robbers. And that was the sort of people they didn't even want to run into. They came to a nice little clearing and decided this would be a good place as any to stay. Nicholas looked in his saddlebag and pulled out a rope. He tied it between two trees so they could tether their horses there for the night. With that done they laid out the blankets they had with them so they could use them to sleep on for the night. Elizabeth was so happy that Nicholas had experience in this matter since she didn't have any. He looked right at home while he gathered wood for the fire and did the few other chores that were necessary for them to camp here overnight. They finally settled down around the warmth of the fire and ate what was left in the basket that the cook had prepared for them. Elizabeth didn't think food could taste as good as it did out here and they ate every bit of what was left in the basket. Now that their stomachs were satisfied they all sat back and watched the flames flicker from the fire as it crackled and popped ever so often brightening their camp momentarily. Nightfall had finally come as Elizabeth couldn't believe how dark it was out here in the woods. She couldn't see anything beyond the glow of the fire. Looking up she realized that it was a moonless night which made it even darker than normal.
"I think we should all try and get some sleep don't you? Morning will come fast enough and we have a long ride ahead of us tomorrow." Nicholas said to both the ladies sitting there who totally agreed with him.
Nadia stood up, picked up a stick from the fire and took a few steps away looking out into the woods. She drew a circle completely around them as she closed her eyes and held her hands up and started to speak in a chant. "Hail fair moon ruler of the night; guard me and mine until the morning light;" then she threw the stick back into the fire causing the flames to flare up brightly.
Nicholas and Elizabeth stared at her in amazement. They had never heard anything like that before and it fascinated both of them.
Elizabeth spoke first. "Nadia, what was that you just did?"
She looked back at Elizabeth. "It's a protection spell. It will protect us from evil forces while we sleep. They won't be able to enter the circle now."
Elizabeth had heard of gypsies casting spells but she had never seen one do it. Or for that matter to actually hear the words of a spell. She was always under the impression that they only cast evil spells but this wasn't one of those.
Nicholas finally found his voice. "Well, I think Nadia's spell should put your mind at ease, Elizabeth," he chuckled. "You should have no more fear from the forest tonight."
"I hope you're right, Nicholas." she replied softly.
"So now can we lay down and get some much needed sleep we all desperately need? Tomorrow will most likely will be another growling day in the saddle."
"Yes of course, Nicholas. You’re absolutely right." Elizabeth replied back to him.
Several hours had passed as they all slept peaceably under the stars when suddenly Elizabeth woke with a start. She saw Nicholas and Nadia had also been awakened by the odd noises coming from the forest all around them. They all looked at each other, their eyes wide open in fear. The sounds were like nothing any of them had ever heard before except they sounded an awful like the strange noises they had heard when they were traveling this same road to London yesterday.
"What is that?" Nicholas shouted, but neither of the two women answered. The weird noises became louder and louder as whatever it was came right to the edge of the circle Nadia had drawn around them. The sound was almost deafening now. Nicholas quickly threw the extra wood they had into the fire causing it to light up the whole area. Just on the other side of the circle were the most hideous creatures standing on their hind legs letting out a horrific screaking sound in reaction to the brightness of the flames.
Elizabeth covered her mouth quickly so she wouldn't let the scream out that so wanted to come. Nicholas grabbed his pistol and shot one of the creatures, wounding it but not killing it. Green fluid was gushing from the wound as the creature grasped its hands over it before disappearing quickly back into the darkness of the forest. The other creatures followed but stopped a short distance away. They could still hear the odd chirping sounds coming from the forest but it wasn't nearly as loud as before. It was as if the creatures were trying to decide what they were going to do next. Thank god Nadia had placed that protection spell around them or else.... Nicholas didn't want to think any farther on these thoughts.
"I think we should take shifts standing watch from now on. It is not safe for all of us to sleep at the same time. I'll take the first watch. You two ladies try and get some sleep now while you can. You'll need to be as rested as possible for whatever we're going to encounter tomorrow." Grudgingly Elizabeth and Nadia laid back down on their blankets while Nicholas reloaded his pistol, glancing out into the darkness of the forest every few minutes, making sure those creatures hadn't decided to come back again tonight.
The following morning the sun was shining brightly through the trees when Elizabeth woke up, blinking her eyes. She saw Nicholas was already up and busy feeding the horses while Nadia was picking some berries for them to eat for their breakfast. "Why did you let me sleep so long, Nicholas?" Elizabeth asked, when she finally got up.
"Because my dear, you needed the rest." He stated seriously to her.
"But you're the one that didn't get much sleep last night. You stood guard over us while we both slept the rest of the night. That's not right, Nicholas!"
"Well in that case, if you're that worried about it you can stand the first watch tonight." He said, with a big grin on his face.
"Oh Nicholas. We'll be at Hillcrest Manor tonight. Do you really think that..." then she stopped in mid-sentence realizing that just because they will be back inside the manor house that they would be any safer than they were out here in the woods.
"Now who's learning," he chuckled at her expression then became serious again. They gathered up their blankets and placed them on the back of their saddles. Nadia brought over the berries she found and divided them between the three of them.
"These will have to suffice until we can find more food."
"Thank you, Nadia," Elizabeth said, taking the berries she had handed her and placed one in her mouth. "They're absolutely delicious! Where did you ever find them?"
"They grow wild in the forest if you know where to look for them that is."
Elizabeth was so thankful the old gypsy woman sent her granddaughter with them. If she hadn't been with them last night then who knows what would have happened to them. She placed her hands over her amulet and closed her eyes. Instantly she was in contact with the old gypsy woman again. She relayed the chain of events from last night to her with her mind.
"This is only the beginning of your journey, Elizabeth. You must never at any time let your guard down. These creatures who attacked your camp last night are the tortured souls from hell. They have been sent out across the land by their master to spy on the unsuspecting people who live here. You have already encountered one of these creatures."
"Oh my god! You mean that thing in the hallway with the purple melting skin? Why is it like that? It was the most hideous creature I have ever laid eyes on before."
"Yes. They are like that from living in the burning fires of hell for so long."
"We'll be back at Hillcrest Manor in a few hours. What should we do when we get there?"
"Beware of Hillcrest Manor, Elizabeth. There is now much danger present there. Approach with the manor house with extreme caution. It is imperative that you find Damien."
"How will I recognize him from the other demons?"
"He will find you. Do not worry. That is all I see for now. Be very careful and alert at all times, Elizabeth. These are very perilous and treacherous times we now live in."
"We will be careful, I promise you that." She said and then placed the amulet back under her clothes. Nicholas and Nadia had been watching her and now were staring at her. They both knew she was in communication with the old gypsy again.
"Do you have any more information for us?" Nicholas asked.
"Yes indeed. These creatures we encountered last night came from the depths of hell and they are spying on us for their master. She said we must approach Hillcrest Manor with extreme caution."
"There are multiple footprints around our encampment." Nicholas stated, pointing to the ground after she had finished talking. "That green goo must be the blood from the one I wounded last night." There were so many odd looking footprints on the ground which caused Elizabeth to take in her breath. She had no idea there had been that many of those things last night. Maybe it was a blessing that she didn't know at the time.
"Oh my god, Nicholas. At least you were able to hit one with your pistol which most likely is what scared off the rest of them."
"That's the problem, Elizabeth. I shot that creature at point blank range. It should have killed it instantly. But it didn't. Why?"
"The gypsy did tell me that the weapons of our world were not strong enough to kill them."
Nadia broke her silence. "My grandmother's visions are reality now. The beast has indeed broken the plane between our worlds. These minions are nothing compared with the more deadly creatures that have come up from the underworld. We must take great care the closer we come to their master." She stated without emotion.
"So our weapons are useless then?" He asked, feeling somewhat defenseless now. "I wish you would have told me this before we left London."
"I didn't want to worry you, Nicholas. Because we really didn't have any other choice in the matter. We had to come with the weapons we have. I had also hoped that we would meet this good demon--"
Nicholas interrupted her in mid-sentence, staring intensely at her. "Meet up with a good demon, really Elizabeth? Are you serious? What the hell is a good demon anyways? A demon is a demon." He yelled, incredibly at her.
"Yes, I'm very serious. He will help us acquire the weapons that will be effective against these hideous creatures. That's why we must get to Hillcrest Manor as soon as possible. Hopefully we'll find him there."
"Why in the world would he want to help us? He's a god damn demon. You really think he'll turn against his own kind? I highly doubt it."
"Because Nicholas he doesn't agree with 'Bael' the leader of the horrible creatures who wants to take over our world. If he helps us than he will be allowed to remain here in our world after we send them all back to hell where they belong."
"We do have the amulets my grandmother gave us. But they're not going to be near strong enough to defeat them. Hopefully they will help us detour them until we meet up with the Iron Sisters."
"Who the hell are the Iron Sisters?" He yelled, he felt like he'd been asleep and woke up in a totally different world now.
"They are a group of ageless beings who live in total isolation especially from males. They never leave their own domain. They no longer fight themselves but they do still make the special weapons from the fires of the citadel volcano for others to use against demons from the underworld." Nadia explained to them both.
"I'm sure you got all of that information about them from your grandmother. Did she tell you how or when we will meet up with him?" Elizabeth asked. "Because she didn't tell me anything except that we will meet him and for us to continue on to Hillcrest Manor."
"No, she only gets visions through her crystal ball. But they can be very vague. She has to decide herself if they are from the present or if they're from the future."
"So what do you suggest we do at this point, Elizabeth?" Nicholas asked. This journey they have undertaken was so foreign to him. He was going to have to rely on Elizabeth's gut instincts to guide them through this endeavor and hopefully they will all survive the dangers that lie ahead of them.
"We must continue on our journey to Hillcrest Manor and see what we encounter there. Hopefully we will meet up with this Damien." She replied back to him.
"Let me get this straight, if our weapons don't work against these horrible creatures, then how in the name of god will we survive then?" He asked, now very upset with hearing the news that their weapons were basically unless against these creatures.
"I don't know, Nicholas. All I know is that we must continue on this path that we're on and hopefully the answers will come to us."
All three of them looked at each other in silent agreement as they mounted their horses again and headed for Hillcrest Manor to whatever dangerous endeavors awaits for them there.