1: Dark Omen
One week before Halloween, Creppington saw its worst storm that year. It pounced without warning, following a balmy nightfall. A gentle breeze swelled into a ferocious gale. A cloudless sky darkened dramatically beneath an onslaught of freezing rain. Hale trees once flushed with fiery leaves were cruelly stripped until their branches were nothing but gray fingers clawing at the sky. Roads were awash in mud, making it dangerous for driving. Citizens were advised over the radio and through television to avoid traveling and stay indoors. Not that anyone was foolish enough to brave this tempest. This was the howling of demons, the raging of beasts, the herald of a terrible evil. Appropriate, given the approach of that day, which honored ghosts and goblins.
In the face of this furor, Creppington hunkered down to patiently wait it out. One by one the lights in the homes went out as its denizens climbed into bed, rest assured that the storm would pass and they would wake the next day to find everything calm and right again. They had nothing to fear once it passed. They were all safe.
Down the road that approached the town, lights winked to life. A pair of orange lights that flickered feebly in the gloom. One might think them to be those belonging to a car except that these lights did not behave as headlights would. They bobbed independently of each other, waving back and forth, back and forth, as they drew closer, perhaps in warning. The lights in fact came from a pair of lanterns that hung from the corners of a coach - the kind that had not been seen in over a century. It was certainly unusual enough to draw stares had anyone been awake to see it but it was also the size of a small house, requiring six jet-black horses with eyes that gleamed red to pull it. The pounding rain muffled the creak of the axles and the crack of the whip held by the driver, a dwarf in the seat of the oversized carriage, who was hunched in the seat and huddled in his tattered cloak to keep out the rain. The wood of the coach was ebony with cherry molding burnished to a fine luster that shone even in the weak light of the lanterns. Behind this followed another team of six black horses pulling another carriage. This one was as large as the first but that is where the similarities ended, for this one was an inelegant box cobbled together from disparate wooden planks. It rocked more than its slow trundling warranted as though some angry beast thrashed around inside it. Indeed, there were flashes of something with gray fur in between the planks, and ferocious snarling could be heard above the pounding rain and creaking axles. Another team of six black horses followed behind this one, drawing another carriage, also a box but of rusty aluminum. Yet another came after this one, and then another, and finally one more for a total of six enormous carriages making their way up the main road through Creppington.
It wasn't hard to guess their destination: Motham Mansion atop the hill overlooking the town. A dark construction of narrow windows and sharp gables, it almost seemed to watch the neighborhood with suspicious eyes. It had stood vacant for two years. Now here someone was, with a company of cars, making their way up to claim it. Halfway there, the lead coach turned off the road, taking a path that had been forgotten by the townsfolk, overgrown with brambles and vanishing into the trees. The horses glided through them as though they were no more than dark smoke. Slowly and one by one, they melted into the trees, and then they were gone as silently as a dream, without a trace. Where they had passed through, there should have been ruts as large as a man's arm, and yet the only marks left in the mud were pocks made by the ruthless rain.
The storm would pass. The next day would dawn bright and cheerful, if not a little nippy. There was nothing to say that Creppington wasn't safe. None of the townspeople were aware of the grim entourage which had insinuated itself into their peaceful community, nor of the misfortune it brought. That would all change soon.