Elizabeth knocked softly on Sarah’s door, and then entered. As usual she was sitting up in bed and seemed very happy she had come.
“Elizabeth, come in, come in. I’m so glad you’re here.”
She walked over and sat again on Sarah’s bed, glad that the girl seemed a little more alert than she did earlier today. She didn’t know if Nicholas had told her yet that he would be leaving in a day or so, but she didn’t want to be the one to tell her.
“Sarah, tell me a little about yourself, before the accident. I would like to get to know you better.”
“Well, I grew up in London and lived with my mother and father in our townhouse there. I got to go on walks in the park, shopping, father told me he was going to give me riding lessons as soon as I was a little older. I wanted him to teach me right away. I didn’t want to wait another year. But he said no, not yet. I so wish I could have ridden before … the accident.…” She couldn’t finish her sentence.
“You know that the medical profession is always improving their abilities to help people. Maybe someday … they’ll find a way to help you. So don’t ever give up.”
Sarah gave a brief smile when she heard what Elizabeth had said. “You’re the only one that has ever given me hope. I so want to get better. I hate living like this. Sometimes I wish I had died in that accident.”
“Oh, Sarah. Don’t ever say that or think that again. Okay? There’s always hope. Now that I’m here with you, we can come up with some exciting things to do. You just wait and see. Now you’re looking a little drained so I think you need to lay back down and take a nap. It will make you feel better. That’s what I’m going to do.”
“You’re going to take a nap? I didn’t know grown-ups did that.”
“Yes indeed, they do. When they need it.”
That seemed to make Sarah happy, “so please lay down now for me so I can get some rest.”
Sarah agreed and laid back down in the bed as Elizabeth pulled the covers up under her chin, blew her a kiss and left the room quietly. Now very pleased with herself on the progress she was making with Sarah.
It had been hours since she laid down in her bed and felt so much better now that she had finally gotten some much needed rest. It would be a long night and she didn’t have a clue of what was going to happen. She only thought that somehow she’d make it through the night and maybe get some answers to how to get rid of this evil shadow figure once and for all. There was always the chance that she did drive the spirit out last night with of course the help from the old gypsy woman. But she wouldn’t know for sure until she went through another night. If indeed she drove it out than everyone would indeed have a very pleasant evening. Something this house hasn’t experienced, or at least for how many years that evil thing has been here. She knew she was being very positive in her thinking but she so hoped it was true.
Walking over to the window she gazed at the landscape outside. She could see the terrace below her window where she and Nicholas had had tea the day before and then that awful wind came, injuring, Nicholas. The woods didn’t look scary now during the day, she thought, but night time, it was a whole different story. She was a little afraid when she entered them to follow the little girl she had seen. But when she came upon the small stream she had stopped at was actually very pleasant and under different circumstances she would love to go there every day. It was so peaceful there sitting, listening to the stream make its way over the rocks and stones that were there. It had a real soothing effect on her. She still didn’t quite understand why she couldn’t go out there at least during the day. She understood about being out after … dark.
Something caught her eye as she was gazing at the woods. “Oh my gosh! It’s that little girl again. Why in the world would she keep coming here, Nicholas said they were quite alone out here? So who is she? And why is she here?” The little girl was just standing there at the entrance to the forest, staring at the house. As if she was waiting for someone. Now Elizabeth didn’t know what to do. Nicholas had made it abundantly clear for her never to go into the woods alone. If she ever got caught out there after nightfall she probably would never be found.
But it was starting to get late. How would the little girl get home? Even if she left right now she could never make it in time before dark. She made up her mind right then. She had to go talk with the little girl and see if maybe the coachman could drive her home instead of going through the woods. With that in mind, she grabbed her mantle, wrapped it around her shoulders and proceeded down the stairs and out the front door. She made her way to the edge of the forest but the little girl was gone. Where in the world did she go this time? She was right here five minutes ago. She couldn’t have gone very far. She made her way quickly along the path she took before. She could feel the wind starting to pick up so she quickened her pace. She can’t be too far ahead of me, she thought. Finally, she came upon the stream again. But still no sign of the little girl. Could Nicholas be right? That the little girl was just a vision, and not really there at all?
She could feel the coldness in the air and was glad she had grabbed her mantle. Starting back along the path to the Manor House, Elizabeth hadn’t realized just how late it was. She hurried as quickly as she could but the fog was now moving rapidly across the path. It felt very cold when it wrapped itself around her legs. She now was running as fast as she could but the fog became so thick she couldn’t see her own hand in front of her face and stumbled over a tree root across the path, landing face down on the ground. “Oh my Gosh! What have I done?” She cried, aloud. Sitting up, the fog completely surrounded her now. She hadn’t thought of bringing a lantern with her, never intending on being out here after dark. Her ankle hurt now from the fall, so she sat there rubbing it. There’s no way she was going to find her way out until morning. She looked around to see if there was anything she could use to make a pallet. But all she could find in the dark were some leaves that had fallen from the trees. She gathered them up the best she could and laid down on them, covering herself with her mantle. All the night creatures were coming out now that darkness had come. She could hear them scurrying through the underbrush all around her. An Owl hooted, making her jump. There was no way she was going to be able to get any sleep out here. Her eyes now were as large as saucers. She could hear a faint voice whispering to her but couldn’t see anything. Again, the voice came.
“You came.” It said, before disappearing again.
“Who’s there?” She said, in a terrified voice. She could hear thunder roaring a short distance away and hoped it didn’t rain for she had no protection from it. Again a roar of thunder this time with a large crack of lightning so bright that it looked like daylight for a few seconds. There she saw a white shadow appear in the woods not more than a few feet from her. Again, darkness. She repeated her call to it. “Who are you … what do you want from me?” There was no answer. But she sensed that whatever was there hadn’t left yet. Another bolt of lightning and she could see the shadow again, it wasn’t a child but what looked like a woman to her. She tried over and over again to speak with the shadow but all she got was the same response. Who could this shadow be? How could she help it? This was a woman, so there had to be multiple beings needing her help. Oh if they would only give her more to go on.
In the distance she could hear a low growling noise, coming closer and closer in her direction. “It knows I’m here!” She said, aloud. Another crack of lightning and the other spirit disappeared. The growling noise continued getting louder, it seemed like it was almost next to her now. The storm had no effect on it. The clouds finally opened up with a heavy downpour of rain, soaking her instantly within a few minutes. She pulled her mantle over her head to try and stay dry. But she was already soaked from head to toe. Shaking with fear, her eyes scanned the dark woods but couldn’t see anything. But she still could hear the now deafening growling of the beast that was so near to her. All she could think of was, what lived in these woods that caused people to disappear. Is it this beast she was now confronted with? Is this to be her fate?
She knew she couldn’t stay here so she started running blindly through the woods with the beast close behind her. The rain was so heavy now she didn’t know where the path was, but didn’t care at this point. All she knew was to get away from this evil creature as quickly as possible. Her legs kept getting tangled up in the foliage, causing her to fall. But she would jump back up and keep on running. There had to be somewhere safe she could hide until the beast passed. But, no such luck. He was right behind her. His foul stench was over powering now as he roared a hideous ear piecing screech, which caused her to fall again, but this time she couldn’t get up for he was standing right over her. His eyes were glowing bright red as he reached out for her. Lifting her up and then threw her into another tree so hard that she felt dazed … then total darkness.
Nicholas finished his dinner and decided to head upstairs to say goodnight to Sarah before he retired for the night. He tapped lightly on Sarah’s door before he entered.
“I just came in to bid you goodnight, Sarah.”
She looked at him lovingly and nodded her head in return.
“I’m so glad you like Elizabeth. I think she will work out really well here. Don’t you?”
She nodded her headed in agreement.
He wasn’t sure if he should tell her now or wait, that he was leaving as soon as he was fit to travel. Finally, he decided against it. Better wait until closer time for his departure. No need to get her upset prematurely.
“Well again, Sarah goodnight.” He closed her door and locked it and decided to tell Elizabeth goodnight also. That would give him a reason to see her and speak with her again. He was starting to have feelings for her which was something he hasn’t felt in a long time. Not since his wife died. He walked over to the next door and knocked on it. But there was no answer, he knocked again, this time calling her name. Still no answer. “Well, maybe she hasn’t retired yet or is asleep already. He’ll just have to wait until morning to see her and went into his own room for the night.
The sun came up with the break of dawn. All signs of the terrible thunderstorm that had come during the night had passed. There was clear blue skies now and looked like it was going to be a beautiful day. It would be nice for a change seeing that they had gloomy skies most of the time. With a thunderstorm or two. But not today.
Louise came upstairs with the breakfast trays in hand but dropped them the moment she saw the condition of the hallway. It looked like a tornado had hit it. She ran down the hall seeing the Baron’s door wide open and went inside. The room was in a complete disarray, furniture, everywhere. Pictures that had once been on the walls were now dangling by one end, fixing to drop with the slightest pressure. Table and chairs upside down, and his lordships bed … was in complete shambles. “Oh my God, your lordship!” She yelled running over to what was left of the bed. Buried beneath was the Baron. She had to dig him out. Not knowing if he was alive or dead. After removing as much of the bed as possible she finally reached him. He was moaning, clutching his head, blood was everywhere. She helped him up out of the wreckage. “Can you stand, your lordship?” She asked, worriedly. He needed a doctor right away, she thought. His injuries were far too extensive for her to deal with. She turned one of the chairs upright and helped him into it. “I’m going to send one of the servants to fetch the doctor right away, sir.”
“No, no that won’t be necessary. I think it looks worse than it is.”
I’ll clean you up the best I can,” she said, pulling apart one of the sheets from his bed and had him hold it up against the wound on his head. She could see the stitches she had sewn on his head had broken loose. It was going to have to be re-sewn. That she could do, but some of the other injuries she didn’t know what to do with. “You really should let me send for the doctor, I think you definitely need someone who has more medical experience than I have.”
“I don’t have time to sit around here waiting for some doctor.”
“Go see if Sarah’s alright. And Elizabeth, too.” Deep down not wanting to hear that his daughter or Elizabeth were hurt or … worse. Minutes seemed like hours to him waiting on the news. But finally, Louise returned, “Sarah is fine, nothing has been disturbed in her room. Or Elizabeth’s either but … Elizabeth’s not there. She hasn’t been downstairs, either. I don’t think she’s even in the house.”
Nicholas closed his eyes for a moment. He was relieved his daughter was fine but where in god’s name is Elizabeth? Where could she have gone? Didn’t she go to her room last night? If she had, she would have heard all the noise and he was sure she would have come out. Why was her room as well as his daughters not destroyed as his was? All these questions kept going round and round in his mind. He remembered that Elizabeth wasn’t downstairs when he ate dinner nor was she upstairs when he retired for the night. It wasn’t like her not to at least let him know she was retiring for the night. What a fool I am. I should have known something was amiss last night. Why didn’t I look for Elizabeth instead of just assuming she was fine before retiring? He thought, miserably.
Louise came back into his room with a bowl of water, fresh bandages and her sewing box. She was able to clean up his wounds, re-stitch his head and was relieved that he wasn’t as severely injured as she originally thought. There was just so much blood everywhere.”
“I told the other servants to look everywhere in and out of the house for Elizabeth. She can’t just disappear.”
Nicholas made his way downstairs to help in the search. He was getting more and more concerned as each of the servants came back with nothing to report. She wouldn’t have gone back into the woods, he thought miserably. She was a little strong willed for a woman. He didn’t think she would ever go back after their discussion about it yesterday, and that he had forbidden it. But if she’s not on the grounds then … where else could she be, but in the woods. He would wait a little longer as the servants finish searching the rest of the grounds before making a decision about what to do next.
Elizabeth woke with a start. Her teeth were chattering so loud it was almost deafening. Chilled to the bone, she took her wet mantle off hoping the early morning rays of sunlight would warm her. She could see it shining brightly through the branches of the tree over-head. She kept blinking trying to remember the chain of events of last night. She ached all over, her dress was torn in several places from getting caught on the bushes as she ran wildly through them, trying to get away from the beast. She had no idea where she was or for that matter, how she was ever going to find her way out, again. Her muscles ached as well as her ankle that she had twisted. She had cuts and bruises everywhere. A streak of blood was trickling down her face. Her hair had come loose from its pins and was now cascading down her back and shoulders. Looking around, she had no idea which way to go. How was she ever going to make it back to the Manor House? She started to cry, feeling sorry for herself. How stupid she thought, that she could actually find the little girl out in this eerie forest. If indeed there actually was a little girl, and not one of her visions. The forest kept beckoning to her, drawing her in, wanting her to get lost for some unknown reason. Deeper and deeper into the forest she had gone. It knew she wouldn’t be able to find her way out. Is this what happened to all the people who had entered the forest and never were heard from again? “Pull yourself together now, Elizabeth.” She said, aloud. Trying to calm her frazzled nerves. You have to figure out how to find your way back. There’s nobody else out here to help you. With that thought in her mind, she stood up and wiped the leaves and pine needles from her dress. She looked in all directions to see if she could see any sign as to the way she had come last night. To her left, she caught a glimpse of a piece of cloth. It had been torn from her dress. It was now hanging on a bush, fluttering ever so softly in the gentle breeze that was blowing through the forest. Well at least that was a start, she thought to herself as she headed in that direction. It was hard going through the thick underbrush but she was determined to find her way out. She had to, or she would end up being just another victim lost in the forest, forever.
Minutes seemed like hours as she trudged her way through the thick underbrush, finding bits and pieces of her dress that had torn off in her haste to escape from the beast. Hopefully, it would lead her back to the path that she knew and could finally make it out safely back to the Manor House. She came to the area now where she had tried to spend the night but had to flee from that horrible beast. She recognized the path she traveled on yesterday. “Thank god,” she said, aloud. Her ankle now was throbbing so badly, she needed to rest it before traveling any farther. Sitting down, she rubbed it, trying to make it feel better but nothing helped. A chill came into the air all of a sudden as an uneasiness came over her when she realized she wasn’t alone. There standing in front of her was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. Where did she come from and more importantly, who was she?
“Sarah said, you would come.”
“Who are you?” Is all Elizabeth could finally say?
The spirit paused for a moment before answering her. “I am Sarah’s mother. Lady Margaret Blackwood. I know that my body was killed in the carriage accident but my spirit has remained here, trapped on this earthbound plane. The evil presence that you experienced last night is keeping me here for some unknown reason. You are my only hope.”
Elizabeth sat just staring at this beautiful spirit, wondering how she could possibly help her.
“I will do whatever I can to help you cross over. I believe this is my destiny. The events of the last few weeks have lead me here. Now I know why.”
She sat back pondering this revelation and what would be her first course of action. She needed to get more information about the history of the past residence of this manor house. There has to be some clues there why this evil spirit haunts this place and why he would keep this beautiful woman trapped here. Feeling a resolve that she had never felt before in her life, she finally understood why she possessed these ‘special gifts’. She would do everything in her power to uncover the mystery of this place and find out why this evil spirit remains here and more importantly, why he is keeping Lady Blackwood from crossing over as well as terrorizing the people who now reside here.
“Do you have any idea who this evil entity is, and why he remains here determined to destroy this family? I have so many unanswered questions.”
“I will tell you all that I know, which isn’t much. Nicholas left here so many years ago but never really told me why. He never would talk about it and never wanted to ever return here again.”
“So why did he come back here and bring his family if he felt that way about his family home? That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“He didn’t have a choice. When his father passed away he had to return and take up residency for a certain length of time to retain his family home and properties. I’m the one who insisted on coming here with him. Sarah and I didn’t want to be separated from him. As his wife it was my duty to accompany him here with our daughter. I never dreamed that this place was truly … haunted. I thought it was just the imagination of a young boy growing up here in this very isolated place. I would have never come or allowed him to come if I would have known that.”
Elizabeth listened quietly and could see the anguish on the spirits face. She was feeling responsible for what happened that horrible day of the carriage accident.
“Lady Margaret, this isn’t your fault. No one in their right mind would really believe that this place was really haunted. You did what your duty required as Baroness, to accompany your husband here, and take up residency.”
“Maybe you’re right Elizabeth, but it just doesn’t seem possible. I am more concerned about what this place is doing to … Sarah, than for myself. She is slipping away and I’m afraid for her.”
The spirit in front of her was starting to fade away. She knew they couldn’t manifest themselves for very long at a time.
“I promise you Lady Margaret, that I will do everything I possibly can to help you and Sarah. And I won’t give up trying if it takes the rest of my life.” She said, hoping that would give this poor mother some comfort.
“Thank … you … Elizabeth,” she replied before she vanished, leaving Elizabeth quite stunned at this newest revelation as to what forces were at play that brought her here to this place.
Finding herself quite alone now Elizabeth thought she better make her way as quickly as possible back to the Manor House. As she made her way along the path, she couldn’t believe the difference the woods were in the morning. It actually was quite peaceful here that is until darkness came. Then it all changed. She had never experienced anything like this before. Her whole life she always enjoyed walking through forests, listening to the small creatures that would scamper in the underbrush. It always gave her such a feeling of peace and serenity. But this place … was so different. It was like it was … alive. It had a mind of its own and all the creatures in it responded to its will. How could this be? So deep in thought she didn’t realize she had made her way out of the woods and ran directly into Nicholas, almost knocking him down.
“What on earth?” He said, shocked at seeing her. Relief flooded his features as the realization that Elizabeth had spent the night in the woods and found her way back. He could see the ugly scratches on her face, as well as her arms. Her dress was torn in multiple places, with pine needles still sticking out of the fabric where she had flee through the forest.
He wrapped his arms around her afraid she would disappear. They stood there in a warm embrace for a few minutes without speaking. Finally she pulled away, embarrassed at what had just transpired between them.
“Why did you disobey me?” He yelled, now that his relief of finding her alive had turned to anger. “I don’t understand you at all? Do you not have any respect for anyone? Or do you do just whatever you feel like doing?” He was glaring at her, waiting for some kind of explanation of her behavior, treating her like some naughty child again.
“Nicholas … I … didn’t mean to disobey your wishes but … I had to go back into the woods … I know you won’t believe me but … I saw the young child again. I thought I could catch up to her quickly and then bring her back to the Manor House. But … as before, she disappeared so I tried to find my way back but darkness had set in, and the fog … was so thick I couldn’t see anything. I knew there was no way I could find my way out until morning.” She didn’t really want to tell him yet about her encounter with that … evil presence. Or how the woods came alive, or of the spirit of his dead wife. It was as if the forest wouldn’t let her find her way out. For some unknown reason it wanted her to stay there in the woods. Maybe it thought she would be more vulnerable there. She didn’t know. That would be one reasonable explanation for it to trap her there, away from the Manor House … and the others. Another horrible thought crossed her mind.
“Is Sarah ok?” She held her breath until he answered.
“Yes, she’s fine, but ….”
For the first time, Elizabeth took in the appearance of the Baron.
“Oh my god! Nicholas! What happened to you?” She could see that he had re-injured his head and … probably had been attacked again. Was it the same evil spirit that had come after her in the woods? It had to be. The feelings she sensed were the same as they were when she encountered it in the house. She has to get to the bottom of this mystery. Everyone, whether alive or dead were depending on her. She was determined to find the answers and solve this horrible problem before anyone else dies.
“Let’s get you out of those wet clothes now before you catch your death of cold.” He said, as he guided her back to the Manor House where Louise was running out toward them with her arms waving in the air, praising the lord for her safe return.
Minutes seemed like hours as she was escorted into the Manor House and was left with Louise who quickly had gotten her out of her wet clothes into dry ones, fixed her a much needed breakfast and was hovering over her like a mother hen.
“Those are some pretty ugly scratches, honey.” She said, as she dabbed each one with soap and water. “You scared us plenty mum, disappearing like that and all. Why on earth would you go out into those woods alone, especially after dark? His lordship, I know warned you about never going out there, especially at night! What would make you do such a horrible thing? You know it’s … dangerous …. “There has been so many people who have gone into those woods and never came out. Never heard from again! Lordy, mum? What were you, thinking?”
“Oh Louise. I don’t know anymore.” She answered, shaking her head. She decided to take the servant into her confidence. At this point it didn’t matter who knew of her gifts or what they thought of her. She knew Louise had been employed here for years so maybe she is the one she needed to talk with to try and figure out what to do next. For some unknown reason she was one of the few people unafraid to stay here at night when so many others left. She explained briefly about her ‘special gifts’ to her as the long-time servant sat listening quietly until she finished.
“Well mum, I am speechless for the first time in my life.” She muttered, staring at Elizabeth with wide eyes. “I knew there was something special about you the moment we met, but … I never would have guessed … anything … like this.”
“Louise, I know I must sound like I’m crazy … but ….”
“No mum, not at all, it’s just that I have never met anyone like you before … and I know there’s something not right with this house. No one speaks of it. Especially his lordship. But the strange goings on here are very hard to deal with. But … I made a promise to his lordship’s father that I would never leave here. That I would always look after his son.”
“That is so noble of you, your dedication to this family is unprecedented. They are so lucky to have you.”
Louise felt embarrassed at Elizabeth’s comments. No one had ever said anything like that to her before. And she didn’t know exactly how to respond to it.
“Can we talk about this a little later, I’m feeling so tired right now. I can barely keep my eyes open. I know I didn’t get any sleep last night.” She implored to the faithful old servant.
“Of course, mum. Of course. You need your rest after your terrible ordeal and you know as well as I do that none of us will get any rest tonight.” Louise patted her hand and left quietly out of the room, leaving her charge to get some much needed sleep before darkness fell.