Enter If You Dare
Whilst wandering down a dusty lane, a group of travellers happened across a fork in the road. One road was wider and was just as dusty as the path they were on, but beautifully shaded; the other was dark and winding, looking as if it hadn’t been traveled down for several years. . .if it were a true path at all.
The women in the group gave voice quickly, pleading to continue along the main road, for it had taken them long enough to travel thus far and the sun was beginning to set. A few of the gentlemen began to agree with the ladies, but the leader of the group, a stubborn, hardheaded man, was drawn toward the withered path. Ignoring the cries
of the group members, he stepped under the tree boughs and peered down the path. With a commanding shout over his shoulder, the members wearily shouldered their packs and trudged down the dark lane.
Just as the sun was setting when they burst into a clearing. Straightening their backs and looking around, they saw the perfect circle in which they were standing; the circle was completely surrounded by a birch grove, but the branches were interwoven artfully to create an impenetrable fence. Concern crossed a few faces, but eventually their weariness set in, so they set up camp and slept.
A sliver of sunlight slipped into the circle; drifting gently across the sleeping forms, it landed on a small silver disk that was laying half buried at the circle’s center. A curious glow emerged and enveloped the group in a shimmering glow. The glow grew in size and intensity, then the sunlight left the silver disk. In a flash, the glow vanished. In the distance, a bird chirruped; a little mouse scurried across the circle, sniffing at an empty blanket. The sun was fully risen now, and the circle was flooded with light. But the group of travellers did not stir. . .for the simple fact, that they were no longer there.
Simon, the group leader, was the first to awaken. With a roar, he snapped into consciousness; springing to his feet, he glared around in every direction. The trees were gone, replaced with a smooth grassy moor. His eyes landed upon the women in the group, still sleeping soundly in the shadow of an immense stone wall. A small groan behind him attracted his attention, and as he turned to check on the men of the group, his gaze fell on a slim shadow. Turning once again towards the wall, a childish giggle met his ears.
“Deus! Look at what you’ve done, Simon!”
Instantly, all the men were on their feet, some striding over to the women, others standing their ground staring up at the wall top. Another giggle rippled through the air, and a small figure dropped to the ground. Dusting herself off, the sprite-like girl looked at the group and smiled sweetly.
“Hello, welcome to my little world. . .would you like a tour?”
The anger on the groups faces' slid away into a look of puzzlement. Simon was still flushed from being called out and accused of something he wasn’t even sure how it happened. As he opened his mouth to speak, a wiser traveller stepped forward and bowed slightly.
“My dear girl, I fear we have entered this land by mistake. We mean no trouble, but we would like to return to the path upon which we were.”
The cheery smile vanished from the girl’s face. With a quick shrug, she turned and began to walk off.
“Back? I’d send you if I could, but I’m afraid it will be quite awhile ‘till that becomes a possibility. See. . .You’re stuck here, I’m afraid. . .”
She paused and looked back; a smile flicked across her lips and she motioned them to follow her.
“Come along this way, I’ll take you to the front gate. M’lady will show you around when we arrive.”
As they followed the girl, Simon’s glare was replaced with curiosity as he watched her dance along. As was previously stated, she was sprite-like in form, but far gentler in spirit. A certain wildness sparked in her large green eyes, but was off-set by the tame smile that played on her lips. He was about to ask her who she was and what her name was, when a huge iron gate burst into view.
Another figure approached the gate from the other side and opened it. The travellers’ gaze landed upon a slender woman who, at first glance, had no eyes. Upon closer examination, they discovered that she did indeed have eyes, they were simply hidden behind a heavy curtain of bangs. The rest of her hair was perfectly divided into long, loose pigtails. In the middle of the pigtails, were silver clasps, bedecked with onyx and firestone. Her garb consisted of an empire waisted dress, over which was a simple black cloak.
The half of the face the travellers could see, was completely expressionless. The girl that lead them there slipped up close to the strange woman and whispered softly into her ear. The woman nodded and turned to the travellers, her ruby lips turned up in a gracious smile.
“Welcome to my world, do stay awhile.”
Before the group had a chance to notice the oddity in which the woman spoke, she stepped past them and closed the gate. Dropping a golden key into her cloak pocket, she clasped her hands and nodded.
“I am the ruler of this fair land, but for now I shall be your host and guide.”
Adopting a sing-song voice, she lead them through the front gardens, chattering incessantly.
“Come along this way, we’ll start at the front gate. Notice the wrought iron fencing and gate. Simple, yes, but quite elegant; I oversaw the making of them as well as personally built wall and manor.”
She motioned to the large Italian style mansion that was set back behind a short fence.
“It took awhile to build, but it will withstand any gale. Ah! Here comes Psallie. She’s the oldest inhabitant here and knows the grounds like the back of her hand. She is also one of my closest confidants, so she knows all of my secrets. . .as well as many secrets of the manor itself. Unfortunately, Psallie has no interest in sharing her knowledge with me, so I still spend alot of time wandering around in the dark.”
While the young queen was still speaking, a willowy creature slouched up. Her (though several of the travellers had their doubts) eyes were hidden also, though her hair was short in length and black as a raven. Her very aura reeked of violence and morbidity, whilst her clothes were stained with an unknown substance. The group instantly huddled closer together and gave each other nods of disapproval. The one thought going through each of their heads was “Never be alone with that. . .Psallie!”.
Almost as if she had read their thoughts, Psallie looked each of them up and down and grinned. An odd echoing laugh burst from her pale lips, rattling up it seemed from her very toes. The queen lifted her hand and silenced the horrible noise and gave a reassuring smile. Continuing on as if nothing had happened, she began to walk up the gravel pathway, stepping so softly she barely made a noise.
“On your left, you will be able to observe our lovely rose gardens. Take note of the rich black hue of the petal; delicately contrasting the deep green of the foliage. On the right side of the path, you can take in the hedge maze. Gridden, our gardener, is very proud to announce that no one has been able to reach the maze end.”
The group stopped collectively and looked at the hedge. A twisted, gnarled creature limped past the maze opening and glared at them. With a smooth wave of her hand, the queen directed her guests attention to a sparkling fountain a little ways along the path.
“The fountains directly in front of us are forged out of the finest silver. Step up, don’t be afraid. Have a look in the fountain bowls.”
The guests surrounded the fountain and looked in. Fish of varying sizes swam around and hopped from bowl to bowl.
“Aren’t the little koi cute? I love watching their blue-green scales as they swim. Gridden carefully bred them with that color for me. He’s quite a genius when it comes to things outdoors.”
She suddenly looked up and slapped a hand against the water, frightening the fish.
“Psallie! Please don’t look at our guests like that.”
Giving an apologetic smile to the travellers, she shrugged and stood up.
“I do apologize, she tends to get odd ideas in her head sometimes.”
Dancing with almost celtic foot patterns, she unlocked a smaller iron gate and stepped aside. After making sure all her guests were safely inside, she relocked the gate and lead them up the broad stairway that ended at the front door.
“O.k, here’s the front door. I will ask you not to touch anything. The consequences might be rather hazardous to your health, and I do hate losing my guests.”
The doors flew open with hardly a touch, revealing a well lit hallway. Light spilled in from windows that lined the upper walls. The women of the group began whispering with each other excitedly and pointing out the various furnishings. A familiar giggle echoed in the hall as the sprite girl reemerged as if from thin air. She had changed into a pair of loose pants and a long gauze shirt. A long, black, silk vest covered her form neatly but giving her a slight Bohemian essence. She slid up behind the queen and linked arms with Psallie. The queen nodded graciously to the new arrival and continued her tour guide chatterings.
“Here in the main hall, you can see the lovely mosaics on the floor and walls. Don’t look at them for too long though, the content might be a bit disturbing. If you join me in the center of the room. . .”
They obediently pattered to the room’s center and followed her gaze upwards.
“When you look straight up, you can see not only the chandelier chains (isn’t it exquisite? It took us forever to find a chandelier like that), but you can also see the many floors this manor has.”
Clasping her hands under her bosom, the queen began walking slowly towards an ornate door near the back of the hall.
“Here on the first floor, you can feel free to explore where ever you wish. All the rooms are very beautiful and elegantly decorated. Let me show you one such room.”
Her slim hand rested on the door handle.
“You’ll note the golden filigree doorknobs and intricate carvings upon the door panels.”
She opened the door and lead the way into a graceful study.
“Also note the heavy use of moulding around the windows, doors and ceiling. This room is often used as a sort of parlour, used to see which persons are eligible to progress to the next floor. Please, have a seat.”
The queen sat down on a burgundy leather chaise. Behind the veil of hair, her eyes carefully searched each of her guests; searching their faces and their eyes, peering down into their very souls. Simon carefully ushered each of his fellow travellers into various chairs and couches.
“Thadia! Do be a dear and bring in some tea. You all don’t mind Earl Grey, do you?”
The sprite girl left the room lightly. The queen turned back to her guests and smiled.
“What was I talking about? Ah, yes, I remember. Notice the use of windows? All the lower floors have numerous windows to allow in as much light as possible. We, Psallie, Thadia, and I, decided to make the common areas as bright as possible. Oh, good! Here’s the tea.”
Swinging her feet to the floor, the queen slid forward and poured. Handing out the cups, she nodded to a pair of silver containers upon the tray.
“Sugar? Or cream perhaps? No? Very well then. Don’t mind Thadia by the way, she rarely speaks. . .but she is rather good when it comes to the arts. One day, I might have her sing for you.”
Thadia flushed slightly and sat down on a window seat, hiding herself slightly behind a velvet curtain. The queen smiled and got a slightly tired look around her mouth.
“Anyway, back to the room. We did also decide to keep a good deal of gothic influence down here as well. It doesn’t stand out much, but you can see the influence in the furniture and some of the baubles on the shelves.”
A sudden yawn overtook the queen and a hand fluttered to her mouth to hide it.
“Oh, my, that is alot of information for one day. Psallie will show you to your rooms. So, you can take a rest if you like, or have a wander around the grounds if you so choose. Just be sure to stay in groups of two. . .we wouldn’t want an accident, would we?”
A curious smile filled her face, and the queen rose and slipped her arm around Thadia’s waist. Whispering into her ear, they left the room together, leaving the mystified guests in Psallie’s capable hands.
Next Chapter: Next Floors?
Original work by Tanya Alley, do not duplicate, steal, or in anyway mess with.