E-Journal of Nathaniel Eoghan Steward – October 23rd, 2019 “Red Fang” – Part III

Otto raised one bushy eyebrow and asked, “Nathan, what did you do? Come clean, now.”

“I got hurt during a hunt,” I replied distractedly, as I pulled up a new tab on the computer and began searching for the nearest flight to Alaska. There was one leaving that evening from Columbus, Ohio. I could easily make it if I started getting ready right away. Booking a seat on the plane, I got up and began making for the door only to find both Otto and Isabella blocking me.

“You do know I can easily mist past the two of you,” I pointed out.

“Are you so sure?” asked Otto, pulling out an oversized fireplace bellow. It took me a moment to realize the bellow he was holding was the one I kept next to the fireplace. As usual, I never heard or saw him grab it. He’s a sly one, let me tell you.

Knowing the clock was ticking for me to get to Ohio I told them, “Fine, follow me upstairs and I’ll explain while I pack.”

That got them to let me pass, and the three of us headed upstairs. I told them all about my visit with my friends in Fairbanks and how I’d headed for the Boreal Forest after leaving them.

As we reached my bedroom Isabella headed straight for my closet and pulled out a couple of suitcases, one of which was almost as big as her. Not that she had any trouble handling it. Since I accidentally infected her my Sangui-Sapio (a story for another day), she has the same strength, speed, and weaknesses I possess. And although she has the body of a child, unlike me she has been growing at the normal rate of any 12-year-old girl. Though I suspect, that like me, this will slow down considerably once she reaches adulthood.

In the meantime, Otto urged me to continue my tale and I complied.

Since they already know about my tendency to ‘go native’ when I’m up in Alaska, I was able to gloss over that part quickly. Finally, I got to the part about meeting up with the pack of wolves, and how I’d won their confidence with my mist trick.

“Since the hours of night are so long at that time of the year, I wound up staying with them almost a week,” I explained. “Since we were making kills pretty regularly, there was plenty of blood to keep me sated. Plus, it was pretty cloudy at the time, and we were keeping under the tree canopy a lot, which made things even easier for me to stay in wolf form.”

“Sounds like you were having a lovely time,” Otto nodded pleasantly, as he sat on my smiling. “So, when are we going to get to the ‘Oops’ part of your story?”

I stood there holding a stack of underwear in my hands, and just stared at him. “What makes you think there’s an ‘Oops’ part coming?”

“Because it’s clear from your reaction to the article that you suspect you accidentally infected one of those wolves with your Sangui-Sapio companion,” he answered calmly.

“Psychology?” I asked.

Otto shook his head. “No, more like I know that look you get whenever you’ve goofed something up,” he teased, then his expression became serious. “So how did it happen? You’re usually very careful about not ‘sharing’ your gifts.” His eyes darted to Isabella ever-so-briefly before looking at me again.

As I mentioned before, infecting my sister had been an accident. It had happened back in 1863, shortly after the Sangui-Sapio and I had formed our bond. I hadn’t learned about the mistake until decades later, mistaking her for a ghost at first.

Anyway, I resumed my packing and my tale. “It was the last night I was with the pack. We were hunting bison. Shortly before I met the pack they had lost both their alpha and beta leaders. With me appearing on the scene, they’d had more successes with their hunts and were beginning to eye me as a new leader. Too many failed hunts and they’d be in trouble. Luckily there was one young male who was showing a lot of promise and I was trying to support him, so to speak. Follow his lead and all, kind of thing.”

“And how did he take it?” Otto inquired.

“He wasn’t exactly thrilled about me, but he knew I was effective in helping bring down prey so he tolerated my presence. But during that last hunt, errors were made. He wanted us to go after one of the younger bison. Unfortunately, I could tell already that the herd was keeping a very good defensive ring around their young. No matter how much the pack harried them, they wouldn’t break rank. That is, except for one older bull who at that point was wide open.”

As usual Otto was already ahead of me, saying, “Let me guess, our young alpha saw this as an opportunity to firmly establish himself as leader. Am I correct?”

I nodded. “Oh yeah. Mind you he was a good hunter, but I could see he was going to be seriously outmatched.”

“So, you jumped in to try and help him?” my sister asked.

“That had been the plan,” I winced, “I didn’t want to make him look bad, but I knew he couldn’t take that bison alone. So, I zipped ahead and challenged the big bull myself, giving the alpha a clean shot at the throat. Unfortunately, the bull was faster than either of us expected and he gored me something fierce, got my blood all over his face and neck. A second or two later, the alpha nailed him in the throat and the three of us went at it. The pack arrived moments later, attacking the bull’s rear and sides. And that was it for the bull, we brought him down. But looking back, I suspect that some of my blood was on the bison’s throat where the alpha struck. Which means it didn’t return to me when we called my blood back.”

“You called your blood back?” Isabella repeated with a frown.

“Whenever I bleed, either me or Sangui-Sapio can call the blood I spilled back into me through the skin. Unless something prevents it from reaching me, like being ingested for instance,” I explained.

“Like the Cannibal Killer you fought three years ago?” Isabella continued.

I nodded. That guy had lived up to his name and had taken a bite out of me, along with a chunk of the Sangui-Sapio. He’d been injured in our fight before he bit me. And since the Sangui-Sapio’s first instinct is to preserve life, it went to work pretty quickly on him, making the guy nearly as strong and hard to stop as me.

As if reading my thoughts Otto spoke again. “If this is indeed the case with the wolf, why is the creature taking a humanoid shape? From what you’ve told me in the past, the Sangui-Sapio normally just adapts to its new host’s form. It only tries to shapeshift the body briefly, in or to protect or help the new host. Otherwise, the host appears to be normal. Yet, according to the article, the creature seems to have taken on a humanoid shape and was having rough time of it. Now, why would a wolf do that?”

Once more I thought back to the dream. In it, I was having trouble keeping my wolf form. “I don’t know,” I replied, finishing up my packing. “Which is why I have to get up there as quickly as possible, before that poor creature accidentally winds up infecting another animal or even a person.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

Lisa’s Private Thoughts, December 24th, 2017: “My Christmas Ghost Story” Part-V

For a moment I said nothing as I gathered my thoughts. Finally, I breathed, “If this were an old movie, this is the point where I’d ask what you meant was going to happen. But I already know. You mean that sweet little boy I met upstairs is about to experience his death at his sister’s hands all over again, don’t you?” 


Mr. Billings gave me a sad smile. “I’m afraid so. Ever since that terrible night, the family and anyone within these walls will hear the entire scene play out and ending with bloodcurdling screams.” 

I winced, I couldn’t help myself. The thought of that sweet boy I’d met being murdered at the hands of his own flesh and blood. All for the love of a man… wait, ‘follow the money’.


Turning away from the fire I turned to my host and asked, “Mr. Billings, what became of Miss Madeleine and her young man? Did they get away?”


My new friend shook his head sadly. “No, they did not. Nor did they ever marry, not that the scoundrel ever intended to follow through on that promise to Miss Madeleine.”


That was all I needed to hear. Nodding I said aloud, “He only wanted her dowry, or her mother’s jewels in this case.”

Mr. Billings gave me a smile and nodded, “You have a very keen mind, Miss Lisa. You are correct of course.”


As he spoke another thought occurred to me. “Madeleine and her brother where here when their parents had their carriage accident. Does anyone know where her suitor was that day?”


“Well done, Miss!” my host exclaimed, beaming at me. “Alas, at the time no one had asked. However, his whereabouts were uncovered a year later at his murder trial.”


I did a double-take. “His trial? I thought Madeleine had acted alone when she killed her brother? Or did her boyfriend turn around and kill her after he got the jewels?”


Billings sighed and looked at the clock again. “I see it’s only 9:13, so we still have time. I’m afraid I didn’t tell you everything about the haunting because I didn’t want to upset you further. You see, it doesn’t end with Master Reginald’s final screams echoing throughout the manor. I’m afraid, there’s still more. But first, I must tell you the rest of what happened that terrible night. A servant had come back unexpectedly and heard the commotion upstairs and went to investigate. He’d just reached the top of the stairwell when the shouting was replaced by a terrifying scream. Recognizing the voice as that of his mistress’, he rushed to the playroom to find Miss Madeleine stooped over her brother’s body before the fireplace. She was in a terrible shaking the boy and screaming his name. Naturally, he thought she had simply come home and found her brother in this condition, so he drew nearer to comfort her. Unfortunately, she had no inkling that he had entered the room and was startled when he placed a hand on her shoulder. Whirling to face him several of her mother’s jewels, which she’d been clutching in one hand fell to the floor. Now, this man was a close confidante of Sir Peter and knew about his suspicions regarding Miss Madeleine’s suitor. And he had been present when Sir Peter had told his nephew not to give in to his sister’s requests for money or access to her mother’s jewelry. So when he saw them in her hand he realized what had happened. ‘Oh Miss Madeleine, tell me you didn’t…’ he began, but she cut him off shouting, ‘They were rightfully, mine. If he’d only told me they were here when I asked the first time I wouldn’t have lost my temper. I only meant to push him away… I didn’t mean for him to hit his head and…” but instead of finishing her words, she rushed past him and out of the room. In her panic, she turned the wrong way and instead of heading for the stairs, she wound up running towards the balcony that overlooks this room. She was so terrified of having been caught, she kept looking over her shoulder and never realized her mistake until she hit the bannister and…”

Here he turned to stare at a spot on the floor just a few feet from where we were seated. 


Now I fully understood. “After the screams she appears at the railing and falls to her death in front of anyone who’s in this room,” I breathed.


My friend nodded solemnly. “Which is why Sir Peter, and all his descendants have made sure no one is in the mansion during the hour between 9 and 10 on Christmas Eve.”


I blew out a breath and sat back in my chair. Now I understood the reason for the mass at the chapel. But I still had a few more questions. “Mr. Billings, you said her young man was hanged for murder a year later, correct?”


“That I did,” he nodded watching me carefully. 

“So they found out he was the one who had shot the parents’ driver leading to the crash that killed them?” I pressed.


“Yes, but that wasn’t what he was on trial for at the time,” my host explained. “You see, as I told you earlier, the young man had been engaged before only to have his fiancee’ die shortly before their wedding.”


I sat upright at that. “Unexpectedly?” I inquired.

My host nodded.

I continued, “Did he have any other fiancees who also passed away ‘unexpectedly’?”


Once more my host beamed at me. “Indeed he did. You see, some months before the carriage accident Sir Peter had been at a party with a an old friend who spotted the young man there with them. The friend had mentioned the young man’s misfortune but had referred to him by a different name. At first Sir Peter simply assumed his friend had been mistaken. But then he remembered his friend was a sharpshooter back in their regiment days. And the man had spotted the young fellow at a distance. That was what first raised his suspicions about his niece’s suitor. He began to start looking into the matter, but with letters taking time, it his investigation was not coming along as quickly as he’d like. Still, he had found out enough to tell his brother to not agree to the match until he could learn more.”


“But after Madeleine and her brother’s deaths, he finally got the proof he’d been looking for,” I concluded.


“Just in the nick of time too,” Billings told me. “He was already engaged to another young lady of considerable wealth with no family, who had recently become inexplicably ill.”

I nodded. “Like I said before, follow the money. So he was only after wealth, not love. Which means Madeleine would’ve suffered a similar fate if her brother had given in to her requests.”


“Yes, she would have,” Billings nodded, “But it wasn’t just for money, if you get my meaning, miss.”

My eyes widened at that. “He liked killing young women?”


“Young women mostly, but because they were in his way he’d made an exception with her parents.”

“Oh that is sick,” I breathed and shook my head as the enormity of the tragedy upstairs hit me. “In his own way her brother was inadvertently saving her life, even if he didn’t realize it. Only to lose it at her hands, for a man who would’ve taken hers eventually. If only she’d known and now they’re both stuck… wait a minute. I was able to interact with Reginald earlier. And he told me Nathan had actually tried speaking with his sister… which means, they aren’t completely stuck playing out the tragedy.”


Mr. Billings rose to his feet and said gravely, “Oh, miss I know what you’re thinking, but it won’t work. Others have tried and failed. Master Nathan is only the latest. And while I admire his determination to try and free those two poor children from their torment, I don’t think it will work. Miss Madeleine is very obstinate when it comes to anyone telling her…”


“You’ve tried to intervene as well!” I exclaimed getting to my feet.

“Yes, I have,” he nodded sadly. “And I’ve not been able to get through to her, try as I might I just cannot get her to understand. She won’t listen…”


“Not to any man, she won’t,” I cut in, my mind was racing at this point. “Think about it, first her father, then her uncle, then her own brother? All men, telling her she couldn’t be with the man she thought loved her.”


“Miss Lisa, I see where you’re going with this but it’s dangerous,” my companion cried and glanced at his watch once more. “Master Nathan found that out the last time he tried.” 

This time he didn’t look over at the clock but at one of the large windows. I followed his gaze and saw this particular window looked out upon a three tiered fountain, with a finial top. It was rimmed with snow and ice, and brightly lit by strings of Christmas lights wrapped around its tiers. While it was quite pretty, I couldn’t understand why my new friend was staring at it. Suddenly, a figure falling from a great height, landed on top of the fountain amidst a shower of glass. I fell back with a scream, luckily Billings kept me from falling. After regaining my composure, I raced to the window and looked out at the fountain. 


There was no figure impaled on the the finial. Nor was there any sign of broken glass or footprints leading away from the area. Immediately, I thought back to my chat with Reginald when we were discussing Nathan “He had and accident. My sister…” “Miss Lisa?” Billings was at my side his eyes full of worry.

“She threw Nathan out the window of the playroom,” I breathed and then looked at him. “That’s what you mean by she’s dangerous. His attempt at intervening only got her pissed and she threw him out the window. Didn’t she?”


Billings nodded. “It’s 9:20, I really must get you out of here. Let Master Nathan deal with things, I believe he has a plan.”


“What plan?” I asked he led me out of the Great Hall and into foyer.

 
“I’m not sure, but there’s something his Lordship has been seeking for some time. If Master Nathan is here, no doubt he’s helping in the search. With it, they may be able to finally reach Miss Madeleine and help break the cycle…” the rest of his words seemed to grow more annoying as a wave of anger swept over me.


Without meaning to I suddenly snapped, “And you think only a man can bring me to my senses! How dare you, talk down to me. You’re just like every other man. Only my Cedric understands and listens to me. We actually have conversations and he encourages me to share my thoughts and feeling and discusses them with me…” I finally caught myself and shook my head. Such anger. Madeleine hadn’t just been frustrated, she was in a full blown rage! 


“You’re a sensitive,” my guide whispered, looking at me with a mixture of fear and wonder. “I had no idea. If I had realized it sooner, I would’ve never kept you here so long. We must get you out of here, Miss Lisa.”

But I was already sensing Reginald’s growing discomfort from upstairs. We were right next to the staircase and I couldn’t help looking up the steps. “She’s already with him, trying to be nice but she was growing impatient and he can sense something’s not right.” 

“Master Nathan…”


“Even if he has something, I don’t think she’s going to listen to him,” I interrupted.


Just then shouts erupted from upstairs and I could sense Reginald’s discomfort had now become full blown terror.


TO BE CONTINUED…