The hellhound wasn’t like the maid, it could think, it was not just an pulse of pure instinct wanting to have a taste but to gargle Sister Huebsch’s life force and spit out the meaty bits.
Hovering a foot above the floor Gabrielle O’Connell, Bartel O’Connell’s deranged daughter and brutalized toy screamed. “No Daddy, no.”
‘What a fantastic father.‘ Huebsch thought as she put herself into a defensive stance.
In the heat of battle with four savage dogs placing her into an ambush pattern, the nun could only perform a withering glance at the dull blue form of a woman that looked to be wearing a green embodied dress.
Like all O’Connells the deceased woman was dreadfully plain and highly disturbed. Her long mousy blonde hair hung down over her face like seaweed, as if drums were playing inside the nun’s head she could hear every drop of blood that crawled down Gabrielle’s leg and hit the floor.
The woman was Scrios-Ogbhean classed poltergeist. A special and particularly nasty subspecies of ghost that was born when a wisp feeds of the emotions of a woman that is being sexually assaulted on a ritual basis, to the point where she caries a child born from that abuse.
In Huebsch’s opinion this was the most terrible of the poltergeist family, for it had the ability to corrupt the minds of weak men in their dreams, teasing their darkest fantasies till the men went insane assaulted those closest to them in order to feed off the turmoil.
In the midst of Gabrielle’s anguished cries for her father to stop hurting her a moment of sobriety bloomed and a pulse of scarlet light burned within the ghost. “Try to save him all you like, nun. The fox dies.” Gabrielle said and pointed the dog toothed necklace at the sister.
Sister Huebsch swung her bo-ken while avoiding the rabid dog to her left. With the grace that came with centuries of honed skills the follower of Badb struck her next adversary in the leg.
The battle hardened nun had thought she had seen it all but never had she witnessed something like Gabrielle. Not even a high ranking poltergeist could hold an item for this long and never had she encountered any ghost with such a… split personality.
It was as if there were two Gabrielles. The typical howling Scrios-Ogbhean, the aspect of twisted rape, the tempter and scavenger. The other, this red form, some sort of wraith hybrid that was almost or possibly more intelligent than the hounds she controlled.
“What are you?” Huebsch demanded. Though wisps had the appearance and to the untrained eye seemed chaotic, they were not bipolar. They fed off emotions, fear, gluttony, rage, they did not have a goal.
An echo.” Gabrielle said back. “Of a being far beyond your pitiful understanding, fairy.”
They also did have enough of their host’s personality to communicate back without the help of a medium feeding it with her own psyonic energy. Just what in the names of the stars above was going on?
All Huebsch could feel from the thing was a deep near bottomless well of anger and insatiable need to feed.
She swung out again, her sword drinking in the ectoplasm of the nearest hellhound, the bo-ken stealing the monster’s strength which was just as vast as the other three dogs it had consumed.
The bo-ken had grown to the point where it had become a two handed cleaver, changing its shape so it could gorge with each calculated swing. If this did not stop the sister feared that her sword would expand to the point where it would become cumbersome, her speed sacrificed and that was not a wise choice.
This fight becoming more weird with each passing moment Gabrielle held the necklace, Huebsch did something incredibly stupid and risky, she charged for aiming to dispel Gabrielle.
Gabrielle snarled at the attack and raised her hand at the inconspicuous wall, whatever supernatural force the deceased maiden had used awoken the mechanism that law in side and a secret door no living man opened.
Her escape route now opened, the red echo that was all that was left of Gabrielle O’Connell became a blur of smoke and avoided Huebsch’s assault.
The battle nun would not have missed at all but her weapon’s weight and length continued to morph and augment due to the three rabid hell hounds that it had recently consumed.
Huebsch didn’t curse or lose herself to frustration, instead she stared in deep contemplation at the dark abyss of the world between the walls
Ghost had no need for door or secret passages, they were creatures of pure energy able to teleport and phase through solid objects.
Then she remembered the sight of the dog bone necklace that was being held where the ghost’s heart would have been. For some odd reason this bitch of a spectre needed the talisman and disquieting.
Country to belief, ghosts, not even wraiths were this sentient. They were wasps or spiders, they were smart enough to hold a grudge or protect an ex-loved one but they weren’t the scheming kind. The most mental energy they could conjure was to throw a chair at their target but they were no where near smart enough to use tools.
Huebsch screamed as a red ghostly hand came through the floorboards and grasped her ankle.
It was as if an shackle of burning iron had snapped shut around her ankle. Freezing cold and burning at the same time Huebsch could feel her very life force being sucked out of her body, a dead numbness clawed its way centimetre by centimetre up her leg.
In desperation Huebsch slashed at the hand.
The bo-ken drank greedily of the apparition’s spectral blood till the hand became intangible, allowing Huebsch to break free.
The urge to hold and heal her numb leg was instinctual, but the sister had no time for such luxuries, all around her red ghosts were phasing through the walls, floor, and ceiling. The air shimmered as O’Connells and their tortured servants blind into existence.
The wolves had come to devour the lioness.
Huebsch didn’t bother to fight, there were far too many enemies and unknown variables she had yet to understand. The Tech was obviously dead or gone mad and if Sister Huebsch did not escape she would share his fate.
She limbed towards the door to the corridors but hesitated as the head of a small boy stared vacantly at her from the opposite room, it smiled at her as a cat staring at a mouse might. There was no getting out there.
Knowing she shouldn’t, knowing that every ounce of her common sense screamed “No!” Huebsch snarled in pain as she limped her way into the secret passage, while the dead climbed their way up.
It is a common misconception that the O’Connells have one huge vault where they kept all of the treasures that they had ever stole or accepted as trade for their daughters. A single great dragon’s horde where the family just threw buckets of gold once a month.
In reality there are four secret vaults hidden in and around the mansion. Each one built much like an onion with a central chamber and layers of traps expanding outwards till the whole mansion became one giant death trap.
Pit falls, dart traps; every trap imaginable and few inconceivable one lay inside the world between the floor boards. So much so the the master of the family could not dare to enter any of them and some vaults had become lost over the millennia, leaving a vast fortune unchecked.
You see, in noble circles the easiest was of accession was to murder you father and siblings. And if you recently poisoned father had a habit of lying to their children about where the money was buried, things got lost and the children were forced to build a new place to store the treasures without thieves or banks stealing it.
For Huebush the traps to whatever place she was being chased to had a ridiculous amount of security with golem sentries, devilishly well hidden fire traps, and a pond full of ravenous hecklers.
Hecklers were if a piranha and a silver fish decided to have some sort of mutant offspring. An experiment with essence splicing programs for waste removal scamers, they were featured in many B-Grade pulp fiction novels as a way for the villein to remove the man nosy hero.
If it weren’t for the fact that Gabrielle had pilfered their life energy to fed her own insatiable appetite the nun would have laughed at the sheer surrealism of it all.
She felt like the hero of some trashy hero novel; stalking through the secret rooms of a haunted mansion, chasing some bizarre monster through a tomb-like maze, she half expected there to be a funny little man about to pop out ready to lash her to a tree so his pet dragon could have a nibble.
But she figured that the second rate hack writing this story must have been taking some sort of break because it look at if she had missed the party.
The traps had mostly been disabled. Arrows marked with sort of luminescent paint displayed the correct path; the tripwires had been disabled; the poison gas vents had been plugged up; and a distinct smell of urine came from the scorpion and viper pits,.almost as if somebody had activated the trap and decided to desecrate the poor creatures inside because the designer got his ideas from a children’s book.
As Huebsch did her best to keep up with Gabrielle she noticed any surviving living obstacles had been devoured by either the strange new ghost or the hellhounds.
Even the space within the wall was devoid of life as every spider and rat had their life force sucked dry.
But whatever desire Huebsch had to stop and ponder about the decor of her new environment was constantly lost as she could feel the peculiar ghosts of the mansion were right at her back, they had tasted her and mutated wisps did not give up their cursed prey easily.
Through the broken traps and the lack of light Huebsch continued. Part of her knew she might as well save herself some trouble and submit to the infernal creatures, but she shook it off. Such beings fed off a hunter’s despair and gorged on negative thoughts as though it was potato stew.
“The fox.” Came a wail from the very walls themselves.
“Save me.” Came a child’s plea.
“Hate.” Unlike the other two humanoid voices this last one was like it came from the bottom of a deep well that lead straight into hell itself.
It touched at the back of the nun’s mind like a snake’s flickering tongue, it tickled that part of the primal part of the brain that registered the almighty sensation of fear.
Huebsch stopped in her tracks as terror the likes she had felt only once before, in days of war and betrayal came back at her. The days of the red sand.
“No. It’s not possible.” She said to the universe itself, fearing that she were wrong.
Ahead of her, an unnatural light, far too bright to come from a typical fire reflected off the walls. Huebsch’s mind raced through the possibilities, paranoia giving rise to the most likely conclusion that what she was about to face was some form of illusion or disguise to distract the nun from a trap.
Against her better judgement and her trained survival skills the follower of Badb crept quietly towards the corner.
Though, Huebsch had no idea how, somehow somebody had cut through the seemingly impenetrable slab of metal and weaselled their way into a room that could possibly house treasures that had not been seen since recorded history.
A jolt of excitement sored through Huebsch, with just one handful of ancient gold in her hand she could retire, or better yet buy her way past all that god awful bureaucracy all religions eventually tumble into.
Common sense drifted its ugly head around warning Huebsch that she wouldn’t be able to spend this fantasy gold if she was dead, no matter what kings thought about being buried with their treasure the elven faiths were half sure their particular afterlife didn’t have much of a gift shop or charged rent for better cloud space.
Unsure of what to expect to be waiting for her, Huebsch tried to get a feel for the room that lay beyond her sight. Her eyes clothes the nun allowed her psychic fingers to wiggle out a foot before she felt IT.
The protective runes that had stopped scyers and empaths from breeching the vault had in avertedly became become a protective shield against whatever had been locked inside the room.
What waited on the other side of that iron door was… evil. There was no other definition Huebsch could describe the presence.
It was sadistic corruption that desired only to consume and plunder everything. From the smallest microorganism to the very space between the worlds, it was gluttonous with a hunger that could make the very Gods tremble.
Just what had the O’Connell’s kept in their blind greed?
The psychic backlash Huebsch had been trained to wave off became like a physical punch with the force of a falling anvil.
Nausea, vertigo, and a the worst hangover imaginable all condensed in a single moment caused Sister Huebsch to double over and vomit the ‘liquid courage’ that she had consumed before foolishly venturing down here.
“Badb, save us.” Sister Huebsch pleaded for she had no hope that she and her twisted sword would be enough.
“Fox.” From the back of the tunnels there came the echoed cries of dozens of spectres, their individual moans and snarls merged together in a chorus of anger and misery.
Like Gabriele it appeared that the ghosts of the mansion had grown some form of mob awareness. An interesting study Huebsch was willing to bring up at the next mass, that’s if some miracle she had survived this ordeal.
Caught in the middle of two dead ends and two death sentences Huebsch weighed up her options.
She could go back and fight though the mob within a confined space and with little light, with this many powerful wisps in one place it was possible that she could be caught in several hallucinations and be swarmed as she relived the deads’ last moments.
The next option involved going through that door and having a chat with the foul devil that lived here.
She decided she would take her chances with the score of ghosts, at least they were familiar foes and could be banished by a good stab of her sword.
The nun hesitated from her exciting escape when somebody within the vault spoke excitedly in a language that was as alien to Huebsch as the furthest stars.
“Paranormal event occurred. 9:16 pm. Object appears to be a necklace made of bone and teeth, levitating roughly four feet in the air.” The voice was male and didn’t seem afraid as intrigued.
To the follower of Badb the words seemed uncouth, profane perhaps. Just like the foreigners themselves.
“Grey?” Sister Huebsch said knowing this to be a trick, it had to be a trick; there was no possible way that a single man could survive the ghosts let alone the traps.
Of course it was a trap; there was nothing else it could be. It was the monster trying to convince her to enter its lair and eat her.
By instinct she tried to lift her sword to position herself in a fighter’s stance, but the damn piece of shit had gorged itself to dangerous levels. Leaves the colour of black ink sprouted out from the twisting blade and Huebsch could feel the handle pulse with life.
By some strange telepathic connection that was said to be impossible, the nun could feel the sword’s need to enter the room. It knew it was a trap as well, and wanted to trip it so it could feast, with or without its wielder.
More dragged by the sword and her own sense of curiosity, Sister Huebsch entered the vault.
The vault looked as if it was four thousand years or so dew for a dusting; layers upon layers of dust were as a blanket, and whatever air that had become trapped by the existence of the door had become stale to the point that Huebsch had to hold in her breath.
The unnatural light that the nun had seen originated from several metal lamps with some form or solar crystal inside, attempts had been made to light the braziers but the fuel inside had become little more than dust itself with thanks to Father Time.
Upon several stands urns and artefacts from a time when things were much simpler were displayed, each was old enough that Huebsch had only the faintest idea of their history or function.
It was quite possible that any of these devices could have earned their place in an epic ballad or be worth a king’s ransom of gold to the temples, but for now Huebsch concentrated on staying alive with her wits in tacked.
Just like in the story books the vault appeared to be designed with three levels, with a large hole in the centre used much like a levitating elevator, but due to a lack of maintenance there was only a deserted shaft.
She knew she shouldn’t, but mentally weakened the battle nun was compelled to grasp the rails and gawk down, “No.” she said not daring to allow herself to believe what she was seeing.
At this moment she did not care if the ghosts of the mansion sucked her very soul dry, death was a blessing compared to the molestation that the thing she saw promised.
Fighting the urge to scream Huebsch turned around and wanted to run straight through the ghosts and warn the people that IT had come back.
As she swung herself around Huebsch’s green eyes meet with the dead eye sockets of Gabrielle O’Connell.
“Yes.” Said the mutated wisp before it pushed Sister Huebsch into the heart of a nightmare.