tagErotic HorrorThe Blackmere Society Ch. 01

The Blackmere Society Ch. 01

byRavynsLand©

It is 1897, the twenty-sixth of May. My name is Brialla Wren, and I know things about the world. Things that would leave the ordinary gentleman or lady afaint, things that would land me in Bedlam were I to merely speak of them aloud.

Certainly, there are already rumors of the beasts that hunt the night - legends of the bestial loup-garou, whispers of the vampyre, tall tales of strange monsters that stalk the forests when they are most dark. Most people dismiss those legends as stories, too frightening to believe. They prefer to believe that they are safe, that they are alone in the world, dominant as the greatest hunters. They're wrong.

Because vampyres, werewolves, ghosts, monsters - they are real, as real as I am, as real as you are, and while they may be dangerous, it is exactly that danger, that darkness, that hunger and rage, that will save us. That will save all of us. Because another danger lurks. Something far worse, far darker, far more ravening and unfeeling. It lies hidden beneath us, for how long I don't yet know. Beneath us, cracks begin to open. Rifts. They grow wider, they grow more frequent. Things are coming out.

And it's going to take people like me, and people like those creatures you so fear and revile, to stop them.

This is why I find myself on this accursed carriage to Blackmere Manor, bumps and rocks shaking it to and fro, coaxing my stomach to simply surrender and purge itself of any nourishment. Drowning out the sounds of my bumpy ascent along that winding, harrowing mountain pass is the thundering sound of rain, pouring down around me through the night sky, blurring the towering darkness of the trees lining either side of the treacherous pass. So many times I consider turning back. So many times I choose to press on.

Sleep attempts to find me as the rain pours down and the bumps grow more rhythmic. It fails - I'm too excited, too much anticipation and dread of the things I'm soon to see. The creatures of the night are things I know for a fact to be real, and I myself have savored the taste of sorcery, enough of it to lend my skills to the hunter's allegiance of Blackmere... but I have yet to see one in person. This will be new, fascinating. A terrifying discovery. A confirmation of both the world's terrors, and the severity of the situation that would cause us to ally.

The carriage slows to a crawl, then finally stops. I blink, shifting the long, central skirt of my robes to a more ladylike arrangement and popping open the side door, hopping out onto the wet gravel. "We've arrived," comes the raspy, half-dead voice of my driver, a pale man with white hair matted under a tall tophat.

I nod towards him, breathing in deeply and looking upward to the clifftop, cast against the light of the waxing, gibbous moon. Blackmere Manor is enormous in size and shape, visibly Victorian in design, though flirting between the distinctions of a mansion and a genuine castle. My eye struggles to make out the color of it, but between the dark sky and driving rain that proves impossible quickly. "Should I wait?" the driver said, leaning over his reins to look down at me.

I straighten my hat in place to keep the rain away, looking up at him and shaking my head. "There won't be a need, sir. I won't be returning to London for some time, I feel."

"Have it as you will," he growls, adjusting the reins and starting to attempt to turn the horses on the uneven, narrow road. I watch as he eventually succeeds, turning and making his way back to civilization - leaving me at Blackmere, alone in the rain, preparing myself to tackle what's next for me. I need to meet the allegiance of hunters. The Blackmere Society.

Making my way under the balcony frees me from the rain, but not the chill. I approach the massive double-doors, of a form of hardwood I'm not entirely familiar with. Inhaling, I steady myself and knock. It opens halfway into the second rap of my knuckles against the portal, revealing the silhouette of what appears to be a young woman, her curves merely a shadow against the pale light coming from within the manor. The only detail I can make out against the darkness is the simmering red glint of her pupils.

"My my," a velvet, achingly smooth voice slithers out from that shadow, coiling around me, making me feel weak - at once chilling my spine and warming my flesh. "Our visitor has finally arrived. You must be Miss Wren."

"Yes," I say softly, glancing behind me, then back towards the silhouette.

She steps forward just slightly, tilting her body so the light from within can cast its pale embrace across her figure. Her skin is milk-white, hair worn long and black as ink, her eyes two burning coals of malice and thirst. Her black, graceful cocktail gown worships her every curve, clinging to it, every inch of fabric like a cultist devoted to her form. It takes a moment before I realize that her hand is extended towards me. "Come inside. You may call me Anathema."

I reach out, lightly touching my fingers to hers before they close firmly around mine, clasping my hand and guiding me in. Her skin is cold but soft. "I'm Brialla. But you knew that," I say as she leads me into the manor, a lofty, dimly-lit place with high, haunting arches and innumerable shadowy nooks and corners. While I see no eyes leering from any of them, I can't help but feel like I'm being watched.

"We did indeed," Anathema purrs, letting go of my hand as I'm led to the central hall of the manor, the doors clicking shut behind me seemingly of their own accord. There's only one other person here, sitting at a desk in the corner and fidgeting with some sort of unearthly contraption, a strange thing made of brass and crystal and little gears. "We were uncertain about bringing another human into the society, you understand. We had to do some... research." A slow grin crosses her ruby lips, and I see the slightest glimpse of fangs. "You do look excellent in the tub, I must say."

"So I take it privacy isn't going to be much of a... concern?" I mumble, awkwardly folding my arms across my chest. Anathema's gaze is all at once piercing and predatory, making me feel naked at her mere glance.

"Should it be?" the woman says, her smile fading to a look of genuine curiosity and intimate interest. She draws a little nearer, wheeling on me and placing both cold, strong hands on my hips, her chest pressing tenderly against mine as she brings her lips close. My heart begins to race, and I can feel my breath grow a little heavier, a little warmer, but I feel no breath from her lips against mine.

"I, um... I came here to... fight against the..." I try to stammer, my eyes flickering from the nightstalker sensuously licking her ruby lips, up to those damning scarlet eyes. They grasp me, claim me, and I feel myself sinking, my will weakening against the tender hold of her loose fingers. My breath catches in my throat and my next words become a whimper. I feel her lips draw closer to mine, and then... and then those teeth, and-

"Were you planning to introduce me, Ana?"

I blink, and reality seems to coalesce around me again, a man's voice with a strong scottish accent jarring me from the sudden trance that Anathema was able to lock me in. I backpedal quickly, folding my arms in front of me again and glancing to the speaker, the man who'd been doing... whatever he'd been doing, with his strange devices in the corner. He's neither very tall nor very short, his hair a dusty brown and his somewhat long face sporting a pair of half-moon spectacles. He's far from the dark, glamorous visage of Anathema, dressed only in a simple brown suit and untied tie.

The vampyre - as I can only assume Anathema is such - lets out a low, catlike growl at being interrupted, before feigning a smile once more. "Yes, indeed. Miss Wren, this is Edgar. He serves as our..."

"Artificer," the man confirms.

"I was going to say 'useless tinker,' but..."

"Professor Edgar Commons, of Dumfriesshire," the man expands upon his own introduction, offering a curt nod in my direction. "I'm researching the underworld events and attempting to track them. I also organized the Blackmere Society in the first place, but..." he shoots an unkind glance towards Ana. "...Who cares about that?"

"A pleasure, Mr. Commons," I nod towards him. "I'm feeling rather weary, can I be shown to where I'll be staying?"

"Before all the introductions are through? Goodness, child, don't be rude. Mr. Grey and our incorporeal friend would be so distressed if they learned you'd gone to bed without meeting them."

Incorporeal? Goodness. I steady myself, still a little weak in the knees with the unexpectedly close encounter with Ana, and nod to my new hosts. "Let's meet them first, then. Where should they be?"

"Present," comes a rough voice from the east wing of the building, and I turn my ocean-blue eyes to the source of it. Two figures approach, one in front while the other drifts along behind. The one leading is the one speaking, a man of impressive size, sporting broad shoulders but a rather narrow waist. His hair is mostly white, with a glimpse of darkness at the roots, though it is clearly a sign of something other than age, for he appears to be quite young - perhaps in his late twenties. He's dressed simply in breeches and an open vest, a dense, dark stubble shadowing his hard, yet open features.

Behind him is a woman, her eyes at once vacant and predatorily focused. She is silent, both in movement and in speech, her form seeming to shift between different degrees of opacity. At one point she seems fully translucent, at other times of a natural hue, and others yet, fully invisible. She is another creature entirely, displaced in time as well as space - dark, barbaric braids and locks make up her wild array of hair, streaks of warpaint down her ghostly face. Her athletic body is barely clad, covered merely in scant strips of leather and more warpaint. Across her back is strapped a fur-lined hunting bow.

I bow my head, taking a slight curtsy downward to greet the two newcomers. From what I'd heard of the Blackmere Society, it currently only housed four members - this must be all of them. "A pleasure to meet you both. My name is Bria-"

"Brialla Wren, yes. The witch," the white-haired man interrupts, moving forward and extending his hand to me, shaking mine. His touch, unlike Anathema's, is quite warm... if a little too firm. "I'm Erasmus Grey, the resident... muscle."

"He's a lycanthrope," Ana scoffs, more than a hint of disgust in her voice.

"And... you, madam?" I say, turning away from Mr. Grey and looking at the woman behind him. She simply narrows her eyes at me, a tinny, buzzing sound escaping her despite her lips not moving.

"She's incapable of speech," Edgar says thoughtfully, peering over my shoulder. "Even if she could, I doubt we could understand her language. Just those strange sounds. I've been trying to decipher them, but with no luck."

"What do I call her, then?"

"What the rest of us call her - the Wraith."

I nod. "Um... greetings, then, Miss Wraith."

The Wraith scowls. I do my best to move past this entire awkward situation. "So, do you have a plan, then, all of you?" I turn my gaze towards Edgar, nodding in his direction. "Some plan to stop this... upheaval? You did say you were the leader, correct?"

"I said I formed the Society," Edgar confesses. "I lead nothing. We are the subjects of a greater mind, driven by something that knows far more about the rifts than we do."

"The God in Bondage," Erasmus growls quietly.

I blink. "The what, now?"

"The entity that gives us our information, and our... instructions," comes a whisper from behind me, Anathema having once again coiled her arms around my waist, this time pressing into my back from behind. It makes me shiver a little, but at least there's no eye contact this time, my mind free from that dominating gaze.

A knot begins to quiver in my stomach. Entity? Greater mind? God in Bondage? None of this sounds particularly... safe. "Then I suppose there is one last introduction to be made, is there not?"

On the other side of the main hall, the Wraith tilts her head at me. I try to ignore her - attempting to communicate is too awkward.

"If you'd like," Ana purrs, trailing her fingertips up along the front of the loincloth hanging from the waistline of my robes, making me shudder a little as she caresses her cold fingertips along my flat belly. "Not sleepy anymore?"

"I'd just like to meet this benefactor before I make any final decisions." Not like I already told my driver to return to London, or anything.

The others nod, and begin to lead me deeper into Blackmere Manor, past a large single door and towards a spiral staircase that leads down. Warm wood and brick immediately fades to darkness and crudely-worked stone as we descend, my steps growing more and more uneasy as we make our way into some kind of... basement? Dungeon? The fact that this is necessary at all to meet this entity is deeply unnerving.

My mind races, wondering what it might be. A trapped demon? Some ancient vampyre, too old to leave its coffin? Another spectral entity, like the Wraith?

The answer turns out to be a chilling 'no,' as I'm finally faced with the alien... thing. 'Entity' seems about correct, as far as I can tell, as such simple answers as whether or not the thing lives are unclear. At the bottom of the staircase is what can only be described as some sort of crypt, or... no. A prison. Perhaps a combination of the two. Long, wildly-worked bolts of cast iron and yew branches are streaked through the stone room, propped against and along each other in an elaborate matrix of lines. They would resemble the bars of a prison, were they to keep to a single form, but instead defy logic - they criss and cross along one another to form bizarre runes and patterns within three dimensions, an elaborate trap to hold that which rests inside.

The entity itself is small, about the size and shape of a human head, wrapped in striking red cloth. Two points where eyes should be lead nowhere, neither reflecting nor absorbing the light of Edgar's hooded lantern. It sits, still and suspended by those interlaced bars of wood and metal, staring outward lifelessly. Staring at us. Staring at me. I feel a cold pit swell in my stomach, swallowing hard. "What... is it...?"

"Not it, little lost bird. Me." The thing's voice echoes through the dungeon, but- no, doesn't echo at all. That's precisely what it doesn't do. The stone doesn't reverberate the voice, as if no true sound is coming forth. It's all in my mind, in the minds of those beside me. "You've come a long way, witch."

I try to ignore the lump in my throat, but can't find words to answer with. Erasmus does so in my stead, his voice as gruff as the rest of him. Of those I've met in the Society, he seems the least intimidated by this thing. By the God in Bondage. "She has, and if we're lucky, she'll have the kind of magical firepower and utility we need to force these rifts shut after their contents have been dealt with. I'd think you'd be happy about that."

"Did I ever say I wasn't? My, my, Erasmus, I'm quite happy indeed," its voice grows lower, more sinister, an intense discontent only thinly veiled by what might be sarcasm. "In fact, I've already begun to make plans that involve that... utility, you speak of. When you return to me tomorrow, I shall divulge them to you, and you shall carry them out. Won't that be exciting?"

There's no doubt in its voice that the Society will comply, and I start to wonder what I've stumbled into. I knew that I was dealing with an allegiance against the swelling, cracking darkness - gray versus black in a fight that could, if left unchecked, swallow the world as we've made it.

"I... don't think I want to look upon this creature anymore," I whisper softly, feeling like my gaze is drawn to it, drawn to those empty eyes. Like Anathema's glamouring powers, but... so much worse. So invasive and sickening.

"Yeah, we get that a lot," Erasmus grunts, firmly placing one of his big hands on my shoulder and leading me away from it. "It'll take some getting used to. Wraith, can you lead Miss Wren to the room she'll be staying in?" He's already leading me back up the staircase, the others trailing behind. While he's grown more used to it, he's clearly just as uncomfortable around the God in Bondage - whatever that means - as I am.

Finally making our way back up out of that foul place and to the main lobby where I first entered, the rest of the Society appear to quickly start going their separate ways - Edgar to his work, Erasmus outside, and Ana... honestly, who knows where. She just seemed to vanish, all at once. The Wraith, however, beckons me onward, and I find myself following along behind. Now, instead of down, we go up, entering the east wing and finding another staircase leading us heavensward and apparently in the direction of my new quarters. The Wraith herself neither speaks nor attempts any kind of other communication; either the idea never occurred to her (unlikely), or she grew weary of an eternity of charades long ago.

While the recent memory of what lies beneath Blackmere Manor continues to weigh on me, I'm grateful for the moment of silence and solitude, for the Wraith provides negligible company. She is, however, an efficient guide, leading me upstairs and to the upper halls, where one of many tall oak doors leads to my room. She places one spectral hand upon the knob, turning it and allowing me inside with a short, curt gesture and a silent, pale-eyed stare.

I swallow hard, nodding back to her. "Thank you, miss," I half-mumble before heading inside, the door clicking behind me and the Wraith vanishing entirely. I let out a long, deep sigh that I hadn't realized I was holding. The room is lavish, as lavish as could be expected from such an impressively-appointed estate, though I'm nonetheless surprised at the amount of upkeep put into it in spite of the lack of hired help. Perhaps that can be something my skills assist with, in the coming days.

For the moment, though, my mind is occupied with rest. I quickly seek out the small bathing room in the alcove at the south end of my quarters, drawing a bath and gradually beginning to peel away my robes - first tossing the pointed hat and thigh-high boots, unbuckling and stripping off a few belts holding everything together, and then finally squirming out of the caramel-and-violet dress at the center, laying all of them in a neat bundle at the foot of my delightfully sizeable bed.

The bath is pleasant and warm, lasting longer than perhaps it needed to and sapping what little will I had to remain awake left within me. Next comes the bed, my naked, slightly damp form slipping tightly within the covers. I close my eyes, try to let the questions of the day go unanswered, but find my mind stirring insistently. I've always had difficulty sleeping in a bed that was not mine, and this is no different, no matter how comfortable. My thoughts won't allow me to rest, not yet. Not before I consider everything I've seen.

Blackmere Manor. The God in Bondage. The Wraith. Edgar Commons. Erasmus Grey. Anathema.

Anathema...

God above, the way she'd looked at me, touched me, that gaze, the way she seized me and held my will. As frightening and invasive as it had been at the time, my mind returns to it, focuses on it, transforming trauma into fantasy more seamlessly than I'd thought possible. Flickers of ideas range across the surface of my thoughts as I consider all of the Blackmere acolytes - from the Wraith's silent, primal grace, to Erasmus's muscular build and brooding growl. Even Edgar had a certain charm about him, with his slim physique and scottish brogue. But my thoughts always returned to the seductress, to the vampyre.

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