The house on Hobb Hill was a fascination in his youth, an ominous looming fascination that overshadowed Allsbrook. Even in the yellow light of day the manor was enshrouded in a darkness whose icy tongue slithered down your spine.
The years had taken the adventure out of Professor Montgomery’s life, replaced with the melancholy of tired routines. A promising career begun with a thesis inspired by the hauntings of Hobb Hill had come to a shuddering halt. Even the paranormal community had begun to laugh at him.
Standing before the black iron gate, smelling the rot of the browning grass and black mud where cobblestones formed a path, he had to admit the truth. Never once had he set foot in Hobb Hill Manor. But today he was an invited guest.
Black branches like long black talons begging to rip into his flesh, shivered from an old gnarled oak. For the briefest moment he thought it alive. The cold wind of the New England fall played tricks on the mind.
Hung from the doorknob by a noose of red twine, a brown envelop fluttered in the breeze, his name on the front.
Please accept my apology. Our staff have been dismissed and our home is in disarray. Come inside. We will speak in the study.
Barely a candle was lit, save the flickering yellow light dancing beyond the door straight ahead. The study, he assumed.
Cracked and shattered mirrors, their debris crunching beneath his heels, littered the dimly lit hall. Likewise, each statue had been defaced, leaving headless limbless hosts warning him to flee, flee or accept your fate.
“Professor!” a voice strangled with age called as he carefully pulled on the door. “We’re one shy, but there’s no reason we can’t make a start of it.”
Ira Westmoore, the lord of Hobb Hill, beckoned him from his wheelchair. He sat at the end of a long table surrounded by bookcases of dusty tombs and dustier shelves. A young woman with short blonde hair tickling her shoulders sat beside him, her face bloodless, hands tightly clasped before her.
Another man with a black moustache and five o’clock shadow sat with his fedora politely on the table. What stood out most was the scar that bisected a cloudy glass eye. The look of war was upon him.
The final guest was a gruff little dwarf. He sat upon a heap of books to see over the polished wooden table. His incisors were capped with gold.
Unsavory characters, except for Westmoore. But what upset him most were the revolvers strapped on their hips.
“Please, Professor. Take a seat.”
“Mister Westmoore,” he said politely, “Call me Monty.”
A gold pendant shone brightly as the pale girl turned her eyes toward him. A green jewel caught his attention, a large emerald as deep as the crashing seas.
“Monty?” Westmoore asked. “I suppose you wonder why I invited you?”
The man next to him ran his thumb across his mustache, and muttered a derogatory beneath his breath. The dwarf laughed in turn, a short-lived shrill laughter.
“Considering everything I have published on your home, and finally after a decade I am invited as a guest? Mister Westmoore—”
“Please,” he interrupted. “Ira.”
“—Ira I am at your mercy.”
The dwarf’s high-pitched voice chimed in second, “Our time ain’t cheap, Ira.”
“Hun’red a day, no matter the day,” the man seconded, holding his calloused hand out to Monty. “Alvis, Egghead.”
“Monty,” he corrected, and corrected again when the dwarf held out his grubby little hand. His name was Alvin.
The name that conjures insanity…
The girl gripped her temples, shrieking. Her eyes were pressed tight, broken capillaries staining her face a crimson red. Westmoore threw a hand about her shoulders hushing her while they tamed the hairs rising on the back of their necks.
“What’s her deal?” Alvis growled. He had pulled his revolver. He eased the hammer back into place.
“Gentlemen, this is my niece. She suffers from an affliction and I have invited each of you here to cure her of it.”
“I’m not that kind of doctor,” Monty said. “Fetch a surgeon for the poor thing.”
“Or ship her to a bug house.”
“Neither would help her,” his face stricken. “I’m afraid her affliction is not of this world, but of a world of shadows.”
Alvin and Alvis guffawed at the edge in his voice, but Monty only stared. The pendant caught his eye again. The flames of a candle burning brightly within.
The snap of the old man’s fingers brought him to.
“Monty, are you listening to what I am saying?”
“Of course I’m listening!” he barked. “And how dare you! The shattered mirrors? The mutilated statues in the hall? You ruined my career.”
“I did nothing of the sort!”
“It took digging, but Spencer told me about the money you used to bury me and my research. I’ll have nothing of this. I’m leaving you to your own cursed damnation Westmoore.”
“Please!” the girl’s cry stopped him before he could escape. “Help me!”
“Monty, I will pay you handsomely. Please sit down.”
Monty exhaled. A woman in need. A man’s greatest weakness.
“I fell through a mirror in my brother’s room,” tears were streaming down her cheeks. “Inside I saw the dark things, your Bo-ath. Inside I found this pendant, and Monty it led them through the mirrors to here.”
“Through the mirrors?” Alvis asked, almost believing.
“And into our statues,” Westmoore grumbled. “They were turning to face her for days. Then the dreadful things tried murdering her in her sleep. I had them, and every mirror destroyed.”
With a deep breath Monty asked, “Fine. Let me have a look at that pendant.”
He held the gemstone in his hand, eyeing it closely. A light shone dimly within the green sea.
Ephazhail, the Nameless One…
“…labeled for his sin,” he whispered, slack-jawed.
Westmoore continued to plead for his niece’s life. “I need you gentlemen to travel there with her to this shadow world to destroy this pendant. It is the only way to save her life. All life.”
With a snarl, eyes wide and wild, Monty twisted the necklace around the girl’s neck choking her. Crazed, he tore the dwarf’s revolver out of its holster, shot him in the leg, and held it on Alvis. His face was contorted by madness and shadow as he yanked her back toward the door.
“Drop her!” Alvis shouted over his partner’s screams, and Westmoore begging for her life. Lightning flashed through the windows at the far end of the study.
“Bo-ath approaches!” Monty shouted. “Old fool! Your windows are reflections of our world as well! You would have been wise to destroy them.”
“Drop the girl,” Alvis warned again, his pistol trained on the madman.
“Now they will believe my research. Unto this realm I shall reveal the dark ecstasy of my shadow lords!”
A crash like thunder, a kick from the other side of the door propelled him and the girl into the table. A pistol went off. Gray smoke danced from the bore of Alvis’ pistol.
A young man with dirty blonde hair stood in the door unaffected by the dead man sprawled out on the table. Chewing an apple he asked, “I’m sorry uncle. Am I late?”
He turned Monty’s face by the chin, and grimaced.
“This is the chap who I told you was sullying the Westmoore name. After what Spence and I did to him I never imagined him in the house. Is he causing my sister trouble?”