Lord Montgomery Salvator looked up at the grinning moon as it bounced in the sky. He knew that his wife hated any moon that wasn’t full and knew that her mood would be difficult to deal with because she had seen this. He turned to face his coachman who had been waiting for him to get into the carriage before he cleared his throat. “What time will we arrive at the manor?” The coachman straighten up after being spoken to but did not leave his position by the carriage door. “If we go through the night, we will arrive by mid-morning.” His response was cold but firm. The Lord nodded before clambering in the carriage unsteadily. “That would be fine. I would rather return to a comfortable bed sooner and I’m sure my dearest feels the same.” Montgomery took a seat across from his wife, Eleanor, who appeared to be looking at her fingernails in boredom. It had been a long time since Eleanor had enjoyed the company of her husband and now she wouldn’t even hide it in front of him. She sighed and turned away from her nails and her husband, staring out the window. Montgomery wished he could see into her mind and stared longingly at her whilst the coachman jolted the carriage alive and their journey began.
About an hour into the night, Montgomery began to feel his eyelids get heavy and started to drift off to sleep. As his eyes closed he heard the loud screeching of his wife. “Halt the carriage now!” Her voiced seemed to echo around them. The horses whinnied loudly as the coachman halted. “What is it my dearest?” Montgomery asked politely, failing to hide the shock in his voice. Eleanor looked out the window, steam fogging up the glass. “There’s a woman. She looks like she may need some help,” she responded uncharacteristically. Montgomery looked at her curiously, he knew Eleanor would not help someone in need unless she wanted something. The coachman opened the carriage door and before he could ask what was wrong, Montgomery stepped out.
“Good evening, do you need some assistance?” He bellowed towards the woman who was further away than he thought. She was sat next to a worn looking donkey around a small pitiful campfire in front of a large caravan. Upon hearing him she turned gently to reveal her face. Montgomery noticed her haggard old face. She was a measly peasant woman. She shook her head quietly but as Montgomery approached closer he had seen what his wife had seen. The woman wore a rather attracted Ruby encrusted necklace. It didn’t appear to fit the woman’s torn clothing but it was rather striking. “I’m sorry, allow me to introduce myself. I am Lord Montgomery Salvator. I have travelled from a nearby region and I am returning there this evening. It was actually my wife…” the Lord began, pointing towards the elegant carriage and the head of Eleanor who was peeking out, “who had seen that you appeared to be in some need of assistance. May I ask if your caravan has broken down?” The woman bowed her head and stood up to the man. “I am Kya. I am travelling homeward bound myself. However my cart has gotten caught in the mud, and as it is dark I cannot see how to fix it. It is no real problem. I am used to travelling and I know this close to the town I will get some assistance in the morning. There is no need for you to bother yourself my Lord.” She bowed her head quickly again and turned to return back to the campfire. Montgomery was hesitant to leave the woman knowing that if he returned without the necklace she would be angry. “My dear Kya, if you feel you are in no bother then I will leave you. However, a gentleman such as myself cannot leave a woman in such bothersome circumstances. I will get my coachman to assist you. If you are insistent on not needing our help then we will leave you.” Kya nodded quietly. “I will be fine, thank you.” Montgomery grunted quietly. He never usually had this much problem with persuading people to talk before, let alone refuse the offer of assistance. He knew he had to try the final trick he had, blatant honesty. “I must say my dear, that is a rather interesting necklace you wear. It is rather beautiful. I don’t normally pester for others belongings but I think that would be a rather beautiful present for my wife. Would you be interested in selling or trading it?” She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He had her. He knew it, like a fish he was ready to reel her in. She twirled the necklace between her fingers. “I am hesitant to sell this as it is a family heirloom but I must admit I am in dire need of some wealth. I will say you can bargain for it and your offer must be rather generous.” Montgomery felt the thrill of excitement tingle through his body. It had been a long while since he had conned anyone out of their belongings, even longer since it had been a family heirloom. He knew she wasn’t lying as he could tell fakes from a long distance, it had been a skill that worked rather well for him. “I see, Coachman!” He yelled to the man stood a few feet behind. Kya watched as the man rushed to a trunk attached to the back of the carriage and brought out a small chest. “I know that your necklace would make a rather nice present for my wife, so I would offer you a single item from this chest. You can pick. I am sure you will be highly pleased.” Kya approached the two men cautiously. The firelight shone upon the items allowing her a good glance inside. The chest was filled with rather large jewels which reflected the light back into her eyes. She would be wealthy enough with just one but then she saw the biggest diamond she had even seen. This would certainly be enough to allow her a comfortable lifestyle. She looked up to the coachman and the Lord. The coachman had turned his head from her, whilst the Lord was insistent. She gulped. “Any one item?” She watched as he nodded encouragingly. She picked up the rather large diamond. “Including this?” Her hand held onto it carefully and he nodded again. She placed it back and Montgomery watched as she reluctantly unlatched her necklace. She handed it over to the Lord and was handed the diamond in return. She had never seen such a large gemstone in her life and a smile graced her face. “Thank you, I hope you take good care of my necklace. I hope your wife likes it.” She returned to the campfire staring wide eyed at the diamond as the Lord returned to the carriage.
The coachman placed the chest back inside the trunk and helped the Lord into the carriage. He closed the door and turned pitifully at the poor woman whom he knew had been one of many victims. He watched as she held the apparent diamond up to the fire and seemed to be mesmerised by it. He felt ashamed of his assistance but reminded himself, as he clambered onto his perch, that he needed to support his own family and had no other means. He looked down at the horses with a tear in his eye. “I’m sorry,” he whispered as he pulled the reins. The horses whinnied rather loudly shocking Kya out of her trance and the coachman heard the shatter behind him. He dared not turn to look. He knew that she had just dropped the cheaply made glass bauble she believed to be a diamond. As the horses sped away, he heard the woman screaming and chasing the carriage but couldn’t make out what she was saying. “I curse you! You fiend! I curse my necklace and only should it’s return free it from it’s curse. Mortuos Arcesse Venari Detentores Donec Reditus!” The words echoed out into the distance as the carriage continued on oblivious.
As soon as Eleanor had seen the necklace in her husbands’ hands, she snatched it from his grasp and placed it around her. Her face beamed and her mood seemed to shift. Montgomery knew he had done the right thing to please her and watched as she twirled the pendant between her fingers. He expected to have a little conversation now that she was happy but moments passed and they remained in silence. Montgomery’s face soured and he turned away, deciding to let himself drift off to sleep. Eleanor was more entranced by her thoughts. ‘He was definitely looking at me tonight, that confirms it. He wants me.’ She looked at her husband as his eyes closed and rolled her eyes at him. She had finally had enough of him. Now was the time to try someone new. Someone more exciting and she thought that with the looks she had received tonight who that someone would be.
Eleanor stared out the window of the carriage door as her mind drifted to the dinner with Lord Grey they had attended earlier that night. The hors d'oeuvres had been served on silver trays whilst Lord Grey and his numerous guests had danced but the dinner bell had rung and everyone went to their seats. Eleanor had been seated between her husband and Lord Grey. Most guests would have thought this was due to Lord Grey being rather close friends to Montgomery as they regularly played cards, but Eleanor knew that the real reason. She had known from their first dinner party a few years back. She was the true object of the Lords’ desire. Every time she and her husband had been seated next to Lord Grey. Eleanor knew that Lord Grey had dreamily stared at her the entire evening, every single time she knew that he was staring through her entire being and obviously deep into her very soul. Their conversations always showed a connection between them. This night was no different than the ones before. She was seated to the left of her husband like all married couples and she had enjoyed a rather deep conversation on the niches between fabrics and the various feels. She had hoped once the dancing commenced again Lord Grey might have asked to have a dance with her. She didn’t think this would have been inappropriate as many other married women were span around by numerous men throughout the evening, due to their husbands’ exhaustion. She was disappointed though, not long after dinner had finished, Lord Grey and Montgomery had retreated to a private room to play their silly card games and Eleanor had been left to join the single and the spinsters on the side lines. She didn’t want to dance with anyone else so this is what she had to put up with. “I heard that the Lord of the Manor isn’t interested in any woman in particular,” a hushed voice muttered from the group, followed by quiet mutters. This had piqued her intrigue and Eleanor lent closer to eavesdrop. “Well Marilyn said, that he regularly has various women come at all times throughout the evening. She heard it from her scullery maid’s sister’s brother in law’s cousin who’s meant to be the butler in this house,” the voice continued. Eleanor knew this mustn’t be true. She felt her heart beat faster until a croaky cough came interrupting the gossip. It was followed by wisps on smoke and Eleanor knew it had to be one of the spinsters. “It’s all poppy-cosh. I live in the nearby Manor. It’s not true, well not wholly true. It wasn’t women coming at all hours, but men. I watched them leave in the morning. They passed my manor whilst I have my morning breakfast. That was until a few years back, now not a soul unless an event like this happens…” the woman hacked, coughing in between breaks of smoking, “I believe his interests lies in men, and now one man in particular.” Eleanor held in her outrage. ‘How could such gossip from the welcomed guests of Lord Grey?’ she thought as the rage built but she was a lady she couldn’t let her anger burst out and make a show of herself. As the young women giggled and continued, Eleanor stormed away and got one of the servants to retrieve her husband.
Eleanor pouted as she returned back to looking outside the carriage window. She sighed and played with her necklace felt her eyes drift off.
Eleanor was jolted awake by the sudden halt of the carriage. She couldn’t feel the carriage moving along the dirt road and stared angrily at her husband. “Monty,” she urged quietly. He had his back against the seat and was snoring quietly but there was no response. Eleanor scowled, her frustration reaching a boiling point. “MONTGOMERY!” Her yells were loud and clear and Montgomery bolted upright with shock. “Yes? Is everything ok?” He replied cautiously. Her eyes thinned into a glare and she waited for him to notice but of course he never. She rolled her eyes. “No, dear husband,” she said, spite dripping from her words, “the carriage has stopped.”
“Oh dear! Has it?” Montgomery looked out the window and noticed a deep fog had rolled in. “Coachman! Is there a problem?” He shouted out to the seat behind him, nervous to leave the carriage with the fog being so thick. There was no reply. Montgomery grinned nervously as he heard his wife huff. “Okay, I’ll get out my dearest.” He carefully opened the carriage door and hesitated staring into the fog. He could only make out the shadows of the trees near the edge of the road but nothing else. As he hung at the doorway, hoping that his wife would insist on him not leaving, he felt the boot of his wife nudge him out. He landed unsteadily on his feet and heard the carriage door lock behind him.
Montgomery sighed. He was alone in a dark fog. He clambered for a lantern that hung next to the door and lit it with the matches he used for cigars. It didn’t do much other than brighten the dark area. The light reflected off the silvery fog creating a near impregnable barrier and hiding the trees he could once see. He turned and moved towards the front of the carriage before realising the eerie silence that surrounded him. There was no horses scuffling or whinnying, no coachman breathing, no birds cawing, nothing but his own footsteps crunching on the autumn leaves beneath his feet. Montgomery held the lantern out in front of him and reached the head of the carriage. His eyes widened and he felt himself turning around and returning back to the doorway. The door swung open and Montgomery scrambled to get inside.
As he took a seat once more and his breathing became heavy, Eleanor looked at him expectantly. Montgomery took a loud gulp and a moment to catch his breath. “It appears that the coachman and the horses have… have…”
“Have what Monty? Out with it!”
“Yes, gone, vanished, no trace, nothing. It’s like they weren’t there to begin with!”
“Poppy Cosh! Maybe the Coachman probably just stopped the carriage and let the horses off for a walk.” Even as Eleanor spoke and her husband stared at her bewildered, she knew that the likelihood of that would be nigh impossible. She waited for Montgomery to say something but he just continued to stare at her in confusion. “Well either way, they couldn’t have gone far. I think you should go out and look for them.” Montgomery shook his head in defiance and fear. “Can’t we wait until morning?”
“Have you any idea when that is? Because I certainly do not!” Montgomery’s reluctance shone through but he took a long breath and held a brave face. For his wife he had to do it. For his wife, his mind kept saying. Eleanor opened the carriage door once more and Montgomery shakily went out. He stood at the bottom of the step and once more the door shut heavily and a lock could be heard.
Montgomery edged away from the carriage towards the tree line he saw before. He held his lantern aloft and hoped that the ground was wet enough that there was hoof prints or foot prints. He crept his way until he saw the first tree. It was an old tree bare as autumn had been nearing its end. The branches where outstretched arms clothing towards the sky and as Montgomery looked around he saw that many of the others were the same. ‘At least they’re just trees, those branches look like they could claw at someone,’ he thought to himself as he continued round. He dared not shout in case there was wild animals nearby and he definitely didn’t want to attract them to his defenceless self. He stepped another 10 paces forward as a small breeze fluttered through the barren forest, bringing more fog and almost blowing out his candle. The silence was deafening and slowly Montgomery continued forward, he couldn’t make out when the next tree would appear as the fog enveloped him. Suddenly there was a crack that seemed to echo all around him. His eyes widened and as he turned he began to see shadows moving within the fog. They didn’t appear to be human, horse or tree shaped but he wasn’t sure. He held his lantern higher hoping the light would pierce through. As he continued, he tripped dropping the lantern which smashed in front of him. The glass knocking out the flickering candle inside. He stood up, quickly brushing himself off and as he looked around the dark shadows that he could barely see before where closer to him. There was more of them and they were moving towards him. Montgomery gulped and as the closest approached him, he turned around and ran back the way he’d come.
Eleanor was sat impatiently in the carriage. It had seemed like hours since her husband had left and she had had enough of waiting. She reached for the lock on the door but remembered that Montgomery had taken the matches and she’d be in darkness. She huffed and sat back in the dimness of the carriage staring eagerly out the window. She closed her eyes and remembered what she had done a few days back. Her eyes widened as a realisation struck her. ‘I hired someone to end Monty,’ she thought callously with relief spread on her face, ‘that has to be what is happening. It’s an elaborate assassination.’ She nodded impressed by the performance that was now in sight. She leaned closer to the window eager to witness her husbands death when another thought popped into her head. ‘I instructed that on no circumstances should there be other casualties. Ridiculous, how am I meant to get home safely if they have killed the coachman and horses too.’ She grunted frustrated, hoping that the assassin would have planned everything better. ‘Regardless what is done is done,’ her mind continued on, ‘now hopefully they have him killed closer and I can actually witness his death.’ She leaned ever closer to the window. She was entranced by the dense fog that had been created when out of nowhere, Montgomery hit the door of the carriage. The fog had been so thick that she hadn’t seen him approach. She saw the panic in his eyes and smirked smugly. “Let me in, dearest,” Montgomery begged, expecting the door to be unlocked, “I’m being chased by…” Eleanor held her hand up interrupting him. “A brave husband would die for his wife and would not lead a possible threat to her. Move away from the carriage and I may still remain safe.” Her tone was abrupt and harsh but Montgomery couldn’t hear that through the panic and fear shrouding his mind. His heart pounded faster as he began to hear low growls from behind him. “Please, I don’t want to die!” As he finished the final word, Eleanor saw a dark claw slice through him. Blood splattered on the window and his body slumped to the ground. Eleanor moved back from the door and thought about how the assassin must have trained an animal to kill him. She was rather pleased with the sight but wished that she didn’t have the blood all over her new carriage. It was hers now anyway. She had already planned what to say to explain what happened when she began to hear scratching coming from outside the carriage. ‘Impossible! He can’t still be alive,’ she thought in disbelief. She leaned back to the window and looked down anxiously. The body and any trace of it had simple vanished. Her eyes widened again as a skeletal form pressed hard on the glass. It’s face seemed to be rotting and flesh was hanging off. She screamed and went back to her seat. “It’s just a show, part of the facade,” she told herself. The scratching continued and low moans joined the sound. “Let us in,” the voices reverberated around her. She shook her head and closed her eyes. She knew that this wasn’t the assassin now, it had to be some form of witchcraft. She opened her eyes and watched as the fog started to seep into the carriage. It was too late.
The coachman yawned as the daylight led the way to the manor in front of him. The butler and maid where stood on the top of the steps awaiting them. They had been informed of the plans before the Lord had left. The night had been fairly quiet except for having to stop to con that poor woman. He sighed and halted the horses at the bottom of the steps. He nodded to the couple at the top and watched as the butler held a pocket watch and shook his head. The coachman knew he was late but it was due to the Lord’s fault. The servants stepped down the steps and reached the carriage door. The curtain had been pulled closed and the butler knocked gently to announce his presence. He expected some sound or confirmation that he could open the door but nothing came. He reluctantly opened the door and hoped he wouldn’t wake the Lord and Lady. The Maid let out a loud scream before the butler looked in. He saw the Lord and Lady, their skin greyed. The Lord had a large slash across his torso and the Lady’s face was twisted in terror. His eyes widened and he helped the maid compose herself as the Coachman stepped off and joined the duo. He gasp in horror and stepped back. The maid looked to her husband, the butler, and he nodded. As the butler grappled the coachman shoving him against the nearest wall. The maid knew her husbands signal was to retrieve any possessions that wouldn’t be missed but the maid knew she had screamed and that the other servants would soon be out to see what the commotion was. She quickly and quietly reached in and noticed the brand new necklace. She snatched it from the Lady’s neck and hid it in a handkerchief. She rushed up the steps feigning tears as the others approached the doorway. She pretending to sob into the arms of the stable boy who had appeared first. In between her sobbing she explained that the Lord and Lady were dead and most likely it was the Coachman. The stable boy pressed her head into her shoulder and she glanced out to the moors surrounding the manor. She noticed a dense fog start to approach.