Today the estate is run by Lord Wreatheshaw. At forty-five years he is not especially old, and perhaps even rather young to have inherited the estate. There are some that speak of poison, dropped into the wine of his parents and elder sister before they gathered for the evening meal. And there are many more who speak of this but not of murder: these talk of how well-prepared the manor appeared to be, of cryptic remarks made by his family, and of how smoothly the transition went. It is their feeling that the Wreatheshaw was complicit in their deaths, but only as having assisted them.
Even they do not speculate on the reason for the family's triple suicide.
Lord Wreatheshaw is fit for his age, looking like a man ten years his junior. The only thing that betrays his age is a strip of white in his hair, a sign of premature aging that appeared a couple of years before the deaths of his family members. It is hereditary, and was possessed by his mother, and her mother.
The rumors that circulate about his family and certain other things fail to properly set one up for his demeanor in person. He is a most gracious host, and invites his guests to remain indefinitely. Certain persons have, indeed, taken him up on this offer, including a foreign scholar who has been at residence in one of the South-facing rooms for the better part of ten years now.
Lady Wreatheshaw is not spoken of around her husband or in polite company. She could as well have been died when the rest of Lord Wreatheshaw's family did, for it had been years since she has been seen by any person willing to say so. It is said that Lord Wreatheshaw attends to her needs personally and that the staff do not even prepare her meals. It is said that Lady Wreatheshaw, alone of all that live at the manor, eats meat. The others, as numerous guests have attested to, adhere to a strict vegetarian diet.
It is believed that Lady Wreatheshaw has been locked away in the highest room of the manor, perhaps for cause of insanity. Certain comments made by Lord Wreatheshaw have hinted as much, and he has made mention of his dislike for the asylums and their practices.
Lord Wreatheshaw employs no staff from the surrounding country, or even from his own nation. He takes as servants only men and women from a far-off place. Their tongue is not known to anyone save Lord Wreatheshaw, and they similarly are unacquainted with the local languages. On those occasions that communication is necessary they are adept at making appropriate hand signs, but Lord Wreatheshaw prefers to act as interpreter when possible.
They have larger teeth than the people that originate from this region. The soaps they use, though useful for keeping the body clean, leave a faint smell not unlike that of a wet dog. This makes them not out of place among Lord Wreatheshaw's hounds, a thin, white-haired pack that makes no noise except when on the hunt. They are presently attended to by three of Lord Wreatheshaw's staff.
Lord Wreatheshaw will be survived by a single daughter, who in both appearance and personality takes after her mother more than her daughter. She is built like a hatchet, thin and sharp-edged, and one would be forgiven for thinking that she could cut wood by running her fingers along it or even just by looking too strongly at it.
On most occasions her eyes appear to merely drift around the room without aim. They may even be closed, though the subtle inclinations of her head betray how intently she listens to the goings-on about her at these times. She is simply obsessed with rules, however, and should anyone break a rule of her father's or common etiquette, her gaze will focus on the offender. Yet she will not act or even speak up, for reasons that no one can determine anymore than they can figure the reason for her obsession in the first place.
Though the brick manor is new, the other buildings, especially the houses in the old town, are rock structures built from the fragments of an older, devastated city. The staff can be seen sometimes staring at certain buildings, even touching them, but they make no attempt to explain and would not be able to make themselves understood even if they did.
Should the well be opened, as perhaps Lord Wreatheshaw does, one would find a stairwell circling down, down, down into chambers sitting beneath the manor. They are older than the bricks, older than the town's present habitation, and perhaps older than the ancient city that preceded Thistledown. Inside there are old, rusted machines of unknown make and purpose, and splintered bones that belong to no known species.
I decided to leave out what is actually going on. Feel free to fill it in as your imagination pleases.
Word count: 883 words
Time: 39 minutes (writing)
Prompt: The Manor is a square, multi-floored brick house with a central courtyard that can be accessed by 4 arched entrances, one in each wall.
Walkways lined by arched windows face the interior courtyard on all floors. At the center of the courtyard is a deep well with a rusted iron cover and a stout, new padlock.
When the wind blows through the house (which it frequently does) the arches of the courtyard seem to howl with unearthly voices, and the doors fly open and slam closed unpredictably.
The Master is a fit and charismatic middle-aged man with a distinctive strip of white hair. He is charming, welcoming and invites the party to stay as long as they desire. Occasionally, you might notice him staring at one of you with an expression of awful hunger on his face, but that might be your imagination.
The Mistress is locked in a tower and rarely spoken of. Something seems to scrabble at the inside of the barred doors and windows, though, and faint shrieking and odd chanting can be heard echoing down in the night.
The Staff have bestial features, oddly enlarged teeth and smell of wet dog. They seem loyal, though, and travel about in groups whenever possible.
The Heir(s) is a single daughter who is dour and severe, with an intense stare that seems to cast a chill on its target. The smallest lapse in decorum or etiquette seems to invoke her silent ire.
The Hunt are a pale and silent pack of long-haired hounds with several slender, silver-clad attendants.
The Demesne are rough rock houses built among the ruins of older, larger cities.
The Dungeons are built around a single shaft with a circular stairwell that drops straight down into the earth. The occasional archway leads to a network of old mining tunnels and drifts, scattered with ancient, rusted equipment.
The Secret is that the tunnels under the Manor are the center of a demon-worshipping cult that sacrifices humans.