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The Trapping House
Shadows swept by the dark staircases within the ruinous castle as the wind howled against the rattling windowpanes. The female servants' red capes cast black shapes along the cold, cobwebbed stone walls aligning the staircase. The crumbling stone stairs had no railing, were small in width, and were completely dark except for the flickering orange glow coming from the servants' lanterns.
I followed the single file line of red capes up the spiral staircase to Bethany Trapping's bed chamber at the top of the turret. I felt out of place as the only male amongst the aprons and dainty feminine capes: the uniform of the Trapping household.
I had been taken in as Edmund Trapping's assistant only weeks before, after Mr. Trapping's previous personal servant had mysteriously left him. I was now making my way to the room where Bethany Trapping lay dying, and where Edmund Trapping had spent most of his days looking out of his wife's window rather than staying at his wife's bedside. Bethany Trapping had been sick with fever and hallucinations since my arrival, and I had made the assumption that Edmund Trapping's distant behavior towards his poor wife was due to his recently failed business, which had left him penniless and with a decaying house in desperate need of repair. He had remained as the only Port Admiral in the region until another port had been opened at a better location some miles away that had completely slowed his business to an abrupt stop. I was inclined to believe that Mr. Trapping's grief over losing his two loves, his business and his wife, was the cause of his inactivity.
As I made my way into the small, musty-smelling room at the top of the stairs which was crowded with Bethany Trapping's servants, I saw that Edmund had resumed his usual spot in front of his wife's large window overseeing the ocean. I approached Edmund and urged him to come to his wife's bedside as a means of comfort for both of them. He turned his bony face toward me and I forced myself to look into his pale eyes as he coolly said, "There's no use, John. Her consciousness in this world is as fleeting as a flame. Soon the fire will be gone from this place, only to be found on other shores." He promptly turned to face the window once more.
As I followed his gaze, I could have sworn that I saw three ships out in the fog coming toward the abandoned port with unnatural speed. Within moments there came a forceful knock on the door. "Madeline," Edmund coolly directed as his wife laid thrashing in her bed, "you will lead the other servants to the room down the hall." I began to move away from the window to join the other servants exiting the bed chamber, but Edmund's long, icy fingers gripped my arm. "John," he said, "you will stay."
After all of the red capes hade scurried out of the room and closed the door behind them, a sound of heavy footsteps and clanking chains resounded in the air, getting louder by the second. Suddenly the door burst open on its creaking hinges and five deformed men with jagged scars wrapped in chains and torn clothing stood in the doorway. Their limbs hung at odd angles and their eyes were a glowing red.
The burliest and most menacing-looking of the five creatures began to walk toward us. I rushed to Bethany's bedside table, snatched a white, porcelain cross and thrust it into the direction of the five creatures that I had concluded were demons. The demon that had started towards Edmund only laughed at the sight of my trembling grasp on the cross and bellowed in a raspy voice, "It's too late for that now, boy." As he continued towards Edmund, the creature opened a large, leather-bound book he had carried into the room. On the cover of the thick, yellow-paged book in gold lettering were the words, "The Book Of Loyalties".
"I have your promise here; I trust you remember our bargain," the demon said. "Consider your competition destroyed and your business restored and secure for the next ten years. In return..." The demon eyed where Bethany lay.
Edmund and the demon struck hands, and I swear to this day that some mysterious transaction took place, with something flowing out of the demon and into Edmund, something dark to be sure.
"Remember," said the demon as he broke his deformed hand from Edmund's, "deals made with devils are bonds that never break." He laughed maniacally once more and turned towards the door, his chains clanking behind him. The other four demons had already gone without a sound, and Bethany Trapping's bed lay empty but for a few tangled bed sheets.
"Sir—" I began.
"Blow out the candles, John. It's getting cold in this room." As I obeyed Edmund's command and the smoke swirled from the last crumpled wick, I eyed the three ships drifting into the fog as quickly as they had come.
Night seemed to fall in an instant. The world seemed to open up in the silence after the ships had passed into the fog. It was as if Hell and the evil that had remained unseen to the living now became clear and surrounded us. A myriad of sounds seemed to leap around the castle like the flickering tongues of Hellish fire lapping at my ears. Wolves' howling, wicked laughter, and miserable moaning approached the castle on all sides. It was when I understood that I was trapped here that I began to understand my fate. I would serve for a house that was a gateway for the diabolical. I would forever serve the Trapping House, lest morning show me a way out, if morning should ever come.