Music: Majestic Nature by Craig Stuart Garfinkle
Artwork by Steve English
Episode 6 – Everything Changes.
So started the change of the Manor and the isolation of everyone inside the Manor and the three little villages around. So also started the expansion and influence of the darkness, but much more subtly than before – the explosion of the lady of light had seen to that!
Very soon, the people realised they were trapped, and no one knew why or how it happened. No one in the Manor or any of the villages could leave. They could go beyond the villages to their fields and work, but no further. If they tried, they found themselves coming back into the locked-off area at some set point which was different for each of them.
However, everyone who lived and worked in the Manor itself always found themselves coming back into the Manor, usually through the back-door, heading into the boot-room.
This was especially disconcerting for the dogs. One moment they would be merrily chasing a rabbit or a squirrel. Then, having inadvertently crossed the invisible barrier, they found themselves heading full-pelt into the Manor with no sign of their prey.
Strangely, there was one anomaly to the whole locked-off thing which surprised everyone when it first happened. This was the ability for outsiders to come and go as they pleased. Of course, once they arrived, they never stayed. And, once they left, they never remembered what had happened and where they’d been – but it did mean that at times visitors came and added a little more interest to the locked off lives of the people.
At the start, when they realised they were trapped, everyone was angry and blamed the Baron. What they didn’t realise was that because the area was locked off, not only couldn’t the people leave – but the dangerous darkness that was the real source of everything that was happening – was also trapped inside, trapped and furious.
The problem with this was that the darkness was still expanding and growing and slowly but surely filling the area it was trapped inside. Before, it had grown and leaked out of the Manor and dissipated beyond the villages, but not now. Now, it was trapped, filling the Manor and the villages and everywhere inside.
The problems started quite soon after that. In no time at all, in fact, rather too quickly, people began to forget. They didn’t forget their names, or where they lived, but they did forget things like the name of their villages or what life had been like before whatever it was that had locked them away. They remembered something had happened, but just not what it was.
It was the same in the Manor, the servants sometimes came to work and sometimes forgot they worked at the Manor at all. Although the main problem was that most of them forgot where they came from, and so where to go when they finished work. They ended up staying in the Manor. Thankfully, there were lots of rooms, so they were able to stay, and before long didn’t know anything else. In fact, very soon it felt as if that was where they had always lived and belonged.
The Baron and his wife and their son Archibald were also severely affected along with the Baron’s sister, Lady Pinchinthorpe, who lived with them in the Manor. To put it simply, they started to forget, forget where they came from, who their ancestors were, why they lived in the Manor. But the darkness was especially hard on the family, as well as taking their memories, it continued to take a massive toll on their looks and their happiness.
Of the families, both dog and humans, Archibald and Horatio were especially close although the darkness still took its toll. Already extremely ugly and evil-looking because of the effects of the darkness on their family before they were locked away, Archibald’s body started to change. As the years rolled on, his features became more pointed and ugly. His eyebrows met in the middle, and his teeth grew sharp and pointed. After a while, his clothes started to change as the colour drained out of everything he wore. It even affected his posture as one leg grew longer than the other, and his back developed a lump.
If they could have left the area, they’ve got medical help. But as leaving wasn’t an option, they did all the could to try and mitigate the issues. However, the problems were still noticeable and had a significant impact on his life. Of course, Horatio didn’t see any of it, all he saw was his master whom he loved with all his heart – a heart that was loyal and true – with a spark of light that lay hidden but active.
Then, the event happened. It was an event no-one expected, and no-one remembered, but everyone knew had taken place. It probably had something to do with the darkness growing in strength. Once strong enough, it was able to change the reality of the people locked away in Rott, Grott, Snott and in the Manor. The truth is, because of their inability to remember, no-one knows for sure what it was that caused the changes or even if it happened quickly or slowly – they just knew the end result. And, of course, they all blamed Archibald for it – who, in truth, looked eviler than anyone else. In fact, not only did he look evil, it was almost as if evil came off him in a vapour – and everyone knew it.
The event had far less impact than it should have done because people couldn’t remember. So powerful was the darkness that the past was no longer theirs. So, they couldn’t remember the people who had disappeared or the servants who had lived in the Manor and were no longer there. Horatio couldn’t remember his parents – and Archibald couldn’t remember his. The Manor, a place that had seemed so busy and full was now empty. As well as Archibald who was quickly renamed ‘the Baron’, and Horatio, there were only two other servants who remained. No one knew why Thornton and Roseberry remained. Still, thankfully, for the most part, it didn’t matter because they quickly found that although the rest of the servants had vanished, they always seemed to do their work. The same tasks were performed every day by the invisible servants, ensuring the Manor was reset to look precisely as it had the day before.
The villages also lost people – at least they thought they did, but no-one could be sure. Whether they did or they didn’t lose people, their distrust of the Baron and Horatio went from strength to strength. So convinced were they that the Baron and Horatio were the cause of all their problems that their distrust very quickly became little more than hate.
The final straw wasn’t that the shadows in the Manor started to live independent lives – they all became used to that very quickly. Instead, it was what began to take place in the villages every month at and around full moon.
The villages had long forgotten their names, but because of what started to happen around full moon they soon got new names which everyone remembered – sadly.
It started by terrifying the poor villagers. On the day and night of full moon, they began to change. Each village altered differently, and each was very unsettling. The full force of the change was felt at midnight on the night of the full moon – but passed – usually – by the following morning.
The first village got the name ‘Rott’ because, as full moon approached, the villagers started to find themselves rotting! At first, it was only a little and slightly inconvenient. However, as time passed, the rotting became more severe until, eventually, all that was left of each of the villagers, and their village, was a heap of rotting bits and pieces. It was even stranger when, after the midnight hour of the night of full moon pasts, it all undid itself. Pieces that fell off – reattached – usually in the right place – and always sorted out by mid-morning the next day.
The next village got the name Grott as they started to deteriorate into little less than lumps of grimy slime. Still able to move, they were maybe better off than the Rotts. However, watching them return to being fully human as full moon ended and morning arrived was always fun.
As for the third village, they got the name Snotts. To be honest, it had little to do with them being slimy or anything else of that sort. Instead, the villagers in the third village simply shrunk – which was ironic really as most of the villagers were actually quite tall! And as months went by, they actually got smaller and smaller with each full moon until they were almost unnoticeable. The reason they got the name Snotts, and the village became known as ‘Snott’, was because some wag who had a beef with the owner of an electrical repair store based in the village was so angry he called the owner a ‘little snot’. It stuck – after all, it rhymed – Rott, Grott & Snott!
And again, everyone blamed the Baron for the problems of the Manor and the villages. They may even have taken things into their own hands if it wasn’t for Horatio. Horatio stuck as close as possible to the Baron, and there was something about Horatio and the Baron that frightened the villagers enough to keep them away.
Then the gargoyles arrived – noisy, busy, loud and nosey, they came and occupied the outside of the Manor – which was now called Manor Rott, Grott & Snott.
And so, the story continued … of a Manor that looked more like a creepy little castle and which was attended by unwanted gargoyles; and of locked away villages; and of all that happened with Horatio Fleming McNaughtie and the Baron – as they waited for something they didn’t know they wanted or needed. And, of course, the continued story of a darkness, brooding and hating and looking to exact its revenge.