XII. The Servant’s Tale

Eleanor finally found Cephas on Tuesday, when he returned to his post of arranging trivial affairs as though the night or the accident with the boy never occurred. He continued to avoid her attention and her many questions with petty excuses or well-timed demands from Mr. LaLauren. So, she was left in a daze of the upset happenings of the mansion, keeping a paranoid eye upon all that she observed.Then an event meeting her paranoia unfolded.

It was Thursday morning when Mr. LaLauren had just set out for town, and when Eleanor finally gave into Sirius’s relentless requests for her to go to a creek on the edge of the grounds with him. She got dressed in the lighter gowns fit for the exercise and was wrestling her hair into a bun when her brother knocked and entered without seeking her permission. Assuming that he was merely bursting with the usual boyish excitement, she reached out to calm him down but only to find him hanging by the door sick with fear.

“Sirius, what happened?!”

“Ce-Cephas is not well!” The boy attempted to explain as he led her sister to his room. “I was just asking him if he had seen my jacket then he suddenly collapsed…”

When Eleanor got to the room, she found Cephas on his knees leaning against the arm of a chair in a desperate attempt to stand.

“Cephas!” She called, rushing to his side. “What on earth happened? Are you alright?”

“Oh…Lady Eleanor,” He acknowledged her with difficulty, squinting just slightly as though the proximity of her existence to him remained a mystery to him. “I’m…I’m…”

She noted his deathly paleness and the burning heat of his hands as she attempted to recall him from his stupor, but he merely uttered incomprehensibly before falling forward against Eleanor’s shoulder, losing consciousness.

“Go call the head servant,” Eleanor ordered her brother along, and it wasn’t until the boy shut the door that she realized her cluelessness as she held Cephas.

Initially, she checked if he was still breathing, and the slight puffs of hot breaths brushing her neck relieved her. But, after that examination, she was not sure what she was supposed to do. She wasn’t even sure how improper it would be for her to just continue holding him like so. After some thoughts, she decided to move him to her brother’s bed, and with a mighty struggle she managed to accomplish so. Then, recalling Elliot’s procedures once when reviving a faint servant, she loosened Cephas’s collar and sleeves after much contemplation. Though before she could be flustered, she was alarmed to find cloth…no, a corner of fresh bandages exposed with his lowered collar. She quickly undid the buttons of his shirt to find that the cloth wrapped about shoulder and his side, the latter part stained with a dull scarlet. Could it be the strange voice that led him away that night? It was as she postulated the possible origins of such wounds that she noticed the numerous stretches and irregular lines of skin covering his body, pale and smooth and told of infinite suffering. How did he have so many scars…In fact, the numbers of the marks made it difficult to notice as it nearly completely covered his entire being like a discolored patchwork upon a broken doll.

Before she could make up the courage to exchange the bandages, Sirius returned with the head servant, whose greying brows knitted together even more severely as he entered the scene, “Oh, Cephas…” In a scramble the Crisiotas were both shut out of the room after the head servant fetched another helper, leaving the two hanging under the cloud of concerned contemplation and prayer until he emerged from the room, his hands freshly cleaned of blood.

Eleanor had enough of silence and demanded, “What on earth happened to him?”

The head servant was going to excuse himself on the basis of the Master’s orders, but found a burning emotion within the Lady’s eyes that spoke of dangerous resorts if left unanswered once more and had compassion for the poor soul he just tended to, so he decided, “This household is not what you think it seems, Lady Eleanor.”

That was really a given understanding what the Crisiotas experienced in merely a week, though Eleanor sensed more confessions as she prompted the servant to go on.

“I…I really don’t know much of it myself, since I had just been employed not long before your arrival, but at nights” — he paused to look about the hallway as though the nightly horrors were to befall him if he spoke — “…at nights, there are these…spirits.”

Eleanor felt a tug upon her dress from her brother.

The servant continued, “At first, I only heard their cries and thought it was some cruel jokes from some of the children that stayed upon these grounds, so I decided to use a light and investigate.” He gulped as though the memory of the night itself was unbearable. “Then I saw them, human but deformed in the most monstrous ways: they rushed at me and I accidentally dropped and extinguished the light, then they just started speaking in a low growl…more like chanting in a tongue that I did not know of…I don’t remember much since I passed out from sheer fright, my old heart could not possibly sustain me…”

“Then, Cephas confronted me the very next day with a warning to not leave my room after midnight, and I followed suit until one day…just last week I believe, when I heard the low growls drawing closer to my door…instead of following Cephas’s advice, I allowed a crack to spy upon the procession, only to find Cephas in their claws and being dragged across the floor…”

Now having realized the servant described the same event that she remembered, her remorse for having abandoned Cephas to such a terrible evil spirit (or whatever the monster is) rose along with her hairs.

“…Of course I thought I had to give chase, perhaps having been woken up in a daze impaired my judgement as I followed them, only to find them leading to a flight of stairs that never came to my attention before leading down into a spiral. I lost sight of them after the end of the stairs, which led to a strange maze of darkness and the most horrific stench that forced me to abandon my mission…Then I scrambled blindly in the darkness to return to my room, but just before I left the hallway, I saw my Master turning the corner and descending down the stairs. I was too disturbed and was coming to my senses of the horrors of what was happening to dare to follow…”

The mystery only seemed to coil together tighter along with the servant’s brows as he told his story.

“Then Cephas was missing for the following days, and I tried retracing my steps that I took that night to find the stairway…but…it was vanished…”

Eleanor found herself skeptical of such a fantastic tale, and drew from it the conclusion that at least Cephas should have a better explanation for the strange happenings of the LaLauren Mansion. Eager for this answer lest a delay should further endanger her brother and herself, Eleanor asked to keep watch over the injured man with what she told herself as a pretense of affection, which was enough to convince the head servant.

As she went to the bedside, Cephas had adopted a much deeper breath in his slumber, which was only interrupted by rare feverish stirrings. She took a hand in hers as though the contact and the faint pulse could beat out a confession that would solve her worries and, above all, hopes for the survival of the object of her supposedly childish love.

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