Duke Reynaud grumbled to himself, “Why must I visit this godforsaken city alone?” But he already knew. After that stunt he had pulled back in the capital, the emperor wanted him punished, and dearly. He knew the story behind this place, how everyone suddenly disappeared overnight only to be slowly found, torn to pieces. He could smell death. Another body had shown up. “The king wouldn’t send anyone to help me clean it up; I’ll probably have to carry it back to the city.”
He had never actually seen the corpses himself, but had heard that they were not a friendly sight. “What could be causing this much death, and why? Why are the bodies showing up randomly, and why always in the strangest of places?” the duke wondered. Following the stench, he entered the old inn, once filled with laughter, now empty. As he ventured into the building, the doors slowly started closing; however, he didn’t seem to notice.
The stench came from the basement, so the duke followed it. “Strange, the bodies usually show up outside, at least according to the captain’s reports,” he thought. He contemplated waiting outside for a day, before returning to the capital, hoping he wouldn’t receive more punishment, but for whatever reason, he decided to wander into the basement. By the time he entered, the doors had completely shut, locking almost all the sunlight out of the room, save for a few rays seeping in through the shattered windows.
As he went deeper and deeper into the building, he saw less and less. Deciding that wandering around in darkness wasn’t favorable, he picked up a lantern and lit it. “This is bloody filthy, I should have worn some dammed gloves,” the duke said out loud. “The body better not be in too many pieces. I don’t want to get blood on this outfit.”
Around him, the shadows twisted and turned, like a dark void craving another soul. Behind Reynaud, the shadows formed a little girl, his sister, who was visiting a friend here, without her brother, who was busy trying to find a way to join the nobility. No matter how much she begged, Reynaud’s lust for power was too great, even as only a minor lord.
Even though he failed to admit it, he felt guilty for his sister’s death; he blamed himself, as he hadn’t been there to protect her. He might not say it, but the darkness knew. Something clearly moved in the darkness, even getting the dukes attention. “Who’s there? Show yourself!” he ordered. Through a little girl’s voice, the entity laughed. “Why do you care, brother? You never cared to come with me or protect me,” it said.
The duke recognized the voice. “Sister? Is that you?” he asked. The shadow said nothing, instead forming the same girl, this time in front of the now terrified duke. “Lena, oh my god, it’s you! I – I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you,” he said on the verge of tears. “You left me to die, you were too greedy to be with your sister!” the shadows cried out. “N-No Lina, you don’t understand! I wanted to improve life for both of us!” the duke wailed, dropping to his knees.
“All you caused was death, brother. Look what you’ve done!” The little girl screamed, pointing in front of Reynaud. It was her frail, weak body torn to pieces, the face barely recognizable. “No, sister! Whatever did this to you, tell me so I can destroy it and avenge you!” the duke said, now standing. “If you truly wanted to avenge me, you would have come sooner, and of your own free will, but fine, try to avenge me,” she said before disappearing, the shadows retreating to reveal a demonic creature. It stood on two thin, hooved legs, its arms were covered in razor sharp blades, with the fingers themselves being great claws. It growled at Reynaud, who unsheathed a small dagger, ready for a bloody battle.
He made the first move and swung at it, hoping to kill it quickly before it had a chance to end him, but the beast was faster; shifting to the side, it slashed his side with one of the many blades protruding from its arm. The duke’s eyes went dark; hand trembling, he looked at his dagger, which now looked like a severed arm. Letting out what sounded like a deep laugh, the beast slinked into the shadows, which transformed into walls covered in gore, and a podium appeared in front of him. Lena’s head was sitting on it. The last thing he heard was the beast letting out a howl of victory, stabbing him through the heart with one of its clawed hands.
The next day, a messenger arrived to tell Reynaud that he was allowed back in the city. All he found was his corpse, dismantled, pieces hanging above the inn’s door, still closed shut.