Note: For the uninitiated, I am blogging an entire novel I wrote when I was much younger. For an explanation of the project and the earlier chapters, look through my archives to catch up on the story.
Jordan had to abandon his horse. She absolutely refused to let a monkey ride on her back. When Jordan tried to get on, she whinnied and took a vicious snap at him. He went sprawling headlong into a tree.
There was no choice but to go alone.
Jordan decided he’d travel faster up in the trees. He’d swing from branch to branch just like a monkey. Unfortunately, looking like a monkey was not the same thing as being one. It didn’t take long for Jordan to discover this. His hair kept getting tangled in the branches, and he kept misjudging his jumps and falling to the ground. He decided he’d be better off on foot.
This was a good idea, because the conditions were getting worse and worse. The forest was getting thicker and thicker. All the trees seemed to be meshed together in one giant tangle. Dark, rolling clouds blocked the sky from sight. It was pitch black, except for the constant lightning bolts which kept the landscape lit in an otherworldly x-ray light. Torrents of rain fell in buckets, drenching Jordan to the bone. It was the worst weather he’d ever seen.
The manor wasn’t visible, so Jordan walked in the direction that seemed the least clotted with trees. Periodically, he had to stop to wring out his fur a bit. It was so sopping wet that it actually weighed him down.
In the distance, Jordan could hear a strange wailing noise. It was the sound of a person groaning. And the worst thing was that it wasn’t a series of groans. No, it was one long, drawn-out, everlasting grown.
The going was rough. The trees themselves seemed to be trying to impede Jordan’s progress by dropping branches in his way. At last he emerged in a small clearing free of thick brush.
There were a group of wooden signs in the clearing. Jordan was able to read them with the aid of the lightning flashes.
Here are the signs and what they said.
You are unwelcome uninvited unwanted don’t take offense but get out now.
The management reserves the right to experiment, torture, and obliterate any and all persons seized on this property. No pleas for mercy, restraint, or kindness will be accepted.
3-You don’t value life and sanity?
Then by all means please continue
5-Hi! I used to be a great hero. Hard to believe? Well, it’s true. I came to Malevolent Manor and was turned into this sign. It’s quite a come down. If you knew what I know, you would turn back now.
6-Do you long for the simple life and the finer things? Well, you’re in the wrong place.
We are not responsible for any loss of heart, liver, or brain tissue that you may incur by going further.
Jordan guessed from reading the signs that he was headed in the right direction.
Suddenly, he was roused by the clattering of hooves just behind him. He clambered out of the clearing onto a tree branch just before he could be trodden upon. Just below was a tall muscular man on a white horse. His eyes were wide with fear and his hair was pure white. Within a second, he was galloping away through the brush. He never even noticed Jordan.
It could only have been the mad knight, Sir Helium!
“Poor guy,” said a wicked little voice from up above that sounded more gleeful than sympathetic. “The excitement around here was too much for him.”
Jordan looked up to see a very large bat swinging upside down from a tree branch. He was far from thrilled. The last thing he needed in his present situation was a bat as a traveling companion.
“You know who that was, don’t you?” the bat asked Jordan with a bemused grin.
“As a matter of fact, I do,” said Jordan. “That was Sir Helium, a great hero. Kindly flap away, please.” Jordan didn’t want a bat of any sort in his company. Even one that could grin.
“That’s right,” replied the bat who seemed disappointed in Jordan’s knowledge. “But to be precise, he was formerly Sir Helium, heroic knight. Now he is nothing more than so much quivering jelly. No more saving damsels in distress for him. The only job he’s suited for is village idiot.”
“Can you kindly get out of here, bat?” said Jordan. “I’ve got more important things to do and I don’t want you bothering me.”
“Bat!” The bat looked gravely offended.” How dare you call me bat. I am no ordinary bat. I am a vampire bat. One of the undead. Brought back to life by the Wizard Dreadflesh, predecessor to the current wizard Shudder. My name is Bloodcurdle, and I am not to be trifled with.”
Jordan started to hop away.
“Yeah, it’s been mighty busy around here lately,” said Bloodcurdle slyly. “First a girl and now a monkey. We’re getting awfully popular.”
“The girl!” exclaimed Jordan. “You saw her?”
“Who?” asked Bloodcurdle casually.
“The girl, you winged wombat.”
“Oh, her,” said Bloodcurdle smoothly. “Yes, I met and talked with her. I even led her right to the manor. She’d have never gotten in without made. Neither will you.”
“Will you take me?”
“Sure I will. In fact, the girl told me somebody else would be along. Didn’t know it would be a monkey, though.”
Bloodcurdle flapped through the thick forest and Jordan followed him on foot.
“So who is this Dreadflesh?” asked Jordan to make conversation.
“He was the wizard before Shudder. There’s a long line of wizards and each new one is more bloodthirsty and frightful than the one before.”
“Shudder must be the worst of all,” said Jordan.
“Oh, he is,” said Bloodcurdle. “I’ve never seen him myself and I don’t know anyone else who has, but I’m sure he’s the worst. With the old wizards, it didn’t rain and thunder all the time, and trespassers always got inside. They never came out, but they did get in. Now almost no one gets in. They go stark raving mad before they get near the manor. To my knowledge, the girl was the first thing to get inside the manor in two whole years.”
“Do you mean that it wasn’t always this gloomy and rainy here?” asked Jordan.
“Well, it was never a day at the beach here. After all, this is Malevolent Manor. But the weather was never this delectably putrid until Shudder took over. He’s done wonders with the environment. It’s a great deal more unlivable now.
“I could praise Shudder all day,” continued Bloodcurdle. “He’s been great to us vampire bats. Before he came along, we had to hunt for food. Now he makes it rain raw meat every evening over by our cave. We stuff ourselves and have a grand time.”
“I was wondering why you didn’t try to attack me and suck my blood,” said Jordan.
“I don’t suck on anyone’s blood these days,” replied Bloodcurdle. “I certainly wouldn’t touch a monkey. Who knows what diseases you might be carrying. I’ll take that fresh sanitized raw meat over your contaminated monkey blood every time.”
“That’s a relief,” Jordan shouted. The terrible groan was getting louder and louder. “What’s that noise?”
“Music to the ears, isn’t it?” said Bloodcurdle. “I’m not positive, but I think it’s someone Shudder is experimenting on. The poor guy’s been groaning like that for the past ten years or so.” Bloodcurdle sounded about as sorry for this poor guy as he had for Sir Helium earlier.
Bloodcurdle stopped abruptly and roosted on a tree branch. “This is as far as I can take you,” he said. “The manor is just up ahead. Before you go, listen carefully to my advice. I told the girl the same thing and it’s the only way you have any chance to get in.”
“Okay,” said Jordan.
“Number one. Beware of the mist around the manor! Long exposure to it will do some very nasty things to you. Number two. There’s a moat that encircles the entire house. Don’t try to wade through it! It’s quicksand. Number three. Don’t waste time looking for a door to use as an entranceway! There isn’t one. You’ll have to get inside using one of the windows. Have you got all that?”
“I understand it all,” said Jordan, “but I do have one question. We don’t like each other. I’m sure you and Karen hated one another. Why would you possibly want to help us?”
Bloodcurdle grinned hugely. “To be perfectly honest, I do have an ulterior motive. It’s been frightfully dull around here lately. No one gets in to see Shudder anymore. I’ve been dying to see what he’ll do when someone finally makes it inside.”
“I see,” said Jordan. “You’re hoping he’ll torture me so you can be amused.”
“That’s a most unkind thing for you to say,” chortled Bloodcurdle merrily. “True, but unkind. I do admit to thinking that an everlasting monkey groan would do a great deal to enhance the ambience around this place.”
“I figured it was something like that.”
“Please accept my apologies. It was a ghoulish thought, but I am one of the undead. I honestly can’t help myself.”
Bloodcurdle looked up at the clouds. “I’m afraid I must be getting along. It’s going to rain raw meat any minute now, and I want a good spot at the feast. I’m particularly ravenous this evening. Best of luck to you, monkey.”
In one motion, Bloodcurdle whipped himself upright and flew off, giggling madly about the poor fool he’d left behind.
“I’m glad that crackpot’s gone,” said Jordan. “I just hope what he says is true and he really wants me to get inside. If he’s lied to me, I’m in serious trouble.”