“Where are we going?” I asked the group.
“The Abendroth’s domain, it’s on North Shore.” Lance explained. Wearing a white hoodie, jeans and, a baseball cap on his head.
Natalie Fucking Stacks looked at me with her most condescending look possible. She’d removed her ‘Queen Bitch’ shirt for another, this one marked ‘Don’t Curse’ written entirely in swear words. I had a feeling she wore nothing but vulgar tee shirts and torn jeans.
Liam kept a polite distance between the two of us, although he wasn’t exactly pretty, he didn’t seem too intimidating in that moment… Maybe because I towered over him while standing, he walked around in an ape-like fashion, knuckles on the ground.
And then there was Kaleb. Who wasn’t looking at me, instead keeping his gaze firmly stuck on the ocean. As expected of the magical elixir, his wounds had healed overnight, stitches however were still visible from the exposed skin of his tee shirt. He’d ditched the more gothic style, opting for more practical wear; a sweatpants and a plain black t-shirt with combat boots. Although he seemed to do his best to hide it, his expression screamed disappointment.
“Are we fucking ready to go already?” Queen Bitch asked.
“Very well.” Lance said.
Everything went dark and we found ourselves someplace else when it cleared. We were in the woods, not too far from the road.
Despite having lived in Emerald Bay for the past twelve years, I’d nearly never been to the northern side of the bay, ever since the big industries had closed, most of the urban development had turned into slums. Northwood was the name people in their characteristic lack of originality had given to the expensive woods that occupied a large part of the land past limits of North End and Lantern Hill.
The city had tried to invoke eminent domain to take control of large swath of the woodland to revive the paper mills in recent years, but nothing had come of it. Most of it was now owned by big landowners.
One of these landowners was Abendroth clan as people called them. There wasn’t much to tell about who they were, although a name sometimes spoke of in the socialite circles -- Something I knew thanks to my diversion at the cyber café -- they mostly kept to themselves. Now I knew why: They were a family of alchemists.
With Natalie ‘Fucking’ Stacks in point, we walked toward the road. From outside the cover of the tree, I could see the mansion of the Abendroth. It was almost as if they were in a contest with Coil as to who could own the most extravagant house. Although where Coil’s had been inspired by Neoclassical styles in architecture, The Abendroth seemed to favor victorian styles.
The three story tall building was adorned with rooftop spires and every few feet of the facade harbored an arched window with intricate frames. Rather than a fountain as Coil had, the middle of the front entrance held a statue or half of one, made of corroded bronze, it represented a man coming out of a block of matter. The further down it went, the less detailed and baser it was which I’m sure was meant to be symbolic of something...
The whole property was surrounded by a tall cast iron fence, with an occasional brick post crowned with a gargoyle. With the surrounding woods being dark and chokingly thick, the place gave off an otherworldly vibe, not helped by the thin layer of fog coursing through the woods.
Our party just headed toward the open gate, the fenced in grounds continued on all sides, further than we could see. We climbed the half-dozen steps up to the doors but before we could do anything, it was opened from inside.
The boy who opened it couldn’t have been older than eighteen, his skin had a grayish tinge to it. Medium length curly black hair fell down to his jaw and in front of his eyes. Eye colors wasn’t a thing I often noticed (and really who did beside young adult heroines?) but his were unmistakable, a silvery gray with an insistent stare. He wore a long dark gray wool shirt and a black slacks, his feet bare.
“Come on in.” He said, flatly.
The entrance of the mansion wasn’t quite as grand as Coil’s, one would be pressed to think of anywhere they’d seen more wood panelling, the walls were decorated with a succession of paintings and plaster statues while the floor was white and black tiles partly covered with a thick red carpet with gold trim. Although the place looked like three floors from the outside, the inside was actually two with absurdly high ceilings.
The boy didn’t introduce himself, but I know he was called Simon, he lead us upstairs, taking the large single staircase to the second floor. We followed him without a word. We walked for a while until we arrived at a nondescript door. He knocked twice before opening. The inside seemed to be a study that was bigger than my house.
There was a man similar to Simon, which would be Victor, lounging lazily on an antique oriental couch, an opium pipe hung from in his mouth.
“Father. They’re here.” Was all Simon said, still in that same neutral tone of voice.
“Oh, I’d forgotten about them.” Victor said, straightening himself. He spoke clearly dazed by the drugs. Even with the slightly bulky shirt hanging off his frame, he seemed extremely slender. He took the pipe and raised it. “Any of you kids would like some?“
“Oh well, it’s a bad habit anyway. Something I picked from my sojourn into China in the middle of the 19th Century.” He got up, more or less, and then came closer. His tired eyes examined all of us one by one.
“Why don’t you go with them Simon?” He said. “I think they’ll need your help around the grounds.” He went to sit back down.
“Wait a fucking minute!” QB exclaimed. The others on our team stared at her, probably not comfortable with her being this rude to one of the city’s major player, who by all account was an ageless drug addicted alchemist. His son on the other hand didn’t even flinch. “You didn’t tell us what we had to fucking do.”
“Oh right. We’ve had a problem with a Thing in the Woods. I need someone to chase it off.” He said, although it wasn’t descriptive at all, the others seemed shocked.
“Okay, what am I missing? What thing in the woods?”
“We’re talking about Thing with a capital T are we?” Lance asked Victor.
“Uh-huh.” He answered nodding.
“Are you out of your mind?” QB yelled. “Why us?”
“You owe me one, you have some good firepower. Pun not intended” The alchemist answered, looking at Natalie.
Although Coil had been teaching me about all manners of creatures, monsters and horrors, ‘Thing’ wasn’t exactly ringing any bells.
“Hello, anyone? Fill me in?” I timidly speaker out.
“It’s an old urban legend around Northwood, when I went to summer camp there, we’d tell those kinds of stories around a campfire to scare each others. One of them was about the Thing in the woods, a monster that preyed on lone campers...” Lance explained, not quite getting to the point. I reviewed the things that Coil had taught me.
There weren’t a lot of things that could fit the bill.
Vampires and Shifters are out of the equation, Could be an abomination, but with Liam here, they wouldn’t be that horrified… Ghouls, Rakshasa or Wendigo, pretty much the same thing, devious, cunning and powerful but not quite as scary as they -- Scary…
I knew what they meant...
“He wants us to fight a fucking boogie man.” I whispered, horrified at the conclusion I’d reached.