“I don’t know that I can do much to protect you from bodily harm,” she said, taking a moment to glance over said body, “but I will make sure you’re comfortable.” Her smirk was broad, though her teeth remained hidden behind shapely lips. Claire glanced briefly down at their joined hands, admiring the contrasting shades of their skin tones. There was some sort of irony there, that she should look so light and innocent and he so dark. She didn’t voice the fleeting thought, however, instead giving his hand a light squeeze and bringing him through the labyrinthine halls. “And I thank you for your own offer of protection, even if you’ve no true reason to offer it.” Her brow creased as she took him in once more, gaze narrowing briefly before it returned to the corridors.
Painted faces, crackled and faded, lined the walls, whole groupings of generations staring fixedly out of their elaborate frames. Claire paused at a small assembly of three pictures, running her fingers along a depiction of a dark haired boy and a fair little girl, blonde hair curling around the edges of her bonnet. “Me,” she said, small smile turning up the corners of her mouth. “And my brother. Do you recall if you have any siblings?” Her eyes, sharper and bluer than her picture, locked onto his face. They almost instantly refocused to a spot behind his head, however, as the hall darkened even further.
Claire made a show of it, letting her mouth fall unhinged as she brought a hand up to cover the artful gasp of mingled fear and surprise. Taking a step back, she let her hand fall from his, one finger pointing to the dark shadow that was rising behind his back. It loomed over the both of them, writhing almost as though dancing, tendrils of appendages moving up and onto the ceiling. The lanterns guttered, all but one of them extinguishing simultaneously. Claire backed up until she was against the wall, eyes wide and staring, though she was mute.