You stand at the top of the staircase, its long, wood and not very sturdy looking, fr bellow, you see a stone path, leading down a tunnel, the first passage. You squeeze Lucy's hand,
"Tell me about him, the one you call, master!", you feel her trembling, your hand shaking with hers, "please, Lucy, let me help you, and the children!", she sits down on the top step, you take a seat, a couple more steps down, slightly concerned by the stairs rocking!
"He used to be there, when I slept", she whispered, "when i dreamt, I always came to the castle, lost in its halls. I heard him, sometimes, roaring and scratching the walls with his long claws! He does it to scare us, to make us want to run, but you have to stay hidden, if you run, he'll find you, and then......and then....!", she trailed off, tears streaming down her thin cheeks,
"Hey!", you whisper cheerfully, wiping a tear from her face with your thumb, "I'm here now, and I'm not going to let him hurt you, anymore! OK!", it didn't help,
"You can't stop him, he's so strong, and so old, I don't think he can die!", she leant forwards and put her head on your shoulder, sobbing gently into your chest, you put your arms round her, she feels so thin and weak. Then you see the bruises on her biceps, thick, purple and black,
"Did he do these?!", you feel your temper rising, she nods, then lifts her head away from your chest,
"He punishes me, when the children are, bad", you don't like the way she said 'bad',
"Bad, like how?",
"When they don't run, or fall for his tricks, sometimes he likes to lure them into dark rooms, mimicing voices they trust, the older ones don't normally fall for it, but the younger ones, they miss their parents, they go in, then they don't come out, you just hear them call for their mummies and daddies, then it goes quiet, till you hear him, eating....", she was going to cry again, you have to keep her stable, you need to know all she can tell you!
"So why does he punish you?",
"Sometimes, he doesn't catch anyone, he gets hungry, and angry, when that happens he comes to beat me!",
"Why doesn't he eat you?!", it was a horrible question, but you had to ask,
"Because he can't eat, without hunting, I think he has to hunt and trick them to eat!",
"So why did he bring me?!", you really hope she knows,
"I think he brought you, to replace me!", she sniffed a tear away again,
"What will he do with you?!", but you think you already know,
You look down the stairs again, standing, you take Lucy's hand, and get ready to move on, whatever this thing, that brought you, was, it was old, big, had to hunt to eat and was very, very strong, now it is your hands that can't stop shaking!