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Legend of Zaleria Blackwood
A bread maker by the name of Kapys Timesisthius claimed Zaleria Blackwood grew up in the small Village of Bergelles. Villagers described her as a small-boned woman with distorted limbs, a large, misshapen nose, and a forward-angled hump. Fearing her abnormal features, the village folk kept her away from public view, and though she spent most of her time alone, Zaleria became quite the skilled artisan, creating the most beautiful gowns. When word got around to the King’s wife, Theophane, she just had to see the gowns for herself, taken in by their unique beauty; she bought four.
However, as beautiful as the gowns were, they each had a story, or shall I say memory? You see, each time Zaleria weaved a gown, it was said the skies grew dark and for each tear shed, a drop of rain fell. A thousand tears for a thousand beatings, drowning the fabric with all her pain, malice, and hate toward man.
A parchment maker by the name of Marcion said he forbid his wife to wear a Zaleria gown or any gowns from The Blackwood shop as rumor has it, they’re cursed! Whispers inside tavern halls say Joe Whittles wife wouldn’t listen to scuttle-butt and bought a gown from The Blackwood shop and on the same night, it was as if darkness ran through her veins. So loud were her screams that Joe Whittles ran to her and what he saw was best described as uncontrollable blood ruptures throughout her entire body. However, some say she died after drinking from the cursed waters of Lioms Lake said to have been visited by Spriggans.
After several months passed, things began to quiet down, and though Zaleria Blackwood was loathed by village folk, she was also feared and left alone, until the bitter night of Amnes, on the 15th. where a brutal invasion took place in The Village of Bergelles and the only way for villagers to remain safe was to give up Zaleria Blackwood’s location to King Aberkios Matullus of The Kingdom of Langsia. It is said, his beautiful wife died after wearing a Blackwood gown. So horrific were her remains that no one recognized her.
After her capture, it is said King Aberkios Matullus placed her in a dungeon and allowed her to continue making her gowns as long as she made one for all his enemies. Legend has it Zaleria Blackwood created over 200,000 unique pieces for the king, you could be shopping for one right now.
It could happen anywhere, really. How it occurs or why I do not know. I only know it does. To say this was my first encounter would be a lie, and to say the melody never changes would be my second. My name’s not of importance, so I shall omit it from my writings and carry on.
My hair was pinned in curls, my dress the color of pine with a simple lace. I still remember the gloves I wore, green leather. A smile plastered my face as I entered the sellers’ market. It was at that moment when the hands on the clock struck back, and a beautiful melody emerged, one my ears had never heard before. Everything about it ripped at my core like wildfire. The light around me dappled, and within moments, my feet were planted at another point in time.
Everything about this place was odd and what was I wearing? Taking to account that I stood inside a tunnel, staring at a fast-moving locomotive, didn’t to the hilt bring a smile to my face. Many things happened on this train, but forget about the train for now. I remembered his face, the sound of his voice, the feel of his body, and the fact that he had a birthmark on the upper left side of his chest. He’d been in the war and stationed in a small living quarter on the south side of the tunnel. The tunnel itself was a city, an underground city! There were homes, stores, anything you can think of besides that godawful train that shot by at all hours. It was hard to make out if it was day or night, as light was non-existent in the tunnel.
I too lived in this tunnel and had some sort of job. The place I stayed in was large and filled with many steel beds; many slept there and seemed fearful of their overseer. It showed in their eyes and how they cringed under the sheets come night. They appeared orderly, going to sleep in unison. For the most part, I kept to myself and spoke to no one, in particular when riding the train. I guess you can say I was the observer amongst thousands of travelers, the undetectable passerby in a strange new world.
At times, he’d see me and curl up beside me, but his sweaty form was an indication that something did not sit right. I cannot tell you his name as I don’t recall hearing it, so we’ll call him Belverie. I guess you can say I’m still trying to piece the puzzle of Belverie. The few times we engaged in conversation, which were few, I enjoyed, although his tone seemed worrying. He talked a lot about war and things that made no sense to me, but I listened, hoping it would ease the tension. I found it strange how everyone riding the train seemed at ease except Belverie. Is it possible that he, like myself, did not belong in the tunnel?
That night, after finishing my shift, the overseer made his rounds, calling, ‘Lights out!’ He had an earsplitting voice, the kind that made men quaver. Everyone cringed under their sheets that night, and as Belverie walked toward my bedside, he too cringed! Not that he was fearful of the overseer, but of something else, war! He told me something great was about to happen. I could see it in his eyes, the fear, the panic! Now, I understood why he quivered, why his eyes looked at mine with such fire, and as I embraced him, his curls fell upon my face, and the music began to play. I felt a stir inside me; my voice broke. I glanced at Belverie and tried to hold on, but couldn’t; my body was fading. I was leaving the tunnel!
The Missing Midwife / Room 7
On the 20th. of March, the feeble cries of a small child were heard as midwives rushed with basins of water in and out of Nora Kitcher’s room. Soon after, a tall man whose face ran dry entered the room. Ripping the child from the arms of a frail and sickly albino woman, he handed a note to Roos Minster, The Churchwarden, leaving the room. The note read:
You’re to meet me before sundown near The Whispering City. Not far from the river, you’ll come across an abbey, wait for me there, and before my mind scatters to the wind, make sure no midwives leave the premises.
Folding the letter, Roos Minster placed it within the pocket of her jacket, locking the doors as she made her way toward The Whispering City. She seemed strangely plagued by the dark, which made sense as she spent most of her time indoors and barely traveled. By the time she arrived at The Whispering City, the last of the rays had fallen, and the Black-Crowned Night Heron had started his warble.
From a distance, the silver stones of the abbey were visible as Roos Minster made her way inside to find Nora Kitcher’s child wrapped in a blanket. The more she glanced at the child, the more she noticed its oddly shaped head and unusual features. Interrupted by the sound of breaking twigs, she turned to see the tall image of a man entering the room.
“The child.” Roos Minster pointed toward the oddly shaped child that laid weeping. “What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s plagued with a primitive sickness, her body will forever remain in limbo.”
“Happens to women that are disobedient to our Lord and the one true faith.”
“But Nora Kitcher is an honest, hardworking woman.”
“Looks can be deceiving, Ms. Minster, remember that.” Godfrey Walker dug his hand into his fine, woven pocket, handing Roos Minster another note. “As the churchwarden, I expect you to have your house in order upon my return.”
Batting her eyes, she glanced back and forth as if troubled by the conversation. “Yes, yes, of course.”
“Is there a problem?”
“The child… what will happen to her?”
“The child is weak, it will wither and die.”
Grasping her hands, Ms. Minster pursed her lips. “I see.”
“Ms. Minster, if you’re not up for the job, I could find another more suitable hand—”
“Yes, yes, I think that’d be best—”
“But, if that were the case.” Godfrey circled around Ms. Minster, placing his hand around her neck. “I fear the odds wouldn’t favor you. Are we understanding each other better, Ms. Minster?”
“Better indeed, Mr. Walker.”
“Good. Will you be opening the letter soon?” Godfrey circled around, raising his furrow brows. He glanced at the letter in Ms. Minster’s hands.
“The letter? Right, right, the letter.” Calming her nerves, Ms. Minster took a breath, unfolding the letter, and reading its contents.
You’re to return to the house and do away with all who tended to Nora Kitcher. How you carry out this task is none of my concern, but it must be dealt with before the sun rises.
“You can’t expect me to kill all those women.” Ms. Minster folded the letter, glancing toward Godfrey with fear. “I’ve known them for years and their bodies? Did you think about that? What am I supposed to do with their bodies?”
With no reaction to his face, Godfrey stared at Roos Minster, sliding his calloused hands into his gloves. “I’m sure you’ll think of something, Ms. Minster.”
“And their families?” Ms. Minster drew her brows, staring at the crack on the ground as the child’s cries faded. “Won’t they suspect?”
“I’m sure you’ll come up with something clever, but for now I must go, and remember before the sun reaches over the hills, Ms. Minster.”
Leaving The Whispering City behind, Ms. Minster thought of all the ways she could do away with the midwives, seven there were. Harriett Figgins, Amelia Strout, Leona Burt, Olivia Hendrix, Jenny Bergenson, Lilliana Grims, and Sadie Robbins with Leona Burt being the most meddlesome. Her behavior brought great concern to Ms. Minster, for she was eternally running her mouth. Word around town says it was Leona Burt’s bruited whispers on the night The Perkins came to town that got poor Mr. Phillens, the bread maker to lose his job.
Ms. Minster knew Godfrey was right, the midwives had to go and fast before Leona Burt began asking questions regarding the disappearance of Nora Kitcher’s infant child. So, she headed toward the town’s market, stopping by a table whose worn, dusted cloth read ‘Echoes of the Past.’ The table’s surface laid scattered with an array of tinctures all suited to serve a different purpose. Most of the writings were old and hard to read, but those she could, made her tremble. In fact, she trembled so much the merchant noticed.
“I believe this is what you’re looking for?” Wrinkled by the hands of time, his face had been as he held out his hand, pointing toward a small bottle whose contents shown dark and murky.
“What makes you say that?”
“The three scents always delights a lover’s nose, it’s my most popular blend and sell, and you just happen to be in luck, there’s one left.”
“Oh, no, no, I don’t think you understand.”
“You see, I… I need…” Ms. Minster glanced down at all the bottles the merchant sold as if trying to unriddle their aberrant language and for a moment thought about leaving the table, but then thought about Godfrey’s letter and the nettlesome Leona Burt who boiled her blood. Clenching her fist, she glanced toward the merchant. “I’m in need of something much more powerful, if you know what I mean.”
“Ah… you wish to keep him. In that case, I have just the potion for you, my dear.”
“No. No, no, no, no, no. I… I don’t think you understand what I’m trying to say, or perhaps. Perhaps, it is I who is not being so clear.”
“If one… if one wanted to say…” Ms. Minster placed her finger before her cracked lips, striking them repeatedly. “Put an ailing animal to sleep. What would you recommend?”
The merchant raised his brow in suspicion. Throwing out his hand, he pointed toward a small bottle whose contents shown gray and flat. “Two drops of this would paralyze the mind, making it appear as if the victim fell to a slumber.”
“Two drops, you say?”
“Be careful though! More than two and a corpse you’ll have.”
“Perhaps a corpse is what I need,” she mumbled.
“Oh, never mind.” Ms. Minster smiled. “That’ll be all.”
Relief and horror marked her face as she left the merchant’s table and headed toward the house, serving seven drinks of the best wine she had. Making her way up the stairs, she greeted the midwives with a smile, serving them each with a drink, but Leona Burt grew suspicious of her actions, for wine was never offered to midwives, let alone a full bottle. Not delighting in the wine, Leona Burt placed her glass on the cupboard, and without excusing herself, left the room. When Ms. Minster looked over her shoulder, she noticed one cup was full to the brim. Counting the midwives, she realized there were six instead of seven, and Leona Burt was the seventh. Leaving the girls to their last delight, she went in search of the missing midwife, searching all the rooms in the house, but Leona Burt was nowhere to be found, causing a great deal of panic to Ms. Minster. Ms. Minster knew the night would pass and before long the sun would rise over The Bare Hills of Hebburn, she had to work fast!
The rooms to the house stretched out along the halls with the walls being rather thin, and from room three, the shuffling of feet were heard pounding at the tattered boards, keeping Nora Kitcher up most of the night. Had it not been for the trickles of rain against the window, the poor woman’s nerves would’ve never eased, but that came to an end when she heard a thump.
At first, she thought nothing of it until the same sound occurred three more times. Growing curious, the albino woman rose from her bed, putting on her slippers, as she moved her frail body across the room. Resting her ear against the door, she heard another thump followed by the rushing of feet, causing her curiosity to grow. Proceeding down the hall, she noticed the door to room seven had been left wide open. Looking in, she caught sight of six bodies wrapped in muslin with one of the bodies alive and breathing. Ripping the fabric, she noticed it was none other than Amelia Strout, gasping for air. Amelia’s lifeless eyes peered toward Nora as if trying to convey a message, but it was too late. Death had taken its toll.
At that moment, Nora Kitcher heard the kitchen knob turn and the door swing wide open. Frantically scurrying down the hall, she hid in the only place she knew. It was the same place she hid when just a child and played ‘Hide the Stash’ with Ed Linnington. Nora hid behind the curtains! It was from behind those old, dusted pair of drapes where she heard Roos Minster converse with a man whose voice she knew not. This man, however, carried a rather distinct voice. It trailed up the stairs as he pressured Ms. Minster, paralyzing Nora. Remaining quiet, she continued to listen in, and it wasn’t until mentions of her child came about that everything took a turn. She had to escape, but how?
“Did anyone see you?”
“No, but the seventh’s missing.”
“And the child’s mother,” he said, “where is she?”
“Upstairs sleeping, in room three.”
Ms. Minster glanced at the scattered crumbs on the kitchen counter and the faucet whose endless drips caught her reflection, and no longer did she recognize herself, nor the hands that trembled before her.
“Is there a problem?”
“You must understand, I’ve never done anything like this, my nerves run endless.”
“In this line of work, Ms. Minster, there’s no time for nerves. I suggest you collect yourself.”
“Yes, yes, of course, forgive me.”
Running up the stairs and into room three, Godfrey Walker discovered Nora Kitcher had gone missing. He peered down the hall to notice Ms. Minster dragging the bodies of the women down the stairs.
“Did you say room three?”
“There’s no one here.”
“Impossible!” Ms. Minster dropped the body, rushing toward Godfrey Walker as she pulled the sheets off the bed. “She has to be here.”
“Search the rooms. Now!”
Running down the halls, Ms. Minster swung the doors open, but no sign of Nora Kitcher did she find. “They’re empty, all the rooms are empty!”
“This changes everything.”
“What are we going to do?”
“We? No, Ms. Minster, you. If word gets out about this, you’re ruined. I had nothing to do with this, I was never here.” Godfrey Walker ran to room three, glancing out the window to see the pale reflection of a woman in the distance. “Out of my way!”
Ms. Minster gripped onto Godfrey Walker’s coat. “What are you going to do?”
“There’s only one way to end this.” Godfrey pulled out a knife.
“Is that… is that a knife?”
“I’ll not have this coming back to me, Ms. Minster. Tidy up your end.”
Ms. Minster nodded her head. “What should I do with the bodies?”
“Bury them in the basement, and make some tea.”
“It’s settling on the nerves.”
That night, Ms. Minster buried the bodies in the basement. Upon her return, she served herself some tea while glancing at the drops that settled on the window. From its reflection, she saw Leona Burt. She held a bottle similar to the one she purchased from the merchant, but upon turning she began to feel nauseous and within moments her hands trembled.
“Thought you’d get away with it, didn’t you, Ms. Minster?” Leona Burt waved a clouded bottle.
“No, no, no! You stupid fool!” Ms. Minster held her stomach, walking toward Leona Burt. “What did you do? What did you do?”
“You’ll be dead within a matter of time. Serves you right.” Leona Burt stepped back, watching Ms. Minster fall before her feet. “And just so you know, Nora Kitcher’s alive. I put her on a wagon, she’d be long gone by now, but tell me, why did you do it, after all these years.”
“I had no choice.” Ms. Minster let out a dry hacking cough. “He made me… he made me…”
“Who made you?” Leona Burt grabbed Ms. Minster, shaking her as her eyes rolled back. “Who made you?”
That night, Ms. Minster died in a pool of her own slabber as Leona Burt tried to figure out who ordered her death and the death of the midwives. She searched the entire house but found nothing when seeing the reflection of a man through the upstairs window. He carried a certain austere about him as he sauntered toward the house; even his whistle had its own cast. Down the stairs, through the back, and down the alley Leona Burt ran! The girl did not break until reaching the forest.
That night, while traveling, she came across a lone rover in a wagon. He too, was leaving the town of Kregur. Not asking any questions, she mounted the wagon, settling herself toward the rear. Within moments, she noticed a strange smell rising from the back; it was so strong, she couldn’t put it off. Curious, she snooped through the fabrics when coming face-to-face with the albino woman, Nora Kitcher! At that moment, the wagon came to a halt as the sound of footsteps approached.
“Shh…” The driver removed his hood to show a face that ran dry. In his other hand, he held a bloody knife.
“You’re the one. You’re the one who ordered my death and the death of the midwives.” Leona Burt hurled dirt his way, leaping off the wagon.
On a dirt road, the two faced each other, but Leona Burt was no match for the insensible monster whose calloused hands brought her down. That night, the wagon made one stop in The Whispering City, and upon leaving all that was heard was the stony, grim whistle and the deteriorated wood of the wagon as it creaked through the night.
Stories around town claim before the sun rose over The Bare Hills of Hebburn the house mysteriously burned to the ground, and as for Godfrey Walker some say he wanders the area from time to time, but his involvement in the matter is never questioned as the man is of good standing.
I could feel it run down my back!
Madness is a poison best served stiff
You're on your way home with glorious news to your soon-to-be wife Sara Blevins when the axle on your carriage breaks. Cording your books, you put on your hat and make your way to the nearest town as the storm picks up. While journeying, a cool wind brushes past your shoulder, causing you to turn down an unfamiliar path. You're not sure of this path as it contains many poisonous plants and the trees themselves seem to have wilted away from some sort of malady, but you carry on anyway.
Moments later, you find yourself in a broken-down village where a tall man with wild disproportionate arms greets you, and although unnatural looking, he seems rather harmless. He guides you through the dirt-filled streets and although you find his manners odd, you follow him anyway. The tall man stops and turns to you as he holds out his overly large hand, leaving you before an odorous bridge which you've not the likes for. Taking out a nap, you cover your face, making your way through when stumbling. Quickly regaining your foot, you cross the cursed bridge, making your way toward the other side where you come across a faded post that seems to have been knocked over by a seemingly strong wind, it reads Dracul's Castle. Looking past the sign, you notice the castle belongs to a great lord and sits perched high above rocks, and the only way to reach it, is to climb. Shaking the rain from your hat, you pull your hair back, making your way up its narrow path.
Upon reaching the top, you are immediately taken by its mazelike details, its complexity, and its iron-bound doors. It is your bête noire and your passion intertwining and unfolding all at once. You must write it down but most importantly you have to get inside! With three hard knocks, you wait, determined to get inside as you wipe the soil from your shoulders when you hear the doors scrape against the ground. You are now inside Dracul's Castle.
Tundra | A Wanderer's Tale into Darkness is a tale full of passion, betrayal, adventure, and unimaginable cruelty