Arcana X: 3rd Assignment – Cruelty and the Beast Ch. 3-3

For the preceding chapters, click here for Arcana X: 3rd Assignment CH.1CH.2 Pt.1CH.2-3CH.3-1, CH.3-2!!

Jacoby begins his story. Nearly three months ago, Jacoby was returning from hunting grand elk in Dodgson Woods. On his way, he noticed a light in the distance through the trees. He paid no attention to it at first, thinking that it could be a campfire. It is not uncommon for hunters to rest until dark to hunt at night. A week later, on another hunting trip, Jacoby noticed more light from the trees. Curious, he walks toward the source. He soon comes to an old chateau. He had heard about this chateau that sat forgotten in the woods. The chateau had been unoccupied for nearly a century. Several attempts have been made to purchase the property by buyers from out of town. However, for unknown reasons, the buyers quickly backed out. Soon afterward, the Regal Districts of Tulpaar and Tulpex agreed to simply remove the chateau. That was when the trouble began. The men that were sent to demolish the chateau returned to the neighboring villages, claiming the chateau to be cursed. Reports of accidents and deadly tragedies began flooding both villages. Each crew sent to bring down the property returned with less than half their men. Those who did return were not the same as when they left. Tulpaar and Tulpex’s Regals deemed the chateau to be off-limits and that no one is permitted to go near it.

“So why did you go to the chateau?” Ecks asks Jacoby.

“The rule is almost a hundred years old. Think anybody still around to care about it,” Jacoby replied.

“Fair enough,” said Ecks. As a steady rule breaker himself, he knows an old decree like that will not stick after so many decades. “What happened when you got there?”

“Nothing. As I said, it’s not uncommon for hunters to rest in groups. So, I assumed that what it was, and came on home. But then a few days later, something happened that I can’t explain. Even as I am telling you this, I can’t fathom it.” Ecks asks him what he means. Jacoby replies, “Remember when I said I found the chateau half-demolished?”

Jacoby returned to the chateau a few days later after trading grand elk pelt in Tulpex. He had noticed even more light and became curious. He was stunned by what he saw. The once half-demolished chateau that was slowly being reclaimed by the forest stood before him completely restored to its former glory. Jacoby stealthily approached the dwelling. Looking through a nearby window, he is awestruck. The interior is rich. Lavish furniture decorated the main room. Flames roiled in the fireplace that had been long dark for decades. Suits of armor stood guard at the grand staircase in the main foyer. More armor stood at the ready in the main hall leading to the West Wing. Looking up the grand staircase, Jacoby sees a majestic gargoyle keeping watch. More suits of armor guarded the second-floor hall. Jacoby is now more curious than ever.

How could a building of this size be fully restored in just a few days? The work and manpower put into it had to be staggering. However, such a feat could not be pulled off even with the best of mortar and stone layers. Surely, work on this scale would not go unnoticed, especially since the materials needed for the project are readily available in both villages. Also, word of a buyer would have spread quickly considering that the buyer would have to convene with the Regal Districts to negotiate a purchase. Jacoby quickly scans the surrounding area. No manner of equipment has been moved through here. And the woods are much too thick for any wagons or carts to pass through easily. How was a dilapidated chateau completely restored without anyone’s knowledge? Jacoby returned to the window. His eyes widen by what he sees. A beautiful woman stood in the main room with the fireplace. Her white garbs flowed behind her on invisible winds. Jacoby was entranced, unable to take his eyes off her. The woman extended a sleek arm and beckoned softly with her finger. From the main foyer, two-winged creatures entered guiding a young woman with them. The young woman was dressed in merchant garb similar to the woman in Tulpaar. Jacoby looks at her. His mouth drops.

“Jemma?”

He recognized her instantly. His wife. What was she doing at the chateau? Jacoby hadn’t told Jemma about it. He hadn’t told anyone for that matter. Thinking he could be imagining it; he looks over her carefully and catches a glimpse of the emerald ring he gave her. It is Jemma. Jacoby taps on the window to get her attention. His hand is bounced back by an unseen force. What’s there, he wonders. Curiously, he taps again. White light ripples from where he tapped the window again. He may be more familiar with ironwork than mystic arts but knows a magic barrier when he sees one. More importantly, why is one erected around the chateau. From what he knows from his grandmother, magic barriers serve two purposes – keeping curious people out and keeping captives imprisoned. Feeling that Jemma could be in danger, Jacoby hurries around to the front door. The barrier bars him from entry. He then runs to the back entrance. The moonlit runes again keep him at bay. Fear turns into panic as Jacoby rushes back to his original spot. He begins banging on the barrier, calling Jemma’s name. She does not respond. Jemma continues to approach the woman in white. Her gaze is that of a doll – lifeless. She slowly glides across the floor. The Woman in White smiles with anticipation and slowly licks her ruby lips.

Jacoby bangs his hands, now hollering to his wife. He had just realized the horrible truth. The mysteriously restored chateau, the magic barrier – they are connected to that woman, the Lady in White. He had heard of the legend. The Lady in White was a female mystic who fell in love with a mortal man. They had lived happily in this chateau. Until one day, the female mystic discovered that her husband had been having an affair with one of the house maids. She confronted him on several occasions, but she was denied each turn. Overcome with grief and jealously, she had killed the housemaid, who was with child and then hung herself in the main foyer. Legend has it that she haunts the woods around the chateau, preying on women she deems unfaithful. Jacoby knows Jemma is faithful. Why would the Lady in White choose her? He watched worriedly as the vengeful spirit reached out and cupped her face. The Lady in White draws Jemma close who shows no resistance. The Lady in White kisses her. Suddenly, Jemma is wrapped in ethereal light. Moments later, Jacoby watched in horror as his wife’s skin began to deteriorate. Frantic, he slams his fists on the barrier, yelling for Jemma. Jacoby darts around the yard on a desperate search for anything that might break the barrier. He grabs discarded tools, rock, crates – whatever manner of material his hands touched – and he hurls them at the barrier. Each strike is met with a white flash followed by the objects’ destruction. When his ammunition runs out, Jacoby whips his head around frantically. He spots a large sledgehammer. A man of his lithe build should not be able to wield such an object. It is meant for a much broader man. Yet Jacoby, driven by desperation and adrenaline, heaves the sledgehammer and slams it against the barrier. The hammer is repelled back. Jacoby spins on the balls of his feet, sets his stance and adjusts his grip, and whirls around again with all his might, yelling like a man crazed. The runes flash brighter from the impact. After a brief stalemate, both Jacoby and the sledgehammer are thrown back and they slam on the ground hard. Jacoby’s body is numb both from the barrier’s repulsive magic and his exhaustion. The sledgehammer did not fair well as it has been split in twain. Jacoby lifts his head and reaches out weakly, calling his wife’s name. Then, he collapses.

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