|Name:||The Light of the Red Death|
|Next Episode:||The Herald of the Eternal Eclipse|
A daughter of death investigates strange lights in the night and encounters a being straight out of fiction.
- Nephthys: Female human incarnation of the Necrobane, based on earth in the 1920s.
- Lanthorne: An Eldritch Thing that has roamed the earth for centuries.
- Walter: A postman in Jacksonboro.
The post office in Jacksonboro, Georgia receives few letters from out of state. Once perhaps there were more, in the 19th century, but as people began to move away they declined. Now the town was growing quieter, though there was often a small bustle. Still, a letter from out of state was something interesting, especially when it was addressed to one Miss Nephthys.
Nephthys lived in the large house atop Ashton Hill, the Ruthven Estate. It was an old building dating back to before the Civil War, though no records of its construction could be found anywhere. Due to the reputation of its owner, it gained a reputation of its own for being haunted. In fact, the Ruthven Estate would later inspire the title of the story Dreams in the Witch-House by H. P. Lovecraft.
Back in the post office, the postmaster lifted the letter for Nephthys to the light and squinted at the name on it. Frowning, he slipped on a pair of glasses and read over the name again. Satisfied, he dropped it on the counter and called to someone else working in a room off to the side.
“Hey, Walter, we’ve got another letter for the lady in the haunted house. Could you run it up there before we close? It's getting late."
A younger man walked in with a stack of packages in his arms. He set the packages down and nodded.
“Yeah. Just finished stamping these, want me to take it now?”
“Go ahead,” the postmaster said, putting his glasses back in his pocket. “Just hurry back.”
Walter snatched the letter from the counter and slapped his postman’s hat on his head. With a wave he was out of the office and on his way to the Ruthven Estate. Business was as usual, a sleepy day in a sleepy town.
The postman wandered down the road towards the edge of town, where up in the distance the vague shape of the mansion could be seen. He picked up his pace, the crunching of his shoes on leaves the only sound to be heard. After what seemed a long while he rounded a corner and found himself facing the Ruthven Estate. A chill cut through the postman, though he couldn’t tell whether it was the wind or something else entirely.
The Ruthven Estate looked like a typical mansion of the era, designed with Jeffersonian architecture in mind. It resembled a miniature Monticello, complete with a rotunda centered in the roof. However, the similarities ended here. The mansion was made almost completely of black brick, with a pale, bleached cream color for the roof, columns and window frames. More windows covered the rotunda, forming a large glass dome.
Walter blinked. “I’ll never get used to this place…”
Another blink scared the postman near senseless. The building had changed to resemble a gothic castle, topped with spires and gargoyles. Angular, black stone made up the mansion’s current form, topped with a green roof. Sharp, wrought-iron fences seemed to have sprouted out of the ground. Even stranger, trees bent and blew in a breeze that did not exist.
“What the-” before Walter could finish his exclamation, the building was back to its earlier shape. He shook his head and continued up to the door. “This place is messing with me...”
The postman hurried up the steps and rapped on the door. Almost immediately it swung open, revealing a woman that he recognized as Nephthys. She stood almost a full head taller than he and wore a black and purple dress with a leather corset patterned like a mouth.
“L-letter for you, Miss Nephthys,” Walter stuttered, intimidated.
“Oh, thank you,” Nephthys smiled, taking the letter.
Walter realized that he had never really taken note of the way the owner of the estate actually looked, other than her gothic appearance. Her features were sharp and her complexion pale, vaguely like those of a vampire from one of the horror novels Walter had heard so much about. Nephthys’ lipstick shimmered purple, matching her eyes. Otherwise she wore no makeup, aside from some art on her temples, a set of tentacles on each side.
Nephthys glanced up at the postman just as he realized that the tentacles were moving. “Question, did you notice anything odd on the way here?”
“No, not that I can think of,” Walter lied, the castle flickering through his mind.
“That’s good. Thank you again,” Nephthys gave a cordial nod as she stepped back and closed the door. Walter turned and began his walk back to town.
Inside, Nephthys read over the envelope. “Providence, Rhode Island. Finally! I was beginning to think this would never come…”
She walked down a hallway decorated with portraits of pale men and women dressed in black. Most had her same black hair, but a few had hair of snow-white, despite appearing young. Nephthys slid the letter from the envelope as she stepped into her study. Sitting down in a large chair of red leather, she unfolded the paper.
“Dear Nephthys... new story, based on Mau... oh, that’s nice,” she skimmed over the letter. “It is called The Cats of Uthar... about carnivorous felines… will be published soon... well that certainly sounds like a good read!”
Nephthys tossed the letter onto her desk and leaned back, looking over the shelves lining the walls. Various artifacts and relics covered them, most of an Egyptian theme. An ankh sat next to a chunk of stone etched with hieroglyphs. Just below them there was an unusually large tooth belonging to some long-dead creature, and by that a small display containing various scraps of ancient paper.
The woman sighed and glanced at a large cross on the opposite wall. She turned back to the shelves, tapping her fingers on the chair’s arm.
“So quiet around here.”
A grey cat padded into the room, her eyes a brilliant green. Nephthys grinned as the cat slid up against her legs, a rumbling purr making the cat vibrate slightly.
“Oh, good morning, Mau. I guess I shouldn’t say it’s quiet around here…” the woman chuckled. Mau purred even louder.
Suddenly a crash echoed down the hall. Nephthys jumped as Mau dove away to investigate, her tail poofy. The cat’s owner followed suit as she narrowed her brow in suspicion. Mau led her to the library, the room located directly under the rotunda.
Bookshelves wrapped around the walls, leaving the only open spaces for doorways and relic displays. Due to the glass ceiling, sunlight streamed in to fill the room. Everything appeared normal, except that one book lay open on the ground. Nephthys stopped in her tracks.
She ran forwards and lifted the book. Its cover featured a stylized skull, bright crimson, against a black and white background. A blackletter font listed the name of the story and the author. Nephthys winced.
“The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allan Poe. Why do I feel like this is foreshadowing something…?
Mau just trilled and slipped off down the hallway.