Halloween is coming…
As Drew mentioned before; in this band October is one of the best months of the year. The kettle’s always on in the flat, we make regular visits to our local store to stock up on cash-in ghoulish treats, and a horror film or episode of Buffy is never far from our ancient television’s dusty glass screen.
For the past few years we’ve done these little blogs running up to the great All Hallows Eve, mostly because we find it fun, and a little because it takes our mind off the drudgery of our day jobs. So as the nights draw in, as the leaves turn golden, and as the sweet smoke of bonfires furnish the air, we ask you, kind reader, to take a seat – perhaps with a glass of strong port – and indulge in our musings on the macabre. Today I thought it a fitting time to offer you a short ghost story from the world of Grandomina. A tale that may become more relevant in the coming weeks.
The Ghost of Marshton Manor.
31st October 1825
I’d decided to accompany a friend to Marshton for this year’s All Hallows Eve celebrations; though I must admit my attendance was partly due to the nagging guilt that I hadn’t spent enough time with him since his wife had died. We arrived in the rather isolated town by Track Coach south from Ottoton on a crisp, sunny Monday afternoon, both in high spirits, with our hearts set to indulge quite fully in the festivities.
Marshton is a rather antique settlement; built soon after the fall of the triplet kings, it huddles to a cliff face northeast of the southern marshes and sees little through traffic to or from central Grandomina – its most interesting feature being RR’s cathedral of St Michael presiding over the south cliff face. Being made up of mostly Scottish and Irish immigrants, it has long held a festival on the day of All Hallows Eve, though in recent times the town has somewhat reduced the extravagance of said revelry. The reasons for this, I would soon discover…
My friend, whom I shall refer to for the sake of his family’s privacy as Mr James, had heard whisperings of a supposedly “real” ghost haunting the marshlands southwest of the town. He’d even expressed an interest in taking a ramble down the cliff to investigate the mire before All Hallows. I put it down to a foolish fancy, but Mr James seemed quite intent on uncovering some evidence of a real ghoul.
In the town, we started at a local coffee house to try and glean some information of this ghost, but the workers only laughed it off and told us we should concentrate our efforts on procuring fine costumes for the All Hallows parade.
Mr James was un-impressed fuming his way out of the café and making for the streets, saying he’d never been so embarrassed in his life. I was about to tell him how I thought his action were slightly over-dramatic when we chanced upon a small trinket shop on the edges of the town, just to the north of the cathedral. A quaint little cottage, its rear windows faced right onto the marshes and provided stunning view of the tors to the north; and even Knightwall was visible southwest.
On surveying the landscape from this vantage point, the first thing I was struck by was a great mansion that stood alone on a rocky outcrop some distance into the mire. As far as I could tell there was only one dirt track that led to it from the base of the cliff, and I imagined the place would regularly be cut off when the river rose in heavy rain. We enquired as to its name and owner to the shopkeeper, a wizened, half deaf old woman. She shot us a terrible, hateful stare the like of which I wish never to see again, before crowing the words “Marshton Manor,” and shooing us out of her shop.
We quickly made for the cathedral opposite and met the kindly priest Wyperk in its somewhat wind ravaged gardens.
“Oh, Marshton Manor!? No wonder the old girl ejected you from her premises!” He laughed sadly. “She probably thought you were there to taunt her, just as the youths in these parts have done for decades.”
“Why ever would we do such a thing!?”
“Ah,” the priest sighed, “I forget, you’re city men, you wouldn’t know of this quiet land’s history would you! I only arrived here recently myself.” He took a deep breath. “As I see it, back in the early days of Ravenii Reximus’s rule, our old lady was young, and she was engaged to marry the lord of the Manor; the Duke of Marshton. A ruthless man, I’ve heard, but a rich one. He once owned farming rights to all the land south of here to the Wall. But word has it that our old girl – Sarah, I think that’s her Christian name – fell in love with a local peasant; a coffee pusher at the café just down the street! Well, naturally the Duke found out, apparently walked in on the pair at it in his own bed, and, furious with rage he had the youngster executed in the town square.”
“No wonder she hates the place!” said Mr James.
“Oh, that’s not the start of it,” the priest replied. “After the execution, the Duke became increasingly reclusive. He repeatedly called out the Protectors to his mansion on the marsh, complaining of vandals and trespassers on his grounds. But the Protectors never found anything, and the people of Marshton began to refer to him as a madman, twisted by his guilt.
“Then on the festival of All Hallows Eve a call went out that the Manor House on the marsh was aflame. It could be seen burning a peculiar yellow fire from this very cliff top. By now the Duke had expelled all of his servants and the people declared he was sure to perish. Yet, when the fire crews arrived at the manor, the house was untouched by flame… They put it all down to the old marshland phenomena of will-o’-the wisps. But there was one thing they couldn’t explain. The Duke was nowhere to be found…”
“Suicide?” I asked.
“Who knows,” the priest replied. “Maybe he’d packed up and left, though he’d have had to pass through the town to reach the Marsh Road – all the land around Marshton Manor is treacherous at best. Perhaps he made the mistake of trying to reach the road through the mire, or maybe he was chased across it…?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, some of the town’s more superstitious folk have hinted that it was the peasant boy exacting his vengeance on All Hallows Eve… My readings tell me that it is the last day a spirit may right the wrongs done unto them in life…” His brow furrowed. “All I know is that since I’ve arrived here, every year, on All Hallows Eve…” he paused as if he was worried what we might say. “Oh curses! I’ll come out and say it! On All Hallows Eve, if one takes a glance south onto the marshes, they will catch sight of the Manor bathed in yellow fire.”
With that, he departed, mumbling a hasty farewell and making off towards the cathedral.
Mr James looked to me and grinned. “I’m going, old boy! All Hallows Eve, I’m going to Marshton Manor.”
I tried to say something to discourage him, but it felt that if I did so, I would be admitting to my belief in that silly myth. Being an intelligent, enlightened man, I held my tongue.
And so here I sit alone, at a desk before my hotel window, looking out over the marshes as the pipes and lutes sombrely signal the eve of All Hallows in the streets below. I glance over to Mr James’ absent bed and wonder; will I see my friend again?
Across the blackened, haunted landscape, an odd yellow light whips up, and as the clouds part beneath the moon, I turn to see that the house of Marshton Manor is aflame.
I’m sorry if that was a little confusing, but I like the subtle feel to it. Those coming to the Killing Is Dead tour, I want you to try and put two and two together and make a resounding “Yes, now I know what you’re on about Laurencefvk!”
Keep it spooky, homies.
Until my next letter, or never…
P.S. We released our new music Video; Exploding Heart Disorder on Youtube Monday. Here it is.