I stood at the bottom step and looked toward the old, crumbling manor. The front wall had been a pile of stone. Now looking at the front of the manor, I saw that it wasn’t any better. It had a broken window, rotting front doors and vines creeping all around the manor, as if the vines were going to strangle the manor at any moment.
It clearly had been a long time since someone had cared for this place. I heard that the last person to care for this place was a queen from a hundred years ago. I think her name was Cinderella. The manor had lots of stories about it. The most famous and mysterious one belonged to the last noble family that lived here. Gripping my travelling bag tightly, I made my way up the stairs carefully trying to avoid the crumbling and broken parts of the stairs.
Once I reached the top of the stairway, I walked up to the big, rotting double doors and pushed them open. The heavy doors creaked as they opened slowly, small bits of wood falling off it. Stepping inside, I found it had survived the age of time better than outside.
The paint was peeling off the walls, wooden boards creaking with every step and every object covered in layers of dust. I set my bag down in the front hall and went exploring. I walked around the manor, finding a large dining hall for hosting dinner parties, a grand ballroom, two small drawing rooms and kitchen with a scullery. A grand marble stairway led to the second floor which had a master bedroom and two other bedrooms.
Walking back down to the first floor I found tucked away in a shadowed corner, a door that opened to another stairway. These stairs, however, were made of wood, some missing or rotting away. I carefully made my way to the top to find a small room.
Inside the room, I found a small cot, and a closet full of portraits. However, it was what was beyond the window that I found interesting. A view of the Goshen Forest, and a well-maintained garden. It was as if time had frozen in the garden.
Before I knew it, I was outside wondering the large garden. Everything had been well cared for, the garden looking even better than those of the many palaces I had visited in my time as a travelling storyteller.
Many flowers were blooming all around the garden. Red ponies, whites lilies, red, yellow even blue roses. Jasmine hung on the back wall of the manor. The pathways were made from stone and divided the garden into different parts. And in the centre of it all was a beautiful, grey mermaid statue fountain with water flowing into a small pond filled with various fish.
As I continued exploring, I found a white painted gazebo made of steel. It was covered by blue climbing roses. Magic was obviously involved. Inside the gazebo, was a round table with several matching chairs. This place must have been used for garden tea parties. Further on, there were several grassed lawns and an orchard of what looked to be several apple trees.
When I finally got to the back of the garden, it was late into the afternoon, dusk slowly creeping in. I found a wall separating the forest from the manor. Near the wall, stood a lone cherry tree. As it was spring, cherry blossoms were blooming and falling. The tree was completely out of place in the neatly made garden. However, that was not what stopped me in my tracks.
Standing under the tree, was a woman with her back to me. She must have been the one who was looking after the garden. I had heard rumours from the village nearby that there was a mysterious woman who haunted the manor. Many called her the Torro - the one who knows all.
Her body was covered in a large black cloak, long raven hair curling down her back. She stood there for a minute before kneeling down to lay a bunch of the rare blue roses, I had seen earlier, under the cherry tree.
She stood up again and turned around to look at me. Her face could have rival that of the beauty goddess, if not for the long, jagged scar that ran across her right eye. Her eyes glowed a bright blue as she looked at me.
Turning away, she lifted the hood of the cloak and said, “Go back to where came from, human. This is no longer a place for humans.” She began walking toward a little wooden door that was hidden behind the cherry tree.
“Wait.” I cried.
She stopped and turned back to look at me. “I will not ask you again. Leave now.”
Ignoring her, I asked, “Are you the Torre?”
Lowering her hood, she said curiously, “Is that what they call me now? The one who knows all. How ironic.”
“T… They say you cursed this place. Forced the last people to live here to die horrible deaths. That you’re the only one that truly knows what happened to the Le Rod Family.”
“Human, I have done many things. I have killed, hurt, and helped many.” she looked towards the tree, sadness drowning the anger in her eyes. She shook her head and looked back at me. The sadness was gone in an instant. “Well, are you leaving? Or do I have to show you where the exit is, little human."
“My name’s not little human. It’s Cal.” I looked at the tree. It must be a grave for someone, someone she loved. Before I could stop myself, the words tumbled out. “Who’s buried under the tree.”
Her eyes narrowed. “That is none of your business.” She turned and stalked toward the door.
Running, towards her, I shouted, “Please, tell me. As the owner of this land, it is my business. If you don’t I will assume that no one is buried there and remove the tree. It is an eyesore to the garden.”
She stopped and said, “Cut it down for all I care. It’s all you humans do anyway. Destroy things.” With that she walked towards the little door and disappeared with the sun.