She wasn't there. She wasn't there when he stepped out of the carriage (who the hell rode in carriages anymore?) or when the driver spurred the horses toward the coachhouse. The rain, pouring down in heavy grey curtains, turned the pebbled drive black. He adjusted his cravat (since when did he wear a cravat?) and pulled his coat around himself more tightly. Sebastien flicked a wet strand of black hair out of his face as he stood in the drive and looked up at the dark high-gabled mansion.

She wasn't waiting in the foyer, either. Sebastien pushed one of the ornate mahogany front doors open--no lock, he noted--and slipped inside. "Bon--" he began, but he couldn't decide if it were night or day or some strange between-time. "Hello?"

She didn't answer.

Sebastien pulled off his overcoat, the fine fabric once deep blue but now damp and black, and hung it over the back of one of the chairs. Shadows hung in the corners, at the edges of the dim light afforded by the half-open door. A silver seven-light candelabra sat on a low, polished table under a long gold-framed mirror. Sebastien approached it, holding his breath instinctively, his footfalls light on the slate floor-tiles. He reached out, his fingers running over the base of the candelabra before gripping it by the stem to pick it up--

The seven candles flared into brilliant light and Sebastien blinked, blinded for a moment. When his vision returned, white fading back into color and shadows, he started. The figure in the mirror--

Himself, but changed. Not so changed in image, though he was still faintly perplexed at the slightly-damp bunch of lace at his throat--still the same long black hair, though tied back like a gentleman's; same olive skin, with a golden cast from the candlelight; same nose and lips and chin, all located in approximately the right places; same smoky dark eyes, but oh what a change was wrought in these eyes! Wild. Hunted. Haunted.

Something dreadful and intangible was changed in him, in this mirror. Terrible taint seeped through this otherworld him as though poisoned wyrms slithered under his skin. Sebastien clutched the candelabra, backing away from the mirror and his corrupted reflection. He heard a creak behind him, the squeaking hinges of the door, a whispering against the back of his neck that made all the hair rise. Sebastien whipped around, the flickering candles guttering for a moment with the movement.

She wasn't there.

Sebastien crept quietly, half-breathlessly, through the house. His footsteps were the only noise. A thin layer of dust coated the hardwood floors, the thick Oriental carpets, the velvet drapes and coats of armour and paintings (the portraits' eyes were following him) and loveseats and high wingback chairs. She hadn't been here for awhile, Sebastien realized. But how long?

He paused in the hallway, pushed open a door and peered in. A drawing room of some fashion; a small cloud of dust swirled up, disturbed by his intrusion, and Sebastien coughed into a lace-edged handkerchief (since when did he carry a handkerchief?). A woven tapestry occupied most of one wall, proclaiming the family's most ancient and noble lineage from floor to ceiling; a gargoyle loomed menacingly in the far corner, perched with its ghastly batwings unfolded. Sebastien thought it saw it shift on its pedestal out of the corner of his eye and quickly pulled the door shut with an audible snick.

Those weren't wings he heard rustling behind him as he crept hastily down the hall. Of course they weren't, he told himself.

There was only one door at the very end of the hall. It already lay open, just a narrow crack, dust motes rising and falling in the dim slash of grey light. Sebastien walked towards it, the candelabra held aloft.

Sebastien thought he heard a soft groan, a heavy exhalation of breath, as his fingers touched the doorknob. The metal was cold under his fingertips. He pushed it open; the door slid silently on slick hinges. The only thing in the windowless room was an impossibly tall four-poster bed hung with dark black curtains. Mourning curtains, his mind supplied. Maybe she was here. Sebastien thought he heard another groan from inside the shrouded bed.

He inched across the floor, mindful to make no noise, listening to the increasingly pained-sounding muffled half-moans. Sebastien reached out warily to peer inside; at the first touch of his hand, the dusty drapes all fell to the floor with a crash. He stumbled backwards and fell, dropping the candelabra, at the sight before him.

Raphael, his own precious elder brother, groaned again in rapture as he thrust into the decaying corpse of their Mère. A black shroud covered her pale and clammy face, her funereal clothes in disarray, her frail and rotting body jolting at Raphael's ecstatic copulation. Sebastien was speechless, bile rising in his throat; Raphael's head turned to face him, a feral grin on his face, and growled, "Quidquid latet, apparebit, nil inultum remanebit," before he climaxed with a cry. White writhing graveworms spilled from Raphael's mouth as he arched into Mère's body.

Sebastien turned to scramble away, but as he reached for the silver candelabra, a pasty hand closed over his own. Hippolyta--his sweet, elegant fiancée--grinned at him as bloody tears ran down her cheeks. She leaned in for a kiss, hungry, consuming; she tasted like whiskey and blood and cemetery dirt--

Sebastien woke with a start and wiped the blood off his lips. The chocolate-brown curtains to his bed hung half-open; in the shadows of his room beyond, nothing stirred.

She wasn't there.

Written for They Hunger For Nodes: An e2 Halloween Scary Story Quest.

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