The Quill

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A writer comes across an old mysterious bed and breakfast on the English moor. What secrets is the ancient dwelling concealing?

Submitted: March 11, 2016

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Submitted: March 11, 2016



The old inn is nestled between two hills by the bank of a babbling brook. It is the only settlement around for miles on the wild northern English moor. The building itself is a curious relic from a bygone era; a half-timbered monstrosity once belonging to the wealthy Moreton family, the proprietors of a great estate. Their manor had once been the centre of a thriving rural community at the time of the Tudors. Over the centuries, however, the village and surrounding area had been worn away by time and the elements, leaving nothing but a few stunted foundations and, of course, the Moreton manor house; still in perfect condition, almost exactly as it was five hundred years ago. The old house now functions as a stately bed and breakfast, but there are whispers of curses dwelling within its walls and strange stories circulate about guests who stayed there and what befell them. One such story, perhaps the most mysterious of them all, details as follows…


A writer pulled up to the rather formidable looking country manor. It was late by this time and the weather was taking a turn for the worst. He had resigned himself to the fact that he would not be able to continue on his journey and it was indeed time to seek shelter. He spotted the lights of the distant inn and followed the winding country road right to the door. Seeing the ‘Vacancy’ sign hanging outside he presented himself to the portly, red-faced hostess with the unnerving overly-saccharine demeanour and requested a room.


It was a relief after a long day of driving to finally settle down into his comfortable room. He was in the roof of the manor house and the gentle slope of the ceiling made the room feel safe and cosy. There was a generously-sized four-poster bed against one wall and a beautifully grand mahogany desk opposite it. The desk faced a window overlooking the pitch-black moor. Every now and then lightning would strike, illuminating the craggy majestic landscape. He opened each drawer of the desk keen to see what secrets it held. Among other things, he found an ancient oil lantern and a magnificent blood-red quill with a golden nib. He smiled to himself thinking that this was just what he needed. After months of suffering from writer’s block and weeks of traipsing the country in search of inspiration, this unexpected discovery may be just what he needed to overcome it. In fact, looking at the quill, he felt sure of it.


The sun was just peeking over the horizon when the writer awoke the next morning. The weak rays filtered through the low grey clouds and revealed the fog-covered landscape. Breakfast was in the dining hall and once again he found himself the only occupant of the grand chamber, as he had been at dinner the night before. Not that he really minded the silence; it gave him the chance to ponder his idea.


It was mid-morning by the time he settled himself at the desk in his room and picked up the quill he had discovered the night before. There was no ink available but he took out the little notebook he always carried with him and scribbled a few lines. To his surprise the quill wrote perfectly. He assumed there must still have been some ink left from the time it had last been used. As he turned to the next page of his notebook and placed the tip of the quill on the fresh page a brilliant idea emerged from the depths of his mind, like a baby bird cautiously cracking open its egg. Piece after piece fell away until the idea revealed itself in all its fledgling glory. He began to write.


My name is Ida Pendragon and at the time that you are reading this I have long been dead, but my spirit will not rest until my story is told. As a child I was scarcely allowed outside and never permitted to play with other children, my father citing health reasons for this precaution. I had always lived a sheltered life due to my being constantly ill and almost terminally bed-ridden. As a result of this captivity placed upon me, I was a terribly weak child. I was ghastly pale with stick-thin limbs and, despite my father’s attempts to protect me, I had become something of a cruel novelty in the village. Neighbourhood boys would throw stones at my window and expel such taunts as ‘devil-girl’ and ‘demon-raiser’. Faced with this malicious world, I grew to crave for the confines of my bedchamber and the safety of my house. My favourite way to occupy the long lonely hours was in the family library where I had access to thousands of titles and seemingly endless knowledge, my father being a great collector of books. Next to one particular bookshelf hung a tapestry that I had always adored. The handsome figure the noble couple struck upon their white horse amid rolling hills with a majestic castle rising in the background called my mind away to an idyllic world, far-removed from my own drab existence.


One day as I was climbing up the shelves in the library to reach a book on the top-most-shelf, I lost my footing and came tumbling down. As I fell I grasped at the large tapestry and it came free, falling down along with me and knocking my oil lantern in the process. Upon rising I was greeted with a most surprising sight. For all those years that I had stared wonderingly at that tapestry, I could never have guessed that it concealed such a secret. It was the discovery of this old oak door adorned with curling iron fixtures that would change my life forever. I tentatively pushed it open and found a dark passage stretching away beyond my scope of vision. In a rare moment of courage, I plunged down the passageway but this courage immediately turned to terror as the door slammed shut behind me. There was an insidious aura of evil pervading the tunnel. An all-consuming fear seized me with a vice-like grip and would not relent but it was impossible to turn back now. I ran.


I habitually found that when I became angry or scared, strange and often sinister happenings would occur. The mischievous boys at my window, for example, met gruesome fates. Shortly after the incident two were found drowned in the river while the other disappeared in the woods never to be seen again. These certainly were befitting circumstances. I blindly stumbled down the dark passage; my heart pounding, my throat grating with every swallow and my slippery palms tracing desperate streaks along the stone walls. At some point my body decided it could no longer handle the turmoil and I lost consciousness.


A pounding at the door exhumed the writer from Ida Pendragon’s story. It was as if a spell had been broken and the scene dissolved to reveal his room once again. The noise at the door was in fact the portly hostess alerting him that dinner was ready. The writer looked around utterly bemused. It was now dark outside and hours had passed in what felt like a matter of minutes. He made his way down to the dining room in a trance-like state but was jolted to alertness by a most surprising sight. Suspended on the wall near the entrance to the dining hall was a very familiar-looking tapestry. He hadn’t noticed it before but it looked exactly like how he pictured the one in the story. Perhaps he had included it subconsciously? In fact, on closer inspection, the world Ida inhabited bore remarkable resemblance to the corridors and chambers he observed around him. The house was having a more potent influence on him than he first realised.


As he ate his dinner he reflected on what he had written and the direction the story would take. The story was quite different from his usual style but it made him more excited then anything he had written. He thought of a million different ways to continue the story but none of them seemed appropriate. He really had no idea how the rest of the story would go and was anxious to return to his room and continue writing.


When I regained consciousness I was lying in a pool of sweat in my bed, staring up at the ceiling. The sloping roof that had always made me feel so safe now felt constrictive and claustrophobic. My muscles felt stiff and worn out as if I’d exerted a large amount of energy. I became aware of some irritation on my wrists and ankles and glanced down to see that I had been secured to the metal frame.


A sense of unease descended upon the writer.


Slowly, images started coming back to me. I saw flames licking along a dark tunnel; a violent explosion; chaos in the village square. This was when I noticed a menacing glow through my window and heard a distant rumble. A few choice phrases pierced the ambient growl. On my last night alive I was serenaded with cries of ‘Burn the witch!’ by irate townspeople. They seemed to think I was the source of the voracious fire that had engulfed the village; destroying houses, killing many, but somehow leaving our manor untouched.


The uneasiness had progressed to alarm. A haunting realisation began to dawn on the writer.


The bellowing grew louder, nearer. I struggled against my bonds with all my might. I heard screaming and fierce struggles coming from downstairs. The merciless crowd had reached our front door.


He willed himself to stop writing, but the pen had other ideas.


I let out a terrified scream as my door burst open and a group of torch-bearing, pitchfork-waving townsmen stormed into my chamber. My father, beaten and bruised, was desperately attempting to curb their frenzied advances with cries of, ‘She’s just a girl! She doesn’t know what she’s doing!’


‘Stop! Stop!’ he cried. By this point he realised he wasn’t so much writing the story as telling it.


They wrenched me free of my bonds and dragged me out of the room by my hair. A wooden death contraption shimmered before me through the smoky haze as I was thrust through the front door into the waiting arms of the angry crowd. Fear and anger raged in equal measure in my chest. But another rather unfamiliar sensation reared its ugly head as they tied me to the stake. Hatred. They would pay for this. As tongues of fire rose around my feet and the searing pain penetrated my bones, I unleashed a wild cry that silenced the restless crowd.

Red sparks danced across his vision as he put the last word to paper, the ink in the quill ran out, and the lamp at his side became extinguished, leaving him in darkness.

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