It happened on a night like any other nights. Except…
Alex found strange comfort in Noah’s presence, even if he proved to be most useful only when he wanted to be cute and cuddly. It had been raining for days on end, making the world a sadder, lonelier place. Outside her flat, thunder boomed out a mighty, bellowing rage that lasted all four seconds. Alex found herself jumping up a good two inches off the floor.
“Sadder and scarier,” Alex muttered to herself.
The huge gray tabby merely lifted its head, glanced out the wide glass window and then resumed to closing its eyes. Its chubby tail swished back and forth lazily. Alex had to laugh at Noah’s nonchalant reaction to the nasty weather. Camped out in his usual space on the floor, the one near the window, the fat cat seemed content to be inside and refused to care what was going on outside. Thunder be damned, he had better things to do. Like sleep.
Alex walked over to the window and looked outside. It was past ten in the evening and the rain came down in steady pellets. Steady but not hard. The wind was a different story, though. It was picking up speed, an ornery twin of the steady rain. The wind was making both trees and shop signs alike shudder. Sometimes, the wind would whistle and then let out a howl. It was unsettling.
Something is brewing.
Alex felt an icy chill creep down her spine, Where did that thought come from? As if on cue, the lights in her place flickered once, twice. For the second time in the space of less than five minutes, she jumped up from surprise. Noah remained still. Whatever was about to happen wasn’t going to happen any second now. Surely, Noah would know and respond to it. Alex knew cats were keenly in tune to the supernatural world. It was another reason she was grateful for the stray cat’s presence. It had only been a little over a month since the cat strayed to her window but he had quickly settled comfortably in here.
A knock sounded on the door, followed by a couple more.
“Who is it?” She called out. She was already crossing the room when she heard a rustling sound. Noah let out a noisy meow that sounded like a protest, a warning. Alex barely registered it, though. Her attention was zeroed in on the door. Something did not feel right.
Something is brewing. That thought crossed her mind again. Alex stopped on her tracks. When she did, that was when she saw the note slide through the gap between the floor and the bottom of the door. Snapping out of her momentary fear, she hurried on her steps and looked through the peephole to see who was on the other side. She saw no one. Not even a glimpse of a shadow. Alex stepped backward, made sure the door was still locked and then bent down to pick up the note from the marble floor. The note was folded in half, the crisp paper unlined and the color of faded sunlight. Alex gingerly unfolded the piece of paper, the size of a medium notebook. Her heart hammered against her chest, her pulse tripped and pumped furiously. She barely registered the fact that Noah had gotten up, crossed the room and was now sitting near her left foot, eyes fixed with ferocious intensity on the door. The cat’s fur was sticking out in all directions, its shoulders bunched up as if ready to strike for battle.
The note was written in thin, dark ink. The author’s handwriting was elegant and cursive, looking something like it had been written centuries ago. Written with quill and feather by candlelight.
Dear good Sir,
Greetings! We beseech your help. Our people need you, lest we shall perish one by one. We come to you humbly, requesting you to meet with us.
Tomorrow. Six at nightfall. Lighthouse by the North Shore.
Please come, sir. Time is of the essence and we need you badly.
Gratefully and eternally in your debt,
The Seven Duchesses
Alex stared dumbfounded at the note in her small, pale hands. She read it again. And again. And again. No date, no specific names. This obviously must have been sent to her by mistake. Either that or it was someone’s lame idea of a joke.
Alex held her breath. Whoever was on the other side of the door must have something to do with this note. Suddenly, she didn’t want to know who the sender of the note was. Never mind if it was misdelivered. The point was the note sounded urgent and serious and… ominous.
The knocking was more insistent now.
Out of instinct, she grabbed the nearest object that she could find. However, before she could make her next move, the door burst open and was instantly a sad mess hanging tenuously on its hinges.
“Why didn’t you open the door?” Jason Sealtiel scowled. His gaze fell on her hand. A hint of a smirk played on his thin, bow-shaped lips. “Your choice of weapon reduced to an umbrella?”
Alex just stood there, her mouth hanging open. She didn’t know which was more surprising: Jason actually standing on her doorway or the woman draped across Jason’s arms, unconscious and obviously hurt.
Jason made his way inside the flat, seeming impervious and impatient. Outside, the rain fell harder now. The wind whistled and shrieked. Jason carefully laid the woman on the sofa and then turned to look at Alex. Grimly, wryly, without even so much as blinking, he said, “I got sent a message in a body.”
Alex kicked the door shut (or as closed as it could possibly get, what with its broken hinges and all) and joined Jason. She looked down at the woman in torn, tattered clothes — such an old, somber attire. There were smears of blood and dirt on her black, ankle-length skirt and dark green frilly blouse. “Holy crap, Sealtiel. What trouble have you gotten yourself into this time?” She breathed out.