High on the hill overlooking the town of Devilswood, California, Ravencrest Manor grew out of the earth as if it had always been there instead of being brought over, stone by stone, brick by brick, in the early nineteenth century. Its flat greystone face presided over the forests and beyond, and stared down over the lush green grounds, the gleaming white Greek statues, the orchards and gardens. The mullioned windows glittered like disapproving eyes as they looked upon the town below … And indeed, they did disapprove.
Within, the residents of Ravencrest shared their home with all who had lived and died over the centuries before them. A few of the living knew the secrets of the manor, but they would never tell, though sometimes, the dead compelled them.
From her bedroom window on the second floor, Belinda Moorland stared out into the gardens and the manicured stretches of lawn that looked silver in the moonlight. She thought of Eric Manning, and wondered if he believed - or even knew - the stories that Grant had told her earlier. Do I even believe them?
She glanced at the five Greek statues. Ever since she witnessed their orgiastic dance, she’d watched them for a time each night before going to bed, searching for signs of movement, feeling crazier when she saw nothing. In the daylight, she’d seen the broken pieces of stone at their feet, the chips, and cracks, and splinters in their surfaces - but beyond that, nothing.
In the distance, where the lawn disappeared into the forest and the landscape went black, she saw movement in the light of the moon. “Oh, my God.” She squinted and made out the form of a tall man standing at the edge of the trees. Shadows pulled on him, making his arms seem impossibly thin and long. She thought he was wearing a hat.
Does he see me? Frozen, she watched, waiting for movement but after a while, she began to think the whole thing was a trick of the light. Relieved, she turned her gaze back to the statues.
That’s when the Demeter turned her head, the granite neck cracking and crumbling. The eyes opened. And then it smiled at her, its face splitting and splintering as tiny white pieces of stone fell like raindrops.
Belinda gasped and drew back.
Demeter raised her arm slowly, the movement jagged and stiff. One of its fingers uncurled and pointed to something beyond.
Belinda followed the finger and saw what looked like a dark hole in the earth - a black maw she’d mistaken for a shadow. And there was another close by. Her eyes roved the property and she realized several more dotted the otherwise pristine lawns. But why?
She glanced back at the statue; it had returned to its natural position, arms down, head facing the other direction.
I’m losing my mind. I’m losing my mind.
She almost wished it were true.
Dreaming, Riley Doring ran through the Raven Woods, faster and faster, and all the while, golden eyes watched him. Golden eyes, everywhere - so many of them that the forest was like a sea of stars … but Riley knew they weren’t stars, and he knew the creatures they belonged to were not heaven-sent.
He heard the call of a nightbird and paused.
It came from overhead. Glancing up, he saw nothing.
It called again, this time from the west.
Nothing - and when it called a third time, this time from the east and he knew he would never locate it, for it meant not to be discovered.
A rustling sound from nearby foliage, small high-pitched giggles, and a flash of brightly-colored cloth as the tiny trollish monsters that Cordelia had created, the Harlequins, frolicked in the night.
“Get out of here,” he ordered, and as the Harlequins dashed away, the thousands of golden eyes following them turned to stare at Riley.
“And what do you want?” he asked the eyes. “Tell me what you want. Or leave.”
They blinked out.
And then, moving toward him through the swirling mist, a caped woman.
His heart pounded. She was gliding ever closer, closer, closer, until she stood before him, her cowled head down, her face concealed. This near, he could smell her - and she smelled of dark water. Of Naiad Pond.
“Who are you?”
The figure, cloaked in heavy velvet, remained motionless but Riley could sense the malevolence around her - it came off her in waves to envelop him, to constrict his breath and turn his blood to ice.
“What do you want of me?” The cold emanating from the woman touched his breath, frosting his words. “Tell me who you are.”
“You know …” The woman lifted her cowl and when her forest-green eyes met Riley’s, he gasped.