Balen stood at the edge of the roof several feet above street level. The tips of his shinny leather boots poked out into the night sky. His dark leather cloak flapped like a bat’s wing behind him, and his skin still glistened from the sweat trickling down his blood stained face. His dark eyes focused on the street below with intensity. He could make out a four-horse drawn carriage pulling up outside the hotel and a couple stepped out in style. The size of the woman’s hat spoke immensely of their wealth.
Catherine Bigums. Until last year, she was a pauper forced to put her three children up for sale for she could no longer afford to feed them. A year later, she was married to one of the richest man in Motown. Her children were still in the orphanage where she’d placed them, and the missing case of her ex-husband was no longer missing. Mr Joel Bigum had been discovered dead a fortnight ago in a small town thousand miles away by a sheep dog out on a farm. The only identity on him had been a fading photograph of three children with their names written on the back.
Balen jumped off the edge and headed down to the theatre level through the stairwell. He needed to observe Catherine close up. See what story her face revealed. Catherine wasn’t Bigum’s style. Her angular face and skeletal figure hardly inspired any curiosity in him. A body of a woman half wasted, not one for a mother of three. Why ex-Mrs Bigums hadn’t claimed her three children begged an answer and Balan knew he had a task ahead.
He followed the woman and her new husband, Mr Watkins down the street. He followed them through the town centre, pausing in the shadows as the woman made several stops oohing and aahing at trinkets by the shop windows, shimmying through shops as if she were made of money. And whatever she fancied her husband obliged by making a purchase, only to have her gush as his kindness. It all made Balan feel sick.
It was close to midnight that the couple reached home and Balan stood in the shadows of tree across the road eyeing the house for several hours. ‘Do you see it?’ The soft whisper broke the silent night and Balan to his surprise found himself under the shadows of a tree sprite.
‘Tell me you see it too!’ The tiny green smoke of a figure whooshed out in front of him and floated there in the air. A sliver of smoke still anchoring it to the ancient tree. ‘I’ve noticed this house for a while now. Curious little thing. Too bad I can’t simply make my way over there to examine it.’
Balan considered the sprite. ‘How long has that been there?’
The sprite shrugged his shoulders. ‘Oh you know, I’m not entirely sure. Maybe a year, maybe more. These things are hard to say.’
Balan clasped his fist around the sprite’s neck, watching it whither and struggle. ‘How long has it been?’
‘A year. A year!’ He struggled and Balan let it go. ‘Ever since that thing has moved in.’
Balan ducked into the shadows of the tree and put his camouflage up as a car pattered past them and turned into a driveway few doors down.
‘Do you know what it is?’ Balan peeled himself away from the tree and his barks fell away from his torso.
The sprite nodded. ‘I haven’t seen one in a long while. They used to call them the Black Widows back then. Nasty little things they used to be before they were restricted to the forest dwellings.’
‘What’s it doing this far out of its territory?’
‘Whatever it is, it bodes ill for that human.’ The sprite slunk back into the tree. ‘Last time one of these came out was almost 300 years ago. The most demonic thing I’ve seen all my life and that’s saying something. Almost killed them all off, those stupid humans.’
Balan stood by the edge of the footpath and studied the strange green gossamer tendrils whistling about the property, snaking out of windows and doors, and floating up from the chimney. ‘And how did they stop it?’
‘I have no idea. Seeing how I’m rooted to one spot, I can only tell you what I heard, and this far out, I wasn’t hearing much back then.’
Balan crossed the street and looked up at the facade of the double story house. The lights had been off for a while now and he assumed they’d gone to bed. He took a few more steps towards the house only to have one of the tendrils flick him away viciously. He flew across the road and crashed into the bush at the front of the house there. The wind knocked out of him. It took him a while to catch his breath and get back up on his feet.
He glared at the house sickly aware that those tendrils of gossamers were nothing akin to spiders, but a rather strong ward against the other side. His side. The Keepers of Light. As he came to once again stand under the sprite’s tree he couldn’t help but notice a figure by the top window, it’s slightly glowing eyes set on him with a mischievous grin on its black face.
‘Whatever magic that is, it’s not from our…’
‘Realm.’ Balan finished in awe.
(Inspired by the accompanying photo prompt.)