The two elderly priests sat at their respective desks working diligently throughout the evening. Neither of them really wanted to be there so late, but due to the recent order from the Vatican they had to inventory every scroll, parchment, and other documents that were safely stored away in their vault. Theirs' was a small vault, only holding a few hundred items for the Church, but the small amount in no way diminished their importance to the Church library. Within their walls were some of the oldest church documents that were ever created.

The two men worked on, noting the status of every document and checking it against the master list supplied to them by the head office. Minutes turned into hours, and stiff joints turned into aching pains. The only sounds were that of paper shuffling, the occasional creaking of their wooden chairs, and the second hand of their clock working its way endlessly around and around.

And then there was a new sound.



A quiet sound.

A barely noticeable whisper that didn't end and whose words were not decipherable. It flowed in a constant drone and filled the room with it's soft echo. The men raised their eyes from their work and looked upon each other quizzically, both assuming the other was responsible for the intrusion. As they became aware that the sound was not emanating from either of them, they both observed a small dark shadow gliding across the floor toward them and their desks at a very slow pace. There was no form to the shadow, and there was nothing to create it against the lights of the room, just a black void that seemed to draw ever closer. As it approached, the incessant droning whisper became louder and more obtrusive, defining itself as not just one voice but many. They wove themselves into a fabric of chilling sound that enveloped not only every corner of the room, but also the very souls of the two men, and with it came the first pinpricks of fear.

Both priests had fleeting thoughts through the whispering in their heads that they should run and flee this growing evil. But those thoughts were forgotten as quickly as they came, for they were both awestruck and spellbound by the sight before them, each staring into the void in search for some recognizable entity. As the shadow reached their desks the spell was broken, releasing the minds of the priests as the tapestry of whispers ceased into a deafening silence thunderously broken by the second hand of the clock.

They shook their heads to clear their minds further and with a look towards each other they quickly rose from their chairs to run from the room. But as they reached their feet the whispers began again, but this time unified and purposeful. The screeching whisper ripped at their minds and hearts as the words sank deep, "There is no God."

At that moment the room was filled with shadow and a violent torrent of blood, and when the screams died mere seconds later, the only remaining sounds were the wet sticky drips from the ceiling and shelves and the tick. . . tick. . . tick. . . of the clock.

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The wind blew steadily, bringing the scent of the salted sea up to the weathered but well cared for castle that stood menacingly upon the Scottish cliffs. While its use as a stronghold was obviously over in these days of civic justice and corporate power, its use as a fortification was still very much appreciated. Its once jagged gray stone walls now worn smooth and darkened to almost black by time remain strong and solid, showing a glimpse back into a time long ago when honor was a trusted bond, and steel was the law. The moat was refilled, the windows paned with glass, and its drafts diminished by modern construction; its appearance had become far more welcoming than it's past. But appearances, is only that.

A black limousine slows then stops before the cast iron gates blocking the driveway to the towering fortress, causing a young man dressed in a dark well-tailored suit to step out of the adjacent guardhouse. Keeping his hands behind his back, the youngster leans down slightly to peer into the driver's window, and then into the back of the vehicle to gaze upon the passenger. Their eyes lock for but a moment when the youngster immediately steps back and motions for the gates to be opened, "Drive through. It's nice to see you again Mr. de Frohme."

Noticing his passenger had removed eye contact from the guard and had no intention to respond, the driver answered. "It's good to see you too, Patrick" as he slowly drove through the opening massive protective gates.

For a split moment Patrick reached for the intercom to the castle, but withdrew his hand as the call would only disturb Stephen who was already overworked. "And besides," he thought as the gates closed shut again with a loud clang, "Nobody in that building needs me to tell them who's here." He shuddered slightly as he disappeared back into the guardhouse, suddenly thankful it was his turn for guard duty.



The driver stopped the limo now before the main stairs leading into the large castle, and with a slightly shaking hand reached forward and placed the vehicle into park. He had been here a few times, and honestly found the scenery beautiful and breathtaking, especially the strange garden on the east lawn. Yes, the Scottish air, the rich scenery and history of the area were quite enjoyable and pleasant for him. It was what was in the castle that marred all of that beauty and enjoyment.

He turned off the limo and was about to exit in order to open the door for his passenger when a voice wafted up to him from behind. "Gerald, it simply will not do to have you in such a state. How should it look to my Grandfather if he were to see what a spineless coward I have chosen as my servant? Pull yourself together man, before you dishonor yourself, and most importantly . . . me."

Gerald blanched and reached into his suit jacket, retrieving a white handkerchief and proceeded to dry his very damp forehead, face and hands as the voice behind him continued. "Really. I do wonder sometimes why I put up with your ineptitude and humiliations. The only reason I haven't terminated you already is that I dread having to train yet another imbecile. But mark my words carefully Gerald, a few more of your mistakes or embarrassments and replacing you won't seem like such a detriment to my lifestyle."



Gerald's mouth was as dry as the Sahara, but the threats made him swallow in fear, causing his throat to stick painfully together. There was no mistaking what "termination" meant.

After a split second of contemplation, all that Gerald dared to allow himself, he quickly exited the limo and moved to the rear door. He looked around out of habit for potential threats, then opened the door to allow Mr. de Frohme to exit. But Mr. de Frohme was an old fashioned refined man and waited until Gerald reached a hand toward him, which he grasped and unnecessarily used as he exited the vehicle. Arawyn's brown eyes also looked about nervously which he adeptly hid as he stepped out onto the castle grounds, releasing Gerald's hand.

Arawyn was the epitome of the de Frohme family; dressed in a black Armani suit, highly polished black ankle boots, and brown hair trimmed short in today's typical business standard. He had his own forebodings at being in the presence of his Grandfather, but his skill in handling high pressure corporate situations helped him prepare for this. Except for his Mother, one didn't visit Grandfather . . . one was summoned. And while being summoned was usually a pleasant affair, such as a Ball, or other social gathering where members of the de Frohme family asserted ever growing power and control over the other families, and sometimes even their own . . . this summoning boded ill, and Arawyn knew it.

He knew why he'd been summoned, and he was apprehensive, even somewhat frightened. But Arawyn wanted this meeting, and he lightly patted the left breast of his jacket for reassurance. The time had come for a change. He hid those emotions well though as any de Frohme would, but they were manifesting strongly in Gerald, a greater liability he didn't need.

Arawyn turned and started walking up the stairs to enter the castle, "Remain in the car Gerald. I won't be but a moment and I will wish to depart as soon as my business with Grandfather is finished."

Gerald was never one to second guess his Master and was extremely happy he didn't have to enter the castle. He gladly closed the rear door and returned to the driver seat, his eyes watching the castle grounds as he attempted to lighten his mood by listening to the local jazz station.

Just as Arawyn reached the massive steel reinforced oak door, it slowly opened, revealing a black-haired man in his thirties, very physically fit, and dressed in the black and white attire of a butler. Arawyn knew from experience and history that this was no ordinary butler. "Greetings once again, Stephen. What has it been, two years now?"

"Aye, Master Arawyn, two years indeed." Stephen said as he gave his usual small curt bow with a slight curl at his lip, which Arawyn always took as an arrogant inciteful smirk.

Stephen waited for Arawyn to step within the hall, then shut the large door gently, which still caused a dark echo to ring down the corridors of the castle. "The Master will see you in the sitting room, young Master, if you would be so kind as to wait." Without waiting for a response from Arawyn, Stephen turned and started walking down a corridor, his soft footsteps clicking lightly against the expanse of the castle walls.



Arawyn scowled slightly, but then turned and entered the sitting room almost deciding to sit in one of his Grandfather's treasured renaissance chairs, but figuring better of it given the current circumstances. He lowered himself into a comfortable sofa and began to gaze about the exuberantly decorated room. Typically for a de Frohme, no expense was spared. A large ornate fireplace was built into the far wall, where even now the spitting and cracking of wood being slowly consumed by flames could be heard. There were paintings and tapestries that dated back to the renaissance and beyond. Vases and potteries that dated back, Arawyn believed, to times when man was nothing but savage barbarians. Suits of armor from several ages stood in all four corners and beside many of the stone pillars that held the ceiling. All these antiques and works of art were lavishly displayed and lighted to tease and intimidate the visitor who was invariably always kept waiting for Grandfather.

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Stephen walked silently into the dark, dank dungeons in which his Master frequented. Here in the bowels of the castle, everything was kept as it had been in the Medieval ages. In the corridors leading to the Master's crypt, the walls were covered in a greenish black moss and slime, while the floor was covered by two inches of stale water. Amidst the pitch blackness was the putrid smell of death and decay. Any servant other than Stephen would have had to feel their way along the disgusting walls, tripping on the water-covered floor just to reach the crypt. The Master preferred it this way, and Stephen knew why, though he thought of those reasons as little as possible. There were those that would have suggested his Master was actually hiding, but Stephen knew better. Few remained that needed to be hid from, and his Master was never one to hide. No, this dungeon had become a sanctuary not for the necessity of disappearance, but of uninterrupted study, thought, and sleep.



Stephen lowered his head and eyes respectfully as he entered the ancient room where his Master sat. He didn't need to look around anyway, as he was quite aware of the surroundings. Open crypts had been carved out of the walls, lining the three door-less walls with five columns of long ago decayed skeletal remains stacked three high. These had all been Scottish knights and nobles, felled in the glory of battle and laid to rest in this sacred crypt, an act of honor and eternal salvation to repay them for their courage and bravery to free Scotland from England. Stephen had often wondered what their ancient souls thought of their earthly salvation now, forced to be in the presence of this creature to which the word salvation meant nothing. In the very center of the room is a stone crypt that had been constructed within the last 100 years. It was made as a small house with room for up to five corpses. The crypt is decorated with gargoyles and demons whose twisted faces of pain and horror made it absolutely clear to the observer that to even be standing in the presence of the crypt, was to invite annihilation. At the moment this crypt was empty, but Stephen knew that within hours it would house at least one body. The Master always chose to rest within his stone crypt. But those who lusted for his power, or merely just to be near it while they rested, would often leave the comfort of their satin-covered beds in the castle's upper floors to win favor with the Master.

Continuing into the room, Stephen lowered to his knees before a throne made of human bone and thinly stretched flesh in which his Master sat. He would have knelt willingly, but it was the sheer power and demand for respect emanating from his Master that made the matter mute. He would always kneel. Always submit.

The lithe blonde haired figure sat silently in his throne, his pale translucent skin stretched tightly over the features of his skull, revealing black spidery veins across his face as his sunken green eyes fell heavily upon Steven. His thin talon-like fingers joined at the tips as he rested his elbows on the arm bones of the throne. Stephen felt the weight of his Master's stare but remained silent, knowing best than to interrupt the Master's thoughts for anything but a dire emergency. He also knew he really didn't need to tell this message to the Master, but tradition and protocol required so . . . and Arialis de Frohme ruthlessly demanded it.