AUTHOR'S NOTE

Hello there! Alice the author here. Please leave a comment or follow me if you enjoy this story. It would make so happy. I'm also on Instagram and Wattpad under the same username, uxecila, so feel free to look me up. I'll be posting more writing and updates there! :)


CHAPTER 1

Pale silvery moonlight trickled through the window of a small Victorian cottage. Inside the humble abode stood a shadowy parlor. It was decorated with two armchairs, one child-sized rocking chair, and an old mahogany upright with a bench. The walls were lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves. Dusty books and strange artifacts filled every row. A striking crimson door was tucked in the corner, though, it led to nowhere. Only a tiny broom closet lurked on the other side.

A petite girl sat before the vintage piano in a new white nightgown. Her name was Cora Butters. Cora had been taking music lessons since the age of six. Her slender fingers moved across the ebony and ivory keys in hypnotic motions. The melancholic chords of "Moonlight Sonata" echoed through her aunts' centuries-old home. Luna, the White Persian, and Noctis, the black Bombay, slept on the tattered rug beside her feet.

Today was the fifth anniversary of her parents' disappearance. Cora considered herself an orphan of sorts since the bodies of Theodore and Lianna Butters had never been recovered. The mysterious scandal had rocked all of London's high society for months, but it was difficult to say whether the infamous socialites were dead or alive even now. Cora didn't like to think about her mother and father. Contrary to what most of their acquaintances believed, however, her aversion stemmed not from grief but from guilt. She didn't miss either of them much at all.

Today also happened to be Cora's thirteenth birthday. Aunt Amelia gifted her the plain cotton nightgown she was wearing, and Aunt Mathilde gave her the book of Beethoven's piano sonatas. She finished playing the last of the haunting notes right as the clock struck midnight.

As Cora removed her hands from the keyboard, silence filled the air. The sudden void was deafening, so much so that it roused Luna and Noctis from their slumber. Yawning petulantly, they rose and stretched. Then, for some unknown reason, they started arching their backs and hissing at the red door.

Cora scowled. "Hush, Luna! Hush, Noctis! What in the world has gotten into you two?"

It was as though she hadn't spoken. Luna and Noctis continued to spit and spew like feral cats. A moment later, however, Cora's eyes locked onto the red door as well. The brass doorknob had begun to rattle.

"Ora intres, ora intres…"

The faint whispers swirled through the room like a ghostly wind.

Cora gasped as she searched the darkened hallway for signs of her aunts. Aunt Mathilde and Aunt Amelia were supposed to be upstairs. At eighty and eighty-two, her aging aunts were unlikely to be awake at this hour. Not to mention, they were both creatures of habit. They liked to imbibe a large glass of their homemade red wine before going to sleep every night. The potent concoction never failed to knock them out cold until the next morning.

"Who goes there?" Cora demanded.

The room seemed to release a sigh, but she received no answer. Minutes ticked by. The two cats relaxed their stances slightly, though, their glowing feline eyes still stared intently in the direction of the broom closet. They mewed suspiciously.

Cora frowned. "Must have been my imagination. Come, Luna. Come, Noctis. We should probably go to bed."