Feet whirling over the polished floor, Maxwell and his companion fled as fast as they could go, five of the grey-skinned warriors at their heels. His companion almost stumbled, her heels not altogether suitable for a frenetic chase pursued by fiends hell-bent on destruction, but Maxwell held her upright and forced her onwards. They flew headlong through the nearest open door, and Maxwell slammed it shut and forcing his weight against it. There were thumps from the other side, muffled by the heavy oak, as the warriors slammed their fists against the door, making it vibrate with the force of their blows. Maxwell’s shoes began to slide across the floor.
“Help me!” he shouted to his companion, who had fallen to the floor as if waiting to be picked up. Her hair had fallen over her face, so all he could say for sure was that it was one of the Tunnicliffes. She did not stir, just lay still, one hand thrown dramatically across the floor.
“Help me, damn you!” he said, panting with the effort of keeping the door shut fast against the monsters trying to get in. He was only a slight man, and the slippery soles of his smart new black shoes could find little purchase on the stone floor. The girl seemed to realise that her sudden faint was not going to pay any dividends, and added her weight to the door, pushing it backwards just enough for Maxwell to fasten the heavy iron bolts and anchor it shut. The thumping continued, and the door kept vibrating; but they were safe, at least for now. They both slumped, panting, to the floor. Maxwell took his handkerchief from his front pocket and mopped the perspiration from his forehead. For the first time, he was able to take stock of his surroundings, and he sighed with appreciation and not a little released tension as he realised where they were.
Like many of the larger mansions in the grand old British countryside, Tunnicliffe Manor had been built around the partially ruined structure of a long-deserted castle. Not only did this explain the abundance of corpses under its grounds, but also the presence of the chapel, a throwback to medieval days when the Church had to be treated with respect rather than slight pity and mild disdain. Thick stone walls and a rough granite floor spoke of the age of the room; a thick layer of dust showed how much it had been used recently. Two stained glass windows on the left hand side of the chapel threw coloured light over the row of pews along each wall, positioned so that each worshipper would be looking straight at the person opposite to check if they were praying or snoring. A stone font stood in one corner of the room; in the other was an old and rotten wooden lectern, surrounded by empty wine bottles which testified to the jocular alcoholism of the last paid chaplain who called this his parish, over a hundred years before Louisa Tunnicliffe had inherited the house. To Maxwell, it felt just like home. If it hadn’t been for the army of fiends intent on his murder banging on the door, he would have been quite content; he felt as if he had been meant to come here, called by his faith to a place of safety.
Slightly out of breath, but ever mindful of his manners, he turned to his companion to express his feeling of divine providence, and his heart sank as he recognised with whom he was stuck, with whom he was to share his last few precious moments on this earth.
It was Lydia.