Chapter 1 // Chapter 2 // Chapter 3 // Chapter 4 // Chapter 5
Chapter 6 // Chapter 7 // Chapter 8

Chapter 3: The past

Sebille opened her eyes. She hadn’t dreamed this night but she’d had the vague sensation that she was protected. The first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was Null, and what was astounding about it, was that he was asleep. She’d never woken up to him being truly asleep since he never slept without someone there to make sure that things were calm. To think that he’d sleep here… this was quite the mystery-mansion. She smiled a little to herself and reached to touch Null’s cheek but just as her fingertips made contact, there was a soft knock to the door and it opened. Sebille pulled her hand swiftly back to herself and rose to her elbows. Sebastian entered the room holding a tray, and Sebille watched as he walked slowly to the small table with a chair on each side, setting it carefully down on it. “What’s that?” She asked quietly, trying not to wake Null. “Just some breakfast for you youngsters.” He replied, smiling cryptically. The scents from the tray were alluring but so was Null’s sleeping face, and Sebille was torn, not sure of what to go for. She glanced at Null and then sat up, “Does he always sleep here? I mean, really sleep.” She emphasized the word ‘really’. “Yes.” was the reply from the butler, who was now pouring tea into a cup. Sebille turned back to look at Null, a smile playing on her lips, “He must feel safe here, then”. Sebastian put the tea kettle down and turned to her as Sebille made her way out from under the thick blanket and towards the dark wooden table, “Is there anything else you’d like, miss?” “Oh, no. I’m fine, thank you.” She replied while sitting down on the cushioned chair and turning her attention to the breakfast tray. The butler gave her a mysterious look before bowing and leaving the room quietly.

The change in Sebastian was evident. Just last night he had been jumpy and even barged into the room when Sebille had let out a (not very ladylike) yelp that had been ‘caused by Null suddenly flooring her onto the bed. It had been as if the old man was sure Null was going to eat her up while his back was turned. Null hadn’t been very appreciative of his butler barging in like that but Sebille had been in a good mood and hadn’t minded much. She’d been all giggles last night actually, though rather tired. Although Null seemed rough he could be surprisingly gentle -which he was whenever he handled her. She wasn’t sure how it had looked to Sebastian but she had apparently managed to convince him of Null not wanting any harm to her. Maybe it was because she’d laughed, or how she’d pushed him off of her with her foot strategically on Null’s chest. She didn’t know, but the old man had relaxed somewhat.

Sebille hadn’t gotten waffles for breakfast in years; it wasn’t really a habit in Finland to eat them. She found it refreshing to get something new, and they were absolutely delicious. She did feel a little embarrassed to be gobbling down a delicious breakfast while not waking Null, but she really didn’t want him to wake up just yet. She was sort of hoping he’d have more papers to look at today so that she could go wander around the mansion. Sebille was just itching to go and explore. She had finished her waffles and almost drank all of her tea when she noticed movement in the corner of her eye. Null sat up slowly and looked toward the window for a while before sliding off the bed, grabbing a robe and walking to the breakfast table. He sat down opposite to her and she took notice of the way he hadn’t bothered to close the robe. She smiled. And then she realized that she’d actually never seen Null eat anything. “Would you mind if I went exploring?” She felt like a kid now that she said it aloud. He glanced at her, “No.” and turned to his waffles. Sebille rose swiftly to her feet, glided over the dark wood floors to her bag and sunk her hands in it. She chose a stripy pair of pants and a simple short sleeved top as her outfit for the day and practically threw her night clothes off. She was a little disappointed that Null only glanced at her twice. “Okay, I’m off. And if I’m not back in… I don’t know, several hours, I might’ve gotten lost.” She laughed and exited the room.

The whole house looked bigger and grander now that there was daylight in the halls. She turned left, since the hall continued that way and they had come from the right last night. The painted pictures covering the walls seemed old; most were nature paintings but there were portraits as well. In the following hour or so, she entered rooms, big and small. Many were just full of junk, boxes and antiques as well as more pictures stacked in the corners, but there were also rooms of different nature. She came across a music room with a grand piano covered with a dusty fabric, a small dance hall, the master bedroom which was, as she’d expected; huge, and some rooms that looked like they were intended for guests, although they hadn’t been made ready right now. She also came across a room that was locked, and curious as she was, she tried peeking though the keyhole and even visited the surrounding rooms to get an idea of how big it was. She supposed it was locked for a reason and moved on.
On the third floor, most rooms were just empty or, again; filled with boxes. The further down the hall she walked, the less there were windows, and there came a point where she noticed that the hallway was almost dark. As soon as she became aware of the darkness the whole place turned creepy. Even the smallest creaks made her jump and the portraits hung on the walls seemed to follow her with their eyes. She stopped and peered through the darkness and saw the hallway end to a door, it was one hell of a creepy looking door, too. It looked pretty much the same as every other door in the house but it was as if darkness emanated from behind it. Also, it was slightly open. Sebille looked at it and the longer she looked the more convinced she was that she didn’t want to get any closer. She actually thought she saw the door move, which made the hairs at the back of her neck rise. She jumped around and scurried back down the hall and to the light. Once she was all the way back at the stairs, she took one glance back at the dark end of the hall and shivered.

After her adventure in the ‘ghost hall’, she made her way to the ground floor. She visited the kitchen, which looked like it should be full of busy cooks and fresh aromas of different meals, instead; it was empty. Very clean and very empty. The dining hall was just as empty as the kitchen but Sebille stopped to admire the painted ceiling and the view of the garden from the large windows. The garden looked so different during the day, like a snowy maze-like paradise. Sebille also came across a room with lots and lots of weapons in glass cabinets. Some were very modern and others looked like they were from the 16th century. She stayed and admired them for quite a while; she’d always been fascinated by edged weapons and she wanted to someday learn to handle a sword. On her way back to Null from the last room she had visited, her thoughts returned to that locked room on the second floor, as well as the creepy one on the third –which she was not going to get close to again. Many of the rooms she’d visited were full of expensive antiques and other valuables, so why was only that one room locked?

She returned to the bedroom Null was in. He was now dressed and speaking with the butler, and holding a bunch of papers again. She went to the bathroom first and when she returned, she knew she had to ask about the mystery-room. Sebille walked closer to them a little carefully and stopped when Null turned to look at her calmly. “There’s a locked room in this floor… What’s in it?” she managed. Sebastian’s expression changed but she didn’t know how to interpret it. Null’s silver eyes were fixed on her for a good minute, until they moved towards the other end of the room and he pointed at a cabinet; “The key is on the top drawer.” Sebille smiled and almost ran to it. She opened the drawer, grabbed the large, very detailed iron key and left the room. She was bursting with curiosity.
Sebastian turned to Null, his eyes wide; “Are you sure about that, sir?” Null shrugged and spoke “She does what she pleases.” “Yes, master, you mentioned that, but that room is…” “It’s fine.” And Null turned back to the papers.

Sebille reached the door and stopped right in front of it. She looked at it for a minute, not at all sure what to expect to see behind it. She put the key carefully in the keyhole and turned it. There was a loud click as the door unlocked, she grabbed the massive handle and pressed it down while pushing the door open. She stood still as the door opened and revealed the contents of the room. It wasn’t anything like she’d anticipated at all. She stepped in on the dusty floor and pushed the door all the way open, it creaked as if it was against being opened. She walked to the middle of the room and examined everything very carefully; there were cabinets, dressers a table with a large mirror covered in dust, and a few old-looking chests. The room smelled like it hadn’t been properly ventilated in years and looked just about as dusty, the two large windows made the entire room bright.
Sebille walked to the mirrored dressing table and opened one of the small drawers curious to see what it held inside. There was a pearl necklace inside placed on a small satin cushion. She’d thought the décor seemed rather feminine but she hadn’t really been expecting jewellery. She turned around quickly, headed for the large dresser in one of the corners and opened it: it was filled with garment bags in hangers. She opened a few as a test and yes, they were female clothes; rather old by the looks of them but in very good condition and actually rather pretty. Whoever they belonged to, they had taste. She closed the bags carefully and turned to look around the room again. She looked into the chests and drawers, and everything in the room belonged to a female. She found a small picture frame from one of the drawers; it was a picture of a young woman, younger than Sebille, with long dark brown hair and green eyes. She looked elegant and had a warm smile. Then, Sebille realized that there were small curtains on the wall; too small to cover a window. She walked to them and pulled on the decorated robe to reveal a large oil painting. It was the same woman as in the photograph but she looked slightly older, and she had a small child with silver eyes sitting on her lap. Sebille looked at the photo, there was something very familiar about the both of them but she just couldn’t put her finger on it. “My mother.” said a low voice from behind her. Sebille gasped and her heart almost jumped up to her throat, she spun around “Don’t creep up on me like that! I almost had a heart attack!

There was a silence, and Sebille’s eyes widened in realization; so that’s why they looked familiar. Now that she examined the picture closer, there were similarities in their features. She turned back to look at the tall man; “Everything in here is hers?” He looked back at her, “Yes.” So, that’s why it was locked… the room was important to him. It hadn’t even been cleaned because it had been kept locked. She pulled on the rope again to close the curtains, she wasn’t really sure how Null had reacted to seeing the painting but she felt it better to keep it out of sight. She turned back to face Null but he wasn’t at the doorway anymore, Sebille turned around and saw him standing on front of the dressing table holding something. She walked towards him quietly but as she approached he hurriedly put whatever he was holding back into one of the drawers. Sebille felt like she shouldn’t have noticed him holding anything at all. “What’s in the room down the hall in the third floor?” Null turned around looking slightly surprised “The door isn’t open?” “Oh, it’s open alright but it was all creepy in there so I didn’t go near it.” Just remembering the hallway gave her goose bumps. Null looked at her, blank for a moment and then laughed. Yes, he actually laughed. “You’ll have to go and see.” He said and left the room. Sebille hurried after him but stopped abruptly and returned to carefully lock the door again.

She ran after him and entered the bedroom in which they resided. He had reached the window and was looking outside. He was acting a little strangely and the cheeriness of hearing him laugh was quickly fading; “Should I not have gone to that room?” He leaned on the window sill, not answering. “Though, I suppose you wouldn’t have given me the key if I wasn’t allowed to go there…” She was mainly speaking to herself while making her way to the cabinet she took the key from. She opened the drawer slowly and carefully placed the key back to where it was. Something was obviously up and it probably didn’t have anything to do with the locked room. She went to sit on the bed and waited for him to say something. A long silence followed. Finally, after what had seemed like an eternity, he turned to face her; “I have something I need to do.” “Something?” He, again, didn’t answer and she realized what he meant. Really, she was a little slow today –could just be that she was tired from all that adventuring. “Oh right… work…” She felt a little disappointed, he’d wanted to take her here after all, and now he’d need to leave to do something. Sebille felt defeated, “When will you be back?” “Tomorrow morning at the latest.” He walked towards her and she sighed. “I’ll be fine… just go.” She didn’t really feel like looking at him and luckily he got the hint. He didn’t try to approach her. She just heard the door open and close and he was gone.

She was alone now and her thoughts kept returning to that creepy hallway.