When a young woman inherits an isolated manor house after the tragic death of her parents, she uncovers a dark family secret that has trapped her beloved grandmother in silence. She sets out to find the truth, unleashing evil forces beyond her worst nightmares.
The mist enshrouded the family manor as Daisy’s car crunched up the driveway, mirroring her heavy heart. The aged estate, encased in an overgrown garden, loomed with a sense of melancholy.
As Daisy entered, the familiar scent of old wood filled her senses. It wasn’t comforting.
“Miss Daisy, welcome back,” the housekeeper, Mrs. Collins, greeted her.
“Thank you, Mrs. Collins. Is Grandma in?” Daisy asked.
Mrs. Collins nodded, but her voice got low, solemn. “She’s been very frail since the stroke. She’s in her new downstairs bedroom, still not speaking.”
Daisy found her grandmother, Edith, in the sitting room.
“How have you been, Grandma?” she asked, receiving only a tender smile in response. That’s right. Grandma has never spoken to anyone.
Daisy’s thoughts turned to the recent tragedy that had brought her back to this place. The untimely death of her parents in a private airplane crash had left her orphaned and burdened with the family estate.
“I never expected to inherit the manor like this,” she admitted.
At that, Edith reached out, gently squeezing Daisy’s hand, who smiled at the loving gesture she desperately needed. To her astonishment, Edith’s lips started trembling, and a whispered “Aegis” emerged.
“What did you say?” Daisy asked, tightening her hands.
But Edith’s eyes got heavy, and the old woman’s head slumped forward on her seat.
Daisy sighed heavily and straightened. She walked to the kitchen and informed Mrs. Collins about Edith, who needed to be taken to her bed. She stayed behind, admiring the kitchen for a second.
She found some cookies, and while snacking on them, she noticed a dark figure in the garden, vanishing as mysteriously as it appeared, making Daisy question if it had been a trick of the light.
After an almost sleepless nightmare-filled night, Daisy rose early and wandered the mansion’s halls aimlessly after checking on Edith — who slept on soundly.
Then, she wandered the manor, unexpectedly venturing into the attic. Her fingers brushed over forgotten trinkets and moth-eaten garments until they settled on a dusty sheet covering an old painting on an easel.
With careful hands, she unveiled it, and what she saw chilled her to the core. Rendered in amateur but confident brush strokes, the surreal image that emerged was a young, faceless girl holding hands with a very tall, darkly shrouded man, also faceless.
They appeared to be standing in a flower garden of sorts — roses perhaps, depicted in dabs of faded pink. Shivers ran up and down Daisy’s spine as she studied the ghostly portrait, trying to make meaning of it.
She looked for a name in the bottom corners, as one often expects in a painting, but there was nothing.
A movement caught her eye in the gloom. Then she heard the sudden creak-creak of the stairs as if under weight, and the shadow retreated rapidly.
Feeling even colder then, Daisy hurried away with the painting in hand. Her grandmother was unexpectedly seated in the living room, so she took a chance to show her the painting.
The moment Daisy lifted the sheet, Edith moaned in horror, throwing her hands up and closing her eyes firmly. Her body trembled violently, almost shaking the chair.
“I’m so sorry, Gran!” Daisy apologized, removing the painting from the room and leaving it in the hallway, covered in its sheet.
Once back, she comforted the old woman, patting her head and shoulders. “What happened? What are you trying to tell me?”
Again, Edith whispered the cryptic word “Aegis,” making Daisy frown, but the old woman wouldn’t stop trembling. “Okay. Okay. Just be calm.”
Daisy felt her grandmother’s body slump and lifted her face to see Edith’s closed eyes and hear her soft snores. With a sigh, she left the old woman and went out into the hallway, hoping to find Mrs. Collins.
But her face swiveled. The painting was gone.
When the sun rose, Daisy asked Mrs. Collins about the painting’s whereabouts, but the housekeeper had neither seen nor moved it.
She inquired about the rest of the people in the house and learned that only she, her grandmother, Mrs. Collins, and Bertram, the groundsman, were on the property.
“He still works here?” Daisy echoed, suddenly recalling such a man from her childhood.
Mrs. Collins nodded. “He’s out there now if you’d like to speak with him.”
After breakfast, Daisy ventured to the garden, encountering the man in question. His icy gaze and silent demeanor unnerved her as she inquired about the painting and her grandmother’s past, hoping he had answers to the word Edith kept whispering.
“Aegis,” Bertram finally muttered through tightened lips. His eyes grew wide…almost fearful.
She probed further. But the groundskeeper only had a warning for her.
“The past is dangerous, Miss Daisy,” Bertram advised. “Some forces are not to be trifled with.” Then, he continued working, seemingly ignoring her.
Daisy walked away, pursing her lips. His words hadn’t dissuaded her from uncovering this enigma. So, she called the family lawyer, Mr. Thompson.
The following afternoon, Mr. Thompson met Daisy at the manor’s library. She questioned him about her family’s history, particularly her grandmother’s past and the mysterious word “Aegis.”
“Daisy, the family history is vast and intricate. What specific information are you searching for?” Mr. Thompson wondered as they began delving into old documents and journals.
She hesitated, her fingers tracing the embossed leather cover of an old journal. “I want to know about Edith’s past, about why she’s never spoken. I think there’s a connection between a painting and a word — Aegis. I can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to it, something hidden in the past.”
Mr. Thompson raised his eyebrows. “Well, now,” he said, “that name does ring a bell. It’s an ancient term, meaning a shield or protection, but for your family, it’s a codename handled by the lawyer who worked for Edith’s mother and father before me.”
“Code for what?”
“I don’t know. Your parents had me tie up some loose ends, but I wasn’t privy to the details. I signed some legal paperwork. Then, I was told to forget about it all. I was sworn to secrecy,” Mr. Thompson revealed, exhaling.
“Sworn to secrecy? Is that why my grandmother is so anxious? And why she can say only ‘Aegis’?” Daisy asked.
Thompson nodded. “It’s likely. Aegis is not just a word; it’s a key, a trigger tied to the protective enchantments that shield you and this manor.”
“Let’s try to find out more!” she begged, reaching for the books all over the library, flipping the pages maniacally to find answers. They found nothing.
As they took a break for a late-night meal provided by Mrs. Collins, Daisy’s resolve to continue the search remained strong, but she was tired. “Promise me we’ll continue this tomorrow,” she insisted.
Mr. Thompson agreed, but he continued the search alone as Daisy retired. Late into the night, Thompson heard a mysterious sound in the library.
“Who’s there?” he called into the silence but received no response, so he kept searching.
Hours later, the lawyer finally discovered a file labeled “Aegis,” revealing a shocking truth about Bertram and Edith’s past.
A shiver ran down Thompson’s spine as he opened the folder. In it, he found a police report and a signed statement by Edith. The words on the page sent shockwaves through his body.
“Bertram,” he muttered, scanning through the report’s details.
Edith, at the tender age of twelve, had accused Bertram of molesting her. The family, gripped by shame and a desire to avoid scandal, had withdrawn the charges, sealing the dark secret within the vault of history and the thick walls of the manor.
Mr. Thompson’s hands trembled as he absorbed the magnitude of the revelation. He had stumbled upon the buried truth that had haunted Edith for decades.
But before he could process the implications, he heard a sound behind him again, louder this time. He swiveled around, his eyes widening in alarm.
He was dead before his head hit the ground. Bertram stood above the lawyer’s body, staring out from under the wide brim of his hat, spade held high, ready for another blow if the stricken form moved again. Blood slowly pooled on the pale green carpet.
“You shouldn’t have found that, Mr. Thompson,” Bertram said sadly. “Some secrets are better left buried.”
The next morning, Daisy woke to an eerie silence. Mr. Thompson wasn’t in the library or anywhere else. She got Mrs. Collins to help search, but they were unsuccessful.
They went to check on Edith in her room, and the elderly woman pointed towards the garden, her finger trembling as it pressed against the window. Again, she whispered, “Aegis,” and it was like a spell had broken.
The frail woman rose as the others watched in awe, reached toward a hidden drawer in her cabinet, and took out a strange object covered in a blanket. Then, Edith sat back on her chair, his eyes wide as if she were waiting for something.
“Mrs. C, call the police. We need help. I’m going to find Bertram,” Daisy urged, knowing something was wrong.
Daisy marched outside, not realizing that Mrs. Collins had just discovered the phone lines dead in the entire manor.
Her eyes fell on the ground beneath Bertram’s feet as she approached. She detected the disturbed patch of soil, a large mound, and read clenched at her insides.
“Bertram, have you seen Mr. Thompson?” she asked.
Bertram’s face betrayed nothing. He shook his head vaguely. “No, Ma’am. I have not seen him.”
Daisy nodded nervously, and — despite trying hard not to — she couldn’t help her eyes probing the long hump in the soil.
Bertram watched her carefully. “Now, Miss Daisy, don’t be jumping to any stupid conclusions about what you see here, you hear?” he said, taking a small step and then another towards Daisy, ever so surreptitiously taking one hand off the spade handle.
Her fight-or-flight instinct took over, and Daisy fled towards the manor, with Bertram in pursuit. Frantically searching for Mrs. Collins, she ran into the living room. The groundskeeper’s footsteps pounded behind her.
“Mrs. Collins! Grandma!” she yelled, her breaths coming out in desperate huffs. She turned to reach Edith’s room.
Daisy only had enough time to widen her eyes momentarily before Edith stated softly, “Daisy, duck.” She followed orders and felt her ears ringing as the gunshot went off.
A loud bump echoed behind her. When Daisy stood and looked back, she saw Bertram slumped, dead, on the hallway floor.
“You set me free,” Edith said as soon as Daisy turned to face her. “You set me free from the Aegis that my parents and this pedophile placed me under. You gave me back my voice.”
“So it was him? The man in the picture,” Daisy asked, still catching her breath.
“It was him, Daisy. I was abused, and it went on for months before I found the courage to tell my parents. They didn’t believe me, so I went to the police. But my parents found a way to bury the case. The betrayal drove me mute. And then, the stroke, I suppose. But it’s over now,” Edith explained.
Daisy ran into the old woman’s arms, desperate for maternal affection after such an adrenaline-spiking situation.
In the distance, the sound of sirens filled the air. They later realized that Mrs. Collins had taken off running to the nearest house ten miles away to find help.
I’m giving her a raise, Daisy thought.
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