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Rated: E · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2313140
Sarah was fascinated with castles and their lore. She will discover if the lore is true.
The Lore of Culpepper Castle

by Pernell Rogers

What was it about castles? Sarah didn't understand it. She'd grown up in Youngstown, Ohio, where no castles existed. Castles had never crossed her mind until she took a trip with her parents to drop her oldest brother off at the University of Mount Union. As they neared the Alliance, Ohio, college, sixteen-year-old Sarah gazed out her window and spotted an actual castle in the distance.

In front of the stone edifice sat a sizable lake, its waters still. Nothing blocked the view of the structure from the road, and it stood out. A real stone castle. She locked her eyes on it and was overcome. Her desire to become an archeologist and historian started at that moment, and she pursued her passion while in college.

She forwent marriage until after she visited the European castles she'd always wanted to see. Castles in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom were her favorites, and all her vacations involved trips to visit and study the ancient European monuments.


Two days ago, Sarah's international flight landed at London's Gatwick Airport. She was excited to visit the many castles built within the county limits of Kent and East Sussex in southeastern England. It took her a while to become comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road, but the more she did it, the easier it became. The same thing happened during her previous visits to view castles in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

Although castles remained her primary interest, it was the lore that grew from the people within the villages that truly pulled her in. Not the typical stories of knights and damsels, kings and queens, and warfare. She preferred the lore developed among the common folk, the serfs and peasants, and other low-level workers and villagers who helped maintain the kingdom. Many times, their lore contained what they believed to be supernatural elements that couldn't be explained at that time.

The specific lore surrounding the Culpepper Castle, which sat on a spur overlooking the land in East Sussex County, held her attention today. They completed the construction of Culpepper Castle around 1507 A.D., and Henry VIII declared it as a first line of defense from intruders crossing the English Channel in 1550 A.D. After the declaration, the king gave control of the castle to one of many Governors within his court. The Governor, and his family lived in the castle for three years before something odd occurred. Rumors began to circulate among the villagers that the Governor's son had been banished to a small structure at the bottom of the spur, out of sight from anyone approaching the main castle. Another story hinted only the son's head remained inside the cloaked structure. In either case, people shied away from entering the structure because they believed the imprisoned son was possessed by evil.

She'd heard many odd tales involving ghosts, evil spirits, and other supernatural phenomena that roamed for centuries through these stone monoliths, but figured those depictions only gave substance to the lore, casting a shadow of doom for those who heard and believed the tales. This castle's tale resembled many others, but she'd read that professional historians had already opened and examined the small structure. Visitors had the opportunity to go inside the small structure, but they rarely did so because it couldn't be seen when approaching the larger, more extravagant castle at the top of the hill. She went off script and visit the small structure.


Thin clouds overtook the morning sun, but Sarah could still feel the vestiges of the sun's heat bathing her arms and face as she exited her vehicle. From her vantage point, a luscious deep green carpet of grass lay spread out for acres, in all directions except one. Only dark green trees and other high shrubbery separated the vast plots of the land.

A sweetness hung in the air.

She gazed at the steep hill that sat behind the small structure, and let her eyes rise toward the main castle. Occupying the entire hill was a manicured vineyard with its evenly spaced horizontal rows. She wondered what brand of wine was produced by those grapes.

Her attention turned toward the small stone structure that was supposed to house the Governor's possessed son. It looked more like a ruin, but its stone roof was still intact. The wooden entrance door remained closed, and she was certain that it was locked. She hiked her shoulders to reset her backpack, then took a chance and twisted the door's handle. The door opened, and she pushed it wider to allow more light inside. Dust particles zipped through the muted sunlight like minute meteors. Then an ancient musky smell met her nose, and she cleared her nostrils before entering.

The entrance foyer was small, maybe five feet wide and four feet long. The low ceiling caused her to duck, although she could have straightened up without hitting her head. She passed through another doorway and entered what looked like a small, dimly lit chapel, its ceiling being higher. Sarah pulled out her phone and switched on the flashlight. It was evident that no one had visited this place for a very, very long time. Off-white stone benches sat on both sides of the central aisle, and an off-white stone podium sat up front facing a non-existent audience. Behind the podium stood an old, dark wooden door with a lock. Faded frescos of angles with spread wings occupied the walls, their colors nearly gone.

She spun around to take in the entire chamber, then noticed a hearth in the chapel's rear near the foyer. She concluded that the hearth was probably needed to prevent the chapel from getting too cold for its past worshippers, and they would keep it comfortable by starting a fire. As she got closer, she realized that there were still ashes sitting at the bottom. Ever the curious one, she kneeled, pulled a pen from her pants pocket, and began rooting around in the ashes. People had discovered various historical items buried within the hearths of other ancient structures, and she hoped she'd have the same luck here.

She stuck the pen straight down to get an idea of how thick the ashes were. The pen became half buried. Starting closest to her, she dragged her pen from side to side through the ashes, hoping she'd feel a vibration if the pen struck something. On her third side-to-side motion, her pen hit something, and she used it to move the ashes around. It was an ash-covered stone. She began the motion again. Her pen struck another object, which she guessed was another stone. She sifted the ashes out of the way, then stopped.

It was a key, but to what?

Sarah pulled the key out and examined it before blowing the residual ashes away. This wasn't a modern key. It looked more like a skeleton key, but larger. She may have discovered something after all, or it could be just a prop put there on purpose. She slipped on her glasses to see if the item held any inscriptions but didn't didn't find anything of significance. Who would imagine finding a key within a hearth? Unsure of what to do, she held on to it for the moment and slipped it into her pocket.

She returned to her feet then roamed around the chapel once more. The door behind the podium intrigued her. She was sure this door wouldn't be open and felt the key may open it. She tried the door without using the key.

The door opened, and she paused.

More dusty silt rose into the air causing Sarah to cough as she covered her mouth. There was a definitive stink coming from below. She cleared her nostrils again and aimed her flashlight inside. A very narrow stone stairway led downward. She thought this is how horror movies began and didn't take a step forward until she stuffed a sweater from her backpack into the door so it wouldn't close all the way.

The stone stairway made a slow turn toward the right, throwing her balance off a bit. She gave out a loud grunt and listened. There was no echo. Her grunt stayed in front of her. The stench became stronger as she reached the bottom of the stairway.

She'd entered another stone chamber.

Her flashlight's beam slid across the thick walls and ceiling until it illuminated another massive stone podium. Atop the podium sat a wooden box with intricate carvings. She moved closer and then circled the podium, blowing the dust away from the box. She was sure the box was another prop for anyone wishing to explore the unpopular structure. Upon closer inspection, the box's exterior carvings were all of angels with spread wings.

Could the angels protect the castle from the Governor's possessed son?

The box was big enough to contain a human head, but it had to be a prop. Everything inside the small chamber exuded a thick, gloomy feeling where her skin wanted to crawl but couldn't quite get there. That effect pleased her. She set her phone down on its stand and tried to open the box. It wouldn't open. A prop, just like she suspected. Sarah made another circuit around the podium and found a place to insert a key.

She thought for a while.

The odds of the key she'd found fitting the lock were astronomical. Nevertheless, she pulled it from her pocket and stuck it in. The key went in further than she expected. She tried turning it in both directions, but nothing happened. However, the key seemed like it fit. She pulled it out again and wiped it down before sticking it back in and turning.

She heard something grinding inside the lock when she tried turning the key to the right. There was more grinding as she kept turning until she heard a pop. Uncertainty entered. If this was a prop, it was an excellent setup, but if this was authentic, maybe she should stop and let England's professional historians examine everything. But she still believed historians had already examined the structure. They would have found the box already. Everything down there had to be props. She'd let the castle's lore get to her this time. She pulled out the key, made sure her flashlight illuminated the box, and then lifted the lid.

An audible gasp came from inside the box, and she stepped back. A vague mist rose from inside the box and caused her phone's flashlight to dim while something unseen buffeted her body. Her hair, clothing, and the fine hairs on her arms vibrated as if something passed right through her. She moved forward to gaze inside the box. A partially collapsed skull sat inside with sunken black eyes.

The door at the top of the stone staircase creaked.

Sarah snatched her phone and scurried up the staircase at breakneck speed. She lost her footing and slammed her knee into the edge of one of the solid stairs. She seized her knee and continued up. The door remained open, and as she reached for it, she spotted a black mist hovering in the structure's foyer. It swirled and shimmered, becoming both transparent and visible at different times.

This was out of Sarah's experience. She stood perfectly still while slowing her breathing so much that she could barely feel the air enter and exit her nostrils. The mist made no noise as it hovered.

Then the mist seeped outside and away from the structure. Sarah paused before setting foot back inside the chapel, in case the mist came back. Seconds later, she was comfortable enough to exit the small structure.

Gazing out at the English countryside, the world remained normal. She gazed up at Culpepper Castle, where most visitors stopped. That's when she saw something invisible crashing through the bushes. Then the unseen entity started uphill racing through the vineyard, leaving a path of destruction until it reached the castle's outer walls. It was so odd to watch the shadow-like mist scale the wall. Then she thought she'd heard a scream in the distance. Then there was more screaming, but the sounds came from no specific direction. Now, screams had merged with many voices pleading, and her eyes stayed glued on the castle.

Sarah watched as a screaming man was flung high over the castle's outer wall, followed by another screaming woman. Each body bounced and tumbled downhill through the vineyard, knocking over every stake they hit. That's when she realized that part of the castle's lore, she'd previously dismissed. was true. That snippet of the tale mentioned people being flung over the walls from the castle grounds by the possessed son.

Sarah had accidentally unleashed an evil that had been at bay since the beginning of the Renaissance!


1/15/24 - 2/14/24
Word Count: 2160

© Copyright 2024 Pernell Rogers (arogers270 at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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