The Villa of Hosts

People knew the place as The Villa of Hosts. No one in town could tell you why it had gotten that name or when. They could only say it must have come along after Sir Reginald Marshall had passed away. This was because he would never have allowed his family home, Marshall Manor, to have gained such a title. He was too much of a proper gentleman and worried way too much about the opinions of other people.

Now, the manor belonged to Raven St. Clare. A young man of twenty-one who most of the town thought of as nothing more than a common thief. The place was time-worn and in desperate need of repairs that were going to cost a small fortune. Yet, standing at the head of the driveway, Raven could do nothing more than smile as he looked at the place. It would be his home from now on, and someday, a bed-and-breakfast that would bring people from all over the world. 

Raven shook his head, bringing himself out of his musings, and walked on up to the door. A test of the handle told him he was lucky, and the door remained locked. The lower level windows were all boarded over. He might be in luck and there had been minor damage done to place over the years other than passaging time itself. He removed a ring of keys from his pocket. Spinning them until he found the one marked front, he used it to unlock the door. With an effort, he pushed the door open, stepping inside a mite faster than he had intended. He tripped over the rug that had rolled up behind the door, seeming to have been what caused it to be difficult to open. He kicked the rolled mess out of the way and shut the door. No point in inviting trouble with an open door while he was exploring. Darkness surrounded him as he moved into the entryway. He clicked on the flashlight he had brought with him. Light brightened the room, but it didn’t show him much. The room was dusty; the air choking him as he walked down the hall. 

He came to the first door on the left and poked his head through the doorway. The room had been a library. It was still full of books on the shelves and a fireplace on the far side of the room. He didn’t enter the room, instead; he moved across the hall to the next room. It looked like it had once been a study. His first thought had been that it would make a perfect office for the bed-and-breakfast. 

A smile touched his lips as he continued to look through the first floor of the house. Besides the library and study, there was a dining room, a kitchen, a living room, a set of stairs, and a walk-in pantry. He took his flashlight and headed upstairs. There, he found six bedrooms, three bathrooms, and another set of stairs. The doors of all the rooms were open, and contents covered in dust. He stopped at the foot of the second set of stairs, looking at the only closed door in the place. Trying the door, he found it locked. “Figures.” He checked the keyring and found none of them fit the lock. He shook his head and headed back downstairs. 

At the front door, he stopped as something pounded on the door from the other side. “Raven. Let me in.” the voice said from the other side.

Raven sucked in a breath. “It’s not locked. You want in? All you have to do it open it and walk though. But know that you aren’t welcome here,” he said. He wasn’t about to open the door, and he knew he didn’t lock it. So he waited, waited, and prayed he had enough power stored to get through what was coming.

The door handle rattled, but the door didn’t open. The anger in the voice increased. “Thought you said it wasn’t locked?”

The smile on Raven’s face grew. “I didn’t lock it,” he said. But, he had cast the simple wards on the place as he closed it when he came in. It looked as if those wards would hold at least for the night. “But you aren’t welcome here.” 

The creature on the other side of the door was angry. It pounded on the door with everything it had. Raven leaned against the wall, relief washing over him. The pounding continued for ten minutes before finally fading. He stepped to the door, putting the palm of his hand against the wood. The power flowing through the wood gave him a sense of calm. Everything was going to be alright in the end. His plans would come to fruition, and everything would be the way it was should to be. 

Raven went upstairs and checked the hall closet for fresh linens. The top layer of linens remained covered in dust, but the ones underneath seemed clean. He pulled them off the shelf and walked into the master bedroom. Changing the sheets before falling into bed seemed to be normal. After making the bed, he disrobed to his shorts and climbed between the now clean sheets. His eyes closed almost as soon as his head hit the pillow. The sweet comfort of darkness wrapped around him.

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