[Disclaimer: The story that is about to unfold is completely fictional – any resemblance to actual or existing fictional people, places and/or events is purely coincidental.]
Writing Prompt #5: Unbreakable
On the western coast of England stood a grand estate spanning over several acres and contained a vast number of rooms across several floors. Built in the late 13th Century, it was the ancestral home of the Blackhampton family, who amassed their fortune and influence by understanding the intricacies of royal politics. The estate was renowned for its Gothic architecture with its pointed arches and vaulted windows, along with its lavish gardens; it became a hub for extravagant parties, where alliances were formed and destroyed, deals made and broken, and fortunes won and lost.
The estate’s prominence waned over the centuries, as succeeding generations became more progressive, leading to its eventual sale in the mid 17th Century and conversion to a private hospital. Over the years, the estate acquired a reputation of altruism and charity as it treated the unwell and accepted the unwanted. An unexpected and unprecedented fire consumed the building, resulting in the closure of the hospital; despite the internal damage and countless loss of life, the external structure remained intact.
The estate remained abandoned for many years afterward until an American businessman gained ownership in the early 20th Century and transformed it into a lavish resort hotel. The estate soon regained its former status as the destination for the wealthy and influential, and attracted the socially ambitious and the morally dubious. Once again, alliances were forged, treaties brokered and assets managed. The looming shadows of war soon fell upon its gilded halls, and whispers of espionage and treason brought about the second downfall of the once prominent estate.
Legend tells of an ancient curse said to have been the cause of the estate’s bouts with misfortune – tales of ethereal figures lingering at the tops of staircases, disembodied voices echoing through the rooms, and cryptic messages appearing on the walls. Although the validity of origin of those strange occurrences remains a mystery, the curious and the intrepid are drawn to its mythical allure, hoping to discover a logical explanation behind the paranormal assertions.
The one constant throughout its long history and its many incarnations was that once the construction of the estate was complete, the exterior framework could never be destroyed. Rooms within the estate might fall to disrepair, marring its superficial appearance, but never to the point of utter collapse. Nor could any additions or partitioning be made in order to change the overall layout – the way in which the original estate had been created was the way it was to remain. Only aesthetic changes seemed allowed – furniture, tapestries, lighting fixtures and any other objects that would not alter the structure were unaffected.
The estate remained vacant, despite sightings of shadowy figures wandering about its faded halls and reports of abnormal and disturbing voices emanating from within, echoing across the moor. The curious and intrepid were replaced by the cautious and superstitious who feared dire or even fatal consequences if they were to ever set foot across its threshold. The few brave souls who had ventured were never seen or heard of again, and those who managed to escape never fully recovered from their journey.
It was into this remarkable and possibly cursed edifice Rosalind Kendrick was charged to infiltrate, in order to set into motion the first phase of the Imperial Alliance’s master plan to end the war.