— A Guild Saga Story
I had been best friends with Charlotte since forever. We were more tight-knit than even the closest of siblings, so when she disappeared two days ago without so much as a word, I knew that something terrible must have happened to her.
Had Charlotte been whisked away to serve as a corrupt politician's bargaining tool? She was, after all, the lovely daughter of a powerful minister. Or perhaps, she had fallen into the hands of a lecherous bandit, doomed to spend the rest of her life chained to a cellar as his plaything. Whatever tragic fate had befallen her, I knew not. Such invasive thoughts continued to emerge no matter how much I tried to avoid them, as I continued a desperate search into the city for her whereabouts.
Though the ladies who frequent the marketplace are nothing more than idle gossipers—wasting away their days fawning over young noblemen and their riches—it seems that their unnecessary observation of unrelated things has finally proven of use today.
Apparently, they had witnessed a lady they didn't recognize who was hooded in drab grey robes, purchasing a number of oddities from various stalls before returning in the direction of the abandoned mansion atop the hill. Of course, they had to take a closer look (probably expecting a disfigured visage) and were taken aback by her beautiful green eyes.
It's the only lead I found after a long day's search, so I began my trek uphill. Besides, she does have a stunning pair of emeralds where we average-looking folk usually have eyes, so there's a pretty good chance it's her.
I recall hearing many stories about the mansion atop the hill. From what I can remember, the rumours say the man who occupied the building was an alchemist who has made a fortune off a beauty potion that could remove any blemish from a person's skin. With the amount of vanity the ladies in Grandeur are, he's probably living lavishly off the sales; never having to work another day in his life.
Other rumours would not paint such a reasonable picture. Some thought him to be depraved, while others call him a psychotic murderer who would kidnap, torture, then eat his victims. It's probably a load of hogwash, but it would be horrible if he really turned out to be so.
Plus, if Charlotte was being held captive there, why would she be out and about, running her captor's errands freely? Was it blackmail, or did he have some kind of power over her? Maybe it's one of his potions that's caused her to be hypnotized, bending to his every —
"Hey! Elle! Elle!!"
A voice interrupted my last thought as I arrived at the mansion gates, where a lady in a hood was frantically waving at me from behind. She pulled down her hood reveal her face — it was unmistakably my friend Charlotte.
"Char, what are you doing here? Everyone at home's been worried sick!"
"I know," replied Charlotte. "And I'm sooooo sorry. I wanted to reach out sooner, but my hands are tied until my husband finishes his latest invention, for which he requires my utmost attention."
What? What husband? What is she going on about?
"What do you mean husband?" I asked, as Charlotte unlocked the gates to let me in.
"Oh, right, I haven't told anyone, have I? Silly me!"
She bonked on her head with a closed fist.
"I got married to the Lord two nights ago — oh, he is such a charming man, you will simply love him by the way — and I've been helping him with his work ever since."
"Um, by Lord, do you mean the rumoured-to-be-crazy person who lives here that nobody's seen for over a year?"
"Uh-huh. But Gerwin isn't like that at all. He's just extremely dedicated to his work and never leaves home. I swear, he would never hurt a fly."
"Huh.""Come, you must meet him immediately. I've told him all about you and he's just dying to get to know my best friend. And fortunately for us, it's time for his lunch break too."
• • •
Charlotte ushered me down the mansion's hallway, which alone was twice the size of most homes. As we walked towards her husband's lab, she continuously blabbered about his remarkable qualities. The hall and its rooms were laid out with dingy carpets and typical looking furniture, and the walls decorated only with a series of inexpensive paintings.
Whoever this Gerwin was, he at least seemed to be someone who lives a modest life, unlike most wealthy men. Perhaps I shouldn't have judged the man before meeting him.
"Here~ we~ are~"
Charlotte bounced on her toes excitedly as we arrived at the end of the hallway. She pushed the door open to reveal a deformed amalgamation of hulking stature—part housefly, part man. Its bulbous eyes each comprised a thousand lenses; it's hunched-over back sprouted a pair of translucent wings; it's open mouth revealed a rotting set of teeth and a slime-covered serpent's tongue; its body covered with plates and spines.
I pulled back in aghast, grabbing onto Charlotte.
"Wh-what the hell is this?"
"Well... how do you like him? Meet Lord Gerwin — my loving husband! No need to be shy, we're open to the idea of having a third spouse..."
She burst into manic laughter right after. This is insane — she's insane!
Charlotte broke free from my grasp, and flew into the arms of that wretched thing. They embraced one another and began wildly waltzing about, the creature contorting her body in ways not humanly possible.
"Now come, Elle. Come dance with us!"
I turn tail and flee. Charlotte seems to have lost her mind. And whatever that was, I doubt I could have saved her from it anyway.
As I escaped for my dear life, I couldn't help but think.
"So that's why he wouldn't hurt a fly. Eh."