Pandora's Castle
By Virginia Cavazos
Chapter Eleven

Finding a set of large, ornate doors, Robin and Marion entered a large ballroom. The doors they walked through ominously closed behind them. Robin struggled to open them, but they remained tightly shut.

"Let's hope there's another way out," Marion said.

"From the looks of things, no one has been here for hundreds of years," Robin whispered.

Marion silently nodded her head, she was to frightened to answer him. After getting over her high of stopping the hoard of rats, by whatever was released from the room. She realized that greater threats lay hidden within the cursed castle.

Robin quickly stepped ahead. Holding his torch high, he searched the room for a way out. Marion halted in the center of the room. She gazed around, confused by the sudden feeling that this was a safe place for her.

It appeared to have been a grand ballroom. Tables and chairs were strewn at the outskirts of the room. Tall windows were barely covered by tattered, dusty curtains. Marion only now realized that night had fallen, beams of moonlight streamed through the holes in the curtains. The center of the room was bare; as if it was waiting for unseen dancers to partake in a festival party. As a young girl, this was a very familiar place to her. Closing her eyes, she recalled the happier times of her youth.

Marion nearly jumped out of her skin, as she heard a man whisper to her, through the darkness. "You can return to those times,"

"Who's there?" she shouted.

"I’m over here, Marion," Robin called, from the far side of the room. He was wadding through a pile of broken furniture, searching for another exit.

Marion realized that Robin did not hear whoever called out to her. She prayed that it was just her imagination, until she heard him again.

"I can give you back, those innocent times." The voice seemed to be coming from the shadows, of the room.

"Who are you?" she softly said, her words seemed to be lost, in the enormous room.

"I did, my pretty lady."

Marion whirled around, she saw a tall, thin figure slowly walking out of the shadows. He was a handsome looking young man, his skin and hair was as pale as the moonlight that drifted through the curtained windows.

"R…Robin?" she stuttered. Her fear clutched at her throat. "Rob…" she began to say, until the young man hushed her with a look.

"Milady, we do not need him, now do we?" he sung out. He slowly began to circle her, she was frozen where she stood. Her eyes darted to the side, searching for Robin.

"Help…me!" she squeaked. She saw Robin walking on the far side of the room. He did not acknowledge her calls for help. She jerked, as the stranger stopped in front of her.

"My, my you are a very pretty lady. I heard your friend call you Marion, you may call me Lucius, pretty lady," he said, with a bow of his head. "I saw in your eyes, that this room holds a special place in your heart."

"This room?" Marion droned. His eyes were just so bottomless, she couldn't help but stare at them.

"Yes, you feel at home here, don't you…Marion."

"Robin….help," she choked, as Lucius reached up to gently touch her with his cold fingers. She shivered as his icy touch slid down her cheek.

"So long…" he sighed. "It has been so long since I have been able to view such beauty."

Marion slowly leaned into his touch, faintly she heard Robin call out. "I think I've found a door." She heard chairs and furniture being thrown about.

"I give you a choice, pretty lady," Lucius whispered to her. "If you agree to stay with me, your companions will be allowed to leave this castle, alive."

Marion took a step back, suddenly the room was awash in light. Her ears were filled with the banter of party goers. In the background, musicians were playing a slow tune. Gazing around, she found she was surrounded by men and women. Dressed in elegant ball gowns, and ornate masks, covering their faces.

"Join us Marion," a woman called out from behind a mask of a dog.

"You know you want to," a young man's voice came, from a cat mask.

"Join us, my pretty lady," Lucius impeached her. "No longer will you fear for your life. Why here, I promise that you will be protected from any harm. All you have to do is join ussss."

Marion whirled around, she searched for Robin, her only salvation. She could faintly see him on the far side of the room. She shook her head, for he was standing in the dark rubble that she saw when they first entered the room. The splendor of the room that she was standing in began a few feet from where Robin was diligently working to make an exit.

"What do you want?" she asked.

"Join us," the dancers sung. They began to circle her, blocking her view of Robin.

"It's very simple, Marion," Lucius sweetly explained. "Pledge yourself to stay with me, behind the castle walls past sunrise, and I promise you, that your friends will be allowed to safely leave this castle alive."

"Pledge?" Marion choked. She took a step back, away from where Robin was working on making an exit for them.

"Yes Marion, that's it," Lucius purred. "Step away from your old life. Here we party every day! The outside life doesn't dare to penetrate here."

Marion took another step back, she felt an icy coldness in her toes, it slowly crept up her legs. She struggled to speak, as ice rushed through her veins. Using her last bit of strength, she choked. "Robin!"

Robin threw the last chair that blocked a hidden door. As the room grew silent, he faintly heard Marion call to him.

Spinning around, his face flushed in fear, as he faintly saw her standing on the far side of the room. What frightened him, was that she seemed to be blending into the shadows.

"Marion!" he shouted. He tried to run to her, but he stumbled over a broken chair. As he fell to the ground, he heard a man shout to him from the shadows. "It is to late, she is ours."

Glancing up, Robin could swear he saw her fading away. It was as if the castle was engulfing her. "Marion, don't let the castle win!" he screamed, hoping she would be able to hear him.

To her eyes, Robin was drifting in the darkness, she faintly heard his words. She felt herself fading into the room, the very walls of the castle. She was loosing herself, to the mysterious Lucius.

"Fight it!" Robin called out, as he struggled to rise. He grunted in pain, as a table slid over the stone floor. It crashed into his side. As the pain rushed down his leg, an idea came to him. He prayed it would be able to save Marion from being consumed by the castle.

Marion," he cried out. "I'm injured, I need your help!"

"Robin?" she softly said. She faintly saw him lying on the floor. Concentrating on him, he began to appear more distinct. She clearly saw his face twisted in pain, as he clutched his side.

"Marion, help me…" he pleaded with her.

"Robin, you need me," she whispered. Shaking her head, she tried to clear the cobwebs that began to take root in her mind. She took a step forward, the coldness in her legs began to move down. As she moved closer to where Robin lay, she felt the iciness fade away, until it was a distant memory.

"No Marion!" the voices of the dancers wailed. "Join usssss, you must join usssss,"

but their voices were faint to her ears, the cries of Robin drowned them. The room suddenly grew dark. It slowly returned to the ruin of before.

"Pledge yourself, and your Robin will be well," Lucius called out. It was clearly an attempt to bring her back to him, but it failed. Robin was injured, Marion's only thoughts were to help him. His words filled her heart, and mind.

She saw his expressive eyes, pleading with her. They penetrated her soul, breaking any hold Lucius had on her.

Robin was relieved; as she came closer to him, she was becoming solid to his eyes. Once they were able to escape from the castle, he would tell her just how close he was to losing her.

"Robin, are you all right?" she gasped, as she reached him. Wrapping her arm around his waist, she helped him stand.

"I will be, once we get out of this room," he panted, as he grabbed her arm. He dragged her to the door he found. Using the table that attacked him, he slammed it against the door. It burst open! Quickly he ushered Marion through it. Glancing back, he grimaced, as he saw a horrific creature standing in the center of the ballroom.

"This is not done," it hissed through rotted teeth. "She will be mine!" it wailed.

"Not as long as I have a breath," Robin defiantly shouted, as he slammed the door.

He fled down the dark corridors, dragging Marion with him. Their need to leave the castle was more urgent now. For whatever evil squatted within the castle walls, now had its evil eye on Marion!

End of Chapter Eleven

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