THE TOLLING OF THE CAPTAIN'S BELL
On the furthest reaches of Sunrise, on the other side of the vast Oquirrh Forest, sat Rathrock Manor.
Rathrock Manor was a beautiful mansion with expansive gardens and grounds. The manor itself was named for the owner: Captain Ernest Rathrock, son of the wealthy tea shipping family, and a notable sea captain himself. Several years before arriving in the valley he had romanced a young woman, Lady Emily Rathrock, who was the daughter of Rathrock's most ruthless and fierce business rival. The two fell madly in love and Captain Ernest sold his company in order to take Lady Emily away. Together the two of them took their sizable fortunes and built the mansion on Oquirrh Lake.
The mansion itself was remarkable -- large, sprawling, and beautiful. The highest peaks of the mansion could sometimes be seen from Sunrise over the tops of the trees, and Captain Ernest was proud that his large, stately house was a beacon for travelers around the area. His greatest pride (other than Lady Emily, of course) was his boat.
In those days, as you may recall, Oquirrh Lake was wild and expansive, surrounded on all sides by the thick forest. Captain Ernest had used some of his fortune to purchase a beautiful but sturdy boat, and would spend his days bustling around the wild lake looking for things to do or gossip to share with the other locals. Meanwhile, Lady Emily would remain at home studying the arts or sciences, and eagerly await the return of her husband.
The two had developed a secret code to alert Lady Emily when Captain Ernest returned. The captain had purchased and hung a large, beautiful bell at the end of the dock near the house. When he returned from his days on the lake, he would strike the bell, sending a crystal clear ring throughout the chilly air to let Lady Emily know he had returned safely. The tolling of this bell was a source of comfort to her, and she awaited the sound of its ringing more than almost anything else.
Of course, no good thing can last forever, and one evening Lady Emily waited in the garden well into the night hoping to hear the sound of the Captain's bell. When the ringing never came, she dispatched servants in rowboats to scour the lake. What they found was horrible and gruesome... the Captain's boat, torn to shreds, and the Captain himself missing.
Lady Emily suffered such a loss because of this. Far away from her family and friends, her one true love had died on the water, and now she was left alone. Despite the constant gossip of the neighbors and townsfolk, Lady Emily locked herself away in her bedroom deep inside Rathrock Manor, emerging only late at night to walk the courtyard grounds and mourn for her lost love.
It was after several months of mourning that Lady Emily made a shocking discovery. Late one night, while walking the manor grounds, Lady Emily heard a familiar sound in the distance.
"Is that..." she whispered to herself, although she already knew the answer.
It was the familiar ringing of Captain Ernest's bell off on the dock.
"This must be some sort of cruel joke," Lady Emily said, "I shall discover the wretched person ringing my love's bell and make sure they will be punished!" Her bare feet flew over cobblestone as her black dress floated dreamily in the wind, thrown forward and onward towards the ringing bell.
When she finally saw it, she froze: there, in front of the bell, was Captain Ernest. It was clear that it was him; he was wearing his traditional sailing outfit, and although the night air made it difficult to see him clearly, she knew she would recognize his silhouette anywhere. When she appeared, Captain Ernest spoke to her.
"My love, it is I, come back to you!" His face remained motionless, although his voice sounded dreamy and excited. "Come to me!"
"Oh Ernest," she cried, running to him, "I was so afraid you had left me." Lady Emily ran to him as quickly as she could, but upon arriving at the bell, discovered that Captain Ernest had faded from her view and then reappeared, now floating gently in the water before her. "Ernest, what are you doing," she enquired, "come up here and see me!"
"Oh my love," Captain Ernest said, his clothing now long, black robes swirling in the water around him. "What a lovely night for a swim. Won't you please come into the water with me? Let us embrace in the water under this beautiful moonlight."
Lady Emily thought to herself that the moonlight did look particularly beautiful that night, so she dove right in to see her returned husband. The cold of the water sent a shock into her lungs, making breathing difficult, but with Captain Ernest to hold her, she knew everything would be all right. She did not mind that his arms were thinner and more smooth than she remembered, or that his touch was bony and cold, and as the two of them sank deep into the cold water until only the moon was left touching the surface, Lady Emily thought to herself how lucky she could be to have her true love return.
That's important to know, Simon thought to himself, thumbing through the book quicker now. The sound of his shoes on cobblestones echoed in the afternoon air as he galloped past the collapsed bell stand and beyond the crumbling mansion. Death can take different forms.
The afternoon wind tugged on his cloak and tossed the pages of the book, turning them forward as Simon pressed towards the house at the edge of the forest...