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THEODORE BACKSTORY PART ONE                          Take me home, delicious heart.



Art by Christopher Shelton and Kelly Martin

Written by Kelly Martin


147 years ago...




       It was always so hard after moving, even just from city to city. The last century had found them in a new country every decade, it seemed. They'd stayed in Glenland for the duration of this era though, enjoying the pleasantries of a booming economy and lush culture. It seemed though, just like the decadent era, they'd overstayed their welcome. Perhaps there was another decade left in this sweet time, before they'd flee from their crimes again.
       Patricia could have sworn they'd lived in the same mansion once before, but of course Kellgren remembered nothing, as ever. They threw a gallant party to welcome themselves, a chance to calm any nerves among their new neighbors. There would be no monster's food found tonight of course, just a way to maintain their welcome in the city. (Also a good way to sort the food from the friends.) These were the well-to-do of the town, thrilled to the core to meet a 'real' noble, whatever that meant.



         "Doctor Leighton and wife," Patricia read from the card mechanically. Kellgren's enthusiasm could be felt without even being glimpsed, so Patricia looked up, seeing the source of the unusual excitement.
       "Oh dear, a child." she muttered.
       "A child! I didn't know..." Kellgren murmured.
       "I hope it's not a problem!" the Doctor's wife spoke in bubbly tones, she seemed hardly a teenager herself, "He's such a good boy! Everyone just loves him."



       "Yes, yes!" Kellgren flounced her monkey-furred arms, "Wonderful!"
       "Indeed," Patricia felt the hour.
       "Say hello to Lady Kellgren, Theodore," the lad's mother tried to encourage him. "Do you remember some of your poem? I'm sure the Lady would love to hear it."



       "Oh no, he must have grown bashful! I do apologize, I suppose it's a bit late," his mother gushed, gesturing broadly. Her perfume smelled to Patricia more of whale blubber than roses.
       "No trouble at all," Kellgren smiled generously, cocking her head at the young lad. "We must meet again, young Theodore!"

The doctor's wife took to chatting pleasantly with Kellgren. The doctor himself gave Patricia a jovial but condescending glance.
       "Enjoying the party?" he asked with the slightest smirk.
       "Yes, sir," she said flatly. How many parties had she attended just like this? How many times had she been asked that question? What did anyone ever expect her to say?
       "You must have a special place in the household, to be at the Lady's side at such an event."
       "Indeed." She wondered if they had lived in this estate before the doctor was born. It just seemed so familiar, though the neighborhood was of course, completely changed. Were they all just beginning to seem the same?
The doctor chuckled to himself, surely having formulated some great witticism he intended to release at any moment. Intoxicated humans always found themselves so clever.
       "Forgive me, but... that uniform looks thirty years out of date and a bit worse for the wearing! Couldn't find something more suitable then?"
       "...Uniform? ... Ah, yes. No. I couldn't."





       "I've found my husband!"
Kellgren lounged around after the last of the guests had stumbled their way out.
       "Don't tell me--" Patricia stared ahead, pausing in her labor of scrubbing wine stains out of the oriental rug.
       "Yes, that boy! Such an angel, like a beautiful little cherub. So sweet and innocent."
       "He is an infant, mother! He is too young!" Patricia hoped it was a fleeting fancy, but knew better in her heart. Elizabeth had been bringing up that subject recently, and heaven forfend that her desires not be the most horrifying possible.
       "I know, but he will grow. Arrange something."







       The estate was comfortable enough, better than the country villa in Lake Forest. Easier to attract humans, close to the city, and yet large and remote enough for sounds to not travel. Patricia put off the terrible task as long as she could, hoping the Leighton family would move off or lose touch. They did not. Kellgren had even stayed in touch herself, promising the family all those mysterious benefits that friendship with nobility could offer. How easy it was for her to pretend, if you seemed the part, no one questioned your pedigree.

       Since the birth of his baby sister Marcella, Theodore's parents were nearly insistent that he go to these 'summer lessons' at the Kellgren estate. They couldn't be dissuaded, afterall, the lady had requested Theodore's attendance personally! She was a poor old lonely woman, who never had children herself. It would look kindly upon the family, and Theodore could learn proper etiquette from a true noble!
       The sprawling mansion was only a carriage ride away, and soon the boy found himself on the front steps, bags in hand, the summer sun warming his back, and his mother only waving a moment before she drew the blinds. The carriage left without hesitation, leaving him with no options. He stood a moment, listening to the swiftly disappearing wheels grind the stones. Birds pipped and chipped endlessly in the lush trees, but the gray stone building did not welcome. He longed to run off like a character in a children's novel, to live among the creatures. He knew though, of his obligation. Well... perhaps they would have horses. Or a boat!



       He noticed the door was ajar just a crack, and pushed it open with a creak. It did nothing to entice him inside, but he steeled his eight year old nerves, and stepped inside the foyer. He had thought his eyes maladjusted, but found that the room was just completely dark, even after waiting for several minutes. He called weakly, and began dragging his heavy steamer trunks along the marble floors. It smelled like dampness and dust. He glanced back to the glaring sun outside, the only light, and cringed at the thought of spending his summer in such a dreary place.
       He thought he could hear a rustling far up the grand staircase, though there was no light to indicate a human presence. He frowned to himself, creeping up the old stairs, moving a bag at a time until his shoulders ached.
       "Hello...?" he called with a bit more force. He tried to not imagine what sort of ghoulies or beasts might answer him.



A dark shape emerged from a chamber with a heavy door. It was only visible but for the movement it made, and its footsteps soft and padding. Theodore held on to the metal handles of his luggage with his tiny nervous hands. The footfalls stopped, and with a rustle or two the corner was illuminated.



A dark haired woman looked ghastly in the lantern's illumination. She looked expectantly at Theodore.  
       "H-hello ma'am.. I am to learn my etiquette...?"
The woman smiled, her face becoming less like a store mannequin, and now more resembling a child's doll.
       "Yes. I know. Hello Theodore, my name is Patricia."



The woman handily carried his luggage, so swiftly that he felt he had to run, nearly tripping over his feet in the near black.
        "Are there many other students?" he asked, trying to not pant.
       "No, you are the only one," she said flatly.
       "Just me?! But... I'm, I'm sorry m'aam--L-lady Patricia..?!" the summer was seeming more and more hopeless. He had imagined at least meeting new playmates. A summer alone in this ghoul house?
       "Yes, Lady Kellgren thinks you have... much promise. Eh... " she made a pained expression, and rested the luggage for a moment.
       "Madam Patricia? Are you well?" It was very difficult to see, but she seemed paper white, her eyes sunken in darkness.
       "I am just a bit tired," she stared ahead as she spoke, "You may play in the gardens until dusk. Please come inside then, and you will receive your lessons."
       "At night?"
       "Yes, Theodore."
       "Yes ma'am..."


  It was dreadfully boring playing by oneself in a big empty garden. Still, the sun dropped, and he suddenly felt as though he never wanted to go back into the spooky palace. His hungry belly called him though, and he crept back inside, finding a more pleasant atmosphere awaiting him.  



       Patricia was in better spirits after her rest, and the interior of the mansion finally lit as though it was inhabited. After he alone ate a meal of slightly stale bakery goods, she ushered him up and up stairs, into a tiny attic room. Scattered about the room were strange lumpy shapes-- -furniture covered by worn cloth. Patricia tidied the room, and sat on a small wooden stool. She wasted no time setting him to study his penmanship. No different from his tutors at home, though at least working by candlelight was a bit more exciting than normal. Patricia was so still, she began to seem like another cloth covered chair in her threadbare dress.

       "Madam P--"
       "Please, just refer to me as Patricia."
       "Yes... Patricia. Is Lady Kellgren about?"
       "Yes, but she has many important things to attend to. I will conduct your lessons. Speaking of that... Please finish these pages, I need to run some errands. You will behave on your own?"
       "Yes ma'am..."

The night drew on and Theodore tried to work steadily, but began to be concerned about being alone in the spooky attic. He imagined exciting noises out of the creaks of the old estate, but his imagining was soon interrupted by strange raucous laughter.




       "Huh ma'am, you said the Lady has it?"
       "Yes, directly from the orient. You will enjoy it, I assure you."
       "The real thing? Oh yeah, heh!"
Patricia led a rather shady couple into the estate. Theodore watched until they disappeared under the frame. He leaned in his creaking old chair, listening to them as well as he could. Plodding footsteps up stairs and the voices oddly distorted as they echoed about the nearly empty rooms.

Up stairs, drawing closer. He worried for a moment that he might have to interact with that rabble.
       "The lady is in her chamber, please watch your step. Inside here..."
The closing of several heavy doors.
He quickly set about looking nonplussed as Patricia ascended the stairs, and watched him from the archway.
       "Did you see that?" she asked, unemotional as ever.
       "Yes ma'am."
       "I told you to--" she sighed lightly, "...They are some extra help for the Lady, do you understand?"
       "Yes ma'am."


Soon his hands were cramping with the cold, and the flickering candles made his eyes cross with weariness.

       "I'm getting too sleepy... " he muttered with a creaky voice. Patricia seemed surprised by the sudden sound. Had she fallen asleep?
       "Of course, yes... I'm sorry you have to work by this candlelight. We have different hours here on the estate to match the lady. Let's take you to bed."



         "Aren't you going to bed, Patricia?"
       "Not yet, I'm going to... have dinner with the Lady. Please sleep well."
Patricia left him without pause, and he worried for a moment about whether he would be able to sleep. His room was a bit musty but tidy as the rest of the estate, and despite his trepidation, he was soon asleep.


         The next day was quite the same, with new tasks and lessons. Theodore was surprised to find himself doing such common work, but the novelty was interesting. Patricia even began accompanying him in the day to prune the roses, looking like she may faint at any moment.
       Every night very late, Theodore was put to bed. Sometimes he heard odd noises around the mansion. Not just the typical groans and creaks that the old building usually made. His childish imagination had been chastised enough growing up, that he was hesitant to mention it. One night as the two folded laundry, Theodore was alarmed by a frightening noise. Patricia explained that sometimes the wind whistling through the trees sounded like dull screams. It was uncanny wasn't it? --And of course, those odd-job workers bustling about. He couldn't figure out what they could be doing, he and Patricia seemed to do all the chores. Possibly they had to do with whatever was occupying the Lady all this time.
       Soon his own hours matched the nocturnal estate, and he woke at sunset as well. He woke in the afternoon, always with an adequate tray of food at his door. It didn't seem home cooked, rather like it was sent out from a restaurant. He never ate with Patricia or the Lady. It was explained, they preferred to eat together, alone.


  One evening Theodore worked wearily, scrubbing the ornate grooves of antique frames with a small brush. He wondered for what reason someone would make such a uselessly complex object, other than the work it would cause for whoever had to clean it. He had to ask, finally.
       "Patricia... why... um, why do I have to do this? Won't my servants do this for me?"
       "A good man will know how to do his servant's work."
Nearby, a heavy door creaked, catching Patricia by surprise.


  The eerie vision stumbled about, the front of her gauzy gown soaked with deep red that trailed all the way to her toes. The air that came from the room was oddly warm and flowery. Patricia wordlessly pulled Theodore by his shoulder around a corner.  


  The pale spectre nearly floated by, sending a waft of meat and rotted cloth. The heavy door was open a crack, sending out thin streams of wisping smoke with that flowery scent. Patricia held Theodore close, and waited for longer than seemed necessary before she spoke, in nearly a whisper.
       "She was preparing a meal. Don't be distressed."
       "Why?! Don't you do-- Um, don't her servants do that?"
Patricia winced, "Her servants... yes, well... The lady does as she pleases..."



That morning Theodore couldn't sleep, thinking of that woman. He held off using the water closet for as long as he could, not wanting to venture near that heavy door and its eerie inhabitant. He finally steeled his nerve and hurried along with his lamp, his desperation too urgent to bother with a jacket or slippers. He rounded the corners as quickly as he could without dribbling hot wax on his hand. Thankfully he made it to his destination without incident, and began his return trip more wary for ghouls. Walking more slowly this time, he nearly slipped in a thin puddle. His bare foot felt sticky as he wiped it on the bare wooden floor.

He looked to the floor nervously, the light of his candle making the slick into a black mirror. He bent, and touched a finger to it, curiosity overriding his disgust.





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