“The white,” you say confidently.
Claremont sighs and replaces the red with a white. “If it is what you truly desire,” he says to the wine, before turning to you, “I am never a man to disappoint you your wishes. My lady, I did not notice but you are positively trembling. Is it too much to hope it’s due to my inescapable charm?”
You didn’t realize how deep the cold has seeped into your marrow until he points it out. Your teeth begin to chatter and you wrap your arms tighter around yourself. “It’s-s-s very c-c-cold out.”
“Of course. This is the night of the dead after all. We have a nasty habit of bringing the cold grave everywhere with us. Let me help you.” Sweeping the wine into the crook of one arm, Claremont easily guides you through the labyrinth of wine.
At one point, he gestures down a long hallway and says, “Avoid that path with everything possible.”
“You do not want the answer. Here is the staircase out of this dank crypt. Come along.” Once again extending his arm, he guides you up a set of stairs carved into rock. A threadbare rug clings to each one, helping to catch your feet as you begin to ascend out of the frozen wine cellar and into a strange hall.
Dark wood fills the floor stretching before you, all manner of rug and carpet gone. But those strange claw marks from the forest’s stones have returned. The wall itself bears blood red wallpaper above a deep oak wainscoting.
Instead of the bat and spider sconces of the cellar, hands dipped in gold hold torches upon the walls. They’re not real, you’re certain, but look lifelike enough to give you a second’s look.
Claremont catches you staring and wafts a finger through the flame. The fire shifts to a cobalt blue, but nothing happens. He smiles and extends a hand to you. “I know the perfect place to warm your bones…and all the other fleshy bits.”
Down the creaking hall, only the methodical thunk of a clock you cannot see strikes through the house. The walls feel as if they’re leaning from above, curious about you. Huddling closer to Claremont, you follow him into another room.
Light flares from a stone fireplace, highlighting a claw-footed tub in the center of the room. An ornate credenza with Arabic carvings over the cabinet doors sits beside the porcelain tub. A pile of towels all bright white and fluffed up rest on top. Claremont floats into the room, wafting his blue flame fingers over every sconce.
In this room, they are all held aloft by griffins, their hooked talons giving a base to the fire. You find yourself wrapping your arms tighter to your shoulders, the chill inescapable in this imposing room. Claremont makes his last sweep of the candles and he turns to the tub. Rubbing his palms together, he bends down, and lights a strong fire in a secret compartment under the tub.
“I do believe nothing chases the chills away quite like a hot bath,” he declares proudly.
A bath in that with the ghost watching? You stare at the haunted man whose skeleton you just put together, then the bath warming under his hands.
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