Absolute blackness closed around her like a snake around its prey. Try as she might, Genevieve could not force her eyes to acclimate to the gloom as if the darkness was tangible, inescapable. Her ragged breathing choked her, harsh and staccato against the pervasive silence. Although she strained for any minuscule noise, she could not hear anyone else as Stephen vanished along with the light.
"Stephen?" she tentatively whispered, voice muted and tremulous. Miss Genevieve waited with bated breath, waited for an answer which was not forthcoming. She murmured his name once again, but there was no reply. Stephen either would not or could not answer. Icy, clammy fingers twined around her wrist, raising goose bumps along her skin. Genevieve prided herself on her stoicism and levelheadedness more than most, but the supernatural onslaught she experienced in this terrible place proved to be too much. She screamed, her terrified shriek reverberating down empty corridors and echoing through abandoned rooms.
"Hush now, Genevieve. I did not mean to frighten you."
Her heart thundered against her ribs so fiercely and her limbs so weak with fear and fatigue she could barely stand. While part of her was desperately relieved to feel Stephen's presence beside her again, she couldn't help but wonder why he left her in the first place.
"Stephen, thank God. I was so scared.""As was I. I did not mean to leave you, but I went searching for this." In a momentary burst of acrid sulfur, he lit the candle he'd retrieved from the desk drawer. It barely illuminated a tiny halo around them, but Genevieve felt oddly better as if it was a luminous shield defending against the dark. "There are more in the next room. It will be safer for you to wait here while I fetch them."
Genevieve nodded, secure with her miniature torch. Stephen was swallowed up by the shadows, footsteps growing muffled. A strange shimmer caught her eye as the wan light's reflection skipped around the room like a fairy. An odd occurrence to be sure since Miss Genevieve was now conscious of the necessity to have all reflective surfaces covered. She crossed the room to where a delicate gilded mirror hung upon the wall. The covering lay discarded on the floor, but whether it was removed by accident or for some dreadful purpose was not clear. She stooped to pick it up intending to replace it, but when she peered again in the mirror it was no longer her reflection staring back at her. A pale, gaunt woman with tangled hair glared at Genevieve. Blood-shot eyes bleary from crying burned with a hideous loathing like twin chunks of smoldering coal. Genevieve felt her blood grow colder in her veins, trapped in the shadow princess's gaze, cornered like a hunted animal. None of the Westerfells will escape. Their blood is mine forever. My vengeance is eternal. A woman's hoarse rasp, like one who screamed too long and too hard, echoed in her ears, but Genevieve could not tell from whence the sound emanated. Her breath turned to white puffs as a chill crept through the room, the young woman increasingly transfixed by the haunted figure in the mirror. The shadow princess's thin lips curled, a ruthless, diabolical twisted grin, as a ghostly skeletal hand emerged from the glass and snatched the librarian by the throat.