The librarian raced down the staircase, fear blinding her to her surroundings. She could see the door, her means of escape, down the darkened foyer. A chill grip clamped her arm, preventing her from reaching the safety of the outside world. She screamed, afraid to turn around, frightened of what she may see.
"I warned you not to go wandering. The house is not safe," Stephen whispered against the shell of her ear.
Miss Genevieve struggled to control her thundering pulse, too glad to finally have mortal companionship after her ordeal with the ghost in the study.
"I did not believe your warnings. I did not believe in ghosts."
"Nor did I at first. This house has a way of changing ones opinion on the subject."
Genevieve expected her friend to be upset with her, but Stephen seemed oddly relieved as if her experience lifted some of the burden from his fragile shoulders.
"Who is the woman in black, Stephen? Who is this shadow princess?"
His pupils dilated, sparkling like gemstones in the gloom. He moved his mouth once as if he wished to speak, but stopped himself abruptly dismissing his most immediate train of thought for a more measured response.
"Relating the story could be perilous, Genevieve. I never wanted to place you in danger."
"I've seen her, Stephen. I must know."
He nodded in resignation and led the way to the drawing room where he propped himself up on the couch while Genevieve perched upon the overstuffed wing chair, eagerly awaiting the tale."My family hides a dreadful secret, one which has haunted us for generations. It all began ages ago with two daughters of a powerful baron. Beatrice was the elder, power hungry and manipulative like her father. Violetta was the younger, strong as her father and sister, but with a kinder heart. Beatrice was her father's favorite and stood to inherit his money and title while Violetta was content to live a quiet, simple life. Violetta married a man she was desperately in love with and they had a son. Lady Beatrice was not content to leave her sister in peace. Her greed was insatiable, gobbling up everything her gaze landed upon, and it wasn't too long before her gaze turned towards her sister's husband. Beatrice seduced him, forced him to abandon his young wife which he did, taking their son with him. Violetta was heartbroken, spending days and nights outside the great palace where her sister dwelled, pleading for the return of her husband and child. It wasn't long before Beatrice's fickle heart set itself upon something else. Within in a year both Violetta's husband and son were found dead. They called it a hunting accident, but everyone knew Beatrice was somehow responsible. On the day of the funerals Violetta, dressed in heavy mourning apparel, appeared in the graveyard to confront her sister. Beatrice's cold heart could not express an ounce of remorse over what she'd done. That was when Violetta snapped. She cursed her sister and all her descendants, vowing the women from hence forth would be forced to watch the men around them wither and die, enduring Violetta's agony of losing husbands and sons. Beatrice laughed, scornful of her sister's words, but Violetta merely stared back with hate-filled eyes. Beatrice's downfall was her pride, so Violetta promised she would forever be present in the objects of her sister's vanity. No male heir would the family see and no happy couple would survive long past the wedding night. Violetta left the shocked mourners, never to be seen alive again. A month later, a shepherd found her body near the treacherous rocks at the base of the cliff overlooking the sea. The priest secretly defied Beatrice's order her sister should be buried in a pauper's grave and laid her bones next to those of her husband and son, hoping to appease Violetta's anger, but her vengeance was far from satiated. Shortly after Violetta's death, everyone residing in the old palace began seeing the reflection of a shrouded woman in black in mirrors, in the pond, in every imaginable reflective surface. Beatrice scoffed, too busy planning her own marriage to a wealthy duke to notice the servants unease. She sat for the portrait as a gift for her husband, but even there could not escape the 'shadow princess' as the servants had taken to calling Violetta's ghost. The lavish marriage took place and the new couple settled in, Beatrice seemingly content for the first time in her life. It was short lived. Less than a month after the nuptials, her husband fell from his horse, dead of a broken neck. Beatrice mourned the accident, but the servants knew the truth. Before going out for his ride that day, he mentioned to the stable boy he saw a vision of a veiled woman in black beckoning to him before she abruptly disappeared. Beckoning him to his death."