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The Shriek
The Shriek

The Shriek

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'There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion'. – Edgar Allan Poe

It was a memorable cold and damp Autumn day of the year 1902, when I had passed the village of Penafiel, located in the confluence of river valleys, marked by the Douro, Tamega and Sousa Rivers, connecting the region with the Transmontane Zone. I had been travelling through the weary tracts of villatic land and pastures of Portugal, hoping to reach the enchanting city of Porto, when my carriage driver had been forced to deviate from the main road to seek assistance. Apparently, one of the wheels from the carriage was broken and had required to be fixed. It was an unexpected occurrence that naturally was not planned, but I understood the necessity to fix the wheel, even if that meant arriving later than sooner in Porto. Although, I was not familiar with the area that was circumjacent, I had fully trusted the carriage driver's prudence and decision. The area as well, was encompassed by an impressive forest of an array of pine and eucalyptus trees that were upon the granite rocks of the mountainous passage that had overlooked an estate. What I had descried of the village from the distance, were dispersed enclaves, rural abodes and a civil parish. They were all of a compoundable conspicuity.

Whilst the carriage driver was occupied fixing the wheel, we were spotted and assisted by a local peasant that had volunteered to offer us another wheel, at no expense nor demands. He had mentioned that he worked at a nearby estate or quinta, as they were commonly known in the country of Portugal. There he could give us the wheel that would allow us to proceed then with our trip. Even though, I had been warned about the thieves of cozenage that preyed on foreigners or visitors from outside of the village that were not autochthonous, I did not hesitate to ponder nor reject his courteous offer, since I had thought it was propitious enough for me to wisely accept. The carriage driver had brought a rifle in case. When we approached the estate in propinquity, I had noticed the alameda trees, surrounding the courtyard and the patio, along with a marble fountain that had gushing water. Once we had arrived at the residence of the hidden estate, we were cordially greeted, by a certain nobleman whose name was Baron Paulo Queiroz.

'Welcome to my quaint quinta senhor. It is not often that I have many visitors these days, in particular from England, as I was told by Lourenço, my capataz'.

'That is very gracious of you senhor. I am Lord Bennet, the earl of Pembroke'.

'Lourenço had informed me that one of your wheels of the carriage had broken and you are in need of a new one'.

'Indeed, that would be the case baron'.

'If I may ask you senhor, what brings you to these parts of the country? As I said before, it is not often that Englishmen such as yourself, visit these parts'.

'Perhaps, but I was heading to Porto to purchase a property there that was recommended to me as a messuage, by a gentleman of venerability'.

'A property you say. As you can see for yourself, Penafiel has an incredible landscape. This property has 62 hectares and splendid terrains.'

'I do not doubt your word one bit baron, for it would be fain to have a property in this area much akin to a demesne'.

We had entered the 3 story manor that had a translucent ashen-white colour that was transpicuous, and the wings were wedged in stonework that covered the pyramidal tile roof that had a slight protrusion over the sturdy pillars. There was a terrace adjacent to a formal garden that had reminded me of the typical Portuguese gardens I had descried before in previous trips to the country. Inside, there was a spiral staircase that was steep and a chimney that had a prestigious coat-of-arms over the blue monochromatic marble floor. The one thing that I had found interesting was an instrument that was a violin purfled in a remarkable auriferousness. There were things that were of great value and other things that were of mere villiority, yet I would not dare to call any of these things trumperies nor worthless finery.

The chimney was flanked by windows with masonry frame and plaster. The side panels had two niches decorated with brilliant ornamental compositions of rococo designs and the side bodies had opening spans with masonry as well, framed with five windows followed by the illuminating oculi on the buried floors underneath. The interior ceiling was also marble, and there was a common axial structure that was decorated by pinnacles over the plinths that had arrested my curiosity. There was something somewhat inusitate about the manor that gave me the impression that it was preserving a prevailing secret or presentiment that I could not exactly describe in its ambiguous nature.

The baron was a typical Portuguese nobleman that was debonair in his enacture and aplomb, for he had a natural inclination for formalities and the intrinsic value of conviviality, yet I did notice also one particular thing about his circumspect mien, and that was the fact that he had seemed to marvel in relating stories and talking about historical events with his studious propoundity. These peculiarities were reflective of a man that had been very much isolated, or a man that was merely fixated on details and enjoyed the recherché disportment of his presumption. He was of average stature and constitution and middle-aged, much like myself and he had a propensity to walk with a peculiar gait. His attire was befitting of his position and he had enjoyed smoking cigars that were imported from the exotic ports of Brazil. He also had a demonstrative penchant for luxurious champagne and tapestries of refinement. He had a distinguishable ring on his right index finger that had a gemmy stone of a flashing ruby. I was exposed to his constant need to impress that it had activated my cognisance of his persona so visibly. My intuition had made me consider, what type of exposure had he in recent times and what was his milieu? Was he really a gregarious man that had fancied himself celeberrimous?

I was observant of the house and its unique mystic and his fond attachment to the environing estate. Indeed, there was something bewitching about the house that I had felt a certain cringing effect creeping upon me. At the time, I was unaware of the relevance of the history and the preternatural secret that the house and the baron were concealing from me. It was like the contrariety of night and day, but I did perceive a haunting premonition, as we had walked outside and unto the garden to refresh ourselves. It was when we were there that I had seen from afar with a quick glance, the glimpse of what appeared to be a person that was dressed up in a black coat and hood at the front gate. The coat was long enough to cover him from head to toe and the hood had covered his head and face. I could not distinguish his genuine appearance nor determine what he exactly was doing standing there watching so keenly. When I had asked the baron, he had paused for a moment, then he dismissed the stranger, as nothing more than a peasant from the village that had strayed on to his property. We had resumed our discussion on my interest in purchasing property back inside the manor, where we discussed at length, the issue in privacy. He had invited me to stay the night as his bidden guest, and he would accompany me to Porto the following morning.

As one of the female servants was preparing my chamber with diligence, I was in the dining hall waiting, when I was introduced to the sister of the baron, who had stopped by to pay him a visit and ended up staying the night. Her name was Lourdes, a beautiful young baroness, with a distinctive look and inherent charm. She was wearing an exquisite purple dress that had a white silk chemise, enhancing the flowing locks of her sable hair and her leggiadrous contours defined in symmetry. Her exotic eyes were of a dark tincture of mocha and her lips of a crimson gloss that had exuded her facial features and olive skin. When she was informed that I was a reputable earl of probity, I had noticed that she took a fancy to me. From what I had recognised by the intrigued baroness, she was eager to learn more about English nobility and was an admirer of English culture also. She had appeared to be intelligent and inquisitive, a bit more enquiring than her brother the baron, but I was not flustered by her intrusive idiosyncrasy. There was no immediate pavidity reflected in her that I had perceived to be overtly compelling or vapid, as with other Portuguese women of reticence and proverbiality I had previously met.

That night, unbeknownst to me would inflict the most horrifying and inexplicable episode ever experienced before. For you see, there are surreptitious mysteries that forever remain untold or have not been revealed to the populace. Hence, what can be said about the general area, is that it is enriched with the legendary stories of Lusitanean folklore. There was a nocturnal moon that had glisten its beams of seduction over the extensive darkness and estate, through the tenuous clouds. I was in one of the guest chambers that were aligned to the west wing of the manor. My carriage driver had been assigned another room that was on the other side. We were both weary from the extensive trip that we had retired for the night, but as I was attempting to rest, I had heard an obstreperous noise outside where I was staying that awoke me from my momentary stupor. It was accompanied by a gasping breath that I could not discern nor distinguish plainly. Naturally, the noise had captured my awareness and I peeked through the window, hoping to catch a good glance of what was causing it. It had echoed like a strident shrill of some kind, but the question was, what or who was behind this undetermined sound? When it had continued and billowed, I immediately headed outside towards the direction of the garden, where I could hear this noise more audibly, as the dogs were barking. I was spotted by the lovely baroness, who had also heard the commotion and reacted, but she was more concerned I had intuited, by what I was doing outside in the dark than what we both had heard from our private chambers.

'Senhor, what are you doing outside in the darkness. Did the dogs bother you? If so, I apologise for this inconvenience'.

'Baroness, you startled me at first. I see that you too were disturbed by the strange noise that I have heard'.

'Oh I was more concerned about your well being than that familiar noise senhor'.

Her answer had surprised me, 'Did you say baroness, familiar noise? Did I hear you correctly?'

'Indeed senhor. You are probably not acquainted much with the area to know that we have wolves in these parts of the country.'

'Wolves you said baroness?'

'Yes, wolves', she intimated.

'It sounded more like a heavy shrill or shriek to me'.

'Perhaps, what you heard was one of the goats or sheep crying out from a nearby estate'.

'I not exactly convinced that is the case, for it sounded more of a wild beast'.

'As I stated before senhor, we have many wolves on the prowl in this area that come out at night to feed on the cattle and other animals'.

Since, I could not be completely certain that it was not a prying wolf that was behind the noise, I was forced to acquiesce and dismiss the oddity of the sound for the nonce.

Soon, the baron himself had joined us in the garden and interjected when he overheard our conversation, 'Senhor, the baroness is correct, we do have our local share of Iberian wolves in this region. Unfortunately, it is part of our culture and land'.

For some apparent reason the unusual sound had dissipated, but it did not quell completely my cogent doubt. In the end, I simply tried to assuage my concern and had thought it practical to not continue with my growing intrigue. Little would I know that it would develop into a disturbing reoccurrence that I would regret not pursuing its origination. The baron and the baroness both had retired to their chamber, and I proceeded to do the same, however, I could not easily be dissuaded from believing that there was something mysterious transpiring at the manor and grounds of the estate. Once I had returned to the setting of my chamber, I contemplated whether or not, I had actually heard a shriek of a person or that of a roaming animal. A few hours had elapsed and I was awakened once more, by the daunting noise of a shriek. This time the noise had been accompanied, by a loud cry made that I assumed to be a person. Immediately, I rose from the bed unto my feet and headed towards the vicinity of the uproar, with a distressed look on my countenance holding an oil lamp. When I was outside, I saw vaguely a lone shadowy stranger or what I had perceived, as a man fleeing from the scene. As I had approached the mysterious stranger, I came across the atrocious discovering of the body of my carriage driver. His deceased body was lying on the ground near the trees, totally torn into slicing shreds covered in carmine blood, as if some wild animal had attacked him with a ramagious fury. For some reason, my instinct had compelled me to follow the attacker towards the thick boughs of the murky forest that lacked any unambiguous lucence.

When I had raught the edge of the entrance door that led into the manor, I was able to see more, due to the casting reflection of the moonlight that had pierced through the opacity. Although I continued with my persistence to locate the beast, I was becoming a bit leery of proceeding further into the formidable wooded area, without knowing its circumscription. My footsteps were extremely calculated, as I had advanced gradually, with a precautionary intent. Once I had entered at my discretion more into the fold of the forest, I began to sense that there was something or someone that was watching me closely. What I did not know at the moment was the fact that there was indeed, a stranger that was watching my every move taken. I had heard a heavy and unnerving breath increase by the minute, as I walked carrying the oil lamp. As the breath had intensified in volume or tone, the limpid glow of the moon was being shaded by the sprawling branches of the trees. The breath then became a bizarre grunt it had seemed, but it was not definite. Even more unsettling was that stranger I was pursuing was not yet definite to my attentive realisation. I had stopped in my tracks, as any trace of the stranger was becoming more unclear as I walked. What was more distressing was that I had no weapon to defend me, only the oil lamp I held in my hand. Unbeknownst to me, the stranger was following me, and it would appear when I had tripped on a fallen branch so naively. Once I had rose to my feet, I stood before the beast that loomed out of the darkness like an imposing figure from the harrowing legends of the foolish peasantry or raffishness.

What I had descried was a horrible image of a rabid beast or man of deformity. It stood with an erect posture of an imperant stature that had intimidated with its frightening look of stark terror. It appeared to be male from what I had been able to see. His fingertips were dripped in crimson blood, like an acid whiskey burning carnal flesh. His razor teeth of solidity displayed, his ebony eyes and cold breath, his curls were made of thick and pure wool, and his sinister smile made me cringe with a sudden apprehension. His tongue had burnt like hot embers of coal, and his beady eyes glowed into a ruby red colour of an apparent gloss of unforgettable menace. We stared eye to eye, like if I was the prey and he the hunter of drasticity. It was then that he roared a loud shriek that had deafened my ears and had unnerved the group of crows that were perched on the branches of the trees, observing the unfolding scene amidst their amusement. Before the beast could harm me or attempt to, a gunshot was heard and had scared away the dreadful beast. It was the baron along with some of his labourers that had located me in the forest wandering so late at night. I had dusted the wrinkles and dirt from my clothing, perplexed and disturbed from the lethiferous encounter.

'Lord Bennet, are you alright? What are you doing her in the forest at this late hour of the night?' The Baron had enquired.

When I was able to recompose myself, I uttered in response, 'Did you not see the beast that was here hovering above me, like a wild animal?'

'A beast? It was probably a wolf my lord that had tried to attack you.'

'A wolf you say, Baron Queiroz? By no means was it a wolf; for it stood on its two feet like us humans. Bloody be, it appeared to be some strange hairy thing, like a deformed wild man'.

'Perhaps, we do have stragglers or beggars that occasionally roam this area also'.

'Whatever it was, it was beyond mere description'.

'I must be candid with you senhor. It is not wise to be out late in the woods by yourself, for the woods can be very perilous, In particular, to those persons that are not from here, nor familiarise with the area, as we locals are.'

'I tell you that what I saw had some unique element of human. If the being that had attacked me was a man in the end, then he was a frightening figure that bore a limpid semblance that jangled my nerves so hautingly'.

'I think it would be better Lord Bennet, if we left the forest and returned to the estate at once, before we get sick from the cold'.

I had agreed and we went back to his estate, whereupon the baroness was expecting our return, with a sudden intrigue. After we had conversed a bit about the occurrence in the woods, we all retired to our chamber and attempted to resume our sleep, but I was still visibly affected by the incident that I could not truly sleep the remainder of the night nor early morning. Simply, it was impossible for me to forget the horrifying encounter I had with that anonymous beast or wild man. I had heard before tales of wild men in the South Pacific or Africa, but I was not cognisant of the stories of wild men in Portugal. I was not even certain if, it was factual or merely the janglery of the local villagers confabulated as a legend. The urgent need to discover the relevance behind the person or animal that attacked me was a pressing matter to unravel. It was enough for me to want to delay my trip to Porto for at least, another day or two. In the morning, I was awakened by the obstrusive sounds of the cackling crows that had interrupted my sleep. The baron and the baroness were already awake and were both in the intimacy of the garden conversing along with the vadelect, when I had joined them afterwards. My intention was to query about the incident, but he was not keen on discussing it, nor elaborating more thoroughly in details. Was it an obvious utility of circumvention that was a dilatory distraction or tactic of his contrivance? I thought it prudent to not exasperate the baron, for I did not want to exacerbate the ordeal.

'Good morning Lord Pembroke, I hope you are feeling better this morning?'

'To be frank baron, I slept very little; for I could not erase from my mind the terrible scene that had occurred with that horrendous beast or man, whatever it was'.

'I think it would be better, if we discuss something much more pleasant, such as taking a trip into Penafiel. I am afraid that I won't be able to have a carriage driver escort you to Porto, until the afternoon'.

'Pardon my intrusion baron, but is it not prudent to advise the local authorities, about the heinous death of the carriage driver?'

'No need to worry about that matter, for I have already advised them. I sent one of my labourers with that unfortunate task. Regrettably, there is not much more that can be done for him. We here in Penafiel, are accustomed to the menace that encompasses us daily'.

The candid expression in his face was telling and extremely daunting, as if his words uttered were a portentous omen construed to heed or obey its pertinence. I could not dissuade my fascination to know why there was such blatant secrecy in the baron, when the issue of the beast or wild man along with the mystery that was cloaked by his omission of these revelatory oddities were discussed. This type of behaviour had me begun to distrust him and question even more, what else was he exactly hiding? I had noticed in his eyes that he was a very shrewd man. The question that I pondered then, was he eventually my friend or foe? I could not afford myself to tarry in my suspicious uncertainty much. As for the baroness, she too was displaying in a lesser measure, the same qualities as her brother, but less evident. Her fondness for me was the clear manifestation of a woman longing for intimate company. It was the baroness that had offered to go with me into Penafiel, which I had thought was noble in her gesture. Considering that I would have no other option but to thole for the new carriage driver to arrive, I had acquiesced with only a timid hesitance, not enough to refuse her invitation. After all, the baroness had an exquisite charm that was admirable and influential. It was also, an escapable mollification, from the cumbersome anxiety I was experiencing at the quinta.

We went to go see a monastery church that had an arresting Romanesque façade and a dilapidated medieval castle that had a dried moat, a vestige of a once glorious time reduced to the resemblance of an austere simplicity. We had talked about many things that were related to the incredible history of the village, including the lineage to which she and her brother appertained; however, she was evasive when speaking about her siblings. I knew that she and the baron were brother and sister in blood, but what I did not know at that time was there any other siblings that I was not aware of their existence? After a while, I was able to convince her and gain her trust enough to divulge more information about her immediate family. The baroness had explained to me that she had no sisters, but had another brother who sadly had died due to complications in his fading health. When I pressed her on the topic, she merely stated that his name was Thiago and he was married to a woman by the name of Maria Oliveira, who was from Lisbon. I had asked her, why she herself was not married. I could not believe there was no man to gallantly profess his redamancy to her, after looking at her mirificent smile and feeling her comforting amplection.

'Pardon my boldness, but if I may enquire baroness, why have you not married? You are a beautiful and captivating woman to be still single'.

'And you Lord Pembroke, may I ask the same of you? Are you not married?'

'Oh, I suppose I have not been that fortunate to find that special lady.'

I gave her a white waxy jasmine that I had plucked and gave it to her and said afterwards, 'If you ever have the chance to visit England, I would hope that you visit me'.

She just smiled and responded, 'I would be honoured'.

Our common interests had blossomed into a rapport betwixt us that was indeed refreshing and delightful to reciprocate, yet I could not assuage my cark for her safety, due to the savage man or beast that had attacked me yester and was lurking in the adjacent area of its claudent boundaries. When I had mentioned this to her, her reply was one that was a display of her ingenuous wit. She had told me that she was more preoccupied with helping manage the estate of the baron than the looming fear of the intruder or pack of wolves that could be dangerous. Was it to be interpreted as a sign of her assurance or instead, an acceptance of the perils that existed in this part of the country? After we finished the conversation, we had returned to the estate, whereupon the baron had been waiting for our return. Coincidentally, he had just returned from speaking with the local authorities, anent the death of the carriage driver, that was my assumption. What I was unaware was of the duplicitous facility of the baron and his oppugnation. I was led to believe that he had spoken to those authorities, but he did not. There was no semblance of affirmation of that to be confirmed. Was I only a participating pawn to a version of blind man's buff? If so, then he had devised a hoodwinkable game with a masterful execution undertaken. Was the mystery to the baron and manor aligned to acts that were not ignoscible in the end?

The baron had notified me that he had contracted a carriage driver that would take me to Porto and that the carriage was waiting for me at my request. Originally, I had decided to stay another day at least, but there was something about the imperant look in the eyes of the baron and his comportment that had convinced me perhaps, that it was better to leave. Indeed, he was an assertive and superbious man that was wont to impose on others, his authority. Even though, he was stern with his servants, he was a genuine man that had displayed towards them, a solicitous care for them and they an assiduity. Their sedulity was rewarded and highly valued by the baron. My necessity to discover the truth behind the mystery of the manor and the attacker had not subdued, yet there was more pending matters to think, such as reaching Porto alive and not a horrendous victim of the creature or wild man that had attempted to murder me. Thus, it was decided that I would depart from the estate and I did offering my gratitude towards the baron and baroness for everything that they had done for me. I had said my token farewell to them both, and was offered an invitation to the estate of the baroness, however, as the carriage had departed and was on the road leading out of the estate, the ineffable beast had attacked once more. The attack had occurred, as we were passing the rows of towering trees of the forest. The attacker had lunged out of nowhere, at the carriage driver, killing him instantly and causing the carriage to land in a patch of mud so abruptly. Miraculously, I had survived with some injuries due to the crash, but I had managed to thwart off the attack of the creature, with a sword that I had pulled out from one of my belongings. It was a sword that I had brought to donate to one of the local museums of Porto. Once more, I was able to see the abominable guise of the attacker of salebrosity, those beady eyes and mad expression on his face. The one thing that I could not forget was the piercing shriek that had deafened me. Whatever it was, it had tried to bite me in the right arm. The attacker had scurried away, but it had an imperdible determination. Fortunately for me, a peasant that was passing by on the back of a horse had seen the carriage tip over and heard me moaning in agonous pain. I was able to tell him in my broken Portuguese, to take me to the baron's estate at once, so that the baron could summon for a doctor there. He did what I had instructed him to do immediately, then he departed the baron's estate.

In a matter of time, I was beginning to labefy in my strength and lapse in uncertain states of consciousness and unconsciousness, due to a bump on the head I had received from the fall. I was rushed then to the chamber that I was staying in, waiting for the doctor to arrive, as a desperate look was seen in my eyes so tangibly. I had found myself emerged within that unbearable condition of an obfuscating daze and my head was ringing. The baroness had attempted to pacify my anxiety and surging pain with her care and needed experience. She had served as a nurse in Lisbon and knew how to tend to my affliction or wounds, without any tarriance. Once the doctor had finally arrived then, he was capable of preventing my wounds to extend into a severity that would require my urgent hospitalisation. Thankfully, I would ultimately recover form from this brutal attack, but I would be instored for an even more daunting reality, the realisation that my nightmare had not abated yet in its sheer magnitude. I would be confined to my chamber to repose for the remainder of the day, and perhaps be ready for travelling to Porto in the morning, if I was recuperating well. Although, the baron was a bit uneased in his reluctance with the continuation of my presence on his estate, especially because of the lingering attacker that was involving me, he did not object that I would stay a bit longer on his property as his bidden guest. The ongoing attacks were starting to unsettle the baron and he knew that the attacks were becoming more recurrent, but what he did not perceive was the fact that the local villagers were in pursuit of the attacker as well. They had grown weary of his menacing wrath and soon would be encroaching at the entrance of the baron's estate, demanding justice forthwithal. The baroness stood by my bedside loyal and endearing, as I was resting in my chamber. I did notice that her charm appeared authentic, unlike the baron, whose charm was a trait of a wheedlesome nature. Our conversation was fain at first, for we had discussed the one thing that I discovered we shared a lot in common, our passion for the arts, but it would then stray to the threat of the wretch or heanling that had attacked me and killed several persons already, including my two previous carriage drivers. I could sense the uncomfortable sensation that was gnawing at her, as a laden measure of guilt had begun to rack her mind gradually, with the indisputable preponderance of facts accrued that were no longer mere ironies to dismiss so casually. What had constituted as contrarious before, had resulted in a telling bodement. What I had not discovered was, where was the hiddle of the attacker located at in the durity of the labyrinthine wald?

In the meantime, the baron was fully occupied with his brooding thoughts and the impending matter of the wild man or madman that was attacking people, in particular, around the area of the nearby village. The suspense was also increasing by the minute, as the baron would be informed about the infuriated mob that was heading towards his property to apprehend the savage killer. Any trace of his established propriety would be forsaken to the desperation of the unfolding event that would transpire out of control. Gruesome tidings would reach the baron and the servants on the estate that the attacker had murdered a young innocent peasant lass from Penafiel. Straightaway, the baron was forced to react and manage the situation, before the determined mob burnt down his estate. He ordered his hearsome men to arm themselves, if the mob had insisted in proceeding with their vengeance and defiance.

'Senhor, the mob from the village is approaching the front gate into the estate. They are seeking justice for the young girl that was murdered and saw the murderer enter the property'.

'Grab all the rifles you can and join me at the front gate. I'll try to pacify them with my presence. They respect me and my family above all'.

'Senhor, I warn you, they are angry and this time, they will not accept what you tell them, nor listen to your words'.

'I know the people of Penafiel, and they must hear what I have to say. My family has served this community well for decades'.

'Senhor, I beg of you, do not go! For you have not seen the fire in their eyes. They will not take kindly to your idle threat nor sermon'.

The baron had uttered, 'I must, for there is no other recourse. Come, we must hurry, before they barge into the estate'.

The baron had attempted to halt the advance of the rabble along with his men, but he would fail to prevent their entrance into the estate. Once at the front gate, he ordered with immediacy, the mob that had gathered and arrived at the estate, to turn back and leave his property, but the mob would not acquiesce; instead, they would insist. They demanded to enter and seize the attacker that had viciously killed the young peasant girl. There was nothing that the good baron could do, to dissuade the mob from entering the grounds of the manor. Thus, he would be forced to abandon his fruitless endeavour and flee back to his manor. The restless mob quickly then, entered the grounds of the estate, with little resistance from most of the Baron's men, who after sensing they were outnumbered, they dropped their rifles and scurry away, except a few loyal men that began to shoot at the villagers. The villagers were not frightened off and continued on. The baron and I, were in still in our chamber, when he heard the commotion outside that had escalated into a hypertense confrontation. The baroness went outside to the garden, to examine the situation. I was able to rise to my feet and look outside, where I saw the baron and the baroness urgently discussing what had occurred. At first, I did not see the intruding mob, until I had observed closely the area of the front gate. As I stood gazing through the window, suddenly, the wild man had burst into the room, knocking down the door with his full strength. I was completely stunned by the intrusion of the attacker that I was not prepared to react. I was defenseless, and had no weapon at hand, and at a clear disadvantage. The wild hirsute man had stood before me, with his maniacal look and I could see the intense rage surging in his eyes, as he stared at me with a wroth emotion that was shocking. A chilling sweat went down my face and my hands had begun to quiver with an uncontrollable movement. I thought I would not live to see another day, nor escape his terror anew, but I slowly stood firm, knowing that if I had demonstrated any sign of my cowardice or fear, he would pounce on me like a hungry wolf. Indeed, it felt as if I was confronting an animal; however, I had sensed, as I looked more into his eyes that he wanted to tell me something. For some unknown reason, he did not attack me like he did the previous encounter. For what reason, that I did not know. I had started to walk away from the window, whilst he stood there just staring at me. It was then, when the baron had entered with the baroness to inform me of what was transpiring with the irate mob outside.

'Lord Pembroke, we must leave the manor at once!'

When he had entered along with the baroness, he then saw the wild man. Little would I know that the wild man or attacker was actually the young brother of the baron. He had his rifle with him. When he saw the wild man, he had ordered him to flee rapidly from the manor and estate, but the attacker would not comply.

'What or who in God's name is this poor soul? Are you going to kill it or allow it to get away?' I asked the baron.

The baron looked at me and he finally admitted to me, the secret of the manor, 'You will not understand me, if I told you senhor'.

'I must know, for heaven's sake, tell me now, before that mob enters here!'

'Is it my brother, Thiago.'

'Your brother?'

The baroness then spoke, 'Yes, he is our dearest brother.

'What does this have to do with this wretch that you call your brother?'

'Everything. You see, Thiago once was married to a beautiful young lady. Remember, I had told you this in our prior conversation?'

'Yes, I remember that.'

'What I did not mention to you was the fact that he murdered her out of jealousy. He tried to burn her and the manor. Maria was killed, but in his fail attempt, he burnt himself and went mad. For all of these years, he has been living in the dense forest, like a wild man'.

'Good God, how could you let your brother live like a savage all of this time, knowing that he was behind the string of murders? Have you both, no shame whatsoever?'

'Yes, but there was no other way,' the baron had replied.

He then said, 'There is no time to waste, we must depart the manor. The mob is close to the garden. They will find us here!'

Unfortunately, it was too late, the mob had cornered and surrounded us. There was only one escape route, and that was through a latch of the door of the cellar below, where the supplies were stocked. The baroness and I were fortunate to escape the scene, yet the baron and his deformed brother Thiago, were not that fortunate. They both would succumb and die in the infernal flames, perishing at the hands of the mob that had started to burn the manor. It was pure madness that began this story, and pure madness that would eventually end this tragic story of a troubling secret that had been concealed, by members of a prestigious family from a remote area of Portugal. We were able to escape the manor and mob, with a rifle and lantern that allowed us to go undetected by the frenzied mob. When we got out of the cellar, we found ourselves in the middle of the woods, far away from the mob. It was so surreal to imagine and fathom this result of events that I literally had to recompose myself in several instances, as we walked through the thick trees of the woods. We walked for several kilometres, until we had reached a dirt road that led outside of the village. A carriage was passing and had seen us, standing there at the edge of the road. The carriage was heading towards Porto, and the people inside were kind enough to allow us to seat with them in the carriage. We could see the burning flames still coming from the manor, as it had burnt into a mass of worthless rubble. A reminding semblance of the horrible event that had taken place there. We were a bit dishevelled from the walk through the woods, but the people inside the carriage who were from Lisbon did not recognise us, nor knew what had occurred back at the manor with the impassioned mob. Nothing could be done to save the baron nor the wild man that was his beloved brother. That I had realised, along the trip to Porto; however, the haunting truth that the savage attacker was not only related to the baron and baroness and that he was their forgotten brother was unbelievable to accept so easily. There were still so many questions to ask her that went unanswered and I had wondered, how many more people had died at the hands of her alienated brother that she and the baron had known all along since my arrival? It was daunting to imagine such cruelty and indifference, but who was I to enforce my morality upon her, when I myself was guilty of not reporting these murders afterwards to the local authorities or the ones in Porto? The unforgettable incident back at the manor with the wild man or beast that I had been led to believe would evolve into a recurring episode of a harrowing nightmare that was not dismissable. Never would I return to the village of Penafiel again, for the thought of coming back there was certainly, not of my nostalgia nor hankering desire. I would keep in contact with the baroness through letters and we had often discussed her trip to jolly old England, although she rarely spoke about the horrendous thing that befell at the estate, at leisure. My assumption was that she wanted to forget the whole ordeal and finally resume her life the best she could, as a baroness. Coincidentally, through the development of the passing of extreme circumstances, she had become, the sole heiress to the Queiroz fortune.

The End.

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27 Jun, 2022
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