One glance from her wicked eyes and you’d never find joy again in this world. One flash of her evil smile and fear would rule you for the rest of your days. One touch from her snake-like skin and you’d never again know the pleasure of sex. All it takes is one of these simple actions from Melina of Lannester to ruin a man—to break his mind, spirit, and most troubling of all, his heart. And that’s what she relished in the most. The breaking of men’s heart. At least, that’s what the legends say.
They say high atop the world Melina slumbers in the darkest of castle towers. Banished there a millennia ago by her father, King Elrich III of Lannester. A great man. A noble, honorable man who ruled with a mighty yet fair hand. Loved throughout the country, King Elrich was indeed a king for the people. His reign lasted long and all prospered under his years of service. But like all great reigns, it had to come to an end some time. Only, King Elrich’s reign didn’t end from old age or a conquering army. It befell destruction at the malevolent hands of a young girl. His daughter, Melina. Or so it goes.
King Elrich loved Melina with every fiber of his being. Her mother had passed during Melina’s birth and the little girl was all he had left. He doted greatly on Melina—giving her every gift and advantage he could to make her life as joyous as possible. But there was something wrong with Melina. Something King Elrich couldn’t ignore.
It started with small things. One day, seemingly out of the blue, all the castle cats went missing; never to return. Another day, a murder of crows formed and swooped in circles above the castle at dusk, then proceeded to meet there at the same time every evening since.
The odd animal behavior reached its zenith when the royal steeds started acting erratic and refused to go near the castle—even when the handlers whipped them with a raging harshness—but eventually things progressed beyond these peculiar events and entered into a whole new territory of menace with the death of a young servant girl.
King Elrich had been away for some weeks dealing with a property dispute with a neighboring kingdom. In his absence, it was as if the castle was taken over by evil spirits. This was no more evident than with the uncovering of the servant girl’s body.
Of all people, it was a visiting monk who had found the girl. The monk—who was staying as a goodwill ambassador for the Kingdom of Reavertone—was on his way to the chapel when he came across the morbid scene.
“Oh, may my lord guide me,” the old monk said when he noticed the swarming flies dipping to and fro a nearby spot in the garden. “Heaven be with he me,” he whispered as he crossed the garden entrance and was hit with the pungent scent of death.
The poor girl had been stripped of all her flesh and thrown into a small garden pond, waters turned blood-red. An investigation was almost immediate, but nothing came of it. There were no suspects beyond the monk, and he was quickly dismissed, and the only person the young girl had come into contact with that morning was Melina, who was younger—and much smaller—than the servant girl. There was no evidence beyond the girl’s bloody body. As much as it left everyone involved dissatisfied, they decided to chalk it up to an animal attack and leave it at that.
“…it was as if the castle was taken over by evil spirits.”
Other strange, albeit less heinous, events took place during the king’s absence. All the royal steeds lost their silky coats, and eventually their bare skin began to boil and blister until the handlers had no other choice but to put the poor animals out of their misery.
During the same time, across the castle grounds, a serious plague-like illness hit the pigs. They all lost weight at a rapid pace until they were no more than skin and bones. They too were put out of their misery and burned in a huge pile far off the castle grounds. Nobody wanted to risk eating them.
When the king returned he was greeted with a sadness and desperation never before felt in his kingdom. His servants quickly informed him of all the ill happenings since his departure, but King Elrich waved them away and instead focused on the only thing he really cared about: Melina. In all the news of trouble and death, no one bothered to mention how his precious daughter was holding up. The only information he gathered was that she had refused to leave her room since he left. No one had seen her since the day of the servant girl’s death. Food was slipped under her chamber door and the tray of rotten food was collected days later. She never ate and refused to be seen anyone.
A mighty knock echoed through the labyrinth-like hallways of the castle. “Melina, my dear. It’s father.” He waited in silence for a response but there was none. “Is everything okay?” He knocked again and this time it was followed by the faint clicking of a lock. The door creaked open.
All was quiet in the room. The windows had been blocked off by heavy drapes which seemed to absorb all sound along with the light. A subtle musk had taken hold of the room, permeating a moist moldy scent into the cold air. The King wasn’t sure if he’d walked into the chamber of his daughter or a crypt.
“Melina, my daughter. Where are you hiding?”
A small voice spoke up from the corner, “Here.” The words lingered in the air like a wisp of smoke.
“I don’t see—” Just then the King spotted a petite figure dressed in all black sitting in the shadows. Her face was covered in darkness. A disguise that hid what she had become. “Why are you sitting in the dark, my dear?”
She said nothing. The King moved in closer, slowly, with caution as to not startle her. Something was wrong.
“Why don’t you come out now?” He stepped closer still, passing the bed which appeared like it hadn’t been slept in since he’d left. “It’s alright. Father is here.” He gripped the end of one of the heavy drapes. “You’re safe,” he said, pulling open the drapes to let the sun in.
“No!” the girl shrieked with an otherworldly sharpness.
But it was too late. The sun had washed over her grotesque, pale skin and skeletal-like body. She was no longer a little girl, nor was she a woman. She was something else. Something… inhuman.
“My God,” the King whispered as he fell to his knees. He didn’t want to believe this creature was his beloved daughter, but her eyes, her eyes were the same ones that had given him a teary goodbye mere weeks ago. Only, a different spirit lurked behind them. This couldn’t be his daughter. Not anymore.
Melina jumped to her feet. Her waif-like body lunged for the drapes; closing them with an unnatural fierceness. As soon as the drapes blocked off the sunlight and the darkness returned, Melina’s appearance became that of a precious little girl once more.
The King’s mouth fell open. “I don’t,” he struggled to find the words, “I don’t understand what’s happening.” All the strength left his body. “My daughter. My beautiful child. Sweetest Melina, what has become of you?”
“Oh, father. Don’t you know?” The words came out with an ethereal hiss, as if the girl’s throat was a portal to another world and an inhabitant of that world was speaking for her. “Melina is gone. It is only I who remains.”
A rage began to burn deep within the King. “And who are you?” he demanded through gritted teeth.
She laughed the dry, sere laugh of a corpse. “You don’t need to bother with such details, for soon, this kingdom will come to ruin. As will you!”
The girl leapt forward with the quickness of a tiger. Her movements precise and calculated, she pulled a blade from a hidden sheath and plunged downward toward the King’s neck. But she missed. All his years of combat training gifted him a quicker step.
He managed to wrestle the blade from her unusually strong grip. She may have had the appearance of a little girl, but she fought like a warrior. He knocked the blade to the ground but she managed to dig her sharp fingers into his throat, cutting off his air supply. He used his weight advantage to flip her on her side, knocking the drapes from one of the windows in the process.
The King looked down in horror to see his daughter had transformed into an old hag in the light of day. Her loose skin was gray as ash and draped over her body in the most disturbing way.
“What are you?” the King said in disgust?
“Your worst nightmare,” she said through black teeth, laughing that dry, terrible laugh.
Hearing the commotion, a few of the King’s guards had rushed to the room. From there he had his most trusted men take the old woman and lock her up in the castle tower. The light seemed to sap all her strength.
When the King was a little boy his father had used the tower as an observatory, but King Elrich III had no such use for it. So it was the perfect place to lock her up.
He made sure his men covered all the windows so she would keep the appearance of his daughter; a precious little girl who never aged. There was no way he could look upon that foul creature in the light ever again. Even if the darkness was what gave her strength.
Some say the King lost his heart that day. He never learned what had become of his daughter—if she was ever his daughter—because he was too afraid to ask. Though, he would often visit her in that dreadful tower, making sure to talk to her from the open slit in the door. She would act sweet and try to lure him, but he never went in. Nobody did.
Over time the King grew old and his kingdom had fallen into despair. No animals other than the crows could live there. Without the animals, most of the people left. King Elrich ignored the state of his castle and it too fell into disrepair. He stopped paying his men and servants, and all but a loyal few left as well.
It was the creature that was his ruin. From the day it was born everything changed. An evil fell over the land and nobody knew what it was. Even now the castle still stands; a relic of a time long lost. Its walls have crumbled and its surroundings overgrown with vegetation, but that dark, mysterious tower remains.
Some say if you travel there at night, you can hear a faint laughter coming from it. But nobody has ever been brave enough to find out what it could be.