Title: The Inheritance, Chapter 4
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Has Arthur inherited a haunted house?
Warnings: Haunted house tropes at every turn
Word Count: 1164 (sorry)
Author's Notes: This wraps up Suspense Month.
“Of course I don’t,” Arthur hisses back. “That’s why I’m going to investigate.” He pulls away, hand on the doorknob.
“Doomed,” Merlin says with a sigh, but he follows Arthur through the butler's pantry and into the kitchen. The chairs are tucked neatly under the table but all of the cabinets are gaping open, dishes and pantry goods stacked on the countertops. The door to the basement is ajar again.
“We’re not going back down there,” Merlin says sharply.
“No we’re not,” Arthur agrees, pushing the door closed. He looks back at Merlin. “I’m beginning to agree with you about this playing out like every horror movie ever.”
There’s the sudden sound of breaking glass upstairs. Of course Arthur runs toward the noise. Yet again, Merlin reluctantly follows.
The upstairs hallway is deserted.
Arthur opens one door after another as Merlin trails behind. There’s nothing amiss until they come to the locked door. The knob turns easily under Arthur’s hand.
Before he pushes it open, he turns back to Merlin. “You wait out here.”
“No way. You finally agreed this is unfolding like a horror movie and getting separated is a sure fire way to end up dead,” Merlin answers.
“Okay, then, stay behind me.” He pushes the door open and scans the room before stepping in, Merlin at his heels. At first glance the room appears empty until Merlin spots a frame laying face down in the middle of the hardwood floor. He points it out to Arthur.
They approach the object cautiously, as though it might bite. When nothing happens, Arthur pokes it with his foot. Again nothing, so he leans down, picking up the frame. A few shards fall free, smashing on the floor. Behind the shattered glass is a full body portrait of a stern looking man smirking at the camera. He’s got a rifle pointed at whoever took the photograph.
“Well, that’s not creepy at all,” Merlin says.
“It’s Great Uncle Agravaine,” Arthur answers.
There’s the sudden sound of something being dragged across the floor above them just as the bedroom door slams shut.
“With all the hunting the man did, you’d think there’d be a gun or machete around here somewhere,” Merlin complains, rummaging through yet another weapons free drawer.
“I give up,” Arthur says, closing a linen closet. “These are going to have to do.” He hoists his fireplace poker, squaring his shoulders. Merlin trails up the stairs after him, stopping at the door to the attic they haven’t explored yet. “Maybe we’ll find his weapons stash.”
“With whatever else is up there,” Merlin says gloomily. Arthur opens yet another door into the unknown.
Surprisingly, the attic lights work and even with the dark skies outside, the room is bright and airy. Merlin turns around, taking in the space. “This is my favorite room in the house,” he says.
“Before it was turned into a storage space, it used to be the nursery,” Arthur explains. “My mum and uncles were raised here.”
Merlin sighs, pointing his poker at the boxes stacked against the walls. “Then that means these are all full of ancient dolls and stuffed animals?”
Arthur gives him a grin, “Probably but let’s leave them to their own possessed toy devices for now. I’m hungry.”
They put everything back in the cabinets before preparing sandwiches and tinned soup for lunch. “You’re being awfully quiet,” Arthur says, stirring the soup.
“I’ve been thinking,” Merlin says, dividing turkey and cheddar between slices of whole meal bread. “Let’s eat and then I’ll tell you my theory.”
“Oooh, mysterious,” Arthur answers, smiling.
Even though it’s still raining off and on, Merlin asks Arthur to show him the grounds. The house is several yards behind them before he begins to speak. “The longer this goes on, what’s happening is reminding me more and more of a missing episode of Scooby-Doo. The only real danger we’ve been in was me braining myself over that cat. The rest has all been mysterious noises and locked or open doors. It’s scary but it’s not particularly hands on, you know?”
“Why would anybody want to scare us?” Arthur asks.
“What if Morgana is taking this opportunity to get back at you for locking her in the wine cellar all those years ago?”
Arthur’s eyes twinkle merrily as he laughs, “Oh my God. That makes so much sense. She loves getting her revenge.”
“I think she’s had her fun and it’s time we turned the tables,” Merlin says smiling.
“What’s your plan?”
When they return from their walk, there are footsteps running up the stairs.
This time Merlin is the first to follow, taking the stairs two at a time, Arthur right behind him yelling “Thank goodness I found that rifle in the shed!”
He sees the furthest door close as he and Arthur hit the hallway but they make a big, loud show of opening each room along the way. Merlin stands in the hall directing Arthur to look in the closets and under the beds and shoot anything that moves.
When they’re finally at the last door, they’re smiling widely in anticipation. Merlin pushes the door so hard it bounces off the wall and back at them. Arthur makes a show of looking through the empty room, even leaning out the window to search the surrounding countryside before finally walking toward the closet, the only possible hiding place left.
“Did you check to see if the rifle’s loaded?” Merlin asks.
Arthur raises his empty hands and smiles and winks over his shoulder. “Of course I did, Merlin. I’m not an idiot,” he says as he slowly turns the knob and pulls open the door.
The closet is empty. Shocked, Arthur spins.
Great Uncle Agravaine Dubois is standing in the hallway directly behind Merlin.
Merlin screams when he feels a hand land on his shoulder.
“Your faces,” Morgana cackles with delight. “I was sure you were going to piss yourselves.” She’s dressed in a man’s suit and is holding a mask she’d had made in Agravaine’s likeness.
“I can’t believe you were in on this with her,” Merlin grouses to Gwen.
“It was fun watching you two run about,” Gwen answers.
“I was terrified,” Merlin admits.
“I wasn’t,” Arthur lies.
“Sure you weren’t,” Morgana scoffs.
“I still don’t get where you disappeared to,” Merlin says to Gwen. “I saw the door close to that last room. You had to be in the closet.”
“There’s a false back on that closet. It’s where Great Uncle Agravaine used to store his firearms. I found it when I was seven,” Morgana answers with a smirk.
“And you kept it from me?” Arthur asks indignantly.
“You were horrid to me when we were little which is why you ended up with this "haunting" in the first place,” Morgana answers. “Revenge is a plate best served icy cold.” Laughing, she and Gwen high five one another and somehow Arthur and Merlin can’t help laughing, too.