To most, it seems as if Mortis Manor has always been there, growing out of the hillside like a cancerous tumor. It’s hard to imagine it was ever inhabited by mortals, but it was.
To most, it seems as if Mortis Manor always been there, growing out of the hillside like a cancerous growth sprung from the land itself. Those who venture near its dark, sprawling jumble of spires, peaks and turrets, say it seems to almost breathe, throbbing with a disturbing alien life all its own. It’s hard to imagine it was ever inhabited by mortals, but it was.
James Mortis arrived in town in the mid-1800s. He was a wealthy man, and that is the extent of what the townspeople knew about the mysterious stranger. Soon after his arrival, he acquired the hillside property and began building an expansive home. The locals would glance furtively up at the construction while they scurried about their daily errands, as if too nervous to stare openly, for fear of inviting the house’s attention.
Mortis Manor grew by the day, though no one ever saw it being worked on — no crews trudging up the hill with hammers and saws — just a house that seemed to expand, nightly, on its own.
The townspeople whispered to each other, seeking explanation for the inexplicable. Some said James Mortis had made a deal with the devil, channeling dark, magical arts to complete his eccentric homestead.
When the house was complete, or so the general populous assumed, James sent for his two young daughters, Rosa and Lily. They arrived by train and went straight to Mortis Manor. They were rarely seen in town after that, and when they were, people took pains to avoid them, giving them a wide berth on the street and leaving stores without purchasing what they’d come for when they entered. There’s something not right about those girls, people said, something wicked.
James Mortis ventured into town only slightly more often than his onerous offspring, but when he did, he frequented the only tavern in town. He often met with a man folks heard him addressing as “Doctor,” but no one knew what sort of doctor he might be. As time went on, James and The Good Doctor were sighted walking together on the street or conspiring in the park across the street from the town graveyard. James would spend long nights away from the manor, leaving Rosa and Lily to fend for themselves, as Silas, the caretaker he had hired to watch over the grounds, took little interest in the girls. There were rumors of grave robbing, talk of grotesque experiments carried out on the cadavers they stole. Some scoffed; some said there was more to it than just rumor.
Rosa and Lily grew taller, stranger and more bewitchingly attractive by the year. Rumors drifted down from the hillside that they argued and schemed against each other constantly, vying for their father’s sparse attentions. Lily was taken to the local physician late one night, and gossip-prone neighbors reported it was because Rosa had tried to poison her sister’s tea. But it was Lily who had the last laugh.