Chapter 1

Drawbridge

A short ride up a twisted path on Nightmare, her soot-colored steed, and Marceline arrived at the castle gates. She pulled Nightmare's reins, stopping her faithful companion before they reached the entrance.

She jumped off without loosening her grip on the leather straps. Her boots hit the ground with a wet thud, splashing muddy water up to her knees. She slowly walked Nightmare to a nearby post and tied a knot around it. This was mostly for show though. Nightmare could leave without much effort if she wanted to.

Satisfied with the knot, Marceline's gaze shifted to the castle. It was surrounded by a metal and mortar fence that stretched as far as she could see. The gate in front of her was open. Both halves of the gate had been overrun by rust and foliage. Large veins of a mossy green plant were wrapped around the bars of the rusted metal.

Cautiously, she passed the threshold of the gates and entered the property. In front of her was a long stone bridge, with a raised drawbridge cutting off her path. Below the bridge lay a body of murky water she would not dare enter unless forced. The only indication there was any movement at all was the distorting of the full moon on its surface.

The drawbridge remained in the up position until she was ten feet from the edge of the near side of the bridge. A clunking metallic sound preceded the slow descent of the bridge. As it reached her feet, Marceline squinted to see what was on the other side. It did not appear there was anyone on the other side manning the controls.

Attempting to see through the light fog that surrounded the outside of the castle, Marceline could only make out the outline of a large door with faint light coming from within. No other figures emerged.

She began walking across the bridge, seemingly not of her own volition. It felt like a rope had been attached to her belt, pulling her towards the far side of the bridge.

Crossing over, she noticed the chains were glimmering in the moonlight; well-oiled and clean. She could feel her pulse in her clenched hands as she passed the two stone pedestals that marked the end of the bridge.

Before her, embedded into the stone wall was a large door. A strip of light shone through the center.

Approaching the door, she pulled the large ring on the right side and it slid open without a creak. Bracing her foot against the open door, she peered inside.

The entrance of the castle was the largest single room she had ever seen. Large stained glass windows surrounded the interior, separated by lit torches glowing with an unnatural light.

At the end of the expanse of the entryway was a large spiral staircase leading somewhere she could not see. She took a step forward and gazed up at a ceiling so high the light could not reach it. In her awe, she did not notice the door closing behind her. It slid closed as silently as it had opened, sealing her inside.

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