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10. Character Dossier: This week I am going to borrow a prompt from one of our affiliate communities, [ profile] charloft . since it was really fabulous! Show us your Muse's home. You can show us a floorplans or layout of your muse's home or describe their home in detail. Better, still do both! Show us the home in which they live, the town, the furnishings and use as much detail as possible. Give us the grand tour!

((We are, for the moment, pretending the pictures show damage from at least 200 years of neglect! The up-to-date, fully restored pictures will be used later, for plots, so they're important!))

Moulins, France

For as long as any of the locals can remember, Château de Moulins has been a sinister place. If a visitor is lucky, in a dark corner of the local tavern, they'll hear tales of the de Moulins family fit to send icy tendrils of fear up the spines of the bravest of American tourists. Tales of greed and devil worship, of witchcraft and vampires, and of the French Revolution which drove the de Moulins from the castle and left it to rot with time. An extremely lucky visitor might even get the grand tour from the caretaker himself.

Arnaud Benoît Durand has been the caretaker of Château de Moulins for nearly forty years. The caretaker's house and the attached stables are the only buildings on the de Moulins estate that are still in good repair. A lucky visitor will find Monsieur Durand tending a large rose garden situated between his cottage and the main castle. If he allows closer examination, you will find graves scattered amongst the roses, all of them centuries-old. You realize, upon reading the names, that the rose garden is actually the cemetery of the infamous de Moulins family. You ask, "Why do you tend the cemetery, while the castle lies in ruins?"

"Ah," he says, "This is their home now."

You remember the stories whispered to you in the tavern and ask, "Is there any truth to rumors? About them, I mean."

He continues pruning the roses without a word, but if you're lucky and you stay, he sets aside the shears and waves you to an overgrown gate. "This castle has been empty, officially," he says, "for over two hundred years, but it has stood nearly empty for far longer. It's last owner was Vicomte Adrien de Moulins. Ah yes, you heard that name in the village. After his wife died, he went insane. One day, the priest came to entreat the Vicomte to allow his children Communion, and he found the bodies of three of the Vicomte's children and all of his servants, savaged by some horrible beast. The Vicomte himself was never seen again, nor was his eldest son, who was sent away several years before."

He struggles with the rusted lock on the gate, and it swings open with a loud groan. "For two hundred years afterward, there were only one or two distant de Moulins relatives on the property at a time. They were always a secretive lot, and wild stories of demonic rituals and vampires living in the castle dungeons never quite died off. But, that all ended during the French Revolution. What was left of the de Moulins family fled to America." He shrugs and waves you inside the gate. It creaks shut and he locks it behind you. "Kids like to get in and vandalize the property," he explains.

You walk up the dirt road in silence, broken only by the rustle of wind in the trees, the soft rush of water in the stream, and your own footsteps. You look back, and the last visible reminder of the present era is the main road disappearing into the trees around the lake. Ahead of you, an imposing fortress stands defiantly against the ravages of time.

"The castle," he says, "was built in the late 14th century as a military stronghold during the Hundred Years' War. The de Moulins family didn't acquire it until the mid-15th century. Even then, Adrien's great-great grandfather, the original Vicomte de Moulins, was rumored to be a witch. It was said he had a stare that could strike a man deaf and make a cow produce curdled milk. But, de Moulins won the favor of the king during the war, and he was never tried as a witch." He leads you to the castle's main gate. The heavy iron portcullis is rusted open and likely would prove impossible to close again. Above, there are several small holes in the stone, through which you see only darkness. "Those, he explains, were used to drop burning wood or hot sand on an enemy. The floor of the room above is still black with soot." The next portcullis is an iron-reinforced, heavy wooden door, soft and rotten now, and Monsieur Durand opens it gingerly to let you inside. Before you step through, into the small courtyard, he points to a door beside you. "There in a deep hole, is the castle oubliette. Officially, it hasn't been used in five hundred years, but I found an 18th century rapier at the top of the pile of bones in there. Not a nice place, the oubliette."

He ushers you into the small courtyard with its well. The wooden roof of the well has long since rotted and fallen in, and the door beyond it, to the keep, hangs wide open. He pulls a flashlight from a pocket of his jacket and waves you inside. "Watch your step. The stone is still solid, even after two hundred years, but there is debris everywhere." A spiral staircase winds its way up the narrow keep, to your left. To your right, darkness looms. Monsieur Durand shines his flashlight into the room beyond and says, "There is a smaller dining room in there, probably for the castle's servants, and beyond that the kitchen and servants' quarters. In there, too, is the armory and the powder room. During peacetime, the powder room was converted to wine storage. There are empty kegs and bottles dating back hundreds of years in there."

You follow him up the winding staircase, slipping only once on a loose stone. "Careful," he says. He shines the light into the dark room in front of you. "This was once the great hall. When Adrien de Moulins was newly married, one of the men from the village was found hanging from a noose in here. It was deemed a suicide, but there were rumors floating around that the Vicomte became jealous when his pretty Spanish wife smiled at the man." The caretaker's smile is unpleasant, and you shiver as a cold wind howls through the weathered stone. He points out a door to  the left of the staircase. "That is the main dining hall. Some say it was Catherine de Moulins' favorite place to play, and the caretaker that was here before me said he saw her spirit on several occasions. She was Adrien's youngest child, and pale and sickly from birth. She was forbidden to go outside, for fear it would ruin her delicate constitution, but she was always his favorite child, and he often took her riding with him." The caretaker shrugs and turns away. "At least until she was found murdered in here." He opens a heavy wooden door on the far end of the dining hall and gestures for you to follow him inside.

"Ah this. This is one place that has withstood time fairly well. The National Museum would probably pay dearly for the books in this library, but the de Moulins family has, so far, refused to sell any of them." He grins at your startled look. "Oh yes, the descendants of the de Moulins family reside in the United States now, but they keep tabs on their lands here. The current owner, Monsieur Molyneux, visits regularly." He gestures at the books. "The oldest of these date back well before the printing press." He leads you back through the dining hall to the stairwell.

"Above are the bedrooms. The master bedroom was always the living quarters of the current owner, and so it was last used in the late 18th century, but the children's rooms haven't been touched since the de Moulins children were killed." He leads you past that floor without ever allowing you to see what might have been the last thing the helpless children saw before they were murdered. He leads you up higher, past the next floor, which appears to be littered with too many fallen beams to navigate around. Finally, in the highest point in the keep, he slips past a rotten wooden door and leads you across a roof terrace. There, in the far tower, is a door reinforced with iron. A large key on his keyring opens it, and he forces the door open with a groan of effort.

Light streams into this room from an open window. A wooden staircase spirals down a few feet, then abruptly ends. The rest of it rotted away long ago. "That staircase used to lead to Vicomte de Moulins' private rooms. It was said that he kept his wife up here, after he found her with another man. The door here was kept locked, and the only way in or out was down the staircase, or with this key. She had everything she needed up here. Well, everything but her children. She was forbidden to see them. She died a few weeks later, of complications from the influenza she caught from her suitor. Vicomte de Moulins' punishment likely saved the castle from dying with her. A mixed blessing, I suppose. It wasn't two years later that the children and the servants were found slaughtered. A beast was blamed, but I suspect his wife's death drove the Vicomte insane. He was never seen again. Some say he drowned in the lake, but, you know, his descendants live in America now." The caretaker smiles then, and guides you back out of the castle. Further attempts to talk to him are met with that same, secretive smile. Once you reach your car, he waves.

He calls out, "If you're ever in town in November, stop by again. I'm sure Monsieur Molyneux would be glad to meet you!" You can't stop the chill that runs up your spine, and you turn the heat up in the rental car as you return to the village.

((The castle featured is Montbrun Castle in France. Pictures taken from that site, and can also be found here.))
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