The Fane

📅 Published on April 22, 2020

“The Fane”

Written by Kristyn Mass
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by Kristyn Mass

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: Chilling Tales for Dark NightsYouTube (feat. Kristyn Mass)


Rating: 9.40/10. From 5 votes.
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I grew up in a place called Lair’s Fane or ‘The Fane’, as locals called it, a solid two-and-a-half hours from anywhere worth going. I lived with my grandmother in her rustic, weathered farmhouse just beyond the edge of The Fane, set adrift in the countless acres of wheat and corn that occupied the empty space between towns.

Nana was well-known in The Fane, the townsfolk, called her an herbalist, but it was bullshit and they all knew it. Nana had a gift. It was real and palpable. You could sense it just being around her, like the static charge before a lightning strike. People from the area came to see my grandmother for all sorts of reasons, some were desperate for a family, others had failing health, and a few just needed an understanding ear.

Nana listened to their problems, with the patience I’d often benefited from during my teenage years, then she’d offer sage advice along with a poultice, tincture or herbal bundle delicately wrapped up in a sheer muslin cloth. Her guests left feeling better, lighter, and with careful instructions on how to use the potent mixture they were given.

“It’s all about intention,” she told me, slowly grinding her obsidian pestle into its paired mortar filled with willow bark.

“If you make something with love, good things will come to those it touches.” I’d always wondered if the opposite was true.

I learned everything I could from her, about plants and their different uses and about the power of intention. She often told me I was naturally gifted when it came to herbs, though she never let me help her while she worked, always saying it was too dangerous.

When I turned eighteen, I moved to the city to attend University. Nana insisted I leave The Fane and never look back, forbidding me from even coming to visit, saying that the place had a way of holding on to you. We talked over the phone several times a week, then through video calls when I sent her a laptop for Christmas. She cried when she saw me on the computer screen, remarking how grown up I looked. I couldn’t believe how she looked exactly the same.

A month before her one-hundredth birthday, she called me, but this time she acted strangely, saying and doing things with an air of finality that frightened me.

She told me everything was fine and I didn’t need to worry, but there was something in her voice that told me it was time to come home. She blanched when she saw me on her doorstep, then gathered me into a fierce hug, scolding me for daring to come back.

At first I thought I’d overreacted, mistaking Nana’s strange behavior for something more worrisome, but she seemed as lucid and wily as ever. In fact, it felt as though nothing had changed, it was just as I remembered it from my childhood. A steady stream of people coming and going throughout the day, the smell of crushed lavender mingling with cedar, and Nana shouting for me to hunt down one herb or another from her entropic garden.

I sat on the sun-baked porch, where tangled masses of withering vines mounted a decades-long assault on the cracked and battered wood. To my surprise, I’d settled back into the strange silence of the country as though I’d only been away a few days, instead of over a decade.  Nana’s voice carried through the kitchen’s open window, calling me inside.

“You remember Mrs. Lyndon, don’t you?” Nana said, motioning to the regal, silver-haired woman seated next to her.

The woman stood and grabbed my hand, shaking it with restrained enthusiasm. Her piercing eyes, as slivered as her hair, locked on to mine.

“It’s been such a long time, we’re all very excited to see what you’re capable of.”

I smiled politely, then gave Nana a questioning look.

“What I’m capable of?”

“Well, I should be going now. I’ll come back tomorrow to pick up my order,” the woman said, ignoring the question. She swept from the room and out the front door, shutting it quietly behind her.

“What the hell was that about?” I said.

Nana smiled sadly, then motioned for me to sit.

“Doris says, her husband has something of a violent temper and it’s only getting worse.”

“Oh,” I said, as Nana filled two cups with a steaming, rosy-colored tea.

“Shouldn’t she tell the sheriff or something?”

Nana shook her head. She seemed to age as we sat there.

“No, this is something I think you can handle,” she said, sliding me her obsidian mortar and pestle.

I’d always been forbidden from touching Nana’s tools, resigned to only watching her craft the herbal remedies the people of The Fane so highly regarded. I reached out, touching it as though it were a sacred object.

“Me?” I said, sliding my fingers over the mortar’s black, glassy surface.

“If you were to make something for her, what intention should you have?”

“Protection, I suppose,” I said, feeling a sudden knot forming in my stomach, something was wrong.

Why did she suddenly want my help making a mixture she could make blindfolded?

“So, now you have your tools and your intention, what comes next?” Nana grabbed her gnarled wooden cane and pointed it in the direction of her whitewashed cupboards.

I rose from my chair and opened the lowest cupboard doors, revealing an overly-large spice rack. I sifted through the countless glass jars, small cloth pouches and unmarked tins.

“Agrimony, nettle and blessed thistle,” I said, pulling each from the shelf as I found them.

“Good girl.” Nana tapped her can on the floor in applause. She stood with some effort, edging closer to watch as I placed leaves and stems into the waiting mortar. I hesitated unsure of what exactly I was supposed to make. Nana held up her index finger, as gnarled and crooked as the cane she leaned on.

“Never forget, little one, it’s your intention that’s key.”

I nodded, and began working the bits of dried herbs into a fine powder as I’d seen my grandmother do a thousand times before. It went on that way for almost a week, though Nana offered less and less input with each order I filled, content to just sit and watch.

The morning of Nana’s birthday, I sat at her bedside, a tray of toast and coffee cooling at my feet. Her eyes were open, staring into the empty space above the foot of her bed, while grasping a massive, tattered tome in one rigored hand and an ornate wooden box in the other. I gently removed each from her grip, placing them on the nightstand, then closed her eyes. She looked so serene lying there, so peaceful. I stood there for a long time, watching her, and realizing I didn’t feel all that surprised. Nana did everything with purpose, and during the past week, it felt as though she was preparing to go somewhere. It was like the excited energy on the night before a big trip. Sad to leave, but excited to go.

Nana’s house was full that night, the people of Liar’s Fane turned out to pay their respects, but the evening was filled with strange off-hand comments echoing the words of Mrs. Lyndon the week before.

“We’re so excited to see what you’re capable of.”

I retreated upstairs, away from the nauseating hum of laughter and small talk, into the quiet of Nana’s darkened room. I stood, unmoving, staring down at the tray of this morning’s untouched breakfast as tears slipped down onto the front of my shirt. I sat on the edge of her bed, letting my head fall into my hands for a few brief, unstoppable sobs.

The creaking of mattress springs and rustling of blankets startled me. I sprang to my feet.

I could see the mattress bowing, as if under someone’s weight. Then came the smell of lavender. I quickly turned on the light, blinking away the teary haze. The room was again silent and the scent gone.

The book, I’d placed on the bedside table that morning, was cracked open to a dog-eared page midway through. I leaned in to examine the writing on the brittle, yellowed paper.

“The child, bound by birth, must bear the iniquity of the forefather.”

I felt a chill crawl its way up my spine, standing my hairs on end. I didn’t know what it was supposed to mean, but it had a physical effect all the same. The feeling of eyes on me made me turn, Mrs. Lyndon stood motionless in the doorway.

“There you are!” she said, reanimating to glide toward me. Grabbing my hand, she pulled me back toward the stairs, where the townspeople had gathered. The laughter and small talk had been replaced by an oppressive silence as Mrs. Lyndon stopped us on the second stair from the bottom.

“We just wanted to say how much we appreciated your grandmother, she was a part of all our lives, but we know she left us in good hands.”

The crowd raised their assorted glasses in a solemn salute.

“Thank you, but I’m not staying,” I said, the serious expressions of the crowd lessened as the corners of everyone’s mouth seemed to curl upward in a unified knowing smile.

“Your grandmother was the same way at first, but she came ‘round and so will you.”

Mrs. Lyndon’s grip on my arm held me like a vise, I winced in pain and tried to pull away, but every movement I made was met with her hand clamping tighter into my flesh.

I stopped struggling, and stared at her in disbelief. She let go and smiled.

“See how easy that was?” she said.

The crowd murmured their approval, then continued their jovial small talk. I rubbed my arm, it ached and throbbed, I was certain a bruise was already forming. These people were crazy if they thought they could bully me into staying, I don’t know what kind of hold they had over Nana, but it wasn’t going to work with me. Nana told me never to come back and this must have been why.

It was midnight before the house was finally empty again. I turned out the lights and bolted the door, then crept up the stairs to Nana’s bedroom, slipping across the oak boards as though I might wake her. I grabbed the book and box from the nightstand, then stopped at the door, turning to face the room as the faint smell of lavender wafted past.

“Nana?” I said, into the darkness, but there was no answer.

Down the hall in my bedroom, I cradled the giant tome in my lap, turning each page with the care a book of its age required. Page after page of recipes for potent herbal remedies, short passages about the properties of plants, and journal entries about Nana’s life filled every inch of writing space. The oldest were faded and nearly unreadable, but the last entry was made the night Nana died.

“I’m sorry, little one. I wanted to spare you from this if I could, I tried to keep you away from them, but I knew sooner or later you’d come back. I’d intended to make a go of it myself, but now it’s up to you. I left you something to help, but the contents of the reliquary won’t be enough on its own.”

I caught the fleeting image of a dark figure in my peripheral, but tried to ignore it.

As a child, I was no stranger to spotting shadows out of the corner of my eye, or hearing voices whispering at night, but I was never afraid of them, I never worried, because I knew I was safe with Nana. Now she was gone and I shuddered at having to face them alone. I turned my attention to the ornate wooden box, the reliquary Nana mentioned.

Several sigils were burned on to the wooden bottom, while metal runes were inlaid along the edges meeting at an iron clasp in the middle of the lid. It reminded me of a miniature coffin, or maybe that was just the kind of day I was having.

The figure appeared again, lingering longer than before. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to will it away. Breath hit my skin, hot and acrid, then fingers combed through my hair.

I screamed, flailing my arms in wild circles at the empty space around me. I bolted from the bed; I could feel spectral hands reaching for me as I ran from the room into the hallway. I turned back as I reached the top step. A powerful force pushed me off balance, sending me tumbling to the unforgiving floor at the bottom of the stairs.

My head throbbed where it collided with the ground and my vision blurred. The shadowy figure stood at the top of the stairs, shrouded in a black mist with two glinting silver eyes.

I scrambled to my feet and swung around banister sprinting through the house and out the back door to where my little rusted out station wagon was parked. I jumped in, grabbing the keys from the visor. I nearly spun out on the gravel of the long road leading to the old farmhouse, then sped out onto the desolate stretch of county road heading away from the house and The Fane. I could handle all the legalities by phone, or I could come back with some of my friends to ward off the local color. For now, it was best to just get away.

There was nothing for hours, the sun was already starting to peek out in pinks and yellows from beyond the horizon, but the corn and wheat just kept going. It didn’t matter,

I was putting distance between me and The Fane.

Finally, I saw a turnoff and took a chance, hoping there would be somewhere I could get some gas or at least use a phone. The wind changed directions making my wake of gravel dust lurch out in front of me obscuring my view as I crept along the narrow country road, but I could still make out a structure in the distance. My car stalled out as I pulled up to the familiar shape of my childhood home. I was back, I drove all night and part of the day and somehow I ended up back at Nana’s.

“I knew you’d be back, didn’t I say she’d be back?” Doris Lyndon reclined in one of the Adirondack chairs lined up on the wrap-around porch. Beside her, a young couple lounged in the mid-morning sun.

“Did I have a choice?” I said, trying to control the anger I felt flooding my face and chest.

“Oh, hon, of course not,” she laughed politely.

“You’re ours now, kiddo. That power of yours sealed the deal.”

“What do you mean?”

“The powder you made me worked like a charm. I sprinkled it all over a picture of my husband, like you said, then he sprinkled himself all over the living room with a shotgun. God, I laughed so hard I thought I was gonna wet myself.” She stood and the others followed after her, chuckling.

“He what?” I sank to the ground, all the fight draining out of me.

“Don’t look so upset. You did good. I’ve been trying to get rid of him for years.”

“Who are you people?” I said, my voice weak and pathetic.

The group smiled, silver flashing in their eyes.

“We are the followers of Mendax,” the man said, adjusting his wire frame glasses.

“The Fane is his temple and we are his children,” the young woman added.

“He lives through us.” Doris opened her arms in a wide gesture, as though it had all been well-rehearsed.

“What the hell is a Mendax?”

“An old deity. He was here long before we showed up, and I’m sure he’ll be here long after we’re gone.” She looked me up and down then shook her head in disappointment.

“You know, your family’s always had power. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s in your blood. Hardly seems fair, does it? Someone centuries ago pissed off a god you’ve never even heard of, but you’re the one who pays the price.” She looked sympathetic for a moment.

“Well, you know what they say. Shit rolls downhill.” The trio howled with laughter.

I got to my feet and ran to the house.

“We’ve had a hold of your family for the last two hundred years, sweetie, so don’t go thinking you’re gonna get away from us,” Mrs. Lyndon said as I ran past.

I slammed the door shut behind me and locked the deadbolt, then retrieved Nana’s book and the box from my bedroom, and hurried to the kitchen. I seized the obsidian mortar and pestle from its place above the spice cupboard. Leaves, twigs and dried flowers churned into powder beneath the force of the pestle, holding the intention in my mind.

“Repel evil.”

I sprinkled a line of powder in front of every possible entrance I could think of, then gathered my courage to peek out the front window. They were still out there staring at the house, but they had moved out further onto the lawn.

I went back to the book, opening it up to the marked page I was shown before.

“The child, bound by birth, must bear the iniquity of the forefather.”

I scanned further down the page until I saw the name Mendax, who Nana described as a filthy being of deception. Not a demon exactly, but not too far off the mark.

“Mendax, the Liar” written in my grandmother’s curved and flowing style.

“An old evil, which preyed upon our family when we refused to submit our power to his rule. Cursing those born with the gift to serve his followers.”

I could hear cars pulling up outside and voices calling out to one another in greeting.

“These people,” Nana’s journal continued, “the people of The Fane, they are his true children, in body and spirit, the result of an old god philandering with humans.”

“Yeah, awesome, is there a way to stop it?” I said, flipping franticly through the pages. “Nana, if you can hear me, a loophole would be great right about now.”

The scent of lavender breezed past, the jars of herbs I had set out all tipped over at once flooding the table with small dried flowers and leaves that encircled the wooden box.

The relic, I’d nearly forgotten about it. I flipped open the clasp and the lid sprang open. I gasped, throwing the box back onto the table, then took a few steps back in disgust.

Inside, a shriveled human hand was curled into a loose fist. A note fitted into the box’s lid unfurled slightly, its corner caressing the grey, leathery skin of the dead hand. I could see yellow bone peeking out from where the once loose skin had been tied off with a bit of twine around the stumps of the severed radius and ulna.

I plucked the note from the box avoiding all contact with the ghoulish keepsake. Beneath the note was a form-fitted indent into the box’s velvet lining where an off-white candle was held. The note gave detailed instructions on the use of the hand and the candle.

I took another quick look through the window, the whole town had gathered, the church of Mendax was assembling on Nana’s lawn and they were headed my way.

I went back to the note, reading it aloud.

“Okay, place the candle of human tallow, gross, between the fingers of the hanged man’s fist, then light the wick to cause all who see it to succumb to paralysis.”

Normally, I would have laughed at the ridiculousness of it all, but desperation has a weird way of making you willing to try new things.

A window broke somewhere toward the back of the house followed by banging. I reached out grabbing the pickled thing and wedged the candle between the middle and ring finger. I plunged my hand in the junk door, the most likely place for matches to be. I could hear wood splintering, then several sets of footsteps inside making their way to the kitchen. Finally, my shaking hand took hold of a matchbox. I looked up to see silver eyes staring back at me from the darkness beyond the gap of the pocket door.

“Oh, shit! Oh, shit!” I fumbled with the matches, dropping them to the floor. The door slid open with such force it broke through its frame, coming to a stop somewhere inside the wall. I grabbed the matches again and flicked the first match against the strike strip forcefully. The head lit, but broke off from the wooden stick, tumbling into the pile of herbs on the table, which began to release fragrant smoke. The silver-eyed mob breached the kitchen, forcing me back to the far wall. The window beside me burst inward, where more of Mendax’s troops slipped inside.

“Come on, slow is smooth, smooth is fast,” I said to myself, striking a second match. The tip held and combusted. Someone grabbed hold of my shirt from behind, as I lit the candle clutched in the long-dead hand. It spat and sputtered before blazing to life.

The crowd froze. I tore myself away from the mob’s grip, picking my way between all the bodies packed in the small room, their glinting eyes following as I passed.

“You will serve those loyal to me,” the man with the wire frame glasses said from over my shoulder. Mendax spoke through them, moving from person to person like a virus.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

“Banish evil,” I said, holding the intention in my mind.

The slowly burning herbs filled the kitchen with their pleasant odor, causing the crowd to shudder violently in response. I sat the morbid candle holder on the counter near the door, then grabbed several brown glass bottles from the cupboard.

A heavy black miasma streamed from the eyes of the townsfolk, curling and coiling from their bodies until a smoky figure reformed at the center of the kitchen. Two silver eyes shone from within the churning mist. The people lowered their gaze in reverence of their deity that stood before them.

“You will serve my followers.” The voice was calm and ancient.

I smiled, then held up one of the brown glass bottles marked ‘alcohol’ Nana used for tinctures.

“Yeah? What if you don’t have any followers?”

I smashed the bottles on the ground, then quickly lit a match and tossed it into the puddle spreading across the kitchen floor. Screaming erupted behind me as I fled the house to the front lawn, where I watched the flames consume my childhood home and the paralyzed residents of Liar’s Fane. I walked away from the smoldering ruins with the thick scent of herbs and roasting flesh hanging in the air.

The moon was high overhead by the time I reached the junction road leading to the highway, where a young woman in a passing car stopped to offer me a ride. I gladly accepted, sinking into the passenger seat exhausted, eventually falling into a deep sleep.

I woke to the sound of rain pattering the car’s roof and windows. The woman in the driver’s seat put the car in park and turned off the engine.

“You sleep okay?” she said.

“Yeah, thanks. I really appreciate the ride.” I pulled the lever and brought my reclined seat upright to see out the window.

My breath caught in my throat, dislodging as the primal sound of a trapped and terrified animal.

Outside the window, in the cool morning rain, the farmhouse stood as it always had, amidst the corn and wheat, unmarred by flame.

“It’s no trouble. I was headed this way anyway,” the woman said, winking one silvery eye.

Rating: 9.40/10. From 5 votes.
Please wait...

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: Chilling Tales for Dark NightsYouTube (feat. Kristyn Mass)

Written by Kristyn Mass
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by Kristyn Mass

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Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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