Darkness Falls on the House of Loud

BY : Trillhouse
Category: +G through L > The Loud House
Dragon prints: 823
Disclaimer: I do not own The Loud House, nor the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Darkness Falls on the House of Loud

I - Ritual


 

It was just before midnight in the house of Loud. The moon was full and bright. While the other Loud siblings slept peacefully, a tiny figure slunk her way down the hall; silent and unnoticed, as she always was. Carefully, she pulled down the fold-out ladder leading to the attic, hoisting a bag of supplies up with her. Tonight was the night.

Only the faintest hint of a smirk crossed Lucy Loud's pale face; needless to say, she was excited. Pop-Pop had surprised her with the old grimoire last weekend. It had belonged to Great Grandma Harriet, of course… he had found it mixed in with his own things before he moved to the nursing home, and had simply forgotten to give it to Lucy till now. She had never hugged someone so tightly before.

Lucy ran her fingers across the book's leather bindings, cracked and faded by time. She had no way of knowing for sure whether or not the book was authentic, but it certainly seemed old… the cloth pages were worn and frayed at the edges, and the text appeared to be written by hand, primarily in French. Though there was nothing tying it down to a specific point in time, there was enough mention of public executions and the 'meddling inquisition' to place it somewhere around the 15th or 16th century.

The content itself varied wildly, ranging from simple spells, runes, and hexes to the day-to-day musings of its author. Early on, things were fairly normal… most of the text was written in French, dipping into Latin for most of the spells and incantations. But the further Lucy read, the more things became… unusual. The handwriting grew more erratic, at times appearing as though it was hastily scribbled down in a mad frenzy. Sometimes pages were littered with half-thoughts and incomplete ramblings.

Musings on the outside world became less frequent; instead were paranoid ramblings of realms beyond the understanding of man, strange geometries and eternal beings predating the universe itself. Even the language would shift from one page to the next, and sometimes even mid-thought; ranging from French to Latin to Spanish to, as Lucy had discovered, Sumerian. She had spent much of the week at the library, doing her best to translate what she could, sometimes with Haiku's assistance. She had briefly considered asking Lisa for help, but the last thing she wanted was another lecture about how such things were 'nonthenthe' and how her time would be better pursuing scientific studies.

At any rate, it didn't matter… she'd managed well enough on her own. Though the text was faded in some spots, and illegible in others, she was pretty sure she'd been able to guess the missing bits with a decent level of accuracy. As a test, she'd tried out one of the simple luck spells on Thursday, and to her shock she had stumbled across a crisp $20 bill on the walk home from school. The next day, she'd attempted an attraction spell, and after class Rocky pulled her aside and suddenly kissed her. Though these could have simply be coincidences, for her it was proof enough that this grimoire was the real deal.

Which is why, despite her excitement, she still felt a small twinge of apprehension for tonight. Many of the more advanced rituals were far beyond what she was even willing to consider; some simply needed materials she had no way of acquiring, while others went so far as to require sacrifices, human or otherwise. One even required the slow, methodical flaying of a live victim, described step-by-step in horrific detail. It had been enough to bring a chill to even Lucy's cold heart.

But there was one that stood out. One at the very end of the book, at what Lucy could only assume was the height of the author's madness. The text had been difficult to read by that point; in spots it was unclear if they had actually written anything at all, or if they were simply scribbling erratically. But she could make out enough. In essence, she had gathered that it was for 'those who seek the embrace of darkness'. It was… vague to say the least, but it sounded enough like her to pique her interest.

The sigil itself was the most complicated bit; a baffling array of strange geometric shapes within a circle of runes. It took her more than half an hour to draw it on the floor in chalk, and she found herself needing to fix mistakes often. Beyond that, however, the materials needed were simple enough to acquire. Candles, of course… can't have an arcane ritual without candles. Earth from a fresh grave… a trip to the cemetery had taken care of that. Salt? Kitchen. A chalice? She made one from clay during arts-and-crafts. An athamé? Already had it.

Powdered human bone… now that one had been trickier. But, as luck would have it, Lana had a habit of holding on to her baby teeth after they fell out, and Lucy had convinced her to trade for some bubble gum she's picked off the bottom of her shoe. Teeth are technically bones, right? She figured it was close enough, at least. However, there had been one ingredient that had given her pause: the blood of a newborn. This was the first time she had been grateful for Lisa's habit of studying her siblings; she'd managed to 'borrow' a vial of Lily's blood from Lisa's samples. Lily may not be a newborn per se, but it was as far as Lucy was willing to go.

Lucy's heart was pounding in her chest. She was ready; she had everything she needed. The time was right… per the instructions, the ritual needed to be done in the dead of night, beneath a pregnant moon. The fact that a full moon had just so happened to fall on this night gave Lucy a sense that this was meant to happen.

So why did she feel so nervous…?

Lucy gulped as she stood in the soft glow of six candles, placed at each point where the glyphs met the outer circle. She'd come too far to back out now. Drawing in a deep breath, she began. The ritual required few words, thankfully… she'd rather keep this as quiet as possible. First, she paced around the circle counter-clockwise three times, trailing the salt behind her as she walked. Then, back in the opposite direction twice, this time sprinkling the powdered teeth. If her translations were accurate, the circuit was now active.

Next was the hard part; the part she'd been dreading the most. The ritual called for an offering of one's own blood… though Lucy was far from squeamish, she was still a little girl, and she still felt pain. As she knelt before the hand-crafted goblet, she couldn't help but hesitate. Still, she was determined to see this through to the end. With trembling hands, she drew the athamé and pressed the blade against her left palm. She took a deep breath before proceeding; she didn't want to cut too deep. Just bear it, she told herself. Just imagine it's for Edwin… She shuddered in delight at the thought.

With one swift motion, Lucy drew the blade across her palm. The athamé clattered to the floor, and she clutched her bleeding hand as she hissed in pain, fighting back the urge to scream. That had hurt even more than she anticipated, and it took her a moment to get her bearings. She inspected the wound through teary eyes; thankfully, it didn't look too bad. Still, it was bleeding a lot, and she knew she'd have to take care of it quickly. Drawing in a breath, she held her hand above the goblet, wincing as she applied a pit of pressure to squeeze out more blood. Once it was about halfway full, she carefully took the goblet in both hands and raised it towards the sky.

"D-darkness…" She recited softly, "I offer you this. Myself, my blood, my very essence; all that I am. I implore you to guide me." She set the goblet down in the center of the sigil. Lucy swore she could feel an enormous pressure surrounding her, but she pressed on, heart pounding with equal parts excitement and apprehension.

She then opened the vial of Lily's blood and, with her index finger, drew a line from each candle to the goblet in the center. There was only one step left. She got out her bag of earth from the cemetery. One by one, in counter-clockwise order, she used a pinch of dirt to snuff out each candle; she felt as if the air around her grew ever thicker with each candle extinguished, and by the time she reached the last one, her knees were shaking and she was having difficulty standing up.

Lucy was no stranger to darkness. She'd sought solace in it her whole life; while most girls her age were frightened of the dark, she was enraptured by it. This went beyond the literal sense of the term, of course… wherever shadows lie, Lucy was sure to follow. By the time she was five years old, she was already conducting séances regularly in an attempt to communicate with the dead. By age six, she could recite the works of Poe by heart. She had never shied away from the macabre in the past, even as her growing fascination only served to push her peers away. After all, what need had she for friends among the living? She preferred to associate with entities from worlds beyond.

But tonight was different. Lucy had never hesitated in her grim pursuits in the past… even as her sources warned of the risks of occultism, she had never heeded them. She'd heard the tales of séances gone wrong, of demonic possessions and murderous spirits unwittingly released upon the world. To her, these possibilities just added to the thrill. Tonight, however, she found her hand hanging above the last candle, hesitant to release the final bit of earth. Perhaps it was due to the vague nature of the ritual itself; for all she knew, the second she snuffed out the candle she could be eviscerated by some sort of eldritch abomination. Perhaps, somewhere in her subconscious, her more rational side was trying to tell her this was a bad idea.

Despite her reservations, she felt as though a deeper instinct was guiding her. As she swallowed the lump in her throat, she released the last pinch of earth, almost without meaning to… and the final candle was snuffed out. The ritual was complete.

…And yet, nothing was happening.

Lucy frowned, looking down at the sigil before glancing around the room. Well, it was dark, sure… but no more than it had been at the start. She didn't feel any different, either. She picked up the grimoire, looking things over again; had she made a mistake? "Sigh… perhaps Lily was too old after all…" She muttered. "Or maybe it was the teeth…?"

Or, she realized, it could just have been an elaborate practical joke. The author's earlier writings had definitely displayed a sense of humor. 'For those who seek the embrace of darkness'… well, it was certainly dark now. And yes, Lucy supposed one could even say she was 'embraced' by it… had this whole thing just been a trick? Had extinguishing the candles literally been the whole point of the ordeal? In all honestly, it was a pretty good prank… were it not for the stinging pain in her hand, Lucy may have even allowed herself a brief chuckle. But now, she was just mad; all that work and nothing to show for it but an injured palm.

"Stupid book…" She grumbled as she slammed the grimoire shut. She walked over to Harriet's chest and opened it, shoving the book inside. "I think that's enough rituals for a while…" She sighed. Though she would never admit it, her wounded pride masked just a hint of relief. "Now then… I guess I'd better clean up this me-"

Suddenly, Lucy was thrown off her feet as the floor lurched beneath her, sending her crashing to the ground roughly. She shrieked as she realized the entire house was shaking violently, as if caught in the middle of a powerful earthquake. Lucy curled into a ball and covered her head with her arms as stacked boxed toppled to the ground, spilling their contents everywhere. She couldn't hear anything but a low, deafening groan, like the roar of wind through a tunnel. Lucy cried out in pain as something hard struck her shoulder; everything was shaking with such intensity that she swore the house was being torn apart around her. She squeezed her eyes shut, bracing herself for her imminent demise as the ceiling came collapsing down on her-

But it never came.

As suddenly as it had begun, the shaking stopped and all was still. Lucy still lay huddled on the floor, her heart racing a mile a minute; she dare not move, as though even the slightest shift of her weight would bring the house crashing down on top of her. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, she slowly lifted her head. Everything was completely still. There were no aftershocks, no residual swaying of the house… just stillness. Slowly, carefully, Lucy struggled to her feet, her legs trembling with adrenaline.

The attic was in complete disarray. Nearly every box had been flung about, contents scattered across the room. Lucy silently scanned the carnage as the shock wore off; what was that? An earthquake? A tornado? Regardless, she was alive at least… frightened and sore, but alive. She could hear shouting in the hallway below. No doubt her siblings had been roused by the shaking…

Lucy gasped, snapping herself out of her daze. Her siblings. She had to see if they were alright. As quickly as her unsteady legs would allow, she headed for the attic door. Before heading downstairs, however, she ventured one last glance at the sigil on the floor.

Lucy's felt a chill run up her spine.

She sigil was almost entirely untouched. While the attic itself was in near-ruin, the sigil had not so much as a single candle out of place; save for the goblet, which lay on its side. Empty.

Not a drop of Lucy's blood in sight.


"Lily!" Cried Lori as she burst into the hallway, practically dragging a terrified Leni in her wake. She immediately ran to Lisa's room, and to her relief she could hear Lily's frightened cries from within. Just as her fingers grazed the doorknob, the door was flung open, revealing a shaken Lisa carrying an equally distraught Lily; somehow, both were already wearing hazmat suits. The room seemed to be filled with noxious fumes.

"Here!" Lisa said as she practically shoved the screaming infant into Lori's arms. "Do not under any circumstances enter this room until it is sufficiently decontaminated!" Without another word, Lisa slammed the door shut.

Lori sighed, pulling the mask off of Lily's face. "Shhhh… it's okay, big sis Lori is here…" She cooed, gently rocking Lily in her arms. "Leni, will you please let go and check on the others?!" She snapped at her sister, who was still clinging to her for dear life. Leni only whimpered softly into Lori's shoulder.

"W-we're fine…!" Came the shaky voice of Luan as she opened her door with a trembling hand. "Luna's pretty banged up, but we're okay…"

"Ewww! Lana barfed on me!" Shrieked a shrill voice from the twin's room. A moment later, the door was flung open to reveal a very angry Lola Loud, her pink nightgown splattered with dark green vomit.

"Only because your big butt landed on me!" Replied Lana, pushing her way past her twin sister.

"I do not have a big butt!" Lola screeched.

"Do too!"

"Do not!"

"Do too!"

"Do n-"

"SHUT UP!" Cried Lynn as she threw her door open with a slam. She looked frazzled and was shaking a bit; her eyes darted rapidly around the hallway. "Where's Lucy…?"

"I-I haven't seen her," Lori replied, the concern evident in her voice. "Has anyone seen Lucy?" She asked.

"N-no…" Lincoln groaned weakly, leaning against his doorframe. "But did anyone get the number of that truck that hit me…?" Leni gasped and rushed to his side; he had a cut along the side of his head and blood was dripping freely down his face.

"Linky, you're bleeding!" Leni said, gently taking his head in her hands and turning it to inspect the wound more closely. "That looks pretty bad… but nothing that your big sis can't fix~" She took him by the hand and led him to the bathroom.

"O-okay…" Lori sighed in relief as Lily began to settle down, rubbing the baby's back softly. "Okay. Let's all calm down, alright? First of all, has anyone seen Lucy?"

"I'm here," Came a reply from the end of the hall, making everyone jump; at some point Lucy had slunk her way back down from the attic, unnoticed as per usual.

"Geeze, Luce… don't scare us like that!" Lynn said, doing her best to sound casual as she gave her sister a playful punch on the arm. "I was- whoa." Lynn gasped as she took Lucy's hand. "What happened to you?!"

"O-oh, I must have cut it on something when I fell…" Lucy lied. In all the chaos, she had forgotten about the gash on her palm.

"Pretty gnarly, sis," Lynn cringed as she took a closer look. "Bet it'll leave a bitchin' scar though."

"Lynn, language." Lori scolded. "Alright… is anyone else hurt?" The twins shook their heads.

"Negative," came a response from Lisa's room.

"U-um…" Luan stammered, biting her lip and glancing back into her bedroom. "Lori," she gulped, "Maybe… maybe you should come take a look. It's… she's pretty bad…"

Lori felt a knot in her stomach. "O-okay. Lynn, take Lily, please…"

"Right. Heyyy there lil' buddy," Lynn said as Lori passed the infant to her. "Can I get a smile?" She asked as she tickled her sister's belly, forcing a giggle. "Heh, there we go."

"I wanna see too!" Lana whined as Lori entered Luan and Luna's room, only to be silenced by a harsh glare from her oldest sister. "T-though… out here's cool too, I guess…"

Lori froze as she laid eyes on the room; it was in terrible shape, with many of Luna's instruments lying in pieces on the floor. Most shockingly, the entire bunk bed had toppled onto its side. Lori instantly realized that Luna must have been on top of it when the quake hit. "Luan, where-"

Luan silently pointed to the beanbag chair at the end of the room. Lori hadn't even noticed her lying there at first; Luna was huddled into a ball, trembling and clutching her left hand to her chest. "Luna…?" Lori asked, carefully stepping over the debris on the floor as she approached her sister. "Luna, are you okay?"

"No no no no no no…" Luna muttered under her breath, the pain evident in her voice. She jumped as Lori touched her shoulder, as though she hadn't heard her calling out to her. As she turned to face her, Lori winced as she saw the large purple knot forming on Luna's forehead. "O-oh… hey, Sis... everyone good?"

"They're fine… Luna, what happened?" She asked. Luna bit her lip, looking away. "Luna," Lori repeated a bit more forcefully, "Show me."

Luna sniffled. Carefully, she uncovered her left hand, and Lori couldn't help but yelp in shock. Save for her thumb, all her fingers had been crushed; they were broken and twisted at odd angles, and had begun to swell up. "Y-yeah… sucks, right? Got smashed under the bed…" Lori could hear the heartbreak in her voice. She knew fully well what this meant; with her fingers broken like this, she couldn't play the guitar.

"Oh, God… h-here, let me see." Gently as she could, she took Luna's hand and looked it over. Luna grit her teeth in pain with even the slightest touch. "It… it can be fixed, I think." Lori said. Honestly, she'd seen Lynn bounce back from far worse… still, she knew how much music meant to her sister. Even a few months without being able to rock out would be like torture to her.

"Well, hey," Luan began, chuckling nervously, "At least you finally got that big break you've been waiting for… get it?" Lori looked unimpressed, but thankfully Luna managed a small smirk.

"Bite me arse, luv." Luna replied in her best British accent. Lori sighed and helped her younger sister to her feet.


"Theeeere we go~" Leni said as she finished bandaging Lucy's hand. Lucy frowned as she looked at it; Leni had tied it into a girlish ribbon. "Oh, like, I almost forgot the most important part!" She giggled before kissing it, to Lucy's chagrin.

"…Please stop this." Lucy deadpanned, her cheeks slightly red. Being fawned over like this always embarrassed her, though perhaps she liked it a bit more than she let on.

"Are mom and dad back yet?" Asked Lincoln, his own wound already patched up by Leni.

"Not yet," She frowned, shaking her head sadly. Their parents had gone to an adults-only party and, given their propensity for partying a little too hard, chances are they wouldn't be back till the wee hours of the morning. "I hope they come home soon…"

Lincoln's heart sank a bit. That had been a pretty strong earthquake… their parents might have been hit too. Leni could tell he was worried; she was too, of course, but at times like these she needed to be brave for her younger siblings.

"Don't worry, Linky." Leni said with a warm smile, booping her brother on the nose. "Lori will totes keep us safe till we get back~" Lincoln couldn't help but smile a bit. "Now come on, let's see how everyone else is doing." She took Lincoln's hand and let him back out to the hallway. Lucy, however, remained behind, glancing down at her bandaged hand with a deep frown.

Back in the hallway, Lori, Luna and Luan had rejoined the others. For the time being, Luna's hand was wrapped loosely in one of her shirts.

"Are you okay, Luna?" Asked Lincoln, the concern evident in his voice.

"I will be… just got a bit smashed up, Lil' Dude." Luna smiled, ruffling his hair with her good hand.

"Is it gross?" Lana asked with a hint of excitement. "Can I see?"

"Guys, quiet for a second." Lori said, trying to make a call, only to click her tongue in frustration as it failed. "No service. Literally fantastic… how about you guys?"

"Ooh, let me check~" Said Leni, flitting back to her bedroom. A few seconds later she came back out with it, frowning. "…Nopesies."

"Think mine's buried under all that junk," Luna sighed.

"Same," Luan grumbled.

"No service for me either!" Lynn walked out of her room carrying Lily at arm's length, her face scrunched up in disgust. "Lily needs a change, though."

"Great," muttered Lori. "Just great."

"That was so cool though!" Lola said with a grin. "I always wanted to survive an earthquake."

"Earthquake? Preposterous." Lisa lisped from her bedroom. She creaked open the door and peered out, still clad in her protective wear. "I consistently monitor all seismic activity in the region. If that had been an earthquake, one of my seismometers would undoubtedly have picked up something."

"Well, Einstein, if it wasn't an earthquake then what was it?" Lynn asked sarcastically.

Lisa frowned. "Firstly, Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist, not a seismologist. Secondly… I'll have to get back to you on that." She said before ducking back into her room.

"Come to think of it…" Luna began, scratching her chin. "Been pretty quiet outside, hasn't it? No dogs barking, no car alarms, nothing…"

"Wait… dogs… where's Charles…?" Lana asked, suddenly looking very worried. "W-wait," she gasped. "My babies!" She darted back into her room in a panic.

"W-well, what are we supposed to do now?" Luan asked. "I mean, we need to get Luna to the hospital…"

"What about Mommy and Daddy?" Squeaked Lola. "Are they okay?!"

"Guys-" Lori began.

"W-what if things get all shaky and loud again?" Leni asked nervously.

"Lori, where are Mommy and Daddy…?" Lola whined again, her eyes beginning to well up with tears.

"I can't find my babies!" Lana shrieked from her room.

"Well, we can't just wait around here… we should go find some help!" Said Lynn. Lily was starting to cry again, perhaps from all the shouting, or perhaps from the dirty diaper.

"Guys, please-"

"Maybe we can drive to the hospital?" Lincoln chimed in.

"No use," Luna sighed. "The 'rents took Vanzilla, remember?"

"Somebody rented Vanzilla?!" Leni gasped.

"No, Dude…" groaned Luna. "I mean Vanzilla's not here."

"L-Lori…" Lana whimpered from her doorway. "I can't find my pets…"

"I-I want Mooooooom-"

"QUIET!" Lori screamed, silencing her siblings; even Lily stopped crying. "Quiet." She hissed again, putting her finger to her lips for emphasis. One by one she glared at them, as if daring them to make a peep. "Good. Now, listen. We're all a bit freaked out right now, but we can't lose our heads. We still have power. Nobody's seriously injured. We're literally going to be okay." She said. "Now, here is what we are going to do. Lynn, you are going to go change Lily."

"But-"

"Go. Change. Lily." Lori repeated sternly, shooting her sister a no-nonsense glare. "Now."

"You're the Boss," Lynn scoffed, heading off with Lily.

"You two," She said, pointing to the twins. "Put on some clean clothes. No fighting. Got it?" The two sniffled and nodded before heading back into their room. "The rest of you go to the living room and wait for me. Nobody do anything until I say so. Do I make myself clear?" Her siblings mumbled in approval and filed downstairs; they knew better than to question Lori when she was in boss-mode.

"I'll be along shortly," Lisa said from her room. Lori figured it best to let the prodigy do what she had to, and headed into her own bedroom. As she shut the door behind her, Lori rested her back against it and slid to the floor, letting out a long sigh. Alone at last, the oldest Loud sibling took a moment to compose herself.

In truth, the quake had terrified her. The violent shaking, the horrible noise… she'd thought for sure that she was going to die. Part of her wanted to curl into a ball and cry, but there was no time for that. She was in charge, and she had to be strong for her sisters and brother… no matter how scared she was.

Compared to Luna and Luan's room, the bedroom she shared with Leni was relatively sparse. Still, it was in complete disarray; what seemed to be the entirety of the closet's contents had spilled out onto the floor, and Leni's fabrics had been scattered everywhere. Lori cringed, already dreading the daunting cleanup that awaited them, but she put it out of her mind for now. She snatched up some clothes from the floor and got changed before returning to the hallway, just as the twins came out of their room in a fresh pair of pajamas.

Well, at least Lola's was probably fresh.

"Okay. Downstairs, you two." Lori said. Lola huffed in response and stormed down the stairs; Lana, however, remained where she was. "Lana, did you hear me?" Lori said a bit more forcefully. "Go on."

Lana frowned, glancing back into her room. "L-Lori… I can't find them." She said in a small voice, sniffling softly. "I can't find any of them…" She bit her lip as her eyes started welling up with tears.

Lori's expression softened. She didn't particularly care for creepy crawly things, but she knew they meant the world to her younger sister… and she was as worried for them as anyone would be for a beloved pet. Lori knelt down, smiling gently. "Come here, Lans." Lana practically ran into her big sister's arms, whimpering quietly into her chest. "It's okay… I bet you they're just hiding. They'll probably all come back out when they get hungry." Lana sniffed and looked up at her sister with teary eyes. "I'll tell you what. If they're not back by tomorrow night, I'll help you find them. Deal?"

"Y-you promise…?"

"Cross my heart."

Lana wiped her eyes before giving a small smile and nodding. "O-okay… thanks, Lori."

Lori smiled, ruffling her hair. "Now go downstairs with the others, okay?" With a nod, Lana dashed down the steps. Lori sighed softly; in all honestly, she had no idea whether Lana's pets were okay or not. Either way, she planned to keep her word.

"Ugh, what a proverbial pan in the posterior that was…" Came the unmistakable lisp of Lisa as she stepped out of her room, covered in sweat from her hazmat suit. "That is the last time I purchase beakers off of Amazon. Clearly an inferior quality glassware… though I suppose that's the price I pay for attempting to be frugal." She said as she wiped her glasses on the hem of her shirt. "That was easily the third worst toxic spill I've had to deal with this month."

"Speaking of toxic spills," Lynn grumbled as she exited the bathroom, a freshly-changed Lily in her arms, "You owe me for that one, Lori."

"Poo-poo!" Lily giggled happily.

"Yes, Lily. Poo-poo." Lynn sighed.


Downstairs, the other Loud siblings were gathered in the living room as instructed. The TV had fallen during the quake, but it was undamaged; nonetheless, there was no signal. Lincoln emerged from the kitchen with a glass of water and two tablets of aspirin. "Here, Luna…" He said as he approached her, slumped down at the end of the couch.

"Thanks, Dude…" She said gratefully, wincing as she held an ice pack to the knot on her head. "Think you could, uh…" Without needing further instruction, Lincoln popped the pills into her mouth and held the water to her lips for her to drink. She downed the whole glass in one go. "Thanks, Linc. Seriously." She smirked at him weakly. Lincoln frowned as he looked at his sister; even though she was trying to act herself, he'd never seen her in so much pain. She was slightly pale and dripping with sweat, and each subtle movement of her hand seemed to send fresh waves of agony up her arm.

"Wow… it's, like, really dark outside…" Leni murmured as she looked out the window.

"It's nighttime, Leni," Lori replied as she descended the stairs with the remaining sisters in tow. "It's supposed to be dark."

"Yeah but like, it's really dark," Leni repeated, glancing back at her sister. "Like… like super dark."

Lori cocked an eyebrow before walking over and taking a look for herself. "…Huh." Leni wasn't wrong; it was very, very dark. Darker than she had ever seen, in fact. The ground was only visible for about fifteen feet or so… after that, everything just faded away into pitch-blackness. There were no stars, no moon, no lights in the distance… just nothing. "That's… that's really dark," She agreed.

"So what do we do?" Luan asked.

"You guys tried the house phone?"

"Yep," Lincoln sighed. "No luck."

"Damn," Lori grumbled. "Who's got the time?"

"I do~" Leni chirped, pulling out her phone. "It's… um… iiiit's…" She stammered, narrowing her eyes at the screen.

"…One…." Began Lincoln, looking over her shoulder.

"Oh! Thank you, Linky. One… thir-thirty…."

"C'mon, Leni. Almost got it."

"One… one thirty-teen!" Leni said excitedly, apparently proud of herself. Lincoln smacked his palm to his forehead.

"…It's one thirty-five." He muttered under his breath. "Let her have this one."

Lori frowned. There was no telling when their parents would get home… assuming they were in any condition to do so. She forced the morbid thought aside; right now there were more pressing matters to deal with. Luna was in bad shape… even if her injuries weren't life-threatening, she was still in a lot of pain. "Luna," she asked, "How're you holding up?"

"Never better," Luna quipped, smirking through the pain. "Barely feel a thing."

"I guess you could say tonight's been a smashing success!" Luan said with a grin. "Get it?"

"…Don't push it, brah." Grumbled Luna.

Lori sighed. "…Alright." Lori said. "Leni, you're in charge till I get back."

"Huh…" Leni blinked. "But… you're totes here already."

"Leni." Lori groaned. "I'm going out to get help."

"You're going…?" Leni whimpered. "But... but what if the shaky-shake comes back?!"

"You're a big girl, Leni. You can handle it." Lori responded. "I trust you,.

"…Okay." Leni murmured softly, fidgeting slightly. Lincoln gave her a hug.

"Don't worry, Leni." He said with a smile, "I'll protect you."

Leni giggled. "You always do, Linky~"

"Be careful out there," Luan warned. "The ground could be all torn up from the earthquake."

"Not an earthquake," Lisa chimed in.

"Want me to come with?" Offered Lynn.

"No," Lori said sternly. "Nobody else is to leave this house, do you understand me?"

"…Fine." Lynn huffed.

"I'll be back soon," Lori assured them, pulling on her jacket. As she opened the door, she couldn't help but shudder slightly… God, how could it be so dark outside? Somehow, she couldn't help but feel that it was darker than it had been just a few minutes ago… but surely that was just her imagination. "W-well… see you in a bit." She said to her siblings, receiving reluctant grunts in response.

"Wait!" A voice cried out, making everyone jump. It was Lucy; again, nobody had even noticed her appearance. She ran up to Lori, seeming uncharacteristically anxious.

"Lucy…? What wrong?" Asked Lori, a bit rattled; it was unlike the goth to scream like that.

"Lori…" Lucy muttered in an unusually sincere tone, fidgeting nervously with the bow on her bandage. "Please… please don't. You can't go out there."

Lori's eyes widened slightly in surprise. "Lucy… are you worried about me?" She asked, a gentle smile on her face. "Don't be. I'm literally just headed next door."

"Lori, I'm serious…" Lucy continued, the fear evident in her voice. "I-if you go out there, something terrible is going to happen… I feel it." She looked up at her sister desperately. Please, she thought, just this once, listen to me.

Lori chuckled and patted her younger sister's head. "You're just a bit shaken up, Lucy. We all are. Go sit down with the others, okay? I'll be back before you know it." And with that, Lori made her exit, shutting the door behind her.

"Lucy, come here." Leni said sweetly, patting the couch beside her. "Big sis will keep you safe till Lori gets back~"

But Lucy didn't listen. Instead she watched sadly through the window as Lori got out her phone, switching on the flashlight and cautiously walking into the darkness. She wanted to scream for her to come back, but she knew Lori would not listen. She wanted to run after her and drag her back in, but she could not bring herself to do so.

For the first time in her life, Lucy was afraid of the dark.

Deep down, she knew. She felt it in her gut. Whatever that ritual had done… she already regretted it. The 'earthquake' had only been the start… something very, very bad was about to happen, and it was all her fault.

So as she watched Lori disappear into the pitch-black night, try as she may to tell herself that everything would be alright… she couldn't. Somehow, she knew.

She knew that she would never see her sister again.



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