"Beware what you find in Slains, or what might find you." -Morag, owner of the Kilmarnock Arms
Cruden Bay always looks welcoming in the daylight. A few cars usually line the seawall where the Burn of Cruden flows out into the small bay, creating smooth shapes in the sand as it flows past the impossibly wide beach. The sea defences from the great war are losing their battle with the encroaching seaweed and mollusks, slowly disintegrating like the memories of those who fought so long ago. The small port houses the few remaining fishing trawlers trying scrape out a living on a sea dominated by ships heading out to service the oil rigs in the wild and treacherous North Sea. Small fishermen's cottages line the small road leading from the village square, all made of the same red sandstone, but with brightly painted doors to distinguish them from each other for when one had too many drinks at the Kilmarnock pub; perfect Scottish seaside village seen in innumerable postcards sold in the tourist shops in Edinburgh.
Overlooking the bay lies New Slains Castle, an immense edifice of ruins perched precariously on the sea cliffs, as if at any moment, the entire estate might tumble into the sea. Forgotten by nearly everyone as a derelict not even worthy of busing up tourists from Aberdeen, a nice, but futile gesture of fencing surrounds the grounds as an attempt at warding off curious hikers and bored teenagers. Red, crumbling towers and vast rooms with roofs open to the sky rise out of tall grasses welcoming any intrepid explorer willing to overlook the local council's warnings on the fencing. Greys mingle with browns, and the only colour to break the monotony are the clusters of flowers left for sad souls who have flung themselves into the sea in an effort to leave the pain of this life behind. So many seem to have left this world here, in a spot so beautiful, but with such a dark past, a past filled with rumours and myths of things lurking in the shadows ready to corrupt or steal the souls of anyone who dares to venture past the bordering woods.
The locals at the Kilmarnock would tell you in hushed tones about that which lays unseen among the stones. Some believe they were always there, others say that Bram Stoker brought them when he wrote Dracula as a guest of the local lord when Slains really was New Slains. Cruden Bay even made an appearance in the gothic novel as the landing location of the bloody count on his journey to Britain from Romania. Whispers of secretive cults dancing among the gardens, glowing lights above the towers, and shapes moving just beyond the ancient woodlands of the estate were all passed around by the old fishermen, perhaps in an attempt to make the pub more lively on a quiet night, or perhaps as a warning to those seeking an escape from the city to not go near Slains at night. The tales all seemed to change depending on who was telling the tale, yet one constant remained, leave the castle before the witching hour commences, lest what you are looking for finds you first.
On cold nights, when the sky is clear, and the northern lights are dancing across the sky in an electric dance, blinds are drawn and lights are dimmed, with the only warmth to break into the mists from the bay coming from the windows of the Kilmarnock, hoping to ward off whatever lurks beyond just long enough for the patrons to retreat to their houses before midnight. The ancient forest bordering the village emanates a protective enchantment in an attempt to ward off the watchers just beyond who wait for any weakness in the border to break through. However, you see the eyes, roaming, back and forth, piercing through the trunks and leaves, as if waiting with baited breath at the first opportunity. Shapes morph and grow as they move among the broken walls of Slains Castle, seething and writhing as if tortured and seeking to torture anyone who venture near.
The walls of the castle glow with a dim energy, as if charged by the auroras overhead, giving the watchers and lurkers permission to venture forth and claim whoever they can, to feed their appetites for souls and flesh.
The eyes lure you in, beckoning you to enter the forest, and the fields beyond, tempting you to see things only they can show you, to dance with them among the stones and boulders, to walk among the cliffs and relish in the dance of the sky, all the while draining you of your life leaving only a shell to stumble back to the bay.
Leave Cruden Bay when the sun sets and the tide returns. Stay behind the protective stone walls of the Kilmarnock and listen to the tales of the oldtimers. Never venture beyond the forest along the coastal road when the path seems to welcome you with its own light. Keep your wits, and your soul.
Written by CaptMSolo