The Hessian, Chapter 7

The whispers of the wind wafted by her eardrums and drowned out her footsteps as she traversed through the street. Clarissa knew that Alastor was attempting to spook her so that she would turn back and go home, but she would do nothing of the sort! Originally, yes, she had intended on skipping the funeral because yesterday was so emotionally taxing and she didn’t esteem that she contained the fortitude to withstand their intense negativity, but she thought about what Kenneth would have advised her to do if he had been able to stay, and she reckoned that he would persuade her to ignore the contentious lot in order to do the right thing. Saying goodbye to a neighbor was an incredibly courteous act of service to do, but she recognized a more urgent reason to attend this ceremony- she felt quite sure that if the majority of the town was all congregated in one spot, trouble was sure to follow! She didn’t believe that this evil specter could step foot inside of a holy site, but she had no way to verify this hunch! Plus, she feared what may come once everyone left the church! Clarissa anticipated that his letters would question the activities regarding the protection of Colfrith, and she wouldn’t have been able to stand it if she had to write anything that would show she did not try her hardest to keep them all safe! Her initial hesitation caused her to be late, but she became resolute in not allowing anything to prevent her from acting with righteousness in pursuit of their critical mission!

            As she grew closer to the chapel, she saw no other activity in the town square but a few carpenters fixing some slate shingles on a cottage next to the parish. When she passed them, they glared at her in a reproachful manner. She grimaced from the assumption that this would was a portent of her experience in this venture, but she reminded herself that she made this visit for motives far more vital than making friends! Still, she did not relish having to go through this ugly process! It would all be worth it one day, but not that day- this morning was bound to prove rough! While she stared at the heavy wooden doors of her destination, she crossed her fingers that an uncomfortable social situation would t urn out to be the worst issue she dealt with indefinitely, but she had a feeling it would never fare that way for her! She took a deep breath, and as she entered the building, she hoped her prediction would emerge as unfounded…

            “Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to-,” Pastor Absalom ceased his speech as he detected the congregates’ attention waiver. He heard the tardy entrant, but he thought nothing of it until the crowd had evidently deemed it as noteworthy, and when he espied that the source of the disruption had been Clarissa, he could comprehend why their focus had swayed!

            “I’m shocked that she had the nerve to attend this!” one person quietly opined to the individual beside them. With the silence of the room coupled with the acoustic nature of the sanctuary’s walls, that remark clearly resounded throughout the space!

            The masses began to murmur in agreement of the previously stated comment, and Clarissa’s neck craned low in discomfort. She had guessed that no one there was likely to enjoy her company, but now she fretted that her presence would incite a ruckus that would ultimately have her kicked out of there! Pastor Absalom gazed at her piteously, and then he cleared his throat. When nobody’s awareness shifted back to the altar that he stood upon, he repeated that gesture more audibly and then sternly reminded his flock, “Remember, all are welcomed in the Lord’s house! Everyone, please have a seat so we can proceed…” The attendees obviously didn’t think highly of his decree, but they unwillingly obeyed and swiveled back to a more forward position. Clarissa gratefully smiled at Pastor Absalom, and he gave her a quick grin before returning to his sermon.

            Clarissa proceeded toward the front where she had normally sat, but each pew that she went by had people shifting so that it appeared completely full. Not a single person made eye contact with her, but their faces hardened as she neared them. Clarissa sighed and decided to watch the commemoration while standing in the rearmost section of the structure. She felt odd to get placed amongst the servants, but she strove to ignore her awkward inklings and channel all of her care into watching out for signs of Alastor.

            “Hmm! You don’t look like you’ve burst into flames!” Gabrielle, a laborer she had previously seen working at the coffeehouse, softly spoke to Clarissa.

            “Huh?” Clarissa responded with slight confusion.

            Gabrielle clarified, “Everyone is saying that you’re a witch, but from my understanding, a wicked soul cannot set foot onto sacred grounds, so you must be alright! Would you like to sit?”

            Clarissa was completely taken aback by somebody actually showing her some kindness, she almost didn’t know how to react to it! When Gabrielle scooted over and created a space for her, she was so touched that she simply had to accept her offer in order to avoid hurting this generous woman’s feelings! As Pastor Absalom narrated the details of the deceased’s life, Clarissa grew curious about Gabrielle’s knowledge. If she had that bit of information regarding sorceresses, then she deduced that perhaps she had more lore on the occult that she could share! She hoped that after the gathering disbanded, she could press her for recommendations on how to defeat a vengeful ghost…

            “Roger worked hard to provide for his family, but he also put considerable effort into assisting his community.” Pastor Absalom glanced around the area and peered into specific men and women’s eyes to really emphasis his point. “Whenever he could, he would stop what he was doing to lend a hand! He truly exemplified the spirit of giving, and it meant a lot to him to play a part in his community’s well-being! If Roger could communicate anything to us right now, he would plead with his neighbors to follow his example and do all they can to make the village, the entire village, thrive…” Most of the assembly seemed reluctant to adhere to this message, but before he could move on, an earsplitting scream reverberated from outside!

            “Nigel, what did you do?” a woman cried out hysterically. Everyone in the church glimpsed towards the root of the unrest with alarm, but Clarissa was the first to get up and see what was going on. Her foresight had already prepared her for a contentious battle, but she prayed that this conflict would not develop into a deadly dilemma in this instance…

            “Good heavens! Is that man dead?” Elmira gasped as she stood with her father on the stairs of the chapel. As the parishioners exited the establishment, they immediately beheld a man laying facedown on the ground, but they soon learned that the blood trickling out of his skull was the least of their worries…

            A small boy crouched on the rooftop with completely dilated pupils and his lips seething profusely! His mother frightfully commanded him, “Nigel, get down from there!” Nigel stood up and stretched out his foot as though he planned on casually walking off, so his mother urgently requested, “No, not like that!” The child let out a devilishly delightful laugh as he crouched back down again!

            Clarissa emerged from the place of worship with a wooden goblet and raced towards the scene! As Nigel’s mother struggled to convince her son to get off of his dangerous perch, one of the two remaining carpenters mutedly queried to the other, “Do we really want him down here while he’s still… in this condition?”

            Prior to the other carpenter getting a chance to respond, Clarissa pushed past them and darted to their ladder. She clasped the cup using her teeth as she ascended the rungs, and as she heard the astonished buzz emanating from the spectators below, it occurred to her that she had put herself into a potentially perilous position- no one was holding the base of the rail, so the evil inside of Nigel could have propelled him to push her so she would meet her doom! She opted to cast that ominous possibility from her mind! This had to be done, there were no alternatives around it! She told herself that if he charged after her, it would actually work out to her advantage since it would give her a window to strike! When she reached the pinnacle, all she could do was refuse to entertain the notion of any outcome where she didn’t escape unscathed!

            The air grew eerily quiet as Clarissa made eye contact with the besieged boy. Clarissa held on to the ledge with one arm as she took the chalice out of her mouth and clutched it in a fashion that would permit her to move it at the proper moment, and Nigel gawked at the contents of that vessel warily. She waited for a few seconds to see if he would grow inquisitive and approach it on his own, but when he didn’t, she beckoned him, “That’s for you, Nigel! Come over and get it!” Nigel turned to her and bristled, but Clarissa still went on, “It’s a gift! You’ll love it!” Nigel started to gutterly growl at her, but she continued, “Don’t you want to see it?” His snarling intensified, but he didn’t budge an inch, so she discerned that mere baiting wouldn’t suffice! “If you don’t want to retrieve it, I’ll bring it to you!”

            For a brief beat, Clarissa got the impression that he would grant her access to his perimeter, but before she could do that, he lunged towards her! He rapidly crawled like a spider in her direction, and Clarissa readied herself to hurl the essence of the basin at the afflicted youth, but the Nigel abruptly veered off of the side! His mother as well as the rest of the witnesses present screamed as he crawled down the walls of the abode like an insect! Clarissa clung onto the roof fully expecting to lose her solid footing, and it stunned her when he headed straight into the throng instead!

            Everyone tried to flee, but Nigel managed to pounce on one man and knock him to the floor! The man hid his visage, which prompted Nigel to bite his arm! As he tore apart his clothing, Clarissa grabbed the goblet and descended the ladder with as much haste as she could generate! Pastor Absalom reached the pair preceding the finish of her endeavor, and he swiftly propped open his Bible. Nigel gnarled at him, but despite that, Pastor Absalom read out loud, “And forthwith, Jesus gave them leave! And the unclean spirits went out, and-!”

            Nigel shoved Pastor Absalom with enough exertion to make him smack against the cobblestone surface! Clarissa was horrified at this sight, but thankfully, he landed on his limbs and did not seem gravely injured! She then viewed Nigel chasing more bystanders. Her earliest instinct had been to tail him so she could catch him and subdue him enough to endure her impact, but his movements were too fast to pull that off! Fortunately, she dreamt up another idea…

            “Nigel, no!” the kid’s mother desperately pled with him, but he ignored her as he terrorized the multitudes! He stumbled into an elderly fellow on a cane, and sensing his feebleness, he made a beeline for his body! The old gentleman sought to scurry, but he could hardly maneuver with nimbleness! Nigel roared as he reared his dentition, but prior to him sinking his fangs into his flesh, Clarissa popped out and put the chalice in his trajectory! Nigel attempted to free himself, but it was too late! Clarissa forced him to swallow it, and after a bit of writhing, Nigel’s alter-ego let out one last hideous howl! After that, Nigel’s pupils returned to normal, and he passed out! “Nigel!” his mother screeched.

            “Mama!” Nigel wailed as she cradled him. She sobbed uncontrollably as she held him, and he croaked out, “Mama! I feel ill! What happened?”

            No one had the heart to explain it to him! Clarissa surveyed the square, and several individuals were aiding one another in arising after their tumble. A few people nursed the wounds and abrasions that they got during the fracas, and Doctor Cuthbart examined Pastor Absalom. “It looks as though you’ve sustained a humerus fracture.”

            Pastor Absalom winced as he asserted, “I’ll be fine! Please, check on my flock!”

            “You attacked a child! Have you no shame?” Elmira hollered to Clarissa.

            “Is there nothing I could say to convince you that I bear no guilt in this crime?” Clarissa challenged Elmira. Elmira simply persisted in her cold stance, and Clarissa was in no mood to argue, so she shook her head in disgust and marched out of the vicinity. As she aimed to return to the inn, she totally disregarded the snickering that the bitter breeze brought her as it passed…

The Hessian, Chapter 6

“Abigail, no!” a man cried out as this small, petite lady let out a deafening roar while her hands clasped around Clarissa’s throat! Kenneth immediately dismounted his horse to save Clarissa, but he no long had any need to rescue her… As soon as Abigail’s fingertips grazed Clarissa’s cross necklace, she fell backwards as if she had received a huge jolt of unbearable pain! The kindly individual that had uttered that urging stooped down to help her, and as he lifted her up, he counselled her, “I know she angers you, but this is not the way to-!”

            “Argh!” Abigail’s alter-ego hollered as she swiftly swiveled around and strangled him with so much force that everyone around them could hear his bones cracking! A nearby fellow attempted to wrest her hands off of him, but he couldn’t make her budge an inch! Another tall and muscular guy joined in this effort, but he couldn’t produce any results either! Within seconds, her victim fell to the floor! As soon as he left her grasp, she hurled the males attempting to wrest her across the square!

            More individuals tried to seize her, but she flung them away easily like they were mere flies! Clarissa marched up to her brandishing her crucifix, and when Abigail beheld it, she averted her eyes from it as fast as possible! Bystanders used her momentary distraction to pounce on her, but it took five robust men to keep her still! She continued to struggle as they held her back from further attacks, and everyone gazed to each other fretfully to wordlessly seek advice on what to do next…

            Right then, a gray-haired pastor burst out of his church and made a beeline for the chaotic scene carrying a simple wooden goblet, and Abigail put up even more of a fight upon his arrival! He firmly but gently commanded her, “Drink this, my child!”

            “No!” Abigail’s brutish voice resisted. The pastor strove to place the contents of the cup onto her tongue, but she sealed her lips tightly enough that nothing could penetrate them!

            “Here!” Kenneth used his palms to force her jaw open. Once the pastor poured in some fluid, Kenneth hastily shut her mouth.

            Abigail howled in searing agony, and when Kenneth was sure that she had swallowed the liquid, he let go of her chin. She belted out an acrimonious wail, and then she shrilly shouted, “It burns! It burns! What did you put in this?”

            The pastor assured her, “It’s only water! Nothing more!”

            “You’re lying!” Abigail yelled. She let out another sinister shriek, and when her captors felt the strength leave her body, they let her go. She collapsed onto the ground, and after a bit of writhing, she curled into a ball and ceased her movements! The crowd peered over her curiously, and then, quite abruptly, her lids widened! The onlookers jumped back in fright of her potential puissance, but in her own speech, Abigail queried, “What happened? How did I end up here?” No one knew how to tell her the truth until…

            “He’s dead!” a woman lamentably announced. Everybody whipped their focus over to her, and after taking a minute to sob over the strangled man, she pointed a finger to Abigail and proclaimed, “You killed him!”

            Abigail gazed at her bewilderment and denied that accusation, “No! I would never do that to Roger! He was an invaluable friend to-!”

            Roger’s wife wept, “He only wanted to assist you! Why would you do that?”

            “I wouldn’t!” Abigail insisted. “Last thing I remember, I was talking to Clarissa, and…” She trailed off as she turned to Clarissa, and then she probed, “What did you do to me?”

            “I didn’t do anything!” Clarissa adamantly refuted that charge.

            As some of the townsfolk aided her in standing up, Abigail jogged her memory, “One minute, you were saying something bad would occur if we didn’t listen to you, and the next thing I know, I’m lying on the street with no recollection of how I got there! Don’t tell me that took place naturally!”

            Clarissa argued, “You’re mischaracterizing my statement! I came down to warn you of danger and prevent a tragedy from transpiring!”

            “Abigail wasn’t herself during that ordeal!” a witness vocalized. “Something took over her being and controlled her actions! She didn’t take on that evil spirit willingly! Someone put it there!”

            “It wasn’t me!” Clarissa exclaimed. “It was Alastor!”

            Another person contended that remark, “Alastor is dead! How could he have done it?”

            Clarissa let them all know, “His physical presence perished, but his specter did not! He never really left Colfrith…!”

            “How is that even possible?” that same civilian challenged her.

            “I… I’m not sure…!” Clarissa admitted.

            An irate member of the mob decreed, “Let’s apprehend her and try her for murder!” The others agreed and advanced on at once…

            Kenneth stood in front of Clarissa and vexedly spoke up, “Are you daft? Abigail nearly choked her first! If she enacted a deadly spell, why would she use it against herself?”

            “She couldn’t touch her though! Something repelled her…” another observer noted, and the people around him murmured in suspicion.

            “You speak as though she had a mystical charm! That ghoul was repelled by a symbol of our Lord! Are you insinuating that this is an act of evil?” Kenneth spat as he gestured towards Clarissa’s jewelry.

            The spectators appeared to reluctantly accept this fact, but they also seemed steadfastly committed to condemning Clarissa. Prior to anyone else taking the opportunity to further castigate her, the pastor jumped in, “Listen, it is not up to us to judge one another! If any wrongdoing was committed, our Savior will have seen it and shall punish accordingly! Meanwhile, the source of wickedness has disappeared, and now we must focus on the departed…”

            Somebody objected, “But, Pastor Absalom!”

            Pastor Absalom staunchly advised them, “Our attention should not linger on trifles when a poor soul has lost his life! A husband and a father is gone, and we all watched something horrific befall upon our town, so let us all be good neighbors and support each other during a crisis!”

            No one seemed eager to heed his word, but instead of persisting in their bickering, most of the mass chose to disperse. Some people tended to Roger’s wife, but before Pastor Absalom could do the same, Clarissa gratefully told him, “Thank you!” He smiled, gave her a friendly pat on the back, and then went over to console the grieving widow. Clarissa turned to Kenneth, and neither of them had to say out loud that it wouldn’t be wise to continue their mission anymore that day. They mounted Bailey, and their hearts ached as they heard the piteous mourning behind them! Their empathy got lost though when the wind carried the faint sound of malevolent laughter!

            “We’re being invaded!” Cornelius Cole declared in aghast as he eyeballed a small group of Continental soldiers riding by him.

            “What are you talking about?” the youngest soldier in the bunch, who just happened to be closest to him, responded quizzically. “We’re fighting for your freedom, and-!”

            Cornelius snarled, “You’re nowhere near a battlefield!”

            Drusilla piped up, “I disagree, Father!”

            “Hush, Drusilla!” Cornelius ordered her before shifting his attention to the young soldier again. “You have no right to be here!”

            “Father, they’re probably just searching for Lieutenant Harvey!” Drusilla pointed out to Cornelius.

            Cornelius scolded her, “Don’t you help another one of them! It’s bad enough that the last scoundrel brought the downfall of my top logger! Who knows what the doom the rest of them will bring about!”

            With a discernable twinkle in her eye, Drusilla feigned acquiescence, “Alright, fine! I won’t tell him that Lieutenant Harvey is at The Leafy Taverne!” She gave the young soldier a covert wink, which made his emotions stir magnificently!

            “I’m taking you home before you cause any more trouble!” Cornelius took her by the wrist and yanked her away from the vicinity.

            “If you need anything, my name is Private Bernard Malin!” he called after them. Drusilla glimpsed back at him with a grin, which made Cornelius drag her away faster! That didn’t stop Bernard from staring at her movement as long as she was in his sight!

            One of his brethren parked himself next to Bernard so that he could wave his hands in front of his face. Bernard woke himself out of his torpor, “Huh?”

            His fellow soldiers all snickered in amusement, and the one closest to Bernard joshed him, “Private Malin, may I remind you that you’re still on duty…!”

            “How do you expect me to concentrate on a recovery operation right now? The most beautiful girl in the world just winked at me!” Bernard cooed.

            “Well, I have a gorgeous wife at home, and she’s done a lot more than merely wink at me! If I can summon concentration, then so can you!” The older soldier playfully hit his arm and then recommended, “Come on! The sooner that we find Lieutenant Harvey, the sooner we can finish this war and return to our lovely ladies!”

            Bernard reported to them, “Actually, I found out where he is!”

            Clarissa approached Kenneth with a bottle of wine and offered, “Care for a drink?”

            “Only if you’ll join me!” Kenneth courteously reacted. He observed her shakily pouring some port into a glass by his empty plate, and after she sat beside him, he expected to serve herself a bit too, but instead, she began guzzling straight from the bottle! “Careful not to overindulge! Alastor could strike again at any time, and you’ll need your wits about you!”

            “How do you do it?” Clarissa asked him. “You say that so calmly like what happened today was purely routine!”

            Kenneth took a swig of his beverage before answering her, “It comes with the territory of my position. There are no bloodless wars! It’s either kill or be killed out there! And, if one of our own perishes, we bury him quickly, say goodbye, and then carry on with our objectives once more! It’s terrible matter to deal with, but then we always consider what the fallen would want for us. If they could give us any sort of message, the presumption is always the same- they would beg us to stay safe and to persist in what’s important! Roger’s death was tragic, but if he could communicate with you right now, what do you imagine he would recommend for you?”

            Clarissa mulled it over for a minute, and then she came up with, “I suppose he would want to make sure that the force that caused so much distress and turmoil got thwarted so that no one else would have to go through this!”

            “There you go! It’s not as though this process is ever easy, but it is the frequent outcome of combat, so don’t let it break you!” Kenneth nestled her shoulder in a sympathetic gesture.

            “What would I do without you?” Clarissa squeezed the hand currently resting on the top of her limb and beamed at him appreciatively. His hold was so strong and comforting that she no longer felt the need to consume any alcohol for solace! For a moment, no worries existed in her mind- everything else seemed to vanish as he gazed at her in a manner that made all of her nerves tingle! Her heart suddenly beat wildly as he leaned in closer…

            The front door unexpectedly burst open, and the pair hastily stood up and braced themselves for the potential for peril! Their anxieties were quelled when a small band of Continental soldiers entered into the facility! Bernard rejoiced, “You see! I wasn’t wrong about the intelligence we gained!”

            Another soldier suggested to Bernard, “Don’t brag, Private Malin!” He transferred his regard to Kenneth and probed, “Lieutenant Harvey! Are you alright?”

            “I’m better than I was! I apologize for my absence! I got lost on my reconnaissance expedition, and then…” Kenneth hesitated, and Clarissa got the sense that he was struggling to describe the tribulations he underwent without his troops labelling him as deranged as others in his recent past had done. He finally went with, “I received an injury in the woods and rested in this inn.”

            “Are you well enough to return to Philadelphia?” the older soldier questioned him.

            Kenneth appeared reluctant to reveal his optimal condition, so Clarissa reassured the soldiers, “He needs to repose for a while, but I’m certain he could manage the journey without incident!” Kenneth stared at her in shock, and she reiterated her sentiment to him, “You’ll survive, I promise!”

            With a slight crackle of hurt in his tone, Kenneth inquired, “What about the… the dilemma in your midst?”

            “I’ll take care of it on my own! No, really, I will!” She replied confidently to him, but inwardly, it made her insides ache to know that she would have to let him go! “I’m positive I won’t have to deal with it alone for long!” She viewed the hurt he displayed with mounting misery, and it took all her might to ignore her self-interest that yearned to beg him to stay! She took a deep breath and then encouraged him, “You should head back with them! Your men need you! Your country is counting on you! You have to leave!”

            “But I’ll miss… I won’t forget your hospitality!” Kenneth gave her a hug, and they clung to each other as if they never wanted to release each other! Kenneth forcibly tore himself from her, and then he petitioned Clarissa, “Can I write to you, madam?”

            Clarissa gladly accepted this, “I’d like that, sir!” He lingered for a flash, and then he stormed out as if he had to do it instantly or else he would lose the will for departure! His fellow soldiers waved goodbye to her, and Clarissa stepped onto her stoop to watch them take off. Kenneth glanced back to her, and Clarissa felt a tear roll down her cheek as his figure disappeared into the night! She leaned against the shoulder he had touched, and as she stood on her porch, she heard the howling wind resume. As the faint noise of Alastor’s chuckle was detected, Clarissa realized that being by herself would prove difficult for many reasons…

The Hessian, Chapter 5

“You’re asking me what to do in the future, and I’m still trying to comprehend what happened in the past!” Clarissa sunk into the bedside chair previously occupied by the doctor and relived the events from earlier that day. “I just can’t believe he came back! Once he was executed, I assumed that I would never see him again…”

            “Who is he?” Kenneth inquired. He suddenly recalled her prior nervousness upon the subject of his military adversaries, so he added, “Was that… Was he a Hessian?”

            Clarissa had to close her eyes and steel herself up in order to reply to him. After she had braced herself for this juncture, she revealed, “Colfrith had many merchants coming to purchase lumber from C.C. Asher Mill, but none of the regular clients ever became a part of the community except for Alastor Derstreich. He rubbed elbows with the town’s most elite members, and he charmed everyone he talked to. He became the most celebrated person in the village other than Cornelius Cole, the mill owner and governmental representative, or my late husband, Brenner! About a month ago, while Alastor was speaking to Brenner, a piece of paper slipped out of his pocket. It turned out to be an envelope that prominently displayed the Hessian seal! Everyone knew that no patriot would possess such a document, and he never denied the accusation that he was a spy! The hurt from this betrayal brought everyone’s vitriol to his hanging, and he vowed to unleash vengeance on us all from beyond the grave…”

            Kenneth asserted, “Well, that explains the motives behind that specter’s attack! But it doesn’t explain why that physician determined that my disclosure of this event signified that I had lost touch with reality! I couldn’t have been the Hessian’s first victim!”

            “No, you weren’t! After Alastor’s death, a lot of strange things started happening…” Clarissa narrated. “People heard music that wasn’t there. Random individuals would wander down Hallow’s Alley and have no recollection on how they got to that location. So much pain and so many ailments surfaced that no one could trace their origins to! Multiple neighbors got consumed by anger and hatred, and then a lot simply felt nothing whatsoever! Everyone could tell some abnormal force had taken over the area, but nobody believed that Alastor’s spirit was the culprit behind it all!”

            “Why not?” Kenneth puzzled. “He threatened to enact revenge after his demise, and then these inexplicable episodes began to frequently occur, so logically, wouldn’t the blame get cast on him?”

            Clarissa somewhat bitterly responded, “It would be if logic was the principal guiding most of their decisions! For one brief night, everybody was united by the outrage from a beloved figure’s double-crossing, but then some started to question the facts surrounding the incident. They no longer found it natural for somebody so well admired to suddenly turn on his allies like that. They were convinced that a supernatural commodity played a role in swaying his mind to commit such an atrocity! Then they treated that theory as truth when Brenner perished in a mysterious manner…”

            Kenneth cried out in disbelief, “They believe you cursed the region? How could they think you would benefit from damning the district that you rely on to function in your own life?”

            “I don’t know if they actually attached a valid reason other than pure evil and control. At least when it came to terrorizing them! They’re certain that I killed Brenner to gain control of the inn! They didn’t understand that I was always in control of The Leafy Taverne, just not on a legal basis! Once he passed, not a single soul could fathom why I didn’t pass the reins over to a man! We never had any children, so there were no sons to inherit it. And I refused to sell it to Oceanus Montgomery or Cornelius Cole or any other male with a large purse for that matter! Apparently, I’m skilamalink for not wanting to let this place go!” Clarissa looked away and sadly sighed.

            “Did you love him?” Kenneth probed.

            Clarissa’s head instantly whipped back towards him upon hearing that enquiry! “Who? Cornelius?”

            Trying his hardest not to make her feel foolish, Kenneth clarified, “I meant Brenner…”

            “Oh!” Clarissa blushed furiously from the topic he raised. “No one has ever brought that up before! Not even Brenner!”

            “I’m sorry for making you uncomfortable!” Brenner apologized. “I merely guessed that perhaps you held on to this establishment so ardently because you didn’t want to let him go. I know I had some difficulty getting rid of some of my wife’s possessions after she succumbed to her illness, but a year or so later, one of my daughters wondered why I never wore any of my pretty dresses in the closet, so out they went!”

            Clarissa giggled at his quip, which brought a smile to Kenneth’s face. She then grew curious and queried him, “How many kids do you have?”

            Kenneth gladly filled her in, “Five. My youngest is ten now, and the oldest is sixteen. They’re all living with my mother while I fight in this war, although my son is considering joining a militia. I don’t know if I’m ready for him to-.” Suddenly, another gust of wind blew by and shook the entire building once more! The echoes of irate whispers sounded throughout the entire space, and their brief instance of levity vanished! Kenneth recalled their more serious discussion and then articulated, “Alright, so we have the spirit of a Hessian spy haunting this borough. How do we stop him?”

            “Alastor abandoned his assault on you because of this.” She displayed her cross necklace for him to view it more clearly. “Most of the citizens belonging to this township are low-waged sawmill employees, so not everyone can afford this sort of protection. So, I’m not sure…”

            “Your cross saved me? How close were you to my body?” Kenneth petitioned her.

            With her cheeks flushing furiously again, Clarissa divulged, “I was shielding you from his dark magic. I couldn’t help it! I wouldn’t have been able to stand it if I had to witness your murder! You didn’t deserve to die like that!”

            Kenneth riposted, “Neither did you though!”

            “You risk sacrificing yourself each time you do battle for resistance against tyranny! Am I not allowed to do the same for a resistance against the paranormal?” Clarissa challenged.

            “That’s your choice to make; I just hope I never put you in a position to make that sort of decision again!” Kenneth had expressed that very seriously, but he gave Clarissa a meaningful smile. For a second, Clarissa pondered if he was going to kiss her… The howling draft returned and instantly shifted their mood straight away from anything remotely pleasurable like that! It hovered around their abode, and then it abruptly veered south! “We have to warn everyone!”

            Kenneth attempted to hop out of bed, but Clarissa kept him pinned down. “The doctor recommended that you rest! He may not know the true cause of our recent unrest, but he does know a lot about the human anatomy! Whatever Alastor put you through must have been tremendously taxing to your health!”

            Reflecting back on his arduous experience, Kenneth recalled, “He kept sending flashes of agony that would course throughout my veins as he condemned my troop’s purpose on the battlefield! He acted as if I deserved the torment that I got after committing this horrendous sin! When I went unconscious, I was so sure that he would bring about the end of me…” He shuddered as he relived this nightmare, but after the memory had elapsed, he made another bid for springing out bed. “We can’t allow anyone else to go through that! We must advise his intended targets of this impending calamity!”

            “They won’t listen to us!” Clarissa morosely disagreed with his suggestion. “No one trusts me, they’ll credit my claims to a pursuit of some sort of malicious spell that I want to spread! And as for you, well… Many people’s allegiance to the liberation front changed when Alastor was done away with. They started to believe his outrageous arguments that the fight for freedom was, in reality, a dangerous campaign to sow seeds of anarchy throughout the world! Some individuals had the audacity to blame the Continental soldiers for creating the circumstances that brought Alastor to his doom as if the message against tyranny gave birth to the madness that got him killed! I would dearly love to assist in the protection of Colfrith, but what good would it do to talk to those who won’t listen?”

            “Someone will listen to us!” Kenneth insisted. “Even if we only convince one person, it would be worth our efforts to save that one life!” Clarissa appeared doubtful still, so he further iterated his objective, “Hear me out! My military unit has received some of our finest officers from primarily loyalist towns! We may not be able to persuade them all, but if we can win over a few, we may find the allies we need to defeat this menace! We don’t have the ability or resources to take down this fiend, but somebody out there does! And it’s up to us to discover them! So, what do you say? Are you with me on this?”

            Once Clarissa’s mind had fully drunk in his words, she slightly grinned as she told him, “I can see why you were promoted to lieutenant! You could embolden anyone to charge into combat!” Kenneth beamed at her, and she concluded, “Let’s go!”

            Clarissa led Bailey by his reins as Kenneth rode on his steed and observed the bystanders around them. He spotted one man nearby and called out to him, “Excuse me, sir!” The man looked frightened to get addressed by him and scurried away as fast as possible. He took another shot with a woman walking with her youngsters, “Pardon me, madam! I-!” The woman scooped up her lot and glared at Kenneth prior to steering her little ones away from that area. Kenneth seemed rather put off by this behavior, but when he espied Clarissa’s skepticism resurfacing, he assured her, “The actions of a few do not dictate the rationale of the rest!”

            He could see her striving to dissuade her doubts, but before he could broach the issue any further, the wealthy coffeehouse owner emerged from his business and shouted, “You there!” Kenneth turned to him with a glimmer of hope in his eyes, but Clarissa grimaced. She sincerely mistrusted that Oceanus would have flagged them down on any amicable grounds! Oceanus scolded Kenneth, “You owe my daughter an apology for your blatant rudeness!”

            “Sir, I apologize if she construed any ill manners from my actions!” Kenneth graciously regarded him. “I truly didn’t mean to-.”

            “That hang in chains is yelling at Mister Montgomery!” one passerby infuriatedly noted.

            Clarissa defended him, “He didn’t even raise his voice! Just because they are having a disagreement doesn’t-.”

            Another onlooker decried, “Don’t give us this cockamamie story of civility on your part! You came here to cause trouble!”

            “No! We came to save you from it!” Kenneth retorted. “You see, an evil entity has besieged your village…”

            “Yes, we know! It’s standing right before us” a lady countered, which made the spectators around her titter.

            Clarissa exclaimed, “Abigail, you don’t have to like us, but if you don’t take heed of our information, something truly terrible will take place!”

            Abigail accosted her, “You dare to threaten us!”

            “We have no desire to harm you!” Clarissa contended. “But someone else does!”

            “You’re lying!” Abigail vehemently hollered. “You want to deceive us so we fall prey to your scheme!”

            Clarissa rebutted, “What motive would I have to do such a thing? The only maligner in these quarters is Alastor!”

            Abigail stepped within inches of Clarissa and growled, “Alastor was an honorable paragon to our society! How dare you besmirch his righteous name!”

            “He made plans to doom us all!” Clarissa feverishly disputed. “And he didn’t stop with spilling our secrets to the British!”

            “You’re a liar!” Abigail hysterically screeched.

            Clarissa went on, “His wickedness has overcome death! His wrath resumed in Colfrith by means of-!”

            With the speech of deeply timbred male, Abigail bellowed, “Silence, you snake!” She gutturally growled and then lunged her hands at Clarissa’s throat…!

The Hessian, Chapter 4

“Do I dare?” Kenneth queried himself as he peeked his head out into the long, narrow hallway. The door he had seen Clarissa go into last night was still closed, and he assumed that she was still sleeping, so he reckoned that he would probably have been safe in venturing back downstairs without getting seen in pajamas, but probably was not a certainty! He would hate to repay her kindness towards him by performing a rather offensive act of indecency! He considered simply waiting in his room until she woke up, but he was ready to leave now and who knew when she might get out of bed! He already had an exhaustive night with very little sleep, so he couldn’t stand the idea of doing nothing for even an hour more! He did see a few books in there, but the titles all depicted narratives about running a business, and he doubted that they would add much to his entertainment value! He would have loved to have said goodbye to her, but he esteemed that perhaps it was better that he left before he saw her again because if he had run into her once more, he imagined that she would insist on making him breakfast, they would have a very stimulating conversation, and he would become too enamored to ever leave! His troops needed him, so he had to do what was best for them and their fight for freedom, no matter what personal needs he may have had to sacrifice! So, he took a deep breath and crossed his fingers that she wouldn’t emerge from her chambers until after he was gone!

            He found his garments laid out so nicely in front of the gently burning flame in the fireplace, and a pang of guilt surged through him! She had done so much for his care, and he hadn’t even intended to say thank you or farewell! As he hid behind a large, supportive beam and changed back into his uniform, he wished that he had a way of leaving her a note prior to his departure! Suddenly, he spotted a guestbook, and he became relieved! As soon as he was fully dressed, he dashed over to the ledger and jotted a quick message about how grateful he was for her help and that he would never forget her thoughtfulness! He then slipped out of the door before she had a chance to discover him there, and while he trudged over to the livery to get Bailey, he privately thought that he would never be able to disremember her and wondered if the hurt he felt now would ever pass!

            Kenneth glumly steered his horse through the pathway through the northern woods, which he found sort of odd seeing that he had only known that woman for one day! And yet it had been the lightest span of his life since his wife’s demise! After his bride had passed on, he truly believed that no other lady could sway his interest, and after meeting one that did, it seemed like a shame that he had to let her go! He noticed that his steed appeared fairly morose as well, so he pat him comfortingly and sympathized, “I know, boy! I miss her too!”

            Quite abruptly, Bailey’s gait came to a screeching halt! “We’re not going back, young man! Come on!” Kenneth attempted to coax him into moving ahead, but Bailey refused to go beyond that point! “Look, we have a war to fight! We have to-!” Bailey neighed in a worried tone and fidgeted with total apprehension, so Kenneth probed, “What’s gotten into you?” He observed that something on the ground was frightening him, so he gazed at the floor to determine the cause of his distress. He saw a small stream of a strange, brown substance below them, and he puzzled, “What is that?” He dismounted and gave it a closer examination. It had the texture of oil, but he could see that it was bleeding out of a parched log in a small clearing to their left side. He couldn’t espy anything that would logically create this effect, so he concluded, “This can’t be good!” He stepped towards the log, and Bailey vehemently objected! “I have to investigate this! What if it’s something dangerous?” Bailey’s cries magnified as he got closer to the log, and he couldn’t comprehend why until he was right next to it… His eyes widened and he let out a voluminous scream!

            Clarissa bolted up from her slumber! She thought she had heard a cry of anguish from afar, but then she recalled that this had become a frequent occurrence in Colfrith lately. She didn’t think it was something that she should ever get used to it, but with the rate it was happening, she supposed that it was something she would have to come to terms with. That was difficult though- the afflicted endured unbelievable pain, and none of the medical procedures that they had their disposal could alleviate their symptoms! It was hard to fathom that she harbored such empathy for individuals who acted especially cruel towards her, but she found it impossible not to care when they were going through something so atrocious!

            After Clarissa slipped on a robe, she went across the hall to check on the handsome soldier that she had temporarily housed. To her dismay, his room was empty! “He went away already?” she enquired out loud to herself. He seemed like such a benevolent fellow that it surprised her he would do her this discourtesy, but then she concocted an alternative theory, “Maybe he’s waiting for me downstairs!”

            She hurriedly descended the staircase and fully expected to see his beautiful smile beaming at her as he awaited her entrance, but the tavern was empty! Same as always ever since Brenner died a month ago! It stung her to have lost someone that she had developed a genuine connection with! Her neighbors had turned on her, and her husband’s illness rendered him incapable of any true closeness, so Kenneth had really provided a spark of hope for happiness in her future! She knew he wouldn’t have been able to stay in her life permanently until the Revolutionary battles had ceased, but she dared to feel optimistic that he may have wanted to keep in touch with her! She hung her head low as she grieved for this loss, but then she forced herself to collect her wits and move on! She couldn’t lament this matter forever! She decided to clean up the place in case any visitors finally decided to come to this establishment, and as she retrieved her broom by the doorway, she spotted some handwriting that hadn’t been in the guestbook previously! She read it and broke out into a broad grin! It altered her mood completely, and she found it so much easier to go about the drudgeries of her day knowing that someone out there sincerely held her dear!

            The sun started to poke out of the clouds a little, and just when Clarissa began to speculate if she should put on a proper wardrobe to prepare for prospective patrons, she heard a horse whinnying outside! Clarissa initially grew alarmed by the notion of getting seen in wear unsuitable for public viewing, but when she denoted the distressed intonation in its voice, her alarm began to stem from something else… She glanced out of the window, and she observed that this animal truly behaved as though it were in an urgent state of panic! She went out to her porch and visually scanned the perimeter to discern whether or not a nearby rider was experiencing an emergency, but she saw no one around them, so she realized someone somewhere else must have been in trouble! It definitely wasn’t a wild creature, it had a saddle! When she got a closer look at that saddle, her face fell in total terror…

            The horse bore an emblem of The Continental Army, and as far as she knew, there was only one soldier in this region… “Is your master Kenneth?” The steed calmed its movements at the mention of that name, and he gave Clarissa a very meaningful stare! At that juncture, Clarissa didn’t fret about anything else- she had to recover him immediately! She swiftly mounted Kenneth’s colt and commanded him, “Take me to him!” He did so without hesitation!

            Minutes into their trek, the sky above them darkened, and somehow, Clarissa knew that this signified that they were getting within range of Kenneth’s location! All of a sudden, Clarissa and the horse sighted a bizarre green glow ahead of them! Her ride declined to go any further, so Clarissa quickly slid off of the horse and ran towards the peculiar phenomenon! When she got within feet of the haze, she was aghast to learn that Kenneth was inside of this mist with a tortured expression on his face! But to her horror, he wasn’t alone…

            “Alastor?” Clarissa uttered in sheer shock. She gawked at a nearly translucent silhouette of the man whose hanging she witnessed firsthand! Seeing any version of him ever again never crossed her mind, and now that she had, her brain couldn’t process it! She had to be hallucinating!

            “I told you death wouldn’t stop me!” Alastor leered. He kept one hand aimed at Kenneth and directed another to target Clarissa! She instinctively dove out of his trajectory, and whatever spell he meant for her missed! She hid behind a log, and Alastor cackled, “Fine! Go ahead and hide! I’ll catch up with you after I finish this traitor off!”

            Clarissa’s blood boiled at that pronouncement! She ardently vowed not to let that scoundrel harm that brave and noble man, so she sprang up and charged forward! She recognized that she couldn’t combat this version of Alastor, so she concentrated on protecting Kenneth! Alastor raised his arm to eject another attack, but Clarissa tackled Kenneth and lowered him below Alastor’s projectile! Alastor maniacally laughed at this display, “It’s permissible by me if you want to perish together!”

            As she turned over and shielded an unconscious Kenneth, Clarissa bellowed, “Leave him alone!”

            “You are in no position to give orders, you patriotic snake!” Alastor sneered. He postured himself to execute another strike, and Clarissa didn’t know what to do other than to brace herself for impact! Right as his malevolence reached its pinnacle…

            “No!” Alastor roared in a red-hot fury after eyeballing her chest. He instantly disappeared, and while Clarissa studied her cross necklace in confusion, Alastor’s words rang out into the atmosphere, “You can’t save them all!” Bailey trotted over to them and stooped down to their level. “My powers reach farther than you can imagine!” Clarissa heaved Kenneth’s body onto Bailey’s back, and Alastor went on, “I am limitless, and you are not!” Clarissa climbed onto the steed, and as they took off, Alastor cried out, “You can’t escape! I will get you! I’ll get you all!”

            Kenneth’s lids opened extensively, and he violently struck his periphery as if he were in a struggle! Doctor Cuthbart placidly addressed him, “Woah, woah, woah! It’s alright! You’re safe here!”

            Clarissa peered over Doctor Cuthbart’s shoulder, and having her in his vision ensured his jangled nerves that he was now longer in peril! But he was not convinced the same for everyone else! “We have to put a halt to his scheme before it’s too late!”

            “Lie down!” Doctor Cuthbart delicately ordered. “You’re in no state to contend with anyone!”

            “But the threat is imminent!” Kenneth protested. “We have to take action!”

            Doctor Cuthbart denied him access to do that. “You have very little strength in you at this moment! You couldn’t lay one finger on an adversary without collapsing! You must-.”

            Kenneth contemplated out loud, “Hand-to-hand combat wouldn’t do us any favors anyways! You can’t physically assault a ghost! But then how do we bar him from going forth with his wickedness?”

            Doctor Cuthbart reached into his satchel and asserted, “I’m afraid his trauma has made him delirious, so I’m going to-.”

            “I’m not delirious!” Kenneth refuted that claim. “I was tormented and besieged by a specter!”

            “Take a drought of this elixir!” Doctor Cuthbart poured a light brown liquid onto a spoon and tried to serve it to him.

            Kenneth flung the spoon across the room! “I’m not unbalanced! The ghost is real!”

            Doctor Cuthbart assured him, “It’s simply a calming mixture!” Kenneth’s visage stayed steadfastly defiant, so Doctor Cuthbart placed the solution in Clarissa’s palms. “Have him drink a spoonful every eight hours or so and see that he rests for a few days. Don’t fret, he’ll be back in fair health soon!”

            When Doctor Cuthbart turned to make his exit, Clarissa exclaimed to him, “For the record, he’s telling the truth- there is an unfriendly spirit out there!” Doctor Cuthbart gave her a smile that didn’t exactly cover up his discomfort over the magnitude of her statement prior to his hasty withdrawal. Clarissa realized that her charge must have made him doubt her sanity as well, but she wasn’t bothered by that! The entire village already believed she was a spiteful sorceress, so she would have gained nothing by withholding her honesty! Besides, there was one benefit to the deed she performed…

            She swiveled to face Kenneth, who beamed at her for her vote of confidence They savored this sentiment for a brief instance, but before either of them could initiate a discussion on their ordeal, a howling wind flew by the window and reverberated its sound throughout the entire structure! They were silent for a minute, and then Kenneth brought up, “So, now what?”

The Hessian, Chapter 3

The further down the alleyway he went, the darker and darker it seemed to get! Kenneth never took much stock into claims of witchcraft, but with all of the unnatural aspects that he observed during his short time in Colfrith, he began to wonder if the villagers’ story had any merit! The silence of the north end was unnerving! He almost wished that more of the malicious townsfolk resurfaced! Each inch forward that he and his steed took made him feel more and more paranoid! The air had a strange electricity to it- he felt as though he was back on the battlefield! He would’ve preferred to have returned to the war in this instance, at least he had a better sense of what that enemy was capable of! He couldn’t fathom what to expect right then, but he was positive an attack was eminent! Just when his tension reached its peak, a loud noise sounded in the distance!

            Kenneth swiveled Bailey to face the perpetrator, and while he had no clue what he would contend with, he vowed not to go down without a fight! He fully anticipated running into a formidable, supernatural foe, but to this astonishment, the source of the din had merely been a man lighting a candle in a nearby streetlamp! At that juncture, it occurred to him that the growing dimness he witnessed had simply stemmed from the setting sun! He admonished himself for falling prey to such flights of fancy, and as he commanded Bailey to renew their journey, he committed himself to avoid spooking his thoughts with paranormal concepts! The inhabitants of this area really got into his head, and he realized that these reprobates probably wanted him to get frightened like that! This convinced him even deeper to not let his anxieties get the best of him! Still, as they trotted along, he couldn’t shake the sensation of some sort of malign force readying itself for an ambush!

            At last, he spotted a wooden sign in the distance that marked the entrance of The Leafy Taverne! The colorful leaves that surrounded the inn’s name gave the venue a charming tone, and the verdant plants that bordered the front stoop were quite a welcomed change to all of the deadened flora he encountered in this terrain so far! He couldn’t imagine any sort of dark magic wielder occupying this space! Although, he remained cautious as he tied his ride to the banister by the stairs… “If you hear any funny business happening in there, feel free to kick down the door and get us out of here!” Kenneth requested to Bailey. Bailey stared at him blankly, and as Kenneth turned towards the building, he knocked on wood that if he was stepping into peril that he could find his way out!

            When he used the knocker, he heard the sound echo throughout the abode! He thought that was an eerie omen, and a part of him hoped no one would answer so that he could escape from this place and search for another individual with the ability to give him directions to Philadelphia, but to his dismay, a woman responded to him, “Come in! I’ll be out in a minute!” He wanted to dread this encounter, but something in the timbre of her voice made him think that the dweller within did not contain a wicked bone in her body! His instincts propelled him to go forth without hesitation, and he heedlessly obeyed this whim!

            From the manner in which she was described, Kenneth envisioned a shadowy interior with spiderwebs and a bubbling cauldron simmering with a sinister substance, but he didn’t see anything like that! He walked into a well-lit room with dozens of cozy wooden tables and matching chairs, and there wasn’t a speck of dust as far as he could see! There were several cushy stools lined up neatly against a bar, and even the staircase behind it appeared inviting! It was the only sight he had seen in this hamlet that gave him even a hint of warmth, which led him to contemplate how on earth the citizens of the borough could possibly have drummed up an ill opinion of its governess! He recalled that they mentioned something about her husband dying mysteriously, which prompted him to consider that perhaps this hospitable hall bore a false pretense of safety…

            He saw a pale pink dress descending the staircase, and his pulse began to race! No matter what her intentions with him were, he was about to confront them! He steeled himself up for a contentious brawl, but as soon as he espied her soft visage, all of his worries disappeared! She had a radiant smile and nimble, light-beige skin that made her glow, and her golden-brown eyes displayed a mix of fierce kindness and a scrupulous intelligence! Her graceful curves made her appear to glide across the surface, and he no longer believed he was dealing with a witch! In fact, his throat practically closed up from nerves as he mentally prepared himself to speak with an angel!

            When she caught a glimpse of him, her eyes widened in shock, and she paused with the apparent inclination of retreating back upstairs! He momentarily fretted that his presence had offended her, but then she regained her composure and apologized, “Forgive me! You’re not who I was expecting!”

            “Neither are you!” Kenneth repeated her sentiments in hopes of creating some common ground.

            “Hmpf! I supposed you heeded the rumor that I’m sort of sorcereress!” she disdainfully remarked.

            Kennenth instantly regretted his comment, and he attempted to smooth things over, “I listened to them, but if I had accepted them as fact, I wouldn’t have come!” She seemed mollified by this, so he breathed a sigh of relief and then explained, “My name is Lieutenant Kennth Harvey, and I’m with the Continental Army! I was a reconnaissance mission and got lost, so I need to get some guidance on how to return to camp. Would you be able to tell me how to get to Philadelphia?”

            She asserted to him, “No, I can’t!” His expression fell! She had been his last resort for refuge in this nightmarish place, so if she could not offer him assistance, he feared that he would meet his doom in this macabre municipality! Fortunately, she swiftly followed that with, “But my map will do the job!”

            He laughed out of both alleviation and humor! He couldn’t quite predict her next move, but he kind of found that intriguing! She brought out a folded piece of parchment from behind the bar and invited him, “Have a seat!”

            Kenneth gladly followed her direction, and he got a bit of a thrill when she sat down beside him! He couldn’t decipher exactly why this action had that effect on his mood, but he supposed that it had something to do with basking in comforting aura! She laid out the map and pointed to a specific location on there. “This is where we are.”

            “Ah, I had viewed Colfrith on the map previously! Only on ours it was labeled as C.C. Asher Mill slash Colfrith!” Kenneth’s memory of the region’s layout returned to him as he gazed at this cartography. “This is where our general got the lumber to build our fort!”

            “That’s right! It’s a mark of pride for our population!” Her grin quickly morphed into a frown as she recollected, “Well, at least it used to be…”

            Kenneth’s curiosity piqued at this reference, but he didn’t want to pry in case the matter became too personal to her. Instead, he changed the subject away from the topic that upset her by retracing the history of his footsteps, “Let’s see… I began here, and I went along a small trail there…”

            She asked him, “Egad! Are British troops really hiding so close to my home?”

            “Possibly,” Kenneth answered her. “Or perhaps Hessians.” He had made that statement offhandedly, not picturing that he could have articulated anything significant with that speculation, but when he noticed that she quivered at this mention, he glanced up from the map and perceived from her movements that this theme had seriously startled her! She tried to cover up her apprehension, but he knew that he had stumbled into a fearsome flashback of hers! He sincerely did not want to put his nose where it didn’t belong, but he developed a hunch that he may have been able to soothe her apprehension by letting this bit of background materialize, so he gingerly broached the issue, “I’m sorry if this is an invasion of your privacy, but was your husband’s demise due to a Hessian’s aggression?” She stared at him with tremendous alarm, and he recognized that they had not discussed anything regarding her family life, so he reasoned that it most likely disturbed her that he knew something so typically confidential! He therefore amended his enquiry, “Pardon me for bringing up such a painful reminder, but some of your neighbors touched on… well… He may have gone down in an unusual fashion…” He immediately kicked himself for his choice of alluding to this affair and dearly prayed that he hadn’t fallen out of her good graces for this blunder!

            “My husband got examined by a doctor after his death,” she revealed. He was delighted that she had opted to privy him with this information, and he hung on her every word as she spoke, “And while he saw no evidence of foul play, he also could not determine a cause of death. Everyone theorized that I performed some sort of spell on him, but I’ve never engaged in the occult! I swear it was the alcohol that did him in! Once I had learned the ropes of how to run our inn, he let me take over while he imbibed with our guests. He got sicker each day he did that, but no one else believed he was in any danger! They merely regarded it as a bad habit that he developed and left it at that!”

            Kenneth reflected on that, “So, they’ll believe that you’re capable of a fantastical jinx, but they won’t buy that liquor may have become lethal after a certain level of consumption?” She uproariously laughed at this ludicrous concept, which made Kenneth’s heart soar! He had done well in chatting about her recent past after all, and so she decided to seal her more elated emotions by stating firmly, “For what it’s worth, I believe you!”

            She broadly beamed at him and expressed, “I appreciate that!”

            “You’re very welcome!” He pleasantly peered at her, but as their eyes met, he had the sudden urge to show her some romantic affection! The pull was strong, but his more logical side resisted. It was a crazy notion! He got the impression that her husband had departed not so long ago, and he hadn’t even learned her name yet! He tore himself from her torpor, cleared his throat to rid his mind of any lingering amorous urges, and readdressed the original conversation, “Oh, it appears as though that I can get to Philadelphia by continuing to travel along this pathway to the north!”

            “The lumberjacks and deliverymen stopped using that route,” she brought up. “They seemed to indicate that it was dangerous!”

            Kenneth frowned at that pronouncement. “Hmm… Can I really count on their judgment though? If they want to believe otherworldly malevolence can stem from a woman like you, then why should I trust their wisdom?” She simpered at his embellished compliment, and Kenneth knew that if he didn’t leave right then that she may have tempted him into never leaving again, so he compelled himself to bid her adieu, “Thank you so much your assistance, Miss…”

            She filled him in, “Harbin. But you may call me Clarissa.”

            “Until we meet again, Clarissa!” He tipped his hat in a courteous manner, and as he made his way towards the exit, his heart ached! He assured himself that if he still harbored this infatuation by the finish of the war that he would revisit her, and it would be an easy feat to complete now that he knew how to get to and from these quarters! Just as his hand hit the doorknob, thunder cracked and the torrential downpour he experienced earlier resumed! He heard Bailey whinny in distress, and he cried out, “My horse!”

            “There’s a livery out back!” Clarissa relayed to him as he dashed out the door.

            When Kenneth came back inside, his uniform was completely soaked! He debated whether or not to spread his slipperiness throughout Clarissa’s well-maintained residence, but then, from upstairs, Clarissa shouted, “I have your room ready!”

            Kenneth inquired, “I’m spending the night here?”

            “Well, you can’t hardly traverse any trails in such terrible weather!” she replied. He inwardly admitted she had a point and climbed to the second level. He saw Clarissa standing before an open door, and she let him know, “I put a warming pan in there so you don’t catch a cold! And I have my husband’s old pajamas for you too. I’m afraid that they’ll be a tad big on you, but it’s better than sleeping in wet clothes! When you’ve changed, leave your clothes in the hall and I’ll put them by the fireplace so that they’ll be dried by morning!”

            “I truly appreciate this!” He pat through his pockets and then told her, “Unfortunately, I didn’t bring any money…” She tried to object to that premise, but then he exclaimed, “Oh, I got it!” He took off his wedding ring and attempted to hand it to her. She raised her eyebrows to that gesture, so he elucidated, “I’m a widower! I just kept that on because…” He bit his lip as he could see that he didn’t really have a solid basis for this quirk! “She’s been gone for over ten years, I just…” He trailed off as he felt his cheeks burning red.

            Clarissa gently chuckled and pushed his hand back. “Keep it! Patriots do not have to pay for a bed here! You’ve given enough already!” He shined with gratefulness, and she genially bade him, “Good night!”

            He pleasurably returned, “Good night!” They exchanged obliged looks prior to turning to their perspective rooms.

            With such a pleasant interaction with an attractive lady, especially one whose gentle touch lingered with him extensively, Kenneth reckoned that he would sleep well that evening, but he couldn’t relax with the howling wind outside! He swore he could still detect irate whispers in the gale! As he laid on his cozy bed, he replayed his discourse with Clarissa and denoted that he had forgotten to dive deeper into the Hessian ordeal. He hypothesized that she simply had an aversion to this group, but when he closed his eyes, he beheld a pair of angry eyes glaring at him! As he bolted up, he pondered if there was more to this Hessian thing than she had led on…

The Hessian, Chapter 2

“No, no, no!’ a soldier in a blue jacket, red shirt, and white pants cried out in frustration as he watched the ink from his map bleed from the large raindrops that slipped through the lush leaves of the ash trees that covered his head. He gazed up at the sky and frowned, he was certain that he had chosen a safe spot! He took off his tri-corner hat and shielded his map from the obtuse droplets, but it was no use- the information he needed had vanished! He groaned, “Oh, dodgast it! We’re lost!” His white furred, gray-maned horse sensed his distress and whinnied in alarm, so the solider pat his neck and reassured his steed, “There, there, Bailey! We’ll be fine so long as we don’t run into any British camps! Or Hessian fighters…” The solider bit his lip at the prospect of that notion, but he shook that grim possibility out of his mind and took out his compass. “Hmm… We traveled southwest, so if we head northeast, we should be able to find Philadelphia eventually, right?” Bailey neighed impatiently as the solider doubted his own premise, so he cast his misgivings aside and concluded, “Yes, I know! It’s a security risk ot stand still in unknown quarters for too long! Let’s go!” He used the stallion’s reins to signal to him to move forward, and he inwardly prayed that his enemies would get too daunted by the poor weather to launch any attacks!

            Just minutes down the road, the soldier espied a strange sight ahead… All of the leaves of the trees bordering the path in the foreground were barren! He wouldn’t have found that odd if it had been close to winter, but it was merely October! The rest of the foliage in the area brimmed with orange and yellow hues, but not this thicket! He couldn’t fathom the reasoning behind it, and his confusion only heightened when he reached this peculiar perimeter… The deadened effect seemed to go across a straight line! Some of the trees even had half of themselves adorned with vibrant botany while the other half had nothing but lifeless limbs! Bailey paused and seemed reluctant to cross into the eerie territory, and the soldier nearly had him turn around out of an abundance of caution, but then he saw a waterwheel churning against a rectangular building. He changed his line of thought and instructed Bailey, “Come on, boy! Maybe somebody there can give us directions!” Bailey didn’t appear confident on the soldier’s idea, but he obeyed his command nonetheless.

            When they neared their destination, the soldier observed that the trail next to the mill lead to an alleyway adorned with several brick buildings, and he told Bailey, “Ah, we’ve come to an entire town! Surely, it won’t be too difficult for us to get assistance…” Bailey continued to plough ahead, but his expression bore quite a bit of apprehension when he regarded this expedition! The downpour had stopped, but the dark clouds threatened to resume the storm as evidenced by the walls of the domiciles exuding a grayish hue. The people he saw in the distance didn’t act especially pleased to traverse this murky terrain, but the soldier couldn’t blame them since a cold wind perpetually penetrated through the stitches of his clothing and chilled him practically to the bone! As they trotted closer to these denizens, he crossed his fingers that they could find help right away and escape to warm lodgings!

            Usually, the soldier got a chorus of accolades from citizens who occupied private sectors, but no one in this district made eye contact with him let alone delved out any sort of admirable welcome! Everyone he passed gazed him with utter disdain, and as the icy breeze flew by, he could hear echoes of angry whispers! He had previously encountered small patches of loyalist hubs, but it puzzled him to have every individual that he encountered shun him like that! He refused to let their abrasiveness cause him to give up though! Certainly, somebody was bound to display a friendly face! Right when he came across the town square and wondered whether or not any of the merchants would lend him a hand…

            A loud scream pierced through the entire sphere! The soldier veered Bailey towards the source of the sound, and to his horror, he saw a man on the ground writhing in agony! He moaned, “My bones! My bones! They’re all broken!”

            “Someone, please! Do something!” a woman frantically called out.

            “Perhaps I can be of service!” the soldier proffered. He dismounted and began to explain, “My men and I have gotten rudimentary training on treating maladies in case the battlefield does not-.”

            The woman scornfully spat, “No, thank you! You and your kind have done enough!”

            Before the soldier could even start to process this malice, one man shouted, “Doctor Cuthbart! Thank the heavens, get over here immediately!”

            As an aging but spry fellow burst through the crowd around the plagued person, the soldier surveyed the scene with particular interest. The hostility wasn’t even the strangest part of this incident! The man kept repeating his claim that all of his bones had broken, but the soldier couldn’t comprehend how that could be so when he had full use of his extremities! Doctor Cuthbart had obviously come to the same verdict because he attempted to persuade him, “Everything is intact! You’re alright!”

            “No! My bones! They’re all broken!” the man insisted. Doctor Cuthbart struggled to calm his patient while the spectators viewed this event helplessly, and the soldier shook his head in disappointment. He had no clue what was ailing the man, but he felt sure that he could have played a significant role in his rescue if the townsfolk had let him! He found it a shame that their prejudice prolonged someone’s suffering!

            “Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!” a lady behind him lamented. She clearly had gotten on the same page as him in this matter, and it raised his hopes of finally finding an ally! He whipped himself around, and he saw a lovely, dark-skinned woman and a genial blonde girl had emerged from a coffeeshop. They noticed his movements, and they didn’t glare at him like the others! They peered at him curiously, and the young girl told her female companion, “Oh look, Gabby! We have a visitor!”

            Given the brusque demeanor of their neighbors, it threw him off to see their coquettish smiles aimed his way! It definitely flattered him, but it hardly seemed appropriate given the tragic circumstance that befell the gent in their proximity! The soldier peeked back at the afflicted, and he beheld that his brethren were now carrying him off in the midst of his ceaseless flailing! Since the issue had come to a resolution, he supposed that it was permissible to engage in a bit of lightheartedness- not that his readiness to support would have been accepted anyways, but he felt dutybound to display preparedness to volunteer when needed! He was used to women complimenting his bright blue eyes or admiring his chiseled jawline, but not when something so serious was occurring! That led him to wonder how often atrocities like that took place to normalize this behavior in these girls’ minds!

            Once the moment had fully processed for him, he recalled that he was still lost, and because the two misses appeared to have a winsome affinity for him, he esteemed that hey were his best chance of finding a route back home! That haunting occurrence only perpetuated his desire to flee as swiftly as possible, so he decided to really pour on the charm with this pair. He took off his hat and gave them a bow, but as he was bent over, he remembered that his hair had gotten soaked in the rainfall and cringed! He didn’t believe that this gesture carried an aura of impressiveness any longer, but when he arose, he could see that their coy grins had only been enhanced by this move, which was a relief! He reckoned his sable, ponytailed locks hid its damp qualities, so he breathed a sigh of alleviation and pressed on with this venture by gracefully greeting them, “Good evening, ladies! I’m Lieutenant Kenneth Harvey, very pleased to make your acquaintance!”

            “Oh, you say that as though you visited Colfrith simply to meet us!” the teen bashfully responded. “You must be here to meet with my father, Mister Cole. I’m afraid he’s a bit preoccupied right now…”

            “Actually, I didn’t intend to happen upon this town at all! Colfrith, you say…?” Kenneth rubbed his chin contemplatively. “I’m not sure I remember seeing that on the map… Forgive my intrusion on your village! I was on a reconnaissance mission for The Continental Army and went a little off course…”

            Miss Cole delightfully noted that to Gabby, “Oh, this unfortunate gentleman needs to get back to camp immediately! We need him out there fighting for our freedom!”

            Gabby derisively sniffed at that concept. “Our freedom? Is that a fact?” She faced Kenneth and probed, “Are you fighting for my liberty too?”

            “I sincerely hope so, my lady!” Kenneth kneeled and kissed her hand. Honestly, he didn’t have much optimism on that possibility coming to fruition, but he earnestly wanted to get proven wrong on that assessment! He aspired to get on her good side so she and Miss Cole would gladly guide him on how to return to his troops, and it looked like his plan was effective… until…

            “Get your hands off my property!” an irate, red-haired woman hollered as she marched out of the establishment behind where the two other women stationed themselves. Kenneth jerked himself back into standing, and he felt a tad flustered by her insinuation of his wrongdoing! With the manner in which Miss Cole treated her associate coupled with her noble carriage, he just inferred that he had been chatting with a free person! She yanked Gabby out of her pathway, which made him grimace! That kind soul didn’t deserve that malevolent treatment! Before he could even consider voicing his view on this, the red-haired woman perched her hands on her hips and confronted Kenneth, “How dare you disrespect the Montgomery family with your brash antics!”

            Kenneth apologized, “I’m sorry, madam! I didn’t mean to give you any unrest! I merely wanted-!”

            She ignored his bid for reconciliation and ranted, “Your rebellion already incited enough turmoil for us, must you deepen our wounds?”

            “What are you talking about?” Kenneth questioned her. “Our revolution will improve the lives of everyone in this land!”

            “You’re lying!” she hissed. “You cursed us all!”

            A passerby disagreed, “No, that witch at the end of Hallow’s Alley is the one cursing us all!”

            Kenneth folded his arms and firmly stated, “There’s no such thing as witches! My god, I thought that sort of hysteria had vanished a hundred years ago!”

            “Oh, now he’s mocking us!” another individual furiously exclaimed.

            “Why can’t you leave us alone?” a livid child accosted him, and everybody around him avidly shared his sentiment.

            Kenneth retorted, “I’d love to! Can someone tell me how to get to Philadelphia?”

            Miss Cole advise him, “You can go to The Leafy Taverne. Miss Harbin is accustomed to dealing with travelers, so she can give you proper guidance on that!”

            “Yeah, let that wagtail off him like she did her husband!” a surly bloke snidely jested, which made those around him snicker. Miss Cole didn’t join their rude rancor until Miss Montgomery glimpsed at her, and even then, she did so for only a second before darting into the coffeehouse.

            “Thank you very much!” Kenneth yelled so that she could hear him. He quickly mounted his horse, but that didn’t prevent the townspeople from taunting him! He strove to block out their insults, but some of the most voluminous were difficult to feign deafness to!

            Most notably, he heard Miss Montgomery bellow, “You’ll regret darkening our doorstep, you rakefire!”

            Kenneth didn’t acknowledge her jab as he rode away from that contemptuous cluster. It solaced him to have successfully withdrew from that cataclysm, but as Bailey’s clip-clops echoed into the fog and the gusting howled, he had to ponder what exactly he had gotten himself into!

The Hessian, Chapter 1

“Everyone, gather ‘round!” a man with golden-brown eyes and long, black hair tied in a ponytail held on to his blue, tri-corner hat as he wildly gestured to the gallows next to him on stage. A flurry of feet dashed across the cobblestone road as they abandoned their endeavors at the boxy, brick cottages and shops to watch the spectacle promising to unfold, and a myriad of cellphones rose to the air as the attendees prepared for the event. The man broadly grinned admiring the wide array of costumes and festive colors while he waited for the crowd to simmer down, and when they finally had, he proudly announced, “It’s time to hang the Hessian!”

            He gestured to a painting of a surly male wearing an ornately patterned cloak, lavish ascot, feathered hat, and a luxurious cane that he leaned on with an arrogant laxness, and the onlookers all booed and hissed at the artwork. One person shouted, “Traitor!”

            “Murderer!” another individual hollered. The rest of the masses whole-heartedly agreed with the two of their sentiments.

            One woman stared at him with revulsion, and, in a spooked tone, commented, “Look at his beady eyes! I feel like they’re watching me!” The spectators around her glanced at it apprehensively and voiced their shared opinion of her assessment.

            The man on stage challenged them, “Are we gonna let this dirty rat get the better of us?”

            “No!” the throng enthusiastically responded to him.

            “Good! Bring the betrayer’s body out!” the man on stage instructed a couple of people behind the scaffold. The congregation heckled the figure that got escorted to the noose- a paper-maché scarecrow, and they continued their hollering until the character had the rope firmly fixed around its neck. With a wry smile, the man on stage queried the audience, “Who’s ready to le him have it?” They all avidly affirmed their desire to witness this show, so he boisterously articulated to the scarecrow, “Alastor Derstreich, for the crime of treason as well as the heinous acts which threatened our liberty, we hang thee!”

            He pulled the lever, and the surface beneath the scarecrow disappeared! The force of the suspension made its torse snap off from the rest of itself, and the scarecrow’s trunk plummeted to the ground! When it fell apart, candy burst out, and the nearby children snatched as much of it as they could! As soon as most of the goodies had been collected, one youth’s father instructed her, “Quick, Amethyst! Go protect Hallow’s Alley!”

            Amethyst’s dad, like many of the parents around him, handed his kid a container of salt, and Amethyst happily joined her peers in running up and down the lane laying salt in front of the doors and windows. Some of the adults passed out small bunches of burning sage to willing participants, and a small young lady watched as the celebrants exchanged glad tidings to one another in addition to individuals who didn’t appear to actually exist. As she heard a chorus of “Bless you, Elmira Montgomery!” and “Fare thee well, Elijah Absalom!”, she asked her mom, “Why are they doing that, Mommy? Don’t they trick-or-treat around here?”

            The man who had emceed the mock hanging heard her enquiry and assured the little girl, “Of course we do, love! But first, we have to ensure that the Hessian doesn’t return!” Both of the ladies gave him blank stares, so he inferred, “Oh, you must be tourists!”

            “We’re from Boston,” the woman informed him as she eyeballed Alastor’s painting nervously. “Okay, is there motion sensors in that thing or something?”

            “Don’t worry about him! He can’t hurt you!” the man consoled her before concluding, “I imagine our customs are a bit confusing without knowing the story behind it all! Well, as tour guide of the historic district known as Colfrith, Pennsylvania, it is my duty to tell the origin of our annual tradition! Those who wish to hear the tale of the Hessian, please have a seat among us!” Several passersby showed interest in this prospect and sat down in front of the tour guide, and then he dramatically began his saga, “It all started at the southern entrance of the village in September seventeen-seventy-seven…”

            Alastor walked out of a grand house and glanced at a gilded pocket watch that he drew out from his opulent garb. “It appears I’ll beat you, Cornelius!” He smirked at the elongated edifice at the edge of a stream, and then he briskly grabbed his cane and walked in the opposite direction. He passed by several townsfolk, all of whom merrily greeted him. Alastor cordially acknowledged them all but did not halt his gait or chat with anyone until he reached the town square…

            A man with a powdered wig and stately attire broke from the gentleman and lady in his company and jovially hailed Alastor, “Alastor, old chap! How nice to see you!”

            “Old chap! I’m fifty- aren’t you only a few years behind me, Brenner?” Alastor joshed him.

            “Oh, you unlicked cub! Come here!” Brenner unceremoniously threw his arms around Alastor and squeezed him tight enough for him to feel his pot belly flatten on him! Alastor got a whiff of whiskey on his breath, and the smell deterred him enough to cause him to break eye contact. He gazed at the gray-haired pastor he had previously been speaking to, but he couldn’t bear to stare him in the eye! His female companion was somehow worse though! Her golden-brown eyes peered at him in a stern fashion that gave him the uncomfortable sensation of being adeptly surveyed, and for logic that addled him, he got the impression that if he lingered on her for too long, she would discover all of his secrets! He didn’t know where he drew that conclusion from, nothing about her appearance suggested she had any desire to do something of that sort! Her chestnut hair had been pinned back in an elegant manner, and her light-beige skin didn’t have a single blemish on it! He greatly admired her voluptuous curves, and if it hadn’t been for his suspicions, he might have tried to woo her away from her boorish husband! He didn’t understand his intuition’s reasoning, but he knew better than to go against the wisdom of his instincts! He quickly turned his attention back to Brenner, who vociferously questioned him, “Alastor, my friend, when are you going to pay a visit to me inn?”

            Alastor could feel Brenner’s wife poring over his every move, so he covered his visage slightly as if this move held the promise of shielding him from her scrutiny. He didn’t comprehend what could have possibly created this mistrust within her- he had been very careful not to do anything that would cause these citizens to lose confidence in his loyalty to them! He blocked her from his thoughts as he amicably relayed to Brenner, “I can hardly refuse my business partner’s hospitality, can I? And I’d love to hold meetings at your establishment, but it would be rather rude to go anywhere but the Golden Nook Brew! You know who his fiancée is, right?”

            Brenner seemed slightly disappointed by this tidbit, but he remained in good spirits as he discoursed with him, “Aye! Well, always keep in mind that if anything changes, you’ll always have a place at The Leafy Taverne!”

            “I appreciate the gesture!” Alastor held out his hand and invited Brenner to shake in hopes of preventing this conversation from getting prolonged any further.

            “Happy to be of service, my friend!” Brenner jocularly shook hands with Alastor and gave him the trusting smile of a faithful confidante before turning back to his wife and directing her, “Come, Clarissa! To The Hefersmith!”

            As Clarissa took her husband’s arm, several of their neighbors affectionately heralded Brenner much like they had with Alastor, which Alastor privately felt bitter about! If Brenner had not been so instrumental in this operation, he would have gladly cut ties with that drunkard and his prying spouse!

            When Alastor entered into the coffeehouse, he saw a dark-skinned woman behind the counter wiping down the already fairly pristine surface. Her deep-umber eyes widened as if she were frightened by his appearance, but her pouty lips stayed fixed in a frown, so he assumed that her ocular reaction stemmed from abruptness of his entrance. She courteously asked him, “Can I get you something to drink, sir?”

            Alastor politely refused, “Not today, Gabrielle. But I’ll take a pastry if you have any ready.” Gabrielle nodded and tightened her bonnet prior to completing the task ahead of her.

            It surprised Alastor to see a well-dressed, blonde patrician already roosted at a table! He lightly stroked his beard as he waited for Alastor to notice him, and after he did, his already wrinkled cheeks suddenly grew even more creased as he let out a laugh! Alastor inquired, “How did you arrive here so quickly?”

            “Production is up, so my sawmill is ahead of schedule!” he boastfully replied as Alastor took his perch across from him. “So, feel free to give me a large order! I have plenty of lumber to spare!”

            “Are you certain of that?” Alastor probed. “If more continental soldiers need supplies, is my order going to get backlogged again?”

            He asserted, “I don’t anticipate that being an issue! General Washington needed to build a new fort in a hurry, but it’s already been built, so how much more wood could they possibly need?”

            Alastor cynically stated, “They may need to move headquarters again if the British keep besting them like they have!”

            “Oh, come now! We won the last battle!” he argued as Gabrielle served Alastor a muffin. “If our troops keep up this pace, the war will be won, and I can go to Philadelphia to retrieve my product back for resale!”

            “Cornelius!” A girlish, red-headed woman sauntered up to the sawmill owner and sweetly entreated him, “May I bring it out now?”

            Chuckling, Cornelius permitted, “Go ahead!” As she scampered to a room behind the counter, Cornelius let Alastor know, “My intended has a present for you!”

            Alastor’s brows furrowed as to what she could have possibly had in store for him, and then Cornelius’s young fiancée as well as taut, blonde teenage lass brought out a vibrant painting of him! He gawked at it in shock, and then he uttered, “What? But I never posed for a portrait!”

            “Ah, you probably had no inkling that your frequent visits to my shop made you the perfect subject for a piece of art!” A fancily clad man around Cornelius’s age emerged into their vicinity and joined in on the discussion, “My Elmira is quite the talented creative!”

            “Yes, but we must recognize my Drusilla’s role as well,” Cornelius brought up.

            The blonde teen brushed that notion off, “No, no, Father! I merrily kept her company as you and she worked!”

            Alastor graciously remarked, “Thank you very much, Miss Montgomery!” Elmira beamed, and he planted a grin on his expression, but inwardly, he cringed at this picture! It was quite masterfully done, but he did not want any reminders of his stint in these quarters once he finished what he came to do! Already envisioning methods of destroying it, he felt compelled to keep up his friendly front and affably changed the subject, “Speaking of work, we must go over my order…”

            Once they settled that matter, Cornelius headed to his vocation while Alastor perused around the town square. He kept his ears open for keywords he needed to hear in order to ensnare potential targets. Today, he felt positive something big was on the horizon- he could feel it in his gut! Someone important in this area must have been primed for his influence! His conviction for a personal victory became more and more copious… until he passed by the butcher’s shop! He was mortified to see Clarissa and Brenner still in there! He crept past the window hoping to avoid their contact, but unfortunately, Brenner espied him! He froze when he heard him shout, “Alastor! Alastor, hold on a minute!” Alastor paused his footsteps and faked like this reunion was welcomed. To his astonishment, Brenner’s tone got more serious as he requested, “Can we chat somewhere more secluded?”

            Alastor, now very curious, consented, and they strolled over to the empty field next to The Hefersmith. After Clarissa bade the butcher and his wife farewell, she stood outside of the store with their purchased goods and kept her distance from the twosome. She couldn’t imagine what they were conferring about, but she didn’t have any impulse to interrupt. She did watch them from afar though, and soon, Alastor opened up his cloak to hand Brenner a document! She tried her hardest to discern what information it could have possibly contained, and then, all of a sudden, a strong gust of wind whisked away one of Alastor’s papers! Alastor ran after it, but the gale was too swift for him. Clarissa managed to catch it though! Instead of looking relieved, he became highly horrified! Clarissa instantly knew why too! As some of the others around her gasped in revulsion at the emblem on the red wax seal on the envelope in her grasp, Alastor fretfully beseeched them, “I can explain!”

            “He’s a Hessian!” one woman exclaimed.

            “He’s a traitor!” a man hollered. Alastor attempted to reason with them as they all advanced on him, but they ignored his sniveling and seized him!

Later that night, the entire town gathered around to see Alastor in the gallows. Most of the drove vehemently bellowed at him, but they were too numerous to discern precisely what was being said, although it was obvious that none of them offered him any praise! He saw Brenner and Clarissa gazing at him with an air of absolute seriousness, and it almost stunned him that they were not screaming too! Brenner must have viewed this development as a betrayal, and Clarissa never really harbored an ounce of fondness for his presence, so he had no clue for their motives to view this ceremony silently!

The pastor joined Cornelius on the scaffold, which did not render him any comfort! On the contrary- it angered him! He couldn’t believe his hard work had come to an end like this, and he despised what would proceed following his demise! No longer bound by his guise of fealty to their principles, he bellowed his sincere feelings to them all, “Your idea of freedom is anarchy! Society needs strict rules to function! If the crown loosens its grip, everything will fall from its fingers! You’ll only doom our world if you gain independence, mark my words! You’ll-!”

Cornelius cut him off, “Alastor Derstreich, for the crime of treason as well as your heinous acts that threatened our liberty, we hang thee!”

            “Death shall not stop me! I will see that you all pay for your lawless sins!” Alastor screeched. Cornelius ignored him as he pulled the lever, and everyone beheld Alastor as his breath shortened more and more. As soon as the light disappeared from his eyes, silence emanated throughout the expanse. Moments later, a cold draft flew by everyone, and as they nursed their lowered temperatures, the entire village got overcome by the same ghastly premonition- something dangerous had just been unleashed!