“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?”