“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…