The Hessian, Chapter 17

“Move!” Clarissa commanded as the elderly lady on the rafters above them loosened her grip, and the three women below her jumped out of the way just in time to avoid her pouncing on them! Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla ended up in different sections of the hat shop, and as the elderly lady snarled at them, the three women reached into their pockets to draw out their means of protection. Clarissa furnished her salt, Drusilla produced a potion, and Gabby held a Bible. The elderly lady seemed unsure of who to choose from, and each woman silently debated whether or not one of them should take a pre-emptive strike… 

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord…” Gabby opened the Book and began reciting from it. The elderly lady turned to her and growled. “…And in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God…” The elderly lady crept closer to her, and the other two readied themselves to spring into action. “…that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil…” 

The elderly lady vaulted towards Clarissa, but prior to her being able to reach her, Drusilla ambushed her from her left side and pushed her to the ground! Drusilla prepared herself to administer her potion, but the elderly lady was quicker than her! The elderly lady lurched towards her and managed to pin her to the ground! Drusilla’s arms were rendered incapable of movement, so she couldn’t stop her from lowering her jaw towards her neck! The elderly lady reared her teeth, but she didn’t have a chance to inflict any damage because Clarissa flung salt into her face! The elderly lady hissed and hopped back onto the roof in a single bound! She scurried towards the front entrance, and Clarissa wanted to prevent another mass casualty, so she raced over to pour salt around the doorway. The elderly lady tackled Clarissa, but before she could impose any further harm, Gabby rushed over with some burning sage! Clarissa thanked the heavens that the shopkeeper ignited her fireplace prior to her possession! The fumes made the elderly lady shriek, and she swiftly crawled to the back of the building. 

None of the three women caught where she had hidden herself, so no one was willing to venture into the posterior of the place. “We can’t risk our safety! We need to draw her out somehow!” Drusilla advised the other two. 

“What if we removed the salt?” Gabby suggested. “Then we can trap her as she tries to escape!” 

“No!” Clarissa rejected that preposition. “We cannot gamble with the lives of any innocent bystanders!” 

Right at that moment, the girl who had accosted Drusilla strolled inside! She searched the area to find Drusilla, but preceding her discovery of her, she noticed that she walked through a powdery substance. “What on earth is this?” she wondered. 

Drusilla shouted, “Margaret, no! Get out of here!” 

“She’s in here, Mister Cole!” Margaret yelled out into the street. 

“Don’t you dare endanger the life of my father!” Drusilla hollered. 

Margaret questioned her, “What are you talking about?” 

As Clarissa and Gabby positioned themselves to assail the elderly lady if she chose to re-emerge at this juncture, Clarissa warned Margaret, “You need to leave! You’re in great peril!” 

Margaret scoffed at that idea, “Danger from what?” 

Immediately after she spoke those words, the elderly lady resurfaced! Gabby and Clarissa strove to deal a blow at her, but she propelled herself with too much speed for their trajectories to hit their mark! Margaret’s eyes widened, and Clarissa prayed that she would have the wisdom to flee, but unfortunately, her senses got too overwhelmed by fear for her to do anything other than scream! The elderly lady got her neck, and blood shot out from her skin like a fountain! 

“Unhand her!” Drusilla ordered as she threw Gabby’s holy text at the elderly lady. She belted her in the jaw, which caused the elderly lady to convulse in pain! She dropped her prey, but regrettably, Margaret was no longer breathing! Clarissa encircled her with salt, and as Gabby’s smokey sage penetrated her defenses, she could do nothing more than howl in agony! With her mouth wide open, Drusilla decanted her elixir. The elderly lady writhed with violent anguish, and with one last moan, she closed her eyes! For a minute, the three women worried that they had lost her… 

“You three?” the elderly lady suddenly exclaimed. “What are you doing in my millenary?” 

To their bewilderment, Cornelius went inside and rebuked her, “Missus Morrison, do not speak to them in that tone! They saved you from a potential lethal setback!” 

Missus Morrison seemed unmoved by this plea. “Perhaps, but did their presence invite malice into my quarters at the onset?” Cornelius appeared as though he wanted to admonish her for that, but he retracted his sentence before it left his lips! Missus Morrison glanced around her establishment and denoted, “You three made an awful mess in here!” She finally observed Margaret’s limp body beside her, and she griped, “Oh, lovely! How will I get this stain off of my floor?” 

Cornelius and the three women gazed at her callousness in disbelief. They couldn’t comprehend her indifference towards a loss of life! Drusilla showed signs of wanting to tell her off, so Cornelius prevented this provocation by cordially regarding Missus Morrison, “We’ll find some men to recover the deceased on our journey home. Come along, you three!” Clarissa and Gabby gladly accepted the invitation to vacate the premises, but Drusilla’s ire made her reluctant to budge. After she watched the other two tread carefully over Margaret’s remains, she gave a final glare at Missus Morrison and joined everyone outside. 

“We did the right thing, and she’s trying to punish us?” Drusilla raged as they traveled down Hollow’s Lane. 

“Doing what’s right isn’t always easy!” Cornelius wisely responded. “Which is why it wasn’t easy for me to come to the conclusion that you ought to stay at The Leafy Taverne!” All three women’s expressions contorted into shock upon hearing this. “If anyone asks, I kicked you out of my home for fraternizing with two ‘witches,’ and bear in mind this: the evil plaguing the region seems unwillingly to penetrate the inn! Reside there until this is over, but please, make sure that this is over as fast as possible!” He became aware of the townsfolk around them pausing their pursuits to stare at the scene. Clearly attempting to remain in his neighbors’ good graces, he painted a scowl onto his face and then vociferated, “I shall not have your so-called freedom in my village! Society is nothing without rules!” 

The small crowd vehemently agreed with his sentiment, and while Clarissa had no desire to get into a contentious dispute, she didn’t want to leave Cornelius in an awkward standing with the people that he governed either, especially not when he may have been on the verge of becoming a secret ally to her! So, she decided to finish their interaction with a snappy comeback that she could exit the site with, “Rules are like fences, Mister Cole! You need enough to keep your herd in its field, but you don’t want so much that you trap everyone in a territory you’ve made smaller with your overextended boundaries! Have a nice day!” Clarissa led Gabby and Drusilla away from that location before Cornelius could utter another word, but as she trekked back to her dwelling, she had a feeling that he was relieved for that! 

Bernard burst into Kenneth’s tent and announced, “Sir, we’ve got it!” 

“Already?” Kenneth reacted with a pleasant surprise. “I would have suspected it to take another day at the very least to circulate in the post!” 

“He didn’t mail it to me under Aunt Martha’s name as we recommended.” Bernard pulled a piece of parchment out of his pocket and briefed Kenneth, “As I finished target practice, I passed a group of fellows that happened to include Father Clarence. As they brushed past me, he held this scrap of parchment low enough so that no one else could see it and indicated that I should take it. So I did, and…” 

Kenneth urgently pressed him, “What does it say?” Prior to Bernard having the chance to reply, Kenneth snatched the message away and read it for himself, “Tonight, after sundown, I am blessing the fallen of a mass grave. You should join me to pay respect to the departed.” Kenneth set the correspondence down and absorbed this development for a beat. “A gravesite, huh? Wow! I guess I was correct when I made the conjecture that those tombs held the answers that we needed! Unless he was handing these slips to other members of our troop… 

Bernard assured him, “No, sir! He only had one letter, and he handed it to me.” 

Peeking at a watch that originated from his coat, Kenneth concluded, “It’s nearly sundown now, so we had better embark to this destination forthwith!” 

Shining a lantern upwards to see the enormous rows of tombstones, Bernard queried, “Do you know which mass grave he was referring to?” 

“Which mass grave?” Kenneth dolefully repeated. “It saddens me that there’s enough of them that we should get lost searching for one in particular!” 

“Sir?” Bernard motioned to him that they needed to pick a pathway. 

Kenneth surveyed the vicinity, and when he glanced down at the grass below them, he told Bernard, “Those footprints are fresh. Let’s follow them.” 

After tracing the tracks for a stretch, they eventually espied a partially covered pit with a small light beaming from the innermost part of it! As they gawked at its breadth, Bernard inquired, “What if this is a trap? It would be an effortless avenue of cornering us…” 

Considering this premise for a short instance, Kenneth replied, “Alastor’s reach has not extended this far yet! Father Clarence is our brother in arms, and if we can’t trust him, then we can’t trust anyone! Let’s go!” 

The two of them climbed down the sooty walkway. Kenneth peered around the walls that surrounded them. Despite his vote of confidence that he recently expressed, the lack of escape routes put him on edge! He didn’t believe that the spectral Hessian had any influence in these quarters, but he pondered if this would last for very much longer! If Father Clarence had ever set foot in Colfrith, he imagined that he would not be above that phantom’s sphere of sway! He then recognized that he and Bernard visited that borough- did they bring some sort of curse with them? He vied to cleanse himself from the foreboding possibilities that plagued his thoughts, and as he marched forward, he took in a deep inhale. As he exhaled, he felt his boot touch something softer and springier than the dirt! He shifted his lamp to illuminate the surface underneath them, and he beheld a lifeless soldier- the first of many! 

“Watch your step in here!” Father Clarence advised them as he sprinkled a bit of water onto a corpse at the other end of the structure. 

“Thank you for meeting with us, sir!” Kenneth politely addressed him as he averted his eyes from the ghastly spectacle beneath them. Bernard had to swallow some air to prevent himself from vomiting, and Kenneth got somewhat queasy as well, but when he remembered the purpose of this rendezvous, he determinedly focused his attention on nothing else but obtaining the intelligence they urgently required! 

Father Clarence kindly encouraged them, “No need for any formalities in this circumstance! I am not acting as my capacity as an officer presently! Please, call me Father Clarence!” 

Kenneth obliged, “Alright, Father Clarence… We have a fairly unusual subject matter that we need clarification on.” 

“What do you need to learn about, my son?” Father Clarence prompted him as he did the sign of the cross over another victim.  

“Well, we… How do you…? How does one…?” Kenneth stammered. He then collected himself and got straight to the point, “What can a person do to get rid of a murderous ghost?” 

Father Clarence almost dropped his vial upon hearing that! He composed himself and then probed, “A murderous ghost?” 

Kenneth elaborated, “Someone performed dark magic at a town close to here, and now an apparition is possessing blameless individuals and forcing them to commit atrocities!” 

“Oh, my word!” Father Clarence grew aghast at this notion. “I never know that such a feat was possible!” 

“Neither did we until recently!” Kenneth remarked. “But now that we know it has, we have to find a method of freeing them from this torment!” 

“I know of various exorcism practices, but that is designed to remedy a single soul! To cure a whole district…” Father Clarence trailed off. 

Kenneth petitioned him, “Can you come up with anything that might help them?” 

Father Clarence contemplated the matter for a bit, and then he reported, “There’s only one thing I can think of…” 

The Hessian, Chapter 16

Crouched behind some dense shrubbery, Kenneth attentively peered through a spyglass, and Bernard nervously waited among the branches. As Bernard readjusted his stance out of discomfort, he pressed Kenneth, “Have you seen him yet?” 

Kenneth retorted, “If I did, don’t you think I would have told you? Why would I go through all of this effort only to let a vital opportunity pass us by?” 

“Sorry!” Bernard apologized as he restlessly fidgeted. “It’s just been a bit boring standing here for so long!” 

“This is war, private! Count boring episodes as blessings!” Kenneth advised him. “What do you imagine Drusilla would recommend for you to do if she were here right now?” 

Bernard happily sighed, “Oh, Drusilla! She’s so clever! Her father wouldn’t approve of a fortuneless suitor, so she wrote me a letter by sending it to her aunt Martha first! Aunt Martha forwarded it to me!” 

Kenneth listlessly responded, “Yes, you’ve already mentioned this twice today!” 

“She’s brilliant!” Bernard cooed. “Aunt Martha always hoped that she would marry for love and not riches, so she’s willing to assist her in this courtship!” 

“Bernard…” Kenneth attempted to interrupt him. 

As if he hadn’t heard Kenneth whatsoever, Bernard prattled on, “You know, Drusilla is very wealthy, but she rarely gets to leave Colfrith…” 

Kenneth tried again, “Bernard…” 

“I can’t wait until the day I can show up at her doorstep and take her to see the world…” Bernard continued to ramble. 

“Bernard!” Kenneth put more urgency into his voice. 

Rather unwillingly, Bernard focused on Kenneth. “What?” 

Kenneth informed him, “He’s here!” 

“He’s… presently, he…?” Bernard stammered. 

“Shh!” Kenneth hushed him and then whispered, “Get ready!” Bernard steeled himself up, and after about a minute, Kenneth commanded, “Go!” 

Bernard jumped out of the bushes and ran up a dirt pathway towards a man in plain clothing. When he caught up with him, he held one hand behind his back and used the other to tap the target of their operation’s shoulder… The postal rider turned around and queried, “Can I help you with something?” 

Breathlessly, Bernard revealed the content that he kept hidden to be an envelope! “You dropped this by my tent!” 

“I did?” the postal rider puzzled. “I don’t remember doing that! I’m usually so careful…” Bernard did his utmost to appear nonchalant, but inwardly, he began to panic! He crossed his fingers that he would buy this account as the postal rider examined the piece of mail… “Well, I’ll be darned! I suppose I did! Thank you, soldier!” the postal rider regarded him graciously, which made Bernard exhale in relief! “I’ll see to it that it goes to its proper owner forthwith!” 

“I’m sure he will appreciate that!” Bernard remarked. The postal rider took off, and Bernard headed in the other direction. 

Kenneth met his footfall, and then he complimented Bernard, “Good job!” 

Bernard twitched considerably at his abruptness, and he snapped, “Don’t do that so suddenly!” He paused and more respectfully added, “…Sir! I’m sorry if I was out of order, I…!” 

Kenneth dismissed his woes, “My rank over you is hardly important at this juncture! If you do that in front of anyone else in our unit though, I will have to reprimand you!” 

“Fair enough!” Bernard agreed. As they edged through rows of tents, Bernard took advantage of their seclusion to probe, “So, now we wait for Father Clarence’s reply?” 

“Yes,” Kenneth confirmed. “He’ll give us the details of where we can have a private discussion, and then we can finally get some answers for the people suffering under the terrifying tyranny of that murderous phantom!” 

Bernard anxiously groaned, “I wish that we could shorten the length of time we must await this meeting! It’s imperative that we do this before being called into battle! What if we leave this camp and… well… never get another chance to do this?” 

Kenneth consoled him, “Try not to dwell on such negative possibilities! It’s best to keep your mind off it all together! Why don’t you tell me about Drusilla’s correspondence some more?” 

“I keep it right here close to my heart!” He pulled it out from his coat, and then he posed to Kenneth, “Do you find this strange?” 

“Not really.” Kenneth reached into his jacket and produced the message that Clarissa had sent to him. 

Bernard smiled gratefully at this, and then he noticed some blemishes in his document. “Oh no! My hasty jump through the brush scratched it! Why did we have to execute that transaction in the manner that we did?” 

Kenneth reminded him, “If we deployed this plan at either of our tents, then the postal rider would have instantly known that he hadn’t dropped any of his cargo.” 

“Your mail didn’t get damaged!” Bernard observed as Kenneth put his letter back. “How come I couldn’t have been the one to stay stationary?” 

“Because I’m lieutenant and have earned the right to choose my role in each undertaking for this mission!” Bernard stated. 

Bernard objected, “I thought you said that rank doesn’t matter at this juncture!” Kenneth laughed, but neither of them had the opportunity to pursue this subject further as they passed by a group of colleagues. 

Clarissa and Gabby stood in a wooded clearing watching the trail in front of them, and after a bout of tense silence, Gabby pondered, “What if she doesn’t show up?” 

“Then we’ll burn that traitorous scoundrel’s lock ourselves!” Clarissa eyeballed the dark strands that she tied to her cross necklace with disgust. When Gabby gazed at her questioningly, Clarissa asserted, “I’m not taking it back to The Leafy Taverne! Do you feel comfortable sleeping in a place where part of Alastor’s remains resides? I kept telling myself that putting it on a crucifix negated its ability to exude its inner malevolence, but I’m not convinced that this protection would hold off indefinitely! I know that Drusilla mentioned doing some sort of cleansing ritual, but I assume that disposing of it without that additional step should still do the trick! We have our flint rocks, we can do it on our own if we have to!” 

“I hope we don’t have to!” Gabby commented. “It’s better to exercise caution and ensure everything is done properly than it is to…” A cold breeze whisked by them, and Gabby changed her tone a little. “Then again, it’s starting to get late… It couldn’t hurt to get everything ready for this rite!” As she began setting some gathered twigs and branches into a pyre, she justified her actions, “She probably won’t have a lot of spare minutes once she’s here, so we need to do all we can to guarantee that she can return to her previous business as quickly as possible!” 

Clarissa joined her in assembling the necessary items, and as they worked, she speculated, “I wonder how Brenner got a hold of the Hessian’s hair in the first place! Did Alastor foresee this eventuality and bequeath it to him prior to his demise or did he obtain it after he… On second thought, I don’t want to learn the origin of this object attached to me at the moment!” 

Gabby chuckled until each lady felt a cold hand on their backs! They momentarily panicked, but then their nerves got assuaged when they heard Drusilla say, “Did you lose faith that I would arrive today?” 

“Simply so you’re aware, you’re very frightening with your frigid palms and that black cloak!” Clarissa turned around and espied that Drusilla donned her customary attire. “Oh, you’re not wearing it!” 

“I didn’t sneak out of my home in this instance, I crept out of church,” Drusilla elucidated. “Father and Elmira were making arrangements for their wedding day, and I told them that I needed to relieve myself. That’s not a fib, I did have to do that! I just didn’t disclose to them that I intended to do more after that! As far as they know, my stomach could be troubling, so it should be quite a while before they suspect that I’m up to anything other than that!” 

Gabby posed to her, “What if they depart early and go looking for you? Your father will make it significantly harder for you to escape his detection!” 

Drusilla shot back, “Harder but not impossible!” Prior to either of the other two broaching the topic further, Drusilla reckoned, “I believe we’re ready to commence! Put the tress on top of the timber!” Clarissa very willingly removed the cilia from her jewelry and dropped it on top of the pile, and then Drusilla instructed, “Ignite the flames.” Gabby drew out a couple of stones, and after a few frictional flicks, a small fire formed and flickered at the foot of the heap. Once the inferno neared Alastor’s coiffure, Drusilla directed the other two, “We all must interlock our fingers.” As the three women connected, Clarissa’s heart thumped wildly in her chest! She allowed her optimism to excite her into believing that removing the last of Alastor’s physical attributes would remove every other form of him from this planet for good! “Close your eyes and take a deep breath!” Gabby and Clarissa heeded Drusilla’s word, and Clarissa considered this phase very relaxing! However, all of her tranquility disappeared the minute her lids opened back up… 

Alastor’s specter hovered above their heads! All three of them gasped, and while they hastily reached for their salt, Alastor guffawed derisively at them, “By all means, please proceed! I don’t’ intend to linger here for too long!” He snickered at them as he barreled towards the innermost part of Colfrith! 

Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla all chased his apparitional silhouette until it disappeared over the rooftops! They all dismally halted in their tracks, and Gabby petitioned the other two, “What do we do now?” 

“We search for him, of course!” Clarissa affirmed. 

“He might’ve gone anywhere in the borough!” Drusilla brought up. “How will we be able to pinpoint him to an exact locale?” 

Clarssia assured her, “Don’t worry- we’ll know! Alastor isn’t exactly known for his subtlety!” Gabby and Drusilla nodded in agreement, and they all marched forward through Hollow’s Alley! 

The trio walked down the lane with extreme caution and visually combed through every inch of their surroundings, but so far, nothing problematic came to their awareness! Clarissa would not get dissuaded so easily- she knew without a doubt that Alastor would not emanate an empty threat, so his menace had to be lurking around there somewhere! She grew surprised by the considerable stretch he took in manifesting this mayhem, and she deliberated whether or not he did this to lull them into a false sense of security. Right as she avowed not to let her guard down no matter what… 

“Drusilla!” a woman in the distance exclaimed. Drusilla and her companions all froze from the startlement of this interruption to their conquest. The girl before them postured herself with a group of Drusilla’s peers, and they all ogled her without a hint of effort towards any courtesy to pretend they were doing anything else but judge her mercilessly! The lead of this pack inquired, “You abandoned your parent at the Lord’s house to consort with two witches? What’s become of you?” 

“Leave me be!” Drusilla demanded. “I have important work that must get done!” 

The unfriendly female spitefully spat, “Fine! I’ll leave, but I’m returning with your father so he can see exactly what you’re up to!” 

Drusilla shrugged, “Let him witness my activity! I’ve done nothing wrong!” The elitist bunch snidely glanced at her and then made their way towards the chapel. Drusilla kept her cool until they vanished, which prompted her to dash into the nearest shop. Gabby and Clarissa immediately tailed her. 

Clarissa and Gabby entered inside of a millenary, and after a speedy check down the rows of hats, they found Drusilla hunched over some bonnets. They gingerly approached her, and she relayed to them, “I’ll be alright. I just needed a break!” 

“If you need to return to your father, Gabby and I will understand!” Clarissa articulated to her. 

“No! I need to do this!” Drusilla insisted. “If I vacated my position and a tragic misfortune fell upon you, I’d…” 

Gabby comforted her, “Don’t concern yourself with our welfare! If we have to separate for a while, then we’ll… What is that?” 

She pointed to a nearby mirror, and the reflection showed something moving towards them on the ceiling! The image was a bit hazy, so they swiveled around to behold this sight. What they viewed caused them to practically lose their breath… 

The Hessian, Chapter 15

Gabby advised her, “Don’t trust that person! If they were welcomed in your household, then, surely, they would allow us to see their face! 

Her logic was sound, and Clarissa’s jangled nerves were ready to acquiesce, but her innermost instincts hesitated. She couldn’t understand why her intuition had come to this conclusion since the dark silhouette was very foreboding, but somehow, she trusted that this soul did not pose a threat to her or Gabby! To alleviate her friend’s fears, she instructed, “Get your salt ready! If they show any signs of violence, then-.” 

All of a sudden, something popped out of the bushes by her porch! This abruptness made Gabby and Clarissa jump, and the hooded individual flinched as well! Clarissa peered out of the front window to see if the stranger at her doorstep needed assistance, and she steeled herself for another brazen attack from that sinister specter, but to her surprise, the perpetrator of the disturbance was revealed to be a small, black kitty! Clarissa was glad no one was in danger, but she got a little irritated that she had gotten so worked up over nothing! Gabby, however, did not seem so convinced that they were out of any imminent peril… “Alastor must have sent that creature here!” she vociferated. “I’m fairly certain that those felines are connected to witchcraft…” 

Clarissa watched the clandestine visitor crouch down to pet the furry guest, and the way the two pleasantly interacted prompted Clarissa to conclude, “Anyone who shows kindness to animals can’t be wicked!” 

“Unless the animal is wicked!” Gabby argued. 

“Do you really want to judge a being off of an egregious rumor?” Clarissa prodded Gabby. 

Gabby looked remorseful when she realized what she had done. “You’re right, I shouldn’t do that! It’s very hurtful! Alright, let them in!” She held up her pewter of salt, and when Clarissa gazed at her questioningly, she briefly explained, “Just in case!” Clarissa shook her head and then opened the door… 

The shrouded person faced her as soon as the entrance became ajar, and even though Clarissa couldn’t discern their expression, she got the impression that they were glimpsing at her hopefully. They didn’t say a word, which she found strange, but she assumed that they were waiting until they got some privacy. Clarissa courteously invited them in, “Salutations!” The hidden character cordially nodded to her, and as they brushed past her, Clarissa sincerely hoped that she had not erred in her assessment of them… 

The cloaked caller lingered in the foyer for a beat, and Clarissa wondered if she, too, should have armed herself with some sort of protection. With the serious nature of their appearance, she expected the first sentence that came out of their mouth to be something grave, but to her bewilderment, she heard a familiar voice coo, “I love your pussycat!” 

“Drusilla?” Clarissa quizzically queried. Out of all of her neighbors, she never would have pictured her to have any motive to keep her identity a secret! She was the daughter of the man in charge of the entire town, so Clarissa thought that she would have been permitted to occupy any dwelling in the region! It baffled her as to why she deemed it necessary to conceal herself! 
“Sorry if I scared you,” Drusilla apologized as she took off her hood. “I couldn’t be seen by anyone…” 

Clarissa dearly desired to petition Drusilla as to why she had the urge to disguise her form, but the whole scenario had her so thrown off that all she could think to say was, “I don’t have any pets!” 

Drusilla appeared slightly astonished to learn that, but then she stated, “You do now!” As she took off her cloak, she educated them, “You should put some food out for her! Familiars are very good at warding off evil spirits!” 

“Are they? Well then, perhaps we can solve our ghostly problem by convincing every family in Colfrith to adopt one!” Clarissa joked with a hint of anxiety in her tone. Drusilla cracked a smile at her quip while she sat down at a table. 

“And what exactly do you mean by dropping by The Leaky Taverne in such a spooky manner?” Gabby probed as she took a seat beside her. 

Drusilla ruefully regarded her, “Forgive me for causing a commotion! I would have written you a letter, but Father is monitoring all of my correspondence! Or, at least, who they’re addressed to anyways! If he had gotten a gander of the message I sent to Aunt Martha, he wouldn’t let me speak to anyone unsupervised ever again! Oh, but don’t get an ill impression of him! He means well, he simply goes a bit overboard trying to keep me safe! It’s became like this after mother succumbed to her sickness…” 

Gabby sniffed in disapproval. “If he truly cared about your security, then why would he choose his bride using a completely frivolous reasoning!” 

“He partially proposed to Elmira with me in mind,” Drusilla informed them. “She’s set to inherit Oceanus’ fortune, and between that and what we’ve garnered from C.C. Asher Mill, I’ll gain quite the considerable wealth one day! Not that it matters to me! I’m in love with a boy who likely does not earn a handsome wage…” 

“We can discuss that later,” Clarissa told Gabby, who’s eyes lit up in a curious delight upon hearing that piece of gossip. Clarissa humorlessly spoke to Drusilla, “I doubt that you went through so much effort to conceal yourself for an ordinary conversation…” 

Drusilla sobered up, and she struggled significantly to provide them with her rationale for travelling to that locale like she did. After a minute, Clarissa and Gabby were kind of stunned when she asked them, “How do you guys do it?” 

Clarissa answered with an enquiry of her own, “Do what?” 

“How do you go about your lives with everyone treating you so horribly?” Drusilla woefully posed to them. “I know my actions spared people from harm, and yet I am getting treated as though I played a role in unleashing that threat on them! Wherever I go, I get shunned, and no one talks to me! They talk about me though, and what I can overhear is so deeply hurtful!” 

“Do they label you as a witch?” Clarissa inquired. 

Drusilla replied, “I am a witch! But why does that automatically connotate something negative?” Clarissa and Gabby seemed startled by her proclamation, so Drusilla clarified, “I practice white magic- I help people heal and thrive!” 

Clarissa remarked, “I never realized that those who engage in sorcery would ever classify themselves as benevolent to mankind!” 

“My mother did spell-like rituals, and she didn’t have an ounce of evil within in her!” Gabby commented. She mulled it over and then thoughtfully added, “Although she would never have called what she did magic! There’s a stigma against that sort of practice!” 

“That’s exactly why I’m the subject of castigation at the present!” Drusilla exclaimed. “I did what I had to do to quell the wickedness that possessed Ophelia, but now that I revealed that side of myself, everyone has this malign image fixed on me! And Father is furious with me for damaging our reputation!” 

Clarissa pondered, “But he didn’t get angry over your pursuit of the occult?” 

Drusilla filled them in, “My mother was also a white witch, but she kept her pastime private. Father didn’t want me to follow in her footsteps, but I discovered her books despite his best attempts at hiding them! He couldn’t bear to destroy something she treasured, but he earnestly didn’t want me to inherit this interest! He’s convinced that this ultimately invited the illness that killed her, so the notion of me continuing to do this terrified him more than it angered him! I wish I could convince him, and everyone else for that matter, that it’s nothing to be afraid of!” 

“Listen, you did the right thing today!” Clarissa assured her. “Gabby and I were struggling to prevent the worst from unfolding, and you were instrumental in taking that menace down! A lot of innocent bystanders were spared by the actions you took, so feel proud of the feat you accomplished! As for the defamers, let them talk! They’ll show you gratitude in the end!” 

“At the end of what?” Drusilla wanted to know. “What exactly is occurring in Colfrith?” 

Clarissa got overwhelmed by the concept of where to begin with their saga, but Gabby undauntedly responded, “I’d be flabbergasted if you didn’t already have a hunch on the cause of the recent tumult!” 

Drusilla conjectured, “All of this started after Alastor was executed. Has his essence returned in some fashion?” 

“Yes!” Clarissa confirmed. “He came back as a ghost and inhabits the bodies of random citizens to force their hand to commit evil deeds as an act of revenge for his lawful hanging and for our perpetual fight for freedom, something he considers pure anarchy!” 

“That’s frightening!” Drusilla noted. “But what’s even scarier is knowing someone in our borough aided him in this endeavor! Only a potent jinx could inflict such malevolence upon the world! But as far as I can tell, I’m the only enchantress in this district! And yet that can’t be so! Who else would be capable of committing an atrocity like that?” 

Twisting in dread of the plausibility of her ideation, Clarissa brought up, “We recently discovered belongings of Brenner… It appears to suggest he veiled tools of a rite he participated in…” 

Drusilla requested, “Show me!” 

They went upstairs where they left her late husband’s stash, and as soon as Clarissa and Gabby uncovered the chest’s lid, Drusilla’s eyes widened and her visage lost color! She studied a few of the items inside for verification purposes, and then she esteemed, “Well, Brenner’s death no longer feels so mysterious to me! He was likely consumed by guilt over what he did!” 

“You mean he…?” Clarissa couldn’t bear to finish that thought, but she didn’t need to… Drusilla nodded, and Clarissa nearly fainted! Gabby caught her and gave her a brace, and Clarissa croaked out, “I can’t believe I shared a bed with a man who brought this horror to our planet! How did I not figure him out in time to stop all of this from transpiring?” 

“It’s not your fault!” Gabby comforted her. “None of us knew he had the potential to commit such a crime against humanity!” 

Drusilla put in, “Not all villains are so visible! So many do their sins in seclusion to thwart others from halting their heinous acts! If there weren’t masters of deceit, most of the wretchedness on Earth would cease to exist!” 

Clarissa lamented, “He never showed signs of this when we were younger! He was so fun, always the life of the party! Had I gotten any inkling of this aspect of him, I never would have stayed!” She ruminated on her memories of him, and she couldn’t recall one instance where she suspected him of deviousness! A part of her wanted to reject this hypothesis on that basis alone! “Are you… Are you quite certain that Brenner was the one who…? Who…?” 

“Did he ever court a woman with hair that resembled Alastor’s?” Drusilla held up the dark-maned lock for Clarissa to see. 

“A piece of Alastor is in my house?” Clarissa bellowed. “Get it out! Get it out!” She didn’t know why she gave that direction to the other two women- she was perfectly capable of doing it herself! She lunged for it, but then Drusilla shielded it from her! “What are you doing? I want that out of here! If you won’t let me do it, please toss it out the window immediately! Please!” 

Drusilla illuminated her, “If we do that, then this will be a partial burial ground for that fiend! It needs to get burnt! But not here! We don’t want his ashes inside this residence either!” 

Gabby quizzed her, “Why not? Isn’t there some kind of hex we could do against him with this portion of his physical being?” 

“Not as far as I know,” Drusilla relayed to her. “Father hid my text again, but from what I remember, there’s nothing we can do to harm a phantom!” 

“So, you don’t know how to defeat him?” Clarissa enquired. 

Drusilla asserted, “Not yet! I’m very much convinced that he is capable of defeat though!” That statement seemed to falter as a whispering wind billowed and shook the windowpanes as it flew by… 

The Hessian, Chapter 14

Ophelia’s sister asked her, “Are you okay?” 

As the girl crept closer to Opheila, Clarissa and Gabby screamed out, “No!”, but they were too late! Ophelia grabbed her sister by the neck and threw her against the well! When she landed, her skull bled and she remained motionless! Ophelia roared in anguish as she limply held the hand that she used to commit that horrendous act, and Clarissa surmised that her sister must have been wearing a crucifix too. Gabby and Clarissa rushed over to use salt on her before she caused any more damage, but the other ladies in the area intended to apprehend her… until… 

Ophelia vomited a stream of red liquid, and everyone backed away in case it was something more harmful than blood! Clarissa wracked her brain to find a solution quickly so they could subdue her without getting within the vicinity of danger, and as she desperately scanned her surroundings like doing so would allow the answer to present itself to her, she spotted Drusilla crouched behind some long-stemmed, purple flowers. At first, she assumed Drusilla was hiding there, but then she noticed that she was rubbing some sticks together, which she would have found odd at any juncture but got exceptionally floored as to why she would engage in such a strange activity during an emergency like this! She didn’t have another second to spare on this concept though… 

When Ophelia ceased her expulsion of that sinister substance, one woman took the rope from her yoke and wrapped it around Ophelia’s body, but Ophelia snapped her bind in half and lunged after her! The woman protected her neck, but Ophelia did not appear to have planned to use the same attack on her as she did with her sister! She clutched her by her hair and dragged her over to the well, and when she climbed onto the ledge, she held her over the hole in a way that suggested that she meant to drop her in! Several women made a bid to save her, but when Clarissa and Gabby strove to get into her proximity in order to cast their salt onto her, Ophelia’s deep-sounding alter-ego warned, “Take another inch and I’ll take her life!” 

Ophelia’s victim whimpered from a pained fear, and Ophelia barked out a devilish laugh! Clarissa whispered, “I’ll distract her, and then you-!” 

“Don’t you dare to try and cure me!” Ophelia bellowed. This horrified Clarissa- she was certain she had spoken low enough to avoid detection! “I’m much happier like this! It’s so beautiful! Can’t you see them dancing? The music is so magnificent!” Ophelia began swaying as though her ears had picked up on the most harmonious sound, and everyone watching gazed on in confusion. Her captive managed to reach the edge, and as a few of her peers seized her so they could pull her to safety, Ophelia detected her leverage escaping, but prior to her making a move on this development… 

“Be gone, spirit! Be gone!” Drusilla commanded as she aimed a bouquet of burning blooms in Ophelia’s direction! Clarissa would have questioned the validity of this defense if Ophelia hadn’t recoiled in such a drastic fashion! She loosened her grip on her detainee, but only because she tumbled into the heard of the well! She created a splash large enough that it reached the surface and dowsed all of the onlookers within the scope of her enclosure, and then, the atmosphere grew quiet for a minute… Slowly, more and more women crept closer towards the well, and as soon as a couple of ladies chanced a peek inside… 

Ophelia knocked a pair of bystanders down as she crawled out of the pit like a speedy insect! She scurried towards the village, but Gabby stopped her in her pathway by laying down a line of salt! Ophelia turned around and headed towards another target, but Drusilla sent more smoke at her! She hissed and hurried to the spot where a group of girls had gathered, but Clarissa emerged from behind the bunch and drowned her in salt before she had the opportunity to flee! Gabby mimicked this move, and Drusilla joined them with her blazing buds. Soon, Ophelia’s limbs and torso violently shook, and foam came out of her mouth! All of a sudden, she froze and shut her lids! The crowd glimpsed at her very cautiously wondering if it was over, and then… 

Everybody jumped as Ophelia lurched upwards, and for a brief instance, Clarissa worried that their efforts hadn’t been effective, but then they realized that she had merely jerked up so that she could get sick! It soothed the masses’ nerves to see that she ejected a more human projectile, and their alleviation increased as Ophelia croaked out, “Mary!” in her normal voice! Their mollification diminished though when Ophelia went on, “Sister, please! I’m not well!” Clarissa’s stomach lurched at the prospect of witnessing Ophelia discovering a family member’s demise, and she didn’t think she could bear to see it when she recognized that she had a role in her fatal fate! “Mary! Please! Where are you?” Clarissa and Gabby espied Drusilla dashing away from the scene, and as the females who watched the fracas unfold started to murmur about the tragedy, Gabby nudged Clarissa to indicate that they ought to follow suit. Clarissa already sensed blame getting thrown towards her, so she decided to heed Gabby’s hint. While they withdrew from this sector, they could still hear Ophelia’s bewildered wails echo into the horizon! 

As a gray-haired man in a Continental soldier’s uniform handed out food from a cauldron to his fellow military men, Bernard opined, “This isn’t going to work!” 

“Well, standing back until he finished his charity didn’t pan out for us yesterday, so do we want to make that same mistake twice?” Kenneth challenged Bernard. Bernard still frowned, but Kenneth insisted, “The correct response is no! Let’s go!” They marched towards Father Clarence, but they had to unexpectedly halt… 

“Lieutenant Harvey?” a man from behind them called out. Kenneth cringed but then swiveled around to face the fellow in a courteous fashion. The perpetrator was revealed to be a postal rider, who notified him, “You have a letter.” 

Kenneth accepted the letter and graciously regarded him, “Thank you!” The postal worker saluted him and then took off. Once he was out of sight, Kenneth directed Bernard, “Alright, let’s go have that chat!” 

Bernard protested, “Hold on, don’t you want to see who sent you a message? It might be important…” 

“But so is this!” Kenneth argued, but when Bernard’s logic really ruminated in his thoughts, he acknowledged that his reasoning was valid. No matter how urgent the situation in Colfrith became, he could not neglect his patriotic duties! He raised the post to his eye level and prayed that this correspondence was nothing critical so that he did not have to neglect what felt crucial to his heart! When he identified the return address, his expression lit up in delight! “Oh, it’s Clarissa! She responded to me so quickly! I shall enjoy reading this later!” 

“Later? Shouldn’t we learn the contents immediately?” Bernard pressed him. Kenneth gave him a reproachful look, so Bernard hastily added, “I want to go over this matter with Father Clarence, I really do! Recall that this was my idea! But I don’t esteem that we’ll get very far if we do it in this manner! We have no privacy, but if he did choose to speak freely anyhow, the men who listen in to our conversation could have all three of us kicked out of the unit! We need to continue to pursue his guidance, but we need to do it in the right approach!” 

Kenneth contended, “We may never receive another window to interact with him! If we delay this any further, we may lose our fortuity to be in his company permanently!” He gazed at Clarissa’s handwriting wistfully, and then he contemplated out loud, “Then again, she may have solved this conundrum recently, and our labor in this endeavor would be wasted! Fine, you win! I’ll read it!” 

Bernard eagerly observed Kenneth’s reaction to Clarissa’s words! Initially, he seemed very pleased with what he gathered, but soon, his smile slipped away! Anxious about what may have transpired, Bernard petitioned him, “What is it? Did something terrible occur? Is everyone safe?” 

“We definitely need to confer with Father Clarence!” He veered back to where Father Clarence had stationed himself, and to his dismay, another officer stood there instead! “He left!” Kenneth lamented. 

“I’m sorry, sir!” Bernard apologized. “I-!” 

The postal worker returned and informed Bernard, “I was told you’re Private Malin. I have something for you as well.” 

After receiving the letter, Bernard pleasantly verbalized, “Much obliged!” The postal rider saluted him as well, and once he took off, Bernard excitedly theorized, “Maybe it’s from my beloved, Drusilla!” He checked out the communication’s origin, and he furrowed his brows. “Who is that?” 

Kenneth recommended, “It’s such a bizarre occurrence that it must have some relation to our abnormal mission! You’d better open it!” Bernard heeded his advice, and with trepidation of what it might entail, he unsealed the envelope! When he discovered the truth of his tidings, he nearly doubled over in shock! Kenneth eyeballed the exchange, and then he remarked, “This gives me an idea on how to secure a meeting with that elusive priest!” 

Clarissa and Gabby each read from a pile of books in front of them, the only sound that emanated in their building was the crackling of the fire until Gabby abruptly stood up and proclaimed, “I can’t take any more of this drivel!” 

“You don’t have to comb through Brenner’s library!” Clarissa let her know. “Personally, I don’t see what value you expect to gain from studying that Loyalist blather!” 

“I’ve already said it, I suspect the steps for whatever ritual he performed must be hidden here somewhere! That’s not a feat that a man who’s spent his whole life practicing Christianity suddenly knows how to do on his own accord!” Gabby vehemently expressed. 

Clarissa pondered, “I imagine that you’re correct, however, why would Loyalists include that in their anti-freedom material?”  

Gabby shrugged as she restlessly paced. “I don’t know! I wouldn’t put anything past these red-coated stampcrabs!” She paused and then griped, “It’s maddening to think that I’ve finally become a free woman and then there are people like this author out there who want to take it away from me!” 

“I’m not confident our sex will quite have the same liberty as our male counterparts, but we can only fight one battle at time!” Clarissa commented. She set down her tome and inquired, “Do you believe that Brenner’s interest in traitorous rhetoric has ties to whatever rite he participated in?” 

“That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out,” Gabby replied. “The ingredients to that spell were stashed adjacent to the publications that he intended to keep a secret, which might simply be a coincidence. He may have opted to store two different secrets in the same locale, but then Brenner’s death followed so shortly after Alastor’s. Is it still a mere coincidence that now most of the town is spouting these same absurd credences?” 

Clarissa conjectured, “So, what you’re saying is that Brenner may have done dark magic to help the British?” 

Gabby nodded. “The Hessian we hanged may have ranted about how our fundamentals are leading the world into anarchy, but so far, as a ghost, he’s only caused murder and mayhem. His specter hasn’t mentioned anything about unpatriotic feelings!” 

“The hearts and minds of our neighbors appeared to have swayed once Alastor met his maker though,” Clarissa disagreed. “I felt a chill go down my spine after his spirit vacated his body, and then everything was different in this region! The sentiment that formed had to have resulted from the spy’s execution! Brenner was with me when that happened, so I know for a fact that he didn’t try anything out of the ordinary to evoke this aura! He was especially quiet that afternoon, actually! I used to credit that with the hurt of watching a man he previously considered a friend betray our country and get killed for his crimes, apparently, he was on his side all along! Perhaps the enchantment he attempted to immerse himself in was meant to assist Alastor by some other means…” 

“So, the only question remains is did he do this sorcery prior to or preceding that scoundrel’s fatality?” Gabby probed. Before Clarissa got to reply, there was a knock at the door! Clarissa speculated that Alastor may have gotten wind of their nearing of a vital perspective of his scheme’s beginning, and so her pulse raced as she peeked onto her front porch wondering who may have come to call! She was so sure it was a trap, and it did not comfort her apprehension to behold a figure in a black cloak with a hood that covered their visage… 

The Hessian, Chapter 13

“Do you know what this is?” Gabby asked Clarissa. 

“No,” she answered her, “but I… I’ll be right back!” 

Clarissa dashed downstairs and headed straight to the bar. She knew she left it down there somewhere, and she compelled her memory to jog faster! She had forgotten all about her urgent need to solve another mystery, and now that the resolution seemed close to fruition, she forced her eyes to rediscover this object with more haste! Finally, she spotted it beneath the papers she procured for Cornelius and Elmira’s wedding reception! She snatched it up immediately and climbed back to the upper level. 

As soon as she re-entered the room, Clarissa showed Gabby a small key! “A couple of nights ago, I came across this in my yard! It didn’t resemble any of the ones I already had in my possession, and I couldn’t figure out what door it unlocked until now! Perhaps… We shall see!” Clarissa nervously brought the key towards the little hole in the enigmatic chest. Apart of her hoped that it would fit, but another part of her prayed that she was wrong because whatever substance this container held probably wasn’t anything good- people rarely kept good things out of sight! Regardless of the case, she had to find out the truth, so she stuck the key in… It surprised her that the key fit! She slowly turned it, and her heart beat rapidly as they heard the cogs release the lid’s seal! They each grasped a side, and they lifted the cover…  

“Huh?” Clarissa racked her brains over what they saw! She pulled out several candles with burnt wicks and melted wax, a few black feathers, and a lock of dark-colored hair! “Wow! I truly believed we stumbled into something meaningful to our cause, but it appears as though we simply uprooted a spot where Brenner stored his waste!” She chucked a stick back into the trunk in disappointment. 

“I doubt Brenner would have gone through this much trouble to hide refuse!” Gabby countered as she gazed at the box with discernment. She found blackened soil at the bottom, and she surmised, “This earth looks burnt! The only motive for storing that would be that someone charred something that they shouldn’t have! And the rest of this would be innocuous on their own, but putting them together must hold significance to someone or else he would have disposed of them in another manner!” 

Clarissa queried, “So, what are you saying? Brenner put these objects together to make some kind of statement?” 

Gabby responded, “Maybe. But I’ve seen my mother use some of these items in her rituals…” 

“Wait, so you reckon that Brenner performed some sort of magic?” Clarissa pondered. 

“Or at least he tried,” Gabby confirmed. “I suppose he could have been mentally ill and collected random rubbish.” 

Clarissa mulled the matter over a moment, and then she reflected out loud, “Brenner’s mind went soft the more he drank, but I don’t recall any instance where he ever really behaved bereft of himself! Most of the time, he was in the tavern socializing with our guests. He did occasionally leave to imbibe with his acquaintances, but I never questioned his activities because he always came home completely muckibus! I suppose he could have engaged in devious actions prior to his inebriation, but… That’s an unimaginable thought! Brenner had his many faults, but he wouldn’t have participated in any occupations of the occult! He would have had no reason to attempt anything like that unless he figured out a supernatural means of garnering more alcohol!” 

Gabby relayed to her, “Brenner always struck me as an overt individual, but when you told me he had business books while showing a lack of interest in actually doing business, I grew suspicious of his literature. I was about to investigate them when I fell into this hole!” 

“A hole containing materials for some kind of spell…” Clarissa jumped over to the bookshelf and seized a title regarding finances. She unfolded the pages and crossed her fingers that she would behold boring information on economic practices. Instead, she found print on a more astonishing topic… “This is Loyalist paraphernalia! But that can’t be right! Brenner was always a devout Patriot! Perhaps a previous guest placed this in there by mistake!” 

“This book also talks about Loyalist ideals,” Gabby reported as she perused through a publication. 

Clarissa poured through each novel on the shelf, and she discovered that none of them contained the subject that they were supposed to! She raced through the pages faster and faster with the aspiration of unearthing something that proved the other texts wrong or pointed to a culprit other than Brenner, and when she recovered none, she grew a little faint and dizzy! Gabby aimed to assist her, but Clarissa made it to the bed on her own. After taking a minute to absorb these new sets of facts, she uttered, “I was married to a traitor! I feel like vomiting!” She could hardly fathom receiving this kind of revelation on a person she knew for over a decade! She wasn’t quite sure what to do with this news, and a sensation of being lost overwhelmed her until she noticed Gabby studying some of the tomes. “Megatie me! You can read?” 

Gabby grinned. “Drusilla used to frequently accompany her father during his meetings under the guise of wanting to spend time with Elmira, and since Elmira isn’t that much older than her, neither of their fathers assumed anything of it. In reality, Elmira would pay more attention to her paintings than her visitors, so she didn’t really care what Drusilla did during the process. Drusilla and I developed a friendship, and since she has a passion for stories, she insisted on teaching me so that I could share her pursuit!” 

“Drusilla gave me the mixture that remedied Phineas from his paranormal affliction!” Clarissa remembered. “Does she ever review literature pertaining to potion making?” Gabby shrugged. “Hmm… She either concocted it herself or she purchased it from an expert in that field- either scenario would signify that she has at least some knowledge on this lore! We need to consult her in order to make sense of this all!” 

“That could prove difficult,” Gabby stated. “After her life was threatened yesterday, Cornelius will probably keep a close eye on her. But I agree with you- we have to find an avenue of speaking with her alone!” 

Bernard walked down a row of white tents cordially nodding at his fellow soldiers as he passed by. He attempted to convey as much aloofness as possible, but inwardly, his senses were bogged down with the heaviness of the catastrophes that surrounded him! As if the war wasn’t bad enough, he couldn’t stop thinking about the mission he embarked on that no one else knew about! It felt strange to keep a secret from the men that he trusted with his life, but if it got out, valued protection of a certain region would vanish, so he refused to articulate a word to anyone on this operation! As he headed into the tent of his destination, he took a deep breath and knocked on wood for the best possible outcome! 

As soon as Bernard entered into his quarters, he saw Kenneth holding a letter with an expression full of distress! He panicked and cried out, “What is it, sir? Is it Drusilla? Or Clarissa? Did something happen? Are they okay? Did they-?” 

“Woah, woah, woah!” Kenneth interrupted his ravings. “This letter isn’t from Colfrith! And everything is fine! Well, sort of… It’s just… My mother wrote and said…” 

“Is everything fine at home?” Bernard inquired with concern. 

Kenneth’s lips pursed, and then he exhaled in an exasperated fashion prior to revealing, “My oldest daughter is a woman now!” 

Bernard gasped, “You mean she was intimate with man?” 

“No! But if she ever resorted to that, she’s obtained the ability to make me into a grandfather!” Kenneth shuddered at that concept. 

“Oh, I see! Well, I comprehend one aspect of it anyways. I fail to grasp how that’s a strenuous event…” Bernard scratched his scalp as he mused over Kenneth’s reaction. 

Kenneth fretfully exclaimed, “I’m not ready for her to grow up!” Bernard stared at him blankly, so he added, “You’ll understand one day when you’re a father!” 

Bernard wasn’t sure how to reply to the image that he raised, so instead, he used that last phrase as a stepping stone for the issue he had been wanting to raise all along during this encounter, “Speaking of fathers… Father Clarence is busy tonight. A few soldiers succumbed to their wounds, so…” 

“We’ll chat with him before he turns in for the night,” Kenneth concluded. Bernard looked baffled by that statement, so he expounded, “Listen, I’d love to go one day in this war where we don’t lose a single member of our force, but if we wait for that day to transpire, we’ll never get our chance to converse with him! I know it isn’t proper, but nothing about this dilemma is conventional! It may be a slightly out of the ordinary, but I’d do anything to save Clarissa! Would you do the same for Drusilla?” 

“Of course!” Bernard adamantly affirmed. “Yes, I’m with you, sir!” 

Gabby probed, “You want me to go in alone? Why?” 

Clarissa reasoned, “It’d be pretty odd to view a woman entering into a public building with two buckets on her shoulders!” 

“Since when did you get so easily embarrassed?” Gabby posed to Clarissa. 

“I’m not embarrassed! I’m simply fed up with being the source of gossip for the borough!” Clarissa hung her head low in shame of admitting that they had gotten to her. 

Gabby assured her, “I won’t be long!” 

Clarissa gave her a grateful smile as she went inside. While she waited in front of The General Post, she discerned that more and more passersby ogled her. She silently grumbled over her inability to avoid this fate, and right when she was debating whether she would fare better in there or outside, a voice whispered into her ear, “You’re not safe anywhere!” He startled her by his abrupt appearance, but she rejected the inclination to cower down to his sinister advances! She spun around to confront him, but he was nowhere in sight! She scanned the entire vicinity, but she saw no sign of his presence! More villagers gawked at her following that behavior, but she no longer got affected by them at this juncture! 

“So, what did you put in your letter to Kenneth?” Gabby jovially petitioned Clarissa as she re-emerged. When she saw that her act had caused Clarissa to jump in fright, she quickly cast off her gossipy mood! “What’s wrong?” 

“He’s here somewhere!” Clarissa reported. “I heard him…” 

Gabby gazed around the town square, but she couldn’t distinguish any portents of peril, so she quietly addressed Clarissa, “Let’s go to the well. He’s bound to reveal himself eventually through the course of our tasks!” Clarissa nodded, and they exited that sector. 

Until they arrived to a secluded section of the hamlet’s outskirts, they remained on high alert for the onset of Alastor’s siege, but everything was eerily normal! When they queued up behind a long line of women with pails, they visually combed over the vicinity with as much thoroughness as they could muster! Clarissa was certain he was going to strike – he wouldn’t have goaded her if he hadn’t intended to do something malign! As she examined the ladies before her, she nearly missed an important clue to a different bind… “Drusilla is here!” she let Gabby know. 

“Should we talk to her?” Gabby wondered. 

“Only if we wish to discuss things that are acceptable to fall on our neighbors’ ears!” Clarissa frowned. Getting spooked by that hellish Hessian temporarily pushed Brenner’s box of trinkets out of her thoughts, but since it renewed itself, she ached to consult Drusilla! She was so young, but if she had the ability to produce an effective elixir, she calculated that she likely had a plethora of helpful tidbits on the predicament! She wanted to maintain the belief that her late husband had an innocent motive for stashing those ingredients to perform a rite, but she could not fathom how that would be possible… 

An older girl towards the front suddenly yelled out in anguish, and her sister worriedly checked in with her, “Ophelia, are you hurt?” 

Ophelia breathily conveyed to her, “It’s choking me!” 

“What is?” her sister inquired. 

“This!” Ophelia replied in a tone far deeper than her own as she tossed her cross necklace to the ground… 

The Hessian, Chapter 12

With one swift sweep, Phineas picked Clarissa and Gabby up and threw them across the sawmill floor! They landed on a wooden table, which broke upon impact! Clarissa felt pain course throughout her body, but she had no time to nurse her injury since Phineas bounded over to them in a rapid, dog-like fashion! Gabby and Clarissa each reached for their canisters of salt, but their crash broke open the seals and the entire contents of their vessels spilled out onto the ground! When Phineas approached them, they each grabbed a handful and tossed it into his face! He roared like a beast and leapt out range of their projectiles! A couple of men with axes attempted to defend themselves, but he seized their weapons and flung them far from him! He briskly swung his newly acquired combat tools at anyone who dared to go near him- no one could get within an inch of him!

            “Gather up as much salt as you can!” Clarissa directed Gabby.

            “What are you doing?” Gabby cried out. “He’ll kill you!”

            Clarissa ignored her pleas and brought up, “His left hand isn’t as strong as his right. You see how it trembles?” Gabby was confused by her remarks until she unearthed a cross necklace that had fallen beneath the top of her dress and explained, “Harming me hurt him! Do you really think he’ll make that mistake twice?” Gabby intended to protest again, but then they witnessed a man who had been trying to subdue Phineas get hit in the top of his skull and plummet down with the axe still attached to him! Gabby and Clarissa winced, and then Clarissa proclaimed, “Lives are at stake! I’ll distract him long enough for you to gather enough salt to cast out his spirit!”

            Before Gabby could say no, Clarissa headed towards Phineas! When she got within his range, she brandished her crucifix and commanded, “Put down your blade!”

            Phineas screeched at her in defiance and vaulted to another sector of the facility! Most of the men scrambled away from the area prior to his arrival, but one man was not so fortunate… As he held up his arms in a protective manner, Phineas chopped one of them off! He made another bid for the rest of him, but Clarissa put herself between the two! Phineas growled at her and then hurried to the front of the factory.

            Drusilla moved in Phineas’ direction, but Cornelius shielded her and vociferated, “I will not watch my daughter endure that fate!” Drusilla fought against her restraints, but when Phineas neared them, she ducked! Cornelius mimicked Clarissa’s move and held up his own religious talisman, and Phineas shied away from that spot. When he left, Cornelius glanced around and called out, “Drusilla? Drusilla, where did you go?”

            Phineas aimed his axe for another victim, but he managed to elude his blow and run behind Gabby. A number of individuals figured out that she possessed a repellent to the darkness within him, but as the line of salt around her diminished from both Gabby’s gathering and all of the pandemonium, their stronghold seemed less secure. Everyone fled as Gabby took a sturdy stance ready to fire from her arsenal, and Clarissa raced to assist her. When she got within his periphery, Phineas used his injured palm to shove her away from his target! She slammed into another workbench and grimaced as she absorbed the agony!

            When Clarissa opened her eyes, she beheld Gabby tossing the salt at him, but to her horror, he dodged it! As he advanced on Gabby, Clarissa didn’t know what to do in order to defeat him! All of a sudden, she felt a tug on the back of her sleeve! She couldn’t fathom who or what could have done that, so she turned around with intense curiosity. It shocked her to see Drusilla crouched under the table, but it flabbergasted her when Drusilla handed her a small vial with a green potion in it! Baffled, she gazed at Drusilla for clarification, and Drusilla nudged her head towards the pending peril. Clarissa didn’t understand all of the details of this solution, but she didn’t have a moment to spare for questions! She rose up and raced to the scene!

            Gabby evaded him with as much haste as she could muster, but Phineas was quicker than her. When he had her cornered, he raised his axe! She ducked and covered herself to the best of her abilities, and he belted out a shrieking and echoing battle cry! Then… Preceding any fatal hit, Clarissa poured the strange substance into his mouth and shut his jaw so he couldn’t’ spit it out! As the fluid descended his throat, Clarissa prayed this mysterious mixture would drive Alastor’s influence out of him!

            Phineas started to convulse tremendously, so Clarissa released him. He jerked faster and faster, and then he abruptly arched himself backward! Clarissa and Gabby noticed a cold wind fly past them, and they knew he was cured! When Phineas erected his spine, he looked around in confusion. “What the devil just happened?” he wondered out loud as he observed the aftermath of the catastrophe. When he espied his bloody clothing, he worked out what had transpired and raised the axe in his hand to himself…

            “No, Phineas! No!” Multiple people beseeched him not to do it, and Gabby as well as Clarissa lunged to save him, but they couldn’t get him fast enough! Phineas lodged his deadly device into his visage, and he quickly succumbed to his wounds! His peers all gasped and moaned in sorrow, and the two women beside him stared at his body woefully wishing they were just a fraction of a second faster! “Poor Phineas! It wasn’t his fault!” one of his coworkers lamented.

            “I don’t blame him for feeling guilty though! I’d off myself too if I knew I killed Samuel!” another sawmill worker morosely conversed.

            As a couple of employees used a belt to create a tourniquet for the victim with a missing limb, Cornelius anxiously yelled, “Drusilla? Drusilla, where are you?”

            Drusilla emerged from her place of refuge and shouted, “I’m here, Father!”

            “Oh, thank Heavens!” Cornelius exhaled in relief. She sped over to him, and as they embraced, he let her know, “Well, you got your way- I won’t have you anywhere close to this establishment anymore!” He peered directly into her eyes and asserted, “I lost your mother, I won’t lose your too!” As the entire enterprise grieved and recovered, Clarissa and Gabby decided to depart. Neither of them had gotten over the gravity of what they saw, and their presence did nothing to add value to anyone’s mood. Moreover, Clarissa wanted to exit prior to this trauma getting fully absorbed in their minds because she did not want to go through more unjust blame and slander after seeing such carnage! She didn’t think anyone detected their movements, but then Cornelius reminded them, “Don’t forget your boards!”

            “Yes, sir!” Clarissa speedily responded. She and Gabby hurriedly gathered the planks along with Drusilla’s letter that she promised to deliver, and they darted out before anyone else could utter a word to them! As they traversed Hallow’s Alley, passersby gawked at the sanguine stains on their wardrobes. They didn’t speak to anyone as the pair made a beeline back to the inn…

            Bernard held his lantern up so he could see through the fog, and he hollered, “Lieutenant Harvey? Lieutenant Harvey, are you here?”

            From a distance, Kenneth conveyed to him, “I’m down here!” Bernard rushed down a hill and found Kenneth sitting on a log that overlooked a vast array of graves. Kenneth glanced up at Bernard, and Bernard discerned a shadow of glumness on his face. “Did you worry that I got lost again?” Kenneth inquired.

            “No,” Bernard replied. “You’re just not where I expected you to be! The rest of the single fellows went to the city to fraternize with the ladies, but are you here…”

            “As are you,” Kenneth pointed out. “You’re at the age where gents covet sowing their wild oats- not interested in landing yourself a pretty, young woman?”

            Bernard disclosed, “I’ve already got one! Well, at least, she’s got me! We only had a brief interaction during my short stint in Colfrith, but I… I don’t know! I just got this premonition that I don’t need to search for any other girl! Am I mad for believing that idea?”

            Kenneth chuckled, “Of course you’re mad! But that’s what occurs when a woman captures your heart! That’s what led me here tonight…”

            “Madness?” Bernard queried as he sat beside him.

            “In a sense.” Kenneth surveyed the scenery before them. “I’m somewhat befuddled by a concept, and I thought perhaps our comrades could provide me with guidance.”

            Bernard uncomfortably mentioned, “Uh, sir… These soldiers have fallen! The dead cannot interact with us!”

            Kenneth forlornly disagreed, “I only wish that were the case! A terrible wraith has taken over Colfrith, and everyone who inhabits the region is in complete danger!”

            “You mean someone is after my Drusilla?” Bernard’s eyes widened in alarm.

            “A Hessian spy hanged for his crimes, and now he seeks revenge against every citizen in those quarters! I know that sounds totally daft! I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it myself! His specter aspired to torture me to my demise, and he would have done if Clarissa, the innkeeper, hadn’t come to my rescue! It wasn’t a fever that kept me at The Leafy Taverne…” Kenneth admitted. “I gave that account to General Washington so I could carry on with my duties, but now that my secret is out, I suppose I should go say goodbye to my children and prepare myself for a life in a bedlam…”

            Bernard assured him, “No, no! This stays between us! You’re probably the most rational person I’ve ever met, so if you say there’s a violent ghost out there, I’ll believe you! Plus, I’d do anything to protect Drusilla! She doesn’t deserve to undergo that kind of torment!”

            Kenneth concurred, “No, she doesn’t! None of them do! Especially not Clarissa! She’s been expelled from their society based on lies and a lack of understanding, and it’s become her responsibility to save everyone from that murderous phantom! She has no one else to assist her in this matter, so I want to do all I can to support her! The trouble is I have no inkling on how to do that! How do you destroy a being who is already deceased?”

            “I don’t know!” Bernard solemnly articulated. Kenneth hung his head low, and as Bernard scanned the various tombstones ahead of them, he suddenly incurred a spark of inspiration! “But I know somebody who might…!” Kenneth ogled at him with incredulity and pondered if he should resist the urge to get his hopes up or not…

            “What if we simply placed a flowerpot over the hole?” Clarissa proposed as she and Gabby stared at the hole next to the bookshelf in the room that Kenneth previously occupied. “Or we could cover the hole with a rug and bar any visitors from using this space…”

            Gabby puzzled, “Why would you want to do that? Don’t you want to learn what’s in the hollow?”

            Clarissa exclaimed, “No! If any sort of wickedness is lurking in there, I’d rather have it stay there forever and not learn of its existence!”

            “Wouldn’t you reckon that whatever is in there would have been released the instant I broke through the panel?” Gabby challenged her.

            “What if we disturb something by removing it from its cache?” Clarissa fretted. Gabby gave her a reproachful countenance, so Clarissa apologized, “I’m sorry! Lately, every sliver of progress we’ve made towards solving this mystery has only caused atrocities that made our circumstances worse!  And your nightmare still haunts me as well…”

            Gabby sagely reacted to her qualms, “Yes, we may unearth more horror into the world, but what if we come across a cure instead? We could miss out on something really beneficial by relenting to our misgivings!”

            Clarissa acceded, “You’re right! We can’t risk a shot at victory over unfortunate possibilities! Okay, let’s do this!”

            As Clarissa used a hammer to loosen the nails form the broken floorboard, Gabby pulled it upwards. Inwardly, Clarissa crossed her fingers that the small chasm would prove to be empty after they finished, but as they removed the marred plank, her pulse accelerated astronomically! Someone had stashed an item in there! Gingerly, they pulled the object out, and Clarissa gasped when she beheld its sight…

The Hessian, Chapter 11

Alastor whispered into her ear, “You’re too late to save them!”

            Clarissa’s first instinct was to push the fiend away, but then she remembered that a person cannot physically move a ghost! She irately bit back, “What do you mean?” When she opened her eyes, she was bewildered to see that all of the walls of her home had vanished! Her room stood alone on a stage, and she had a view of the entire town… What was left of it anyways! All of the buildings were smoldering and in shambles! She went down the staircase, and when she got down to the street, her eyes widened in sheer horror as she beheld bodies lined up throughout the borough! She nearly vomited from the weight of it all, and once it sank in for her, she furiously bellowed, “Alastor, you demon! How could you?”

            His cackle emanated across the atmosphere above her, and as she screamed out her emotions, the spirits of the fallen rose up and called out to her, “Clarissa! Clarissa!” She couldn’t face them, it was all her fault…

            “Clarissa!” Gabrielle shook her in order to jerk her out of her slumber.

            “You’re still here!” Clarissa gazed around her chambers and then noted, “Everything is still here…”

            Gabrielle deduced, “I think you had a bad dream.”

            Clarissa reckoned that she was correct, but it still took a minute for her nerves to refrain from shaking. “He destroyed it all! Colfrith was obliterated, and everyone died! That was quite literally my worst nightmare!”

            “Well, we’re not going to let that happen in actuality, are we?” Gabrielle challenged her.

            “You’re right! There’s still time to ensure that ghoul does not succeed!” She leapt out of bed ready to take action, but then she noticed that Gabrielle was still in her pajamas. “I’m so sorry to have waken you!”

            Gabrielle assured her, “You didn’t! You weren’t alone in your nightmares! I dreamt that the letter you got yesterday came from Alastor, and it was addressed to Brenner. You were curious as to what it said, and when you opened it, you unleased darkness that consumed the entire village!”

            Clarissa recalled, “The letter! I completely forgot about that! I don’t even remember seeing who it was from! You don’t suppose…” Gabrielle’s expression fell at the prospect of her vision coming to light, and Clarissa concluded, “Well, we must investigate it now!”

            The two ladies crept down the staircase and eyeballed the piece of mail as though it were a snake ready to lunge at them as soon as it became aware of their presence! Clarissa’s mind reeled with the possibilities of what it might contain; if Gabrielle’s premonition proved to be true and the post was marked for her late husband, she couldn’t imagine what he would have communicated to him! Assuming that it held an actual message… They inched closer and closer until… “Oh, it’s from Kenneth!” Clarissa delightfully declared. “Unless Alastor did that to trick me into opening it…”

            Her hands trembled as she reached for the envelope, and Gabrielle watched in total nervousness as she broke the seal. Clarissa peeked inside and showed it to Gabrielle… “Oh! It appears you received an actual letter from a non-diabolical man! We really permitted our imaginations to run wild, didn’t we?” Gabrielle chuckled in relief. As Clarissa pulled the paper out, Gabrielle’s interest in the contents intensified. “Am I allowed to know what it says?”

            “That remains to be seen…” Clarissa poured through the message, and the further she read, the broader her grin became!

            “Did he declare his undying love for you?” Gabrielle pressed her.

            Clarissa explained, “He thanked me for my hospitality, and then he expressed his profound appreciation for me saving his life! He then tells me he hasn’t abandoned our mission and will do everything he can to discover remedies to help curtail the issue! He closed with wishing me well and hoping I’ll stay safe so that we can meet again!”

            With a wry smile, Gabrielle stated, “So, that’s a yes!”

            “He never voiced those words!” Clarissa disagreed.

            “People often relay their feelings indirectly! He doesn’t have to utter that exact phrasing to get the point across!” Gabrielle argued. Clarissa didn’t seem totally sold on that concept, but she could see her becoming flustered, so Gabrielle probed, “How do you feel about him?”

            Clarissa bowed her head as she blushed. “He’s a nice fellow!”

            Gabrielle prodded her, Very! Handsome and charming too!” Clarissa turned away to hide her embarrassment, and then Gabrielle asked, “What will you write in your reply?”

            “I’ll inform him that we spent a lot of time researching cures to our ghostly conundrum! But first, we must do that task so that I’m not lying to him,” Clarissa answered her. Gabrielle looked slightly disappointed that she no longer desired to spill any salacious gossip, and she begrudgingly stepped away from the table. Clarissa retrieved the books she borrowed from behind the bar, and as she set them by her seat, she remarked, “Perhaps fortune will favor us and we’ll uncover the solution in the beginning of the literature I choose to study first!”

            “Maybe I’ll pay a visit to the Cole household,” Gabrielle considered out loud. “Drusilla is quite fond of reading, so maybe something in her collection can aid us in this endeavor!”

            Clarissa mused, “It couldn’t hurt to query about it! Unless her father decides to interfere! I wouldn’t put anything past that grump!”

            Gabrielle brushed that notion aside, “If he upsets either of us, then he’ll lose his deposit and his reception plans will tear asunder since he won’t be welcomed here!”

            As Gabrielle ascended to the upper level, Clarissa tittered at the picture she painted. While Gabrielle got dressed, Clarissa flipped through the tome in front of her. She frowned at its apparent lack of usefulness, and she prayed that this would change as she carried on. After a bout of silence, Gabrielle made her jump slightly when she shouted, “Hey, there’s some books in this area! Would any of them have helpful information?”

            “I doubt it!” Clarissa responded. “Those were my late husband’s business materials. I’m not sure why he had them, he rarely participated in any professional-.” Suddenly, she heard a large crash blare out from above her, and she immediately sped up to check it out. “Are you alright, Gabrielle?”

            “Call me Gabby!” she requested.

            Clarissa puzzled, “Huh?” When she walked into the room previously occupied by Kenneth, she saw Gabby’s right leg stuck in a newly formed hole in the floor! As she assisted her in getting out of this scrape, she surmised, “So, you’re not terribly injure, are you?”

            Gabby laughed, “Not a chance! And my friends call me Gabby. After everything we’ve been through, there’s no need for anymore formalities!”

            “Fair enough!” Clarissa grinned. She glanced at the gap on the ground, and then she frowned as she pronounced, “It appears as though we’ll have to take Mister Cole up on his offer sooner than I anticipated!”

            “Where are you going, Drusilla?” Cornelius inquired to his daughter as she passed through a seating area situated before a bustling factory full of sawing, axing, and packing.

            Drusilla hid an envelope behind her back, and she over-sweetly replied, “Nothing!”

            Cornelius commanded, “Give it to me!” Drusilla reluctantly did so, and Cornelius expected to unearth the worst. It perplexed him when he beheld what she aimed to keep hidden. “It’s a letter to Aunt Martha!”

            “I know! I just wanted to get you going!” Drusilla cheekily informed him. His expression grew stern, but before he could admonish her, she added, “I’m bored, Father! I’ve grown weary of being here all day! I’d rather go back to spending all day taking care of the household! Why do I need so much supervision?”

            “I…!” Cornelius spotted Clarissa and Gabby standing within their vicinity, so he swiftly switched what he intended to convey, “We’ll talk about this later!”

            Clarissa cleared her throat out to rid herself of the awkwardness gained from this interaction, and then she notified Cornelius, “I apologize for the interruption, but The Leafy Taverne needs lumber to repair a dangerous section of its flooring…”

            Cornelius rather reluctantly acquiesced, “Very well! I suppose we cannot risk any of our guests getting injured! Phineas!” One of the men sanding down planks of wood stopped what he was doing and rushed over to do his bidding. “Fetch this lady… What? Will four boards do?”

            “Actually, one board will suffice,” Clarissa disclosed.

            “Take four in case more problems arise,” Cornelius advised her. “I want no mishaps to transpire on my wedding day!”

            Clarissa shrugged. “As you wish.”

            Cornelius reissued his order to Phineas, “Give her four boards.”

            “But, sir!” Phineas objected. “That’ll make us short for the Rockfall purchase! And there isn’t a lot of useable trees out there to make up for any dearth!”

            “Fine! During my reception, you can occupy the quarters that she spoke of!” Cornelius shot back. Phineas still seemed reluctant, but he heeded his direction nonetheless. While Phineas retrieved the items, Cornelius questioned Clarissa, “What caused the damage? It’s not a frequent occurrence, is it?”

            Clarissa assured him, “Oh, no! It was a totally random site that was hollow underneath!”

            Cornelius contended, “Hollow places are never random, especially when it comes to architectural structures! Someone always puts it there for a reason- usually for secretive purposes…” Cornelius gave Drusilla a reproachful look, and she shifted in a guilty manner.

            Gabby and Clarissa’s discomfort renewed, but luckily for them, Phineas returned with their ware. “Here you are, Miss Harbin! I’ll hand them over to your laborer.”

            “She’s my employee,” Clarissa corrected him. “She’s a free woman who earns a wage. We’ll split the burden.” As Clarissa grabbed some of the timber, Phineas’ visage contorted in confusion, but when he turned to Cornelius for clarification, he espied that Cornelius was rolling his eyes. Clarissa caught a glimpse of Drusilla’s despondence, so she kindly offered, “I have to bring a letter to the post shortly, so I’d be happy to bring your letter there!”

            “Oh, thank you!” Drusilla chirped as she set her correspondence on top of the wood.

            Cornelius raised an eyebrow at that preposition. “I didn’t know you had any acquaintances outside of our county…”

            Clarissa took offense at his insinuation, but she kept her cool as she educated him, “As a matter of fact, I do! He’s a lieutenant in the Continental Army, and-.”

            “You’re communicating with that traitor?” Phineas grumbled.

            “Traitor? He works out of the fort you played a part in building!” Clarissa pointed out.

            Phineas defensively uttered, “That was a mistake! But it wasn’t our fault! Alastor pretended to work for the other side, so naturally, we took his word as the truth!”

            Clarissa was shocked to hear loyalist rhetoric from a man who was once a devout patriot! She could only assume that the vengeful spirit had a hand in swaying his allegiance, but she also estimated that it would have been futile to try to persuade such a hard-hearted individual into accepting the reality of the circumstances in this war! Additionally, Cornelius’ grimace plainly worried about a disturbance in the workplace, so Clarissa opted not to quarrel with Phineas. She bad Cornelius, “Have a good afternoon!”

            “Wait!” Phineas blocked Clarissa and Gabby from exiting. “I can’t let you leave until you promise you won’t associate with that anarchist!”

            “Oh, don’t be ridiculous!” Clarissa brushed him off and attempted to weave herself out of his barricade.       

            Phineas lowered his arms to halt her departure, and he seethed, “If you won’t swear to it, you won’t leave!”

            Clarissa spat, “You can’t keep me here!”

            “Would you like to bet on that?” Phineas growled.

            “She won’t write to him, okay?” Gabby fibbed.

            Phineas snarled, “You’re a liar!”

            The entire assembly line halted to witness this scene, and Cornelius pled with him, “Phineas, please! Just let it go!”

            In a deep, frenzied voice very different than his own, Phineas bellowed, “Stay out of this!”

The Hessian, Chapter 10

Clarissa felt on edge as she swept the tavern. Every bit of noise that resounded throughout her empty abode made her jump! She was so sure it was Alastor back for another attack! It seemed inevitable since he had yet to go a day without an assault! She kept an ear out for any disturbances taking place in town and braced herself to take action when it did, and when Colfrith stayed quiet up until the beginning of twilight, she grew worried that something had occurred without her knowledge! Clarissa wouldn’t have fretted so much if more people implemented some effective methods of combating the specter’s violence, but so far, she and Gabrielle were the only ones one did more than just blame a non-existent witch’s magic when victims underwent Alastor’s siege! Gabrielle went into the village for an errand, but she should have returned hours ago, so Clarissa feared that she had abandoned this mission! She wouldn’t have blamed her if that had been the case- it was a very trying burden to bear! However, it would have been very hurtful to have acquired an ally and lost it all within the span of the sun’s cycle! She also considered that perhaps that dastardly menace got to her prior to Gabrielle resurfacing at the inn, and as the light in the sky began to diminish, she pondered if the obligation of rescuing Gabrielle had fallen upon her… Was this Alastor’s plan the whole time, luring Clarissa into a trap?

            All of a sudden, she heard the small, shrill scream of a child ring out in the distance! She dashed out the door and mentally prepared herself to face whatever nightmare that malevolent ghost had in store… To her surprise, she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary going on! The young girl who lived a few doors down from Clarissa gave her father a look of sheer defiance as he lectured her, “Jane! Do not speak to your elders in that manner!”

            “But I want cake!” Jane wailed.

            “Cake is not a good dinner!” Jane’s dad lectured her.

            Unexpectedly, Gabrielle turned up by Clarissa’s side, and she commented, “My word, I wish a lack of a dessert was the worst problem in my life!”

            Clarissa flinched at Gabrielle’s abrupt appearance. “Tarnation! Don’t sneak up on me like that!”

            “I didn’t sneak! I passed by your neighbors over there, it’s not my fault that you didn’t spot me!” Gabrielle shot back with a grin.

            “Right…” Clarissa felt embarrassed by her obliviousness, but she was relieved that Gabrielle didn’t seem miffed by her shouting. She supposed that she should have been more grateful for her coming back safely and soundly, but now that it was apparent that nothing too detrimental transpired, Clarissa became slightly agitated from the accumulation of anxiety that she endured from Gabrielle’s needlessly lengthy absence! She picked up one of the sacks of salt from the cart that Gabrielle had toted, and as she re-entered her home, Clarissa joshed her, “Nice salt! Did you walk to New Jersey and procure it from the ocean yourself?”

            “Almost!” Gabrielle breathily heaved the sack she was carrying onto the bar counter and let Clarissa know, “The proprietor at the general store refused me entry, so I went to Burtown to purchase this ware.”

            Clarissa reacted in astonishment, “Burtown? But that’s seven miles from here!” Gabrielle nodded and shrugged as she trudged towards the remaining sack of salt. “No, please sit down! After a fourteen mile round trip, you need the rest!” Gabrielle appreciatively slunk down into a seat as Clarissa retrieved the remainder of the inventory, and once she had completed that task, Clarissa graciously regarded Gabrielle, “You didn’t have to go through so much trouble like that!”

            Gabrielle put her aching feet on another chair as she disagreed, “Yes, I did! Where else would I have gotten our only weapon against the Hessian?”

            Frowning at the lack of any discernable alternatives, Clarissa resumed her sweeping and remarked, “We need to find some other approach to battling that fiend! Eventually, this isn’t going to be a sustainable practice!”

            “How do we do that?” Gabrielle asked as she leaned her head back and rested her eyes.

            “That’s a good question!” Clarissa answered. “I got some books on the subject, but Mister Basker wasn’t very confident that they would prove very instructive! I wish there was an expert we could consult so we could do something to prevent disaster rather than merely reacting to it after it’s already happened!”

            Gabrielle mumbled, “If somebody like that existed, then why wouldn’t they have acted thus far?”

            Clarissa mulled that concept over and came up with an appalling possibility, “Perhaps they want all of this mayhem to continue! Perhaps that barbarian has some assistance within Colfrith! After all, it isn’t as though he manifested in that form on his own! Don’t you think?”

            “Actually, I’m not thinking a whole lot at the moment!” Gabrielle kidded with her lids still shut.

            “Would you like me to make up your bed?” Clarissa offered.

            Gabrielle declined, “Not unless you’d like to carry me up those stairs!”

            Clarissa tittered as she carried on with her cleaning. Just then, the front door swung open, and she got a jolt of shock to view Cornelius and Elmira walking into her establishment! They didn’t seem particularly keen on this visit, so they stepped in with stiff shoulders and gloomy expressions. When they beheld the dynamic of a wealthy woman working and a former laborer blissfully reposed, Clarissa could practically see their minds boggling with bewilderment! Partly due to their unfavorable history with one another and partly because she knew that their presence could not have stemmed from amiable avenues, Clarissa decided to further beleaguer them by meekly querying Gabrielle, “May I take a break from my chores to speak with our guests?”

            “I’ll allow it!” Gabrielle responded while making herself even more comfortable on her perch.

            “Darling, we need to leave immediately!” Elmira demanded.

            Gabrielle and Clarissa hid their smirks as Cornelius addressed Elmira, “We’ve been over this, my love! We have no other options! We have to do this…”

            Clarissa probed, “Do what?” At first, she nearly panicked on the assumption that they went there to get vigilante justice for the crimes they perceived that she committed, but she esteemed that they did not appear to be armed. With that theory debunked, she puzzled as to what business they could have had with her…

            “I have a letter for you,” Cornelius informed Clarissa, which made her brows furrow. He was standing right in front of her, so she couldn’t comprehend why he didn’t choose to communicate with her directly! She reckoned that her sentiments on this exchange must have been evident since he followed that with, “It’s not from me! A postal rider came by a few minutes ago, and he seemed reluctant to approach this dwelling…”

            “Unbelievable!” Clarissa took the letter with irritation. “A total stranger traversed our terrain for a short stretch and already became privy to the gossip that has plagued our borough! Who could have possibly spread that rumor in that short of a period?”

            Elmira shifted around in a guilty fashion, and Clarissa’s incense for this vexatious varlet immediately increased! Sensing some pending tumult, Cornelius loudly spoke up, “The main reason we dropped by has nothing to do with your mail… We would like to make a deal with you…” Clarissa fully expected him to attempt a buyback of the Montgomery laborer, and she readied herself to sternly remind them that Gabrielle had been freed and is no longer eligible to get sold, but then… “We would like to book this venue on the thirty-first.”

            It would have stunned her if anyone had uttered those words to her at this juncture, but it flabbergasted her to hear that request emanate from this couple! Everyone in this district thought ill of her at the present, but Elmira had been especially vocal about her mistrust in her! She couldn’t fathom why she and her fiancée would decide to utilize this building for any of their transactions, especially when the bride-to-be’s father owned a coffeeshop where they could easily hold meetings! She grew suspicious of their motives for doing this, and she imagined that this enterprise likely had a horrible catch attached to it! She had no proof of any malign intentions on their part, but if any sinister aims did exist, the only way to draw them out was to let them unfold on their own, so she went behind the bar and pulled up the paperwork for this arrangement. “Alright… How many tables do you need?” she inquired.

            “All of them,” Cornelius replied. Clarissa’s quill darted out of her grip upon receiving this bewildering revelation, and Cornelius clarified, “We are opting to host our wedding reception here.”

            “Opting?” Elmira grumbled. “It’s not as though we have a real option! Nowhere else in Colfrith can accommodate our full guestlist! You simply had to invite every single individual to participate, didn’t you?”

            Cornelius chided her, “Elmira, we’ve been over this! I absolutely have to permit my employees to participate in the proceedings! Production is already suffering enough from all of the deadened trees, we don’t need another cause for efficiency to falter!” Elmira pouted, and then he turned his attention back to Clarissa. He handed her money that he took out of his pocket and briefed her, “Here’s a deposit to keep our reservation, and we shall provide the rest of the funds upon a successful completion of the event. Should you need any lumber, feel free to stop by the sawmill and I’ll deduct the fee from what we owe you.”

            Clarissa agreed to those terms, “Fine by me.”

            “Wonderful! Come along, my love!” Cornelius held out his arm for Elmira, and once they linked together, they rushed out of the facility! Elmira shot Clarissa one last leery look prior to her departure, and Clarissa sighed at the prospect of how tedious this occasion threatened to fare for her.

            “Are you sure we don’t want to pour some salt on those two just in case?” Gabrielle sleepily joked, which made Clarissa chuckle as she resumed the use of her broom.

            At nightfall, Clarissa and Gabrielle walked through the almost empty Hallow’s Alley, and as Clarissa raised the level of her lantern, she told Gabrielle, “If this gets to be too much for you, you’re welcome to go back to The Leafy Taverne!”

            Gabrielle rejected that notion, “And leave you to contend with that wicked phantom on your own? I think not!”

            “But you already did a lot of traveling today!” Clarissa objected. “I would hate for you to injure yourself on my behalf!”

            “I’ll be okay!” Gabrielle assured her. “I had to frequently make long journeys for Mister Montgomery, and as wealthy as he was, he never did buy transportation for…” A gust of wind howled past the pair of women, and Gabrielle consoled herself, “It’s regular wind! Regular wind comes by sometimes…!”

            Clarissa hypothesized, “I really doubt that Alastor would forewarn us about his scheme! He’d want us as far away as possible so he could do maximal damage!”

            Gabrielle concurred with that rationale, “Absolutely! We’re completely safe right now!”

            Despite their declaration of confidence, the two ladies moved with extreme caution and hardly created a sound! Clarissa kept her ears peeled for signs of peril fully expecting an assailment to commence at any second… When a considerable span elapsed, she intended to reestablish her conversation with Gabrielle, but then, suddenly, a man’s holler echoed into the atmosphere! The women raced to the source of the clamor, and when they got close to this specific cottage, they leaned in to decipher if they had, indeed, stumbled across a crisis…

            “My insides…! They’re all twisting!” the man moaned. Gabrielle and Clarissa picked up on some guttural grunting that left no ambiguity on the gravity of his pronouncement, so they hastily started to pour salt beneath the door and window! Clarissa hoped that they discovered this soon enough to rescue the poor soul, but that aspiration quickly got squashed…

            “What are you two doing?” a female emerged from that residence and scolded them. Clarissa and Gabrielle strove to protest, but she went on, “Don’t you dare spread your witchcraft here! Be gone, snakes!” Gabrielle and Clarissa listened to the afflicted’s torment and made another bid to assist, but she advanced on them as she bellowed, “I said be gone!” Clarissa and Gabrielle were disheartened to abandon this endeavor, but they didn’t want to risk enduring her bludgeoning, so they swiveled around and begrudgingly stepped aside. As that poor man’s wife went next door and urgently relayed the issue to Doctor Cuthbart, Clarissa desperately prayed for that individual’s ailments to heal! Afterwards, they headed back to the inn in total silence…

The Hessian, Chapter 9

Her first instinct was to jerk her hand back and pray that she hadn’t been too late to avoid whatever curse Alastor had in store for her, but after this recoil, Clarissa didn’t observe any sign of danger! She had to take a deep breath in order to invite her more rational self back into her thoughts; she was so sure that a paranormal ambush had befallen her that her adrenaline spiked and coursed throughout her body, and she found it difficult to convince her nerves to cease their jangling! Once it finally sunk in that she had not encountered a perilous obstacle, her curiosity rose up about what she actually stumbled onto. She came in contact with the dirt underneath a shrub, so she sifted through the earth until she discovered it…

            It was a key! Not one that she recognized from her own ring either! Initially, she theorized that Kenneth had inadvertently dropped it during his visit or that perhaps it slipped out of Bailey’s saddle during his agitation over his owner’s plight, but it was buried enough that it suggested to her that it had been there for several weeks, which would have been odd since she didn’t have any guests following her husband’s death… It then occurred to her that maybe this had belonged to Brenner! But she gained possession of all the keys used for the inn ages ago, so if its purpose hadn’t been business-related, she wondered what the dickens it could have gotten used for…!

            She picked herself up, but she hadn’t lost interest in the object she had acquisitioned! She hadn’t heard of any keys crafted for decorative purposes, so it had to have unlocked something! And yet, if it had belonged to the man she married, she couldn’t decipher a rationale for him locking up anything that she wasn’t privy to! She didn’t want to believe that he may have been hiding a commodity he desired to keep secret from her unless he had been planning a surprise of some sort! Brenner wasn’t good at ensuring that information stayed clandestine, his over-consumption of liquor didn’t allow his cognition to maintain any subtly and his memory had become abysmal! She was thoroughly puzzled by this thing’s origin now- it had to belong somewhere, it didn’t appear out of nowhere! Then again, with all of the mystical events taking place in Colfrith, she considered perhaps it did…

            Clarissa rushed into the tavern with the adamant determination of solving this mystery! If it was manufactured by that malevolent spirit, then she conjectured that this discovery could possibly lead to Alastor’s downfall! She also toyed with the idea that this key got gifted to her by a more friendly entity who desired to aid her with this harrowing cause, but she wasn’t sure if luck like that could ever grace her favor! Still, regardless of the basis for this token arriving into her ownership, it grew absolutely vital for her to work out what this facet opened up! She checked every nook and cranny in her establishment, but it didn’t seem to fit in anywhere! After sunset, she decided to investigate the upstairs. She hadn’t gotten to comb through much when suddenly…

            A knock sounded at her door! She froze as her heart began to race- she couldn’t help but feel that she was getting close to the answers when fate decided to intervene! The knocking intensified into something more urgent, and she speculated on whether or not Alastor saw her approaching the truth and sought to intermeddle! She descended the staircase and steeled herself up for a fight! Picturing a person under the ghost’s dark magic waiting for her on the other side of her front door, she swung it open and…

            “Gabrielle!” Clarissa gasped. “You scared me! Why did you-?”

            “Something’s happening at the smithery!” Gabrielle reported to her in a compelling tone. “Mister Bartlett was there buying some shoes for his oxen, and then, out of nowhere, he starts throwing anvils at people!”

            Clarissa’s brows furrowed at this revelation. “Throwing anvils? But those are at least a hundred pounds! How could he… Oh!” Comprehension finally dawned on her face- there was only a single avenue for a man to gain the strength to perform that kind of feat! “Oh dear! We must get to the church immediately and… No! The blacksmith is located on the route there! How can we get holy water if-?”

            Gabrielle interrupted her, “Do you have any salt?”

            “Salt?” Clarissa responded quizzically. “Well, sure! But how will that-?”

            “Bring it!” Gabrielle directed her. Clarissa hesitated out of confusion over her instruction, but prior to her having the chance to question it, Gabrielle insisted, “Hurry! People have died!” Clarissa’s eyes widened at the prospect of multiple getting killed, and she hastily went behind the bar to retrieve her pewter of salt. She couldn’t fathom how a spice from the kitchen could be of any value in this scenario, but Gabrielle spoke with such authority that she didn’t dare protest! She left the key on the counter resolving to get to the bottom of that enigma later, and then she followed Gabrielle out of the building!

            A small crowd was gathered outside of the smithery watching activity that made them quake in sheer horror, but all Clarissa could hear was a cacophony of clashing! At the point the masses thinned out, Gabrielle abruptly seized the salt pewter. “Give me that!” she asserted. Clarissa could not understand her motives for an action like that, a sentiment that only intensified as she poured some of the powder by their feet! She almost queried Gabrielle as to why she had done that, but then a sword flipped through the air and threatened to land in their position! It stunned Clarissa when the projectile unexpectedly veered in another direction! She pondered if the salt had generated that effect, but after Gabrielle shoved in back to her and commanded, “Go!”, she went under the assumption that it had and made a beeline for the blacksmith!

            Clarissa’s stomach tied itself into a knot when she gazed into the ironsmith’s workplace! The owner of that enterprise was lying on the floor with an anvil on his head and blood trickling out of his skull! Just outside of the perimeter of the property, a couple of individuals appeared to be pinned down by more anvils while others looked significantly injured from various tools that were hurled into the street! Some did not lose their locomotion, but the status of certain unmoving bodies was not so clear! She was appalled as she witnessed firsthand the local butcher tossing a sledgehammer at a small woman in the vicinity! His lofty height and heavy density had never given her any warrant for anxiety prior to this juncture, but with the peril he was posing, he gave quite the foreboding impression! When he picked up an axe and aimed it for a child, she impulsively yelled, “Hey!”

            Mister Bartlett turned to her instead, and Clarissa realized that her act of concern set herself up as his next target! She managed to pour out some salt early enough to avoid his weapon’s impact, but he quickly shifted his attention to new prey! Clarissa hurried towards him, but he caught on to her ploy and tried to strike her once more! After he missed her again, he let out a monstrous roar before racing to the fireplace! He reached into the flames with his bare hands and started slinging pieces of coal at people! Clarissa poured out a trail of salt and ran alongside of it for the sake of getting closer to him, but the more she inched towards him, the more brazen his onslaught became! She soon grew adjacent enough to deal him a serious blow, but unfortunately, he leapt out of range! He cowered in the corner of the shop, but he was snarling and growling at her like a beast! Clarissa recognized that she would never garner the ability to combat him if she stayed behind her powdered protection, so she stepped over it! Mister Bartlett barreled towards her, and she mimicked his move with her defense ready to spring out! They came within feet of each other, and…

            A loud thud blared out, and Mister Bartlett fell to the ground! Clarissa spotted his wife outside of an open window of the facility with another oxen shoe in her hand, and because Mister Bartlett had not gotten knocked out, he commenced in crawling to her like a spider! He propelled himself with swiftness, but Clarissa was a little faster! Not only did she put a briny boundary below the window, but she dashed with enough acceleration to encircle the besieged man! He blasted out terrible screeching noises as his frame convulsed with nightmarish jerking! Without warning, he emitted one last hideous howl and went into an inanimate state!

            “You slayed him!” Missus Bartlett bellowed.

            “You don’t know that!” Clarissa refuted. “He may still have a pulse…”

            When Clarissa stooped down to check on his status, Missus Bartlett blocked her from accessing him! “Keep your wicked touch off of my husband! This is all your fault! You see what your reckless spells have done? You get to be the troublemaker and the hero like this, don’t you? You’re not fooling us! Stay out of our lives forever!”

            Clarissa backed away, but additional irate participants surrounded her! They all shouted such voluminous vehement at her that she had become totally overwhelmed and didn’t know what to do! All of a sudden, she espied Gabrielle’s palm pop out from beneath a couple of bystanders’ arms, and when Clarissa clasped it, Gabrielle pulled her out of the throng! The villagers had more cross words to dole out to her, but the two women ignored them as they ran into the darkness!

            Escaping from the horde’s animosity did not allay their unrest! As Gabrielle and Clarissa fled, a gusty draft flew by and taunted them, “What have you gained from your resistance? You think you’re defending against a damned destiny, but your efforts have done nothing to diminish my prowess! You shall never find relief, and your land shall never know peace! I will get you snakes for your lawlessness! No one can throttle my barrage!” Clarissa and Gabrielle reached the porch of the inn, so they no longer withstood the chilling force, but prior to their entrance into this safeguard, Alastor belted out a final dig at them, “No one!”

            The two ladies slammed the door behind them and took a minute to catch their breath. After witnessing that level of atrocity, Clarissa had no clue what to tell herself, so it baffled her on how to break the ice with someone she was barely acquainted with! She felt compelled to converse with her guest though, especially after going through an ordeal like that, but the images from this evening kept flashing across her senses! At least one neighbor met his demise while many others received severe afflictions, and an ally in her profession whom she had known for years almost slaughtered her! Granted he had no authority of his acumen, the visualization of murder in his eyes would never cease to halt burning in her memory! And, once again, her intervention had prevented the serious circumstances from worsening, but everybody blamed her for the catastrophe nonetheless! So many emotions swirled within her that she found it too difficult to pick a sole subject to discuss until…

            “I suppose I need to find another butcher!” Clarissa half kidded. She astonished herself by jesting in this instance, but when she beheld the table where Kenneth gave her advice on coping with perpetual tragedy, she mulled over what message the deceased might convey to her, and the joke emerged from her without any further consideration! She lamented their loss, but she was also resolute in obtaining closure on this matter so none of their loved ones would endure the same suffering that they had!

            “That’s okay, you’ll have to wait to purchase meat anyways since you don’t have anymore salt to preserve them!” Gabrielle somewhat anxiously chuckled.

            Clarissa inquired, “How did you know the salt would work against evil spirits?”

            Gabrielle explained, “Wherever we lodged, my mother would sprinkle some underneath the entrances to ward off any harmful energies that tried to get inside. Honestly, I was skeptical about the principles of Hoodoo until tonight! Something deep in my intuition told me it was the right thing to do, so I followed my inner wisdom! It makes me wish I paid more attention to Mama when she taught me more of their remedies!”

            “Did you happen to catch any of their remedies on how to rid an area of a vengeful ghost?” Clarissa probed. She inwardly crossed her fingers that Gabrielle inherited some guidance that could settle this dilemma once and for all!

            “I’m afraid not!” Gabrielle dismally articulated. “My family got auctioned off when I was seven, and after they separated us, I never got an opportunity to communicate with them again! I always prayed that someday I could track them all down and we could reunite once more! Maybe I can do that now that I’m a free person! But, how free am I really with the Hessian plaguing this village?” The two women turned around and gazed at the billowing breeze humming as it flew by…

The Hessian, Chapter 8

Clarissa didn’t make eye contact with anyone as she travelled down Hallow’s Alley, and she ignored the gossip that brimmed in the near distance as she passed through. She was determined to get productive tasks done today, and she knew she wouldn’t have been able to concentrate if she got into another contentious exchange! It was very hurtful to get blamed for the atrocities she strove to prevent, but it also grew quite maddening to constantly point out the truth to those who were willingly blind to it! It would only deter her from saving the afflicted to continually listen to their ill opinions, so, in an effort to do what was right, she decided to shut her eyes to the unflattering actions that befell around her! She couldn’t help having some awareness of the proceedings though, and she used it for extra motivation to get the answers she needed to put a halt to Alastor’s sinister plot as soon as possible!

            When she walked into a building labeled as The General Post, Clarissa saw three men twiddling their thumbs behind the counter, but after they noticed her presence, they all ran out of her range of sight! She walked up to the counter and waited for a least one of them to return. When none of them did, she exasperatedly sighed before calling out, “Excuse me!” She could see a few people sorting out letters and a couple of individuals pouring over some notes by a wooden hand press, but no one even glanced up at her when she reached out to them! More loudly, she repeated her same line, “Excuse me!” Everyone maintained their imperviousness to her. She nearly used the employee entrance to retrieve what she needed for herself, but then…

            “Sorry about that, Miss Harbin!” an older man came out from the back and merrily greeted her. “You know how hectic it can get when you’re the only post for miles! So many farmers need to come in and use our services… Anyways, enough about us! How can we help you?” He had given her an unusual amount of friendliness, which Clarissa could only have assumed stemmed from a fear of incurring her supposedly supernatural wrath! She found that to be a cumbersome new development, but regardless of his motives for the camaraderie that he provided, she was glad to have assistance in this matter and intended to use any benevolence that came her way to her advantage!

            “I need some information,” Clarissa let him know. “It’s for… an unusual subject…”

            A flicker of fretting traipsed across his face upon hearing this revelation. “You don’t say!” he tried to cover his nervousness as he chuckled. “What… What sort of subject would that be?”

            Clarissa hesitated. He clearly already feared that she would probe into a subject related to dark magic, and if she relayed the topic of her request to him, that would have probably only encouraged the ridiculous rumors against her! She reminded herself that the sole route out of the defamation against her character was to collect more clues about the dilemma, so she resigned herself to the fact that this was going to cause more chatter about her true nature and asked the fellow, “What can you tell me about ghosts?”

            Evidently, the entire facility had been eavesdropping on their conversation because, all of a sudden, their activity came to a screeching stop! When they became cognizant of her awareness regarding their movements, they resumed their conduct as though nothing had happened. The gent at the counter politely answered her, “We have stories about ghosts, but they’re mere fairy tales!” He paused and added, “Right?”

            “I wouldn’t know! I’m attempting to sort out fact from fiction myself! What do these narratives depict?” Clarissa inquired.

            “Oh, there’s a variety of accounts describing many different experiences!” he replied somewhat edgily. “Was there something more specific you were after?”

            Clarissa queried him, “Is there anything in these books that explain how to get rid of evil spirits?”

            The man obviously found this question strange, and even though it seemed to haunt him a bit to do so, he mulled it over for a minute. “None of the anecdotes mention any individuals expelling the specters from a certain area! Most of the encounters result in the persons involved moving out of a house or diverting from a particular sector, no one has ever thought about removing them! Who wants to stick around a place where such spooky incidents occurred?”

            “Well, what if they don’t have a choice?” Clarissa posed to him. “What if they have to stay in their abode but they don’t want to keep the ghost around?”

            “Why would somebody inhabit a residence that a ghost has chosen to set its roots?” the man puzzled.

            Clarissa told him, “I doubt anyone would choose to live with a spirit! The spirit chooses them!”

            The man wondered, “Why do specters suddenly opt to deal with the victims that appear to be randomly chosen? Or is it so random? What do they do to invite such horror to their quarters?”

            “That’s the ticket, isn’t it? How do ghosts come about at all?” Clarissa deliberated. “Souls die every day, but most do not linger in the physical world once their bodies have expired! So, what makes these select few remain on Earth?”

            “Hmm… That sounds like something to bring up with Pastor Absalom!” The man gazed at her as though he hoped that his suggestion would tempt her into vacating the premises.

            Clarissa conveyed to him, “I adore talking to Pastor Absalom! I’ve known him most of my life, and he’s always been a great aide when I’m in need! However, at the moment, he’s nursing a painful injury, so I can’t discuss this with him at the present, which is a problem since I need a solution immediately!” The man shrugged at her, so she rather bristly appealed to him, “Can you give me all the literature you have on ghost lore then?”

            The man obliged, “Absolutely!” As he gathered the material for her, he commented, “You know, so few women know how to read that it feels kind of funny to loan out books to one!”

            After Clarissa retrieved her accoutrements, she retorted, “A lot of funny occurrences have transpired in our borough recently, Mister Basker- I hardly think that a lady with a reading ability is so noteworthy after enduring that!” Mister Basker didn’t have a response to that, but as Clarissa took her exit, she could hear that he had a lot to chat about with his peers!

            As Clarissa traversed across the town square, she kept her head held high to maintain the premise that the miscreants at The General Post had not succeeded in ruffling her feathers, but privately, she was outraged! She had done nothing wrong to warrant such mistreatment- all of this suspicion was based on unfounded opinions! She strove to ignore the ignorance, but when she had to approach the perpetrators of this drama directly, it made her furor flare! She despised that so many people’s vitriol had swayed their sense of logic and propelled them to unjustly target her! It was completely unfair! She could feel passersby staring at her as she travelled by the church, but she did not engage with anyone who may have been a part of that garrulous circle. She couldn’t! With her white-hot temper brimming just beneath the surface, she knew that if she allowed anybody else to get under her skin, she would have wound up acting like the witch they accused her of being!

            When Clarissa passed by The Golden Nook Brew, she intended to zip past it with as much haste as she could muster in order to avoid the loudmouth named Elmira who dwelt within its walls, but then she heard a crash emanate from within the coffeeshop that compelled her to pause! She truly believed that another one of Alastor’s lethal attacks was underway, so she steeled herself up to intervene! In the precise instance that she inwardly grumbled about these assaults occurring on a daily basis, she beheld a horrific scene, but no the one she had been expecting! Gabrielle was cowering on the floor as Oceanus was repeatedly smacking her! “How dare you behave so clumsily!” Oceanus bellowed. “Don’t you dare waste my money again!” Clarissa couldn’t stand to see a woman who had been so nice to her receiving such unfair pain and misery, and she was ready to unleash her animosity on that reprobate, but before she could set foot on their property, a more permanent remedy to this issue popped into her thoughts! She swiftly scurried to her dwelling to prepare for her scheme…

            Oceanus sat down at a table in his café slightly winded, but he picked up his composure when he detected the sounds of a visitor. His face fell when he realized that the entrant had been Clarissa! “Oh, it’s you. Have you come to apologize?”

            “Better! I’ve come to do business with you!” Clarissa plopped a considerably sized sack of coins onto the surface in front of him, and she smirked at the level of animation that swept over his face as she presented her offer- she could tell it would prove hard for him to refuse her preposition!

            “Have a seat,” he begrudgingly invited her. Once she had situated herself in a chair across from him, he petitioned her, “What are you after? A share of my inventory, I presume? I must warn you, I don’t fancy the concept of endorsing a rival! Although, your enterprise has been pretty destitute of customers, so I suppose that it wouldn’t hurt to permit you access to my ware!”

            Clarissa almost found it amusing that he adopted the assumption of her lacking practicalness prompted her to buy stock for clients that she didn’t have, but she refrained from bringing up any tidbits that might repel him. She did need to allude to something along those lines to make her case to him though, so as politely as she could, she canvassed him, “Has commerce stayed steady for you this past month, Mister Montgomery?”

            Oceanus’ expression soured upon that reference, but he immediately wrangled a smooth veil for his agitated emotions, “Ah, you know how it is! Profits fluctuate quite frequently! May I examine the contents of this purse?” She gestured his admittance to him, and Clarissa could see through his nonchalant guise- the authenticity of her payment pleased him! He glimpsed back at her and affirmed, “This seems like more than enough for a small slice of my warehouse! Are you aiming to buy me out?”

            “No, I’m aiming to buy her out!” Clarissa indicated to Gabrielle, who had been covertly perched behind the coffee bar. Clarissa didn’t know who looked more surprised by her proclamation- Gabrielle or Oceanus!

            “My dear, my laborer is not for sale…” Oceanus refused out of perplexion.

            Clarissa anticipated a little resistance, so it did not daunt her at all. “Everything is for sale if you name the right price!” Oceanus still seemed reluctant, so she scooped up her coinage and began to set it back in her satchel. “Well, perhaps this brewhouse is doing well enough that you don’t need this capital…”

            Oceanus’ visage grew distressed as he watched her bag distance itself from him, and prior to Clarissa’s departure, he relented, “Alright! You’ve got a deal!”

            “Splendid!” Clarissa grinned and resumed her previous position.

            “Pardon my leave while I draw up a bill of sale,” Oceanus regarded Clarissa.

            Clarissa informed him, “Actually, I have one here!”

            Oceanus raised an eyebrow at this, but he didn’t see any cause to not accept it. As she signed the document, he conversed, “I can imagine that running your tavern would be taxing to take on alone, but are you busy enough that you truly need assistance?”

            “My late husband left me a considerable fortune, and it’s mine to do with as I like!” She handed him her quill and willed him to make this arrangement official, and thankfully, he did! He returned the paper and the pen to her, and she bade him, “Pleasure transacting with you!” He curtly nodded, and then she directed Gabrielle, “Come along!” She cautiously followed Clarissa out, and when Clarissa esteemed that they were out of earshot of Oceanus, she dove into her satchel and handed Gabrielle a piece of parchment.

            “What’s this?” Gabrielle peered at the sheet.

            Clarissa proudly notified her, “Your release! Gabrielle, you’re a free person now!”

            Gabrielle gazed at her in disbelief. “What?”

            “Here’s your reparation!” Clarissa handed her another sack of money that she stowed in her bag. “Buy yourself some property and live a lifestyle of your own choice!” It slowly dawned on Gabrielle of her improved status, and she stared at Clarissa with extraordinary gratitude! But before she could thank her…

            ‘You snake!” Elmira shrieked. “You took away our property for no real reason! You only meant to inconvenience us!” Clarissa aspired to protest against her accusations, but soon, several witnesses to this spectacle chimed in with their own criticisms! She couldn’t get a word in edgewise! She observed Gabrielle clearing away from the tumult, and she decided to do the same.

            Clarissa had never been more grateful to return to her empty house! Both of her plans failed miserably, and while earlier, she held such high hopes of moving ahead, she bitterly denoted that she appeared worse off than ever! She began to solace herself with the acknowledgment that circumstances could have been far less favorable- at least she didn’t have to contend with that vengeful spirit! Suddenly, she tripped and tumbled by her front stoop! Prior to her having the ability to pick herself up, her fingertips touched something cold…