“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…”