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…