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…