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…