“This town shall burn to the ground!” a demonic voice shouted. Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla raced out the apothecary and were horrified to have seen the candle shop on fire! But that was hardly the most disturbing sight that they saw out there…
“Father?” Drusilla cried out when she espied the man who appeared to have produced the frightening pronouncement.
Cornelius instantly turned around upon hearing that recognition, but he did not look like himself! His eyes were severely dilated, and he bore a wicked smile! He raised one of his hands as if he was about to throw something, and Clarissa could see that Drusilla was in too much shock to evade this maneuver, so she seized her and dragged her back inside! They made it within a split second of his projectile landing where they once stood, and the lightning bolts he emitted left a scorch mark on the cobblestone!
Once they were out of his scope, Clarissa grunted in pain as she winced at her aching arms! Gabby nearly commentated on this, but then she saw Drusilla nearly dart of the door, so she immediately grabbed her! Drusilla shouted, “Let me go! I have to save my father!”
“Drusilla, your father isn’t here right now!” Gabby emphatically uttered to her. Drusilla started to object, so Gabby reiterated her original message, “Alastor’s got him! Focus on defeating him!”
“Alastor’s got him? Do you mean that fellow is possessed?” the apothecarist puzzled.
Cornelius bellowed, “Your shelter shall not save you! One way or another, you shall face me!”
An electric flash enveloped their periphery for a brief instance, and when it vanished, the walls were covered in flames! Clarissa queried the apothecarist, “Does that answer your question?”
“We have to get out of here! Oh, but as soon as we set a foot on that road, he’ll incinerate us!” Gabby fretted.
“Not necessarily!” the apothecarist disagreed. “You could send out the mugwort first!”
Clarissa quizzically responded, “Send out the what?”
Drusilla broke free from her hold and determinedly declared, “Unhand me! I got this!” She weaved through the small blazes and went behind the counter. She quickly grabbed two bottles and rejoined the others by the entrance. She placed the small one in Clarissa’s palm and directed her, “Drink this!” She told the apothecarist, “Someone on your remedy waiting list is going to have to wait!” Before he could react, she threw the larger bottle that she retrieved out onto the street…
As soon as Cornelius saw movement out of that exit, he hurled lightning to it! The instant his trajectory hit the vial, smoke billowed up high! Gabby grasped the apothecarist’s wrist and pulled him out of the fiery building, and Drusilla as well as Clarissa dashed out shortly afterwards. They all hid behind some large barrels, and as the fog cleared, Clarissa downed her elixir. She could feel its warmth trickle down her throat, but it hadn’t quite reached her limbs yet when the haze cleared. She considered shielding herself until it did, but then she heard something that let her know that she wouldn’t have time for this tonic to become effective…
“Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion goes about seeking whom he may devour…” With one extremity in a sling and the other holding a Bible, Pastor Absalom had read out loud to Cornelius! Cornelius swiveled his focus to him, but prior to him striking Pastor Absalom, Clarissa burst out of that hiding spot and flung salt at him! Some of it hit his skull, and he let out a roar so voracious that its soundwaves knocked Pastor Absalom and Clarissa to the ground!
“Your malevolence shall be your downfall!” Gabby thunderously announced as she used the inferno that Cornelius had set to light her strand of sage, and after it ignited, she held it up like a torch and marched towards Cornelius. Cornelius let out a gust of wind that snuffed all of the combusted material in the area, including her sage! He didn’t stop there- clouds appeared out of nowhere and raised him several feet into the sky above them!
Drusilla stoutly addressed him, “Father, you dropped this!” She tossed a cross necklace to him, and mid-flight, Cornelius shot it down! He aimed his palm at her, and…
For a moment, Clarissa swore she saw a flash of Cornelius’ green irises! He swiftly shook his head, and his dilation returned while he attacked some bystanders! Clarissa’s mind reeled from witnessing that spectacle! The strength imbued in the medicine she took kicked in, and she used it to pick herself up! She posed in a stalwart stance and braced the heightened gale as she mentally prepared herself for this critical juncture…
“Lucy wants you to come back, Cornelius!” Clarissa vociferated.
“Don’t talk to him!” Cornelius growled following another burst of jade hue shined through the darkness.
Clarissa ignored that directive and urged Cornelius, “I saw you fight him, Cornelius! Keep going! Do it for Lucy!”
Cornelius hollered, “Cease your blather!”
He gestured as though he intended to emit more bolts, but Clarissa interrupted this process, “What about your daughter, Cornelius? See what you’re doing to her!”
Clarissa alluded to Drusilla, who was on the floor cowering down with tears rolling down her cheeks! Cornelius’ visage nearly normalized, but then something violently jerked his neck in another direction! “Don’t pay attention to her!” Cornelius’ fiendish alter-ego commanded, which made Clarissa’s heart flutter with hope of her plan’s effectiveness!
“Lucy would hate what you’re doing to her!” Clarissa ardently articulated.
“She’s lying!” the deepened voice within Cornelius argued as the mist slowly lowered him down. “This town deserves to get destroyed for the monstrous anarchy it unleashed onto the world!”
Cornelius’ normal tone croaked out, “No!”
His irregular voice differed, “Your bid for freedom will initiate disorganization and tumult throughout the earth! You know this to be true! We must destroy these people!”
“But these are my people! And this is my land!” Cornelius’ usual talk countered.
“You don’t deserve it!” his alter-ego hissed. “You need to give it up for the sake of humanity!”
Cornelius shot back, “For the sake of humanity? You claim to care about your fellow man, but you continually commit atrocities against them!”
His alter-ego quarreled, “If they simply did the right actions all along, none of this would be necessary!”
“So, you believe it’s necessary to torture and slaughter innocent people? How does that aid your cause?” Cornelius challenged him.
“I-!” the alter-ego attempted to justify his behavior.
Cornelius cut him off, “No! I don’t want to hear it! Away with you! Now!” Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla watched as Cornelius’ eyes flickered between black and green, and they could see the control of his movements constantly shifting in its nature. The trio of women crossed their fingers and hoped for the best, though the event’s lengthy duration gave them momentary doubt on the odds of its success. Clarissa inwardly speculated whether or not they should intervene, and then suddenly, Cornelius fell backwards onto the cobblestones! They heard Alastor’s angry roar above their heads, and a forceful breeze vacated the vicinity!
Clarissa, Gabby, and Drusilla were almost certain that the bloodthirsty specter had departed from that sector- almost! None of them wanted to fall for one of his traps, so they wordlessly agreed that they needed to approach the situation with caution. Drusilla slowly edged closer and closer to Cornelius and petitioned him, “…Father…? Is that you…?” Cornelius didn’t respond, and as she approached his very still body, Gabby and Clarissa readied themselves to defend her. “Father, are you alright?” She stood over him, and…
Cornelius abruptly grappled her and pulled her down! Clarissa and Gabby raced towards the pair with their adrenaline pulsing high from the expectation of a fight, but instead, they saw that Cornelius was beaming as he gave her a hug! With teardrops of immense relief, Cornelius conveyed to her, “Oh, Drusilla! I’m so glad that you’re safe!”
“Why? Why would you rejoice her safety when she’s the one who put you in this debacle in the first place?” an onlooker snidely commented.
“She would dare to go after her own family! What a shame!” another member of the crowd chimed in.
A woman refuted that claim, “She and her colleagues helped relieve him of his symptoms! Why would they incite the incident and then remedy it?”
A man contended, “To appear blameless for the crime! They should not get credit for cleaning up the mess that they created!”
“They made him appear regular again!” a small boy piped up. “They made him get better!”
“Only because they made him worse before that!” a little girl asserted. “My mother said they’re saying a dead man is doing all this scary stuff, but how is that possible?”
Clarissa notified them, “It was witchcraft, but not from our hands!”
One of their neighbors folded her arms and probed, “Oh really? Who committed this sorcery then? Was that the dead man too?” Some of the spectators chuckled in agreement, and Clarissa wasn’t sure how to quiet this critique. She knew that her late husband did the brunt of that heinous ritual, but based off of what they gleaned at the apothecary, Alastor obviously played a role in that misdeed! She knew eventually she had to overcome her discomfort of disparaging Brenner’s upstanding reputation, but she didn’t know how she could expose the truth when she was still striving to decipher what the facts of this scenario even were! She felt pressured to make a decision hastily- her silence was starting to insinuate her guilt!
“Maybe if we lock them up in a prison cell, they couldn’t get their clutches on us anymore!” an additional neighbor suggested, and many of his peers vehemently concurred with his sentiments!
“Absolutely not! I’ve heard enough!” Cornelius authoritatively yelled. He tried to pick himself up to make his point, but he couldn’t exactly muster the strength, so Drusilla, Gabby, and Clarissa aided him in this endeavor. He leaned on them like a crutch as he avidly orated, “I will not have unfounded accusations ruling my village! You cannot confine a person based off of a hunch or rumor! Unless you have proof of any laws that they have broken, you have no justification for jailing them! Now, go about your lives and be thankful that you still have them!” A few instantly heeded his word, but several individuals seemed somewhat defiant. Cornelius gave them stern glares, which made them obey, but Clarissa could hear a lot of mutinous muttering that pondered whose side Cornelius was on.
As the masses dispersed, Gabby inquired to Cornelius, “How are you feeling, sir?”
Cornelius replied, “Like a weight got lifted off of my chest! It felt so odd- one minute, I’m running a simple errand, and the next, I have this orb within me controlling my every move! I could sense my muscles getting used, but my vision was blackened and my nerves were numbed to all of my activity! It was like I was in a dream, and I had to struggle to wake myself up! It is a miracle that I can control my own locomotion again!”
“Indeed, amen to that! Your bride will be so grateful for this blessing too!” Pastor Absalom brought up. “Unless you are too ill to carry on with the ceremony…”
“No, no! I’ll be in tiptop shape before tomorrow! Oh, but speaking of my fiancée, I was supposed to grab some… Oh!” He glanced at the scorched candle shop with mournfulness.
Pastor Absalom offered, “I have some that you may borrow. Feel free to lean on me!”
Cornelius accepted his proposition, “I appreciate that!” Prior to his leave, Cornelius genially regarded the trio of women, “Thank you for everything! I’ll see you all at the wedding tomorrow!” And, with that, the two parties went their separate ways.
On the route back to the inn, Gabby remarked, “It feels sort of funny that something so ordinary as a wedding could transpire in the midst of all of this chaos!”
Clarissa stated, “I doubt that anything about this wedding will be ordinary!” As they climbed the steps to the tavern, they detected some furious wailing echoing from the northern woods…