The Hessian, Chapter 3

The further down the alleyway he went, the darker and darker it seemed to get! Kenneth never took much stock into claims of witchcraft, but with all of the unnatural aspects that he observed during his short time in Colfrith, he began to wonder if the villagers’ story had any merit! The silence of the north end was unnerving! He almost wished that more of the malicious townsfolk resurfaced! Each inch forward that he and his steed took made him feel more and more paranoid! The air had a strange electricity to it- he felt as though he was back on the battlefield! He would’ve preferred to have returned to the war in this instance, at least he had a better sense of what that enemy was capable of! He couldn’t fathom what to expect right then, but he was positive an attack was eminent! Just when his tension reached its peak, a loud noise sounded in the distance!

            Kenneth swiveled Bailey to face the perpetrator, and while he had no clue what he would contend with, he vowed not to go down without a fight! He fully anticipated running into a formidable, supernatural foe, but to this astonishment, the source of the din had merely been a man lighting a candle in a nearby streetlamp! At that juncture, it occurred to him that the growing dimness he witnessed had simply stemmed from the setting sun! He admonished himself for falling prey to such flights of fancy, and as he commanded Bailey to renew their journey, he committed himself to avoid spooking his thoughts with paranormal concepts! The inhabitants of this area really got into his head, and he realized that these reprobates probably wanted him to get frightened like that! This convinced him even deeper to not let his anxieties get the best of him! Still, as they trotted along, he couldn’t shake the sensation of some sort of malign force readying itself for an ambush!

            At last, he spotted a wooden sign in the distance that marked the entrance of The Leafy Taverne! The colorful leaves that surrounded the inn’s name gave the venue a charming tone, and the verdant plants that bordered the front stoop were quite a welcomed change to all of the deadened flora he encountered in this terrain so far! He couldn’t imagine any sort of dark magic wielder occupying this space! Although, he remained cautious as he tied his ride to the banister by the stairs… “If you hear any funny business happening in there, feel free to kick down the door and get us out of here!” Kenneth requested to Bailey. Bailey stared at him blankly, and as Kenneth turned towards the building, he knocked on wood that if he was stepping into peril that he could find his way out!

            When he used the knocker, he heard the sound echo throughout the abode! He thought that was an eerie omen, and a part of him hoped no one would answer so that he could escape from this place and search for another individual with the ability to give him directions to Philadelphia, but to his dismay, a woman responded to him, “Come in! I’ll be out in a minute!” He wanted to dread this encounter, but something in the timbre of her voice made him think that the dweller within did not contain a wicked bone in her body! His instincts propelled him to go forth without hesitation, and he heedlessly obeyed this whim!

            From the manner in which she was described, Kenneth envisioned a shadowy interior with spiderwebs and a bubbling cauldron simmering with a sinister substance, but he didn’t see anything like that! He walked into a well-lit room with dozens of cozy wooden tables and matching chairs, and there wasn’t a speck of dust as far as he could see! There were several cushy stools lined up neatly against a bar, and even the staircase behind it appeared inviting! It was the only sight he had seen in this hamlet that gave him even a hint of warmth, which led him to contemplate how on earth the citizens of the borough could possibly have drummed up an ill opinion of its governess! He recalled that they mentioned something about her husband dying mysteriously, which prompted him to consider that perhaps this hospitable hall bore a false pretense of safety…

            He saw a pale pink dress descending the staircase, and his pulse began to race! No matter what her intentions with him were, he was about to confront them! He steeled himself up for a contentious brawl, but as soon as he espied her soft visage, all of his worries disappeared! She had a radiant smile and nimble, light-beige skin that made her glow, and her golden-brown eyes displayed a mix of fierce kindness and a scrupulous intelligence! Her graceful curves made her appear to glide across the surface, and he no longer believed he was dealing with a witch! In fact, his throat practically closed up from nerves as he mentally prepared himself to speak with an angel!

            When she caught a glimpse of him, her eyes widened in shock, and she paused with the apparent inclination of retreating back upstairs! He momentarily fretted that his presence had offended her, but then she regained her composure and apologized, “Forgive me! You’re not who I was expecting!”

            “Neither are you!” Kenneth repeated her sentiments in hopes of creating some common ground.

            “Hmpf! I supposed you heeded the rumor that I’m sort of sorcereress!” she disdainfully remarked.

            Kennenth instantly regretted his comment, and he attempted to smooth things over, “I listened to them, but if I had accepted them as fact, I wouldn’t have come!” She seemed mollified by this, so he breathed a sigh of relief and then explained, “My name is Lieutenant Kennth Harvey, and I’m with the Continental Army! I was a reconnaissance mission and got lost, so I need to get some guidance on how to return to camp. Would you be able to tell me how to get to Philadelphia?”

            She asserted to him, “No, I can’t!” His expression fell! She had been his last resort for refuge in this nightmarish place, so if she could not offer him assistance, he feared that he would meet his doom in this macabre municipality! Fortunately, she swiftly followed that with, “But my map will do the job!”

            He laughed out of both alleviation and humor! He couldn’t quite predict her next move, but he kind of found that intriguing! She brought out a folded piece of parchment from behind the bar and invited him, “Have a seat!”

            Kenneth gladly followed her direction, and he got a bit of a thrill when she sat down beside him! He couldn’t decipher exactly why this action had that effect on his mood, but he supposed that it had something to do with basking in comforting aura! She laid out the map and pointed to a specific location on there. “This is where we are.”

            “Ah, I had viewed Colfrith on the map previously! Only on ours it was labeled as C.C. Asher Mill slash Colfrith!” Kenneth’s memory of the region’s layout returned to him as he gazed at this cartography. “This is where our general got the lumber to build our fort!”

            “That’s right! It’s a mark of pride for our population!” Her grin quickly morphed into a frown as she recollected, “Well, at least it used to be…”

            Kenneth’s curiosity piqued at this reference, but he didn’t want to pry in case the matter became too personal to her. Instead, he changed the subject away from the topic that upset her by retracing the history of his footsteps, “Let’s see… I began here, and I went along a small trail there…”

            She asked him, “Egad! Are British troops really hiding so close to my home?”

            “Possibly,” Kenneth answered her. “Or perhaps Hessians.” He had made that statement offhandedly, not picturing that he could have articulated anything significant with that speculation, but when he noticed that she quivered at this mention, he glanced up from the map and perceived from her movements that this theme had seriously startled her! She tried to cover up her apprehension, but he knew that he had stumbled into a fearsome flashback of hers! He sincerely did not want to put his nose where it didn’t belong, but he developed a hunch that he may have been able to soothe her apprehension by letting this bit of background materialize, so he gingerly broached the issue, “I’m sorry if this is an invasion of your privacy, but was your husband’s demise due to a Hessian’s aggression?” She stared at him with tremendous alarm, and he recognized that they had not discussed anything regarding her family life, so he reasoned that it most likely disturbed her that he knew something so typically confidential! He therefore amended his enquiry, “Pardon me for bringing up such a painful reminder, but some of your neighbors touched on… well… He may have gone down in an unusual fashion…” He immediately kicked himself for his choice of alluding to this affair and dearly prayed that he hadn’t fallen out of her good graces for this blunder!

            “My husband got examined by a doctor after his death,” she revealed. He was delighted that she had opted to privy him with this information, and he hung on her every word as she spoke, “And while he saw no evidence of foul play, he also could not determine a cause of death. Everyone theorized that I performed some sort of spell on him, but I’ve never engaged in the occult! I swear it was the alcohol that did him in! Once I had learned the ropes of how to run our inn, he let me take over while he imbibed with our guests. He got sicker each day he did that, but no one else believed he was in any danger! They merely regarded it as a bad habit that he developed and left it at that!”

            Kenneth reflected on that, “So, they’ll believe that you’re capable of a fantastical jinx, but they won’t buy that liquor may have become lethal after a certain level of consumption?” She uproariously laughed at this ludicrous concept, which made Kenneth’s heart soar! He had done well in chatting about her recent past after all, and so she decided to seal her more elated emotions by stating firmly, “For what it’s worth, I believe you!”

            She broadly beamed at him and expressed, “I appreciate that!”

            “You’re very welcome!” He pleasantly peered at her, but as their eyes met, he had the sudden urge to show her some romantic affection! The pull was strong, but his more logical side resisted. It was a crazy notion! He got the impression that her husband had departed not so long ago, and he hadn’t even learned her name yet! He tore himself from her torpor, cleared his throat to rid his mind of any lingering amorous urges, and readdressed the original conversation, “Oh, it appears as though that I can get to Philadelphia by continuing to travel along this pathway to the north!”

            “The lumberjacks and deliverymen stopped using that route,” she brought up. “They seemed to indicate that it was dangerous!”

            Kenneth frowned at that pronouncement. “Hmm… Can I really count on their judgment though? If they want to believe otherworldly malevolence can stem from a woman like you, then why should I trust their wisdom?” She simpered at his embellished compliment, and Kenneth knew that if he didn’t leave right then that she may have tempted him into never leaving again, so he compelled himself to bid her adieu, “Thank you so much your assistance, Miss…”

            She filled him in, “Harbin. But you may call me Clarissa.”

            “Until we meet again, Clarissa!” He tipped his hat in a courteous manner, and as he made his way towards the exit, his heart ached! He assured himself that if he still harbored this infatuation by the finish of the war that he would revisit her, and it would be an easy feat to complete now that he knew how to get to and from these quarters! Just as his hand hit the doorknob, thunder cracked and the torrential downpour he experienced earlier resumed! He heard Bailey whinny in distress, and he cried out, “My horse!”

            “There’s a livery out back!” Clarissa relayed to him as he dashed out the door.

            When Kenneth came back inside, his uniform was completely soaked! He debated whether or not to spread his slipperiness throughout Clarissa’s well-maintained residence, but then, from upstairs, Clarissa shouted, “I have your room ready!”

            Kenneth inquired, “I’m spending the night here?”

            “Well, you can’t hardly traverse any trails in such terrible weather!” she replied. He inwardly admitted she had a point and climbed to the second level. He saw Clarissa standing before an open door, and she let him know, “I put a warming pan in there so you don’t catch a cold! And I have my husband’s old pajamas for you too. I’m afraid that they’ll be a tad big on you, but it’s better than sleeping in wet clothes! When you’ve changed, leave your clothes in the hall and I’ll put them by the fireplace so that they’ll be dried by morning!”

            “I truly appreciate this!” He pat through his pockets and then told her, “Unfortunately, I didn’t bring any money…” She tried to object to that premise, but then he exclaimed, “Oh, I got it!” He took off his wedding ring and attempted to hand it to her. She raised her eyebrows to that gesture, so he elucidated, “I’m a widower! I just kept that on because…” He bit his lip as he could see that he didn’t really have a solid basis for this quirk! “She’s been gone for over ten years, I just…” He trailed off as he felt his cheeks burning red.

            Clarissa gently chuckled and pushed his hand back. “Keep it! Patriots do not have to pay for a bed here! You’ve given enough already!” He shined with gratefulness, and she genially bade him, “Good night!”

            He pleasurably returned, “Good night!” They exchanged obliged looks prior to turning to their perspective rooms.

            With such a pleasant interaction with an attractive lady, especially one whose gentle touch lingered with him extensively, Kenneth reckoned that he would sleep well that evening, but he couldn’t relax with the howling wind outside! He swore he could still detect irate whispers in the gale! As he laid on his cozy bed, he replayed his discourse with Clarissa and denoted that he had forgotten to dive deeper into the Hessian ordeal. He hypothesized that she simply had an aversion to this group, but when he closed his eyes, he beheld a pair of angry eyes glaring at him! As he bolted up, he pondered if there was more to this Hessian thing than she had led on…

The Hessian, Chapter 1

“Everyone, gather ‘round!” a man with golden-brown eyes and long, black hair tied in a ponytail held on to his blue, tri-corner hat as he wildly gestured to the gallows next to him on stage. A flurry of feet dashed across the cobblestone road as they abandoned their endeavors at the boxy, brick cottages and shops to watch the spectacle promising to unfold, and a myriad of cellphones rose to the air as the attendees prepared for the event. The man broadly grinned admiring the wide array of costumes and festive colors while he waited for the crowd to simmer down, and when they finally had, he proudly announced, “It’s time to hang the Hessian!”

            He gestured to a painting of a surly male wearing an ornately patterned cloak, lavish ascot, feathered hat, and a luxurious cane that he leaned on with an arrogant laxness, and the onlookers all booed and hissed at the artwork. One person shouted, “Traitor!”

            “Murderer!” another individual hollered. The rest of the masses whole-heartedly agreed with the two of their sentiments.

            One woman stared at him with revulsion, and, in a spooked tone, commented, “Look at his beady eyes! I feel like they’re watching me!” The spectators around her glanced at it apprehensively and voiced their shared opinion of her assessment.

            The man on stage challenged them, “Are we gonna let this dirty rat get the better of us?”

            “No!” the throng enthusiastically responded to him.

            “Good! Bring the betrayer’s body out!” the man on stage instructed a couple of people behind the scaffold. The congregation heckled the figure that got escorted to the noose- a paper-maché scarecrow, and they continued their hollering until the character had the rope firmly fixed around its neck. With a wry smile, the man on stage queried the audience, “Who’s ready to le him have it?” They all avidly affirmed their desire to witness this show, so he boisterously articulated to the scarecrow, “Alastor Derstreich, for the crime of treason as well as the heinous acts which threatened our liberty, we hang thee!”

            He pulled the lever, and the surface beneath the scarecrow disappeared! The force of the suspension made its torse snap off from the rest of itself, and the scarecrow’s trunk plummeted to the ground! When it fell apart, candy burst out, and the nearby children snatched as much of it as they could! As soon as most of the goodies had been collected, one youth’s father instructed her, “Quick, Amethyst! Go protect Hallow’s Alley!”

            Amethyst’s dad, like many of the parents around him, handed his kid a container of salt, and Amethyst happily joined her peers in running up and down the lane laying salt in front of the doors and windows. Some of the adults passed out small bunches of burning sage to willing participants, and a small young lady watched as the celebrants exchanged glad tidings to one another in addition to individuals who didn’t appear to actually exist. As she heard a chorus of “Bless you, Elmira Montgomery!” and “Fare thee well, Elijah Absalom!”, she asked her mom, “Why are they doing that, Mommy? Don’t they trick-or-treat around here?”

            The man who had emceed the mock hanging heard her enquiry and assured the little girl, “Of course we do, love! But first, we have to ensure that the Hessian doesn’t return!” Both of the ladies gave him blank stares, so he inferred, “Oh, you must be tourists!”

            “We’re from Boston,” the woman informed him as she eyeballed Alastor’s painting nervously. “Okay, is there motion sensors in that thing or something?”

            “Don’t worry about him! He can’t hurt you!” the man consoled her before concluding, “I imagine our customs are a bit confusing without knowing the story behind it all! Well, as tour guide of the historic district known as Colfrith, Pennsylvania, it is my duty to tell the origin of our annual tradition! Those who wish to hear the tale of the Hessian, please have a seat among us!” Several passersby showed interest in this prospect and sat down in front of the tour guide, and then he dramatically began his saga, “It all started at the southern entrance of the village in September seventeen-seventy-seven…”

            Alastor walked out of a grand house and glanced at a gilded pocket watch that he drew out from his opulent garb. “It appears I’ll beat you, Cornelius!” He smirked at the elongated edifice at the edge of a stream, and then he briskly grabbed his cane and walked in the opposite direction. He passed by several townsfolk, all of whom merrily greeted him. Alastor cordially acknowledged them all but did not halt his gait or chat with anyone until he reached the town square…

            A man with a powdered wig and stately attire broke from the gentleman and lady in his company and jovially hailed Alastor, “Alastor, old chap! How nice to see you!”

            “Old chap! I’m fifty- aren’t you only a few years behind me, Brenner?” Alastor joshed him.

            “Oh, you unlicked cub! Come here!” Brenner unceremoniously threw his arms around Alastor and squeezed him tight enough for him to feel his pot belly flatten on him! Alastor got a whiff of whiskey on his breath, and the smell deterred him enough to cause him to break eye contact. He gazed at the gray-haired pastor he had previously been speaking to, but he couldn’t bear to stare him in the eye! His female companion was somehow worse though! Her golden-brown eyes peered at him in a stern fashion that gave him the uncomfortable sensation of being adeptly surveyed, and for logic that addled him, he got the impression that if he lingered on her for too long, she would discover all of his secrets! He didn’t know where he drew that conclusion from, nothing about her appearance suggested she had any desire to do something of that sort! Her chestnut hair had been pinned back in an elegant manner, and her light-beige skin didn’t have a single blemish on it! He greatly admired her voluptuous curves, and if it hadn’t been for his suspicions, he might have tried to woo her away from her boorish husband! He didn’t understand his intuition’s reasoning, but he knew better than to go against the wisdom of his instincts! He quickly turned his attention back to Brenner, who vociferously questioned him, “Alastor, my friend, when are you going to pay a visit to me inn?”

            Alastor could feel Brenner’s wife poring over his every move, so he covered his visage slightly as if this move held the promise of shielding him from her scrutiny. He didn’t comprehend what could have possibly created this mistrust within her- he had been very careful not to do anything that would cause these citizens to lose confidence in his loyalty to them! He blocked her from his thoughts as he amicably relayed to Brenner, “I can hardly refuse my business partner’s hospitality, can I? And I’d love to hold meetings at your establishment, but it would be rather rude to go anywhere but the Golden Nook Brew! You know who his fiancée is, right?”

            Brenner seemed slightly disappointed by this tidbit, but he remained in good spirits as he discoursed with him, “Aye! Well, always keep in mind that if anything changes, you’ll always have a place at The Leafy Taverne!”

            “I appreciate the gesture!” Alastor held out his hand and invited Brenner to shake in hopes of preventing this conversation from getting prolonged any further.

            “Happy to be of service, my friend!” Brenner jocularly shook hands with Alastor and gave him the trusting smile of a faithful confidante before turning back to his wife and directing her, “Come, Clarissa! To The Hefersmith!”

            As Clarissa took her husband’s arm, several of their neighbors affectionately heralded Brenner much like they had with Alastor, which Alastor privately felt bitter about! If Brenner had not been so instrumental in this operation, he would have gladly cut ties with that drunkard and his prying spouse!

            When Alastor entered into the coffeehouse, he saw a dark-skinned woman behind the counter wiping down the already fairly pristine surface. Her deep-umber eyes widened as if she were frightened by his appearance, but her pouty lips stayed fixed in a frown, so he assumed that her ocular reaction stemmed from abruptness of his entrance. She courteously asked him, “Can I get you something to drink, sir?”

            Alastor politely refused, “Not today, Gabrielle. But I’ll take a pastry if you have any ready.” Gabrielle nodded and tightened her bonnet prior to completing the task ahead of her.

            It surprised Alastor to see a well-dressed, blonde patrician already roosted at a table! He lightly stroked his beard as he waited for Alastor to notice him, and after he did, his already wrinkled cheeks suddenly grew even more creased as he let out a laugh! Alastor inquired, “How did you arrive here so quickly?”

            “Production is up, so my sawmill is ahead of schedule!” he boastfully replied as Alastor took his perch across from him. “So, feel free to give me a large order! I have plenty of lumber to spare!”

            “Are you certain of that?” Alastor probed. “If more continental soldiers need supplies, is my order going to get backlogged again?”

            He asserted, “I don’t anticipate that being an issue! General Washington needed to build a new fort in a hurry, but it’s already been built, so how much more wood could they possibly need?”

            Alastor cynically stated, “They may need to move headquarters again if the British keep besting them like they have!”

            “Oh, come now! We won the last battle!” he argued as Gabrielle served Alastor a muffin. “If our troops keep up this pace, the war will be won, and I can go to Philadelphia to retrieve my product back for resale!”

            “Cornelius!” A girlish, red-headed woman sauntered up to the sawmill owner and sweetly entreated him, “May I bring it out now?”

            Chuckling, Cornelius permitted, “Go ahead!” As she scampered to a room behind the counter, Cornelius let Alastor know, “My intended has a present for you!”

            Alastor’s brows furrowed as to what she could have possibly had in store for him, and then Cornelius’s young fiancée as well as taut, blonde teenage lass brought out a vibrant painting of him! He gawked at it in shock, and then he uttered, “What? But I never posed for a portrait!”

            “Ah, you probably had no inkling that your frequent visits to my shop made you the perfect subject for a piece of art!” A fancily clad man around Cornelius’s age emerged into their vicinity and joined in on the discussion, “My Elmira is quite the talented creative!”

            “Yes, but we must recognize my Drusilla’s role as well,” Cornelius brought up.

            The blonde teen brushed that notion off, “No, no, Father! I merrily kept her company as you and she worked!”

            Alastor graciously remarked, “Thank you very much, Miss Montgomery!” Elmira beamed, and he planted a grin on his expression, but inwardly, he cringed at this picture! It was quite masterfully done, but he did not want any reminders of his stint in these quarters once he finished what he came to do! Already envisioning methods of destroying it, he felt compelled to keep up his friendly front and affably changed the subject, “Speaking of work, we must go over my order…”

            Once they settled that matter, Cornelius headed to his vocation while Alastor perused around the town square. He kept his ears open for keywords he needed to hear in order to ensnare potential targets. Today, he felt positive something big was on the horizon- he could feel it in his gut! Someone important in this area must have been primed for his influence! His conviction for a personal victory became more and more copious… until he passed by the butcher’s shop! He was mortified to see Clarissa and Brenner still in there! He crept past the window hoping to avoid their contact, but unfortunately, Brenner espied him! He froze when he heard him shout, “Alastor! Alastor, hold on a minute!” Alastor paused his footsteps and faked like this reunion was welcomed. To his astonishment, Brenner’s tone got more serious as he requested, “Can we chat somewhere more secluded?”

            Alastor, now very curious, consented, and they strolled over to the empty field next to The Hefersmith. After Clarissa bade the butcher and his wife farewell, she stood outside of the store with their purchased goods and kept her distance from the twosome. She couldn’t imagine what they were conferring about, but she didn’t have any impulse to interrupt. She did watch them from afar though, and soon, Alastor opened up his cloak to hand Brenner a document! She tried her hardest to discern what information it could have possibly contained, and then, all of a sudden, a strong gust of wind whisked away one of Alastor’s papers! Alastor ran after it, but the gale was too swift for him. Clarissa managed to catch it though! Instead of looking relieved, he became highly horrified! Clarissa instantly knew why too! As some of the others around her gasped in revulsion at the emblem on the red wax seal on the envelope in her grasp, Alastor fretfully beseeched them, “I can explain!”

            “He’s a Hessian!” one woman exclaimed.

            “He’s a traitor!” a man hollered. Alastor attempted to reason with them as they all advanced on him, but they ignored his sniveling and seized him!

Later that night, the entire town gathered around to see Alastor in the gallows. Most of the drove vehemently bellowed at him, but they were too numerous to discern precisely what was being said, although it was obvious that none of them offered him any praise! He saw Brenner and Clarissa gazing at him with an air of absolute seriousness, and it almost stunned him that they were not screaming too! Brenner must have viewed this development as a betrayal, and Clarissa never really harbored an ounce of fondness for his presence, so he had no clue for their motives to view this ceremony silently!

The pastor joined Cornelius on the scaffold, which did not render him any comfort! On the contrary- it angered him! He couldn’t believe his hard work had come to an end like this, and he despised what would proceed following his demise! No longer bound by his guise of fealty to their principles, he bellowed his sincere feelings to them all, “Your idea of freedom is anarchy! Society needs strict rules to function! If the crown loosens its grip, everything will fall from its fingers! You’ll only doom our world if you gain independence, mark my words! You’ll-!”

Cornelius cut him off, “Alastor Derstreich, for the crime of treason as well as your heinous acts that threatened our liberty, we hang thee!”

            “Death shall not stop me! I will see that you all pay for your lawless sins!” Alastor screeched. Cornelius ignored him as he pulled the lever, and everyone beheld Alastor as his breath shortened more and more. As soon as the light disappeared from his eyes, silence emanated throughout the expanse. Moments later, a cold draft flew by everyone, and as they nursed their lowered temperatures, the entire village got overcome by the same ghastly premonition- something dangerous had just been unleashed!