The Hessian, Chapter 13

“Do you know what this is?” Gabby asked Clarissa. 

“No,” she answered her, “but I… I’ll be right back!” 

Clarissa dashed downstairs and headed straight to the bar. She knew she left it down there somewhere, and she compelled her memory to jog faster! She had forgotten all about her urgent need to solve another mystery, and now that the resolution seemed close to fruition, she forced her eyes to rediscover this object with more haste! Finally, she spotted it beneath the papers she procured for Cornelius and Elmira’s wedding reception! She snatched it up immediately and climbed back to the upper level. 

As soon as she re-entered the room, Clarissa showed Gabby a small key! “A couple of nights ago, I came across this in my yard! It didn’t resemble any of the ones I already had in my possession, and I couldn’t figure out what door it unlocked until now! Perhaps… We shall see!” Clarissa nervously brought the key towards the little hole in the enigmatic chest. Apart of her hoped that it would fit, but another part of her prayed that she was wrong because whatever substance this container held probably wasn’t anything good- people rarely kept good things out of sight! Regardless of the case, she had to find out the truth, so she stuck the key in… It surprised her that the key fit! She slowly turned it, and her heart beat rapidly as they heard the cogs release the lid’s seal! They each grasped a side, and they lifted the cover…  

“Huh?” Clarissa racked her brains over what they saw! She pulled out several candles with burnt wicks and melted wax, a few black feathers, and a lock of dark-colored hair! “Wow! I truly believed we stumbled into something meaningful to our cause, but it appears as though we simply uprooted a spot where Brenner stored his waste!” She chucked a stick back into the trunk in disappointment. 

“I doubt Brenner would have gone through this much trouble to hide refuse!” Gabby countered as she gazed at the box with discernment. She found blackened soil at the bottom, and she surmised, “This earth looks burnt! The only motive for storing that would be that someone charred something that they shouldn’t have! And the rest of this would be innocuous on their own, but putting them together must hold significance to someone or else he would have disposed of them in another manner!” 

Clarissa queried, “So, what are you saying? Brenner put these objects together to make some kind of statement?” 

Gabby responded, “Maybe. But I’ve seen my mother use some of these items in her rituals…” 

“Wait, so you reckon that Brenner performed some sort of magic?” Clarissa pondered. 

“Or at least he tried,” Gabby confirmed. “I suppose he could have been mentally ill and collected random rubbish.” 

Clarissa mulled the matter over a moment, and then she reflected out loud, “Brenner’s mind went soft the more he drank, but I don’t recall any instance where he ever really behaved bereft of himself! Most of the time, he was in the tavern socializing with our guests. He did occasionally leave to imbibe with his acquaintances, but I never questioned his activities because he always came home completely muckibus! I suppose he could have engaged in devious actions prior to his inebriation, but… That’s an unimaginable thought! Brenner had his many faults, but he wouldn’t have participated in any occupations of the occult! He would have had no reason to attempt anything like that unless he figured out a supernatural means of garnering more alcohol!” 

Gabby relayed to her, “Brenner always struck me as an overt individual, but when you told me he had business books while showing a lack of interest in actually doing business, I grew suspicious of his literature. I was about to investigate them when I fell into this hole!” 

“A hole containing materials for some kind of spell…” Clarissa jumped over to the bookshelf and seized a title regarding finances. She unfolded the pages and crossed her fingers that she would behold boring information on economic practices. Instead, she found print on a more astonishing topic… “This is Loyalist paraphernalia! But that can’t be right! Brenner was always a devout Patriot! Perhaps a previous guest placed this in there by mistake!” 

“This book also talks about Loyalist ideals,” Gabby reported as she perused through a publication. 

Clarissa poured through each novel on the shelf, and she discovered that none of them contained the subject that they were supposed to! She raced through the pages faster and faster with the aspiration of unearthing something that proved the other texts wrong or pointed to a culprit other than Brenner, and when she recovered none, she grew a little faint and dizzy! Gabby aimed to assist her, but Clarissa made it to the bed on her own. After taking a minute to absorb these new sets of facts, she uttered, “I was married to a traitor! I feel like vomiting!” She could hardly fathom receiving this kind of revelation on a person she knew for over a decade! She wasn’t quite sure what to do with this news, and a sensation of being lost overwhelmed her until she noticed Gabby studying some of the tomes. “Megatie me! You can read?” 

Gabby grinned. “Drusilla used to frequently accompany her father during his meetings under the guise of wanting to spend time with Elmira, and since Elmira isn’t that much older than her, neither of their fathers assumed anything of it. In reality, Elmira would pay more attention to her paintings than her visitors, so she didn’t really care what Drusilla did during the process. Drusilla and I developed a friendship, and since she has a passion for stories, she insisted on teaching me so that I could share her pursuit!” 

“Drusilla gave me the mixture that remedied Phineas from his paranormal affliction!” Clarissa remembered. “Does she ever review literature pertaining to potion making?” Gabby shrugged. “Hmm… She either concocted it herself or she purchased it from an expert in that field- either scenario would signify that she has at least some knowledge on this lore! We need to consult her in order to make sense of this all!” 

“That could prove difficult,” Gabby stated. “After her life was threatened yesterday, Cornelius will probably keep a close eye on her. But I agree with you- we have to find an avenue of speaking with her alone!” 

Bernard walked down a row of white tents cordially nodding at his fellow soldiers as he passed by. He attempted to convey as much aloofness as possible, but inwardly, his senses were bogged down with the heaviness of the catastrophes that surrounded him! As if the war wasn’t bad enough, he couldn’t stop thinking about the mission he embarked on that no one else knew about! It felt strange to keep a secret from the men that he trusted with his life, but if it got out, valued protection of a certain region would vanish, so he refused to articulate a word to anyone on this operation! As he headed into the tent of his destination, he took a deep breath and knocked on wood for the best possible outcome! 

As soon as Bernard entered into his quarters, he saw Kenneth holding a letter with an expression full of distress! He panicked and cried out, “What is it, sir? Is it Drusilla? Or Clarissa? Did something happen? Are they okay? Did they-?” 

“Woah, woah, woah!” Kenneth interrupted his ravings. “This letter isn’t from Colfrith! And everything is fine! Well, sort of… It’s just… My mother wrote and said…” 

“Is everything fine at home?” Bernard inquired with concern. 

Kenneth’s lips pursed, and then he exhaled in an exasperated fashion prior to revealing, “My oldest daughter is a woman now!” 

Bernard gasped, “You mean she was intimate with man?” 

“No! But if she ever resorted to that, she’s obtained the ability to make me into a grandfather!” Kenneth shuddered at that concept. 

“Oh, I see! Well, I comprehend one aspect of it anyways. I fail to grasp how that’s a strenuous event…” Bernard scratched his scalp as he mused over Kenneth’s reaction. 

Kenneth fretfully exclaimed, “I’m not ready for her to grow up!” Bernard stared at him blankly, so he added, “You’ll understand one day when you’re a father!” 

Bernard wasn’t sure how to reply to the image that he raised, so instead, he used that last phrase as a stepping stone for the issue he had been wanting to raise all along during this encounter, “Speaking of fathers… Father Clarence is busy tonight. A few soldiers succumbed to their wounds, so…” 

“We’ll chat with him before he turns in for the night,” Kenneth concluded. Bernard looked baffled by that statement, so he expounded, “Listen, I’d love to go one day in this war where we don’t lose a single member of our force, but if we wait for that day to transpire, we’ll never get our chance to converse with him! I know it isn’t proper, but nothing about this dilemma is conventional! It may be a slightly out of the ordinary, but I’d do anything to save Clarissa! Would you do the same for Drusilla?” 

“Of course!” Bernard adamantly affirmed. “Yes, I’m with you, sir!” 

Gabby probed, “You want me to go in alone? Why?” 

Clarissa reasoned, “It’d be pretty odd to view a woman entering into a public building with two buckets on her shoulders!” 

“Since when did you get so easily embarrassed?” Gabby posed to Clarissa. 

“I’m not embarrassed! I’m simply fed up with being the source of gossip for the borough!” Clarissa hung her head low in shame of admitting that they had gotten to her. 

Gabby assured her, “I won’t be long!” 

Clarissa gave her a grateful smile as she went inside. While she waited in front of The General Post, she discerned that more and more passersby ogled her. She silently grumbled over her inability to avoid this fate, and right when she was debating whether she would fare better in there or outside, a voice whispered into her ear, “You’re not safe anywhere!” He startled her by his abrupt appearance, but she rejected the inclination to cower down to his sinister advances! She spun around to confront him, but he was nowhere in sight! She scanned the entire vicinity, but she saw no sign of his presence! More villagers gawked at her following that behavior, but she no longer got affected by them at this juncture! 

“So, what did you put in your letter to Kenneth?” Gabby jovially petitioned Clarissa as she re-emerged. When she saw that her act had caused Clarissa to jump in fright, she quickly cast off her gossipy mood! “What’s wrong?” 

“He’s here somewhere!” Clarissa reported. “I heard him…” 

Gabby gazed around the town square, but she couldn’t distinguish any portents of peril, so she quietly addressed Clarissa, “Let’s go to the well. He’s bound to reveal himself eventually through the course of our tasks!” Clarissa nodded, and they exited that sector. 

Until they arrived to a secluded section of the hamlet’s outskirts, they remained on high alert for the onset of Alastor’s siege, but everything was eerily normal! When they queued up behind a long line of women with pails, they visually combed over the vicinity with as much thoroughness as they could muster! Clarissa was certain he was going to strike – he wouldn’t have goaded her if he hadn’t intended to do something malign! As she examined the ladies before her, she nearly missed an important clue to a different bind… “Drusilla is here!” she let Gabby know. 

“Should we talk to her?” Gabby wondered. 

“Only if we wish to discuss things that are acceptable to fall on our neighbors’ ears!” Clarissa frowned. Getting spooked by that hellish Hessian temporarily pushed Brenner’s box of trinkets out of her thoughts, but since it renewed itself, she ached to consult Drusilla! She was so young, but if she had the ability to produce an effective elixir, she calculated that she likely had a plethora of helpful tidbits on the predicament! She wanted to maintain the belief that her late husband had an innocent motive for stashing those ingredients to perform a rite, but she could not fathom how that would be possible… 

An older girl towards the front suddenly yelled out in anguish, and her sister worriedly checked in with her, “Ophelia, are you hurt?” 

Ophelia breathily conveyed to her, “It’s choking me!” 

“What is?” her sister inquired. 

“This!” Ophelia replied in a tone far deeper than her own as she tossed her cross necklace to the ground… 

The Hessian, Chapter 12

With one swift sweep, Phineas picked Clarissa and Gabby up and threw them across the sawmill floor! They landed on a wooden table, which broke upon impact! Clarissa felt pain course throughout her body, but she had no time to nurse her injury since Phineas bounded over to them in a rapid, dog-like fashion! Gabby and Clarissa each reached for their canisters of salt, but their crash broke open the seals and the entire contents of their vessels spilled out onto the ground! When Phineas approached them, they each grabbed a handful and tossed it into his face! He roared like a beast and leapt out range of their projectiles! A couple of men with axes attempted to defend themselves, but he seized their weapons and flung them far from him! He briskly swung his newly acquired combat tools at anyone who dared to go near him- no one could get within an inch of him!

            “Gather up as much salt as you can!” Clarissa directed Gabby.

            “What are you doing?” Gabby cried out. “He’ll kill you!”

            Clarissa ignored her pleas and brought up, “His left hand isn’t as strong as his right. You see how it trembles?” Gabby was confused by her remarks until she unearthed a cross necklace that had fallen beneath the top of her dress and explained, “Harming me hurt him! Do you really think he’ll make that mistake twice?” Gabby intended to protest again, but then they witnessed a man who had been trying to subdue Phineas get hit in the top of his skull and plummet down with the axe still attached to him! Gabby and Clarissa winced, and then Clarissa proclaimed, “Lives are at stake! I’ll distract him long enough for you to gather enough salt to cast out his spirit!”

            Before Gabby could say no, Clarissa headed towards Phineas! When she got within his range, she brandished her crucifix and commanded, “Put down your blade!”

            Phineas screeched at her in defiance and vaulted to another sector of the facility! Most of the men scrambled away from the area prior to his arrival, but one man was not so fortunate… As he held up his arms in a protective manner, Phineas chopped one of them off! He made another bid for the rest of him, but Clarissa put herself between the two! Phineas growled at her and then hurried to the front of the factory.

            Drusilla moved in Phineas’ direction, but Cornelius shielded her and vociferated, “I will not watch my daughter endure that fate!” Drusilla fought against her restraints, but when Phineas neared them, she ducked! Cornelius mimicked Clarissa’s move and held up his own religious talisman, and Phineas shied away from that spot. When he left, Cornelius glanced around and called out, “Drusilla? Drusilla, where did you go?”

            Phineas aimed his axe for another victim, but he managed to elude his blow and run behind Gabby. A number of individuals figured out that she possessed a repellent to the darkness within him, but as the line of salt around her diminished from both Gabby’s gathering and all of the pandemonium, their stronghold seemed less secure. Everyone fled as Gabby took a sturdy stance ready to fire from her arsenal, and Clarissa raced to assist her. When she got within his periphery, Phineas used his injured palm to shove her away from his target! She slammed into another workbench and grimaced as she absorbed the agony!

            When Clarissa opened her eyes, she beheld Gabby tossing the salt at him, but to her horror, he dodged it! As he advanced on Gabby, Clarissa didn’t know what to do in order to defeat him! All of a sudden, she felt a tug on the back of her sleeve! She couldn’t fathom who or what could have done that, so she turned around with intense curiosity. It shocked her to see Drusilla crouched under the table, but it flabbergasted her when Drusilla handed her a small vial with a green potion in it! Baffled, she gazed at Drusilla for clarification, and Drusilla nudged her head towards the pending peril. Clarissa didn’t understand all of the details of this solution, but she didn’t have a moment to spare for questions! She rose up and raced to the scene!

            Gabby evaded him with as much haste as she could muster, but Phineas was quicker than her. When he had her cornered, he raised his axe! She ducked and covered herself to the best of her abilities, and he belted out a shrieking and echoing battle cry! Then… Preceding any fatal hit, Clarissa poured the strange substance into his mouth and shut his jaw so he couldn’t’ spit it out! As the fluid descended his throat, Clarissa prayed this mysterious mixture would drive Alastor’s influence out of him!

            Phineas started to convulse tremendously, so Clarissa released him. He jerked faster and faster, and then he abruptly arched himself backward! Clarissa and Gabby noticed a cold wind fly past them, and they knew he was cured! When Phineas erected his spine, he looked around in confusion. “What the devil just happened?” he wondered out loud as he observed the aftermath of the catastrophe. When he espied his bloody clothing, he worked out what had transpired and raised the axe in his hand to himself…

            “No, Phineas! No!” Multiple people beseeched him not to do it, and Gabby as well as Clarissa lunged to save him, but they couldn’t get him fast enough! Phineas lodged his deadly device into his visage, and he quickly succumbed to his wounds! His peers all gasped and moaned in sorrow, and the two women beside him stared at his body woefully wishing they were just a fraction of a second faster! “Poor Phineas! It wasn’t his fault!” one of his coworkers lamented.

            “I don’t blame him for feeling guilty though! I’d off myself too if I knew I killed Samuel!” another sawmill worker morosely conversed.

            As a couple of employees used a belt to create a tourniquet for the victim with a missing limb, Cornelius anxiously yelled, “Drusilla? Drusilla, where are you?”

            Drusilla emerged from her place of refuge and shouted, “I’m here, Father!”

            “Oh, thank Heavens!” Cornelius exhaled in relief. She sped over to him, and as they embraced, he let her know, “Well, you got your way- I won’t have you anywhere close to this establishment anymore!” He peered directly into her eyes and asserted, “I lost your mother, I won’t lose your too!” As the entire enterprise grieved and recovered, Clarissa and Gabby decided to depart. Neither of them had gotten over the gravity of what they saw, and their presence did nothing to add value to anyone’s mood. Moreover, Clarissa wanted to exit prior to this trauma getting fully absorbed in their minds because she did not want to go through more unjust blame and slander after seeing such carnage! She didn’t think anyone detected their movements, but then Cornelius reminded them, “Don’t forget your boards!”

            “Yes, sir!” Clarissa speedily responded. She and Gabby hurriedly gathered the planks along with Drusilla’s letter that she promised to deliver, and they darted out before anyone else could utter a word to them! As they traversed Hallow’s Alley, passersby gawked at the sanguine stains on their wardrobes. They didn’t speak to anyone as the pair made a beeline back to the inn…

            Bernard held his lantern up so he could see through the fog, and he hollered, “Lieutenant Harvey? Lieutenant Harvey, are you here?”

            From a distance, Kenneth conveyed to him, “I’m down here!” Bernard rushed down a hill and found Kenneth sitting on a log that overlooked a vast array of graves. Kenneth glanced up at Bernard, and Bernard discerned a shadow of glumness on his face. “Did you worry that I got lost again?” Kenneth inquired.

            “No,” Bernard replied. “You’re just not where I expected you to be! The rest of the single fellows went to the city to fraternize with the ladies, but are you here…”

            “As are you,” Kenneth pointed out. “You’re at the age where gents covet sowing their wild oats- not interested in landing yourself a pretty, young woman?”

            Bernard disclosed, “I’ve already got one! Well, at least, she’s got me! We only had a brief interaction during my short stint in Colfrith, but I… I don’t know! I just got this premonition that I don’t need to search for any other girl! Am I mad for believing that idea?”

            Kenneth chuckled, “Of course you’re mad! But that’s what occurs when a woman captures your heart! That’s what led me here tonight…”

            “Madness?” Bernard queried as he sat beside him.

            “In a sense.” Kenneth surveyed the scenery before them. “I’m somewhat befuddled by a concept, and I thought perhaps our comrades could provide me with guidance.”

            Bernard uncomfortably mentioned, “Uh, sir… These soldiers have fallen! The dead cannot interact with us!”

            Kenneth forlornly disagreed, “I only wish that were the case! A terrible wraith has taken over Colfrith, and everyone who inhabits the region is in complete danger!”

            “You mean someone is after my Drusilla?” Bernard’s eyes widened in alarm.

            “A Hessian spy hanged for his crimes, and now he seeks revenge against every citizen in those quarters! I know that sounds totally daft! I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it myself! His specter aspired to torture me to my demise, and he would have done if Clarissa, the innkeeper, hadn’t come to my rescue! It wasn’t a fever that kept me at The Leafy Taverne…” Kenneth admitted. “I gave that account to General Washington so I could carry on with my duties, but now that my secret is out, I suppose I should go say goodbye to my children and prepare myself for a life in a bedlam…”

            Bernard assured him, “No, no! This stays between us! You’re probably the most rational person I’ve ever met, so if you say there’s a violent ghost out there, I’ll believe you! Plus, I’d do anything to protect Drusilla! She doesn’t deserve to undergo that kind of torment!”

            Kenneth concurred, “No, she doesn’t! None of them do! Especially not Clarissa! She’s been expelled from their society based on lies and a lack of understanding, and it’s become her responsibility to save everyone from that murderous phantom! She has no one else to assist her in this matter, so I want to do all I can to support her! The trouble is I have no inkling on how to do that! How do you destroy a being who is already deceased?”

            “I don’t know!” Bernard solemnly articulated. Kenneth hung his head low, and as Bernard scanned the various tombstones ahead of them, he suddenly incurred a spark of inspiration! “But I know somebody who might…!” Kenneth ogled at him with incredulity and pondered if he should resist the urge to get his hopes up or not…

            “What if we simply placed a flowerpot over the hole?” Clarissa proposed as she and Gabby stared at the hole next to the bookshelf in the room that Kenneth previously occupied. “Or we could cover the hole with a rug and bar any visitors from using this space…”

            Gabby puzzled, “Why would you want to do that? Don’t you want to learn what’s in the hollow?”

            Clarissa exclaimed, “No! If any sort of wickedness is lurking in there, I’d rather have it stay there forever and not learn of its existence!”

            “Wouldn’t you reckon that whatever is in there would have been released the instant I broke through the panel?” Gabby challenged her.

            “What if we disturb something by removing it from its cache?” Clarissa fretted. Gabby gave her a reproachful countenance, so Clarissa apologized, “I’m sorry! Lately, every sliver of progress we’ve made towards solving this mystery has only caused atrocities that made our circumstances worse!  And your nightmare still haunts me as well…”

            Gabby sagely reacted to her qualms, “Yes, we may unearth more horror into the world, but what if we come across a cure instead? We could miss out on something really beneficial by relenting to our misgivings!”

            Clarissa acceded, “You’re right! We can’t risk a shot at victory over unfortunate possibilities! Okay, let’s do this!”

            As Clarissa used a hammer to loosen the nails form the broken floorboard, Gabby pulled it upwards. Inwardly, Clarissa crossed her fingers that the small chasm would prove to be empty after they finished, but as they removed the marred plank, her pulse accelerated astronomically! Someone had stashed an item in there! Gingerly, they pulled the object out, and Clarissa gasped when she beheld its sight…

The Hessian, Chapter 10

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…

The Hessian, Chapter 9

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…

The Hessian, Chapter 8

Clarissa didn’t make eye contact with anyone as she travelled down Hallow’s Alley, and she ignored the gossip that brimmed in the near distance as she passed through. She was determined to get productive tasks done today, and she knew she wouldn’t have been able to concentrate if she got into another contentious exchange! It was very hurtful to get blamed for the atrocities she strove to prevent, but it also grew quite maddening to constantly point out the truth to those who were willingly blind to it! It would only deter her from saving the afflicted to continually listen to their ill opinions, so, in an effort to do what was right, she decided to shut her eyes to the unflattering actions that befell around her! She couldn’t help having some awareness of the proceedings though, and she used it for extra motivation to get the answers she needed to put a halt to Alastor’s sinister plot as soon as possible!

            When she walked into a building labeled as The General Post, Clarissa saw three men twiddling their thumbs behind the counter, but after they noticed her presence, they all ran out of her range of sight! She walked up to the counter and waited for a least one of them to return. When none of them did, she exasperatedly sighed before calling out, “Excuse me!” She could see a few people sorting out letters and a couple of individuals pouring over some notes by a wooden hand press, but no one even glanced up at her when she reached out to them! More loudly, she repeated her same line, “Excuse me!” Everyone maintained their imperviousness to her. She nearly used the employee entrance to retrieve what she needed for herself, but then…

            “Sorry about that, Miss Harbin!” an older man came out from the back and merrily greeted her. “You know how hectic it can get when you’re the only post for miles! So many farmers need to come in and use our services… Anyways, enough about us! How can we help you?” He had given her an unusual amount of friendliness, which Clarissa could only have assumed stemmed from a fear of incurring her supposedly supernatural wrath! She found that to be a cumbersome new development, but regardless of his motives for the camaraderie that he provided, she was glad to have assistance in this matter and intended to use any benevolence that came her way to her advantage!

            “I need some information,” Clarissa let him know. “It’s for… an unusual subject…”

            A flicker of fretting traipsed across his face upon hearing this revelation. “You don’t say!” he tried to cover his nervousness as he chuckled. “What… What sort of subject would that be?”

            Clarissa hesitated. He clearly already feared that she would probe into a subject related to dark magic, and if she relayed the topic of her request to him, that would have probably only encouraged the ridiculous rumors against her! She reminded herself that the sole route out of the defamation against her character was to collect more clues about the dilemma, so she resigned herself to the fact that this was going to cause more chatter about her true nature and asked the fellow, “What can you tell me about ghosts?”

            Evidently, the entire facility had been eavesdropping on their conversation because, all of a sudden, their activity came to a screeching stop! When they became cognizant of her awareness regarding their movements, they resumed their conduct as though nothing had happened. The gent at the counter politely answered her, “We have stories about ghosts, but they’re mere fairy tales!” He paused and added, “Right?”

            “I wouldn’t know! I’m attempting to sort out fact from fiction myself! What do these narratives depict?” Clarissa inquired.

            “Oh, there’s a variety of accounts describing many different experiences!” he replied somewhat edgily. “Was there something more specific you were after?”

            Clarissa queried him, “Is there anything in these books that explain how to get rid of evil spirits?”

            The man obviously found this question strange, and even though it seemed to haunt him a bit to do so, he mulled it over for a minute. “None of the anecdotes mention any individuals expelling the specters from a certain area! Most of the encounters result in the persons involved moving out of a house or diverting from a particular sector, no one has ever thought about removing them! Who wants to stick around a place where such spooky incidents occurred?”

            “Well, what if they don’t have a choice?” Clarissa posed to him. “What if they have to stay in their abode but they don’t want to keep the ghost around?”

            “Why would somebody inhabit a residence that a ghost has chosen to set its roots?” the man puzzled.

            Clarissa told him, “I doubt anyone would choose to live with a spirit! The spirit chooses them!”

            The man wondered, “Why do specters suddenly opt to deal with the victims that appear to be randomly chosen? Or is it so random? What do they do to invite such horror to their quarters?”

            “That’s the ticket, isn’t it? How do ghosts come about at all?” Clarissa deliberated. “Souls die every day, but most do not linger in the physical world once their bodies have expired! So, what makes these select few remain on Earth?”

            “Hmm… That sounds like something to bring up with Pastor Absalom!” The man gazed at her as though he hoped that his suggestion would tempt her into vacating the premises.

            Clarissa conveyed to him, “I adore talking to Pastor Absalom! I’ve known him most of my life, and he’s always been a great aide when I’m in need! However, at the moment, he’s nursing a painful injury, so I can’t discuss this with him at the present, which is a problem since I need a solution immediately!” The man shrugged at her, so she rather bristly appealed to him, “Can you give me all the literature you have on ghost lore then?”

            The man obliged, “Absolutely!” As he gathered the material for her, he commented, “You know, so few women know how to read that it feels kind of funny to loan out books to one!”

            After Clarissa retrieved her accoutrements, she retorted, “A lot of funny occurrences have transpired in our borough recently, Mister Basker- I hardly think that a lady with a reading ability is so noteworthy after enduring that!” Mister Basker didn’t have a response to that, but as Clarissa took her exit, she could hear that he had a lot to chat about with his peers!

            As Clarissa traversed across the town square, she kept her head held high to maintain the premise that the miscreants at The General Post had not succeeded in ruffling her feathers, but privately, she was outraged! She had done nothing wrong to warrant such mistreatment- all of this suspicion was based on unfounded opinions! She strove to ignore the ignorance, but when she had to approach the perpetrators of this drama directly, it made her furor flare! She despised that so many people’s vitriol had swayed their sense of logic and propelled them to unjustly target her! It was completely unfair! She could feel passersby staring at her as she travelled by the church, but she did not engage with anyone who may have been a part of that garrulous circle. She couldn’t! With her white-hot temper brimming just beneath the surface, she knew that if she allowed anybody else to get under her skin, she would have wound up acting like the witch they accused her of being!

            When Clarissa passed by The Golden Nook Brew, she intended to zip past it with as much haste as she could muster in order to avoid the loudmouth named Elmira who dwelt within its walls, but then she heard a crash emanate from within the coffeeshop that compelled her to pause! She truly believed that another one of Alastor’s lethal attacks was underway, so she steeled herself up to intervene! In the precise instance that she inwardly grumbled about these assaults occurring on a daily basis, she beheld a horrific scene, but no the one she had been expecting! Gabrielle was cowering on the floor as Oceanus was repeatedly smacking her! “How dare you behave so clumsily!” Oceanus bellowed. “Don’t you dare waste my money again!” Clarissa couldn’t stand to see a woman who had been so nice to her receiving such unfair pain and misery, and she was ready to unleash her animosity on that reprobate, but before she could set foot on their property, a more permanent remedy to this issue popped into her thoughts! She swiftly scurried to her dwelling to prepare for her scheme…

            Oceanus sat down at a table in his café slightly winded, but he picked up his composure when he detected the sounds of a visitor. His face fell when he realized that the entrant had been Clarissa! “Oh, it’s you. Have you come to apologize?”

            “Better! I’ve come to do business with you!” Clarissa plopped a considerably sized sack of coins onto the surface in front of him, and she smirked at the level of animation that swept over his face as she presented her offer- she could tell it would prove hard for him to refuse her preposition!

            “Have a seat,” he begrudgingly invited her. Once she had situated herself in a chair across from him, he petitioned her, “What are you after? A share of my inventory, I presume? I must warn you, I don’t fancy the concept of endorsing a rival! Although, your enterprise has been pretty destitute of customers, so I suppose that it wouldn’t hurt to permit you access to my ware!”

            Clarissa almost found it amusing that he adopted the assumption of her lacking practicalness prompted her to buy stock for clients that she didn’t have, but she refrained from bringing up any tidbits that might repel him. She did need to allude to something along those lines to make her case to him though, so as politely as she could, she canvassed him, “Has commerce stayed steady for you this past month, Mister Montgomery?”

            Oceanus’ expression soured upon that reference, but he immediately wrangled a smooth veil for his agitated emotions, “Ah, you know how it is! Profits fluctuate quite frequently! May I examine the contents of this purse?” She gestured his admittance to him, and Clarissa could see through his nonchalant guise- the authenticity of her payment pleased him! He glimpsed back at her and affirmed, “This seems like more than enough for a small slice of my warehouse! Are you aiming to buy me out?”

            “No, I’m aiming to buy her out!” Clarissa indicated to Gabrielle, who had been covertly perched behind the coffee bar. Clarissa didn’t know who looked more surprised by her proclamation- Gabrielle or Oceanus!

            “My dear, my laborer is not for sale…” Oceanus refused out of perplexion.

            Clarissa anticipated a little resistance, so it did not daunt her at all. “Everything is for sale if you name the right price!” Oceanus still seemed reluctant, so she scooped up her coinage and began to set it back in her satchel. “Well, perhaps this brewhouse is doing well enough that you don’t need this capital…”

            Oceanus’ visage grew distressed as he watched her bag distance itself from him, and prior to Clarissa’s departure, he relented, “Alright! You’ve got a deal!”

            “Splendid!” Clarissa grinned and resumed her previous position.

            “Pardon my leave while I draw up a bill of sale,” Oceanus regarded Clarissa.

            Clarissa informed him, “Actually, I have one here!”

            Oceanus raised an eyebrow at this, but he didn’t see any cause to not accept it. As she signed the document, he conversed, “I can imagine that running your tavern would be taxing to take on alone, but are you busy enough that you truly need assistance?”

            “My late husband left me a considerable fortune, and it’s mine to do with as I like!” She handed him her quill and willed him to make this arrangement official, and thankfully, he did! He returned the paper and the pen to her, and she bade him, “Pleasure transacting with you!” He curtly nodded, and then she directed Gabrielle, “Come along!” She cautiously followed Clarissa out, and when Clarissa esteemed that they were out of earshot of Oceanus, she dove into her satchel and handed Gabrielle a piece of parchment.

            “What’s this?” Gabrielle peered at the sheet.

            Clarissa proudly notified her, “Your release! Gabrielle, you’re a free person now!”

            Gabrielle gazed at her in disbelief. “What?”

            “Here’s your reparation!” Clarissa handed her another sack of money that she stowed in her bag. “Buy yourself some property and live a lifestyle of your own choice!” It slowly dawned on Gabrielle of her improved status, and she stared at Clarissa with extraordinary gratitude! But before she could thank her…

            ‘You snake!” Elmira shrieked. “You took away our property for no real reason! You only meant to inconvenience us!” Clarissa aspired to protest against her accusations, but soon, several witnesses to this spectacle chimed in with their own criticisms! She couldn’t get a word in edgewise! She observed Gabrielle clearing away from the tumult, and she decided to do the same.

            Clarissa had never been more grateful to return to her empty house! Both of her plans failed miserably, and while earlier, she held such high hopes of moving ahead, she bitterly denoted that she appeared worse off than ever! She began to solace herself with the acknowledgment that circumstances could have been far less favorable- at least she didn’t have to contend with that vengeful spirit! Suddenly, she tripped and tumbled by her front stoop! Prior to her having the ability to pick herself up, her fingertips touched something cold…

The Hessian, Chapter 7

The whispers of the wind wafted by her eardrums and drowned out her footsteps as she traversed through the street. Clarissa knew that Alastor was attempting to spook her so that she would turn back and go home, but she would do nothing of the sort! Originally, yes, she had intended on skipping the funeral because yesterday was so emotionally taxing and she didn’t esteem that she contained the fortitude to withstand their intense negativity, but she thought about what Kenneth would have advised her to do if he had been able to stay, and she reckoned that he would persuade her to ignore the contentious lot in order to do the right thing. Saying goodbye to a neighbor was an incredibly courteous act of service to do, but she recognized a more urgent reason to attend this ceremony- she felt quite sure that if the majority of the town was all congregated in one spot, trouble was sure to follow! She didn’t believe that this evil specter could step foot inside of a holy site, but she had no way to verify this hunch! Plus, she feared what may come once everyone left the church! Clarissa anticipated that his letters would question the activities regarding the protection of Colfrith, and she wouldn’t have been able to stand it if she had to write anything that would show she did not try her hardest to keep them all safe! Her initial hesitation caused her to be late, but she became resolute in not allowing anything to prevent her from acting with righteousness in pursuit of their critical mission!

            As she grew closer to the chapel, she saw no other activity in the town square but a few carpenters fixing some slate shingles on a cottage next to the parish. When she passed them, they glared at her in a reproachful manner. She grimaced from the assumption that this would was a portent of her experience in this venture, but she reminded herself that she made this visit for motives far more vital than making friends! Still, she did not relish having to go through this ugly process! It would all be worth it one day, but not that day- this morning was bound to prove rough! While she stared at the heavy wooden doors of her destination, she crossed her fingers that an uncomfortable social situation would t urn out to be the worst issue she dealt with indefinitely, but she had a feeling it would never fare that way for her! She took a deep breath, and as she entered the building, she hoped her prediction would emerge as unfounded…

            “Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to-,” Pastor Absalom ceased his speech as he detected the congregates’ attention waiver. He heard the tardy entrant, but he thought nothing of it until the crowd had evidently deemed it as noteworthy, and when he espied that the source of the disruption had been Clarissa, he could comprehend why their focus had swayed!

            “I’m shocked that she had the nerve to attend this!” one person quietly opined to the individual beside them. With the silence of the room coupled with the acoustic nature of the sanctuary’s walls, that remark clearly resounded throughout the space!

            The masses began to murmur in agreement of the previously stated comment, and Clarissa’s neck craned low in discomfort. She had guessed that no one there was likely to enjoy her company, but now she fretted that her presence would incite a ruckus that would ultimately have her kicked out of there! Pastor Absalom gazed at her piteously, and then he cleared his throat. When nobody’s awareness shifted back to the altar that he stood upon, he repeated that gesture more audibly and then sternly reminded his flock, “Remember, all are welcomed in the Lord’s house! Everyone, please have a seat so we can proceed…” The attendees obviously didn’t think highly of his decree, but they unwillingly obeyed and swiveled back to a more forward position. Clarissa gratefully smiled at Pastor Absalom, and he gave her a quick grin before returning to his sermon.

            Clarissa proceeded toward the front where she had normally sat, but each pew that she went by had people shifting so that it appeared completely full. Not a single person made eye contact with her, but their faces hardened as she neared them. Clarissa sighed and decided to watch the commemoration while standing in the rearmost section of the structure. She felt odd to get placed amongst the servants, but she strove to ignore her awkward inklings and channel all of her care into watching out for signs of Alastor.

            “Hmm! You don’t look like you’ve burst into flames!” Gabrielle, a laborer she had previously seen working at the coffeehouse, softly spoke to Clarissa.

            “Huh?” Clarissa responded with slight confusion.

            Gabrielle clarified, “Everyone is saying that you’re a witch, but from my understanding, a wicked soul cannot set foot onto sacred grounds, so you must be alright! Would you like to sit?”

            Clarissa was completely taken aback by somebody actually showing her some kindness, she almost didn’t know how to react to it! When Gabrielle scooted over and created a space for her, she was so touched that she simply had to accept her offer in order to avoid hurting this generous woman’s feelings! As Pastor Absalom narrated the details of the deceased’s life, Clarissa grew curious about Gabrielle’s knowledge. If she had that bit of information regarding sorceresses, then she deduced that perhaps she had more lore on the occult that she could share! She hoped that after the gathering disbanded, she could press her for recommendations on how to defeat a vengeful ghost…

            “Roger worked hard to provide for his family, but he also put considerable effort into assisting his community.” Pastor Absalom glanced around the area and peered into specific men and women’s eyes to really emphasis his point. “Whenever he could, he would stop what he was doing to lend a hand! He truly exemplified the spirit of giving, and it meant a lot to him to play a part in his community’s well-being! If Roger could communicate anything to us right now, he would plead with his neighbors to follow his example and do all they can to make the village, the entire village, thrive…” Most of the assembly seemed reluctant to adhere to this message, but before he could move on, an earsplitting scream reverberated from outside!

            “Nigel, what did you do?” a woman cried out hysterically. Everyone in the church glimpsed towards the root of the unrest with alarm, but Clarissa was the first to get up and see what was going on. Her foresight had already prepared her for a contentious battle, but she prayed that this conflict would not develop into a deadly dilemma in this instance…

            “Good heavens! Is that man dead?” Elmira gasped as she stood with her father on the stairs of the chapel. As the parishioners exited the establishment, they immediately beheld a man laying facedown on the ground, but they soon learned that the blood trickling out of his skull was the least of their worries…

            A small boy crouched on the rooftop with completely dilated pupils and his lips seething profusely! His mother frightfully commanded him, “Nigel, get down from there!” Nigel stood up and stretched out his foot as though he planned on casually walking off, so his mother urgently requested, “No, not like that!” The child let out a devilishly delightful laugh as he crouched back down again!

            Clarissa emerged from the place of worship with a wooden goblet and raced towards the scene! As Nigel’s mother struggled to convince her son to get off of his dangerous perch, one of the two remaining carpenters mutedly queried to the other, “Do we really want him down here while he’s still… in this condition?”

            Prior to the other carpenter getting a chance to respond, Clarissa pushed past them and darted to their ladder. She clasped the cup using her teeth as she ascended the rungs, and as she heard the astonished buzz emanating from the spectators below, it occurred to her that she had put herself into a potentially perilous position- no one was holding the base of the rail, so the evil inside of Nigel could have propelled him to push her so she would meet her doom! She opted to cast that ominous possibility from her mind! This had to be done, there were no alternatives around it! She told herself that if he charged after her, it would actually work out to her advantage since it would give her a window to strike! When she reached the pinnacle, all she could do was refuse to entertain the notion of any outcome where she didn’t escape unscathed!

            The air grew eerily quiet as Clarissa made eye contact with the besieged boy. Clarissa held on to the ledge with one arm as she took the chalice out of her mouth and clutched it in a fashion that would permit her to move it at the proper moment, and Nigel gawked at the contents of that vessel warily. She waited for a few seconds to see if he would grow inquisitive and approach it on his own, but when he didn’t, she beckoned him, “That’s for you, Nigel! Come over and get it!” Nigel turned to her and bristled, but Clarissa still went on, “It’s a gift! You’ll love it!” Nigel started to gutterly growl at her, but she continued, “Don’t you want to see it?” His snarling intensified, but he didn’t budge an inch, so she discerned that mere baiting wouldn’t suffice! “If you don’t want to retrieve it, I’ll bring it to you!”

            For a brief beat, Clarissa got the impression that he would grant her access to his perimeter, but before she could do that, he lunged towards her! He rapidly crawled like a spider in her direction, and Clarissa readied herself to hurl the essence of the basin at the afflicted youth, but the Nigel abruptly veered off of the side! His mother as well as the rest of the witnesses present screamed as he crawled down the walls of the abode like an insect! Clarissa clung onto the roof fully expecting to lose her solid footing, and it stunned her when he headed straight into the throng instead!

            Everyone tried to flee, but Nigel managed to pounce on one man and knock him to the floor! The man hid his visage, which prompted Nigel to bite his arm! As he tore apart his clothing, Clarissa grabbed the goblet and descended the ladder with as much haste as she could generate! Pastor Absalom reached the pair preceding the finish of her endeavor, and he swiftly propped open his Bible. Nigel gnarled at him, but despite that, Pastor Absalom read out loud, “And forthwith, Jesus gave them leave! And the unclean spirits went out, and-!”

            Nigel shoved Pastor Absalom with enough exertion to make him smack against the cobblestone surface! Clarissa was horrified at this sight, but thankfully, he landed on his limbs and did not seem gravely injured! She then viewed Nigel chasing more bystanders. Her earliest instinct had been to tail him so she could catch him and subdue him enough to endure her impact, but his movements were too fast to pull that off! Fortunately, she dreamt up another idea…

            “Nigel, no!” the kid’s mother desperately pled with him, but he ignored her as he terrorized the multitudes! He stumbled into an elderly fellow on a cane, and sensing his feebleness, he made a beeline for his body! The old gentleman sought to scurry, but he could hardly maneuver with nimbleness! Nigel roared as he reared his dentition, but prior to him sinking his fangs into his flesh, Clarissa popped out and put the chalice in his trajectory! Nigel attempted to free himself, but it was too late! Clarissa forced him to swallow it, and after a bit of writhing, Nigel’s alter-ego let out one last hideous howl! After that, Nigel’s pupils returned to normal, and he passed out! “Nigel!” his mother screeched.

            “Mama!” Nigel wailed as she cradled him. She sobbed uncontrollably as she held him, and he croaked out, “Mama! I feel ill! What happened?”

            No one had the heart to explain it to him! Clarissa surveyed the square, and several individuals were aiding one another in arising after their tumble. A few people nursed the wounds and abrasions that they got during the fracas, and Doctor Cuthbart examined Pastor Absalom. “It looks as though you’ve sustained a humerus fracture.”

            Pastor Absalom winced as he asserted, “I’ll be fine! Please, check on my flock!”

            “You attacked a child! Have you no shame?” Elmira hollered to Clarissa.

            “Is there nothing I could say to convince you that I bear no guilt in this crime?” Clarissa challenged Elmira. Elmira simply persisted in her cold stance, and Clarissa was in no mood to argue, so she shook her head in disgust and marched out of the vicinity. As she aimed to return to the inn, she totally disregarded the snickering that the bitter breeze brought her as it passed…

The Hessian, Chapter 6

“Abigail, no!” a man cried out as this small, petite lady let out a deafening roar while her hands clasped around Clarissa’s throat! Kenneth immediately dismounted his horse to save Clarissa, but he no long had any need to rescue her… As soon as Abigail’s fingertips grazed Clarissa’s cross necklace, she fell backwards as if she had received a huge jolt of unbearable pain! The kindly individual that had uttered that urging stooped down to help her, and as he lifted her up, he counselled her, “I know she angers you, but this is not the way to-!”

            “Argh!” Abigail’s alter-ego hollered as she swiftly swiveled around and strangled him with so much force that everyone around them could hear his bones cracking! A nearby fellow attempted to wrest her hands off of him, but he couldn’t make her budge an inch! Another tall and muscular guy joined in this effort, but he couldn’t produce any results either! Within seconds, her victim fell to the floor! As soon as he left her grasp, she hurled the males attempting to wrest her across the square!

            More individuals tried to seize her, but she flung them away easily like they were mere flies! Clarissa marched up to her brandishing her crucifix, and when Abigail beheld it, she averted her eyes from it as fast as possible! Bystanders used her momentary distraction to pounce on her, but it took five robust men to keep her still! She continued to struggle as they held her back from further attacks, and everyone gazed to each other fretfully to wordlessly seek advice on what to do next…

            Right then, a gray-haired pastor burst out of his church and made a beeline for the chaotic scene carrying a simple wooden goblet, and Abigail put up even more of a fight upon his arrival! He firmly but gently commanded her, “Drink this, my child!”

            “No!” Abigail’s brutish voice resisted. The pastor strove to place the contents of the cup onto her tongue, but she sealed her lips tightly enough that nothing could penetrate them!

            “Here!” Kenneth used his palms to force her jaw open. Once the pastor poured in some fluid, Kenneth hastily shut her mouth.

            Abigail howled in searing agony, and when Kenneth was sure that she had swallowed the liquid, he let go of her chin. She belted out an acrimonious wail, and then she shrilly shouted, “It burns! It burns! What did you put in this?”

            The pastor assured her, “It’s only water! Nothing more!”

            “You’re lying!” Abigail yelled. She let out another sinister shriek, and when her captors felt the strength leave her body, they let her go. She collapsed onto the ground, and after a bit of writhing, she curled into a ball and ceased her movements! The crowd peered over her curiously, and then, quite abruptly, her lids widened! The onlookers jumped back in fright of her potential puissance, but in her own speech, Abigail queried, “What happened? How did I end up here?” No one knew how to tell her the truth until…

            “He’s dead!” a woman lamentably announced. Everybody whipped their focus over to her, and after taking a minute to sob over the strangled man, she pointed a finger to Abigail and proclaimed, “You killed him!”

            Abigail gazed at her bewilderment and denied that accusation, “No! I would never do that to Roger! He was an invaluable friend to-!”

            Roger’s wife wept, “He only wanted to assist you! Why would you do that?”

            “I wouldn’t!” Abigail insisted. “Last thing I remember, I was talking to Clarissa, and…” She trailed off as she turned to Clarissa, and then she probed, “What did you do to me?”

            “I didn’t do anything!” Clarissa adamantly refuted that charge.

            As some of the townsfolk aided her in standing up, Abigail jogged her memory, “One minute, you were saying something bad would occur if we didn’t listen to you, and the next thing I know, I’m lying on the street with no recollection of how I got there! Don’t tell me that took place naturally!”

            Clarissa argued, “You’re mischaracterizing my statement! I came down to warn you of danger and prevent a tragedy from transpiring!”

            “Abigail wasn’t herself during that ordeal!” a witness vocalized. “Something took over her being and controlled her actions! She didn’t take on that evil spirit willingly! Someone put it there!”

            “It wasn’t me!” Clarissa exclaimed. “It was Alastor!”

            Another person contended that remark, “Alastor is dead! How could he have done it?”

            Clarissa let them all know, “His physical presence perished, but his specter did not! He never really left Colfrith…!”

            “How is that even possible?” that same civilian challenged her.

            “I… I’m not sure…!” Clarissa admitted.

            An irate member of the mob decreed, “Let’s apprehend her and try her for murder!” The others agreed and advanced on at once…

            Kenneth stood in front of Clarissa and vexedly spoke up, “Are you daft? Abigail nearly choked her first! If she enacted a deadly spell, why would she use it against herself?”

            “She couldn’t touch her though! Something repelled her…” another observer noted, and the people around him murmured in suspicion.

            “You speak as though she had a mystical charm! That ghoul was repelled by a symbol of our Lord! Are you insinuating that this is an act of evil?” Kenneth spat as he gestured towards Clarissa’s jewelry.

            The spectators appeared to reluctantly accept this fact, but they also seemed steadfastly committed to condemning Clarissa. Prior to anyone else taking the opportunity to further castigate her, the pastor jumped in, “Listen, it is not up to us to judge one another! If any wrongdoing was committed, our Savior will have seen it and shall punish accordingly! Meanwhile, the source of wickedness has disappeared, and now we must focus on the departed…”

            Somebody objected, “But, Pastor Absalom!”

            Pastor Absalom staunchly advised them, “Our attention should not linger on trifles when a poor soul has lost his life! A husband and a father is gone, and we all watched something horrific befall upon our town, so let us all be good neighbors and support each other during a crisis!”

            No one seemed eager to heed his word, but instead of persisting in their bickering, most of the mass chose to disperse. Some people tended to Roger’s wife, but before Pastor Absalom could do the same, Clarissa gratefully told him, “Thank you!” He smiled, gave her a friendly pat on the back, and then went over to console the grieving widow. Clarissa turned to Kenneth, and neither of them had to say out loud that it wouldn’t be wise to continue their mission anymore that day. They mounted Bailey, and their hearts ached as they heard the piteous mourning behind them! Their empathy got lost though when the wind carried the faint sound of malevolent laughter!

            “We’re being invaded!” Cornelius Cole declared in aghast as he eyeballed a small group of Continental soldiers riding by him.

            “What are you talking about?” the youngest soldier in the bunch, who just happened to be closest to him, responded quizzically. “We’re fighting for your freedom, and-!”

            Cornelius snarled, “You’re nowhere near a battlefield!”

            Drusilla piped up, “I disagree, Father!”

            “Hush, Drusilla!” Cornelius ordered her before shifting his attention to the young soldier again. “You have no right to be here!”

            “Father, they’re probably just searching for Lieutenant Harvey!” Drusilla pointed out to Cornelius.

            Cornelius scolded her, “Don’t you help another one of them! It’s bad enough that the last scoundrel brought the downfall of my top logger! Who knows what the doom the rest of them will bring about!”

            With a discernable twinkle in her eye, Drusilla feigned acquiescence, “Alright, fine! I won’t tell him that Lieutenant Harvey is at The Leafy Taverne!” She gave the young soldier a covert wink, which made his emotions stir magnificently!

            “I’m taking you home before you cause any more trouble!” Cornelius took her by the wrist and yanked her away from the vicinity.

            “If you need anything, my name is Private Bernard Malin!” he called after them. Drusilla glimpsed back at him with a grin, which made Cornelius drag her away faster! That didn’t stop Bernard from staring at her movement as long as she was in his sight!

            One of his brethren parked himself next to Bernard so that he could wave his hands in front of his face. Bernard woke himself out of his torpor, “Huh?”

            His fellow soldiers all snickered in amusement, and the one closest to Bernard joshed him, “Private Malin, may I remind you that you’re still on duty…!”

            “How do you expect me to concentrate on a recovery operation right now? The most beautiful girl in the world just winked at me!” Bernard cooed.

            “Well, I have a gorgeous wife at home, and she’s done a lot more than merely wink at me! If I can summon concentration, then so can you!” The older soldier playfully hit his arm and then recommended, “Come on! The sooner that we find Lieutenant Harvey, the sooner we can finish this war and return to our lovely ladies!”

            Bernard reported to them, “Actually, I found out where he is!”

            Clarissa approached Kenneth with a bottle of wine and offered, “Care for a drink?”

            “Only if you’ll join me!” Kenneth courteously reacted. He observed her shakily pouring some port into a glass by his empty plate, and after she sat beside him, he expected to serve herself a bit too, but instead, she began guzzling straight from the bottle! “Careful not to overindulge! Alastor could strike again at any time, and you’ll need your wits about you!”

            “How do you do it?” Clarissa asked him. “You say that so calmly like what happened today was purely routine!”

            Kenneth took a swig of his beverage before answering her, “It comes with the territory of my position. There are no bloodless wars! It’s either kill or be killed out there! And, if one of our own perishes, we bury him quickly, say goodbye, and then carry on with our objectives once more! It’s terrible matter to deal with, but then we always consider what the fallen would want for us. If they could give us any sort of message, the presumption is always the same- they would beg us to stay safe and to persist in what’s important! Roger’s death was tragic, but if he could communicate with you right now, what do you imagine he would recommend for you?”

            Clarissa mulled it over for a minute, and then she came up with, “I suppose he would want to make sure that the force that caused so much distress and turmoil got thwarted so that no one else would have to go through this!”

            “There you go! It’s not as though this process is ever easy, but it is the frequent outcome of combat, so don’t let it break you!” Kenneth nestled her shoulder in a sympathetic gesture.

            “What would I do without you?” Clarissa squeezed the hand currently resting on the top of her limb and beamed at him appreciatively. His hold was so strong and comforting that she no longer felt the need to consume any alcohol for solace! For a moment, no worries existed in her mind- everything else seemed to vanish as he gazed at her in a manner that made all of her nerves tingle! Her heart suddenly beat wildly as he leaned in closer…

            The front door unexpectedly burst open, and the pair hastily stood up and braced themselves for the potential for peril! Their anxieties were quelled when a small band of Continental soldiers entered into the facility! Bernard rejoiced, “You see! I wasn’t wrong about the intelligence we gained!”

            Another soldier suggested to Bernard, “Don’t brag, Private Malin!” He transferred his regard to Kenneth and probed, “Lieutenant Harvey! Are you alright?”

            “I’m better than I was! I apologize for my absence! I got lost on my reconnaissance expedition, and then…” Kenneth hesitated, and Clarissa got the sense that he was struggling to describe the tribulations he underwent without his troops labelling him as deranged as others in his recent past had done. He finally went with, “I received an injury in the woods and rested in this inn.”

            “Are you well enough to return to Philadelphia?” the older soldier questioned him.

            Kenneth appeared reluctant to reveal his optimal condition, so Clarissa reassured the soldiers, “He needs to repose for a while, but I’m certain he could manage the journey without incident!” Kenneth stared at her in shock, and she reiterated her sentiment to him, “You’ll survive, I promise!”

            With a slight crackle of hurt in his tone, Kenneth inquired, “What about the… the dilemma in your midst?”

            “I’ll take care of it on my own! No, really, I will!” She replied confidently to him, but inwardly, it made her insides ache to know that she would have to let him go! “I’m positive I won’t have to deal with it alone for long!” She viewed the hurt he displayed with mounting misery, and it took all her might to ignore her self-interest that yearned to beg him to stay! She took a deep breath and then encouraged him, “You should head back with them! Your men need you! Your country is counting on you! You have to leave!”

            “But I’ll miss… I won’t forget your hospitality!” Kenneth gave her a hug, and they clung to each other as if they never wanted to release each other! Kenneth forcibly tore himself from her, and then he petitioned Clarissa, “Can I write to you, madam?”

            Clarissa gladly accepted this, “I’d like that, sir!” He lingered for a flash, and then he stormed out as if he had to do it instantly or else he would lose the will for departure! His fellow soldiers waved goodbye to her, and Clarissa stepped onto her stoop to watch them take off. Kenneth glanced back to her, and Clarissa felt a tear roll down her cheek as his figure disappeared into the night! She leaned against the shoulder he had touched, and as she stood on her porch, she heard the howling wind resume. As the faint noise of Alastor’s chuckle was detected, Clarissa realized that being by herself would prove difficult for many reasons…

The Hessian, Chapter 5

“You’re asking me what to do in the future, and I’m still trying to comprehend what happened in the past!” Clarissa sunk into the bedside chair previously occupied by the doctor and relived the events from earlier that day. “I just can’t believe he came back! Once he was executed, I assumed that I would never see him again…”

            “Who is he?” Kenneth inquired. He suddenly recalled her prior nervousness upon the subject of his military adversaries, so he added, “Was that… Was he a Hessian?”

            Clarissa had to close her eyes and steel herself up in order to reply to him. After she had braced herself for this juncture, she revealed, “Colfrith had many merchants coming to purchase lumber from C.C. Asher Mill, but none of the regular clients ever became a part of the community except for Alastor Derstreich. He rubbed elbows with the town’s most elite members, and he charmed everyone he talked to. He became the most celebrated person in the village other than Cornelius Cole, the mill owner and governmental representative, or my late husband, Brenner! About a month ago, while Alastor was speaking to Brenner, a piece of paper slipped out of his pocket. It turned out to be an envelope that prominently displayed the Hessian seal! Everyone knew that no patriot would possess such a document, and he never denied the accusation that he was a spy! The hurt from this betrayal brought everyone’s vitriol to his hanging, and he vowed to unleash vengeance on us all from beyond the grave…”

            Kenneth asserted, “Well, that explains the motives behind that specter’s attack! But it doesn’t explain why that physician determined that my disclosure of this event signified that I had lost touch with reality! I couldn’t have been the Hessian’s first victim!”

            “No, you weren’t! After Alastor’s death, a lot of strange things started happening…” Clarissa narrated. “People heard music that wasn’t there. Random individuals would wander down Hallow’s Alley and have no recollection on how they got to that location. So much pain and so many ailments surfaced that no one could trace their origins to! Multiple neighbors got consumed by anger and hatred, and then a lot simply felt nothing whatsoever! Everyone could tell some abnormal force had taken over the area, but nobody believed that Alastor’s spirit was the culprit behind it all!”

            “Why not?” Kenneth puzzled. “He threatened to enact revenge after his demise, and then these inexplicable episodes began to frequently occur, so logically, wouldn’t the blame get cast on him?”

            Clarissa somewhat bitterly responded, “It would be if logic was the principal guiding most of their decisions! For one brief night, everybody was united by the outrage from a beloved figure’s double-crossing, but then some started to question the facts surrounding the incident. They no longer found it natural for somebody so well admired to suddenly turn on his allies like that. They were convinced that a supernatural commodity played a role in swaying his mind to commit such an atrocity! Then they treated that theory as truth when Brenner perished in a mysterious manner…”

            Kenneth cried out in disbelief, “They believe you cursed the region? How could they think you would benefit from damning the district that you rely on to function in your own life?”

            “I don’t know if they actually attached a valid reason other than pure evil and control. At least when it came to terrorizing them! They’re certain that I killed Brenner to gain control of the inn! They didn’t understand that I was always in control of The Leafy Taverne, just not on a legal basis! Once he passed, not a single soul could fathom why I didn’t pass the reins over to a man! We never had any children, so there were no sons to inherit it. And I refused to sell it to Oceanus Montgomery or Cornelius Cole or any other male with a large purse for that matter! Apparently, I’m skilamalink for not wanting to let this place go!” Clarissa looked away and sadly sighed.

            “Did you love him?” Kenneth probed.

            Clarissa’s head instantly whipped back towards him upon hearing that enquiry! “Who? Cornelius?”

            Trying his hardest not to make her feel foolish, Kenneth clarified, “I meant Brenner…”

            “Oh!” Clarissa blushed furiously from the topic he raised. “No one has ever brought that up before! Not even Brenner!”

            “I’m sorry for making you uncomfortable!” Brenner apologized. “I merely guessed that perhaps you held on to this establishment so ardently because you didn’t want to let him go. I know I had some difficulty getting rid of some of my wife’s possessions after she succumbed to her illness, but a year or so later, one of my daughters wondered why I never wore any of my pretty dresses in the closet, so out they went!”

            Clarissa giggled at his quip, which brought a smile to Kenneth’s face. She then grew curious and queried him, “How many kids do you have?”

            Kenneth gladly filled her in, “Five. My youngest is ten now, and the oldest is sixteen. They’re all living with my mother while I fight in this war, although my son is considering joining a militia. I don’t know if I’m ready for him to-.” Suddenly, another gust of wind blew by and shook the entire building once more! The echoes of irate whispers sounded throughout the entire space, and their brief instance of levity vanished! Kenneth recalled their more serious discussion and then articulated, “Alright, so we have the spirit of a Hessian spy haunting this borough. How do we stop him?”

            “Alastor abandoned his assault on you because of this.” She displayed her cross necklace for him to view it more clearly. “Most of the citizens belonging to this township are low-waged sawmill employees, so not everyone can afford this sort of protection. So, I’m not sure…”

            “Your cross saved me? How close were you to my body?” Kenneth petitioned her.

            With her cheeks flushing furiously again, Clarissa divulged, “I was shielding you from his dark magic. I couldn’t help it! I wouldn’t have been able to stand it if I had to witness your murder! You didn’t deserve to die like that!”

            Kenneth riposted, “Neither did you though!”

            “You risk sacrificing yourself each time you do battle for resistance against tyranny! Am I not allowed to do the same for a resistance against the paranormal?” Clarissa challenged.

            “That’s your choice to make; I just hope I never put you in a position to make that sort of decision again!” Kenneth had expressed that very seriously, but he gave Clarissa a meaningful smile. For a second, Clarissa pondered if he was going to kiss her… The howling draft returned and instantly shifted their mood straight away from anything remotely pleasurable like that! It hovered around their abode, and then it abruptly veered south! “We have to warn everyone!”

            Kenneth attempted to hop out of bed, but Clarissa kept him pinned down. “The doctor recommended that you rest! He may not know the true cause of our recent unrest, but he does know a lot about the human anatomy! Whatever Alastor put you through must have been tremendously taxing to your health!”

            Reflecting back on his arduous experience, Kenneth recalled, “He kept sending flashes of agony that would course throughout my veins as he condemned my troop’s purpose on the battlefield! He acted as if I deserved the torment that I got after committing this horrendous sin! When I went unconscious, I was so sure that he would bring about the end of me…” He shuddered as he relived this nightmare, but after the memory had elapsed, he made another bid for springing out bed. “We can’t allow anyone else to go through that! We must advise his intended targets of this impending calamity!”

            “They won’t listen to us!” Clarissa morosely disagreed with his suggestion. “No one trusts me, they’ll credit my claims to a pursuit of some sort of malicious spell that I want to spread! And as for you, well… Many people’s allegiance to the liberation front changed when Alastor was done away with. They started to believe his outrageous arguments that the fight for freedom was, in reality, a dangerous campaign to sow seeds of anarchy throughout the world! Some individuals had the audacity to blame the Continental soldiers for creating the circumstances that brought Alastor to his doom as if the message against tyranny gave birth to the madness that got him killed! I would dearly love to assist in the protection of Colfrith, but what good would it do to talk to those who won’t listen?”

            “Someone will listen to us!” Kenneth insisted. “Even if we only convince one person, it would be worth our efforts to save that one life!” Clarissa appeared doubtful still, so he further iterated his objective, “Hear me out! My military unit has received some of our finest officers from primarily loyalist towns! We may not be able to persuade them all, but if we can win over a few, we may find the allies we need to defeat this menace! We don’t have the ability or resources to take down this fiend, but somebody out there does! And it’s up to us to discover them! So, what do you say? Are you with me on this?”

            Once Clarissa’s mind had fully drunk in his words, she slightly grinned as she told him, “I can see why you were promoted to lieutenant! You could embolden anyone to charge into combat!” Kenneth beamed at her, and she concluded, “Let’s go!”

            Clarissa led Bailey by his reins as Kenneth rode on his steed and observed the bystanders around them. He spotted one man nearby and called out to him, “Excuse me, sir!” The man looked frightened to get addressed by him and scurried away as fast as possible. He took another shot with a woman walking with her youngsters, “Pardon me, madam! I-!” The woman scooped up her lot and glared at Kenneth prior to steering her little ones away from that area. Kenneth seemed rather put off by this behavior, but when he espied Clarissa’s skepticism resurfacing, he assured her, “The actions of a few do not dictate the rationale of the rest!”

            He could see her striving to dissuade her doubts, but before he could broach the issue any further, the wealthy coffeehouse owner emerged from his business and shouted, “You there!” Kenneth turned to him with a glimmer of hope in his eyes, but Clarissa grimaced. She sincerely mistrusted that Oceanus would have flagged them down on any amicable grounds! Oceanus scolded Kenneth, “You owe my daughter an apology for your blatant rudeness!”

            “Sir, I apologize if she construed any ill manners from my actions!” Kenneth graciously regarded him. “I truly didn’t mean to-.”

            “That hang in chains is yelling at Mister Montgomery!” one passerby infuriatedly noted.

            Clarissa defended him, “He didn’t even raise his voice! Just because they are having a disagreement doesn’t-.”

            Another onlooker decried, “Don’t give us this cockamamie story of civility on your part! You came here to cause trouble!”

            “No! We came to save you from it!” Kenneth retorted. “You see, an evil entity has besieged your village…”

            “Yes, we know! It’s standing right before us” a lady countered, which made the spectators around her titter.

            Clarissa exclaimed, “Abigail, you don’t have to like us, but if you don’t take heed of our information, something truly terrible will take place!”

            Abigail accosted her, “You dare to threaten us!”

            “We have no desire to harm you!” Clarissa contended. “But someone else does!”

            “You’re lying!” Abigail vehemently hollered. “You want to deceive us so we fall prey to your scheme!”

            Clarissa rebutted, “What motive would I have to do such a thing? The only maligner in these quarters is Alastor!”

            Abigail stepped within inches of Clarissa and growled, “Alastor was an honorable paragon to our society! How dare you besmirch his righteous name!”

            “He made plans to doom us all!” Clarissa feverishly disputed. “And he didn’t stop with spilling our secrets to the British!”

            “You’re a liar!” Abigail hysterically screeched.

            Clarissa went on, “His wickedness has overcome death! His wrath resumed in Colfrith by means of-!”

            With the speech of deeply timbred male, Abigail bellowed, “Silence, you snake!” She gutturally growled and then lunged her hands at Clarissa’s throat…!

The Hessian, Chapter 4

“Do I dare?” Kenneth queried himself as he peeked his head out into the long, narrow hallway. The door he had seen Clarissa go into last night was still closed, and he assumed that she was still sleeping, so he reckoned that he would probably have been safe in venturing back downstairs without getting seen in pajamas, but probably was not a certainty! He would hate to repay her kindness towards him by performing a rather offensive act of indecency! He considered simply waiting in his room until she woke up, but he was ready to leave now and who knew when she might get out of bed! He already had an exhaustive night with very little sleep, so he couldn’t stand the idea of doing nothing for even an hour more! He did see a few books in there, but the titles all depicted narratives about running a business, and he doubted that they would add much to his entertainment value! He would have loved to have said goodbye to her, but he esteemed that perhaps it was better that he left before he saw her again because if he had run into her once more, he imagined that she would insist on making him breakfast, they would have a very stimulating conversation, and he would become too enamored to ever leave! His troops needed him, so he had to do what was best for them and their fight for freedom, no matter what personal needs he may have had to sacrifice! So, he took a deep breath and crossed his fingers that she wouldn’t emerge from her chambers until after he was gone!

            He found his garments laid out so nicely in front of the gently burning flame in the fireplace, and a pang of guilt surged through him! She had done so much for his care, and he hadn’t even intended to say thank you or farewell! As he hid behind a large, supportive beam and changed back into his uniform, he wished that he had a way of leaving her a note prior to his departure! Suddenly, he spotted a guestbook, and he became relieved! As soon as he was fully dressed, he dashed over to the ledger and jotted a quick message about how grateful he was for her help and that he would never forget her thoughtfulness! He then slipped out of the door before she had a chance to discover him there, and while he trudged over to the livery to get Bailey, he privately thought that he would never be able to disremember her and wondered if the hurt he felt now would ever pass!

            Kenneth glumly steered his horse through the pathway through the northern woods, which he found sort of odd seeing that he had only known that woman for one day! And yet it had been the lightest span of his life since his wife’s demise! After his bride had passed on, he truly believed that no other lady could sway his interest, and after meeting one that did, it seemed like a shame that he had to let her go! He noticed that his steed appeared fairly morose as well, so he pat him comfortingly and sympathized, “I know, boy! I miss her too!”

            Quite abruptly, Bailey’s gait came to a screeching halt! “We’re not going back, young man! Come on!” Kenneth attempted to coax him into moving ahead, but Bailey refused to go beyond that point! “Look, we have a war to fight! We have to-!” Bailey neighed in a worried tone and fidgeted with total apprehension, so Kenneth probed, “What’s gotten into you?” He observed that something on the ground was frightening him, so he gazed at the floor to determine the cause of his distress. He saw a small stream of a strange, brown substance below them, and he puzzled, “What is that?” He dismounted and gave it a closer examination. It had the texture of oil, but he could see that it was bleeding out of a parched log in a small clearing to their left side. He couldn’t espy anything that would logically create this effect, so he concluded, “This can’t be good!” He stepped towards the log, and Bailey vehemently objected! “I have to investigate this! What if it’s something dangerous?” Bailey’s cries magnified as he got closer to the log, and he couldn’t comprehend why until he was right next to it… His eyes widened and he let out a voluminous scream!

            Clarissa bolted up from her slumber! She thought she had heard a cry of anguish from afar, but then she recalled that this had become a frequent occurrence in Colfrith lately. She didn’t think it was something that she should ever get used to it, but with the rate it was happening, she supposed that it was something she would have to come to terms with. That was difficult though- the afflicted endured unbelievable pain, and none of the medical procedures that they had their disposal could alleviate their symptoms! It was hard to fathom that she harbored such empathy for individuals who acted especially cruel towards her, but she found it impossible not to care when they were going through something so atrocious!

            After Clarissa slipped on a robe, she went across the hall to check on the handsome soldier that she had temporarily housed. To her dismay, his room was empty! “He went away already?” she enquired out loud to herself. He seemed like such a benevolent fellow that it surprised her he would do her this discourtesy, but then she concocted an alternative theory, “Maybe he’s waiting for me downstairs!”

            She hurriedly descended the staircase and fully expected to see his beautiful smile beaming at her as he awaited her entrance, but the tavern was empty! Same as always ever since Brenner died a month ago! It stung her to have lost someone that she had developed a genuine connection with! Her neighbors had turned on her, and her husband’s illness rendered him incapable of any true closeness, so Kenneth had really provided a spark of hope for happiness in her future! She knew he wouldn’t have been able to stay in her life permanently until the Revolutionary battles had ceased, but she dared to feel optimistic that he may have wanted to keep in touch with her! She hung her head low as she grieved for this loss, but then she forced herself to collect her wits and move on! She couldn’t lament this matter forever! She decided to clean up the place in case any visitors finally decided to come to this establishment, and as she retrieved her broom by the doorway, she spotted some handwriting that hadn’t been in the guestbook previously! She read it and broke out into a broad grin! It altered her mood completely, and she found it so much easier to go about the drudgeries of her day knowing that someone out there sincerely held her dear!

            The sun started to poke out of the clouds a little, and just when Clarissa began to speculate if she should put on a proper wardrobe to prepare for prospective patrons, she heard a horse whinnying outside! Clarissa initially grew alarmed by the notion of getting seen in wear unsuitable for public viewing, but when she denoted the distressed intonation in its voice, her alarm began to stem from something else… She glanced out of the window, and she observed that this animal truly behaved as though it were in an urgent state of panic! She went out to her porch and visually scanned the perimeter to discern whether or not a nearby rider was experiencing an emergency, but she saw no one around them, so she realized someone somewhere else must have been in trouble! It definitely wasn’t a wild creature, it had a saddle! When she got a closer look at that saddle, her face fell in total terror…

            The horse bore an emblem of The Continental Army, and as far as she knew, there was only one soldier in this region… “Is your master Kenneth?” The steed calmed its movements at the mention of that name, and he gave Clarissa a very meaningful stare! At that juncture, Clarissa didn’t fret about anything else- she had to recover him immediately! She swiftly mounted Kenneth’s colt and commanded him, “Take me to him!” He did so without hesitation!

            Minutes into their trek, the sky above them darkened, and somehow, Clarissa knew that this signified that they were getting within range of Kenneth’s location! All of a sudden, Clarissa and the horse sighted a bizarre green glow ahead of them! Her ride declined to go any further, so Clarissa quickly slid off of the horse and ran towards the peculiar phenomenon! When she got within feet of the haze, she was aghast to learn that Kenneth was inside of this mist with a tortured expression on his face! But to her horror, he wasn’t alone…

            “Alastor?” Clarissa uttered in sheer shock. She gawked at a nearly translucent silhouette of the man whose hanging she witnessed firsthand! Seeing any version of him ever again never crossed her mind, and now that she had, her brain couldn’t process it! She had to be hallucinating!

            “I told you death wouldn’t stop me!” Alastor leered. He kept one hand aimed at Kenneth and directed another to target Clarissa! She instinctively dove out of his trajectory, and whatever spell he meant for her missed! She hid behind a log, and Alastor cackled, “Fine! Go ahead and hide! I’ll catch up with you after I finish this traitor off!”

            Clarissa’s blood boiled at that pronouncement! She ardently vowed not to let that scoundrel harm that brave and noble man, so she sprang up and charged forward! She recognized that she couldn’t combat this version of Alastor, so she concentrated on protecting Kenneth! Alastor raised his arm to eject another attack, but Clarissa tackled Kenneth and lowered him below Alastor’s projectile! Alastor maniacally laughed at this display, “It’s permissible by me if you want to perish together!”

            As she turned over and shielded an unconscious Kenneth, Clarissa bellowed, “Leave him alone!”

            “You are in no position to give orders, you patriotic snake!” Alastor sneered. He postured himself to execute another strike, and Clarissa didn’t know what to do other than to brace herself for impact! Right as his malevolence reached its pinnacle…

            “No!” Alastor roared in a red-hot fury after eyeballing her chest. He instantly disappeared, and while Clarissa studied her cross necklace in confusion, Alastor’s words rang out into the atmosphere, “You can’t save them all!” Bailey trotted over to them and stooped down to their level. “My powers reach farther than you can imagine!” Clarissa heaved Kenneth’s body onto Bailey’s back, and Alastor went on, “I am limitless, and you are not!” Clarissa climbed onto the steed, and as they took off, Alastor cried out, “You can’t escape! I will get you! I’ll get you all!”

            Kenneth’s lids opened extensively, and he violently struck his periphery as if he were in a struggle! Doctor Cuthbart placidly addressed him, “Woah, woah, woah! It’s alright! You’re safe here!”

            Clarissa peered over Doctor Cuthbart’s shoulder, and having her in his vision ensured his jangled nerves that he was now longer in peril! But he was not convinced the same for everyone else! “We have to put a halt to his scheme before it’s too late!”

            “Lie down!” Doctor Cuthbart delicately ordered. “You’re in no state to contend with anyone!”

            “But the threat is imminent!” Kenneth protested. “We have to take action!”

            Doctor Cuthbart denied him access to do that. “You have very little strength in you at this moment! You couldn’t lay one finger on an adversary without collapsing! You must-.”

            Kenneth contemplated out loud, “Hand-to-hand combat wouldn’t do us any favors anyways! You can’t physically assault a ghost! But then how do we bar him from going forth with his wickedness?”

            Doctor Cuthbart reached into his satchel and asserted, “I’m afraid his trauma has made him delirious, so I’m going to-.”

            “I’m not delirious!” Kenneth refuted that claim. “I was tormented and besieged by a specter!”

            “Take a drought of this elixir!” Doctor Cuthbart poured a light brown liquid onto a spoon and tried to serve it to him.

            Kenneth flung the spoon across the room! “I’m not unbalanced! The ghost is real!”

            Doctor Cuthbart assured him, “It’s simply a calming mixture!” Kenneth’s visage stayed steadfastly defiant, so Doctor Cuthbart placed the solution in Clarissa’s palms. “Have him drink a spoonful every eight hours or so and see that he rests for a few days. Don’t fret, he’ll be back in fair health soon!”

            When Doctor Cuthbart turned to make his exit, Clarissa exclaimed to him, “For the record, he’s telling the truth- there is an unfriendly spirit out there!” Doctor Cuthbart gave her a smile that didn’t exactly cover up his discomfort over the magnitude of her statement prior to his hasty withdrawal. Clarissa realized that her charge must have made him doubt her sanity as well, but she wasn’t bothered by that! The entire village already believed she was a spiteful sorceress, so she would have gained nothing by withholding her honesty! Besides, there was one benefit to the deed she performed…

            She swiveled to face Kenneth, who beamed at her for her vote of confidence They savored this sentiment for a brief instance, but before either of them could initiate a discussion on their ordeal, a howling wind flew by the window and reverberated its sound throughout the entire structure! They were silent for a minute, and then Kenneth brought up, “So, now what?”

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…