The Legend of Archibal: The Phantom

Over the following nights no other strange incidents transpired and Walter fell back into his usual routine. The inn was hustling with patrons, which was starting to wear on him. Even Uncle Obel was looking jaded. Mrs. Banny was more irritable than usual and snapped at Walter. Aunt Edith wasn’t herself, either; she was frazzled and absentminded at times. Gertrude became grumpier and Mildred…well, she was still her happy disposition.

Uncle Obel finally hired more help to lessened the workload for everybody. One evening, Aunt Edith retired early to her room, while Mrs. Banny showed the new hires how to clean the rooms. Uncle Obel manned the bar and Walter mopped the muddy footprints tracked inside by the steady stream of patrons.

Walter could hear thunder rumbling. He looked out the window, and saw the gray clouds darkening, and soon the rain started coming down. No matter how much he mopped and swept the floor got dirty all over again. That didn’t deter his mother from telling him to continue the boring task, but it was better than cleaning the windows upstairs. Walter’s mind began to drift when he heard some patrons talking in a hushed whisper in the corner of the room.

“There is no use goin’ huntin’ during this weather,” said a familiar voice.

Walter glanced to see, George Sullivan, sitting with his brother, Thomas, and two other well-known hunters. They seem to be in deep conversation, oblivious of everybody else.

“Aye,” Thomas Sullivan said. “Besides that, and the peculiar things that will ensue.”

“Animals don’t want to be found this time of the year,” George added.

“Oi agree,” said one of their companions. “Even they seem to act strange. Oi haven’t seen a deer since the heavy rains started.”

“They stay away,” said George. “I don’t blame ‘em. I’d stay away meself. Not a good time to go huntin’.”

The fourth man observed, “We’ve been lucky for the last two years with no occurrences happenin’.”

“Luck, has nothin’ to do with it,” George said. “Somethin’ has caused the occurrences to cease during that time. The animals know somethin’. This time it’s different.”

“All these outsiders, meddling ‘round the woods has caused ‘em to flee earlier,” the third man said.

“Perhaps,” George acknowledged. “Oi don’t like the silence. With all the animals gone we can’t hunt. It’s our sustenance.”

“These outsiders don’t help the matter,” Thomas growled.

“Aye, the mayor allows this because it brings notoriety to Asbjorn.”

“The problem was with that light,” George said.

“Oi thought they were just folktale,” the third man admitted.

“That wuz no folktale,” the fourth announced. “Indeed, there lived a maleficent family. The old timers would never talk ‘bout it, but me family would whisper things. As a boy they told me to never go to that place. One day, Oi went huntin’ in the early hours. The sun had risen, but it hid behind the mountains, castin’ an umbra in that part of the mornin’.

The Legend of Archibal: The Phantom

Chapter 3: The Flight

 

At first, Walter did not dare to move. What could possibly be causing those shadows and where was that sound coming from? Walter had to see what it was, he just had to. He slowly got out of bed and crept to the window. When he looked up into the sky, his eyes widened in astonishment and disbelief when he saw owls, hawks, fays, and many other strange flying creatures soaring above him. One, as large as Walter, resembled a hammerkop, a medium bird with a hammer shaped head: it was white as a ghost and emitting lighting from its wings as it flew away. Walter had heard about them Alden. Walter was awed by the large flock; it was beautiful yet frightening.

Where were they going and why? he wondered.

It didn’t end there. When he looked to his right he saw another drove of creatures heading in the same direction as the flying birds. He could make out an elusive parandrus, a large caribou-like beast that could change the color of its fur for camouflage. A small unicorn the size of a Shetland pony was among the group along with mice, squirrels, dogs, cats, and fury of creatures scurrying off to an unknown destination.

A brownie that wasn’t Jacobi was prodding them to hurry up. Jacobi, had been a brownie Walter met the year the crocotta attacked the town. He looked like Jacobi, small stature, a pointed hat, black boots and overalls, but it wasn’t him. This brownie was dressed differently than Jacobi. In the jumble, a baby rabbit straggled behind, trying to avoid being trampled by the larger animals. The brownie rushes to protect the kit from the trampling hooves of some does. He picked up and carried the young rabbit as he kept driving the animals to safety. The stampede quickly sped past with the brownie trailing behind. All that was left were their muddy footprints on the wet ground.

What is going on? Walter thought. What had scared them?

He had never seen anything like it. He needed to tell Archibal; maybe he knew what was going on. He grabbed the Odyssey ring and was about transport himself when he heard footsteps approaching his room. Walter quickly dove under the covers and closed his eyes.

The door opened and Aunt Edith stuck her head in. “Don’t you look peaceful when you sleep,” she muttered. “I didn’t get to say goodnight. I’ll see you in the morning. Sweet dreams,” she said, closing the door quietly.

Before any more thoughts could cross his mind, slumber fell over him. Whatever was going on had to wait.

In the morning, nobody seemed to have noticed the large drove of animals fleeing in the middle of the previous night. Still alarmed by the episode, Walter went to inspect the muddy prints, but the rained had washed them away. He wondered if it had been a dream. If the hunters had seen such a sight they would have kept such recondite episode a secret.