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’.