Why would anybody go into the Black Forest, wondered Walter? Alden with his vagary imagination offered a variety of reasons for Mr. Crabbs’ disappearance. Maybe he had seen something that lead him to the Black Forest. Perhaps a crocotta had returned and hypnotized Mr. Crabb. Whatever it had been, something had made Mr. Crabb walk into the Black Forest, something powerful and dark. Alden believed it was some kind of evil magic that maybe Archibal could decipher, but they had to wait until it was safe to go to Lake Alaric. Walter wasn’t sure to use his ring, thinking it could only transport just him.
They hadn’t seen Cadi either since the rains began. Who could argue when nobody wanted to be out in the rain? Walter, himself had been confided at the Swan Inn. When the waters began to rise, Walter’s Mother, Mrs. Banny decided it was safer to stay at the inn. Uncle Obel and Aunt Edith were happy to have them, Walter was overjoyed. He felt like he had a family but his mother detested the inconvenience. He could never understand why. Once the waters ebbed, his mother told him, they were returning to the cottage. She made that clear to Uncle Obel too.
The waters lasted for three months and for those months Walter enjoyed the company of his Uncle Obel, who told him wild stories he heard from patrons; and Aunt Edith spoiling him rotten with affection. His mother was kept busy at the inn, sometimes forgetting about Walter. When she did remember, she would put him to work, moping the muddy foot prints that patrons, hunters and travelers plodded in the entrance of the inn. The inn always had a steady flow of people coming and going and so far it was getting busier.
Walter didn’t mind since it kept him close to the colloquy that patrons had about Mr. Crabb’s departure. With him gone it would take months before another schoolmaster would volunteer for his position, maybe even years. Any schoolmaster was never too eager to travel to Asbjorn. It was a long distance from the city and it was surrounded by woods, mountains and the rumored Black Forest. Stories of magic and creatures that lived there kept anybody away even the animals from the woods. The town of Asbjorn wasn’t too worried about replacing Mr. Crabb. They had been without a schoolmaster before, as Alden told Walter. The longest time had been six years before Alden was born. When Alden had come of age, Mr. Crabb was already teaching for about a year. He had lasted longer than most schoolmasters. Nobody knew why he had lasted so long while the others had lasted for a short time. Whatever the real reason for Mr. Crabbs’ departure the children of Asbjorn were left without a schoolmaster and without a school. It was a fact that Mr. Crabb would not be returning and the people of Asbjorn were not in a hurry to rebuild the little white schoolhouse.