It drizzled that morning but the waters had regressed back into Lake Alaric. The weather was becoming chilly and drably, making everything colorless, grey and wet. About this time of the year there was not much to do for two restless boys who had been confined inside for three months. That afternoon they took advantage of their freedom before going back to their respective responsibilities. It was still dangerous to get near the lake and it was banned by the Mayor to even approach it. To make sure everybody followed orders, they posted a couple of Black Coats as a precaution. That disappointed Walter and Alden, but they weren’t deterred for the moment.
That afternoon they weren’t going to the lake, instead Alden took Walter into the nearby woods. He wanted to show Walter the remains of a famous castle that once stood erected many centuries ago. In a clearing, there was an outline of the old foundation and the standing tower, the only thing remaining from the castle.
“Here it was,” Alden said. “It belonged to a family that lived here for many generations. Dreadful they were. My grandfather told me all about them. They were never kind to anyone and were even more atrocious to each other. Everybody avoided them if they could. The last of the kin were two children, a boy and a girl. Their mother died from some illness and their father was left to take care of them, but then he fell sick and died shortly after. Grandfather said the children were about six and eight. He was nine when they vanished.”
“Vanished? What happened to them?” Walter said.
“After their mother died, their father married a woman that came from afar. Nobody knew her well, but my grandfather said she was more evil than anyone in the family. When the father died, he left everything to her. She got rid of the unwanted stuff including the children. The last time my grandfather saw them, they were in that tower,” Alden pointed at it. “Some say they were locked up in there, never to be seen again. Others say they were killed and put there so they could never be found. The truth is in there. The door was sealed shut by brick and cement. They called this place, the Thatch Castle, after the family.”
Walter looked up at the tower and saw nothing but a grungy structure, slowly eroding by time.
“Many avoid this place,” Alden said. “Only because it’s being forgotten and people don’t care. Grandfather considered this place a part of the town’s history. There are other places slowly falling to the same fate. There is a marsh a few miles from here. It used to surround the castle, but it has slowly dried up. After, the two children disappeared, strange things began to occur in the castle. The woman that lived there was bewitched. Every night, there were flashes of green coming from inside the castle. The trees, grass and anything around it died and the marsh grew. Grandfather said it just happened. You wouldn’t have believed it if you ever saw this place before. Anyone who approached it suffered a terrible fate.”
“What kind of fate?”
“Well, grandfather said they were just found dead near the marsh,” Alden continued. “Nobody knew how or why, but they believed it was the woman. She hated trespassers and most people didn’t come near it. My grandfather said, these beautiful flowers use to grow near the edge. A little girl was seen cutting them. When she didn’t go home, her father came looking for her and found her body. He was an outsider and was told it might have been the woman that lived in the castle. He went to the Chief Constable’s of the Black Coats but he wouldn’t dare approach the woman. Nobody would. Grandfather said one night, the man gathered a group of men from nearby towns to confront her. Grandfather saw the whole thing. He wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen it. The full moon was out that night and from high up on the trees he hid. When the men reached the castle, they demanded her to come out, instead a two headed large bird emerged. The man threw spears at it, but nothing worked. Until two strangers appeared and one of them threw a spear at it, injured it and it flew away. The men thanked the strangers who are in a hurry to find the bird. The woman was never seen again and the castle crumbled to dust. That night was known as the Night of the Withes. For a month, every year bizarre things occur here. Some say they can see a green glow emitting from the mountain beyond the marsh. Many don’t think she is dead. Haven’t you noticed there are more outsiders wandering in to town?”