“These are dangerous times. Mock me words,” George said. “We must be careful.”
“Oi hear some of the men are going to be hunting in pairs for safety,” said the fourth man.
“Aye, as we should too,” agreed George. The men sat there for a while drinking their ale for the rest of the afternoon. They eventually left. The hunters seem to know something. What have they seen in those woods? Probably things they thought only happened in the Black Forest. Walter had recalled how the Sullivan brothers had been braver than most men when they went hunting for the crocotta. They were not cowards, indeed, but they were not people meddled with. Walter knew that.
Two days later, Walter was walking about the town doing errands for his Uncle Obel. He had just finish visiting the candle maker, Mr. O’Brien an elderly kind man with rosy cheeks and white hair. He was perpetually hunched over. If he was able to stand upright he would have stood over Walter. Mr. O’Brien constantly made light of his physical appearance, saying things like, “it was the years of looking down. I once found a silver coin as a child and ever since then, I’ve been obsessed at staring at the ground. Now my nose almost touches it.” He was always in good spirits and had a few chores for Walter to do for him that the old man found it hard to do.
Mr. O’Brien’s home smelt of wax and burning wicks. Every nook and cranny was lit with candles, if they weren’t lit, they hanged from clotheslines, drying. They were littered everywhere in ever size, color, and design. Not only did he make candles he also carved on them with unique shapes and designs. They were beautiful to look at it was a pity they would be melted. Walter often came to purchase some candles for Uncle Obel. Mr. O’Brien was an amicable old man and would hand a few copper coins to Walter as a gratuity payment. When Walter refused, Mr. O’Brien wouldn’t hear of it since he had Walter helping him around.
Once he left Mr. O’Brien’s place, he took out his list to see who he had left. He had already visited Mr. Athill, the bread maker. Mildred only baked the pies. “Breads take too long,” she would say. “Oi would be baking bread all day an’ would never be able to make me delicious pies.” So, Uncle Obel decided to buy bread from the bread maker. After Mr. O’Brien, Walter heads towards the butcher, Mr. Sullivan’s shop. He preferred to go to him last, because his little shop was always overflown with patrons. Walter could barely push his way through. By the time Walter got there only a few patrons were left. Walter got behind the last two and waited his turn. It was a while before his turn came.
Mr. Sullivan greeted him hen his turn came up. “Hallo there, boy,” he said. “Came to pay your Uncle’s bill?”
“Yes, sir. Also to buy some lard for Mr. O’Brien.”
“How much does he need?”
“Whatever you have.”
“When does he want it delivered?”
“By the end of the week,” Walter handed him the silver coins that Mr. O’Brien had given him for the lard. He also handed Mr. Sullivan twenty silver coins for Uncle Obels’ order.
“Tell yer Uncle he will get his order by the end of the week. George will deliver it. He probably won’t deliver the venison he asked fer. Very little hunting has been done lately with the rains an’ all. So I won’t charge him for that.” He handed Walter back ten of the silver coins. “Business has been busier than normal. With them outsiders and October approaching, I am getting cleaned out sooner. At least fer now. How is your Uncle fairing?”
“Busy also, sir,” Walter said. “He had to hire more help.”
“I would reckon he would. Filled up by travelers, I assumed.”
“All this fuss about lights.”
“Lights, sir?” Walter said.
“Some of them outsiders are here to see some lights that haunts the mountains. Others say it comes beyond the marsh where the Thatch Castle use to be, but that’s the least of our problems.”
“Why is that, sir?”
Mr. Sullivan got closer to Walter that he could smell the raw meat and blood on his apron. “Strange things happen during October—the witching hours.”
“What kind of things?”
“Yer mind play games on you. Making you see things like flying witches, ghosts, and other monsters under the bed. Fear can make you see things moving in the shadows. It only happens around this time of year and it’s contagious, like a flu going about. People tend to stay in their homes fearing to go out. Ye would think the Black Forest became loose of its magic. It only happens when those lights appear.”
“Do you see the lights, sir?”
“Sometimes. Hunters won’t go near and I’ve told my boys to stay away,” Mr. Sullivan said warily. “Hunters have seen many dreadful things in those woods just like seaman see things at sea. People have gotten lost searching for those lights. Whether its tommyrot or not, one must be cautious. Those things are better left alone just like the Black Forest. Some have defied that forest many times before an’ nothing good comes out of it.”
“Why do they search for those lights?”
“I don’t know. Whatever ye do, don’t go chasing those lights,” he warns Walter. “It will start getting dark. I wouldn’t stay out late, it wouldn’t be safe.” Mr. Sullivan looks up at the thunder rumbling in the gray skies. “You better go home before you get caught in the rain, son. I’ll take care of your Uncle and Mr. O’Brien.”
“Thank you, sir,” Walter said and walked out into the cool, gloomy day. It was good to be out even if it was just to do errands. He was heading back to the inn when he heard someone shouting for him. Walter turns to see Alden running after him.
“Wait for me!” Alden was able to catch up. He wasn’t carrying his father’s jug. “Are you heading to the inn?”