She was dressed in a simple white dress with a ruffled turtleneck and purple ribbon tied around her waist. She looked remarkably normal, though dressed a bit old fashion. She wasn’t wearing her cape. She must have read Walter’s mind. “Archibal doesn’t stay with the times. This is the only clothes he has that I can wear.”
“Can’t witches make their own clothes?” Alden said.
“We are not seamstress,” she said.
“My word,” Mr. Clough was in awe. “I’ve only knew of the elderly woman that lived with her cats.”
“You must be, Mr. Clough, Alden’s grandfather,” she said. “I am Cadi.”
“Alden has spoken of you,” Mr. Clough said. “It is always nice to meet a witch.”
“Where have you been?” Alden said. “We haven’t seen you since the waters came.”
“I’ve been busy,” she said. “Archibal has been instructing me.”
“To do what?” Alden said.
“Who’s Archibal?” Mr. Clough said.
“Archibal is my teacher. The wizard,” she said. “He is teaching me lessons a witch must learn.”
“You go to school?” Alden said.
“School? I don’t attend school. I haven’t attended one since I was eight,” she said. “We are taught differently. We don’t have lessons in a classroom.”
“I thought Archibal’s manor was a school?” Alden said.
“It is,” she said. “We are taught in labyrinths, caves, mountain tops, even within the Black Forest. Places that are found to be dangerous. Places that test our skills, wit, and power. Each place has a phase. You start out in the easy levels like the caves then you move on to the second phases and so on.”
“What phase are you on?” Alden said.
“The second level,” she said. “That’s the labyrinths.”
“How long does it take to pass each phase,” said Mr. Clough.
“It depends on the witch or wizard. Some, it takes months, other times it takes years to pass through each phase,” she said. “It took me a couple of weeks to get through the caves. The labyrinths have been the hardest.”
Walter had stopped listening. Something from the distant woods had caught his eye. It looked like a shadow figure. He wasn’t certain. It was a dark outline with claws as hands, a top hat and jagged teeth. It was shaped like a man, hunched over. He had seen that figure in the cemetery. He had seen it lurking where darkness kept it hidden, but Walter could see it and it didn’t look benevolent. What was it? What did it want? Was it another spook? If it was, it kept itself in obscurity. Walter felt a cold shiver run up and down his spine.
“I see it too,” Cadi said. “It doesn’t scare easily from the sun as the other spooks.”
“See what?” Alden said. “You mean one of those shadows?”
“I remember those,” Mr. Clough said. “They use to come out at night. Nobody knew what they were. People would be missing. That was when the curfew was put in. It doesn’t keep the outsiders or others from entering the woods. Black Coats don’t do anything to stop people.”
“I can’t see anything,” Alden said.
“Aye, their tricky bastards,” said Mr. Clough. “The old woman with the cats use to tell us kids about ‘em and where we couldn’t be. She could see them, all right.”
“We better go,” she said. “If they see we can see it… Well, nothing good comes of it.”
They all agreed and walked away. Through their walk they stumbled upon the remnants of the schoolhouse’s foundation.
“What happened here?” Mr. Clough said. “Where’s the school?”
“It got washed away from the rains,” Walter said.
“Mr. Crabb, our schoolmaster vanished soon after,” Alden said.
“Vanished?” Mr. Clough said. “Where did he go?”
“Nobody knows, but they said his footprints lead to the Black Forest. They haven’t seen him since then,” said Walter.
“Many mysterious,” Mr. Clough said. “This town is built on that. They would know.” He pointed at two hunters passing by. “They’ve seen more things than most, but they won’t talk.”
Walter agreed. They congregated at the Swan Inn. They felt safe and where they left their worries instead of taking them home. They met up with other hunters who were visiting Asbjorn. They said the woods around here were the best places to hunt. There was plenty of game and a variety of other kind of animals. It was rare to see a hunter leave empty handed, but now game had been scarce and hunters were not content. There were rumors, many rumors circulating through the town. That the light was only a chimera to attract ramblers. Some stayed away, while others went searching for it. If the story of the two headed bird was the cause of it, why did it glow? Maybe Mr. Clough was right, many mysteries took place here.
Alden also told many stories that Walter wondered if the magic from the Black Forest affected the surrounding areas. It surely made living here less boring. The Black Forest was legendary for its ominous presence. It staid dark day and night, not even the moon or the sun looked like it shined through it. Whoever dare to enter its bowls were swallowed and never seen again. Many feared it, others were enchanted by it. Walter had been in it, but he had been lucky. He had come out unscathed and he was with Cadi. Most people that are able to escape it become delirious. Walter never became delirious, but he was never there long enough to be affected by it or so Cadi said.