Walter woke up in a startle. He was in his bed, in his room at the inn. The rain that thumped on the window pane made him realize it had only been a dream. A terrible dream. He looked to where the Psychai laid asleep in the open drawer. He laid back down but couldn’t go back to sleep. The horrible feeling stayed with him. He tried to think of some pleasant, something that brought him a happy feeling but he couldn’t. Instead, he began to recall what he had read in his history book and all the assignments Archibal expected him to hand over in his return. Walter eventually was overcome by slumber.
After his morning chores, Walter didn’t have the energy to study. He really didn’t have the energy to do much. He had to please ask Bonifacious to help him in his chores as he was barely able to stay awake. He went to his room and tried to sleep but he relived the dream over and over again. Maybe if he tried going for a walk he could keep his eyes open. Walter leaves the inn through the taproom, he didn’t want to risk bumping into that shadow again. Once on the streets, the clouds had parted and let in the sun. It didn’t warm him up but the cold kept him alert. Maybe he would bump into Alden but instead caught sight of the elder Mr. Clough, standing outside the same vacant house, Walter had found him last time.
“Hallo, Mr. Clough,” Walter said to him.
“Hallo there Walter,” Mr. Clough looked preoccupied, endlessly staring at the vacant house.
Walter glanced back at the house. He didn’t see anything curious with it that maybe Mr. Clough saw. “Is there something a matter, sir?”
“Too many vacant houses,” he said. “A friend of mine use to live there.” He pointed to the house. “He went missing many years ago. I always wondered what happened to him. I never did find out.”
“Why is that, sir?”
“Because I was a coward,” he said. “When that green light in the mountain appeared. He ventured into the woods and never came back. I waited for him then as I do now. I always wondered about him… His wife died years later and his two children moved out of town. They never returned. I didn’t do him justice. I should have but I was overpowered.”
“It was different back then,” Mr. Bagley reminiscence. “I was part of the counsels in the town. When a few people went missing, we all gathered, along with the Mayor to resolve the situation. We wondered if we should search for them, but many risked losing more people. Before my friend went missing a few hunters went looking for him. One of those hunters never came back. People were panicking and outraged. They wanted the Mayor to do something about it. The Mayor gathered us in the town hall. There was argy-bargy in unison they all agreed no more men were to be sent for the missing ones. I spoke up. I was outvoted. They instead called for reinforcements from the city. When I insisted on the search they silenced me and I did just that. We just had to accept they were gone. I should have done something, perhaps I didn’t fight hard enough. The day the Black Coats marched into town it deterred people from entering the woods. Black Coats were to guard the town not retrieve them from the woods. Outsiders come but the Black Coats don’t bother with them… Alden’s Uncle also went missing but they refused to search for him too.”
It explained why the Black Coats were here. His father had told him that the Black Coats were only seen in the city or when a town was considered a sedition of the state. Walter never bothered with the Black Coats and he often saw them at the inn, but mostly people avoided them. Just then, two Black Coats pass by Walter, paying no mind to him or the ghost he spoke to. Walter wondered if they could see Mr. Clough.
“There has been more people missing,” Walter said.
“I’m not really surprised. If nobody cares than who does?”
“The Sullivan brothers and other hunters have tried.”
“The Sullivan’s did you say?”
“I knew of a Sullivan. He was the butcher. I think he had one son who worked for him. A skinny little thing he was. Now his father was a great hunter and tracker. His son must have grown up by now, eh,” he scratched his chin in thought. “I’ve forgotten how long ago it has been. His son must have sons of his own?”
Walter nodded. “What’s a tracker?”
“What—oh, well it is someone who can follow a trail,” he was still in deep thought.
“Mr. Clough, is there something a matter?”
“Does the light still glow in the mountains?”
“I recall, outsiders use to come here to get a closer look at it.”
“They still do.”
“Well, at least that never changes.”
“Hunters won’t go in there anymore,” Walter points at the woods. “Not while the light glows but some have gotten paid to lead them to the mountains.”
“All they said was Albert’s son. “
“Albert’s son… Doesn’t sound familiar. The only Albert I knew was ten years old and his father was a merchant.” Thunder rolls over head. Walter looks up to see the grey skies forming over the woods. “I think you better go home, Walter. There is a storm approaching.”