The Legend of Archibal: The Phantom

Walter knew who he was. Everybody knew who he was. He saw him every afternoon at the inn and he didn’t leave until sunrise. He was a churlish drunk, he was drunk all the time even when he didn’t look drunk he was drunk. Walter avoided eye contact with him at the inn when he could. There were rumors he was a misogynist and cagey in business deals. Women obviate him when they saw him walking down the streets. Children also avoided him. Walter once heard he slapped a child in the presence of his mother only because the child accidently kicked dirt on his boots. Mr. Boyd has had as many as twenty apprentice within one year, all of them quitting because Mr. Boyd was verbally abusive and demanded strict adherence of his rules.

“My father got me the job,” Alden said. “He plays cards with Mr. Boyd sometimes. Last week, my father lost it all to Mr. Boyd. He wasn’t able to pay him back so he loaned me to him until I paid him back.”

“I thought you worked for Father Clery at the church?” Walter said.

“I still do. I had to change my schedule with Father Clery. Now I go in the mornings before our lessons,” said Alden.

“What time do you start work at the church?”

“I have to be there at five for my normal hours.”

“How long do you have to work for Mr. Boyd to repay the debt?”

“I don’t know. He said until he says so,” Alden shrugged. “I like working for Father Clery. He pays me more when he goes out of town and leaves me to take care of the church. All I do is sweep, clean the pews and make sure there is enough pamphlets for the next day’s sermons. Father Clery is nice to me so is Mr. Gurdin.”

“Who is Mr. Gurdin?”

“The gardener. He maintains the cemetery and the church’s garden. He grows vegetables in the back. He sometimes gives me some to take home. Anyways, I can’t quit working for Father Clery even if I wanted to.” Walter sensed there was something more behind the reasons he worked at Father Clery, but he didn’t pry. It explained why Alden looked tired all the time. They had reached the town by this time.  “Have you seen my grandfather?” Alden said.

Walter thought about it for a minute. The last time he saw the elder Mr. Clough was when he went into his room to tell him Alden had been sleep walking. Walter hadn’t seen him since. He had assumed he was with Alden. He couldn’t figure out where he was. “No, I haven’t seen him,” Walter said.

“I thought he might be where I last found him, but he wasn’t there,” Alden looked disquieted.

“I have been meeting to go to the cemetery, but I leave late from Mr. Boyd’s place.”

“I’m sure he is around,” Walter said. “If I see him, I’ll tell him you’re looking for him.” They walked in silence the rest of the way. Usually Alden was more talkative. Walter wasn’t surprised to hear Mr. Boyd making him work till late. He was not a caring person and if Alden’s father owed him money that could mean Alden could be working for him for years until Mr. Boyd felt he had been repaid.

“Did you know Amias is the leader of the gargoyles,” Alden uttered from the top of his head.

“No, I didn’t know.”

“He has been a leader for years and years. Agi told me so. If anyone disobeys his orders he punishes them by making them stay in stone until the sentence has been well served. They even have cousins from faraway lands like the Kingdom of Draco. I have a cousin that lives there myself. He use to visit often before my grandfather passed away. He would bring me small replicas of the gargoyles and tell me stories of how Draco is filled with them. The statues are everywhere.

“When someone builds a home they put a gargoyle on the four corners of the house. A rich person puts more than four to bring luck and protection to the home. It’s like a social statues. The more gargoyles you have the more powerful and rich you are. The less a home has is considered a poor man’s home. Agi knows most of the gargoyles that live there even their leader. He says, every gargoyle lives in colonies and each have a leader. Amias has taken in gargoyles who have lost their home. There are over twenty gargoyles at the manor. It is not rare for a gargoyle to show up. Amias is the only leader to take in displaced gargoyles. Most leaders refuse them. I’ve only met a few at the manor. The others are extremely shy and some avoid humans all together.”

“Why do some leaders refuse them?”

“Amias says, that each colony has social norms. It is usually hard for a displaced gargoyle to accept these norms. These leaders have crushed the stones of these gargoyle while they slept. Amias doesn’t believe in killing their own brothers for the sake of these norms,” Alden said as they reached Mr. Boyd’s place of business.

It looked more like a shoddy hut. The door was missing and Walter could see inside. The single room was bare of furniture except for a rocking chair, a table with mason tools and the constant burning kiln. It was cluttered with piles of brick, rocks, dirt and other materials. It smelt like burning bricks, a smell that was impregnated on Mr. Boyd’s self. Walter didn’t see him but he could be nearby.

“He lives in the back,” Alden said.

“‘Bout time ye gat here,” growled Mr. Boyd from the entrance, surprising the boys. “I told ye te be here on time, boy. Get te work before yer daddy owes me more money.”

“Yes, Mr. Boyd,” Alden gave a quick goodbye to Walter and disappeared inside.

“Whacha lookin at, boy?” Mr. Boyd snarled at Walter. Walter shook his head, glanced anywhere, but him and walked away. “Good fer notin scapgrace wretched child,” he mumbled under his breath, but Walter heard. He was afraid of Mr. Boyd as most people were. He felt bad for Alden having to work for him. Walter headed towards the inn.

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