The Legend of Archibal: The Phantom

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.

The Legend of Archibal: The Phantom

Archibal looked up at Walter and didn’t respond right away. His stony face made it hard to know what he was thinking. That subdued Walter. “Mr. Banny, there are many unexplained things that happen, that I, cannot explain myself. These spooks are the very thing the animals fear. You and Mr. Bagley were lucky to have escaped them. They are what nightmares are made of. When that light glows the spooks come alive. They live in the darkness. Only the sun chases them away, but they return when night falls. The light that does not come from the sun only frightens them temporarily. These are mere shadows. Shadows that have strayed from their human’s entity. Our shadows tend to stray, but we never become aware of it since we never look for them. If they stray away too long they transform into these abhorrent things. If they entrap you they take away your shadow and bewitch you with nightmares until you meet your death. I wouldn’t recommend you walking out this late at night. Not with them out there… Does that satisfy your concerns?”

“Would this explain why people have gone missing?” Walter said.

“Perhaps, Mr. Banny. Perhaps there other reasons. I have other matters to deal with tonight, Mr. Banny. If you wish to visit me do so in normal hours. Now, go home before you make me surlier.”

Walter obliged, said goodnight and had the ring return him to his bedroom. These were strange times indeed. Walter did not understanding anything that was happening. Walter continuously heard the faint bombinate sound, emitting from the green glow. He could see the glow, but besides the spooks arising and the missing hunters, there was the missing Mr. Crabb. Though, he vanished before the light began. Walter began to wonder. To stir to his confusion was the absence of Cadi. Maybe she was with Maaike. Perhaps there was an explanation for everything and maybe there wasn’t. Walter felt sleep overcome him. He will have to figure out the rest tomorrow.

 

After doing his chores, Walter decides to wander the town, searching for Alden. He thought of going to his home, but he’d figure Alden’s folks would shoo him away. He might find Alden on the other side of town where he frequented. Alden visited a certain Mr. Tredegar, an old man who wore oversized clothes and was considered aberrant. Walter decides to go to there. Maybe he would bump into Mr. Tredegar.

Mr. Tredegar lived next to three charred homes, two which were deserted. A fire had broken out many years ago. Nobody knows how the fire started, but it had spread to three house before it was snuffed out. Two of the houses had been vacant for years, while the third house lived an elderly woman. The homes had been built two hundred years ago when the town was established. The families had also been considered the oldest families in town.

In the past, the houses were passed down by family to family, but since the fire, the families had left town, and the houses were neglected. Alden knew two of the families that had lived there, the Hammels’ and the elderly Mrs. Driscol. The Hammels’ had moved to the city before Walter and his family had arrived to town. Alden had been good friends with the two Hammel boys. The elderly Mrs. Driscol, was the last descendent of the Driscol family. She had lived there for many years. She lost both of her sons to the war and her husband has since passed away. Her home had been somewhat restored, but it still showed signs of damage.

Luckily, he found Alden standing in front of one of the charred homes. He wasn’t alone, someone was with him. A corpulent, tall older man with what use to be silver hair. He had a transparent azure, like Brutus, the ghost in the woods. He walked over to them.

“Walter, I want you to meet my grandfather,” Alden beamed. “He’s the, Mr. Clough.” Referring to the fact he was once an important man around town. He had built the family riches and had been part of the board members of the town. Though, all that was gone, Alden felt he deemed the respect he deserved.

“Nice to meet you,” Walter said.

“The pleasure is mine,” the elder Clough said. “I would shake your hand, but I can’t get a grip of things.” He laughed.”

“That’s all right, sir,” Walter smiled.

“Alden has told me so much about you and all the heroic tales you two have shared. Did you really slay that beast by yourself?” the elder Clough said.

“Well, sort of,” Walter said.

“I would have been afraid to look it in its eyes,” he said. “Terrifying things.”

“We were coming to get you at the inn,” Alden said.

“The Swan Inn?” the elder Clough inquired.

“Yes, that’s the one,” said Alden.

“By golly,” Mr. Clough said. “The Swan Inn was around when I was a child. Owned by a Mr. Banny”

“That’s my Uncle.”

“Is he now,” said a surprised Mr. Clough. “He use to make us boys some egg cream during the summers and kompot during the cold days. He was a tall slim man with black hair and his famous walrus moustache. He used to laugh so much.”

“That doesn’t sound like Mr. Banny,” said Alden.

“It doesn’t?” said Mr. Bagley.

“My Uncle isn’t slim and he has no moustache,” said Walter.

“By chance, is his name Frank?” he said.

“No it’s Obel,” Walter said.

“Ah!” Mr. Clough said. “That must be his grandson. He must have inherited the inn from his grandfather. I think old Mr. Banny named a drink after his son, Obel. His wife wasn’t able to move to Asbjorn to be with him. She was ill. He never talked about her… People would come to his inn in droves.”

“People still come, grandfather,” Alden said. “Especially with the outsiders coming to see the light.””

“The light?” Mr. Clough became surprised. “It still glows?”

“Brighter than ever,” Alden said.

“Well I’ll be,” he muttered. “That light glowed when I was a whelp. It all began when the last Thatch married that outsider. They said she was a beauty. I never saw her. She never came out of that castle. All of the Thatch family were reclusive so it wasn’t surprising to not see her. The children use to play outside the castle. They were always outside. They weren’t allow to talk to no one. Then they were gone, locked up in that tower. They had such sad faces. Their step mother was a shrew woman. I saw this two headed creature come out of that castle. Many said it was her. It scared me so.”

“Would she be the one emitting that glow from the mountains, grandfather,” Alden said.

“Perhaps. Strange things happened when that glow began. I even saw creatures fly in the sky. Some thought they were witches.”

“I see them too, grandfather,” Alden agreed.

“Witches?” Walter said. “I don’t think–”

“Witches haven’t flown that way in centuries,” remarked a familiar voice.

“Cadi!” both boys exclaimed.