The Legend of Archibal: The Phantom

Nobody had tell Walter the winds had changed in Asbjorn, besides the gloomy clouds and constant rain, the sun seemed to be hiding most of the time. Something unusual had befallen around town, whether it was the ending of autumn and the beginning of winter. Walter felt something tenebrous occurring. Maybe it was this witching hour, they whispered about. Walter doesn’t recall how long he mopped the floor but it must have been for a while because it had gotten dark by the time Aunt Edith came around and told him to go have his dinner. He actually enjoyed the mopping and was eager to get back to it.

Besides listening to the gossip at the inn, it was rather dull and dreary being stuck inside. Walter hated it when his mother made him clean the windows upstairs. He did not understand why it had to be done. They still got smudgy and foggy after he was done cleaning them. He didn’t like sweeping or moping the upstairs, either, it was cold, lonely and tedious. He was soon to be thirteen in three months, not that it mattered since his mother didn’t celebrate it At times, he got bore being inside. He wanted to be outside. He wanted to be in school. He wanted to see Cadi and Alden more often. He wanted to visit Archibal anything, but stay inside while it rained.

 

Walter hadn’t seen Alden since the storms arrived. He saw him a few times when the weather permitted it and Alden came around to fill his father jug with ale. Mr. Bagley hated the rain and didn’t dare to leave his home in fear that lighting might strike him. He had an Uncle that died that way as he headed to the tavern. Mrs. Bagley became despondent and moody and had Alden busy with her whims and complaints. Alden was unruffled by his family’s odd behavior. He said it used to be worse when the other extended family lived at the old mansion; but bad luck and other accidents left Mr. and Mrs. Bagley’s the last residents of the manor. That caused many fears, phobias and anxiety to surface in Mr. and Mrs. Bagley. By now, Alden had been accustomed to it and was never bothered by it all. Maybe somebody had to keep sane for Mr. and Mrs. Bagley sake, thought Walter.

With all this doom and dread, Walter was starting to feel like the storm outside. When he wasn’t mopping, he spent his days listening to the stories that travelers brought or the scuttlebutts of patrons. When he saw Alden he brought him up to speed with what he had heard. Alden wanted to stay but he had to get back home. Last time he was late, his folks had sent neighbors to go searching for him, causing a great stir, thinking he had gone missing. Alden was embarrassed and got an earful from one of the Black Coats about making his parents worry and having the whole town searching for him. Next time he was going to set Alden right if caused such a stir again. Poor Alden never kept his parents waiting again. So the few minutes Walter saw him, he quickly gave him bits and pieces of what he heard. Of course it wasn’t everything because by the time he saw Alden he had forgotten some of it. Walter had to promise himself to write it down before he went to bed.

With the interest Walter had in overhearing the two ladies, he quickly ate his dinner. He wanted to know more about the witching hours, the Night of the Withes, they had said. His Aunt Edith worried he was eating with such a haste that she begged him to slow down. “Walter, steady your pace,” she said with concern. “I had an Uncle who was in a hurry to get somewhere. He ate in such a rush that he got a bone stuck in his throat. He didn’t die right away, of course but no matter what he did he couldn’t clear the bone from his throat. Do you know what happened? Of course you wouldn’t because he died or he would be telling you the story. The bone was the size of my pinky finger, causing a septic in his throat and he died from the infection. Never made it home. Do you know why he was rushing to get back home? Of course you wouldn’t you weren’t born yet but he died because he was getting married after being a bachelor for forty years. Do you know why he was a bachelor for forty years? Because he slurped his dinner and it drove the woman. Bad manners are distasteful. Please slow down your dinner before you die a bachelor, all because you slurped your dinner and got a bone stuck in your throat, causing a septic.”

“Yes, Aunt Edith,” Walter slowed down his eating. “I will.” He obliged, he did not want to upset his Aunt Edith but once she left, he resumed his haste. When he was done, he dashed back out to the taproom and continued, hoping to listen to the rest of the women’s conversation, but they had left and in their place was a group of residents from the town. Walter could discern the difference from the hunters and travelers that came into the inn. At first, Walter couldn’t differentiate them, but the hunters carried their bows and arrows or other forms of weapons, while the travelers carried a bindle and dressed in heavy coats or cloaks that was needed for their journey. The locals were easy to spot. Walter recognized some of the regulars that frequently stopped by the taproom for gossip, food or grog. Walter continued to slowly mop.

The Legend of Archibal: The Phantom

“Who’s Mr. Crabb, anyway,” a plump, middle aged woman whispered to her female companion.

“Nobody knows,” said her elderly companion. “They said he came from the East. Had no family of his own. No one ever visited him an’ he never left the town to visit anyone. Mr. Alfred said he never even received letters.” Mr. Alfred was the postmaster of Asbjorn. He operated the only post office in town. He was a friendly man. He had at one time five sons. His eldest had died during the war; another had been lost at sea, while a third to an unknown illness, and the fourth had gone hunting and never returned. His last son, he sent to live with some relatives after his wife died. He believed there was a curse put on his family by someone and didn’t want him to have the same fate as his brothers, though at least that was the assumption of Alden.

“Did anyone converse with Mr. Crabb?” the woman continued their discussion.

“Oi believe he said very little,” said the elderly one. “He kept te himself most of te time. He might have spoken with Mr. Banny a few times an’ other people, here an’ there. Exchanging pleasantries, Oi imagine.” Walter wondered what they spoke about. He needed to remind himself to ask Uncle Obel when he got the chance to.

“Oi don’t even recall te last schoolmaster before Mr. Crabb.”

“Oit wuz some young female,” said her friend. “She taught fer couple of months before she got ill an’ passed away. The Mayor wuz in no hurry te replace her. They say, there is a misfortune upon those who teach here. Someone is either being cursed or damned in this town.” Her plump companion agreed.

“Maybe so, but don’t ye think Mr. Crabb caused his demise? Maybe he angered a traveler. Oi heard he wuz short with people. He probably got curt with a stranger an’ abducted him. The stranger might have dealt with magic who shouldn’t have been crossed. We do git a lot of strangers ‘round here. Children use te say he wuz mean to ‘em.”

“Maybe,” the elderly woman thought for a moment. “That could be a possibility. Besides, children exaggerate. Discipline is necessary, any slight of permissiveness an’ they get out of control.” Both ladies turn to look disapprovingly at Walter who was half listening and half mopping the floors. He started mopping faster and went about his duty in a more serious way, but it was hard not to listen as they continued their conversation. “As Oi wuz sayin,” the elderly lady said. “Children exaggerate at times. However, we are surrounded by strange magic, there is no doubt ‘bout that. Especially, ‘round this time… the witchin hours are upon us.”

“Indeed, they are,” agreed the plump woman. “The Night of the Withes.” The elderly lady hushed her. “I wouldn’t be sayin that out loud. People are superstitious here, one word if this hocus pocus and it’s like a blaze, never to be put out.”