by Kristan R. Kelskar
Oh my. Who have we here? In these late midnight hours? Who rumbles through this old abandoned inn in this old abandoned part of the woods?
A new haunting? Nah! Too much light in this ruin of a house. Who gathers there? Let me see. I need to know! Curiosity? Not so much. Feels more like defining destiny to me.
One must be careful when tiptoing through the forest. Otherwise one will ruin the surprise, for oneself or someone else.
Oh, I can here the faint laughter of some kids from the inside. Broken walls and windows don’t do much to dampen the noise. Neither do those huge gaps in the roof! Are they alone here in the woods? I for myself don’t think so.
A brightly lit window. Some shadows pass. Green capes flutter. A “shush” of a wiser man is to be heard! Old ranger better do something about your group of Lookouts! Soon all of the wood knows you are there!
But still. Why are you here? Let’s sneak a little closer. Don’t cross the beam of the night disrupting light. Climb the porch. Careful now! The old planks might creak.
A door! Is it unlocked? They can’t be that foolish? Or can they?
Yikes! A bewitched door knob! Stupid, stupid all so stupid! Who is the fool now?
Better hide quickly. Someone must have set a trap. Someone must have felt it spring. Ahh, right. Someone is coming! Be one with the old stoop now. Be misty. Be the fog. Translucent. Not easy to spot
The door cracks open. Light spills out. Everything it hits must be blind for a moment. Me – not so much. I’m not in its way. Keeping to the shades.
A bulky man steps forward. This is the wise ranger of the lookouts? Must be! He looks around. He tastes the air. He listens. Better not to breath now. Make no sound. Surely he will notice.
“Who goes there?”
As if I would answer that. Eh?
“Ah, those careless younglings! No badge of the Silent Beholder for them today, that’s for sure! Better have a word or two.” mumbles the bulky one and closes the door shut.
So it is no haunt
And it seems either no jaunt!
So, why this nightly trip?
Earning some badges?
Teaching some stitches?
That can’t be it.
It would be too false.
No! There must be something else.
Why so secretly?
A darker reason there must be!
Maybe try another door or the chute for the coal at the back of this aged building.
Leave the porch. Slide around the corner. Duck beneath a window frame. A dark one this is. Nevertheless. Already left one mark. Two is too obvious.
Never rush around a corner! Ha! Don’t fall for this one. Someone is waiting in the back. Or better something!
Its grunt is a mighty roar,
Neither is it a roaming boar.
Blow its fur and it will go “wuuush,”
Nor is it a brown leafed bush.
What could it be, my little child?
One of those living trees? Damn right!
This beast feels no fear or pain in slaughter,
Fulfills all wishes of its beloved Daughter.
So a Daughter is present as well! Interesting. The more curious I’m getting. But how to enter now. Try the darkened window frame? Was the lit one not slightly open? Maybe listen there! What is this all about? An undeniable pull to this lore holds me in its sweet grip.
Indeed the lit one is cracked open. Pushing it a little more.
A faint clatter one can hear.
But couldn’t with a human ear,
Also a warden of the watch should hear
To my surprise, already one is near!
Suddenly she is looming above me! Inside the house. She is gazing right at me. But she doesn’t move. Neither do I! Hovering beneath the frame in utter darkness. Spoiling light cuts the air right above my head. She must feel me!
Is it the shock that froze me in place? Motionless I’m waiting. So does the member of the watch. No need to breath. Vengeful spirit, what Knot brings you here?
Not a Knot of patience it seems. Gone, as fast as she has appeared. Luck? Does she not care about me? Lure one into false safety? Just another trap? Better retreat! Back into the woods. Through the caves. Along the swamp. Towards home?
But that’s not my purpose, I fear!
You think, do as one pleased instead?
Oh, one will surely soon regret,
One needs to know that – you can bet,
A merciful future? One can forget!
It is as dark as it will get!
But how enter the former inn? Where is the weak spot the gatherers don’t think of? Not the doors, neither the windows nor a passage through the cellar seems applicable.
Think, think, think.
Meanwhile rain is pouring down. A cold one this is. Mist will answer it in the morning, when a bleak sun may arise. But for now? Stiffness and the cold! No roof for shelter.
The roof! Isn’t it in decay as well? Are there not enough gaps in it, one can pass? Enter the gathering at last? Ha! That’s the answer to this riddle!
Back to the porch. Climb its little awning. Gain the drain of the rain. Up, up, up one goes. The edge of the roof. It’s wet. But my grip is steady. Pulling up. Slippery roof tiles underneath. Careful! They can be troublesome.
Ahead! Look, there is a hole. Hearing voices already. The bulky one it seems is talking.
“… can see on this map. There lies the swamp and it is growing!”
I need to see this map! Climbing closer to the hole.
“It has doubled its size in the last three moons!” “We can feel its corruption!” sais a finer voice. It must be the Daughter. “We must do something about that!” “A wrong thing thrives there!” echoes a booming voice down in the tavern. This is the oath breaker. “And it has already discovered we are here! It has sent its spying feeler!”
Oh! They know!
A sizzling sound. Heat. The gap widens. Part of the roof collapses. The hole is swallowing me.
Falling! A hard impact. Some things brake.
“There creeps the malevolent runner of the Ebb!”
Swift movement. Pain. Kind blackness.
“Better move out now!”
“Yah! This council is over!”