Something Haunts the Haunted


There was once a raddegy house that sat on a hill that shivered with each roll of thunder. The house had sat there, patiently, for three hundred years, but nobody had ever been in or out.

That did not mean that the house was deserted.

The house on the hill was home to three witches. Presently, the youngest shuffled down the steps to the first floor. The stairs groaned at the weight of his tiny feet. His oil lamp illuminated the path; the light shooing spiders and insects out of his way.

Physically, he was a boy of six. In actuality, he had lived much, much longer than that. William Abercrombie wasn’t sure how many years he’d lived—he and his family had been locked up in their house since the day he was born.

He reached the ground floor and checked the grandfather clock opposite the stairs.

“Witching hour,” he whispered. That meant his mother would be in the kitchen.

William entered to find Evangeline Abercrombie knelt over the dining table. Her hands tumbled over each other as she muttered an incantation in a tongue William did not fully understand. He was still learning his spells.

The smell of rotten meat assaulted his nostrils. When his mother finished her incantation the meat burst into flames. The fire sprouted like a finger and tickled his mother’s chin. But it was a nice flame—it did not burn her.

Evangeline blinked out of her trance. “Rejuvenated…” she muttered, to no one in particular.

When she noticed William her eyebrow became a taut bowstring. With nary a word, she swept towards him, her nightgown trailing behind her. “William, honey, whatever are you doing up at this hour?”

William rested the oil lamp on the floor as his mother scooped him up. He took his mother’s braid on his hand, dimly aware that he was playing with it. “It’s daddy. He’s sick.”

Evangeline swallowed audibly. “William, dear, what are you talking about?”

“Daddy’s not well. He’s coughing. He looks older and he—he can’t get out of bed, mommy.”

Her countenance tightened. “Have you done anything since you discovered this, William?”

“I came to you first.”


William gave Evangeline’s braid a sharp tug. She didn’t bat an eye. “What’s wrong?” William asked, “Don’t people get sick?”

Evangeline hugged William tight. She had a mother’s touch. Delicate, protective, and ready to kill the first thing that harmed her son. “William, dear,” she said, “I want you to be brave.”

What’s wrong, mommy?” He twirled her braid in his hands.

Your father hasn’t gotten sick in four hundred years.”

“Mommy, is it bad that daddy’s sick?”

Hush, child,” Evangeline said, “You’ll be in your room in a moment. You need to sleep, darling.”

That’s not what I asked, mommy.”

I know.”

Then why didn’t you answer?”

Because you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Thunder roared. The windowpanes hissed.

Can you make the rain stop, mommy?” William asked.


Will you?”


Why not?”

Evangeline did not answer. She opened the door to William’s room.  

The boy was greeted by the musty smell of old books She laid him down and tucked him in. “You’re safe now, William,” Evangeline said. She planted a kiss on his forehead. When she stood, her braid slid out of her son’s grasp.

Lightning flashed, illuminating the room for a fraction of a second. “Don’t go,” William whispered.

I must tend to your father,” Evangeline said, “I’ll see you in the morning, love.” William glanced at the floor. Black smoke rose from cracks in the wood. It swallowed her. When the smoke retreated into the floorboards, she was gone.

William glanced at the pile of books his parents had left him. There were books on witchcraft, world history, English, math and practically everything else he could think of. It as all that he knew He stole a glance out the window.

Well, I thought she’d never leave,” a baritone voice said.

William jumped. He turned to see an elderly man making his way towards him with soundless footsteps.

Hewas like a magnet to darkness. The shadows in the room danced to embrace him. They veiled him. “Alone at least, aren’t we, dear William?”

What are you?” William asked said, voice quivering. “Why do you keep coming to me?”

The old man’s laugh was like marble scraping steel. “What I am, you ask. Yet what am I not? I am dead, but I live. I am imprisoned, but freed. I am old, yet younger than you might imagine.”

No.” William said, “No more riddles. I don’t want riddles. What do you want from me?”

“I want to help you,” the old man said, “Oh, don’t look at me like that. You know it’s true. Who told you your father was sick? Did not I?” The darkness shivered with the old man’s laugh.

William blinked to find the man nose to nose with him. His breath was like cobwebs tickling William’s lips. “What would you say if I told you I could make your father healthy again?”

“I’d ask what you wanted in return.”

The old man grinned with unfettered knowledge. He ruffled William’s hair. “You’re clever, boy, you know that? But you asked the wrong question. What you should ask yourself is this: is there anything you wouldn’t do for family?”

Another crack of lightning that illuminated half of the old man’s face. William might’ve seen malevolence etched into his features, but the light was gone so quickly he couldn’t be sure. He trembled under his covers. “What if I say no?”

The old man straightened. With an undertone of glee he said, “Your father dies, of course. You’ll never see him again.” The old man wandered to the window as if he’d forgotten William. He stared off into the distance. He twirled a finger around a yellowed geography book. “William, my dear boy, do you know what happens to witches when they die?”

William’s stomach twisted. His father had told him stories of dead witches. He wasn’t sure of the truth to them. “I’ve been told they rot in Hell. They’re buried alive as maggots eat their flesh. No one hears their screams.”

The old man flashed him a thin-lipped smile. “That barely scratches the surface. Tell me, William, is that what you want for your father?”


Then let me heal him.” The old man tore his gaze from the window and frowned as if he was mourning. Shadows pranced across his face. “I wish to help you, young man. Don’t send me away. There’s so much good I can do.”

William matched his look with a level stare. “You never answered my first question,” he said.

The old man flinched. “Why—what question did you ask, dear boy?” He tapped his chin. “I seem to have forgotten.”

William furrowed his brow. “Who are you?”

The old man snapped his fingers, “Ah! Yes…that.” He scowled at the notion of revelation. His veil of darkness expanded. The room went dark.

The next crack of lightning did not scare away the shadows. William felt the old man’s icy breath in his ear. “I am a friend,” he said, “I can help you. I can help your father. Your family. All you have to do is agree. I ask again: is there nothing you wouldn’t do for family?”

Get out.”

“As you wish. But your father’s sickness will grow worse. If you ever need me, do not hesitate to call. I seek only to help. Remember that.” The darkness receded and the old man vanished like a snuffed candle.


Rivulets of rain raced down David Abercrombie’s window. He heard it all. It was just like his father said when he died all those years ago. When a witch goes, he hears it all. Every last sound left in the world wants to reveal itself to him before he goes. It’s agony and it’s bliss.

He heard the rain hiss on the window. He heard its patter on the roof. Every squeak his bed made sounded like a battle cry his ears. It was enough to drive any mortal mad.

David was not, strictly speaking, mortal.

Evangeline brushed the curtain tapestries out of the way and sat on the side of the bed. For a moment, she could not bear to look at him. She stared at the gilded jewels lining rotted walls. “What’s going on, David?”

You know what’s wrong,” David tried to sit up, but only succeeded in sputtering out a series of coughs. “It’s all coming back. Everything I’ve done. I’m dying, Ev.”

Tears welled in his wife’s eyes. “But why now? Why of all times does it have to be now? You can’t wait a few centuries?”

David locked his fingers between his wife’s. “I can’t control my mortality. My time comes when it comes. It’s like I told you that day long ago. I’ve done dreadful things. Monstrous things. And there will be a price.”

Evangeline sniffed. The smell of their waterlogged house filled her nostrils. “I know,” she whispered. She drummed her fingers on her husband’s hands. “It was going to kill you eventually, I never thought—”

That it would be now?” David finished for her. There was a crack of lightning. The ceiling shook the dust from its boards. “Death comes for everyone. Even witches.”

What about—about him?”

Him?” David said, calmly. “He’s going to go with me. We’re bound, Evangeline.”

Still,” she furrowed her brow, “He doesn’t want to go—he won’t go. Not without a fight.” She shuddered at the thought of him. “Is there no way he can break the bond?”

He’s locked away, my love,” David said. He squeezed her hand. “He will not hurt you. I promise.”

Evangeline leaned in for a quick kiss. When they parted she whispered, “You’re going, aren’t you?”


“You’re dying.”


“Then die knowing I love you.”

“I love you more,” David said, and then sputtered into a coughing frenzy.

Evangeline bit back a smile. “Save your breath, darling.”

I will, I will.” David said. Her smile infected him. He sank back into his bed, sighing as he did so. He must caught the look Evangeline gave him. “You’re worried about him, aren’t you?”

He doesn’t want to die,” Evangeline reiterated, “And what if he gets out?”

Do you trust me?”


Do you trust me?”

Evangeline looked away. “Yes,” she muttered, “I do.”

Then know that I cast the spell myself. Know that I did what I had to—to keep us safe. I did it for us, my love. For our family.”

I’m not mad at you,” Evangeline said, “I understand. The family comes first.” She stood up and adjusted her nightgown. A roll of thunder shook the house. Dust whisked into her hair.

You’re beautiful, you know.” David croaked.

Thank you,” she said. She swallowed a lump in her throat. Try as she might, she couldn’t get him out of her mind. Something had to be done, but what was she to do? “David,” she said, “Get some rest. I’ll see you in the morning.”

He was already snoring.

Evangeline down the steps. She muttered an incantation under her breath and a flame sprouted in her palm. The fire tingled her cold fingers. Shadows flailed as she glided down the stairs. The fire’s light pulsed. It grew brighter, then dimmer every other second. I need to see the basement, she thought. I need to know he hasn’t escaped.

You really think I’m not down there?”

Evangeline knew that voice. His voice. The one wreathed in darkness. The shadows loved him. They always had “How many years have you kept me locked up? You think I’ll get out now? Just because my jailer grows weak?”

What do you want?” she asked.

You have the nerve to ask that?” the old man moved quicker than the eye could see. His footsteps were breathless as he swirled across the floor. “I want to make a deal with you, my love.”

Don’t call me that,” Evangeline snapped. She shivered. She would not face him. She would not let him know she was afraid.

As you wish,” the old man said. The shadows smiled with him. “As I was saying,” he put his hands on her shoulders. They felt like dust. “I’d like to make a deal. I’ll heal your husband, and he will release me. How long has it been since I’ve seen the outside world? Have you ever stopped to count the days? I have.”

If I free you, what’s to stop you from going after my family?”

Nothing,” the old man laughed, “And that’s really all this is about, isn’t it? Family. That’s how all this started, isn’t it? For the sake of the child. Your words, I believe. And now you have a choice: let your husband die, or free me. Break the bond, and he lives.”

Evangeline whirled around and advanced on the old man. Rage tinged her voice. “David spent his life keeping you locked away. Do you take me for a fool, old man? I will not let his life’s work dwindle down to nothing. Do you hear me?”

A voice sounded from the stairs. “Mommy. Who are you talking to?”

William leaning against the railing. It creaked under his weight. When she looked back, the old man was gone. “No one, honey. Go to bed.”


Go to bed!

William dashed up the stairs.

Evangeline fell to her knees. Her sobs came in rapid succession. They gave her little time to breathe. She had the chance to save her husband’s life. Why wouldn’t she take it?

She had to see the basement.

She rose to her feet and muttered the same incantation that brought the fire before. It jumped into her hands. Her shadow pointed like a needle behind her.

She needed the light. He would be powerful in darkness. She couldn’t have that. Hundreds of years alone with only hate to keep him company would make him a dangerous foe, darkness or no. She had to take away any advantage.

Evangeline said the words she had haunted her mind for four hundred years. The door that had been sealed since William’s birth let out a shriek as it opened.

She felt her hairs dance on the back of her neck. She hadn’t seen the vault in centuries. It stood implacable at the end of the hall.

Only this time there was no one to shout agonized pleas for mercy as she and David bolted the doors shut.

Her flames chased off the darkness. His darkness.

And she saw him.

He laid in a ball, his head parallel to the ground. His hair was straw. By the look of it most had been torn out by the root. He was naked. The tips of his fingers were red—the old fool had scratched so hard to get out he tore away layers of skin. The outline of his spine nearly protruded from his body. His skin hugged it tight.  He let out a shuddering breath and laughed.

It was a hollow laugh. Empty. He wheezed his way back into silence, placed his palms on the ground and took a deep breath.

Then he spoke.

“You know….I’ve always wondered why those flames of yours only burn what you want them to.” He did not deign to look at her.

“They obey my will.”

“Spoken like a true politician.” She could feel him smirking. “You know that’s why I’ve never liked magic. You can’t question it—it is magic, after all.”

“There are rules—”

That—you—broke!” He reared up to face her. He was gap toothed and bits of his tongue were missing. Scars spiderwebbed across his face from where he scratched at it. Evangeline almost felt sorry for him. All he’d had was hatred and his twisted self-penance.

“You had a hand in that,” she said, “Your actions were not without consequence.”

“Then tell me why you were the ones dealing out punishment with impunity, hm? Who decides who gets punished for breaking those rules?”

Evangeline did not speak. She had no answer.

“Why have you come?” He asked.

“I needed to be sure,” Evangeline said. “I needed to be positive William is safe.”

He grinned at that. “Safe…heh….he’s far from safe.” As an afterthought, he added, “He wants his daddy back, you know. I don’t know how far he’ll go, but who’s to say what he’ll do? What deals he might make.”

Evangeline almost let her worry show. She forced it back at the last second. “He would never—”

“What makes you so sure?” He smiled, exposing black gums. “He’s a child, Ev. A child who never learned who I am. What I did. He’s a kid who will do anything to save his family. After all, family is everything.”

Anxiety wrote lines across Evangeline’s face. She had to get back to William.

She rushed out the vault.

He shouted back to her. “That’s right. Run! Ru—” His words were drowned when she sealed the vault.

Evangeline raced up the steps. Her throat was raw from dehydration. Clouds of dust exploded in her wake. A splinter stuck her bare foot. She winced, but did not falter. She rushed onward ignoring the flecks of blood sprinkling the steps.

She opened the door to meet blackness. She said the words, and her fire came to her. But the darkness was persistent. It begged for more time to stay. “Why do you do this, Ev?” the old man’s voice echoed through the darkness. “You always have your little fires, don’t you? Always chasing away my darkness. Why is that? Are you scared of a man’s mere spirit?”

“It reminds me of you.”

A scoff echoed through the veil. “You wound me, Ev. But you have forgotten something—light doesn’t drive off darkness. It only scatters it.”

Evangeline pursed her lips. “Does it, now?” She repeated the words, and the flames burned brighter—brighter—and brighter still, until at last the room was illuminated. The fire’s fingers touched the immediate area. Her shadow was tall behind her.

She almost missed it peel itself off the floor.

Evangeline’s shadow towered over her, dancing and stretching. It sank back to her normal height. Her shadow touched Evangeline’s cheek like a breeze in autumn.

Then it attacked.

Her shadow pounced on her. Cold fingers clasped around her throat. Evangeline threw fire at it. All it did was disproportion her foe.

Her heart hammered at her chest. She arched her back and tried to breathe. She could hear the old man laughing, his voice like a dying echo.

Evangeline tried to say the words—tried to quench the flames, but words eluded her. Her mind raced with a thousand thoughts a second. She could try a different attack, but if she couldn’t say the words, it would drain her.

What choice did she have?

Her fingers raked the floorboards for the nearest shadow—that of a vase on top of a rickety table.

She could have sworn her shadow was smiling.

The vase’s shadow was within her grasp. The words tumbled over each other in her mind. If she could not speak them aloud, she would have to will the spell into being with her mind.

She thought the words again. Again. Again.

With one final haul she tore the vase’s shadow off the floorboard and struck her shadow with it. The vase splintered into shards of darkness. Her shadow sprawled to the floor.

She couldn’t give it time to recover. She said the words and her fire swept away. Her breaths quivered. For a time, she sat on all fours.

He would not rest, would he? Something had to be done.


William was not entirely sure what he was doing. He was only obeying the old man. He was just trying to keep the family safe. The old man floated overhead like a shadowy cloud following him. Lightning illuminated the house for half a second. William glanced at the old man. “Why are you scowling?”


“You’re scowling. Why?”

The old man was silent for a time. Was it his imagination, or did the darkness shift accordingly to mask the old man’s face? “I don’t like the light,” the old man said. “It gives me…less to work with. But that needn’t concern you. Go to your father, William. He wants to speak with you.”

William shied away from entering. “Are you sure about this?”

“Do you want your father to rot in Hell, William?”


“That’s right. You love you father, don’t you? You’d do anything to save him, right?”


“Then let’s go. Quickly, now, while there’s still time.”

“Why do you need my help?” William asked, “What relevance have I to you?”

“Your father must agree to be healed of his own accord, dear William. I cannot persuade him.”

“Will he see you?”

“His mind may need some…persuading,” his tongue lingered on the word. “But no. He will not see me.”

William shuffled along in semi-darkness. His father’s door loomed over him. He reached for the handle, tarnished with rust. The door creaked open, alerting David Abercrombie to his son’s presence. “You must do exactly as I tell you, William,” the old man whispered.

With a thought, candles in the room went out. William did not hear his father’s protest, for the old man commanded his attention. “Go tell your father you love him.”

William meandered to his father’s side. He smiled. “I love you, Daddy.”

“William—” David moaned, “Is that you? Light a candle, would you?”

The old man rested his hands on William’s shoulders. “Notice—he didn’t tell you he loves you.”

“Don’t you love me, daddy?”

“What? Of course I do, William. Please, light a candle. I want to see.”

The old man swirled around William as if he were a mist. “Do not listen to him, William. We need darkness if I am to heal him.”

“Daddy, I’m going to make you better,” William said. “My friend is going to help you.”

David’s eyes had lit up. “Your friend, William?” David said, “What is your friend going to do?”

“He’s going to heal you, Daddy. I don’t want you to die, and neither does he. He says he can help.”

“What’s his name?”

“He calls himself John Hale.”

“William, listen to me. You need to get out of here. Now.” David forced himself to sit up, coughing vehemently with the effort. “But, Daddy,” William said, “We’re going to make you better. We’re going to help you. Do you want to die?”

“William, I—”

“The truth, now,” the old man said.

“The truth, now,” William said.

“William…I…I don’t want to leave you, but—”

The old man beamed. “That’ll work,” he said.

He stepped forward. The candles reignited. The darkness peeled off his flesh. “Hello, Mister Proctor,” the old man said, “I see you’ve taken up a new name. It’s been a long time, my friend. Too long.” A wrinkled hand clasped David’s forehead. A white light glittered between his fingers.

“No—no—!” David cried. “Ev. Evangeline!”   


Evangeline curled into a ball on the floor. She had not said the words when she attacked that shadow. It had drained her. She could feel blood in the back of her throat. She struggled to recuperate.

Evangeline!” It was David’s voice. Coming from the bedroom. If she was too late—

No. She couldn’t think of the consequences.

Evangeline dashed up the steps. David’s room was not far away—she just had to come without alerting the old man.

Sweat caked her forehead. She blinked it out of her eyes. The boom of thunder loomed in the distance. She had to get to David.

She thrust the door open to see him—the old man, holding a leathery hand to David’s face. A strange light glowed beneath it. David’s face changed. His wrinkles scurried off. Gray hair gave way to its natural blond.

Evangeline did not stop to think about what was the best course of action. She said the words. A beam of light rocketed from her outstretched hand and struck the old man. He stumbled backward and crashed into the opposite wall. The windows cracked. Shattered glass rained down. Lightning flashed. And the old man whimpered. For a moment, all was silent.

Evangeline noticed William’s presence. He stood in a corner. If he knew the words, he would have made himself sink into the wall. Evangeline knelt to be at eye level with her son. “William, I want you to run. Get out of here, before he recuperates.”

“I don’t want daddy to die.”

“He won’t,” she lied.

William nodded and started for the door.

Then the old man’s eyes snapped open. He said the words and the door slammed shut.

The old man laughed his empty laugh.

“It’s…not…over…yet.” He said, “I haven’t finished healing him.”

“You’ve done enough.” David said. The witch stood tall. He towered over the old man. Wind flitted through the window. “I’m dying, old friend,” he said. “And it is your fault.”

“David, David, I—” the old man began.

“I will not have your excuses. I am dying because of what I did to you. I could not keep you at bay.

“You broke the rules—”

“I know what I did! And I accept the consequences. Unlike you. Now….” He raised a palm to the old man’s face, deaf to his pleas for mercy. “I want you out of my house.”

He said the words, speaking as if what he was doing was a simple occurrence; nothing more. Light tingled in the essence of his skin. It danced toward the old man until it enraptured him. There was a final shriek, and the old man vanished.

David turned to his family. Already his wrinkles were crawling back onto his visage. “He’s gone.” he said.

“For how long?” William asked. “That wasn’t his true form, was it?”

“No.” David said, “It was not.”

“Then I know what I must do,” Evangeline said. David turned in time to see bands of argent swirling in his wife’s palms.

By the time he realized she’d conjured a dagger she’d already stabbed him.

He coughed up blood. When it was done, the dagger turned to wisps in Evangeline’s hands.

David’s face slackened. He managed a faint smiled and a nod.

He collapsed.

William looked at his mother standing over the corpse. His face was a sheet of paper. He said nothing.

“Come with me,” Evangeline said.


“Your father and the old man were linked,” Evangeline said. She opened the vault and light rushed out to greet her. The old man lay sprawled on the floor. A pool of blood circled his abdomen. “We kept him down here for four hundred years.”

For a time, William said nothing. “He called himself John Hale.”

Evangeline’s mouth twisted, as if considering the notion. “Yes,” she said. “He went by that name, once. He was a witch who hunted witches. Strictly against our code.” She meandered through the vault. She never stopped to examine the old man’s body. She glanced at William, who stood in the doorway. “What your father did was worse.

“He and I were convicted of Witchcraft, you see. The problem was—your father and Hale were good friends, so he staged a fake execution to grant us freedom. Your father didn’t like that. He called Hale a traitor. That he would save the two of us yet condemn all others….” her voice trailed off. “It sickened him.”

Evangeline glanced at the body for the first time, as if trying to discern whether what remained matched that description.

William thought he looked more pathetic than anything.

“Hale fought your father,” she continued, “He told him there was nothing he could do. ‘Witches cannot harm other witches,’ he said. That, too, was against the our code. But Hale had already broken it. Your father was not that type of man. He refused to break the code.

“So he bonded himself to Hale. His life was Hale’s life. His sickness was Hale’s sickness—his health, Hale’s health. He bonded himself and refused to use magic for four hundred years. Here Hale remained.” Evangeline gestured to the body on the floor, already paling in color. “Until your father grew sick.

“It was the bonding that killed him, in the end. To maintain such magic for so long—I’m surprised he lasted so many years.” She did not sound particularly grateful. “I had to kill him, love. I couldn’t let Hale come after you.”

“No,” William said, “You didn’t.”

“William,” Evangeline said, “Don’t you see—we did this for you. To protect you. This was all for our family.” Her eyes pleaded with him.

“You go too far, mother,” William said, implacable. “There had to be other ways.”

“There weren’t.”

“And you and daddy? Why weren’t you two punished? You broke that code just like he did.” William gestured to the corpse.

“Our cause was just.”

“But who is to say which cause was the better?” William rebuked, “You did this to him with impunity.” He backed away. “Maybe I’ll be punished, too, one day.”

He said the words. The vault closed behind him.

William ascended the steps. He paid no heed to his mother’s cries. She had earned her place. She killed his father—she helped lock up that man Hale.

Her cries were distant by the time he reached the top of the stairs. He couldn’t tell if she was sobbing or fuming.

He didn’t care.

He said the words he had been practicing for so long. The words he had read in books upon books his parents had left in his room. The ones he read every night.

The locks to the front door unlatched, and William opened the door and touched the grass for the first time in his life.

His mother’s cries were silent now. He had almost forgotten her. He had never seen such wonder.

The storm had passed, giving way to clear blue skies and warmth he had never felt before. It was not like the fire he was so used to. It felt more…natural. The grass was soft beneath his feet and mud squished between his toes. He looked down at the hill overlooking the town. Each house was almost as rickety as his own. He wondered if anyone lived down there.

“Now where was I?” William muttered to himself. He took one step. Then another. And another, until the house on the hill was nowhere in sight.

“Ah, yes. The world.”



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Robin Hood and the Visage





From the writings of the old one, and his words on Man and the Visage:

Man is finite. His ability is finite. He can only see a limited number of colors, and hear there merest fraction of sounds. He feels much, but notices less.

He shares a realm with beings who occupy these planes and more.

Among them is a creature…or maybe creatures. They are elusive, and I do not profess to know all. These things have been dubbed the Visage. Their names, sexes and personalities are nonexistent. They do not exist as corporeal beings.

They exist as emotions.

Harken to me, and come close to the fire, for I have a story to tell. A story of Robin Hood and the Visage. And it begins thusly…


“I shall never traffic with traitors,” said Guy of Gisborn, as he knelt over the altar, “I will never give ill counsel to a Lady, and whether married or not, treat her with respect and defend her against all.”

Prince John nodded, and then slapped Guy of Gisborn with the flat of the priest-blessed blade. Gisborn took the blow and breathed deep, shoulders heaving.

Prince John spoke, “Let that be the last harmful blow you take and do not return. Now, as repayment for your felling of the Werewolf of Nottingham, I bid you rise, Sir Guy of Gisborn, newly-made knight to King Richard the Lionheart.

The words tasted bitter on Prince John’s tongue. And somewhere, off in the crowd, an old maid scowled as if she had swallowed vinegar. Yet, as Sir Guy of Gisborn rose, his pride eclipsed the Prince’s anger, and the woman smiled like the taste had turned to honey on her tongue. She drank in the newly-made knight’s pride, and it tasted sweet upon her lips. She drank in so quickly and heavily that soon she did not remember being the old lady—she could only remember the pride of being a newly-made knight.

And the more she felt like a newly made knight, the more she began to look like one.

As the applause died down, the Visage of Sir Guy of Gisborn exited the Church and walked out into the light.




Maid Marian Fitzwalter drew her bowstring taut. The goosefeathers tickled her cheek. She knew all too well that guards of Nottingham Castle were stealing glances at her. She was half a shame and half a beauty. Half a fighter, and half a lady. Half a person, she thought. They think me half a person. She was dimly aware that some of them were grumbling to each other. She gave them no heed. She needed to focus.

The arrow whispered through the air and thumped into the target across the courtyard. She imagined the straw man was Robin Hood, and that the bits of hay that the wind snatched into the air was his life’s blood was spilling onto the grass.

A fitting end for the man who killed her grandfather.

She drew another arrow from her quiver when she saw the Visage of Sir Guy approach her. Her shoulders sagged with her sigh and she returned the arrow to its quiver. “Guy of Gisborn,” she said with a curtsy, “How may I be of service?”

“It is Sir Guy now, Lady Marian,” the Visage said with a deep bow. He kissed her hand. “I was knighted this morning.”

Sir Guy,” Marian corrected herself, “My apologies. My question remains the same, however. How may I be of service?”

The Visage of Sir Guy recalled the emotion it had tasted at the knighting ceremony. The pride—but there were other feelings bubbling beneath that surface. Sir Guy had thought of Marian Fitzwalter as he was knighted, and had assumed she would be glad to hear his news. The Visage also tasted pangs of anger at Robin Hood for what he had done to Baron Fitzwalter, chased by sympathy for Marian.

The Visage spoke. “It is not how you may be of service to me, Marian,” it said. It walked the courtyard, and gave a gesture that bid her follow. “But how I might help you. I am a knight after all. A newly-made knight, perhaps, but I have sworn a vow to protect a Lady’s honor.”

Marian eyebrow went taut as her bowstring. “And how would you plan to do that?”

“I—I wish to offer my condolences. I am sorry about what happened to your grandfather. It happened under my watch, and I failed him. I am sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Marian was careful to keep the venom out of her voice. But the Visage of Sir Guy felt the emotions she held adeptly within her. Some of it she did not seem to truly know that she felt. All the Visage could find of her emotion was enough to satiate the smallest of thirsts.

“You did nothing. It was Robin Hood who killed my grandfather. If you had intervened, the werewolf of Nottingham would still plague us.”

“That is so,” the Visage answered. It liked how the talk of Robin Hood tasted on Marian’s lips. It tried such talk for itself. “And what of Robin Hood now? How are you recovering from such ill news?”

The anger came frothing to the surface, and the Visage consumed her vitriol. Her mortal eyes could not see it, but to the Visage of Sir Guy, this rush of anger and hatred ebbed through the air between them like a fine mist. Its scent caught the Visage off guard. It knew there were intense emotions within her, but it never imagined anything this strong. It took all that was within the Visage not to tremble at such distilled hatred.

And when the Lady answered, “Not well, if I am being honest,” the Visage nearly doubled over. How did such a creature hide such malice? Despite its internal shock, the Visage managed to keep Sir Guy’s face as blank as stone.

“It will be quite a while before I find it in my heart to forgive the outlaw. If ever,” Marian continued. “Despite what the smallfolk say of him.”

“Is there any way I may be of assistance, my Lady?” the Visage asked.

“No,” Marian made her bitterness plain, now. “This is something I must take care of myself.” And then, remembering who she was speaking to, she bowed her head. “Forgive me. I forget my place. I should not say such ill words in the presence of a newly-made knight. I offer my sincerest apologies.”

But the Visage of Sir Guy could taste the dishonesty on passed her lips. The Visage took it in until it could handle her no longer.

“I—I am sorry, my Lady. All I can offer is my condolences, and that you may soon recover from this most tragic event.” And, wordlessly, Sir Guy’s Visage stumbled out of the courtyard.

It came upon the streets of Nottingham where it stumbled down the street. The venomous glares were manifold and stung to be consumed. Watchers thought it a drunkard as it staggered into an alleyway. Sir Guy’s emotions fled. Chased off by Marian’s anger, until such hatred was all that it knew

And as it adopted the outer form of the Baron’s daughter, it decided that it would very much like to kill Robin of Locksley.




Robin Hood had led Friar Tuck away from camp to speak of private matters. Rumors among his own men he knew he could withstand, but the Friar had to know the truth behind the fate of Baron Fitzwalter.

After he relayed his tale, the Friar’s eyes went wide as saucers. He stared at Robin, grasping for words, “You what?”

“You act like I meant to do it!” Robin hissed in a strangled attempt not to shout. He cast his bow to the ground and ran his hands through his hair. “I didn’t mean to kill Fitzwalter. We were fighting in a Church, he disarmed me, and there was little room to defend myself.”

“Whether you meant to or not, you killed him!” the Friar rebuked. “Now you reap the consequences.”

Robin struck the friar with an open palm, sending him stumbling back. He seized him by the collar before he could fall flat on his back. “I know all too well what I have done, and I know what may come of my actions,” Robin said. “Do not condescend me in such a manner.” He sat on a log. “And keep your voice down. I cannot have the others hearing you.”

Tuck knitted his brow and stared at Robin, as if measuring his intentions. “You’re scared, aren’t you?”

“What? No! Of course not!”

Tuck sat next to the outlaw and let out a heavy sigh. “Do not be ashamed of fear. It isn’t a bad thing.”

Counsel oft comes in ambiguities. Robin thought, but stayed his thoughts from harsher words.

“What of this new fellow? Can you not tell John Little—”

“Little John.”


“That’s what he calls himself, so that’s what we will call him. Little John.”

Friar Tuck cleared his throat. “Yes. Little John. Is he the Werewolf of Nottingham?”

Robin’s curled his lips into a smile. “He was,” Robin answered, and offered nothing more. You’re not the only one who can speak in riddles and half-truths, friar.

Tuck frowned at this. He began to ask for an explanation, and then thought better of it. Instead, he said, “And the old one? Have you talked to him of this matter?”

“I have. He has offered me a reward for my service.”

“And what is that?”

“Safety. Thanks to him we will never be captured. He has blanketed my encampment with his magic. Everyone about our trysting tree lives in Sherwood Forest as it was three hundred years ago. All can come and go as they please, but only those who serve me and my cause can truly enter my camp. The Sheriff can scour Sherwood Forest all he likes, but he will not find me or my men.”

Friar Tuck began to realize that he was leaning forward as though Robin’s words compelled him to come closer. “Such magic—that defies the work of the Devil himself. Why—why it rivals God!” Tuck crossed himself. “How can one man be that powerful?”

“My dear friar, what has God got to do with this?”

“You would be wise to stay your tongue, Robin. I do not take kindly to such blasphemy.” It was plain that he was struggling to keep his voice level.

“Let no harm be done, my friend.” He clapped Tuck on the shoulder. “I spoke in jest, and now apologize. These few months have been hard on me.” He grunted to his feet. “I need to clear my head.”

And so Robin wound his way through Sherwood Forest in the dark of night, with naught but a cloak, the threadbare clothes on his back and the sword at his side.

He crossed a fallen tree that served as a makeshift bridge for the stream below, and leapt onto the path, landing on all fours. He had not noticed how quickly the day had gone by. Night had fallen, and when he looked up he saw none other than the Visage of Maid Marian staring him down from across the path.

“Maid Marian Fitzwalter.” Robin bowed. “How may I be of service?”

The Visage of Maid Marian grinned, and tightened her hold on the sword behind her back.




—Killed him!

The Visage of Maid Marian brimmed with rage. Rage that was felt in the heavy thrust-down of its sword.

Robin Hood leaned away from the sword, expecting the maiden’s blade to land in the dirt. But the Visage recovered, and by the time Robin realized its blade was on a path to rend his neck from his shoulders he had only the time to stumble back, and he tripped over a tree root.

The outlaw rolled away from the next thrust and the Visage’s sword rammed into the dirt. This bought Robin enough time to regain his footing and draw his sword. “My Lady,” he said, “I must protest—this isn’t—” His speech was interrupted by a frenzy of sword strokes that the Visage of Maid Marian dealt him. A laceration cut down Robin’s cheek. The outlaw backed outside of her reach, and wreathed himself in the dark of Sherwood Forest, off the path.

—Killed him! The Visage wanted to speak, yet the rage flowing through it interrupted any attempt at mortal conversation.

Robin watched the Visage of Maid Marian through darkness and foliage. She moved like a wolf on the prowl, even letting out an occasional snarl.

When it did this, the Visage realized that the snarl was meant for other means of mortal communication. It shrugged this off as it searched for Robin.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Robin called out. “I killed your grandfather. I will not deny this.” A he spoke, he dashed deeper through the forest and off of the path. His steps were sure-footed, and with an effort he dispelled all doubt from his mind. “But you must understand I did not mean to do this. I sought only to disarm him.”

Robin heard something whistle through the darkness and ducked to avoid it. When he came into a defensive stance he saw a glint of steel amidst the moonlight and deflected it with hardly a hair’s breadth left in which to do so. As he did this, he adjusted his footing, subtly. He could not let the Visage he presumed to be Maid Marian know what he was planning.

As he parried her sword strokes, he stepped backwards, luring the Visage of Maid Marian deeper through the forest. This was his terrain. His home. No matter how skilled Marian was with a blade, Robin doubted that she was used to fighting amidst such dense foliage.

He deflected the Visage’s blade again as it came at him in a downward thrust. It would have cloven in head in two, had he not seen it. Her counter was without hesitation, shifting the angle of the blade to his neck, forcing him to bend back to evade the death-blow.

“Marian, I meant no ill toward your father. I saved his life in that selfsame abbey! It was an accident!”

The Visage of Maid Marian pressed forward. It remembered all that Marian did of swordplay and archery. All that her father and grandfather had taught her. It put all of this strength and skill into its form.

But hatred marred her sword strokes. She began to telegraph her movements, and Robin managed to evade them more oft than not.

Rivulets of blood ran down Robin’s cheek, torso and thigh. A cut across his forearm made his sword feel heavy the longer he used it. It was getting harder to see his destination off the path.

He steeled himself to the task of defending against Visage of Maid Marian. He would have to trust that he knew the way. “Marian, you have my apologies. Please! Do not do this!” Robin exclaimed.

And the Visage screamed something foreign to Robin. It had meant to scream death and judgment in a mortal tongue, yet the hatred marred its words past any mortal tongue. “Eil gridega! Locksley yeo gridega eil!  Si einn dega ma fygdulu viocui! Degaoi, Robin frem Locksley!

Robin scowled as he ducked under a tree branch. “Well, you’re not Maid Marian,” he said, and then muttered, “Just forget all that pleading. That’s not for you.” He evaded two sword strokes and parried a third, but the Visage of Maid Marian caught Robin’s blade against its own hilt and twisted it so that Robin’s sword was flung from his hands.

Robin made no move to retrieve it. The Visage of Maid Marian held her sword point to Robin’s neck. He backed away up a steep hill, remembering a familiar tree in his mind’s eye. He could sense it was behind him. But when he opened his eyes, he found he was still staring down the length of the blade. The Visage had beaten him.

Until the world began to crumble.

Sherwood Forest fell apart around duo. The sky was cleft in two. Where was there was night and stars, now a clear blue bled through the sky and the woods were lacerated, revealing a field that overtook Sherwood Forest. Where once they had been standing on a hill in the night, they were now amidst planes of grass on a sunny day.

Robin heard the crackling of a fire behind him. And then a voice “Christian? What are you doing in my place?”




Eil dega!” The Visage of Maid Marian shouted. It still held her sword at the ready. It knew not what magic Robin Hood had called upon, and it did not care. “Eil dega! Eil dega! Eil dega!” As the sword came crashing down, it struck the air above Robin’s forehead, but the old one’s fire halted the blow. The Visage growled, and the fire seemed to growl back. It was as if the fire and the Visage were locked in some kind of conversation. Snarls and growls and alien words were all Robin could hear. And then the sword shattered. Tiny fragments of metal skittered over the grass, glinting in the sunlight.

The Visage of Maid Marian threw herself at Robin Hood, but the fire jumped forward and surrounded the visage. “Return,” the old one told the fire. There was hesitation, but soon it retreated back to the old one, forcing the visage to follow, else it be consumed. Then the fire hissed and settled among the logs and tinder. Now and again, and snatched at the air near the Visage like a dog biting at an intruder’s ankles.

The old one’s movements were as precise as the footsteps of a man on ice. He snatched the Visage’s wrist with one hand and held its throat in the other. “Enough!” His voice boomed. It sounded as though it came from some foul demon in the sky. “You are in my realm! You are on my ground! And I permit no violence here! Do you hear me, Shai’da?” And the Old One spoke in a tongue full of harsh consonants from the back of the throat. This, Robin knew, was no language he had been taught by the ancient being.

When he finished, the old one let the Visage’s arm fall to the ground. The grass wove its way around the Visage’s wrists and ankles. And though the Visage struggled, it could not escape. It was as though the grass were tough as iron.

The old one repeated this trick around the Visage’s neck, and it lay still.

Robin tilted head as he watched, studying the old one in his rhythmic movements. Robin was stricken by a feeling that this was not the first time his mentor had performed such a task.

When the Visage of Maid Marian was bound securely, the old one caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. The Visage shuddered at the touch, and struggled against its bonds. But when the old one spoke those alien words once more, the grass tightened around its throat, and it was still again.

The Visage spoke, softly, in the same tongue as the old one. Though Robin knew not what it was saying, the way it spoke gave him a pang of sorrow. He felt as if he had done the creature a great malice. He hung his head and waited for the old one to set his sights on him.

When the two ancient beings finished their conversation, the old one turned to Robin and crooked a finger at him. “Come.”

Robin met his master opposite his fire. And the he stared at Robin with large eyes like that of a toad. He gave the outlaw a deep, penetrating look, as if he were measuring his intentions. At last he spoke, “What have you done?”

“Baron Fitzwalter was attacking me as I hunted the werewolf. We fought, and though I did not mean to kill him, I did.” Robin eyed the thing that looked like Maid Marian. The only discernible movement was the rapid rise and fall of its chest. “What is—what is that thing?”

“It is a shape changer. A Visage. I cannot say how long it has existed. Perhaps centuries. . It is somewhat aware that it is not Maid Marian, but prefers to suppress such knowledge. It knows only that is has existed for scant days. And even that is a generous estimate. A Visage feeds off of emotions, until it is consumed by them, and takes the shape of the creature whose emotion is strongest. It would seem you have evoked strong emotions within Marian Fitzwalter”

Robin nodded slowly as he absorbed this new information. “What must I do?”

“The crisis has been resolved, for a time. But I suggest you pay Marian Fitzwalter a visit—the real Marian Fitzwalter.”

“Does she know of this creature?”

The old one shook his head. “She does not.”

“What did you do?”

The old one’s smile was not unlike the flicker of the fire between the two. “It was a simple trick, for me. You might call it magic. Or maybe science. I spoke in a tongue that, to those who know it, offers easy persuasion over all things. If I wish my field of grass to bind as hard as shackles, it will do so, should I ask nicely enough. As far as keeping the Visage still….well, you see I had to persuade it to stay still in a slightly different manner.”

Robin glanced at the Visage, who stared wide eyed at the sky. He knew the look on its face. It wanted to move, but any movement might tighten the hold on its neck. Its breaths came shallower, now, and Robin’s stomach twisted. “What shall you do with the Visage?”

“I will send it out into the world—into a forest, where it will adopt the form of an animal, and continue its existence, with no memory of you. This is why I suggest you find Marian.”


“Because if it finds her again before you can mend this hurt, you may not survive your second encounter.”

He nodded. “You make a compelling argument.”





Robin Hood stole through the darkness, his cloak trailing behind him in the wind on a war banner. He drew up to Nottingham Castle and walked along its base until he found a crevice in the stonework. From there he began to scale the walls, avoiding the windows and ramparts.

Though never intentional, he had often descried her upon a balcony as he made his way to Nottingham to give the townspeople food and coin. He knew where he was to go.

As he did this, Maid Marian busied herself dressing for a hunt. She had discarded the dress she had worn that evening for dinner with the Sheriff—she could not easily give horse-chase in a gown.

She and donned a pair of breeches and a leather jerkin. She’d grabbed a bow and quiver and strapped a dirk to her thigh. Robin Hood would pay for his actions, even if she had scour all of Sherwood to find him. Tonight she would put an arrow through his throat. Tonight she would kill the outlaw of Sherwood Forest.

The selfsame outlaw whose voice came from behind her.

“I’m sorry.”

Marian nocked and drew an arrow as she turned to see Robin Hood perched on her balcony. Upon seeing the outlaw, fired just to his left, so that he heard the arrow whisper past his ear. The wind on the shot took his hood off his head.

Marian notched another arrow. “That was a warning,” she said. Her voice was thick as molasses. “The next shot goes between your eyes.”

“Please,” Robin said, softly, “Let me speak.”

“And why should I do that? Why should I let you have one word? You have brought me nothing but misery and now you come to my quarters to tell me you’re sorry?”

“What would you have me say, my Lady?” Robin asked. His cloak snapped in the wind. “It was not my intention to kill your grandfather. Nor would I wish to. His cause was just, insofar as he wished more men to follow him to the Holy Land, and though we did not see eye to eye, he did what he thought was right in the framework of the law. You’ll find I can respect that.”

Marian blinked away her tears. She would not cry. Not in front of this outlaw. She was not the poor maiden; and she would not appear so in front of an outlaw. “If you respect him so much, then why did you kill him?”

“I…it was an accident. I was disarmed. He had a sword at my throat. There was little room between us in the Church. I sought only to disarm him—I swear it. I took his legs out from under him and his head hit the pews. It was not my intent—”

“Why should I trust a word you say?” Marian hissed, “The word of an outlaw! The word of a murderer!”

All those words he could handle, save the last. “When last I looked, it was not I threatening to shoot the other between the eyes.”

In her rage, Marian loosed her arrow, missing him by a shoulder’s breadth. “Another warning,” she said, though she knew the outlaw did not believe it.

Robin ignored the fact that she was notching another arrow. “I came to make peace. I will not deny I am a killer and an outlaw, but I will not be called a murderer. I will say to you what I said to him: we are not enemies in this, you and I.”

Liar!” Marian ripped the dagger from her sheath.

“Consider this my parting gift,” Robin Hood reached for something beneath his cloak. He means to kill me, she thought, and hurtled towards him. She thrust the knife down as Robin drew the object into her path.

And she saw that she had stabbed a red and yellow shield. Fiztwalter colors, she thought. She heard a sword clatter to the floor. “I take my leave,” Robin said, and pressed the shield into her hands.

It took only a moment to withdraw from her initial shock, but by that time, Robin was scampering down the walls.

She looked to the shield and found it was rent with claw marks. A folded piece of parchment had been pinned to one of the shield straps. With trembling hands, she unfolded it to find a message, scrawled in berry-juice.

I trust the Sheriff has melted your grandfather’s armor down to fashion new weapons for his guards. That, or he’s sold it. I sought to save his sword and sigil from this fate. I know the Sheriff well, and this is your chance to prove me wrong. I am truly sorry and repent my actions. But please, heed my words. Look into it. I have given you his arms. Where is his armor?

He was right in this. Her father had still not received her grandfather’s arms and armor. Now she had two of those by the hands of an outlaw. Could he be right in this?

She tore the note in half and let it go. When a gust of wind caught it, the note was sent fluttering off the end of the balcony.

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Peter Pendragon and the Enraged Buffalo

The Cure (4)

It is my firm belief that I am one of the only people alive who can boast about being mugged by a troll.

It started the way most of these tales go: with a choice. It was a dangerous decision, and I shouldn’t have done it. But I did.

I went to school.

Continue reading “Peter Pendragon and the Enraged Buffalo”