The Executioner’s Journal

Chapter 3 (Cont.)

********

Alder Winfield had the midnight watch all the way to the witching hour. It was the duty that no man wanted, but one man was tasked to stand. It allowed the other guardsmen to rest and prepare for the morning routines, and the truth was, nothing ever happened. From time to time a guard would whisper of strange shadows, flitting ghosts in the corners of their eyes, and strange howls in the cliffs hanging over the forest that surrounded Hearthholme.

He took a pull from his flask, and let the fire of the uskebeaghe burn its way down to his stomach. It warmed him against the freezing night air. He wished he was not on the wall, staring out into the black of the night, wondering if, as Edgar had whispered to him as he fitted his boiled leather, that a witch had been seen the last three nights.

“May naught a witch, but a vampyre, aye?” Edgar said with a grin. “Flowing red hair in the darkness. Piercing eyes, eatin’ in to yer soul.”

The men in the guardroom had laughed at that. Despite the growing path towards reason, there still were places where superstition held sway, especially the men that comprised the guard. The first time that Alder had met Edgar, the man had regaled him with a tall of a young girl, almost a woman from his village who had died mysteriously over a fortnight. He had described her with flowing, curly locks of the reddest hair he had ever seen. On the fifth day, they buried her in the cemetery outside of the village.

“Everyone in the village was there, wat to see her off. Men lowered her into the cold ground, an’ they buried her.” Edgar described the scene in as vivid detail as he could.

The men of the guard, despite knowing the Captain was about, stopped what they were doing, leaning in close to listen to his tale.

“Two nights later, a lamplighter was found dead in the street. His throat had been ripped out his body. There was blood everywhere.” His hands trembled as he spoke. “The Beadle tasked me and my mate, Hawthorne, to run check the grave. When we arrived… the ground had been ripped apart like the lamplighter’s throat. She had clawed her way from the grave.”