Now do remember this has not been to either editor or proofreader yet (except for my kids) so its all raw footage, so to speak. Without further ado or disclaimers- here you go:
I must have dozed off at this point, for the next thing I remember is the carriage pulling to a halt in front of an inn in a modest town. Jonathon and Jacob dismounted and the coachman helped us from the carriage. The village was called Hamby. The inn itself was humble but clean and had a small private dining room we could gather in to eat a simple repast and quench our thirst. My legs were glad of the chance to stretch and walk about a bit. Everyone was growing weary of travel. Even Claire’s excitement seemed to have dimmed with the tedium of the road. The food was plentiful and delicious. A smiling serving girl hovered about us filling mugs and replenishing plates. No one spoke until we had eaten our fill.
“Have you any idea how much farther we have to go today Jacob?” Claire asked.
“I do not,” Jacob said. “I do not think it is far though. I would say another hour or two at most. We should be there before nightfall.”
“Where is it ye be goin’ if ye don’t mind me askin’?” the serving girl said.
“We journey to a house known as Starkraven, it is owned by a friend of ours.”
The girl’s eyes grew wide as saucers and a look of sheer terror crossed her face.
“Ye can’t be serious sir! No one resides at Starkraven! Well, no one living at least.” The girl’s face had paled and held no trace of humor. It was easy to see that she meant what she said and truly believed there were ghosts there. The pit of my stomach began to burn.
Jacob eyed her with barely concealed disdain. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “The house has recently passed into my friend’s hands and he has already traveled there to prepare for us.”
The girl shook her head and then cast her glance about the room. Her eyes settled on me and she said “No good can come of this. There are some places that’s jest evil and nothin’ or no one can change that. Darkness stalks the hall of that house and nothin’ but tragedy comes to those what stay there. If ye have any care for yerselves at all, ye’ll go back the way ye come and not even set yer eyes on Starkraven.”
With that, she turned on her heel and left the room swiftly. We all sat in stunned silence for a moment. I sat there shaking. That was twice that I’d heard dire warnings to stay away from Starkraven. Twice I had been singled out and warned. Even the thought of a few days with Charles could not overcome the fear I felt in that moment.
“I think we should go home.” The words were said so quickly and quietly that I was not even certain I had uttered them aloud. I must have, for Claire was quick to respond.
“On the words of a country serving girl? How silly Olivia. We knew that the locals would be scared of the house; her words should come as no surprise. Nor should they have any impact on our intent.” I could tell by her tone that she was angry, both with me and with the serving girl. Claire hated for anyone to go against her will. I knew that she would not let anything change her plans. And yet, I had to try.
“It is not just her words Claire.” I said softly. “I have had ill feelings about this adventure from the very beginning. I cannot explain these misgivings for they are not based on facts just feelings. Call it intuition if you must.”
“Well, for someone with dire misgivings about our plan you went about it well enough. You’re just being silly like always. You’re always timid and fearful. But things always work out. I have not gotten you into serious trouble yet and this is no exception. I will not call a halt to this escapade for your misgivings or a serving girl’s superstitious beliefs.”
“It is not just either of those Claire. There’s more. There’s something I haven’t told any of you.” I looked down at my hands where they lay in my lap twisting my napkin relentlessly.
“Oh for heaven’s sake” Claire sighed. “Out with it then. What’s your big revelation?”
“Do you remember the girl I told you all about? The one who can foretell futures and speak with the dead?” I looked about the room. Jonathon and Jacob stood silent and stony faced by the fireplace.
was looking down and Claire stared at me with her eyebrow cocked. Only Elizabeth Nan and Phoebe seemed to be giving my words any credence. Nan reached down and took my hand in hers.
“Go on Olivia. I remember her.” She said.
“I met her. When I was with my Aunt on Tuesday, I met Emma. She came up to me on the porch of one of the orphanages and she just stared at me at first. Then she grabbed my hand and began begging me not to go! She told me the house was evil and said she could see danger and madness and death in my future. She knew. She knew about our going to Starkraven!” I burst into tears so overcome with fear was I.
Claire sighed. “Oh Olivia. I’m sorry I was cross with you.” She came and sat beside me and took my other hand. “But you’re getting yourself worked up over nothing. There’s no way this Emma child knew of our plans. No way she could have. I am convinced that she was just having a bit of sport with you. You’re so gullible that you make yourself an easy target for this sort of thing. Really, foretelling the future, talking to ghosts? It’s not real. None of it. The locals are a silly superstitious lot and of course they have their stories and ghost tales. But I assure you none of its real. We’ll be fine. And we’ll have a very pleasant time banging around the old house and exploring. Why can you even imagine what treasures we’ll find?” Her cheerfulness had returned and Claire was very hard to resist when she was smiling.
I was still frightened. She hadn’t been there when I’d seen Emma. She didn’t see the intensity in her eyes or the sheer terror she’d tried to convey. But what could I do? We only had one carriage and Claire was determined to go forward with her plan. I nodded my head and tried to force a smile to my face.
“Well then. That’s settled.” Claire smiled and we all began to gather our belongings in order to continue on our way. We had to pass through the large taproom on our way to the door. As we did so, all conversation ceased and all eyes turned to stare at us. I was greatly unnerved, but Claire put her arm around me and guided me to the door and into the stable yard.
We continued on our way though conversation was nearly nonexistent within our carriage. Each of us seemed lost in our own thoughts and Phoebe gripped my hand so tightly I feared she’d leave bruises. I knew then that she was as scared as I but neither of us dared to cross Claire again. I no longer tried to cheer myself but surrendered myself to my ill feelings and premonitions. It was beyond my control. I could only try to stay calm and pray that I was mistaken and Claire had the right of things.
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