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Chapter 1: Red Eyes

Description: The traveling merchant Leuven stops his covered wagon by the roadside to take a rest when he hears strange noises coming from the woods. Perhaps it would have been better to stay at home rather than venture out into the dark and brutal world. However, a stranger rushes to his aid. This stranger, however, does not seem to be like a normal human.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


Part 3

It was quiet. Only the resounding echoes of the blacksmith’s hammer on the anvil reverberated across the courtyard, accompanied by the hushed chatter of two servant girls who were evidently avoiding their duties.

Evan continued his stride until he reached the dining room.

Marie had already taken her place at the noble wooden table. She rose when she noticed the half-demon.

“You look good,” she remarked with a sinister smile.

Evan pushed his collar aside and grimaced. “It scratches a little.”

“While you made yourself comfortable, I delved deeper into my research.”

“I have to disappoint you; I’ve also uncovered something intriguing.”

The seer gazed at him with widened eyes.

“I spoke with Petunia.”

“The dwarf?”

“Yes. She has never seen the girl, neither in her dreams nor awake. That means that…”

“That doesn’t mean anything. Just because the girl hasn’t appeared to her yet doesn’t mean she’ll be spared.”

“I think otherwise.”

“What makes you think that?”

“She’s been at the court for a week. The ghost first appeared a week before that.”

“So you believe she was spared because she arrived at court later?”

“You didn’t see that, did you?”

The seer shot him an angry look. “But it could also be a coincidence. I have also seen the girl and have only been here for a few days.”

“A sloppy approach; there are no coincidences with ghosts. Besides, you’re here to find the ghost. So you’re looking to get close to him. Something happened two weeks ago and the Lord hasn’t told us yet.”

“It’s time to find out,” said Marie as the door creaked open, and the lord entered the dining room accompanied by his wife and Vermeer.

The lord’s wife looked ailing. Her eyelids and cheeks had sagged low on her face, and her hair was disheveled, despite her attempts to conceal it in a braid.

Evan immediately noticed, along with her nibbled fingernails. She seemed nervous but attempted to convey an air of superiority over the guests.

Marie placed a hand on her chest and bowed her upper body. “Johan Dancker, Lord of Harren Castle, and Methild Dancker, Lady of Harren Castle, I thank you for your invitation and ask your permission to present the latest information on the tragedy that has befallen your castle.”

Evan, on the other hand, had no intention of bowing to any nobility. He crossed his arms and nodded instead.

A dark look from the seer met him.

“I knew it couldn’t be a good decision to let any vagabonds into the castle. So they’re supposed to take this curse off us?” hissed the lord’s wife, hugging her husband.

“I’ve already had my experiences with ghosts. But think what you like about me. I can free you from the ghost, but I can also leave the castle,” Evan replied without showing the slightest respect.

He realized how much the lady of the castle must be seething inside.

If he knew his life depended on it, he might have behaved differently, but he took advantage of the situation. The situation in which the lord and his wife were dependent on him.

“Do you see how disrespectful he is towards us? You should cut off his head,” Methild Dancker said to her husband, who just gave her a tired look.

“If he fails, I will consider it,” the lord replied.

“And the witch too,” his wife added, giving the seer an evil look.

Marie flinched. Was she really serious? – What do I have to do with it? she asked herself.

The lord broke the tense mood. “Well, I’m curious to see what you’ve found out, Madame de Boer.”

A quick, smug look on her part met the half-demon.

“Thank you, sir,” she began. “I spoke to the servants. The apparitions started two weeks ago, didn’t they?”

The lord nodded.

“But there were two other servants at the court at that time, is that also correct?”

Before Dancker could say anything, his wife interrupted him. “The thieving Magda and the clumsy stable boy, yes. What about them?”

Her voice vibrated menacingly. Evan studied her. A defensive reaction, perhaps she knew more?

Marie cleared her throat. “The servant Magda was dismissed from the court, and two days later the stable boy Gregor died. Eyewitnesses reported that he was kicked by a horse as he tried to saddle it. I was also told that he was very good with the animals; there had never been any incident between him and the horses before. The next day the nightmares began, and the girl was seen several times. This definitely suggests that these two people have something to do with it. Gregor is unmistakably a male name, although ghosts can change appearances. It’s unlikely that a vengeful male ghost would appear in the form of a little girl, especially since he still had both eyes when he was buried.” She glanced over at Evan. “I checked.”

She continued. “Then there is Magda. She was fired because she stole something?”

“That thieving magpie!” spat Methild Dancker. “She didn’t just steal anything. She regularly raided the pantry since winter is approaching.”

Evan joined the conversation. “She looted supplies? Did the stable boy do anything wrong?”

The lord’s wife looked at him in surprise. “No, otherwise I would have driven him away from the court as well.”

“He lost his life, there is no higher punishment.”

“He lost his life because he did bad work. If he had concentrated more, maybe he would still be alive. There is no one to blame; it was an accident,” Methild justified herself and raised her chin.

At that moment, the door next to the fireplace burst open. Leuven stalked into the dining room.

“Great, the next court jester in the group,” Methild exclaimed. “I’ve had enough; I’m going to the bedchamber. Let Vermeer bring me lunch.”

She looked reproachfully at her husband and pushed past the irritated Leuven.

He stood at Evan’s side and whispered in his ear. “Thanks. I asked the laundress to add a little more lavender to your clothes.”

The half-demon remained calm, pretending not to have listened to his words, but he certainly had and he hated it. But he didn’t want to begrudge Leuven the victory, which is why he continued to ignore it.

The lord sighed as his wife closed the door behind her with a thud.

“Sorry, my wife is struggling a lot with what happened. Every night, the girl haunts her in her sleep, terrible,” he said. “She has already suffered enough in her life.”

“What do you mean?” Evan asked, surprised.

“Well,” the lord replied and swallowed as he sat down in his armchair. “Eight years ago, she was pregnant. But it was a miscarriage. We had been trying for so long to produce an heir. She hasn’t been the same since that day.”

“I’m sorry.” In Evan’s face, the lord recognized the honesty of his words, even if they seemed cold at first.

The lord sighed once again. “Since then, she has been more anxious than before. Now that this ghost or whatever it is is haunting us, even more. We set up black candles, along with arrangements of myrrh, lavender, and anise. She must have read about it in a book. It’s supposed to keep evil ghosts away.”

The lord snorted, almost as if he wanted to make fun of it. “But it didn’t help. The whole room smells like it, but she doesn’t want to miss it, so I let her have it, even if it doesn’t help.”

“Interesting,” Evan whispered. But the seer understood him loud and clear and looked at him curiously.

“Well,” the lord clapped his hands to change the subject. “have you found out anything yet?”

“Not yet.”

“You only arrived an hour ago. You probably want to talk about your pay first. I have already completed the formalities with Madame de Boer. I offer you three hundred crowns if you succeed. If you fail, you will have to be satisfied with the food and lodging provided. You can leave the castle, but our collaboration must remain secret. I hope you understand that I attach great importance to discretion,” said Dancker.

“Of course,” Evan replied, but he didn’t believe the lord’s words.

He had had enough dealings with nobles, merchants, and other people from higher families to know that they were the ones to be wary of. Some words are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. As quickly as they were spoken, they were also quickly forgotten.

“Madame de Boer trusts you. And so do I. You also seem very human and, above all, honest,” added Dancker.

Leuven narrowed his eyes. Was he really serious?

“As for payment,” Evan said, “our horse has bolted. If you don’t mind, I’d like to exchange the crowns for one of your horses.”

“A horse for three hundred crowns?” asked the lord, barely able to suppress his laughter. He recognized the seriousness on Evan’s face. “You can’t get a horse for three hundred crowns.”

The lord thought for a moment. “Good. If you really manage to get rid of this ghost, then I want to help you too. You should get your horse so that you can continue your journey as quickly as possible.”

Dancker nodded happily. “Vermeer inform the cook that he should prepare the meal. And you can discuss the next steps, but I will probably be of little use to you.”

He rose from his massive armchair and nodded his thanks to those present before saying goodbye.

Evan looked after him suspiciously.

“Now don’t look like that,” said Leuven, “you were able to increase our wages.”

“Hardly,” the half-demon replied, turning his gaze toward the seer. “He won’t let us go, right?”

Marie shook her curly hair. “The lord is a man of honor; he keeps his word.”

“But only if we are successful. I can see it in your eyes; you’re not telling me something.”

The seer thought briefly and finally answered. “What choice do I have? If we don’t succeed, the punishment will probably be the death.”

“I knew it. Why did you keep this from me?”

“Because I am sure that we will be successful. So far, I have completed all my orders to the fullest satisfaction.”

“Don’t rely too much on your abilities. You can’t win every fight,” Evan said with a sigh, turning the topic back to their task. “But at least we have a lead.”

“Correct. The stable boy,” the seer replied, while the half-demon said “Magda” in the same breath.

The two looked at each other maliciously.

“Magda?” Marie mocked. “What would a thieving servant have to do with a ghost?”

“Why should a clumsy stable boy have anything to do with it?” Evan replied.

“The stable boy,” Marie began, “was generally considered a rough, young man. He is said to have often stayed in the village pub and approached the women there in an indecent manner. Besides, he wasn’t above getting into a fight.”

“That’s all? – An asshole is an asshole, and maybe he deserves to die. I can’t judge, but why should his misfortune have anything to do with a ghost? Where is the connection?” asked Evan, growling like a wild dog.

“Very easy. He was a philanderer and daredevil. Maybe he got a woman pregnant during one of his escapades. She had a miscarriage, and the dead child now wants revenge,” snorted Marie.

“Horseshit!” the half-demon said. “Then the ghost would no longer be present. Besides, this is a very far-fetched story. You should make your living as a fairy tale aunt.”

“And you? – Why should it have anything to do with the servant? – She stole supplies; that probably has no connection to the apparition.” The seer hissed like a wild cat.

“She stole supplies, for whom? – I hardly think so, for herself. I suspect that she used them to provide for refugees. Winter is near, and many are heading towards the capital. After supplies ran out, people starved. So it stands to reason that a ghost wants revenge on the lord,” said Evan.

“Hah!” Marie spat. “And my story is supposed to be nonsense? A little child can come up with a better story.”

The thick air between them was palpable. If anyone wanted to, they could probably have cut through it with a bread knife.

They both gritted their teeth and looked menacingly into each other’s eyes, as if they were having a competition.

“You are both wrong!” Leuven now intervened and put his hands on his hips.

“Excuse me?” the half-demon and the seer looked at the merchant in confusion.

“It has to do with both, but for a different reason,” Leuven continued.

“How do you know that?” asked Evan.

“I was talking to the dwarves in the laundry room. Petunia may have only recently been employed at the court. Her cousin, on the other hand, has been working here for three years,” replied the merchant, amused.

“So what?” Evan asked indignantly.

“Yes and?” Leuven repeated mockingly and then wrinkled his nose. “Dwarves are interested in gossip. Everyone knows that. That’s why they investigate every rumor.”

“What are you getting at?” Marie asked impatiently.

“In any case, you are both right and wrong at the same time. There was a connection between the two of them; they were a couple.”

“A couple?” asked Marie, horrified. “How can you fall in love with a man like that?”

“That’s not relevant,” Evan growled, turning back to Leuven, “what else did she say?”

“The night before Magda was expelled from the court by the lady, the two of them had an dispute. The stable boy is said to have been very harsh towards her. Petunia’s cousin heard them arguing while she was taking out the kitchen scraps. She wasn’t sure, but she thinks the stable boy hit the girl, and now guess where it all took place.”

“In the horse stable,” Evan and Marie replied at the same time.

“Correct,” said Leuven, his chest puffing out with pride. “The case was solved, by me.”

“You haven’t solved anything yet,” the half-demon said. “We know that there was a connection between the two, but not yet whether or not there was a connection to the ghost. Then there’s the lord’s wife.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Marie wanted to know, putting one hand on her hip.

“Black candles, myrrh, lavender, and anise. She read about it in a book. That sounds plausible so far, but which book did she get it from?”

The seer shook her curly mane.

“Such rituals were used centuries ago. They are associated with black magic. Why would she use such a ritual, especially if it has no effect? Unless it has an effect.”

Marie and Leuven looked at him questioningly.

“Listening is certainly not your strength. The lord said his wife was plagued by nightmares every night. Yes, nightmares, but had she encountered the ghost outside of those? – He certainly wouldn’t have kept that a secret. The ritual she performed is used to keep evil ghosts away. But it’s not enough to just set up the things in question. No, you also have to say an incantation. That’s why the ghost couldn’t get to her,” the half-demon explained.

“But she haunted the lord while he was awake, in his bed, next to his wife,” Marie noted.

“he was so close, and yet the ghost couldn’t get to her. I assume he keeps trying and failing, which is why everyone around her is haunted, trying to find a way to break the ritual.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the evidence for that either,” said Marie, grimacing in disappointment.

“We don’t need them,” Evan replied. “We can talk to the lord’s wife and the ghost too.”

The seer laughed maliciously. “You really want to go for it and look for the ghost?”

“We’re supposed to drive him away, aren’t we?”

“This is true. I hate to admit it, but you’re probably right. Well, my dear half-demon, how should we proceed?” Marie demanded, folding her arms.

Evan looked over at Leuven. “You should have a good meal at lunch. It could be your last.”

Startled, he waved his hands in front of his body. “Wait, what’s the plan?”

“We will lure the ghost.” The half-demon gave the merchant a diabolical smile.

Leuven was not at all enthusiastic about the plan.

After a while, Vermeer returned to the dining room.

” The dinner will be ready soon. Why don’t you three take a seat while I fetch the lord and his wife,” he said, while two maids waited behind him with plates and cutlery.

Evan and Marie were whispering to each other.

Leuven could hardly understand a word of what they were saying. But he was sure of one thing, challenging a ghost could not bode well.

In his childhood, he had heard many stories about ghosts and it had never been successful to tempt one of them.

After a while, the lord and his wife entered the room.

Methild Dancker scowled at the three of them, while her husband gave the impression that he still hadn’t caught up on his sleep.

The dinner was accompanied by an uncomfortable silence.

Every now and then, a clearing of the throat or a smacking noise broke through the frosty atmosphere. But nobody wanted to start a conversation.

Leuven looked at his plate. Half a quail, served with rosemary potatoes, red cabbage and a hearty sauce, lay before him.

He had been hungry for days. But the tense situation made his stomach cramp.

The young merchnat took a sip of wine from a silver goblet in front of him and looked round.

The lord helped himself to the quail, smacking his lips, while his wife strained her back and carefully cut the fowl into small pieces with her cutlery.

Evan and Marie kept their eyes fixed on their meal. They ate without making a sound.

The young merchant picked up his cutlery. Hunger drove him to eat.

Leuven hadn’t eaten so well for weeks. It was a real feast, but the food was still heavy on his stomach.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


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Cahpter 1
Red Eyes

Description: The traveling merchant Leuven stops his covered wagon by the roadside to take a rest when he hears strange noises coming from the woods. Perhaps it would have been better to stay at home rather than venture out into the dark and brutal world. However, a stranger rushes to his aid. This stranger, however, does not seem to be like a normal human.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Part 3

It was quiet. Only the resounding echoes of the blacksmith’s hammer on the anvil reverberated across the courtyard, accompanied by the hushed chatter of two servant girls who were evidently avoiding their duties.

Evan continued his stride until he reached the dining room.

Marie had already taken her place at the noble wooden table. She rose when she noticed the half-demon.

“You look good,” she remarked with a sinister smile.

Evan pushed his collar aside and grimaced. “It scratches a little.”

“While you made yourself comfortable, I delved deeper into my research.”

“I have to disappoint you; I’ve also uncovered something intriguing.”

The seer gazed at him with widened eyes.

“I spoke with Petunia.”

“The dwarf?”

“Yes. She has never seen the girl, neither in her dreams nor awake. That means that…”

“That doesn’t mean anything. Just because the girl hasn’t appeared to her yet doesn’t mean she’ll be spared.”

“I think otherwise.”

“What makes you think that?”

“She’s been at the court for a week. The ghost first appeared a week before that.”

“So you believe she was spared because she arrived at court later?”

“You didn’t see that, did you?”

The seer shot him an angry look. “But it could also be a coincidence. I have also seen the girl and have only been here for a few days.”

“A sloppy approach; there are no coincidences with ghosts. Besides, you’re here to find the ghost. So you’re looking to get close to him. Something happened two weeks ago and the Lord hasn’t told us yet.”

“It’s time to find out,” said Marie as the door creaked open, and the lord entered the dining room accompanied by his wife and Vermeer.

The lord’s wife looked ailing. Her eyelids and cheeks had sagged low on her face, and her hair was disheveled, despite her attempts to conceal it in a braid.

Evan immediately noticed, along with her nibbled fingernails. She seemed nervous but attempted to convey an air of superiority over the guests.

Marie placed a hand on her chest and bowed her upper body. “Johan Dancker, Lord of Harren Castle, and Methild Dancker, Lady of Harren Castle, I thank you for your invitation and ask your permission to present the latest information on the tragedy that has befallen your castle.”

Evan, on the other hand, had no intention of bowing to any nobility. He crossed his arms and nodded instead.

A dark look from the seer met him.

“I knew it couldn’t be a good decision to let any vagabonds into the castle. So they’re supposed to take this curse off us?” hissed the lord’s wife, hugging her husband.

“I’ve already had my experiences with ghosts. But think what you like about me. I can free you from the ghost, but I can also leave the castle,” Evan replied without showing the slightest respect.

He realized how much the lady of the castle must be seething inside.

If he knew his life depended on it, he might have behaved differently, but he took advantage of the situation. The situation in which the lord and his wife were dependent on him.

“Do you see how disrespectful he is towards us? You should cut off his head,” Methild Dancker said to her husband, who just gave her a tired look.

“If he fails, I will consider it,” the lord replied.

“And the witch too,” his wife added, giving the seer an evil look.

Marie flinched. Was she really serious? – What do I have to do with it? she asked herself.

The lord broke the tense mood. “Well, I’m curious to see what you’ve found out, Madame de Boer.”

A quick, smug look on her part met the half-demon.

“Thank you, sir,” she began. “I spoke to the servants. The apparitions started two weeks ago, didn’t they?”

The lord nodded.

“But there were two other servants at the court at that time, is that also correct?”

Before Dancker could say anything, his wife interrupted him. “The thieving Magda and the clumsy stable boy, yes. What about them?”

Her voice vibrated menacingly. Evan studied her. A defensive reaction, perhaps she knew more?

Marie cleared her throat. “The servant Magda was dismissed from the court, and two days later the stable boy Gregor died. Eyewitnesses reported that he was kicked by a horse as he tried to saddle it. I was also told that he was very good with the animals; there had never been any incident between him and the horses before. The next day the nightmares began, and the girl was seen several times. This definitely suggests that these two people have something to do with it. Gregor is unmistakably a male name, although ghosts can change appearances. It’s unlikely that a vengeful male ghost would appear in the form of a little girl, especially since he still had both eyes when he was buried.” She glanced over at Evan. “I checked.”

She continued. “Then there is Magda. She was fired because she stole something?”

“That thieving magpie!” spat Methild Dancker. “She didn’t just steal anything. She regularly raided the pantry since winter is approaching.”

Evan joined the conversation. “She looted supplies? Did the stable boy do anything wrong?”

The lord’s wife looked at him in surprise. “No, otherwise I would have driven him away from the court as well.”

“He lost his life, there is no higher punishment.”

“He lost his life because he did bad work. If he had concentrated more, maybe he would still be alive. There is no one to blame; it was an accident,” Methild justified herself and raised her chin.

At that moment, the door next to the fireplace burst open. Leuven stalked into the dining room.

“Great, the next court jester in the group,” Methild exclaimed. “I’ve had enough; I’m going to the bedchamber. Let Vermeer bring me lunch.”

She looked reproachfully at her husband and pushed past the irritated Leuven.

He stood at Evan’s side and whispered in his ear. “Thanks. I asked the laundress to add a little more lavender to your clothes.”

The half-demon remained calm, pretending not to have listened to his words, but he certainly had and he hated it. But he didn’t want to begrudge Leuven the victory, which is why he continued to ignore it.

The lord sighed as his wife closed the door behind her with a thud.

“Sorry, my wife is struggling a lot with what happened. Every night, the girl haunts her in her sleep, terrible,” he said. “She has already suffered enough in her life.”

“What do you mean?” Evan asked, surprised.

“Well,” the lord replied and swallowed as he sat down in his armchair. “Eight years ago, she was pregnant. But it was a miscarriage. We had been trying for so long to produce an heir. She hasn’t been the same since that day.”

“I’m sorry.” In Evan’s face, the lord recognized the honesty of his words, even if they seemed cold at first.

The lord sighed once again. “Since then, she has been more anxious than before. Now that this ghost or whatever it is is haunting us, even more. We set up black candles, along with arrangements of myrrh, lavender, and anise. She must have read about it in a book. It’s supposed to keep evil ghosts away.”

The lord snorted, almost as if he wanted to make fun of it. “But it didn’t help. The whole room smells like it, but she doesn’t want to miss it, so I let her have it, even if it doesn’t help.”

“Interesting,” Evan whispered. But the seer understood him loud and clear and looked at him curiously.

“Well,” the lord clapped his hands to change the subject. “have you found out anything yet?”

“Not yet.”

“You only arrived an hour ago. You probably want to talk about your pay first. I have already completed the formalities with Madame de Boer. I offer you three hundred crowns if you succeed. If you fail, you will have to be satisfied with the food and lodging provided. You can leave the castle, but our collaboration must remain secret. I hope you understand that I attach great importance to discretion,” said Dancker.

“Of course,” Evan replied, but he didn’t believe the lord’s words.

He had had enough dealings with nobles, merchants, and other people from higher families to know that they were the ones to be wary of. Some words are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. As quickly as they were spoken, they were also quickly forgotten.

“Madame de Boer trusts you. And so do I. You also seem very human and, above all, honest,” added Dancker.

Leuven narrowed his eyes. Was he really serious?

“As for payment,” Evan said, “our horse has bolted. If you don’t mind, I’d like to exchange the crowns for one of your horses.”

“A horse for three hundred crowns?” asked the lord, barely able to suppress his laughter. He recognized the seriousness on Evan’s face. “You can’t get a horse for three hundred crowns.”

The lord thought for a moment. “Good. If you really manage to get rid of this ghost, then I want to help you too. You should get your horse so that you can continue your journey as quickly as possible.”

Dancker nodded happily. “Vermeer inform the cook that he should prepare the meal. And you can discuss the next steps, but I will probably be of little use to you.”

He rose from his massive armchair and nodded his thanks to those present before saying goodbye.

Evan looked after him suspiciously.

“Now don’t look like that,” said Leuven, “you were able to increase our wages.”

“Hardly,” the half-demon replied, turning his gaze toward the seer. “He won’t let us go, right?”

Marie shook her curly hair. “The lord is a man of honor; he keeps his word.”

“But only if we are successful. I can see it in your eyes; you’re not telling me something.”

The seer thought briefly and finally answered. “What choice do I have? If we don’t succeed, the punishment will probably be the death.”

“I knew it. Why did you keep this from me?”

“Because I am sure that we will be successful. So far, I have completed all my orders to the fullest satisfaction.”

“Don’t rely too much on your abilities. You can’t win every fight,” Evan said with a sigh, turning the topic back to their task. “But at least we have a lead.”

“Correct. The stable boy,” the seer replied, while the half-demon said “Magda” in the same breath.

The two looked at each other maliciously.

“Magda?” Marie mocked. “What would a thieving servant have to do with a ghost?”

“Why should a clumsy stable boy have anything to do with it?” Evan replied.

“The stable boy,” Marie began, “was generally considered a rough, young man. He is said to have often stayed in the village pub and approached the women there in an indecent manner. Besides, he wasn’t above getting into a fight.”

“That’s all? – An asshole is an asshole, and maybe he deserves to die. I can’t judge, but why should his misfortune have anything to do with a ghost? Where is the connection?” asked Evan, growling like a wild dog.

“Very easy. He was a philanderer and daredevil. Maybe he got a woman pregnant during one of his escapades. She had a miscarriage, and the dead child now wants revenge,” snorted Marie.

“Horseshit!” the half-demon said. “Then the ghost would no longer be present. Besides, this is a very far-fetched story. You should make your living as a fairy tale aunt.”

“And you? – Why should it have anything to do with the servant? – She stole supplies; that probably has no connection to the apparition.” The seer hissed like a wild cat.

“She stole supplies, for whom? – I hardly think so, for herself. I suspect that she used them to provide for refugees. Winter is near, and many are heading towards the capital. After supplies ran out, people starved. So it stands to reason that a ghost wants revenge on the lord,” said Evan.

“Hah!” Marie spat. “And my story is supposed to be nonsense? A little child can come up with a better story.”

The thick air between them was palpable. If anyone wanted to, they could probably have cut through it with a bread knife.

They both gritted their teeth and looked menacingly into each other’s eyes, as if they were having a competition.

“You are both wrong!” Leuven now intervened and put his hands on his hips.

“Excuse me?” the half-demon and the seer looked at the merchant in confusion.

“It has to do with both, but for a different reason,” Leuven continued.

“How do you know that?” asked Evan.

“I was talking to the dwarves in the laundry room. Petunia may have only recently been employed at the court. Her cousin, on the other hand, has been working here for three years,” replied the merchant, amused.

“So what?” Evan asked indignantly.

“Yes and?” Leuven repeated mockingly and then wrinkled his nose. “Dwarves are interested in gossip. Everyone knows that. That’s why they investigate every rumor.”

“What are you getting at?” Marie asked impatiently.

“In any case, you are both right and wrong at the same time. There was a connection between the two of them; they were a couple.”

“A couple?” asked Marie, horrified. “How can you fall in love with a man like that?”

“That’s not relevant,” Evan growled, turning back to Leuven, “what else did she say?”

“The night before Magda was expelled from the court by the lady, the two of them had an dispute. The stable boy is said to have been very harsh towards her. Petunia’s cousin heard them arguing while she was taking out the kitchen scraps. She wasn’t sure, but she thinks the stable boy hit the girl, and now guess where it all took place.”

“In the horse stable,” Evan and Marie replied at the same time.

“Correct,” said Leuven, his chest puffing out with pride. “The case was solved, by me.”

“You haven’t solved anything yet,” the half-demon said. “We know that there was a connection between the two, but not yet whether or not there was a connection to the ghost. Then there’s the lord’s wife.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Marie wanted to know, putting one hand on her hip.

“Black candles, myrrh, lavender, and anise. She read about it in a book. That sounds plausible so far, but which book did she get it from?”

The seer shook her curly mane.

“Such rituals were used centuries ago. They are associated with black magic. Why would she use such a ritual, especially if it has no effect? Unless it has an effect.”

Marie and Leuven looked at him questioningly.

“Listening is certainly not your strength. The lord said his wife was plagued by nightmares every night. Yes, nightmares, but had she encountered the ghost outside of those? – He certainly wouldn’t have kept that a secret. The ritual she performed is used to keep evil ghosts away. But it’s not enough to just set up the things in question. No, you also have to say an incantation. That’s why the ghost couldn’t get to her,” the half-demon explained.

“But she haunted the lord while he was awake, in his bed, next to his wife,” Marie noted.

“he was so close, and yet the ghost couldn’t get to her. I assume he keeps trying and failing, which is why everyone around her is haunted, trying to find a way to break the ritual.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the evidence for that either,” said Marie, grimacing in disappointment.

“We don’t need them,” Evan replied. “We can talk to the lord’s wife and the ghost too.”

The seer laughed maliciously. “You really want to go for it and look for the ghost?”

“We’re supposed to drive him away, aren’t we?”

“This is true. I hate to admit it, but you’re probably right. Well, my dear half-demon, how should we proceed?” Marie demanded, folding her arms.

Evan looked over at Leuven. “You should have a good meal at lunch. It could be your last.”

Startled, he waved his hands in front of his body. “Wait, what’s the plan?”

“We will lure the ghost.” The half-demon gave the merchant a diabolical smile.

Leuven was not at all enthusiastic about the plan.

After a while, Vermeer returned to the dining room.

” The dinner will be ready soon. Why don’t you three take a seat while I fetch the lord and his wife,” he said, while two maids waited behind him with plates and cutlery.

Evan and Marie were whispering to each other.

Leuven could hardly understand a word of what they were saying. But he was sure of one thing, challenging a ghost could not bode well.

In his childhood, he had heard many stories about ghosts and it had never been successful to tempt one of them.

After a while, the lord and his wife entered the room.

Methild Dancker scowled at the three of them, while her husband gave the impression that he still hadn’t caught up on his sleep.

The dinner was accompanied by an uncomfortable silence.

Every now and then, a clearing of the throat or a smacking noise broke through the frosty atmosphere. But nobody wanted to start a conversation.

Leuven looked at his plate. Half a quail, served with rosemary potatoes, red cabbage and a hearty sauce, lay before him.

He had been hungry for days. But the tense situation made his stomach cramp.

The young merchnat took a sip of wine from a silver goblet in front of him and looked round.

The lord helped himself to the quail, smacking his lips, while his wife strained her back and carefully cut the fowl into small pieces with her cutlery.

Evan and Marie kept their eyes fixed on their meal. They ate without making a sound.

The young merchant picked up his cutlery. Hunger drove him to eat.

Leuven hadn’t eaten so well for weeks. It was a real feast, but the food was still heavy on his stomach.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5



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