Ichabod gets marked once more by the Horseman's sword. Only one week remains for the constable to defeat his adversary or die trying.
Greggory sat huddled in the corner, the heat forcing his small body to produce gallons of sweat. The memory of his kidnapping was still fresh in his mind. After running down his mother, the Horseman had charged into the western woods, his grip on the child all but snapping his ribs. While they had cantered toward the Tree of the Dead, the only thing Greggory could think about was that the tree's bark would shred him beyond repair. However, the plunge had been more easier than the child had expected, taking them to a shadowy room where the Hessian had left him to go...elsewhere.
"I want to get out of here!" Greggory wailed, his shrill voice echoing. Throwing himself at the locked door, he began banging on it, shouting. "Let me out, you monster! For the love of God, LET ME----" He did not have time to finish his sentence, as the door swung open suddenly, slamming him into the rough wall. Silhouetted in the doorway was the ominous frame of the Hessian, who entered and banged the door closed. Blood chilling in his veins, the helpless boy waited for the next move to be made.
"Mark me, boy, if you don't shut up, I'll personally tear your tongue out," the Horseman growled, flexing his gloved right hand meaningfully. "Do I make myself clear?" Too afraid to speak for fear of making a sound, Greggory nodded. "Excellent, because in my version of Hell, I do what I want...to whom I want. Including you, so keep quiet unless you want to experience extreme pain." Without warning, the Hessian's gaze grew crazed while he bent to haul the boy to his feet. "On second thought, I think I'll show you what I mean before I leave."
"NO, unhand me!" Greggory hollered, struggling to break his antagonizer's hold. Despite his yells, the Horseman sank his razor teeth into the soft flesh, relishing the warm blood that flooded in his mouth. Releasing the child, he grinned wickedly, the gaping wound pumping blood on the dirt floor. Laughing, the Hessian exited the room, leaving Greggory to lie on his back, body wracked with pain, tears crawling down his face.
Ichabod was strolling the dirt roads of Sleepy Hollow the next morning, mind dwelling on his upcoming confrontation with the Hessian, when many men surrounded him, wearing angry expressions. "Good morning, gentlemen. There any particular reason you're looking at me like a pack of starving wolves?"
"We think you should go back to wherever you belong, Constable," one man said dangerously, cracking his knuckles. The others nodded silently. "You come here to plant this blasphemy into innocent heads just to improve your name. And we won't allow it. Get you stuff packed and get out of town. Unless you require assistance." An unseen signal rippling through them, the crowd of men inched closer.
"Don't! He's telling the truth! The Horseman rides again, I assure you! Mr. Crane, he's coming for you NOW! Run, for the Lord's sake, RUN!"
"Young Masbeth, fancy seeing you of all people!" Ichabod said in relief, mopping sweat off his brow, the boy's words not hitting him until yells of "HESSIAN!" reverberated in the air. Swirling fog snaked across the ground while thick gray clouds swathed the sky, blotting out the sun. Hearing the thunder of hooves, the constable felt his heart falter. No, it's too soon! Mustering his strength, he shouldered past the men, his scar pulsating. Knowing he had no chance of outrunning the Horseman's steed, Ichabod slowly turned, quailing upon making eye contact with his enemy.
Baring his teeth ferally, the Hessian caught his quarry and lunged, sword entering the constable's chest, his weight carrying them both to the earth. The hell's-fire edge missed the heart by a hair, which had been his plan. "Now, Crane, this wound shall ensure you do not flee before I get to kill you. Should you go beyond Sleepy Hollow, the hell's-fire will explode your heart, sending you to me to do what I wish." Rising, the Horseman yanked his sword free and slid it into its holster, amused when a pair of men approached.
"You've gone too far, sir," the younger remarked, ignoring his mind that was clamoring at him to run. "I don't know who you are, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself. The real Horseman has rest in peace for the last two years and we were told that he would never awaken again. Quit this trickery and allow us to see whom you really are."
"Fools," the Hessian snarled, grabbing the man by the throat, crystal eyes full of rage. Clenching his fist, he crushed the larynx. Tossing the body aside, he cast a glare in the second man's direction, deciding to let him go. Stare once more on Ichabod, the Horseman chuckled and mounted his stallion, wheeling the animal toward the western woods. "None of you are safe, not even the children. You may lock your holes, but come nightfall, nothing will protect them." Digging his spurs into his horse's flanks, the Hessian vanished, consumed by the fog.
Masbeth knelt beside the gasping Ichabod, scared that he would stop breathing. "A-are you all right, sir? Our doctor can examine you---"
"N-no need to w-worry, young M-Masbeth," the constable managed, painfully sitting up, face devoid of color. "It's on-only a scratch. Come, let's lo-locate the local b-blacksmith."
"Absolutely not. I refuse to get involve in you affairs with that devil, the Horseman. You're on your own, I'm afraid."
"Understandable," Ichabod murmured, inwardly seething. "Have a good day." Don't let the Horseman bite. Lying his hand on Masbeth's arm, he guided him aside. "Are you truly up to helping me again?" The boy bobbed his head eagerly. "Very well, young Masbeth. Fetch a sword, for the next week will be filled with nothing but hard training. In addition, we'll learn what the Hessian wants with the town's children."