|occhi_bella (occhi_bella) wrote in unknown_fandom,|
@ 2007-08-30 18:47:00
Aftermath - Chapter 5
story_arc Set: 15-03
story_arc Theme: Alone (10-01, #7)
Fandom: Sleepy Hollow (movie)
Character: Ichabod Crane
Warning: Non-explicit implications of rape and incest. Spoilers
Disclaimer: Sleepy Hollow and its characters do not belong to me. I make no money from this.
Link to Chapter 1
Summary: Ichabod departs for New York with Katrina and Young Masbath, but their journey is delayed by unexpected complications. Picks up at the part where the Hessian disappears into the Tree of the Dead for the last time with Lady Van Tassel.
Ichabod couldn’t shake the eerie feeling that lingered even after he left the cemetery. The farms surrounding him were quiet and the ground was blanketed with snow. Everyone was indoors and he was quite alone out here. He shivered and pulled his overcoat tighter around his body.
There was a narrow path forged through the snow along the country road lined on each side with high drifts and he trudged back to town upon it with his eyes cast downward, carefully watching where he stepped so he wouldn’t lose his footing and slip. There was a stream that ran between the farmland and the village, and an open wooden bridge with handrails on each side spanned it.
As he drew near the bridge the sound of sobbing made him raise his head. The bridge and its surroundings were empty and he was truly alone. He didn’t even see people about in the village. A shiver crept up his spine and he scolded himself once more. It was only his imagination. He felt spooked after spending those moments in the cemetery and discovering that the girl Stephen spoke of, a girl that he couldn’t possibly have known about, actually existed. And now his mind was playing tricks on him.
The sobbing sounds had stopped. With trepidation, Ichabod approached the bridge and gingerly stepped foot onto it. His heart fluttered in his chest as he peered over the railing on one side into the stream and along its banks. There was no one and nothing there. He checked the other side. Again nothing.
He slowly turned his head to cautiously glance behind him. Finding no sign of life there either, he turned and hurried across the bridge and into the village.
“Whose grave was it?” Katrina asked when he returned from the cemetery and joined her in Stephen’s room. She looked up from the book she was reading as she sat at his bedside. “Ichabod? What is it?”
“Nothing.” He went over to the large armchair near the fireplace and sank into it wearily. “The grave belonged to a woman named Abigail Jenner. It is on a plot with three other graves, all members of the Jenner family. She did have a daughter named Emily, but there was no grave for Emily.”
“Then she is alive.”
“If she exists,” he sighed, closing his eyes.
“But she must, Ichabod. There is a grave that mentions her, after all.”
“Yes. But what happened to her? I’m not sure which I would fear more; that she may be a figment of Stephen’s fevered imagination or that she is truly a ghost. Still, she must be somewhere. Perhaps she was sent away to live with a distant relative after her family died. What I don’t understand is how could Stephen have possibly known about her?”
“I don’t know.”
“It’s very odd indeed.”
“There is something else bothering you,” she pressed.
He heard the creak of the chair as she stood up and the soft sweep of her dress as she crossed the room and stopped before his chair.
“Ichabod.” Her hand was on his shoulder. “What happened?”
For a long moment he hesitated, trying to gather his scattered thoughts.
“It’s really nothing, Katrina. With all of this talk about ghosts my own imagination has begun to run away. I…I thought I heard someone crying when I was about to cross the bridge back into town. But when I looked up no one was there. No one is out on the streets at all today.” He brought his hands up to rub his temples. “As much as I hate to admit it, I’m afraid I became a little spooked poking around that cemetery.”
A sharp knock on the door made him open his eyes with a start. He rose to his feet and Katrina went to greet the doctor as he entered the room.
“Mr. and Mrs. Crane.”
“He still has a high fever,” Katrina told him. “I cannot tell if it’s growing worse, but it isn’t improving.”
“If everything else fails, I’m afraid that we may have to bleed him in order to relieve the fever.”
“Bleed him?” Ichabod exclaimed in alarm.
“You both look exhausted,” Dr. Thompson remarked, evading the question and looking them over from head to toe. “Lie down and rest while I tend to him. I’ll knock on your door when I am finished.”
“Go,” he ordered. “I promise that I will not consider such drastic measures without speaking to you in detail about it first.”
He shooed them both out of the room and closed the door behind him. Resigned, they trudged down the hallway to their room and wearily climbed into bed.
“You left the door open,” she murmured listlessly.
“Yes. If Stephen cries out I want to hear it. I’ve been thinking about the conversation I overheard the other night in the tavern. I’m very worried.”
“As am I.”
“Bleeding,” he sighed. “They tried using that technique to treat yellow fever during the epidemics in New York.”
The constabulary had its hands full then, he remembered. As with any disease or blight, the poor slum east of Queen Street saw the first cases, then, when the disease was running rampant, it touched the upper class. And as with every epidemic, chaos and crime ensued. Victims of such a severe illness were helpless to defend their person or their property and the desperate took advantage of that. In addition to handling the escalated crime they were charged as public health officials as well. Those were terrible times.
“Ichabod?” Katrina’s voice interrupted his reverie. “Was it successful?”
“Not very often,” he answered pensively. “Thousands died.”
She gasped. “You don’t think…?”
“No. There are other symptoms that he would have displayed by now.”
He clasped her hand and squeezed it.
“If Emily was a figment of Stephen’s imagination, the people in this town would not be afraid of his speaking of it. Somehow he met her or learned of her existence.”
Ichabod sighed ruefully. “Yes. I’ve reached the same conclusion. What I don’t understand is how Stephen has seen her and we haven’t.”
“Maybe he has a natural talent that we were unaware of.”
“Or perhaps the fever has merely heightened his senses.”
“Then again, the townspeople never mentioned the girl’s name. For all we know they weren’t even talking about Emily.”
“But someone said they heard Stephen mention her. I haven’t heard him speak of anyone else.”
Neither of them fell asleep lying there, but when Dr. Thompson knocked on the door to summon them Ichabod felt somewhat more rested.
“…you’ll be better soon”
“…I hope so.”
The fragments of the conversation drifted into Ichabod’s consciousness through a haze of sleep. One voice definitely belonged to Stephen, he absently noted.
Stephen’s room. That’s where he was. It was his turn to watch over him, he remembered. He had dozed off sitting in the chair beside the bed. His eyes fluttered open slowly as he listened to the ongoing conversation. Two distinct voices, Stephen’s and the separate voice of a young girl.
Ichabod snapped fully awake with a start at that realization and raised his head, glancing about frenziedly. No one was there but the two of them.
“Stephen?” he began, turning back to face him.
Stephen’s eyes were closed and he appeared to be fast asleep. Ichabod felt his forehead again. Although it was still hot, it seemed to be less so. Perhaps he was slowly recovering.
He sat and stared at him for a long time, but Stephen didn’t move or speak again.
With a sigh, he stood up and walked over to the more comfortable armchair near the fireplace, quietly turning it so that he could face Stephen. He stoked the fire then took a seat and leaned his elbow on the arm of the chair, resting his head against his hand.
There was no doubt about it. Ichabod had heard two distinct voices; even if he was half asleep, he knew that he wasn’t dreaming it.
“How is that possible if there is no one else here?” he murmured to himself.
Was Stephen merely delirious and talking to himself in his sleep? But that still didn’t explain the second voice. Unless…could the boy have been so deep in the throes of delirium that he altered his own voice, actually speaking in the persona of his imaginary conversation partner?
Ichabod shuddered at that thought, fearful of its implications. Many a fever had driven a man mad, or rendered a child deaf or blind. He could only pray that Stephen would emerge from this illness and with all of his mental faculties intact. And now Dr. Thompson was suggesting the most drastic of means to induce the fever to break.
He was deep in contemplation and didn’t hear the door open. Katrina’s soft hand on his shoulder drew him out of his thoughts.
“It’s my turn to watch over him. Try to get some sleep, my love.”
“No, I dozed off for a little while already, not meaning to…I don’t think I can go to bed just yet. I’ll wait up with you.”
Katrina brought over the smaller chair that stood beside the bed and set it down, taking a seat to face him.
“What happened, Ichabod? You look troubled.”
He hesitated for a moment. Then, in a hushed voice, he told her of the conversation that he had heard.
“There was another voice besides Stephen’s?”
“Yes, that of a little girl. But when I raised my head and looked around, no one was here. And Stephen’s eyes were closed.”
“You said you were half-asleep.”
“I am certain that I wasn’t dreaming. There was another voice.”
“Maybe there was a moment when you fell back asleep after the conversation and before she left. When you woke again, she was gone.”
“No, I don’t think so. It seemed immediate.”
Her wide brown eyes probed him.
“If there was no one here, then Stephen was talking to an imaginary person. And possibly changing his voice. I don’t know how, but…” he trailed off and frowned.
“Perhaps there is something supernatural happening here. There are stories of ghosts in this house. Something happened to the people living here before.”
“What? What happened?”
“I don’t know specifically.”
“Do you know who they were?”
“No. The crowd that gathers downstairs seems to have a talent for conversing in unfinished sentences.”
“You noticed that, too,” he laughed dryly.
“What if Stephen is possessed?”
Ichabod’s heart skipped a beat and he gulped. “Possessed?”
“That would explain the change in his voice. The Witch of the Western Woods channeled spirits. They would enter her body and speak through her. I often went to her for advice,” she explained when she caught him staring at her in shock.
He nodded, remembering all too well his own spine-tingling experience with the Witch of the Western Woods. She’d channeled some sort of…being…that told him where to locate the Headless Horseman’s grave.
“But she chose to let those spirits enter her, Katrina.”
“Yes. Spirits cannot enter a person who does not allow it. Even evil spirits cannot do that. Stephen has protection from evil spirits, so I would not worry about that.”
His eyebrow quirked up. Had she already drawn her pentagram for protection on the floor underneath each of their beds? He hadn’t looked, but it made sense that she would have.
“How could a spirit have…?” Ichabod trailed off and shook his head, unable to believe that he was carrying on a conversation about the manner and occasion upon which a spirit would take over the body of a person.
“Stephen is not the Witch of the Western Woods. Why would he have allowed it?”
“Maybe he allowed it without realizing it. If he was somehow convinced to open himself up in some way…especially if the spirit presented itself as Emily, a little girl.”
“Then it would have to be an evil spirit…”
“Not necessarily. Tricky, perhaps.”
“Why? To what purpose?”
“I don’t know. The Hessian rose because my stepmother stole his skull and controlled him with it. He took the heads of his victims when he killed them…in exchange. But…as soon as you gave his skull back to him, he forgot about me. He had what he desired and returned to the place from whence he’d come.”
He shook his head again. “I still think this is outlandish. You think…Emily…or whoever it is…is looking for something? But why Stephen?”
“Maybe there is something about this room he is staying in,” she suggested as her eyes roved over the room. “Or perhaps it is simply that he is another child.”
“I…I still find it hard to believe…” he trailed off and sighed. “But perhaps I ought to pursue a chain of reasoning in which I assume that it is the case. I shall start by finding out who lived here before. I only hope that this proves to be a hypothesis which is later discounted by the facts.”