Characters Environments 
Author Marian Parisher-Nichols
Poems and short stories, free to read.
"When I write, I shoot from the hip!"
                                                                        House of Riddles
 
Chapter Two>the Parchment

Early the next morning, Shane and Buck leave for Charlotte.  Raven and Sandra watch as the taillights of the SUV grow dimmer the further down the path the vehicle travels.  Raven sighs when she realizes this is the first separation for Shane and herself since their wedding, and it will be an overnight absence.  He and Buck will not be back until tomorrow afternoon.

“I don’t know about you, Raven, but I’m going to lay back down for another hour or two,” affirms Sandra.

“You go ahead, Sandra, I just might do the same,” Raven smiles at her, as Sandra heads towards the back of the house.

Raven considers seriously about lying down again, and starts for their bedroom sipping her coffee as she goes.  The newlyweds had decided on one of the two bedrooms downstairs, the one with the soft peach walls and sage trim.  Raven loves this color scheme for its soothing and relaxing affect on her, for it allows her to drift off to sleep quickly.

She finishes her coffee while sitting at her dresser as she gazes into the clean mirror at her reflection.  Her mind wanders into the future; a future with Shane, a future she knows will be happy and fulfilling.  They want children of course, but they wish to be settled in their careers before starting a family.  She is twenty-three now and she thinks she can wait at least two years before becoming pregnant.  Being a teacher, she feels she will have more time with her family than most women that have other types of careers or jobs.

With her coffee gone, she sets the cup down on the dresser shelf.  As she is about to rise from her seat and still looking in the mirror, an image forms behind her.  The figure of a Cherokee Warrior Chief is barely visible, as if transparent, just over her right shoulder.  Raven is startled for a second but is not actually afraid, she looks behind her and is not surprised that there is nothing there.

“It must be the shadows,” she whispers to herself.

An hour later, wearing jeans and an old sweatshirt, she heads up the stairs to be sure each bedroom has fresh towels and toiletries in the baths.  She takes an armful of towels from the linen closet at the end of the hall, located just by the landing.  The library is to the left, coming up the stairs, with the study just off from the library, and to the right is a long wide hall with two bedrooms on each side and two at the end of the hall.  She completes her task in the bathrooms and knows fresh sheets are on the beds, but it seems to her that something is not quite right, just what that is, eludes her.

She turns from the last bathroom and heads for the stairs; she stops suddenly at the purple bedroom and feels the urge to enter.  She eyes the open door, “Now I have no reason to go in here,” she speaks aloud.

“I know Buck has not fixed this lock, and the one thing I do not need today is to get locked in here.  I’ll just shut the door and go on back down stairs.”  Taking the knob she pulls, “Uh oh!  It won’t move!”  She releases her hold on the knob.

“Well that’s just fine, now the door is jammed.  I am going back downstairs!”  She speaks emphatically as if someone is listening.  She takes a step and walks straight into the purple bedroom.

“Now, why in blue blazes did I do this?”  She makes to go out again, gets to the entrance, stops, steps backward and the door slowly shuts.

She watches the door as it does this of its own accord and thinks aloud, “What is going on here?”

Reason tells her she should have some apprehension about all this, but strangely, she does not.  She looks carefully around the room; nothing is out of place as far as the normal eye can tell, but still there is this feeling, a strange ambiance, which she cannot name or explain.  Then she notices that the closet door is slightly ajar; she goes to it, takes it by its edge, and opens it further, and of course, it is dark and empty.  This is a walk-in closet such as all the bedrooms have, plenty of storage space, shelves on her right and a rod for hanging clothes to her left, but nothing more threatening than emptiness.

She hits the light switch, and light quickly fills the small space, revealing nothing more unusual than a cobweb in one corner; she switches it off again and makes to shut the door.  Just as her left hand slides down the door’s edge, it is pricked by a splinter.

“Ouch!” she exclaims, jerking her hand away and closely examining it.  A small dot of blood oozes from the wound, which is on the side of her palm.  She places the injury to her mouth, as she checks to see just what has stuck into her.  There is a small indentation on the door’s edge, it is a quarter of an inch wide, and a good six inches long, and has the look of deliberately being cut into the door.  In fact, a small segment has worked its way out from the notch and is beginning to protrude, which is the object on which she’s cut her hand.

“What is this…?”  She asks, bewildered, as she begins to work loose the small slither of wood.  The plug comes out, but there is still something wedged inside.  Using her longest fingernail, she manages to pry loose what appears to be a folded piece of parchment.

“Oh my, what is going on?” she exclaims again as she spreads open the parchment, which looks more like animal skin than paper.  The parchment is greatly yellowed but quite strong, and in black ink, or carbon, are strange writings and markings.  It looks as if it may be a map or even instructions, and the language looks very familiar to her.  Then she recognizes it as Cherokee.

“I will have Father translate this for me,” she says.  Raven only has a rudimentary knowledge of her grandparent’s native tongue, just enough to recognize it, but unable to read it or speak it to any degree.  Carefully she folds the document and looks at the bedroom door to the hall, which now eases open slowly.

“Well, I suppose I am allowed to leave,” she remarks and walks into the hall without hesitation.

``````

Shane and Buck return in the late afternoon with Shane’s parents, and with their luggage piled high in the back seat, and on the luggage rack on top.

Martin Hawkins is an older version of his son; he is sixty-six years old with short graying hair and wearing the garb of a cowboy.  Lilly Hawkins is a sixty-two year old woman with auburn hair streaked with white.  She is pleasingly plump and wears a fashionable maroon pantsuit with heavy winter boots.

“Shane,” squeals Raven as she rushes out to meet them.  Shane gives her a big smile and grabs her in a bear hug, although it has only been overnight since they have seen each other.

“Newlyweds,” mumbles Buck, all the while grinning.

“Please, mother and father Hawkins, come in.  I know it’s cold and you’ve got to be tired,” Raven says, as she leads them into the Great Room, where “awes” are softly whispered at the beautiful Christmas tree and decorations.

“I think they’re lovely, too,” Raven agrees.  “I’m so glad you enjoy them.  Sandra and I have spent the better part of three days putting them up.  I think Sandra should have dinner ready by now, thanks to Shane’s phone call telling us what time to expect you.  I wanted to have dinner ready as soon as you arrived.  Please won’t you be seated and I will go check.  I’ll be right back.  Shouldn’t take a minute.”

``````

After dinner, they relax for a bit in the Great Room, “My mother and father will be arriving on Christmas Eve and staying for a few days.  Our families will finally get to meet.  I hope the weather stays good and we get no more snow than we have already.  It is so easy to get snowbound here.”

“Yes, Blake, Raven’s father is just so down to earth.  He is half Cherokee you know, and Raven’s mom is white.  They look about as odd together as Raven and I do,” says Shane laughingly.

“I think you are a lovely couple, you don’t look odd at all.  Why, Raven has green eyes and she is actually very fair skinned,” notes Lilly Hawkins.

“I really look more like my mother,” says Raven.  “Except for the black straight hair, that comes from Father as you may have guessed.  Mother is blonde and short, shorter than I am really.  I get my height from father.  But Shane’s still got a good six inches on me.”

Then the phone rings and Shane answers it.  “Hello, Hawkins residence.    Hello?”  He hangs up the phone, “it went dead just about the time I picked it up.  Most likely a wrong number.”

“Raven dear, would you mind showing us our room for tonight, I am rather tired,” Lilly Hawkins stands as she speaks.

“Oh sure, Ms. Hawkins, I understand.  First, there’s the plane journey and then a long road trip.  It can be rather draining,” replies Raven as she heads for the front staircase, with them all following her.

“Please dear, call me Lilly.”

“Okay…  Lilly,” laughs Raven.  “Lilly it is.  I feel a little awkward calling you by your first name.”

``````

A few minutes later the group moves down the darkened hallway while Shane explains, “There are plenty of bedrooms, six in fact.  Just take your pick.”

When they eye the purple bedroom, Raven hastens to say, “I don’t think this would be a good choice.  You see the lock is broken, and I was locked in here for a few minutes yesterday and we haven’t had a chance to fix it yet.  But any of the others are just fine, just choose any.”

“But Raven, the lock is no problem; we can fix it first thing tomorrow,” he turns and sees Raven shaking her head and mouthing the word “no.”

Shane gives her a puzzled look and starts to speak when Raven says, “Will you help me for a minute Shane?”

“Yeah sure.  Mom, Dad, give us a second won’t you?” he asks his parents.

“Go ahead son, we‘ll not be going anywhere for a spell,” Mr. Hawkins chuckles.

Shane and Raven walk into the teal blue bedroom, “What’s the matter Raven?  It’s not a great problem with that lock you know.”

“It’s more than the lock Shane, I found something odd in there today.  I meant to show it to you later, could we wait ‘till we are alone?”

“Something odd?  What do you mean odd?  Raven what is it?”

“Later Shane, please.”

Shane draws a deep breath, “All right, later.”

“Mom?  Dad?  Maybe another bedroom would be a better choice, at least until I get this lock repaired.”

“Anything is fine with me, son,” replies Mr. Hawkins.  “I am all set to bunk down.  Been a long day, I am almost as sore as if I’ve been in the saddle all day.”

Raven turns to face her in-laws, “Would you like to come into this one?  I think the color scheme is so relaxing.”  Raven leads them into the teal blue room that she and Shane had used.

``````

When alone in their own room, Shane closes the door and calls to Raven as she emerges from the shower.  “Yes, I’ll be right out,” she calls back from the bathroom.

Raven enters the bedroom wearing a white toweling robe and drying her hair.

“Yummy, Mrs. Hawkins, you look delicious,” teases Shane as he casually gathers Raven into his arms.

Raven responds by wrapping her arms around his neck, “You have had your dinner, Mr. Hawkins.”

“Ah, but not dessert,” he replies.  “I think I’ll take mine now.”  Laughing, they fall on the bed together, exchange a few kisses and caresses, before Raven speaks again.

“Well, do you want to hear what I discovered in that room or do you want to make love?”

Not hesitating a second Shane replies, “What a silly question, make love of course.”

``````

Later, gathering her robe about her once again, she turns onto her side and gazes lovingly at her husband and marvels at the love she feels so deeply.  “I am glad your folks are upstairs,” she laughs.  “Hold on a minute, I’ve got something to show you.”

Shane also rises and watches as Raven removes something from the top of her jewelry box.  She comes back to the bed, sits down beside him, and carefully unfolds the parchment, “I found this wedged into a slit on the edge of the closet door.  What does it look like to you?”

Shane takes the piece in his hands and studies it carefully, turns it over, and examines the back.  “What do you mean you found it in a slit on the door’s edge?  What door?”

“The closet door in the purple bedroom, that’s why I didn’t want your parents in there until we could check out this paper.”

Shane studies the parchment very closely before speaking again, “I don’t recognize the language.  It looks very old.  This must be animal skin.  But how on earth did you manage to find it like you said?”

“Just pushing the door shut and my hand caught a splinter, and this is what I found.”  Raven shows Shane the small injury.  “It doesn’t hurt now, but startled me then.  I just looked, thinking it was a splinter and found the small gap, and the rest you know.

“But, Shane, look real, real close; that is Cherokee writing.  I don’t know what it means, but doesn’t it look like a map to you?”

“Oh, it’s definitely a map,” Shane replies.  “But there’s more than that information here, too.  When did you say your folks are coming in, the twenty-fourth?”

“Yes, the twenty-fourth Mother said,” responds Raven.  “Father gets Christmas Eve through New Year’s Day off, but they want to leave before then to have a few days at home.  They will only be with us for about four days.  I know what we’ll do, we can get father to translate it.”

“Yeah, it bothers me.  This house is probably over a hundred years old.  It must have been built on Cherokee lands at the time.  But why would something that is obviously Native American, be hidden in the house of a white man?  Get on the Internet tomorrow and see if you can find any history on this place.  I’ll go to City Hall and look up the public records on land grants and early settlers’ home construction.”

“Let’s wait till after Christmas.  That’s less than a week.  There’s no need of taking on anything else right now.  But we can go ahead and ask Father while he is here.”

“I’ll have a look at that door first thing tomorrow morning,” states Shane.

Hence, they agree to wait and just enjoy the holidays and their families for now.  After all, it has been a hundred years or more, a few more days shouldn’t make a great deal of difference.

``````

On his own the next morning, Shane enters the purple bedroom and slowly opens the door, but he finds nothing unusual.  The closet door is slightly open and he takes a hold of it and examines the edge.  The gap is there just where Raven had said it would be.  He leaves the closet door as it was and goes out of the room locking the door behind him; he does not want anyone going in there just now.

``````

Raven and her mother-in-law spend the next three days Christmas shopping and helping Sandra with some early baking, but Raven must manage on her own for the holidays, for the Morgans are taking the holiday off.  Overall, everything is going smoothly and Raven all but forgets the piece of parchment that lies in her jewelry box.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, Raven is once again upstairs tending to the linens and getting the orange bedroom ready for her parents, who will arrive that afternoon.  They are driving up from Cherokee, about a two-hour trip, and she wants everything just right when they arrive, so that they can have a good visit.  The door to the purple bedroom is closed, and Raven avoids looking at it.  She knows Shane locked it and she resists the urge to go into the room.  She hurries about her chores trying to finish up quickly.  As she rushes towards the end of the hall, suddenly the purple bedroom door swings open.

“Oh no,” groans Raven.  “What can this mean?”

There is of course no response from the bedroom.  Raven freezes at the doorway, unable to enter or leave.  Very slowly, a faded, formless shadow creeps across the bedroom floor; it reaches the far side of the room, climbs the wall, and vanishes in the ceiling’s molding.  Raven is not sure of what she sees.  Suddenly the bedroom door slams shut, startling her so badly she jumps.

“Raven, are you alright?” calls her mother-in-law rushing from her bedroom down the hall to where Raven stands shivering.  “What was that noise, like a … door slamming?  Did you slam a door?”

Raven turns and faces her mother-in-law, “Yes, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to shut it quite so hard.”

Lilly smiles at her and pats her shoulder, “But why are you shivering?  Are you cold?  Don’t tell me you scared yourself?”

Raven forces a smile, for all she wants is to go downstairs, away from this scene, to catch her breath and mull over what has just happened.  “Yes, I did frighten myself, and it probably is cool up here.  Well, I need to get things straight; Mother and Father will be here in a few hours.  Meet me in a bit for a cup of coffee?”

Lilly returns her smile, “Sure thing, in about five minutes in the kitchen.”

``````

Raven spends the rest of the afternoon in her bedroom alone, waiting for her parents to arrive.  She lies on her bed, deep in thought.  The door of the purple bedroom opening on its own could be from inertia, or gravity acting upon it, but the door slamming was not inertia or gravity, nor was it the wind, not upstairs, in any case.  For some reason, Raven is not experiencing fear, at least not yet.  There still could be a logical reason for these occurrences.

``````

Sometime later, she hears the sound of car engines and knows her parents have arrived; hurriedly she leaves her sanctuary and goes to greet them.  She opens the door even before they are ready to enter, runs out on the veranda, and grabs her mother in a hug, then her father, as he joins them.

Her father looks very Indian, blue-black hair with two white streaks at his temples, which travel down each of his braids.  His complexion is ruddy with nearly black eyes, the traditional nose, and thin lips; whereas her mother is petite, having dark blond hair and the same green eyes of Raven and the same silky smooth voice when they speak.  They are dressed for the weather, for snow lies hard frozen on the ground.  It is just twilight, the house is lit up, and a very festive sight it is.

“I am so glad you made it,” says Raven with excitement.  “Hurry and come in, Shane or Buck will see to your bags.”

“Hello dear,” says her mother.  “My, my, you certainly are in a good mood.  I would say marriage agrees with you a great deal.”

“Oh I am so happy Mother, and this house is just, well it just makes everything perfect, and you must meet Shane’s parents.  They have been here for a few days, and we’ve been shopping … and, well just hurry up and let’s get inside.”

With her arms around her parents, Raven leads them into her home.  Raven’s enthusiasm is contagious and soon the Hawkins join in the conversation.  Introductions are made and stories are exchanged about what is going on in their families.

``````

Later, Shane and Buck take the Blackfoxes’ things inside, and Buck parks their Ranger in the garage.

“Merry Christmas everybody,” shouts Shane as he enters the house carrying an armload of colorfully wrapped gifts.

“Merry Christmas!” they all reply together, and Raven rushes over to him to get her welcome home peck on the lips, and help dispose of the packages under the tree.

Raven next leads her parent upstairs, to put away their things and to be settled in one of the bedrooms, so that later on all of this will have been taken care of.  Before Raven can suggest the orange bedroom, her parents walk into the purple one without hesitation.

“I do so love the color purple,” exclaims her mother.  “And I know Blake likes it also.”

“But, Mother, the lock is broken and I was locked in there the other day, maybe you should choose another one.  I fixed the orange room up just for the two of you.”

“Raven, Buck has fixed the lock,” interrupts Shane.  “So, it is fine.”

“Then, we’ll take this one,” her father tells her.  “I like this color.  Remind me of the sky when a storm is brewing.”

Raven does not want to reveal to them just yet what she knows; even Shane doesn’t realize what is happening in this room, so she sighs and says, “Ok, if you really want this one, it’s fine with me.  See you downstairs in a bit, we are opening gifts tonight.”

“I have more gifts in the SUV, Dad, Blake,” he nods at Raven’s father, “want to give me and Buck a hand playing Santa?”

``````

The two men, Martin and Blake, stand up to help, and soon Christmas presents surround the tree.  Raven, Lilly, and Raven’s mother, Joyce, carry in the presents from the back room and add them to the pile already there.  Minutes later, they are called to dinner, and so Christmas Eve begins.  Their Christmas Eve’s dinner is more of a buffet that Sandra, Raven, and Lilly have all helped to prepare.  It consists of cold cuts, cheese, and crackers, chopped vegetables for dipping, nuts, and fruits, with eggnog and an assortment of wines and soft drinks.  The table setting is repeated with the silver and blue theme, mixed with glowing candles.  Christmas music playing low in background softens the tone of speech and laughter.

With the unwrapping of each present come gasps of delight, accompanied with ‘awes’ and “oohs” in appreciation of the thoughtfulness of the gift giver.  Soon the floor is piled high with gift-wrapping paper and discarded boxes and bows.

During the festivities, the electric lights flicker at odd times but do not go out.  “It must be the circuit breaker, what with all the holidays lights strung outside.  It must be putting a strain on this old system.  Although, I thought the Crickmoors upgraded the wiring when they did the renovations,” says Shane.

“We do have a generator for backup,” says Raven.  “It is a necessity when you live in these mountains.”

“Is the heating system electrical?” asks Lilly.

“No, it’s gas, but it uses electricity for the blowers.  It’s located in the basement and although it will burn, the heat won’t make it through the house,” explains Shane.

``````

It is close to midnight when they decide to go to bed; Raven and Shane walk upstairs with their parents to be sure all is right, and to say goodnight.  The Hawkins kiss Raven on the cheek and his mother kisses Shane at their bedroom entrance; they enter, shutting the door behind them.

Raven kisses her parents and bids them a ‘Good night and a Merry Christmas,’ then they return to their bedroom, and once again the lights flicker.

“I’m going to shut off the outside lights before we blow a fuse.  I’ll check the breaker in the morning,” says Shane, glancing up at the ceiling where the bulb flashes again.

``````

Soon the house is sleeping, all are nestled in their beds, as the Christmas poem goes; nothing is stirring, no creaks from the house settling, and no moan from the wind.  However, as Raven’s parents sleep, silently from the nick in the closet’s door, a fine mist seeps into the room.  It drops heavily to the floor, as though unable to bear its own weight; the grayest vapor creeps along, spreading out as it goes, so that soon a layer about a foot deep covers the floor.  The sleepers slumber on, unaware of the activity surrounding them.  Blake Blackfox snores rhythmically, this is the only sound to be heard, but, with each intake of breath, the mist is tugged in his direction.  Now a streamer lifts up from the middle and twists itself as though a string is tied to it, guiding it toward the sleeping man.  Coming ever nearer to the sleeper, it contorts as if in agony, occasionally falling back, losing ground, and then struggling again to make up the lost territory.  The streamer next twists itself around the footboard, anchoring itself and, weaving to and fro it travels atop the covers until it is within inches of Blake Blackfox’s face.  A deep breath and it is pulled up to the nostril, but the next exhale forces it back again.  Flattening itself into a plate, it snakes over Blake’s face, and, as it delicately molds itself to him, it takes on a new identity with different features - the face of a Cherokee Warrior.  Beneath the mask, Blake stirs, groans, and struggles in his bed as though a furious battle is occurring in front of him.  Abruptly he shouts a warning and opens his eyes, but he does not see the bedroom, he sees in his dream a horrible scene.  With his shout, Joyce stirs and turns over toward him, intending to wake him from his nightmare.  When she does, the mist disperses and immediately reverses back into the nick in the closet door.  They are none the wiser about anything, as Joyce calls to Blake.

“Blake,” she whispers as she nudges him into wakefulness, “Wake up.  You are dreaming.”

After a moment, Blake sits up in bed shaking his head and rubbing his eyes with the tips of his fingers, “Yes, Joyce, it was a dream.  I’m fine, turn over and go back to sleep.  Don’t wake everyone.”

“Okay then.  But you would have thought the Devil himself was after you with those shouts.  Do you want me to get you something to help you sleep?  I have some tablets in my bag.”

“No, I do not need anything.  As I said, I am fine.  Now you go back to sleep,” he turns toward her and lightly kisses her cheek, then they both lie down again.

``````

Christmas dawns gray with snow flurries and very, very cold.  Raven awakens and sits slowly up in bed, glancing out the bedroom window as she thinks aloud, “Looks like more snow, Shane!” she calls as she shakes him by the shoulder.  Shane lies on his side with his back towards her and moans sleepily.

“Huh, what is it?”

“It’s Christmas … our first together as husband and wife!  Come help me get coffee for our folks,” with that, Raven climbs from her warm bed and shivers with the chill in the room.  Grabbing her dressing grown and slippers, she heads for the kitchen.

Minutes later Shane joins her, “Merry Christmas, sweetheart.  Did Santa make it last night?”

Raven smiles, hands him a cup of coffee, and then kisses his cheek, “You never can tell.  If you don’t believe, he stops coming to see you,” she winks at him.

Within minutes, they are joined by their parents, “We’ve been awake awhile you know,” says Martin.  “Been visiting with your parents, Raven, while we waited for you two to get up.  They are on their way down.”

The Blackfoxes enter the room at that moment and Joyce gets coffee for Blake and herself.  They all sit around the kitchen table making light conversation about the weather and everyday situations that come up in life.

Joyce changes the mood when she chuckles aloud to herself and all eyes turn to her.

“What’s so humorous this morning, Mother?” asks Raven.

“Oh dear, I’m sorry, I was just thinking about your father’s dream last night.  He let loose a war scream that would put Cochise to shame.”

Now they all focus their attention on Blake, “It was a real seeming dream,” he says.  “But it begins to fade from me.  The clear part is of a gathering, a large band of my people.  They formed a long line; the women and children cried.  I cannot recall who the enemy was.  I seemed to be the War Chief and I attempted to lead my small band of warriors after our people.  But they were gone.  I grieved for the loss of my kin.  I shouted and pulled at my hair in my grief.  There was something else present, and I do not know what to call it, but something evil or strange … maybe a natural thing, but Joyce woke me and it flees my mind.”

Chills travel down Raven’s back, she knows now the purple bedroom has a frailty, an unnatural link with the past.  As she looks at Shane, he nods at her, giving her permission to bring up the parchment.

“My father, I have had odd happenings in the purple bedroom,” now Raven has the full attention of everyone.

“Go on, daughter,” encourages Blake.

 Shane leaves the room as the conversation begins about the parchment.

“In fact, hidden in the edge of the closet door, I found, by chance, a gap carved into the wood.  Inside the gap was a parchment …”

“This,” says Shane, returning to the room and spreading it out on the table.

They now turn their attention onto the parchment and Blake takes it into his hands with a look of astonishment on his face.  “This is native Cherokee…”

“Yes father we know.  Can you read it for us?”  Raven asks with a questioning look.

“Some, yes, but not all.  It is a map of this house and the land here,” and he indicates by spreading his hands wide.  “But there are also symbols I am unfamiliar with.  This is very old.  Why is it in a house owned by whites a hundred or more years ago?  We need my grandfather to look at this.  He is about eighty-eight; he may remember more of the native language than I.  He is in a nursing home on the reservation.”

Blackfox was Blake’s grandfather.  Blake’s parents died of influenza when Blake was six and his sister three.  They were taken in and raised by Blackfox and Laughing Dove, his grandmother, who had died twelve years ago.

Blake retrieves the cordless phone from the hutch behind him and makes a phone call to the home.  Meanwhile Raven begins to clear the table.

Blake finishes his call and informs everyone that they can pick up his grandfather, Blackfox, the day after Christmas.

“We just visited with him this past weekend, I told him about our visit here and that we wouldn’t see him this week end.  It isn’t a Cherokee holiday so it didn’t matter to him.  But I did talk with him and he seems excited about coming here and he really wants a look at the parchment.”

``````

After breakfast, Raven argues with herself as to whether or not she should relate her experiences in the purple room, and decides that for now she will not.  First, to learn what the parchment reveals.

As they relax further, lingering on into the late afternoon, they inspect the parchment and discuss its historical origins.

Raven listens for a short time, building up her courage to speak, and waiting for just the right moment to intervene in the discussion.  Once again, Blake talks a little about his dream when Joyce asks for more details.

“Father, I think you may have been influenced by a … I don’t know what to call it, but there’s an essence, for want of a better word, in the purple room…”

Blake gives his daughter a puzzled look, “I feel it is there also, daughter.  I have no name for it.  I did not say anything last night, because of uncertainty.  You say you felt it and so did I.  We must find the answers to this riddle.  What were your feelings?”

“Well, I lost track of time.  I felt a strong pressure to enter, even when I did not want to do so.  A strange shadow crossed the floor and vanished in the molding of the ceiling, as though going into the attic.  It didn’t disappear.  It left.  That is the only way I can describe it.  Then the door opens and closes.  Or, as it did the other day, it slammed shut.”

“Is that the morning that I asked you about the noise?” asks Lilly.

“Yes.”

Shane reaches over to Raven and pulls her closer to his side, “Why haven’t you mentioned this to me, honey?”

“I wasn’t sure of any of it, until Father spoke.  I knew then there was more to this.”  Raven looks thoughtful for a moment, then continues, “Yet, I feel no hostility in the room.  I actually feel peace and … sadness there.  Yes, that’s it, sadness.”

Blake nods his head in agreement, “I feel that sadness also.”  Blake pauses as if contemplating what he and his daughter both had experienced in that room, then as not to alarm the others, he changed the subject.  “The weatherman said nothing about snow anytime soon, which is good for bringing grandfather here.”

“How is great-grandfather doing, father?”

“He is in very good health.  He has arthritis in his hands and some in his knees, but he walks only using a cane.  Grandfather is still very keen in his mind.  If anyone can help read this, it will be him.”

``````

Later that night when everyone announces that they are going to bed, Raven asks her parents if they would like another room and Blake declares, “No, not I.  Joyce, would you care to sleep elsewhere?”

Joyce shakes her head, “I sleep where you sleep.”

“Well that’s settled, good night all.”

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There are no unusual activities during the night, at least none that were witnessed.  There’s only the creaking of the timbers in the attic as colder air moves into the area and temperatures plummet well into single digits.  The old furnace in the basement has trouble handling the stress placed on it, and it groans its protests as it increasingly consumes fuel to ward off the chill.

The following morning it is unmistakable that Old Man Winter is here and he has no plans on leaving anytime soon.  The Morgans are not scheduled to return from their Christmas vacation until Monday, so once again, Raven is the cook for breakfast, but as it turns out, the mothers take it upon themselves to help as much as possible.

Around a few minutes past one in the afternoon, while the family is in the Great Room still discussing the parchment, they are startled by a pounding at the front door.  Shane goes to opens it, and the wind rushes inside bringing an immediate chill to the room.

There stands a man dressed in tattered and worn clothing, with his arms wrapped around himself to help ward off the cold.

“Yes?” asks Shane, shocked at the sight of this stranger.  “Can I help you?”

The man wears an old fedora on top of a torn scarf tied over his ears in an effort to keep them warm.  His topcoat is more of a raincoat, which offers protection from the rain, but not much from the cold.  He is shivering as he replies.

“Era you the master o’ the house, Mr. Crickmoore?” the words coming forth between the chatter of his teeth.  He has a distinct southern accent and very pale blue eyes and leather like skin.

Shane suddenly feels ashamed for not asking the man inside on such a frozen day.

“No, I am the new owner, but won’t you come in out of the cold?”

To Shane’s surprise the stranger refuses, “No, no … no thank you.  I’m a’lookin’ Mr. Crickmoore, and you sez he ain’t here, so I’ll jest be on my way.”  He turns stiffly and walks unsteadily across the veranda and down the steps.  Shane watches him for a few seconds, stunned at this turn of events, when Blake and Martin join him.

“Who is it son?” asks Martin.

“It’s just a stranger, looking for the previous owner.  See, there he goes.”  The two men look in the direction Shane points.

“No one goes there,” declares Blake.

“I don’t see any one either, son,” agrees Martin.  “I don’t even see any tracks in the snow.  How did he get away so fast?”

Shane looks where the stranger should been but to his own amazement he sees no one, or tracks.  “Well if that don’t beat all!” he says as he closes the door.

Back in the Great Room they discuss the stranger, “It makes little sense that someone is looking for Crickmoore after five years,” says Shane.  “His clothing was ragged and dirty.  He must have been a hobo, or some homeless chap down on his luck and looking for handouts.  I would have allowed him to stay the night, but that’s neither here nor there now.”

They all agree to this mystery and continue searching the parchment, forgetting the little strange man.  Tomorrow, the men will go and bring Blake’s grandfather to the house, having permission to bring the elderly Indian home