Wednesday, April 1, 2015
The sleepy burg of Abernathy's Crossing sits some distance south of the lake, yet it is no river-ford. In fact, the eponymous "crossing" refers not to a physical crossing, but a metaphysical one.
Retired artillery captain Woolbert Abernathy, in his later years, "got religion" and gathered around himself quite a fervent following. Abernathy was less a priest and more a spiritualist - he claimed to be able to see ghosts, talk to his followers' deceased relatives, and so forth. He made a small fortune from followers and clients, and founded a village out on the plain as a home for his growing church. Abernathy was certain he'd found the proper location for the town, on a patch of ground that was "ectoplasmically active" and would serve as a "benedictory catalyst" for his many gifts. And, sure enough, he was right; the area was indeed active with something.
Four months after the village was founded, Abernathy was speaking at the town hall one night when he was descended upon by what witnesses described as "six or seven foggy spirits of dire countenance" who denounced Abernathy in raspy voices and then carried him bodily to the Other Side. As is often the case, this development did not discourage Abernathy's zealous followers; in fact, their number grew a bit. After all, surely Woolbert Abernathy was a good and just miracle-worker if such cruel ghosts wanted to deprive the living world of his council.
What to See
Ask a local to take you to Silent Scream Rock (it may cost you a few silver for the favor); they'll lead you into a deciduous wood south of Abernathy's Crossing and point out a massive, flat, reddish-yellow rock. If you scatter a light coating of dirt on the rock and wait, the dirt and dust may start swirling about and forming human-like faces which contort and "scream" noiselessly for several seconds before fading away. The rock is in need of proper study; some locals say they have seen recognizable faces repeat in the patterns. A priest who can read lips may be required to solve the mystery.
Where to Stay
Mavis Pearlsby runs a small, four-room inn located an easy stumble from the Waxed Moustache Saloon. The decor is homey and comfortable, and Mrs. Pearlsby's prices are quite reasonable considering she'll do laundry for you and serve you scones and chicory-coffee in the morning. Do not be unduly disturbed by the widow Pearlsby's habit of speaking to the late Mr. Pearlsby as though he were in the room, constantly complaining about the unwelcome strangers in his house and the blood dried on their knives. It may disturb you to think that there is indeed a ghostly Mr. Pearlsby, and that he is talking about you and your explorer-friends; but, really, let us consider that it would be far worse if the late gentleman were actually talking about a whole other set of malicious adventurer-ghosts who were also spending the night.
Where to Pray
In the years since Abernathy's disappearance, several rival groups have calved off from the original group. The most legitimate claimant to Abernathy's tradition is the Little Red Church in the center of town, but both the Believing Brethren of the Mighty Invocation (blue building at the north end of town) and the Welcoming Temple (massive tent revival behind the smithy) get plenty of parishioners. Many locals, and some visitors, frequent all three churches depending on their mood, or which sect is serving the best food that night.
What to Eat
Once a month the Mighty Invocation church puts out an amazing spread of casseroles, shepherd's pie, and a local blueberry whisky they call "ghost-finder juice", all for free - presuming you don't mind being blessed by their reverends first. Don't worry about overeating at the smorgasbord - the earnest and well-groomed young ladies of the church will assist you in square-dancing those calories away, particularly Emma MacHanker, whose prominent front teeth are an impediment neither to dancing nor snogging, I can tell you.
What to Buy
Several local craftspeople hawk talismans, made from old pennies and local red clay, which are purported to aid mere mortals in seeing, speaking to, and placating the dead. These run two or three dollars, generally, unless you have one custom-made to include a little scroll with your name on it in the center.
Who to Meet
The town cobbler, Ichabod Plump, is an accomplished storyteller in addition to being a mediocre shoemaker. When plied with beer, Plump can be easily goaded into telling tales about his time as batsman to Captain Abernathy, including rather revealing recounting of their travels in Snollygoster Swamp and Crumbledown. The wise listener may glean knowledge of these places which cannot be found on most maps.
Thing to Avoid
A few local toughs run a dog-fighting concern in an old barn; the entire thing is a bit of a scam, as the dogs are trained actors who take their orders from silent prompts. Typically a visitor is invited to come watch the dog-fights, and perhaps bet on them. The mark wins more matches than they lose, until they are puffed up with confidence and full of whisky. The final match of the night is, appropriate to the town's history, a fight between two "ghost dogs" which of course the visitor, being non-local, cannot see. Obviously the mark loses the massive bet he laid on the deceased canine of his choice, and must empty his pockets.