Chapter ONE

The Cry Heard Around Alderwood


What if you woke up in a dark, gloomy jail, accused of witchcraft in 16th-century England, with the eerie wail of your infant son echoing against the cold stone walls? What if every stealthy step, every whispered incantation, and every quiet prayer was a fight for your survival and the safety of your child? This is your nail-biting reality in “Escaping Alderwood, Chapter One: The Cry Heard Around Alderwood.”

In the shadowed heart of 16th-century Alderwood, England, a haunting cry echoes through stone and terror. A baby’s wail, a mother’s desperate plea… “Mama’s coming, Thomas…” In the heart of the accursed village of Alderwood, a fevered baby scream shatters the night, the unseen, a living nightmare. 19 year old Mabel, hiding in plain sight cloaked within a terrified mob of villagers, is paralyzed by the horror she bore witness to upon the execution stage. Her husband, John, accused of witchcraft, is moments from death beneath the crushing weight of stone blocks. His executioner? The towering and merciless Constable Harrow, the Lawmaker of Alderwood, a man driven by dark obsession, seeks vengeance against John for the death of his own son. “He dies for his crimes!” Constable Harrow, thunderous roar. As the crowd watches the execution, Mabel’s infant son, Thomas, trapped and caged like a wild creature, emits cries that slice knife-like through the night and his mother’s young soul. The frenzied screams become unbearable for Mabel and she blows her cover, breaking her silence. Mabel flees and a chaotic chase unfolds. Inevitably cornered and captured, the words she dreads, “Throw her in the dungeon” came from Constable Harrow’s dirty chapped lips. The haunting memory of Thomas’s cries will forever linger in her mind.

The nightmare transmutes into something more grotesque as Mabel is imprisoned within the dreadful confines of the Alderwood Jail. Encased in walls green with moss and decay, the dungeon’s maze-like corridors ooze horrific sights. Here, in this vile cocoon of torment, Constable Harrow and his guards engage in a cruel game, relocating Thomas regularly to recreate psychological trauma for Mabel, sounds that echo and bounce off the walls, wicked anti-laughter. Then, a profound silence deepens, leaving Mabel in a consuming void, wondering if her son is still alive. The terror, uncertainty and loss feed upon her soul, as each day deepens her descent into madness, dragging her into an endless, agonizing hell.

Weeks stretch into months, each day a mirror of the one before, each night a black abyss of nothingness. Mabel’s mind teeters on the brink constantly, weathered by the relentless cycle of dread and uncertainty. But then, one chilling evening, something shifts in the suffocating gloom. Awakened by an unnatural silence, she stumbles to her feet, her heart pounding as she glimpses her cell door, inexplicably ajar. There, in the open threshold, lies a bloody dagger, its blade gleaming wickedly from the faint torch flame. An icy terror grips her as she peers into the decaying corridors overrun with creeping greenery and malevolent life, snakes and unidentified crawlers slithering about every which way. The guards’ shadows twist into distorted black wall creatures, dancing, contorting, flickering from the torchlights. The walls moan with doom, and the air thickens with an unseen menace. Faint distant cries reach her ears. “Thomas…” Her body trembles, her mind screams, Mabel grasps the dagger and steps into the nightmarish unknown, beginning her perilous journey to save her son, and then to escape this godforsaken hell known as Alderwood.

Emerging from the suffocating shadows of the dungeon, Mabel barely catches her breath when Constable Harrow ambushes her, snatches baby Thomas from her fragile arms and throws him back into that dreadful cage, suspending him high above the courtyard like a cruel spectacle. “Return the witch to her cell! Dead or alive, she’ll pay for her sins,” Constable Harrow commands with disdain dripping from every word, leaving behind an army of guards, monstrous beasts and the Accursed coming from all angles. Alderwood’s Lawmaker strides out of the courtyard and fades into the labyrinth of village streets. Dread consumes Mabel. How many more torments would they subject her to? How much longer can she endure?

The black sky drops a gift, a Raven, carrying the Warden’s Bow and letting it befall Mabel’s calloused bare feet. With the bow in one hand and the bloody dagger in another, Mabel stands her ground against the onslaught that followed. The battleground reeks of violence; blood seeps into the earth, and from the fallen enemies–the guards, the beasts–rises the Accursed. Deformed, grotesque, undead, soulless creatures. Mabel cuts down enemy after enemy, two of them drop keys–one, the key to Thomas’s cage and salvation, the other, the key to their escape through the courtyard’s ironclad gates. Desperation fuels her every swing, step and shot; her future, and that of her son’s, depends on her prevailing courage to fight and win against Harrow’s minions. 

Fleeing the courtyard, Mabel dashes into the Alderwood Village, Thomas close to her chest. He whimpers. Her head now bears the highest bounty in all of Alderwood, England. Constable Harrow’s twisted manipulation has turned neighbors into enemies, the entire village driven by misguided righteousness and fear. Her flight through the village becomes one of stealth. Harrow’s vengeance for his son’s death drives him to madness, with Thomas as his targeted replacement, and he has proved that he will stop at nothing to continue to take him away from her. Seeking refuge in a hidden alcove, Mabel’s heart pounds, each beat an echo and reminder of the surrounding danger. Nothing, and no one, would take her son away from her this time or ever again–not Constable Harrow, not the Accursed, not the Villagers, not the guards. Over her cold dead body… Dare to break a mother’s love for her son, standing strong even through the toughest fire and rising victorious from the ashes of her enemies? Against all odds, Mabel and Thomas reach the Alderwood Forest, their path to freedom.

Mabel reaches the Alderwood Forest, and a path covered in shadows greets her stride. This is not what she imagined freedom would look like. Her pulse thunders; each heartbeat, dreadful. The forest, once a sanctuary of tranquility now whispers treacherous, deceitful secrets about Mabel. The Villagers call her the Witch of Alderwood.

She breaks into a clearing, her gasp swallowed by ghastly forest mist. Two chests, ancient and foreboding, stare back, one promising solace and the other deceit–legend says that these chests are found all over Alderwood, one contains a Care Package, the other, a Curse Package–and only a true witch can tell the difference between the two even though both chests look exactly the same. Mabel’s gaze flicks between them, the weight of her decision heavy on her shoulders. Harrow’s sinister voice draws nearer, his intentions clear in the ominous footfalls that shake the forest floor.

Taking a deep breath, she chooses. Lowering Thomas into the left chest, his eyes, filled with innocence, meet hers. “Shh, my heart, you’re safe now,” she murmurs, locking the chest with an age-old key waiting for her inside, almost as if destiny has placed it in there for her to find.

Constable Harrow’s voice echoes through the trees, “Where’s my son, witch?”

“He’s not yours! Stay away from him!” Mabel retorts.

The forest illuminates with the eerie glow of Nightcrows’ eyes. The Accursed lurks between the trees. A spectral Raven emerges.

Harrow scoffs, “Do you think your Mother’s Raven will protect you, witch?”

Mabel blinks, her voice tinged with confusion, “My mother’s…?” The Raven shrieks and strikes the Nightcrows down with her wings and talons.

As the Nightcrows fall, they rise anew as Accursed Crows, their twisted forms even more terrifying, but they are slower and staggering in pursuit of her. Mabel fights back, not only with her dagger and the warden’s bow but also using her surroundings. Rocks, branches, and the mystic energy of the forest become weapons in her hands.

All around, the battle rages, a dance of shadows and moonlight, of talons and arrows, of fear, determination and bloodshed. Mabel’s heart pounds as she and Constable Harrow clash. Despite his immense size, she manages to outmaneuver him time and again. The raven continues to battle the Nightcrows in the air. Mabel and Harrow’s fight grows more intense and brutal on the ground.

Then, as suddenly as it began, the battle ends. The remaining Nightcrows flee into the dark forest, and Constable Harrow vanishes without a trace, like he had never been there at all. No explanation, no sound. He is just gone, leaving Mabel standing, panting, her mind whirling with questions.

Trembling, she approaches the left chest, the decision of her previous choice chokes her. Did she choose the Care Package Chest earlier, or did she doom Thomas to the Curse Package?

With a prayer, she opens the chest and exhales in relief as Thomas’s innocent eyes meet hers. He is safe, and they are free.

Mabel holding Thomas, guided by the ghostly raven, makes their way through a tree-lined path that leads the trio to the Warden’s Cottage, hidden within the furthest reaches of the Alderwood Forest.

Inside, a gruesome sight awaits her. The Warden lies dead, stabbed with what might have been a dagger—the very dagger Mabel has found and now holds. The raven must have left it outside of her dungeon cell.

On the Warden’s bed lies a woman, breathing but trapped in a spell or trance. Mabel’s heart leaps as she recognizes her mother, Agnes.

As Mabel stands in the Warden’s cottage, a chilling realization dawns. The raven before her is no mere bird – it is the spirit of her mother, Agnes, trapped by an insidious curse.

Through haunting cries and an inexplicable, profound connection, the truth becomes clear. Someone in Alderwood has condemned Agnes to this avian form, and if the curse remains unbroken, she will forever be bound to it.

They must find whoever cast this wicked magic upon her mother and force them to reverse it, before Agnes loses herself completely. But the identity of the mysterious spellcaster remains veiled, a shadowy threat lurking somewhere in Alderwood.

Mabel gathers Thomas close with one arm and extends her other hand to the raven. Agnes alights upon it, talons gently grasping Mabel’s fingers, and together the three turn toward the cottage door. The first rays of dawn break through the trees ahead.

As they step across the threshold, leaving the shadows of the forest behind, Mabel feels overwhelming relief and hope. Thomas babbles happily up at the sky while Agnes spreads her wings.

After so much struggle, they have broken free from one of the most dangerous places in all of Alderwood.

In the distance, past vibrant green hills, rises the imposing visage of Alderwood Castle. Answers await them there, though surely new dangers as well. But with her family beside her, Mabel is ready to face whatever comes next.

From the forest edge, half-cloaked in gloom, Constable Harrow watches their departure with venomous eyes. He remains a lingering threat, determined to tear Mabel’s loved ones away again. She glances back and meets that malevolent gaze unflinchingly with only one thought, Why is he letting us go?

The cry heard around Alderwood’s darkness is now one of hope, defiance and dreams. As long as Mabel draws breath, Harrow will never claim her son or sever their bond. Agnes caws sharply at the trees, as if sensing the Constable there, and he withdraws deeper into the shadows, sparing them for now but who knows what the future holds. 

To Be Continued…

I hope you enjoyed this first condensed version of this Storyline!

Up Next: Chapter Two: The Haunting Echoes of Alderwood Castle (Storyline, WIP)