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The Hessian

From the personal journals of Mikanostinocolai, timelord

Chapter 6

The next thing I remember was waking up in the Green Room in my TARDIS.  My mind was still fuzzy from what had happened and from the effects of the regeneration.  I looked at my hands... there was the ring on my finger, just as he had placed it.  Then it all came back.  I sat up, perhaps a little too quickly, for my head spun for a moment.  I then looked down at my clothing; it was tattered and dirty and covered in dried blood, my blood.  I hopped off the bio bed and looked at my reflection in the mirrored walls of the room.  I didn't look any different.  But I was whole again, all my insides in perfect condition and healthy.

Slowly I stumbled from the Green Room towards the control room, stopping long enough to change into some clean clothing on the way.  The first thing I did was switch on the scanner.  Immediately I sensed that something was wrong.  The clearing had changed.  There were more buildings visible where before there had been nothing but trees.  Then I spotted a woman approaching, bearing flowers in her hand.  I watched as she placed them before a small gravestone.  Something about her looked familiar....

I opened the TARDIS doors and stepped outside.  "Greta," I said quietly to the woman.

Shocked, but not totally surprised, the woman stood and turned to face me.  "Mika?" she said uncertainly.  "You said you'd return, but how..."

"Never mind that.  What has happened?  What year is this?"

"1799," she replied, puzzled.  "You 'died' twenty years ago... today."

"Damn," I muttered, squeezing my eyes shut and cursing the timelords.  This was all their doing.  "Tell me, what of Wilhelm?" I asked, knowing full well the answer.

She lowered her eyes and shook her head.  "He waited, like you said, for days on end.  He wouldn't leave for anything.  I had to bring him food or he would surely have starved.  Days turned to weeks... before long it was springtime.  I guess by then he had given up.  His regiment was assigned to sail to the Colonies to help England keep tabs on the Americans.  He changed though," her voice lowered.  "He became cold and sullen.  Even the people who used to jeer at him were afraid to even do that anymore.  Last I heard, he had become infamous for raging into battle and chopping off people's heads much as his father did.  I heard he lost.. lost his own head that same year."

I lowered my own head, knowing this story already.  So not only had I not prevented it from happening, but I had actually been the cause.  Still, I knew that if it hadn't been me, something else would have done it.  At least this way (and this point had been brought up to me in a later talk with old Runcible...) he had a few short weeks of happiness in an otherwise empty and tragic life.

I turned to go... I had to return to Sleepy Hollow and see what I could do there...  then I caught sight of the gravestone.  It had my name upon it.

Seeing my questioning look, Greta nodded towards the stone.  "He had that placed there, right before he left for America ."  Then she noticed the ring on my finger.  "You still have it," she remarked.

"Yes," I said quietly, looking at it and fighting back the tears.  "I would have liked to have married him.  I did love him. I still do.

"I know," she said simply.  "And never before have I ever seen a man love so much as he loved you.  If only you had returned sooner..."

"I know.  But there was nothing I could do.  Thank you, Greta, for everything."  I hugged the woman and stepped back.  Without a further word, I took my leave, the TARDIS' usual whining, grinding sound echoing through the forest one last time.

**********

The first thing I did when back in the TARDIS was try to go back twenty years.  Of course, it wouldn't let me.  Damn the Timelords.  Why couldn't they make allowances just this once?  So I set the coordinates for Sleepy Hollow, spatial only.  I had to see what I could do to at least break the curse that had been placed upon my Hessian and put his spirit to rest.

So I returned to Sleepy Hollow just in time to witness the final confrontation between the headless horseman and that young constable, Ichabod Crane.  I stood by, watching from the forest as he wrestled with the blonde woman for the skull of my beloved, the boy standing near brandishing a large branch.  He whacked the woman on the head with it as Ichabod snatched up the skull and tossed it to the horseman.

We all watched, transfixed in fascination and terror as he tossed the girl aside and placed the skull in its rightful spot and it re-fleshed itself before our eyes.  Then he stood to his full, commanding height, and turned to face us, his head restored.  He was much as I remembered him, though his eyes were even wilder and he had filed his teeth down to points.  I could resist no longer, but stepped forward from the forest.

He had begun to head for his horse when I called out.  "Wilhelm, wait," I called.  He froze in his tracks and turned slowly.  Funny how a ghost could look like he'd seen a ghost...  I took a step forward.  He took a step back.  "Oh, Wilhelm, what have they done to you," I said softly as the others looked on, stupefied.  But the horseman only continued to back away from me.  "Don't... don't be afraid," I held out my hand, the ring he had given me so long ago glinting in the pale moonlight.

He looked from me to the ring, and let off a low growl.  I wondered if he could even talk in this supernatural state.  I tried moving closer, and this time he did not retreat.  "I said I'd be back, only I didn't know how long it would take.  I'm so sorry, Wilhelm."  He merely looked at me in continued wonder as I drew near.  I ventured to reach out to touch his cheek.

"Don't," he rasped.  So he could talk... "I am cold and reek of death... I am not the man you once loved..."

"And still love," I added.  "And I don't care..."  We stared at one another, his eyes questioning, mine pleading.  Finally, I put my arms around him and held him close, cold and deathly though he was.  "I love you, Wilhelm, I always will.  Not even death will ever change that," I whispered in his ear.

Suddenly, he gave me a tight squeeze then pushed me away.  He shook his head and began to back away.  "No, there is nothing left for me now.  I am dead and doomed to haunt these woods forever.  I am a murderer, just like the townspeople always said... just like my father..."

"No..." I began, moving towards him.

"No, Mika... it's finished.  You'd do best to forget about me.."  With that he leapt upon his horse and galloped off to disappear within the tree of the dead.

The woods around us were eerily silent as we stood and stared at the tree.  Then Ichabod looked at me.  "Who, pray tell are you, Madame?" he asked.

I waved my hand and made for the grave at the base of the tree.  "Never mind.  Help me.  We must put an end to his wanderings for good."  They all stared at me as if I was insane.  "Unless you want to risk the chance of other people digging up the skull and setting him loose to murder again...."

At that, young Masbath and Crane moved to assist me.  The grave was still open, and the skull had reappeared inside, in its rightful place.  I told them to wait while I went to my TARDIS, secreted nearby.  When I emerged, I had a bottle of holy water, and a headstone I had replicated inside.  I scattered the holy water around the gravesite, in effect making it hallowed ground.  Then I placed the gravestone at the head of the grave.  It read 'here lies my beloved Wilhelm DerRighur taken mercilessly from this earth Christmas Day, 1779'.

I then pulled his sword from the roots of the tree and lay it in with his bones.  Then I recited the usual burial rites as were customary for the time, tossing a handful of dirt into the grave.. ashes to ashes, dust to dust....  Crane and the lad did likewise, as did the young Katrina Van Tassell.  Then we set about filling the grave.  When it was done, I produced a small bunch of violets from beneath my cloak and knelt by the grave.  I placed them by the headstone and wondered if there would be some sort of sign.  I knew that a 'proper' burial usually laid these sorts of ghosts to rest... but I wondered if maybe I had left something out.

I motioned for the others to leave me alone with him and my thoughts for a while.  Maybe it just needed time.  Or maybe there would be no indication.  I thought of how cold he had been, and how warm and full of life he used to be.  As I remembered the love we had shared and thought of what he had become, a tear escaped and rolled down my cheek, landing in the freshly turned soil of his proper grave.

Suddenly, I felt a cold breath of air and a presence looming before me.  I looked up to see my Hessian warrior standing before me, but his clothes were no longer tattered and timeworn, his eyes no longer holding the hellish fire of insanity that they had before.  "Wilhelm," I gasped.

He reached down and took my hand, drawing me to my feet.  "Mika, my darling.  Once again you have given me hope where I had none.  No more shall I wander these woods.  But for your love, I now shall find peace."

I couldn't say anything.  His voice was now clear and softly deep, as I remembered it from before.  He reached out and brushed the tears from my face.  Then I fell forward and held him in a tight embrace.  He was no longer cold nor smelled of death.  But I could feel him fading, losing all corporeality.

"I love you Mika... remember that..."

"I shall, my precious, so long as you remember that I love you...."

He leaned down and kissed me one final time.  "Good bye, my love.. the only thing good that ever happened to me...."

I stood, motionless, tears streaming freely down my face as he stepped away and smiled, then faded from view.  Then all was silent.  It was over.

I fell to my knees and remained there with my tears for I don't know how long, until the Masbath lad shook me out of my reverie.  I nodded and rose, and thanked them all; assuring them that there would be no more beheadings in the Western Woods.  Then I disappeared myself into the woods, entering my TARDIS and leaving for good.

And thus ends my tale of Sleepy Hollow and the headless horseman. 

::sigh::

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