Hovering between slumber and drowsiness, Ichabod felt someone lift him up. He knew it was Georg so he just slumbered on.
Cold water on his body, followed by linen sheets against his skin.
He opened an eye to make sure he was in his own bed, and since this was the case, he looked around him for Georg, expecting him to have left. To his surprise, Georg was busy washing himself off, and had taken off his own clothes.
Ichabod looked at him, quetly admiring that body. He'd never tire of watching that well-muscled back. Then Georg walked over to the bed and lay down next to the previous occupant of the bed.
"It's a bit narrow", Ichabod said.
"Doesn't matter", the Hessian answered, "I've slept in worse. And you are in here."
Ichabod snuggled closer, and fell asleep, safe in strong arms.
It was a good dream. Ichabod had learned to recognize those. The primary thing for a good dream in his opinion was that either his mother or Georg was in it, and that it did not feature his father in any capacity whatsoever.
He was a little boy again, maybe four, or five years old, watching a parade of strange soldiers. Mother held him high so he could see them better. Behind them was a whispered conversation:
'Those in the red coats, that's the Brits, but those in the green coats, that's the Hessians.'
'But those after the Hessians, what are they?'
'Mercenaries, I think. I have heard of them.'
Right then the strange soldiers, which were dressed in uniforms that set them apart from the other soldiers, came in sight and the whispers continued:
'They look terrible, don't they.'
'Yes, it's to scare people in the battlefield.'
'And that one, the one in black on a black horse, he'd be able to scare the dead out of their graves.'
Ichabod saw which one they were talking about.
A pale man in dark clothes, on a midnight horse, with blazing blue eyes that stared at something in front of him that no one else could see.
And next to him was another horseman, a young man, with red hair that was neatly tied up at the neck with a green ribbon. He wore worn and pale clothes that probably once had been blue and green, but was now in a musty gray.
Suddenly something happened; a boy who on a dare had rushed forward caused some commotion among the horses, to see if they could be scared off.
The black-clothed horseman reined in his own horse, while his gray companion had a more difficult time getting his horse under control.
And then the black-clothed one lifted his hand and in it was an axe.
The crowd held their collective breath while the mischief-maker suddenly realized that his life might just end here and now.
Then the gray one put his hand on the other's shoulder and said a few words in a language Ichabod didn't understand, and the axe was lowered, slowly.
'You should not tease men like us', the gray one said in a very garbled English, 'Today he was in good mood, tomorrow might be otherwise.' The short speech was concluded with a smile, from both of the horsemen, one with the usual dental problems of the age, and the other one with sharp fangs.
Then Ichabod woke up, and the sun was rising.
The morning sun shone in through the window, and Ichabod had risen from bed a few minutes ago. He was still trying to figure out whether this was a memory or just a dream, and added another item to the long list of questions that he would ask Georg one day.
He could hear someone walk about downstairs, and since the maid wasn't supposed to be about that day, he concluded that Georg still was in the house. Maybe he could ask those questions today.
Maybe they could continue with the indexing of all those documents, and then maybe a ride in the woods, and then maybe Georg would sleep over here another night, or he could sleep over at Georg's place...
Humming a tiny, happy tune he began to get dressed.
Ichabod shot a glance out the window to see if the weather today would be any better than yesterday, and saw Katerina outside his house.
Throwing on his clothes he rushed downstairs to warn Georg, but it was too late.
Katerina had already entered the kitchen, where Georg had been busy trying to light the fire in the old fireplace.
And the two most important people in his life were staring at each other, and the air seemed to crackle with unleashed magic.
Anytime now firebolts would be flying about. And an axe was slowly lifted.
"Katerina!", Ichabod managed to get out, "don't exorcise Georg or kill me." And before he fainted he got out: "Georg, don't kill Katerina."
Then everything was silent.
The visitor, a young lady named Katerina van Tassel had not seen the big black horse standing outside the house, because Daredevil had decided to go home to Horse's Heaven, instead of waiting for his master to finish his business with that lover of his.
So there were really no reason for her to suspect anything to be out of the ordinary.
Katerina had walked into Ichabod's office when she had heard a noise coming from the kitchen. As she assumed that her friend was there, she had walked straight through the piles of paper littered on the floor, not caring too much about the mess she made; it was just papers after all.
There had been other things too in the office, like a sword in a scabbard hanging from a chair, and a cloak and a pair of boots, that were *not* Ichabod's style, in the hallway,but she didn't pay attention to that.
She just wanted to talk to the new notary about a couple of land deals, which old van Garret had made, that seemed a bit questionable to her. She owned the land now; more than half the Western Woods, including the Tree of the Dead, and a few other spots, including where the old Archer cottage once had been. So it was just to look at the contracts and make sure everything had been done in a proper way, both legally and otherwise.
Katerina was in other words not prepared to see a lean man in black clothes, who was *not* Ichabod Crane, on his knees in front of the fireplace trying to light a fire, with his back to the door. As he rose, turning around to see the visitor, Katerina had seen him smile for a few seconds, before he apparently realized who she was. Then her memory had kicked in and she realized who it was standing in front of her.
About three seconds later an axe had magically appeared in his hand, as she was preparing a spell to send this hated face back to Hell.
Then Ichabod had come into the room, asking them not to kill each other, or him, before he fainted.
The tension broke as they both rushed towards Ichabod's unconscious body.
Katerina was surprised at the care with which the Hessian lifted up the young man in his arms.
"He does this all the time", said the horseman with a faint smile.
"Seems like he cares a lot for you", replied Katerina. "He asked me not to exorcise you."
"And me not to kill you, miss."
They walked upstairs to put Ichabod to bed. Katerina watched as the man she regarded as a monster pulled up the comforter to Ichabod's chin, tucking him in carefully. Then the Hessian stood to one side of the bed, next to Ichabod's head.
"My name is Georg Aschenbach."
"I'm Katerina van Tassel", the young woman said before she sat down on the only chair in the room. She felt a bit like a queen, giving an audience to a vassal. Straightening her back she tried to look a bit more regal.
Georg straightened himself as well.
"I know. Your stepmother talked quite a lot about you."
"Nothing good I presume."
"What happened to her?"
"That's a story I promised Mr. Crane that he would be the first one to hear."
"But then I'm allowed to hear it?"
They were silent for a while, while both tried to think of something clever to say.
"You don't look at all that scary without your cloak and your harness."
"You are the third one to tell me that", Georg said with a faint annoyance in his voice.
"Who were the first two?"
"Notary Hardenbrook and notary Crane."
"How can dead people talk about clothes?"
"Notary Hardenbrook's ghost can."
"Are there any other ghosts?"
"Your father, lord Van Tassel, lord Van Garret, both of them, lady Van Garret, also known as Mrs. Winship, and a few more."
"They want to know 'what happens next', and they also want to know what happened to lady Van Tassel."
"How is my father?"
"He is well, considering the fact that he is dead."
"And my mother?"
"She has passed on, to somewhere else. She left just after lady van Tassel was taken to Hell. She was content that the one who 'nursed her into death' had gotten her punishment. She also told me to tell you that you should open your ears a bit more to hear everything that goes on unseen, and that she wishes you all the best."
Katerina nodded and sat silent for a long moment.
Then she looked at Georg with a smile.
"Since I own the part of the woods where your Tree is, you should pay rent, shouldn't you?"
"But since you probably don't have the money, could you work as a guardian of the woods for me? Be my personal game keeper so to say?"
"Will I get paid?"
"Yes, same as I would pay any employee of mine that happens to live on my grounds."
"Then I accept."
Baffled at the turn the day had taken, Georg could not find anything further to say, and decided to check on Ichabod.
Ichabod had been awake for about half an hour, and was very surprised to see the house still standing, and that Georg and Katerina actually had come to some kind of agreement which would benefit them both.
He was also very happy about it.
The rest of the day Georg helped Ichabod to bring order back to the mess Katerina had made when walking through the documents. Katerina had been a bit annoyed at the yelling that the mess in the office had caused, so she had left after Ichabod had helped her write a contract, in which she hired Georg Aschenbach as a game keeper for the Western Woods.
"Well", said Ichabod Crane to Georg Aschenbach when they had finished the huge task, "I guess that I'll have to write you in as a member of the population of Sleepy Hollow."
"So, here's your index card. 'Aschenbach, Georg.'"
He began to fill in the posts, "date of birth?"
"The 13th of December 1738, St. Lucia's Day."
"That's the day we call Saint Lucy's Day."
"Same saint, different names."
"Well, that means that you were forty when you died."
"Forty going on forty-one"
"Place of birth?"
"Strandenstrasse 4,i the town of St. Radegunda, in the dukedom of Altenstrand, in Germany."
"Notary Gerhardt Aschenbach, and Uta Aschenbach, born Von Altenstrand.
"Well..." The young notary put down the pen and looked at the facts he had written down on that little piece of cardboard.
"It feels strange that someone's life can be concentrated into a few lines on a piece of paper. One misses so many important things, like who the person behind those few posts is."
"I am me, whatever you write down on that card."
"I have so many questions for you."
"To fill out that card?"
"No, for my own sake."
"Then ask; I will try and answer."
The town of St. Radegunda and the dukedom of Altenstrand are both fictive, made out of my imagination. Any similarity with actual places is not intended.