by Norsebard





Written: For the 2018 Royal Academy of Bards' Halloween Invitational.

- Thank you for your help, Phineas Redux :)

As usual, I'd like to say a great, big THANK YOU to my mates at AUSXIP Talking Xena, especially to the gals and guys in Subtext Central. I really appreciate your support - Thanks, everybody! :D

Description: Kirstine Olafsdaughter died in 1562 yet a shadow of her remains in our world -circumstances beyond her control force her to haunt the royal castle where she lived and worked. One night a year, on Halloween, she roams the castle's endless corridors attempting to solve the problem that prevents her from getting her deserved rest. If she cannot, she will spend eternity trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead…





Greetings, stranger. Thank you for reading my tale. Truth be told, I am the stranger in your world. There was a time when I called the same world my home, but, alas, I can do so no longer.

Kirstine Olafsdaughter was the name given to me at birth in the year of our Lord 1493. I was born in the small town of Kolding near the center of the Jutland peninsula in Denmark. When I first saw the light of day, the proud Kolding Castle had already acted as a garrison as well as a center of commerce for more than two centuries. From my tenth birthday until the last few months before my death, I worked there: many a year was spent toiling as a kitchenmaid before I climbed the ranks to end as the Esteemed Matron of the Chambers.

Three score and nine years on from my birth, on a glorious summer day in 1562, I drew my last breath. Though tired and weak from old age and the common ailments that conspired to snuff out my flame, I died content after a long, rewarding life. The day after the funeral, my name was carved into the wooden cross that marked my grave.

The great honor of being laid to rest in the private cemetery reserved for the senior members of the castle's staff was bestowed upon me. It had been set up next to the chapel in a remote corner of the secondary courtyard; there, it would be well-protected by the castle's sturdy walls in case of war.

Years, decades, centuries went by in relative peace before war did indeed come. Denmark sided with Spain and France in the bloody Napoleonic Wars against the United Kingdom that took place in the first decade of the nineteenth century. The Danish navy had already been defeated and the number of ground troops was hopelessly insufficient, so auxiliary troops and even entire corps had been hired from all across continental Europe to fill out the lines.

A destructive, all-consuming fire devastated Kolding Castle in March of 1808 at the height of the war against Great Britain. Blackened ruins were all that remained of the once so proud royal castle. It had not been lost to an infantry assault, a bombardment or even a lengthy siege, but to careless - and freezing cold - Spanish auxiliary soldiers who had lit a fire greater than what one of the furnaces could handle.

The cemetery where I had been laid to rest was abandoned with the rest of the castle. It soon fell into disarray and weeds were allowed to cover my grave and those of my companions. Even the wooden cross crumbled over time and rendered my name unreadable. The very reason for being buried there - my status at the castle that I had worked so hard for - now meant that I had been cast aside. Forgotten.

I had found peace, but it was refused me when the cemetery was abandoned. I have since become trapped between the planes of existence. Between the world of the living and the endless void of Nothing where there is no yesterday, no present, and no tomorrow.

A shadow of me remains in your world; for one night of your year, I am doomed to wander the halls and the chambers of the castle where I worked and lived. Doomed to endlessly roam the corridors while searching for a solution to a problem I cannot solve on my own.

I have wandered for nigh-on two centuries and I fear I will continue to suffer this terrible plight until time itself ceases to be. If I could only be laid to rest in consecrated ground once more, my endless journey would come to an end. Alas, I cannot. Although parts of the castle have been rebuilt in recent times and now act as a museum, no one alive knows of the abandoned cemetery, or my grave, or even my remains that are still down there though the soil has long since eaten through the wooden coffin that surrounded my bones.

I so dearly wish I could control the shape I appear in, but I cannot. In some years I return as the simple maid I once was - in those instances I am held back by unseen forces and cannot stray beyond the kitchen in the cellar. When I materialize as the kitchenmaid, I shed many a bitter tear as another turn has been wasted. Other years I return as the adult Matron of the Chambers who can roam the entire castle at will. Then, the halls and corridors echo from the barked orders I issue to the maids under my command.

My wails or barked orders carry far and have given the castle and the museum a certain reputation. Shrewd merchants have exploited that to organize guided tours of my old home; I presume the sum they earn is handsome. I do not begrudge them in wanting to put food on the table for their families, but I wish they would seek a way to do so that would not stem from the pain of others.

Over the centuries, all attempts at establishing direct contact between the living and the residents of the Nothing have ended in failure. Countless times I have tried; countless times I have arrived at the inevitable defeat. Although many charlatans claim to possess such a skill, I have learned the boundaries simply cannot be crossed. Even during my days among the living, many a village was visited by traveling con artists making dalers off the recently bereaved kinfolk claiming they could establish a connection with the lost ones; I fear such vile behavior has only grown more prevalent in your world as the sun has continued to rise and set.

The position in which I find my eternal spirit is not all doom and gloom, however: I have become able to manipulate certain objects in your world, and I must ashamedly admit that, at times, I have done so simply to amuse myself while the guided tours are being conducted.

During my lifetime, the common belief among nearly all of the rural population was that otherworldly beings were real, but I often scoffed at the preposterous notion of incorporeal figures being anything but figments of over-eager imaginations. Now that I find myself on the other side of the magic mirror, I can see how wrong I was. We are real. Just as real as you, only on a different plane.

And with that, my dear reader, let the tale begin.




October thirty-first had been a quiet and peaceful affair with clear blue skies broken by the occasional jagged cloud, but darkness finally conquered the sunlight at the end of it. As the last remaining blue tones of dusk turned to proper night, the quiet day shed its mask of civility and became Halloween, the night where portals were established between the realms of the living and the deceased.

Two workers dressed in sixteenth-century peasant costumes moved around the secondary courtyard of the rebuilt Kolding Castle igniting two rows of torches. As the orange flames flared up off the kerosene used as an accelerant, it was revealed the torches formed a snaking path up to the castle's imposing inner entrance. A banner welcoming the Thrillseekers' Club to the 2018 Halloween Special Ghost Walk had been put up above the entrance.

The fine gravel crunched under the clumsy boots of the two workers as they finished their task of preparing the courtyard for the evening's spooky entertainment. The sections of the walls that had been rebuilt offered some protection from the breeze that was always present in late October, so the flames rose steadily from the torches without creating too much soot.

"There… that oughtta impress them," one of the workers said. Moving the torch around, his seasoned, bearded face appeared in the cone of light. To fit with the theme of the peasant costumes that he and his colleague wore, his white beard was long and unkept. At other events held at the museum over the course of the year, he would portray such different characters as mystics, noblemen, foreign traders, men of the cloth and even Santa Claus for the big Christmas party.

"Eh, I don't know," the other worker said with a shrug. Like his associate, he was a veteran re-enactor dressed in coarse, tattered rags so typical of the rural population of the time, but his chin and cheeks were bare since he also needed to play a Spanish soldier later on in the ghost tour. "The young people these days are just too busy with their damn phones to notice things like that. And they complain all the time about everything under the sun… remember last year when we had to extinguish the coal pans because some of the guests claimed to be allergic to the metallic smell?"

"Yeah… that was a low point."

"And then others complained it was too cold out here!  Well, excuse the hell outta me!"

The first of the two re-enactors let out a sly chuckle. "Speaking of complaining…"

"Yeah, yeah," the other one said, waving his hand in disgust. "Let's get some hot coffee and sandwiches while we can. It won't be long before the visitors arrive."

As the two men walked across the crunching gravel headed for the old servants' entrance just around the corner of the inner entrance, a pinpoint of light became visible within a gaping arch high above the courtyard. Growing stronger, the pale-blue light expanded until it had become a full torso; the edges were fuzzy at first, but the shape soon turned solid.

Limbs were formed from the cloud of energy: legs reached down to the ground, and arms were folded around the body. The head, covered by a low-sitting hood, came last. Once the apparition had been fully formed, the hands reached up to move back the hood. Kirstine Olafsdaughter had returned.

A pale-blue flash exuded from her eyes as she took in the state of herself and where she had appeared. A heartfelt, disembodied sigh of relief seemed to come from all around her as she realized she had been allowed to be the adult Matron of the Chambers rather than the adolescent kitchenmaid. It meant she could roam the entire castle on her eternal quest to find a solution to the unsolvable problem.

She had materialized in a section of the old ruins that had been preserved in its derelict state to show the effects of the devastating fire. The top two floors of the entire wing had been left as charred wooden beams and blackened bricks and mortar; though everything appeared to be at the mercy of the elements, or even on the brink of collapse, great care had been taken during the museum's meticulous restoration to make sure it could be kept for future generations. The destructive fire had raged for a day, a night and most of the next day; the preservation process had lasted for close to a century.

Turning away from the gaping arch where she had arrived, Kirstine slid over the floor without disturbing the specs of dust that had settled on the surfaces. For old times' sake, she moved her legs though she did not need to. In her present state, she had the ability to float across any surface or travel through any solid object; she could in fact hover in mid-air, but only in the places where a floor or a staircase had been during her lifetime. Much of the structure had collapsed during the fire which meant the images of her surroundings that played in her ghostly mind no longer fully matched the reality around her.

Thus, she floated through a doorway though it was blocked by debris from a section of the old roof that had collapsed. That an open, recently-installed door was right next to it did not register with her. A spiral staircase presented itself on the far side of the debris, but she followed the path of the old, square staircase even though it was no longer there.

Her destination was the corridor where she had spent the last years of her working life: in the royal wing where Queen Dowager Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg had taken up residence with several of her children and grandchildren following the death of her husband, King Christian the Third on New Year's Day in 1559.

Kirstine Olafsdaughter had not been the Mistress of the Castle so she had not worked directly for the queen dowager, but she had been second in the castle's staff hierarchy and had faced Dorothea every evening when the stern - though surprisingly progressive, at least for the time - woman inspected how her royal bed had been made. If it failed to meet her expectations, she would demand the chambermaids started over while she was there.

Arriving at the royal wing, Kirstine came to a stop and used her senses to relive what had once been. Vague sounds of snickering reached her ears; the merry sounds had been produced by the many chambermaids who had always lined up in the hallway with their hand-drawn carts carrying bedlinen. As she opened her ghostly eyes to See, she had returned to Kolding Castle's heyday.

The snickers were silenced as she, the Esteemed Matron of the Chambers, entered the corridor to inspect the state of the bedlinen. There was always some item that needed to go back to the laundry department, and this time was no different: a pillow case had not been scrubbed enough to return to its pure white state and was thus discarded with a sneer. The maid responsible for it was given a stern reprimand before the others were told to carry out their usual tasks.

The chambermaids were soon hard at work making the beds for Queen Dowager Dorothea, her children, her personal handmaidens and finally the Mistress of the Castle, Margareta of Kristiania, who had chosen to relocate to the royal wing to be close by at all times.

Everything proceeded according to the stringent set of regulations, so Kirstine could withdraw and concentrate on inspecting the state of the corridors. Dust and cobwebs were found in many corners and on many windowsills, so other maids were told in no uncertain terms that everything needed to be spick-and-span before the queen dowager arrived, or they would face severe punishment for their lax behavior.

A heavy, tormented sigh rolled through the empty, derelict corridor as Kirstine returned from her own lifetime to the present. The scene she had relived had happened just shy of four-hundred-and-sixty years in the past, but she remembered it as if it was yesterday. Since time had no meaning in the great Nothing, it literally had been yesterday.

Her somber musings were interrupted by the sound of present-day chatter from the secondary courtyard. Sighing again, she floated over to one of the windows with a view of the square.

A diverse group of people from the local branch of the Thrillseekers' Club trickled along the snaking path between the burning torches until they were stopped by their tour guide. The middle-aged woman - who was dressed in a bright-yellow period frock from the early part of the nineteenth century - held up her hands to get their attention. Once she had it, she proceeded to explain a few details from a brochure she had handed out among the intrepid explorers.

A pair of mature, gray-haired members of the club - they wore matching clothes so chances were good they were a married couple - stood right next to the guide lapping up every word she offered them. Of the others in the group, only a few could actually be bothered to look at the brochure. Using their telephones to take pictures or shoot video of the castle's courtyard, the banner and the many burning torches seemed to be far more interesting for the majority of them.

Once the tour guide's introduction had come to its conclusion, she led the group of Thrillseekers up a short flight of stairs and through the grand entrance. A lone figure at the back - a man in his mid-twenties: he seemed to be the ubiquitous skeptic - dragged his feet until a young woman of a similar age came back out of the entrance and told him to get a move on by waving at him impatiently.

Silence fell over the courtyard once more. Kirstine remained standing on the upper floor of the royal wing though there was nothing more for her to look at. Turning left, she floated along the corridor before she went through the wall in a spot where a doorway had been in her day. That it had been destroyed in the fire mattered little to her. The old, square-edged staircase that she had used countless times - but that no longer existed - was soon dealt with in appropriate fashion, and it was only a matter of a short minute before she found herself on the castle's ground floor.


The tour guide's voice carried far through the old halls and corridors. Great enthusiasm exuded from the woman dressed in period clothing as she went through a lengthy, detailed description of the castle's long and dramatic history from its foundation in 1268 until the restoration process had been completed in 1990.

When the visitors from the Thrillseekers' Club entered the hall housing the fully-restored royal library, the tour guide and the group of people were joined by a seemingly ancient man whose crooked back demanded the use of a gnarled cane to aid his walking. The man wore heavy boots and a tattered cloak made of a coarse, dark-gray fabric. His face was concealed by a hood. As the visitors stared at him with bated breath, he slowly swept the hood back to reveal a white mustache and mouth beard, unnaturally pale skin and a strip of pale-gray cloth that covered his eyes.

"Be greeted, gentlefolk," the Seer said in a gravelly bass voice that sounded like it came from beyond the grave. While he spoke using a slow, deliberate speech pattern, he moved his head in a peculiar way to make sure everyone among the group understood he was blind. "Beware!  Supernatural beings lurk here at the castle. Creatures who have returned from the Great Beyond to wreak havoc upon the living… yes… they are watching us as we speak. You must take heed of my warning or I fear not all of you will leave the way you came. Some may need to be carried out!"

Appropriate gasping was heard from the members of the Thrillseekers' Club who could barely wait to see and hear more; the skeptic at the back of the group let out an annoyed huff and crossed his arms over his chest at what he considered to be grossly overcooked theatrics. His date elbowed him in the ribs to make him pipe down.

Kirstine entered the library out of sight of the visitors and the two re-enactors. The lights installed in the ceiling had been dimmed to create a pleasantly spooky atmosphere so the pale-blue glow exuding from her seemed stronger. Hovering in a corner, she watched and listened. She had rarely been in the royal library during her lifetime - it had been the sole domain of the Master Librarian - so much of the surrounding splendor was new even to her.

"Tonight," the ancient Seer continued, "you will hear stories of some of the ghosts haunting Kolding Castle. You will learn about The Weeping Maid, the Whipping Boy, the Stern Matron, and the sadistic Captain Karl Laurentius von Scheel of the King's Cavalry who is perhaps the worst of them all. You will walk the same corridors they used when they were still alive… you will visit the places where unexplained encounters have taken place. Pray the vengeful creatures will not choose this night to return!"

A new round of shocked gasps and squeaks rose from the group of visitors.

"Let us commence our tour," the Seer said before he turned around and began to hobble away. The tip of his gnarled cane tapped rhythmically against the hard floor as he moved toward a doorway that led further into the castle.

Faint traces of a smile spread over Kirstine's ghostly features. It amused her that she accounted for two of the four ghosts mentioned; for all she knew, she was and had always been the only incorporeal being to roam the castle. The two other apparitions that the Seer warned about were merely fictional characters although one of them shared the name of a real person who had worked there. Kirstine had even known Captain von Scheel during her lifetime. He had been a pleasant fellow - perhaps stern like most military men tended to be, but by no means sadistic.

A rare spark of mischief entered her as she floated across the floor of the royal library at a safe distance from the living. In her younger years working as a maid in the castle's kitchen, she had been known as someone who enjoyed pulling a good practical joke on those who deserved it the most. Shutting a pigeon or a cat inside a cupboard and then asking one of the meekest among the maids to open it was always the cause of much laughter - that it was cruel to the animal and the sensitive maid never entered anyone's mind at the time.

The Thrillseekers were headed for the grand Knights' Hall, the place where all the banquets had been held when the castle had been the home of the members of the royal family. To give the living plenty of time to move further ahead on their tour, Kirstine came to a halt to wait.


"Welcome to the Knights' Hall!" the female tour guide said as she spread out her arms to present the splendor to the group of visitors.

Rather than the vast, horseshoe-shaped tables that had been there when the castle had been full of life, the grand hall was now the museum's main exhibition room and thus home to countless illuminated glass display cases of varying size.

The largest display cases held man-sized dummies dressed in complete and greatly detailed uniforms from the era of the Napoleonic Wars - not only those worn by the Danish cavalry officers and the Spanish auxiliary troops responsible for the fire, but British and French naval and infantry uniforms as well. The countless smaller glass cases displayed varied collections of weapons, everyday items, and even personal jewelry like silver hair clips and signet rings.

The members of the Thrillseekers' Club let out a round of collective ohhhhh-ing and ahhhhh-ing before they started wandering around on their own to see the presented items.

"Please do not touch the glass cases as that will trigger the alarm," the tour guide continued. "After all, we don't want to be stuck here all night, ha ha!  Oh, and you are obviously free to take as many photos as you wish, but I recommend that you turn off your flash since the display cases have been draped in a special kind of reflective film that prevents bright lights from reaching the fragile fabrics."

While the visitors took in the magnificent displays, the Seer and the tour guide whispered a few words to each other. The Seer pulled back his tattered sleeve to reveal a wristwatch that seemed somewhat out of place with the rest of his costume. After a pre-set period of time, the Seer held up his gnarled cane and spoke in his trademark gravelly voice:

"Hear me, gentlefolk!  It was here, in the Knights' Hall, that the sadistic cavalry captain Karl Laurentius von Scheel, whose cruelty to children and animals was legendary, met his gruesome fate!  At a grand banquet in mid-November 1557, the terrifying man died in the presence of a shocked King Christian the Third… and it happened… right there!"

The Seer spun around and pointed the tip of his cane at a square spot on the floor that was revealed to be a plaque inserted into the tiles. A purple ribbon held taut by four tall, brass candelabra cordoned it off so nobody could get close enough to read it. Although it carried the name and important dates of the real Karl Laurentius von Scheel, it had nothing to do with the supposed gruesome tale - the plaque was simply a memorial tablet put there to remember a revered soldier of the King's Cavalry.

"Yes, indeed!" the Seer continued. "The feared cavalry captain did not die on some faraway battlefield, nor defending the castle from a great foe… he died from choking on a chicken bone!  In all his boundless greed, Captain von Scheel failed to notice the bone in the meat before it was too late. Wheezing, suffocating, dying, his face turned red and grotesque as he staggered around the tables trying to find relief… trying to find someone who would help him. He found neither. Upon the moment of his horrible death, he cursed each and every one of the ladies and noblemen present for failing to help him."

Ripples of ooooohs and ahhhhhhs rolled over the group of visitors save for the skeptic at the back - he just crossed his arms over his chest and looked annoyed with the whole thing.

"Not long after the terrifying incident," the Seer continued in a far more somber voice, "King Christian fell ill. He died just over two years later as a mere shell of a man. Had the curse worked its evil magic on him?  Did the captain somehow catch the ear of the Devil upon his dying breath?  No one can tell. But that was not the end of the story. Karl Laurentius von Scheel haunts this castle!  When he comes, he rises from that very spot you see there until he is fully formed. Then he paces the corridors, screaming at the top of his lungs at the unfairness of his embarrassing demise."

At the far side of the Knights' Hall, Kirstine continued to hover just out of sight of the living. Her ghostly lips creased into a smile once more. It had been too long since she had heard a good, chilling tale, and it mattered little that it was made up from first to last. Closing her eyes, she reminisced about the real Karl Laurentius von Scheel who had died of natural causes. He had reached such a ripe old age upon his death, nearly seventy, that he was jestingly referred to as Methuselah. He had been laid to rest at the garrison's own cemetery which was separate from the castle; had he been a companion of Kirstine Olafsdaughter in the abandoned cemetery in the secondary courtyard, chances were he really would have wandered the halls like she did.

Kirstine's attention was forced back to the present when the skeptic at the back of the group of Thrillseekers let out a cough that sounded suspiciously like he was being profane to the Seer and his tale. The other participants of the Halloween Ghost Walk shot him a few sharp looks that said he was being rude - he cared little as another profane cough left his lips.

The tour guide and the re-enactor portraying the supposedly blind Seer exchanged annoyed expressions before they decided to carry on. Moving across the smooth floor of the former Knights' Hall, they headed for a doorway at the far side.

Before they could reach it, Kirstine decided to intervene. She had never suffered fools gladly during her adult years as the Matron of the Chambers, and seeing how the young man had soured the good tale made her ghostly blood boil. It was time to teach the pup a lesson in proper conduct.

She relaxed her stance to let an inner peace roll over her. Once her otherworldly reach had been extended, she used her extraordinary abilities to focus on a three-armed gold candlestick that stood on a table in the far corner of the Knights' Hall. Although all three arms were equipped with candles, they were unlit - there was no point in burning down the castle for a second time.

From one moment to the next, the candlestick was knocked over and fell onto the table with a loud clang. The members of the Thrillseekers' Club all gasped as they stared at the table.

There was more to come from Kirstine: the grand hall was equipped with two rows of leaded panes high above the floor to provide the natural light; the panes were protected by curtains that suddenly fluttered out despite the complete lack of wind in the hall. More shocked gasps were heard from the visitors as they looked up at the unexplainable movements.

All but the bravest, or most skeptical, let out frightened squeaks when the sturdy wooden door they had used to enter the hall was slammed shut with an echoing bang. The Seer and the tour guide shared another look - this time, it was one of concern.

At the back of the group, the one person who was supposed to have learned a lesson from the remote manipulations crossed his arms over his chest and let out a snort of barely hidden contempt: "Oh, this is pathetic!  I've seen better special effects in amateur videos on Youtube!"  The comment earned him a strong elbow in the ribs by his date, but even that gesture could not stop him from shaking his head in disgust at the whole thing.

The Seer and the tour guide soon ushered the people participating in the Halloween Ghost Walk away from the Knights' Hall and into the maze of corridors beyond the next door. Kirstine kept back so she would remain out of sight of the living.

Her ghostly face had turned into a sour mask at the skeptic's comments. She had not fully understood his strange words, but the gist had come across - the ante would simply have to be upped to convince him of the existence of another world beyond the one he lived in.


The old kitchen facilities deep in the cold, clammy cellars of Kolding Castle were almost like a second home to Kirstine - in fact, they had been her first home after she had started working at the castle. The day following her tenth birthday had been her first day at work, and one that had been a rude awakening for her. Gone were the carefree moments of childhood; soon, she and her fellow young adults were expected to toil at the pots and pans from before dawn to after dusk each and every day.

Like the other maids working in the kitchen, she had never learned how to read or write. Such skills were simply not needed to stir the large cooking pots or mind the bread ovens, and teaching them to the young girls was considered a waste of time and money. The Matron of the Kitchen was solely responsible for keeping the various ledgers and records of the inventory as well as managing the recipes - not that any of the ingredients had changed since the dawn of time.

Kirstine's luck and life had changed when she was handpicked from the low-status kitchen to become a member of the highly-regarded chambermaids. She had been a blossoming sixteen-year-old at the time.

The reason for the surprising career change had been a simple one: over the course of a two-week period, she had presented herself as being such a dependable figure delivering breakfast in bed to one of the queen's children who had been ailing that she had caught the eye of the Mistress of the Castle.

Arrangements had soon been made, and she was rewarded with a permanent position among the chambermaids working in the royal wing. It had been the first step on her long journey to becoming the Esteemed Matron of the Chambers.

That the girls she had worked with in the kitchen spared no opportunity to treat her with contempt and expose her to merciless heckling - or even physical abuse - whenever they met her was the dark, bloody flipside of the golden coin.


As the group of people on the Halloween Ghost Walk entered the old kitchen, Kirstine followed them at a safe distance. She floated into the farthest corner so she would be able to see all that happened while remaining well out of sight.

Nothing inside the cellar's thick walls appeared like it had been in 1503 when she had first set foot in the kitchen. It had all been turned into a museum rather than being a place of hard work, but all it took for her to return to those strenuous times was to close her ghostly eyes. The sounds of sizzling cooking lard and boiling water - that needed to be pumped from the well in the courtyard and then dragged inside in buckets - soon filled her senses. The familiar scents of the glowing hot bread ovens and the fresh blood that always dripped off the butcher's meat cleaver ran past her nostrils and made her remember all the hard work and severe punishment thrown at her by the stern Matron of the Kitchen.

After the tour guide had talked about a few of the technical solutions and practical items in the old kitchen compared to those found in present-day facilities, the Seer stepped forward and raised his cane. "Gentlefolk… behold this damp spot…" he said in his gravelly voice as he pointed at a section of the brick wall that did indeed seem darker than the surrounding areas. "It has not dried out though it has been there for over four and a half centuries!  Right there, a maid was slain after she had walked in on a thief stealing bread!" he continued, shying back as if the mere presence of the dampness was affecting him.

A ripple of Oooooh! rolled through the Thrillseekers save for the skeptic who just snorted; in the far corner of the kitchen, Kirstine furrowed her ghostly brow - the Seer was talking about her which made her more critical of the great liberties taken with the various stories he relayed to the captive audience.

The damp spot on the wall was certainly there, but it had nothing to do with any supernatural occurrence. As with most things in life, the true cause for the dampness was simple: an underground stream ran parallel to the thick walls. Back during Kirstine's lifetime, there had been countless damp spots along every wall down in the cellar. Perhaps the passing of the centuries had altered the flow of the stream or perhaps it had simply been reduced to a trickle.

Kirstine Olafsdaughter had to chuckle inwardly at the odd fact that it took a supernatural being to debunk the supposed supernatural phenomenon.

"Yes!" the Seer continued. "And on some Halloweens… but not all… she can be heard weeping. Her cries echo through the kitchen and the nearby corridors… a terrified young girl who begged her slayer to spare her life!  She begged, she pleaded, she did everything she could to stop the blade from penetrating her heart… alas, she failed!  And her lifeblood was spilled here… at this spot."

Kirstine scrunched up her ghostly face as she listened to the Seer finishing up his spiel and the subsequent response from the members of the Thrillseekers' Club. Although the facts were so wrong it was all mere fiction, there was no denying that the visitors were lapping it up. She decided to let it pass - not that she could do anything about it even if it had bothered her to the point of trying to get someone's attention.

Her eyes sought out the skeptic whose face proved he was just about fed up with the whole thing. Not even the fact that his highly excited date had her arm hooked inside his while clinging on for dear life seemed to appease the annoyed young man.

Had Kirstine materialized into the other shape that she returned as at random - the very Weeping Maid the Seer's story revolved around - she would have been right there as the people had entered the kitchen. She had a hunch that not even such an encounter would have persuaded the skeptic to open his mind.

"What happened to the killer?  Was he caught?" someone from the group of visitors asked.

The Seer nodded somberly while his hands clutched the gnarled cane to underline the severity of the crime committed there. "He was hanged," he said in a voice that turned even more gravelly than usual.

The response garnered a ripple of quiet grunts, but Kirstine chuckled inwardly once more as she recalled witnessing several trials and public executions back in her day. If the Seer's variation of the Weeping Maid story had been true, the perpetrator of such a heinous act would have been drawn and quartered by a team of strong dray horses, not merely hanged. Following the violent dismemberment, the torso, the head and the severed limbs would have been paraded around the village in reed baskets so the residents could see with their own eyes that justice had been served.

As the skeptic once more displayed his disrespectful behavior by snorting out loud, Kirstine considered for the briefest of moments if she should try to conjure up the real Weeping Maid. Changing her shape proved beyond her like she knew it would and she had to give up; not long after her failed attempt, the Seer and the guide allowed the people attending the Halloween Ghost Walk to move further into the castle's cellars.


The underground corridors of Kolding Castle had always been spooky with their low, domed ceilings and poor lighting, but they had become downright terrifying for Halloween: intricate cobwebs draped every section of the walls, and large, hairy spiders sat at the center of the webs ready to lure in unsuspecting passers-by. Here and there, little Jack O'Lanterns, grotesquely-shaped pumpkin heads and witches flying on brooms had already been snared in and were stuck on the cobwebs. That all the Halloween decorations present were made of plastic was less important - what counted was the creepiness, and that was delivered in spades.

The Thrillseekers taking part in the ghost walk shivered as they had to go through the horrific display surrounding them. Up front, the rhythmical tapping of the Seer's cane and the swooshing of the tour guide's frock set the tone. The easily recognizable sound of chattering teeth soon bounced off the stone walls as well.

In the old days, a lit candle had been a necessity to set foot inside the maze of pitch-black tunnels and corridors. Now, LED panels had been installed in the center of the curved ceiling to take care of the illumination. A selection of purple, red and orange filters had been attached to the clear lenses to enhance the spookiness even further for the Halloween extravaganza.

The group of visitors followed the corridor for a while before they turned left, then went straight on, then turned right down a new corridor. Before long, they reached an open area where they met two further re-enactors: a Spanish soldier wearing full battle fatigues and weaponry used in the Napoleonic Wars, and a long-bearded peasant in tattered rags who appeared to be the soldier's prisoner. The hands of the supposed prisoner were shackled behind his back; he needed to stand hunched-over to withstand the pain that rose from the tight manacles around his wrists.

"Greetings, ladies and gentlemen," the soldier said in a voice that held no traces of a Spanish accent whatsoever - no wonder since he came from just up the road in one of Kolding's northern suburbs. He waited for the members of the Thrillseekers' Club to fan out near him before he carried on: "This dastardly criminal was caught stealing a piglet from the royal pen. You have arrived just in time to see him get the fierce punishment he deserves. Join me in the torture chamber… I'll show you how we deal with men of his ilk."

Shivers and plenty of oooooooh-ing rippled through the group of spectators; the shivers only grew stronger as the soldier shoved his prisoner in the back to make him move further into the maze of corridors.

At the back, the skeptic rolled his eyes. His date kept a firm grip on his arm so he had no choice but to move ahead and witness the spectacle.

The group continued through the gloomy corridors. On their way to the torture chamber, they passed by several jail cells that were occupied by partially decomposed or skeletal remains of prisoners; one of the prisoners had seemed to die where he or she stood as the skull - the flesh had fallen off half the face exposing the cranium - had been pressed up against the bars in the door.

As the various Thrillseekers moved past the horrific remains, they let out wild squeals of horror when they noticed the half-rotten skull still possessed a pair of blue eyes that tracked them as they went along the corridor.

Once the visitors had hurried past the frightening ghoul, Kirstine followed at a safe distance. She came to a halt in front of the jail cell and took in the sight of the decomposed prisoner and the eyes that continuously moved right-to-left. The castle dungeons had been elsewhere back in the old days, and there had most decidedly never been a torture chamber anywhere in the cellar. The section that was now dressed up as a jail had been a bog-standard storage room during the years where she had worked in the kitchen.

A stare-down developed between the hovering apparition and the half-rotten skeleton that did not seem to be made of flesh and bone; the one-sided duel of wits made Kirstine let out a deep sigh before she resumed her lone wandering.


The Seer, the tour guide and the other two re-enactors soon reached the section of the vault that had been transformed into a torture chamber equipped with all the instruments of pain and death that any sadist would want. The large room held a rack, a fine collection of thumbscrews, a neckbrace equipped with spikes, metal shackles of uneven length attached to the far wall, a small forge for heating pokers and branding irons, an iron maiden, and even a coal pan where the lumps could be ignited and subsequently dragged near to the exposed soles of the prisoners' feet.

As the piglet-stealing criminal was pushed over to the rack by the soldier, his coarse tunic was pulled off to reveal he was no stranger to punishment or even torture: old and new scars crisscrossed his skin on his chest and back.

The visitors gasped as the peasant was forced onto his back on the instrument of pain. Iron manacles were slapped around the prisoner's wrists and ankles before the soldier moved up to a wooden lever and began to crank it one notch at a time.

A horrific soundtrack of moans and cries of terror suddenly filled the torture chamber from unseen loudspeakers; even the lighting changed as hidden spotlights came alive and shone crimson and purple onto the gruesome scene. The peasant soon began to writhe and scream in pain as his back was stretched on the rack; the sounds caused the people participating in the Ghost Walk to let out matching squeals - of course, they took full advantage of the opportunity to take plenty of photos and shoot long video clips as well.

Kirstine floated into the area near the vaults. Although she continued to stay back from even the skeptic at the tail of the group, she moved as close to the people watching the gruesome spectacle as she had ever been. An amused smile played on her ghostly lips. She could well imagine how annoyed the Matron of the Kitchen would have been if she knew that her orderly ale and wine cellar had been reconfigured into a torture chamber. It was an undeniable fact that plenty of harsh words would have been uttered by the stern Matron, and loudly too.

Her brief trip down memory lane made her float even closer to the people ahead of her without noticing it. Before she knew it, she found herself face to face with the skeptic at the rear of the group.

Rubbing his arms, the man had turned around to investigate why the ambient temperature had suddenly dropped several degrees. When he clapped eyes on the pale-blue apparition that hovered in the air not a meter from him, his face lost all color. His slack jaw soon dropped down to his chest which rendered him incapable of speaking apart from a series of gurgles and croaks. He grabbed hold of his date's arm to show her what was going on right behind them, but she was too busy taking photos of the torture to pay any attention to him.

Kirstine scrunched up her ghostly face in annoyance at her costly mistake. It was too late to pull back, so she remained there; hovering in mid-air, she locked eyes with the skeptic who seemed to be on the brink of fainting. Although the man had done nothing but scoff at the spooky stories told to him all evening, Kirstine tried the hardest she could to reach across the boundaries of the two worlds to use him to connect with the realm of the living.

Focusing hard, she wanted nothing more than to implant a thought in his mind that she was no threat but simply needed help to move on; that the old cemetery in the inner courtyard needed to be uncovered so her remains could be exhumed and relocated to consecrated ground.

'Help me… help me… please help me!  I cannot move on without your help… please!' she thought as she stared deeply into the young man's soul. Despite her efforts, it was all to no avail. When it dawned on her that she had failed yet again, she let out a deep, heartfelt sigh that rolled around the torture chamber.

None of the others had noticed anything yet, but they did when the skeptic was no longer able to control his bladder. As the hot urine stained his pants and ran down his thighs, he finally cried out at the top of his lungs: "A gh- gh- a ghoaaahhh… gh- a gh- a ghost!  Right there!  A real ghost!"

The members of the Thrillseekers' Club all jerked up in the air at the strong cry; then they spun around to take in the startling sight of the full-bodied specter that had appeared out of nowhere. Even the Spanish soldier and his supposed prisoner stopped the horrendous torture to see what was going on.

A stunned silence fell over the group as they faced the real ghost in their midst. The horrific soundtrack with the moans and cries of terror was suddenly superfluous as shocked gasps began to ripple through the visitors.

Then everything happened at once. Howling in terror, the people on the Halloween Ghost Walk - who had been given plenty of bang for their buck - stormed toward the nearest corridor in an unruly lump of humanity. Barging, shoving, pushing, grappling and wrestling with each other, the members of the local Thrillseekers' Club escaped into the underground maze going every which way but the right one. The four re-enactors were no braver but stormed off after their visitors with their arms and costumes flailing in the air. Soggy footprints on the stone floor proved in which direction the skeptic had run.

All that chaos and confusion left Kirstine Olafsdaughter alone once more. The horrific soundtrack kept playing from the unseen speakers, and the pained moans and cries produced by professional voice actors were only too appropriate considering the depths her ghostly soul had just plummeted to.

An angry roar that burst out of her incorporeal throat filled the vault; her pale-blue cloud of energy pulsated as she clenched her fists and held them to her chest. Not wanting to spend another second in the grotesque surroundings that celebrated death and despair, she took off at great speed and blasted directly through the nearest wall.

She crossed through one corridor after the other while her frustrations with herself and her unfair fate grew stronger. No physical boundaries were able to stop her as she roared out her anger and resentment at being trapped between the worlds of the living and the great, empty Nothing. Faster and faster she went on her mad rush through the castle; several times she passed by some of the fleeing Thrillseekers and re-enactors who nearly soiled themselves by her presence.

Blasting into the inner courtyard past the burning torches that could not harm her, she only came to a halt when she reached the section where the cemetery had been during her lifetime. The withered coffins and thus the blackened physical remains of herself and her fellow deceased had been covered by large, square flagstones that had been put there as the castle had gone through the first part of the long restoration process in the late nineteenth century.

She wanted to fall to her knees and slam her fists against the flagstones until they cracked and exposed the old graves, but she knew it was beyond her. Screams behind her proved that at least some of the visitors had found the courtyard; there was no point in trying to establish contact as the attempt would fail like all the others had done.

Instead, she extended her otherworldly reach to find something she could manipulate into acting as a hammer. There were some objects near her, but none would respond to her ghostly touch. The frustrations and blind rage that continued to burn within her made it impossible for her to relax enough to carry out the desperate plan - ultimately, it all came to naught.

More manic screaming heralded the arrival of the last participants of the Halloween Ghost Walk. They raced through the courtyard while howling at the top of their lungs; the shrill noises only grew stronger when they realized the ghost had beat them to the courtyard and was now waiting for them.

Several of the Thrillseekers and re-enactors still tried to wrestle each other to be first to the exit. As a result, their legs got tangled up and more than one of them took a nasty spill onto the courtyard's hard, unrelenting surface. Moaning, groaning and clutching various bruised limbs, the frightened visitors soon clambered to their feet and took off once more.

All Kirstine could do was to hover and observe them flee. Their frenetic screaming eventually faded into the background which left the courtyard draped in an oppressed silence. Closing her ghostly eyes, she tried to extend her reach one last time in the vain hope of achieving at least a partial success, but the moment had passed and she was once more left powerless to do anything about her tragic situation.

A deep sigh escaped her. Instead of wasting her energy on the futile attempts at finding a solution to the insolvable problem, she turned around and floated back across the courtyard. When she reached the wing where the royal chambers had been in her day, she moved up the square-edged staircase that was no longer there until she arrived at the upper floor. She was soon standing at the same arch where she had materialized earlier in the evening.

Her cloud of energy had already begun to grow blurry around the edges so she knew her time in the world of the living would soon be up. Within moments, she would return to the Nothing where she would spend another year, or decade, or century, or millennium before she would return to the castle.

She closed her ghostly eyes to pick up the last echoes of the past - of her maids working in the royal wing while she, the Esteemed Matron of the Chambers, kept a close eye on them to make sure everything was done right. The familiarity of the images soothed her ethereal soul and allowed her to cast off the intense disappointment she had just experienced.

Letting go, she dissolved until she was no more than a pinpoint of pale-blue light within the gaping arch on the upper floor of Kolding Castle. When that disappeared as well, all traces of Kirstine Olafsdaughter were gone.