THE FOREST OF DEATH

A SANTHARIAN GHOST STORY

 
Lurking in the Mists   
  Click on the book's name to view the Table of Contents
  Click on the author's name to view the Author's Index
  3 pages (Download is available Download text)

Introduction. Have you ever wandered alone through a deserted ruin or an eerie forest, listening to the howling wind and feeling a strange sensation as if this place would talk to you silently of horrors that happened long, long ago? Well, the Scythe Grove, or the "Forest of Death", just north of New-Santhala is such a place which could give you the shivers. But listen what had happened there once and how an unfortunate lad made a gruesome encounter...

 

anael looked at the children who were sitting around her, begging her to tell a story. Of course she would give in, how could she not? She smiled at their eager faces as she seated herself cross-legged on the floor, in between two children.

"Alright then, if you insist. But let me warn you, what I will tell you tonight is quite gruesome, and I will only recount this tale if you are quite sure that you will not end up with a nightmare…" Of course they assured her they wouldn’t. It always promised to be a good story if she started with that warning.

The Undead of the Scythe Woods

View picture in full size Image description. The undead of the tale of the Forest of Death, the Scythe Grove near New-Santhala. Image drawn by Quellion for the game Mystical Empire, used with friendly permission.

"Not far from here is a forest. You have all seen the eves of it, when your mother and father took you to New-Santhala. Did they warn you never to go in there? I thought so. Tonight, I will tell you why. Pay close attention. And as you were warned before I will warn you again: do not enter Scythe Grove, which we call the 'Forest of Death’...

A long time ago the Duke of Huiscen, who lived in Onved, was invited to a wedding in New-Santhala, together with his three daughters. After the feast, the Duke remained in New-Santhala for a few days, but he sent his daughters back home to Onved with an armed escort. There were only a few of the Duke’s men, for he had not taken many, so more than half of the escort had been hired to ward off bandits. However, the Duke didn’t know that the mercenaries were themselves a group of bandits. They had accepted to ‘protect’ the three girls, but in fact they had a vile plan…

The leader of the hirelings, a man of fair speech called Tyndras, persuaded the daughters that they should first visit the Rangwer Warden to look from the highest point of the tower to the lands below that they owned. When they were in the forest, the bandits killed the Duke’s men, pulled the girls out of their carriage and tied their hands. Then they decided on their further course of action. After a short debate, they came to the conclusion to demand a ransom for the girls. Everyone knew how much the Duke loved them. He would pay a high price to get his daughters back.

While they were talking, another group of bandits, who were hiding in Scythe Grove, heard them talking. They saw the opportunity and decided that they wanted that ransom too. And of course they didn’t want to share. So after sunset they attacked the mercenaries’ camp. A whole night of fighting ensued, and in the end, none survived, not even the Duke’s three daughters. When the first rays of the sun revealed the massacre, the last bandit died.

Just before nightfall the mercenaries had sent a messenger demanding the ransom. As soon as he could, the Duke set forth with his men in order to free his girls. But he was too late. When he saw his daughters’ bodies, he cried. They were carried away and buried with honour. But the Duke spoke a curse over Scythe Grove, so that the bandits would find no rest in death.

Many years passed, and slowly the memory of the massacre began to fade. At first, people avoided the forest, because for a long time, you could smell the stench of the dead, and they remembered the curse. The bodies remained lying next to the forest, until they were nothing but bones and metal. The stench disappeared, but still people avoided going near the forest. They figured that there was no reason to go near it.

Then one day, when only the very old people remembered that there even had been a battle, a young man from the village of Thaak decided that he could not find a reason NOT to go in there. It was just a forest after all, he thought. The massacre, or the curse, didn’t matter, as it had happened so long ago.

So one day, he just walked to the forest and entered it. And a nice forest it was. Green leaves rustled overhead, birds called to each other. It was full of life. The young man sat down somewhere and listened and looked. He just forgot the time. Although it is not a big forest, he stayed there all day. Only when the sun was almost gone, did he move to go home. He thought he had proven his point that there was nothing wrong with the forest. But he was quite mistaken.

On his way home, when he had just come out of the forest and the last rays of the sun were gone, the youth saw an eerie green fog rising from the ground. Actually, it wasn’t rising. It was just there somehow, and rolling towards him. As if this wasn’t scary enough, he heard things, voices. Or not voices, but a kind of scraping. Something that sounded quite suspiciously like metal…

When the fog was near him, he could see people moving. But there was something strange with these people. They weren’t completely right. Then he saw it… They were skeletons! The bandits from so long ago, thought long gone, had come back to life. Their unresting spirits had taken possession of their bodies again. And they were marching for the village.

With a scream of fright, the boy turned and ran all the way to the village, the green fog constantly at his heels. Everybody who heard him went out of their house, only to re-enter it immediately and lock it. The young man had the misfortune to live on the entirely other side of the village. And right before he reached his house, the green fog had already surrounded him. The scraping got louder, and now he did hear voices, voices from long ago, yelling obscenities or just screaming. It was the last thing he should ever hear…

All night the undead lingered in the village, trying to force open doors or windows. Every member of every family held on to the other, hoping and praying that their door would hold, that the planks quickly nailed to the window would prove enough. They were all shaking from fear of getting killed. Everyone heard the screams of those whose door did not resist the attacks of the skeletons."

Here Manael paused for a moment, looking at the scared faces of the children. She decided that she need not give more detail. Her story had quite fulfilled its purpose. The children would stay out of the forest.

"Then, suddenly, it was over. After the longest night anyone in the village had ever experienced, the noises outside died down. For a while, everybody stayed indoors, then the bravest dared go outside. The first rays of the sun, which had at one time revealed the massacre, now caressed their faces. Just as the last bandit had died at that hour, the undead had disappeared. The new dawn had vanquished them. There was nothing left of the skeletons, but the corpses in the houses proved they had really been there.

The villagers assumed they had gone back to haunt the forest. There was no rest for them, because of the curse. If ever somebody were to enter the forest of Death again, they would go back to Thaak, or to whichever village the disturber came from. And who knows what spirits can do when they no longer have their own body to repossess…"
 


Return to the Book
Click on the book's name to view the Table of Contents
or the
Click here to view the Author's Index
 

Ghost story written by Irid al'Menie View Profile