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 tale of the Forest of Death, the Scythe
Grove near New-Santhala.
Image drawn by
for the game
Mystical Empire, used with
"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
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…"