The sun is inching closer to the distant horizon, long shadows stretch from their daytime hiding holes. Rays of red and gold spark off the fishscale belt she wears. A small pouch hangs at her side; absently she strokes the leather that carries her special burden. The girl stands at a crossroads.
She can travel the small path before her, somewhat overgrown, a path not often traveled. However, it travels through the graveyard. Or she can take the path that branches off to the right, it is wide, smooth, and easily traveled.
If she takes the easier route it will add several days to her journey, as it sweeps wide around the graveyard and runs through a couple small villages.
If she takes the more direct route she will be on her own, but much closer to her destination, and far more quickly. There have been stories of ghouls and wights roaming restlessly through the graveyard. And judging from the sun, it will be a travel in deep night through the graveyard.
The girl smiles a small smile, almost sad but with a tilt of amusement at the corners. She shakes her head. She’s not known for taking the easy way and there’s no reason that should change now.
She squares her shoulders and steps determinedly into the graveyard. It is almost as if a blanket of quiet drops over the world around her. Just a few steps back there was a bird trilling his song. Now he sounds muffled. Two more steps and she can no longer hear him.
Wood and rock headstones spread out on either side of her in scraggly lines. It is as if the gravediggers did not wish to tarry long in their duties. Her skin crawls a little, as though unseen eyes are watching her, tracking her.
The sun sinks further into the horizon as though trying to hide from what he knows is coming. A small wind plays around the graveyard, teasing tendrils of her tresses to tango with each other and creak the limbs of trees. The bare branches reach for her, their bony fingers seeming to stretch longer as they rattle against each other.
Before too long the sun is gone, afraid to watch what is sure to happen soon. The moon however, that voyeur of the night sky, rises big and full. The light seems to shift though, not always showing the path before her clearly. She weaves back and forth across the path as she picks her way down it.
The eerie silence is broken by a hungry wail from far off. A shiver dances up and down her spine. From another direction there is a wet gurgle. The girl starts and flinches away from it. Her foot strays from the path.
There is a tapping on her shoulder. With a small scream she whirls to run. Her foot catches on something, a rock or a root, all she knows is the ground is rushing up to meet her. She twists her body to avoid landing on her pouch.
A hand, moldy with decay and rot, rips through the dirt and latches onto her ankle. Her skin burns where the bones grip. Another hand bursts through the soil and presses itself on the ground. As it levers against the earth confining it and her frantic struggle to get away, a head emerges.
The eyes burn with a green glow. The hair is tangled, matted with dirt and bugs. An earthworm wriggles in the hole that once was a nose. The teeth click and clack, eager to rip into her flesh. The girls eyes go wide, her mouth opens to scream but all her breath is gone. All that escapes is a high whistle. The ghoul drags itself out of its grave, now free down to the waist.
Her hand brushes against her pouch. She feels the heart within beat. All that she’s done to return this heart to her love and this is how she ends? The belt at her waist seems to tighten briefly, a quick hug. She can hear the voice of the fish speaking to her, telling her she is brave and wise.
No. Absolutely not. This will not be how she goes out. Not crawling on the ground and begging for her life. Her story may well be over here but she will meet it defiant and proud. She takes a deep breath.
“Let go of my leg."
The undead horror before her stops, incredulous.
“You heard me, let go of my leg.”
Uncertain at this turn of events the ghoul lets go. The girl stands, neither rushing nor delaying. She stares down at the half risen horror before her.
“You will return to the ground and bother me no more.” She raises her voice and addresses the rest of the graveyard. “That goes for all of you. I’ll have no more of your shenanigans. None whatsoever!"
The ghoul looks around in confusion. If it still retained eyebrows they would certainly be raised. Unused to dinner fighting back, it is at a loss for what to do next. It shrugs and slowly sinks back into the earth. Soon there is only a bit of loose dirt left to show signs of any occurrence here.
The moon high above seems to grow brighter, as though in reward for the girl’s bravery. Now, the path more visible, the girl continues on her way. She breathes a sigh of relief when, close to dawn, she finally exits the graveyard.