Sielic sighed audibly at being approached by a stranger. He wore very unobtrusive, simple clothing with a hood drawn up to obscure much of his face. He carried an unlabeled jug in one hand, the smell of alcohol strong in the air. The societal expectation of politeness saw the man raise his hand and grasp the strawman’s hand in a firm handshake.
“Hm, yes, very festive Hallow’s End to you as well, scarecrow. You seem quite excited for it to have arrived.” Sielic nods and takes a small drink as the man makes his request. “Familiar? Aye, very familiar to me is the tale of Hallow’s End, where the barrier weakens and the spirits play upon mortal minds. The possession of pumpkins creating the laughing Jak o’Lanterns, or spirits animating scarecrows into the terrifying wickermen plaguing fields. Though, you speak of them as tales, I’ll tell you, they’re real. Aye, very real.”
“The tales you look for, I’ll give you one. But it is just as real as you or me.” Sielic draws his shirt down a few inches, hairy chest exposed. “This scar’s from one of the worst of the spirits, Old Book. You see, Old Book is mostly harmless, a spirit that weeps for those that passed. Every burial in Southshore saw Old Book, out by his willow, weeping for the dead. But on Hallow’s End, Old Book can cross over just like all the others.
Several years back, freshly arrived in Southshore was I, and the locals all were in the tavern, enjoying an ale. Hallow’s End is celebrated even that far north, and they drank merrily. But I heard the weeping. I asked around, and nary a man nor lady could also hear the weeping, and many claimed I had too much to drink. Yet I could not drive the weeping from my ears, with wool, wax, or more drink.
I stumbled out into the darkness, wandering into the back. The weeping grew louder, and louder. With every step, I could hear my heartbeat and the weeping sound. I spied his willow, and saw him sobbing into the trunk. The tree looked to be heaving with every sob, and I called out to him. He did not respond, so I slowly eased forward and called out again. He continued to sob. I drew myself up alongside him, and reached out a hand to comfort the man. But Old Book was not in search of comfort.
His screech shook the boughs of the willow tree as he turned on me. His nails were claws as long as daggers, and his teeth were fangs dripping with gore. He lunged at me, and I stumbled backwards. The willow branches grabbed me, and held me fast, as his claws reached for my chest. The pain was unbearable. Just as the world became darkness around me, a loud thunk echoed through the woods. An elderly man, I could just make out with my failing vision, held a heavy crossbow.
‘Old Book! I cast ye back to the other side, Old Book! Ye’ll not take another soul s’long as I breathe!’ The old man shouted. The ghost fell back, the tree released me, and I stumbled free. Another bolt pinned the spectre to his tree. The old man shouted for me to flee. I never saw the old man again, but ran I did.”
Sielic took a long, ragged breath. “Aye, the spirits are strong on Hallow’s Eve, and it is best to not be alone. Will there be drink at this party? I am almost dry.” He gave his jug a shake, and a pitiful sloshing echoed from within as if to accent it being empty.
Attend the Party