The Gallowwood is dark, and deep, and dangerous my child... Never venture there. Never.
Maria remembered the words her granny had whispered into her ear as she left this morning to pick berries. Granny had spoken these words to her every day as she left the house; every day of every summer, fall, spring and winter—to Maria, they had become an empty phrase.
As usual, she had smiled, nodded and disregarded them in the manner all sixteen-year-olds did the wisdom of their elders. She did so no more. An inarticulate scream tore from her lips; the sound of an imbecile, of a lunatic that had forgotten speech. Blinded by terror she charged through the undergrowth of the Gallowwood, blood spilling from four deep gashes on her exposed shoulder, soiling her white woolen dress. She stumbled, fell, and got up again in one motion, desperate to reach the edge of the wood before the beams of red sunlight, which broke through the canopy, finally faded.
It was of little comfort to her that the wood hindered the creature chasing her as much as it did her. Big and lumbering, it crashed through the thicket like an enraged bull, snapping twigs and tearing through veils of pale moss that hung between the trees like webs. The smell of freshly disturbed earth, putrification and rot heralded it and made her gag through ragged breaths. Maria dared to glance behind, and regretted it instantly.
A scream tore from her throat, then she fell, tumbling head over heel down an abyss that had come out of nowhere. Up became down, down became up, faster and faster. The stop came as sudden as the fall, and with it came a pain unknown so far in her young life. Maria whimpered and looked down. Her left arm was broken, bent backwards at the joint, the bone protruding from it like a split branch. She would have fainted if not for the realization where she was.
She must have tumbled down the woodland hillside and now found herself lying in one of the potato fields. Ahead of her and across, the maiden could see her parents' small farmstead and tears of joy filled her eyes. She stood and stormed towards her salvation with the strength of desperation, her feet sinking into the freshly ploughed earth, hindering her as if the ground itself harbored some malicious intent.
Something crashed down the hill behind her, breaking twigs and snapping small trees in its descent. It came to a stop with a thud and a roar.
The pain of her broken arm was searing, throbbing in the tact of her hammering heart.
The door was half closed, the light of candles and fires spilling from within, golden compared to the crimson of the setting sun. She pushed it open—and froze.
It was everywhere, splattering the walls in intricate patterns and pooling on the dirt floor. With terror, she saw the cut-off head of her older brother spin away from the door she had just pushed open. Her granny lay farther down the corridor; eyes open wide, her mouth even wider, frozen in the moment of her death.
Maria screamed. A scream that lasted until a giant hand with six meaty fingers fell on her shoulder, wresting her around...
Her scream became a shriek and the world faded into darkness.
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Tales of Ruuin - Un-King & Gallowwood & Bad SeedFantasy
"There is no one better suited to kill a monster than another monster... And I should know, for I have killed many." These are the words of Craven, one of the Scarred Empires most notorious mercenaries and monster slayers; a man who sacrificed his s...