The Wyvern’s Tail is hosting a lovely little Hallows End competition and it being my favourite time of the year and all, I couldn’t resist joining in. I know it’s meant to be all about the screenshots but Sprout is one of those gnomes incapable of using one word when 37 would do roughly the same job.
Duskwood always has dangers lurking in the restless dark but this is never more true than at Hallows End when the veil between worlds is at it’s weakest. So without further ado, I present Hallows End Sprout:
The old covered bridge, cobwebs hanging from it’s timbers lay directly in front of her. Parking her mechostrider, Sprout closed her eyes for a moment letting the warnings flood her mind. “Don’t ride through Duskwood after dark”, “Fly to Redridge… the path is shorter and safer”, “Stay another night and leave in the morning, don’t be foolish little Gnome” and then once they realised that her mind was made up, the raft of more practical suggestions. “Don’t leave the road whatever you do”, “Don’t stay on the path, who knows what monsters walk”, “Keep your eyes firmly fixed on the way ahead, never look back”. It had seemed as if every one in the Sentinel Hill hostelry had some opinion, from the Innkeeper herself to the workers fixing the roof. Whilst the details differed, everyone agreed on one particular point .. entering Duskwood in the twilight was suicide.
Dismounting, she swiftly checked the machine over, breaking down could be a dangerous disaster. Once Sprout felt secure in her ride, she double checked her bags. Melon juice, check; flask of hot bean soup, check; Dwarven Mild, check and finally a loaf of freshly baked bread. Whatever happened in those dark woods, she wasn’t going to starve. Starting her engine, she eyed the forests of Duskwood unhappily.
As the mechostrider leapt forward onto the bridge, for a moment Sprout feared that the planks couldn’t take the strain. That any second, she and her precious machine would be plunged into the cold dark water below. Despite their warped condition, perhaps a sign of lack of use, the bridge held and now she set foot in accursed Duskwood itself.
Sprout had heard many stories from passing drunks in the Inns about Necromancers, ghouls and other such monsters who lurked off the beaten path in the many boneyards and resting places of the forest but being a Gnome of reason and sense, she knew these were nothing but idle superstition and an blatant attempt to impress or at least she had known this whilst safe abed in Stormwind. However curiosity and pride got the better of her, how could she return to the University without at least having explored a corner of the map. Turning her headlamps on full, she steered away from the road and up a steep incline, coming to an abrupt stop overlooking a graveyard. A graveyard crawling with things which her rational brain couldn’t quite interpret.
The mad dash towards the path seemed to take forever and never had a Gnome seen a more welcome sight than cobbles, fences and lamps lighting the way. Promising herself to stay on the straight and narrow, Sprout set off once again for Darkshire.
The only way forward seemed to be to keep her eyes fixed firmly on the horizon, that way blinking eyes in the undergrowth, giant spiders and big black wolves could all be edited out of the picture before her brain fully processed it and indeed Sprout proceeded some way in this fashion.
It was at this point disaster struck, heralded by a noise which chilled the blood just around a bend in the road. A scream and then a rough munching sound as if something large with many teeth was gnawing on bone could be heard up ahead. Tightening her grip on the mechanostrider, Sprout considered her options. By the sound of it, there was nothing left to rescue and so riding towards that noise would be the equivalent of desert serving itself to whatever was snacking in the dark. That left the forest flanking either side of the path, both sides were dense with trees and no light penetrated those black branches. Resorting to what might be called logic in a less dangerous situation, Sprout decided that going north hadn’t worked out previously so this time she would try south.
Pushing her way through the trees she found herself in a field full of what she quickly recognized as corpse weed although she had not seen such lively specimens before. Quickly picking her way through the open ground, out of the corner of her eye she spotted something glowing. Something which on closer inspection turned out to be a Jack o’lantern abandoned but yet still lit. Looking around she could see no movement in the clearing and taking a deep breath she turned away from the gruesome pumpkin and rode towards the road.
As she resumed riding along the road, a distinct silence lay blanketed over the wood. No longer could she hear the wolves howling or the shrill shrieks of the owls, instead it was just her own blood pumping and the rattle of her engine. Then from behind she though she heard a slither, a slippery sound of something unnatural sliding along the cobbles and with her heart in her mouth, Sprout looked behind her.
That accursed Jack o’lantern was following her on long legs of twisted roots, it’s unholy grin fixed on her. Closing her eyes, Sprout gunned her engine and rode as if the Devil himself in vegetable form pursued her.
It was only on reaching the outskirts of the town itself that Sprout dared to glance behind her and thankfully the road was clear. No glowing eyes, no long and twisted roots, no animated orange flesh, just an empty highway stretching out behind her. In her gratefulness to be safe and secure within the town, it never occurred to her to check the pumpkin patch which lay alongside the road but then who in similar circumstances can say they would have done different?
Parking her mechanostrider, Sprout made straight for the Scarlet Raven, trying hard to not look at the jack o’lanterns carved everywhere for Hallows End.
Once inside and parked on a stool by the fire with a hot toddy, she discovered that the locals were entertaining themselves by telling ghost stories. As the warmth seeped through her numb body, she found herself listening with interest to the tale of the Carved one. “Once upon a time”, the barmaid said, “there was a little boy who loved Hallows End more than any other time of the year. Every year he and his father would carve a Jack O’lantern for their field but then came the year of the Dark Riders and something horrible happened out at their farmstead. In the morning, a search party found only blood and that cursed pumpkin still lit even with the candle inside burnt down to dust. Ever since that night, on Hallows End a bewitched lantern appears in that field searching for souls to lure to their doom and every year it claims at least one victim”.
It was at this point, Sprout decided that she had heard enough and retreated to the safety of her room, upstairs and only accessibly by passing through the busy bar. As she readied herself for bed, she muttered about stupid superstition and ghost stories being just that, something parents told their children to frighten them onto the straight and narrow. Nothing something a Gnome would waste time partaking in.
After all… ghostly Jack O’lanterns… whoever has heard of such a thing.