Whispers shiver through the darkening woods as branches rub together in the crisp Autumn breeze. The limbs creak and rasp like ancient bones, aching from the chill. A path winds beneath the arching boughs. Will you dare to take it?
Something howls in the distance, its wail drawn out and mournful. Is that cruel laughter on the wind or simply your imagination? Leaves rattle and twigs crack beneath your feet as you trudge deeper into the forest along the winding path.
You come to a break in the forest canopy revealing the midnight sky. Gauze-like clouds veil the full silver moon. The sky is velvet black and deep as a bottomless pool, spangled with cold stars that flicker weakly in the light of the brighter orb. The moonbeams play among the branches of the tree and you notice something wispy-white clinging to the twigs and leaves like drawn-out candy floss.
A prickling feeling creeps down your neck, and for a moment you almost think you see cold, beady eyes peering at you from between the branches. The clearing feeling much less empty than it had before, you hurry along your way.
The path grows darker as you move deeper into the forest. Clouds close over the moon above you like a curtain. You think of the inn on the other side of the woods. Of warm fires and good company. Of food and drink and soft, soft beds. Your pace quickens.
The path ends in an ancient stone archway. On one side trees and brambles crowd up against the forest wall, built by the gentle farmers and herdsmen who live beyond to keep something out--or from your current side "in." You pause to imagine what terrors could merit such a barrier, and the woods fall quiet around you. Too quiet. A shudder cuts through you, and you hurry to the gate.
A green country cloaked in the shadows of deep night stretches before you, the path climbing a rounded hill that stands against the cloudy sky. Beyond that hill lies the village and you can faintly smell the smoke of fires that drift from it. Heart lightening you step forward out of the cover of the trees.
As you do a wail pierces the night. The clouds part revealing the moon's face once more. A beam pierces from the sky illuminating a silhouette on the horizon, a rider, cloaked in black, his garments fluttering in the breeze. He turns towards you. His hood hides his face, but somehow you can feel his eyes, even over the distance. Your heart chills.
Desperate for safety, you reach into your pocket and withdraw a single candle and a box of matches. You strike the match and light the wick. As the candle's flame crackles to life, light spreads around you like a protective barrier. The lurking rider screams in terror and rage before galloping into the night, away from you.
Your racing heart quiets knowing you have escaped, and with a prayer of thanks upon your lips, you hurry along your way, safe in the light of a candle.