When you set out on your journey that morning, the sun was high, shining through the crisp orange and yellow leaves of the trees along your path. You strolled along, content to take your time, confident you'd reach the next village and its cozy inn long before nightfall.
Now, however, the last rays of sun are fading upon the horizon. The path is winding around hills into deep shadows, and you begin to wonder if you've lost your way.
An owl hoots in the distance as crickets begin to chirp and frogs sing their chorus. These noises reassure you, and you quicken your pace as the moon rises, giving some light to your path.
You are just beginning to feel confident again when a cloud passes in front of the moon, blocking out all light. As one, the forest creatures fall quiet, leaving the world cloaked in darkness and oppressive silence.
You swallow, waiting for your eyes to adjust to the light. An old stone wall following the path offers you some guidance, and you pick your way along, praying for the moon to return.
In the distance, a shrill cry, unlike the call of any beast you have ever heard, pierces the night. Your heart stills. What was that?
In spite of the dark and the rough path beneath your feet, you run. Pulse pounding, you crest the hill and see a flickering light through the trees. A faint fragrance of wood smoke drifts towards you, a friendly scent after hours of traveling alone. For a moment, you hesitate. Could this fire be the source of the strange sound?
The cry comes again, clearly somewhere behind you rather than before. This is all you need to assure you, and you hurry forward towards the flames.
Beside the fire sits a cloaked figure smoking a long pipe. He looks up, his keen eyes glinting from under his hood, and amazement and concern flood his face.
"What are you doing out here? It is dangerous to wander after nightfall in this land. Come. Warm yourself by my fire."
You thank him and settle down, holding out your hands to the crackling flames. Your host does not speak but hums quietly to himself, his eyes occasionally scanning the darkness outside the ring of light and warmth provided by his fire.
Again you hear the cry, and your heart leaps into your throat. It is so much closer now, reedy and sharp. You turn and see shapes moving in the trees, creeping forward, coming closer.
Your companion stands and reaches beneath his cloak to produce a candle. He strides into the darkness, holding this tiny light aloft only for its flame to grow and its light expand. The creatures freeze then flee, their panicked screams fading into the night.
He returns to you and offers you the candle. "This will protect you along your journey, but for now, rest. You are safe here tonight."
With the candle beside you, you drift off to sleep, somehow knowing the dark shadows will not find you.
The Screeching Wraith is a part of Mythologie Candles' seasonal SHADOWS mini-collection. Find out more here.