Category Archives: Free Stories

Free Ghost Story: “By The Twisted Maple”

The following free online ghost story appears in my novel Evermore. It is told by a professional storyteller to a crowd, playing on the fears that the nearby forest is haunted:

The Story

Lest you think that all hauntings occur here or nearby, the tale of the Twisted Maple of Andar will make you think twice about fleeing elsewhere for safety. A man visiting friends there was given a first floor room at the back of an old house, where a wide window stood just feet from the bed. It gave a lovely view of a lawn stretching to a line of trees, where a peculiar maple with a twisted branch drew the eye. A path of loose stones passed under the window, and he left the drapes open so the bright moonlight filled the room. He’d been asleep for some hours when a noise roused him, for the sound of stones crunching uderfoot frew louder and louder so that he fully expected to see someone pass by outside. And yet one did not, even as they passed on. Moments later, when the foot-steps returned, he cautiously rose and peered through the glass but again saw nothing despite the sound passing by. Unnerved, he returned to bed and lay pondering until the window drew his attention again, for a chance look showed something he’d not soon forget. Across the field, a tall glowing figure in white was moving by the twisted maple. Unable to tell what it was doing, he lay still until it disappeared, then tossed and turned all night to awake tired the next morning.

He mentioned nothing of this to his hosts and went about his affairs, but on returning to the house mid-afternoon, he decided to walk the grounds and soon found himself by the gnarled maple, certain he’d dreamed the whole affair. The ground lay undisturbed and showed no signs of activity. Since the afternoon was pleasant and he had a short time left to him, he lay down beneath the tree to rest.

He awoke with a start hours earlier, a deep, heavy sleep having kept him here past nightfall until a peculiar cold roused him. The frightful figure of the previous night bent over him, a hideous countenance of glowing menace staring into his eyes. Terrified, he asked what it wanted, but the spirit merely searched the earth beside the tree in agitation before disappearing. The man quickly returned to the house, refusing to stay in that room another night,=, and yet curiosity overcame him days later, when he approached the twisted maple to search as the ghost had done. Barely visible and wedged in a crack of the tree’s trunk was a small golden key, which he retrieved after much prying.

That night, against his better judgment, he once again slept in the room overlooking the field, the key on the night table. When the footsteps sounded outside as before, the walker remained unseen, passing by unmindful of the key, if indeed this was known to be present. The man rose from the bed and stood before the window, key in hand, thinking to lay it upon the sill, when the spirit appeared beneath the twisted maple, again searching. The sound of the window sliding open drew its attention, and only a moment passed when it noticed him raising the key. The ghost whirled towards him with breathtaking, menacing speed to stand beyond the window. Startled motionless, he stood staring as it slowly opened one palm as if wanting the key laid there, and this he did, trembling. The ghost gleamed brighter, slender fingers closing upon it fast. With nary a nod of thanks, it walked away, the stones crunching beneath its feet.

The next morning he woke to a commotion, for a gold key had been found inserted into the lock of a prized box that had been in the family’s possession hundreds of years, and yet no one had ever been able to unlock it or otherwise devine its contents, even the most powerful magic-users. It resisted all attempts to dash it to pieces, too. And the only thing that lay dashed now were the hopes of his hosts, for while the box now held the key, it held nothing else, its interior as empty of treasure as their hearts were of hope.

Only after the ghost did not appear again that night did the man reveal what he’d seen, whereupon he learned the ghost appeared to be that of an ancestor rumored to have made a deal with the god of death, a deal which he had, perhaps, not honored.

The Art of World Building

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Free Ghost Story: “The Beheaded Witch”

The following free online ghost story appears in my novel Evermore. It is told by a professional storyteller to a crowd, playing on the fears that the nearby forest is haunted:

The Story

The story of the hanged nobleman got everyone’s attention on hauntings, but what turned that attention to the woods was an incident just months later.

It happened just south of the lake, which many believe acts as a barrier between the spirits and those of the city. It seems that one of the hunters heard some strange sounds deep in the woods, and after feeling watched and finally losing his nerve, he started home and returned early at dusk. He was a religious man by all accounts, but superstitious and distrustful of the supernatural like many in those parts, and having just escaped what was in his mind a fate of supernatural horror, he was quite upset upon discovering his wife’s apparent activities at home.

None know for sure what she was really doing with the pot over the fire, the various herbs spread on the table, the candles, the chalk marks upon the floor, or the open book from which she was reading aloud, but her husband took one look at her long disheveled hair, the loose gown she wore, and a holy medallion around her neck that he forbade her to wear on the grounds that all talismans are evil, and flew into a rage. He pulled his sword from its sheath and stormed into the small cabin.

She must have been terrified by the sight of him coming for her, his sword swinging toward her throat. He half sliced her head from her neck on the first blow so that she fell without a sound, whereupon he struck her neck twice more to behead her, believing this stops a necromancer or witch from acting again. He threw her head into the fire and dragged the corpse some distance into the woods to dig a shallow, unmarked grave, throwing her in, covering her, and returning to the cabin.

It had now been hours since nightfall, and he lay down to sleep in the cabin’s single room, across from the burnt-out fire, mistaking the stench for whatever brew the witch had been concocting. Some time later, footsteps outside the cabin roused him as they shuffled through leaves to hesitate before the unlocked door, which now opened slowly and evenly. As a dark figure entered the cabin, he spied his sword was across the room on the doorway’s far side, out of reach.

Covered from neck to toe in dirt, the figure paid him no attention, heading instead for the table where the book his wife had been reading earlier still lay open. This it ran one finger over as if tracing a passage before closing the book, tucking it under one arm, and turning to go. Upon passing the fireplace, it knelt to seize the skull with its remaining bits of charred, black flesh. The figure then rose and placed its decapitated head back on its bloody neck, where it somehow remained before the figure started to leave. It was all of two paces from the doorway when he sat up more in bed.

The figure stopped at the motion, its head turning slowly to gaze at him as if realizing he was present for the first time. Then it stepped away to pick up something, turning back with arm swinging. He was too horrified to do more than stare as his own sword decapitated him.

None are sure what happened after this, as the seers who came to investigate could sense that this much had transpired here, but once the two corpses left the cabin and disappeared south into the woods, the trail of information vanished. There existed no sign of either body or the book she had taken. The bloody sword, the first clue that something had happened here, lay upon the floor.

Friends would later say his wife was no witch, just a cook who preferred plants to the meat her husband brought home, and so she harvested and prepared them when he was away partly because he’d grown intolerant of her tastes. She somewhat secretly worshiped the goddess of agriculture, the medallion she owned being this goddess’ symbol, and the chalk marks just indications of what plants she’d already added to her soup. None disputed her murder, but they could never believe the story of her returning from the dead, despite the empty grave near the cabin and that neither was ever seen or heard from again.

The Art of World Building

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Free Ghost Story: “The Ghost Ship”

The following free online ghost story appears in my novel Evermore. It is told by a professional storyteller to a crowd, playing on the fears that the nearby forest is haunted. ┬áIt is also the basis for a book, The Screaming Moragul (Talon Stormbringer), named after Jonn’s ghost ship.

The Story

While it’s always been known that great danger may lurk along our path, and that sometimes such peril comes from beyond the grave, it is only of late that we’ve known such things lie upon the sea, too. The Ghost Ship of Jonn is more feared than even the pirates of Avaway or the Katani Fleet, for one cannot reason with the dead – not when what they want is far dearer to them than your life.

The twin pirate ships of Jonn and his brother always descended together upon their victims, plundering what they wished without fear. But when Jonn learned of an especially wealthy ship, loaded down with gold and other treasures, he decided the time had come to end this partnership. And so it was that he and his crew set sail in the cover of darkness, unaware that his kin followed, having learned of the scheme. When Jonn captured the prized vessel, he took treasure and lives alike, leaving the ship adrift with its dead. Neither he or his joy were long for this world, however, for his brother came on with vengeance filling his sails. The grappling hooks flew beside arrows as Jonn’s vessel and crew were caught fast in the grip of death. Jonn’s men were cut down one by one and thrown dead into the sea, a fire lighting the ship in the night as the treasure changed hands. Jonn was tied to the mast of his brother’s ship as his own roared first in flames, and then in a swell of water that consumed it as it sank beneath the waves. His brother’s twisted laughter did little to calm him as they sailed on, stopping on a sandy beach before dawn.

There, on an island, his brother set in motion a terrible thing that has plagued all who sails the seas since. After burying the treasuer in the sand, he beheaded Jonn and poured his blood over the prize before tossing the corpse into the sea, placing Jonn’e head on the ship’s prow. A ghost ought to prevent any from obtaining this prize, he reasoned. But when Jonn’s ghost saw his own visage approach, he’d let those aboard land safely when only horror would meet all others. His brother then set sail without regret, which was not long to last.

No one knows how much time passed before a ship finally landed on that dreadful shore, or even what truly happened, but the first account of something unholy on the seas came from a half-mad sailor. It seems his ship and crew were becalmed one dark night, resting quietly on the peaceful ocean, not a breeze to stir their sails. The moonlight glistened on the ocean, the scene still like a painting. Then the lookout cried out that a ship sailed toward them, its sails filled with a wind that touched them not. Understanding of how this could be dawned in the most terrible of ways as the ship neared, for standing upon its deck, watching from its yard arms, and steering it through the night were all manner of things from beyond the grave. Sightless eyes stared greedily at them, a ghost of fearsome hate whispering orders to his crew, the voice slithering down their spines. Howls of hate from across the sea echoed their cries of fear.

The living dead came upon the ship that, though becalmed, knew naught but terror. Many a sailor cannot swim so that only one flung himself into the sea; it was to be their doom, for Jonn took their souls for his and left the ship adrift in the night as he sailed away into darkness, searching for revenge still. Tales of such abandoned ships, corpses without a mark upon them, soon sailed through port towns on a crest of fear, dashing the peace of those on land and sea alike, for those who took to the waves were even less likely to be heard from again.

Lest you believe you are safe here ashore, know that they have come to port before. Rumor has it the ship sailed straightaway over the land, slicing through the earth like the sea from which it came, felling the life before its prow like a scythe through wheat. On the winds of vengeance did Jonn seek his brother in a brothel known to both, and all who were cavorting that night perished as the undead swept into port. Only the sun rose the next morning, for all else lay still forever more.

When Jonn’s brother learned of this, he rightly fled far, some speculating he retrieved his treasure first on whatever isle is lies, but who knows what horror Jonn left in his place? Surely he’d let no one have the prize for which he was damned. The ghost ship has sailed onward since, always searching, always sailing, always stealing souls. Only one pirate seeks such a treasure, having no use for any other save that of his missing skull, for until some part of him is buried rightly, he will sail onward forever more.

The Art of World Building

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Free Ghost Story: “A Short Way Down The Road”

The following free online ghost story appears in my novel Evermore. It is told by a professional storyteller to a crowd, playing on the fears that the nearby forest is haunted:

The Story

It happened one night at the playing of ball, when a young man caught a female admirer’s fancy. Though he’d not seen a more lovely woman, or this one before, he straightaway felt her love wash over him as if in a dream, intoxicating and berefting him of his senses. Still, as she invited him a short way down the road to view her father’s garden, he felt something indefinable crying out to him that he not go. But alas, she professed that he was the boy she loved best, and if he were only to come, she would give her love to him this very night. So it was that he followed her away from the village as she danced ahead in the twilight, first appearing and then disappearing down the road as if by magic. Like an apparition did she lead him onward to a roadside home he’d long before seen but never in such condition. While it appeared a ruin to his eyes on all days but this, walls falling, chimney crumbled, weeds reclaiming it, the abode now stood in good condition, candles glowing in the windows, the walls mended, and a garden overflowing with flowers. He stood a moment dumbfounded as she swept past the gate into the garden, and then did something odd occur.

A boy his own age, but whom he’d never before seen or even heard approach, stepped from within the woods by the road, all earnest compassion and concern on his face. With a manner of clothing some years passed and a look of innocence rent asunder, he said with utmost insistence that naught but ruin and misfortune would find him were he to enter the lady’s garden, for though her love was true, there was another whose fury was truer. But a fragrance of such promising love floated to him from beyond the walls that he heeded not the boy’s warning, and in truth the fellow had disappeared as if he’d never been. With a heart full of desire, he strode into the garden.

There amongst the blooming flowers and streaming sunrays sat the girl of his fancy, all love in her eyes, her bodice half undone. He stepped forward to enfold her in his arms when from behind a bush sprang a shimmering figure of menace and despair. Eyes of rage flashed upon him from the dark shade as the sun gleamed upon a silver blade. ‘Not with my daughter’ howled the spirit as it lunged. It was then that the most frightful thing came upon him, for as he stood impaled by horror, a presence filled his being and assumed control, urging his terror-stricken legs back and away faster than mortal legs would fly. A shriek rang out from the girl as the father howled and came onward, but the young man fled to the road, where controlled was returned to him. He turned to the gateway with a gasp. There the father lunged across the threshold toward him and simply vanished. Startled, the young man looked about and saw the boy at his shoulder, relieved and happy, for while he walked only when the silvery moons were high, this one would enjoy the days of sunlight still.

It was only then as the young man looked upon the house once more that he saw the ruin he’d always known. No flames burned in the windows, no flowers fragranced the air, and the now crumbled walls revealed a garden empty of all promise. The girl, if she had even been, was gone. He turned to thank his savior, but the boy, too, had disappeared.

The Art of World Building

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