A lone lawman marched through the mud, a lantern in one hand and a cudgel in the other. He wiped his golden hair, now soaked from the rain, away from his eyes with a forearm. The man trudged forward, the handcuffs hanging from his belt jangling together with each determined step. He passed a old, wooden sign, the words “Myrefall Cemetery” written on its face, heading toward a small army of gravestones. He spotted a sole light barely flickering in the dark of the night. He smiled.
“Thank the Gods,” he muttered to himself continuing onward. As the lawman approached the light a figure became more and more visible until he saw a man standing in front of a gravestone. The man’s back was turned and he wore a long, black robe that concealed his entire body, with the hood over his head. He held a shepherd's crook in a hand that had a small lantern hooked on its end. The lawman approached the black robed man making no attempt to be stealthy.
“I thought I might find you here, Valos,” the lawman said stopping only a foot away from the robed man. Valos turned his head to the lawman looking him up and down with eyes full of distraught. Valos’ white hair fell over his wrinkled face in thick, wet strands.
“Ah, Gordon,” Valos replied his voice calm. “I was hoping it would be you.” He turned back to the gravestone. Gordon did not need to see the name on the stone, he already knew the man that had been buried there only a day ago was Valos’ brother, Perry Ghal. Both men just stood Gordon staring at Valos, Valos staring at Perry’s grave, the rain filling the silence.
After a few moments Valos spoke, “I suppose you are here to cart me off to jail?”
Gordon hooked his cudgel to his belt, “I am. It’s for your protection.”
“Protection?” Valos scoffed, “I am to be thrown into a cell, all while the people of this town are eager to hang me from the gallows.”
“Captain Darruth believes a cell is the best place for you now,” Gordon replied. “At least until your brother’s murder is solved.” Valos was silent watching his lantern swaying back and forth. “The guard can keep you safe there, Valos.”
“The mayor whispers lies to these people, Sergeant.” Valos said still calm. “She’ll use me as the scapegoat for anything she pleases.”
Gordon stepped forward, “That isn’t entirely… true.”
“First,” Valos started, “Myrefall’s only son disappears without a trace and how does our esteemed mayor respond? She blames me, the old shepherd who lives far off from town. And now,” Valos gestured to the grave in front of him, “this.” Valos sobbed quietly to himself for a moment before composing himself, “How could someone believe I murdered my own brother in cold blood?”
“I… I don’t know.”
Valos turned himself to face Gordon, “Do you believe her, Sergeant? Do you believe the mayor as the rest of her sheep do?” Gordon looked at the sad, old man before him and placed a hand on his shoulder.
“I believe you are a good man, Valos,” Gordon began. “I believe once this is all over everyone will also see that you are a good man, but you must come with me, trust me.”
Valos put his own hand on Gordon’s shoulder giving him a gentle pat, “You’re the good man, Gordon, but you must see that cannot end well. Not for me, not for you.”
Gordon let his hand drop to his belt, “Please, just come with me quietly. You have my word that I will protect you through this.” Valos let go of his crook and placed his other hand on Gordon’s shoulder. Gordon expected the staff to fall to the muddy ground, but it didn’t. It stood upright as if Valos was still holding it as the lantern’s flame began to change. The bright yellow light began to dim transforming into a misty green as Valos grip tightened on Gordon.
“You are a good man,” Valos replied. “But there's something I need to do and I can’t have anyone get in my way.”
“What are you…” Gordon dropped his own lantern to the ground.
“You’re a good man, but too naive for your own good.” Gordon felt as if his strength was being drained from his body. He tried to move, to shake Valos from his shoulders or grab his cudgel but he was paralyzed.
“Valos, what is going on?” Gordon struggled to speak.
“I know you are just doing your job,” Valos said as the wrinkles on his sad face began to disappear. “I’m sorry.” Gordon could only watch as Valos stole the Sergeants youth from him. The old man's long white hair turned into a reddish hazel while strands of Gordon’s were blown away by the hundreds. Valos watched the lawman before him age from a young man, to weak old man, to dried up husk. The rejuvenated shepherd stepped back taking his shepherd's crook back in his grip the lantern still shining a ghostly emerald.
He stared down at the husk that was once his last friend regret heavy in his eyes, “I’m sorry.” he said as the falling rain collapsed the body into dust. He touched his face, his skin was smooth now the color of youth returned to his cheeks and lips. “I won’t let your years go to waste.” He told the ashes as the rain washed it into the mud.
“Now I can go back to work,” Valos said turning back to the gravesite of Perry Ghal. He took his crook in both hands raising it up to the sky as the jade light of the lantern glowed brighter.
He began to recite the incantation he had taught himself just a few days ago, “I command you; the forgotten, the broken, the damned, Rise! Rise from your eternal slumber! Rise and do your Master’s bidding.” Upon his last word the grave of Perry Ghal stirred. A rotting hand erupted from the wet ground as Perry’s animated corpse pulled itself out of the grave. The stench of the decaying corpse was the first thing that hit Valos as it tore itself from the earthy prison until it stood before the shepherd. He looked over the body, maggots and worms writhed inside, some being washed off the dead man. Valos saw the gaping wound on Perry’s neck where he had stabbed his brother with a kitchen knife.
Around the pair other graves began to burst as more deceased pulled themselves from the watery dirt. They all stood, waiting, looking to Valos, some with an eye, but most stared with empty slots. Valos inspected his army of carcasses of varying forms of decay and rot then turned to the village of Myrefall in the distance. Valos had traded his flock of sheep for a horde of the dead, a horde that followed any order he gave. No resistance, no questions. Valos Ghal pointed his crook toward the town, the swinging lantern glowing it’s ghastly color. The revered mayor of Myrefall would be snuffed out even if his corpses had to tear the village apart to do so. There would be no more hiding and no more lies.