More than once, Krylinn repeats this familiar campfire tale after the younger children have fallen asleep.
Once, not long ago, there was a man named Cylas Flinch who made his meager living as a gravedigger and caretaker of cemeteries. He was a quiet man, skinny, and pale, timid and unkempt. Some laughed that it was no wonder he was such a good caretaker, for he was as dead as those he served, but that was just a jibe. In truth, he was as alive as you or I, for his heart beat quickly for a young maiden of Appledore in Heligioland’s northeast, whose mother had died, and who would visit the cemetery late at night, when the rest of the house slept, for her father had remarried and the household had nothing but scorn for the departed or the maiden.
Lurking in the darkness, Cylas would see the poor girl praying by the light of a lantern at her mother’s grave, but he was too timid to speak to her, for he knew she would be fearful to be approached by one such as he so late in the night. There in the graveyard, Cylas Flinch would get as close as he dared, then hide behind a tombstone and watch the poor girl at her prayers, his passions so inflamed that, one night, he took his pale skinny member from his trousers and churned it so that he spilled his seed right there on the ground. The girl heard his moan of passion and cried out, “Is someone there?” Ashamed, Cylas Flinch ran away.
The next morning, as he went about his duties, Cylas Flinch came upon the gravesite where he had hidden and found its dirt unpacked, its stone overturned, footprints around the disturbed sod. Fearful that someone had seen him in his shame and vandalized the grave as a prank, he hurried away, and tried to banish the thought from his mind as he finished his day’s work.
He returned home that evening to find something waiting for him. It sat still as a stone in his chair, stinking of rot and mud, staring, human of shape, but monstrous of visage and uncanny of bearing. “Who are you?” Cylas demanded. It said nothing. “Up from my chair! Out of my house!”. It obeyed.
So Cylas learned of his power over the dead. A mighty power, indeed, but not the sort to woo a young maiden. Nonetheless, Cylas tried.
He would command his rotting thralls to steal trinkets from nearby houses and leave them at her mother’s grave. When he learned that the baker’s son had taken a liking to the maiden, he had one of his minions follow the boy on a delivery and bash in his skull with a rock. So it went for awhile, but the walking dead do not go unnoticed, though tales of them are often dismissed from sheer hope that they may not be true.
The whispers became loud enough that the local constable was pressed to investigate. He visited the cemetery and its caretaker, Cylas Flinch.
By this time, Cylas Flinch had neither the ability nor the desire to hide his doings. His cabin reeked of rot. Corpses and their bits lay about his dirt floor. Cylas said to the constable: “Disturb me again and I will raise up your father and a host of corpses to bugger his bones. If you wish my minions to cease their doings, then bring me the maiden I love. Then I will leave your town in peace, but the graveyard will ever be my fiefdom.”
The maiden’s family had little love for her and were only too happy to be rid of the mopey girl who reminded them so of her dead mum. The townsfolk agreed that she should be sacrificed for the greater good, and the Maiden did not object. The next evening, she walked alone into the cemetery to meet Cylas Flinch.
He presented himself to her before a beautiful alabaster sarcophagus deep in the graveyard, dressed in finery he had taken from a rich man recently dead. His hair was oiled to a shine and he held fresh flowers, for the Day of the Dead had recently passed.
He bowed low and said “Welcome, my bride, to your new home. I am Lord, here, and you are my Lady. We will make it a loving home indeed.”
She spit on the ground before him and said “You killed the baker’s son and you’ve sullied the dead of our village! I am here because I must be here, but I will never love you.”
It is said that, as Cylas Finch raged, graves opened across the Heligiolands and far to the south. Throughout the land, the dead walked. And, though corpses shed no tears, those who still remember that night swear the dead were weeping.
The maiden survived the ordeal and lived a long life, though she never wed. Today, she is dead and buried in Appledore. None know what became of Cylas Flinch. Some say he died in his grief, but commanded himself to continue walking these lands . Some say he took up with bandits out west. Some say he never left Appledore and visits the maiden’s grave when the moon is new, spilling his seed on her grave-dirt, hoping she will rise. Yet, still, somehow, she refuses him.