Gimshar had always been a headstrong young dwarf, and openly boasted to the other boys and girls she knew growing up that she was “Utterly without fear!”. She would prove her point often, usually based on dares, ranging from the innocent and easy such as climbing to the top of an rotted old oak, to stealing a kiss from the most attractive boy in the village.
All of these Gimshar was able to do and did so with pride.
But one day, after boasting particularly loud about her fearlessness, she was dared to spend a night alone in the woods by herself. She was to have no weapon, no fire. The only thing she could bring with her was a waterskin, a blanket and some food… anything more then that and she’d have to provide on her own. If she came back any earlier then dawn, the whole village would soon know.
Of course she accepted the dare, and tromped off into the woods. Things had started well enough. She found a clearing where she could set up camp and enjoyed the pleasant autumn scenery and air, munching thoughtfully on some bread and cheese and sipping water from her waterskin on occasion. She even constructed a makeshift bed of fallen leafs to sleep in. It was by no means comfortable, but it was better then sleeping on the cold hard ground.
And so, content that she would easily sleep through the night and ‘show those stupid boys and girls’ back in the village, she dozed off.
She had no idea what time it was when she woke again, but it was pitch black and she heard the crunching of twigs and leafs. Something was nearby… and getting closer! Extremely nervous now, Gimshar pulled her blanket closer to her head, her eyes adjusting to the dark. She tried not to make any movement at all, but the dust from the leafs had tickled her nose and she sneezed…
It attracted the attention of whatever was nearby and with sudden intensity it moved closer to where she was. Terrified, Gimshar’s fear overtook any confidence she had and she bolted up in time to see a lumbering figure come out and towards her, yelling something incomprehensible to her ears! In a flash, the stories of the undead, particularly of evil spirits and zombies that would prey on innocent children came back to her and so the face that she saw was that of a deformed man, eyes rotted away, hungering for dwarfish flesh!
Screaming, she abandoned her blanket, waterskin and food and ran as fast she could towards the direction of the village. She was quite a sight and her friends mercilessly taunted her for several days as result of her cowardice – justifiable as it may be.
To her chagrin, and to those of her family and friends, a few days later a human stopped by in the village, carrying with him a blanket, a waterskin and a packet of half-eaten food. He explained that he was a ranger and had been hunting the woods the prior night and stumbled upon a child who had ran away screaming and said he wanted to return the child’s belongings.
Everybody knew it was Gimshar’s of course, and so she had to confess that it was her. The human gave her blanket back with a smile and ruffled her unkempt hair, saying “Next time just remember, not everything in the dark is out to get you.” He continued on his way not long after that, and Gimshar never saw him again.
In the end, Gimshar learned her lesson. She no longer boasted quite as loudly, and when in the dark, she’d remember the man’s words to overcome whatever fear she might have. There was plenty to fear from the darkness, true enough, but sometimes there were friends to be made in there as well.