The seven watched the child approach the ancient stone of a great-grandmother she’d only ever heard stories of. Spectral hands bound before them, they knew not what to expect, but they remembered Esmerelda’s promise. One day, her issue would arrive to set them free and the debt between them would be paid.
They’d waited for the girl to come, though they did not know how long. Time was meaningless, all moments blurring into each other from one to the next, but they got the impression it had been an age, maybe longer, since Esmerelda made her vow.
The girl knelt before the tilted stone, reached out with careful fingers and began plucking errant tangles of ivy away and casting them over her shoulder. They swept in closer to hear the words she muttered so quietly, but they couldn’t get near. There was a barrier around the girl, a protective boundary they were unable to cross.
“We will wait,” Esu Egha told the others. “We will wait until she speaks the words, and when we are free we’ll tear her apart.”
The others said nothing, their hollow gazes trained on their potential salvation. So long, they had waited, lifetime after lifetime, surely. Soon they would be free, and they would devour the girl. Oh yes, they would tear her apart.
“Thank you, Esmerelda Grandmother. Thank you for protecting us from the spirits generation after generation. We will honor your memory, always. We will never set the spirits free.”
Reaching into her pouch, she brought forth a small, wilted plant and laid it gently beside the stone. She took out a sickle and began carving in the dirt, digging deeper and deeper until she had a whole deep enough to submerge the roots. Replacing the dirt over them, the leaves hung in desperation. She poured water from her skin over the dirt, emptying the contents before drawing the string closed and pushing off her knees.
Standing, she looked around the cemetery, the spirits watching every move in desperate anticipation. Any moment, she would speak the words, set them free, and they would feast. Esmerelda made a promise, and her heirs were meant to fulfill it. She owed them, and they would claim their due.
But without even looking in their direction, the girl brushed off her skirts and began walking out of the cemetery. She never glanced their way, or even looked back, especially not when the enraged howls of the seven latched onto a bitter wind and clanged the iron gates in their fury.