The Tale of the Man and Woman
Long, long ago, there was a man who loved a woman, passionately, deeply.
This woman returned his love, and together they loved each other for many years.
They were not rich, for the man was only a tailor, a crafter of clothing for the nobility, and so they moved about, in search of a place to stay where they could survive on their small income and stay safe, for it was a dark time, and many were slain on the roads that they did not find shelter from the wandering banditry, among other things, not the least of which were terrible warrior gods.
Eventually, they settled in the little village of Bysy Dahggy, and there sold their meagre cloth and clothing to the few traders who came through. The man, having lived many years as a tailor, became hard of sight in that staring at a loom and threads by the light of moon and lantern does not empower one’s vision.
Then, one day, as the man went down to the lower village to purchase goods for their dinner, he fell prey to the entrapments of a bandit, who leapt upon him as he sought to investigate the wailing “bait”, a little girl who was, in fact, the bandit’s daughter. The bandit, finding nothing of value save for a pair of crystal-lensed glasses, threw the man over the cliff, into the pool at the base of the waterfall.
For seven days, he was not seen. The peasantry of Bysy Dahggy, especially the tailor’s wife, searched frantically, far and wide, in the fields and in the hills, until one day, he was found lying in the pool at the base of the waterfall, his skin as pale and his pulse slow, for he had taken many wounds.
He was dying, and not even the local Magi could help him- for seven days he had lived on chill water and grasses, and even now the poison had nearly slain him.
As he lay upon his death bed, his wife came to him.
“I am contrite in this, my final time,” said he, his palm upon her cheek.
“But thou hast done no great sin; what is there to be sorry for, but that we couldst not have more time together?” said her.
“Oh, but that is precisely why I am sorry- my heart swells with love that I hath not yet given thee,” he replied.
“Ah, my love. Alas for our withered flower. What cruel and terrible stars must be upon us!” she cried.
Then, leaning down to lie next to him, she said closely to him:
“Return to me.”
And he replied:
“I will return.”
The Tale of the Terrified Wife
There is a prosperous merchant city in the west, near the mountains, and it is called Bysy Dagghy, in the manner of the old tongue of that land, though it is now a province in a wider kingdom. Long, long years past, it was but a tiny village, but with the discovery of the Ghabbirt Domeh Mines in the nearby mountains, it blossomed into the well-favored town which it now is.
The most prestigious neighborhood in Bysy Dagghy is the Street of Ridgetops, the only cobbled street in town, and this is the place where the little wide stone houses of the local merchants and nobles are located, small but well-formed. It is constructed upon the ridge which runs alongside the cliff, and ends at where the ancient waterfall ran, before the blasting of the Mines above blocked the river.
Along this street there is one house, a very much older house, which originally was built from wood, but which now is stone and plaster, like the others, though it retains the simple homeliness that it once had. Dwelling in this house are a mother and a daughter (the mother being widowed when her husband fell from the cliff while deep in his mead), named Agghany and Dyny who until recently have been rather happy.
But though they do not spread it about, it is known throughout the populace that they have been having ghost troubles.
Every night, upon the stroke of midnight, Agghany is woken by a tapping at the window. At first she was surprised and greatly frightened by this; now it causes her only startlement and a dull, knowing anxiety.
Every night, the thing which taps at the windows of Agghany’s bedroom and scratches at the door, and mumbles piteously down the chimney, is a ghost, that of a man with pale, corpsey skin. He has thin, clawed hands, and from his mouth drapes a long, bloody tongue, and he cries piteously in an elderly dialect.
Agghany is now fed up. She has let it be heard through the town that she is looking for those who might dispose her of this troublesome ghost.
Agghany, when contacted, lets it be known to the heroes that she is willing to pay in no small amount from her husband’s leavings for their services as ghost-removers. She is tired of the ghost, and though it no longer frightens her with its pitiful weeping and scratching (it cannot enter without being invited), her daughter is young, and does not see the pity in such a thing.
She has no idea who the ghost is, she says (this is plain truth), and is fairly sure that her husband never spoke of it, or the owners previously. But has heard tales that once there was a man who lived nearby and fell from the cliff, and suspects that this may have something to do with it.
The heroes may choose either to wait for the ghost to come in the night, or to trap it with magical rituals.
Though the ghost consists only of the lower, animal soul of a man, its senses for the spiritual world are honed by death- magical rituals come to no avail, for it is quite alert to any astral schemes or traps.
It is not so alert, however, to the physical world, and will blunder quite unsuspectingly past or through heroes who await it during the night.
It ignores them quite naturally- it simply does not see them as an issue.
The heroes, following the ghost, will be led to an ancient burial ground, Moldstone Field, which lies at the bottom of the Street of Ridgetops. Moldstone Field is eerie as any graveyard but normal in any aspect, save that the ghost dwells here, in a broken gravestone worn nearly to a little boulder.
Here, at night, it sits sobbing upon its grave, wailing out. If approached here, the ghost seems to notice the heroes. It says:
“Oh, my wife, my wife!”
It is but a lower soul, containing all the emotions and memories, and none of the intellect; thus, answers it gives to their questions are repetitive and unhelpful. It continuously babbles about its “beloved” and its “wife”, frequently about “returning”, and also about “withered flowers” and, occasionaly, “my eyeglasses”. If questioned further about its eyeglasses, it may either ramble frustratingly about textiles and the art of tailoring for as long as it is permitted, or speak these words:
“She said to return to her and withered flowering I coming she not lets me in where is outward going leaving to she I cannot find my glasses that dastardly man above the waterfall taking and throwing me…” and then devolving into more babble.
It becomes evident, with thought, that perhaps the return of the ghost’s eyeglasses would be helpful.
It seems to be a frustratingly pointless task to find hundred-year-old eyeglasses, but it may be easier than the heroes believe, for Agghany herself has the eyeglasses in her possession.
In fact, Agghany is descended, loosely, from the very bandit who slew the man who now haunts her house, though this irony may go unnoticed by all parties involved. Agghany was given the glasses as an heirloom from her father, and her father’s father and so on, supposedly as a spoil of adventure from a sorceror.
Giving the ghost the eyeglasses seems to make it much more coherent. It places them on its skullish face, and seems to straighten in posture and become less insane. It seems, in fact, to behave almost like a man in a ghost’s body.
“What is this? Where am I?
I must find my wife. I must return to her. I must.
I love her. I love her.”
This enigmatic message, coupled with the ghost’s wandering again towards the house of Agghany, takes the heroes on a circuit around the small house, frequently bypassing a certain area.
If the heroes catch on, digging in this area reveals an old cellar, long blocked up, the doors clotted with cobwebs.
Return To Me
This cellar is actually the entrance to an ancient set of tunnels leading to an elderly burial shrine beneath the cliff. The air within is noxious- the blasting of the Ghabbirt Domeh Mines released a subterranean poison into these catacombs (Exposure to the poison is cumulative- after 30 minutes of breathing it, the heroes find it difficult to breath; after an hour, some with weaker constitutions may find themselves paralyzed. Needless to say, this is very dangerous). The ghost, in confusion, flees down into these when they are uncovered, leaving the heroes to follow afterward.
In addition to the foul air and tricky ghost, the tunnels are filled with puzzling side passages, dark chasms, and tribe of wandering ghouls who will, at the least provocation, attempt to capture and devour the heroes, or trick them into following them instead of the ghost, straight into a trap.
If the heroes succeed in following their ghostly lead, they come to an old crypt, dark and mouldering. Lying upon a beir in this place is the ghost’s mummified wife, her body dried to a browning skeleton by the void of air, clutching to her a withered flower and a parchment which is her last letter to her husband.
Reunited in death, the two embrace. The ghost, looking up from their loving, though macabre, kiss, says to the heroes:
“Thank you. I have returned.”
With that, the ghost and the mummified corpse crumble to dust. There is a sound of rushing air, and the tunnels are cleaned of poisoned air. Agghany and her daughter will not be troubled with their nightime visitor any longer.