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August 4, 2009, 12:06 pm

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Return To Me


“Return to me,” she said, and as he died, he said: “I shall return”.
And though the years flew like sparrows from disturbed nest, he did return, year after year…

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.

The 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.
It says:
“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.

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Comments ( 25 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

March 4, 2005, 1:14
Not exactly huge or heroic in scale- no saving the world or even the kingdom. But I like it.
March 4, 2005, 5:27
To save love is heroic enough, I think. And I like it too.

Cheka Man
March 4, 2005, 9:13
5/5 Very romantic, and for once it features a non-evil ghost.
Dragon Lord
March 4, 2005, 9:24
This sort of small-scale plot that is really believable - a lot more original so than the old "heroes saving the world - again"

I like the history, which provides a clear and believable reason for the haunting, and the really like the problem, which cannot be solved by simply hitting something - could be a bit of a shock to PCs used to solving problems with their swords

The search for the eyeglasses would likely involve some considerable research into the local history over the past century, thus provide the GM with a convenient vehicle for giving out a little background information.

Over all one of those real posts - a good solid 5/5
March 4, 2005, 10:43
Two thumbs and a tail up.
March 4, 2005, 16:10
Shall I read another jaunt to save the world, or fell the enemy of all mankind, or to sieze the ultimate dingus? Nay.

This is one of the things that I truely enjoy about Strolen's. Coming across a little jewel like this. A tip of the hat.

Enthroned Carcass
March 6, 2005, 9:51
Wonderful, finally a plot where you don't save the world but something that really concerns the pc's. 4/5
Dragoon God
March 7, 2005, 19:25
This is what makes reading posts fun, you never know whats going to be in one. This is really different, and will allow the Pc's the use of their under used brain instead of their over used brawn. Absolutely great. 5/5
March 9, 2005, 0:53
Wow...I love how real the people in this story seem. Their history really draws you in, and I think it will give the PC's a new respect for the peasants they usually overlook...
Barbarian Horde
March 30, 2005, 14:55
4/5. I like it. A cute ghost story.
October 13, 2005, 19:42
5/5 Romantic and sad tale.
Voted Ancient Gamer
November 4, 2005, 7:17
This story has grown on me. When I think about Citadel plots, I think about this one. Why? I do not know. It might be the wonderful writing. It might be the down to earth (literally) plot... Well, down to earth fantasy-wise that is :)

I nominate it to the Hall of Honour because I love it so
Voted Mourngrymn
November 4, 2005, 17:24
I agree, I have read this a few times on the older site and never really wanting to post anything about it. It was good but I just couldn't put words into what I wanted to say.

This is a perfect example of CP's work. I have come to like his style and respect his comments good and bad. I wish my work could be like all of this.
Voted Cheka Man
November 6, 2005, 18:23
Very romantic.
Voted Chaosmark
November 6, 2005, 22:22
I first read it upon the old site, and thought it fairly interesting, yet now I read it again with the benifits of months within the Citadel of learning, and I realize that this is precisely the reason that Strolen's was created. Not the Epic, world saving plots or items, but the small and simple ones that immerse the characters and players completely within the world. I adore this work, nay, this piece of art.
Barbarian Horde
November 23, 2005, 17:29
Great story, I hate save the world plots, and re-uniting entwined souls is a beautiful thing.
Ancient Gamer
November 24, 2005, 19:50
You got to have a little of both BH. You got to have a little of both. Fishing in the back yard pond can become a little boring after a while, but it is a great change of pace every now and then.

Players want to be heroes, but constant world saving is ridiculous.
Voted Michael Jotne Slayer
December 18, 2005, 21:07
I'm speechless. Fan-amazing-tastic.
Barbarian Horde
December 21, 2005, 15:15
I read in the shoutbox that CaptainPenguin does not favor this plot. I can understand that he would think the actual plot itself is not that exciting, but for me the magic is in the poetic storyform. This does not have to be a plot, it could be a tale overheard in a tavern or even the fate of the wife of an adventurer who never made it home.
Voted Murometz
February 22, 2006, 15:04
WOW! it's all been said already
Voted valadaar
November 1, 2006, 15:55
Very Good! I should have found this one yesterday!
December 17, 2008, 1:29
Wow! That was amazing, I think it's going to be one of those stories that just kind of stick in your head for the rest of your life.
Voted Fallen Angel
August 29, 2009, 14:16
Only voted
October 22, 2010, 14:17

a nice small scale ghost story, complete and very well written.  

Voted Dossta
October 25, 2010, 12:00

A well-written, sympathetic ghost story.  The people in it really come alive (pardon the pun), and I love the history of the man and his wife.  That said, I can't get over the fact that the wife, who is supposedly a simple peasant woman, was mummified and placed into a special crypt under the town.  It just seems out of place, and breaks me out of my suspension of disbelief.  If I were going to use this in a campaign, I'd probably raise the status of the man and wife to at least lesser nobility so that I could justify the elaborate burial at the end.


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