Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Calabrian Tale of the Ancient Dead

Behold! Gentle Reader,

Our Story begins some 200 years before The Shattering, in the area of Calabria today known as Merchant's Republic. There, between the Iron Hills and the Mern River, is an area rich with peat, known as the Dire Bogs. There is a woodland at the base of the Iron Hills called the Greenwood from which it is said that in ages past a squirrel could travel tree to tree, from the Greenwood to Woodbury Forest of which it was part, and further into the lofty halls of the Elves, without ever descending to the ground.

At the edge of The Greenwood was the home of one of the clans of the men of old, which was led generation through generation by the wisdom of the Druids. Alas there fell a time of corruption, and the wise-man who was entrusted with their well being had darker aspirations. Heeding the call of voices of the void, his cruelty and corruption grew, until his people would have no more of it.

The Druid was bound, and led to the Dire Bogs, where he was subjected to the Tri-fold Death. His name was expunged from the songs of the Skalds, but echoes of the truth persisted in rumor and fireside tales.

Many a child of the surrounding area has been warned more than once that if the did not behave, Gnarleybones would come in the night, from whence they would be bound, stabbed, and drowned in the Dire Bogs.

And so it comes that our tale arrives at a time not to distant from our own, when a doughty Ranger, those men who track the wilds ever on watch against the wiles of the Monstrous Races, came to rest in a small village which lie very near to the Greenwood and only a league or so from the Dire Bogs. Thinking only to get a night's sleep, the soldier of the wilds was recognized as an adventurer by townsfolk, and soon found a local by the name of Goodman Cooper imploring him for help.

It seems the Goodman's wife was suffering from an affliction. Each morning she would awaken with scratches on her feet, and her spirit most fatigued. The Goodman feared for her very life, and moreso her spirit; he was sure there was some evil afoot which plagued his wife.

The Ranger promised to help, and instructed the Goodman to spread flower upon the floor between the bed and the door. Sure enough, the following morning, the footprints of the goodwife were found in the flour, leading out the door, and then returning back to the bed.

Borremos Man
The following night, the Ranger set watch outside the Goodman's cottage. As he anticipated, the Goodwife came out into the open, whence she proceeded to dance barefoot down the village lane. The Ranger followed, and she led him through the countryside to the brink of the Dire Bog. There the Ranger beheld such a sight... there were many Goodmen and Goodwives, cavorting in unseemly fashion. Leading this procession in revelry was a ghastly sight. The mummified body of  the ancient Druid, returned to a semblance of "life". He performed upon a Harp which shone in the moonlight, conducting the crowd as if they were puppets on strings.

As he found his way closer, he heard the Druid cursing and mocking the ancestors of those who had killed him, promising that their suffering would be long and cruel.

The Ranger lie hidden until nearly dawn, when the revelers departed and returned to their homes. He watched as the Druid placed the Harp in the hollow of a great oak tree, and waded into the depths of the bog. The Ranger took the Harp, and destroyed it in a fire amid incantations and blessings. The Goodwife knew no more sleepless nights.