the things that will not pass

The pale-faced moon looks bloody on the earth
And lean-look’d prophets whisper fearful change

Setting: Scholars—soft-handed scribblers in carrels—hold that revenants are the way we speak of our own grief, those unresolved and lingering emotions that we bear regarding those who have passed on. But those who travel the dark places of the earth know different. Roll d10.

1: A chain of Tofpek tribesmen were offloaded on the beach, captured by orcish slavers and transshipped to the mouth of Toller Creek. They stepped onto the sand and, as one, turned and walked into the ocean. On the clearest of sunny days chanting can be heard over the crashing of the waves.

2: An old cottage sits at a fork in the traderoad. Every morning insubstantial—but vibrantly colored—calla lilies appear on the doorstep. They’re gone by noon. Any real flower turns to ash upon crossing the threshold.

3: She waits at the bank of the stream every evening as the sun sets. Back in the war she was a canoness caring for the wounded on both sides. She fall in love with one young footman, pulling strings in the order to have him healed with clerical grace. Made whole, he shouldered his ruck to return to the front. As he did, he promised to return after the war, to meet her again where she filled the waterbaskets. He fell on some far field, but she still waits.

4: An inseparable pair of lovers died holding hands when the sweating sickness swept through. But in the chaos of those days, the overwrought survivors buried victims whenever and however they could, and the couple was buried separately, on either side of the cartroad. Now unable to meet, in the season of sickness they stand across the road from each other, staring longingly.

5: She fought against the faith community, a young woman of intelligence and drive. She suggested new, more-effective ways of rotating the crops; of better ways of conducting the meetinghouse; and finally, of an equality of men and women in the eyes of the god. After much whispering, consultation, and praying, she was cast out.

But for all her ideas, she longed for her family, for her community, who would never again even recognize her presence. She pined at the front gates, begging for readmittance, until she passed on. She still remains, even if the gates are ruins and the church nigh-forgotten.

6: In the sadder days a family with four daughters lived in the hamlet of another sect. The plague came, and the community’s faith was strong; the rector was graced with the power to heal the sick. But the family’s father hewed to the old teachings, and would not allow the rector to speak over his family. They fled to the hills rather than fall sick.

But fall sick they did nonetheless. The family died in their hovel in the hills to which they alit. The village remains, but on feast days and gatherings sometimes unfamiliar girls appear, rosy-cheeked and playful. Anyone crossed by their shadow falls sick, but by the time of realization the girls can never be found.

7: A certain stretch of the chief’s road—in latter days, a tollroad, due to the bottleneck formed by the cliffsides astride—in former days was haunted by bandits and blackguards. In the wilder days it was avoided for the corpses it created; it was just as easy to rain arrows upon travelers and take their goods as it was to present yourself and make demand.

Now it has been civilized, as it were, and the goods extracted are by the chief’s authority rather than marauders’ whim. But travelers remain unsettled. When the gloaming comes or drizzle makes it hard to see, travelers see themselves, their parties, traveling as they could have been, haggard and grey and bedecked with suppurating wounds.

8: In the lowlands of Wert it is known that when the lights wander the night, someone is going to pass. Flickering flames, as an invisible crowd carrying guttering candles, travel the paths, converging on unlucky homes or lonesome wanderers.

9: Most revenants are forlorn, but a few, vengeful. This spirit was once a child, who knew nothing of the world save scorn and a dark closet and an aching belly. Anyone who opens that closet, or the remains thereof, frees it. But that freedom consists of an oily obsession to harry, harass, and ruin whomever it sees first. The revenant cannot bear the sun, which makes it easy to flee, but can transport itself from any dim, confined space to another—so long as that space is large enough to fit a four-year-old. It does not forgive.

10: Many come to regret the actions of their youth. Lailer Greth was one such. He spent his life a barely controlled savage, hewing and murdering his way through the marches, justifying himself with a consul’s writ. As young men learn, his actions brought reactions, and he hadn’t enough life to spill upon his revenger’s halberd to repent his wreckage of a life.

Now he travels the marches as he did before, using his ghastly appearance to frighten angry men apart, to mislead those on perfidious errands, and strand those of ill intent.

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