Wights and Superstitions
Being indoors before the clock strikes a certain hour, walking backwards past the bright red flowers that spring up around buried bodies, or ignoring the cloaked strangers who sometimes join you if you’re caught in the Old Forest after dark is second nature to the people of Luisant.
The lurid tales of the spirits who inspired such practices are told around the fireside by the elders, to scare children and arrogant youngsters into obedience and remind listeners that these unwritten customs are kept for the protection of all. The following are the most commonly known of these entities and the superstitions around them, as well as local superstitions that surround the whole of Luisant.
The wraiths known as Night Malefic and their accompanying cast of horrors are a phenomenon observed across the Throne. The closer one is to the great strongholds of Mankind, the fewer and weaker in number they are.
Luisant does not have the luxury of a readily available priest of the Sacrosanctum or a legion of stalwart Templars, and its inhabitants must rely on older, stranger, and less reliable methods to live in safety with the Old Forest and its ghostly inhabitants at their doorstep.
There was once a young man, a merchant’s son, who had much but found himself wanting more. He was a greedy man, and began to take things that were not his. He found an intoxicating thrill in theft, and soon became properly addicted. He abandoned what he had, instead taking on the life of a full-time thief.
He stole many things, from many people. He spent wealth as fast as it came in – on food and drink, rich clothes and fine blades – because it was not having wealth but the taking that he loved.
He went by many names, and learned the art of disguise; oft-times enjoying stealing the name and appearance of a previous victim, establishing himself as that person in a new city, and then committing further crimes.
In his callous greed, he stole not just from the wealthy, but from the poor and desperate. He stole from the alms-boxes of churches and from the plates of beggars. Besides being greedy, he was a coward, so he never became a brigand or thug – just a burglar and pickpocket.
Eventually he was banished from every city, and could find no refuge but in the backwoods towns and villages – where he took coppers from farmers.
In the end, he became nothing more than a hollow shell filled with greed – which wanders the earth to this day. No one knows his real name; the peasants who know the tale usually call him Clever Jacques.
Clever Jacques can appear as any ordinary person in the woods, with some plausible and always very mundane reason for being there. A young man out chopping wood; an old lady coming back from a mushroom-harvest; a lost traveler who stumbled off the road.
- Carry a copper on you if you leave the main roads, in case you meet Clever Jacques.
- Be wary of strangers in the woods, and ask their name before you deal with them.
- There are many thieves – but those who take from priests and orphans are truly cursed.
- Clever Jacques stole his name and his face; watch out or he’ll steal all you’ve got.
Knights of Day and Night
Old legends tell of two brothers, of noble birth, both Holy Knights of God. They both fought against the forces of evil, sometimes together, but more often apart – as their missions took them to different places. But while one stayed true to the faith, the other began to doubt. In time, he started sinning; and then falling, until at last he swore himself to the dark powers of the Triumvirate.
He became a dark knight, and performed terrible things in service of the dark gods.
The Knight who stayed true was heartbroken on learning of this; he sought his brother, but could not find him. He wandered, no longer doing the work of his Order but doing good wherever he could. No matter where he went or how much good he did, he was haunted by the thought of his brother. Eventually, he was ambushed by Kuarlite forces. In the dead of night, they tore him apart; he died wishing that he had seen his brother one more time.
The fallen brother hardened his heart against the suffering of others – but could not shake a wistfulness, a desire to see his “God-blinded” brother freed as he had been freed. This desire grew in him; eventually he set out to reunite with his brother, but along the way finally met his match – a corps of zealots and inquisitors. They tore away his unholy weapon and armor, and chained him; in the noonday sun, they burned him to death with holy fire. He died wishing that he had seen his brother one more time.
The brothers, as in life, never appear together. The White Knight appears after dark has fallen, wearing battle-bloodied, dinted armor and a white tabard emblazoned with a leonem.
The Black Knight appears in the daytime, wearing the same dirtied, dinted armor, but a black tabard with a triangle of thorns upon it.
- Hide your Leonem if you go deep in the woods during the day; there are things that do not like the sight of it.
- Pray to God if you are lost in the woods at night; the White Knight may save you, if you are pious and pure.
The Desolate Suiter
Two young people fell madly in love, as young people often do. They spent every moment together they could, even neglecting their duties in order to escape off to sun-soaked corners of the woods and gaze into their lover’s eyes.
Their love was a summer love, and its joy was reflected in the colors of the world around them. The red roses in the graveyard blazed with their passion and the blue of their eyes seemed stolen from the sky itself, but most beloved of all to them was the purple of the lavender in the meadow where they would meet, coming home smelling of lavender and shaking the purple flowers out of their clothes. They took to wearing purple ribbons and gifting each other lavender bound in those ribbons.
As the summer waned, the flowers wilted and the sky filled with clouds. The lovers fought more, finding that time and bad weather stripped the shine from new love. Finally, on a dark autumn night, they resolved to meet in their meadow and have a picnic, to rediscover their deep bond. They would wear purple ribbons, of course.
On the night in question, so it is said, there was a storm worse than any seen in Luisant for a hundred years. It rained with the fury of God, and every path not lined in stone was washed out for weeks. Seeing the rain, one lover stayed home, sure that their partner would not brave the weather.
The other kept their troth, striding out through the raging wind and rain to find their love and their meadow. Their body was found in the morning, broken and mud-spattered under a fallen oak, and the other, it is said, was found on their grave days later, dead of a broken heart.
Description: A young person wearing a purple ribbon and often streaked with tears, searching for a picnic.
- Accepting this spirit’s picnic invitation whilst wearing a purple ribbon will overjoy them.
- Bless a promise to a lover by swearing on lavender, but beware the consequences of breaking that promise.
- Bad weather means bad luck.
Content Warning: body horror
The time of the Flesh Tax imposed by Chiropoler was an era of fear and uncertainty. The atrocities committed by the Feasting King begot more brutality and desperation. The tale of the Hungry Mother is only one of the human tragedies created by the evil King.
According to an old tale, Anne was the best baker in the village. Her shop was always full of sweet pastries and savory pies, and customers would come from miles around to taste them. They were baked with love, she said; her many children and her beloved husband helped out around the shop and her adoration for them went into every treat she crafted. Their life was idyllic, until the Tax was instituted. Months went by and the happy, well-fed township slowly devolved into a grey landscape of stick thin, suspicious people stumbling from meal to meal, the flesh melting off them even as they ate.
Anne locked her doors. No longer did she bake and share her creations with others; now she cooked constantly, the food piling up on the floor, and whenever she didn’t cook she ate and fed her family. It was never enough. They began to fight about how much there was to go around, and hoard scraps of food that quickly rotted and stank. No matter how they cleaned, the smell never quite went away.
After one particularly bad fight, Anne stopped talking. One by one she cornered and subdued the wasting ghouls that she once knew as family and bound them in the cellar with the heavy ropes she had used to secure goods in a brighter time. She force fed them lovingly, crooning nursery rhymes and children’s tales to them when they grew hysterical.
As time wore on, supplies ran low for the meat pies that Anne was so proud of. Desperate for food she descended to the cellar once more to carve meat from her human livestock.
But Anne would never kill her children. She loved them, doting on them tenderly to ensure their survival. For years she fed them their own flesh for sustenance and bandaged their wounds, and in the end when the knife went too far she wept over their bodies, turning the blade on herself.
When the Tax ended and her house was forced open by concerned neighbors, they found Anne dead, draped over mutilated creatures that were barely recognizable as human.
Filled with horror and unable to get rid of the pervasive scent of death and rotten food that surrounded the place, they burned it to the ground.
Description: A gaunt woman, covered in blood and ash and wearing ragged clothes. She carries a butcher knife and often sings nursery rhymes.
- If she appears, offer her food. Never invite her into your home.
- She appears to punish those who hoard food at the expense of others.
- Never let food spoil.
Vile things, the Bog Ghasts crawls from the most rotted and foul parts of the swamp, poisoning the very earth they rip themselves from. No one is certain why these monsters exist, but they are a well known threat.
Description: While they appear similar to other sorts of undead, the Bog Ghast is almost always found alone, seeking to ambush the unwary and drag them off to whatever sickened piece of earth in which the creature lairs. The Bog Ghast prefers not to eat living prey, but instead buries its victims alive to suffocate under the swampy dirt.
Hush, little child, now close your eyes
The night is dark and the dead ones rise
Hush, little one, don’t make a sound
Or they’ll take you and pull you below the ground
If someone is carried off by a ghast, there is precious little time to save them. Follow signs of dragging and listen for their muffled cries.
Those who have been buried will return as a Bog Ghast themselves.
Even if saved, the victim carries with them the sickness of the poisoned ground in which they were buried, and can spread sickness to the ones helping them.
Bog Ghasts loathe new growth and clean soil. They are repulsed by gardeners and those who diligently care for the land. Doing your chores might save you one night. But don’t count on it.
Never wander into the low-lying patches of fog that sometimes dot the forest! Those who do often return home as the Fog-Stricken, with no memory of their loved ones or their previous life. They often wander aimlessly, asking for the names of people they’ve known for years. This condition can persist for days or even weeks.
If you meet a stranger after midnight, do not ask their name.
Shake out your scarf or cloak before entering the town borders after returning from the Old Forest. You never know what’s been caught in its weave.
Eyes in the Trees
The sensation of being watched in the Forest is a familiar one to any gatherer or hunter of Luisant. Even alone in the depths of the green, eyes seem to bore into one’s back, but when they turn around they see nothing but the endless, imposing columns of the ancient trees. It is perhaps this haunting sensation of silent watchers that has led the populace to ascribe symbolism and personality to the trees of the Forest, referring to them by name with alternate affection and disdain- depending on one’s fortunes at the moment.
Apple Tree: Early spring, youth, health, rebirth, beauty
Symbols: apple blossoms, star-shapes, baby teeth
Ash Tree: Late winter, decay, old age, endings
Symbols: Bare branches, clean bones, ash leaves
Cypress Tree: Late autumn, mourning, escape, the outcast, orphans, memories of the dead
Symbols: Mirrors, umbilical cords, blackbirds
Gorse Tree: Early summer, love, fertility, marriage, childbirth
Symbols: Roaring fire, wedding bouquet, flower crown
Oak Tree, King of Trees: High summer, endurance, strength, law, thunder, male fertility
Symbols: Oak leaf, acorn, lightning bolt, mistletoe
Willow: Late spring, sleep, rain, grief
Symbols: Waning crescent moon, sprig of lavender, grey cloaked woman