Home from the wars
"It's the usual story," said Peter, a little out of breath. "The family who lived here had fled long ago. A patrol of our people and one of their raiding parties both thought it would make a good billet, turned up at the same time. Whole place burned. Nobody knows who started it."
Friar Erin nodded, distracted. She'd heard the same story, or a version therof, too many times.
"Do we know who it is haunting the place," she asked. "Orcs or humans?"
"George and Kathleen - they're the couple at the farmhouse - say theres more than one. A presence in the orchard and something... something horrible in the house itself."
"We'll deal with the orchard first then," said Erin decisively. Peter followed along as she strode quickly across the grass to the trees. Most were blackened and broken, but here and there new saplings were growing. The trees find a way, his grandmother had told him. Then he blanched slightly, remembering that it was in the context of a horrible story about trees that hated people and destroyed a farmhouse and killed everyone inside. There were drawbacks to having a Varushkan grandmother.
Even as they approached the trees, Peter felt a tickling in his throat. His mouth was dry. Very dry. His lips felt like they were cracking. He reached for the waterskin hanging from is pack, took a mouthful, and if anything the thirst became worse. He was having a little difficulty breathing as well. Friar Erin raised her hand, gesturing for him to wait. She went ahead into the darkness, alone.
The thirst was getting worse, and now there was a throbbing pain in his ribs. He was gasping for breath. He grabbed the poppet at his belt, blessed by the friars of Honour's Rest. Not enough. He was sweating heavily. Between one moment and the next, everything was fine. He gasped, gulping down water until the waterskin was empty. Friar Erin emerged from the darkness, her face sad.
"One of ours," she said. Her voice was low, Peter wasnt sure she was talking to him. "Young, frightened. Crawled away from the fight to die in the orchard. Bled out, a nasty enough way to go. So thirsty, so frightened. Projecting their death onto anyone who came near, like they do sometimes."
"Did you... deal with it?" he asked. he gestured to the pouch of liao bottles that hung from the friar's belt. She gave him a cool look.
"Not in the way you mean. I gave it some water, and told it I was proud, and it went willingly into the dark."
She turned and faced the house. Peter could already see dark shapes moving in there, hear ragged breathing. Red eyes staring from one of the broken windows. He could smell smoke, even though he could see none.
"This on the other hand i think is going to take a good deal more than water and kind words to sort out." said Friar Erin. She pulled out a clay bottle, popped the cork, and drank the contents making a face. Returning the bottle to one of her pouches, from inside her homespun robe she extracted a poppet of her own, battered and worn. Last year's harvest, Peter guessed. It looked like it was on it's last legs. She gave it a little shake.
"You'll do," she said to the little doll. She returned it to its place inside her vestments.
"Right, stay close to me and when I tell you to do something, you do it without question do you understand? Keep the poppet the friar's gave you handy and if I shout "run!" you run as fast as you can and don't stop running until you reach the boundary fence. We might be able to get away with promising them a burial mound... but if they're really angry... well, let's hope that they're not that angry."And with that the friar strode purposefully towards the house, unscrewing the lid from a flat pot and dabbing a fingerful of purple salve under each eye. Peter clutched his poppet in one white-knuckled fist, and ran to catch up with her.
Since the fall of Overton, and the razing of Orchard's Watch the Greensward has been beset by hauntings. Tens of thousands of humans and orcs died fighting in the Greensward, and these deaths have soured the earth here. Most of the people who survived the battles around Overton have left, moving elsewhere. Only friars and ghosts remain in any numbers.
With Honour's Rest as a base of operation, the friars have begun working with liao to lay as many of the ghosts as possible to rest. This is not an easy task - Imperial ghosts and Jotun ghosts alike tend to be angry, confused, full of hate and despair and fury, lashing out at the living when they intrude upon them. They cluster around the ruins on moonless nights, re-enacting the battles that lead to their deaths.
While the ghosts remain in such numbers, few people want to return to the Greensward, and fewer still to raise families there with the dead clustering so close around them.
Sleep Beneath the Soil
We the Marcher Assembly request any willing exorcists to visit Honour’s Rest in the Mourne to assist in guiding restless souls to the Labyrinth or across the Howling Abyss as appropriate.Marcher Assembly, Spring Equinox 382YE, Albert Fugglestone Copperhill, Upheld 80 - 0
The task of dealing with the ghosts stretches the resources of the Marcher priests, and they have acknowleged that they need help to deal with the sheer number of angry spirits. There are two obvious ways to approach this problem, both requiring a mandate from the Marcher assembly.
The ghosts of the Greensward require careful handling. It is not enough simply to exorcise these fallen warriors - first we must attempt to offer them comfort and acknowledge their sacrifice. We send X with 50 doses of liao to help the spirits that haunt the ruins of Overton to pass on to the Labyrinth, or to find their way across the Howling Abyss.Marcher assembly mandate
If this first mandate is passed, then over the next three months Imperial priests will do their best to help the spirits of the Greensward, making liberal use of insight and consecration but using exorcism only when all other approaches have failed. It is unlikely that every spirit will be dealt with, but the worst concentrations of ghosts, and the most dangerous hauntings, will be laid to rest.
This will not be enough to remove the haunted quality from the Greensward, but those ghosts who remain will be significantly less of a threat to returning Marchers. Friars and monks such as those at Honour's Rest will continue to help those who remain to find whatever peace waits for them beyond the mortal world and in time the region will lose the haunted quality although there will always be sorrowful reminders of the war with the Jotun on the southern downs.
Alternatively, a more direct approach may be taken.
Those who fell on the Greensward are simply angry remnants, no different to any other infestation. They must be removed so that living people can return. We send X with 50 doses of liao to exorcise these restless shades; it is not our concern whether they reach the Labyrinth or pass the Howling Abyss.Marcher assembly mandate
If this second mandate is passed, then over the next three months Imperial priests will simply exorcise as many spirits as they can. The majority of the known hauntings will be dealt with, and the region will lose the haunted quality. Those ghosts who remain will be particularly vicious, however, and especially hateful toward the living regardless of whether they are human or orc. While these remnants will present no major threat to any villages or farms established by returning Marchers, there will still be areas that must be avoided, and still be incidents where dangerous spirits intrude on the living with potentially tragic consequences.
A third mandate was suggested by Brother Oswin.
The Greensward is filled with both Imperial and Barbarian ghosts. The good warriors and citizens who fought the Jotun and fell should be aided through the Labyrinth or across the Howling Abyss. The shades of the Jotun, thrall and warrior, deserve not our aid - these must be chased off so that good Marcher folk can return to the land they fought hard to get. We send X with 50 doses of liao to help the Imperial spirits through the Labyrinth or across the Howling Abyss and to exorcise the spirits of any who fought for or aided the Jotun forces..Marcher assembly mandate
This mandate will also remove the haunted quality, allowing most of the ghostly activity in the Greensward to be resolved. The ghosts who remain, however, will be of two distinct types. Imperial spirits wil tend to be more sorrowful, while orc spirits will be violent and hateful towards living humans. While these remnants will present no major threat to any villages or farms established by returning Marchers, there will still be areas that must be avoided, and still be incidents where dangerous spirits intrude on the living with potentially tragic consequences. A further consequence will be that the disrespect towards the dead Jotun and thralls in the Greensward will negatively impact relations with the Mournwold thralls.
Following a request from Mel of Bleak House Farm, it would be possible to escalate any of these mandates to the General Assembly. This would not make either mandate more effective - the outcomes would be the same whether it was purely Marcher priests or priests from other parts of the Empire who came to help with the ghosts - but in the event of conficting mandates being passed the fact that the largest margin takes precedence could potentially give some advantage to the General Assemby mandate simpy because there are more priests who are part of that assembly.