Ghasts

(Tom Clare)

An inn, with its mélange of peddlers, pilgrims, and itinerants, is a natural collecting point of odd tales of the road. Over ale and meat travellers can recount stories of ghost and devil, of the terrible cries that are heard each evening on the Warling Hill Road, or of the distant Red and Blue armies that can be seen on autumn nights battling each other in unearthly silence on the Marches. And sometimes the talk turns to the ragger-men, the horrible Ghasts of the road.


Ghasts are the shambling withered corpses that result when some poor wretch is too caught up in his small world to notice his own death. These pitiable things are truly unaware of their post mortem state, or, at least, are unwilling to recognize it. The years dry them out, leaving them gaunt and desiccated, with cracked, leathery skin stretching taut over old bones. But it is usually the smell - a strong, sweet stench - that first attracts the attention of mortal beholders.

Most Ghasts encountered were once pathetic souls, simple-minded or a little mad, who drifted through life as beggars or wanderers. Now, as the awful Ragger-Men, they continue to walk the King’s roads despite their souls long ago departing for the land of the dead. If left alone a single ghast will usually hobble on its way, but if stopped or interrupted it can respond with sudden, brutal violence. In a company the Ragger-Men are more dangerous. Occasionally, unlucky wayfarers come across small bands of the shambling tatterdemalions, waiting to waylay, beat and murder the living, and afterwards robbing them of any bright treasures the unfortunates were carrying. Ghasts no longer possesses conscience or compassion, and kill without hesitation.

Not all Ghasts were such lowly folk. Many horrible tales, and several reputable accounts, tell of learned men, so single-minded and obsessed with their work that their bodies continued after death[1]. Common belief, with the suspicion of all things occult, state in particular that those who barter their souls away in return for knowledge or material power are doomed to be come Ghasts upon death. Peasant tales speak of Sorcerers*, who, after a lifetime of questionable dealings and eldritch bargains, have no soul left to move on. And so they continue, pouring over antique works atop their isolated towers, too occupied with their labours to welcome death as a humble man does[2]. Such a creature may only begin to realize that ‘something has changed’ when it becomes aware that it hasn’t eaten or slept in months or years, or when others, confronted with a shambling, desiccated husk, recoil in horror. Empty routine is all the miserable creature has left, and a ghast may react to any interruption with a berserk rage and the awful strength of the dead.


[1] Saint Ossyæn, according to Eowyll the Younger’s Hagiography, once came across the remains of a lonely monk that still dwelt in its remote cell on a cliff face. The pitiable wight had been so taken up with the contemplation of the beauty of creation that it had entirely overlooked its own passing, and still followed a hollow routine of empty prayer and meaningless meditation. The Saint, appalled, berated the creature, ordering it into a hastily dug grave, over which he said the funeral service and interred it into a final contemplation of clay and worms.

[2] These stories all seem to be variations of the strange end of Lamnas the Sorcerer*, told in The Nares Miscellany of Otterford Cathedral.

Fearsome

A character being confronted by the hideous visage of a ghast must make a Fright* roll with a difficulty of 14.

Savage

Ghasts can, and probably will, go Berserk* in battle.

Average statistics

ATTACK 15 Gnarled fists (d6, 3 points)
DEFENCE 4 Armour Factor: none
MAGICAL ATTACK N/A**
MAGICAL DEFENCE 5 Movement: 8m(16m)
EVASION 2
Health Points: 1d6+2 Rank Equivalent: 2nd



STEALTH 6 Vision: Gloomsight
PERCEPTION 6

Treasure

1d8: 1-3 = none; 4-5 = scant; 6-7 = poor; 8= average.
If searched, a Ragger-Man will probably be found to be carrying some glittering baubles, prizes wrenched away from past victims. But these are unlikely to be of any value, except to children, crows, and wit-lost men. However, those doing the searching have a 10% chance of being exposed to a random disease (see Book 3).

More pages