Gjenganger

(Bulya)

A Gjenganger is a form of revenant or Undead* common in Mercania* and Thuland*.

A Gjenganger can have several reasons to return from the afterlife. Murdered people can seldom sleep peacefully in their graves. The same goes for their murderers. People who have committed suicide often come back as Gjengangere, because True Faith* tradition holds that "self-killers" are fit neither for heaven nor hell. At other times, people come back from the grave because they have left something undone. Most often they need someone to help them do this, before they can finally be at peace.

Deildegast

A particular type of Gjenganger known as the Deildegast is tied to the strong position that land holds in the societies of Mercania* and Thuland*. Deildegast are cursed to undeath because they have moved the borderstones marking the boundaries between estates. In their cursed state they are unable to move the stones back as they slip mysteriously through their fingers, screaming their frustration they can cause considerable distress to those living nearby. Simply placing the borderstone back in its correct position will lay the Deildegast to rest but there is little to distinguish that a Gjenganger has returned for this reason, and moving border stones about will annoy not only local farmers and lords but may anger restless ancestors or even cause an adventurer to return as a Deildegast himself!

Characteristics

The biggest difference between Ghosts* and the Gjenganger is that the Gjenganger take on an entirely corporeal form. Normally they have no spectre-like qualities whatsoever. In the case of older Gjenganger who have become embittered or lost their minds they can become very malicious and violent in nature, coming back from the grave to torment its family and friends and their descendants. In the way they act, and in the extensive precautions their relatives take to make sure they stayed in their graves, Gjengangere are more akin in the eyes of the people to Vampires* than to Ghosts*.

Draugr

This tradition of the violent Gjenganger goes back to ancient times, where they are present in many of the Thulandic* and Mercanian* sagas. In this tradition, the Gjenganger is clearly seen as beginning as a being of no more power than a mortal man though still certainly an undead creature but acquiring fell might as it passes through the ages of the world. These ancient and powerful Gjengangere are often called Draugr.

Draugar all possess superhuman strength, many can increase their size at will and carry the unmistakable stench of decay. Some are also noted for the ability to rise from the grave as wisps of smoke. In folklore the Draugar slay their victims through various methods including crushing them with their enlarged forms, devouring their flesh, and drinking their blood. Animals feeding near the grave of a Draugr are often driven mad by the creature's influence.

Some Draugar are immune to all weapons regardless of their sanctity or enchantment. Only a hero has the strength and courage needed to stand up to so formidable an opponent. In legends the hero would often have to wrestle the Draugr back to his grave, thereby defeating him, since weapons would do no good.

It is said that the Draugr will come back even when defeated, requiring the hero to dispose of the body in unconventional ways. The preferred method is to cut off the Draugr's head, burn the body, and dump the ashes in the sea, the emphasis being on making absolutely sure the Draugr was dead and gone.

It can be seen from this that some of those beings reported as Gjenganger and Draugr are indeed the creatures termed in other countries as Vampires, Mummies or other Undead. Indeed the terms are applied by Mercanians and Thulanders to all manner of undead beings.

The Draugar are said to be either hel-blár ("death-black") or, conversely, nár-fölr ("corpse-pale"), it is tempting to say that pale draugr are of a vampiric nature and dark fleshed Draugr are not but this is not born out; for the risen form of Ulfr Ragnskal was of dark aspect indeed and he did slake his unnatural thirst on the blood of his descendants daughters for 200 years before Thomar Jarvfot drove an oar through his black heart and tumbled the dead jarl into the host-fire.

Whilst some are tied to their burial place or ancestral lands, other Draugar are able to leave their dwelling place, the burial mound, and visit the living during the night. Such visits are universally horrible events that often end in death for one or more of the living, and these visitations often warrant the exhumation of the Draugr's tomb and a laying to rest of the foul thing by a hero or heroes.

Statistics

Draugr can be represented by using the statistics for any corporeal undead. Those who rise as mindless raging beasts can be represented as Zombies* or Ghouls* depending on their age. Vampiric Gjenganger and Draugr are best represented by Vampires* though they tend to lack the shapeshifting abilities of their southern cousins though mist form is often found among the most ancient.

Most of the truly ancient are best represented as Cadavers* with those whose families are strong in Jotnblut^ able to grow into massive giant beings of ancient death; indeed many remote settlements who claim to be preyed on by Giants or Jotun will, under further questioning, reveal that said giant does seem to resemble the carvings of their chieftains ancestors...

Of the less violent and 'younger' Gjenganger one may often represent them with mortal statistics with simple adjustments for a strength of 19 and lack of mortal weaknesses such as a need for food, air or an ability to feel pain.

Protection and Prevention

People had numerous ways of both defending themselves against the Gjenganger, and stopping people from becoming one in the first place. A few of them are mentioned here:
  • Crucifixes and True Faith* prayers and incantations to ward off the Gjenganger (effective against vampiric Draugr).
  • Painting symbols, especially the cross, with tar above your door was said to ward off all kinds of supernatural powers (effective against vampiric Draugr).
  • When a person was buried, the coffin was carried over the church wall - instead of through the gate - to stop him from coming back (effective against mindless or insane/confused Gjenganger).
  • For the same reason, the coffin was carried three times around the church before being buried (as above).
  • The shovels used to dig the grave were left behind, often on the grave itself in the shape of a cross (effective vs vampiric Draugr).
  • If the coffin was carried to church on a sleigh or other wooden transport, the transport should be left behind to rot, or be used by poor people as firewood (effective vs mindless Draugr... though they may follow the scent to the poor peoples homes, but who cares about peasants anyway).
  • Perhaps the oldest method to attempt to stop someone from coming back as a Gjenganger, is a runic inscription written on the inside of the grave, facing the dead. An example of such an engraving was found in the burial mound of Slagfid Ulvtand reading:
In Visic language: For Birginga, riste broren runer Kjære syster mi, skån meg!
In Elleslandic language: For Birginga, the brother carved runes Please my sister, spare me!

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