A Husband’s Grief

Long ago there lived a good and kind man. He followed the tenets of Aranayen and served his lord well. This man had been rewarded for his goodness by being able to marry the love of his life. She in turn blessed him with a son and a daughter. He devoted his life to her and she was as devoted to him and their children. For a time the man’s life seemed perfect.

The tragedy struck the man’s family. His wife had gone out to the market to buy the day’s dinner. There she was set upon by thieves. Even though she gave them all the coin she had, they took her life as well.

The death of his wife was a great wound upon the man’s heart and soul. He struggled to be the man that he had been before her death as well as be the father that his children needed. His friends drifted away from him as his grief caused him to lash out, and loneliness set in.

A cycle passed and the heart wound that the man had suffered had not yet begun to heal. It was a cold spring night, the children had been sent to bed some time ago, and the servants sent home, but the man stayed awake in front of the hearth. Lost again in memories of what he had once had.

A sharp knocking upon the door to his house roused the man from his reverie. When it happened again, the man angrily opened the door. Standing in the chill spring night was a hunched man in a thick, hooded cloak. In the shaking voice of an elder, the man asked for a warm place to stay the night, for one more night in the cold would be the death of him.

Moved by the stranger’s plight, the man invited him in. In a kindness the man had not felt in years, he poured the stranger a glass of mulled wine and served a generous helping of the night’s roast. As he ate and drank the stranger did not remove his hood and the man began to grow uneasy. He asked the stranger why, and the replied that he had been horribly scarred by magic in his youth and did not want to share his ugliness with any.

As the two of them, the man and stranger, sat by the hearth, the stranger spoke to the man: “You have given me more than I asked for, more than I had even hoped for. I would repay this kindness to you. You have the look of someone who has suffered a great loss. I can offer you the means to have that person returned to you, but it is not an easy path.”

The thought of his beloved wife returning to him brought to the man’s wounded heart. He agreed to the stranger’s offer without asking what it might entail. With great effort the stranger knelt on the wooden floor and drew a ritual circle with chalk. Asking the man to stand in the center, the stranger poured a dark, red liquid into a goblet and handed it to the man. The stranger then commanded the man, “This is the first step. Drink this, all of it. I will speak the words of power that will give you the strength to do what must be done.”

The man raised the goblet to his lips and drank deeply before realising that it was not wine, but blood that he drank. But his love for his lost wife would not allow him to stop. The stranger’s voice grew deep as the words of power flowed out of the hood he still wore. After the ritual, the stranger told the man “Rest for now, and while you do think upon what your wife loved most in this life. Tomorrow night we shall reunite the two of you.”

For the first time in moons, the man slept easily. The ritual did not bother him. He did not worry about what would come next. And he knew already what his wife loved the most. For though he loved her more than anything, in her eyes the children were her great love.

The next evening the stranger gave the man a sleeping tonic to slip to his children during dinner. The stranger explained the ritual would work best if the children were asleep during its working. After a hearty meal, the children were sound asleep.

The man looked to the stranger for instruction on what he must do next. The stranger told him, “You must go to retrieve the body of your wife. Bring her back here. While you are gone I will draw the ritual circle in the cellar and prepare everything.” The man agreed without hesitation, and left with his cart and fastest horse.

The only thoughts the man had on his way to the mausoleum were happy ones. He would get to see his beloved once more. And all of this was thanks to him being kind to a stranger.

It was nearing midnight when the man brought his wife’s body into the cellar of his home. There the stranger had drawn a large ritual circle. It was surrounded by candles, giving it an eerie glow. Within the circle lay his sleeping son and daughter, a wide space between the two of them. The stranger told him the next step, “Lay your wife between the children, and then step back out of the circle.” Careful to not knock over a candle, the man did as he was told and returned to the side of the stranger.

From within his thick cloak, the stranger pulled out a scroll and handed it to the man, “You must read the incantation. For it is your love that will call out to her and bring her back, and her love for the children that will bind her life here once again.”

The man unrolled the scroll and begin to read the words upon it. The words were dark and foul, but his love would not allow him to stop. A green light began to suffuse the circle and his wife’s body began to take on the hue of a living woman once more.

The words continued to flow from the man’s mouth as the glow surrounded the children as well. His wife took a great heaving breath and opened her eyes, as the scroll crumbled to dust in the man’s hands. With another great breath his wife sat up, and the man cried out in joy.

His wife spoke, her voice a quiet whisper, “I have returned to you my husband.” She smiled at him once more, and he felt the heart wound that long been festering begin to close.

Then the stranger spoke, his voice changed and deeper than before. “You have returned indeed, but look at what it cost.” The man’s wife looked to the children on either side of her and saw that they no longer drew breath. Tears welled up in her eyes and her face took on a frightening, pale visage.

The man looked to the stranger in bewilderment, and asked why his children had perished. The stranger pulled his hood back to reveal a skull and answered him, “You never asked what the price for such magic would be.”

The wife of the man began to keen and shriek in anguish and disbelief that her own husband would be the death of her children. The keening grew louder and the man fell to the ground clutching at his ears. His wife’s face became ghostly and twisted with rage as she advanced on her husband, intent on repaying the death of her children.

Misigoth watched the birth of his newest creation, a banshee. The first of her kind. Before taking his leave of the fool’s house, he allowed the banshee free reign in the town to do as she wanted.

Some say the town still exists somewhere in the world, haunted by the Grieving Mother. None who live reside there now whether it be plant or animal. All must pay for the death of her beloved children.