Petty Gods: The Man Who Would Not Rest, a Tale of a Servant of the Jale God

The Man Who Would Not Rest: A Tale of a Servant of the Jale God

In those days, an astonishing event occurred in a small village far beyond the boundaries of Walthamthorp. A man, who no one knew was a secret worshiper of the Jale God, died. His body was interred into the earth with the normal rites of his clan, with much rejoicing and feasting on the part of his wife and kindred, as is the nature of such celebrations in certain parts of the realm.

The morning after his burial, his wife awoke to find the man laying in the bed next to her. He immediately rolled over on the terrified woman and had his satisfaction with her despite her struggles, after which he wordlessly rose and left the room. The wife leapt from the bed to follow him, but when she left the bed chambers she found the door still barred and he was nowhere in their small house.

The next morning, the dead man afflicted his wife in the same manner. That night, the woman struggled to keep herself awake, drinking bitteroot and wakeful herbs and stationing her sons outside the house to keep watch. And when the man arrived on the third morning, he was driven off by the clamor of his sons, who beat pots with spoons and shields with swords. Thus frightened away, he instead molested one of his daughter-in-laws, as his son was still comforting his mother because the entire family dwelt along the same path.

That night, the wife and her sons and their wives kept watch, and when the man appeared yet again, such a clamor was raised that the dead man wandered among the animals of the field and found his satisfaction there. His family watched as he befouled cows and sheep alike before mysteriously disappearing.

Having become a serious nuisance to his family, the wife went to the village priests and beseeched them to intervene. So the priests went to the family's houses and performed certain rites and burned incense and herbs. And then they went to the man's grave and burned rowan and ash and sassafras thereon and assured the family that the man would not return.

Yet on the the fourth morning, the man appeared again, and having found his way into the houses blocked, he wandered into the village and molested a young maiden milking a tavern cow before disappearing yet again.

Now as it happened this young maiden was distantly related to a witherwoman. The witherwoman lived by herself in the woods far away and she happened to be in town trading stoats for a goat. When the old woman heard that her relative had been molested by a dead man, she went to advise the man's family on how to rid themselves and the town of his presence. Yet because the priests had performed their rites, she could not enter any of their houses. So she bade the man's wife to bring out the man's most precious possessions.

The wife brought forth the man's hunting knife, an old felt hat, a leather belt, and other sundry items. The witherwoman picked up each in kind and examined them closely, turning them this way and that and occasionally testing this or another one with her teeth. She divided them into two piles, and advised the family to burn one and bury the other. This they did in her presence.

Then the witherwoman bade them to bring her to the man's grave. When they arrived, she bade them to dig and the family was horrified, for they feared what they might find there. But the witherwoman insisted and began to dig herself, sweeping away the rowan and ash and sassafras and using her hands to unearth the grave. And so the family was shamed into helping her and soon the man's body was revealed.

The corpse was a bloated and horrid thing and already putrescence had set in and foul odors issued forth. But the witherwoman paid these no mind and shoved her hands into his flesh. Around his neck was a small medallion; this she pulled forth with great excitement, for upon its face was an image of the Jale God; the wife had thought it was only a pretty trifle to bury him with. Then the witherwoman reached into the man's flesh again and pulled out the man's heart. She pressed the medallion into the heart and ate them bite by bite without chewing like an over-ripened peach. Then she bade the family cover the corpse and went back to her home.

The dead man never returned. Many months later, each of the women gave birth to sons born with a caul, a cow brought forth a calf with a man's face and six legs, and a sheep gave birth to a stillborn devilish ophanim that shepherds burned in the field with great fear.