THE WATCHER PHANTASM

APPEARANCE - SPECIAL ABILITIES - TERRITORY
HABITAT/BEHAVIOUR - DIET - MATING - MYTH/LORE

"Watchers" are phantasms, which are said to be encountered at eerie nightly locations like moors, swamps, deep ancient forests and cemeteries. They appear in the form of roughly humanoid, grey-cloaked shapes, who are only visible from afar, and will not move at all when encountered. They are supposed to be neutral, standing between evil haunts and good spirits; they may represent apparitions of dead people, whose presence is meant either as a message of some sorts to those they left behind or as a warning to those, who try to enter perilous territory.

Appearance.
Watchers, like many other apparitions which can be categorized as phantasms, are difficult to describe, as their existence is not entirely verified. Actually, it could just as well be that Watchers represent only a mirage the mind itself creates for some reason, due to weariness, fear, out of solitude for example or simply because certain travellers have a baseless conviction that they are being persecuted.

A Watcher

Picture description. An artist's interpretation of a watcher in the ruins of ancient Tak'dinal Image drawn by Seeker.

Anyway, people who claim to have had Watcher experiences tell us that they look like dark or grey-cloaked, unmoving figures, recognizable only in the far-away distance, at times half-transparent, at times solid as stone. These grey or dark cowls appear only at night, preferably at eerie places like moors, cemeteries, or isles in foggy seas. They are said to often fool viewer's eyes by blending with the darkness, making them very difficult to spot. But just when a nightly rain-drenched wanderer already comes to the conclusion that he must have been hallucinating because of the bad weather, lightning might strike the earth - and all of a sudden a whole army of Watchers comes into view, terrifying him to death before they fade again back into nothingness as if they never existed.

Watchers have no features whatsoever. Nobody ever reported a Watcher with distinctive eyes, and even the head part is often mentioned as "being just an indication", nothing more. What you can read in Master Tribell's "Miraculous Narrations" on the Watchers is indeed purest fantasy and fiction and shouldn't be confused with better-documented encounters; but "confirmed" sightings (by different people at the same time) only speak of barely visible featureless humanoid shapes wearing grey cowls. Many doubters say that Watchers must therefore simply be a certain kind of tree or rock formation people fail to recognize in the darkness of the night, but those who have seen these apparitions strongly deny that simplification. As a matter of fact people also spot Watchers when traveling in parties, so it seems they cannot be taken for the product of a single confused mind. On the other hand, what is very interesting to observe though is that Watchers seem to never appear alone, but that there are always many of them, even whole masses lining up on the other side of a moor... Obviously with only one single purpose: to be there... silently... unmoving... watching. Return to the top

Special Abilities. To suddenly appear and disappear seems to be the only special ability Watchers are capable of, which isn't actually much for an apparition. Nevertheless this seems to suffice to make them a legendary threat. Return to the top

Territory. Watchers are sighted only during nightly hours and often also under rainy and/or foggy weather conditions. Furthermore they seem to be completely bound to their location. Preferred places for their unexpected appearances are, as noted above, moors, swamps, deep ancient forests, cemeteries and spooky locations in general. Sightings of Watchers near former battlefields are also quite common, a fact which supports the supposition that Watchers might be ghosts of dead people, who return to the world of the living again for a certain reason.

Watchers also don't seem to be solely a southern Sarvonian phenomenon - there are also similar accounts of such presences especially in Northern Sarvonia and occasionally even from the continent of Nybelmar. In Santharia most tales about the Watchers are recounted referring to the notorious Despondmire, a dreaded part of the Silvershire, but also within the Seanian Swamp, and the Paelelon Forest, home to the Eophyrhim dark elves. We also know of confirmed sightings from various independent sources at the eastern part of the Heath of Jernais where the bloody Battle of Four Swords once took place, and at the Maehetilon Woods, where Diraton of Caelum led a dark elven army to their deaths into the Anaios Gap.
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Habitat/Behaviour. As already stated before, Watchers cannot be said to interact much with people they encounter. They appear and disappear, and even if and what they actually watch - as their name suggests - is unsure. Even whether they show up at their own will or purely at random cannot be known. About their existence and meaning one can thus only speculate, and indeed there exist many wild speculations on this subject.

Some say that these beings are most likely only a fantasy or hallucination of nightly travellers, arising from the sight of an motionless swamp stalker which are also often mistaken for a distorted tree. Or people might see strange rock formations, which appear to be humanoid. Even the fact that several people see the Watchers at the same time and they tend to appear in masses, doesn't seem to be reason enough for many scholars to accept their existence. They argue: If travellers expect to see a familiar shape in something in front of them and believe in it, one might see even more familiar shapes close by if one is aware of Watchers stories - the rest is contributed by some extra imagination. If you're convincing and tell a companion what you see, others might believe they see the Watchers as well.

"Quite interestingly people who have never heard of Watchers also don't encounter them" - at least this is the dubious theory of the scholar Waudrin Ghortz, a self-declared specialist in demonology and phantasms, who'd like to see himself awarded with the title "myth-abolisher" for his unimaginative view on things. There are exceptions to Ghortz's statement, though - but exceptions only confirm the rule, don't they?

Rumour also has it, by the way, that one shouldn't try to move closer to a Watcher, as unspeakable things might happen if one does... Maybe it is this rumour that prevents adventurers from investigating whether they only saw a tree in the far distance or a being. It seems people are usually too terrified anyway to try to find out. It's a pity though that "Phantasmologist" Ghortz doesn't venture out into the Silvermarshes
himself to investigate in an apparition - even with the useful justification that he wouldn't be able to see them anyway due to his conviction.

Others of course - and this includes also a handful of respected scholars - see the Watchers as an undeniable reality, and focus on interpreting them. Scholars have discovered that this phenomenon was also already known thousands of years ago in the Eyelian culture, where spirits played a key role. The ancient Eyelians saw the appearances of Watchers as a sign from the spirit world to remember the dead and continue tradition. As such these "ghosts" neither were a positive or negative omen, but were seen as part of everyday life.

The Watchers

View picture in full size Image description. An artist's interpretation of the Watchers apparition. Picture drawn by Ingeborg.

"Watchers clearly are no spirits, nor are they haunts", the Astran mythologist Minch Thorenth claims. "They are neither good nor evil, but neutral entities standing in between these extremes. So say the Eyelians, and similar stories we've read in elven myth. Whether they have a purpose or not or which purpose in particular that might be, only the one who sees them can determine and interpret for himself or herself." Thorenth continues with a fascinating observation: "Maybe the name they have earned is a bit misleading. Some say that Watchers are products of our own imagination. Well, if so, the name of these 'entities' might as well point back to those who see them - as once you see them, you are the one who watches. And as a watcher yourself you have to determine what to make of such an apparition - is it a sign meant for you to be seen, a bad omen, created by yourself or by another power? A pointer from the Gods perhaps? If you look at it that way it might not be that important to know whether Watchers truly exist - or not. Maybe they just have their place between reality and a person's mind. And you, being the Watcher, have to decide where their reality lies."

Some legends suggest a similar conclusion to Thorenth's, saying that Watchers can only be seen by those who have committed horrible crimes and are confronted through the Watchers with their undeeds, though without judging themselves. Through the silent Watchers, only the apprehension of judgment and justice is incited in the foul hearts. Well, this is only one of many, many legends of course, which might contradict others - but like many Watchers stories it helps to inspires new thoughts on the matter. Return to the top


Diet. Watchers don't eat, definitely not in the common sense. Rumours that they do are strongly exaggerated, to say the least, and attest to the vivid imagination of a storyteller. Watchers observe passers-by, but they don't devour them, because all they do is "be present". They also don't seem to feast on fear as other beings of the shadows are said to do; they merely remain on their spot, silent, not communicating, as if trying to understand - or as if looking at another reality from a realm we cannot reach ourselves.
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Mating. Nobody knows precisely what Watchers are and how they possibly exist aside from their brief encounters with travelers. Therefore we also don't know how they come to life or perish (if at all), yes, we can't even say if such apparitions can be categorized as life forms. Suffice to say: We just don't know - probably because we actually cannot know.
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Myth/Lore. Many a tale exists of the phenomenon of the Watchers. Not all of them reach the reader or listener in the same way as they were initially related to an audience. A reason for this might be that Watchers - aside from their irritating or intimidating presence - don't interact with other beings at all, and therefore represent a challenge to any storyteller to make a good tale out of an encounter. Coming across Watchers all alone and in the middle of the night when crossing a moor might be a horrible experience, but when recounted at a tavern a few extras are easily added to spice it all up. Thus, accurate reports on Watchers are hard to find.

One of the perhaps most remarkable encounters was the tale of the heavily-wounded Kahlim Mirathar, a young Erpheronian soldier, who fled the hopelessly-lost Battle of Four Swords towards Jernais with little hope to ever arrive at his desired destination. Was it luck, divine intervention or simply the Watchers bringing him savely home?

The Rescue of Kahlim Mirathar. I had seen them die. One after the other. All of them. A helping hand in battle - cut off, a longtime friend - run through, a soldier - maimed, a captain - crushed, it mattered not. They made no difference. They hit me as well. I fended off an attacker when a brute of an orc felled me from behind. I didn't even see it. Oh, Seyella with me! Seyella, All-Knowing! I remember it still so clearly, but I must have been gone for a while as I sensed the beating of the Kiivosh's wings closing in already and was perplexed when he didn't come to take me with him. As when I looked up I didn't see the Blindfolded, no, only the starry night's sky, and the sound of battle in the distance somewhere, men strewn over the sacred Jernaisan Heath, I thought, like garbage tossed out into the streets of a dark Voldarian alley. - I was alive, but the battle was lost.

I got up, though I couldn't walk, I moved forward, though I could hardly breathe. Away, away, away. Away from the dead and the dying, the faces distorted from agony, the endless whining of the half-dead. Yes, half-dead I was as well, but my last breath I wanted to do in Jernais, my hometown, and so I stumbled over bodies and bodies littering the battlefield towards the west. And the orcish warcries ceased.

The moon was full and so I had at least a little help on my way. I found myself again in a place which seemed familar, and though it was strange and very different. Yes, I saw the Heath, stretching strals upon strals in front of me, and then I saw those grey schemes to my left and to my right, as if they'd come out of noweher. But my eyes played tricks on me and I can't say for sure what I saw as I was weak and weary. I was in a wood for sure, that's what I thought, and the Heath went right through it, but though a strong wind arose, I didn't hear the rustling of the leaves. And how much I would have loved to hear the rustling of the leaves one last time! Oh, my companions, I thought of the trees, would you just once rustle for me? But they remained quiet and they didn't.

So I followed the Heath, dying as I was, followed the only path that was there to follow, in the midst of the schemes of the trees I sensed somewhere in the distance. Somehow I got the impression the Heath got broader the farther I came, opening up into the endless Heath I had known all my life and then suddenly my companions were gone. I turned around, looking back, but there were no trees, just endless Heath. Endless Heath. Everywhere endless Heath. It was then that I passed out.

Much later, when I awoke at home in my bed, and Tanisha tending my wounds, I told her what had happened. "Kahlim?", she asked. - "Yes?" - "You know that there are no trees in the Heath, don't you? And where there are no trees there can be no woods." - "Yes," I answered. "Yes, Tanisha, I know."


-- "Heroes in Battle" by Zhinwold Grith, Diary Notes of Kahlim Mirathar, p. 56 ff.
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