The Wisp, also known as "Granther Willow's Lantern", or more commonly as the "Will'o'Wisp" in many of the human lands of Sarvonia is a mysterious apparition known to inhabit desolate swamps, moors or bogs. There are also occasional sightings among old ruined fortresses and catacombs. The elves call this apparition the "injóh" (lit. "light creature"). There are many legends and myths told of the Will'o'Wisp, with most of them giving the Wisp a capricious and benevolent nature. Still other tales do not paint the Wisp in such a positive light, warning travelers never to follow a Wisp in the night for it will lead one to their doom. Regardless of the truth, many researchers cannot agree as to the apparition's true nature.
Picture description. One of the most mysterious apparitions known on Caelereth: the Wisps, also knonw as "Granther Willow's Lantern". Image drawn by Seeker.
According to various eyewitness reports, the Wisp's colour can range from a soft
blue to a dark red, and its size from a few
nailsbreadths to almost half
a ped. Typically, it appears
as a floating ball of soft flickering light, about the size of an adult
human's fist. Some accounts say that the Wisp
can grow large, to the size of a human head or
shrink itself to the size of a fingernail. The colour of the Will'o'Wisp also
varies among the tales with most saying that the creature is typically a soft
blue in colour. The Wisp is often seen floating about one
ped above the ground or
water. Its light is never very bright and
barely illuminates the area around it. If it is approached or even looked upon
directly, the Wisp seems to fade slowly away and disappear altogether and
reappear somewhere else close by.
A common story among researchers of the Will'o'Wisp is that the apparition communicates through the changing of its colours. Some say that it glows a soft blue when calm and undisturbed. A soft red shade of colour may indicate anxiousness or aggression while a whitish colour may mean that the Wisp is afraid. No one has truly understood the reason for the colour changes however as asking a Wisp directly has never been possible nor has one ever been caught for study.
The full extent of the Will'o'Wisp's abilities is not fully known or understood.
It is difficult to study, as it fades and vanishes when approached, only to
reappear somewhere else nearby. As such, the apparition has never been captured
for close study.
What is generally known is that the Wisp is capable of appearing in one of three shades of colours: blue, white or red, as mentioned above in the Appearance details. Each colour shade is never bright, always soft, as if hidden behind a veil of thin cloth. The wisp floats above the ground or water, moving slowly up and down or in small circular motions. The surrounding ground beneath a Wisp is never warm despite some theories that a Wisp produces heat.
Interestingly, the Wisp does appear to be at least partially solid as it avoids obstacles rather than passes through them. It has been observed that it can, however, vanish for a short time then reappear on the other side of whatever obstacle was in its path, such as a tree or stone, suggesting a way of travelling that is rather unique and seen only at this entity. Some have suggested that a Wisp may be able to traverse into other realities or that it actually goes through time instead of space to achieve this feat.
Some stories say that the Wisp has a hypnotic effect on those who try to watch it. Some tales warn that a wisp is capable of feeding from the warmth of a living being while others say that a wisp is sentient spirit who aids travelers to safety in the dark of night. The wisp has never been known to be able to be summoned or called.
Territory. The Wisp is known to inhabit bogs, swamps and similar places of moist and water ridden areas. Wisps rarely appear amongst areas of high civilization, meaning they would not appear in the middle of a fountain in the center of a busy city square. Rather, they seem to prefer to haunt lonely, desolate places away from people.
Graveyards, catacombs, and ancient ruins all are believed to hold wisps as well, although they are not sighted as frequently as in moors, bogland areas or damp forests. The Shadow Marshes are rumored to hold a great number of Wisps although no specific number can be ascertained due to the noxious fumes that permeate the once proud city of Fá'áv'cál'âr. A serious researcher would think twice before entering the realm of the shadow elves. The Silver Marshes, another large swampland, are also home to the Wisps and probably represent the most well known area of Wisp habitation in the south.
Some other places in Southern Sarvonia where Wisps have been sighted are the catacombs underneath the city of Ximax (recounted below in a personal experience by researcher Vekarn Tak'mal). Sailors passing too close to the Enclave of Alvang have reported seeing floating lights among the ruins near the shores.
Furthermore Santharia's largest forested region, the Thaelon Forest, has to be accounted as home to the Wisp, according to some tales told by travelers to the region. Specifically, the western region of the woods, called the Már'cál'ethrón (Styrásh for "Swamp Extension [of the Thaelon]") is said to be a favourite haunt of the Wisps. One oft-told legend tells of an Erpheronian courier who got lost in the Thaelon around 1500 a.S. His steed had gotten stuck in some deep mud and he had given up trying to escape when a group of Wisps appeared before him. The courier's tale is often imbellished in superstitious legend, depending on who tells it, but according to his descendants, the courier managed to free his horse and follow the Wisps out of the swamps and into a wandering group of wood elves who then led him to the nearest human village. When the courier tried to explain his rescue, he was laughed away and few believed him. Yet, presently, Ximax is probably the only place in Santharia where the belief in Wisps is widely accepted. In many other places, such as the Kuglimz lands, the belief in Wisps is regarded as superstitious lore.
In the Northern Sarvonia continent, among the ruins of Dak'dinal near the Kuglimz lands, Wisps have been seen (mostly from afar as very few people dare enter the wastes around the fortress). The Deep Winds Portal of Osthemangar is surrounded by some large frozen lakes where tales of the Wisp are known among some of the more obscure orcen legends. The Osther-Oc battle song, "Choan'ash'uon'kh'al'on'uck" (lit. "Choan the Worthy"), has a few lines in it that tell of an army of Wisps that were summoned from within the Deep Winds Portal to function as guides for the orcen armies as they invaded southern Sarvonia. The song has been translated as either being Wisps, demons or phantasms. Apparently, the Kh'om'chr'om word for "ghost" can also mean many other things, including Will'o'Wisp.
The Wisp is not just native to the Sarvonian continent, but the continent of Nybelmar as well, although fewer tales exist from there. Probably the best known Wisp haunt in Nybelmar is the damp and foggy Drifting Woods where they have been seen dancing among the thick flora and misty fog. Other less known areas include the Haunted Jungles of Shar and the Broken Woods of Marmarra.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Wisp appears as a harmless, soft floating light by all accounts but recorded testimonies tell a different stories. Travelers have recounted experiences of traveling at night through a heavy forest or passing by a bogland and seeing lights dancing in the darkness, perhaps ten to fifteen peds distant. If the lights are watched directly, they seem to slowly fade away. If one were to look away, but keep the lights visible out of the corner of the eye, they seem to reappear strong and bright. If approached, the Wisp will also fade away and reappear somewhere else nearby. So far, it has been impossible for anyone to get much closer than five peds from a Wisp.
Some tales tell of unlucky travelers becoming so obsessed with catching a Wisp that they follow it through the darkness unaware of the dangerous bogs for which they are stepping in. As a result, the Wisp always seems just a bit farther out of reach but then the victim suddenly finds himself trapped in thick sinking mud with no means to escape. These accounts are also accompanied with a more terrifying tale of dark spirits known as the mystrans coming forth from the shadows to feast on the now trapped victim. Whether the Wisp intentionally leads the victim to this terrible fate is not known.
In most every account told of a Wisp's behaviour where a child is involved, the Wisp always appears to be very helpful or friendly. It is as if the Wisp favours children and tries to befriend them. One recent account comes from Ximax where a group of young magelings had gotten lost in the western edge of the Shivering Wood as they traveled with a caravan coming home from an expedition to collect reagents. The children were perhaps barely older than thirteen years old, two human girls and a Volkek-Oshra boy. They had wandered away from the caravan and soon found themselves near a small bog surrounded by thick, overgrown willow trees. As night fell, the children paused in their wandering when suddenly a single glowing ball of bluish light appeared before them. The children, desperate and shivering from the cold, followed the light for a distance of three strals directly into the caravan's camp.
Diet. As far as is known, the Wisp does not require any kind of sustenance such as food or water. Researchers have classified the Wisp as an apparition, and is not a living, breathing creature by all accounts. However, some researchers believe that the Wisp feeds upon mystical energy that permeates places of old magic, such as Tak'dinal or Alvang. The lost empire of Fá'áv'cál'âr, a place most certainly one that still holds some remnants of ancient elven magic, is thought to be home to the highest number of Wisps.
Still, some others believe that the Wisp is attracted to and perhaps gains energy from the emotions and thoughts of people it comes across. Perhaps the wisp feeds upon the fear or anxiousness of those lost in the Wisp's homeland. Maybe they are drawn towards the hopelessness and despair of lost people. In most legends, the Wisp appears to those who are in a strong, negative emotional state. Such theories are hard to prove as no one has ever come closer than two to three peds of a Wisp.
Mating. Wisps have never been known to mate as other creatures do. In fact, it is not known how a Wisp is created. The demonologist Vekarn Kha'mal holds to the belief that the Wisp is born from the remains of the dead and that they are in fact spirits. Others have said that the Wisp is merely an illusion of the eye. His theory is that the Wisp actually can reproduce by joining together to create a larger Wisp or even separate themselves to create several other smaller Wisps. Kha'mal further theorizes that a Wisp may simply be parts of one larger entity that splits and joins as needed. For what purpose the Wisp would behave this way is not yet understood.
Myth/Lore. To recount all of the myths and stories associated with the mysterious floating lights would fill many books and tomes:
The Tale of Granther Willow's Lantern
The Will'o'Wisp's popular name, "Granther Willow's Lantern", originates in a well known story that involves the folk figure known as the Granther, or Grandfather Willow. In these stories, it is said that the Wisp is born from very old marsh willow trees and that they accompany the Granther, a capricious old man, as he greets travelers through the bogs. Sometimes, depending on the old man's mood, he speaks to his visitors and offering them gifts or tells interesting jokes and stories while the Wisps are occupied in seemingly happy flittering and dancing. Other times, the Wisps around him dance in mesmerizing motions leading the travelers further astray into the swamp to become trapped in the many pools of deadly sinking water.
An Encounter at
An old sailors legend tells of an Erpheronian sailing ship that encountered the Wisp lights when the vessel passed close to the Fortress of Alvang not long after the infamous Battle of the Witchking's Night. It was supposedly written by the ship's captain, Drak Wavegrinder, in his log. Interestingly enough, the captain later became a pirate in the employ of the Erpheronian government and named his ship the "Will'o'Wisp".
"The island loomed large upon the horizon, the fortress's cracked spires piercing the sky like dead broken fingers. All was dark and shadows danced along the walls and broken stones. There is no looking directly at that blasted castle! It moves and vanishes if you so much as try to focus on it. Strange it is.
As the ship passed by, the moon shone down upon the island in such a way that I could see movement! I cried for my spyglass and peered through it, watching the movement. I saw lights marching together near the eastern side of the fortress. The damned sea is so rough that I had a hard time seeing the lights clearly. I thought I saw bodies, too! The moonlight looked to be shining off half buried steel and armour from the battle long ago.
A fear gripped me then. I looked one last time and saw the lights moving more rapidly. I thought them to be torches... maybe survivors of a stranded ship. I started to call to them, but then saw that the lights were not torches at all. There was no one alive even holding any torches. They moved all by themselves!
I ordered the ship away right quick. I don't know what the lights were, but they gave me a fear I've never before felt. No amount of liquor will ever drown out the image of those lights moving among those fallen souls."
The researcher Ansrid of Necoma, the famous rivermaid expert, made a name for himself when he began to study of the legends of the swamphag. During some of his travels in the Silvermarshes in search of the mysterious hag, he wrote of his encounter with some floating lights that appeared nearby to him once the sun had set:
"The lights before me were delicate and soft, almost like wispy, nice glowing pieces of cotton floating in the air. There was a breeze, but the lights seemed unaffected by it. They had a mind of their own and as they danced around each other, they seemed almost happy. I stared at them, first one appeared, then several, but as I looked, they faded away only to reappear to my left or my right. One of them made back and forth motions at me almost as if it wanted me to follow it. I dared not follow it, however, as I could see that the lights were floating directly over a deep looking pool of dark water and mud. Instead I backed away and found solid ground to watch. The lights, however, ceased to beckon me and floated behind some tall reeds and vanished from my sight."
The Catacombs of
The Volkek-Oshra demonologist Vekarn Kha'mal experienced the Wisps personally while lost underneath the catacombs of Ximax. His experience was quite positive as the Wisps led him to safety:
"I myself had a Wisp encounter years ago," Kha'mal writes in his book "Guiding Light: The Myth of the Wisp". "I was exploring some very old and forbidden catacombs deep under Ximax. I was warned away from that old section and not even my orcen relatives, most of whom are cavers, would dare venture into the old Ximaxian underground. Nevertheless, I persisted and was rewarded when I encountered a group of friendly Wsps who aided me when I became lost.
I had turned several corners trying to backtrack through some narrow passages when my torch suddenly snuffed out. I felt along the rough hewn walls, passing many entombed corpses and skeletons (for my clumsy arms knocked down several remains making a loud clatter that echoed all through the passageway). I was on the verge of panic when suddenly there appeared before me a floating white light the shape of my fist. It moved forward and stopped. It moved again and stopped. I believed it wanted me to follow it. I did so and soon more of the lights came around me. Within moments, the entire corridor was filled with floating white lights.
The lights guided me through many corridors and rooms, some filled with wonderous relics and ancient remains, until at last I emerged out of the ruin into a little used cistern room near the Ximaxian Academy. As the glow of several torches burned my eyes, I had to stand a moment to get my bearings. I turned to thank my saviours, sounds silly I know, but the floating lights were gone. The passageway from whence I came was dark once more. Never again did I venture into the catacombs."
An old Astran drinking song related to the Wisp, "The Rocky Road to Strata", has spread through much of Santharia. It is most commonly heard in a pub, as a group of drunken Proudmen and Avennorians chant the words, sometimes off beat, off tempo, and off key. It's not uncommon for some of the lyrics to be substituted, depending on region. While the story stays the same from region to region, there are thousands of derivatives of this song, many differing by only a word or two.
The Rocky Road to Strata
Researchers. For centuries, Wisps and stories of floating lights have been subjects of research for those interested in mythical creatures and apparitions. The two most prominent researchers are the Volkek-Oshra demonologist Vekarn Kha'mal and the rivermaid expert Ansrid of Necoma. Both researchers lived to tell of their Wisp encounter. A third researcher, someone with a more dubious reputation, is the Gnorian Waudrin Ghortz, who claims that the Wisp is but a figment of the imagination but his critics point out that, unlike Kha'mal or Ansrid, Ghortz has never encountered a Wisp before and never wants to.