Memories of the Asdarien
On one of the adventurers' many journeys through the lands, they one day enter a very strange village surrounded by a palisade. Therein all villagers seem to be sleeping, their hair long and flowing and their nails ever growing. Snow has settled on the land and the few found outdoors are covered in a thin layer of powdery white snow. Nothing can be done to awaken these mysterious sleepers and there seems to be no escaping this village either.
Then the night falls...
Credits where credits are due: Thanks to Manfred for his invaluable assistance.
This scenario is a part of the Prophecies of Hope. Essential story elements are tied to that campaign but the scenario can be generalized with some simple tweaking. Basically swap the Eternal with an appropriate creature in your setting, then use the background story and adapt it to your setting, for instance as a tale of love between an immortal and a vulnerable mortal woman.
Click this link to read more about Eternals
Story & Background
In a moment of passion a stranger once sent his semen deep into the bowels of a maiden, a girl not meant for him. While this act was considered a heinous crime by the tribe of the maiden, their love was true. Still the stranger fled that night; he abandoned his love for, unbeknownst to her, his time of freedom was at an end and another millennia of pain and torment approached, for he, or it, was an Eternal and it's year of mating was drawing to an end.
Such is the nature of the powerful Eternals, that they suffer from perpetual migraine, unable to tolerate the presence of anything or anyone. The slightest sound cause horrible headache and pangs of pain, but once each millennium they mate and in this year their migraine cease and they seek the company of others. With the fading of their race they became ever lonelier and one, Ylisious, ventured forth from his mausoleum, a fabulous edifice which he had woven deep in the Cylleran Mountains, and discovered that men had built empires and kingdoms on the threshold of his realm. The Sepulchre of the Slain God men called his abode and it was a place believed cursed, hence it was sacrosanct to the local tribes.
His year of freedom was spent in the company of the tribes and he travelled among them as a tribeless hunter. One day he happened upon the Valdenoor and met with their leader. One look at the daughter of the elder and the Eternal formerly known as Ylisious of the Broken Oath was lost.
His pain returning, Ylisious fled from the sleeping arms of his beloved and back to his mausoleum, fully knowing that when he once more would walk the earth, his woman would be naught but ashes and dust. On that journey he spent a night in an inn in the Asdarien Valley, and the inn was called "The Roasted Lamb".
That night the eternal cried. His dreams were haunted with visions of his forbidden tryst and he saw the lovely maiden turning to dust. Dying as the sands of time plucked the meat from her bones. That night his temples nearly burst from the sounds of the tavern. That night the denizens of Asdarien Vale disappeared. In their place were the crystalline tears of the Eternal; sapphire like droplets spread across the pillow he slept on that night over a year ago.
In his dreams, the Eternal feared losing his beloved and he feared ever leaving her. In his dreams, he was pained by the noise from the commoners and the rats and the flies.
Powerful are the dreams of a God-like being and the souls of the villagers were captured within the tears of the Eternal. Now their bodies lie comatose where they were when the Eternal dreamt and their hair grows long and their bodies thin. Though they are not fed they do not die and their breathing is as silent as to be nearly undetectable.
Even worse: Come nightfall the shades of their soul, so called soul-spectres, haunt the village and assault the living, their visages twisted and their claws outstretched, as if to rip the trespassers apart. However, when these spectres come closer their hate turns to despair and they wail "Do not leave me! Do not die!" but their touch is indeed deadly and whatever these spectres touch do die (some kind of resistance check and holy powers apply of course). These ghosts were fabricated by the subconscious fears of the Eternal. In his dreams, everything that he loved was lost and died away from him. Everything he touched withered, so the spectres got that trait from his dreams.
Additionally the fears of the Eternal twisted the forest; now no one can leave and anyone entering the forest trying to leave will wander about for hours or even days, but in the end they always reappear outside the village.
On their journeys, the adventurers pass through the area. The curse will seem strange and all attempts to awaken the sleeping villagers will probably fail. When they leave the village through the forest they will return to the same spot days later. The characters cannot leave until the divine curse has been lifted.
Twists and Complications
The crystalline tears of the Eternal are essential to lifting the curse. The curse can be lifted in two ways.
A) The Coven and Wyrm method: The benevolent chaos tainted wyrm of Asdarien Vale and his harem of crones know a way to lift the curse, but they will not do so without the PCs promising to aid them in return. On the chaos mutated body of the Dragon are myriad appendages, eyes and mouths and one of them has the true power. The PCs have to search the mist-covered caves of the Wyrm and find the portion of the huge serpentine body where the mouth is and then the mouth will "kiss the tears away" if the characters pledge upon their honour that they will perform whatever task the Wyrm ask of them. (The tears have to be brought to the Wyrm. More about the Wyrm and his Coven below) B) "The Tears and Blood of a Maiden" ritual method: This method is only known to characters with deep inside knowledge of occult lore. A couple of occult books detail the lengthy ritual in which "the Maiden must be cut till she weeps and bleeds. Cut till the restless feeds". This ritual is described as a manner of exorcising powerful curses brought on by grief and trauma. The PCs might have some difficulties identifying the curse as such, still the spectres and the tears ought to give them some clue as to the nature of the curse. "Coincidentally" a copy of "Lehrman's Diary", the diary of an obscure, but skilled, exorcist rests within the local all-deity single room shrine (amidst fifteen other books). These books all detail many, many rituals so the PCs better know what they are looking for lest they be performing all manner of harmful rituals. The tears must be held by the "maiden" for the ritual to work. (Marion counts as a maiden even though she has a child for she has never been with a human, only with a God Thing.)
Complication: Wrong ritual (one among many wrong solutions) The Characters accidentally perform "The Bringer of Solutions" ritual, a poorly described ritual that might sound like something worth trying. The text mentions that this ritual will provide the solution for all annoyances and problems, but in reality it summons a murderous spirit. Another ritual is needed to control the spirit, something the PCs might or might not know. (The cultist took this for granted and omitted that detail from his sketchy diary)
Complication: The focal point of all that grief. One PC or NPC (In the prophecies of hope this is Marion, the "maiden", the real cause of all this grief) resembles whatever made the God Thing hurt so. The Soul-Spectres remember her face from the dreams of Power and in the midnight hour they are drawn to her. During the first minute of that hour they do not attack anyone but rather circle her, screaming, weeping and crying in pain. Their claws scratch their spectral visages and they beg her not to leave them. Then they leave her alone, drifting about and "attacking" passers by until sunrise. (The villagers' souls were captured when the Eternal dreamt in the midnight hour. They only appear when the Eternal was asleep).
Side-Quest: The Wyrm and the Coven:
Within the Forest is the opening to a cave. From within that cave knee high mists roll, covering the forest floor throughout the vale. This place is known as the Wyrm Caves to the Villagers, and is where the dreaded Coven of Asdarien Vale resides.
The Wyrm itself is the product of a mating between a Dragon, Thainalea, and a Chaos Entity known as the Shepherd. The Wyrm is a serpentine dragon, with no legs or wings, but with an enormously long, scaled body, spreading throughout the nether-caves of the valley. Therein it can sometimes be encountered, slithering with supernatural speed or lying dormant for short periods of time. Due to his peculiar parentage, he/it has chaos taints: His body is speckled with odd features like human eyes, baby mouths screaming and whispering, small bat wings and such things. When the players travel through the misty caves where rock paintings cover many walls, they might encounter a portion of his body, complete with staring eyeballs and whispering mouths. In the distance they hear heartbroken baby screams.
The Coven worships this entity (it is benevolent believe it or not) and sometimes they ride the scaly body through the mists. Their naked saggy hag-like bodies astride some of the more obscene chaos taints. It is a pandemonium-like cave complex with the slithering scaly serpentine dragon, baby cries and the obscene laughter-moans of the withered old crones.
The main head of the Dragon is positively Draconian and is referred to simply as "The Wyrm" or "The Asdarien Vale Wyrm". There is sadness in this creature, magically induced by the suffering of the Eternal and the presence of the tears. The Dragon knows not what cause this but once it learns of the Tears it knows what can be done. It will want something in return however. A service must be offered and they Wyrm will not offer any aid unless the PCs pledge upon their honour.
Some parts of the Wyrm are malevolent and hurting. These are parts where valiant knights and Holy Men have harmed the dragon, and the tips of swords and arrows are stuck between the shells and the wounds fester with rot and disease. This hurt drive these parts of the vast serpentine body to madness and blind anger and should provide the PCs with a serious challenge (Nothing amusing about a bus sized portion of a giant serpent sliding over the PCs with supernatural speed.) The Crones will warn the PCs of this danger should they be polite enough to warrant such a warning.
Encounter: Three Lost Brigands
Three Brigands have been stuck in the village for several weeks. Originally they robbed all of their valuables, but the following week brought on despair and superstition. They believe the village to be marked by the Gods and that they committed sacrilege when they robbed the sleeping villagers. Thus they returned all valuables to the exact location and can now be found in the Shrine begging forgiveness and in general repenting their sins. They are running low on food and might raid the PCs supplies when they grow hungry enough.
Side Effect: The Tears of the Eternal
The Tears cause melancholy and despair in all that are exposed to them. They can prove to be powerful alchemical ingredients should the PCs discover the ritual method of lifting the curse. If the Wyrm kiss the tears away, the tears will be lost. The tears can even be sold and will bring a solid sum from whatever jeweller they approach. The merchant will claim to never have seen such marvellous sapphires before. Later, when bartering, he will say that "the sapphires have some deficiencies nonetheless and that he cannot offer premium prize" (cheap lie).
-Wandering through the Caves, waist deep in mists and studying rock paintings, when suddenly a six feet thick serpentine body slithers like a wave out of the mist, rushing past the PCs threatening to crush them (first glimpse and just a fragment of the Serpent).
-Fighting a diseased portion of the Wyrm and seeking cover behind a rock wall which the serpent nearly smother in its maddened assault.
-Entering through the village gate only to discover sleeping bodies everywhere, some even covered with a thin layer of snow. Hair and nails have been growing unchecked the previous year and the villagers look hauntingly thin. But the curse nourishes them and as long as their souls exist, they will not die. Not even in winter.
-Find a terrified PC/NPC (Marion) surrounded by wailing spectres circling her and clawing their own faces.
Battle Scenes & Climax
Every plot ought to have a climax and in this scenario there are several.
A) The assault of the Soul-Spectres. The first night they stay in the village, the soul spectres will float through the village. If any PCs or NPCs are discovered they will be drawn to that PC like moths to the flame. The PCs will have their hands full defending from the mournful spectres that "do not want them to leave". B) Summoning gone bad. In their plight they might turn to the occult books found in the local shrine (It is an all-deity shrine, so books on the occult are kept there by regional midwives, cultists and dubious clerics. According to regional custom it is unthinkable to steal from a shrine or temple). One or several of these summoning rituals, poorly described as they are, might result in less than what the PCs were hoping for. If a demon or demon seed is summoned it might result in a building to building cat and mouse game, with the PCs being more mouse than cat. (Akin to searching for an assassin - Will he find you or you find him?) C) Diseased Wyrm section. The PCs must fight and evade for their very lives, lest they be smothered by the hurting and diseased portion of the immensely long body of the Wyrm.
-Did you really pledge upon you honour? The PCs promised the Wyrm their aid and he will keep them to their words. All he asked was that whenever they were approached by someone serving (insert name) they do whatever service he asked. But sometimes promises can be difficult to keep and this one goes against the nature of the PCs.
-Murderers let loose: The Brigands hiding in the village are sought for the murder of the daughter of a powerful local noble. Now the local soldiery are on their trail and these men were last seen in a tavern, boasting about the help they got from "their adventuring friends" (insert much detail about the PCs) to escape "problems bigger than you could ever imagine".
-Unworthy Villagers: So the PCs break the curse and everyone awakens covered in filth with flowing long hair and grotesquely long nails. Problem is that this village is particularly superstitious and when awakening thus they are quick to find scapegoats. Whether the party of adventurers are with a blood soaked maiden and occult books, or exit the forest of the Wyrm, they are obviously in league with sinister powers. In the lands of Silmar that is more than enough excuse to be burnt at the stake.
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? Responses (16)
Jeesh. Now I realize just how in-depth you go with your plots AG. Great job with this one, I most definitely want to hear about how it went.
It was okay. The game proceeded very well and there was a definite mysterious feel and vibe. The players discovered the bodies and the three brigands (who was later killed by the soul spectres) and they found their way to the caves of the Wyrm. Within those caves the players got really scared (I kept the suspension for long with just voice acting, sounds, mist and rock paintings). Then they met the Wyrm and most of the group was okay with that. One of my most senior gamers, a priest's son, had some issues with the obscene nature of the Wyrm and had to swallow some words of protest, but it was written all over him. Later they returned to village to find floating spectres in the street. That shaked them up pretty bad and they hid but a fumble alerted the spectre and stirred them up.
All in all it was an alright evening. The girls loved it and gave it top ratings, the priest son had some serious issues with the chaos mutilated wyrm and the other male thought it a 4 flame session. I guess it was kind of hard to top the previous session (down to earth smash hit that I did not post because it was a no brainer).
There you go, AG!
Don't forget to write how it all turned out in the end, which solution they took, or if they invented another.
In my version they fought the soul spectres and slayed one of them. That resulted in a piercing scream from its dreaming body and its eyes, ears, mouth and nostrils began to bleed. This drew Marion out of her place of hiding and when the soul spectres noticed her, they were drawn to her and began circling the young mother. This was a horror unlike anything she had ever seen and she screamed even as they screamed and clawed their faces. So traumatic was this experience and combined with the decaying properties of the spectres, her hair turned grey. The child was unaffected though and laughed with its characteristic baby giggling as its mother broke down.
Then two of the players dashed into the Inn and retrieved the tears and then hurriedly returned to the Cave of the Wyrm while the spectres were preoccupied with Marion. Maethir, a Templar Knight of Fhalgharod, tried to intervene and save Marion, but the lethal properties of the Spectres killed him outright and his withered husk remained even as his friends fled.
In the caves the benevolent Wyrm kissed the tears away, though they did encounter a diseased section of the Wyrm earlier and nearly died there, but now the Head of the Wyrm protected their entry and they pledged service to the Wyrm in return for the salvation of the village. As a boon the Wyrm also provided ressurrection of their fallen friend.
Two of my players continued onwards to the small town Karlingen (and the next adventure, A Father and his Sons) while three other players remained in the Asdarien Village to help rebuild and stock winter supplies. Only by the authority of the church of Fhalgharod were the players able to persuade the villagers that they had no part in this vile sorcery. (The villagers sleeping outdoors had hair which grew together with the grass, thus it was nearly impossible for them to stand up and they had to get a haircut) Apparently they were freaked out by laying prone, unable to move their head and only being able to stare into their withered friend whose eyes, ears, nose and mouth was bleeding freely.
What about that little service promised? How did that one turn out?
Going to use this one in our next session. I will tell you how it went AG.
:Stamp of greatness beyond glory: ...Or something like that.
As always you deliver. Original, well constructed, and well thought out.
Very good, I don't usually look at the plot section of this site but I'm glad I gave this a look. There is no way I can pass up a chance to use this.
Whoa - what can I say
A little pocket of the Gods Plane in the mortal world - very mysterious - extremely dangerous
AG, you've done it again - this is just great - 5/5
Oh BTW - nominated for the Hall of Honour as well
We have played the plot now and it went very well. The players tried to leave before sunset to alert the next village and come back with help, but alas. After a few more attempts to leave they startet to mark the trees with different secret signs. After a few days they gave up and returned to the village. They had allready entered the temple but discarded the books as something useful. When nightfall came they sought shelter from the specters in in the temple.
*Cough; Both bandits died here(The third one had allready been killed by a PC in a misunderstanding).
The specters slowly came trough the walls and approached them from all direction. Luckily one of the PC's is a priest. He blessed their water sacks and sprinkled the holy water in a circle.
Then they spent all night with the spectres gazing at them from all angles just outside the small circle. Moaning, begging and threatening.
Hehehe. But I won't bother you any more with these details.
To sum it up; The plot is great both in it's written form and in session.
A BUMP to this great plot!
Bump for a classic plot.