Farmers believe that once a crop has been harvested the corn spirits are homeless, and will leave the field to search for a new home. The Scarecrow will remain in the fields during winter, providing a refuge for the corn spirit until the new harvest is planted in spring.
The interior of the hut was small, but into that space had been crammed more paraphernalia than could comfortably occupy a room three times as large. Dried bundles of weeds and herbs drooped from the ceiling, dead and eviscerated birds hung from leather straps fastened to the roof beams. A huge pile of bones, of every size and shape, was heaped against one wall, a collection of foul-smelling jars and pots filling a crude series of shelves beside it. The head and skin of a black cow stared at the intruding witch hunters with its empty eye-sockets from the hook that fastened it to the support beam that rose from the centre of the hut. Beyond, shapeless masses dangled and drooped, drifting back into the inky recesses of the chamber. A dozen noxious stinks fought to overwhelm the senses of the men, but no more charnel a reek assailed them than that which rose from the small fire-pit and the black iron cauldron that boiled above it. As the attention of the witch hunters was drawn to the only source of light in the gloomy shack, a dark shape rose from beside the cauldron, glaring at the intruders.
The shape resolved itself into the form of a woman, bent almost in half by the weight of her years. A shabby, ragged brown shawl was draped across her crooked spine, a collection of grey rags that might once have been a dress clothing the rest of her body. Her face was a mass of wrinkles, a spiderweb etched into the cold and colourless skin. The bones of her skull seemed to press against the wrinkled covering, showing yellow beneath the skin. Her nose was broad and sharp, like the beak of a razorbill, her eyes tiny pinpricks of malice. Straggly white hair hung about her body, drooping as far as her knees. The hag opened her gash-like mouth, letting a trickle of spittle drool from her lips. She made a gesture with her finger, slowly something came into the circle of dim light.
The creature was tall, forced to stoop under the low ceiling of he hovel. It was rail thin, which was fitting, since just such an object had been used to form its spine. Its body was an old burlap sack stuffed with rubbish and old dried out reeds. Its arms were long sticks, hinged at the shoulder and elbow with iron fittings. Its legs were poles, wooden feet nailed at their ends. The monsters head was an old dried out pumpkin, upon which had been carved a leering and ghastly suggestion of a face. About its neck hung a withered, one-legged toad, a talisman that reeked of loathsome and unholy magic. However, it was none of these features which arrested the attention of the men who had moments before challenged the constructions mistress. It was the long, sharp rusty nails that tipped each of the scarecrows slender arms, the bladed hands that still dripped with blood from those it had slaughtered already this night. Almost before the men could fully register its arrival, the scarecrow was upon them, lashing out with murderous swipes of its rickety limbs. One of the hunters fell under the monsters rusty claws, wriggling on the floor as he tried to push his entrails back into the gaping hole the scarecrow had ripped from his belly.
Magicians have mistaken the Scarecrow creature for a golem or automaton but it's no such thing. It is a creature of great sorrow and pain. Within the doll are the spirits of nature imprisoned. When winter comes the trees shed their leaves and the grass dies. Then some spirits seek shelter within scarecrows and sleep trough the winter.
A witch captures the sleeping spirits during winter time and shuts them inside the doll trough unholy rituals. The bound spirits is the life force within the scarecrow, but they are unable to control the doll. All they can do is watch and observe. They are in great pain when captured and used like this.
The Scarecrow moves with impossible swiftness for such a ramshackle thing. It would be unwise to judge the bundle of sticks and straw by appearance. It's a deadly doll indeed. It is powered by an unholy force of black sorcery and is hard to kill. It is hard to penetrate or destroy the ghastly pumpkin face or the straw body. A rumour has it that silver swords are much more effective then steel weapons. If the Scarecrow is wounded, smoking black ichor will pour out from it's wounds. The "blood" is acid and wounds caused by it will never heal properly.
The Two Talismans
The Scarecrow is manipulated and controlled trough an articulated wooden doll, a small manikin that the witch manipulate with deft motions. The severed leg of a toad is fastened around the midsection of the tiny figure. As the doll moves, so too does the sorcerous construction. The Scarecrow is protected by sorcery making the talisman on it hard to destroy, but destroying one of the talismans is the key to destroying the creature.
Four families are butchered horribly in their beds one night, when the PC's follow the tracks into the marshlands they find an old woman, too old to be capable of the long trek and the murders. "Say hello to mom's darling-boy." From the black interior of the hut, the sound of creaking wood and groaning iron issues, followed a moment later by the tottering form of the monstrous abomination the PC's have tracked. If they survive they will have to find out why the witch used her "sweet boy" to murder four families.
The PC's learn that many scarecrows have been stolen in a region the last years. This region has been having bad harvests since it started and the local farmers are convinced that it has something to do with their scarecrows. It does, a witch has bound all the spirits in the area. And this leads to dry seasons, bad crops and game migrating to other places. What is the witch planning?
This is my take on the Scarecrow, I thought that these guys needed some background other than being scary in old horror movies. I tried to use that "sleepy hollow" mood when I wrote this. So here they are, I hope you enjoy.
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? Responses (12)-12
How does one free the spirits?
Creepy but cool. My main question would be: Why does the scarecrow need the spirits of nature trapped inside it? Does it re-enforce the Scarecrow's structure? It seems that the spirit enhanced-scarecrow would act very similarly to a non-spirit enhanced scarecrow, because the witch controls the creature from afar regardless. Now that I am thinking about it though, I guess the witch could be controlling the nature spirits rather than the body itself. Either way, I'm a little confused.
The idea is that the presence of the spirit is the fuel of bringing the scarecrow to life. They are the power, but the witch/mage/wizard is in the driving seat.
Apart from the mixing of backstory in the description, pretty cool!
Keep your elves, orcs, and dragons! Give me more subs like these! This is exactly the kind of fanatsy I love!
Creepy, sinister, rural weirdeness! Witches, one-legged dessicated toads, eyeless cow heads and scarecrow minions!
Of course, it doesnt hurt that I was tinkering with a similar-in-feel scarecrow submission recently :)
The only thing I'm not 100% sure about is the steel claws. While I know our fellow here, needs some "kick-ass" capabilities, to me, they seem somewhat unneccessary. I would use this guy for ambience and atmosphere, more so than as an actual adversary. But that is just a super minor nit-pick!
I /will/ use a slightly altered version of him in a game! Love it.
I was quite unsure about the steel claws myself, but decided for them. As you said the Scarecrow is easy to adapt to make it more sinister and mood setting by removing the claws. I'm glad you liked it.
Not bad, not bad at all. I'd still take a torch to one to see how fast it burned.
Classical witchcraft I must say! And indeed it reminds of the Sleepy Hollow.
Now if steel is not very fitting, note that scarecrows often have twigs for the fingers... with a little supernatural assistance they could serve as claws.
How about garden implements for fingers? There are lots of nasty ones to choose from...
While the story bit did not move me, the basic creature is a good one.
The steel claws should farming impliments. Sheers, snips, etc. Perhaps they should be rusty nails. No matter what they are, they can become wicked weapons. MAgic after all.
The Scarecrow should be able to be somewhat autonemous, otherwise taking out the witch (who is holding the doll) is the only way to stop it.
Now if the creature latches on to some other source of fear, rage, or sorrow, then it could be empowered as well. Perhaps it will attack those who cause the pain and sorrow of others. The creature kills to prevent the pains of a child or life that would cause a person to be a waundering spirit. Thus "the monster" is a koan. (Yes it is killing somewhat innocent people, but it is doing so to save an immortal spirit).
Perhaps the harvest was poor the people are moving into the city, leaving it alone.
Perhaps the spirit is upset that the people have lost faith in the old ways, thus allowing the witch to summon it up.
Perhaps one of these were created a long time ago, and shut up in an old barn with magical wards. A fall rain causing boards to fall and the warding line to be broken.
All of these are fun.
I re-wrote the part about claws of steel and changed it. It suits the mood better.
Yes, rusty nails are much better. A creature so close to falling apart, and yet very lethal, must have something rusty on it! :)