side-quest-ish and open-ended to be sure.
A recently re-discovered odd treatise
In the chosen families, the son was always more dangerous than the father.
As long as a hundred spears and longer, the weapon must be hoisted!
The Sneel are causing trouble again.
Not quite Science Fiction…
Someone wants Prince Philoj dead. Or?
Wherever the PCs have gone recently, they have heard the talk. The Doomsday Machine of Toothless Amalgam has stopped spitting out birdseed. The End is nigh.
Shadows gather…and linger.
The Age of Vog…The Unending Winter of Discontent, The Epoch of Smoke and Ash.
Everyone can think of a favorite song or two (or three) which can easily be translated into a fantasy rpg concept, be it an item, plot, location, or what have you. Just take the lyrics of your favorite real-life ditty, and go from there!
A little way up the narrow valley, before they reach the woods, the PCs notice the squat, tumbledown buildings by the riverside. They are hardly big enough for a human to stand in, and the complex cogs and shafts that occupy the central cavity of one of the buildings are perplexing. What were these buildings? And how safe are they to explore?
Alternatively a desolate place is the perfect setting for a derelict chapel or croft. There needn't be any actual physical encounter involved, but it adds atmosphere to a place to see its dead history. For instance, in the Outer Hebrides there are whole deserted villages which were razed to the ground by the English during the Clearances. Such stories give a setting authenticity and character.