I could see another idea- perhaps, the Song of the Dead idea could be modified- the priest could be a necromancer, lich, or some sort of evil spirit, and the bell's ringing attracts the life-stealers rather than keeping them away. The Priest needs the life-energy of the people to sustain himself or something.
RE: Disease Who knows, maybe it was a super strain with higher infection rate or could have a long incubation time so you were infected for days before symptoms showed (then apply a fast symptomatic period.... and well you get the idea).
I do like the fact that your plot branches and has so many delicious options.
A few more
-Divine Hand- Perhaps it is a blight from a diety rather than a mundane disease. PCs savy to modern infection control might avoid eating or drinking something in a plague area. But if it is diety blight, that will do them naught. Perhaps clerical magics no longer work in this town (clue to the PCs to get out of dodge) Perhaps only those that pray on a regular basis will survive (since PCs are not known to pray on a regular basis, even the clerics except to gain spells, this does not bode well for the intrepid adventurers).
-Payment Due- The wealth of the town was due to someone making a deal with an Evil Spirit 100 years ago. The Creature, not all that bad he held up his part of the bargin fairly and honestly, is just collecting his payment. If the PCs poke around, it will appear... scare the Bejeezies out of the PCs... ignore their best attacks... sniff them and say, "Not you. You are not from around here." If they talk to it, they might actually get some of the story.
There might be travellers left alive in the city. After all, they are not from around here. Of course, the creature is checking everything with a heart beat to make sure it gets it due.
-Payment Due II- The mayor from 100 years ago is now walking around the city. He is a little undead, but doing quite well for his age (choose flavor of undead or ghost). He gets to see what honest wealth they have generated due to his deal. He also gets to see all the death he just caused.
-Payment Due upon Delivery- There is banging on the OTHER SIDE of the catacomb door. Eventually somewhat undead folks will shuffle out from there. They will not attack people, nor eat their brains. They will simply go back to their lives. Of course they will be stinking zombies, but when has that bothered anyone. The Monster gave them their wealth. It collected their souls. If someone said it wasn't suppose to kill everyone, he will simply re-animate the corpses.
-The Mighty Struck Low- The cleric is mad. There are no bodies. There are only Rats. The people have become rats. After a few days of shock, the rats are remembering they were people. After they finish off all the local cats, they may be adverse to those who are looting their stuff. Go to Comment
Vandalism is one of the first things that happens during the breakdown of civil authority. Some of the youngsters avoided the contaminant for a while, and as the other citizens weakened and died, they had a fling, broke stuff, and then themselves succumbed to the evil. Everyone died, but it didnt happen overnight, there was a breakdown of authority, and a surge in petty crime since there was no law enforcement. Go to Comment
One of the things that this brings to mind is an old woodcarving I saw in a textbook, called King Cholera. It showed a grim reaper, complete with grinning skull, exposed ribs and bony hands working the handle of a water pump, while a young woman and her children gathered water. Go to Comment
This was my 34th submission, when I was still new to the Citadel. It was a different place then, the palate was sepia tone, there were fewer categories and sometimes we could go a week without a new submission being dropped. It seems almost surreal to me that I wrote this almost 3 years ago. Go to Comment
When i read it, I first thought that due to some external danger, the people hid in the church, the bell being both a beacon to those seeking refuge and a shield against the danger.
One I do not understan - why the vandalism? Go to Comment
Hmmm... we do not have much of western locations (or western-themed stuff for that matter) around here. But it has just the right mood of a dirty dusty small town, where rough men hang around, and all wait for the better day.