The air had grown chill the minute they descended into the strange valley, which was unmarked on any of their maps. It was so strange here, devoid of animal life and completely silent. The horses were nervous the entire journey through the vale. As they set about to collect firewood for the campfire they could hear their own voices as dim echoes through the eerie silence.
The food didn't taste anything that evening and their sleep was cold and troubled by nightmares. While they are clearing camp the next morning, one of them stumbles over a piece of stone jutting out of the ground nearby the horses. On closer inspection there seems to be runes engraved into the polished surface. The symbols true meaning is no more known among mere mortals and if they decide to dig deeper, they will discover that it is an ancient altar buried within the soil.
Any historically oriented party member will recognize the largest symbol to be the insignia of the powerful warlock who ruled this realm several centuries ago. At their departure from the area, something will seem amiss with one of the party members and all will remember the stories of the warlock's thousand curses.
The adventure can take place in a slightly shifted reality, where everybody has a totem (an animal guardian). The totem should be chosen randomly and not by the player, it is ok if "Gorflin the Large," a gigantic and aggressive barbarian, has a mouse for a totem.
These totems will assist the characters in small way. It is up to the characters to determine how to get the assistance; the animals won't solve mysteries for the characters only supply the clues. The character may even have a dream where his or her totem actually speaks to them and reveals some sort of clue.