Adrian Newman, a young farmer from the Heartlands, having purchased a land grant in the newly opened Colonies, was travelling there with his wife and 6-year old daughter to start a new life. Unfortunately, before reaching their destination, their camp was attacked by orc (troll / ogre / goblin / beast-man / whatever) raiders. The raiders killed both adults and stole everything of value they could find, then feasted on the bodies and burned what remained.
But the story did not end there. Bethany, the little girl, survived the attack, thanks mainly to blind luck. When the orcs attacked she simply ran away and by the time they had finished with her parents she was hidden in the rocks some way off. The orcs never even realised she was there or they would certainly have killed her too.
Shortly after the attack, a troop of intelligent baboons passed by and found the orphaned girl. As luck would have it (and Bethany is a very lucky little girl) one of the females, whose own baby had recently died (life can be short and brutal in the wilderness lands), picked up and sort of "adopted" the child.
Meanwhile her parents’ spirits found that they could not leave the area of their deaths, bound there by their love for their child. Unable to reach Bethany’s location, they found themselves powerless to prevent the baboons from taking her.
Confused and afraid they beseeched all the gods to deliver their child to safety. However, apart from a strong feeling that they where bound to this site until Bethany was returned to civilisation, they received no answer.
The Burnt-out Campsite (or Where the PCs come in)
Around mid morning the PCs come upon a pleasant roadside clearing transformed into a scene of total destruction. The partially eaten bodies of two humans and a mule lie upon the ground, a flatbed cart and a large tent still smoulder from the fires that have consumed them, and the contents of bags and packs are strewn about the site.
A search of the area (appropriate perception and/or tracking rolls required) will reveal that this is the remains of a campsite, obliterated by orc raiders some time around first light (about two or three hours ago).
The orcs of course took any valuables they could find (money, jewellery, etc) as well as the Newman’s weapons, although a detailed search will reveal a small cache of gold (not much - say enough to pay for a nights’ lodging) that the orcs missed.
Other than this all that remains are personnel and household goods (cloths, furniture, a few farming tools, etc), none of which are salvageable (assuming of course that the PCs would want such things).
Some time while the PCs are searching the area two spirits will form over the human bodies. These are the ghosts of the Newmans, responding to the presence of the first human they have seen since the orc raid. The spirits do not attack, contenting themselves with waiting for the PCs reaction. If the PCs take no threatening action they will try to speak with them.
Adrian and Karla Newman - human ghosts
If they can establish communication the ghosts will tell the story of the raid (refer to Background) and Bethany’s later abduction by the baboons (they are not aware that the baboons mean her no harm). They will also explain that they are now bound to this place until such time as Bethany is returned to civilisation.
They then ask the PCs to find the child and return her to civilisation. In return they promise to help the PCs once in the future and arrange some method (whatever makes sense in your preferred magic system) they can used to summon them from the spirit world. They regret that they cannot provide such aid until after their daughter is safe as they are bound to the place of their death until that time.
Finally, they will ask the PCs to arrange for decent burial of their remains.
Should the PCs agree to all this the ghosts have no objection to them salvaging any valuables or material goods that remain. After all, they have no further use for such things.
Tracking Bethany herself is almost impossible since her tracks are quite small and largely obscured by those of orcs, baboons and the local animal life. It may however be possible to track the baboons since their trail, although partially obscured by animal tracks, is much clearer (an entire troop of baboons, however intelligent, inevitably leaves some kind of trail).
When the PCs catch up with the baboons they discover that these are no mere animals, but highly advanced creatures with near human intelligence levels, a stone-age technology level, and a complex clan organisation.
Baboons - intelligence good, combat skills fair, perception and survival skills excellent - basic stone-age tools (wooden clubs, stone knives, etc)
Despite her parents fears the baboons have no intention of harming the human child, and indeed most of them have no particular feelings towards her one way or the other. In general they take the attitude that she’s there and that’s OK but if she wasn’t that would be OK too, so convincing them to give her up shouldn’t be too difficult.
The only problem is Magra, the female who lost her own baby and has now transferred her maternal instincts onto Bethany. Magra will not willingly surrender the child, in fact she will make a big show of gathering the girl up in her arms and threatening anybody who comes too near.
Magra - female baboon - combat skills fair with bare hands, poor with club
Recovering the Child
The PCs have two main options here.
They could attempt to kidnap Bethany. Although it is unlikely they can get close enough without being seen, as long as they do not threaten the troop in any way the baboons will not interfere. Except of course Magra, who will fight like a cornered polecat to protect "her child". And that is quite likely to pull the rest of the troop in to protect Magra.
Alternately they could attempt to negotiate, which will almost certainly work since the baboons have no emotional attachment to Bethany. Despite this Korva, the troop leader, is quite smart enough to extract something in trade.
Korva - alpha male baboon - as above + fair negotiating skills
Korva will not take money (baboons have little need of this), nor can the PCs get away with worthless trinkets (he’s far from stupid). He is most likely to accept something intrinsically useful, like a couple metal knives (baboons may not have mastered metallurgy but they still know the value of a good metal blade) or perhaps a free lunch.
Finding Bethany a home
Having recovered Bethany the PCs now have the problem of what to do with her. There is a village about a day’s travel from here (this is in fact where the Newmans were heading), and the obvious course is to take Bethany there. This counts as "civilisation" (if only just) and thus fulfils the PCs deal with the ghosts.
Unfortunately nobody at the village was expecting the Newmans so there is nobody to take the child off of their hands. It’s not that the people here are unsympathetic, it’s just that life is hard enough in the Colonies and nobody can really afford another mouth to feed.
The only other option is a small market town about a week’s travel back towards the Heartlands, maybe one of the temples there will take the child in. Looks like the PCs have journey ahead of them.
Baboon Raiders: Troops of the local baboons regularly raid the colonists’ farms for anything edible, but seem completely unable to grasp the idea that the crops belong to somebody else. Although intelligent the concept of personal ownership, particularly of land or food supplies, is totally alien to their culture and they really don’t understand why the humans get so upset about it.
Stopping them is by no means easy since there are several hundred troops each consisting of anything around thirty or so individuals. There simply aren’t enough colonists to fight them all so the only solution is to negotiate. Unfortunately it isn’t clear whom the colonists can talk to, since the baboons seem to have no organisation higher than the family group.
Looks like somebody (guess who) must work out if there are any baboons with enough authority speak for all of the troops and convince them to stop the raids.
Savage Orcs: Orcs raiders are terrorising the area, attacking travellers on the road or small outlying farms more or less at will. The gang is obviously quite small since they attack only lone travellers or isolated farms, but they are a serious problem nonetheless.
Perhaps a band of hardy adventurers (like the PCs) can track the orcs down and destroy them, or at the very least drive them out of the area.