‘‘The aboriginal people are upset with us, insisting that we will awaken their forest spirits and bring down the wrath of these dangerous fiends upon both their heads and ours. But I’m sick of hearing that stupid warning every single day from their elders. A lot of good men depend on my cattle ranches for their livelihoods, and if I’m going to cease the largest expansion of my empire, simply out of the desire to satisfy the silly superstitions of some stupid heathens, then may The Lord smite me down for my stupidity. These savages need to adjust themselves quickly to the idea of recognizing only the authority of the the One True God, and the blessings of civilization that follow where the messengers of the Lord tread. The sooner we get these people into the missionary-run shelters, the better off they’ll be’‘.
The pale-skin is greedy, the jungle dwelling Torgari of Tahutol are often fond of complaining, more so even than the blood crazed Arahuain rulers had been at their worst when the armies of Hilla would descend upon the jungles to carry off their people to the grim fate awaiting them at the ravenous maws of Ixtili’s Children.
But the pale ones that had come from across the sea, proved to be far worse than their erstwhile oppressors. Instead of merely abducting them from their homes for some grim fate, the pale ones begun to ravage the ancient jungles themselves, felling and burning vast swaths of the jungle to clear vast spaces of land for their monstrous horned beasts to graze in. What few wild games that the pale ones did not hunt into extinction with their mindless butchery, fled from their hunting grounds, and the specter of starvation begun to menace the Torgari. Realizing that they had no alternative, many of the tribes reluctantly surrendered their ancient way-of-life and entered the service of the conquerers as cheap labor, putting themselves into bondage for a mere pittance.
It was on the destruction of their millenia old stone-age culture that the fore-fathers of Jose Diaz had made their fortune. Claiming descent from a soldier that accompanied the Conquerer of Arahuai himself on that epic voyage of conquest, they had done extremely well as cattle ranchers, purchasing vast amounts of land from native clans that had found themselves on the verge of starvation after the the new owners had recently wiped out their man food sources.
But there was nothing disturbing that young Jose found in any of his family’s proud and glorious history. As true followers of the One God, they had brought the light of revelation to his benighted, savage land, freeing its wretched inhabitants from primitive savagery, and had forced them to come into the light, hereby enabling them to salve their souls from the eternal perdition that awaited all infidels that refused to accept the salvation offered by the Holy Redeemer. The hundreds of natives that toiled in his service, never need fear the danger of going hungry now that they no longer needed to hunt their food. And more importantly, God watched over them now, shielding their souls from all evil.
And the wilderness was of yet, still a potential gold-mine to be exploited! Only a tiny fraction ah had been cleared for his beef empire, and his herd has swollen dramatically over the past few years, as he struggled to satisfy the new passion for salted beef in both Haracon and Yokaru. New grazing ground had be urgently obtained, and the jungle beckoned for him to begin torching and slashing at it.
However there was one tiny obstacle that stood in the way of his grand pans of expansion. Of late, the Imperial College had convened a body of scholar dedicated to excavating the ruins left behind by the long vanished civilizations that had once ruled long-lost kingdoms that now lay choked and stifled by the growth of jungle that centuries of abandonment had encouraged. It disgusted him thats that such attention be showered upon the relics of a pagan past by a duke dedicated to upholding the values of the One True faith. What good could come out of pawing the idolatrous works of ‘‘art’’ left behind by long dead souls that had been denied the good opportunity to hear the Holy Word? Blasphemous sorcerers they had to be, so fallen from the grace of god that they wished to turn away from His embrace and immerse themselves in exploring the dark worship shown to false deities that time itself had chosen to forsake. A curse on their lack of piety!
But not merely content with polluting their minds and souls by exposing both to those accursed artifacts of a benighted age, the foolish sinners actually had lobbied the duke to grant them the right to stop all ranching, logging and mining in the areas, claiming that it was a fear of theirs that any outsiders that arrived in the vicinity of the ruins, might be tempted to disturb the contents of the ruins in the hope of landing their hands on any rare and precious baubles, or lost treasures of gold and silver. And so they begged the good duke to bar all attempts of the ranchers and loggers to expand into the jungles surrounding the ruins, at least until they’d been given the opportunity to remove all objects of historical and financial importance from the area.
So much for his dreams of expanding his herd just as the demand for his salted beef was expected to go up. The duke would accede to their demands, for that greedy man would not want others to lay their hands on precious relics that he would no doubt be eager to sell to wealthy nobles in Haracon. If only he had some way of making this vexing issue become meaningless just before excavation were to begin!
Then the solution to his problem struck him. The scholars were about to begin their dig three day from now. If somehow he could arrange for any precious relics hidden in the ruins to vanish by the time they begun their search, his problems would be pretty much over. Deprived of an excuse to prevent respectable ranchers like him from doing honest business, the callow young fools would not be able to prevent him from staking out his share of virgin country. And besides, it would be him, rather than scoundrel of a duke, who would benefit should there indeed be anything of value to be found in the ruins. He had a few friends in the duke’s service that knew how to sell things like that without getting caught. Assuming that the ancients had been kind enough to leave much behind for him to carry away, he would still be making a tidy profit even after giving his accomplices the cuts of the money that they were entitled to. Ah,things were certainly looking up now..
Never one to hesitate in the course of action, Jose Diaz was quick to fulfill the promise he had made to himself. On the fifteenth day of the month of Gorgar, this brave rancher made his final preparations for his long trek into the heart of the jungle where the lost secrets of the ruins would finally cease to be an annoyance, and would become a blessing instead.
So begun his trek in search of the ruins. Three of his most accomplished guards were hand-picked to accompany him, their purpose being to shield their beloved master from the dangers that might be lurking in the jungle. Amply provided with directions by a Toraghi much indebted to Jose, his little party soon arrived at their destination in good time, reaching it but a scant week after they had first set out.
There, nestled among the thick dense foliage were the ruins just as the Toraghi had told him. Almost completely obscured by the thick, choking jungle foliage, he could sight glimpses of decaying stone walls, and every now and then, he would find himself holding the gaze of the much eroded visage of some grotesque statue. Fighting aside the excited temptation to immediately start sprinting towards the ruins and begin ransacking them, Jose chose the more prudent option of setting up the camp for the night first. He and his men were exhausted, the result of Jose having pushed them to make double-quick time. Moreover, they had suffered badly from the ravages of leeches and mosquitoes during their difficult sojourn in the filthy jungle, and common sense dictated that they attend to the wounds these foul creatures had inflicted on their skin, before they undertook any further action. And so it was that under Jose’s supervision. they pitched their tents, and dined on their provisions of dried meat and bottled water, eating quickly before sleep took them.
It was so peaceful, with the sounds of the jungle oddly absent. No hoots or growls to trouble their slumber, and the sweet floral scent suffused their surroundings, its gentle presence lulling their weary minds into peaceful oblivion.
But even in th depths of sleep, the scent begun to titillate him, and he soon begun to dream. In the strange hallucination of his mind, Jose felt himself awakening from his slumber, his mind awash with a single urge:To follow the glorious scent to those flowers releasing it, wherever they may be. And so he did, that inchoate goal guiding his feet. Rapidly leaving behind the soft sounds of his guards snoring around their fire, he found himself walking towards the dark, decaying ruins, for that was where the scent pulled him. At his approach, the foliage smothering the derelict stone structures, seemed to actually part before him, tangled vines and creepers making a softly rustling sound, as they pulled back to admit him entrance.
Jose found himself stepping through the vast threshold of what appeared to be a giant-gate way. Its massive lintel adorned with the leering visages of monstrous demons carved with breath-taking detail and care, even the most casual examination would have been enough to engross the awed attention of a normal man. But Jose paid it no heed at all, his mind utterly devoted to finding the source of the smell that had lured him here. Through many a silent stone hall, he passed, totally oblivious, until Jose was finally aware in some dim, sub-conscious part of his mind that he was finally close to finding his quarry . He had at last come to the entrance of a little chamber that seemed to exude a powerful whiff of the enticing scent, a sign indicating that within these small confines lay that which he had sought. With it coming upon him stronger than ever now, he had an absurd mental image of something reaching out to grab him by his nostrils and drag him inside the small room. But it was fleeting, and he soon forgot all about it as he stepped inside.
And there in that dank, gloomy cell, he found the source of that seductive, all consuming smell. Towering above him, there reared a massive mass of seething, shifting vines, every one of hem sprouting pale yellow flowers. So this was what had unleashed that the scent he mused. As that thought crept out, something extremely strange happened. As if sensing his presence with some sinister sentience, the vines lashed out at him, and begun to rapidly pinion his limbs with chilling speed. A moment of panicked terror filled his mind, but it could not endure for long as the lovely, heady scent begun to choke his lung, causing him to gag.
And like a flower blossoming for the first time, a presence begun to emerge in his mind. It was as if the scent had taken on a form and manifested its awareness through the monologue in his head, counseling him to shrug aside unfounded fears and simply listen to its message. But it did not speak in words, so much as in mental images it conjured, and emotion, the latter becoming the raw sentiments coursing through his heart as its feelings fused with his own.
Jose bore silent spectacle as he beheld the silver vehicle descending from the cold heavens above, watching as it landed in the thick jungle. Lights flared in response, as a thousand torches were lit to greet its arrival. He saw vast pyramids of stone, that unleashed running masses of thousands who flocked towards the star-vehicle, their multitude of voices giving rise to heartfelt prayers of devotion. The Vegetable God Tmu, had left the domain of his kindred in the sky, to come down among men and leave them his gift. Awed gasps left the mouths of the charging devotees, as a seam appeared in the massive side of the star-craft. Quickly widening to a yawning hole, it parted to unleash a mass of slithering tentacles and profusions of pale yellow flowers. The word ‘‘Arahi’’ resounded in his mind, for this was the living incarnation of Tmu come to watch over the race of mortals, its task being to ensure that while taking from the soil what they could, men would never eradicated nature completely. All living things were beloved of Tmu, and it would displease him greatly if one of his children took more than was needed and in doing so, inflict devastation on the rest of nature. By farming one place, and then abandoning it to cultivate another, the devotees of Tmu would ensure that the jungle was given enough time to recover and flourish yet again, before the demands of hunger once again demand that they return.
But that had all changed now. Raging fury consumed Jose as he beheld the pale-skins setting alight vast expanses of jungle. These ones had not heeded the teaching of Tmu. They would not allow the land to lie fallow, and would never permit the forest to slowly gain back that which they had cleared. Nay, these parasites gave their swarms of horned vermin the freedom to devour much of the jungle into desert, before continuing to resume their march of destruction. And where they went, these cattle herders, more desert was fated to emerge in their wake. If nothing was done to stop them, the jungle would perish and with it, condemn an entire way of life to death.
Jose felt the urge to halt this destructive tide of humanity, experiencing that resolve grow stronger with each vine that slowly sprouted from his chest. What had been previously hair and flesh, became snaking vines and leaves, even as the flowers begin to sprout in every orifice of his body. Within moments, the man had vanished, completely replaced by a mass of entwined vines that seemed to shuffle about on roots shaped disconcertingly like the feet a human would possess.
As it left the chamber, the vine found itself assailed with a powerful need to start spreading its spores. And it knew how this could be achieved. Around the camp-fire, the two men still slumbered. So deep was their sleep that they did not stir as the vines snaked out towards them and begun to smear its spores all over their bodies. They would search for the missing man but a few days, before their terror would finally overcome them and compel them to flee to the settlement. And there, among that mass of humanity, they would mingle, spreading the spores on themselves to the others they worked with. Its progeny would become replicas of it, devouring their human hosts as they sucked the filthy creatures within their rapidly emerging coils, to nourish and feed themselves. All this they innately understood, obeying the command of their parent. Like the man known as Jose Diaz, these children of his would be given a great honor, dying a death that was only temporary. For this was a rebirth that the guilty would suffer, as they were destroyed by the art of the Vegetable God with the sole intent of being made anew as better and superior beings that would repent for the crimes of their past lives by now battling the invasive cancer currently suffocating the jungle. Evil would be consumed, and from it, a good would emerge, one destined to save the natural world from the destructive impulses of man-kind..
Weeks after the mysterious disappearance of the famous cattle rancher Jose Diaz, chaos struck the settlements of the cattle men. Wild tales begun to emerge of both people and cattle being eaten alive by carnivorous weeds, and soon entire villages ceased to pay their annual tribute. Alarmed by these reports, but not entirely convinced of their truth, the Duke sent his knights to investigate these terrible tragedies.
But as these brave warriors soon found themselves confronting the horrid abominations with steel and fire, the spores continued to spread steadily, with every victorious human slayer becoming another unwitting host of the Vegetable God’s vengeance.
Deep inside their remote huts, the remaining tribes of free Toraghi begin to smile again, knowing that somewhere in the vast depths of the jungle, Arahi has arisen, directing his spawn to feed on both the voracious horned vermin devastating their home, and the human parasites that rear them..
Plot Hook:Summoned to combat the menace posed by the man-eating vines, the PC’s become aware that some dark force directs them. Can they find ‘‘Creeper’’ Jose and put an end to his twisted plans?