"Somewhere in the inhospitable desert-shrublands of Iuhai, there stands a Fountain of Goats. The smell of Ages is upon it and despair emanates from its many goat-heads. Go forth from this ancient, ugly stain!"
Of red jasper and blackest onyx, like Bleeding Darkness it stands, perverting the golden sands around it
-Atupatu, Suthcundman of the Iuhai
A blot on the surreal shrub and desert landscape of Iuhai, the Fountain of Goats has stood like a black, cancerous ulcer for as long as anyone can remember. Located in the Plains of Doubt, this land and the Fountain is taboo for the Iuhai. They will do their best to warn visitors of the places and the Fountains malignancy, but adventurers will be adventurers
As long around as twenty men standing in a circle clasping hands, the Fountain of Goats, derives its name for the fact that sixteen, life-sized stone goats, carved with exquisite detail, ring the long-empty fountain. The goat statues, unaffected by time or the elements, retain a disturbing, life-like presence, and stare out into the desert with terrible black eyes, as if awaiting salvation.
wild-goats can be found wandering the bleak landscape, and searching for roots. They are oddly drawn to the Fountain. These are ‘Those That Wait’. The Sixteen Goats of black-onyx that actually make up the fountain, are ‘Those That Contemplate.’
One strange, lone figure can usually be found in the vicinity of the Fountain of Goats. A tall, cadaverous man, with night-colored hair and beard, clad in white cloak and shroud, patrols the Plains of Doubt and is often seen whispering to the stone goats of the fountain. He carries a shepherds wand, and is often accompanied by a small flock of black-marked goats. This is Ythan Erridu , a strange preacher-hermit, whom the Iuhai call the "Mad Shepherd".
Due to his magical iron ring, Ythan Erridu is immune to the metamorphing powers of the vile Fountain, and lives out here in the desert, staying near the Fountain at all times. He is completely insane, falsely believing the Fountain of Goats to be a symbol of some forgotten gods’ altar, a god to whom Ythan Erridu pays homage, one Borri-Barroo, the Sixteenth Doom. Ythan will verbally molest anyone who comes within one hundred feet of the Fountain. He will curse and shout "Begone! The secret treasures of Borri-Barroo be not for thine blasphemous eyes!"
Though there are no treasures to be found in or around the Fountain, Ythan’s outburts may give the PCs pause, since phrases like ‘secret treasures’ have quite a pleasant ring to most PCs ears. Ythan knows this, since he is clever despite his madness, and knows his cruel taunts will enhance the chances of the PCs remaining in or around the Fountain for an hour or more.
Anyone drinking off the brackish mud-water in the basin of the Fountain or spending too much time "contemplating" the Fountain (one hour of being within a one hundred foot radius), begins to undergo a horrid metamorphose! They turn into goats, while experiencing excruciating pain. Once goat form is afflicted, the "goat" will have all its memories but none of the intelligence above that of a common wild goat. These images simply race by in their new goat brains, like kaleidoscopes in the skull. The goat will act like a goat, with one exception. A strong primal desire to be near the Fountain is always felt. Those accursed wander and graze aimlessly, but never more than a dozen miles from the Fountain. A black diamond mark on the chest, identify these lamentable creatures. The Iuhai Tribes stay far away from the Fountain, and never kill or eat a "choolu", or "bad-goat". They view a stray choolu wandering into a village as a terrible omen, the equivalent of a black cat appearing in other cultures.
After three years of wandering as a goat, assuming the goat survives the harsh environment that long, the true curse of contemplation proceeds. The goat will approach the Fountain. One of the sixteen stone goats will suddenly animate into an actual goat and switch positions with the one waiting below. The onyx goat, one of ‘Those Who Contemplate’, descends the fountain and is turned from stone back to living flesh. In a few moments a horrible transformation occurs once more, morphing the goat back into whichever creature it was before the Fountain’s curse took effect thirteen years earlier.
Meanwhile, the living goat ascends the abandoned perch, and turns from flesh to black-onyx stone, taking up the vigil of Damnable Contemplation for ten years more, until another goat comes to take its place, ending the curse again. While in stone form, standing ten year vigil, a Fountain goat will re-acquire the original intelligence of the cursed victim. This enables the pitiable sufferer to truly contemplate. A victim’s mental state is likely to be ravaged, shards of insanity plucking away at the conscious mind for a decade.
There can only be sixteen onyx goats ringing the Fountain at any given time. If Those Who Wait are too numerous, they are doomed to simply wait longer than three years to become one of Those Who Contemplate, and begin an even more horrid sentence.
The origin and purpose of this malignant device is unknown. Iuhai legends speak of the Fountain of Goats, of Those Who Wait, and of Those Who Contemplate, and naught else.
Only the most powerful of magicks can break the Fountain of Goats’ devious curse, once a victim assumes the form of a living or onyx goat. Needless to say, once someone has "contemplated" for thirteen years or more, one tends to go mad. Many of the "madmen of the deserts", of which travellers speak, are actually those who have endured the curse of the Fountain, and have been driven mad after its passing.
On the underside of the Fountain, facing the earth unseen, are some words carved into the stone in the antediluvian language of the Han Tsarng.
"The Font of Damnable Contemplation. The most jocose of Jyorng-Jagu’s Sublime Punishments"