The Scratching Stone has always been an area of interest for the local people. A huge slab of granite with a top a couple of acres in area, it is out of place when compared with the other rock formations in the area. It has bore many names - Evenstone, the Great Altar, the Giant’s Dinnertable and others lost to time.
Temples from ancient times had been built upon it, but these have long since fallen, and their stones now grace the chimney of many a farm. What has been a constant has been avoidance of quarrying the stone itself. No-one living knows why this has been so, but many local superstitions are strongly held that none should so much as scratch the ancient pink granite.
The name Scratching Stone is a fairly recent one, and stems from the fact that if one puts one’s ear against the stone, a scratching sound can be heard. If the memories of the village elders are to be believed, the sound of the scratching has become much louder over recent years.
The Stone’s Secret
The rest of the information is more difficult to obtain.
The oldest human name that can be found for this place is “Haern Sthune”, which found on an ancient map embossed into a sheet of flat-pounded zinc. The map depicts the stone in relation to a number of now extinct towns and villages, and only the primitive picture of the Stone identifies the map and the environs. Even the path of a river on the map has shifted. The text of map is similar to the local written langauge enough that the name is legible.
The map itself may be in a collection of local Antiquities, buried as gravegoods, or otherwise be hidden.
The name “Haern” does not translate into any local word, and in fact is a corruption of a name passed on by an even older, non-human people similar to the Neanderthals called the Alun. The closest approximation in modern tongue is “Dragon”.
The other word, “Sthune” is an old word in the local dialect which generally is considered an odd spelling of Stone, but in fact is an older term meaning “Prison”.
The Scratching stone is the top of a prison for a powerful and ancient wyrm. The dragon is significantly older then most of dragonkind, but has imprisoned for eons. In it’s imprisonment its powers have faded significantly, but it’s hatred and hunger has grown unabated. When it breaks surface, all about will suffer, as it’s rage will be unimaginable.
The Dragon was once a dire threat to the Alun and was one of the reasons the Alun in this region became extinct. It was through the intercession of the Alun’s gods that the Dragon was restrained. Already a minor people on the world, their deities were similarly weak and so the battle between the gods and Haern was a close fought and desperate one. At the cost of much of their divine power they subdued the beast and crafted the prison to contain him, if not for eternity, but enough time for their people and themselves to recover.
Now, this plan would have worked if their people recovered, but the ravages of the dragon, and the ascendency of man were too much for the Alun. Gradually their people declined and barely a hundred years after Haern’s imprisonment, they were gone.
The prison itself is a massive block of nearly-pure elemental stone, virtually impervious to magic and highly resistant to damage. The dragon was originally imbedded within the block with no airspace. Sustained only by it’s immortality and hatred it gradually worked away at it’s prison, helped in part by the slow shrinkage of it’s own body. A little wiggle room here and there allowed the beast to at first simply rub with its’ iron-hard scales, grinding away at the stone. Eventually enough space was available to bring it’s claws to bear.
Now, the dragon has chipped away at’s prison to the point that it may escape in the next few decades. But it gets worse.
The nearly-pure block of elemental stone has so far gone unnoticed by the Alchemists and Mages of the world, but this will not be true for long. Eventually it’s nature will be revealed and there will be a great demand for stones cut from this structure. The stone has great value in alchemical preparation and spells relating to Earth and it’s magic resisting effects would be a great boon for castle construction. Any escavation would speed the dragon’s escape to the world.
The properties of the stone have recently been discovered and communicated to the local mage’s guild. They have tried to keep this knowledge to themselves and are seeking to begin mining this precious stone. However, the locals have strong superstitions against this and are resisting the mages, both overtly (not allowing them to buy supplies locally, etc) and covertly (sabotage, isolated acts of violence, etc). Depending on the political situation it could either be similar to a tree-hugger vs logger type situation with limited violence, or the mages could wage war against the locals to stop the impediments.
The PC’s could be brought in on either side and the knowledge of the Dragon may never arise, until the Mages dig too deep.
The Arun artifact
An ancient Arun gravesite has been uncovered and a strange artifact has been recovered. It is a large, very carefully crafted star made of flint that radiates powerful magic. It turns out to be an early effort to produce a magical weapon to use against Haern, but it served to be completely ineffective. The details on how the item works are sketchy, and magical efforts to obtain additional information yield no information apart from an image of the Scratching Stone.
The artifact is really a red herring - it provides no useful powers and the misguided clue will likely have the PC’s release the Dragon. The difficulty in cutting the stone will probably lead them to believe that anything this well defended must be worth a king’s ransom.