Welcome to my garden, traveler. Please, take your ease; rest awhile in the cool shade. I know your journey here has been a difficult one. The Inner Desert is... unwelcoming. If you like, have some fruit from one of my trees, or if you prefer, sweet berries. Mind the thorns.
You've come seeking The Rose? No, I'm not a seer. Forgive my amusement, but the answer is much simpler: all who brave the Inner Desert seek The Rose. Though I fear you may find the truth very different from the legends you may have heard. Which legend was it? Ah. Yes. That's a good one. Not entirely true, of course, but a good one all the same.
I'll tell you what, while you rest, I'll tell you my favorite version of the legend. Then, if you like, we may walk through the garden and perhaps you'll find The Rose. Yes? Oh, good. I do so love telling this story.
Of course, you know the desert wasn't always thus. This is recorded in history, and in the ruins hidden all over the sand of the desert. Our legend tells of a once lush and verdant land, bordered on the north by mountains, the west by a great forest, the east and south by ocean. The land was blessed, enjoying great bounty. Water flowed freely in great rivers, farmers tended fantastic crops. Animals grazed.
The land divided into four realms, each living in relative peace with the others, sharing the land's bounty, of which there was more than enough. At the center of the land, where all four realms met, was a garden, this very garden, in fact. I daresay it was far more magnificent back then. The garden was a place of true magic. The very earth had healing properties back then, and the fruit would sustain a man for a day on a single bite.
As is the case when men must share, eventually one decided he was more worthy than the others. The long forgotten king of a long forgotten realm decided the Garden and all its magic should be his. He sent soldiers to secure the garden. Of course, the other realms disagreed with this claim in terms most strenuous. They too sent soldiers to retake the garden. Four armies faced each other across the mystical garden.
Predictably, the armies clashed. Blood flowed in the garden. Men died. Alliances were made, broken, reforged, broken again. The ring of steel sounded for days, for weeks. Eventually, one of the armies emerged victorious, but it was a hollow victory indeed.
The garden was ruined. The dead and dying taxed the healing properties of the garden beyond its ability to recover, and the rivers of blood washed away the lands magic. The victor watched as the garden withered and died. He then withdrew, seeing nothing worth holding on to.
And so the land around the garden died. It was not quick, but it did happen sooner than you might expect. Without the magic of the garden to sustain it, the land faded away. Within a generation rivers dried, farms withered, and men began to leave. They sought, and eventually found, other lands to settle; they live now in the mountains, or the great forest to the west, or on the coast to the east, or on islands to the south.
It would be easy to blame the greed of that long forgotten king. But blame is one thing that man can share, though none of that matters so much anymore. In the end, what was once a rich bounty shared by all is now a sea of sand wanted by none.
But, of course, it isn't the end. If it was, you would not be here enjoying that pomegranate. Just spit the seeds anywhere, give each one a chance to take root. I see you looking about, and wondering how this all connects to The Rose. And this is the second part of my tale.
Not all men fled the land as it dried nor are most deserts utterly devoid of life, as I am sure you saw on your journey. Yes, you're correct, the inner desert is a place where no life can sustain itself, but for the most part the desert holds life if you know where to look. And so some remained. Some found places at the edge of the desert and built cities which are not as grand as what they once knew, but would suffice. A few others remained, even as the earth turned to sand around them. They became the first of the desert people.
Over the generations the story of the garden, and the desert, and the war were passed down. They changed with each retelling, as stories do. But they all warned against entering the Inner Desert, they all told it was death to even the strongest man, for no man can fight the sun and sand, and barren, cracked earth, and his own growing thirst forever.
But one day, a man of one of the tribes decided to dare. He took all the water his camel could carry, and he turned inward. He was gone many months, and when he returned, he went into his tent, from which he did not emerge for another full cycle of the moon. When he did, he called together his people.
He told them he had reached the garden. He told them the journey was arduous, nearly killing him many times over, and only with the blessings of Heaven was he able to persevere. But he did. He told his people the tale which brought you here, friend. He told them the garden was gone... save for a single flower: The Desert Rose.
He told his people that he prayed and meditated, and then made his way home. He explained he had been in his tent thinking, because he realized what the Rose was. He told the people the tale you already know: The Desert Rose is all that sustains what's left of the land. A single, solitary bloom with the power to bring life to the desert.
Well now, you know this is the tale of Roseguard, as the man named himself from that day. you know the nomads protect the desert in his name, protecting the Rose. You know they allow none to enter the Inner Desert. Roseguard created the Laws of The Desert Rose, and he traveled the desert, bringing people to his cause. And so today, life continues because of The Rose, and because of the Guardians of the Rose.
Thus ends my tale
Ah. Yes. I could see it in your eyes as I told my tale. The power of The Rose. The wealth such a thing might bring. All you believe will be yours if you can pluck The Rose and bring it out of the desert. Stay your hand, traveler. See? I am unarmed. Come, take my hand, and walk with me, as promised.
Very astute, yes, very perceptive. Wonderful. Yes, as I began my tale, I said I would tell you my favorite legend. The Legend of The Desert Rose. You wish to know the truth of it? Certainly. But first... can you guess why this is my favorite legend? No? Then I'll happily tell you.
It is my favorite legend because I created it, traveler. With the help of Roseguard, of course.
Shh... shh... it's alright. The dizziness will pass, I promise. Come, lay here with me, let me hold you. Yes, like this. Let me cradle you. There, there. If you feel tired, close your eyes and rest.
Yes, Roseguard knew if people knew the truth, my garden would be overrun once more. And so we spread the tale. A single flower, not enough to war over, but a romantic tale to inspire his people and tempt the greedy. And true enough in many ways. Only a few of the particulars were changed. Desert Rose does sustain the land, though even Desert Rose requires a little water now and then.
Hush, now. Don't struggle. It will be over soon. I can't sustain my garden without your water. Come, give me a kiss before you go, my thanks for your selfless act, you've bought another generation for this land with your sacrifice.
Who am I? I thought you would have guessed by now.
I am Desert Rose.
Thank you. And Goodbye.
- PCs might hear the legend of The Desert Rose and come seeking it for their own reasons.
- PCs might be hired to seek the Rose, perhaps for a wealthy collector, perhaps by a desperate King seeking to save his own kingdom. Perhaps another land is dying and seeks the key to saving it.
- PCs might be foolish enough to try crossing the Inner Desert instead of going around.
- In a slight variation the PCs came to learn why the land was drying out, and found Rose dying. She'd been attacked years before, and in killing her attackers she used too much power.
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? Responses (5)
well-told tale with little clues to give away the surprise ending ('spit the pomegranate seeds anywhere, give each a chance to sprout...'). I do so love mysterious anomalies and legends of the desert sands.
The ending ever-so-slightly reminds me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vORsKyopHyM . If you haven't seen this yet, do so.
Interestingly, this could probably be linked to the Songs of Fantasy codex as well, since Sting's tune seems to be an inspiration.
Thanks for the feedback. I'll check the codex, too. It's funny... I originally wrote the adventure in the early 90s, then shelved it because my group at the time decided to play supers instead. Years later, with a different group, I was trying to come up with a short adventure to follow-up a very intense story we'd just finished. That song came on the radio and reminded me of my story... same name... I pulled it out, made a few changes, and ran it. And the tale turned out to be just as intense as the one we'd just finished, though much shorter.
The Rose I wrote here became a little more sinister in the end than the one I ran for my group, but it felt right, making the legend a deliberate tease for greedy folk to feed the garden.
I really like the strong story-telling side to your submissions, and I like plant related submissions quite a bit. Good job on this one!
At first you had me thinking, really? A single rose. But the ending really made this sub for me, though I should have guessed as she seemed kind of...succubussy. Not sure how this would work out for a group of PCs though. With no tangible reward and a death trap at the end of a trying desert, that seems kind of anti-climactic. But as a tale it was really good.
One thing though, just what is this desert rose keeping alive, if it's just an ordinary desert? Just that one oasis?
The tale talks about how the land prospered in ancient times. Rose, now weaker, keeps the desert (and in some iterations the entire continent) alive now. Without her, it all ends. In my plot hooks, I mention an actual play with Heroes questing to save the land. The entire continent was suffering drought, and the legend drew the heroes to the desert. There they found Rose dying. Years earlier (at the beginning of the drought, coincidentally), an unsavory group found its way to her and sought the rose of legend. She used too much energy to defend the garden, and as she slowly died, so did the land. The heroes had to restore her to restore the land. Which they did by sacrificing one of their number. I actually have a sub in the works which ties in here as well.