Ghost Wail Pass
The road ahead is of the dead
So travelers take heed
And lightly tread o'er those that bled
For lands and kings and greed.
The victor spared no man that dared
To try and take his throne.
So thus he paved a road that's made
Of vanquished soldiers' bones.
The road ahead is full of dread
So travelers beware
And tarry not lest you be caught
By the echoes of despair.
For the road beneath your wandering feet
Of dead men once so brave,
Will clutch and grab and wrench and drag
You to an early grave.
The Rust-Top Peaks are so named because of the high iron content within their rocks and the constant rainfall of the region giving them at glance a 'rusty' hue. It is a massive mountain range traveling east to west for nearly 3,000 miles. With its many steep peaks that seem to be jutting upwards from each others' bases it is nearly impassible.
Ghost Wail Pass, once known as Miner's Pass, is a narrow valley through the Rust-Top Peaks that is only about 30ft at its widest point. It treacherously winds its way north from the southern entrance for about 170 miles. It is truly the only practical means through the mountains. The southern end of the pass opens to a vast expanse of forests mottled within the hilly terrain. The northern end reveals a lowland coastline with easy access to the Cold Sea beyond.
Many years ago, Karlsfell, a great city south of the Rust-Top Peaks had a war-minded king come to power by the name of Urlgen. He grew jealous of the wealth of the northern kingdoms and their ease to trade routes via the Cold Sea. He, too, wanted access to these trades routes and the riches that came with them so he built a grand army. An army the likes of which had never before been seen. And he marched it north to conquer everything beyond the mountains.
King Urlgen's massive army, some 300,000 strong, had difficulty navigating through the narrow Miner's Pass. It was no wonder, then, that word would reach the northern kingdoms of his intentions long before his army could get there.
The northern kingdoms under the banner of King Bjoron would assemble a small army of what they could quickly muster and set it at the entrance of Miner's Pass, hoping to buy themselves some time. Urlgen's army arrived weary from the journey and did not put up much of an initial fight. The narrow pass made it exceedingly difficult for Urlgen to gain an edge against his dug-in foes. As the fighting progressed , days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months. Urlgen's forces were steadily diminishing as the northern kingdoms continued to gain fresh, able-bodied soldiers from their sea-faring allies.
Eventually, Urlgen and his men could continue no longer and were ultimately defeated by the ever reinforcing northerners. King Bjoron and his allies rode down what was left of Urlgen's army and killed every last one of them. And as a warning to any future southerners that would dare challenge the norther kingdoms again, he paved a road through Miner's Pass with the bones of the fallen soldiers.
Many generations have passed since the defeat of King Urlgen. The pass, once known as Miner's Pass, now goes by the name of Ghost Wail Pass. The 'road' made by King Bjoron has become overgrown over the many years but there are still many bones protruding from the ground. A femur here, a jaw-less skull there, a rib-cage covered in moss that is home to a family of rodents, etc.
Those that travel the pass nowadays are clearly unaware of the legends that surround it. It is also worth noting that those that do travel it are seldom, if ever, seen again. It is said that when the winds blow south, wafting the smell of sea-water into the pass, one can hear the echo of a battle going on within its jagged walls. Cries, shrieks, clanging steel and war horns reverberate throughout the narrow valley.
Legend says a few travelers have made it from one end to the other, though, no one has actually had an eyewitness account of these survivors. But it is said they tell tales of skeletons rising from the dirt to add more 'mortar' to the road. Others say King Urlgen's men are still trying to take the pass, slaughtering anyone not waiving the banner of Karlsfell. And others still, say it is King Urlgen's ghost that wanders the road still seeking the riches of the northern kingdom. But of course, these are all merely myths to keep travelers away from the iron rich mines within the valley... right?
Don't let the sun go down on you
It turns out that the pass is perfectly safe by day but from sunset until sunrise, various undead rise, making it very dangerous after dark.
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? Responses (9)
Welcome to the Citadel!
The entry is neat, but what I really enjoyed was the intro poem. That will definitely find its way into a future campaign of mine.
170 miles of at-most 30-ft wide pathway is quite a passage. An undead Thermopylae!
Fun and it can have as few or as many Undead as the GM wants.
Skeletons rising from the dirt to add more 'mortar' is a nice line and visual.
Great location. Anything can happen (not just undead), as the PCs traverse this haunted, winding gauntlet.
Welcome to the Citadel, Skull. This is a very solid first post -- easily a 4 as it currently stands, both for the visuals and for the poem. What would take it over the top for me would be a further examination of the idea, with an eye towards plot hooks. Ask questions:
* Your post implies that no one has taken this road for an age, but that it is also the only good route through the mountains. What effect would that have on the southern kingdom? Has it descended into a dark age of isolation or barbarism? Or is it now a hidden font of knowledge/wisdom, inaccessible to the outside world?
* Are there travelers or merchant companies that risk the voyage? How do they survive? Are there safe havens -- caves, shrines and the like -- along the way? Or do they prevail through might of arms?
* What sort of response has this garnered from the religious authorities of your world? Has there ever been a quest to sanctify and purge this road of evil? What happened? Maybe there is a holy site in the southern kingdom, and pilgrims will occasionally risk the journey. Assuming that the church had members in the southern kingdom (or wants to send missionaries there), they would likely have a vested interest in cleansing the road. Perhaps this would be a plot hook for the party to follow.
Etc, etc. The post is great as-is, but could be something very special if you keep asking questions. Give us several situations or plot hooks that would bring an adventuring party to this location. Give us additional encounters or mini locations along the way (170 miles is a long, long way to go).
Forgot to mention, love the rhyme opening!
Not much I can add to previously said. Welcome to the Citadel and enjoy.
I would guess there is a safer sea-route that while longer is 'cheaper' in less lost expeditions.
This place could come under new focus if the sea route became untenable due to a failed alliance, new powerful enemies and the like. The PCs could be contracted to clear a fixed length of road, or paid by the mile.
I love the poem. This is clear submission, nice catchy descriptions and lots of drama. For example, a 170 mile pass that is only 30ft at it is widest point, that is dramatic! How high and steep are the walls? One boulder would seriously inhibit any movement through the pass, so all the more dangerous.
I can also see Dossta's point, while the idea is clear, the prose well written and situation interesting, it might be served by just a little more flair and details. I say might be cause I acknowledge that is a tricky line, you don't want things to be overlong and bloated with tangents, but you want things to be meaty.