The small crew of three travelers continued down the road pushing their horses onward. Dusk was settling and the long shadows made the road block look even more ominous. A glance at the barrier of tree branches and logs showed that they had long lost their leaves. The base of the road block settled into the road as if it had weathered many storms. To the right a large, well used path led into the trees and growing darkness around the blockage.
The man looked back at his crew with impatience, 'Well? Get your arses down and make us an easier path to get back up on the road.'
Knowing better than to argue, two jumped off their mounts and put themselves to work. A couple quick hacks at some smaller trees and brush made the woods around the barrier easy to maneuver through.
The group continued on. The leader mentioned with impatience as he watched the others look down the worn path into the woods. 'No such worries on being jumped on a road that was barricaded is there? Getting late and we need somewhere safe to camp. No idea what is down that other trail, and I don't care. We ain't going to find out. Another two days, according to the map, we will hit the trade routes which will put us within a week of home. I am not taking no side trail and get us lost. Let's go.'
The small group took the side trail around the blockade and made their way back onto the road on the other side of the barricade. The center of the road remained fairly clear only needing to force an occasional branch out of the way. Up ahead a larger clearing in the road could be seen. As they got closer they could see it was a crossroads. Nearer still they found dozens, maybe hundreds of small divots and mounds scattered throughout the area. They became more concentrated near the center of the crossings. There was no way it would be safe to walk the horses through that, especially at night.
'What the hell is it?' The lead rider got off his horse and walked into the area. As he went he started kicking the closer mounds of dirt. The first couple just went up in a cloud of dust and small dirt clumps. The next he kicked revealed a small doll. Another revealed a glint of gold.
'What do we have here?' He picked it up and examined it. With a quick test with his teeth he determined it was indeed gold. By now the rest of the crew dismounted and made their way into the crossroads. Each kicked and crawled around unburying each mound of dirt to reveal its treasure. Most were just small bones or little trinkets but there was the occasional golden coin or piece of jewelry. Each was collecting pocket fulls of trinkets.
The sun set and the mist rose. All around them individual swirling fogs appeared out of the mounds of dirt and enveloped their legs, twisting around their torsos. The men stumbled in fright as they tried to wave off the living smoke with their hands. Slowly the pain hit and screams escaped their lips. Everywhere the mist wrapped they burned. But not a fire burn, a deep burn as if the mist was eating their skin. And so it was.
The horses bolted, unaffected, and left the men and their screams behind. They fell to their knees and then their back as they writhed and tried unsuccessfully to swat the mist away. Their clothes melted to their skin and slowly blackened and their screams became more desperate. Soon their muscles failed to follow directions and their movements slowed. The pain, always there, growing, moving, getting deeper into their being.
The screams faded but the mists movements increased. If one was able to watch their would be agonized faces shifting in and out of focus in the mist as they continued to twist and roll around the now immobile bodies. The carcasses of the travelers continued to curl into a smaller piece of blackness as the mists worked. As they shrunk, the trinkets that they collected fell onto the ground.
As each trinket fell to the ground, a mist would form from a disturbed mound and gather it up. As the trinkets started to fall in rapid succession an orgy of smokey mist rapidly grew from all the disrupted mounds and spun in a frenzy. Each trinket was claimed by an individual mist as they spiraled in and out of each other's path. Other mists continued to absorb the bodies as the wind picked up and the shapes spun around each other in a growing tornado of action.
Suddenly everything stopped and the mists slammed down like a sledgehammer into the crossroads. Puffs of small dirt escaped into the sky and gently settled in a pattern of divots and mounds and then all was silent. The horses were long gone and there was no sign of the bodies of the three travelers except for three new mounds of dirt.
- Could be a malevolent being that killed somebody at the crossroads and then got trapped. As travelers continued to be there at sunset it would attack them and add them to their curse. As time went on they got more destructive and killed more travelers until the locals finally walled off the trail to try and keep others from harm. If they followed the new trail for 30 minutes or so they would have came to a town that would give them the warning, and an easy walk to regain the road.
- Could be a murder that took place on the road. Another came across the bodies and buried the body nearby. When they went to leave they found a small hairpin or bracelet. Instead of keeping it, they buried it in the side of the road away from the body in respect. It was a favorite trinket and since it was separated from the body, he inadvertently put a curse on the dead traveler that started it.
- A witch actually did curse the towns. She was ran out of each of the towns down each of the roads. When she was ran out of the last town she found herself at the crossroads. Each road going to a town she wasn't welcomed at. So she called on the spirits and cursed the crossroads to give the villages pain and death for their actions.
- Mostly I just had the crossroads and a tornado of spirits in my head and wanted to write it.
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? Responses (9)
Spooky! I would have no explanation for the mists; just an unexplained anomaly of the world, a focal point for the weird. Some way to defend against the mists would be nice - perhaps wearing a particular metal that tastes bitter to the living smoke or something. Or maybe have it attracted to those who wear steel...
In fact, that could be another reason for its origins. A malevolent spirit of a warrior fallen in a crossroads skirmish by a steel-clad night. Now the spectre lingers on in this mist form, choosing to eat away at any who wear steel.
Perhaps the entity is some demon/devil that was summoned to this crossroads and subsequently cheated out of the bargain that was struck. Now it's cursed to haunt the crossroads until it gets a replacement soul (or whatever it was cheated out of). Just a suggestion off the top of my head.
I think it's a solid idea and some excellent writing in the description.
One other suggest, perhaps there is a sign or warning that has become overgrown or that has fallen down that PCs could find if only they searched around a little bit?
Perhaps there is an Urn Beast there creating more of it's kind?
Perhaps a group of extremely evil folks (bandits, necromancers, whatever) were eventually cornered at the crossroads, and in spite of surrendering, they were slaughtered by the militia and their souls or whatever still linger, causing havoc on whomever wanders into the area.
I really like it. Very creepy, and wide open, and easy to customize.
Impressive material to work on for a creepy encounter or for some rumours...
Feels very Creepshow. I like it - though it would need a little adaptation to use without causing a TPK - getting PCs not to loot can be difficult :)
I like the gruff guy. Like SE, I feel an explanation would ruin things. And to counter Val's point, perhaps it would be better to have a couple of NPCs along who are unimportant enough and greedy enough to run ahead, take all the gold (unless a certain PC is fast enough and stupid enough to compete), and then die miserably.
I also like the mysterious aspect of it. It's the kind of thing that lets me smile knowingly (and a bit evilly) as my players try to discern what is going on.