"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"
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? Responses (40)-41
*cleans the drool off of his keyboard*
It is, to say the least, amazing. I wish I'd've thought of it.
FOUNTAIN OF GOATS!
Holy Crap! That is awesome!
I need to know more about the Mad Sheppard. Is it an illusion I wonder? Made by 'Those That Contemplate' to help manage their release.
Overthinking, beware: The 13 years as a constant won't work with the unmatched 10 year fountain and 3 year flesh goat. Unless a goat is only created at that certain point to make the timing work and there are only 16 goats at any time (unless if the timing doesn't work the flesh goat just dies). If that is how it happens there must be some way to lure their victims at the proper time, something more than a 'Mad Sheppard' that stays local.
My thoughts then are 1) you have some kind of 'Mad Sheppard' that goes out in the world in search of those he can convince to travel to the fountain against the common myth. Perhaps those released know the time and are 'keyed' to provide a new victim for the one that freed them or something. 2) The 13 years is nonstandard and as a new 'sheep' is made, the eldest sheep takes over in the fountain releasing one. So there are always 16 statues and 16 sheep. As one is made, one is released.
I may have missed something though. Just that my mind is spinning over this one and I can't read through it without thinking about it!
Thanks Strolen, and phew, let me address the 3+10 years of Waiting and Contemplating issue. Yep, I didnt quite work out the math and probability angle correctly, did I?
The only constant is there are always 16 onyx goats ringing the fountain. Then you have Those That Wait for 3 or more years..and umm..hmm..100 foot radius of the curse, and err...umm..I am confusing myself!
darn you for noticing! :D
Hey, wait a minute! Will manfred's answer to the mystery work? If so, thats the one I'm going with! :P
The Mad Shepherd as an illusion is a sweet idea! An insidious power of the Fountain itself. So is 'multiple Mad Shepherds'! Maybe, once victims escape the curse, the irrevocably mad ones, go forth into the world, preaching for all to come witness the 'Miracle' of the Fountain of Goats, enabling a steady supply of curious tourists interested in coming and seeing what the ancient mystery is all about.
I will have to edit this, to include yours and manfred's intriguing thoughts! Will do! (soon)
OMG FOUNTAIN OF GOATS
The timing can work quite well, because it is not at all guaranteed a goat will survive the three years - so there can be a small herd of these goats if lots of people got foolish, which is unlikely. Anyway, once the ten years of 'contemplating' are over, a goat on the mountain could be released whenever a condition is met - say at midnight, or every full moon. And as the cursed goats tend to stay close to the fountain (and could be drawn even more at the appropriate time) the release will happen sooner or later.
As for new victims... I think that a mysterious location, rumored to have treasure will attract quite a few 'volunteers' over the years; beside the rare unlucky soul that has just lost the way.
What would happen if someone, knowing of the fountain's workings, would just destroy it? Is it possible at all? Or would they be cursed as well? (And what of the victims?) Someone is bound to try that sooner or later.
Great work, btw. Just be careful to stress the danger enough, as it is basically a death trap.
Hmmm. You raise good points as usual. As to the destruction of the Fountain, I suppose it would be possible, but I would make it very difficult. Maybe, this ancient eye-sore is resistent to magic and most physical damage?
Maybe the key to the Fountain's Destruction (deactivation) is a single, ancient Word of Power, known only to the ancient Han Tsarng, and maybe some know-it-all sages of the PCs world.
Or if you have a better idea, we can go with that :D
And yes, it certainly is a deathtrap, a "campaign-breaker" so to speak. But sometimes, manfred, PCs just need to be punished! (wouldnt you agree? :D)
Hm. I read somewhere ages ago - I forget where now, but I think it was true - that some scientists experimented with several volunteers to see what it would be like without the 5 senses. They put the volunteers in soundproof tanks, binding their arms and legs so they couldn't move, putting blindfolds on them and switching out their lights for an hour or two.
When the volunteers got out, they would not go back in those tanks for any amount of money offered to them; they were so terrified of what their minds conjured up while in there.
Anywho - true or not, the point of the story is that I think this is how i see the minds of the contemplating goats would turn out, although for 10 years. Truly frightening stuff that the mind can come up with when you have no choice but to use it.
I'm sure that even if someone who is turned back to normal managed to work past complete insanity, they would be extremely paranoid and claustrophobic. They would want to seek the comfort of crowds, loud noise, bright lights and any sort of touch - probably even pain.
Makes you think twice about roasting the next goat you see, doesn't it?
I'm with Shadoweagle on this one - I'm sure I've read something similar - can't remember where though
Very nasty little trap
4/5 + an extra 1/2 for originality - so 4,5 / 5
Eerie in its own special caprine fashion. Oddly, I can imagine some aesthetic or holy man seeking out the fountain for its powers, wishing to spend a decade as a stone figure for pure contemplation. Of course he would come out of it barmy mad, but that is besides the point. Nice work Muro.
Caprine!! damn it! I knew I wanted to use that word somewhere in here! :D
Decent take on the 'Fountain of Goats' prank.
Devious... I love it Muro... other than a few minor spelling errors which I didn't take any off for, there is nto a whole lot to say about this. Interesting, different, and unique. The possibilities for plots behind this are inumerable.
What everyone else has said.
Of course, what I have to ask... 'Why would anyone make such a place?' Unless they are a Mad God, it just seems so odd. While PCs will never know the reasoning behind the location, GMs might want to know. Just a thought.
Its in the last line, Moon. Familiar with the Han Tsarng The Mountain of Boats? Ancient Sorcerers. This was an invention by one Jyorng-Jagu, to cater to the cruel, jaded tastes of Han Tsarng pleasures. A form of punishment for those the Han Tsarng deemed deserving. Being a long-lived race, with thousands of years of history, things like thumb-screws bored them. It also allowed Jyorng-Jagu to experiment with his favorite concept... Sanity.
That is the best explanation for it I could imagine. How do you torture someone who lives as long? Wounds heal, but the mind is more fragile than the thinnest crystal.
VERY well-written; I love your prose, and obviously the idea rocks as well. I agree with making sure about stressing the dangers, but I'd say this has more use as a plot hook or story-enhancing setting than an actual thing the PCs would be affected by. And I don't know why, but something about goats has also been a little dark-feeling. Unique and exellent!
Let's see... (Pulls out pencil) If you have 16 goat statues, each for 10 years... (hmmm...) the statue will need to transform 1.6 goats per year to keep up its numbers. If five or more goats remained in the neighborhood, the fountain would have an adequate supply of new statuary. On the other hand, if the details are reversed and the victims remain a goat for 10 years, then turn into a statue for three years, at least 5.33 victims are required annually. This would require a flock of approximately 54 goats wandering nearby.
(hmmm...) You didn't get your figures from that crazy shepherd guy, did you? You know that the crazy ones are no good at division!
Perhaps the heroes might pursue someone into the wasteland, only to discover that their quarry is now a goat. ('The good news is that we caught the famous bandit chieftan Bollerdosh and his vicious henchmen; we also rescued the prince from his clutches! The bad news is that we can't tell which goats are the bandits and which is the prince!)
Keep in mind the turnover of goats due to bad weather, predation and other factors. You will need to add a fudge factor to the goat count....
I have to inflict this on my party as a Hallowe'en game...
If they all get turned into goats, there could be an "interesting" adventure in there...
Goat, the Munching
The storyteller game where you play an indiscriminate omnivore seeking to reverse the Curse of Caprinity. Encounters could include wolves, sheep, testy druids and bridge trolls.
Trolls that force you to play bridge? Have mercy!
This thing is freaky and I personally would want to kill my DM for nailin me with something like this.
You just don't appreciate the opportunity for a caprine caper!
Don't let your GM get your goat! It's the ultimate challenge: Surviving the rigors of the desolate Iuhai desert as you struggle to reverse the curse, where the sparse and thorn-covered brush provides little nutrition, even to a goat...
I think that I need to write a plot using this... (Bwahahahaha!)
'Ultimate challenge' it may be, but I hate to sucker parties into death trap challenges just because I think it's time for a death trap challenge.
Had to pop this one back to the top after stumbling on it again.
Oh no, it is awake!
What would happen, if one were to kill all the goats? I think that would be the first step towards the fountain's destruction. (And knowing that so many innocent souls will be beyond recovery should pause many a do-gooder.)
The trouble with that is that, depending on how many goats there are, killing them could take quite a while
... long enough for the PCs to get turned into goats perhaps
... (sigh) here we go again
I love reading things that strike me as completely original, I know this post has already gotten a lot of love, but I will give it a little more.
How did you come up with this?
There was a submission titled 'Mountain of Boats'. As a joke, AG titled a forum thread, 'Fountain of Goats'. Those words inspired me greatly :)
I could have sworn I read and commented on this long ago, but reading it was entirely fresh, excellent work, Muro. This is my kind of madness!
Extremely evocative, and Murometz's explanation cleared up a couple of my questions, but two things stop me from giving this top rating.
First, why was this thing put in the middle of freaking nowhere? Even presuming the enchanter was cruel, insane and eye-corkingly powerful, this would make ten times more sense in and around some city or land. I'd be happier - and I think it'd add to the evocative text - were the Fountain to be situated among ancient ruins ... weathered down to bare rubble, perhaps, but SOMEthing. It'd set off the Fountain's pristine state all the better, and reduce the probability that the players are going to roll their eyes on realism grounds.
Second, I can't see the payoff. If "only the most powerful of magicks" can break the curse, it's not even that the average party can't handle it, most extraordinary parties can't either ... a killer trap, if you will, without much conceivable upside.
I can see a few possible uses for this.
First, a player agrees to start out with an insane character, someone who just finished up their time as a goat. It can be tricky, but having a character who is mad can add all sorts of fun and complications to a story.
Second, what do the players do when they discover that their bounty (who must be captured alive) has been turned into a goat? Especially if their employer is not the forgiving type.
I would love to see how players deal with trying to get close enough to examine an artifact that has such a nasty effect based solely on proximity.
Mm, now, that makes sense. I'd think this artifact would make more sense in a campaign where it was reasonably already a factor - the aforementioned player with an insane character, or a DNPC who'd been sucked into goatdom.
I come back to read this every once in a while, this most devious of traps in the Citadel! Beware the archeologist group of mine that will soon encounter herds of goats in the mountains overlooking the desert!
Just a perfect article which triggers much ideas but makes me also feeling uneasy.
Yes, it is the goats, a reminder of Baphomet and Shub-Niggurath perhaps even some primal reminder of things men were never ment to know or encounter.
Christ on a crutch this is creepy!