It is not a large township, but a prosperous one, surrounded by fields of wheat, and orchards of apple, and pear. The wheat is tall in the field, but weeds push their green heads up through the sea of gold. The orchards are heavy with fruit, the branches bending under the weight. Why has none yet been harvested?
Animals loe in their pens, water all but gone, feed gone. Most have turned to eating what they can reach from their pens and stalls. Grass is mowed to the ground, and trees nearby are stripped of leaves and bark. Some animals have succumbed to hunger, or thirst. Some less scrupuluous have taken to eating their dead. Still, the bell tolls...
The outermost houses are empty, some doors stand open, curtains blowing in the wind. Windows are broken by the stones of vandals, and some of the houses have been tossed, valuables taken, breakables broken. No vandals are seen, and the tracks, if any seek them are at least two days old. Each house is the same, but all are looted of food stuffs, especially meats and cheeses. There is an unpleasant smell in the houses, a bitter coppery smell.
Along the way, there is a well, with a dipping bowl. Perhaps the heros will stop and drink from the bowl, and refill their water skins and canteens.
The walls are unmarred, no bolt or ballista has scored their surface. The gates stand open, there is a hand painted sign on the lefthand gate.
Father Preserve Us
The city inside is much the same, windows broken, and shops looted of valuables. Some valuables lie not far away, discarded for some unknown reason. There are no people, no bodies, no sign of battle or conflict, only petty vandalism. Still, the bell tolls on...
There is a large stone church, with a bell tower. The heros can see the bell, a shining brass piece rocking back and forth as the bell sings its clear note. The doors of the church are open, but there is a stinging smell coming from it, one that assaults the eyes, and upsets the nose, makes the stomach clench in nausea and the bowels liquid and weak. For it is the unmistakable scent of death.
They can hear a single voice, between the strikes of the bell, the voice is singing hymns, but which ones cannot be discerned unless the heros decide to investigate. If they do not, the singer comes forth from the church.
'They live my father...' the old man says, adorned with the vestments of a priest, cassock threaded with gold, and a mitre with humble jewels on it. The hem is stained with gore and mud, his hands wringing, more of the dark black crud under his nails. 'Preserve them, they live.'
'This is good, there is little room left in the catacomb. So many dead, yes, so many dead.'
- Dont Drink the Water - in a tale of unforseen consequences, the well is infested with the disease that destroyed the town. It is cholera, and as the town gathered more water to care for the ill, they spread the disease rapidly among them. If the PCs took water from the well, they have become infected/carriers of the disease. Can the characters find a cure, or do they spread the disease to the next town, or find the next town closed to them as suspected carriers of death?
- Poisoning the Well - The priest of the township is a hearty, and spiritual man who became dangerously upset when the town stopped accrediting its success to the blessing of the gods, and to the works of their own hands. The townsfolk became, in his eyes, decadent and corrupt, teasing about with sorcery, and indulging in gluttony and debauchery. He poured a cursed potion into the well and has punished the infidels for their evils. AS above, if the PCs have taken water, they have been poisoned, and have a limited amount of time to prove their 'worthyness' to the old priest, or find a suitable cure. A fairly normal investigation of the priest will ensure he confesses his deeds to the PCs, for the work of his god is not done in great secrecy.
- Song of the Dead - The township sits upon a confluence of necromantic essence, a congregation point for hungry ghosts, shades, and spectres. An alignment of the heavenloy bodies, coinciding with a lunar eclipse allowed the dead to rise, and they slew the living with their negative essence, stealing life with a touch. (ala The Phantoms from the Final Fantasy movie) The priest survives their nightly rising as the sound of the blessed bell keeps the ghosts at bay, but only so long as the bell rings. The ghosts are not very active during the day, but are drawn to the living at night. The old man is desperate, and half mad with sleep deprevation, and malnutrutition. The Heros have to find a way to eliminate the confluence of dark essence. This could be as easy as having the entire town purified and blessed, or as difficult as destroying the overabundance of essence by removing graveyards, and building monuments to the essence of life, and beauty.
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? Responses (14)
I could see another idea- perhaps, the Song of the Dead idea could be modified- the priest could be a necromancer, lich, or some sort of evil spirit, and the bell's ringing attracts the life-stealers rather than keeping them away. The Priest needs the life-energy of the people to sustain himself or something.
Very very good. I'll probably use this very soon.
When i read it, I first thought that due to some external danger, the people hid in the church, the bell being both a beacon to those seeking refuge and a shield against the danger.
One I do not understan - why the vandalism?
Vandalism is one of the first things that happens during the breakdown of civil authority. Some of the youngsters avoided the contaminant for a while, and as the other citizens weakened and died, they had a fling, broke stuff, and then themselves succumbed to the evil. Everyone died, but it didnt happen overnight, there was a breakdown of authority, and a surge in petty crime since there was no law enforcement.
Perhaps, it could be the first symptoms of the disease.
Or (the Song of the Dead option), the angry spirits could posess some people, and make their anger visible this way. That could be their activity at day.
RE: Disease Who knows, maybe it was a super strain with higher infection rate or could have a long incubation time so you were infected for days before symptoms showed (then apply a fast symptomatic period.... and well you get the idea).
I do like the fact that your plot branches and has so many delicious options.
A few more
-Divine Hand- Perhaps it is a blight from a diety rather than a mundane disease. PCs savy to modern infection control might avoid eating or drinking something in a plague area. But if it is diety blight, that will do them naught. Perhaps clerical magics no longer work in this town (clue to the PCs to get out of dodge) Perhaps only those that pray on a regular basis will survive (since PCs are not known to pray on a regular basis, even the clerics except to gain spells, this does not bode well for the intrepid adventurers).
-Payment Due- The wealth of the town was due to someone making a deal with an Evil Spirit 100 years ago. The Creature, not all that bad he held up his part of the bargin fairly and honestly, is just collecting his payment. If the PCs poke around, it will appear... scare the Bejeezies out of the PCs... ignore their best attacks... sniff them and say, 'Not you. You are not from around here.' If they talk to it, they might actually get some of the story.
There might be travellers left alive in the city. After all, they are not from around here. Of course, the creature is checking everything with a heart beat to make sure it gets it due.
-Payment Due II- The mayor from 100 years ago is now walking around the city. He is a little undead, but doing quite well for his age (choose flavor of undead or ghost). He gets to see what honest wealth they have generated due to his deal. He also gets to see all the death he just caused.
-Payment Due upon Delivery- There is banging on the OTHER SIDE of the catacomb door. Eventually somewhat undead folks will shuffle out from there. They will not attack people, nor eat their brains. They will simply go back to their lives. Of course they will be stinking zombies, but when has that bothered anyone. The Monster gave them their wealth. It collected their souls. If someone said it wasn't suppose to kill everyone, he will simply re-animate the corpses.
-The Mighty Struck Low- The cleric is mad. There are no bodies. There are only Rats. The people have become rats. After a few days of shock, the rats are remembering they were people. After they finish off all the local cats, they may be adverse to those who are looting their stuff.
One of the things that this brings to mind is an old woodcarving I saw in a textbook, called King Cholera. It showed a grim reaper, complete with grinning skull, exposed ribs and bony hands working the handle of a water pump, while a young woman and her children gathered water.
I must say I like this - a nice take on the old disaster mystery plot - definitely well up to your normal standard Scras - easily worth 4/5
BTW Moon - I really like your "Payment Due" option - I might just use this some day
This is great, thanks for the reccomendation Mourngrymn. I will be running it Sat March 4th, and will return to let y'all know how it went.
If anyone plays NeverWinter Nights and is interested, you can sign up here: http://www.neverwinterconnections.com/games/index.cfm/fuseaction/displaygame/id/22931.htm
Thanks. I'll update soon!
Scrasamax- I lack the mental energy to say anything constructive right now, and I tire of telling you how much I enjoy your writing. :)
need to go google Grinning Reaper/King Cholera now *sigh*
Its Great! *he says meekly*
Moon's comments are ellucidating as usual too
We have been spammed bigtime. Oh, and 5/5 for this submission btw.
Niftiness! 'nuff said!
This was one of the Tales of the Road, long before Tales of Adventure was suggested as a format here...
(Added to the Codex!)
This was my 34th submission, when I was still new to the Citadel. It was a different place then, the palate was sepia tone, there were fewer categories and sometimes we could go a week without a new submission being dropped. It seems almost surreal to me that I wrote this almost 3 years ago.
Those were good times, too. :)
And just for the record: the sepia look is still among the palettes.