In the high-mountain ranges of the Black Riage lays a village with some peculiar features. High above the features float carved rock faces of alien beings, neither recognisable as human nor visitant. From a bygone age in a prior world, whatever beings carved these great stone heads and left them floating in the air are now long gone. High up in these mountain ranges, there are no sources of water or food except for those provided by the stone heads, for the heads do more than just float.
One head, a vaguely humanoid face with a large, crooked nose and pointed ears spills out fresh drinking water from its insectile, mandibled mouth in great torrents at random intervals. Because it is so large and drifts in position over the village, there is no place safe from it when it does emit water and often huts are crushed and people drowned.
The other head, looking like something that could vaguely be described as a seven-eyed bird with tentacles surrounding its beak, regularly (every 7 hours) produces a swarm of insects not unlike locusts. These insects are short-lived, seemingly not liking the atmosphere or cold air of the high mountains, but while they are alive they hungrily consume any crops in the immediate area. Nowadays, there are rarely any crops grown because the villagers below just eat the insects instead, sweeping them up as they die off and fall out of the air and using the water they collect to mush them up into all manners of stews, pastes and other foods.
The people of the village worship the two heads as the twin aspects of a single god, the giver of life and death. Periodically, maybe once every 50 years or so, one of the heads descends to the ground and the villagers choose a sacrifice to appease the god, sending the villager into the mouth of the god. When the villager disappears, the head closes its mouth and ascends. The sacrifice is never seen again.
Geting the Players Involved
Having only become recently aware of the remote and difficult to reach village, some Aeon Priests have shown a lot of interest in examining the heads. The water head is due to descend soon and the priests have not heard from the lone priest they had stationed there. While they aren’t surprised, as sending messages back and forth is an arduous task at best, with the upcoming descent, they are afraid that the opportunity will be missed and they will have to wait another 50 years for a chance to explore and examine the head.
An Aeon Priest, Aka Uberg, is keen to hire some adventurers to help her make her way to the village and to protect her once she is there. She explains that the villagers didn’t even know Truth before their first emissary arrived and so the priest already there, Eben Gaffney, was acting as a missionary of sorts, teaching the village of the Steadfast, the Truth and the mission of the Aeon Priests and the Amber Papacy. Eben has been alone with the villagers for months and missed the last months correspondence (through no fault of his own, she adds, the way up through the mountain pass was unsafe due to storms, so the messenger could not make it through).
While Aka does not have a lot to offer in way of payment, she can assure the players will be recorded as helpers in the uncovering of a great new discovery and that whatever the players find there, they can keep as long as they allow the priesthood to examine any objects first.
Scar Trek / Parasite God
The path through the Black Riage was only discovered less then 6 months ago. It is a long and dangerous trek across a jagged scar in the side of the mountain. The path winds its way near the territories of the vicious lattimors at Mencala Peak and it’s been theorised that the odd looking humans of this lost settlement might be the reason the lattimors are so violent toward human beings, perhaps in the past the villagers enslaved or killed them, or worse.
Bleached human bone is scattered along the trail, but it is clearly very old and it’s reasonably safe to assume that no humans have travelled these paths or been killed by lattimors here in a very long time. The floor of the Scar Trek, as Aka calls it, is very smooth, and Aka explains with some eagerness that they believe it is due to run-off from the water head at the village, running down the mountain side and over hundreds, if not thousands of years, it has polished the floor of the path smooth and no doubt was the cause of the eventual revealing of the trail.
The Scar Trek
Due to it’s smooth floor, the Scar Trek in winter or rain is extremely dangerous. When wet, it is slippery and the wrong footing can send the unwary traveller slipping and sliding to their deaths. In winters, ice and snow turns the path into an ice chute, making it impossible to walk up and making the descent a dizzying slide towards a final impact against hard stone and jagged rocks.
If you want to set the time during bad weather, have the players make a series of rolls to beat a balance tasks of difficulty 3, otherwise they slip and take 1d20 might damage as they fall and slide and tumble. You may also want to make use of GM Intrusions to keep them on their toes. A fun intrusion might be to introduce a wandering lattimor scout from Mencala Peak and have a slippery, precarious battle ensue to demonstrate the deadly and dangerous nature of the trail.
The village is a bleak and desolate affair. With very little plant life up here in the high mountains due to the harsh environment, the village is little more than crudely built stone and mud huts. Despite the bitter cold, the people living here are mostly naked except for loin cloths and jerkins. They don’t seem bothered by the cold. Most of their arms are covered with elaborate tattoos and their hair hangs in messy, greasy looking dreadlocks. The strangest thing though is their faces. Their skin has a pale, almost white pallor to it but their eyes are ringed darkly and their lips black. Their noses are large and hooked and their ears tall and pointed. Aka points out that Eben believed that it was the water and food they had up here from the god heads that slowly turned them this way over many years, according to his reports.
The villagers spot the newcomers and with carved stone spears, threaten the group but don’t attack. They speak in strange tongues but a few words of broken Truth come through. …outsider…drown…prophet…god…
Aka tries to communicate, explaining they are peaceful and mean no harm. She asks to see Eben and when she speaks his name, the spearmen look to each other and then gesture that the group should follow. Lead at spearpoint, they are lead up to a mound of rock on which a huge flat stone is stood. Crucified on the stone using flints hammered into crack in the rockface is Eben and like the villagers, his face and skin has changed to the hooked nose, pale skin and dark lips. The same tattoos as on other villagers adorn his body and as the group approaches, he opens his eyes and turns to look at them.
He barks something in the villagers native tongue and they leave, retreating to nearby huts where they watch quietly.
Aka goes to examine him, but he yells out.
Stop! Come no closer. I am not in pain, I am where I want to be. I was wrong, Aka, these people are not ignorant savages. They know more then we will ever know and soon I will know it too. I have been given a great honour - they love their parasite god, but me, they crucify me. I will drown in the water of life and be reborn anew. The bringer of hunger, the one that drowned the world, their god is truly a god, Aka. Wait with me, watch my ascension, be my sacrifices. I will become their parasite god and I will show you all who you really are.
There is a stillness in the air as all the wind abruptly ceases and Eben turns back to the villagers, barking more words in their strange tongue. With spears held out, they surround the group and Eben as other begin praying and chanting. High above, a great stone head descend until it is hovering above Eben. Its mandibled mouth opens wide and water pours forth in a huge stream so thick and fast that Eben is completely invisible behind the flow of water. The water spills out across the village, turning the ground to mud and overflowing the area until the players are almost a foot deep in dark water. Then, the water stops and Eben is gone, just disappeared from the soaking wet rockface, the stone flints that were holding him in place still lodged in the rock. The large stone on which Eben had been crucified begins to rotate, forming a ramp into the stone head’s mouth. The mandibles pull back to reveal a deep, dark entrance way that doesn’t seem to get any lighter despite any light source and the group are ushered in at spear point, but not forcefully. Clearly the group is expected to enter willingly, the spears there only if they change their minds and attempt to flee.
Aka says that, while the circumstances are not what she was hoping for, this is why they came and an opportunity they can not turn down. She entreats the players to be brave and unless the players move past her, she takes the first step into the mouth and fades from view into the inky blackness within.
The players may decide they want to attack the villagers, even as Aka begs them not to.
The villagers are not very strong and have only rudimentary knowledge of combat, so are not much of a threat. As long as at least one person enters the mouth, they fight only in self-defence, choosing instead to flee. If no-one enters, they fight to the death until one of the ‘chosen sacrifices’ enter.
- To survive
- The villagers are quite hardy and can be considered to have +1 armour at all times, despite their near-nakedness
- The villagers circle and use their spears to maintain distance, jabbing occasionally and trying to force their opponents to retreat into the mouth.
- The villagers can speak, but their understanding of the Truth is minimal and they know only a few words and phrases. They try their best to make themselves understood if spoken to, trying to explain that the group are chosen by god and that Eben is will meet them in paradise.
If the players do not end up entering the stone head, as long as it has a single sacrifice (which, unless they stop her, will be Aka) it rises back up into the sky. Otherwise it remains hovering by the ramp and neither new water, nor more insects emerge from either head until a sacrifice is made. One of the villagers will volunteer themselves if the players and/or Aka do not enter eventually, after which the head rises again, but there is no more water or insects for 3 days.
Aka is furious if the players stop her from entering. She accuses them of hating knowledge and discovery, or some other motive that would take away her choice and free will, and she is deeply offended to have been ‘rescued’. The only amends she will accept is for the players to find some way to get her up to the stone head so they can go inside - she is not waiting another 50 years for an opportunity.