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While visiting a desert town by a great river, you stop by a tavern named the Sable Oryx. Stepping inside, you see the giant head of an oryx mounted on the far wall, high above a fire pit with spit-roasting meat turned by a young, shy boy. After sitting down at one of the sumptuous rug and pillow covered eating areas, a young man in his late teens approaches, asking if you’re mercenaries open to hire.
The man has caramel coloured skin with black hair and dark eyes, he introduces himself as Riyad. Though he wears the colorful tasseled garb of the locals, he explains he isn’t from here originally, but from a no-longer existent desert settlement further upstream. He explains his adopted mother and father found him floating in a moses basket in the river, washed up against some reeds, and took him in as one of their own. He’s had a good childhood, with 7 other brothers and sisters, but he longs to know what happened to his people.
You see, when his parents found him, there was blood on his blankets. So the first thing his adopted father did was rally the local fighters and ride out to the upstream village he must have drifted down from, but the fighting party was too late. Everyone in his birth village was already dead. Massacred. It appeared that a giant sand worm had come through and slaughtered everyone, which is a terrible sign of displeasing the gods. The fighters didn’t hang around long enough to find out what his birth village did to cause the beast’s ire, fearing the great worm would return and wreak vengeance upon them too.
Though he loves his family, he needs to know what exactly happened to his birth parents. If they were evil and displeased the gods, like he’s feared, or if it was something else. He’s never gone back to the remains of the village, as the area is considered cursed and dangerous. Everyone avoids it. His mother won’t permit him to go alone, so he needs to hire you for protection before going to the site of the massacre and seeing what he can find. If you help him, he can pay you in the carved amethyst animals and idols that his village specializes in making.
Should you agree, the next day you head out on horses to the location of the decimated village, following the muddy river upstream into harsher desert lands for the better part of a day, before you reach the opening of a canyon. Riyad explains that from what he’s learned his people were nomadic, only settling in one place for a few weeks or a month before moving on. They would live in tents, shepherding sheep and selling thick cloths woven from animal hair, white messenger doves, or trained hunting falcons. Apparently, many of the nomads were distant cousins to the people of his adopted village, which is why they rode out to protect them–they still felt some kinship, especially against unknown enemies.
As you enter the mouth of the cavern, Riyad quietens and notes that this is where the village was meant to have been. If you’re not careful where you walk, you hear the crack of dried bones breaking beneath your footsteps, and looking down you see they’re human.
There doesn’t seem to be any danger, so Riyad begins inspecting the remains of the village. The whole canyon floor is strewn with human bones. Amongst them, partially buried by the sands, are the tattered rags left over from the tents they used to live in, rugs, or pillows. Riyad checks the walls of the canyon for engravings, searches the floor for books or scrolls, but finds nothing illuminating. Any scrolls that he finds are so brittle they turn to dust when he touches them.
Just as Riyad sighs in defeat and is ready to leave, you feel a rumbling in the sands beneath your feet. A giant sandworm emerges from the desert floor–but its mummified flesh hangs loosely around an undead, skeletal frame and cruciform jaws.
The undead worm attacks with ferocious bites as well as its undulating tail. After you get a few hits in, it backs off and regurgitates undead skeletons which rise to attack you, before the worm leaping into the fray again.
Once defeated, the worm almost breathes a giant sigh of relief as it dies. Then the purple ethereal form of a very old man glimmers to light over its dead body. He wears robes and a headscarf, and looks to Riyad. “Thank you for freeing me, grandson,” the ghost says. He explains, a hitch in his voice, that he was once the chief of this tribe, but he feared death. Seeking immortality, he cast his soul into the body of this great worm, but in so doing was driven mad. To his horror, he killed those who had once been his family; the entire tribe.
He has learned his lesson from such a terrible fate, the man continues, and can only hope to try to make amends. He says that he will bring the dead tribe back to life and undo the evils that he, in his ignorance, wrought. With a wave of his hand and a few guttural words, the dead in the canyon begin to rise. For a moment the ghost seems proud of himself, before he notices the unholy purple light shining from their eyes.
The ghost gulps and stutters, saying oh my, well then, as I said thank you grandson for freeing me from my torment! It’s high time I move onto the afterlife. Blessings upon you! With that, the ghost glimmers out, leaving you alone with the undead tribe as they stagger towards you.
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LUKE: The founder of Seafoot Games, Luke's been making maps and RPG games since he was a child, and spent over a decade creating his own game systems from scratch to play with his brothers. That was before he discovered other TTRPGs existed. Now, he paints the realistic grimdark fantasy battlemaps we're known for, helps write adventures as needed, and spends his free time printing and painting 3D minis, as well as working on his forever in-development TTRPG system.
BEB: Luke's wife, Beb's been writing, painting, and graphically designing things her whole life. She published her first book when she was 20, alongside a handful of sci-fi short stories, and was responsible for writing almost all of our adventures until mid 2022 when Steve joined the team. Now she mostly creates the outlines for the adventurer's guides with Luke, graphically designs documents, handles the bookkeeping (or as she likes to call it, bureaucrat wrangling), and manages the website—but she is slowly delegating these responsibilities, so she can focus on raising her and Luke's beautiful son.