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During your travels, you spot a beautiful town in the distance silhouetted against clear blue skies. It rests on lush green fields filled with wildflowers, and you can see stone huts and buildings decorated with flower baskets and fresh wreaths. But as you draw closer, something feels wrong, and you notice it’s ominously silent.
There are no sounds one would associate with a village; no livestock calling out, or bird calls, nor the sounds of people or children laughing.
As you continue to make your way toward the village, something crunches underfoot. Lifting your boot, you see the bones of a dead bird, perfectly laid out as if the animal had been flying when it died. There is no sign of flesh, tendon, or cartilage on the bones, and they appear burned–but there’s no sign of fire anywhere else.
Looking into the fields, you suddenly see why there’s no livestock. Lying amidst the swaying green grasses are the bones of cows, goats, and various birds, positioned as if they, too, had been going about their lives when they suddenly died. Like the bird, there is no hint of flesh left on the bones, and they are blackened as if from fire.
Approaching the town, you hear the squeak of a rusty hanging shop sign being blown back and forth on the gentle breeze, overpoweringly loud in the silence. As you enter the village, scattered through the streets and the houses are the burned, skinless bones of the locals, still wearing their pristine clothing, jewellery, or other accoutrements.
Children died hugging pets, babies perished in the arms of their mothers, friends died talking in the street, others died perusing the shops or getting along in their day’s work. Like the animals, they all seem to have died suddenly, in the midst of their lives. Should you enter any of the homes, they are perfectly in order. Some appear to have perished in the midst of a family meal, food still ready on the plates, while still-warm pots of soup cool over the hearth fire. Whatever happened to this village, it was only shortly before you arrived.
While it’s clear those at the entrance to the town died going about their daily lives, as you move deeper into the heart of the village panic becomes apparent. The bodies there appear to have been running away from whatever it was that killed them, or hugging one another for comfort, or cowering.
As you look upon this macabre scene, you hear an echoing, monstrous wail coming from the town well. The sound rises and dims, changing into howls and back into eerie wails. If you approach and look into the well, you see it’s mostly dry, with a small puddle at the bottom. Sitting in the puddle and staining it red is a pale man in dirty, torn clothing, his calves bleeding and bones protruding from his kneecaps. He is raving mad from the pain.
Should you rescue him, he begs for help or mercy from his suffering. If you heal him, the man thanks you, gasping and still shaking from shock, before asking if you have a stiff drink. He looks upon the remains of the village, tears in his eyes and shaking his head, muttering to himself incoherently.
If you asked him what happened here, he introduces himself as Farvald and explains there was some kind of storm made of red embers which swept through the village. Anything an ember touched, the skin blackened and burned right off, FROM THE INSIDE, Farvald emphasises, saying the resulting ash swept up into the sky and disappeared. Nowhere was safe. Nowhere but underground. Nothing could stop the embers but the well, the well, the well, he mutters to himself, eyes glazing over.
More questions bring Farvald back to himself and reveal that the embers followed people as if alive and actively hunting them. Should you ask him where the storm was heading, he turns and points towards a mountain in the distance, before shaking his head and saying he’ll still hear the screams as they burned.
If you move to follow the storm, Farvald grabs your arm and insists on following you. The horror’s he’s seen seem to have shaken his hold on reality, and if you refuse he insists on going there on his own regardless.
The journey towards the mountain takes a few hours, but after only half an hour of traveling you begin noticing the sound of birds again. If you question Farvald as to why there are birds here if the storm came this way, he sheepishly admits he didn’t really see quite that well which way the storm was heading due to jumping in the well. He does mention however that his mother sang a children’s bedtime story regarding this mountain, a story designed to scare young children into behaving themselves. At least, that’s what he used to believe up until today. Then he sing’s the story as best as he can remember.
“In a mountain tall and steep,
Whispers echoed, secrets keep.
Legends speak of a history old,
Where heroes fought with hearts so bold.
Over 200 years ago, they say,
An invading force came to dismay.
Defenders climbed the peak so high,
In a final battle, they had to try.
When all seemed lost, hope nearly gone,
A whisper came from an ancient one.
An evil prisoner, seeking release,
Offered salvation, a twisted peace.
The commander, desperate and brave,
Accepted the offer, darkness to stave.
In exchange for freedom, the evil’s plea,
The ember storm unleashed, wild and free.
Its power engulfed the invaders fast,
Reduced to bones, a haunting contrast.
The ancient evil fulfilled its vow,
But darkness remained, as legends allow.
Now, my child, rest your weary head,
As I share this tale before you’re to bed.
Know that choices bear consequences true,
Beware dark deals that may ensnare you.
Dream of heroes, brave and true,
Who faced the storm and the enemy crew.
Their sacrifice reminds us strong,
To resist temptation to do wrong.”
He explains that he’s sure this mountain peak was the one in the rhyme, and must find the source of what was responsible for the deaths of his fellow villagers, it’s all that he wants now.
When you arrive near the mountain peak, you find it silent much like the town. As you make your way towards the peak, you see a humanoid-shaped individual standing upon a stone overhang, carving something into its hard surface with a finger. However, something seems deeply off about the person. The skin seems loose, fat rolls bunching around its wrists and ankles, as well as hanging in sagging jowls from its chin.
The individual turns to face you upon your arrival, its movements eerily fluid, squishy and inhuman–as if it has no bones. The flesh on its face hangs loosely, sagging around milky white eyes ringed by raw, bleeding muscle. Despite its mimicry of humanity, everything about it is slightly off; corpulent and disfigured.
Farvald breaks down, pushing past you and kneeling before the inhuman figure; exclaiming in excitement that he has brought it more flesh, more life for him and his brethren. He raves that he saw within the eye of the ember storm from the well, beheld the magnificence and power of Those Who Hunger who danced at its heart.
The shape etched in the stone behind the figure begins to glow an ominous orange and a heavy wind stirs up. Above you, the sky darkens and embers flicker and ignite in the distance; surrounding you as you find yourself within the eye of a new ember storm.
You can hear voices whispering to your mind, voices that hunger, that seek life and existence from beyond the void.
The inhuman figure standing before Farvald opens its wet, toothless maw in a smile that splits across its face, stretching and sagging lopsidedly. It reaches out a finger covered in tiny rolls of skin and touches Farvald on the forehead, and the madman’s body begins to change; filling from within, as if bloating with water, before Farvald’s skin splits and morphs into a giant, caterpillar-shaped mass of flesh covered with inhuman faces and writhing limbs. The monstrosity lumbers towards you, its many mouths moaning in hunger.
After the horror that was Farvald is defeated, the figure behind him steps back; turning to embers and dissipating with the storm around you. In the corners of your eye, you think you might have glimpsed other figures in the storm doing the same. Once the figures are gone, the whispering in your mind stops.
The air of the mountain now still, you’re surrounded by pure, unnatural silence. The only remnants of what happened is the faded sigil on the ground, and the mutated corpse at your feet.
Behind the ridge the inhuman being was standing on is a valley full of bones, as well as 200-year-old armor and rusty weapons. Deep amidst the ancient battlefield you notice some kind of giant, hollow, obsidian boulder that had been long ago split in two. If you inspect it, you find very faded ruins of sealing engraved in the surface, along with a dire warning against releasing the evil inside…
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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.