Insertable Encounters # 2 The Gallows at the Cross Roads
Amongst those who seek to discern the form of the unknowable and define the shape of the ineffable arcane, few are the equal of Gyahzeere the Skryarch. Heretic priest of Boccob-Delleb and eldritch diviner, from his velvet cushioned marble throne-divan beneath the azure dome of his great sanctum psychomanteum; Gyahzeere seeks to know all that is unknown through the art of thaumaturgic extrospection.
Recently, ripples and perturbations in the arcaethosphere have pulled at the edges of his expansive consciousness. Disturbances of a texture and quality unfamiliar to the mystic seer of Urnst have draw his attention to the east and south, to that no-man’s land contested by Nyrond, the Bone March, and the Great Kingdom. The grim Lands of the Unending March.
Gyahzeere does not know what it is that causes the intermittent magical turbulences which intrude upon his prophetic divinations, yet he can discern that if it is not spell work, it is still magic of some sort, and powerful enough to resonate across many leagues.
As his magic has thus far provided him little insight into the matter, Gyahzeere now considers choosing a cat’s paw to send forth to reconnoiter directly. The Skryarch is a most generous employer; coin has little meaning to his ever questing soul. Prospective agents soon learn, however, that acting in the interests of Gyahzeere may bring most unsettling consequences.
Concurrently, as the diviner-mage ruminates on which path to understanding is the most applicable; another already near upon the source of the hidden magic has begun to gather up the loose threads of happenstance.
Hearozaul the Shining Priest, devotee of Pholtus, adherent of the Rightful Way, the curiosity of his brilliant mind piqued, has commenced to acquire and scribe accounts of inexplicable and apparently, “miraculous” events which have taken place within and about a large area which appears to center upon the town of Borlem.
The stories which Hearozaul has thus far gathered seem to have no relationship, one with another, and yet the Enlightener feels there must be one. He prays that Pholtus cast his revealing luminosity upon that which remains shadowed.
Among the accounts the Shining Priest has quilled upon the pages of his journal of inquiry to date;
That of the kind, but quite homely, goose girl who, before the very eyes of the shoemaker’s children, was enveloped in color and suddenly became a ravishing beauty.
The account of the four days rain of wine which fell only upon the estate of Samsar the Vintner, killing all of his grape vines.
The foul death of Wamsucsh the Usurer, the cause of whose demise was later found to be that a very large rat had somehow crawled up his arse, and there, died.
The beautiful music which played from thin air for the space of one hour in the taproom of the Blue Boar Inn.
The scrawny cow of the charitable crone of Duhn which began giving foaming ale rather than thin milk, and apparently still does so.
The tale of how Secoulm the Riff of Lunh met with his bizarre demise, vomiting forth gallons of urine before,” drowning “in the street, his lungs filled with piss.
Hearozaul has expended a great deal of his personal time upon investigating these happenings, but as yet, has reached no conclusions. Something turns aside his priestly magical enquiries. The constant threat of the inhuman raiders across the Harp commands the lion’s share of his attention. The infirmities of the fearful peasantry demand his action.
As his superiors in the order evince no interest in what they declare to be minor devilry or else random arcane circumstance, Hearozaul now muses over the possibility of hiring a spadesman to turn the ground in his stead and perhaps unoerth further clues to the puzzle which tugs at his robe.
Unknown to either the Priest of the Shining One or to the Master Skryer, the source of both the eldritch turbulence and the inexplicable occurrences is in fact, the worn and lonely gallows pole which stands at a dusty cross roads some small distance from Borlem.
In that endless moment before death and judgment, those who die by the noose upon the pole are spoken too by a voice which only they may hear. The voice asks no bargains and makes no demands. It instead offers a final Wish to the condemned, requiring nothing in return. The only limit attached to the wish is that it may not prevent the death of the recipient.
All of the unexplained events, (save the music in the Blue Boar), are the results of the last wishes of those who have hung from the gallows pole. This is magic of no small power.
The source of the voice is unknown, likewise the reason for its offer. Not all who die upon the gallows at the crossroads are spoken too by the voice. Why some are granted this final “gift” and others are not is also unknown.
The gallows at the crossroad may be inserted into an existing campaign in many forms and serve many purposes. It may be that the PCs are hired as investigators by one or the other of the concerned parties. It may be that a friend, hireling, acquaintance or relative of the PCs dies on the gallows and by way of the wish embroils the PCs in unexpected events. If your group is sufficiently thespian in leanings, in may be that one of the PCs themselves swings from the pole.
The gallows may be used as a hook, or an entry point to adventure, and also as an end point.
The voice may belong to any number of beings, mortal, infernal or divine, or other. Perhaps the speaker gains in some way from the deaths of the hanged. Perhaps it only rewards those who died wrongly. Perhaps it offers the final wish as a test.
It may be that something lies buried beneath the pole, or perhaps nearby. The cross roads itself may be the center of the magic rather than the pole, certainly cross roads have the reputation of drawing the unoerthly. A gate of some sort may be connected to the cross roads.
I like to have things like this in The Game and simply not explain them. The imaginations of the players will often conjure forth more lurid and terrifying suspicions than I could have stated out myself. I love a thick atmosphere of mystery and weird fear to marinate the players in, before their PCs get eaten.