An ancient barbarian epic poem holds the clues for finding a forgotten set of ruins, which according to that same poem are filled with treasures and leftovers of gruesome sacrifices. But the skald who was going to share the poem has dissappeared, after getting mixed in the barbarian intrigues of Thistle Hold.
Now its up to the characters to rescue him, while avoiding other parties that won’t allow the poem to be shared, if they want to reach the ruins.
Plainly named “The Travel of The First Settlers”, it was composed by zarekian skaldi centuries ago, based on tales even older, it tells about the journeys of the first zarekians, until they founded their clan. It is considered apocryphal, but the geographical accounts and the locations of some taboo ruins it describes has proven to be so precise that the poem has become taboo itself to the clan. Even then, some abridged versions are still narrated.
The structure of the poem is complex, in a good deal due to the mixture of old dialects and modernized parts. Also because, even though it is a long poem which take hours to be told in full, it has never been written and is always shared orally.
The important piece for the story is the one where the first settlers visit what its described as the field of the spiral. A spiral of pits, each bigger than the previous, ending in a huge abyss where a dark god lurks. All visitors to this place have to throw a sacrifice into one of the pits, may it be a treasure or a friend, or be enthralled forever by the dark god.
Beginning the story
It is best that the characters already have a small knowledge about the field of the spiral, maybe from other legends, or an abridged version of the poem, and want to search for more clues. By sheer luck they end in the Legends, a tavern in Thistle Hold, the same night that a bard is reciting a barbarian poem, where the field of the spiral is described.
The bard is Blackhawk, a travelling minstrel, but the epic tale he is singing is not his own but an adaptation from a poem by a friend of his, the barbarian skald Elomon from the clan Zarek. He was supposed to be telling it today. The problem is that Elomon has dissappeared.
He has the following bits of information to share with the group:
– Apparently the poem is rarely shared by the barbarians themselves, this was going to be a special ocasion.
– Elomon was resting at the Witch and the Familiar, a local inn.
– He was going to expend a few days in town before leaving.
– He also talked about meeting someone, but Blackhawk doesn’t know who.
The poem is incomplete, as Blackhawk is repeating it from memory, so Elomon is needed to fill the gaps. But if he dies or dissappears from any reason there are other ways to get the clues.
While he would never write any of his poems, he does carry a tool to help himself to remember and recite them. His staff is covered by carved lines that tell the metric and rythm of the poem. This by itself is not enough, but if somebody who know ancient barbarian could get parts of the poem it would help him to fill some of the holes.
Other barbarians, for example witches such as Yoramon or Agdala, might also know the poem. They won’t be willing to share the parts about the ruins without a good reason.
The Missing Skald
Elomon has run into problems with another member of his clan, Beregon, another skald with which he has an old feud. Beregon convinced Elomon to meet him tonight next to the Beacon. This was a trick. He sent a group of thugs (a bunch of barbarian which came with him) to beat him within an inch of his life.
But just as things were going bad Alomar arrived. More information about him can be found in The Witch Hammer, but it is enough to know he was fearing those barbarians were after his mother, so he planned to kill them.
Now Elomon, who took the chance to flee, is badly wounded and in hiding.
Things Get More Complex
There is another barbarian interested on what is going on: Yoramon, the witch of Vicona, the barbarian envoy. First of all she wants to stop the skaldi from sharing the taboo poem, she’s also interested on finding out who is killing barbarians in the city, which she has found out are mostly from the Zarek clan.
Searching for the Skald, and a Confrontation
The time they took to look for Elomon will mark the difficulty to find him. If they look for him that same night a trail of blood and bodies will guide them to the wounded skald. If they wait till the morning a squad of goblins will be cleaning that mess as best as they can.
Wathever they do they will be stalked, by Yoramon’s agents or by Alomar. This will no doubt end in a confrontation, when one of the sides decides to get the better of each other.
If all goes well the characters will end with Elomon alive, who will share the poem with them as a token of apreciation and gratitude. If things go badly Yoramon’s agents, or even Alomar, will arrive first. Or maybe all of them will meet at the same time.
Alomar may be convinced to spare the skald. Yoramon is not planning to hurt him, unless it’s necessary, but the witch will be the worst of the two. She will make sure by any means necessary that the knowledge of the ruins is kept hidden.