A pair of young lovers, one Ambrian and the other Varek have decided to elope without the blessing of their families. They have chosen an ancient and much storied willow tree at which to conduct the ceremony. Precisely because of its auspicious nature, however, the willow tree has also drawn the attention of a cult seeking to defile the tree at the same time as the wedding.
The willow was ancient centuries ago, and has long been described in terms laden with years. Barbarian, and more recently, Ambrian, folklore include accounts of the willow’s miraculous and curative powers to those suffering from injury or sickness. Once directed to the willow’s general location, identifying it from is not difficult. The tree’s branches are heavy with offerings from Ambrian, Barbarian, and even goblin hands. The willow is a sentinel of the resilience and spirit of the various people who have lived and died in the region.
It was precisely because of the willow’s properties that Rosalyin suggested to her betrothed, Mikel, that it would be the ideal site for their wedding. Quick to appreciate the auspiciousness of the place, Mikel agreed without reservation.
Unbeknownst to the wedding party, cultists are preparing a ritual of their own on the same time and place. The Seekers of the Gilded Path seek to desecrate the grounds and end the willow’s power. The bridal party, being as modest in size as it is, not only does not pose much of a threat to the cultists, but could in fact find itself being included into the sacrifice, and thus, ironically, strengthening the rite of desecration.
That is, unless the player characters intervene.
Rosalyin and Mikel have decided to undertake the ceremony in secret out of an accurate sense that neither of their parents would approve of the union. Rosalyin is the daughter of a landless Ambrian noble and veteran of the war, and Mikel the son of a Varak war leader. After a handful of intense, passionate, and furtive discussions about their respective families, they have come to the firm belief that the only hope for peace and prosperity is a new community based on greater unity between the Ambrian and Barbarian leaders and people.
Neither family is aware of the pending union. Rosalyin’s father plans to wed Rosalyin to a family of landed Ambrian nobility, thus increasing his own wealth. Meanwhile, Mikel’s father seeks to forge strategic bonds of his own among the complex network of prominent Varak families. Being young and idealistic, neither Rosalyin nor Mikel have given much thought to the consequences their union will have for their families in the face of wider machinations of New Berendoria and Varakko. They are also very much in love, and intoxicated by the shape of their imagined destiny to bring a new era peace and prosperity to the region.
Rosalyin and Mikel have made all the arrangements for their marriage, and all that is left is to gather the officiant and a small handful of trusted witnesses. Brother Edmunt, a sympathetic missionary from Father Sarvola’s faction from Thistle Hold, has agreed to perform the ceremony. The couple have asked all invitees to exercise the greatest of discretion in order to avoid drawing attention. A nearby inn, some two-days’ walk from the willow, is expected to serve as the muster point for the player characters, where they will meet Blackhawk.
Following a series of strange visions, Giosario, the leader of the Seekers of the Gilded Path, has decided that the willow is an obstacle to his path to power in the region, and has directed his followers to undertake a human sacrifice at its roots. A young boy kidnapped from a poor farm is to serve as the centrepiece of the ritual. The Seekers are not anticipating the wedding party, but are prepared to take advantage of their good fortune, to add as many to their human sacrifice as possible.
Should the Seekers complete the sacrifice, the corruption generated by the ritual will overwhelm the ancient willow, and lead to its transformation into a fearsome blight beast seeking to devour anyone within its reach. Should the beast be unopposed, it will set off along the river, devouring anyone in its path, gradually growing in strength, until it threatens Sevona itself.
The player characters could be trusted friends of either Rosalyin or Mikel invited to the wedding; a hired escort to provide protection as the couple make journey to the willow; or dispatched by members of the couple’s family to prevent the marriage from taking place either by convincing them that they can still work towards their goals of increasing bonds between New Berendoria and the Varak clans while still remaining on good terms with their families.
Either by following their trail, or the directions provided by the couple, the party has mustered at the Still River Inn three days’ west of Sevona to replenish any supplies, rest, and obtain directions to the willow if they did not receive them from the couple themselves. The inn is filled with adventurers, mercenaries, and traders making their way along the river near Sevona. One guest, however, is unmistakeable and commands the casual attention of nearly everyone in the inn: Blackhawk the troubadour.
Blackhawk moves among the patrons making fulsome introductions to every new arrival, and pays particular attention to any adventurers apparently burdened by either travel or coin. Should he be offered a drink, Blackhawk will enthusiastically recite any tale to the patron’s liking. If asked about the willow, Blackhawk’s eyes light up: “Ah, a helpless romantic I see. I have a few songs, of course, though I fear any of them would move the room to tears. The willow has a habit of drawing the desperate and dewy-eyed. Sometimes the tales end in miraculous blessings, but too often, wrenching heartbreak.” Blackhawk is happy to talk about what he has heard of the willow, along with any gossip about the region. If Blackhawk learns that the party intends to visit the willow, or better still, that a young couple are to elope under its canopy, he will insist on coming along to pay his respects.
Any player characters wishing to study secrets of the willow benefit from a +1 on a Lore test after having spent a few hours listening to Blackhawk’s tales. If successful, they conclude that the willow is reputed to be able to reduce the effects of blight marks. Furthermore, parts of the tree, properly collected, could serve as consumable alchemical remedies against blight and corruption.
During the night before the ceremony, members of the cult captured brother Edmunt on his way to the willow, and have learned of the impending wedding. Giosario has instructed his disciples to take the wedding party unawares, one at a time, and to slay any who they could not capture.
The Seekers of the Gilded Path are a group of Ambrian nobles who have reconstructed a tradition from philosophical fragments from Alberetor’s polytheistic era, mixed with pieces of Davokar and Barbarian lore. They see the current period of uncertainty as corresponding to a mytholgical conflict they have read into the fragments of ancient texts and believe that the time is right for decisive action.
The total number of cultists equal the number of player characters +3.
There are many ways in which the scenario can end, and many ways in which it can continue.
If the cult is defeated or dispersed and the marriage is completed, Rosalyin and Mikel will be eternally grateful to the player characters. The couple plans to retreat to Mikel’s homestead in Varak before making a formal announcement to Rosalyin’s family. As predicted, Rosalyin’s father will rage against the union, believing his daughter has been kidnapped and offering a reward for any adventurers able to return her. The player characters may then be involved in convincing Rosalyin’s father that she has made the choice of her own free will, and that he should find other ways of reconciling with his daughter.
If the marriage is disrupted by the cultists, and Rosalyin or Mikel seriously wounded or worse, either will stop at nothing to expose the Seekers and take their revenge.
If the cultists succeed in completing their ritual sacrifice of the boy, the willow will be defiled, and will become a mighty blighted monstrosity that will tear its roots from the ground and terrorize the countryside.
The motivations among Rosalyin, Mikel and the cultists are not so different. All are responding to a sense of timely uncertainty in the area, and are driven by the sense that a new era is close at hand. While Mikel and Rosalyin have chosen one path to manifest his concerns, the cultists have chosen another. Should the turn of events justify it, Rosalyin and Mikel could even succeed in convincing members of the cult that there is a better way to their ends; or vice versa.
Mikel (see Guard Warrior p. 216 of Symbaroum Core Rulebook)
Rosalyin (see Queen’s Ranger, p. 212 of Symabroum Core Rulebook)
Brother Edmunt, missionary (See Ansel, p. 241 of Symbaroum Core Rulebook)
Seekers of the Guilded Path
Giosario, Cult leader (see Cult Leader, p. 211 of Symbaroum Core Rulebook)
The Whip, enforcer (see Robber Chief, p. 211 of Symbaroum Core Rulebook)
Cultists (see Cult Follower, p. 211 of Symbaroum Core Rulebook)
Blighted Ancient Willow (see Primal Blight Beast, p. 228 of Symbaroum Core Rulebook)