(Editor’s Note: This week, Robert has shared his space with new Ancient Scroll contributor Miroslav Gavrilov!)
The latecomers entered the depths
of the dwarven Dwellthrone fortress. They’d been individually summoned and the topic of their coming was kept secret even from themselves. After all, they would never doubt that such secrecy was needed, having been summoned by the Head Songshaper himself.
Here he was, his long beard split down the middle, his eyes gazing at the visitors. Dead. They didn’t see it at first, but this was the main chamber: the Songstone was here. It was here, but now it was broken, tiny shards of black rock covering the floor. The air around the broken pillar was filled with bluish lines leading out in all directions: the stone’s core detonated and the pieces escaped. This was a well known trick used by the dwarves. The hall was sacred: no voice was permitted to speak without question and consequence: The Songstones absorbed voices and grew or shrank to present them. They could tell stories, keep track of conversations, or even be works of art, in the hands of a songshaper. The newcomers knew this and, even though the stone was broken, they did not speak.
Other members of the secret council were found – all powerful, all renowned, all – without an exception – dead. With horror, an eerie realization creeped into the newcomers: some of the mightiest warriors, mages and priests of the White Circle were gone, smitten by an unknown force. Whatever it was, it may well still be here.
Only the stone knew. Assembling the stone would show the truth in all its cruelty.
The council had been planned as a means of captivating a dark and evil force. Luring it in was easy, members of the council would drop word of it to those they knew were spies and it wouldn’t risk not having a go at killing them itself. To be sure not to fall into a trap, though, it sent its forces out to some of the members, intending to delay them at worst and kill them at best, although not much hope was allowed. The plan worked, it delayed some of the members (which are appropriately made into PCs) and gave it a chance to slaughter the others. The stone recorded the fierce battle that took place around it, and broke into pieces when the council’s plan took place: they caught the evil and placed it into the stone, giving their own lives to do so. If they only had more people, it would have been exhausting, certainly dangerous, but not deadly. Having sealed it, the Head Songshaper’s last cry broke it, never to be restored.
Little did he know that anyone would seek it out.
Having been infused by evil, the stone’s core wouldn’t change in shape or size in reaction to a person’s voice, but rather stream and spread the influence buried inside it. Characters in possession of the stone’s core are more likely to get agitated, mad or delusional. Furthermore, shards that are left to lie by themselves sprout shades, armies of which are quietly infesting the depths of the fortress, drowning whatever glory it might have had.
The evil within the stone is quiet, lurking and wise: it gives no sign of itself, only a sad memory, full of grief, is observable. In reality, the more the stone is complete, the more horror the characters feel and, in a way, they are made to feel obliged to complete their task, seeking release. Dwellthrone is mysteriously abandoned; looting the fortress is an option. Finding riches in a haunted dwarven settlement means finding many cursed items and many vengeful ghouls, for distractions. Distractions arouse dialogue; dialogue takes characters into an emotional chasm if in the presence of the stone’s core.