South of the walls of Yndaros in the arable land that serves the demanding consumers of the city lies a contorted tumble of rocks surmounted by trees. The spot rises above the ploughed field around it like an island in a lake of rippled soil, bounded in Summer by crops and in Winter by churned dirt.
But why does this odd little island remain when the interests of the city require farming to expand and the land to provide?
Roll a d6 to generate the history of the spot, or choose the option that best fits the challenges, themes or style of your Symbaroum campaign:
A Vengeful Curse
1.—The knotted tor has a reputation as a place of balance, wherein those in a state of ill-health might find the mean to mend, else wither and die with rapidity.
The barbarians associate the place with a spirit, Mene, who they claim seduced the son of a unnamed chief of a long-forgotten tribe. Angered by the unnatural union, the chief had his witch prepare a curse that he cast upon the spirit; alas, her joining with his son reflected the curse and he sickened instead, even as she seemed to grow stronger. Mene took pity on her lover and brought him to this knob of rock out in the wilderness, whereupon she used her powers to restore him, but in turn gave up some measure of her power – like a reparation of the balance.
Most sages and scholars doubt the varacity of the tale or its connection with the spot—but nevertheless the location does seem to possess some strange power to assist with acts of healing.
The Hidden Watch
2.—Evidence of worked stone upon the site suggests that the eruption of stone, now thick with trees and low vegetation, once served as a watchtower. A vantage point south of the river overlooking low and open land, the two (or three) storey tower provided ample warning for the watchers within. Indeed, ploughing in the field has turned up flattened slabs that suggest the area once supported a paved and level road—something of which many within the Ambria realm might be justly jealous.
Part of the tower remains below ground, but inaccessible to all but those who know the right way to adjust one of the extant rocks. At present, that knowledge lies with a small band of barbarian brigands who maintain a guerrilla campaign against their oppressors—like a Robin Hood-style bandit; stealing from the Ambrians to give to the Thief King.
The subterranean lair offers peepholes that allow the occupants to see both to the north and the west, allowing them to monitor traffic on the road and keep watch on activity in the Southern Temple district to the north. They often make dash and snatch raids on travellers and traders around dawn or twilight—striking out on the road and then circling around the vanishing without trace.
Sweet Eran’s Gold
3.—Few things made their way from home—too many refugees fled with little more than the clothes on their backs and a desperate will to survive. In recent times, stragglers have come across with a little more to their names than rags and a few coins, but even they forget what they leave behind.
A farmer called Arkerio made a point of remembering to bring something more with him, a few seeds and young trees from his orchard. Arkerio suffered terrible hardship in his travels and his family lost his only son—Eran—in that fateful journey. What now sits on this tumble of rocks and earth perpetuates his name.
Arkerio bought land and planted his trees, blessing them in Eran’s name and calling on Prios to show his benevolence. In the many years since, those young trees grew strong and fierce, rising with considerable pace that might suggest an unnatural provenance.
The apples that grow from those trees, a variety called Eran’s Gold, have their origins in Ambria and a lineage that goes back hundreds of years. Arkerio presses the fruit to make cider and a thick liquor that’s popular, so he claims, with the Queen herself. His wife also makes tartlets and pies, as well as spiced preserves that glitter like jars of gold.
Arkerio has plentiful harvests and has never suffered blight or loss in all the seasons that have passed—something that hasn’t been missed by certain rivals and educated experts who query the nature of the fertile ground beneath.
4.—Traditions take time to manifest, as they require a measure of settlement and comfort—or sufficient seasons of harsh weather and ill-luck to warrant seeking assistance from otherworldly powers. It isn’t clear which has lead to the christening of Keeper’s Mound. Whether through comfort or ill-fortune, the site has become entwined with a notion that to be married their strengthens the bond. Certainly the evidence would seem to suggest some measure of truth, as no couple who have bonded there—before the sight of Prios—has suffered dissolution or loss.
The matter is not so simple as to be joined upon the site. First, the couple must be blessed and purified the night before and then in the light of a favoured moon make a circuitous journey, sunward, from the mound, west around the edge of Yndaros, across the river, through the fields, and then return across to the south bank for a final trail back to their origin. The trip takes time—the notion is that the pair should complete the trip within a single day, which should be simple enough. However, as the tradition has become most popular with the wealthier families, the couples have become targets for bandits, thieves and other ne’er-do-wells. In turn, a vigorous trade has developed in offering to serve as Wedding Guard.
For those who make the journey in one piece and then marry beneath the trees on the rocky hillock, fair rapport and good feeling follow without effort. The couples do not necessarily benefit from good fortune or unnatural health, but find warmth and effortless support in each other’s company. Indeed, some have suggested an empathy and closeness that suggests a sharing of thoughts, allowing the pair to engage in tasks with mutual benefit from their interaction. As a young tradition, it isn’t clear whether the cases so far have been examples of pure coincidence or if the ritual about the mound serves to create some ethereal connection.
Bound to the Land
5.—Herdol and Mireda, the couple who own the farmhouse on the trail east of the mound in the field, had hoped to join their eldest son and his wife in the Free Colony of Nahrun, in the fertile eastern bounds of Mervidun. However, they find themselves unable to secure sale of the land in which they have bound their fortunes because of the fae haunting of that tumbled pile of tree-scattered rocks.
First reported by travellers coming from the south on the turn of the moon some three years back, drifting lights emerge from amongst the trees and float across the open fields. Those who have encountered them have patchy and incomplete tales of their encounters, for the troublesome lights appear both malign and pilfering—they render traveller unconscious and steal their possessions. A few stories told in taverns and inns across the southern edge of Yndaros tell of those who never woke up from their encounters, robbed of their lives as well as their assets.
Sufficient lore has accumulated around the visits from the Moonlighters, as they have been nicknamed, that Herdol and Mireda finds themselves tied to this piece of land, unable to budge until something can be done. They have tried hiring both wizards and priests to ward or bless the site, but to no avail; a few Sellswords who met the challenge woke the next morning with their cold iron livelihood missing and nothing to show for it. If anyone could fathom the source of the curse and put an end to it, the farmers who certainly offer a fair reward raised from the sale of the land that will finally free them to travel east.
6.—It isn’t hard to come across the worried looks and cautionary tales that remind inhabitants of Yndaros that at one time a plague wiped the population from the site. The bleeder’s disease that wiped out the people of Lindaros two hundred years ago remains a warning that nothing can be certain and no matter what fate can turn. To that end, all those barbarians who choose to come to—or return to—Yndaros partake of a ritual that they claim protects them. South of the Yndaros, at a point that ancient maps claim once represented the outermost bounds of the old city, sits a jumble of rocks and earth upon which many ancient trees grow. In particular, two towering specimens, with bark the colour of pitch, join to form a sort of gate that aligns with the southern face of the city and the river beyond. Barbarians step through this, from south to north, incanting words handed down through the generations.
That a plague hasn’t erupted since the Ambrian occupation is something the barbarians consider pure luck—a lull before the scourge returns and wreaks vengeance. The invaders live on borrowed time and their disrespect for the land, the people and the traditions only adds up toward the punishment to come. Many barbarians refer to Ambrians as pitchgates—or simply pitches—because they have not respected the simple tradition.
Some members of the Theurgy see these traditions and curses as a barrier to the suppression of the barbarians—only through conversion to the True Faith and the stamping out of the old ways can Ambrian society go forward unfettered. Petition has been lodged for the destruction of the so-called Pitchgate as a sign that Ambrian tolerance can only go so far—subversion will not be tolerated. However, dissenting voices have questioned the proposal—it’s just a mound of dirt and rock that would waste valuable labour to remove and to what end? In those words one might detect a hint of doubt about undermining old traditions, even those of the barbarians. Might tearing down the Pitchgate trigger the doom that claimed the city all those centuries ago?