Saturday, 30 July 2016

Meet me there

What is at the crossroads, the one just outside of town where people try not to go after dark, the one your unknowing party is about to cross? (d20)
the most d&d painting ever, called 'The Knight at the Crossroads',
although it doesn't really depict one
  1. A hanged man, swinging on a gibbet. He is well-dressed but shoeless, and the carrion birds have begun to work on his feet as well as his hands and face. In a farmhouse not far away, the family are being driven mad by the sound of footsteps on their roof each night.
  2. At the foot of the signpost here is a wooden bowl of milk and a bunch of wildflowers. The flowers look fresh and unwilted but are crawling with green caterpillars and the milk smells fresh but tastes sour and rancid.
  3. An old, uncommunicative halfling woman selling a single red cabbage, not cheap. It's a beautiful, iridescent red-purple, and the white tips are pure snow white. Inside it is a warm, sticky human heart.
  4. A tree at this crossroads is burning from within, fiery splits cracking down its bark and smoke rising from the top like a chimney. The fire makes a low crackling sound, like voices through a closed door.
  5. A man trapped beneath his horse. He has fallen halfway into a ditch at the crossroads and his enormous chestnut horse has fallen across him, trapping him. It is kicking and rolling but has broken a leg. It's a much finer horse than a yeoman like him might be expected to have.
  6. The ancient waypost standing at the crossroads, a humanoid figure with a club carved into one side of it, is moving, wobbling and jolting in the earth.
  7. A woman frantically digging a deep, narrow hole by the side of the road – she will not stop digging even if spoken to, though she will breathlessly respond while still working. She has a canvas sack with her.
  8. There is a milestone here, a low chunk of rock with the name of the next town and a number carved into it. Along the back, half-buried, is a much more ancient funerary carving of a sun, a moon and a figure on horseback.
  9. A meteorite has landed right in the centre of the crossroads, minutes ago: it is still hissing and spitting inside the scar in the earth it has made, a fist-size chunk of red-hot sky-iron. Immensely valuable to some. You're probably not the only ones who saw it land.
  10. Concealed under a tatty old cloak in a ditch here is a bundle of a dozen shovels, all clean: a little searching will reveal a small stake with a red rag tied around it, driven into the ground just off the road.
  11. A great fish, gasping in the air. Some sort of wels, probably, as long as a man, green-black and whiskered and slimy. It is a long way from a large enough watercourse for it. Its flesh is pale and fatty and foul, but would feed a family for days. Its thoughts are unknowable.
  12. At one of the corners here is a long-fallen tree, grown over with mistletoe and ivy. There is an axe buried in the base, just as overgrown, the blade dulled and rusty and half-vanished in the still-clear rings of the trunk.
  13. As the party reaches the junction, it begins to rain, hard: on the junction and on whichever road from it they intend to take. After a few minutes they may find themselves wishing to take shelter, and the road may be close to impassable.
  14. There is a lantern fixed to the top of the waypost here, though it has not been lit for years: it is made of iron and thick blue glass full of bubbles and imperfections. None of the glass panes are broken, nor can they be by anything of this earth.
  15. A peddler is cooking something over a fire, his tent pitched just off the road along with his bags of kit. He is happy to trade, and even to share his food if he's treated well. A look in the pan reveals he is frying half a dozen small snakes and lizards alive.
  16. There is a big, angry dog tied to the waypost here by a short, fraying rope. It barks savagely at anything that comes near. It looks skinny and exhausted. If freed it will try to dig up a patch of disturbed earth just off the road.
  17. Just off the road here is the wreck of a coach, its canopies and hangings mostly torn off, two wheels smashed, half a dozen velvet cushions torn open and scattered around. There's no sign of the horses or occupants, but there is a diamond earring in the mud nearby.
  18. Someone is sitting, as though asleep, back propped against the milestone here: a shepherd, with a cloak and crook. He will not wake; his eyes have been gouged out and he is dead, though he shows no other signs of violence.
  19. A long low slab of stone sits by the crossroads here, covered in little iron trinkets: bent nails, broken horseshoes, knives, arrowheads. The stone is faintly magnetic, and the locals leave something for it every time they pass by. With good reason.
  20. The devil, desperate to make a deal.