Garden of Bones (2010)

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RPG Item: Garden of Bones
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Year: 2010
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33 pages
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From the Background:

You hear the man behind you slowly draw his dagger. You spin around and strike the weapon from his hand with an upward swipe of your sword. The dagger spins high into the air. You kick the man in the chest and he falls onto his backside. A second later the dagger lands point-first in the ground between his legs.

He yelps in surprise and his brow glistens in the moonlight as you aim the point of your sword at his throat. "I'm sorry," he babbles. "B-b-but..."

You lower your sword and tell him with a laugh that if it was gold he sought he only had to ask. You toss him a gold piece. He catches the coin and looks in astonishment at the seal stamped upon it - that of Baron Sukumvit of Fang. "But these," he exclaims. "These are granted only to one who has survived the Trial..."

You laugh again and sheath your sword. The great riches that you recently acquired in Chiang Mai have indeed come in useful. Gold has bought you everything you ever wanted, except excitement.

Bored with your comfortable dwellings in Chiang Mai you travelled to the city of thieves, Port Blacksand, in search of adventure. Of the many tales you heard in the Black Lobster tavern, one in particular caught your interest. The next day you bought a leaky old boat and sailed down the ruddy waters of the Red River towards the Moonstone Hills. You stopped to buy supplies from the Dwarfs of Stonebridge, along with a sharp new sword. Sailing on you passed the twisted trees of Darkwood Forest and the blood-red peak of Firetop Mountain, before coming to moor at the humble village known as Barn.

The villagers were friendly enough; once they were satisfied you had not arrived on some wicked errand from nearby Darkwood. You quickly found a local man who could help you find what you were looking for. His eyes sparkled at the mention of gold. But his look quickly turned to one of horror when you told him exactly what you were searching for. It took several more coins and several more mugs of ale before he agreed to act as your guide. As night fell the two of you crossed the ferry north and followed a seldom used path by lantern-light, with bleak and lonely hills stretching away on either side, shrouded in moonlit mist.

You have only just arrived at your destination, a neglected graveyard surrounded by a low, crumbling stone wall and a pair of jagged iron gates. The church here apparently burnt down long ago. The rambling headstones that remain have since become so overgrown with weeds and wildflowers that the place has long been known among the locals as, "The Garden of Bones".

The tale you heard in Port Blacksand concerned events that took place over half a century ago. A warlock named Morbius Kane had struck a bargain with a Demon Prince to forge for him a weapon that would make Kane as mighty on the field of battle as he was in the field of magic. It is said that Kane was a man of great vanity and collected the skulls of his enemies as a way of recording the number of lives he had taken. The Demon knew this and promised Kane a weapon truly worthy of a conqueror such as he, a weapon that would never let him forget the number of lives he had harvested.

The Demon gave Morbius Kane a great spear, carved with runes that glowed like hellfire. The weapon increased its master's ability in combat to such a degree that now not even the mightiest of Kane's warriors could best him. Thus Morbius Kane grew demented with a lust for conquest, seeking more and more skulls to add to his monstrous collection. It was said that Morbius Kane swore upon his Spear that he not rest until he had claimed ten thousand Allansian lives.

He gathered an army of undead beings - Zombies, Skeleton Warriors, Ghouls, Wights and Crypt Stalkers - and with them ravaged the outlying lands. After months of bloodshed, Kane was eventually defeated by the Dwarfs of Stonebridge. In a ferocious battle their hearty leader, Gillibran, smote Kane dead with a blow from his magical hammer. Gillibran brought the Spear of Kane back to Stonebridge for examination. But the weapon was stolen in the night by Kane himself, who had returned from death to reclaim his weapon, bound by his own dreadful oath to claim ten thousand mortal lives.

In the following weeks the villagers of nearby Barn saw ghostly figures wandering the streets at night. Men were found dead, women and children disappeared and word finally reached the wizard Yaztromo in his great tower on the southern edge of Darkwood Forest. The old wizard arrived in Barn and cast a spell that took three days and three nights to perform. In this way he captured the undead Morbius Kane, along with every one of the warlock's followers. Needing a suitable prison in which to house these monsters, Yaztromo bound them within the nearby Garden of Bones, placing a spell around the graveyard that prevented any inside from ever escaping.

Yet legend has it that whenever the full moon shines upon the Garden of Bones its gates swing open once more. Though the undead remain trapped inside, it is possible for the living to enter their shadow realm. Many an adventurer has entered the Garden in search of the fabled Spear of Morbius Kane. None have returned - at least none alive.

The full moon now shines bright upon the Garden of Bones. A strange fog seems to billow from among the graves. You hear a metallic clink, followed by a slow, grinding creak as the gates swing open to greet you. Your guide scrambles to his feet, gibbering in terror, and dashes back towards the village.

It is said that once a living person enters the Garden of Bones they can never again find their way out. The writhing mist inside has a way of confounding one's sense of direction. But during your visit to Stonebridge you took the precaution of purchasing an enchanted lantern, which will light your way back to the land of the living.

The moon bathes your surroundings with silvery light. The cold mist now curling round your ankles also casts a pale glow. What a tale you will have to tell when you return to Stonebridge holding the legendary Spear of Kane. A sudden shiver ripples down your spine. Then again, it will not do to underestimate the task ahead of you. Gripping the hilt of your sword for reassurance you walk boldly into the Garden of Bones. The gates swing shut behind you like the iron jaws of death.

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