This is an adventure seed rather than a scenario. I threw it into my campaign as a monster-of-the-week episode while the player-characters were making their way across Dark Ages France
en route to Wessex. I make no claims for the scenario except that it could work in pretty much any setting right up to modern times. The presence of the ulembi, incidentally, connects it canonically to the lost continent of Abraxas that Jamie and I created for an MMO.
THE THING IN THE FOREST
On the way to Rouen, the characters pass through the
forest villages of Ury, Fons Bliaudi (later Fontainebleau) and Barbizon. In each village they
encounter a local idiot. The behaviour is the same: the man stares at them,
points, and mouths inarticulate sounds.
Locals will say: “Don’t mind ‘e, ‘im be
Hugo/Peter/Will, been like that fer years. The duende took ‘is wits, left ‘im
The story is that these three were woodsmen, but each
ventured too close to Oldtooth Dell where the fairies (duende) live and came home
At Fons Bliaudi
The inn is run by a young woman, Tarqua (23) who is pensive and distracted. It turns out that her
husband, Uril, went to Barbizon to
sell a bay mare three days ago and has not come back – though the journey there
and back could be done in a day.
Tarqua may try to bribe or seduce the characters into
helping find out what has happened to her husband.
If they ask, locals tell them it’s unlikely he would
have run off. Tarqua and Uril were sweethearts from the age of 5. They are even
known as “Uril’s Tarqua” and “Tarqua’s Uril”.
Could he have fallen prey to bandits? The miller
scoffs: “He had his cudgel with him. No dozen bandits could take on Uril with
At the inn, they see one of the idiots hanging around
under the eaves as if surreptitiously listening in on their conversation. (He’s
actually making a recording.) Having already seen one in the previous village,
they should now be wondering why there should be two such individuals in such a
small area. If not, running into the third idiot in Barbizon will surely tip
Their Perception vs the idiot’s Holdout of 13 to spot
the box he’s carrying. He won’t want to show them what it does, but if forced
it plays back sounds that may be recognizable (IQ-5) as the rhythms of their
own words from a few minutes earlier, only with unfamiliar substituted sounds
at a deeper frequency than speech.
The idiot follows them along the road to Barbizon.
A steep wooded valley. A stream runs down to a pool
that you have to wade through to enter a cave. They could be guided here by Podraig and his truffle-sniffing pig “Trimmer”. Along the way, if very
observant, they might spot birds and animals watching them more intently than
usual. (The Ulembi is looking through the animals’ eyes, though Podraig would
of course attribute it to faerie influence.)
Inside, the cave smells musty and lair-like, but with
a faint ammoniac trace behind that. It narrows to a cleft in the rock about
forty feet back from the entrance – a high, sharp-roofed tunnel that narrows to
about six feet wide.
After about forty feet, the tunnel turns and there are
paintings visible on the walls. Hand-prints on the right (made by blowing dye
around the right hand) and on the left a procession of animals, then of men in
hide clothing, and finally something that looks like a huge inverted tree (or
perhaps roots of a tree) that dwarfs the human figures. This is a prehistoric
depiction of the Ulembi.
By now the ammonia stench is sharper, and characters
should roll IQ to notice a very faint headache (located in the forehead, if
Approach to the
The tunnel narrows to what at first looks like a
fire-blacked chimney. From here, a low passage stretches up. It requires
characters to crouch, and they can only proceed by discarding armour.
(Characters of Lifting ST 16 and up must discard under-armour too.)
As they move on, they start to experience a greater
pressure in the head, accompanied by flashes of visions – or memories. They can
fight this with Will-5. Anyone who succumbs or willingly allows the memories to
flow will get the flashback.
In our Immortal Spartans campaign the characters remembered
themselves as 16-17 year-olds patrolling in the Krypteia, and learned something
they had all been made to forget over a thousand years earlier. The idea is
that the ulembi’s ESP set off something in their minds that allowed them to
penetrate the mind-block that had been placed on them then. Substitute whatever
important flashback or psychic insight will enhance your campaign – or
disregard the flashback entirely if you prefer.
At first just see the device. Uril is
here, with wires leading into his head. He rolls his eyes if spoken to, but
seems not to understand them.
The ulembi is splayed low, and therefore at
first unseen by the characters (assuming it makes its Stealth roll) then rises
up amid the rocks – possibly getting surprise.
This creature has been here for thousands
of years, periodically hibernating while trying to build a transmat device to
return home. This device, only about three-quarters finished, is an array of
wires, crystals and silica panels salvaged from its crashed ship.
The recordings it has the idiots make are
played into the device in order to tune it to human brainwave frequencies. When
complete, the device will draw on energy from everyone within fifty miles,
mind-wiping them in the process.
Creatures from a star cluster beyond the Coal Sack,
who came to Earth millennia ago by psychically broadcasting themselves through
outer space to escape their own dying world.
have large heads whose hard ridged integument resembles a walnut. This skull
protects the creature's huge brain. A ring of dark globular eyes protected by
deep recesses allow the ulembi to see in all directions at once. There is a
short neck and then the ulembi's trunk bifurcates, the two stout limbs
resembling large serpents. At the end, each limb divides into four tentacular
fingers. The ulembi can balance on one limb or on its "elbows" while
holding something in the fingers, but rarely needs to do so because all ulembi
are able to manipulate small objects by telekinesis.
fully reared up on its limbs, an adult ulembi's head can be as high as eight
feet off the ground. But it can also splay its limbs out low, moving with
ghastly stealth through undergrowth no more than a few feet high. In combat the
ulembi is able to bristle its scales, giving the limbs a rough jagged surface
like pineapple skin. This allows it to flay the skin off an unarmored opponent.
Young adults sometimes wear bronze vambraces on the lower limbs, with which they
can deliver powerful whip-like blows. Older ulembi disdain physical combat
altogether, preferring to use their psionic power to instill a feeling of dread
and despair in a foe.
a short time with a subdued victim, the most powerful adepts of the ulembi can
psionically rewire his brain so that he will serve as their agent. This can
even take the form of subliminal commands, so that the victim does not know he
has been affected. Eventually tumors form in the brain of the victim, however,
and madness and death soon follow.
The transmat device is sufficiently functional to
create a levitation effect within the cave. It takes three rounds to power up,
then suddenly gravity seems to cut out. Initially roll
HT to avoid nausea; fail means -2 skills, -1 active defence. Every round while
weightless, Free Fall (default DX-5) sets an upper level on your skills (except
Uril can be freed if the wires are broken, but his
mind is too far gone to be saved. He has become like one of the idiots they met