Children had started disappearing from the frigid Borean city of Tollengard since the season’s first snowfall. By the turn of the new year, a total of 6 had gone missing. Each had vanished, seemingly without a trace.
In the beginning, this would simply occur overnight, with cribs being found empty in the light of the morning. However, as the winter wore on, the final pair were apparently snatched when their distraught mothers had simply turned their backs.
No direct ties could be found between the victims’ families and no apparent clues were left behind at the scenes of any of the abductions. There were no tracks nor signs of forced entry. The stricken families seemed to come from all walks of life.
The effect on the morale of the city was notable. Citizens of Tollengard were typically a stoic lot, who suffered through the long winters without complaint. However, the passions rose in even these long-suffering folk as they demanded answers as to what had happened to their children.
The lord mayor, Pavel Ivanov, was feeling the heat. People demanded answers; demanded that he act. Even with doubling the city watch, it was feared that citizens would riot or break down into mobs seeking vigilante justice.
Many speculated that a wood witch had taken up residence on the outskirts of the town and was luring the children away. Others claimed that some ghostly wolf would come and snap the children up in its terrible maw. The theories were numerous, and some made little sense. People simply wanted their children back; they wanted justice.
This was the state of things in Tollengard on one sunny winter morning, when things changed forever. Parishioners arrived at the Abbey of Ladina as they did daily. They came to beseech the goddess, patron of the city, for help in returning their children. On this day though, something was not right.
Normally the three monks who tended the church were up an around, welcoming citizens as they came to pray. However, no torches were lit, and no incense burned in the braziers. It was not like the pious brothers to shirk their duties. Clearly something was wrong.
Concerned citizens made their way downstairs to the rectory, to see if perhaps a member of the order had fallen ill. Accessing the monks’ living quarters via the northern staircase, they were greeted by a queer sight.
The foyer at the foot of the stairs was in a state of disarray. In numbers of spots the stone floor was cracked and broken, exposing the earth underneath. It looked as if some great plow had churned through the masonry itself, yet what could have caused this?
The floor of the mess hall to the east was flooded with murky water. This was found later to also be the case with the storeroom further to the south.
There was no sign of the brothers in the sleeping quarters. In fact, all three of their beds were still made. It appeared to the crowd investigating the rectory that all of their modest belongings were also in place.
Coming at last to the sanctuary in the westernmost room of the rectory, the citizens beheld a sight that will vex Tollengard for the rest of its days. The statue there of Ladina appeared to have been desecrated. Some type of viscous green liquid had been splattered about it.
Resting at the foot of the stature, a large stone sarcophagus lay partially open. All assembled knew that this was out of place here. The vessel was empty and obviously ancient, though none of the stone crafters in the city were able recognize its point of origin. On its lid was carved a macabre likeness of a human skeleton, lying under a thin shift.
As bizarre as all of these sights were, they paled in comparison to the final discovery of that chilly morning. For there, snuggled together on the floor of the abandoned rectory of Tollengard, were found the six missing children. All were in good health and appeared unmolested. Being of various ages, all too young to speak, there was no hope of receiving any answers from the babes.
Grateful parents recovered their sons and daughters. In the following days, townsfolk turned both the abbey and the rectory upside down, looking for something to explain the mysterious occurrences. Nothing else of note was ever found, and the missing monks of the Abbey of Ladina were never seen or heard from again.
Thank you so much for taking the time to stop and read this. I hope you find some spark here that you might find useful for a future game. Please drop me a note below if you have any thoughts or suggestions. If you’d like to browse through all of my other maps with plot hooks, you can find them all collected here. Have a great week!
Darnit, Talaraska, I’m invested in this now. You can’t just leave this unsolved. This set-up is begging for answers and the writing was great.
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Yes, as Jane said!
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Thank you both. That is very kind. I was curious to see what other GMs might come up with. I will have to revisit this at some point. I will say that there is more going on with these children than meets the eye. Cheers!
I’m a big fan of sarcophagi as an adventure piece. I recently used one totally ripped from The Five Doctors in imagery, right down to fearful expressions framed across the faces. I dropped one as a random object in a cave crawl and it spawned off a whole backstory connection to the main quest (channelling a whole Returned Empire of Nethril vibe in our Tyranny of Dragons game). As I think about it, I’ve used it a fair bit in the current campaign, but not always with undead as the encounter. Sometimes just as a bit of lore inscribed on the side or a key clue to an encounter elsewhere in the dungeon.
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