Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Adventure seed: The Thirteenth Solstice

Far, in the deep north, a new divinity has been worshiped for the last thirteen years. Worshiped, and feared.
Gryla is her name, lady of glaciers and mountains. Eater of infants.
A giant she is, tall as three man and strong as three oxen. Dressed with a black mantle woven with gold and silver.

Every year, on the winter solstice, a child between 5 and 10 years old is brought to the Sneffels Mouth over a cart filled with coal to be sacrificed to the goddess. A column of black smoke rises from the Sneffels Mouth, then: the coal has been lit, the flesh is burning, a life is extinguished.
The goddess is appeased a for another year.

"ice cave" by sancient; text added by me

But the goddess do not asks for any life, for she wants the most evil child of the three villages. As evil as a child may be, at least. And every year the decision is made, the child chosen and sent to his death.
For thirteen years this sacrifice has been made under the threat of the death of many. Yule, a giant beast with a fur darker than death, only once drew his claws on a bloody night thirteen years ago, after its owner's command. Since then, the sacrifices begun.

This year, however, the old sage of the three villages Arne Saknussem decided to seek for help. No more children will die.
Once arrived to the villages many rumors will be heard regarding Gryla. Many conflicting theories and fantasies. Which one is true, though?

1 Gryla does not exists: in fact no one has ever seen her. No one from the three villages is able to point out in which one the goddess showed herself for the first time on that night thirteen years ago. But then, what are these sacrifices for? Who lights the cart and the coal, and more importantly: what happens to the children?
2 Gryla is not a giantess, but a human sorceress. With her magic spells she created the illusion of her appearance and of the Yule beast. She does not eat children, instead she uses them to make obscene experiments that transforms them to slaves of her magic. They are still alive, but nothing remains of them but empty shells. The cart filled with coal is just a staging.
3 Gryla is really a child-eater giant, but she's not a goddess. Once the cart is brought to the Sneffels Mouth, it is lit while the child is still alive, and the "goddess" feasts with his juicy flesh. The Yule beast protects her home when he's not hunting in the surrounding forests for itself and its giant owner. After all, children flesh is just Gryla's once-in-a-year whim for the winter solstice.
4 Gryla is really a goddess that needs evil children to appease her. The coal in the cart is part of a complex ritual that transforms the sacrificed child to a slave creature that works for her during the whole year, until he deteriorates and dies on the winter solstice, day in which Gryla replaces him with a new child.
5 Gryla is a very, very lonely giantess. Even if the Yule beast is fond of its owner, it is an independent creature and it usually stays by itself. Furthermore, Gryla has always dreamed of a family of her own, and she's trying to make herself one with the children of the three villages. However, she may be persuaded to give them back if she is given the opportunity to become a real mother...
6 Gryla is a giantess mage that does not eat infants, but instead she tears their souls from their bodies in order to try to give life back to her daughter, who died fourteen years ago. Every year, during the winter solstice, the stars align and the moment is propitious to make the ritual. Unfortunately to this day she never succeeded in her attempt, and her daughter still lies in her ice coffin, dead for all these years. The children souls are lost during the ritual.

Grýla (2009), by Þrándur Þórarinsson

The inspiration for this adventure idea came from the Icelandic Christmas tale of the Grýla, a giantess who eats misbehaving children, his Yule Cat and her thirteen Yule Lads.

This adventure has been originally written in Italian for the Facebook page "L'Avventuriero Precario", dedicated to memes and articles of various kinds about rpgs and card games.
The page name could be translated as "The Temporary Adventurer", as a reference to the "temporary employees" so common in Italy.