If you have not read this story TURN BACK NOW! or risk losing forever the unspoiled appreciation of Clark Ashton Smith's prose.
Originally Inspired by the rules and setting of the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyberborea boxed set and the discussion of the same on the OD&D Forum I started sifting through my collection of Clark Ashton Smith for ideas but Im currently gearing up for Greyhawk.
The Abominations of Yondo
(This story first appeared in print in the April 1926 issue of Overland Monthly but the typescript is dated February 5th 1925)
Fungi, Monstrous [MON]
Insects, Long-Legged [MON]
Lake, Weird [RVR]
Monstrous Thing [MON]
Ong (Lion Headed) [Deity]
Ong, Inquisitors of [ORG]
Vipers, Pale-Green [MON]
Yondo, Desert of [PLC]
Ong, Inquistors of
"It was noon of a vernal day when I came forth from that interminable cactus-forest in which the inquisitors of Ong had left me, and saw at my feet the grey beginnings of Yondo."
Yondo, Desert of
"The sand of the desert of Yondo is not as the sand of other deserts; for Yondo lies nearest of all to the world's rim; and strange winds, blowing from a gulf no astronomer may hope to fathom, have sown its ruinous fields with the grey dust of corroding planets, the black ashes of extinguished suns. The dark orb-like mountains which rise from its pitted and wrinkled plain are not all its own, for some are fallen asteroids half-buried in that abysmal sand. Things have crept in from nether space, whose incursion is forbid by watchful gods of all proper and well-ordered lands; but there are no such gods in Yondo, where live the hoary genii of stars abolished, and decrepit demons left homeless by the destruction of their antiquated hells."
"...in that fantastic wood, I had found no token or memory of spring; and the swollen, fulvous, dying and half-rotten growths through which i had pushed my way, were like no other cacti; but bore shapes of abomination scarcely to be described. The very air was heavy with stagnant odors of decay; and leprous lichens mottled the black soil and russet vegetation with increasing frequency. Pale-green vipers lifted their heads from prostrate cactus-boles, and watched me with eyes of bright ochre that had no lids or pupils. These things had disquieted me for hours past; and I did not like the monstrous fungi, with hueless stems and nodding heads of poisonous mauve, which grew from sodden lips of fetid tarns; and the sinister ripples spreading and fading on the yellow water at my approach..."
"I went forward, sinking at each step in a loathly softness, and followed by certain long-legged insects that I had met among the cacti. These insects were the color of a week-old corpse, and were as large as tarantulas; but when I turned and trod upon the foremost, a mephitic stench arose that was more nauseous even than their color."
"Topping one of the any mound-like ridges, I saw the waters of a weird lake, unfathomably dark and green as malachite, and set with bars of profulgent salt. These waters lay far beneath me in a cup-like basin; but almost at my feet on the wave-worn slopes were heaps of that ancient salt; and I knew that the lake was only the bitter and ebbing dregs of some former sea. Climbing down, I came to the dark waters, and began to lave my hands; but there was a sharp and corrosive sting in that immemorial brine, and I desisted quickly, preferring the desert dust that had wrapped about me like a slow shroud."
"It was then that I heard a diabolic chuckle on the hillside above me. The sound began with a sharp abruptness that startled me beyond all reason, and continued endlessly, never varying its single note, like that mirth of some idiotic demon. I looked up, and saw the mouth of a dark cave, fanged with green stalactites, which I had not perceived before. The sound appeared to come from within this cave.
...with all the rapidity of nightmare, a monstrous Thing emerged. It had a pale, hairless, egg-shaped body, large as that of a gravid she-goat; and this body was mounted on nine long, wavering legs with many flanges, like the legs of some enormous spider. The creature ran past me to the water's edge; and I saw that there were no eyes in its oddly sloping face, but two knife-like ears rose high above its head, and a thin, wrinkled snout hung down across its mouth, whose flabby lips, parted in that eternal chuckle, revealed rows of bat's teeth."
In the few short pages of the Abominations of Yondo there is much more about the desert and its horrific denizens. Asteroid pits, ruined cities and ruined temples, mausoleums broke and surrounded by rotting cypresses. Shadow creatures, beckoning statues, vapors with the sickening odor of corruption, empty suits of armor marching across the desert, mummies of ancient kings ridden by ape-like demonic beasts with distorted bodies.
An obvious scenario idea is for the players to be driven through the mutated cactus-forest with the desert their only means of escape, but Yondo can be the setting for many adventures. The story is a description of Yondo's horrors but it hints at greater terrors and perhaps great rewards for those who would dare explore its shattered fanes and ruined necropoli.
My current inclination is to use this for inspiration with a Sea of Dust setting. I keep seeing the Sea of Dust as pure desolation, but this gets me thinking of a horrible poisoned land with fearsome abomination and bizarre ruins. Something with a great CAS or Lovecraftian influence.