Legends and Folklore of the Flanaess: The Rat Tower
Date: Wed, January 31, 2007
Topic: Myths & Legends
A ghostly folk legend of Old Almor that can be used as a basis for a short adventure, which I have included an outline of. I adapted the story from the German legend of the Mouse Tower of Bingen. It can be easily changed to many locations in the Flanaess for use in individual campaigns.
The Legend of the Rat Tower - There was a Prelate of Almor, Crabul by name, of the priesthood of Zilchus, who rule that land during the “Turmoil Between Crowns” (c. 437 CY). Though he held a priestly office, Crabul was a wicked man, more concerned with satisfying his greed than with the material and spiritual well-being of his subjects.
He starved the peasants to stuff his storehouses with grain, taxed them unmercifully to fill his coffers, and abducted their fairest daughters to sate his beastly lust. When many had been reduced to landless vagabonds, he had a great hall built of wood, and invited them to a feast. When all were inside and stuffing themselves with food and wine he had the doors of the hall locked behind them and ordered the hall set afire, wherein his victims all perished.
That night would be the last good sleep Prelate Crabul would ever have, for when he awoke the next morning his servants told him with alarm how a multitude of rats had appeared in the night and begun eating the rich fields of grain around his estate. Later another servant came and reported that the rats had moved on to the granaries. The next servant to appear was followed by a swarm of the creatures that poured into the hall behind him. Seeing this, the wicked Prelate ran for his life, making it to the docks and into his personal barge just before the living tide.
As he was landed at a fortified tower on a rocky islet in the middle of the Harp River, he laughed and mocked the army of rats. That night he slept but his dreams were troubled, and when he awoke in the morning it was to a sight that chilled his blood.
The rats had plunged into the waters until they drowned, their tiny limbs grasping each other in death, one after another until they formed a living bridge stretching from the far bank to the islet upon which the tower stood. As Crabul looked down he could see the larger part of them swarming across. Though the gate was stout and strong the vermin soon covered the rocks below and heaping themselves one on the other they began climbing the slippery tower walls, until they poured like water in through the arrow slits and windows on the upper floors.
When the next morning dawned to the watchers on the farther shore the rats were gone. A group of fishermen rowed over to the tower and knocked in the sally-port of the great door. Slowly they climbed the stone stairs, passing the bones of Crabul’s servants and guards. On the top floor of the tower they found the skeleton of the Prelate himself, stripped clean of flesh, still clad in his rich robes of office.
Since that day the tower has been named the Rat Tower, and is used to hold a surplus of grain, held in trust by the current Prelate, and wisely used to feed the peasantry if there is ever a bad harvest. But no guard is stationed there, for the ghost of Crabul is said to haunt the tower each night, staggering through its halls as a swarm of ghostly rats covers his body, eating his flesh while he screams for mercy that will never come.
Outline for the Rat Tower Short Adventure- The tower is located several miles upriver from the city of Chathold, and is still used as a granary to house surplus wheat for the large estate which is personally owned by the Prelate.
Once a year, after harvest, farmers and fishermen from the estate’s villages are employed to replace the previous years store of unused grain and distribute the surplus of old grain that they have taken out back to the local villages. This always is done in as little time as possible, since the tower is commonly known to be haunted. The only guard placed on the island is a large group of cats who live there. They are regularly fed by local fishermen who simply dump some of their catch on the shore of the rocky island every few days. The cats seem to do a decent job of keeping the toll taken by vermin on the grain supply to a minimum.
This year’s harvest time is reaching its conclusion and the reeve who oversees the Prelate’s estate is getting the annual grain transfer organized. It has been drawn to his attention by the fishermen who feed the cats that their offerings have been left rotting on the shore for the last week. The reeve is concerned that something may be amiss in the tower, but cannot find any locals brave enough to investigate. For this reason he has a hired the PCs in Chathold to check out the situation. A fisherman and his son have been hired to row the party out to the island and wait for them to signal to be picked up.
Unknown to all a Cloaker has eaten the cats and taken up residence in the tower. Besides that creature the tower is still haunted by the ghost of the Prelate Crabul, who though rather horrifying, has no interest in the living, being trapped in his nightly hell of being eaten alive by the ghostly rats.
Use the ghost to play up the horror elements of the encounter. Use the Cloaker’s moan attack to further unnerve the PCs and then finally spring the monster itself on them.